Thursday, April 9, 2020

Ten top books about Londoners

Panikos Panayi was born in London to Greek Cypriot immigrants and grew up in the multicultural city developing during the 1960s and 1970s. A leading authority on the history of migration, he is Professor of European History at De Montfort University.

Panayi's new book is Migrant City: A New History of London.

At the Guardian, Panayi tagged ten books about "the modern history of London, providing an insight into its ethnic and social diversity." One novel on the list:
Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)

One of the best fictional accounts of the realities of life in wartime and early postwar London for West Indian migrants to the heart of empire, tracing racism, which trumped social status with regard to the way in which the white British reacted to the new arrivals, despite the relatively positive reception for West Indian servicemen during the second world war. The novel also offers an insight into the social and economic realities of London life in the 1940s and 1950s for all ethnic groups.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Small Island is among J.R. Ramakrishnan's seven novels that celebrate the 40% of Londoners who aren't white, Virginia Nicholson's ten top books about women in the 1950s, Martin Fletcher's five best books on nations and lives in transition, and Gillian Cross's top ten books that throw everything you think you know upside down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Six notable literary escapes

Nell Freudenberger is the author of the novels Lost and Wanted, The Newlyweds and The Dissident, and of the story collection Lucky Girls, which won the PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Named one of The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” in 2010, she is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and son.

At The Week magazine Freudenberger recommended six literary escapes, including:
Disoriental by Negar Djavadi (2016).

A woman visits a fertility clinic in Paris, hoping to have a child, while her family's past in Iran rises up before her in dazzlingly precise vignettes. The daughter of intellectuals, Kimia Sadr survives the revolution and a harrowing escape to France, where, Djavadi writes, "we unlearn — at least partially — what we used to be, to make room for what we have become."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Six top books for bookish girls

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, and for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first class degree in history from King’s college, London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain's King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

At LitHub, Hadlow recommended a reading list for bookish girls. One title on the list:
Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book is a classic of Japanese literature. Written in the ninth century, when Shōnagon was a lady in waiting at the imperial court, it’s a collection of observations and anecdotes written in her own unmistakeable voice: sharp, aloof and infinitely amused. Shōnagon was an aristocrat, but not a very distinguished one; it was the quickness of her mind, and the depth of her learning, rather than her background, that catapulted her into favor and fame. Anyone wishing to be taken seriously as a Japanese courtier was obliged to possess a thorough knowledge of poetry, and Shōnagon’s ability to recognize poetic allusions, to improvise upon them, and to compose her own verse made her one of the court’s most glittering stars. Reading The Pillow Book is to enter a world where, contrary to what we think we know about the past, a sprightly form of female creativity was much prized. It reminds us that ideas of what is considered appropriate for a woman to know have not been fixed and immutable and that cleverness has sometimes been a form of currency that could change a life forever.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2020

Ten books besides "To Kill a Mockingbird" that tackle racial injustice

The PBS NewsHour asked educators from different parts of the country to share their picks for books besides To Kill a Mockingbird that tackle racial injustice. One title on the list:
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

“Children of Blood and Bone” is a beautiful book. It reminds me in some ways of “Harry Potter” because of its magical elements and young characters struggling through a difficult journey that tests their ideas of who they are and who they can trust. The author was inspired to write it after so many unarmed black people have been killed by police, but that is not entirely obvious. I thought more of authoritarian governments, women’s empowerment, and coming-of-age issues, but ideas of equality are central to all of those threads.
— Diana Dempsey
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nine notable unabashed books about bodies

Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son (Harcourt), The Stylist (HarperCollins), and Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). A sequel to Weather Woman, called Sinking Islands, is forthcoming.

