Thursday, August 17, 2017

Top ten twists in fiction

Sophie Hannah's newest novel is Did You See Melody?

One of her ten top twists in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Not all superb twists need to come at the end. There’s a twist in the middle of this classic novel that takes it to another level of passion, intrigue and excitement. There are hints before the big reveal, but not even the most imaginative reader would dare to imagine the truth. Twists in the middles of stories rather than at their ends tend to say: “And what do we all think now?” rather than, “So THIS is what we’re supposed to think!” – and this one does that brilliantly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, 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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five books with bargains you don’t want to make

Emily Lloyd-Jones's latest novel is The Hearts We Sold. At she shared her five "favorite books featuring deals you probably don’t want to make!" One title on the list:
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba

So you’re walking along. You find a notebook dropped by a death spirit. The death spirit explains that this notebook has magical powers. You can write a person’s name in it, and they’ll die instantly. Do you begin a spree of taking out the criminals that plague your nation? Or do you chalk up the experience to dehydration, put the notebook in the lost and found, and go on your merry way?

Trust me, take Option B.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fifty must-read regency romances

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged fifty of the best regency romances, including:
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jane Austen should be incredibly satisfied that all of these regency romances evolved from the tradition her novels inspired. This classic tale of misconceptions, miscommunication, and misguided interference between a cold, stoic man and a woman who thinks she has him all figured out has endured the test of time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Grant Ginder's top ten list of book characters we love to hate, Katy Guest's list of six of the best depictions of shyness in fiction, Garry Trudeau's six favorite books list, Tara Sonin's list of seven sweet and swoony romances for wedding season, Ross Johnson's list of seven of the greatest rivalries in fiction, Helen Dunmore's six best books list, Jenny Kawecki's list of eight fictional characters who would make the best travel companions, Peter James's top ten list of works of fiction set in or around Brighton, Ellen McCarthy's list of six favorite books about weddings and marriage, the Telegraph's list of the ten greatest put-downs in literature, Rebecca Jane Stokes' list of ten fictional families you might enjoy more than the one you'll actually spend the holidays with, Melissa Albert's lists of five fictional characters who deserved better, [fifteen of the] romantic leads (and wannabes) of Austen’s brilliant books and recommended reading for eight villains, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance, Emma Donoghue's list of five favorite unconventional fictional families, Amelia Schonbek's list of five approachable must-read classics, Jane Stokes's top ten list of the hottest men in required reading, Gwyneth Rees's top ten list of books about siblings, the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ruth Ware's six favorite books about boarding schools

Ruth Ware is the author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game. One of her six favorite books about boarding schools, as shared at The Week magazine:
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

Set in an Oxford women's college, this is an enormously satisfying read — not just because of its happy ending, but also because of Sayers' pitch-perfect evocation of the febrile atmosphere that breaks out when a poison pen begins to work in the little community.
Read about the other books on the list.

Gaudy Night is among Kate Macdonald's top ten conservative novels and Anna Quindlen's favorite mystery novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Six of the best zombie novels

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ceridwen Christensen tagged six top zombie novels. One title on the list:
Zone One, by Colson Whitehead

In Whitehead’s novel, in addition to the usual slow, collecting mob, there exists a small number of undead called “stragglers,” who are frozen in tableau while doing everyday things—flying a kite, running a copy machine. The characters ruminate on these creatures: was this the action that defined the straggler’s life, or just a random moment caught like a photo? (This results in some mordant comedy, such as when one character blows away a straggler standing over a fast food deep fryer “on principle.”) Zone One is less a genre exercise than a eulogy to a lost New York, and the stragglers, as they stand rotting, fit beautifully into his observations and reflections. Is our memory of the past random or representative?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Zone One is among Corey J. White's five top books about the collapse of New York City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ten of the best books on South Africa

