Year in Reading contributor Kevin Smokler’s new essay collection, Practical Classics, explores the benefits of revisiting the first books you read (even if you hated them). In fact, the difficult and excruciating books have a particular value. “Books aren’t all supposed to be our best friends,” says Smokler in a new Rumpus interview. “Sometimes they’re supposed to be that difficult friend who encourages us to do things that we don’t feel are rational or grown-up.”
Did mysterious bureaucrats authorize the destruction of historical documents in North Carolina in order to cover up “a paper trail associated with one or more now-prominent, politically connected NC families that found its wealth and success through theft, intimidation, and outrageous corruption?” That’s Constance Hall Jones’s suspicion. Bonus: Part two, which includes a timeline. (h/t Lydia Kiesling)
“What I didn’t know then was that these decorations evolved from the Jewish menora, the Hebrew festival of lights. I don’t think my mother knew that either, but if she did she never mentioned it. And I certainly never contemplated the resemblance of a sleigh to a cradle. A sleigh is basically a very large cradle.” Mary Ruefle on Christmas trees.