Friday, July 3, 2015

The top ten books about the mafia

Born in Sicily, Roberto Dainotto is professor of romance studies and literature at Duke University, where he teaches courses on modern and contemporary Italian culture. His latest book is The Mafia: A Cultural History.

One of Dainotto's top ten books about the mafia, as shared at the Guardian:
Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano (2006)

Saviano investigates the global and financial ambitions of organised crime in the age of neoliberalism. Reading Gomorrah, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish the logic of today’s mafias from that of global corporations. Beautifully written, Gomorrah is an example of that peculiar Neapolitan genre, the “essay-novel”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on the mafia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The ten best Hollywood novels

Michael Friedman’s new book is Martian Dawn & Other Novels, a collection of three novels.

One of the author's ten best Hollywood novels, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1970

The book is for the most part narrated in the first person, but it occasionally shifts to the third. In spare, elliptical chapters and scenes, Didion offers us bits and pieces of the story of Maria Wyeth, a divorced B-list actress, and her dissolute coterie of Hollywood power players and hangers-on. The action moves among LA, Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert. The tale is a not particularly pleasant one involving drugs, drink, one-night stands, illegal abortions, dysfunctional relationships, questionable parenting, institutionalization, joy rides and flameouts.
Read about the other books on the list.

Play It As It Lays also appears on Becky Ferreira's seven best list of books set in Los Angeles, Janelle Brown's list of five great California novels, and Janet Fitch's book list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Six top literary genre benders

At B & N Reads Nicole Hill tagged six "literary works that break barriers, combining genre tropes and standards to produce entirely unique, enthralling stories," including:
The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgar Cantero

The Supernatural Enhancements defies all attempts to define it. Cantero has crafted a Southern gothic whodunit with traces of surrealism and a fascination with banter that rivals a Wes Anderson script—all told in epistolary style, through journal entries, letters, brief notes, security footage, and the odd cipher. It’s a wonderful, whimsical romp that starts with that most hallowed literary impetus: the arrival of a life-changing letter, in this case addressed to twentysomething A., who learns he is the long-lost heir to a grand estate in Virginia. But this house has seen tragedy, most recently when A.’s cousin jumped to his death from a second-story window. When A. and his mute companion, Niamh, journey to claim his inheritance, they become entangled in a mystery that encompasses not only a haunted house, but a secret society. This book doesn’t just bend genres, it absorbs them—all of them.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Winston Churchill’s top ten books

Winston Churchill never actually published a “Top Ten” list of his favorite books. But he did read a great many books and was known for his strong opinions. So Jonathan Rose, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Drew University and author of The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor, was able to speculate that Churchill’s top ten books list might include:
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

Churchill was sincerely moved by this saga of China in revolutionary turmoil, though he didn’t entirely get it. On finishing the book, he concluded that the toiling Chinese masses would have been much happier if, like the Indians, they had enjoyed the blessings of British rule—not exactly the message that the author intended to send.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Good Earth is among Evie Wyld's five favorite books about farmers and Tiger Mom's five best books on being a Mother.

My Book, The Movie: The Literary Churchill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2015

Seven archetypes who just can’t seem to catch a literary break

At B & N Reads Tori Telfer tagged seven of the unluckiest archetypes in fiction, including:
The Morally Upstanding Man Who Lives in a Corrupt Society Determined to Bring Him Down

This guy really wants to do good and make things right, but EVERYTHING ALWAYS GOES WRONG. Like Okonkow, from Things Fall Apart, who tries really hard to have a good reputation then accidentally kills someone. Buzzkill, amirite? Or there’s the ethical Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities, who gets unjustly thrown into prison and stays there for a long, long time. Who says you can’t keep a good man down?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nine great sci-fi books for people who don't like science fiction

At io9 Esther Inglis-Arkell tagged nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, including:
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Here’s one that will break your heart. It’s definitely science fiction, but it subverts most of the tropes that go not only with science fiction, but with storytelling in general. It’s not about people witnessing the birth of a new era, and it’s definitely not about them changing their world. It’s about them quietly thinking about a situation that, to us, is unimaginable horror and to them is just the way the world works.

