Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Four top books based on myths

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio, which won all three of the UK's most prestigious prizes for non-fiction - the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Costa Biography Award - and the Political Book Awards Biography of the Year. Her other non-fiction books are the acclaimed cultural histories Heroes and Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions. Cleopatra won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. In 2017 she published her first novel Peculiar Ground, which was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Hughes-Hallett's new book is Fabulous, a collection of short stories.

At the Guardian she tagged some of the best books based on myths, including:
Another free spirit, but a happier one, is Dougal Douglas (or perhaps Douglas Dougal – nothing about him, including his name, is pin-downable) the curly haired charmer who makes his disruptive appearance in a suburban small business in Muriel Spark’s scintillating comic take on the Faust legend, The Ballad of Peckham Rye. On Dougal’s forehead there are two bumps – traces, he explains, of his sawn-off horns. Is he teasing? Impossible to tell. Certainly Spark is. She hints that Dougal is the devil, but what he brings is not damnation, but ridicule. Sleazy office romances, venal crime, and all the absurd trivia of working life are raked over in this modern fable. Spark’s wit is acidic, but her story sets the dreary lives of secretaries and salesmen glittering, touched by the uncanny charisma of an early 60s Pan.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Douglas Dougal from The Ballad of Peckham Rye is among John Mullan's ten best devils in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nine top seaside thrillers

Janna King is a screenwriter, playwright, and director. She has written TV movies and series for Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel, King World and more. Her two short films, “Mourning Glory” and “The Break Up,” which she wrote, directed and produced, were official selections at several film festivals.

King's debut novel is The Seasonaires; her new novel is the sequel, Malibu Bluff.

One of her nine best seaside thrillers, as shared at CrimeReads:
Until the Day I Die, by Emily Carpenter

This novel also tackles the subject of grief and its devastating effect. When Erin’s husband dies suddenly, she is determined to keep her college-bound daughter Shorie and the family’s thriving tech business on track. But all those around her worry that she’s falling apart, and they stage an intervention that sends her to a luxury rehab retreat on a remote Caribbean island. Alternating points of view from Erin and Shorie offer insight into the two women’s states of mind and their undeniable love for each other, despite mother-daughter thorniness. From the start, Carpenter sets the stage for conspiracies that raise their ugly heads as the pages turn. Shorie investigates those she believes are out to sabotage her mother and the business while Erin ultimately fights for her life at a tropical jungle “wellness sanctuary” that’s hair-raising instead of healing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Top ten books about fathers

Sam Miller was born and brought up in London, but has spent much of his adult life in India. His books include Fathers, an account of his own father, the editor, writer, critic and academic Karl Miller.

One of Miller's ten top books about fathers, as shared at the Guardian:
Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Fathers are largely absent from Izzo’s brilliant and shamefully neglected Marseille Trilogy, but there’s a fine cameo in the first of the series, Total Chaos. Mouloud is a migrant from Algeria to France, and nervously watched his three motherless children grow up in Marseille. But the eldest, a postgraduate student called Laila, has gone missing and is subsequently found murdered. Mouloud’s desperation is unbearable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top father figures in literature

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sisi: Empress on Her Own, Where the Light Falls, Beauty in the Broken Places, and Nelly Takes New York.

At HuffPost she tagged ten top reads about great father figures in literature, including:
The Book Thief: The relationship between young Liesel and her adopted father, Hans Hubermann, is in many ways the heartbeat that makes this entire book pulse. While Mama addresses Liesel only as saumensch (roughly translated to the highly flattering moniker of “pig-man”), and is quick to offer a slap across the face, Hans, or Papa, adores Liesel, playing his accordion for her and teaching her to read in a series of secret, late-night sessions. Hans Hubermann’s soft and understated brand of strength shines throughout Markus Zusak’s novel as a positive force in the otherwise harrowing and tragic setting of Nazi Germany.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Book Thief also appears among Ryan Graudin's five favorite historical fiction YAs, Sarah Skilton's six most unusual YA narrators, Tracy-Ann Oberman's six best books, Kathryn Williams's top eleven Young Adult books for readers of all ages, Nicole Hill's top seven books with Death as a character, Lenore Appelhans's top ten teen books featuring flashbacks, and Kathryn Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Four "bad dad" memoirs

