paper trail

Booksellers recommend their favorite books of 2020 from indie publishers; Candacy Taylor discusses Green Books

Candacy Taylor. Photo: Katrina Parks, Assertion Films

At the New York Review of Books, Salamishah Tillet interviews painter Jordan Casteel about her large-scale oil portraits and the importance of scale in her work: “I was thinking about the way that Black male bodies have existed in the visual and historical realms in the Americas, and how they’ve been villainized, made to feel small, disrespected. I just wanted to give them as much room as possible.”

Scott Donaldson, biographer of Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, has died at the age of ninety-two. He also wrote a book on the difficulty of writing biographies, which includes a section detailing how fourteen different writers discussed Zelda Fitzgerald’s mysterious relationship with French aviator Edouard Jozan. “From 14 books,” Donaldson wrote, “you get 14 different accounts.”

Listen to Overground Railroad author Candacy Taylor discuss the history of Green Books and Black travel in America with Andrew Keen. For more on Taylor’s work, see Sam McPheeters’s review in Bookforum.

At Literary Hub, booksellers recommend their favorite “Under-the-Radar” books of the year.

The New York Public Library has listed the books most often checked out in 2020. The top title is Brit Bennett’s novel The Vanishing Half. The Brooklyn and Queens branches have also put together top checkout lists.

It’s been a good year for book sales. Frontlist titles like Barack Obama’s memoir have sold well—as expected—but Penguin Random House executive Madeline McIntosh notes that “things like ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ have sold more copies than we have in the past. It’s just this remarkable lift of the whole market.”