“What is the value of a book cover if fewer and fewer people shop at bookstores?” Nicholas Blechman wonders about the purpose of the book cover at The New York Times Book Review, but he also rounds up some of the best covers of 2014, including the design for Eimear McBride‘s A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing (Millions review here, McBride’s “Year in Reading” here).
At the LARB, Anne Trubek quotes Lionel Trilling in a review of The Son and American Rust, the two books published thus far by New Yorker 20 Under 40 alum Phillipp Meyer. “In the American metaphysic,” Trilling wrote in his essay “Reality in America,” “reality is always material reality, hard, resistant, unformed, impenetrable, and unpleasant.” Those of you who read our pieces on both books may be able to guess why the quote is relevant.
Out this week: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney; The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson; The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan; Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman; Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett; and Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
The Republic of South Sudan has declared independence. Just three years ago, Dave Eggers published Out of Exile: Narratives from the Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan (Voice of Witness). The Guardian has an excerpt. A year later, Jamal Mahjoub foresaw the secessionist fervor south of Darfur.