I can’t tell you more, and you probably shouldn’t tell the person you’re recommending it to more. Just tell them to brace themselves.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Sabrina Rojas Weiss's list of ten favorite boarding school novels, Allegra Frazier's top four list of great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, James Browning's top ten list of boarding school books, Jason Allen Ashlock and Mink Choi's top ten list of tragic love stories, Allegra Frazier's list of seven characters whose jobs are worse than yours, Shani Boianjiu's list of five top novels about coming of age, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Five top YA books about summer camp

At the B & N Teen Blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged five of the best YA books about summer camp, including:
The Lost Summer, by Kathryn Williams

Helena is headed back to her old camp for the summer, but this time she’s a counselor instead of a camper. Her best friend, Katie, remains stuck in camper mode, and Helena is already worried about how the differences between their camp experiences might affect their friendship. But it’s hard to turn down the chance to go skinny dipping or sneak out to the nearby boys’ camp, especially when it means flirting with her longtime crush, Ransome. Because you know you always wondered what it was like to be a counselor (how were they so old and cool?), you have to check out The Lost Summer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2015

Top ten most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction

At io9 Esther Inglis-Arkell tagged the ten most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, including:
Bertha Antoinetta Mason Rochester from Jane Eyre

Here’s the star of the list. Thanks to high school English class, almost everyone knows Charlotte Brontë‘s most famous book. But here’s a quick review, from the first wife’s point of view. Bertha is rich. Edward Fairfax Rochester needs money. He marries her. She goes insane, in part, Rochester claims, because she was “unchaste.” He locks her in a single room in his attic with a single alcoholic servant to mind her, and then works off his anguish by slutting his way around Europe in an extremely “unchaste” manner. Finally comes back to England with an illegitimate daughter he barely tolerates and keeps Bertha a secret so he can marry the teenage governess he likes to verbally abuse.

The governess finds out about Bertha, and leaves. Eventually Bertha, who has a habit of being a firebug, sets fire to the entire house. Rochester escapes, and is reunited with Jane Eyre, the governess, but is blinded for many years and scarred for the rest of his life.

Lesson: Arson is usually the answer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that changed Maureen McCarthy

Maureen McCarthy is one of Australia's most popular young adult authors. One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Commitments
Roddy Doyle

For many years I assumed seriously good writing had to be serious. Then I read The Commitments, about a group of working-class kids in Dublin trying to put a soul band together, and I realised my mistake. There are no long descriptive passages, no amazing epiphanies or huge satisfying conclusions. Nothing gets tied up neatly or comes right in the end. But the sheer exuberance and subtlety of the writing, the tight, edgy dialogue along with those funny, sharply drawn characters showed me that hilarious writing could also be seriously good.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Commitments is among Dorian Lynskey's ten best fictional musicians and Tiffany Murray's top ten rock'n'roll novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The top ten summers in fiction

Tim Lott's new novel is The Last Summer of the Water Strider. One of his top ten summers in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean

In 2006, when I had the privilege of running the ultimate summer literary prize, the Le Prince Maurice Prize in Mauritius, this book won easily against the field. A work of humour and tenderness, set at a Caribbean resort and focused on two married couples, it was Dean’s debut and her finest novel to date.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six fabulous fictional female prestidigitators

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Reads blog she tagged six fabulous fictional female prestidigitators, including:
Ceony Twill (The Paper Magician Series, by Charlie N. Holmberg)

Fans of fantasy and steampunk (circa late Victorian England) will devour this story about 19-year-old Ceony, a confident graduate of the Praff School for the Magically Inclined. Each magician has the ability to manipulate a particular type of object, but despite our heroine’s affinity for metal, Ceony is chosen to apprentice for a paper magician, which frustrates her no end. And when a mage from her instructor’s past unleashes her powers in a deadly attack, Ceony is tested to the limit. Good news: the third book in the trilogy comes out July 21!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Eleven adult SF novels to turn teens into genre fans for life

At the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ceridwen Christensen tagged eleven works of science fiction and fantasy that were written for grown-ups, but, if read by precocious teens, are likely to turn them into genre readers for life. One title on the list:
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds feels very original Star Trek, with mannered near-Vulcans rubbing elbows with more pluralistic Federation types. As the novel opens, the Sadiri home world is destroyed; the only Sadiri left are the ones off-world at the time. Due to a number of factors, most of them are men. An ambassador comes to Cynus Beta in order to investigate possible lost Sadiri colonies, and is paired with a local, Grace, to guide him through her world. This is a pure road trip novel, stopping off to visit a number of various sub-cultures, but the stakes are high: if they can’t find a solution, Sadiri culture is going to die off. It’s about the big questions of society and culture, written in the most personal of ways.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue