There's so much good television being made these days that it's hard to know where to start! Thankfully we now have this book by seasoned TV critics Sepinwall and Seitz, who put together a roughly tiered list with complete with analysis, historical context and some choice bits about the creative staff. The book has its limits: it focuses explicitly on American television, which of course leaves out dozens of shows made across the world that are just as influential if not more so. But if you're in the mood to be convinced why The Simpsons may actually be a better show than either The Sopranos or The Wire, or find a new favorite in the endless sea of television, this is your best choice.
If you're a SF fan and looking to make just one purchase this year, this would be the one. Expert curators Jeff and Ann Vandermeer assemble nearly a hundred stories from across the genre, drawing from authors all over the world. A few of the usual suspects are included, but so are some real oddballs (Cordwainer Smith and R.A. Lafferty) and even some stories translated into English for the first time (such as a novella by Hugo award winning Chinese writer Cixin Liu). The book comes with a thorough introduction to the history of science fiction that is itself worth the price of admission.
In The World is On Fire, Joni Tevis wanders the American landscape like an explorer: jotting down everything she sees, questioning everything around her: beginning with the haunting of the Sarah Winchester house, Tevis's essays investigate nuclear tourism in the southwestern desert framed against the tragic plane ride of Buddy Holly and the piano trills of Liberace. Like travelers we wonder the countryside with a door-to-door scissor sharpener, we sit and listen to an auctioneer, we pay homage to the heavy industry of the South, and we learn about marble King, Berry Pink, self-made millionaire. Tevis' essays of motherhood are like a sermon, wondrously devastating, and filled with imagery of a desolate Alaskan refuge, of the cave of an apostle in Greece, and the gospel of Freddy Mercury. The essays in The World is On Fire reconcile the detritus and fallout of our present age with the wonder of a lost one, bringing a kaleidoscopic wonder to the essay form––never losing sight of the pain of the past or the loneliness of the now. These are the sorts of essays that make you sit up straight and wonder aloud, to feel the knots in your body, to look at the world through prismatic glass in sparkling wonder.