Her latest book is the story collection, Vanishing, winner of the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

At LitHub, Emmons tagged nine books that "are notable for the frank eye they bring to physical pleasure and pain, and the overall messiness of human bodies." One title on the list:
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams forays into various corners of human experience, but ultimately its central concern is the female body and pain. As a survivor of anorexia, cutting, alcoholism, as well as abortion, heart surgery, and numerous accidents, Jamison is uniquely equipped to address this subject. Part personal essay and part academic treatise, Jamison composes her pieces by synthesizing her own experiences alongside the work of other writers, thinkers, and artists. “I’ve got this double-edged shame and indignation about my bodily ills and ailments—jaw, punched nose, fast heart, broken foot, etc. etc. etc. On the one hand, I’m like, Why does this shit happen to me? And on the other hand, I’m like, Why the fuck am I talking about this so much,” she says of herself, in the final essay entitled “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” Her final question in this essay is: “How do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative?” Both self-disclosing and brainy, the book offers numerous riveting vignettes and deep dives into what it means to possess a body, in particular one of the female persuasion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Thirteen essential pandemic novels

The staff at Publishers Weekly tagged thirteen essential pandemic novels, including:
A Beginning at the End
Mike Chen

The rebuild after a plague is the focus of this novel, which follows three San Franciscans trying to put the pieces back together after a disease known as MGS has taken out over half the population. The three acquaintances—a single dad, a former pop star, and a consultant who helps people cope with the tragedy—are put together by chance, but begin to bond as various threats surface. Chen's novel is a more hopeful take on end of the world that "manages to imbue the apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2020

Five top titles in the complicated literature of daughters & mothers

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series.

A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Engel's new novel is The Familiar Dark.

At CrimeReads she tagged five of her "favorite novels that tackle the complicated bond between mothers and daughters," including:
Carrie by Stephen King

The mother-daughter relationship in this one is a doozy. Carrie and her religious zealot of a mother have a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship dialed up to ten. There is love between them, but also abuse, fear, and loathing. And Carrie is a daughter who has finally had enough. An extreme example of what happens when the mother-daughter relationship goes horribly awry.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Carrie is on Lizzy Barber's list of five of the most chilling extreme religion believers in fiction, Katie Lowe's top ten list of books about angry women, Jo Jakeman's list of the ten best revenge novels, Ania Ahlborn's list of ten of the scariest books of all time, Jeff Somers's list of the five worst mothers in literary history, Becky Ferreira's list of six of the most memorable bullies in literature, Julie Buntin's list of favorite literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, and James Dawson's top ten list of books to get you through high school.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Ten top Irish gothic novels

Ruth Gilligan is a writer and academic from Dublin now based in the UK. She has published five books to date and was the youngest person ever to top the Irish Bestsellers’ List.

Her most recent novel, The Butchers, is set in 1996 during the BSE crisis and was published in March 2020.

At the Guardian, Gilligan tagged ten “Irish gothic” offerings from which she drew eerie inspiration for The Butchers, including:
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (1992)

The dysfunctional tale of Francie Brady – a border-town native growing up in the 1960s – is not for the fainthearted. We follow Francie from childhood (cue alcoholic father and suicidal mother), through to industrial school (cue abusive priests), all the way to working life in an abattoir (cue a lot of dismembered pig carcasses). A disturbing portrait of a disintegrating mind, The Butcher Boy gave rise to the phrase “bog gothic” and revealed the sordid realities that often lurked behind romanticised depictions of rural Ireland.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Butcher Boy is on Ray French's top ten list of black comedies, Allen Barra's top twelve list of the best postwar Irish novels, Nick Brooks's top 10 list of literary murderers, Declan Burke's 2008 top ten list of Irish crime fiction, and Edward Hogan's top ten list of stories set outside the city.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ten scary good horror novels

At Bloody Disgusting, Meagan Navarro tagged ten scary good horror novels, including:
Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero

In 1977, the teen detectives of the Blyton Summer Detective Case and their Weimaraner cracked open a significant case that leaves a costumed culprit behind bars for a very long time. Cut to thirteen years later, and the gang has long split up. None of them faring well in adulthood. Police want one of the members across multiple states, another battles alcoholism, and another has spent many years in Arkham Asylum. Nightmares and the suicide of the fourth member bring the gang back together to retrace the steps of their last case; there was something much worse than a masked man behind it all. Something otherworldly and Lovecraftian, and it wants free. Cantero remixes the Scooby-Doo setup with Lovecraftian terror, merging light-hearted horror with Dagon-like beasts. He avoids the pitfalls of oversaturating the prose in pop-culture references in favor of earnestness and action-horror.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Meddling Kids is among Max BoothII's top ten crime books with supernatural elements and comedy, Sam Reader's top ten "books that cast forests in their proper light: dangerous, dark, and deep" and Jeff Somers's six books that will rearrange your childhood memories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Eight great novels where things disappear

Lincoln Michel is the author of Upright Beasts and the co-editor of the forthcoming crime anthology Tiny Crimes.

