Thursday, December 31, 2015

The ten best New Year’s Eves in culture

Michael Hogan writes about lifestyle and entertainment, specializing in pop culture and TV. For the Guardian he rounded up the ten best New Year’s Eves in culture--film, television, and fiction--including:
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

“That’s the problem with being born in New York – you’ve got no New York to run away to.” Banker-turned-novelist Amor Towles’s underrated 2011 debut, inspired by his grandmother’s life, opens at a 1937 New Year’s Eve bash in Greenwich Village (“We started the evening with a plan of stretching three dollars as far as it would go”) and follows the next 12 months in the life of Russian immigrant’s daughter Katey Kontent (real name Katya). This Dorothy Parker-meets-Holly Golightly heroine hangs out in sleazy jazz clubs, sips gin martinis, steals silk stockings from Bendel’s and works at a louche literary magazine, all the while seeking her fortune and true love. It’s like a retro-chic Sex and the City or Downton Abbey on a gap year.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Jeff Somers's five memorable books set on New Year’s Eve (and Day) and John Mullan's ten most notable New Years in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top ten books that straddle the past and the present

Rhian Ivory's latest novel is The Boy who Drew the Future. One of her ten favorite novels set in the past and the present, as shared at the Guardian:
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Winner of the Carnegie prize in 1958, Tom’s Midnight Garden has long been regarded as a children’s classic and each time I re-read it I can see why. The story of Tom and Hattie holds such appeal because no matter how much technology has to offer Generation X, nothing can beat the hope and possibility of being able to walk into a garden and step back into the past when the clock strikes 13.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The very best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015: io9

Among io9's very best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015:
The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen Phillips

Ursula K. Le Guin recommended this dystopian novel, and it more than lives up to the hype. Josephine is enduring a job that sees her entering information into The Database, and finds a horrifying world in the bureaucracy that she’s now part of.

* * *

Providence of Fire, Brian Stavely

Brian Staveley blew us away with his debut novel The Emperor’s Blades, and the second installment of his trilogy is even better. Staveley has continued the adventures of Adare, Valyn and Kaden in the aftermath of their father’s assassination and as war looms over Annurian Empire. Most epic fantasies get mired down as their worlds and stories expand with each volume, but Staveley manages to keep his focus on the plight of his characters, which rockets the book to a stunning conclusion.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

The Page 69 Test: The Providence of Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books of criticism that changed A.O. Scott's life

A. O. Scott joined the New York Times as a film critic in January 2000. His forthcoming book is Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth.

One of five books of criticism that changed the critic's life, as shared at the Penguin blog:
W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand.

Many of the virtues of Auden’s poetry—the mix of conversational ease and high philosophical seriousness; the naughty wit and unguarded earnestness; the friendliness and unmatched erudition—are on display in this collection of critical writings. There is ample wisdom and much fun to be found in the chapters on Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Frost and Igor Stravinsky, but it’s the first three chapters, devoted to “Reading,” “Writing” and “Making, Knowing, and Judging” that make this book one I return to again and again. Masquerading as a miscellaneous collection of aphorisms and observations, those pages add up to a theory of human thought and behavior, and therefore a guide to life.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top ten parallel worlds in fiction

Christopher Edge's latest book is The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. At the Guardian he tagged his top ten parallel worlds in fiction, including:
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

In a parallel world, I never bunked off school at the age of fourteen to go to a Neil Gaiman signing in a comic book shop. In that universe I never had that moment of inspiration that made me realise that becoming a writer wasn’t an impossible dream. Maybe in that world I’ve got buttons for eyes, just like the Other Mother in Coraline, who lurks behind a locked door in a sinister parallel world that’s an eerie reflection of Coraline’s own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coraline appears among Aliette de Bodard's five creepiest monsters in fantasy, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven awesomely scary novels, and Sam Leith's top ten alternative realities.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top ten crime fiction books of 2015: MysteryPeople

At MysteryPeople Scott Montgomery tagged his top ten crime fiction books of 2015, including:
The Long & Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

A private detective’s latest case takes him him back to Oklahoma City where he was once the lone survivor of a movie theater robbery. At the same time a woman plots to a trap for the man who is believed to have murdered her sister a month after that robbery. Berney skillfully tells three mystery stories to explore the ideas of survival and loss.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Robin Coste Lewis' six favorite books

