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Potential Research Topics: LITERATURE

This guide will help with settling on a research topic for class.


Novelist Charles Frazier’s forthcoming new novel will focus on the U.S. Civil War, a topic
he returns to for the first time since his bestseller Cold Mountain in 1997. Who is the real historic
Varina and how does Charles Frazier use fiction to tell her story? What are some other novels he
has written and what are they about?
SEARCH TERMS: Charles Frazier AND Varina

LITERATURE: Thriller Prize
British author Bridget Lawless has set up a prize for the best thriller that does not revolve
around violence against women. The Staunch Book Prize is open to both published and
unpublished works. What are the criteria for the works to be considered? What are the arguments
in favor of setting up this award? What are the arguments against its establishment?
SEARCH TERMS: Staunch Book Prize

LITERATURE: The Fire and the Fury
Journalist and author Michael Wolff has written a book called The Fire and The Fury:
Inside the Trump White House covering President Trump’s campaign and early presidency. What
parts of the book have drawn the most attention in the media and why? What subjects has Michael
Wolff covered as a journalist and what other books has he written and how were they received?
SEARCH TERMS: Fire and the Fury AND Michael Wolff

LITERATURE: Israel’s Brenner Prize
Israel’s Brenner Prize was given to Ronit Matalon for her novel And the Bride Closed the
Door. The award was accepted by her daughter Talya. What is the Brenner Prize and what other
authors have won it? What other works did Matalon write and how were they received? What other
prizes and honors did she win?
SEARCH TERMS: Ronit Matalon

LITERATURE: Midnight Line
Popular author Lee Child has released a new novel in his Jack Reacher series called
Midnight Line. Who is the recurring character Jack Reacher in these novels and what are the
qualities in him that readers find exciting? How is this character a little different in this novel than in
those of the past? What are other aspects of his thrillers that readers and critics have praised?
SEARCH TERMS: Midnight Line AND Lee Child

Ruth Bondy survived three different concentration camps during World War II. In 1948 she
moved to Israel and became a writer. She was best known for translating Czech books into
Hebrew, allowing Israeli readers to experience Milan Kundera, Jaroslav Hasek and Vaclav Havel.
What books did she herself write as opposed to translating? What are some of the interesting
themes in her writing?

LITERATURE: Dinner at the Center of the Earth
Nathan Englander’s new novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth involves complex
relationships between people caught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How does he develop his
characters and story? What is his writing style? What are other novels and short stories has he
SEARCH TERMS: Nathan Englander AND Dinner at the Center of the Earth

LITERATURE: Unfinished Work Destroyed
Before his death, Sir Terry Pratchett arranged for his unfinished novels and the computers
and other devices he wrote them on to be destroyed. This has been accomplished by having them
run over by an antique steamroller named Lord Jericho. The remains were then put into a concrete
crusher to complete their destruction. Why did Pratchett want this to happen? How have other
authors dealt with their unfinished works? Would it be interesting to see a steamroller
accomplishing this task?
SEARCH TERMS: Terry Pratchett AND unfinished novels

LITERATURE: A Magical Anniversary
TOPIC: The first Harry Potter book was published 20 years ago in Britain. It was a huge success. How did this success change its author J.K. Rowling’s life? How did it change the publishing industry? What other fantasy series came after it and how successful were they?
SEARCH TERMS: Harry Potter AND J.K. Rowling

LITERATURE: Anne Beattie’s New Collection    
TOPIC:  Anne Beattie’s new collection of short stories titled The Accomplished Guest continues to capture the voice and perspective of her generation as it grows older.  What are some ways she accomplishes this in these recent stories? What are the qualities of her writing that most impress her readers and the critics?
SEARCH TERMS: Anne Beattie AND Accomplished Guest

LITERATURE: Walt Whitman Novel
Zachary Turpin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston has discovered a 165-
year-old novel called The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle by the poet Walt Whitman. What
were Turpin’s primary sources for his discovery? How did he come across the evidence of this
novel, put the evidence together and discover the full story? What is the significance of this newly
discovered work to provide context to other work by Walt Whitman?
SEARCH TERMS: Walt Whitman AND Jack Engle