Andrew G. S. Thurman is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. He is working on a book about his father. At LitHub he tagged four good Bad Dad memoirs, including:
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

In her opening chapter, Alison Bechdel describes her father as “an alchemist of appearance, a savant of surface, a Daedalus of decor” (potentially an alliterative reference to Geoffrey Wolff’s 1979 The Duke of Deception, itself a fantastic Bad Dad memoir). These titles refer to her father’s knack for home restoration, but also to his ability to maintain a double life: despite his marriage and three children, he was a gay man who had a particular interest in teenage boys.

Given these circumstances and her abundant skill, telling a linear, narratively boilerplate story would have made for a great book on its own. Instead, however, Bechdel opts for a delightfully complex structure—one that is self-consciously literary and deeply self-referential, with each narrative recursion adding more metaphorical and emotional nuance. Anyone who came of age in a library will see themselves in Bechdel to some extent, and those who did so due to family circumstances won’t be able to put her down.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2019

Eight novels dealing with refugees

Michael Niemann's latest Valentin Vermeulen thriller is No Right Way.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight "novels of displacement, diaspora, and the traumas of exile," including:
The Foreign Correspondent, Alan Furst

Refugees aren’t just a recent global phenomenon. Historically, every war has generated streams of refugees. It’s not an accident that the original Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted in 1951, to address the complicated refugee situation left by World War II. Alan Furst has made a career of writing spy novels that all take place at the threshold of World War II. But the seeds for all his novels were sown with World War I and the failure to settle the question of global hegemony in 1919. The twenty years of crisis that followed produced its own refugee crisis, and Furst captures the essence of it in 1938 Paris. This novel revolves around Italian refugees who fled the Mussolini regime to Paris and are publishing an underground newspaper that’s smuggled into Italy to give Italians the real news. Carlo Weisz, the new editor, after the Italian secret police agents assassinate the previous one, finds himself the target of pretty much every intelligence agency that’s active in Paris. The refugees in this novel have a professional background, lawyers, journalists, businessmen. They find themselves reduced to working menial jobs to make ends meet. Only Weisz is lucky enough to work in his chosen profession. The secret police agents after them, but the French authorities aren’t yet interested in protecting the refugees because Italy hasn’t officially thrown in its lot with Germany. In a way, this novel represents the flip side of Havana Libre. There’s the same desire to put undermine a regime from the relative safety of exile, although the existence of the Italian refugees in pre-war France seems more precarious than that of the Cuban emigres in Miami. But the story of having one’s life disrupted, of having to take jobs well below one’s qualifications are similar. A quote that stuck with me was “…spies and journalists were fated to go through life together, and it was sometimes hard to tell one from the other. Their jobs weren’t all that different: they talked to politicians, developed sources in government bureaux, and dug around for secrets.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Top ten houseguests in fiction

Jessica Francis Kane is the author of This Close, The Report, and Bending Heaven. This Close was longlisted for The Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize, and The Report was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection and a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in a number of publications, including Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s, The Missouri Review, The Yale Review, A Public Space, and Granta.

Kane's new novel is Rules for Visiting.

At the Guardian she tagged ten notable houseguests in fiction, including:
According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge

In this brilliant novel, Bainbridge imagines the year 1764, when Samuel Johnson met the Thrale family and became a regular houseguest at their home in then-rural Southwark. In the novel, Hester Thrale gives him his own room, which he often doesn’t leave. The scenes of the household functioning around the resident irascible genius are priceless.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ten of the best books about Paris

Whitney Scharer holds a BA in English Literature from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Cimarron Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Her first novel, The Age of Light, based on the life of pioneering photographer Lee Miller, was published by Little, Brown (US) and Picador (UK) in February, 2019, and is forthcoming from over a dozen other countries. She lives with her husband and daughter in Arlington, MA.

