NB: Not all of these were published this year--in fact, one is over fifteen years old--but I include them here due to resonance and relevance. Also, as a writer and editor and former bookseller, some of these have to do with writing and some have to do with criticism and still others have to do with bookselling. I am a full-service reader.

1. James McBride’s Eloquence

It's rare that an author can be simultaneously personal, humble, cool, and moral without appearing disingenuous or inconsistent, but McBride pulled it off with his unprepared acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, wherein he talked about how writing his novel helped him cope with his mother's and niece's respective deaths, and his failing marriage; wherein he spoke of the other nominees is such reverent tones; wherein he referred to E.L. Doctorow as “a sphinx of meaning;” and wherein he related the time E.L. Doctorow spoke at Hofstra University (in 2004) and was booed for speaking out against the Bush administration, to which McBride's response was, “Someone should dosomething,” then admitted he didn't do anything. But he wrote The Good Lord Bird, not in response to that single event, but in response to a culmination of events--which leads me to believe the following: when "someone should do something," that something can be achieved through literature, and lo, it can still be immensely effective.

2. David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky”

For writers who read literary fiction, then feel adrift--simultaneously upended yet buoyed by the promise that contemporary fiction can speak truth and shed light and be unequivocally redemptive--this essay details all the reasons why contemporary literature can feel alienating, but also highlights the ways literature retains a very specific potential, and how that potential might be realized: through honesty instead of distance, and earnestness instead of posturing.

3. Rachel Kushner’s Inspiring Research

While working on her second novel, The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner did an exorbitant amount of research, which led to her realization that there are patterns in history that feed patterns in literature (in her case, women and guns), and finding those patterns both complicates the effort to accurately render them, but also makes it impossible not to want to try.

4. Men Who Read Books, Even Those Written by Women

A reminder that, in the face of adversity, there is always the possibility to voice dissent. In response to David Gilmour’s position on teaching fiction by women (which is something of an anti-position, as it were), a group of U of Toronto students calling themselves “Serious Heterosexual Guys for Serious Literary Scholarship” held an anti-Gilmour rally. That, among many other raised voices, caused Gilmour to recant, insofar as he could, which, though not necessarily a gain, is certainly not a loss.

5. A Win for Visual Rhetoric

Laura Miller, my favorite scribe at Salon, explains why visuals, animated gifs, and even memes are not just acceptable, but meaningful and affecting, in literary criticism. Conversations like these are the ones we should be having, rather than the done-to-death cry that technology is killing literature.

6. Independent Booksellers Respond to Amazon

MobyLives never fails to amuse me, but it also very often gives me reason to cheer. As a former bookseller and a small press owner, I have deep-seated feelings of resentment about Amazon's business practices. So, when they “offered” a 6% discount off the retail price to indie booksellers who might possibly (okay, probably not) want to sell Kindles in their stores for an immense (okay, also not really that big) 10% cut of the sales of books purchased on said devices for twoyears, MHP’s marketing manager, Dustin Kurtz (also a former bookseller), collected responses to Amazon Source from indie booksellers across the country. My favorite: “Getting 10% of every book purchased on a Kindle is like getting to keep the autograph of a celebrity caught pissing on your lawn. For two years.” -- Colin McDonald, Common Good Books, MN

7. J. Robert Lennon’s Tips on How to Write a Negative Book Review

In response to our perennial critical tug-of-war--We’re too nice! We’re too mean! I hate Writer X on Twitter! I hate Writer Y’s review of Writer Z’s latest book!--Lennon steps in and reminds us that we contain multitudes--we can be supportive and critical--and that writing a negative book review requires patience and tact and, perhaps, a list of dos and don’ts, among which are “Have a little humility about your opinion” and “Don't be a dick.” Besides being a handy guide for anyone who wants to write an honest book review, Lennon’s list also serves as a way to constructively talk about books you don’t like, which is one of my favorite things to do after talking about books I do like.

8. “What I'm Giving” on the Powell’s Books Blog

Among all the hype that surrounds authors’ forthcoming work, it’s easy to forget the simple fact that before authors were writers, they were readers. Powell’s invited a slew of writers to talk about a book they recommend/buy for other people. There are certainly bestsellers among the group, but many of them are by lesser known authors, which serves as a readerly call to arms: Branch out. Even if your favorite author doesn’t have a new book out, there’s still much rewarding work to be read.

9. Statistical Pacing

Nearly every interview you read about Junot Diaz will mention what a “slow writer” he is. How he only has a book out every 5-7 years. Ditto Donna Tartt. One book every decade. When Amy Hempel was asked in The Atlantic how her close attention to sentences affects her writing process, she responded, “Well, it means it’s very slow going.” But when asked why it took him ten years to write House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski said, “Because I write fast.” Not only is his response a great one, it also reinforces that pacing, like writing, is case-specific, and that as long as you’re producing work that pleases you (definition: self-evident), it doesn't matter how long it takes.

10. Read Work that Challenges You

For this, I have no link. This is my own Call to Arms for you, readers. It probably comes from my editing practices (I edit a literary journal that publishes a print annual wherein we don’t label the work by genre), but it also comes from my ad hoc reader's education. I didn't really love reading until ninth grade. I didn't really admire writing until tenth grade. I didn't start “seriously” writing until I was eighteen. And I didn't go to college until I was twenty-six. I sold books for five years and read anything that sounded interesting, but had no discernible name for what I was doing until I went to college and was lucky enough to have a professor tell me about what she termed, “strange texts,” which asked of the reader so much more than the suspension of disbelief, most notably, patience, endurance, and trust--patience when you're not sure where a story's going or even what's happening, endurance to hang in when something odd is going on, trust that the author knows what he or she is doing, and is rendering the narrative according to that knowledge, which (believe it or not) is actually reciprocal because we, as writers, believe that you, dear readers, exist long before we meet you, and it’s you for whom we write (though we also write for us, and it's in that liminal space where we're all more or less equal). So, if there's a book that you've been putting off reading because it scares you a little, or a novel that you keep picking up then putting down because it's not “doing it” for you, try it again. Stick with it. It may surprise you in its payoff, or it may bewilder you even further, but either way, you'll be that much more likely to approach a surreal or experimental or “strange” text going forward.

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Carissa Halston’s 
Top Ten Calls to Literary Arms 
(from a writer who is generally excited about literature but who also sometimes gets swept up in feelings of helplessness).
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