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New York Times announces Top Ten 2020 books; Hilton Als on reading Joan Didion today

Rachel Kushner. Photo: Lucy Raven

At 9:30 AM EST this morning, in a live event, the New York Times will reveal its list of the top ten books of the year, as Pamela Paul and other editors name their favorites.

Publishers Weekly reports on Penguin Random House’s new Spanish-language division, Penguin Random House Español, which will be based in Miami, and will bring together two previously discrete divisions: Vintage Español and Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. “Vintage Español has been focusing on fiction, both literary and commercial, and narrative nonfiction,” said Silvia Matute, who will serve as president. “The Miami team has been focused on children’s books; other nonfiction titles, primarily about celebrities or influencers; and religious books. By joining together, we’ll have a comprehensive program.”

“While younger generations may read her as a window into the mythic 1960s or September 11, it’s impossible not to see, too, how Didion’s examination of racial bias and the Central Park Five, Reagan-era El Salvador, or the smug, violent, white-male carelessness that characterized the infamous Spur Posse in Lakewood, California, in the early 1990s anticipated the deeply troubling politics of today,” Hilton Als writes of Joan Didion. “Still, there’s an energy to her writing—what she might call its ‘shimmer’—that goes beyond a given piece’s surface story, and that sheds an awful and beautiful light on a world we half see but don’t want to see, one in which potential harm is a given and hope is a flimsy defense against dread.”

Simon and Schuster is expected to sell for $1.7 billion, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns HarperCollins, is making a play to buy. The other potential buyer is Penguin Random House. When S&S sells, it will be “the largest acquisition in North American trade publishing since HarperCollins bought Harlequin in 2014."

In April, Scribner will publish The Hard Crowd, an essay collection by novelist Rachel Kushner. In May, Graywolf will publish See Saw, a new collection of Geoff Dyer’s essays on photography.

In a virtual event that begins tonight at 7 PM EST, Pulitzer-winning Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada will discuss his new book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.