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When George Saunders’ Tenth of December was first published, the New York Times Magazine declared it “the best book you’ll read this year.” That’s a bold assessment for a collection that came out in January. Even if Tenth of December isn’t the absolute best book of 2013, the work—which earned Saunders his first National Book Award nomination—is without many peers. Its 10 darkly funny stories oscillate between science fiction and disconcerting realism; its plotlines are often bizarre bordering on savage, casting light on strangeness and savagery in the real world. But close readers of Saunders know his work also celebrates humanity, particularly the good it can do amid horror. Are his stories the greatest you’ll read all year? It doesn’t really matter—when Saunders accepts the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story tonight, he’ll already have won big on behalf of the human race. George Saunders speaks at 7:30 p.m. at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $15. (202) 898-9063. penfaulkner.org.