Robin Coste Lewis' debut poetry collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus, won a 2015 National Book Award. One of the poet's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Notebook of a Return to the Native Land by Aimé Césaire

This long poem, which shook the French literary world in 1939, examines the ways home is ruptured — or even prevented from existing — by colonialism. And what, the book asks, does that mean? How can one return to a home that was never built?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 26, 2015

TIME's top ten nonfiction books

One of Time magazine's top ten nonfiction books of 2015:
Negroland, Margo Jefferson

Jefferson’s upbringing in 1950s Chicago was almost idyllic. Almost. Home life was cozy enough—her physician father and socialite mother were members of the city’s black bourgeoisie, and she and her sister were well fed, well cared for, pointedly well dressed. But the tensions of the time were inescapable, and with them came personal pressures that eventually sunk Jefferson into depression—yet one more thing she wasn’t “allowed” to have as a black woman. Jefferson uses the long poem format, alternating between poetry and prose, despair and triumph, to tell a story that is as compelling for the reader as it seems cathartic for her.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: TIME's top ten fiction books of 2015.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 25, 2015

Top ten uncanny graphic novels

Ian Williams is a physician, comics artist and writer, based in Brighton, UK. His 2014 graphic novel is The Bad Doctor. One of his ten top uncanny graphic novels, as shared at the Guardian:
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet (2014)

Cute characters, taking tea, are suddenly surrounded by dripping gore. Ah – turns out they are living inside the body of a dead girl in a forest. They climb out of the skull to find lots of tiny companions, wandering about. Trying to set up a new community to survive in the woods is challenging. They forage for food, build new shelters, and interact with the woodland creatures, sometimes trying to befriend them, sometimes killing and eating them. Nature takes its cruel course, picking off the characters one by one as they start to squabble and kill each other.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eight apt books to leave for Santa instead of cookies

At B & N Reads Ginni Chen tagged eight of the best books to leave for Santa instead of cookies, including:
Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with the Arctic Herd, by Karsten Heuer

If Santa has ever wondered about the lives of regular, non-flying reindeers (aka as caribou), this book will captivate him. Heuer, a wildlife biologist, and his filmmaker partner spent five months in the wilderness following a caribou herd’s annual 2,800 mile journey. Heuer’s account will change not just how you think about reindeer, but how you think about the North American wild.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oline Cogdill's fifteen best mystery novels of 2015

Among Oline Cogdill's fifteen best mystery novels of 2015:
Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

“Where All Light Tends To Go” by David Joy (Putnam): North Carolina memorist David Joy delivers a thoughtful coming-of-age novel about a young man who believes that he will forever be moribund in Appalachia because of his family’s history of drug abuse and violence. But is he strong enough to leave the mountains when he gets the opportunity?
Learn about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten urban fantasy books for "Jessica Jones" fans

At Catherine Kovach tagged ten top urban fantasy books for Jessica Jones fans, including:
The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

Don't let the name of this book fool you, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats is ideal for those who love the lack of slut-shaming in Jessica Jones. Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier but came back as a vampire. Now a private detective, he's called to investigate a mysterious outbreak of nymphomania in rocky flats, and has to contend with conspiracies, vampire hunters, and a group of women who seem to only want him for his body. Skewering sexual stereotypes, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats is a quirky, funny read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seven great books about dogs

Geraldine Brooks is the author of The Secret Chord and other books. One of her seven great books about dogs, as shared with the Penguin Hotline:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

An intense, beautifully crafted novel that channels Hamlet, with a boy’s beloved dog Almondine in a role that echoes Ophelia.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is on Karen Joy Fowler's top ten list of books about intelligent animals and the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on dogs, and among ten of the best Twinkies in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 21, 2015

Six top YA reads for Jane Austen fans

At the B & N Teen Blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged six top Young Adult reads for Jane Austen fans, including:
Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

Julie is used to her best friend’s crazy phases. But when Ashleigh gets hooked on Pride and Prejudice, she decides it’s time to find true love; unfortunately for Julie, this means volunteering for the local all-boys prep school’s play. Before long, they find the perfect specimen for Ashleigh’s quest for love. The only problem? Julie’s pretty sure she’s falling for him, too. With a blend of elements from Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and a few other Austen-y tidbits, Enthusiasm is perfect for anyone who has ever felt like the side character in their own novel—or one of Austen’s.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Top ten nonfiction books of 2015: Wall Street Journal