At Signature Keith Rice tagged ten of the best books on South Africa, including:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, Trevor Noah’s birth was a crime in South Africa – his parents’ relationship was punishable by five years in prison. Born a Crime chronicles Noah’s early years, during which his mother struggled to keep his existence virtually secret for fear of government reprisal, as well as his latter years in a post-apartheid South Africa both exhilarated by his newly perceived freedom and his struggle to find an identity. And it’s all told with Noah’s remarkable insight, candor, and humor.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top female killers in fiction

At LitHub Emily Temple tagged her top ten female killers in fiction, including:
Katerina, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Nikolai Leskov

This one’s on my mind because of the recent (and excellent) film adaptation, but also because Katerina is so deliciously unrepentant (unlike, say Lady Macbeth proper, who actually didn’t kill anyone but still drove herself mad over it). When her horrible husband leaves her alone, she picks up a lover, and then, to protect their relationship, murders her father-in-law, her husband, a small child, and ultimately, her rival (along with herself). Like the Lizzie Borden story, it’s a murderous fairy tale from which it is wildly difficult to look away.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Five books set below London

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley is an American/German writer of science fiction, fantasy and aviation non-fiction. Her publications include the novella Domnall and the Borrowed Child and the novel Wail, which takes place both above and below the streets of London. One entry on her list of five favorite modern novels which focus on the world underneath the United Kingdom’s capital city, as shared at
Montmorency by Eleanor Updale

Montmorency takes us back to the Victorian era for this crime novel with the subtitle Thief, Liar, Gentleman? in its US release. This Victorian mystery follows the story of a thief who takes advantage of the sewers running through London to live a dual life: one is a life of crime hiding below London and the other is in the streets above as a gentleman, taking advantage of his newfound riches. When we meet Prisoner 493, he is undergoing radical surgery to repair his shattered bones and flesh after he fell through a skylight in a burglary gone wrong. The patient becomes the surgeon’s exhibit at scientific conferences, where he has the good fortune to witness Sir Joseph Bazalgette present the map of his newly built sewers servicing London. The potential for crime is clear to him and, when Prisoner 493 is released, he plots a rise to the upper classes through a series of daring thefts, using the sewers to disappear without a trace.

It’s unlikely, of course, that a self-made Victorian man with no education could pass as a gentleman simply by mimicking the accent but, with a bit of suspension of disbelief, this is a fun and interesting story. Having waded through the sewers myself, I can tell you that I’m convinced that Updale has been there too. She describes too perfectly the shocking warmth of the water flowing down the pipes (although I note the liquid only went up to the ankles of her main character, whereas I experienced it up to my thighs!) and the conversations of the flushers clearing the oddities stuck in the bends of the brick tunnels.

There is no speculative aspect to this Victorian crime novel, the first in a series of five, but I enjoyed experiencing the “real world” underneath London as long as I didn’t think about the history too hard.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Seven irresistible hate-to-love romances

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the BN Teen blog she tagged seven of her "favorite books in which would-be couples turn searing hate into passionate love" including:
Legend Trilogy, by Marie Lu

In this bestselling dystopian series set in a bleak, illness-plagued California, Day is the Republic’s Most Wanted criminal, a “street brat” hiding from the government, and June’s the high-achieving prodigy sent to hunt him down. Convinced that Day murdered her brother, Metias, June is determined to bring Day to justice. But as she gets to know him, she discovers “a beautiful mystery” within the handsome charmer, who can flirt like a prince when it suits him. For his part, Day struggles with his own intense feelings for June, the only girl in the history of their world to score a perfect 1500 at Trial.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about birds

Nicholas Royle's new book is Ornithology: Sixteen Short Stories.

