Welcome to your weekly roundup of book news and literary highlights from The Thread.
This week, a legendary friendship comes to light and a debate rages over just what "young adult literature" really means.
History's odd couple
Mark Twain and Helen Keller are both literary legends in their own right, but together they made quite the twosome.
The two were fast friends, according to Josh Jones, who explores the writers' unique relationship in a feature for Open Culture.
Twain and Keller first met New York in 1895, where they had an instant connection. Keller wrote that "he treated me not as a freak, but as a handicapped woman seeking a way to circumvent extraordinary difficulties."
Twain was equally captivated. He arranged for a wealthy acquaintance to sponsor Keller's education, writing,"It won't do for America to allow this marvelous child to retire from her studies because of poverty. If she can go on with them she will make a fame that will endure in history for centuries."
Thanks to Twain's intervention, Keller graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 and went on to publish 12 books. The writers continued their correspondence until Twain's death in 1910.
How do you define young adult literature?
The debate about the merits of young adult literature rages on. Last June, Ruth Graham declared in Slate: "Read what you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children."
Cue the uproar.
Readers, writers and critics were quick to come to the defense of the category. Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in the Washington Post that to ridicule young adult literature "is to embrace a kind of snobbery and rigidity about what is worthy and what is not."
Now Amazon has stepped into the fray with its list of 100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime. "Books to love at fourteen or forty," the list declares.
Amazon's list upends stereotypes about the young adult genre. Yes, "Twilight" is there, but so is Mark Twain and "To Kill a Mockingbird." Paranormal romance is listed alongside Pulitzer Prize winners. "Fault in Our Stars" is next to "Fahrenheit 451."
It's a good reminder that the "young adult" label is a category applied after the fact — and that a great book can be a great book at any age.
The winners circle
The experimental Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai claimed the Man Booker International Prize this week. The prize recognizes an author's overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.
• The contenders: Finalists announced for the Man Booker International Prize
Travel writer and historian Justin Marozzi's book on Baghdad won the Ondaajte Prize, which recognizes a work "evoking the spirit of a place." "Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood" examines thirteen centuries of the city's rich and troubled history.
• On MPR News: Roaming and Reading in Baghdad
Lastly, there's the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. Alexander McCall Smith won it for his novel "Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party." His prize? A bottle of champagne and a pig named after his book.