Saturday, March 31, 2007

Five best baseball books

Fay Vincent, commissioner of baseball from 1989 through 1992, and author of The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved (2006), named the five best books on the so-called national pastime for Opinion Journal.

The only novel on his list:

Highpockets by John R. Tunis (Morrow, 1948).

When I was about 12 years old and haunting our local library outside New Haven, Conn., the librarian pointed me to this lyrical little baseball novel. The story concerns a self-absorbed young Brooklyn Dodgers player who injures a boy in a car accident, befriends him and then finds his life--and his approach to the game--altered much for the better. I have never forgotten "Highpockets." Everyone else seems to have done so, but for me John R. Tunis reinforced my conviction that I would someday be a great player. It is that lesson in failure that binds all of us in a love for the game that we could not play well.

Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2007

Top 10 psychological thrillers

Dublin-born Alex Barclay's much-praised debut novel Darkhouse will be released in the U.S. in May; her second novel The Caller comes out in Britain this week.

She named her top 10 psychological thrillers for the Guardian.

Number One on her list:
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

You'd probably like Sheriff Lou Ford if you lived in his small town and saw him behaving "nice and friendly and stupid". But sucked into his disturbed mind in this outstanding first-person narrative, you'll meet the madman behind the slowly unravelling exterior. Chilling, unsettling, flawless.
Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2007

Laura Hird's literary top 10

Pulp Net has posted an interesting "literary top 10" list by Laura Hird, the Orange and Whitbread nominated author of the collection, Nail and Other Stories and novel, Born Free.

Number three from Hird's literary top ten:
Best ‘film of the book’

Stanley Kubrick was able to adapt books for film like no other director I can think of – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Lolita’ I think set a pretty high benchmark that few people since have managed to come close to. I also enjoyed Pawel Pawlikowski’s recent adaptation of Helen Cross’s ‘My Summer of Love’. Probably my all-time favourite film of the book though is ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.’ Both Muriel Spark’s original novella and the film are gems and were way ahead of their time.
I like and admire Kubrick's Lolita but I think Adrian Lyne's Lolita is a more faithful adaptation of the novel and arguably a better film. (See them both.)

Read the entire literary top ten, and visit Laura Hird's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Five best combinations of fiction and food

Tunku Varadarajan, an assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal, selected a short list of the "most delectable combinations of fiction and food" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on his list:
The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (Viking, 1978).

Solitary eating: Charles Arrowby, the protagonist in this dense stew of a novel, is the most pedantic eater in English literature. He shops and cooks for one--himself--with the inspired simplicity that marks a certain sort of good eating: "For lunch, I may say, I ate and greatly enjoyed the following: anchovy paste on hot buttered toast, then baked beans and kidney beans with chopped celery, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.... Then bananas and cream with white sugar. (Bananas should be cut, never mashed, and the cream should be thin.) Then hard water-biscuits with New Zealand butter and Wensleydale cheese." The opening chapters are studded with these little, jeweled repasts. But visitors arrive, his seaside seclusion is lost, and the delicious, self-pleasuring meals dwindle to nothingness.
Read Varadarajan's entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Top books on the 1980s

Chris Power, who reviews fiction for the Times (U.K.), named his six top books on the 1980s.

At the top of the list:

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

Easton Ellis proposes a brutal ethics of consumption wherein murder, an Armani suit and Phil Collins are morally equivalent.

Read about Power's five other picks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2007

Lydia Millet's list

Novelist Lydia Millet, author of Everyone’s Pretty, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, and the award-winning My Happy Life, came up with a list for The Week magazine.

As it happens, two of her picks -- American Genius: A Comedy by Lynne Tillman, and Tin God by Terese Svoboda -- were recently featured on CftAR blogs.

Read what Millet had to say in praise of these books and her four other picks.

The Page 69 Test: American Genius: A Comedy by Lynne Tillman.

The Page 99 Test: Tin God by Terese Svoboda.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Atul Gawande's 10 favorite books

In 2002 Atul Gawande told Barnes & Noble about his ten favorite books.

The top three:
  • Lewis R. Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell -- [B]ecause it was beautiful and vivid and human and intensely curious about science and the world. And also because it put before me the notion that a person, even a physician, could find a place in public life writing and talking about science and human beings in their many dimensions.
  • Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms -- One of the great novels of all time; my model of succinct, clear, and also morally inspired writing. And also, unexpectedly, some of the best observed writing on medicine there has been.
  • Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea -- It is the model of dramatic tension drawn out, description, and parable.
  • Read the entire list.

