The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award were announced today. Margaret Atwood will receive a lifetime achievement award, Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming has won an award for debut fiction, and frequent New Republic and Guardian contributor Michelle Dean has won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Finalists for the book awards include Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, John Edgar Wideman’s Writing to Save a Life, and Mark Greif’s Against Everything. Winners will be announced in March.
The New York Times’s chief book critic Michiko Kakutani sat down with President Barack Obama to discuss how his love of reading and writing have guided his time in the White House. “Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped—in his life, convictions and outlook on the world—by reading and writing as Barack Obama,” Kakutani writes. Obama discussed how Liu Cixin’s sci-fi, Shakespeare’s tragedies, and Lincoln’s speeches gave him perspective on the challenges he faced as president. “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” Obama said, “the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes—those two things have been invaluable to me.”
After CNN found numerous incidents of plagiarism throughout Monica Crowley’s career, Crowley announced that she will not serve as Trump’s senior director of communications for the National Security Council.
BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith continues to defend the website’s decision to publish a dossier full of unconfirmed intelligence findings on Trump. In a CNN interview last weekend, Smith said that it’s not a journalist’s job “to decide what to suppress and keep from our audience.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple points out that journalists deal with suppression every day in the form of denied or ignored FOIA requests and public relations officers. “To claim that sitting on [this document] is an act of suppression is to suggest a mild conspiracy to protect Trump,” Wemple writes. “Pretty sure that doesn’t exist.”
At Politico, Jack Shafer writes that Trump’s presidency could unintentionally Make Journalism Great Again. Shafer takes examples from Trump’s press conferences, Reince Priebus’s plan to evict journalists from the White House, and Sean Spicer’s control over news briefings to suggest that journalists will have plenty of chances to hone their skills over the next four years. “Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting,” Shafer writes, “the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.”