When we have time, we at Deadspin like to read (and also sometimes write) books. These are the books we read and wrote this year that we think would make a great, last-minute gift for any literate people you might know, or even as a special treat for yourself.
Pulphead, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
One paragraph, chosen more or less at random, from John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead: "People hate these [reality] shows, but their hatred smacks of denial. It's all there, all the old American grotesques, the test-tube babies of Whitman and Poe, a great gauntlet of doubtless eyes, big mouths spewing fantastic catchphrase fountains of impenetrable self-justification, muttering dark prayers, calling on God to strike down those who would fuck with their money, their cash, and always knowing, always preaching. Using weird phrases that nobody uses, except everybody uses them now. Constantly talking about 'goals.' Throwing carbonic acid on our castmates because they used our special cup and then calling our mom to say, in a baby voice, 'People don't get me here.' Walking around half-naked with a butcher knife behind our backs. Telling it like it is, y'all (what-what). And never passive-aggressive, no. Saying it straight to your face. But crying … My God, there have been more tears shed on reality TV than by all the war widows of the world. Are we so raw? It must be so. There are simply too many of them—too many shows and too many people on the shows—for them not to be revealing something endemic. This is us, a people of savage sentimentality, weeping and lifting weights." Go buy this book now.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Marriage Plot is perfect for you if you're not far removed from that phase in your life where you have no idea of your own purpose and read too much to compensate for it. Much of the novel takes place at Brown University in the early 1980s, which seems to me the best time to attend college—after campuses went co-ed, and before everyone had a cellphone and a laptop—modern yet peaceful. There was a big ol' stir over a character in the novel resembling David Foster Wallace, which, I suppose, made some people like the book more and made others distrust it. But you're wasting your time thinking about the book that way: the novel is a splendid discourse on reading and love, and that's what you want to curl up with, isn't it?
Whore Of Akron, by Scott Raab
Scott Raab is a brutally honest, often hilarious writer and Cleveland sports fan who has written a book about the possibly fruitless search for LeBron James's soul. Along the way, though, Raab takes down himself—his addictions, his neuroses, his insecurities—as much as he does LeBron.
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
This is one of those buzzy first novels, and with good reason—it's sprawling and airy and welcoming and baroque. It's nominally about baseball and a star shortstop with Steve Blass Disease, but really it's about love, in the way that these things are. Plus, it's chock full of allusions to Moby Dick and Marcus Aurelius's Meditations to indulge your inner English student.
The Postmortal, by Drew Magary
You love Drew, and so do we. There aren't too many foul-mouthed, caps-lock-filled rants in here, nor are there drunken hookup failures, but the novel is better off without them. In its place there is one man's sarcastic sensibility, a dystopia, death, and love.
Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, by Christina Tosi
Awesome design and photography and some of the most important fat-ass recipes you will ever come across—pretzel ice cream pie, chocolate chip cake with coffee frosting, hazelnut brittle, and crack pie. Get this for the friend who recently had a new layer of sealant applied to his molars.
Flip Flop Fly Ball, by Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson's dazzling collection of baseball infographics is the rare gift that both the casual fan and the diehard will love. The British graphic artist's synthesis of data and aesthetics is as seamless and beautiful as that of its subject.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Not everyone should write a memoir, and so Tina Fey didn't, really. Bossypants is a brief look into the mind of sketch television's smartest lady. Much of the book reads like an extended, more anecdotal version of Molly Lambert's own manifesto, "Can't Be Tamed," which makes it a perfect gift for the woman you hope will take over the world one day.
Beijing Welcomes You, by Tom Scocca
One concept of autoethnography considers the approach to inquiry like a love triangle between you, where you were, and where you are. In Beijing Welcomes You, Deadspin's Scocca finds himself in Beijing during the run-up to the 2008 Summer Games, when the city is undergoing such rapid social, cultural, and physical change that Scocca's forced to recalibrate his own sense-making ability. (He, too, undergoes significant change with the birth of his first child.) But the reason you want to gift this book is its depictions of China trying to understand and embrace the Western attitude about sports, from cheerleading to shameless self-promotion. These are the especially funny parts of the book, and there are a lot of them. Things are rarely clear in pollution-plagued Beijing, but Scocca observes and writes with a clarity that speaks for itself.
3D Sports Blast!, featuring captions by Emma Carmichael
If you know a kid who likes picture books, then the kid will love a 3D picture book with giant photos of monster trucks and hang gliders. 3D Sports Blast!, a Sports Illustrated Kids book, has 3D photography by David E. Klutho and very competent captions written by our own Emma Carmichael. Each book comes with its own pair of 3D glasses, which are great for both viewing 3D photographs and for giggling in when you're stoned.
Our review copy must have gotten lost in the mail, so we haven't been able to read it yet—but we're sure that Grantland's Quarterly is great. The very first issue promises to include "the best sports writing from the website," along with plenty of other new material (including baseball cards!) from Simmons & Co. The cover also alleges to "look and feel like you're holding a basketball." Alternatively, you could just buy one of these instead.