"The missing person is a classic mystery trope for a good reason," he writes at CrimeReads.
It immediately sets a story in motion while providing for a variety of plot paths. Is the person dead? Kidnapped? Running away? Hiding in plain sight? But people aren’t the only things that disappear in literature. Sometimes it is a vanishing cat or a disappearing novel that gets the story rolling.
One of "eight fantastic and strange novels that each have a unique spin on mysterious disappearances," according to Michel:
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa’s dystopian fable is a novel where something disappears, then another thing, then another and another. Indeed, almost everything vanishes on the unnamed island society governed by a group of Orwellian “memory police” that can make objects disappear. Candies, music boxes, ribbons, even birds. Citizens simply wake up one day and the items are erased from both the world and people’s memories. Although the novel was published in Japan in the 1990s, it was translated into English this year (by Stephen Snyder) and feels especially prescient in a world where it’s increasingly hard to know what is real and what is fake.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2020

Five of the best books about time

Samantha Harvey is the author of four novels, The Wilderness, All Is Song, Dear Thief and The Western Wind, and of a memoir, The Shapeless Unease. She lives in Bath, UK, and is a Reader in creative writing at Bath Spa University.

At the Guardian, Harvey shared her favorite "books that play with present, past and future," including:
One of the many achievements of Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger is a dramatising of the push-pull of time, its vast elasticity. The elasticity, too, of memory, of memories played and plundered over and over, from different points in time and different characters’ points of view. “Chronology irritates me,” says the novel’s protagonist, Claudia. “There is no chronology inside my head.” And so unravels the contents of that head in a startling, fractured personal history.

The moon tiger of the novel’s title is the name given to a mosquito coil which burns through the night – just as Claudia’s life also burns out, is purged, is consumed by the passing of time. What most resists the flames is her sorrow over something that never was. Isn’t this true? That the things we most often regret are not those we did, but those we didn’t do.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Favorite funny books recommended by Irish writers

Declan Hughes's first novel, The Wrong Kind of Blood won the Shamus Award for Best First PI novel and the Le Point magazine prize for best European crime novel. Subsequent novels include The Colour of Blood; The Dying Breed; All The Dead Voices and City of Lost Girls. His books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Theakstons, CWA New Blood Dagger and Irish Book awards.

His latest novel is All The Things You Are.

Hughes's favorite funny books, as shared with The Irish Times:
The Information by Martin Amis, about the unhinged rivalry between two novelists, is a novel anyone involved in the literary life might find funny; it consistently makes me cry with laughter. However, like the same author’s Money, or his father’s Ending Up, or early Evelyn Waugh, or all of Edward St Aubyn, there is something a little too dark, too savage, too unsettling about it to work for me in the current unpleasantness; other’s nerves might be stronger.

There’s Nancy Mitford, of course, and Anita Loos and Dorothy Parker and Nora Ephron. The Best of Myles is maybe the funniest single book ever, but everyone knows that. Simon Gray’s diaries, all eight volumes, are ragingly funny, and his plays hold up; indeed, weirdly, they seem to work better now on the page than on the stage. Richmal Crompton’s William Brown stories still make me laugh, as do Michael Bond’s Paddington series and Willans & Searle’s St Custard’s books.

But if I must identify as a grown-up, I’ll plump for The Benchley Roundup. Robert Benchley was a fixture at the Algonquin Round Table and a minor Hollywood star. As a comic essayist – writing in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – he seems to me to have weathered the years better than Thurber or Perelman, his great contemporaries.

Ask That Man, in which a husband, exasperated by his wife’s insistence that he seek travel directions from strangers, undertakes to do the opposite of what he is told; The Tortures of Weekend Visiting, in which host and guest listen anxiously at respective bedroom doors for one another to rise as morning turns to night; The Sunday Menace, in which the mooted remedy for the Sunday afternoon malaise is to set fire to the house; pastiches of opera synopses and strategies to repel your friends’ holiday anecdotes: it’s gentle, quirky, arch, observational, middlebrow fare and it’s very, very funny. And it’s in print!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Ten top Seattle crime novels

J. Kingston Pierce is a longtime journalist in Seattle, Washington, and editor of The Rap Sheet, which has won the Spinetingler Award and been nominated twice for Anthony Awards. In addition, he writes the book-design blog Killer Covers, serves as the senior editor of January Magazine and as a contributing editor to CrimeReads, and is a columnist for Down & Out: The Magazine.