One of his ten top books about birds, as shared at the Guardian:
Crow Country by Mark Cocker (2007)

Surely one of the best books ever written about our most intelligent birds. Cocker covers all seven of our native corvids, but his main focus is the rook. He captures what it’s like to be a writer and a birder: “I think of it as a kind of natural-historical fishing, with a hook and line going both ways – outwards into the landscape for anything that happens to come along, but also inwards into the pool of my unconscious for any striking formula of words rising to the surface in response.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ten of the hottest highbrow books for the beach

John Dugdale is the Guardian's associate media editor. One of his ten hottest highbrow books for the beach:
Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon

A wartime Côte d’Azur holiday for Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop is actually a means for the creepy British scientists observing the American to make him fall on the beach for a sexy Dutch spy (a giant octopus supposedly menacing her is part of this bizarre honey-trap). This French opening to part two, which nods to Proust, transforms Pynchon’s second world war epic from a London novel to a European one - Slothrop escapes, and heads north towards Germany.
Read about the other books on the list.

Gravity’s Rainbow is a book Chuck Klosterman would have parents read to their children. Gravity’s Rainbow inspired the song “Whip It” by Devo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Twenty books that are absolute dorm room essentials

At the B&N Reads blog Brian Boone tagged twenty of the "books you’ll need to best understand, appreciate, and enhance the college-going experience," including:
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

Having a Zadie Smith book on your dorm room’s sole shelf is a great conversation starter, and it’s a clue to others about how cool you are, because you’ve read Zadie Smith. The novel itself is an enlightening look at college—it touches on sexual, identity, and class issues, as well as how professors aren’t always the sage geniuses one would assume they are. It’s also a college-level text, as On Beauty was inspired by the structure and some of the plot points of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.
Read about the other entries on the list.

On Beauty is among Ann Leary's top ten books set in New England and Tolani Osan's ten top books that "illuminate how disparate cultures can reveal the mystery and beauty in each other and make us aware of the hardships, dreams, and hidden scars of those we share space with."

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 7, 2017

Naomi Klein's 6 favorite books

Naomi Klein's newest book is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. One of her six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Another form-defying work. Mitchell leaps across space and time to tell six seemingly disconnected stories in different styles. "Only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean," one of his characters writes. "Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?"
Read about the other entries on the list.

Cloud Atlas is among Jeff Somers's seven novels with chronologies that will break you, Christopher Priest’s top five science-fiction books that make use of music, Patrick Hemstreet's five top books for the psychonaut and the six books that changed Maile Meloy's idea of what’s possible in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nine books for kids excited about the total solar eclipse

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and semi-professional nerd.

At the BN Kids Blog she tagged nine "great books to keep your kids learning and talking about space," including:
CatStronauts!: Mission Moon, by Drew Brockington

This graphic novel is perfect for beginning or reluctant readers whose interest in space has been piqued by the solar eclipse but who aren’t quite ready for a non-fiction book. Mission Moon is the first book in a series about the best space cats on the planet, who brave the depths of space in order to save Earth. And if animals traveling to space seems like something your kids would like, but you aren’t sure they’re ready for a whole graphic novel, check out Mousetronaut, a picture book by astronaut Mark Kelly. It’s a similar idea to CatStronauts—only it’s tiny mice who travel to space with real-life astronauts.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books set in the remains of a dead civilization

Daniel H. Wilson is the bestselling author of Robopocalypse, Robogenesis, and Amped, among others. His new novel is The Clockwork Dynasty.

One of Wilson's five favorite books set in the remains of a dead civilization, as shared at
Ringworld by Larry Niven

An oldie but a goodie, Niven takes a fascinating physics problem (how to build a strip of land that circles the sun, and give it night and day, etc) and sets his characters loose upon it. In a place with a land mass equal to all our planets combined, Ringworld explores a ridiculous complexity of races, species, languages, and histories. Some are living and some are dead, but the scale of it is nearly beyond imagination. Epic.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog he tagged nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare, including:
The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton

Crichton’s 1969 novel is a classic of realistic sci-fi still hailed as a master class in problem-solving under pressure. Every time the characters—trained, intelligent scientists—make a decision out of panic, things go haywire, but when they move deliberately, they tend to make progress. At the center of a fascinating story based on logic is the “universal antibiotic” Kalocin, one of the few truly sci-fi concepts in the book. When one of the scientists believes he’s trapped in a lab where the titular infectious agent has broken free, he demands that he be given a dose of Kalocin as his only chance to survive—but this is refused, because such an antibiotic would kill off everything in his system, rendering him lethally susceptible to an infinite number of infections—a future we might be heading towards anyway, with the overuse of antibiotics creating resistant strains every day.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Andromeda Strain is among Neil deGrasse Tyson's six favorite books and Joel Cunningham's 11 fictional maladies that will keep you up at night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 4, 2017

Four books that changed David Free

Australian David Free, a critic and novelist, is the author of Get Poor Slow.