    Learn more about Gawande's new book, Better.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Picks of the chicks

    Last week, Diane Shipley wrote in defense of chick lit.

    Some of her readers, she now writes:

    didn't entirely buy my argument - but asked me to convince them: where were all these great books I was talking about?

    "Persephone 251" said: "...I agree with you about Marian Keyes' Rachel's Holiday ... but Keyes is the only chick lit writer I can stand to read. I'm absolutely open to reading good chick lit but where is it to be found?"

    It's a fair point: given the sheer volume of these novels, some of them (by the law of probability) are bound to be stinkers. So how do you know where to start?

    So Shipley named names -- "Not a comprehensive list, but a good starting point for anyone open to discovering that great chick lit exists...."

    Her list includes:

    Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane - a deliciously snarky and unsentimental love story.

    Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed, and Something Blue tell the same story from two different angles. Wonderfully written and well plotted.

    I loved Laura Zigman's debut, Animal Husbandry, which weaved animal anthropology with clever social commentary. She recently took a break to have a baby and her latest book Piece of Work is about what happens when a mother enjoys working more than raising her child.

    Read on: she names more titles.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Top 10 books in which things end badly

    The novelist Richard Gwyn explains how he came up with his list of "books in which things end badly" for the Guardian:
    "I had already selected this topic for the column when I discovered that an earlier contributor, Elise Valmorbida, had chosen as her subject 10 books with a happy ending. She saw this as a challenge, and it is easy to see why: the unhappy ending is such a profoundly embedded feature of contemporary life and literature.

    Our predilection for the sad ending can be traced to the stories of Greek mythology and ... to the Bible, in which I read Christ's torture and execution as an allegory of human suffering in general.

    The piece was originally going to be called 10 books with a bad ending until it occurred to me that a 'bad' ending could either be one of catastrophe and malevolence, or else one that is ill-conceived or poorly-written. For the purposes of this list, of course, I meant the former, and consequently changed the title to avoid an (admittedly rather satisfying) ambiguity."
    Number One on Gwyn's list:
    The Bible by various authors

    I am thinking specifically of the New Testament here, the gospels, where the protagonist, an illegitimate carpenter from Nazareth, is crucified. By an extraordinary twist of events, this act of crucifixion provided western culture with its predilection for unhappy endings as well as a template for suffering, and a philosophy of childcare and education based on the twin bastions of fear and guilt. The template of the crucifixion presupposes that we all have a personal cross to bear in order to traverse this vale of tears that constitutes our earthly existence. We are told "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I don't get it at all. I realise that redemption and eternal life is the pay-off, but what kind of a father sacrifices his own child for an ideal when it is that same father who made up the rules in the first place? And what a horrid way to die, nailed to a cross while stinking legionnaires jibe and scoff. Having said that, it has to be added that the figure of Christ presents the archetype of the wounded healer: what makes you sick can also make you well.
    Read about the whole list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Five best business management books

    Ken Roman, the former chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, named the five best books about business management for Opinion Journal.

    Number One on the list:
    The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker (Harper & Row, 1967).

    The Effective Executive is the quintessential guide to management principles by the acknowledged master of the subject, Peter F. Drucker. He defines effectiveness as "a habit ... a complex of practices that can always be learned." Those practices include knowing where time goes, focusing on outcomes rather than work, building on strengths and not weaknesses, and concentrating on a few areas that will produce outstanding results. Drucker once observed that there are not 24 hours in a day but only two or three; the difference between the effective executive and everyone else, he said, is the ability to use those hours productively and "get the right things done."
    Read about the other four titles on Roman's list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Top explorer books

    Giles Whittell, leader writer for the London Times and author of Extreme Continental: Blowing Hot and Cold Through Central Asia, recently named his top explorer books.

    Number One on Whitell's list:
    The Travels of Ibn Battuta by Ibn Battuta

    The great Uzbek shows just what the East thought of the West in the 14th century.
    Read about all six titles on the list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Books about political scoundrels

    Sam Coates, political correspondent for the London Times, named six top books about political scoundrels earlier this month.

