Electric Literature’s Most Popular Posts of 2019

Revisit your favorites, or catch up on the ones you missed

Photo by Thu Hoang

Electric Lit got a whole new look this year (and a new store! And a new membership platform!). But let nobody say we’re all style and no substance. We also published over 750 essays, stories, interviews, lists, humor pieces, and other great writing. Here are our 15 most popular articles from 2019.

15. Why Can’t We Make Up Our Minds About Sally Rooney?, Carrie V. Mullins

Is the Irish phenom a literary powerhouse or a chick lit writer? The media can’t seem to decide, writes Mullins: “So maybe this is what breaking out of the ‘women’s fiction’ ghetto looks like: a commercially successful book that is praised by Camila Morrone, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Instagram model girlfriend, and also by Anne Enright, winner of the Booker Prize.”

Mug with I heart books logo
Photo by Monterey Public Library

14. Liking Books Is Not a Personality, Hannah McGregor

Why did the literary world get so up in arms when Marie Kondo gently suggested clearing out your book stash? It’s not just because people are kinda weirdly racist about Marie Kondo; it’s also because we have a complicated societal relationship with owning books and book accessories. McGregor looks at the “long, classed history of book consumption as social posturing.”

13. Shopping for a Boy? Give Him a Book About a Girl, Shoshana Akabas

Reading books whose protagonists are different from you is great for increasing empathy—but it’s not just character-building. Boys are also perfectly happy reading books that focus on girls and their everyday lives. They just don’t usually get those books as gifts, or assigned at school. Akabas explains why we should be making books about girls more available to everyone, not just girls themselves.

Empty Alice in Wonderland dress
Photo by Birgit Compton on Wikimedia Commons

12. The Book That Defined My Teen Anxiety Turned Out to Be a Lie, Sloane Tanen

Were you today years old when you found out that Go Ask Alice, the iconic anonymous diary of a girl sliding into drug addiction in the 1970s, was actually a work of propagandist fiction? You’re not alone. Sloane Tanen takes us through the effect Go Ask Alice had on her life as an anxious teen, and how she felt when she discovered she’d been played.

11. Plan Your Tony Award-Winning Musical With Our Handy Chart, Helen Rosner

This year, a folk opera retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice garnered almost as many Tonys as the record-holding hip-hop retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton. In other words: there’s a formula for award-winning musicals, and it works. And you can get your own, using only your initials.

Man whose face is obscured by smoke
Photo by Luther Bottrill on Unsplash

10. The Woman Who Rewrote Me, Jedediah Berry

Before Carmen Maria Machado’s stunning memoir—our pick for best nonfiction book of the year—made everyone reckon with abuse in relationships between women, Jedediah Berry wrote about his experience of emotional abuse from a female partner, a writer who wanted to exert toxic control over their story.

Amazon package

9. Why It Matters That Amazon Shipped Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments” a Week Early, Lexi Beach

Small bookstores agree to embargoes for highly-anticipated books like the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, promising that they won’t make it available for sale until a certain day. Amazon is subject to embargoes too—but if you’re Amazon, you can afford to break the rules. Lexi Beach lays out why that’s bad for indie bookstore owners like her.

Books stacked to look like a sun
Photo by Loozrboy

8. 31 Poets Recommend 31 Poetry Books to Read Every Day in August, Christina Orlando

The Sealey Challenge, set by poet Nicole Sealey, encourages you to read one full book of poetry per day in August. Christina Orlando talked to 31 poets (including Sealey) about the can’t-miss books you should add to your pile for August or any time of year.

7. 48 Books By Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read in 2019, R.O. Kwon

Kwon’s yearly list of upcoming books by women of color is reliably one of our most popular posts. This year, she offered more highly-anticipated books than ever before, and expanded to include nonbinary authors.

"Pussy Hound" by Sarah Gerard
Photo by John Gibbons on Unsplash

6. Pussy Hounds, Sarah Gerard

Talking about sex with your friends: the most normal of interactions, and also the most fraught. In Sarah Gerard’s short story, four friends on a writing retreat—one of whom just left a bad marriage—navigate questions about art, love, relationships, and desire.

5. Literary Wedding Ideas for People Who Don’t Really Understand Books, Riane Konc

Someone already did a Handmaid’s Tale–themed wedding, but don’t worry: if you’re determined to celebrate your commitment in a way that also celebrates your mild confusion about literature, we have plenty of other ideas for you!

Photo by Tom Taker

4. Why Three Generations of Americans All Have the Same Favorite Cookbook, Abigail Weil

Cookbooks tend to reflect the cultural moment—but Joy of Cooking is timeless. Abigail Weil lays out the history of this family project, which has changed just enough with the times to stay relevant ever since its first edition in 1931.

Female mannequins without heads
Photo by Andrew Malone

3. Everything We Learned About Women’s Anatomy from Male Authors, Jess Zimmerman

The Twitter feed Men Write Women collects the most eye-popping examples of writers confused about women’s experiences, emotions, and especially bodies. We round up some of the worst anatomical offenses, and the resulting image is… unfortunate.

2. A Perfectly Normal Interview with Carmen Maria Machado Where Everything Is Fine, Theodore McCombs

Nothing at all is weird about Theodore McCombs’s interview with Carmen Maria Machado about the new edition of J. Sheridan LeFanu’s vampire novel Carmilla! Nothing weird happens at all.

1. There’s Nothing Scarier Than a Hungry Woman, Laura Maw

We have a cultural horror of women’s hunger—and what better way to examine it than by looking at how hungry women are portrayed in horror films? “Beneath the resistance and suppression of appetite is something wild, something terrifying,” writes Maw in an essay that bridges the critical and the personal.


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