If you’re seeking a website that won’t make you feel as if you’re bankrupting your local bookstore or laying waste to reading culture, then point your browser to Literary Hub. Launched in 2015 by Grove Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin and longtime editor Terry McDonell, the site, Lit Hub for short, has established itself as the digital place for all things, well, literary. Lit Hub partners with small presses, industry leviathans, magazine publishers, and independent bookstores to serve up news, criticism, newsletters, a podcast, and more. On any given day, you’ll find a healthy serving of articles related to California and the West: say, Joy Lanzendorfer’s brilliant comparison of the devastating Camp Fire with Mary Shelley’s experience of “the Year Without a Summer”; an interview with Thomas McGuane about fishing, Ernest Hemingway, and not living the writer’s life; and a ranking of Joan Didion book covers (The Year of Magical Thinking is No. 1). But the site’s honeypot is Book Marks, a self-described Rotten Tomatoes for book reviews. You’ll find write-ups from more than 70 sources sorted into four categories: Rave, Positive, Mixed, and Pan. In just a few minutes, you’ll get up to speed on the best and latest of literary culture.
Jennifer Hart horrified the world when she floored the gas pedal of her family’s 2003 GMC Yukon and drove herself, her wife, and their six adopted children off a cliff along California’s Highway 1. Over the course of eight episodes, Broken Harts, a podcast from How Stuff Works and Glamour, explores the seemingly perfect “Hart tribe” and their tragic end. Hosted by Justine Harman and Elisabeth Egan, each episode digs a little deeper into this tight-knit family from Woodland, Washington, exploring how Jennifer and her wife, Sarah Hart, who were white, found each other and eventually adopted six black children, including two sets of siblings, and examining numerous incidents involving those children—Markis, 19, Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, Abigail, 14, Jeremiah, 14, and Sierra, 12—that hinted at an abusive home life. Enhancing the well-produced podcast is an interactive website that includes photographs, recordings of 911 calls, interview clips, and behind-the-episode revelations from the podcast hosts and field reporter Lauren Smiley. Broken Harts manages to somehow give a final revelatory voice to its younger subjects.
Desert Oracle will stir your soul and quicken your heartbeat. Reading it is “like nearly stepping on a rattlesnake, or finding the fresh tracks of a mountain lion on a solo hike through a lonesome canyon,” Ken Layne, editor and publisher, wrote in the debut issue four years ago. Equal parts nature book, travel guide, and devotional, the pocket-size quarterly from Joshua Tree, California, captures the beauty, savagery, and weirdness of the Mojave Wilderness. It features writings by such high-desert wanderers as Edward “Cactus Ed” Abbey, Mary Hunter Austin, and William S. Burroughs, as well as more contemporary accounts of alien encounters, magical sand dunes, and Yucca-man, a Sasquatch-like creature. There are often survival tips—look for telephone poles and follow them, as they can lead to phone booths—and local humor, like a pronouncement that Benton Hot Springs is so healthful that many original customers returned for its 150th anniversary. This humble periodical contains stories and characters that will restore your primal connection to the desert.
Listen to Alta’s Managing Editor Blaise Zerega explain what’s so special about Desert Oracle on Alta’s podcast.