One of four books that changed him, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
Kingsley Amis

Another one from my parents' shelves. I read many unserious novels as a teenager, but Lucky Jim was the first I encountered in which the language did more than just tell the story. It was the story. Amis twisted his sentences until they embodied a wicked world view. The effect was subversive and liberating. The only catch, which I didn't detect for a while, was that no other novel in the world, by Amis or anyone else, was as funny.
Read about the other books on the list.

Lucky Jim also appears on John Cleese's six favorite books list, Christian Rudder's six favorite books list, Jess Dukes's top ten list of brain-expanding books for the college-bound teen, Andy Borowitz's list of five top comic novels, Sean O'Hagan's list of the ten best fictional hangovers, Roger Rosenblatt's list of the five best satires of academic life, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best lectures in literature, ten of the best professors in literature, and ten of the best beards in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Forty-five novels written in the 19th century that belong on the modern bookshelf

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged forty-five novels written in the 19th century that belong on the modern bookshelf, including:
Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

A fascinating novel that refutes any claim that the 19th century was prudish, this story of a man who volunteers to be a woman’s slave, encouraging her to treat him in increasingly awful ways so he can attain what he calls “suprasensuality,” is unsettling, and ends on an unexpected note. The woman is initially put off by the man’s request, and eventually meets another man she wishes to be dominated by, souring the original relationship. It’s basically Fifty Shades in 1870.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Top ten parties in fiction

Elizabeth Day's novels include Scissors, Paper, Stone, Home Fires,Paradise City, and The Party.

At the Guardian, Day tagged her ten favorite parties in fiction, including:
Some Hope by Edward St Aubyn

St Aubyn, one of the greatest prose stylists in modern literature, is merciless in his satirising of snobs. Nowhere is this more in evidence than at the birthday party of ghastly toff Sonny Gravesend. Here Princess Margaret makes an appearance, talking “about ‘the ordinary people in this country’ in whom she had ‘enormous faith’ based on a combination of complete ignorance about their lives and complete confidence in their royalist sympathies”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Some Hope is among Melissa Albert's four top novels that may drive you to drink.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Five top autobiographical books by rebellious women

Jardine Libaire is a graduate of Skidmore College and the University of Michigan MFA program. She lives in Austin, Texas.

White Fur is her second novel.

One of Libaire's five favorite autobiographical books by rebellious women, as shared at the B&N Reads blog:
Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston

I love this book for many things but largely for the joyful dissidence, the imaginative and creative rebellion. Hurston was not going to be what she was told to be, but she was also not going to be anything that had already been established as an alternative. She would be someone else, someone unprecedented.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Visit Jardine Libaire's website.

Writers Read: Jardine Libaire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tom Perrotta's 6 favorite funny books

Tom Perrotta's new comic novel is Mrs. Fletcher. One of his six favorite funny books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Straight Man by Richard Russo

This is a comic masterpiece by one of our finest writers, a book as clever as its excellent, double-edged title. Russo vividly evokes the follies of contemporary academic culture in a novel that's somehow both unsparing and affectionate.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Straight Man is among Emily Temple's fifty greatest campus novels ever written, Sam Munson's eight top college novels, and Pete Dexter's favorite works of fiction about families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 31, 2017

Eight YA novels that take you on a trip through the 20th century

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and semi-professional nerd.

