Saturday, October 27, 2007

Five best: how to succeed in business

Cathie Black, author of the recently published Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), named a five best list of books for how to succeed in business for Opinion Journal.

Number One on her list:

Personal History by Katharine Graham (Knopf, 1997).

Kay Graham's story is the gold standard for anyone in politics, business or the public arena who wants to recount life's lessons in autobiographical form. Though she was born into privilege and achieved renown on her own, she recounts her youth, her family life and her days running the Washington Post in a modest, at times even humble, manner. She is bracingly candid about the suicide in 1963 of her husband, Philip, who had been in charge of her family's paper, and about her resulting struggle to embark on a late career in the male-dominated realm of newspapering. And she is fascinating when describing the decisions that went into publishing the Pentagon Papers and investigating Watergate. "Personal History" is essential reading for anyone who loves a life story wonderfully told, particularly one as consequential in the culture and politics of our times as this one.

Read about all five titles on Black's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Top 10 ventriloquism books

Wesley Stace, a celebrated musician and songwriter who performs under the name John Wesley Harding, is the author of two novels, Misfortune and the recently-released by George (which appeared at the Page 69 Test).

He selected a "top 10 ventriloquism books" list for the Guardian. One title to make the list:
True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

In the New York Times, Janet Maslin called Carey's 2000 masterpiece "a spectacular feat of literary ventriloquism". The concept has since caught on in reviews, blurbs and flap copy: it's such a good way to think of fiction. It was this review excerpt, from the back of the Kelly Gang paperback, that made me wonder why there wasn't a novel where ventriloquism spoke for itself.
Read about the other titles on Stace's list.

Check out an excerpt from by George and more about the novel at Wesley Stace's website and his MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: by George.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Martin Edwards' top 10 books about crime fiction

Martin Edwards is a prolific crime novelist and story writer. His many books and stories include the Lake District mysteries featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind.

In July 2007 he contributed to the Page 99 Test: The Arsenic Labyrinth.

At his website he accurately notes "a continuing appetite for information about" crime fiction and has posted a list of "10 fascinating books about crime fiction."

Two titles, and Edwards' argument for them, from the list:
Julian Symons – Bloody Murder

Robert Adey – Locked Room Murders

Symons’ book is an enduring masterpiece of literary criticism in the field of popular fiction. You may disagree with his judgments – no matter: he welcomed ‘reasoned contradiction’. Bob Adey’s niche book is sheer, unadulterated pleasure for fans of the impossible crime.
Check out the other eight titles on the list.

Visit Martin Edwards' new crime writing blog: 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?'

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 22, 2007

Top 10 unusual cookbooks

In her new book Taste: The Story of Britain through Its Food, Kate Colquhoun apparently "asks and answers a fascinating range of questions from the weighty to the lighthearted. Did the Romans use pepper? How did the Black Death lead to the beginning of rural baking? Why was the sale of fruit banned in 1569? What linked roasted meats and morality in the 1790s? When did we move from serving everything at once to the succession of courses we know today?"

The author recently named her top 10 unusual cookbooks for the Guardian.

One title to make her list:
Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson

This 2004 novel by the award-winning author of Gerontius and Loving Monsters follows the life of Gerald Samper, a snobbish ghost writer and aspiring gourmet. It's a marvellous comic bad dream of a book, set in Italy and stuffed with appalling recipes all using the ghastly bitter aperitif Fernet Branca. Famously, there are mussels in chocolate, garlic ice cream and smoked cat. I've never wanted to cook any of it, but it has had me laughing at the supermarket checkout weeks after I finished reading it.
Read about the other titles on Colquhoun's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Brian Williams' favorite "portraits of Americans"

NBC News anchor Brian Williams named his five favorite portraits of Americans for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:

When Trumpets Call by Patricia O'Toole (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

"When Trumpets Call" is a superb, almost tactile examination of the journey that began on the day Theodore Roosevelt left the presidency in 1909, at age 50, and ended with his death in 1919. Patricia O'Toole beautifully chronicles the physical and intellectual restlessness that fueled the last decade of TR's life. His first project as a private citizen was to embark on an African safari. It was meant to be a low-key getaway from his clamorous public life, but it quickly turned into an expedition "of biblical proportions," O'Toole writes. TR's break from presidential politics was also short-lived: He campaigned as a third-party candidate in 1912, burnishing his legend by insisting on giving a speech in Milwaukee even though he was bleeding from a gunshot wound in the chest after a failed assassination attempt. TR's life was "one of the longest-running, most colorful serials in American history," O'Toole says, a story "by turns exhilarating, exasperating, amusing, and inspiring."
Read about all five titles on Williams' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 19, 2007

Books for the 2008 Olympic Games

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine and author, most recently, of China's Brave New World — And Other Tales for Global Times, has an interesting article in Outlook India about preparing for the forthcoming Beijing Games ... with a reading program.

One mystery novel to make Wasserstrom's reading program:
[M]y favored in-flight books tend to be mysteries, so I’m recommending [Catherine] Sampson’s The Pool of Unease (Macmillan, 2007) — and slipping it in here to also nicely bring the total number of books up to an even dozen. Some readers may feel that, at a few points, loose ends either get tied up a bit too quickly or are left dangling too long, but the writing is lively throughout, the characters memorable, and Sampson has created a storyline that allows her to deal with several important issues — and deal with them deftly.

While never forgetting the goal of entertaining her readers, for example, she gives them a valuable sense of the complicated nature of police corruption in the PRC, the tensions caused by the growing divide between those being raised swiftly and those being left behind by China’s economic boom, and the ethical dilemmas faced by foreign reporters who are protected in ways that their sources are not in a one-party state. And the book’s main narrative device — alternating between first-person chapters by British reporter Robyn Ballantyne, heroine of two previous crime novels, and third-person chapters that focus on a Chinese private eye, whom readers may hope shows up in future mysteries in the series—works wonderfully. There are evocative descriptions of both gritty parts of Beijing that most tourists won’t see and Chinese luxury hotels and villas, which can seem surreal located as they are in what is in many ways still a developing country. A final plus — or minus — is that, for those about to be jet-lagged, the book conveys all too well the difficulty that the heroine has adjusting to the time change during her first trip to China.
Read Wasserstrom's article.

The Page 69 Test: China's Brave New World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Most important books: Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:

Mystery Train by Greil Marcus.

The first book about music I'd ever read that wasn't ephemeral. Very inspiring.
Hornby is the author of the novels How to Be Good, High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down, as well as the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and the editor of the short story collection Speaking with the Angel.

His new book, Slam, is his first YA novel.

Read about all five of Hornby's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books

Tom Perrotta's latest novel, The Abstinence Teacher, is out this month from St. Martin's Press.

In a 2004 interview with Perrotta conducted by Barnes & Noble, the author named his ten favorite books and what makes them special to him. Three of the ten:
# Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy -- A book that is crammed so full of amazing observations about everyday life that it is sometimes overwhelming in its profundity. Tolstoy has the courage to show not just the ecstatic passion of romantic love but the emptiness and despair that can come when it fades.

# This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff -- The best coming-of-age book I know, a contemporary work that deserves to stand alongside Huckleberry Finn. It's hilariously funny and deeply sad at the same time -- my favorite combination.

# Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin -- A highly readable and illuminating biography of the great English diarist and naval bureaucrat, who turns out to have been quite a character -- randy, grasping, opportunistic, charming, politically astute, and endlessly fascinated by his own behavior. Tomalin makes a convincing case for him as a man way ahead of his time, possibly the first modern "self" in our literature. Read it for the hilarious sexual shorthand Pepys invented, if nothing else.
Read about the other seven titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Five best books: the Anglo-American relationship

Michael Barone, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, named a five best list of books about "the shared heritage of America and Britain" for Opinion Journal.

The more recently-published title on the list:

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by Andrew Roberts (HarperCollins, 2007).

Andrew Roberts has written excellent biographies of the Marquis of Salisbury (1830-1903) and the Earl of Halifax (1881-1959), but after 9/11 he decided to take up the task of completing the multivolume history of the English-speaking peoples where Winston Churchill left off, at the beginning of the 20th century. The result is an idiosyncratic history reflecting Roberts's interests -- and his opinions. He excoriates Lord Mountbatten, the viceroy of India, whose partition of India led to the deaths of millions and produced a new country, Pakistan, that has proved troublesome to this day. But Roberts remains optimistic. The English-speaking peoples, after dithering, met the challenges of Kaiserism, Nazism and communism -- and he predicts that they will, even if now dithering, meet the challenge of Islamist terrorism too.

Read about all five titles on Barone's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The best of Philip Roth

Erica Wagner, literary editor of the Times (London) and author, most recently, of Seizure, named "the best of Philip Roth" for her newspaper.

One title to make the list, albeit a little lower than I would have ranked it:
The Counterlife (1987)

Zuckerman again; family life, impotence, dentistry ... vintage Roth.
Read Wagner's complete list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Top 10 books about troubled families

Rachel Seiffert is the author of the Booker-shortlisted novel The Dark Room and an acclaimed collection of short stories, Field Study. She was named one of Granta's Best of Young British writers, and one of 25 "women writers to watch" in the Orange Futures promotion. Her most recent novel is Afterwards.

She named a "top 10 books about troubled families" list for the Guardian.

Her prefatory remarks, followed by one title on the list:
All of my books so far have dealt with families, most of them less than ideal. Families are endlessly fascinating: the basic unit of most human societies, we often want to escape our own, create a new, better version, or maybe crave an earlier, lost time when the unit we were in made us happy in a way it just doesn't anymore.... The [listed] books mine this rich seam of humour and pain. All of humanity is here, in miniature...:

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Asher is a gifted artist, born into a Hasidic family in 1940s Brooklyn. His father, Aryeh, works tirelessly for the Rebbe, often travelling into the Soviet Union to aid Jews persecuted by Stalin; while his wife supports this work, she also fears terribly for his safety. Father and son love one another deeply, but their worlds are incompatible. It's a very moving book about how we cannot help but hurt one another.
Read about all ten titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Most important books: Mollie Katzen

Mollie Katzen is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. A 2007 inductee into the prestigious James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, and largely credited with moving healthful vegetarian food from the "fringe" to the center of the American dinner plate, Ms. Katzen has been named by Health Magazine as one of "The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat." Her latest book is The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without.

She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title to make the list:

Honey From a Weed by Patience Gray.

Autobiography, travelogue and recipe collection, all woven together. It transports like a novel.
Read about all five titles on Katzen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Michael Ledeen's 5 best books about Iran

Michael Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the newly-released The Iranian Time Bomb, selected a five best list of "masterly works" about Iran for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:

The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth M. Pollack (Random House, 2004).

Kenneth M. Pollack spent years at the CIA, then migrated to the National Security Council during Bill Clinton's presidency. Like every other government official who has tried to normalize relations between Iran and the U.S., he came to grief. And like most such failed dreamers, he continued to believe that there must be a way. His odyssey is the best account we have of recent Iranian history and U.S.-Iranian relations. "The Persian Puzzle" is remarkably candid about the illusions and failures of the men and women for whom Mr. Pollack worked -- people he often admired.

Read about the other titles on Ledeen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Todd Gitlin's most important books

Todd Gitlin is the author, most recently, of The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals.

He told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:

The Philosophy of Money by Georg Simmel.

Lays bare the anatomy of Western life turned blasé from overstimulation.
Read about all five titles on Gitlin's list.

Todd Gitlin is the author of 13 books and articles in numerous periodicals. A regular contributor to, he is currently a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lipsky's favorite books about newspapering

Veteran reporter and editor Seth Lipsky selected a five best list of his "favorite books about newspapering" for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:

The Paris Edition by Waverley Root (North Point, 1987).

Between 1927 and 1934, the Chicago Tribune published an edition in Paris, a small sophisticated daily in a big city with a raging newspaper war. Never in the history of journalism, it was said, have so many men had such a wonderful time on so little money. In "The Paris Edition," Tribune reporter Waverley Root memorably evokes the era, not least with his classic account of Charles Lindbergh's Paris landing in 1927. The United Press hired goons to monopolize the phone booths at Le Bourget Airport, where Lindbergh was set to land; the Associated Press hired bruisers to attack them; all six phone booths were destroyed in the melee and reporters had to run their copy into town on foot. In this memoir, we also meet the Tribune's proprietor, Col. Robert McCormick, who, in a fit of pique, assigned his best correspondent, Floyd Gibbons, to a new beat: the Sahara. Gibbons set out to become the first person to cross the desert's expanse while carrying a fully unfurled American flag, which resulted not only in a newspaper series that gripped the world but also in an epic expense account.

Read about the other titles on Lipsky's list.

--Marshal Zeringue