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Colm Toibin’s ‘The Magician’ wins Folio Prize for literature

The jury of three other writers — Tessa Hadley, William Atkins and Rachel Long — said they surprised themselves by reaching a unanimous decision. They said Toibin’s book “is such a capacious, generous, ambitious novel, taking in a great sweep of 20th century history yet rooted in the intimate detail of one man’s private life.” Read more

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Three Authors Named Winners of Science + Literature Awards

The National Book Foundation has teamed with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to honor books that wed two categories not always in harmony: technology and the arts. On Wednesday, the two organizations announced the inaugural winners of the Science + Literature awards, $10,000 honors for books, fiction or nonfiction, “that deepen readers’ understanding of science and technology.” The winners are Daisy Hernández’s “The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease”; Linda Hogan’s “The Radiant Lives of Animals,” a blend of poetry and prose; and Rachel Pastan’s “In the Field: A Novel,” inspired by the life of Nobel-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock. Read more

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Olga Tokarczuk’s ‘The Books of Jacob’ is finally here. Now we know why the Nobel judges were so awestruck.

The challenges here — for author and reader — are considerable. After all, Tokarczuk isn’t revising our understanding of Mozart or presenting a fresh take on Catherine the Great. She’s excavating a shadowy figure who’s almost entirely unknown today … As daunting as it sounds, The Books of Jacob is miraculously entertaining and consistently fascinating. Despite his best efforts, Frank never mastered alchemy, but Tokarczuk certainly has. Her light irony, delightfully conveyed by Croft’s translation, infuses many of the sections. What’s more, it turns out that the story of an 18th-century grifter inflated by Messianic delusions is surprisingly relevant to our own era. The quality that makes The Books of Jacob so striking is its remarkable form. Tokarczuk has constructed her narrative as a collage of legends, letters, diary entries, rumors, hagiographies, political attacks and historical records … This is a story that grows simultaneously more detailed and more mysterious … Haunting and irresistible. Read more

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The winners of this year’s Costa Book Awards have been announced

This week saw the announcement of this year’s Costa Book Awards, a set of annual literary awards which recognize and honor British and Irish writers of the English language. Each award comes with £5,000; the author of the Costa Book of the Year, picked from these winners and announced in late January, will receive an additional £30,000. Previous Book of the Year winners include Helen Macdonald and Hilary Mantel. Read more

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Why is Baseball the Most Literary of Sports?

The World Series is here. Even though it’s the (ugh) Braves vs. the (ugh) Astros, it’s still time to put on a ballcap, break out of a box of Cracker Jack, and head on out to the old ballgame… or least stream one online. Baseball has been known as America’s “national pastime” since the 1850s. While the sport may have been surpassed by football in the TV ratings, there’s still something about wooden bats, leather gloves, and grass-and-dirt diamonds that feels distinctly American. And distinctly literary. Read more

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Gary Shteyngart’s Pandemic Novel Is His Finest Yet

To read this novel is to tally a high school yearbook’s worth of superlatives for Shteyngart: funniest, noisiest, sweetest, most entertaining. To those I will add a few superlatives that were not celebrated at my own high school: most melancholic, most quizzical, most skilled at vibrating the deepest strings of the anthropoid heart. Read more

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