One of the Wall Street Journal's top ten nonfiction books of the year:
The Horse
by Wendy Williams

Horses have an ambiguous status: Some are feral beasts roaming free, some are workers bred for strength or stamina, some are indulged pets. Around 56 million years ago, the “dawn horse” was small and had not yet lost all of its toes except the large central one that is now the hoof. With its rounded back, it scampered rather than ran or galloped. Over tens of millions of years, humans and horses, both highly social animals with an intricate network of friendships and alliances, have evolved side by side to share desires, opinions and habitats. Wendy Williams guides us surely through the science of horses’ evolution and captures the magic of our extraordinary relationship with them.
Learn about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Horse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten Christmas books

Matt Haig's newest book, A Boy Called Christmas, is out now in the UK. One of the author's ten top Christmas books, as shared at the Guardian:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The book that helped invent Christmas. Or at least, our popular view of it in modern culture. It is a story about transformation, and redemption, and as such set a precedent for so many Christmas stories since. Though a very early Dickens (he wrote it, depressingly, when he was 30) it still feels modern in its concerns about capitalism and poverty and the dehumanising effect of work and the healing power of kindness. I’m re-reading it again this year.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Christmas Carol is on Richard Hirst's top ten list of winters in literature, Melissa Albert's list of four of the most memorable holiday gifts in fiction, Chrissie Gruebel's list of six top fictional holiday parties, and Tom Lamont's list of ten of the best time travelers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Simon Sebag Montefiore's six favorite books

As a historian, Simon Sebag Montefiore's works include The Romanovs: 1613–1918, Jerusalem: The Biography, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, and Young Stalin, which was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Prize (UK), and Le Grand Prix de Biographie Politique (France). His novels include the critically acclaimed Sashenka and One Night in Winter.

One of the author's six favorite books, as shared at The Daily Express:

Mailer lived the writer’s dream and experienced the great moments of his era and these are his greatest essays covering power, personality and sex. The writing is superb.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: an older list of Simon Sebag Montefiore's six best books and Simon Sebag Montefiore's five best books about Moscow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top five Texas authors of 2015

At MysteryPeople Scott Montgomery tagged the top five Texas authors of 2015, including:
Dark Places by Reavis Wortham

The latest in The Red River Mystery Series has half the lawmen of Center Springs searching for their teen relation, Pepper,who has run away to be a part of the summer of love in San Francisco, with the other half stuck in town dealing with some deadly killers. Wortham continues to look at the effect the Sixties had on small town life with both suspense and heart.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Reavis Z. Wortham and Willie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 18, 2015

Seven novels that show the real terrifying prospect of climate change

At io9 Maddie Stone tagged seven great novels that show the real terrifying prospect of climate change, including:
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Unabashedly dystopian, Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning novel about an Earth ravaged by genetic engineering and global warming was the book that convinced me fiction has a role to play in the climate conversation. Set in Thailand several centuries in the future, The Windup Girl follows scientists working for Monsanto-esque calorie corporations as they attempt to steal precious genetic material from a country devastated by GMO diseases. Somehow, nothing about this tragic future comes off heavy-handed or preachy—it’s just a great biopunk thriller with some seriously flawed protagonists. If you haven’t read The Windup Girl, fix that immediately.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Windup Girl is among Diana Biller's 22 great science fiction and fantasy stories that can help you make sense of economics, Torie Bosch's twelve great pandemic novels, Madeleine Monson-Rosen's top 15 books that take place in science fiction and fantasy versions of the most fascinating places on Earth and Annalee Newitz's lists of books to prepare you for the economic apocalypse and the 35 essential posthuman novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Top ten books about justice and redemption

Jeffrey Lent's novel A Slant of Light is a Washington Post Notable Book of 2015. One of the author's top ten books about justice and redemption, as shared at the Guardian:
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

A young woman’s grief over the early, untimely death of her father leads her into a kind of madness, which she copes with by training a goshawk for falconry. The hawk has its own form of lunacy, and Macdonald’s prose seems to allow us into its consciousness. The bird is finally untethered, allowing Macdonald to regain her own place on earth. As I came into the final quarter of this lovely, haunting book, I began to read in very small amounts, not wanting the story to end.
Read about the other books on the list.

