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15 of the Year’s Most Giftable Books

We’ve rounded up the best books that came out in the past year for the specific hard-to-shop-fors on your list, including, but not limited to, the Niece Currently Trying to Occupy Trump Tower, the Ferrantephile, and the Complicated Cousin. (Check back in on Monday for our comprehensive coffee-table-book gift list.)

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  • Posted 12/7/16 at 9:30 AM

Where’s the Line Between Criticism and the Novel? Somewhere Inside Lynne Tillman’s Complete Madame Realism and Other Stories

What happens to criticism when it’s quartered within a work of fiction? What becomes of fiction when it’s put in service to criticism? It’s impossible to come to general answers to these questions, but they’re hard to avoid when considering Lynne Tillman’s new book The Complete Madame Realism and Other Stories, which collects three decades of work fusing the two modes of writing. You could think of the form as fiction and the content as criticism, but a simple conceptual split doesn’t account for the effects the two modes have on each other. Think of a centaur, a satyr, or a mermaid. Simple exchanges of anatomy don’t account for the hybrid creatures’ strangeness.

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  • Posted 12/7/16 at 9:07 AM

Sebastian Bach Had a Fanboy Moment With Geddy Lee While Shooting Gilmore Girls

One of the many joys of Gilmore Girls is the endless stream of enjoyable cameos: The Bangles, Barbara Boxer, Norman Mailer. But perhaps the most beloved appearance is by rocker Sebastian Bach as hoagie-shop owner and Lane's bandmate Gil. In the following excerpt from his new memoir, 18 and Life on Skid Row, out yesterday, Bach describes partying with Sally Struthers, getting recognized around the world, and how the show gave him a chance to meet one of his idols. 

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The 10 Best Books of 2016

There were many literary surprises in 2016 — we were forced to learn of Elena Ferrante’s true identity before we wanted to; in an Oprah-coordinated marketing assault we were treated to Colson Whitehead’s new novel a month before we expected it; and in accord with the year’s backwards logic, the runaway best-seller about ethnic identity was by a white guy from Ohio: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. We won’t forget these shocks, but what really mattered in 2016 transpired quietly. A changing of the guard is under way, and most of the year’s best books were debuts or sophomore efforts. I was disappointed by many of the year’s marquee releases (Whitehead’s was a glorious exception), but for every high-profile bomb there were several outstanding books from singular authors emerging on the fringes. These aren’t writers you can group into a movement, they aren’t bound by a narrow, parochial set of themes, but in their variousness they’ve shown that whatever else is wrong with the country, the American novel, story, and essay remain fertile forms.

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7 Books You Need to Read This December

Each month, Boris Kachka offers nonfiction and fiction book recommendations. You should read as many of them as possible.

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Forgotten H.G. Wells Ghost Story Comes Back From the Grave to Make Its Print Debut

Seventy years after his death, H.G. Wells is getting another shot to break into the world of  ghost stories. According to NPR, while searching through tens of thousands of pages written by the revolutionary science-fiction author in the University of Illinois's collection, Strand Magazine's managing editor Andrew Gulli found the manuscript for "The Haunted Ceiling." Not recognizing the title, Gulli checked with leading Wells scholars, who also knew nothing about the story, despite its being in the library's collection for years. Based on several narrative features and the distinctive handwriting (read as "indecipherable"), the scholars agreed it was authentic. "I went myself independently and I looked at the manuscript of The Time Machine, and it had that similar type of writing that was a nightmare to transcribe," Gulli told NPR. 

The story itself is about a man who is going insane because he's being haunted by a ghostly apparition of a dead woman on the ceiling. While the original reporting mentioned no theory on why the manuscript was not previously found in the decades since Wells's papers became open to the public, we're not ready to rule out that an invisible man from the past brought them in a time machine. Hear excerpts from the story below, or read the full version in The Strand

  • Posted 11/29/16 at 10:31 AM
  • Books

The Girl on the Train’s Paula Hawkins Sets Release of a New Book Hollywood Will Definitely Change for American Audiences

Paula Hawkins may have outgrown thrillers with "Girl" in the title, but she still loves herself some prepositions. The British author, who published The Girl on the Train in 2015, has announced the release of her next novel, Into the Water, which will hit stores on May 2 next year. Into the Water centers on family secrets and the "slipperiness of truth" in a riverside town in the south of England. "When a single mother and a teenage girl each turn up dead at the bottom of a river, just weeks apart," the description reads, "the ensuing investigation dredges up a complicated history." Somewhere, a studio exec is typing "gloomiest American rivers" into Google in advance of the inevitable American adaptation.