At O; The Oprah Magazine Scharer tagged ten of the best books about Paris. One title on the list:
Paris to the Moon

Read Janet Flanner [Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939], and then read Adam Gopnik, her modern-day heir. Gopnik moved to Paris with his wife and infant son, and documented their adventures in the New Yorker with humor and tenderness. The book reads like a love letter to the city, and will leave you yearning to become an ex-pat yourself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nine top classic & contemporary spy novels

When Timothy Jay Smith quit an intriguing international career to become a full-time writer, he had a host of real life characters, places and events to inspire his stories. His first novel, Cooper’s Promise, in some ways is still the most autobiographical of his novels, though he was never an American deserter adrift in Africa. But he was in The Mining Pan bar and he did meet Lulay and he did stowaway on a barge that landed him in an African jail.

Now, in his third novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland in 1992, Smith looks back at the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, as witnessed through the eyes of an FBI Special Agent on assignment to stop a nuclear smuggling operation out of Russia. Smith’s newest book continues his style of page-turning thrillers steeped with colorful characters.

At CrimeReads he tagged nine notable spy thrillers, including:
Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

During World War II, Istanbul was a center of international espionage. In Istanbul Passage, Joseph Kanon sets the story in the immediate aftermath of the war when the espionage community is beginning to pack up. An American businessman, Leon Bauer, has been drawn into their shadowy world by doing odd jobs to support the Allied effort. He’s asked to make one last exchange, which goes fatally awry. An American diplomat cum spy is killed, and Leon ends up hiding a possible war criminal wanted by both the Americans and Russians. Confronted with shifting loyalties and moral uncertainty, it’s the story of a man swept up in the dawn of the Cold War.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books on leadership

Eliane Glaser is a writer, a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, an associate research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, and a BBC radio producer. Her books include Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life and, most recently, Anti-Politics: On the Demonization of Ideology, Authority and the State.

At the Guardian Glaser tagged six top books on leadership, including:
Our discomfort with the notion that a chosen few hold sway makes it easier to find depictions of bad leadership than positive exemplars. Novels, from Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick to Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote portray leaders as capricious, deranged and, well, quixotic. Likewise, in The Mirror for Magistrates, a Tudor collection of poems, the ghosts of eminent statesmen recount their misdeeds and comeuppances while gazing ruefully at their own reflections. The poems were intended as cautionary tales for others keen to don the mantle of power.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2019

Lisa Ling's ten desert island books

Lisa Ling is Executive Producer and Host of This Is Life on CNN.

One of her ten favorite books, as shared at Vulture.com:
The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong

As a journalist, I was so impressed by how extensively Denise Chong researched this work of nonfiction. This is the story of the young girl who was photographed running naked in horror after her village was napalmed during the war, and who came to symbolize for the world its utter disaster and devastating toll. It is a moving story of love, perseverance, and belief.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books that inspired Kristen Arnett's new novel

Kristen Arnett is a queer fiction and essay writer. She was awarded Ninth Letter's 2015 Literary Award in Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review, and was a finalist for Indiana Review's 2016 Fiction Prize. She's a columnist for Literary Hub and her work has appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Electric Literature, McSweeneys, PBS Newshour, Literary Hub, Volume 1 Brooklyn, OSU's The Journal, Catapult, Bennington Review, Portland Review, Tin House Flash Fridays/The Guardian, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press and was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award.

Arnett's new novel is Mostly Dead Things.

At The Week magazine she tagged six books that inspired her first novel, including:
My Body Is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta (2014).