Palestinian author Abbad Yahya was in Qatar when authorities on the West Bank banned
his most recent novel Crime in Ramallah. Why was it banned? What has been the impact on
Yahya’s life? What else has he written?
SEARCH TERMS: Abbad Yahya AND Crime in Ramallah

LITERATURE: Emma Tennant
British novelist Emma Tennant has died at age 79. She was best known for her satirical novels written in the styles of other authors. What were some of these novels? What other types of works did she produce?
SEARCH TERMS: Emma Tennant

LITERATURE: Between Them
Between Them: Remembering My Parents is a memoir by the acclaimed novelist Richard
Ford. What does he reveal about his family and mid-20th century life? What are some of his most
acclaimed novels and how to they relate to his life?
SEARCH TERMS: Between Them AND Richard Ford

LITERATURE: Language at the Speed of Sight
Psychology professor and specialist in psycholinguistics Mark Seidenberg has written a
book called Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t and What Can be
Done About It. How does he analyze the process of reading and what does he advocate for
improving how American schools teach reading? How does the U.S. rate in reading and why? How
is this book being promoted and sold and what impact is it having on the public?
SEARCH TERMS: Language at the Speed of Sight AND Mark Seidenberg

LITERATURE: Richard Adams
Richard Adams was the author of the surprise 1970s best seller Watership Down. This
novel was about rabbits, not humans. What prizes did this novel win? How many copies has it
sold? What other novels did he write? Are there particular themes that run through his novels?
SEARCH TERMS: Richard Adams AND Watership Down

LITERATURE: Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize
Bob Dylan has been awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for bringing originality to the
poetry of American musical traditions. What are some of the strongest examples of poetry in his
lyrics and what makes them poetically impressive? What are the best arguments for and against
the choice of Dylan being awarded this prize in light of the controversy of awarding it to a
SEARCH TERMS: Bob Dylan AND Nobel Prize

LITERATURE: Man Booker Winner
U.S. author Paul Beatty has become the first American to win the Man Booker Prize, a top
British literary prize, for his novel The Sellout. This is a satirical look at race relations in the U.S.
When did Americans become eligible for this prize? What were the other books on the short list for
it? What news events over the past year can you associate with the themes in his novel?
SEARCH TERMS: Paul Beatty AND The Sellout

LITERATURE: Co-writers
The argument that William Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare’s plays has been
around a long time. The Oxford University Press has announced that it is going to add Christopher
Marlowe, another Elizabethan playwright, as a co-author to the three Henry VI plays. At this late
date, how could they make that determination? What was the methodology used for determining
that Marlowe co-authored the plays? Does their methodology make sense to you?
SEARCH TERMS: William Shakespeare AND Christopher Marlowe

LITERATURE:  Mitch Albom’s Musical Novel     
TOPIC:  Mitch Albom’s new novel The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto includes a musical companion piece. What is the novel about and how does the soundtrack compliment the work? How has music been used to launch and market this new novel?  What are some other books Albom has had success with?  
SEARCH TERMS: Mitch Albom AND Magic Strings of Frankie Presto 

LITERATURE: Booker Prize  
TOPIC:  Marlon James has won the Booker Prize for best novel in the English language for his work, A Brief History of Seven Killings. This is the second year that English language writers of all nationalities were eligible. What other novelists were on the short list and where were they from? What impact does the Booker have on authors? What is Seven Killings about and does it seem like a book you’d like to read?
SEARCH TERMS: Marlon James AND Booker Prize

LITERATURE: Svetlana Alexievich
TOPIC:  Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature winner. She has written on the role of women in the wartime Soviet Union and the Chernobyl disaster. How does her writing transcend journalism? What are other international literary prizes? Has she won any?
SEARCH TERMS: Svetlana Alexievich AND Nobel Prize in Literature

