In Honor of Vaclav Havel, Hanukkah Lights, and More

Evan Smith Rakoff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Vaclav Havel, playwright, essayist, poet, dissident, political prisoner, and first president of the Czech Republic, passed away yesterday at age seventy-five. The New York Times writes, "it is impossible to separate the artist’s politics from the politician’s art."

In honor of the life of Vaclav Havel, editor David Remnick provides a reading list of Havel's best writing and favorite contemporaries, including poets Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz. (New Yorker)

Continuing the year-end "best of" lists: the Wall Street Journal features its ten best books of fiction, with Wesley Stace's Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer at the top; Flavorwire collects a compendium of its favorite authors writing about the books they loved this year; and NPR lists this year's best historical fiction.

GalleyCat, in the spirit of holiday generosity, details exactly what a writer wants most of all, and how it can be given.

NPR has aired its annual one-hour holiday special, Hanukkah Lights, featuring commissioned stories by authors such as Elisa Albert and Erika Dreifus.

After contrary essays were published in the New York Times and Slate—both for and against Amazon's dominance over mom and pop bookshops—the Christian Science Monitor examines why America needs independent bookstores, and asks, "Is Slate's Amazon-defending blogger really a 'moron'?"

Author and editor Robert McCrum lists the fifty things he's learned about the literary life, including number forty-nine: "Some of the best contemporary writers are working in American television." (Guardian)

If you have an old typewriter, it may be time to dust off its keys. (New York Daily News)