,, and Four Other Things You Ought to Be Reading

My Must List of 2011

Wait, another list?


Enough with the year-end lists already!

Agreed, but, please, there are reasons for year-end lists: (1) readership is down between Christmas and New Year’s, which means the motivation for writers to do heavy lifting is down as well, and (2) readers don’t want to read sobering posts about the housing downturn or the pedophilia epidemic until after the new year. We’re still in quasi-vacation mode. It’s a time to go easy.

Shaky rationalizations over, here are six broadly literary enterprises that deserve kudos this year.

Longreads, the journalism website, continues to fly in the face of conventional wisdom by posting links to long-form stories published in the New Yorker, Harpers, GQ and other publications whose subs you may have cancelled. No, you’re not going to read them all, or even most. But sign up for their email and you’ll be seduced by a few. Today, I read a piece on Chuck Berry running in the new Esquire. At 85, he’s still an ornery son of a bitch.

Grantland, launched this year by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, is (mostly) about sports. The site’s journalism is long-form; the writers are top flight. Deadspin, Grantland’s alter ego, may be a mandatory pit stop for jocks everywhere, but Grantland is a must-read for the thinking person sports fan. Current recommendation: “Being Babe Ruth’s Daughter,” by Jane Leavy.

• The New 52, DC Comics’ revamp and re-launch line of its superhero books, was a nervy and dangerous business decision. The comic book publisher threw out the old and revered and debuted 52 new series with new #1 issues. It worked. Readers bought. Best of all, it sent a signal to publishers everywhere: Be not afraid of change.

We the Animals, by Justin Torres. In a mere 124-pages, Torres’ novel tells the story of three brothers growing up with a Puerto Rican father and a white mother. It is a fierce, absorbing and anything-but-stereotypical story, and it’s so well crafted you’ll want to read it twice.

• David Carr, the media columnist for the Monday business section of the New York Times, covers print, digital, film, radio and television. His columns are always exceedingly well reported, and who does that anymore? It’s reason alone to buy the NYT Monday edition.

• The Must List—aka “the top 10 things we love this week”—is published by Entertainment Weekly. Rocket science it’s not, but it’s the perfect cheat sheet for all that’s breaking in arts and culture. Best of all, it’s available as a free app. I just checked and discovered there’s a Marx Brothers New Year’s Eve marathon on the Turner Classic Movies Channel. Yes, there’ll be no Dick Clark!