Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. But first, some housekeeping. I’ll be on vacation next week, so you won’t see another of these roundups until December 15. But we do have some great book content lined up for you while I’m away, which you can keep checking in on at vox.com/books.
And now, here’s the best writing about books the web has to offer for the week of November 25, 2018.
- NPR has unveiled its annual book concierge! For my money, it’s the most comprehensive and intuitive “books of the year” list out there.
- Speaking of best-of lists! Tina Jordan looks in to their history at the New York Times:
The Times began publishing in 1851 and, in a front-page article, recommended books that very first December. “This is the season of book-blossoms. The holidays act upon books like April upon trees,” the paper opined, extolling both “Memoirs of the Beauties of the Court of Charles the Second” (“women of illustrious beauty, and equally illustrious guilt”) and “The Reveries of a Bachelor.” By early 1900s, the “Leading Books of the Season,” as it was called, had become a best-of list that often included 200 or even 250 titles.
- At Vulture, Lila Shapiro profiles the multi-Hugo-award-winning N.K. Jemisin:
“I just want to write about things blowing up. Gods and planets and moons crashing into things,” she tells me. “But what I write ends up being very political. If I write about dragons, I’m writing about dragons as a black woman, and it’s fucking political.”
- Bookstores are facing a shortage of printed copies of some of the most highly anticipated titles of the season. There’s a paper shortage, and it’s making an impact on the industry. Book Riot has the story.
- Sometimes publishers go out of business, leaving authors in the lurch. Forbes.com has some guidance on what to do if it happens to you:
For Garrett, the best advice she’s received, from multiple sources, “is that unfortunately this is how publishing business works sometimes and I just need to keep writing because that’s the only thing I can control.”
- A woman in Washington, DC, put up a Little Free Library in honor of Michelle Obama. Now Trump supporters are vandalizing it:
The library’s small glass window was smashed in the spring. Its plaque was ripped off over the summer. And when neighbors replaced the plaque with a photo of the former first lady, that, too, was quickly torn down.
Then, earlier this month, Obama’s name was crossed out and replaced with another.
“Trump’s,” the vandal wrote in black marker.
- That Guy In Your MFA read Jonathan Franzen’s rules for novelists, and he’s not impressed. Here are the real rules:
7: Female characters are hard for readers to relate to. Try making your protagonist a man.
8: Trains are a metaphor for: (1) time (2) escape (3) fascism (4) the unstoppable speed of technological advancement (5) trains
- Book publishing is overwhelmingly white. Publishers Weekly spoke to the new generation of black people in publishing about their way into the industry and the problems they’re still dealing with:
Others cited ongoing problems in marketing black-reader-focused titles. One person said, “The biggest challenge is trying to get a sales team that is predominately straight white men and women to take a chance on unknown black authors. It constantly blows my mind how people don’t care about a book because they don’t fit into the narrative or don’t understand the context. It’s not until the New York Times—or any other big media outlet—makes a big deal of it that they go, ‘Wait, how can we capitalize on this?’ ”
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the past two weeks in books at Vox (we’re doubling up here since we missed last week’s roundup for Thanksgiving):
- Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend doesn’t just compel people to read, but to travel
- Reckoning with Twilight, 10 years later
- Salt Fat Acid Heat host Samin Nosrat’s surefire secret to a successful Thanksgiving
- Laura Ingalls Wilder only had one good Thanksgiving in the Little House books
- The author of Friday Black explains why he reimagined Black Friday as a zombie plague
- A Stanford psychologist on the art of avoiding assholes
- Jonathan Lethem’s Feral Detective is a mess. But it’s a fun mess.
- Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale
- Louisa May Alcott on Little Women: “I grow tired of providing moral pap for the young”
- A Wrinkle in Time is a joyous celebration of its heroine’s anger