Terry Teachout, author of the new book, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong suggests:
Best new book: The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer, out just in time for the centennial of Mercer’s birth, is a handsomely designed coffee-table volume that collects the life’s work of the man who wrote the lyrics (and, in some cases, the music) to such classic songs as “Ac-cent-chu-ate the Positive,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Blues in the Night,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Early Autumn,” “Emily,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “I Remember You,” “I Thought About You,” “I Wonder What Became of Me,” “I’m an Old Cowhand,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” “Laura,” “Moon River,” “One for My Baby,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Skylark,” and “That Old Black Magic.” The narrator of “One for My Baby” calls himself “a kind of poet,” and that’s exactly what Mercer was — one of the most gifted poets that the 20th country produced. Needless to say, the best way to experience his songs is to hear them, but their exquisitely turned lyrics are no less rewarding in a different way when read on the page.
Best old book: I recently wrote for NRODT about Guard of Honor, James Gould Cozzens’s Pulitzer-winning 1948 novel about the stateside Army Air Force in World War II, and what I said there still goes: It’s one of the great American novels, as well as the only English-language novel of World War II that can withstand comparison with Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. Definitely not for the kids — it’s as clean as a whistle, but I doubt there’s been a more profoundly adult American novel.
Best non-book: The Golden Age of Television, a three-DVD boxed set just out from the Criterion Collection, contains rarely kinescopes of the original telecasts of seven of the very best live TV dramas of the Fifties, including Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty,” Rod Serling’s “Patterns,” and J. P. Miller’s “Days of Wine and Roses.” None has been previously released on DVD. All are as good as their reputations, and all are fascinating and enthralling to behold.