H Is for Hawk is among Alex Hourston’s ten top unlikely friendships in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five sci-fi books with an Australian perspective

Jackie Hatton is the author of Flesh and Wires, a post-apocalyptic, post-alien novel that imagines women as the agents of their own destiny. One of five sci-fi books with an Australian perspective she tagged at
Traci Harding—The Ancient Future: The Dark Age

The heroine of this time-traveling alien-culture souls-reincarnating adventure is an Australian woman who finds herself living in the dark ages, yet still with some access to important modern conveniences (like her digital music collection, tampons, and a complete replica of her bedroom at home). The voice of Tory is unequivocally Australian, even if the setting is not. Within days of her arrival back in the dark ages, Tory is working hard to establish women’s rights, temper the violent disposition of the times, and tame a prince or two. She even takes on the most powerful man of dark ages mythology: “Thou art making decisions concerning me without my knowledge … that be not my only beef with thee though, Merlin. I have a list.” The story might not be set in Australia, but the author’s voice rings with the humor and determination of her compatriots. It is also a prime example of the truism that Australians are, to the last woman standing, funny.

Harding’s perspective: Back home we hardly wear any clothes half the year, it be too hot.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TIME's top ten fiction books of 2015

One of Time magazine's top ten fiction books of 2015:
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

This is a companion volume to Atkinson’s magnificent 2013 novel Life After Life, a soaring, looping novel about an Englishwoman named Ursula whose life started over every time she died. A God In Ruins (it’s from Emerson: “a man is a god in ruins”) concerns Ursula’s brother Teddy, an RAF pilot who is, statistically at least, immune to death: he survives dozens of bombing runs while those around him perish. Teddy’s traumatic wartime is the engine of this book — the narrative orbits around those years, telling his full life story on either side, touching at times on other members of his family too, but always returning to those thrilling, pounding bombing missions. Compared to the war Teddy’s life is otherwise almost comically uneventful, but Atkinson finds in it fathomless depths of human experience and pathos.
Learn about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six essential books that almost never saw the light of day

Lindsey Lewis Smithson has her MFA from UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Low Residency MFA. She has served as the Poetry Editor and the Managing Editor for The Coachella Review, in addition to having read for The Pacific Review and The Whistling Fire. At B&N Reads she tagged six essential books that were almost never published, including:
The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s dairy faced unusual hurdles on the road to publication. After her hiding place was discovered, the remnants of her notebooks left behind by the Nazis were kept hidden for years. Eventually her father reclaimed them and worked to bring her voice to light. Under his watchful eye, though, many of the teenage struggles he thought might offend more conservative readers were edited out of the book. A text with fewer edits was later released, giving readers more insight into this vibrant, inspirational young girl.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2015

Eight books about Muslim life for a nation that knows little about Islam

Laila Lalami's most recent book, The Moor’s Account, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. At the Washington Post she tagged eight books about Muslim life for a nation that knows little about Islam, including:
A Map of Home, by Randa Jarrar (2008)

Nidali, a smart, rebellious girl from Boston, narrates this touching coming-of-age novel by a talented young writer. Nidali moves with her family to Kuwait, then to Egypt and then again to Texas, each move causing her to lose friends and forcing her to reinvent herself to survive. Her family is funny and eccentric, but beneath the jokes lie the pain of domestic abuse and the struggle of overcoming it.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Map of Home is among Ahmed Ali Akbar's 14 novels about Muslim life that open up worlds for their audiences.

My Book, The Movie: A Map of Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Four books that changed Nicole Trilivas

Nicole Trilivas's new novel is Girls Who Travel. One book that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Full disclosure: If I wasn't forced to read this in university, I'm not sure I would have been able to handle it on my own. However, it's challenging, but rewarding and it's kind of the world's first travel novel. Homer paints the scenes with this delicious, honey-thick language that still sticks to me to this day – I can't see the ocean at night without thinking of Homer's "wine dark seas" or see the pink sky of daybreak without recalling Dawn's "rosy fingers."
Read about the other books on the list.