This is a deep dive into the body and mind of a singular author who manipulates text on the page to almost tactile effect. She writes powerfully about memory, yes, but she also reminds readers what it's like to inhabit a body. The essays in the book are interspersed with historical material about the Cascade tribe, one of two indigenous tribes in Washuta's heritage.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sixteen dog books for anyone who's pet-obsessed

At The Oprah Magazine McKenzie Jean-Philippe tagged sixteen of the best books for dog-lovers. One title on the list:
Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote

Kerasote tells the story of his fateful camping trip which resulted in him meeting a Lab who was living free in the wild. A bond is formed, but after taking the dog—named Merle—home, Kerasote discovers he must give his new pet the best of both worlds.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Ted Kerasote's Merle's Door.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Five strong women in crime fiction

Shalini Boland is a USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Girl from the Sea, The Best Friend, The Millionaire's Wife, and The Child Next Door. She lives in Dorset, England with her husband, two children, and their cheeky terrier mix.

Boland's The Secret Mother is now out in the US.

At CrimeReads she tagged five of today's savviest, toughest female protagonists in crime fiction, including:
The Detective Kim Stone Series, by Angela Marsons

Book 1 in the series, Silent Scream, is a crime mystery that draws you in straight away. This is in part due to the unconventional and abrasive main character, DI Kim Stone, whose own story is emotionally tangled up with her latest case. With an abrupt manner that often borders on downright rude, I really shouldn’t have liked Stone, but I found that I absolutely loved her, rooting for her every step of the way, my heart in my mouth as the body count rose. The plot is intricate, and fast-moving, the writing deft and smooth. I also laughed out loud on more than one occasion which balanced out the darker and more grisly aspects.

Stone is a complex woman, who has virtually no filter and isn’t afraid to says it like it is. She’s suffered trauma in her past, but instead of holding her back, it spurs her on. Stone’s character arc deepens through the series and far from sliding into predictability, author Angela Marsons builds on the foundation of book 1 to create a character—along with an outstanding supporting cast—that readers will truly care about.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 7, 2019

Elif Şafak's ten favorite books

Elif Shafak / Elif Şafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including the bestselling The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, and Three Daughters of Eve. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better.

Shafak is also a political scientist and an academic. She holds a degree in International Relations, a masters’ degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a PhD in Political Science and Political Philosophy. She has taught at various universities in Turkey, the UK and the USA, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

At Vulture.com she tagged her ten desert island books. One title on the list:
An Artist of the Floating World, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Set in post-second World War Japan, this is a masterfully written novel by the British-Japanese author about ageing, solitude, art, memory, and the endless tricks it plays on our minds … Ishiguro is the kind of writer who each time asks the reader to trust him, come along for a walk in an unknown territory, and if need be, change perspective. But he does all this with an unwavering modesty and quiet intelligence that only further contributes to his literary strength.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten deeply unsettling novels

Brian Evenson is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes and has been a finalist for the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He is also the winner of the International Horror Guild Award and the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel, and his work has been named in Time Out New York’s top books.

His newest book is Song for the Unraveling of the World.

One of Evenson's favorite scary novels, as told to Publishers Weekly:
Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Chaon is one of those authors who never disappoints. Dustin, a psychologist, has an off-kilter patient trying to convince him that a series of drownings are the work of a serial killer. As he reluctantly embarks on an amateur investigation, his ability to distinguish the truth becomes more and more vexed. Add to that Rusty, his adopted brother who was imprisoned for years for killing Dustin’s parents and who is just getting out, and Ill Will becomes a complex and beautifully chilling story about damage caused by the stories we tell ourselves so as not to see how things really are.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Six works that warn us to seek the roots of violence in history

Karen Lord has been a physics teacher, diplomat, part-time soldier, and academic. She is now a writer and research consultant, BSc, MSc, MPhil, PhD. Her novella Redemption in Indigo won the Frank Collymore Literary Award and the William L. Crawford Award, among others. Her novel The Best of All Possible Worlds won the Frank Collymore Literary Award, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and Locus Awards Best Science Fiction Novel. She has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her new novel is Unraveling.

At CrimeReads she tagged six works that warn us to seek the roots of violence in history, including:
The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross

Published in 2016, written by award-winning Grenadian author Jacob Ross, this police procedural murder mystery takes place on a fictional Caribbean island. The population lives with the weight of history—descendants of an enslaved people who were for centuries denied marriage, family, or even consent; children of revolution and conflict still trying to make sense of what befell their parents; youth with potential but no prospects walking a tightrope between law and crime, with corruption and violence endemic in both systems. And yet, with all this burden, and all the bodies, the tale is told with fondness, humor, and hopefulness for humanity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ten top novels about pariahs

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes. His latest novel is The Gospel According to Lazarus.

