New Newsweek Looking Up

It’s still hard getting used to the redone Newsweek, which, if you haven’t seen it (and most people haven’t, which is part of the problem) abandons the traditional Around the World with the News approach  for something more opinionated and essayistic.

I’ve noted before, based on my years in semi-organized journalism, that most redesigns/makeovers are motivated more by staff boredom and the art director’s ego than by any genuine desire for reform expressed by readers who, in truth, tend to be put off by radical changes to their accustomed mag. (Yes, I hate what they’ve done to the “Conventional Wisdom Watch,” one of my fave features.)

The first few New Newsweeks did not compel me to read much, but the current ish, titled “What to Read Now,” is worth a long look. Somebody put some actual thought into the lead feature, “What to Read Now. And Why.” It’s a gallery of short takes on 50 fiction and non-fiction books that are supposed to resonate in one way or more with those of us living Now, ranging  from Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now to books on terrorism, biographies of Walter Winchell, Whittaker Chambers and Robert Oppenheimer, and works by Phillip Roth,  Walt Whitman, Rudyard Kipling and Don DeLillo, delightfully odd pairings.

Also on board: A breezy panel of chatting authors that includes lifetime LBJ chronicler Robert Caro and my man Lawrence Block, whose  yarns about ex-alcoholic detective  Matt Scudder have stolen many an evening when I should have been deciphering Kant and at least making a stab at Aristotle’s Poetics.

And  as if that isn’t enough for one chunk of journalism, there’s a fine profile of  America’s new Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan, who is obscure like so many poets but brilliant as well.  I did not know her work,  but will get to know it now.

Here’s a link to the 50 Books.

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