The Odyssey is among Jill Ciment's ten top dog stories, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven bad witches in literature, Ellen Cooney's ten top canine-human literary duos, Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog, Alexandra Silverman's biggest fictional literary crushes, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five fantasy books with Jewish themes

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. One of Somers's top five fantasy books with Jewish themes, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
The Cure, by Sonia Levitin

This brilliant novel pivots on some of the same ideas found in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but draws a completely different conclusion from them. In the 25th century, Gemm 16884 lives in a world where peace and order are maintained through the consumption of drugs and the elimination of disruptive forces—including art. When Gemm defies society by making music, he is given a choice: execution, or a sort of “virtual reality” experience that will make him a Jew in 14th century Strasbourg at the height of the Black Death, when Jews were widely blamed for the disease and pogroms were common. The idea is that Gemm will see how much better the future is and mend his ways—but what makes the story remarkable is how Levitin’s ending is both exactly as expected, and yet somehow a complete subversion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top ten mysteries of 2015: Wall Street Journal

Two of the Wall Street Journal's top mysteries of the year:
By Rebecca Scherm

Julie, the 21-year-old American woman working as an antiques restorer in a Parisian shop, is well-mannered, soft-spoken—and living in dread. Her real name is Grace, and she has fled her native Tennessee in the wake of a botched museum robbery that she engineered. Convinced that she is the “bad apple” she was told she was as a child, Grace-Julie is ripe for recruitment into even more dangerous schemes. Rebecca Scherm’s fast-paced first novel, full of suspense and surprise, shows that “empowerment,” as embraced by an on-the-lam bad apple, can provoke some most unexpected thrills.

Writers Read: Rebecca Scherm

The Valley
By John Renehan

A fog-shrouded U.S. Army outpost in the remote reaches of Afghanistan is the ominous setting of John Renehan’s combat-ready first novel. Lt. Black (no first name) is sent to this mountainous up-country position on an administrative investigation that soon turns into something much more strange. Surrounded by Taliban and other militia, the outpost’s troops are in the grip of some fatal conspiracy, which he catches glimpses of through the green glare of night-vision goggles and the orange glow of psychedelic lava lamps. This superb debut is at once a battle novel, a puzzling mystery and a psychological mind-bender.

Writers Read: John Renehan
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 11, 2015

Top ten unlikely friendships in children’s books

John Boyne's novels include the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain. One of his top ten unlikely friendships in children’s books, as shared at the Guardian:
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (2013)

My own favourite YA book of the 21st century, this extraordinary tale of resilience in the face of inexplicable cruelty makes a hero of the young protagonist – Linus Weems – while the adults trapped alongside him in an underground bunker display varying degrees of violence and selfishness. The friendship that Linus forms with Russell, the oldest inmate, avoids any type of Morgan Freeman-type voiceover and is an essential and ultimately tragic part of the story. Ignore the why-must-we-throw-this-filth-at-our-kids brigade; this is contemporary literature at its finest.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Alex Hourston’s top ten unlikely friendships in literature and Sarah Salway's top ten books about unlikely friendships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Five fascinating novels about marriage

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. One of Somers's five fascinating novels about marriage, as shared at B & N Reads:
Too Far to Go, by John Updike

Updike had a unique style and viewpoint, and the characters in his stories and novels, especially the men, could be very predictable in their attitudes, lusts, and fears. This collection of stories exploring a relationship and marriage from first date to post-divorce kiss is a product of that unique Updike style. From the initial nervousness of meeting someone you simply must know better, to the final exhausted familiarity between two people who know each other so well they can no longer be together, Updike makes every moment along the way interesting and meaningful, rendering this a remarkable book for anyone who has ever been married.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five epic fantasies with gender equal societies

Kelley Grant's latest novel is Desert Rising. At she tagged five epic fantasies with gender equal societies, including:
The Den of Inequity/Sanctuary in Ephemera—Anne Bishop’s Sebastian

In Daughter of the Blood, Bishop reverses power between the sexes, and corrupt women become debased and cruel with unlimited power. I was so excited by the novelty of that world, I gave it to a male friend. He gave it back with a wince, only partially read. But in the world of Ephemera, Bishop creates several landscapes in which women and men (and incubi and succubi) take the roles they were born to, without prejudice. I love the equal opportunity darkness and depravity of the Den of Inequity, which is balanced so nicely by the serenity of Sanctuary. Both sides of human nature are shown in this original world. Bishop is a master at exploring sexuality and power between the sexes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Five of the worst mothers in literary history

