Tipping Point: Our picks and pans
I wish I came up with the idea of a talk show during which the guest eats 10 progressively hotter chicken wings (or a vegan substitute), but Hot Ones wouldn’t be nearing 20 seasons and 300 episodes if it were just a gimmick. It works for two reasons: 1. You can’t hide a physical reaction to eating a Carolina Reaper or Ghost Pepper hot sauce. Your eyes might water, your nose runs, you need to drink water or get up and pace around the room, and please don’t touch your eyes. Meanwhile, you’re answering questions, which brings us to Number 2: Host and co-creator Sean Evans is a really good interviewer. He comes off as a little odd at first, but his demeanor is friendly and affable and his questions are genuinely curious and engaging, so much so that, in many episodes, the subject will say, “That’s a really good question” or “Nobody has ever asked that before” in between gulps of milk with their eyes watering.
— Owen Poole
Lucy by the Sea
I have to admit that, when it comes to author Elizabeth Strout’s two greatest characters, I prefer the cranky Yankee Olive Kitteridge. Even though Strout’s latest book is about Lucy Barton, who I find to be a little too self-absorbed and a bit of a flibbertigibbet, I gave it a go. “Lucy by the Sea” is set during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we follow Lucy as she retreats to Maine with her ex-husband William. Strout captures how a lot of people felt during 2020 (anxiety, loneliness, uncertainty) while also giving time to Lucy’s relationships — with William, with their daughters (who are doing the lockdown in Connecticut and go through some personal drama) and with the new people she meets in Maine. Strout’s writing remains concise and unshowy but very effective, and “Lucy by the Sea” is a swift read. I still prefer Olive, but Lucy is growing on me.
— Kristina Dorsey
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez
I’m re-reading this novel for the first time in 30 years — a period over which I’ve remained comfortable in the opinion that it’s a masterpiece and one of my favorite books ever. Millions agree, so this is nothing particularly new. On the other hand, if you’ve never read this saga about eight generations of the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo, Colombia, it’s never too late. Márquez may well have been the greatest novelist of the 20th century, and to say his prose is hypnotically sparkling and inventive is no exaggeration.
— Rick Koster