  • Posted 11/29/16 at 9:15 AM
  • Memoirs

Lauren Graham Thinks Gilmore Girls’s Last Four Words Are a Cliffhanger and 5 Other Things We Learned From Her Memoir

Lauren Graham has had a successful career as an actress, novelist, and even TV writer. Her memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can, covers all of it, but as you might imagine from the timeline, it mostly focuses on her experience playing Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. We learn about how the show came together, both in its first run on the WB and in its later revival at Netflix. We hear tales from her friendships with fellow cast members, and we also get her thoughts on how the series ended, and whether there might be more coming in the future. Die-hard Gilmore fans will likely peruse the memoir at their leisure, but for those who are impatient, here are a few key takeaways.

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  • Posted 11/22/16 at 5:22 PM

Jon Stewart Has a Long History With Anthony Weiner and 11 Other Things We Learned From The Daily Show Book

The new The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History, by Chris Smith (a longtime New York editor), arrives just as many are scratching their heads and wondering whether Jon Stewart could have saved us from the pain caused by — and possibly the results of — the latest election cycle. Though that will have to remain a Rumsfeldian known unknown, there is solace in this chatty and highly informative tome.

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  • Posted 11/22/16 at 10:37 AM
  • Memoirs

Carrie Fisher Wrote Some Very Dramatic Poetry During Her Affair With Harrison Ford

As has been previously reported, 19-year-old Carrie Fisher had a three-month affair with her 33-year-old married co-star Harrison Ford while filming Star Wars. The news comes from Fisher’s latest memoir The Princess Diarist (out today), in which the actress looks back on her complex relationship with Princess Leia, the character that made her internationally famous, for better and worse. The book is premised on Fisher’s discovery of the diaries she kept on the Star Wars set in London. So while there are a few tidbits of behind-the-scenes information — Fisher talks about auditioning for Carrie and Star Wars for Brian De Palma and George Lucas at the same time — the book primarily focuses on her emotional experiences.

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7 Highly Giftable Vintage Children’s Books From the Depths of Amazon

Out of Print is a series of gift posts we’ll be running this month and next, where we’ll be digging through the dark recesses of Amazon and finding the best-looking versions of the best books that make the best gifts.

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Michael Chabon on His New Book, Why Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize, and President Trump’s America

In case you’re confused, rest assured that Michael Chabon’s new book, Moonglow, is 99 percent fiction, and any resemblance between him and the memoirist narrating it (also named Michael Chabon) is nothing more than trickery. Nor should this sleight of hand be unexpected: From the Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay  to the realist narrative of his last novel, 2012’s Telegraph Avenue, most of Chabon’s work can be classified as “speculative” fiction of one kind or another. Moonglow, inspired in part by his grandfather’s deathbed anecdotes, is Chabon’s speculative history of his own family.What if his grandfather had ratted out Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket designer turned engineer of the American moon landing? What if his grandmother was a Holocaust-haunted actress stalked by an imaginary “Skinless Horse”? Chabon, 53, spoke to New York about how much memoir needs to be in a memoir and saying a reluctant good-bye to President Obama. (We also followed up a week after the election for his thoughts on President-elect Trump.)

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  • Posted 11/18/16 at 12:00 PM

Michael Chabon’s Moonglow: An OSS Fantasia ‘Memoir’ of the Post–World War II Rocket Race

The frame of Michael Chabon’s new novel Moonglow is a deathbed confession. The narrator, a young writer named Mike Chabon, has come to Oakland to help his mother care for her father, who’s dying of untreated bone cancer. The old man has never liked to talk about himself, but a regimen of opiates has loosened his tongue. Many stories flow from his mouth, dutifully recorded, reconstructed, and embellished by his grandson. Three historical figures play small but decisive roles in his life story: Wild Bill Donovan, founder of the OSS (precursor to the CIA); the Nazi and NASA rocket scientist Wernher von Braun; and the accused spy and convicted perjurer Alger Hiss. In the parts of the grandfather’s tale that intersect with these men, he emerges as a tortured hero, a hard man animated by a spark of boyish wonder preserved from his hardscrabble Philadelphia youth.

