Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News

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NBCC Announces 2017 Finalists

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The National Book Critics Circle announced their 2017 Award Finalists, and the winners of three awards: the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, John Leonard Prize, and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. The finalists include 30 writers across six different categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Fiction, Poetry, and Criticism. Here are the finalists separated by genre: Fiction: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (The Millions' review) The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy Improvement by Joan Silber Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Read our interview with Ward) Nonfiction: Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack Davis The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (Read our 2017 interview with Gessen) Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford Biography: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography by Edmund Gordon The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times by Kenneth Whyte Autobiography: The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh The Girl From the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China by Xiaolu Guo Poetry: Fourth Person Singular by Nuar Alsadir Earthling by James Longenbach Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Recommended by Contributing Editor Nick Ripatrazone) The Darkness of Snow by Frank Ormsby Directions for Use by Ana Ristović Criticism: You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages by Carina Chocano The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History by Camille Dungy Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli (Review) Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News by Kevin Young (Read Young's Year in Reading) For the three stand along awards, here are the winners: John McPhee won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to letters and book culture, exploration of widely varying topics, and mentorship of young writers and journalists. Author and critic Charles Finch won the Nona Balakin Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. The John Leonard Prize—for a first book in any genre—went to Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties. The winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

A Year in Reading: Kaveh Akbar

It’s been a long 2017. So much of being a poet as I understand it is about maintaining a permeability to wonder, and that’s been difficult work in a year spent in the long shadow of a fascistic regime, a year in which the earth has grown increasingly desperate in its attempts to warn us about the damage we’re doing to it. The (perhaps feeble ((but noble))) balm—a year of books, richer than any I can recall. It’s like the world of poetry knew we’d need it to rise up and carry us, to orient us toward our livable tomorrows. Poets are watchers, wonderers. And they have the magical ability to make us realer than we can make ourselves. Elizabeth Alexander writes: “We are of interest to one another, are we not?” I like thinking of poems as little empathy tablets, granting us access to (and compassion for) lived experiences unlike any we’ll ever know firsthand. Here are some new books (mostly poetry, listed in no particular order) from the past year that have helped me wander and wonder from one day into the next: Frank Bidart – Half-Light Anaïs Duplan – Mount Carmel & the Blood of Parnassus Marwa Helal – I Am Made to Leave I Am Made to Return Traci Brimhall – Saudade Layli Long Soldier - Whereas Rachel McKibbens - blud Sahar Muradi – [Gates] Steph Burt – Advice from the Lights Maggie Smith – Good Bones Cait Weiss Orcutt - Valleyspeak Nuar Alsadir – Fourth Person Singular Nicole Tong – How to Prove a Theory Craig Morgan Teicher – The Trembling Answers Nicole Sealey – Ordinary Beast Danez Smith – Don’t Call Us Dead sam sax - Madness Javier Zamora - Unaccompanied Marcus Wicker – Silencer Alex Dimitrov – Together and By Ourselves Ruth Awad – Set to Music a Wildfire Bill Knott – Selected Poems William Brewer – I Know Your Kind Morgan Parker – There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé Carl Phillips – Wild Is the Wind Marie Howe - Magdalene Ghayath Almadhoun - Adrenalin Patricia Smith – Incendiary Arts Tyree Daye – River Hymns Gabrielle Calvocoressi – Rocket Fantastic Mai Der Vang - Afterland Sarah Browning – Killing Summer Alessandra Lynch – Daylily Called it a Dangerous Moment Chen Chen – When I Grow Up I Want to Be A List of Further Possibilities Adrian Matejka – Map to the Stars Finn Menzies – Brilliant Odyssey Don’t Yearn Eve L. Ewing – Electric Arches Shane McCrae – In the Language of My Captor Ghassan Zaqtan (trans. by Fady Joudah) – The Silence that Remains Franny Choi – Death By Sex Machine Laura Kasischke – Where Now: New and Selected Poems Subject to Change: Trans Poetry & Conversation Megan Stielstra – The Wrong Way to Save Your Life Hanif Abdurraqib – They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us Melissa Febos – Abandon Me Ta-Nehisi Coates – We Were Eight Years in Power Alissa Nutting – Made for Love Roxane Gay – Hunger Kevin Young - Bunk Wendy Xu - Phrasis More from A Year in Reading 2017 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 [millions_ad]

