by Damon Beres
by Dawn Raffel
Here at Reader's Digest, we have a long-running feature called "My Most Unforgettable Character." Of all the people I've met, J.K. Rowling—whose first non-Harry Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, is out today—is certainly one of mine.
Late in 2000, while working for a different magazine, I was invited to have an in-office lunch with the creator of the world's favorite wizard. At the time, Rowling was already staggeringly famous,, and my colleagues and I nervously awaited her arrival. Turned out she was friendly, down to earth, and unmistakably brilliant. So much had been made of the fact…
As lunch sat largely untouched, Rowling spoke thoughtfully about everything from class distinctions in England to her love of Jane Austen and Roddy Doyle to her respect for the secret, magical lives of children. She read voraciously, she said, even while blow drying her hair with one hand.
In all my years of interviewing people I've never asked anyone for an autograph, but this time I gingerly explained that my sons would never forgive me if I didn't ask her to sign their books. She did so gamely and graciously, and even signed another for their school.
Rowling's Harry Potter books have sold north of 400 million copies. She got a generation of kids as excited about the enchantment of books as about the zing and dazzle of video games. She entertained us—children and grownups—splendidly, Above all, she taught us about transformation.
It takes tremendous courage to write another book, of a completely different sort, after the wild ride that was Harry Potter. Hats off to the wizard-maker on her own transformation as Vacancy flies off shelves, real and virtual, at thrilling speed.Read More >>
by Lauren Gniazdowski
by Lauren Gelman
by Alison Caporimo
When I'm not writing and editing stories at the office, I'm attending readings in every corner of New York City. There's nothing quite like hearing your favorite prose read aloud. But when the workday runs late or weather outside looks bleak, I visit these websites to get my share of story time.
• For poetry: Visit Poetry Out Loud , where, among other offerings, you can listen to Anthony Hopkins, Angela Lansbury and James Earle Jones read classic works by T.S. Elliot, Matthew Arnold and William Shakespeare.
• For short stories: Check out Many Things and listen in to The Tell-Tale Heart, To Build A Fire, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and more.
• For Moby-Dick, and only Moby-Dick: Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Why is there a whole category dedicated to this one Melville classic?" Well, it's my all-time favorite piece of literature and everyone should read it. Artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare, who share my obsession with the great white whale, recently launched Moby-Dick Big Read, a serial reading of each of the novel's…
Tell us: Where do you get your story time fix? Plus, head to StoryBox to tell us a story of your own.Read More >>
by Alyssa Jung
If your house was burning, what would you take with you?
That’s a scenario nobody wants to experience, and the question posed by theburninghouse.com, a website that invites visitors to submit photos and lists of the items they’d grab if they ever found their home going up in flames.
People from all over the world provide an intimate look at what means the most to them. For some, it's a favorite sweater, a beloved book, heirlooms, family photos and other personal possessions. For others, it's more practical things -- birth certificate, passport, driver’s license. You can contribute your own post at the blog's submissions page. (The blog has also been…
So, what would you take if you had only seconds to decide? I’ve actually thought about this a lot over the years. As a child I had plans to stuff my cat in a backpack, tie my blankie around my neck and leap into the front bushes from my bedroom window. Today, my tentative list includes: my iPhone and charger, wallet, favorite sweatpants, underwear drawer…Read More >>
by Rega Jha
With the presidential election only 40 days away, all eyes are on President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and there are some questions that must be asked. Which of the two candidates will be better for the American middle class? Which of the two has the superior plan for reforming Medicare? Which of the two will create more jobs? And, of course, the most important…
Thanks to the Gregory Brothers, a four-person crew from Brooklyn whose expertise is mash-ups, at least one of those questions can be put to rest. After watching this hilarious, satirical, and surprisingly catchy take on political speeches, you'll find yourself keeping score every time you watch the news.
(Image By DonkeyHotey/Flickr Creative Commons.)Read More >>
by David Noonan
by Chuck Davis
Steven Spielberg's first theatrical movie was 1974's The Sugarland Express, although plenty of people credit the 1971 made-for-TV Duel as his true feature debut. But what about the movies he directed when he was 14?
The wonderful website Open Culturehas unearthed a couple of these, plus some footage of Spielberg and his dad talking about the films. The first one is a war movie with young Steve, as he billed himself then, enlisting the aid of his school buddies to act the roles of the battling armies. It contains some of the most creative death scenes you'll ever see: nobody dies…
The second is sort of a precursor to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with a rather eerie visitation from outer space. The footage unfortunately leaves us hanging: what happens to that poor child reaching out in the final scene? Well, one thing is for sure: the director had a decent future ahead of him.Read More >>
by Caitlin O'Connell