At the B & N Teen Blog she tagged eight YA novels for a guided tour through the 20th century, including:
1929: Bright Young Things, by Anna Godbersen

The first in a trilogy, Bright Young Things is set in 1929 Manhattan, complete with speakeasies, elegant parties, handsome men, and Broadway dreams. Filled with scandal and intrigue, it follows Letty and Cordelia as they make their escape to the big city, Letty to become a Broadway star and Cordelia to find and meet her bootlegger father. Letty finds that show business is harder to crack into than she thought and ends up a cigarette girl at a speakeasy, but Cordelia’s dreams seem, at first, more achievable: she finds her father, joins him in his mansion, and is transformed into a flapper by society girl Astrid. As the three ladies party their way through New York, they learn about friendship, love, and betrayal in the last summer of the Jazz Age.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Eighteen books with very unusual narrators

At Entertainment Weekly, Eric King tagged 18 books with the most unusual narrators, including:
Delicious Foods, James Hannaham

Narrator: Crack cocaine
This novel centers around Darlene, a woman who is unable to cope with her husband's death, abandons her son, and is tricked into slave labor on a produce farm. As she attempts to escape and reunite with her young child, she must also battle her drug addiction. In fact, one of the the narrators of the book is the drug itself, crack cocaine
Read about the other entries on the list.

See also: Lucy Scholes's ten novels told by unusual narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Three of the best books on Haiti

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka tagged three top books on Haiti. One title on the list:
The Comedians by Graham Greene

Greene's classic tragicomedy is set in Haiti under Duvalier and his sinister secret police, the Tontons Macoute.

Three men meet on a boat to Port-au-Prince: the world-weary Brown, the narrator who owns a hotel in the capital; the idealistic but naive Smith, a former US presidential candidate; and Jones, a charming conman with a bogus résumé. These flawed human beings are the comedians of the title, whose fates become intertwined amid Haiti's corruption and violence.

Brown's life becomes increasingly complicated and fraught with danger after the suicide of a government minister in his hotel's swimming pool, his rekindling of an affair with an ambassador's wife and his getting caught up in Jones's foolhardy escapades.

Though Papa Doc never appears in the novel, he casts a long shadow over events. And in a dig at US cold-war policy, we are reminded that the dictator is a "bulwark against communism", sustained by aid from Washington.

Greene vividly evokes the fear and loathing in Haiti, and his elegantly written black comedy-cum-political thriller allows a light of hope to flicker in the darkness.

After the novel's publication in 1966, a furious Papa Doc banned Greene and his book. The British author died in 1991.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Comedians is among Seth Satterlee's six famously banned books, Paul French's five best books on the misadventures of expatriates, and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

See also Ben Fountain's top ten books about Haiti and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight new novels that have a travel theme

At Condé Nast Traveler, Marisa Meltzer tagged eight new reads "that will transport you across the globe," including:
We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

Seven Island is such a small island off the coast of Maine that it has only two houses: one occupied by the Hillsinger family and the other by the Quicks. Set over three days in the summer of 1964, the two patrician families are dealing with the anniversary of a death, an actual spy in their midst, and children running way too wild. And then there are the servants, who are preparing for a farming ritual called the Migration. Could the politics and culture clashes of the Cold War era play out on one tiny island?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: We Shall Not All Sleep.

Writers Read: Estep Nagy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2017

Five books about extreme worlds

Michael Johnston's new novel is Soleri.

One of the author's five favorite books about extreme worlds, as shared at
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

To grasp the significance of J.G. Ballard’s novel it’s important to remember that it was written in 1962 because it sounds like a novel that was written in the last few years. In fact, more than one book has been written in the last few years with a similar premise. The Drowned World was the first book I read in what I’ll call the “scientific expedition into an unknown world” genre. A kind of global warming has devastated the world. The polar ice caps are melted, flooding the northern hemisphere, transforming the land into something that resembles the Triassic period (now that’s extreme). But what’s truly great about The Drowned World is the way in which this transformation shapes and affects the characters. Our protagonist literally finds himself regressing into an earlier state, feeling more primitive and impulsive, devolved like his world. It’s a perfect of example of the interplay of character and environment and a keen commentary on the fragility of our society.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Drowned World is among Annalee Newitz's twelve 1960s science fiction novels everyone should read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Seven YA books that reimagine existing cities

