This year was ripe with political conversation and conflict. That’s a given. At The Smart Set, we reflect on the things that brought us joy this year. These were the texts in which we found comfort: the noise control from the constant squawkings of pundits and politicians invading our spaces, from the bad feelings and vibes that permeated and settled into our skins. Here are the salves and balms that made 2017 a bit more pleasant. Some of us stayed in the present, finding these bits and bobs that helped accentuate some of the truly cool stuff that happened this year, that amplified some of the positive energies that erupted in 2017 — collective formations, activism, points of solidarity. Others looked back, finding pleasure in artifacts once looked over and discovering their relevance and pleasure. In a post-KonMari method world, it’s necessary to think of pleasure. In her 2011 book on tidying, she suggests holding each of your artifacts and asking “Does this bring me joy?” If yes, keep and cherish. If no, discard. This question is just as relevant to maintaining your body/mind/soul as it is your abode. With all the noise and distractions, the following items were the standouts that, when sorted into the piles of texts we consumed over the year, we could say in earnestness: this brought me joy.
More… “Best of 2017”

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The world’s most famous consulting detective seems to be on everyone’s minds of late. Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., Ian McKellan, and Jonny Lee Miller have all taken on the role of Sherlock Holmes in the last five years, and audiences keep coming. Read Paula Marantz Cohen on the character’s sustained appeal and Fred J. Abbate on how the most devoted fans are trying to learn to think like Sherlock. (philly.comThe Smart Set)

For many bookish library-dwellers, the pages of a book are sacred and the margins are a no trespassing zone. For others, doodling, scratching, and commenting — the art of marginalia — are an indispensable part of understanding a text. Read Dustin Illingworth on the intimacy and beauty of parallel text and Mike Miley on stepping into the mind of David Foster Wallace. (The MillionsThe Smart Set)

What one chooses to read speaks volumes about the reader. Books are often a political or ideological statement. Choose wisely. Read Rebecca Solnit on Esquire’s “Books Every Man Should Read” — and which ones women shouldn’t and Jessa Crispin on why nothing is a “must-read”. (Literary HubThe Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.


Something weird keeps happening to me. I order one book online, then I get all these email updates — “Maybe you’ll like this book…”  These online marketing tactics generally work. I think, “Wow, I would like that book,” and so I order it, and I LOVE IT. So now I’m afraid that these marketing tools have tapped into some secret of my soul. What else do these online gods know about me? — MW


I don’t think the book recommendation tool is any cause for alarm. The recommendations come after an author, subject, and keyword search, so really the recommendation has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the books you’ve been ordering electronically. My Kindle recommends books that I like all the time. Now, it does get a little creepy when Gmail syncs its… More…

Is there a particular poem or collection of poetry you’d recommend for 2 bookish types, carefree in spirit but both simple and practical in their daily lives, who are getting married? I am also contributing to a Crate and Barrel gift card for them but I think marriage demands something a little more meaningful than a salad bowl with matching spoons. Any recommendations? — F


There are many poems on the theme of marriage (take a look at the anthology Wedding Readings, edited by Eleanor Munro) but I’ve been trying to find a poetry book for you that “two bookish types” probably haven’t read. I think I found one that’s appropriate:  Stephen Dunn’s Everything Else in the World. The poems contained therein reflect the wisdom that is gained through age, but one poem in particular leads me… More…