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The ultimate authoritative best books of 2016

22 Dec

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-3-28-45-pmSlavery. Racism. Urbanism. Disease. While 2016 may not have been a banner year for liberal democracy in the world at large, it should definitely go down as a woke time in book publishing.

For dedicated bibliophiles, the low thrum of literary FOMO that bubbles up around May has by mid-December evolved into a full-fledged panic. Every week brings a new “best books of the year” list, each one littered with titles you haven’t even heard of, let alone read. Any nascent new-year confidence is supplanted by fears of intellectual inadequacy or—unthinkable in this age of success micro-steps and wellness lifehacks—unproductiveness.

Take a breath; I’ve got you covered. By combining 36 different qualitative “best books” lists by everyone from the New York Times to The Telegraph to a smattering of celebrities (full list of lists here), I’ve created the Ultimate Authoritative Unimpeachable Top 20 Books of 2016. Here they are: Continue reading

A reader’s guide to president-elect Donald Trump

11 Nov

I didn’t read anything this week. I couldn’t. I pulled together a stack of hefty thrillers to get me through the next month or so, the kinds of books into which a frustrated American might escape in moments of desperation. But this week I stumbled through in a kind of daze—surface-calm while emotionally experiencing something akin to the final scene in Se7en. Kevin Spacey is Donald Trump, Brad Pitt is America, and Morgan Freeman is the rest of the world. We’re all just waiting to see what’s in that fucking box.


But books aren’t far from my mind. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking back to things I’ve read that resonate just as strongly, or more strongly, now as before. Books that seem prescient in light of Tuesday’s results, even if (and I sincerely hope this is true) the specter of a Trump presidency proves scarier than the actuality.

I know, aggregating yourself is a bit douchey. But I hope you’ll cut me some slack in these trying, exhausting times. Continue reading

The only Best Books of 2015 list worth reading (because I combined all the other ones)

23 Dec

NUC_Christmas_Tree_S_CalhounIt’s that time of year again! Gift wrap, eggnog, awkward family arguments over honey-baked hams. And most important: cookies! No just kidding—books! With another 12 months of publishing under our collective belts (which are currently loosened due to the aforementioned cookies) it’s time for the annual rundown of those books that made our hearts sing and our eyes tear up, books that made us laugh or sob or laugh while sobbing while also taking the train to work.

Per tradition, and ever-aided by an abundance of coffee and a few spreadsheets, I’ve combined 20 year-end book lists into one master file, which features the 10 must-reads of 2015 (i.e. any book that showed up on six or more lists). This year’s list includes some obvious ringers—I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me near the top. But there are also some sleeper hits: Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, a compendium of short stories, showed up on seven lists, while Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, set in 1970s Saigon, also appeared a half-dozen times. Then there are the ones I’ve actually read: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (I still can’t even find the words to express how much I loved this novel) appeared on 11 lists, and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout also had strong showings. Even Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (which, ehhhhh) made the Top 10. Continue reading

The Irrefutable Best Books of 2014, As Determined by Science*

19 Dec

IMG_0092It’s been a trying year here at Sorry Television. Sidetracked by work—and, let’s be honest, an endless procession of binge-worthy Netflix inventory—I am set to close out 2014 with a mere 32 books under my belt, near enough to bi-weekly that I should probably rebrand as You’re Welcome Television (subtitle: Reading Books Every So Often, Like When the Power Goes Out). I’m already planning redemptive 2015 reading goals (a book a day? a book an hour?) but for the time being I’ll have to accept mediocrity, and foist as much blame as possible on a shorter commute’s ability to stymie even the most dedicated bibliophile.

But I can claim a smidge of productivity this month, which is why I’m Indiana-Jonesing under the content door that is Christmas week to bring you The Irrefutable Best Books of 2014, a master list of this year’s greatest hits, as determined by 21 other “best of”s written by people who have actually read them. Let’s get into it. Continue reading

Five news stories to keep you from giving up on it all

19 Apr

happyball (1)This week, you guys. It’s not going well. Boston. MIT. TexasSomalia. Mentally disturbed Elvis impersonators. Earthquakes. Suicide bombers. Baby rapists. I mean come on, universe. Not cool.

If you’re having as much trouble with the last five days as I am, let me make a humble suggestion: Read a good book. Something that takes you out of yourself for a little bit. Watch a great movie; look at some fabulous art. Not to minimize or ignore the seemingly daily horrors being foisted on us by people/guns/bombs/nature/fertilizer, but because you should do something to glorify the good and beautiful in life, and not the vile and tragic.

In the meantime, here are five positive(ish) stories from the Worst Week Ever. Because everyone could use a little good news. Continue reading

The Books Behind the Oscars

25 Feb

oscarNow that we’ve all recovered from Sunday’s Academy Awards, replete with boring acceptance speeches and Seth MacFarlane’s [honestly guys, not that earth-shattering] sexism, we can all settle comfortably into that post-Oscars glow of temporarily highbrow taste, i.e. “Maybe I will rent Argo instead of marathon-watching old episodes of Wife Swap…” It’s a lovely thing, how a few pretty gowns and well-edited clips can rouse one’s interest in subjects as varied as the emancipation of slaves and, well, the emancipation of slaves. (Big movie year for slavery, no?)

But while last night’s winners paid a lot of lip service to their agents, managers, producers and spouses, not quite as many shout-outs were given to the brains behind the concepts behind the screenplays behind the movies, i.e. the authors whose books, plays or essays were ultimately adopted for the silver screen. (Except Ang Lee, who constantly thanks Life of Pi author Yann Martel. Kudos Ang; you win this round).

So just in case you don’t feel like Googling them (fair enough; it takes some dedication), here are the titles behind this year’s Oscar nominees.
Continue reading

Biographies, poetry, and one graphic novel: My 2013 reading resolutions

14 Jan

cathatAs January chugs along, I’ve decided that 2013 should bring with it some book-related resolutions on my part, as I can no longer be trusted to pick up anything that doesn’t promise humor, action, or the cloyingly timid romantic advances of potentially supernatural young adults.

Believe it or not, this is the third year of Sorry Television, which either means I’ve finally settled into the routine of being an unpaid but extremely enthusiastic book blogger, or that I should discover a new hobby. Maybe both. Either way, I took a look back through the 115 books I’ve read since launching ST back in November 2010, and this is how it shakes out.

Fiction (mostly literary with a few mass-market choices): 37 books / 32%
Nonfiction: 22 books / 19%
Young Adult: 14 books / 12%
Memoirs: 11 books / 10%
Science fiction/Fantasy: 10 books / 9%
Essays: 9 books / 8%
Classics: 5 books / 4%
Trash (two Sookie Stackhouse books and three Fifty Shades): 5 books / 4%
Short stories: 2 books / 2%

All in all, a moderately diverse showing, but I see some definite room for improvement. Which is where you guys come in. Here are the literary genres I’d like to work into my 2013 reading list: Continue reading