At the BN Teen blog Sarah Hannah Gómez tagged seven books that reimagine existing cities, including:

Remember how we learned in The True Meaning of Smekday that the reason Disney World is so clean is because there are two, and they flip over every night so that the other one can be cleaned? Imagine an upside down London, named UnLondon, that is twisty and…off. China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun takes its characters on an adventure that Alice would find quite familiar, and London denizens or visitors will identify reversed versions of the things they know. Want to stay in England a bit longer? V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series jumps between a bunch of parallel Londons.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten female detectives in fiction

Kristen Lepionka's new novel is The Last Place You Look.

One of her ten top female detectives in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Carlotta Carlyle
(Lie Down With the Devil, A Trouble of Fools and 10 other novels by Linda Barnes)

The tall, red-headed, half-Irish, half-Jewish, ex-cop, ex-cabbie Carlyle opens each mystery with a Yiddish proverb (courtesy of her bubbe) but make no mistake – there’s nothing cosy about this series. With a distinctive voice and a world fleshed out with a vivid supporting cast that includes a mafioso lover, an eccentric tenant-slash-assistant and an “adopted” Little Sister from the Big Sisters Association, this is one of my favourite mystery series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sam Kean's 6 favorite surprising books

Sam Kean's books The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb were national bestsellers, and both were named an Amazon “Top 5” science books of the year. The Disappearing Spoon was nominated by the Royal Society for one of the top science books of 2010, while both The Violinist’s Thumb and The Dueling Neurosurgeons were nominated for PEN’s literary science writing award.

Kean's new book is Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us.

One of the author's six favorite surprising books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson

Imagine a medieval bestiary of whimsical creatures, but with a twist — the animals here really exist. The book moves alphabetically from axolotl to zebra fish, with a new delight on every page. It's a perfect reminder of what biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said: that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eight fictional beach reads for foodies

At B&N Reads Madina Papadopoulos tagged "eight works of fiction that are an escapist trip for both the heart and the stomach," including:
The Belly of Paris, by Emile Zola

Those who like hefty beach reads should reach for The Belly of Paris, which tells the tale of a wrongfully imprisoned Parisian man, Florent Quenu, who escapes his sentence and returns to Paris. But, as it is an ever changing city, the Paris he finds is not the Paris he left. He finds work in Les Halles, the city’s famous 19th-century food market, making the title both figurative and literal. As the tale unfolds, the protagonist gives detailed descriptions of food—lards, sausages, fish—and offers unforgettable descriptions in which he likens characters to cheese, such as a sick nobleman who resembles a piece of Roquefort.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Eleven creepy books set in summer

At Bustle Emma Oulton tagged eleven "scorchingly scary novels set in the summer heat," including:
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

Helena was born in captivity, in the cabin where her teenage mother was held for years against her will by Helena's father, a man she loved and feared in equal parts throughout her childhood. Years later, Helena is free and living under a false name — until her father escapes from prison, drawing Helena into a scavenger hunt that only she can solve.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Six books about losing treasured stuffed animals

At the BN Kids Blog Erin Jones tagged six of the best books about losing treasured stuffed animals, including:
I Lost My Bear, by Jules Feiffer

Drama ensues when a little girl loses her bear. She cries, she whines, and she has no sympathy from her parents. Big sister encourages her to throw another stuffed animal to see where it lands and a slew of lost items are discovered. She gladly plays with these toys until bedtime, when she suddenly remembers that her beloved Bearsy is still missing. She scorns her mother for not helping her, continues howling, and when she gets into bed discovers her bear tucked between her sheets. This story will ring all too true for many parents out there!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven stone-cold classics about cycling

Bella Bathurst is a writer and photojournalist. Her books include The Lighthouse Stevensons, which won the 1999 Somerset Maugham Award, The Wreckers, which became a BBC Timewatch documentary, and The Bicycle Book, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011.