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. One of Somers's five worst mothers in literary history, as shared at B & N Reads:
Sophie Portnoy from Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth

If it isn’t a standard belief that mothers should not stand outside the bathroom while their sons defecate and then demand they not flush so their output can be examined, then by gum, it should be. Sophie Portnoy is the sort of mother only novelists and psychiatrists can imagine, a woman so smothering and domineering she’s at the root of all her son’s “complaints”—including the (frequently awful and disturbing) sexual ones, which push her well into Monstrous Mother territory despite the black humor surrounding her every utterance and action in Roth’s infamous novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Portnoy's Complaint is among Jay Rayner's six best books, Oren Smilansky's very funny books, David Denby's six favorite books, and Matthew Pearl's top ten books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six Scout Finches from sci-fi & fantasy

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths. One entry on his list of six of the best Scout Finches -- "headstrong, stalwart, and true" young characters -- from science fiction and fantasy, as shared at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Primrose Everdeen (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay)

Katniss might seem the obvious choice as the Scout of District 12, but she’s far too cynical even at the start of the first novel to truly attain Scout Finch status. No, it’s fairly obvious Prim is the Scout of this particular dystopia: she’s braver than she lets on, innocent enough to be optimistic, and her quiet tenderheartedness is truly inspiring.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Natasha Carthew's top ten list of revenge reads, Anna Bradley ten best list of literary quotes in a crisis, Laura Jarratt's top ten list of YA thrillers with sisters, Jeff Somers's top eight list of revolutionary SF/F novels, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Sarah Alderson's top ten list of feminist icons in children's and teen books, Jonathan Meres's top ten list of books that are so unfair, SF Said's top ten list of unlikely heroes, Rebecca Jane Stokes's top ten list of fictional families you could probably abide during holiday season and 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, December 8, 2015

Seven books that explore the dark side of the Moon

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. One of Somers's top seven books that explore the dark side of the Moon, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente

The moon doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. In Valente’s evocative, beguiling slice of sci-fi Victoriana (out in October), it is transformed into a sort of space age Tinseltown, albeit a space age existing in an alternative 1920s in which we’ve gone on a Grand Tour of the solar system in ornate rockets but still haven’t quite mastered synching sound and image or colorizing film. Though the larger story is of revered filmmaker who goes missing on Venus, its scenes on the moon—ruled by warring film studios, its high mineral levels turn its inhabitants’ skin a dusky blue (which happens to photograph quite fetchingly in black and white)—are evocative and deeply memorable…much like the rest of the book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ten top books behind contemporary adaptations

One title on Melissa Albert's list of top adaptations, as shared at B&N Reads:
The Revenant, by Michael Punke

This adaptation of the amazing semi-true story of fur trapper Hugh Glass will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy as two men on either side of a dark vendetta. When Hugh (Dicaprio) suffers terrible injuries in a bear attack, the assumption is that he’ll soon be dead, so the leader of his expedition orders two men to stay with him, and bury him when he dies. The men instead abandon Glass, stealing everything he’d need to survive. And yet Glass does survive, then sets out for revenge. A gripping, tense story anchored by peerless research and rich descriptions of early 19th-century life in the unsettled wilderness of the American Northwest.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Five of literature’s most unappetizing mealtime gatherings

At the Guardian, Charlotte Seager tagged the top five spoiled suppers in literature, including:
Extra helping of workhouse gruel in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

No list of ruined meals in fiction would be complete without this heartbreaking story. Though a small bowl of gruel could scarcely be called supper, the children’s dinner at the workhouse is certainly spoiled when a small voice addresses the rotund master serving the thin porridge: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Oliver is quickly struck with the ladle and marched to a gentlemen in a white waistcoat, who shrieks: “That boy will be hung … I am never more convinced of anything in my life, than I am that that boy will come to be hung.” Luckily, little Oliver does not hang. He is sold by the parish to an undertaker as an apprentice, and begins his capricious journey across London.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Oliver Twist is among Mikita Brottman's top ten literary canines, Mal Peet's top ten list of books that his children liked to have read to them and that he liked reading, and John Mullan's ten best handkerchiefs in literature; it is one of John Inverdale's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books to help you cope with a broken heart

At SheKnows, Phoebe Fox tagged seven books to help you cope with heartbreak, including:
Modern Love by Aziz Ansari

Comedian Ansari’s nonfiction book — roaringly funny and legitimately researched in an enormous worldwide research project with sociologist Eric Klinenberg — is about dating, not dumping, but it’s a perfect read for anyone dreading diving back into the dating pool.

