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Book-list warmups in the Penny Press!

By (September 19, 2014) No Comment

bunch of magazines

The long list for the National Book Award has been announced, so for one quick news cycle a few more people will be talking about books than otherwise would. The nonfiction list is a fairly disappointing assemblage of boring books: Nature’s God by Matthew Stewart (the likely winner, in my opinion), No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal, The Heathen School by John Demos, The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos, When Paris Went Dark by Ronald Rosbottom, and worst of them all, The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward Wilson – by and large dreary, dutiful books that tend to embody the bland nature of bookstore-frontlist middlebrow history-writing.

Fortunately, there are a few exceptions. John Lahr’s biography of Tennessee Williams was fairly entertaining, and Nigel Hamilton’s FDR-at-war book The Mantle of Command was extremely entertaining. And then there’s the book that really deserves to win: Roz Chast’s hilarious, disarming, utterly fearless Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

The fiction long list was much more encouraging – it has plenty of good stuff on it. True, there are some duds, like Jane Smiley’s Some Luck and Molly Atopol’s The UnAmericans. And there are some entries that were disappointing, like Elizabeth McCracken’s Thunderstruck and Phil Klay’s Redeployment. But the rest of the list is extremely encouraging! Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven was very good, and the remaining five books were fantastic: Richard Powers’s Orfeo, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van are all superb, and the last two, Lila by Marilynne Robinson and Rabih Alameddine An Unnecessary Woman, are truly memorable, brilliant pieces of work. So theres a chance this year’s National Book Award for fiction will go to a novel that actually deserves the added attention and sales.

And regardless of who wins what, surely the best purpose this announced long list serves is to remind you all how soon it is until you’re once again basking in the greatest, the most opinionated, the most comprehensive, and, quite frankly, the greatest new-book list of them all. I refer, of course, to the annual Gotterdamerung that is the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year! The 2014 edition – bigger, better, and more definitive than ever – will be loosed upon the trembling literary world in only three months. Are you prepared, spiritually?

the executioner