The best literature and nonfiction of the year, for the serious reader in your life.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook
My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Dear Life by Alice Munro
The Circle by Dave Eggers (audiobook)
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Wilson by A. Scott Berg
Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin & John Heilemann
The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received by Elliott Holt
"Charlie gave me a piece of advice that James Salter gave him. Salter (as quoted by D’Ambrosio) said, ‘It is hard to get over the habit of being civilized.’ As a writer, you have to push past the graceful and civilized into darker places. Good stories are about when characters stop being civilized, when there are cracks in their composure. Good fiction is born of characters’ struggle and desperation. As writers, Charlie said, we have to go looking for ‘resistance and trouble.’”
My point is not that you should write wild plots. (Characters having sex under tables is not the goal.) The point is to remember that all good stories and novels—even ones set in “civilized society”—feature characters who are desperate in some way. Push past the civilized, with your characters and your sentences. Find the resistance. You can be cautious and polite in life, but on the page, you have to go looking for trouble.