In the wake of the depressing picture of love in the digital age drawn by the Ashley Madison hack and the cataclysmic Vanity Fair Tinder article, Modern Love is both a comic essay on the challenges and indignities of modern dating in the digital age and a sociological treatise on how romance has evolved and continues to change. Ansari concludes it’s not as bleak a picture as we’ve been told. Sure, there’s a mind-spinning complex system of new-tech etiquette about things like how long to wait before returning a text, exactly what to say to strike the right tone (so hard to properly convey in texts!) and the unique kind of crazy that takes over when you can see the text has been read but haven’t heard back so you sit starting at your phone, coming up with all kinds of bizarre doomsday scenarios…

But Ansari’s conclusion is that, while the digital age has radically changed the entire culture of dating and finding a mate, it’s not necessarily for the worse. Our options have expanded — sometimes we have too many choices and, at the core, we’re all still looking for the same thing humans have wanted since Adam and Eve: someone to keep us from being alone in the world. An uproarious, helpful and ultimately hopeful guide to getting back out there.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Bailey Swilley's top five books to get you through a breakup and back in the game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Six historical fantasy novels that don’t skimp on the details

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of his top six historical fantasy novels that don’t skimp on the details, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Glamourist Histories are set during England’s Regency period, with a magic system that, in Kowal’s words, “won’t break history.” The magic they use, known as “glamour,” involves weaving “folds” of illusory magic together to create sensations—sights, sounds, smells, and the like—usually at the cost of immense amounts of energy for the user. With this groundwork, Shades of Milk and Honey embarks on a smaller-scale romantic fantasy similar to the works of Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, but with the “artistic” discipline of glamour added to the list of talents a young women of the Regency should master. Shades is the first of a five-book sequence following the adventures of Jane Ellsworth and her husband, the Glamourist Vincent; the final volume, Of Noble Family, was published earlier this year.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Glamour in Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that changed Alison Lester

Alison Lester (Australian Children's Laureate, 2012-2013) is one of Australia's most popular and bestselling creators of children's books. One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan

It's the characters and the details of their lives that I love most in books. Jennifer Egan's novel knocked my socks off. I read it in one night then turned back to the start and read it again. The characters' lives were woven together so brilliantly it was like magic and they were so interesting. It made me think about the tiny things we do, sometimes without even realising, that can change people's lives.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Visit From the Goon Squad is among Jeff Somers's five top books that blur the line between the novel and short story, Gillian Anderson's six favorite books, and Julie Christie's seven favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ten of the best underrated 2015 novels by women

At Literary Hub Bethanne Patrick tagged ten underrated 2015 novels by women, including:
After the Parade, Lori Ostlund

It’s unfair to compare Lori Ostlund to Anne Tyler, but Ostlund covers her terrain of rural Minnesota as meaningfully as Tyler does Baltimore, Maryland. And while Ostlund writes about gay and lesbian characters who rarely enter Tyler’s quiet orbit, both authors’ characters worry about boundaries. When middle-aged Aaron leaves Walter after 22 years, all of those ideas become fodder for an episodic and beautifully lifelike story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Twenty-seven overlooked books of 2015

Slate Book Review critics recommended 27 books you’d probably love if only you knew about them, including:
Dan Kois recommends Devotion: A Rat Story, by Maile Meloy:

When I first acquired this tiny book—a single story by the remarkable Meloy (Liars and Saints), packaged in a handsome 4-inch-tall edition—I almost immediately lost it in the jumble and tumble of books in my house. Occasionally it would peek its nose out just long enough for me to see it out of the corner of my eye, but when I went hunting for it, it was always gone. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it—it gnawed at my memory, making me wonder every day where it could be hiding. Then this week I finally trapped and read this sensitive, disquieting fable of a young mother whose dream house has a surprise in store. Now I’ll never get it out of my head. Luckily I know right where I put it—it’s right over…uh…
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels about unfaithful wives

