Sunday Links for December 18, 2011

Do you still have a few readers to shop for by next weekend? Or are you creating a list of books you’re going to get for yourself with all the gift certificates you expect to receive? Or are you just planning to plop in a library at the end of the year and read all the recommended books you can get your hands on? There are plenty of sources for lists of this kind or that kind of book to suit every taste. Here are few of the sources:

Syfy offers 18 “riveting reads.”

NPR has a lengthy list of the best books of the year, broken down by genre.

The New Yorker’s reviewers list their favorite books of the year.

The New York Times lists the ten best books of the year, but not content to stop there, also offers its list of 100 notable books of the year.

Marilyn Stasio, the redoubtable crime reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, lists the notable crime novels of the year.

Here’s Boing Boing’s gift guide, which covers all sort of weird and wonderful things, not just books. Note the handy buttons on the top right of the screen that allow you to narrow the list down to just the medium that you’re interested in.

SFSignal has a flowchart that will allow you to find the perfect SF/F/H for everyone on your list! (Can we have this in poster form, please?)

Books don’t have to have a 2011 publication date to be worth picking up, you know. I could name a lot more than five books worth getting that have a venerable history. My own perennial favorite: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I think I need to reread that one, and soon.

Buzz, Balls & Hype has a daily post on books and videos M.K. Rose is giving for the holidays. Follow the arrows at the top to the next in the series.

Flavorwire writes about those books that have been ridiculously overlooked. Much goodness here for those who read off the beaten path.

JS Online offers 101 books for gift-giving. Lots of great stuff here, including plenty you might have overlooked for your own library. I’d sort of like to get all of them – I only have eleven as of the moment.

SFSignal’s Mind Meld has plenty of ideas for the SF/F/H consumer on your list. Here’s Part II.

Snugglivus is a yearly feature at The Book Smugglers’ website where authors write guest posts about their favorite books of the year. It’s a great place to find books you might have overlooked. My own TBR list has been growing by leaps and bounds based on this feature.

The Juice Box Awards are a great source for SF/F/H books under categories you might not expect: best cover, best editor, best ebooks. More are to come, too, so keep checking back.

And if you’re already moving on to what 2012 will bring us, Lev Grossman lists seven books he’s looking forward to.

When thousands and thousands of new books are published every year, far more than one could possibly read even if one stuck to a particular genre, it gets easy to forget the joys of rereading. But those joys are many, as this essay by David Bowman reminds us. I think it might be time to revisit Pride and Prejudice yet again.

My favorite fantasies usually have a genuine system of magic, in which everything works as if by scientific rules – only instead of sodium and chlorine coming together to make salt, a wand and magic words work together to turn one invisible, or something like that. Here are the rules of magic for some of the greatest fantasy sagas that have been written to date. We’ll all have to watch to see what comes later.

My husband and I fell in love with each other because of our books. We met for the first time at a literary convention, took our first vacation together at a scholarly literary conference, and he proposed just after a visit to Powell’s Books. We were clearly meant for each other. I’m therefore exactly the kind of person Allison Hill is talking about in ”Literary Seductions.”

Someone is always proclaiming that literature – and especially American literature – is going to the dogs. This article in The Barcelona Review makes a pretty darned good case for the proposition. Please do read it and discuss – here or there. It’s worth it.

“I ate a sandwich and looked out a window.” A straightforward sentence that surely can’t be gussied up to fit different genres, one might think. One would be wrong.

Oh, I like this idea very much: handing books out to children you happen to see on the bus or train, just out of the blue. I’m planning to do some of that for trick or treaters next year. I don’t have a commute, so unless I start approaching children on the street, I don’t really have an outlet otherwise for such an impulse. Though now that I think of it, I could drop books anonymously outside the homes of neighbors I know have children, couldn’t I? A real Santa Claus move! Time to hit the bookstores to pick up a few inexpensive but yummy books for kids whose names I don’t even know. Wow, what a cool notion.