At CrimeReads Pierce tagged ten titles highlighting "Seattle’s potential as an ideal milieu for crime fiction," including:
Deadline Man by Jon Talton (2010)

Talton spent 37 years on the payrolls of daily newspapers, including The Seattle Times, so it’s no shock that one of his mysteries stars a reporter-detective. Deadline Man is a carefully paced, geopolitical conspiracy novel headlined by “The Columnist,” an otherwise unnamed business writer for the fictional Seattle Free Press. Early on, this journalist is surprised when a local hedge-fund manager he’s interviewing asks, cryptically, what he knows about “eleven-eleven.” Nothing is the answer. But after his source executes a 20-story dive to his death, the reporter begins the “sniff work” necessary to educate himself. He slowly connects puzzle pieces involving a pretty Seattle teen, a shady defense contractor, a private prison complex, a succession of slayings, and…well, let’s just say this is one hell of a complicated, often incredible pursuit of the sort that could land The Columnist in Pulitzer circles, or else a pine box.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2020

The best books to help us survive a crisis

Joe Moran is professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University. His books include Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness and Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the Television.

At the Guardian, Moran tagged a few "books on how to keep calm in times of adversity - and take joy where we find it." One title on the list:
Those enduring self-isolation may find it uplifting to read about the heroic efforts of political prisoners to retain their sanity through human connection. The Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan wrote I Will Never See the World Again while serving a life sentence on trumped-charges of treason. This wise and defiant book, composed in a tiny shared cell and smuggled out in notes to his lawyers, celebrates the power of words to dissolve human isolation. “Like all writers, I have magic,” Altan writes. “I can pass through your walls with ease.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Fourteen enormous crime books for the long days ahead

Molly Odintz is the Associate Editor for CrimeReads. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople for years before her recent move up to New York City for a life in crime. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads she tagged fourteen long-ass crime books, including:
Six Four, Hideo Yokoyama
Page Count: 576

In this thoughtful tale of the long shadow of past crimes, an anniversary of an unsolved kidnapping approaches, triggering a newly appointed police press liaison to reopen the investigation. When he discovers some information the police would rather be kept from the victim’s family, things really get interesting…
Read about the other entries on the list.

Six Four is among Junko Takekawa's five essential Japanese crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels and stories about shame

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of six novels, including Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, as well as being made into a feature film.

His latest novel is Damascus.

At the Guardian, Tsiolkas tagged ten novels and stories about shame, including:
Ransom by David Malouf

Malouf takes a moment from The Iliad, when Priam goes to Achilles to beg that he be allowed to bury the desecrated body of his son, Hector, and from it crafts an exquisite novel in which we are witnesses to something world shattering – the moment when a king begs for mercy and for peace. Priam’s shame is clear. It is an abomination in the Homeric world for an aristocrat to fall to his knees and it is a scandal to not wish to repay blood with blood. In their argument and then in their accord, Achilles and Priam redefine both shame and honour. I think Malouf’s achievement is staggering. He rips apart the veil between the ancient and the contemporary.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Eight top red herrings in contemporary crime literature

Karen Dietrich is the author of The Girl Factory: A Memoir (2013) and several poetry chapbooks. She also plays drums in the indie rock band Essential Machine. Dietrich received a BA in English from University of Pittsburgh and an MFA in poetry from New England College. She has worked as a college professor and high school English teacher.

Her new psychological thriller is Girl at the Edge.

At CrimeReads, Dietrich tagged eight contemporary "books [that] play with the reader’s mind in wonderfully twisted ways, using red herrings masterfully and keeping the reader guessing. And second-guessing." One title on the list:
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Caren is caretaker for the grounds of Belle Vie, a former plantation that now provides a setting for high price tag weddings and historical reenactments for school children.