    The list is of course U.K.-centric, and a mix of the factual and fictional.

    Number six on Coates' list:

    House of Cards by Michael Dobbs

    Francis Urquhart would stop at nothing to become PM in Thatcher-era satire.

    I haven't read the book, but the television version is brilliant stuff. Ian Richardson as "F.U." (as the tabloids like to call Francis Urquhart) is at the top of his game.

    Read Coates' entire list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's list

    Novelist Chimamanda Adichie is author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, a 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. She named her favorite contemporary short-story collections for The Week magazine.

    One of her picks:
    No Sweetness Here by Ama Ata Aidoo

    Aidoo wisely and subtly explores the lives of urban and rural characters in newly independent Ghana, and we see people who are struggling to negotiate a new world with hair wigs, bribes, etc. The voice is effectively “oral” and reflects Aidoo’s interest in the idea of community. She deals with big issues with much sly wit.
    Read about the other titles on Chimamanda Adichie's list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Terese Svoboda's favorite books

    Terese Svoboda, author of several books of prose and poetry -- including Trailer Girl and Other Stories, Cannibal, Treason, and Tin God -- lists her favorite books at her website:

    by Mark Richard

    Omon Ra
    by Victor Pelevin

    Wolf Whistle
    by Lewis Nordan

    Autobiography of Red
    by Anne Carson

    The Birthday Boys
    by Beryl Bainbridge

    The Clam Theater
    by Russell Edson

    Radio, Radio: Poems
    by Ben Doyle

    Venus Examines Her Breast
    by Maureen Seaton

    Sara's Choice
    by Eleanor Wilner

    Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater
    by Lois Ann Yamanaka
    Learn more about Svoboda's Tin God, including how well it was served by the Page 99 Test.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Books about women in wartime

    Helen Rappaport named a brief list of books in the London Times about women in wartime.

    Two of the titles:
    The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole

    Vivid memoir of a Jamaican nurse who served in the Crimean War.

    Six Red Months in Russia by Louise Bryant

    Feisty American Marxist-feminist newspaperwoman’s engrossing account of Russia in the turmoil of revolution.
    Read the rest of Rappaport's list.

    Helen Rappaport's new book is No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War, which Allan Mallinson reviewed favorably in the Times.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Five best journalism books

    Scott Simon, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition" and the author of Pretty Birds (Random House, 2005), a novel set during the siege of Sarajevo, named the five best journalism books for Opinion Journal.

    Number one on his list:
    In Search of Light edited by Edward Bliss Jr. (Knopf, 1967).

    Forget the hagiography of Edward R. Murrow since his death in 1965. All the evidence we need to understand what made Murrow broadcast journalism's first great star can be found in "In Search of Light," a collection of scripts for his broadcasts between 1938 and 1961. He had a mesmerizing presence on the air to match momentous events and, as this book reminds us, a rare poetic power. Murrow wrote for the ear -- and heart. His descriptions of the London Blitz as "a terrible symphony of fire and light," or of the starved survivors of a death camp welcoming Allied soldiers with applause from arms so frail that "it sounded like the handclapping of babies," are unsurpassed images of two of the signature events of the 20th century.
    Read the entire list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Friday, March 9, 2007

    Alan Furst's list

    Alan Furst, the acclaimed author of nine World War II spy novels, including Night Soldiers, Dark Voyage, Kingdom of Shadows, and The Foreign Correspondent, came up with a list of favored books for The Week magazine.

    Among his picks:
    Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel

    Babel was one of the great Russian writers of his generation — a Jewish journalist who rode with Budyonny’s Cossacks in the civil wars following the 1917 revolution. He was arrested and shot in 1940. Who knows what great books he might have written.

    The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov

    Bulgakov is famous for The Master and Margarita, but this is an adventure novel of the Russian Revolution, and hard to put down once you start. Very few honest books about this time survive — the Soviet secret police made sure of that. But here is one that did.
    Read the entire list.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Thursday, March 8, 2007

    Ruth Padel's top 10 women poets

    In honor of International Women's Day, Ruth Padel, prizewinning poet and former chair of the UK Poetry Society, chose her favorite poets who happen to be women.

