The New York Times book critics picked their favorite books of the year, and while Michiko Kakutani’s and Janet Maslin’s lists are billed as “roughly in order of preference,” Dwight Garner’s is alphabetized by author: We’d like to think it’s because he couldn’t quite bring himself to choose between the inimitable Joy Williams and the inimitable Lucia Berlin (whom Williams reviews in the latest Bookforum).
A new season of Serial—the podcast that put podcasts on the radar for millions of new listeners—has begun, focusing on Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who left his post and spent several years in captivity with the Taliban. Unlike the first season, about Adnan Syed, who was convicted for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee (and whose friend is now writing a book about him, due out next September), this one is not primarily concerned with finding out what happened: “The basic facts in the case of Bergdahl are known,” writes Sarah Larson on the New Yorker site, “and most parties involved agree on what they are. But what those facts mean, what Bergdahl actually experienced in the Army, his motivations for leaving his platoon, and the many terrible consequences of that decision are more complex, even existential.” So that’s a relief for anyone who felt let down when the first season’s ending turned out to be some variation of a “contemplation on the nature of the truth” after all.
The new editor of Harper’s, Christopher Cox, introduces the latest issue, and makes some staff-writer announcements ahead of the magazine’s relaunch next spring: There will be regular essays from Rivka Galchen, A. S. Hamrah, and Emily Witt, while Christine Smallwood (who will write on the state of the American short story in a forthcoming issue of Bookforum) is taking over the New Books column full time, after the departure of her comrade, the novelist Joshua Cohen.
You know it’s a good week when George Saunders is on Colbert.
And on Monday, philosopher Alain Badiou will be at Columbia, speaking on “Radical Grace: The Role of Art in Response to Present Tragic Circumstances.”