Here’s the latest in the eternal battle between literary fiction and genre fiction. Damien Broderick is right, I think, in his conclusion that we won’t be uploading our consciousnesses into computers any time soon, though Ray Kurzweil might disagree.

Daniel Abraham has the ultimate piece on this subject, though: a love letter from genre to mainstream. Oh, it’ll break your heart!

Perhaps the problem is just that we don’t really know what fantasy is about. Maybe it seems to floaty, too unreal, to be respected. Lev Grossman corrects some old ideas that tend to dismiss the genre.

Here’s another old subject, one on which I keep expecting the news to get better. But it never does. Women just seem to vanish from so many places, including genre fiction. You would think that SF/F/H would be particularly welcoming to women, being a visionary literature and all, but no, it doesn’t work that way. It’s hard not to get discouraged.

The latest Locus Roundtable is about how to introduce people to SF/F/H without scaring them off. Lots of the books we love seem impenetrable to those who don’t generally read these genres. Who’s Chthulhu? What’s the Singularity? Why dragons? There are some books that are better for hooking the unwary than others, and they’re discussed here.

I’ve just recently finished reading Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, a series of books ostensibly for young adults but utterly compelling to grown-ups as well. As you might expect from the name of the series, food plays a big role in the trilogy. Now you can find out how to make many of the foods named in Collins’s books – as well as foods from Hogwart’s or King’s Landing (i.e., the Harry Potter books or George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire) at this website. It’s a bit limited so far, but as time goes by, this website could grow to become fairly awesome.

My husband, who taught writing for more than 30 years, says there’s no such thing as writer’s block, not really – not any more than there’s such a thing as carpenter’s block or lawyer’s block. What it really amounts to, he says, is not feeling like working on any given day. Yet even he will admit to days when all he can seem to do is stare at a blank screen. Sven BIrkerts writers about writer’s block for the Los Angeles Review of Books – an internet journal that really should be on your list of favorites.

If Birkerts doesn’t cure your writer’s block with his writer’s ode to the illness, try these easy steps.

How do bestselling, amazingly prolific writers do it? Do they just never suffer from writer’s block – well, except for Sven Birkerts? Or are there other secrets? Oh, there are lots and lots and lots of secrets. Here are 90 of them.

There’s a new e-bookstore in the works. I think it would be a healthy thing for Amazon and Barnes & Noble to have some serious competition. I hope this venture proves to be it.

Not that Barnes & Noble and Amazon present a united front to the literary world. They’re battling it out over library rentals, apparently.

Some publishers are trying to cut down on the number of review copies they let out the door, especially when it comes to book bloggers, like yours truly. Really, I wouldn’t object to being asked if I wanted to review a particular title. I have more than enough books to last me until the end of time (or at least the end of my life, assuming I’m wrong about that whole “you can’t die until you’ve read all your books” thing). I get plenty of books that I have no intention of reading, and that go out the door as quickly as they come in. So I’m little surprised at how huffy some book bloggers got about this publisher’s efforts.

The Swiss government has just concluded a study that revealed that downloading free books has led to more book sales, and so has decided to keep downloading legal. Boing Boing saw this one coming.

I agree, though, that publishers should prize reviewers. And reviewers should prize their reputations, and strive to be scrupulous about their work. There are too many abuses of reviewing systems, and that doesn’t do anyone any good. In fact, it’s embarrassing to those of us who work hard at it.

And as long as we’re talking about the future of the book – because isn’t that what we’re to believe ebooks are? – here’s a lovely article about how science fiction has treated the book. I’ve always loved that starship captains are still reading actual dead tree books in Star Trek. Nothing is ever going to replace the beauty and tactile pleasure of a real book.

It’s a pleasure to know, when one is trying to break into print, that Gertrude Stein was rejected, too. Here are some of the greatest rejection letters of all time. My favorite is the rejection of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, one of the greatest SF novels of all time.

Ryan Gosling likes libraries – and librarians.

Dictionary.com has named its word of the year: tergiversate. Use it twice at work and once at home tomorrow and everyone will think you’re a genius.

And to end, your pretty for the week: the top photographs from space for the year 2011. Keep dreamin