At the Guardian Zimler tagged his ten favorite novels about pariahs, including:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

While serving a prison term for assault, Randle McMurphy fakes insanity in order to win a transfer to a psychiatric hospital. There, his rebellious antics, zest for life and sexual allure put him in conflict with the despotic and puritanical head of his ward, Nurse Ratched, who comes to see him as a disruptive misfit and rival. McMurphy soon earns her fury by encouraging his fellow patients to live more adventurously, and though readers know that he is unlikely to win this battle of wills, the length to which Ratched goes to ensure victory still comes as a terrible shock.
Read about the other entries on the list.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is on Kim Hood's top ten list of interesting characters who just happen to have a disability, Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of seven books for fans of Orange Is The New Black, Gavin Extence's list of ten of the best underdogs in literature, Melvin Burgess's list of five notable books on drugs, and Darren Shan's top ten list of books about outsiders for teenagers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that explore the relationship of time travel & portal narrative

Fran Wilde’s new novella is The Fire Opal Mechanism.

At Tor.com she tagged five "books that explore the paradoxical relationship of time travel and portal narrative," including:
The Time Traveler’s Wife — Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife is an interesting play on the time travel as portal narrative theory. Niffenegger’s novel reveals much about what life is like for those close to portal narrative characters. The ones who aren’t taking the trip to another dimension. Claire, the titular character, stays in a single timeline, while her—well Henry’s a LOT of things—is deposited in different times by a genetic disorder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is among Jenny Colgan's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Twelve of the best retellings of classic novels

Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of Every Wild Heart, Dog Crazy, All the Summer Girls, How to Eat a Cupcake, and the newly released You, Me, and the Sea. Her novels have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish. Donohue has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three young daughters, and dog.

At LitHub Donohue tagged her twelve favorite retellings of classic novels. One title on the list:
Lisa Gabriele, The Winters

Writers of Gothic fiction are known for using place and weather to create a dark, spellbinding tone, and Gabriele’s retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca pays tribute to the classic with its eerie, secluded-mansion setting. The Winters is the kind of homage that I love—it hues closely to the original while still managing to have enough twists to keep even fans of the classic guessing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Winters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ten top slow-burn thrillers

USA Today bestselling author Charlie Donlea was born and raised in Chicago. He now lives in the suburbs with his wife and two young children. His latest novel is Some Choose Darkness.
At the heart of every great thriller is an unforgettable climax, [Donlea writes at CrimeReads]. This pinnacle moment in a thriller is what defines the genre. It’s where the action takes place, where the reveal is laid bare, and where the twist is sprung on us. But there is an art to creating the climax.... Before the best reveals, in front of the most stunning twists, and ahead of the greatest unveilings of a killer’s identity, is a staircase. Climbing it is where the real fun happens, because it is with each successive step up this staircase where readers find the suspense in a thriller.
One of the author's ten best slow-burn thrillers:
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Josh Bazell was offered a million dollar advance for his debut novel, and it’s not hard to see why. Beat the Reaper tells the story of Peter Brown, a New York doctor with good looks, a talent for saving lives, and a buried past he’d like to keep underground. Dr. Brown’s new patient is Nicholas LoBrutto, a mafia wiseguy with three months to live. But Mr. LoBrutto is not entirely without his wits. It seems he recognizes Peter from back in the day and believes that before his doctor was saving lives, he was ending them as a hitman for the mob.

The genius of Bazell’s novel doesn’t come from Peter going on the run, the chase scenes, or the shark tank where Peter spends an entire night fending off dorsal fins and jagged teeth. Instead, the white-knuckled reading comes from the slow building tension of Dr. Brown’s identity becoming known to those who’d rather see him dead than benefit from his life-saving abilities.