When something (an animal?) digs up a woman’s body, Caren must wonder about the secrets of the place she calls home. Caren’s mother worked at Belle Vie, too, and so Caren grew up on the grounds. She’s familiar with its beauty, but also it’s haunting history. But is there something ugly brewing at Belle Vie? And what about the employee who can’t be accounted for? Locke’s characters are vivid and the pacing pitch perfect. She spins a compelling mystery with plenty of doubts and uncertainty. As Caren is drawn further and further into the dead woman’s story, she begins uncovering things that are perhaps best left buried.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Cutting Season is among T. Marie Vandelly's top ten suspenseful horror novels featuring housebound terrors and Wil Medearis's seven favorite novels that explore real estate swindles.

--Marshal Zeringue

The best books about our future in space

Christopher Wanjek is the author of Bad Medicine and Food at Work. He has written more than 500 articles for the Washington Post, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, Mercury, and Live Science. From 1998 to 2006, he was a senior writer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, covering the structure and evolution of the universe.

Wanjek's new book is Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond.

At the Guardian he tagged the best books about our space future, including:
It’s no longer a question of whether we’re going to Mars, but when. By the time we reach a second planet – probably in the 2030s – we’ll probably have a base or two on the moon as well. But will people ever live beyond Earth permanently?

Hazards abound on the red planet, a world that is colder and drier than Antarctica and without the luxury of breathable air. Andy Weir provides an excellent picture of the struggle to survive in his novel The Martian. Kim Stanley Robinson takes a deeper dive with his Mars trilogy. The series follows the first 100 settlers, a hand-picked crew of scientists and engineers who gradually transform the climate. There is plenty of engineering and biology, but Robinson broadens into philosophy when he explores how some settlers want to keep Mars pure and red, while others view the life that greens the planet as a gift from humanity. And alternative history is just around the corner when another wave of colonists arrive, dreaming of breaking away from planet Earth.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Mars Trilogy is among Jeff Somers's five top sci-fi novels with reasonably believable futuristic technology. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson is among James Mustich's five notable books on Mars and beyond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Eight books about male protagonists by female authors

Scarlett Harris is an Australian culture critic, with a focus on professional wrestling and television. She’s writing a book about women’s wrestling, A Diva Was a Female Version of a Wrestler, forthcoming in 2021.

At CrimeReads, Harris tagged eight classic and contemporary novels, written by women, that offer insight into damaged male psyches, including:
The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm was the first (I know, I know) Tana French title I read, at the beginning of the year. I was immediately struck by French’s first person portrayal of Toby, with his simultaneous self-righteousness and -loathing, so much so that it became the inspiration for this piece.

As Toby slowly uncovers the mystery of how the body of his high school friend Dominic ends up inside the Wych Elm in his dead uncle’s house, so to does he discover how, as a straight, white, able-bodied man, he has navigated the world relatively unscathed.

“The point is, if your doctors went all out for you, great. But not everyone gets to live in the same world as you,” Toby’s cousin Susanna chastises him when he doesn’t believe that she was sexually assaulted by her doctor.

That is, until he is the victim of an assault and robbery at the beginning of the hefty tome that leads him to convalesce at his uncle’s house where the bulk of the mystery evolves and forces him to reckon with his privilege.

“Me six months ago, clear eyed and clear voiced, sitting up straight and smart, answering every question promptly and directly and with total unthinking confidence: every cell of me had carried a natural and absolute credibility; accusing me of murder would have been ridiculous,” French writes. “Me now, slurring, babbling, droopy-eyed and drag-footed, jumping and trembling at every word from the detectives: defective, unreliable, lacking any credibility or authority or weight, guilty as hell.”

Through the facade of mystery novels—The Witch Elm is French’s first stand-alone narrative outside of the Dublin Murder Squad saga—French clandestinely lays out what it means to grapple with manhood in the #MeToo era.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Witch Elm is among Ani Katz's top ten books about toxic masculinity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2020

Fifteen books to read in our age of social isolation

At the New York Post Mackenzie Dawson tagged the fifteen best books to read in our age of social isolation. One title on the list:
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

On New Year’s Eve 1982, Oona is just about to turn 19, her whole life ahead of her. But then she wakes up and she’s ... 51 and wondering what the hell just happened. As she grapples with this strange new world, she discovers it’s going to happen every New Year’s Eve: She’ll be transported to a different year in her life (which sounds pretty appealing right now, doesn’t it?)
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Oona Out of Order.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top morally bankrupt narrators in fiction

Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans.

