A review of Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon. Justin Norton on the fate of the epistolary novel. A review of The Historical Novel by Jerome de Groot. A review of What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960 by Gordon Hutner. Eight years later, many novels have been written about September 11 — what can they tell us about that day? Laura Frost investigates. When lit blew into bits: The meganovel shrank, even as reading itself metastasized. From The Guardian's Book Blog, the ingredients for a blockbuster novel: Big, brash and frequently brutal, it is a genre unto itself; we all know the books we're supposed to be reading, but are they really the most important ones?; and if there's one genre you have to read before you die it's the travel book. Big-name stars with stories to tell don't always do their own heavy lifting; a look at the ghostwriters behind celebrity memoirs. After weeks of wall-to-wall press for Palin, Agassi, and Carrie Prejean, it’s clear our narcissistic culture is obsessed with memoirs; Ben Yagoda hopes the fad might be over. Phillip Lopate reviews Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda (and more and more and more). From Hemingway to war heroes, there's a romance in writers who put themselves in their own story. A look at how romance novels take the romance out of romance. Why don’t romance writers get more critical respect? An article on the New Gay Romance, written by and for straight women. A look at how Eighties-style bonkbusters are having a revival. American horror stories no longer manifest in the guise of vampires, ghosts and voodoo curses — the new fear is the dread of mental instability. In their scramble to find the next breakthrough, publishers are marketing awkward hybrids that are neither literary enough to last nor commercial enough to entertain.

A review of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges (and more). Neal Gabler writes in defense of our Brangelina-loving, Jon and Kate–hating, Tiger-taunting, tawdry tabloid culture. Moan for all seasons: A review of How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. What’s wrong with gentrification? Adam Sternbergh on the displacement myth. Call it a bloodless revolution or, at least, an interesting, and paradoxically real-world, experiment: political theory is getting played out on the Internet in real time. Research suggests the importance of attractiveness depends on where you live and finds "golden ratios" for female facial beauty. Sorry we ate your great-grandpa: In a jungle clearing on a small Pacific island, the descendants of a tribe of cannibals bow to a British pensioner and apologise for having his relative for dinner — literally. Why do people dance, and what makes some more confident than others? Dr Dance has the answers. A review of The Body in Medical Culture. Paul Carr posts his book Bringing Nothing To The Party: True Confessions of a New Media Whore free online. Scott McLemee contemplates the apparently timeless appeal of Ayn Rand’s paeans to commerce. The drag of devising a state-by-state mirth meter: Researchers try to measure "Gross National Happiness", but satisfaction, though nearly guaranteed, is poorly defined (and more). The proliferation of passive sedentary activities like television viewing has led to inactive lifestyles and decreased physical fitness, but can TV positively affect health as well?

And please take advantage of Special Holiday Savings from Bookforum, with offers of 1 year (5 issues) for only $12.00, or 2 years (10 issues) for $24.00.

A review of The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan (and more and more and more and more). The Arab states of the Gulf region have agreed to launch a single currency modelled on the euro, hoping to blaze a trail towards a pan-Arab monetary union. Pan-Arabism in context: The impulse to unity may have been sidetracked but that does not mean it was wrong, argues Galal Nassar. After 40 years in which Arab states grew steadily stronger, has the past decade seen the rise of competitors to their authority? An interview with Jo Tatchell on books about desert nations. Isabella Bird and Louisa Jebb both travelled to the Middle East at the turn of the twentieth century; Hannah Adcock compares their journals. An interview with Ziauddin Sardar on books about travel in the Middle East (and more). Veils, gold, calligraphy: Here's a mixed crop of new books surveying Middle Eastern art practices. An argumentative Arab Enlightener: A portrait of Syrian philosopher Sadiq Al-Azm. A review of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey. Can a new research university save the Saudi economy and transform a closed society? (and more). A look at how Yemen is a failed state in the making. The Cairo Conundrum: Egypt is the linchpin to America's Middle East policy, a policy that must make interests reinforce ideals, rather than conflict with them. The latest source of instability in the Middle East isn't the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iran's nukes — it's a bitter soccer rivalry between Egypt and Algeria. A review of What's Really Wrong with the Middle East by Brian Whitaker.

A review of A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev by Vladislav Zubok. Who killed communism? Gerard DeGroot investigates. Peter Beinart on the myth of the wall's fall — brought down by Ronald Reagan's hawkish stand, right? It was Reagan's dovish side instead. A look at how the fall of the Berlin Wall was the best thing that ever happened to the Chinese Communist Party (and more and more and more and more). Karl Who?: "China is a Communist country, but I have yet to meet an actual Communist". Hollywood Comrades: Why the Soviets were such lovable movie villains. Our dangerous Cold War nostalgia: How both the left and the right abuse history. A review of Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America's Soviet Experts by David Engerman. In the former East, there is ostalgie; in the West, we too look back in longing — for the symbol of moral clarity and superiority the wall was to us. The fall of the Berlin Wall may have been good for democracy and world peace — but it wasn’t so hot for the US military’s recruiting efforts. The rise of Communist nostalgia: Do east Germans regret the fall of the Berlin Wall? (and more and more and more). Growing up in a communist dictatorship, Peter Zilahy found escape from Soviet propaganda in mythology, which also offered solutions to everyday struggles. More on The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War by John V. Fleming. An interview with Jay Bergman, author of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov. Nuke the Moon: A look at 5 certifiably insane Cold War projects.