There's a lot to read and watch on the internet. In just sixty seconds, 278,000 tweets are sent, 347 posts are published on Wordpress, and 72 hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube. And it's only getting worse (like really, really bad). So, in the spirit of oversharing (click, click, click!), here are five medium-to-long reads that you most likely missed this week. From India's record-setters to Jan Brady on Jan Brady Meme™, these stories highlight the week that was.
Sleeping. A little black girl, lying on her couch, in her home in Detroit. Dreaming little black girl dreams. Her sleep shattered by a firebomb lobbed through the window. Police force their way in, desperately looking for a man. A shot daggers the air. A bullet to her head. Aiyana Stanley Jones. Seven years old. Dead.
In a new interview with Paradoxa, Pulitzer-winning author Junot Diaz speaks at length with Taryne Jade Taylor about the allure of genre fiction, colonialism disguised as sci-fi, and immigrating to the U.S. at an early age (he refers to it as “a profound fracture of my reality, a temporal and spatial anomaly”). During the interview, Diaz also said that his attempt to write his new novel—which was excerpted in a 2012 issue of The New Yorker—has “ground to a halt,” admitting, “I’m probably going to have to abandon it.”
Two Mississippi legislators want to make the Bible the official state book. But not everybody approves. "What would [William] Faulkner and [Eudora] Welty and Shelby Foote and Richard Wright think?" said one local publisher. "I think they would collectively link arms and say, 'Go back to kindergarten, Legislature.'"
On January 2, Mark Zuckerberg announced, in a status update on Facebook, that his personal challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every two weeks. Zuckerberg will be tracking his progress, thoughts, and questions on a Facebook community page, "A Year of Books." In a generous, if sweeping, gesture, Zuckerberg then patted the adjacent cushion on his online sectional couch, and invited the entirety of the social network's 864 million daily active members to join in.
Haruki Murakami, possibly Japan's most celebrated living writer, is a fairly private person who's confident that most people, if they met him, would not like him very much. But the author of 1Q84 and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle places a high value on his "conceptual" relationship with his fans, and has thus proposed to solve their life's problems, as best he can, on his website.
A decade ago I met with Amiri Baraka at San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore for a reading of his short story collection, Tales of the Out and Gone. He said that he'd written nearly twenty books and nearly all of them were out of print. As a writer who had hoarded his work from my excavations of used bookstores and library sales, it hurt to hear this.
I was absorbed in 2014 by true crime. Like everybody else, I was completely addicted to Sarah Koenig's impressive investigative reporting of a murder case on season one of This American Life's offshoot podcast, Serial. I was also really impressed by a nuanced feature article in New York by Hanna Rosin called "By Noon They'd Both be Dead," about a mother's failed attempt to murder her teenage daughter, who has autism. That essay dared to ask tough questions about the physical, psychological, emotional and financial toll of autism upon the mothers of autistic children. I recently stopped writing a novel about a similar case because it was just too difficult for me to really go there. I was glad to see someone else had.
Ernest Hemingway once remarked, "There is no friend as loyal as a book." This year's literature felt a lot like that: books that followed you around even after you'd finished reading them; books you carried everywhere, telling friends and colleagues of their magic; books that greeted you warmly in those fleeting moments of solitude; books that, for one reason or another, consumed you fully.
I have been trying to find a link within the books that I loved this year. There's nothing overt in subject or voice, but in retrospect, I think I gravitated toward books that forced me to slow down. This might be (is) grand bathroom psychologizing, but I think this has something to do with the fact that 2014 has been my most prolific year of online reading to date. Many of the most memorable pieces that I've encountered have been delivered to me on a scroll, already couched in other peoples' comments. I read them greedily so that I could join whatever conversation they sparked, or feel that particular satisfaction of telling someone else that there is a new piece that they simply must read, like now.
“I wanted a picture of Jamaica that isn’t in books, and certainly not in novels.” Author Marlon James set out to depict a thoroughly vibrant portrait of the Jamaica he knew: one fissured by drug warfare and dirty politics, but a country plentiful in culture and history. The result was A Brief History of Seven Killings, an expansive and near-mythic survey of his homeland. It is, without question, one of 2014’s best books.
Many things were published in 2014—things we liked; things we hated; things we didn't understand. And since it's that time of year where we shame you for reading all the wrong things, we've collected our favorite books, essays, short stories, lists, and blog posts into one place. We've also included selections from years past that caught our attention in 2014. Enjoy.
It's already December and you haven't a clue what to get your family, friends or, gasp, co-workers for the holidays. Instead of racking your brain, let us do the heavy lifting. Here are 10 books that you should consider procuring for the history buff, fiction addict, or nonfiction enthusiast in your life.
James Baldwin was a writer of unsparing conviction. His essays published during the 1950s and 60s, as America confronted its cruel legacy of racial inequality, manifested like small forces of nature. There was an unmistakable clarity in his work—and not just in his authorial voice, but in his moral obligation to truth telling. As Randall Kenan regarded in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, Baldwin was "such a powerful writer, against such powerful odds."