The Books of the Year

The Books of the Year

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Every November, after the editors of The Times Book Review have wrapped up their big end-of-year issues, they immediately turn their attention to the following year. They start by creating a working list of nominees for the next iteration of 100 Notable Books — the one that will be published almost a year later.

In the subsequent months, the editors add to the list, knowing all the while that they will need to conduct a ruthless winnowing at the end, down to 50 books of fiction and 50 of nonfiction, spanning every genre. “It’s a lot of triage and hard choices,” Pamela Paul, the Book Review editor, told me.

Today, Pamela and her colleagues released the new list. The Times has published a version of it every year since 1968 (although the early ones were longer), and publishers say it often has a big effect on a book’s sales.

The 2020 list has both timeless and timely qualities. It includes novels that could have come out any year — by Hilary Mantel, J.M. Coetzee, Megha Majumdar and Lily King — as well as nonfiction about Winston Churchill, Newt Gingrich, Malcolm X and Ronald Reagan.

  • In the U.S., the rate of H.I.V.-related deaths fell by about half from 2010 through 2018. The declines were smaller for women and Black Americans.

  • U.S. prosecutors have declined to pursue cases against thousands of people who were arrested at demonstrations against police brutality this summer, concluding that protesters were exercising their civil rights.

  • Two fraud inquiries — one criminal and one civil — into Trump and his businesses are now looking at tax deductions taken on consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump.

  • The Justice Department carried out the first of three executions scheduled before the end of Trump’s term. Biden has said he will work to end the use of capital punishment by the federal government.

  • General Motors said it would push to introduce more electric vehicles by 2025. The company is hoping to challenge Tesla, the current leader in electric vehicles.

  • Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, one of the N.B.A.’s best shooters, will miss the upcoming season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a pickup game.

  • And one more piece of book news: Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize for his autobiographical novel “Shuggie Bain,” the story of the lonely gay son of an alcoholic mother in 1980s Scotland.

Modern Love: A grandmother’s love fills the void for a writer who lost her mother at a young age.

Notable birds: A worker setting up the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan this week came eye to eye with a tiny owl that had accidentally gotten stuck in the branches. (The owl was thirsty and hungry, but mostly fine.) And now that we’re on the topic: Central Park has a new celebrity bird.

At a Thanksgiving dinner more than a decade ago, a magazine editor named Larry Smith made a suggestion to his relatives seated at the table: They should each tell a story about themselves — in only six words. It was a twist on a challenge that somebody apparently once issued to Ernest Hemingway.


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