Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top ten holidays in fiction

Emma Straub is the author of the novels The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. One of her top ten holidays in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

For some, vacations are all about sex – that is certainly the case for Salter's couple, an American man and a French woman, on the go. They cavort (clothed, unclothed, in this position and that) and drink and talk, clearly loth to return to their daily lives. This book makes the 1960s in provincial France look like the place to go.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Sport and a Pastime is among Thomas H. Cook's five must reads on the writing life, Adam Ross's favorite books under 200 pages, Lorin Stein's six Paris Review book picks, and Jeff Gordinier's list of five books that will make you question the wisdom of ever falling in love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top ten unlikely heroes

SF Said is an award-winning author. He was born in Lebanon in 1967, but has lived in London since he was 2 years old. His novels include Varjak Paw (2003), the sequel, The Outlaw Varjak Paw (2005), and PHOENIX (2013), an epic space adventure for readers of 9 and up.

For the Guardian, Said tagged his ten favorite "underdogs who come good and save the day," including:
Katniss in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'm in the early stages of writing my next book now – and yes, it features an unlikely hero! So it's good to read stories which remind me how exciting that can be. I love Katniss as a character. She's always up against enormous odds. She prevails partly because Suzanne Collins had the genius idea of making her deadly with the bow and arrow; but more, because of her amazing resilience. Whatever life throws at Katniss Everdeen, she keeps going, and never gives up. I find that very inspiring, because that's exactly what you need if you want to write books.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Rebecca Jane Stokes's top eight list of books perfect for reality TV fiends, Chrissie Gruebel's list of favorite fictional fashion icons, Lucy Christopher's top ten list of literary woods, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best books with teenage narrators, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of teen thrillers, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seven books that are not beach reading

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged seven books not to bring to the beach, including:
On The Beach, by Nevil Shute

Ain’t nobody handles the apocalyptic genre like an Australian, and Nevil Shute is no exception. This book takes place on the beach…where a bunch of survivors are quietly waiting to be killed by nuclear radiation. There isn’t enough sunscreen in the world to make this lighthearted reading.
Read about the other entries on the list.

On the Beach is among Ben H. Winters's three books to read before the end of the world, Sloane Crosley's five depressing beach reads, and Michael Evans's top six books on nuclear war.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dean Koontz's five favorite books

Dean Koontz's new novel is The City.

One of his five favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Both cities in this classic are portrayed with Dickens's talent for detail. His Paris in revolution is chilling. Madame Defarge is one of the great monsters of literature. The last scene and final sentence are deeply moving, as is the author's insistence that totalitarian politics doesn't have the power to eradicate love from the world.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Tale of Two Cities also appears on Maya Angelou's six favorite books list, Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on revolutions, Paulette Jiles's list of her 12 favorite books, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best doppelgängers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sixteen of the funniest books

Some staff members at Publishers Weekly their favorite funny books. The entry tagged by Judith Rosen, New England correspondent:
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

If I were to be honest with myself, the funniest book I ever read is a Mad Libs, which I encountered decades ago at summer camp. Later, I discovered a different kind of humor, not so much laugh out loud, but with lines that make you nudge the person next to you until they stop what they’re doing. Then you insist that you just want to read them one line, and the next thing you know you’re doing it again. Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, which I read in college in what was then a “new" translation by Ann Dunningan was such a book. In fact I still have the yellowing 95¢ Signet Classic edition. The very idea of a healthy 30-something-year-old man who spent the better part of his life in bed wearing his “authentic oriental robe” struck me then and now as hilarious. And he didn’t even have Angry Birds to while away his time. I’m sure I missed many of the layers of meaning about Russian society, but the idea of a person incapable of exerting himself to cut the pages of a book he wants to read, to figure out what to do about his impending eviction, or to decide whether to get up spoke to my teenage sensibility directly, and still does.
Read about the other books on the list.

Oblomov is among John Sutherland's top ten overlooked novels, Alexandra Silverman's eight top examples of sloth in literature, Francine du Plessix Gray's five favorite fictional portraits of idleness and lassitude and Emrys Westacott's five best books on bad habits.

The Page 69 Test: Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Top ten books of the Midlands

Sathnam Sanghera is a British journalist and author of Marriage Material: A Novel and The Boy With The Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton. He claims "there is certain way of thinking and writing when you are neither from the north or the south, when you live in an English urban, multicultural setting which is not London," and tagged ten top books that capture that mindset, including:
Nice Work by David Lodge

If there is one thing that runs through Midlands literature – and this list, as it happens – it is humour. I suspect this is a consequence of geography: Midlanders are never not aware that they live in an aesthetically-challenged part of the country. And no one harnesses this self-deprecation better than David Lodge. A great comic novel, from one of our best comic novelists.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ten top books about World War I