Staircase level: Extreme
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

The Page 69 Test: Beat the Reaper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books on holding power to account

Stephen William "Billy’ Bragg" is an English singer-songwriter and left-wing activist. His music blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs, with lyrics that span political or romantic themes. His music is heavily centered on bringing about change and getting the younger generation involved in grass-roots activist causes. His book Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World was a bestseller in 2016.

Bragg's new book is The Three Dimensions of Freedom.

At the Guardian he tagged five books about holding power to account, including:
By breaking the power of the crown to grant economic monopolies, the English were able to establish a political system more responsive to the aspirations of business, which led in turn to the industrial revolution taking off in Britain earlier than in nations that continued to be ruled by absolute monarchs. This process is analysed in Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, in which the authors argue that successful countries require accountable institutions that practise transparency and probity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Five pedal-to-the-metal apocalyptic stories

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog, Nicole Hill tagged five gonzo apocalypses to make you feel better about your week, including:
The Prey of Gods, by Nicky Drayden

Two words to describe Drayden’s first novel: delightfully disorienting. It wages a pitched battle between two very different demigoddesses in an alt-future South Africa: one a girl only just reaching her deadly potential, the other a fallen hellbeast hell-bent on clawing her way back into power. Their encounter promises to have cataclysmic consequences for the unfortunately mortal as it plays out against a bonkers near-future backdrop littered African folklore and scads of incongruous SFF tropes, from sentient robots, to genetically engineered animals, to hallucinogenic superdrugs with nigh-spiritual effects. Plus murder. Lots and lots of murder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Eight books that explore the world's most awe-inspiring jungle

Erica Ferencik's new novel is Into the Jungle.

At CrimeReads she tagged eight favorite books that explore the world's most awe-inspiring jungle, including:
Ruthless River, by Holly FitzGerald

This is the stunning true survival story of a married couple, Holly and Fitz, who survive a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle in the early ‘70s. Setting off on the river with only a rickety raft at their disposal, they fought starvation, insects and predators, racing against time to navigate the deadly waters of the Amazon to find a river town before it was too late.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 31, 2019

Six of the best bad women in fiction

Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Grand Cayman and studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years before doing a Master of Studies in Creative Writing at Cambridge University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Creative Writing. Her debut novel is The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

At LitHub Collins tagged six favorite bad women in fiction, including:
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is irascible, ill-tempered and at times plain abusive. She’s guilty of an emotional affair (at least) with a man whose “wariness” and “quiet anger” reminds her of herself: “We’re both cut from the same piece of bad cloth.” When she overhears her son’s new wife just after their wedding insulting her dress and hinting at her bad parenting, her “mouth begins to secrete” and she invades her daughter-in-law’s closet to scrawl on one of her sweaters with a Magic Marker. Yet no one is at more the mercy of her dark moods than Olive herself, who longs to tell that same daughter-in-law: “there is a thing inside me, and sometimes it swells up like the head of a squid and shoots blackness through me.” Her own desires are far more soft-bellied and complicated than that: “…there had been times when she’d felt a loneliness so deep that once, not so many years ago, having a cavity filled, the dentist’s gentle turning of her chin with his big soft fingers had felt to her like a tender kindness of almost excruciating depth, and she had swallowed with a groan of longing, tears springing to her eyes.” This book evokes the pain and anger of the kind of loneliness that runs that deep.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Olive Kitteridge is among Laura Barnett's ten top unconventional love stories and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Five top books to read while staring death in the face

Michael Blumlein is the author of several novels and story collections, including the award-winning The Brains of Rats. He has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker. His story "Fidelity: A Primer" was short-listed for the Tiptree. He has written for both stage and film, including the award-winning independent film Decodings (included in the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and winner of the Special Jury Award of the SF International Film Festival). Blumlein's novel X,Y was made into a feature-length movie. Until his recent retirement he taught and practiced medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

Blumlein's new novella is Longer.

