Meet the Real Capote with In Cold Blood

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In the wake of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s sad death, there’s been a lot of talk of his Oscar-winning performance as writer Truman Capote in the film “Capote.” In the movie, Hoffman portrayed the author as he was researching and writing In Cold Blood, assisted by close friend Harper Lee. 

What you can’t see in the film is the groundbreaking nonfiction form employed by Capote in this book about the murder of family in rural Kansas. In addition to shaping the true-crime genre, Capote brought the vivid techniques of fiction to non-fiction, making this book a non-stop read.


In Cold Blood (Vintage International) by Truman Capote. Amazon for $7.99. National Bestseller

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Read 12 Years a Slave, the Memoir that Won an Oscar

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Before it was the Oscar-winning Best Adapted Screenplay, before it was the Oscar-winning Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave was Solomon Northrup’s experience as a free man kidnapped into slavery. It immortalized the abject cruelty and brutality of slavery, creating a testament that has lasted and will last, lest we forget. And, as director Steve McQueen reminded us, continues in parts of the world.

I can’t help but wonder what Solomon Northrup would have thought of the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, of the highest award being given to the depiction of his life story.


Twelve Years a Slave (With the Original Illustrations) by Solomon Northrup. Amazon for $0.99. Here is the harrowing true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York. He was kidnapped by unscrupulous slave hunters and sold into slavery where he endured.

Celebrate John Steinbeck’s Birthday with This Collection

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In honor of his 112th birthday, here is a comprehensive collection of John Steinbeck’s short novels. Steinbeck immortalized the lives of people who would have been forgotten, mere footnotes in the pages of history. Almost tenderly, yet with gripping realism, he lets us inside their worlds.

And with six novels for one price, think of this as a bargain for your brain.


The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by John Steinbeck. Amazon for $20.99. Collected here for the first time in a deluxe paperback volume are six of Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s most widely read and beloved short novels—Tortilla Flat, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Moon Is Down, Cannery Row and The Pearl. From Steinbeck’s tale of commitment, loneliness, and hope in Of Mice and Men, to his tough yet charming portrait of people on the margins of Monterey society in Cannery Row, to The Pearl’s mythic examination of the fallacy of the American dream, Steinbeck created stories that were realistic, rugged, and imbued with energy and resilience.

Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God Should Be on Your List

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is renown for it’s flawless use of dialect, and every writer must read it to understand why dialect is a bad idea for anyone but the most skilled. And even then it’s dicey, unless you’re Hurston herself.

More than that,though, it’s glimpse into a specific moment in time, into lives greatly unlike ours, into people who, at one time, were not considered worthy of protagonist status. It’s books like these that let us into the living rooms we’d never have seen, that really help us to understand our common humanity.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Amazon for $1.99. One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.