Author Archives: Mike

What to Read: Not the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2014

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Hey, the New York Times 10 Best Books is a great place to look!

Pour yourself a nice mug of hot cocoa and get cozy to read about everything from, oh…uh, a collapsing marriage (Dept. of Speculation, Jeny Offill) or a family’s disintegration after a horrible tragedy involving a child (Family Life, Akhil Sharma), or a story collection about the devastating impacts of the Iraq War (Redeployment, Phil Klay).

Hmmm. Okay, well how about the one about the blind girl and the Nazi (All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr)? Or, uh, maybe the one about a female novelist who didn’t publish anything until she was almost 60 (Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee)? Okay, okay — here’s a “spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism” about….oh….vaccination (On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss). Probably don’t want to bring that up at dinner. Same goes for the one about Israel and peace in the Middle East (Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, Lawrence Wright).

What about the one titled Euphoria? That sounds nice. Oh, looks like it’s about another marriage breaking up. Alright.

I guess it could be worse. We could be among the irreplaceable habitats and species whose destruction has been chillingly documented by Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction. Jeez. What else is there? Oh, perfect, Roz Chast’s graphic novel about her parents’ decline into infirmity and old age: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I wish.

-Michael Moats

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#GreatReviewsMatter: Your Daily Lack of Perspective

Waldman

There is so much injustice in the world. And maybe you’ve been too preoccupied with cops getting away with killing citizens or women being fired because they’re pregnant to realize that the Worst. Thing. Ever. just happened to novelist Ayelet Waldman. After getting a really great review in The New York Times for her book Love & Treasure, Waldman was then viciously and heartlessly snubbed by not being included in the Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.

Feel her pain:

Yes, journal writing seems like something she would excel at.

As you can tell by trying to click the links in the tweets above, Waldman has since deleted these and other tweets railing against her horrible treatment (our fuzzy top image is a mere screen-grab from this page, where you can read the full rant). So I guess we won’t be seeing a #GreatReviewsMatter hashtag.

As her tantrum subsided, she did acknowledge that “There are real problems in the world. I’m just going to suck it up and do something good for someone else.” At which point she heroically offered to donate a dollar to charity for every pre-order someone makes of her book.

I was going to pre-order it myself, but I heard it wasn’t very notable.

-Michael Moats

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Authors Note

If you haven’t already dropped all your cash on a Black Friday or CyberMonday gift, today is your chance to really spend some money, and ostensibly support a good cause.  Christie’s — the auction house where bidding typically starts about where your student loans are right now — is teaming up with the PEN American Center for “First Edition/Second Thoughts,” a charity auction of first editions that have been recently re-read and annotated by their authors.

Junot Diaz, Robert Caro, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Lydia Davis and 70 other authors and artists have looked back at their old works and added hand-written comments in the margins and elsewhere. Don DeLillo’s contribution, a 1997 edition of Underworld, features “four hundred pages of DeLillo’s handwritten notes, providing anecdotes, playful commentary, and his recollections of writing the book,” according to the New Yorker. “I found it interesting to become curious about something that I myself had written,” said DeLillo to the magazine, which also noted that the author communicates via fax.

The concept really is a cool one, and is among the few instances in which getting a “signed first edition” actually adds something to your reading. Here’s hoping there will be an opportunity in the future to read the annotations without having to bid the kind of money that would give any reasonable person, well, second thoughts*.

*Sorry.

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Now Playing: Inherent Vice Trailer

The trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice is here. Been looking forward to this one for a long time.

Inherent Vice was “the Pynchon book I was the least interested in reading, and the one I flat out enjoyed the most.” It also strikes me as the most film-adaptable of his novels, especially at the hands of Anderson, who also did There Will Be BloodMagnoliaBoogie Nights, and one of my personal favorites, Punch Drunk Love.

You can read more about his love of Pynchon and work on Inherent Vice in a recent New York Times story.

-Michael Moats

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TL;DR Must Read

C21C

FA review tag

It was something of a surprise when Thomas Piketty’s 700-page, statistics-laden economics tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a sensation earlier this year, selling out its early print run and even briefly passing Heaven is for Real for the top spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Less surprising was the news last week that the 700-page, statistic-laden economics tome now tops a list of books people are buying and then not reading.

According to an admittedly non-scientific study tracking the most frequently highlighted passages in popular e-books, most buyers of Piketty’s book didn’t highlight, and thus probably didn’t read, much of anything beyond page 26. It is “summer’s most unread book” for 2014.

So let me confess at the outset of this review that I am one of the many who have not finished reading this book.

Continue reading

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NEW HARRY POTTER STORY!!!

THERE’S A NEW HARRY POTTER STORY! IT’S SHORT!! HE’S OLD!!!

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READ IT AT POTTERMORE.COM.

-Michael Moats

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God Help is Hard to Find

MBAUnapologetic

FA review tag

SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains a passing reference to the conclusion of the show LOST.

The most popular book on Christianity today — at least 120 weeks on the bestseller list, many of them at the top — is Heaven is for Real. It’s the true story of a four-year-old’s near-death experience, in which he recalls going to Heaven and meeting Jesus. Another bestseller, Proof of Heaven, has spent more than 60 weeks on the list. It was written by a neurosurgeon who had his own near-death experience during which he also met people on the other side.  Also consistently floating around the top ten is Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, which is the latest in his Killing [Famous Person] series.

I haven’t read any of these books and I don’t plan to. Continue reading

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Book of Today: Ulysses by James Joyce

UJJ

Stately, plump, and set on June 16, 1904, Ulysses is our Book of Today. This was the day, 110 years ago, that James Joyce had his first encounter with his wife Nora. He went on to write her many love letters which, I mean, they thought Ulysses was obscene…

Seriously, NSFW. Seriously.

Told you.

Happy Bloomsday everybody.

- Michael Moats

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