Samuel Johnson's Tricentennial

As publishers slash jobs and newspapers fold, everyone is questioning the future of professional writing. What a fortuitous year, then, for Samuel Johnson—whom Slate calls “greatest professional writer in English literature”—to turn 300. For his tricentennial, two new books have been released: Samuel Johnson: The Struggle, by Jeffrey Meyers, and Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin. Slate writer Adam Kirsch calls the former more accessible, and the latter more academic, but says both offer a proper account of Johnson’s hard-won struggle to make it as a writer, a lesson that rings all-too-true today. “It may not be long before the kind of professional confidence and expertise that Johnson cultivated over a lifetime of paid work will appear as regrettably obsolete as books and newspapers themselves," Kirsch writes.