LITERATURE: Fortune Smiles     
TOPIC:  American short story writer and novelist Adam Johnson has won the National Book Award for his collection of short stories called Fortune Smiles. What are some of the controversial topics explored in these stories and how does Johnson treat them? What does the title, Fortune Smiles, refer to?  
SEARCH TERMS: Adam Johnson AND Fortune Smiles

LITERATURE: Youngblood     
TOPIC:  Former Army Captain in Iraq Matt Gallagher has published his first novel called Youngblood that is about an idealistic Lieutenant and his unit fighting in the Iraq War.  What in the novel draws on Gallagher’s own war experiences?  What other books has he written and what were the qualities in those books that the critics took note of?
SEARCH TERMS: Matt Gallagher AND Youngblood

LITERATURE: A New Beatrix Potter Book
TOPIC: It has been announced that a new book by Beatrix Potter will be published this coming September. Apparently she began working of The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots right before the First World War, finished the text and was working on illustrations for it before setting it aside. How was this tale discovered and who discovered it? What characters from her previous books make a return in its pages? What was your favorite Beatrix Potter book?
SEARCH TERMS: Beatrix Potter AND The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

LITERATURE:  Finale     
TOPIC:  Thomas Mallon’s novel Finale explores the Reagan Era in the United States.  What qualities of both this book and his other historical fiction have become his trademark? How does Finale depict the Reagan Years? What other celebrated books were written by Mallon and what are they about?
SEARCH TERMS: Thomas Mallon AND Finale

LITERATURE: Complete Works of Primo Levi  
TOPIC:  The Complete Works of Primo Levi will be published in English in three volumes with new translations from the Italian and an introduction by Toni Morrison. The Holocaust survivor is best known for his account of his partisan activities and imprisonment in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man. How did this new edition of his works come about? How long did it take to produce the new translations?  What other books did Levi write? How did his time in Auschwitz affect his life?

LITERATURE: Relic Master    
TOPIC:  Christopher Buckley has come out with a new comic novel called The Relic Master about 16th century religious and political intrigue that involves the seeking of religious relics.  What are some of the qualities of this novel that most impressed the critics?  What are some his other popular books?
SEARCH TERMS: Christopher Buckley AND Relic Master

LITERATURE: Salman Rushdie
TOPIC:  Salman Rushdie has been awarded the Mailer Prize. The prize, named for the late U.S. author, is for lifetime achievement. What are Rushdie's notable works? What is noticeable about his writings?  
SEARCH TERMS: Salman Rushdie AND Mailer Prize

LITERATURE: Harper Lee     
TOPIC:  Harper Lee was the author of the classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird and its follow-up 55 years later, Go Set a Watchman.  What were the qualities of To Kill A Mockingbird that made it such a popular and acclaimed novel and what qualities in Go Set a Watchman surprised a lot of critics?  What have been some of the legal issues surrounding Lee’s estate? What is the town where she spent most of her life and how has it influenced her novels?
SEARCH TERMS: Harper Lee AND To Kill A Mockingbird

TOPIC:  Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novel The Name of the Rose, a popular best seller and also a very popular movie.  What is the book about and what are the qualities of the writing that impressed the critics?  What are some of his other esteemed novels and what are the qualities of those books that most impressed the critics?

TOPIC: American geochemist and geobiologist Hope Jahren has written a book called Lab Girl about her work and life. What work has she been most acclaimed for and what is most significant and impressive about it? What are the critics saying about her book and what are scientists saying is important about it?
SEARCH TERMS: Hope Jahren AND Lab Girl

LITERATURE: Jim Harrison
TOPIC: Jim Harrison was the author of the popular novella Legends of the Fall. What authors has he been compared to and why? What was Legends of the Fall about and what were the qualities that impressed the critic and readers of the book? What is a novella and what are some other famous novellas?
SEARCH TERMS: Jim Harrison AND Legends of the Fall

LITERATURE: Imre Kertesz
TOPIC: Imre Kertesz was a Hungarian Nobel laureate. As a boy he was imprisoned by the Nazis in first the Auschwitz and later Buchenwald concentration camps. His novels reflected that part of his life. What was his career like under the Communist Party regime in Hungary? For what works was he honored with the Nobel Prize?
SEARCH TERMS: Imre Kertesz

