Pick a name, write a book

Here's a collection of entertaining short biographies about writers who assumed pseudonyms as protective covers, such as the Brontë sisters, who wrote under the pen names Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell; and Eric Blair, who took the pen name George Orwell. Carmela Ciuraru's "Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms" is delightfully engaging.

54 years, 54 books

To celebrate my birthday today - turning a frolicsome 54 - I compiled a list of 54 favorite books. The majority are novels, but there are also mysteries (Daphne du Maurier), memoirs (Patricia Hampl), Vietnam books (Tim O'Brien), classics (Norman MacLean), short stories (Ellen Gilchrist), Pulitzer Prize winners (Wallace Stegner) and more. Not a mere list, though, but also descriptions and commentary to help fill those summer reading totes.

Window on a sleazy world

Living in a drunken stupor may not seem like palatable reading matter, but Patrick deWitt’s unique style in his debut novel "Ablutions: Notes for a Novel" is – well – addictive. DeWitt's "Ablutions" is written in the rare second-person viewpoint.