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  • Posted 11/17/16 at 6:04 PM

Colson Whitehead Has Some Advice for Getting Through the Next Four Years

The “hellhole wasteland of Trumpland,” as novelist Colson Whitehead referred to it, hung heavy Wednesday night at the National Book Awards. The top fiction and nonfiction prizes were taken by books about race by authors of color — Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad for fiction and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning for nonfiction. Rep. John Lewis won an award for young people’s literature for his graphic memoir trilogy, March. In their acceptance speeches, the authors spoke about race in the shadow of the 2016 presidential election, showing signs of both concern and hope. Here’s what they had to say.

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  • Posted 11/17/16 at 3:06 PM

Trevor Noah Spent a Week in Jail, and 6 Other Things We Learned from His Memoir, Born a Crime

When Trevor Noah was announced as the host of The Daily Show last year, he was an unknown to many Americans, despite having established himself as a stand-up megastar across Africa and gaining a following around the world. One of this earlier stand-up shows, “Born a Crime,” focused on his childhood as a mixed-race kid in apartheid-era South Africa, where his parents were not allowed to be seen in public together and he struggled to fit in with any group because of his race and background. His new book of the same name, subtitled Stories From a South African Childhood covers the same ground in much more (often horrific) detail. The book is clearly written with an American audience in mind, at times explaining the history of South Africa and apartheid and comparing it to the U.S.’s own history of oppression and race relations. Even longtime fans are likely to learn new tidbits about Noah in this memoir: Here are seven things we discovered about him.

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13 Highly Giftable Poetry Books That Are Balms for the Soul

This month and next we’ll be running a series of posts called Printed Matter, in which we probe New York editors and outside experts for books that make the very best gifts.

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  • Posted 11/17/16 at 9:00 AM

The Alchemist Author Paulo Coelho Has Some Thoughts About How to Live in the Trump Era

Paulo Coelho* is a novelist — one with a new book, The Spy, a fictionalized retelling of the life of the doomed WWI era dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari, out November 22 — but to call him that is sort of missing the point. The 69-year-old Brazilian is one of those allegorically inclined authors, like Herman Hesse or Richard Bach, whom people read looking for answers to big questions as much as for style or story or character. Critics generally don’t like this stuff — it’s maybe a little squishy, a little on-the-nose. Readers eat it up: Coelho’s books have sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million copies. His most famous novel, The Alchemist, is among the best-selling novels ever.  

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Here Are the 2016 National Book Award Winners

The winners of the 67th annual National Book Awards were announced tonight at a ceremony hosted by Larry Wilmore. He opened the night with inevitable jokes about the presidential election, describing the declining emotional health of liberals on November 8 as akin to everyone’s dog dying at the same time. The political banter then transitioned into more literary-based humor, as Wilmore told the crowd that Trump’s election will have a big impact on publishing. For example, Wilmore informed the crowed that all of President-elect Trump’s books are currently being moved from the nonfiction section in libraries to the horror section, while the Constitution gets moved over to the fiction shelf. Wilmore also suggested that many books might actually change their titles to reflect the new leadership regime, saying that Pride and Prejudice will now be called Pride and Really [self-censored] Prejudice. The awards presentations were then free to commence, and the finalists and winners (bolded) of this year’s National Book Awards are as follows.

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How Laura Jane Grace, Against Me!’s Transgender Front Woman, Chose Her Female Name

What does it mean to be an authentic musician? The question doesn’t sound like good fodder for a book — it’s too woolly, too late-night-dorm-room. And yet, in part because it asks the question over and over, Against Me! front woman Laura Jane Grace's memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, works wonderfully.
 
There are two other reasons for that. One is that Grace (with the journalist Dan Ozzi) simply has some great rock-and-roll stories — from building her band through relentless touring in the gritty DIY punk scene of the early 2000s to, upon finding a measure of critical acclaim and success, constantly being accosted by fans furious at her for having sold out.

The other is that in the telling of these stories, her gender dysphoria — which over the course of decades she tries and fails to chase away with music, drugs, and sex — pops up again and again. On top of all the pressures, and even after marrying and having a kid, she never feels like herself, and resorts to keeping bags of women’s clothing hidden in the back of her closet. On top of wondering whether she has given up some vital aspect of her DIY past, she also feels like a fraud in a much more visceral, personal way.
 
In 2012, Grace finally decided to transition, coming out publicly via a Rolling Stone feature. The following excerpt from Tranny, out now, describes part of that process, as well as how she chose her female name.

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8 Highly Giftable Vintage Books From the Depths of Amazon

Out of Print is a series of gift posts we’ll be running this month and next, where we’ll be digging through the dark recesses of Amazon and finding the best-looking versions of the best books that make the best gifts.

Read More  »

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