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Molly Schoemann-McCann tagged ten "books [that] will amaze and educate readers as we remember World War I on its centennial," including:
The Guns of August, by Barbara W. Tuchman

It could be argued that the greatest nonfiction books read like fiction, which is the case with Tuchman’s intensely detailed look at the tragically ruinous first 30 days of World War I. You might imagine that you couldn’t focus an entire book around the events leading up to the First World War, let alone make it an utterly riveting read—but that’s exactly what Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tuchman has done with this mesmerizing book.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Guns of August is among the Telegraph's twenty-three best war and history books of all time and Ruth Harris's five top books on Dreyfus and the Belle Epoque.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books on surveillance

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of six top books on surveillance:
The Crying of Lot 49
By Thomas Pynchon

Despite our potential entry into a devastating surveillance state, Big Brother wasn't watching hard enough to keep us from sneaking a sixth book onto this list. A major influence on everyone from David Foster Wallace to William Gibson to fake fact-finding comedian John Hodgman, this uncharacteristically slim volume from legendary postmodernist Thomas Pynchon finds heroine Oedipa Mass uncovering a worldwide conspiracy between two secret American postal services, each striving to control information and the means of its distribution. Pynchon's darkly comic, savagely witty fable foresaw Big Data before there ever was such a thing, and carries a savvy satirical critique that reads today as prescient and disturbingly conceivable.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Crying of Lot 49 is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best secret societies in literature.

Also see Seth Rosenfeld's five top books on the surveillance state.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Top ten books about Chicago

Andrew Rosenheim's novels include Fear Itself and The Little Tokyo Informant. He grew up in Chicago and in a small town in Michigan, and then went on to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1977.

One of Rosenheim's top ten books about Chicago, as shared at the Guardian:
Endless Love by Scott Spencer

The movie version of the novel – a combination of Zeffirelli schmaltz, Brooke Shields, and a theme tune that can be heard in elevators across the world – has relegated this remarkable book to undeserved obscurity. For although most "tragic" love stories remind me of Oscar Wilde's dictum about Little Nell, this is the exception. It's the story of Chicago teenager David Axelrod who lives in the city's famously liberal Hyde Park. David falls in love with a local girl, Jade Butterfield – and with her family who, embodying the kind of socially tolerant views the neighbourhood has always been famous for, invite him to live with them. But growing alarmed by David's intensity, Jade's father suddenly puts a halt to the affair. In a madcap scheme, David then accidentally burns down the Butterfield house and is sent to a mental institution. On release, he is reunited with Jade, only for catastrophe to strike a second time. A heartbreaking novel no synopsis can stand in for. Read it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Five books that show real life in Chicago.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Five must-read Nadine Gordimer books

At the Guardian, Claire Armitstead tagged five must-read books by the late Nadine Gordimer, including:
The Conservationist (1974)

Gordimer was joint winner of the Booker prize for this novel, which exposes the delusions of apartheid through the character of Mehring, a rich white businessman turned dilettante farmer, who is confronted with an unidentified corpse on his land. Mehring's certainty that he always does "the right thing" is undermined by a narrative that constantly undercuts his smug conservatism. Considering the novel as a contender for the Best of Booker prize, Sam Jordison wrote: "The intensity of this writing requires serious concentration, especially when coupled with an impressionistic narrative that skips backwards and forwards over time and situates us right inside Mehring's head – an increasingly unpleasant place to be. It's hard work – but is correspondingly effective."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Emily Gould's six favorite books

Emily Gould is the author of the 2010 memoir And the Heart Says Whatever and the newly released debut novel, Friendship.

One of her six best books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Lee and Elaine by Ann Rower

An art professor ends a long relationship and retreats to a friend's beach house, where she obsesses over the legacies of Willem de Kooning's and Jackson Pollock's wives. Rower's wide-ranging imagination and translucent, funny, and intelligent style transforms ordinary life into a series of surprises.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven great reads for the seven deadly sins

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Ellen Wehle tagged seven "books for ... folks who commit the Seven Deadly Sins…and don’t regret a single moment of it," including:
Pride: You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz

What would you say if I told you a therapist had written a best-seller scolding women who choose lousy men? You’d think, “So how good is her marriage,” right? Grace, the therapist in question, is the poster child for Pride. She’s smart and successful and married to a brilliant doctor…in other words, ripe for a fall.

Korelitz has lots of fun setting up the disaster. Though Grace’s husband, Jonathan, is never home—we don’t see him for most of the book—she’s oblivious, telling herself he’s just busy saving lives. Clues mount that something is wrong, but Grace ignores them all. She tells her poor, hopeful patients the same message she writes in her best-seller: Your own fault, my dears, you chose the wrong man. Ouch! By the time Grace’s perfect life begins to teeter, she’s been smug for so long that we can’t help but enjoy the crash.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Jean Hanff Korelitz's six top books about failed marriages.

--Marshal Zeringue