A photograph of Louisa May Alcott.

Nonfiction That Rivals Little Women: The Forgotten Essays of Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott is best known for Little Women, but she earned her first taste of celebrity as an essayist.
Captain Lightfood on horseback firing a pistol.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot: The American Creation of Irish Outlaw Folk Heroes

Martin’s confession relates outlaw adventures that appear to be original. But were they real? 
Tennessee Williams

How Thomas Lanier Williams Became Tennessee

A collection of previously unpublished stories offers a portrait of the playwright as a young artist.
Illustrated portrait of Don DeLillo against a firey background.

Secret Histories

Don DeLillo's Cold Wars.
Cormac McCarthy.

Cormac McCarthy’s Unforgiving Parables of American Empire

He demonstrated how the frontier wasn’t an incubator of democratic equality but a place of unrelenting pain, cruelty, and suffering.
The cover of The Black Mask magazine, June 1, 1923, featuring a hooded Klan member.

The Gumshoes Who Took On the Klan

In the pages of "Black Mask" magazine, the Continental Op and Race Williams fought the KKK even as they shared its love of vigilante justice.

Pieces of the Past

Dispatches from a spine-tingling day of visits to the places where James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, and Thomas Cole created their most famous works.
Diagram with three mollusks

Edgar Allan Poe: Pioneering Mollusk Scientist

Poe’s work reminds us that the separation of “Arts” and “Sciences” into discrete discourses of knowledge is itself a quite recent invention.
Black and white photo of Lydia Maria Child reading a book

Living in Words

A new biography explores the work of the influential abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, who wrote about the social, political, and cultural issues of her time.
Illustration of fantasy elements including a maze and a crystal ball from a "choose-your-own-adventure" scene from a book.

The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books

How a best-selling series gave young readers a new sense of agency.
Invisible Man book cover with Ralph Ellison on the back

Broke and Blowing Deadlines

How Ralph Ellison got Invisible Man into the canon.
Drawing of a group of young boys around a table, entitled "Mischievous Matt," from a story paper.

Dime Novels and Story Papers for Kids

The rise of popular literature for children put a story, a role model, and a set of values in a young boy’s pocket.
Black and white photo of Gertrude Stein writing at desk.

Gertrude Stein's Pulp Fiction

It has taken decades for an appreciation of Stein’s crime fiction to really take hold.
A picture of an eerie dark house.

This House Is Still Haunted: An Essay In Seven Gables

A spectre is haunting houses—the spectre of possession.
Illustration of two ghostly women

The Haunted World of Edith Wharton

Whether exploring the dread of everyday life or the horrors of the occult, her ghost tales documented a nation haunted by isolation, class, and despair.
Magazine illustration depicting fantastical inventions for travel on water, land, and air, titled March of Intellect, by William Heath, c. 1828.

A Utopia of Useful Things

On the nineteenth-century artists and thinkers who pictured a future of abundance powered by steam.
Plantation house in the snow.

The Grim History of Christmas for Slaves in the Deep South

"If you read enough sources, you run into cases of slaves spending a lot of time over Christmas crying."
Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and snowman.

How Mrs. Claus Embodied 19th-Century Debates About Women's Rights

Many early stories praise her work ethic and devotion. But with Mrs. Claus usually hitting the North Pole’s glass ceiling, some writers started to push back.

The Once and Future Temp

What can the history of the temp-work industry teach us about the precarity of modern working life?
The writer (seen here in a picture from the eighteen-eighties) hid his own life story.

Are All Short Stories O. Henry Stories?

The writer’s signature style of ending—a final, thrilling note—has the touch of magic that distinguishes the form at its best.