“Year-end lists are always subjective and incomplete, but they are especially tricky for books. A dedicated film critic can watch every wide release film and a theater critic can go to most every play, but the book critic is faced with an insurmountable mountain of books each year. The sheer number of books is inspiring as a reader, but it can make “best of” lists laughably subjective when the critic has only read a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year.” This might help to explain the logic and intent of our own Year in Reading series, but it also prefaces Electric Literature‘s list of the top 25 story collections of 2014 (which includes recent Year in Reading alum Phil Klay‘s Redeployment).
“It turned out that the most successful Christmas records tended to have two common qualities: catchy, upbeat melodies and imagined unlikely scenarios for anthropomorphized yuletide characters.” Move over, Frosty! It’s beginning to look a lot like … an unseasonably warm December. Here is a brief history of Christmas songs and of their often-surprising rise from corny kitsch to global sensation.
Another bumper crop of books this week is led by J.K Rowling’s post-Potter effort, The Casual Vacancy is on shelves, as are May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes, Canvas by Benjamin Stein, Panorama City by Antoine Wilson, Sutton by J.R. Moehringer, Tarun J. Tejpal’s debut The Story of my Assassins. On the non-fiction side, Nate Silver’s long-awaited The Signal and the Noise is here, as is Neil Young’s memoir Waging Heavy Peace. New in paperback: John Warner’s Funny Man (the edition includes an essay by Warner that ran on The Millions) and Emma Donoghue’s blockbuster The Room.