“Genius” is a loaded term. Its application usually says more about the person making the judgment than it does about the genius in question. In The Guardian, Sophie Hannah argues that the term isn’t used enough to describe one writer in particular: Agatha Christie. You could also read Daniel Friedman on the terrible secret of all crime fiction.
The 2014 National Book Awards were just announced earlier this week. In celebration, The Paris Review took a look back at the American Book Awards, which “serve as a reminder that ostensibly prestigious institutions—institutions whose authority and taste depend on their perceived stability—are just as susceptible to whims and trends as the rest of us, which is to say very.”
Here’s the perfect example of something you didn’t even know you wanted: Gary Oldman doing a dramatic reading from R. Kelly’s memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me. This performance will surely join the pantheon of great pop culture readings alongside Christopher Walken’s reading of Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” and John Lithgow’s reading of Newt Gingrich’s “florid” and “overwritten” press release.
“These sorts of connections are at the centre of nearly all time machine fiction. These novels usually draw attention to telling commonalities across historical eras, or between the past and the present. That gives an engaging puzzle quality to the books—we read seeking out the dropped clues that will shed light on the purpose of the parallel.” On fiction in which the plot takes place over multiple timelines.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a book that was at once so bold in style and ambitious in structure and so much fun to read.” The Guardian asks indie publishers about the books that made their year, including Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue (whose own Year in Reading you can find here).
Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to make America less stupid about the Civil War. He recommends five books we should all read to gain a better understanding of American history during this war and assures us that “I’ve tried to think very hard about readability, and to offer books you might actually complete.” So no excuses, start here