For the Guardian she tagged seven of the best books about cycling, including:
Dervla Murphy: Wheels Within Wheels

Less about cycling, more about puncture repair. Back in the 1950s, Murphy took her old steel-framed tourer and rode away from an almost unendurable situation at home. She went from Ireland to India, and in doing so wheeled herself back to life and to sanity.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Six YA novels with rich and real urban settings

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the BN Teen blog he tagged six YA novels "that make particularly evocative use of their rich—and very real—urban settings," including:
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Although Thomas’s outstanding debut isn’t set in a named city, it deserves to be on this list, because it feels so viscerally real in its representation of neighborhoods and cities across the country. It could be New York, LA, Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta. The place where Starr grew up is crafted in great depth and detail, down to street names, stores, local eccentrics, rival gangs, while the upscale locations and exclusive school she attends are similarly detailed and specific. By avoiding any one specific place, Thomas gives us a city that could easily be (and probably is) the one we live in, which helps make this a true American city in a true American novel. Her powerful and grounded storytelling puts us right in the middle of the action, however (necessarily) uncomfortable it might make us feel. The most crucial of all YA city stories, right here.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five SFF books written collaboratively

Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison are partners in life as well as in writing. The Ghost Line is their first fiction collaboration. One of their five best SFF books written collaboratively, as shared at
The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six robots too smart for their own good

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog Nicole Hill tagged six robots too smart for their own good, including:
Murderbot (All Systems Red, by Martha Wells)

Despite its chosen appellation, Murderbot is not actually a mass-murdering mechanical psychopath. No, it’s a security bot with a binge-watching addiction and a wit as dry as the Sahara. Who among us, after deftly hacking our governor modules, wouldn’t use our newfound freedom to endlessly stream soap operas? That’s the biggest evidence of sentience there is. That Murderbot holds humans at arm’s length—and would frankly prefer to be left alone—doesn’t stop it from protecting the humans in its charge when a threat strikes their scientific research outpost. It just makes their interactions awkward and complex in ways no episode of Sanctuary Moon could quite capture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Top ten opening scenes in books

Catherine Lacey's most recent novel is The Answers.

One of her ten top opening scenes in books, as shared at The Guardian:
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

“We are on our way to Budapest. Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mizilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going.”

All I thought when I read this was, I’m going too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fifty of the funniest books ever written

Whitney Collins is the author of The Hamster Won't Die: A Treasury of Feral Humor, creator of the website The Zen of Gen X. At B&N Reads she tagged fifty of the funniest books ever written:
Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer

An audacious and daring black comedy that was the first debut novel ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog tells the dark but surprisingly funny story of two Hungarian basketball players, Pataki and Gyuri, between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. Determined to flee their pointless factory work, the two athletes travel to every corner of Hungary, oftentimes in the nude, on an epic search for food, women, and meaning.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five books that resemble science fiction

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies. She has published four novels and three story collections with university and small presses, and a recent collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 list. She has received an O. Henry award, been shortlisted for a Pushcart prize, for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, and twice for the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction. Her new novella, In Search of Lost Time, is about a woman who can steal time.

One of Heuler's five favorite books that "stand at the doorway between realistic and speculative," as shared at
The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

Ostensibly a story about a doctor who went off to the Boer War and wrote back to his family describing what he saw, it amounts to a fantastic journey to a land where the Platonic ideals of things exist, and where if you destroy the original spoon, then spoons themselves cease to have any meaning. In fact, the journey is about enlightenment and death. The stories that are important to me are, indeed, all about journeys, whether interior or exterior, and the best ones unite these aspects. The Platonic spoon, the ability to destroy the idea of an object, has stayed with me a long time. We understand things only on the basis of the ideas we have about them. Give me something out of context and what will I do with it? Take away context, that’s what interests me. There’s a one- or two-page scene in this book where someone opens up the spigot of darkness, and can’t turn it off. Journeys in fantastic fiction turn the obstacles into metaphors, and in many cases, the goal as well.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Six top books with remote settings

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

One of the author's six favorite books with remote settings, as shared at The Week magazine:
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

A compressed, intensified masterpiece about living in extreme poverty on a London houseboat. When the novel won 1979's Booker Prize, the literary establishment was livid.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Grief Cottage.

