My picks from The Edgars® “Bests”

"Ordinary Grace" is one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year. Of note, it just won the the Edgar Award for best novel, announced last week. Two other winners appear here, as well as a link to the full list of nominees and winners in all the categories for the Mystery Writers of America 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

You’ll take leave of your senses

NYRB Classics reprinted Thomas Tryon’s 1971 bestseller "The Other" this month, a chilling story that sold millions of copies during its day, which was the decade of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist." But of these three hair-raising novels, "The Other" unsettled me the most. Here's why. Also: An interesting database of 20th-century American Bestsellers book collectors will enjoy.

J. D. Salinger’s noble opposition

The paperback edition of Kenneth Slawenski's biography of America's iconic literary recluse was released the beginning of this year. I read it, curious about the many things I probably didn't know about the man who wrote "The Catcher in the Rye." One of my biggest surprises was learning Salinger fought in some of World War II's most difficult battles. I also came to know Salinger as less of a bizarre eccentric and more of a person whose experiences influenced his behavior.

Radical book adventures in NYC

I've never read nor intend to read "Steal This Book" by the Sixties anti-establishment icon Abbie Hoffman, but that didn't get in the way of my wanting the book. Not any edition, rather a first edition paperback, signed by the activist, for sale at last weekend's New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Here's the tale of that brief love affair between me and the book, plus a look at Terry Bisson's new novel that takes place during Hoffman's busiest protesting years, "Any Day Now."

Ah, Grendel! You’ve come back

John Gardner published "Grendel" in 1971, eleven years before his tragic death at age 49 in a motorcycle accident. The story is a spin-off taken from the medieval epic poem "Beowulf," giving us the viewpoint of the monster Grendel, whom the Scandinavian hero Beowulf slays. A rare acquisition of the book's ARC brought Gardner's novel to my attention again.