My Lovely Wife is her first novel. (See: The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.)

Her new novel, He Started It, is coming soon.

At CrimeReads, Downing tagged ten of fiction's most morally bankrupt narrators, including:
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong

Yu-jin wakes up to find himself covered in blood and it’s not his. The blood belongs to his mother, who has been murdered. He also has epilepsy, and the seizures cause memory blackouts. Over the course of the three days, Yu-jin tries to find out what happened and, at the same time, reveals his relationship with his mother. Fair warning: This disturbing, claustrophobic story is graphic and violent.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Five top books about female artists

Annalena McAfee was born in London to a Scottish mother and a Glasgow-Irish father. She founded the Guardian Review, which she edited for six years, and was Arts and Literary Editor of the Financial Times.

Her novels include The Spoiler, Hame, and Nightshade.

At the Guardian, McFee tagged five of the best books about female artists. One of the novels on the list:
John Updike trained as an artist and turned his observational gifts to fiction, using words with the gorgeous precision of the finest sable brush. In Seek My Face, his meta-subject is American art since the 1940s, but the focus is a female painter, Hope Chafetz, unfairly but predictably known less for her work than for the men she married (two celebrated artists). There is a roman-à-clef element, summoning echoes of Lee Krasner impatiently batting away questions about Jackson Pollock, as Updike’s elderly painter is interviewed by a thrusting young female art historian. It’s hard to detect in Updike’s extraordinary portrayal of both women the die-hard misogynist depicted by recent critics. He’s as good on female ageing as he is on art, and behind the unsparing observations of humanity, with all its flaws and vulnerabilities, lies a rueful compassion.

“All a woman does for a man ...” Hope reflects, “is secondary, inessential. Art was what these men had loved – that is, themselves.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Six current architecturally inspired novels

Suzanne Redfearn is the award-winning author of three novels: Hush Little Baby, No Ordinary Life, and In An Instant. Born and raised on the east coast, Redfearn moved to California when she was fifteen. She currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband where they own two restaurants: Lumberyard and Slice Pizza & Beer.

In addition to being an author, Redfearn is an architect specializing in residential and commercial design.

At CrimeReads, Redfearn tagged "six current novels in which architecture plays an important role," including:
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow is based entirely in Moscow’s famed Hotel Metropol, an art noveau landmark, where a Russian aristocrat, Count Rostov, has been sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Since the novel’s blockbuster success, the hotel has begun offering tours so fans can follow in the count’s footsteps and also offers “A Gentleman in Moscow” package complete with a stay in the Count’s room, drinks at “the Shalyapin bar,” dinner consisting of the Count’s favorite meals, and breakfast by the hotel’s fountain at the Piazza, which was an important spot in the novel: “…the Piazza did not aspire to elegance, service, or subtlety. With eighty tables scattered around a marble fountain and a menu offering everything from cabbage piroghi to cutlets of veal, the Piazza was meant to be an extension of the city—of its gardens, markets, and thoroughfares…where the lone diner seated under the great glass ceiling could indulge himself in admiration, indignation, suspicion, and laughter without getting up from his chair.” How wonderful it would be to sit under that glorious glass ceiling and experience the novel in such a unique and immersive way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2020

Nine bad mothers in fiction

Sarah Vaughan is a former Guardian journalist - news reporter and political correspondent - who always wanted to write fiction.

Her latest novel, Little Disasters, is a psychological drama about the challenges of motherhood.

At the Waterstones blog Vaughan tagged nine of "her favourite malicious, malevolent and muddle-headed mothers in literature," including:
Adèle in Adèle by Leila Slimani

Leila Slimani’s eponymous heroine, like Anna in Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau, has been seen as a modern Emma Bovary. But Adèle is far more narcissistic and her addiction to often dangerous sex with strangers – she ends up asking two drug addicts to smash her genitals – means she is all too ready to abandon three-year-old Lucien. “Lucien is a burden, a constraint that she struggles to get used to… Adele isn’t sure where her love for her son fits in among all her other jumbled feelings: panic when she has to leave him with someone else; annoyance at having to dress him; exhaustion from pushing his recalcitrant buggy up the hill.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Ten top books about boarding school

