Founded in 1851, the NYT has won 122 Pulitzers in its existence–more than any other newspaper. As of September 2016, it had the largest combined print-and-digital circulation of any daily newspaper in the United States, and is ranked 18th in the world by circulation.
Since 1896, it’s also been running a supplement, now knows as the New York Times Book Review that covers new fiction and non-fiction books. Each week the NYTBR receives 750 to 1000 books from authors and publishers in the mail, of which 20 to 30 are chosen for review, and the supplement is the most influential and widely read book review publication in the country. So when The New York Times puts out it’s list of the 10 best books of the year, it’s worth paying attention.
Here are some highlights from their piece, which you can read here. Starting in December (which is apparently coming in a few short hours….), we’ll be featuring some of these fine titles, along with other books from “Best Of” lists, along with our own picks for our favorite reads of 2017, on our displays. So come on in and check out some of the literary highlights of the past year!
What can explain the incredible diversity of beauty in nature? Richard O. Prum, an award-winning ornithologist, discusses Charles Darwin’s second and long-neglected theory–aesthetic mate choice–and what it means for our understanding of evolution. In addition, Prum connects those same evolutionary dynamics to the origins and diversity of human sexuality, offering riveting new thinking about the evolution of human beauty and the role of mate choice, thereby transforming our ancestors from typical infanticidal primates into socially intelligent, pair-bonding caregivers. Prum’s book is an exhilarating tour de force that begins in the trees and ends by fundamentally challenging how we understand human evolution and ourselves. According to The New York Times: “If a science book can be subversive and feminist and change the way we look at our own bodies — but also be mostly about birds — this is it…It’s a passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans and will help you finally understand, among other things, how in the world we have an animal like the peacock.”
This remarkable novel follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity. The New York Times had this to say: “Exploring central concerns of identity, homeland and belonging, the book announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: “History has failed us, but no matter.” Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen.”
Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. According to The New York Times: “[The family’s] story feels mythic, both encompassing the ghosts of the past and touching on all the racial and social dynamics of the South as they course through this one fractured family. Ward’s greatest feat here is achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination.”
Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met, a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide. In this crazy, profane, and wonderfully wise memoir,, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence, from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultl-ike Catholic youth group, with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. As The New York Times observes, Lockwood “brings to bear her gifts as a poet, mixing the sacred and profane in a voice that’s wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.”