Writers Read: Gail Godwin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels

Karen Runge is an author and visual artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of the short story collection Seven Sins and the novel Seeing Double. One of her five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels:

“And suddenly solitude fell across his heart like a dusty reflection. He closed his eyes. The dark doors within him opened and he entered. The next performance in the theater of Grenouille’s soul was beginning.”

This is a story about a serial killer such as it has never been told before. What’s so magic about it is that the protagonist is utterly despicable, but… we like him? Despite his sad beginnings, he has exactly zero redeeming features—and yet… and yet… we admire him? Alright, we don’t like him—but we root for him. We don’t understand him—but we feel for him. It’s like falling in love with a narcissist. He makes us furious and desperate and sometimes downright disgusted, but we follow him around like a tortured puppy anyway.

I still cannot figure how Süskind got that right.

Grenouille is a hideous little creature with an extraordinarily refined sense of smell. There is no beauty in his world except for that gifted by fragrance, which he pursues heartlessly, almost in direct contrast to the beauty of the scents themselves. There is nothing admirable in him, except for his keen intelligence (he’s no fool) and this remarkable gift of his. When he discovers a way to capture the scent of human, feminine beauty, he goes from sociopath to psychopath, and there are no limits to what he’ll do to achieve his goal: create the greatest perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t embarrass myself by trying to pick this apart any further. It’s just too layered, too intense, too intricate. This novel stands alone, and has to be experienced first-hand by the reader.

Kudos to the translator. It can’t have been easy, working with words as full and dense as this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Perfume is among Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eight books about the horrors of adolescence

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of eight books about the horrors of adolescence he tagged at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon

The best novel by that other ’80s horror headliner, Boy’s Life is as much an exercise in mourning the end of that nostalgic period of sun-drenched boyhood as it is a supernatural thriller about murder and monsters in a tiny Alabama town. In 1964, during a steamy summer feeling the heat of simmering racial tension and the awakening Civil Rights Movement, Cory Mackenson is living the life of a regular 12-year-old boy…until the lonely morning he and his father witness a car careening into a lake, their attempt to rescue the driver from drowning foiled by the fact that he’s already dead, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. That terrible incident marks the start to what turns out to be a quite literally magical summer for Cory—magic both wonderful and terrible, from unquiet ghosts, to bayou sorcery, to the possible appearance of a dinosaur at the local fair. It’s a book that speaks to that part of childhood that is willing to see the strange magic in the everyday—a part of us that rarely survives to adulthood, save in the minds of fantastic storytellers who strive to recapture it and put it down on paper.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five books with ambitious birds

Nancy Kress’s SF has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Kin, an expansion of the Nebula-winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which takes the story forward several generations.

One of Kress's five favorite "birds that are more than warm-blooded bipeds—birds with ambition," as shared at
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick

Here birds not only know more than us, they are us. Or, at least, our replacements as the dominant and most intelligent species on a far-, far-future Earth. A time travel novel that scrupulously, and ingeniously, accounts for all the paradoxes of bouncing around through huge numbers of millennia, Bones of the Earth creates sentient bird-descendants that live in nests (and messy ones at that), have irritable personalities, and don’t think much of us, who didn’t use our regency over the Earth to much good effect. Birds as scolding Oxford dons.
Read about the other books on the list.

Follow Nancy Kress on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

The fifty best works of historical fiction

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged the fifty best works of historical fiction, including:
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

This classic children’s novel won the coveted Newbery award for telling the story of two girls of different faiths during World War I who form an unbreakable bond and risk everything to save one another from the costs of war.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Lois Lowry & Alfie.

--Marshal Zeringue