THE BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES edited by Otto Penzler — About every year or so, master anthologist Otto Penzler issues a definitive collection on a specialized topic for Vintage Crime/Black Lizard’s series of Yellow Pages-thick trade paperbacks. He’s done pulp, BLACK MASK pulp, zombies, vampires, ghosts, adventure stories — all worth owning and treasuring — and now holiday-themed whodunits: 60 in all wrapped within 672 pages. Each one has redefined the term “embarrassment of riches,” and CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES continues that tradition, with an astounding and outstanding lineup of talents: Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Donald E. Westlake, Ed McBain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and on and on. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, no matter what time of year.
85 YEARS OF THE OSCAR: THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE ACADEMY AWARDS by Robert Osborne — Updated every five years, this authorized guide to the grandaddy awards show of them all is hefty in two ways: in weight (nearly 7 pounds, so don’t expect to read it while prone on the couch) and in info. As large and in-charge as the personalities within its high-gloss pages, Osborne’s coffee-table tome preserves for posterity each year’s Oscar race in breezy chapters that close with a complete list of nominations. Prodigiously illustrated with photos, the book dishes out even more facts and figures with appendices on the televised show itself and a roundup of trivia surrounding the gold-guy statuette. It’s not cheap, but for Academy Award freaks, it’s indispensable … until the 2018 edition, that is.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE FAQ: EVERYTHING LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT TELEVISION’S LONGEST RUNNING COMEDY by Stephen Tropiano — Although unauthorized, this trade-paperback look at NBC’s late-night institution is nothing less than authoritative. Whether the 478 pages of information is “left to know” is questionable, but it’s meaty content, with chapters devoted to the show’s cast members, hosts, musical guests, breakout characters, short films, movie spin-offs and other elements throughout its 38 seasons. (No, the current 39th obviously is not included.) Also included is a guide to each episode — a nightmare to assemble, but for SNL fans, a joy to read. —Rod Lott