LITERATURE: The Morning They Came for Us
TOPIC: A new book by top Newsweek foreign correspondent Janine di Giovanni called The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria covers the brutal realities of living in wartime Syria as seen by various people living there. What are the different types of people interviewed in the book and what are some of their most poignant experiences? What are some of the journalism awards won by Janine di Giovanni and why?
SEARCH TERMS: Janine di Giovanni AND Came for Us AND Syria

LITERATURE: Man Booker Prize
TOPIC: The Man Booker International Prize for fiction, which changed its format from rewarding careers to rewarding a single work translated into English and which is shared by the author and translator, was given to South Korean author Han Kang and her translator Deborah Smith for the novel The Vegetarian. Han is the first Korean to win the prize and this is her first novel translated into English. Amazingly, Smith taught herself Korean only seven years ago. What other authors and translators were on the short list for the prize? How much of an upset was this result?
SEARCH TERMS: The Vegetarian AND (Han Kang OR Deborah Smith)

LITERATURE: The Sympathizer
TOPIC: English Professor at the University of Southern California Viet Thanh Nguyen has won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel The Sympathizer. What is the novel about and what are the qualities that impressed the critics? What are some of the experiences that he has had growing up that influenced the story of The Sympathizer?
SEARCH TERMS: Viet Thanh Nguyen

LITERATURE: Prize Winner
TOPIC: Author Meg Rosoff has won the Astrid Lindgren prize for youth literature. The prize is named for the creator of Pippi Longstocking. Who administers this prize and how are winners decided? What books has Rosoff written and how interesting do they sound? What other prizes and awards has she won?
SEARCH TERMS: Meg Rosoff AND Astrid Lindgren prize

 LITERATURE: Barkskins
TOPIC: The novelist Annie Proulx, known for The Shipping News and her New Yorker short story
Brokeback Mountain, has released a new novel called Barkskins. What are barkskins and what is
this story about? What are the qualities of the writing in this novel that impress the critics? What
does this novel tell readers about the history of North America?
SEARCH TERMS: Barkskins AND Annie Proulx

LITERATURE: Princess of Asturias Prize
TOPIC: U.S. author Richard Ford has won Spain’s Princess of Asturias prize for his contributions
to American literature. What is his best known work? What character has he written several novels
about? What is the Princess of Asturias prize and who awards it? Who else has won it? IN what
other areas are prizes given by this group?
SEARCH TERMS: Richard Ford

TOPIC: Tim LaHaye was an evangelical Christian minister and author who wrote the popular Left Behind religious fiction series about Christian End Times. What are the plots to the Left Behind stories and why are they so popular? What movie was made based on the books and how did the stories translate to film?

LITERATURE: Longlist Revealed
TOPIC: The longlist for the Booker Prize has been announced. Thirteen authors and their works comprise the list. Which authors have you read before? Which new works sound interesting and why?
SEARCH TERMS: Booker Prize AND longlist

LITERATURE: Hillbilly Elegy
TOPIC: J.D. Vance grew up poor in the Rust Belt, went on to become a marine and eventually a graduate of the Yale Law School. In his memoir: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Vance offers a poignant look at the struggles of the American white, working class, and attempts to answer a question that many are asking during the presidential election season: What are the pressing social and economic issues impacting voting perspectives in 2016? How does Vance describe the struggles of Americans who can no longer depend on industrialization for employment? What is his description and experience with social decay in the United States? How does Vance relate American social and cultural anxiety? What is Vance’s perspective about how those struggling in the United States can improve their lives?
SEARCH TERMS: Vance AND Hillbilly Elegy

LITERATURE: Prize Winner
TOPIC: A.S. Patric has won the most prestigious literary award in Australia, the Miles Franklin Award, for his novel Black Rock White City. The novel explores the contemporary immigrant experience in Australia. What other novels were shortlisted for the prize? For whom is the prize named and how did it come into being?
SEARCH TERMS: A.S. Patric AND Miles Franklin Award