The 14 literary newsletters you need in your inbox
I receive more emails in a day than I can track, let alone respond to them.
Most of us do. Collectively, we sent around 319 billion emails every day in 2021. I’d like to know the breakdown of those messages. How many rambling update chains between old friends? How many notes are there to confirm a long-awaited trip to visit family? I bet those are in the minority, overshadowed by the sheer number of promotions and automations. And I’m basing it on my own inbox.
This is one of the reasons I love subscribing to newsletters. It’s not the same as a note from a friend, but it requires no more time than reading – no input, no decisions, and no feelings of guilt for inevitably falling behind in responding. Just an invitation to take a few minutes and read whatever the topic is.
Here are 14 of my favorite literary newsletters, the ones I like to see in my inbox as an excuse to sit down for a minute and think about books, writing, and reading.
First I found Sara Hildreth’s Fiction Matters newsletter via the former English teacher’s Instagram account, which has a similar literary focus, and it’s become one of my favorites. Every Sunday, Hildreth shares smart, quick reviews of the books she’s read, commentary on literary news, and a roundup of what she likes, does, listens to, or watches. The content is great, but the tone is wonderful – kind, warm and relaxed, the perfect way to get back in your inbox at the end of the weekend.
Also, the title here is not misleading. The newsletter features mostly fiction, with occasional non-fiction readings and recommendations. Most of the titles are literary fiction, but Hildreth also reads all genres.
Cost: The Fiction Matters newsletter is free, but there is a patreon Fiction Matters community if you want more.
Electric Lit editor Brandon Taylor’s newsletter features literary reviews that feel like a thought process, like him explaining an idea or unpacking a reaction and teasing it to see how it works .
Besides being a pleasure to sit down with, these newsletters motivate me to read more carefully, to consider the media I consume in conversation, to stop breaking my brain scroll – although if you, like me , don’t always succeed at this, Taylor is an amazing Twitter following.
In short: Must subscribe.
Electrical Literature Bulletins
Electric Literature has three weekly newsletters, each arriving on a different day of the week. The Commuter, which comes out Monday mornings, is a literary magazine with poetry, flash fiction and graphic narratives. Each email includes a piece, along with links to essays related to the larger topic, whether it’s aquatic drama or artistic influence. (Also, I can confirm that this email is a perfectly timed transition into the work week, even when you’re not commuting.)
Recommended Reading, which arrives on Wednesdays, features short fiction films recommended by another author. It’s simple, but the personalized introduction to a story — explaining why it resonates, why the writer admires it — is beautiful. I don’t know about you, but I tend to pay more attention, engage more when someone recommends a piece to me.
Finally, the Friday Roundup hits inboxes at the end of each workweek. This newsletter features the best of Electric Literature essays, playlists and interviews, so you don’t have to worry about missing a thing.
Life with Kat
Life with Kat is another newsletter I found via Instagram. Kat Scrivener’s Instagram account is a top notch bookstagram – stacked shelves, comfy mugs, a cute dog and new books all the time. Scrivener’s commentary on the books is thoughtful and engaging, and as someone living with cystic fibrosis, his perspective on the representation of disability in fiction and non-fiction readings is important.
for her Life with Kat, Scrivener offers a few monthly series: book summaries, spotlight on new releases, and thoughts on backlist reading. In these emails, Scrivener shares likes, dislikes, hype, and duds.
Cost: Monthly digests of new releases are free, but the rest of the regular newsletters, featuring deep dives into recent reading, are for paid subscribers only, $5/month or $50 per year.
This is, surprise, surprise, a weekly newsletter. Each Monday, the email includes a curated list of personal essays from Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, as well as other publications.
Memory Mondays was founded by Lilly Dancyger and is currently run by Sari Botton. In addition to the newsletter, Memory Mondays organizes a series of quarterly readings in New York. Not in your inbox, but a nice IRL option.
Cost: The newsletter is free, but the original memory monday trial posts are for paying Substack subscribers only, $5/month or $50/year.
