Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. As we are currently in the liminal space between Christmas and New Year’s, it is a light week for Internet Content, but here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of December 23, 2018.
- Barack Obama has dropped his year-end list of the best books, movies, and music he experienced in 2018. Adorably, Michelle Obama’s Becoming is at the top of the list.
- At the Guardian, Kathryn Hughes delves into the roots of Charles Dickens’s Christmas obsession:
This disintegration of Dickens’s early family became a psychic wound that he felt compelled to heal again and again. Hence the continual, one might say compulsive, need to assert his adult domestic happiness to both friends and strangers. Dinner parties chez Dickens amounted to a kind of theatrical performance. The curtain went up punctually – guests were typically asked to arrive for dinner “at ¼ before 7 o’clock” – and a minute’s lateness was greeted with a disproportionate coldness. The props too were a tad stagey, putting one in mind of the nouveau riche Veneerings from Our Mutual Friend: “everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All their furniture was new and “the surface smelt a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky”. Even kindly Mrs Gaskell couldn’t help repeating a rumour she’d heard about the Dickenses’ dinner service being solid gold.
- At the Stranger, Katie Herzog considers yoga for writers:
As we moved through stretches, my mind wandered back into the past, when writers were allowed (even expected) to be bad. Dorothy Parker didn’t do yoga. To write was to drink, to smoke, to stay up all night, to burn through money, to eat what you please, and to never do any kind of stretch. So many of the great American writers were drunks — Chandler, Cheever, Faulkner, Fitzgerald — that writing, one assumed, must be enhanced, even made possible, by a drink... or, even better, a whole bottle.
- At the New York Times, Miranda Purves explores the gearheads and bullet journalers who idolize fountain pens:
There are hundreds of new, delicious ink colors and small-batch companies with romantic bottles and names like poems or perfumes (Organics Studio, Nitrogen; Colorverse, Andromeda, DeAtramentis Black, Roses, Pilot Iroshizuku, Kosumosu, Robert Oster Fire & Ice, Monteverde California Teal). Manufacturers like Diamine in England, once almost moribund, have customers again.
Then there are the new start-up offices, coffee shops, which lack supply closets. “Someone might pull out a notebook from CVS and a Bic,” Mr. Birkhold said. “But someone else has a cool notebook and fountain pen. They personify your personality.”
- January 1 is public domain day! Open Culture explains what to expect:
At the stroke of midnight, such beloved classics as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Yes! We Have No Bananas” will become the common property of the people, to be quoted at length or in full anywhere when the copyright expires on work produced in 1923. Then, 1924 will expire in 2020, 1925 in 2021, and so on and so forth.
- We’ve talked before about how a paper shortage is affecting the publishing industry. At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter reports that the shortage is now eating into holiday book sales, a.k.a. the time of year when publishers make most of their money:
The backlog is so severe that it is spilling over into next year, causing publishers to shift the release dates for some January books because they can’t print copies in time. At Penguin Random House, at least a dozen titles scheduled for early 2019 have been pushed back, typically by a few weeks, according to a company executive. Other publishers said that a handful of titles were being delayed because of the backlog at the printers.
- At Vulture, Rachel Handler spent a week living according to the rules outlined in Reese Witherspoon’s book Whiskey in a Teacup:
When my editor asked me to attempt to live by Reese’s book for a full week, I felt both dark horror and masochistic excitement. Could I, a woman who collapses into the street every time she wears heels, manage to even partially mimic the Reese Witherspoon lifestyle? Could I become, as Reese wrote, one of the women who “always looked elegant and put together and were quick with a warm smile, but who were also the undisputed bosses at their places of business and in their homes”? Could I, a woman who once poisoned herself making scrambled eggs, become a shiksa goddess effortlessly cooking a ham on Christmas while simultaneously hot-rolling her hair and monogramming her towels? More importantly: Could anyone???
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the past week in books at Vox:
- Here are the 5 most interesting conversations I had in 2018
- Reciprocal rage: why Islamist extremists and the far right need each other
- Hopepunk, the latest storytelling trend, is all about weaponized optimism
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!