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Book of the Week: Practical Classics, by Kevin Smokler

Practical ClassicsOur newest feature is Kevin Smokler’s most recent book, Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, which was published last month by Prometheus Books. Smokler is the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2005. Called “a publishing visionary” by the Huffington Post, his writing on the arts and technology has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer. Smokler has a B.A. in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. in American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, he lives in San Francisco. Smokler can be found online at and on Twitter at @weegee.

In the introduction to his recent review of Practical Classics, Assistant Editor Brandon Bye describes the project for Smokler’s new book:

As a “righter-than-thou” highschooler, Smokler says he got off on the wrong foot with The Classics—“Those grown-up books you were forced to read as a teenager whether you wanted to or not.” But last year, at thirty-nine, Smokler set out to set the record straight. He revisited coming-of-age classics like Huck Finn and labored over coming-to-work classics like “Bartleby the Scrivener.” He riffed on coming-to-theory classics like Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, while digging through modern coming-to-meta-narration classics like Tim O’Brian’s The Things They Carried. In a recent interview with NPR, Smokler said he considered a wide range of books before finally whittling his list down to fifty. With so much important literature, old and new, that didn’t make the cut—Calvino, Baldwin, Díaz—Smokler is definitely thinking about Practical Classics 2.0.

We’re happy to announce that we’ll be giving away a copy of Practical Classics to three of our Twitter followers. To be eligible for this giveaway (and all future ones), simply click over to Twitter and “follow” us (@fictionwriters).

To all of you who are already fans, thank you!

Further Links and Resources:

  • For more on this book, or information about Smokler’s other work, please visit the author’s Website.
  • Listen to Smokler’s NPR interview on his new book.
  • Read David Mitchell’s essay “Translating Cloud Atlas Into the Language of Film,” from the Wall Street Journal.

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