Sunday Links for November 28, 2010

I linked you to a couple of “best of the year” lists last week, and more are coming out every day. One of the best ways to keep up with all of them, and pick and choose what works best for you, is to follow The Large-Hearted Boy’s aggregation of “best of” lists. It comes in very handy; you can follow the links from there to any list that sounds interesting to you. The emphasis seems to be on mainstream rather than genre literature, but the bottom line is that you can find just about any list you’re looking for.

One of the lists that I can’t help relying on, if only because I love to read the New York Times Book Review every week, is the New York Times’ “best” list. Rather than link you to that list directly, though, I’m going to give you a link to Amazon’s Omnivoracious listing, which has everything set out with lovely little links directly to the Amazon page where you can purchase the books. I do love Amazon, I confess. Yes, it’s a e-store rather than a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. No, you can’t fondle the books until after you buy them. But I’ve found more treasures available through this particular website than I could shake a stick at. I spend many, many hours in bookstores, both new and used, and I still wouldn’t have found many of the books I’ve dearly loved without Amazon. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that.

Penguin offers a different take on the “best of” list – a listing by authors of what they recommend you give to the reader on your Hanukkah or Christmas list. It’s as much fun to read as it is to use for its intended purpose.

For all you reviewers out there: the National Book Critics Circle has an ongoing feature in which respected and experienced reviewers talk about the books that reviewers should read to improve and inform their reviewing. I regret to advise that I have not read any of the books that are recommended by these reviewers, save for having dipped into the Bible from time to time (yes, even though I’m a lapsed Catholic). I own a fair number of them, but I’ve yet to get around to them. Perhaps that should be one of my resolutions for 2011, hmm?

Here’s your chance to make your own voice heard: the Guardian’s book blog has an open thread in which readers get to tell everyone what their favorite books of the year were. I’m surprised that, as of this writing, there are only 61 comments so far. But they are learned comments from people who are apparently quite well-read – one of the reasons I love the Guardian’s book blog.

For the writers among us (me included), Jeff VanderMeer’s post on rejuvenating your imagination might be just the ticket to spur you through the last few days of NaNoWriMo. It’s also useful if you just feel a need to recharge the writing engines after too much turkey and too many candy canes to come. I find VanderMeer to offer very useful advice, and I’m enjoying my very slow reading of his 2009 release, Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer. In fact, this is a book I found so useful that I grabbed a hard copy after first encountering it on my Kindle. There was just too much good stuff I wanted to be able to flip to easily, without the interface of trying to find the right bookmark. Yes, I’m hopeless about “real” books; I think it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to persuade me to love disembodied texts instead.

More help for writers: Grasping for the Wind, one of the best genre blogs in the business, has information about the Superstars Writing Seminar that was conducted in March 2010. Read GFTW’s post for links to YouTube versions of the seminars, get your notepad ready, and get busy.

I couldn’t have survived that past five years if it weren’t for my local public library. There was a time in my distant past when I could afford to buy every single book I wanted to read, but that time is long gone, and I now must rely on the savvy of the librarians at my local branch, who seem to have a very good grasp of what’s new and wonderful in science fiction, fantasy and horror, my preferred genres. It’s a lovely building, an old-fashioned library with dark wood shelves and lots of quiet spaces, a library that hasn’t yet given up stocking books in favor of offering a zillion computers – though computers are available, too. It’s amazing how beautiful a good public library can be. Here are the top ten most beautiful libraries in the country, according to FlavorWire. Do you agree with their judgment? Is there another public library you’d like to substitute? Remember: the Morgan Library in New York doesn’t count, because it’s not public. But that’s a gorgeous one, isn’t it? Next trip to New York, I’m there.

Science fiction cuisine? Once you get past Romulan ale – which is, of course, blue, the favorite color for alien foods – what is there, really? knows, and they’re telling. It all reminds me of my science fair project in eighth grade, when I dyed mashed potatoes blue to see if they tasted any different just because of the color. Lots of my classmates said they did, even though they knew it was only food dye. Alas, the science project wasn’t good enough to get me to the state fair, but I never forgot the great title I came up with: “I Can Cook a Rainbow.” I guess I was always meant to sing, cook and write, and I seem to have come to each discipline in precisely that order.

As you struggle to come up with just the right Christmas gift for the person who has everything, think about whether that person might be most pleased with having a gift given on his or her behalf. Me, I want a goat, and I want that goat given to a poor family in Africa so that the kids will have milk to drink every morning. As he has done for several years now, Patrick Rothfuss (the author of the amazingly good fantasy The Name of the Wind) is matching gifts given to Heifer International. This group absolutely embodies the notion of “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for his lifetime.” By giving livestock to poor families in underdeveloped countries, you are giving them a way to get out of dire poverty. It’s a sort of miracle, and you can participate in it. Give generously, won’t you?

If you’d like a more conventional gift to accompany the nice little card that says, “On your behalf, one chicken was given on your behalf to five poor families” or the like, has some suggestions for science fictional trinkets like a hand-crocheted Cthulhu (I want one!). The steampunk jewelry offered through another link is downright gorgeous, and I love the hand-crafted clocks. Take a look.

Yes, the holiday weekend is over, but another is coming up before too long, and having io9’s list of genre TV series you can watch in one weekend might well come in handy. I can personally vouch for Firefly - The Complete Series, which I loved. I’m thinking of trying Torchwood: The Complete First Season soon – darn, I left that off my Christmas list! – maybe it’ll do for my New Year’s weekend viewing.

I leave you with a tiny bit of serendipity and loveliness. Korean artist Sung Yeon Ju crafts clothing out of food, and pictures of some of her creations are up on Tom & Lorenzo’s blog. If you don’t know about Tom & Lorenzo yet, and have the slightest interest in fashion, you’re truly missing out. These two started blogging about “Project Runway” (my favorite guilty pleasure), and soon found themselves becoming experts on all things fashion, as well as growing experts on a number of different television series. I would never miss one of their deconstructions of “Glee,” which is probably my current favorite series; yeah, unrepentant nerd here, I admit it. I love their posts exhibiting creations from the various designers, even as I know that I would never wear one of those dresses even if I had the money and the body; no 54-year-old should be caught dead in some of those things unless she’s Cher, Sharon Stone or … Well, that’s pretty much the universe of older women who can get away with micro-minis and still look sexy instead of desperate. As my time grows shorter, Tom & Lorenzo’s blog has become one of the few that I still look at every single day.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as much fun as mine was (I spent most of it in Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, about which more soon). And I am thankful for each and every one of my readers. You let me come into your lives and rave about books I loved and complain about books I didn’t, and that’s something that makes me happy. In fact, little makes me happier than when one of you says that you bought and read a book on my say-so. I’m an evangelist for reading, and always have been. I love this little soapbox I call Reading the Leaves, and I’m grateful that you visit.