Piers Paul Read is the author of works of fiction, reportage, history, biography and journalism. He is best known for Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors published in 1974, but has won a number of literary awards for his novels. His new novel is Scarpia. One of the author's top ten novels about unfaithful wives, as shared at the Guardian:
The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal

Julien Sorel’s seduction of Madame de Rênal occupies only the first part of this brilliant novel but it is a link with the time of Tosca. Stendhal, as Henri Beyle, was an officer in the French army occupying Milan. He delighted in the lax morals of the Italians and documented them in his De l’Amour. Julian adulates the exiled Napoleon, and his seduction of the wife of his pompous employer is his revenge for Waterloo.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Red and the Black is among André Aciman five best books on lovers touching hands, John Banville's five best books on early love and the flush of infatuation, Warren Adler's five best books about ambition, and Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Top ten revenge reads

Natasha Carthew's latest book is The Light That Gets Lost. At the Guardian, she tagged her top ten revenge reads, including:
True Grit by Charles Portis

The theme of justice and revenge is explored to great effect in one of my favourite childhood adventure books of all time, True Grit. Young, gritty, female protagonist Mattie Ross fully expects that the local sheriff will bring her father’s murderer to justice. When he refuses to give chase, Mattie must find someone of sufficient true grit who will restore moral balance by doing what’s just and necessary; ultimately it is she who possesses this trait the greatest.

Throughout the course of the adventure in True Grit, the central themes are obtaining justice, revenge, duty, and doing the right thing. No matter what the motivation is for retribution and how it is carried out, Portis shows there is a price to pay for those determined to seek justice: it can change you, kill you, do you in.
Read about the other entries on the list.

True Grit also appears on Dan Smith's top ten list of fictional hunts, Becky Ferreira's list of seven favorite tales of revenge in literature, Anthony Bourdain's list of ten favorite books, Andy Borowitz's list of five top comic novels, Tad Friend's five best list of novels on success, Willy Vlautin's list of five great books set in the West, and Jonathan Lethem's list of five terrific novels overshadowed by their film versions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ten of the best examples of dialogue in crime fiction

Andrew Martin’s new novel is The Yellow Diamond. At the Guardian he tagged ten of the best examples of dialogue in crime fiction, including:
Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Mr Lindsay Marriott asks the detective Marlowe to accompany him on a rendez-vous but won’t say why. Marlowe suggests, ‘You just want me to go along and hold your hat?’ which annoys Marriott:
‘I’m afraid I don’t like your manner,’ he said, using the edge of his voice.

‘I’ve had complaints about it,’ I said. ‘But nothing seems to do any good.’
Marlowe is irresistible, partly because such laconicism signifies bravery. Later on, he says to another character, ‘I talk too much when I’m scared too.’ But in fact Marlowe never talks too much.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Farewell, My Lovely is among Lynda La Plante's six best books and Dennis McDougal's five top books on Southern California; it features one of the fifty greatest villains in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 30, 2015

Six top books that take place in hotels

Rick Moody's new novel is Hotels of North America. One of his favorite books that take place in hotels, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

I became an Irving convert with The World According to Garp, the novel that preceded this one. But I loved The Hotel New Hampshire too, especially for its refrain "Sorrow floats," which, like the "Under Toad" repeatedly mentioned in Garp, becomes a compelling, illuminating shorthand for certain feelings we have about the ways of this world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hotel New Hampshire is among Mark Watson's top ten hotel novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Five top books with fictitious works of art

Anne Charnock's debut novel A Calculated Life, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards. Her new novel is Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind. One of her five favorite books with fictitious works of art, as shared at
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The children incarcerated at Hailsham boarding school spend endless hours in art classes, engaged in creative activities in the hope of winning praise from the school’s patron, Madame. They believe their best paintings and drawings will be exhibited in her London gallery. But it’s a ruse. Madame uses the paintings as evidence, hoping to convince society that the cloned children are truly human and should be treated better. In this heartbreaking coming-of-age novel, Tommy agonizes over his inability to paint, instilling pity in his friend Cathy, and contempt among other classmates. Ishiguro, a one-time songwriter himself, takes the title of this novel from the lyrics of a fictitious song.
Read about the other books on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Jeff Somers's top seven list of speculative works for those who think they hate speculative fiction, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, 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