Jbuzzfeed books newsletter sends out two emails per week. Tuesday emails round up the best new books each week. The list is usually divided by genre – including non-fiction, romance, sci-fi, etc. – with descriptions from Buzzfeed team members or Buzzfeed Books contributors.
On Sundays, the Buzzfeed Books newsletter highlights reading lists of the week, like AAPI author must-reads and audio fiction podcasts for all types of readers.
Hub lit daily
Hub lit daily offers links to essays on the Lit Hub website, including author interviews, podcast episodes, playlists, cultural reviews, and more. Plus, the email includes links to external literary content, so it’s a great one-stop-shop for the day’s literary news if you’re trying to stay off of Twitter.
Dear reader is led by Mumbai-based author and journalist Deepanjana Pal. Every month (or so), Pal shares thoughtful, essay-like thoughts on the book she’s been reading for the past few weeks.
One of my favorite things about Dear reader is that these reflections include not only the content and criticism, but also the process of reading these books. In the most recent, for example, Pal describes his expectations for The simple wife by Maria Dahvana Headley from the title, and her surprise on reading the first lines.
female dogs must eat!
Writer Samantha Irby female dogs must eat! contains recaps and reactions to articles and essays, shows, movies, and (of course) books. And because it’s Samantha Irby, the writing is energetic and hilarious.
Cost: Free for occasional public posts, and access to all content is $5 per month or $50 per year.
A writer’s notebook
In this newsletter, author Summer Brennan shares stories of her ongoing research or what she’s read, occasionally commenting on literary news and often writing about life in Paris (“Cough Like a French Girl” is a interesting reading, and an unbeatable title). The newsletter includes Essay Camp, writing prompts, and encouragement in a “write at the same time” community.
The schedule for this writer’s diary isn’t set, but Brennan sends it out at least twice a week.
Cost: Free for occasional posts, but access to all newsletter content is $6 per month or $60 annually.
Previously brain pickings, The misfit is Maria Popova’s newsletter which lists, as Popova explains, “a record of my continued becoming as a person – intellectually, creatively, spiritually, poetically – drawn from my extended margins on the search for meaning through literature, science, art, philosophy and the various other tendrils of human thought and feeling.
Heavy for a newsletter, of course. But Popova’s essays on classic literature, theory, art, and science are sharp and all-consuming, calling for deep reading, the best kind of break from the incessant din of emails and notifications.
The Marginalian has two subscription options, Sunday or midweek.
Cost: Free, with the encouragement to donate.
read more books
read more books is primarily a weekly summary of what Jeremy Anderberg, a book reviewer, has read, with brief descriptions and reviews. But the newsletter also includes reading lists for various topics, including presidential biographies for each of our country’s leaders and readings to better understand Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
If that wasn’t enough, read more books also offers author interviews a few times a month.
Cost: Free weekly Friday newsletter, and $5 per month or $52 per year for bi-weekly book review emails, personalized recommendations, and access to the Read More Books.
The Austen Connection
The Austen Connection concerns critical writing about books, the literary zeitgeist, the application of theory to general media, and, of course, a touchstone of Austen’s classics. The newsletter that examines the connections between Austen’s work and modern media, including everything from romantic reality TV to Michelle Obama’s memoir.
The Austen Connection comes out several times a month, and the archive has a backlog of essay-type emails. One of my favorites explores the sexual tension in Austen’s writing, particularly Pride and Prejudice, and the three Sally Rooney novels.
Cost: Free for posts and $5 per month or $50 per year for early access to podcast episodes and subscriber-only posts.
I’ll start with a disclaimer here: Arianna Rebolini’s newsletter Reading habits is currently on hiatus. But if you’re not subscribed, I recommend making sure you’re on the list when she starts sending it again.
Previously, Rebolini was an editor at BuzzFeed Books. Its newsletter features brief reflections on current reading, including reading list and new releases, with intelligent observations and candid assessments. Plus, it has links to book summaries, author events, essays, and more.
Cost: Free and currently does not accept paid subscriptions.