“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).
Granta talks to some translators of Russian literature about what they're working on, and we learn that Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the first couple of Russian translation are working on a 600-page collection of stories by Nikolai Leskov, an underappreciated contemporary of Dostoevsky. Previously: The Millions interviews P&V.
In his review of Lee Friedlander’s collection, Playing for the Benefit of the Band: New Orleans Music Culture, Nathaniel Rich remarks on the “unsettling beauty” of the artist's photographs.
The e-book subscription service Oyster has recently launched The Oyster Review, and we have reason to be excited: the first issue names our own Emily St. James Mandel's Last Night in Montreal "The Book of the Week" and features a look at the novel written by former Millions intern Rachel Hurn.
New releases this week include the much-hyped The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I. Also out in nonfiction is President Obama's picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), as reviewed by the New York Times, Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and, for hip-hop fans, Jay-Z's memoir Decoded.