Winter's top 20 book events

Curl up with the season's offerings, then brave the cold to join their authors.



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  • Oscar Hijuelos

  • Stephen Sondheim

  • Illustration: Lorenzo Mattotti

    The Raven, Lou Reen, Lorenzo Mattotti

    The Raven, Lou Reen, Lorenzo Mattotti

  • Patricia Clarkson

  • Annie Leibovitz's Pilgrimage

  • Lynne Tillman

    Lynne Tillman

  • Eileen Myles

    Eileen Myles

  • Photograph: Patrik Andersson

    Shalom Auslander

    Shalom Auslander

  • Ben Marcus

  • Photograph: Dermot Cleary

    Elmore Leonard

    Elmore Leonard

Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos + William Kennedy
An island ties together these authors, and their noteworthy 2011 releases: Hijuelos examines the ties between U.S. immigrants and their Cuban homeland in his novels, as well as his own upbringing, in the recent Thoughts Without Cigarettes. In Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, Kennedy tells the story of a reporter who finds culture and political turmoil in 1950s Cuba. 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave between 91st and 92nd Sts (212-415-5500, Dec 5 at 8pm; $19, ages 35 and under $10.

Stephen Sondheim
The master of modern American musical theater releases the second half of his collected lyrics, Look I Made a Hat, this season. The book's subtitle indicates it'll be supplemented by "Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Wafflings, Diversions and Anecdotes," several of which the author will deliver live during this pair of conversations. LeFrak Concert Hall (at Queens College), 65-30 Kissena Blvd at the Long Island Expwy (718-793-8080, Dec 6 at 7pm; $20 * Barnes & Noble Union Square, 33 E 17th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-253-0810, Dec 7 at 7pm; free.

Lou Reed: The Raven
The musician and artist makes a rare appearance to promote his book, The Raven, which prints the lyrics from his Poe-inspired 2003 album of the same title alongside dark and strange illustrations created by Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti for some of the tale's unsettling moments. BookCourt, 163 Court St between Dean and Pacific Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-875-3677, Wed 14 at 7pm; free.

Selected Shorts: NOLA: Jazzy Tales from the Big Easy
New Orleans, race and reconstruction have been on the minds of artists, writers and thinkers since Hurricane Katrina, and tonight's collection of tales continues that theme. Native New Orleanean Patricia Clarkson leads a cast that includes Michael Cerveris and Amy Ryan to deliver poems and stories about the Big Easy by John Kennedy Toole, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams and Treme writer Lolis Eric Elie. In addition, humorist Roy Blount Jr. gives a literary tour of the city and Louisianan piano man Henry Butler plays. Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St (212-864-5400, Dec 14 at 7pm; $27, ages 30 and under $15.

Annie Leibovitz
A celeb photographer who is something of a celebrity herself, Leibovitz ditches the glitz for more awe-inspiring or intimate locations in Pilgrimage. Its simple, evocative pictures range from outdoor sites such as Niagara Falls and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty to interiors including the houses of Virginia Woolf and Charles Darwin. BookCourt, 163 Court St between Dean and Pacific Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-875-3677, Wed 14 at 7pm; free. * 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave between 91st and 92nd Sts (212-415-5500, Dec 15 at 7pm; free.

What the Dickens?: Second Annual A Christmas Carol Marathon
Downtown authors and actors transport a crowd from wintry NYC to wintry Victorian London in a marathon reading of Dickens's classic tale of redemption from humbuggery. With readers including authors Lynne Tillman, Lev Grossman, Simon Van Booy, actor Scott Adsit (30 Rock) and undoubted unannounced surprises, what starts as a shopping pit stop may keep you enthralled until "God bless us, every one." Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-334-3324, Dec 18 at 1pm; free.

38th Annual New Year's Day Marathon Benefit Reading
Once again, 140 poets, filmmakers, musicians and actors turn out to read in this annual event to benefit the Poetry Project, its readings and workshops. Set the tone for 2012 with some of the more illustrious names in attendance: Thurston Moore, Jonas Mekas, Suzanne Vega, Steve Earle, Eileen Myles, Robert Ashley and Anselm Berrigan. The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, 131 E 10th St at Second Ave (212-674-0910, Jan 1 at 3pm; $20, seniors and students $15.

Shalom Auslander
An essayist determined to defend the virtues of pessimism as Davids Rakoff and Sedaris might, Auslander carries his cynical wit into fiction as well. In Hope: A Tragedy, a book sure to offend and delight, a Jewish family looking to separate themselves from their history in rural New York find they're unable to. Case in point: The central character's mother can't stop reminiscing about concentration camps, in which she was never a prisoner. Barnes & Noble 82nd & Broadway, 2289 Broadway at 82nd St (212-362-8835, Jan 18 at 7pm; free. * McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, Feb 2 at 7pm; free.

Ben Marcus
In Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet, the author of The Age of Wire and String and Notable American Women returns to his preoccupation with the bonds of family, how they hold together and where they break. His playful and dark new tale imagines a world in which the pitch of childrens' voices becomes lethal to adults. McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, Jan 23 at 7pm; free.

Elmore Leonard
Aspiring writers, take note: Just as the latest volume starring U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is published, Leonard appears at the Center for Fiction to give a master class on the art of writing for the organization's new Crime Fiction Academy. The evening will be moderated by fellow crime scribe Jonathan Santlofer. Center for Fiction, 17 E 47th between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-755-6710, Jan 24 at 7pm; $8.

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