A Year in Reading: Jeff Chang

This past year, I spent a huge portion of my non-work-related waking hours immersed in the national output of nonfiction books. Instead of reading for writing projects, as was my annual routine for many years, I was reading to determine a winner. But in a year that left so many of us battle-weary, the idea of winning seemed beside the point, perhaps even part of the problem. I wanted books to tell me that truth, reason, and probity will endure, and that people—some a lot like us and some more like us than we would have ever guessed—persevere. The books did and we do, over and over again. So here’s a tribute to some of the non-winners. The Apparitionists by Peter Manseau This account of the work and criminal trial of “spirit photographer” William Mumler is fascinating for reasons historic and contemporary. In the years following the Civil War, as a nation mourned its dead and longed for a lost innocence, Americans turned to religion and religion turned to the supernatural. Mumler’s most explosive portrait work challenged photography’s verities by claiming to represent images of the dead returning to comfort the living. Unlike Kevin Young’s Bunk, which roams widely to uncover racialized Othering as the deep stream of our attraction to spectacular hoaxes, Manseau’s book sticks closely to the facts of Mumler’s case. But in our own era of war, “fake news,” and spiritual unrest, the story feels more than merely suggestive. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich This unusual book brings together the case of the murderous pedophile Ricky Langley with the author’s harrowing memoir of sexual abuse. As Marzano-Lesnevich, who is training to become a public defender, dives into the research on Langley’s case, she is drawn back into her own personal and family traumas. At that point it becomes a powerful #metoo story and a deep meditation on the stories we tell each other in order to continue. It ponders the incompleteness of the law as remedy, and how the process of finding truth enables and suppresses. And it also plumbs the depths of our current discussion—now that the horrors of powerful men, including some of our former heroes, have been publicly named—about whether redemption is possible or desirable. The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum What if science and art were not only compatible, but inseparable? Prum argues that the way we receive Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution—that only the fittest can survive—is incomplete, even dangerously so, as in the rise of the racist pseudo-science of eugencics. Darwin, Prum notes, actually argued that such a selection process would never explain nature’s diversity. Instead, bird sex, like human sex, is not merely functional and utilitarian, but about pleasure and taste. He moves on to consider surprising new directions for evolutionary history, such as how it might understand queerness, the end of patriarchy, and the centrality of arts and culture. “Beauty happens,” Prum writes, and thank goodness for that. Letters to Memory by Karen Tei Yamashita Gifted—or burdened—with the papers of her aunts and parents and grandparents, all survivors of the World War II Japanese American concentration camps, Karen Tei Yamashita constructs a structurally cunning, richly literary, and deeply moving tribute to the lives of her kin. The book unfolds as a series of letters to a set of imagined muses, all of which reference her family’s real letters. Some detail a story of her idealistic young aunt, who is afforded a temporary freedom as a witness in a government case, and the family locked away in the camps. What are her obligations to them? Is it folly or selfishness that makes her think she may be of more help to them on the outside? These letters remind us that, once perpetrated, injustice cannot be reduced or forgotten. [millions_ad] More from A Year in Reading 2017 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

A Year in Reading: Kevin Young

After finishing research for my book Bunk, which took up most of my reading over the past several years, two of my favorite books I read for fun this year include the biography Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, which brings the poet to life as well as her struggles, and Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, the great collection of stories and "interiors" by filmmaker and writer Kathleen Collins. Collins was a pioneering black woman film director who died at the age of 46; these stories were uncovered by her daughter and published last year. The fact that Collins's archives now reside at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where I serve as director, reminds me how powerful it is to see work in its original, manuscript form. Archives are also the raw stuff of a biography like Bishop's, for which Megan Marshall did groundbreaking research. Both these books make us rethink these women writers and restore them to the center of our cultural conversation. More from A Year in Reading 2017 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 [millions_ad]

