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Times Critics Talk About Their Year-End Lists



It's the end of the year. And so it's time and our three critics. Dwight Garner Parl paralegal and Jennifer Salah have come up with their ten best books of Twenty nineteen. They join us now to talk about those books a little bit about the process and the difficulty of coming up with like these Dwight giancarl. Thanks for being here Nathan. How natural is this process? I mean is this something that you're thinking of from the very beginning of the year when you're choosing your books or is this like Oh my God it's November. We need to think about it for me. It's the latter I mean I I I feel like I was surprised again. Even though he shouldn't have been surprised that all of a sudden we were putting together our lists. I think I'm always thinking about got it. I am always even just like weighing one book against the other ones that I've read does naturally just before you start flinging around attitudes is it. Is it essential all is it. You know arresting rested more or less. I think I think for me. I'm always I'm always going through. But then the real sort of thinking in sifting does sneak up on me and suddenly. It's like I don't know inside some years you know it's like I can only choose ten. Some cheers you're like. How can I stretch ten? Does that play in to your choices. What I'm thinking and not as does it prevent you from or slow you from reviewing something really dreadful because you think well? There's no way that this is the contender. No An and I think it's just the luck of being able to review both Shawna's I've got to review enough books. I much more curious to hear from you John. As the nonfiction critic have not narrows bridge. It's a bit more particular. Your your lane. Yeah no I'll I'll admit that I- internally maybe sometimes externally complain about about having to make the list each year but I do feel like when it comes to the nonfiction books. Yeah there are just certain books that we should review that I should review and so I do it. And then that inevitably takes up a space among the fifty summer sixty some books that will review in a year. So I think that that's partly why I don't think about it during the year and then I just let it sneak up on me and November one thing that I noticed. Yes when I look at your list sometimes I think Oh. I'm surprised this is on here. I didn't think at the time that Parlor Twitter Jen like this book as much and I'm curious if over over the course of time your view of books might change our has. You're saying Parl years are slim pickings. Is that come the end of the year. You think well that wasn't so bad. Compared with what else is out there. This is looking better now. Things sneak up on you. You know it's funny you. You read a book early in the year and you think well maybe this isn't so superb and that as the year goes on the book and a sticks with you and you realize this was far better than I thought pieces. I love to read in general in critics. Go back over the reviews for year even a decade and talk about the things maybe they over praised crazed or under praised. Because as we all know you know works of our change as we look back at them we all know what it's like buying a new record. You buy an album and then you really dislike the first ten times as you play it in. Its the eleventh time where clicks and sometimes mentally that works with the book even on a second reading. Do you think about what might make your list from the beginning of the year. Anyway I do. I remember this April having the stretch. Why reviewed three of the best books I've read in a longtime right in a row to spam Bam? One of them was Susan Choice. Trust exercises distrust exercise and the other was the old drift by non Walis repel. And I'm forgetting the other one. I think it was the new Sally Rooney Novel Normal People and there was something else and I remember born holy cow like this is the best month I've had a critic in terms of just finding things that blew me away on the one hand you love that and the other hand you critical. I'm glad that the year simmered down or no not glad you're did similar was harder to find great things after that for me anyway and all three of those books looks made your list as well as two books that were on the book review. Editor's list the top ten last night boat to Tanger- and the Yellow House Dwight you also review poetry throughout the year. Do you think to yourself. I have got to have at least one book of poetry on my list. You don't but I like to. I mean I read a lot of poetry and it's hard to find the right book review of poem so few slots I feel are open to meet review poetry that I tend to wait until a poet has collected the book of verse out or a selected book that enables you to look at a whole career rather than just doing book but this year this crazy book by this poet. Chelsea minutes in the book is called. Baby I I don't care if it's in a way it's a stunt book it's sort of you know blackly funny poems. Read dark poems that take their the take the subject matter from old Hollywood movies movies and it's free book and it's unusual and I went back and read earlier stuff and I just realized this is a major talent. Who's doing a weird thing with this book? And it's a good book. I've been giving it to a Lotta people because it's a book that it's easy of access like give it to someone. Read a lot of poetry in. They can get it in find it quite charming and smart. But she's very deft. Theft is a poet and there are many layers to all sorts of readers. I find our charms in awed by her talent. What's your process like each of you when you are coming coming up with your list Jen? Well we each have a page on the Times website where it lists everything that we've written and so I look got all the books that I reviewed over the past year and you know there are some obvious ones that jump out at me in terms of being included on the list like which twins this year did you think. I just know that's going to be on there. I thought the Chernobyl book by Adam Higginbotham. I thought was fantastic and it was something that you know. I still haven't seen this. Hbo Hbo Series that. Everybody talks about but I feel like in terms of the book itself. I learned so much in the way that it was written in the way that it clarified certain scientific aspects specs of the meltdown. This midnight midnight interminable exactly and so that was a book that you know. I kept thinking about over the past year. Another book was how to hide an empire by Daniel Miroir Dwight with talking about having a period in the earlier part of the year. Where just is there was one book after another? That was just fantastic and that was another book where I had read a lot of books that were about the notion of the American Empire and critiques of American Empire. But this was a book that actually looks at actual territories the Philippines Puerto Rico Guam. You know all these places that that are sort of. On the periphery I think of the American mainland imagination. I guess when they think of what empire means and so that was another one and you know the Caroline for Shea Book about her time and El Salvador. You know quite stunning. That's sort of the process that I go through where there are certain books. What's that jump out at me? How about you parl? What's your method? It's so scientific research I keep I keep all the books I review. I've I have a bookshelf for them. And I have the order so I just look at them and stare up at them hopelessly but I also do keep like a running list of of about meteorology check and I'll be like okay. What's been in sort of spectacular with my thinking of and then of course but I think that that point that you raise an android did to talking about that book of poetry? Is that in the last couple of weeks of the of the monthly monthly sort of thing like what is stuck with me. What is nagged at me? You know that the books that you admire but you're this book had a power because we do with these books and they changed with time and they changed with looking looking at. What else is out there? They change if I'm honest about the conversation. That's happened around them. Sometimes I do feel like I look differently if I feel like it's been misunderstood. It hasn't been appreciated. Appreciate it enough or looking at the other books year and seeing the other reviews feeling defensive on its behalf and saying how could you miss. This is the one that did something thing different Parl. Two of your best books were more than a thousand pages. I know I like big books. I do I do Docs Newbery Award by Lucy. UC L. men and anniversaries by Johnson. That one how long seventeen hundred pages. I actually had to go to the doctor after that because I I hi developed like bad ice during they were just twitching. I'd like five hundred pages a day insane but the book is so good. I mean just. Don't read it like that. Read it like twenty five pages a day. That's both those books are actually great books to have by your bed over the course of a year. Absolutely because they're about slowly Lee narrating a life and in the case both these books about the life of these really really incredibly scarily intelligent observant women and and them reading the news news and processing the news and thinking about their children thinking about history. As it's happening. I was so impressed that they cross is hold me in that way given that like you know. Time is slow in these books and they're thick with detail and they are

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