1. The Pale King, David Foster Wallace Flawed, yes. Tedious, too, at times, and patched from fragments by editor Michael Pietsch, but the last, unfinished novel from one of his generation’s most gifted writers has to top the year’s list. Infinite Jest looked at dawning digital life, and The Pale King is its Reagan-era prequel, of sorts.
2. Destiny of the Republic, Candice Millard It’s hard to say which is more fascinating about this book, the largely forgotten President Garfield, or the gruesome errors of 19th-century medicine.
3. A Moment in the Sun, John Sayles Set at the junction of the 19th and 20th centuries, this multi-character epic in a way explains the 20th in narrative threads that bind the Yukon, the Philippines and North Carolina.
4. How the End Begins, Ron Rosenbaum The Slate columnist reminds us that there are still thousands of live nuclear weapons out there—and a good chance some of them might get used.
5. Boomerang, Michael Lewis The Big Short explained the financial collapse through insiders involved and outsiders affected, and this book takes a similar approach with the European debt crisis, from Ireland to Greece.
6. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt The story of how the re-discovery of On the Nature of Things by the classical Roman poet-philosopher Lucretius helped launch the Renaissance.
7. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, Susan Orlean It’s a dog’s life: The New Yorker writer cleverly considers the canine star and marketing phenomenon’s life and legacy.
8. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson Even though the timely biography contributes to the hagiography of Jobs, it also makes it clear the late Apple founder was sometimes a jerk.
9. Arguably, Christopher Hitchens Maybe this essay collection makes the list because he died recently, but if there were such a thing as a “public intellectual,” Hitchens neatly, and sometime infuriatingly, fit the bill.
10. Fade Sag Crumble: Ten Las Vegas Writers Confront Decay, edited by Scott Dickensheets Okay, so some friends are involved in this project, but it also gathers some of my favorite writers, who examine their wounded city’s streets and myths.
STRIP SHOW NEWS
1. The return of Celine Celine Dion packed the Colosseum at Caesars Palace like no one else. She put on a great show and got paid good money. How could she possibly walk away from a gig like that? She couldn’t. Celine returned in March, along with six costume changes and a 31-piece orchestra. And she’s packing the house once again.
2. Absinthe begins, ends, continues at Caesars Palace Local critics haven’t been this united since Criss Angel Believe. Only this show they like.
3. Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour lands at Mandalay Bay The show, which previewed Cirque’s permanent 2013 production, picked up right where This Is It ended. Well, minus Michael Jackson.
4. Viva Elvis to close at Aria For a decade, everything Cirque touched turned to gold … and then that decade ended with Viva.
5. Cosmopolitan becomes a music-booking player The hip property drew locals to the Strip with big-name concerts, poolside performances and free lounge shows.
6. Barry Manilow ends Paris residency Maybe to spend more time stealing Emmys from Stephen Colbert?
7. The Mirage steps up its comedy game Steve Martin, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Tosh … when did this place get so funny?
8. Shania Twain books 120-show Caesars residency It doesn’t start until next December. We’ll send you a reminder.
9. MGM snags Blue Man Group Upon hearing that they’re moving from the Venetian to the Monte Carlo, the Blue Men responded, “…”
10. The Lion King closes at Mandalay Bay So the Venetian is the only casino to pull off the Broadway-to-Strip thing.
1. Kruger out, Rice in as UNLV men’s basketball coach When Lon Kruger left for Oklahoma after seven seasons and 161 wins, Las Vegas panicked. Now, the Rebels are back on the national radar, playing a run-and-gun style of ball reminiscent of the program’s glory years. Thank you, Dave Rice.
2. IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon dies at Las Vegas Motor Speedway The 33-year-old Brit, who won the Indianapolis 500 earlier in 2011, crashed during Lap 12 of the Izod IndyCar World Championship on October 16. Weldon is survived by his wife and two young sons.
3. The UFC hits FOX The Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship entered a seven-year deal with the network, which will air four of the league’s cards on network television each year. The deal reportedly will net the UFC $100 million annually.
4. Mayweather-Pacquiao continue their no-fight dance Another 12 months passed without the boxing match we all want to see: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao. With both fighters in their 30s, the window for making it happen with both at their peak is closing.
5. Rebels topple top-ranked UNC A 90-80 November victory over then-No. 1 North Carolina at the Orleans Arena was more than UNLV’s eighth-straight win to open the 2011-2012 season. It served as a signal that Rebel basketball is back, officially.