A Year in Reading: 2017

Over the last 13 years, the Year in Reading has collected the book recommendations and musings of some of the most brilliant readers and writers working today.  Looking at the series over time it becomes an instrument of measurement, not only for tracking the way the site itself has grown and evolved, but for recording the big books of the moment, or the books of yesteryear that readers never tire of discovering anew. It can also capture--in a glancing, kaleidoscopic way--the general mood of the professional reading public.  The 2016 Year in Reading was in some respects pretty grim, as contributors tried to reconcile reading, at its heart an intensely private, personal passion, with the requirements of being human in a world where bad things persist in happening. This year I'd like to focus on the good things. The Year in Reading is my favorite thing we do at this site, and I'm so grateful for the writers who gave generously of their time to participate. I'm grateful for the dedicated readers who navigate here every morning and give the site a reason to live, and for the supporters who are helping us secure the future. This is our 14th year, and 14 years is an eon in Internet Time.  The Millions won't survive the heat death of the universe, but it has already stuck around longer than at least some bad things will. A lot of our 2017 Year in Reading contributors were anxious and tired and read less than they would have liked. The good news is that they still did a lot of excellent, engaged reading. The good news is that there are more exquisite and important things to read than you'll ever read in your lifetime. The good news is that books are still the vehicles for inquiry, revelation, devastation, and joy that they have always been. The names of our 2017 contributors will be unveiled throughout the month as entries are published (starting with our traditional opener from Languagehat’s Stephen Dodson later this morning). Bookmark this post, load up the main pagesubscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss an entry — we’ll run three or four per day. And if you look forward to the Year in Reading every year, please consider supporting the site and ensuring this December tradition continues for years to come. -Lydia Kiesling Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Stephen Dodson, co-author of Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit, proprietor of Languagehat. Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage. Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs. Edan Lepucki, contributing editor and author of Woman No. 17. Sonya Chung, contributing editor and author of The Loved Ones. Emily St. John Mandel, staff writer and author of Station Eleven. Nick Ripatrazone, contributing editor and author of Ember Days. Garth Risk Hallberg, contributing editor and author of City on Fire. Janet Potter, staff writer. Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose. Ahmed Saadawi, author of Frankenstein in Baghdad. Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing. Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne. Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan. Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You. Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties. Kevin Young, author of Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News. Yoko Tawada, author of Memoirs of a Polar Bear. Danzy Senna, author of New People. Jenny Zhang is a poet and writer. Matthew Klam, author of Who Is Rich. Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain. Julie Buntin, author of Marlena. Brandon Taylor, associate editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and staff writer at Literary Hub. Hannah Gersen, staff writer and author of Home Field. Matt Seidel, staff writer. Zoë Ruiz, staff writer. Clare Cameron, staff writer and author of The Last Neanderthal. Il’ja Rákoš, staff writer. Ismail Muhammad, staff writer. Thomas Beckwith, staff writer. Michael Pollan, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop, Won't Stop. Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough. Juan Villoro, author of The Reef. Chiwan Choi, author of The Yellow House. Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We'll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter. Gabe Habash, author of Stephen Florida. Ayobami Adebayo, author of Stay with Me. Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf. Kima Jones, founder of Jack Jones Literary Arts. Vanessa Hua, author of A River of Stars. Hamilton Leithauser, rock star. R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries. Rakesh Satyal, author of No One Can Pronounce My Name. Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This. Nick Moran, staff writer. Lydia Kiesling, site editor and author of The Golden State. Anne Yoder, staff writer. Michael Bourne, staff writer. Tess Malone, associate editor. Bill Morris, staff writer and author of Motor City Burning. Kaulie Lewis, staff writer. Myriam Gurba, author of Mean. Patrick Nathan, author of Some Hell. Morgan Jerkins, author of This Will Be My Undoing. Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. Jamel Brinkley, author of A Lucky Man. Shanthi Sekaran, author of Lucky Boy. Kara Levy, fiction writer. Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace. Heather Scott Partington, NBCC emerging critic. Paul Goldberg, author of The Yid. Simeon Marsalis, author of A Lie is To Grin. Kevin Barry, author of Beatlebone. Laura Turner, writer. Sarah Smarsh, journalist. Kyle Chayka, writer. A Year in Reading: Outro Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 [millions_ad]

2017 National Book Award Longlists Unveiled

Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released in a series of four longlists consisting of ten books apiece. Five finalists in each category will be announced on October 4, and winners will be announced in New York City on November 15. The fiction list includes an eclectic mix and features eight women, including Jennifer Egan for her long-awaited new novel. You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction longlist here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available: Fiction: Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman(excerpt) The King Is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón  Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig (excerpt) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Egan's Year in Reading) The Leavers by Lisa Ko (excerpt) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (People Without a Home: On Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko) Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado  A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (excerpt) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward ("Haunted by Ghosts: The Millions Interviews Jesmyn Ward", "Literature’s Inherited Trauma: On Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing") Barren Island by Carol Zoref Nonfiction: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (excerpt) The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald (excerpt) Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr. (excerpt) The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (read our interview with Gessen) Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I. by David Grann (excerpt) No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein (excerpt) Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean (read our interview with MacLean) The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (excerpt) The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson (excerpt) Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young Poetry: Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison Magdalene by Marie Howe Where Now: New and Selected Poems by Laura Kasischke Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Nick Ripatrazone on Layli Long Soldier) In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae Square Inch Hours by Sherod Santos Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (Nick Ripatrazone on Danez Smith; excerpt) Afterland by Mai Der Vang Young People's Literature: What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold Far from the Tree by Robin Benway All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (excerpt) Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia American Street by Ibi Zoboi
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