UK Casts an Eye Toward American Lit With Goon Squad on Best Books List

Photo of Jennifer Egan by Marion Ettlinger
Photo of Jennifer Egan by Marion Ettlinger

It seems like these "Best of..." lists roll out earlier every year! The UK's The Guardian has decided that December be damned, it's time for us to hear about its top books of 2011. (Jeanette Winterson appears not only as an honoree, but as a contributor -- she's one of the critics offering picks.) One American standout in this Brit-centric list is A Visit from the Goon Squad, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jennifer Egan, which HBO picked up back in April for adaptation into a series.

Also from The Guardian, an interesting piece on the new cultural relevance of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, a book that seems to be attracting a new generation of readers thanks to certain *ahem* national economic woes, and an interview with Alan Moore about the use of his famous "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes mask in the American "Occupy Wall Street" movement. It's amazing to read this kind of nuanced reporting on American culture in a foreign newspaper.

While we're skewing international, here's a shout-out to Dan Brown fans: The Vatican's new web feature has just made it that much easier for you to prowl the Sistine Chapel for clues and esoterica. Surely by putting everything in plain sight, they're just trying to trick us into thinking there's nothing to hide ...

On a more serious note, the brilliant evolution theorist and "spokesperson for the microcosm" Lynn Margulis passed away this weekend at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. One point of interest for book lovers: Margulis, whose work challenged prevailing assumptions about early phases of biological life on Earth, was at one time married to astronomer and Cosmos author Carl Sagan.