James Scudamore is the author of the novels English Monsters, Wreaking, Heliopolis and The Amnesia Clinic. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award and been nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Man Booker Prize.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top books about boarding school, including:
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

At 14, Lee Fiora becomes fascinated with boarding schools while researching the subject at her local public library. She falls for the handsome boys in the prospectuses she sends away for and ends up, to the mystification of her parents, on a scholarship to the prestigious Ault school in Massachusetts. The environment here is as preppy as it gets – the characters have names such as Cross Sugarman and Gates Medkowski – but the stew of adolescent fears and desires the novel depicts is universal.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Prep is among Caroline Zancan's eight stories about what really happens on campus, Lucy Worsley's six best books, and James Browning's ten best boarding school books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ten great works of historical fiction for Hilary Mantel fans

At Lit Hub, Emily Temple tagged ten great historical novels that pick up on the themes or forms of Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy in some way, including:
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Another book to pick up if you love gorgeous prose and being dunked into an immersive narrative in a far flung land (and time). I remember reading this one, which begins in a Dutch trading post in 1799 Nagasaki and is packed to the gills both with detail and with emotion, on the sidewalk on my way to work when it first came out, unable to pause even to look where I was going. Also one of our favorite novels of the decade.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is among Lloyd Shepherd's top ten weird histories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Books to enjoy while in quarantine

Lois Beckett is a senior reporter at the Guardian covering gun policy, criminal justice and the far right in the United States. She compiled a list of "some of the brilliant pandemic novels that everyone is talking about, and some novels about being alone... [and] some comfort reads, and poetry, and books about people being thoughtful and useful and kind," including:
The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

In this 1992 novel by one of America’s most acclaimed science fiction writers, a graduate student who is part of a time-traveling history research group at Oxford is sent on an expedition to the Middle Ages and ends up in the middle of the Black Plague. Meanwhile, an epidemic is also spreading in mid-21st-century England. Have the time-traveling researchers infected their contemporary world?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Doomsday Book is among María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards's five books with female protagonists you'll love if you hate romances and Charlie Jane Anders's fifteen moments from science fiction and fantasy that will make absolutely anyone cry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2020

Six amazing books recommended by Anne Enright

Anne Enright's latest novel is Actress.

The Gathering won the Man Booker Prize and The Forgotten Waltz won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

In 2015 she was named the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction.

Enright lives in Dublin.

At The Week magazine she tagged six amazing novels, including:
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987).

The story of an escaped slave and her murdered daughter, this novel contains wrenching truths. Beloved is not just a work of literary genius; it also improves our understanding of what it means to be human. Morrison brought us all that bit further along.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on Candice Carty-Williams's list of six heroic women in literature, Kate Racculia's list of ten gothic fiction titles that meant something to her, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 1980s, Megan Abbott's list of six of the best books based on true crimes, Melba Pattillo Beals's 6 favorite books list, Sarah Porter's list of five favorite books featuring psychological hauntings, Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis' list of ten books that were subject to silencing or censorship, Jeff Somers's list of ten fictional characters based on real people, Christopher Barzak's top five list of books about magical families, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's ten top list of wartime love stories, Judith Claire Mitchell's list of ten of the best (unconventional) ghosts in literature, Kelly Link's list of four books that changed her, a list of four books that changed Libby Gleeson, The Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Elif Shafak's top five list of fictional mothers, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Five notable books featuring AI

Len Vlahos is the owner of the Tattered Cover in Colorado. He is the author of The Scar Boys, Scar Girl, and Life in a Fishbowl.

His new book is Hard Wired.

At Tor.com, Vlahos tagged "three books where AI doesn’t take over the world, and two where they kind of do," including:
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust is definitely a book where AI take over the world. In fact, the last human crawls out of the sewers and dies on page two. Boom.

Decades later, the robots in Sea of Rust, led by a scavenger name Brittle, are battling a massive, hive-mind artificial intelligence to protect their individual freedom. The bots grapple with moral dilemmas, painful memories of the brutality they unleashed on humans, and what it means to be a living, thinking person. (A person, not a human.) These philosophical musings are encased in an adventure story that reads like a bad-ass android Western.

This is one of the books—along with Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Otherworld (by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller)—that directly influenced the writing of Hard Wired, my own take on AI. Thanks C. Robert!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue