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A Year in Reading: Aimee Nezhukumatathil

2016 was a year of great joy and promise dotted with the specter and the results of the most poisonous news cycle in my entire memory. My family and I moved to Oxford, Miss., so I could begin my appointment as the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. With that came the gift of time to write and read in a town so steeped in an almost mythic love for writing and literature -- so that, in times of despair, I often felt buoyed by books. This year also marked the first time in more than a decade where I lived in the same town as an independent bookstore -- the mighty and marvelous Square Books (and Square Books Jr. for kids) -- and never before have I been so perfectly happy to make my wallet just a bit lighter these days. Here then, is a sampling of the books I turned to and marveled over, often in more than one read-through, and thoroughly dog-eared to bits: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss Lab Girl by Hope Jahren A Bestiary by Lily Hoang The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life by Kim Addonizio Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Bestiary by Donika Kelly Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo The Halo by C. Dale Young Brooklyn Antediluvian by Patrick Rosal Look by Solmaz Sharif Third Voice by Ruth Ellen Kocher No More Milk by Karen Craigo ShallCross by C.D. Wright Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair Ropes by Derrick Harriell Eternity & Oranges by Christopher Bakken Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey Chord by Rick Barot play dead by francine j. harris The Ladder by Alan Michael Parker The Bees Make Money in the Lion by Lo Kwa Mei-en The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres edited by Marcela Sulak and Jacqueline Kolosov Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty And finally, very much in the spirit of how I gifted Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street for its music and ebullient spirit to every parent I knew with young children, my favorite picture book of the year (resoundingly endorsed by my six- and nine-year-old boys): We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen. You will simply, never forget this wily pair of turtles. I promise you. The sparse storyline and hilariously evocative illustrations showcase more empathy and kindness in a few pages than many grown-ups have these days. The sheer beauty of this picture book will leave you clutching your heart. More from A Year in Reading 2016 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

A Year in Reading: Esmé Weijun Wang

Good books in 2016 have been bright lights to remember and hold close. I write this in the wake of the election, when almost no books seem appealing, and all I want to do is sleep and cry. And yet it’s been an amazing year for me personally and professionally; my debut novel was published this year, and I won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, which means that I’ll have another book out in a couple of years. This mix of events was reflected in the books I read -- for comfort and solace I reread The 10 Letters Project, by Jen Lee and Tim Manley, as a reminder of the value of friendship and art-making; I read (and loved) M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating because I love books about food, but hadn't yet read that particular classic; How to Live with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, by Toni Bernhard, is a how-to that kept me sane on many feverish days. Home, by Marilynne Robinson, is an all-time favorite, and I’ve been returning to it when no other book seems right. But most of the best books I read this year were upsetting ones. I admired Charlotte Shane's Prostitute Laundry for its stark and brilliant writing on sex work and love; Han Kang's The Vegetarian is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read, and absolutely deserving of the Man Booker International Prize; Solmaz Sharif's Look was memorable for its ferocity and clear-eyed language. My year in reading has been both soothing and discomfiting, and that feels absolutely appropriate. More from A Year in Reading 2016 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

A Year in Reading: Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

I open every year by rereading Their Eyes Were Watching God. There’s something about it that pulls me back, eagerly, to the work. Like many people I know, I open most years hopeful and willing to be seduced by possibility. So much of that book reminds me that the brightness of a welcoming new year is brief, that there is certainly a darkness that we’ll have to survive again. It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands. My first book, a book of poems, was released this summer. I’m sure that for some people who do this, it means that they spent a lot of the year agonizing over their own work. I did, but I also hit a point where I didn’t want to look at poems anymore. At least not my own. I fell in love with the poems of my peers: Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Donika Kelly’s Bestiary, Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved. There’s something really refreshing about diving into brilliant poems after spending months picking your own poems apart. The stakes are low, and you can allow yourself to sit back and be overwhelmed. Another poetry book I deeply loved this year is Tyehimba Jess’s Olio. Jess is a historian, truly. The book is filled with brilliant black folklore, all centering on the redemption of ragtime performer Scott Joplin. I had fun reading the book, sure, but I was also reminded of why I found myself to poems in the first place: endless possibility. I’m a music writer who loves reading about music. I keep a copy of Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic with me at all times, sometimes reading bits of it out loud to any willing audiences, in the backseats of cars, around dinner tables. There’s an open letter to Sufjan Stevens in the book, and I am always overwhelmed by it. Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements was really exciting for me. I’m always interested in new stories behind the bands I love, and The Replacements are so incredibly fascinating in that way. There’s always so much more to them than I expect, at every turn. I maybe love Bruce Springsteen too much to indulge in the sprawl of his memoir, though I purchased it in good faith. After a chapter or two, I realized that maybe the book was written to get folks to fall in love with him, and I’m already there. I was lucky enough to have Angela Flournoy read at my book release party in New York this summer, which pulled me back to a second reading of The Turner House. After that, I was forced to ask myself why I don’t treat myself to new fiction, instead of falling back into the same handful of fiction books I love. I did a panel on politics with Kaitlyn Greenidge, and purchased her book We Love You, Charlie Freeman, thinking that I’d get to it sometime in the winter. But I started it the next day, and finished it within 48 hours. It reminded me of how fiction can slowly and gently surprise, unlike poems, which sometimes have to reveal the surprise early in the work. I won’t spoil anything about Greenidge’s book, but the ending was so perfect, I read over it twice. Brit Bennett’s The Mothers is one of those rare things that is actually as good as everyone says it is. I’m on the road a lot these days, more than I’d like. I’m in small plane seats and in quiet hotel rooms and in corner booths at coffee shops in cities where I know no one. It’s not ideal, but this was the year that I truly felt like I lived the motto of “read more than you write.” I’m hoping 2017 will leave me just as lucky. More from A Year in Reading 2016 Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

2016 National Book Award Finalists Announced

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Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released. Winners will be announced in New York City on November 16. The short list includes the big fall book by Colson Whitehead and Jacqueline Woodson's first novel for adults in 20 years. It's a great time to be a reader. You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction list here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available: Fiction: The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder ("Men in Tights Crammed into Confined Spaces") News of the World by Paulette Jiles (excerpt (pdf)) The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (I Want Complete Freedom When I Write: The Millions Interviews Karan Mahajan) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead ("Scars That Never Fade") Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (A Most Anticipated book) Nonfiction: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (Most Anticipated) Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (excerpt) Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Viet Thanh Nguyen's Year in Reading) The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (excerpt) Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Most Anticipated) Poetry: The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky Collected Poems 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (Race and American Poetry: Dove v. Vendler) Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi (Peter Gizzi on J.H. Prynne) The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler (poem) Look by Solmaz Sharif (the title poem) Young People's Literature: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Susan Orlean on Kate DiCamillo) March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (our review of Book One in the series) When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (excerpt) Ghost by Jason Reynolds The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

2016 National Book Award Longlists Unveiled

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Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released in a series of four longlists consisting of ten books apiece. Five finalists in each category will be announced on October 13, and winners will be announced in New York City on November 16. The fiction list seems well balanced but also includes many familiar names. Alongside highly touted books by Colson Whitehead and Garth Greenwell are critical darlings like Lydia Millet and Karan Mahajan. It's a great time to be a reader. You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction longlist here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available: Fiction: The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder ("Men in Tights Crammed into Confined Spaces") What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell ("ISO the Next Great Gay Novel") Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (A Most Anticipated book) News of the World by Paulette Jiles (excerpt (pdf)) The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (I Want Complete Freedom When I Write: The Millions Interviews Karan Mahajan) The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (excerpt) Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet (Lydia Millet, writing at The Millions) Miss Jane by Brad Watson (Brad Watson's Year in Reading) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead ("Scars That Never Fade") Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (A Most Anticipated book) Nonfiction: America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History by Andrew J. Bacevich (excerpt) The Firebrand and the First Lady, Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott (excerpt) Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen (interview) Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (Most Anticipated) Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (excerpt) Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Viet Thanh Nguyen's Year in Reading) Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil (Most Anticipated) The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (excerpt) The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha (interview) Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Most Anticipated) Poetry: The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky Collected Poems 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (Race and American Poetry: Dove v. Vendler) Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi (Peter Gizzi on J.H. Prynne) The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall (Sonya Chung on Donald Hall) The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler (poem) Bestiary by Donika Kelly (poem) World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead Look by Solmaz Sharif (the title poem) Blackacre by Monica Youn (Siobhan Phillips on Monica Youn) Blue Laws by Kevin Young (poem) Young People's Literature: Booked by Kwame Alexander (excerpt) Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Susan Orlean on Kate DiCamillo) March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (our review of Book One in the series) When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (excerpt) When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (excerpt) Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (excerpt(pdf)) Pax by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen Ghost by Jason Reynolds Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson (excerpt) The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
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