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The National Book Awards Longlist

One of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received was a stack of four or five books, all published the year I was born. I hadn’t read John le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” but now I felt a connection to it; we’d both come into being at roughly the same time. I wasn’t much of a sci-fi fan, but it seemed like a requirement that I read “The Dispossessed,” by Ursula K. Le Guin after receiving it in the stack.

The gift was meaningful in the way that receiving a reprint of the front page of the newspaper from your birth date is: Here is a snapshot of the world, which was already awake and complicated with ideas, at the moment you arrived in it.

I’m interested in how people choose the books they read. Do they pick up the most alluring from a table teeming with new releases at the bookstore? Read reviews and make selections based on critics’ picks? Get recommendations from friends or celebrity book clubs? The all-you-can-read buffet of books available begs a reader, especially a slow reader like me, to develop a strategy. As with an actual buffet, where you can fill up at the pasta station but be full by the time you get to the make-your-own-omelet bar, I worry about spending too long with any era or genre to the exclusion of others. Perhaps the right move is to graze, a little bit of everything in moderation, keep it interesting, keep moving.

This week, the National Book Foundation announced the longlist for the 2023 National Book Awards, presenting a crop of books on which a hungry reader could happily feast from now through the end of the year.(“Chain-Gang All-Stars,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and “Fire Weather,” by John Vaillant just moved to the top of my list.)

A friend recently suggested to me that the longlists and finalists from National Book Awards past offered an abundance of uncommon ideas for what to read. Pick a year and see what you haven’t read — or better yet, what you haven’t heard of, the books that were admired in a particular year but, for whatever reason, don’t come up on your radar today. You could, of course, choose the year you were born and go to town.

But you’d best get to reading this weekend. The finalists for the 2023 Booker Prize will be announced on Thursday, and the Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced on Oct. 5. Add those to the fact that it’s fall, the season when many publishers release their biggest titles, and your reading plate is about to be very full.

🎬 “Stop Making Sense” (Friday): David Byrne’s big suit is about to get much bigger. Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film of the Talking Heads, shot over several nights at Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, will be rereleased on IMAX. Straddling art rock, punk rock, world music and No Wave, the music remains startlingly contemporary, and the staging is beautifully weird. For a more recent performance, try Spike Lee’s 2020 film of Byrne’s “American Utopia.”

📺 “Still Up” (Friday): Plenty of people watch television when they can’t sleep, so here is Apple TV+ to square that wakeful circle, with an eight-episode comedy about insomnia. Two Londoners, Danny (played by Craig Roberts) and Lisa (Antonia Thomas), chat all night while chasing sleep. Not quite a romantic comedy, the show shares the occasional absurdity and gentle melancholy of other Britcoms such as “Lovesick” and “Starstruck.” But can it beat chamomile tea? — Alexis Soloski

Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots, N.F.L.: For two decades, the Patriots ruled over the A.F.C. East. But Tom Brady is gone, New England’s reign is over and the Dolphins appear ready to take over the division. They had one of the league’s best offenses last year, a high-powered passing attack with two elite receivers, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. This year, they might be even better: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards in the first game, leading his team to a thrilling 36-34 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. 8 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on NBC

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