At Tor.com he tagged five books to read while staring death in the face, including:
Clay’s Ark, by Octavia Butler

Biological SF at its finest. Written 35 years ago and reads as if it were penned yesterday. Unputdownable. Chilling, unflinching, humanistic and then some. It turns out that love and tolerance do help when you’re dealing with…well, with anyone.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten teenage friendships in fiction

Kate Hamer's new novel is Crushed. "The three girls in the novel are from very different backgrounds," the author writes, "but the various alchemies of home life, coupled with their emotional trajectories, collide and explode and what could have become simply a rueful memory of youthful difficulties turns abruptly toxic and marks them forever."

At the Guardian, Hamer tagged ten top teenage friendships in fiction, including:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The book begins with a teenager setting fire to a house in Shaker Heights – a progressive, affluent suburb where seemingly well-intentioned liberalism keeps society ticking quietly forward with safely shared values. When a white family attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby it rips this community apart. What’s fascinating is how the group of teenagers at the core of the book react to the events. Brilliant on the loves, friendships and dreams of adolescents.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Seven suspenseful literary thrillers

J.S.Monroe is the pseudonym of the British author Jon Stock. Stock is the author of six spy novels. His standalone psychological thrillers, written under the pseudonym J.S. Monroe, include Find Me, Forget My Name, and the newly released The Last Thing She Remembers.

At CrimeReads Monroe tagged seven favorite literary thrillers, including:
The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel is the godfather of the modern psychological thriller, its influence stronger today than ever. The central idea of someone—Tom Ripley—assuming another’s identity is an ancient trope but Highsmith gives it a new spin. Despite Ripley’s obvious immorality, the reader roots for him, hoping that he’ll evade police capture and live the life he always wanted. It’s a phenomenal authorial achievement, particularly as Ripley’s envy leads him to murder, but there’s no happy ending. Ripley concludes the book in a state of paranoia and fear, a reminder that Highsmith’s moral compass may often be hidden but is still firmly in tact.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Simon Lelic's top ten list of false identities in fiction, Jeff Somers's list of fifty novels that changed novels, Olivia Sudjic's list of eight favorite books about love and obsession, Roz Chast's six favorite books list, Nicholas Searle's top five list of favorite deceivers in fiction, Chris Ewan's list of the ten top chases in literature, Meave Gallagher's top twenty list of gripping page-turners every twentysomething woman should read, Sophia Bennett's top ten list of books set in the Mediterranean, Emma Straub's top ten list of holidays in fiction, E. Lockhart's list of favorite suspense novels, Sally O'Reilly's top ten list of novels inspired by Shakespeare, Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Five books with terrible monsters that tug on our human heartstrings

Kerstin Hall is a writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She completed her undergraduate studies in journalism at Rhodes University and, as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, continued with a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town.

Her debut novel, The Border Keeper, is out in July from Tor.com.

At Tor.com Hall tagged "five books featuring monsters that we might still pity as they bite off our ears," including:
The Scar by China Miéville

To be honest, this list could easily be filled with Miéville monstrosities alone. From the contents of the ‘Säcken’ in the short story of the same name, to Yagharek in Perdido Street Station, to the whole menagerie of macabre Remade in the Bas-Lag Trilogy, pitiable and grotesque monsters proliferate in his work. And in The Scar there are the Anophelii.

The Anophelii, or mosquito-people, rose to power as a dominant race during the years of the Malarial Queendom. While their reign of terror was short-lived, the devastation they wrought resulted in their entire species being banished to a small island for the next 2000 years.

Male Anophelii are mute vegetarian scholars. Female Anophelii are ferociously hungry predators with retractable, foot-long proboscises inside their mouths, capable of draining all the blood from their victims within a minute and a half. Everyone is, quite rightly, terrified of them.

And yet, although the mosquito women spend most of their lives starved and blood-crazed, they experience a brief window of lucidity after feeding. Stabbing proboscis aside, their mouths are more similar to a human’s than to males of their own species. But when they attempt to reach out to other people, to communicate, they are immediately met with fear and violence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Scar is among Fran Wilde's top five books that explore the monstrous.

--Marshal Zeringue