    Here are her top two picks:

    She is in fragments but still astonishing. Just look at her beautiful language, her total swashbuckling trust in the image to say it all (anyone who loves haiku will love her too), her mix of gorgeous metaphor with direct emotion: "The stars are sinking; the watch goes by; I lie alone." Despite having been translated, imitated and versioned down the millennia, these fragments are still fresh, heartbreaking, memorable and strong. She lays out the stall for us all, both in what she is saying and how she says it. What do people care for? "Look at that other person also in love with you." She celebrates, and questions, and turns in the light, the beauty of what is.

    Emily Dickinson

    You can't do without her: those leaps of idea between one beautiful, surprising phrase and the next. Mysterious, ferociously original, poignant and evocative: the power of pure thought compressed to diamond.
    Read about the rest of Padel's list.

    Learn more about Ruth Padel's book Tigers in Red Weather, which has just been been shortlisted for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize in non-fiction, for books that promote understanding of South Asia.

    And see what she's been reading.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Books that question the conventional wisdom on the environment

    A year and half ago the novelist Michael Crichton came up with a list of books that question the conventional wisdom on the environment.

    One title on his list:
    The Culture Cult by Roger Sandall

    In "The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays," anthropologist Roger Sandall explores romantic primitivism--the myth of Eden and the Noble Savage. Mr. Sandall's histories of utopian communities (Robert Owen's New Harmony, John Humphrey Noyes's disastrous Oneida) are vivid, and his portraits of leading primitivists, from Rousseau to Mead to Levi-Strauss, are sharply drawn. This ignorant nostalgia for our tribal past ignores the truly horrific reality of tribal initiation, warfare, mutilation and human sacrifice.
    Read about the other titles.

    And learn what Roger Sandall is reading in March 2007.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Tuesday, March 6, 2007

    Six notable books by priests

    Last summer, Ruth Gledhill, the religion correspondent for the London Times, named her "critic's chart" of six books by priests.

    The one that caught my eye:
    The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer.

    He only became a clergyman because his father didn't have enough land to pass on to him but went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury and to write in 1549 the most part of what became the foundation document of the Church of England. Contemporary authors such as PD James freely acknowledge their debt to the beauty of his prose. He was burnt at the stake in 1556.
    Read about the other five titles.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Five best books about selling

    Steve Cone, a senior marketing executive at Citigroup and the author of Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star, named the five best books about selling for Opinion Journal.

    His list includes a title by the godfather of the Page 69 Test as well as this book:
    Branded Nation by James B. Twitchell

    James B. Twitchell begins Branded Nation by asserting that "the secret to great brands is that they are often nonsensical." After all, what's golden about McDonald's? What's real about Coke? Among the endless number of books churned out each year that try to explain brand success, this is the best overview of the rules of the road. It also provides an in-depth look at the often overlooked marketing strategies of churches, universities and museums. Twitchell is unusual among college professors in that he teaches both English and advertising, two disciplines that make perfect sense together.
    Read about all five titles.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Friday, March 2, 2007

    Lionel Shriver's book list

    Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, The Post-Birthday World, will be published this month.

    She named a short list of favorite books for The Week magazine which included these two titles:
    English Passengers by Matthew Kneale

    This novel follows the hapless mid-19th-century journey of a ship bound for Tasmania in search of the original Garden of Eden. It’s wonderfully wicked about religion, and it’s hilarious.

    Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

    Dexter writes about race and bigotry without the moral obviousness that this subject matter often elicits. His tone is terse and muscular, but not pose-y and tough-guy.
    Read about all six titles on Shriver's list.

    Shriver's last novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, was the winner of the 2005 Orange Prize.

    --Marshal Zeringue

    Thursday, March 1, 2007

    Jon Clinch's favorite books

    Jon Clinch's debut novel Finn has just been published to rave reviews.

    Among the riches at the official Finn website, Clinch reveals his favorite books:
    Absalom, Absalom! — William Faulkner

    Island — Alistair MacLeod

    Wise Blood — Flannery O’Connor

    The Remains of the Day — Kazuo Ishiguro

    Moby-Dick — Herman Melville

    The Mosquito Coast — Paul Theroux

    The Confessions of Nat Turner — William Styron
    --Marshal Zeringue

    Tina Jordan's top ten books

    Inspired by The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane, Entertainment Weekly's Tina Jordan came up with her own top ten.

    Jordan's list includes:
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

    Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter

    A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor

    To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Read about the other half of the list.

    --Marshal Zeringue