Saturday, April 17, 2021

Five of the best female friendships in books

Lucy Jago is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a former documentary producer for Channel 4 and the BBC. Her first book, The Northern Lights, won the National Biography prize and has been translated into eight languages; her YA novel, Montacute House, met with critical acclaim in the US and the UK.

Jago's new novel is A Net for Small Fishes.

At the Guardian she tagged some favorite "books in which to immerse yourself in complex, occasionally wounding, but always irreplaceable female friendships." One title on the list:
In Sula, by Toni Morrison, Nel and Sula are best friends in a poor, black Ohio community, where women can take many roles but not that which Sula chooses, free from social and sexual restraint. She is shunned by everyone, even Nel, whose marriage crumbles in the face of Sula’s seductive presence. Nel mourns for years but comes to understand, as Sula does before her, that it was not her husband she was missing but the relationship with her best friend. Morrison says that it was the women around her, all struggling, all poor, who inspired the book. “The things we traded! Time, food, money, clothes, laughter, memory – and daring. Daring especially …”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sula is among John Green's six favorite coming-of-age books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 16, 2021

Five novels about twisted sisters

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, The Mother's Promise, The Family Next Door, and The Mother-in-Law.

[The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of MidwivesMy Book, The Movie: The Secrets of MidwivesThe Page 69 Test: The Things We KeepMy Book, The Movie: The Things We KeepWriters Read: Sally Hepworth (February 2016)]

Her new novel is The Good Sister.

At CrimeReads Hepworth tagged five of her favorite novels about twisted sisters, including:
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other… My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker— and more difficult to get out of the carpet—than water.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Sister the Serial Killer is among Megan Nolan's six books on unrequited love and unmet obsession, Sarah Pinborough's top ten titles where the setting is a character, Tiffany Tsao's top five novels about murder all in the family, Victoria Helen Stone's eight top crime books of deep, dark family lore, and Kristen Roupenian's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Top 10 books about revenge

Jonas Jonasson was a journalist for the Expressen newspaper for many years. He became a media consultant and later set up a company producing sports and events for Swedish television, before selling his company and moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All, The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man, and most recently, Sweet, Sweet Revenge Ltd. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

At the Guardian Jonasson tagged ten books on "how to plot revenge in a good way," One title on the list:
Nutshell by Ian McEwan

In my youth, I was fascinated by the Swedish writer PC Jersild’s novel A Living Soul, in which the protagonist is in fact a free-floating brain inside an aquarium standing in a laboratory. The brain falls in love with its caregiver, which doesn’t work out brilliantly. When I, 37 years later, read Ian McEwan, I was reminded of A Living Soul. In Nutshell, the protagonist is an unborn foetus inside its mother’s womb. It’s bleak, funny, murderous – and Hamlet-inspired.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Five stories built around the threat of nuclear blackmail

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five stories that build on the dramatic potential of nuclear blackmail, including:
The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Six titles featuring adoptions gone awry

R.J. Hoffmann was born and raised in St. Louis and received an MFA in fiction from Columbia College Chicago. Hoffmann’s writing has appeared in Barely South Review, The Sun, Harpur Palate, The Roanoke Review, Booth, and Lunch Ticket. He is the winner of The Madison Review’s 2018 Chris O’Malley Prize for Fiction and a finalist for The Missouri Review’s 2019 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors Prize. He lives in Elmhurst, Illinois with his wife and two children.

At CrimeReads Hoffmann tagged six books featuring adoptions gone awry, including:
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

The novel opens with the Richardson house ablaze from an apparent arson. Accelerant was employed. Little fires were set throughout the house. The themes of race, privilege, and family serve as kindling for the story. In the background, an immigrant from China first abandons her infant daughter in desperation, and then struggles to regain custody from the wealthy, white friends of the Richardsons who have adopted her. The whole town of Shaker Heights, Ohio weighs in, and the adoptive family applies all the leverage that money can buy. Meanwhile, in the foreground, Elena Richardson serves as a surrogate mother for Pearl Warren, while her own daughter, Izzy finds a surrogate in Pearl’s mother, Mia. Both women chafe, even as Ng slow-burns a literal surrogacy crisis.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Little Fires Everywhere is among Amy Stuart's five thrilling novels with deeply flawed fictional characters you’ll learn to appreciate as you turn the pages and Kate Hamer's top ten teenage friendships in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 12, 2021

Nine notable nature memoirs

Since traveling the South West Coastal Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. Her first book, The Salt Path, was a Sunday Times bestseller and shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award. In The Wild Silence, Winn explores readjusting to life after homelessness. She lives in Cornwall with her husband Moth.

At Lit Hub Winn tagged nine books that reignited her connection to the wild, including:
Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places

Even from a young age, I’ve carried a strong sense of being fundamentally connected to the natural world. Strangely though, for many years I didn’t find that feeling echoed in nature writing but encountered mainly abstracted observations of nature, viewed through the lens of academic research, or heavily clich├ęd prose. Consequently, I stopped reading nature writing. Until a friend gave me a copy of The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane. At last, I’d found a writer who felt a strong, almost rapturous response to nature, a writer who remembered “what the world feels like.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Tim Harford's 6 best books

Tim Harford, “the Undercover Economist,” is a Financial Times columnist, BBC broadcaster, and the author of nine books (most recently How To Make The World Add Up / The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics) and the podcast “Cautionary Tales.”

[Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics booksThe Page 69 Test: The Undercover EconomistThe Page 69 Test:The Logic of LifeThe Page 99 Test: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with FailureThe Page 99 Test: The Undercover Economist Strikes BackThe Page 99 Test: The Data Detective]

At The Week magazine Harford tagged his six best books. One title on the list:
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

Used wisely, statistics can show us truths about the world that we can’t see in any other way. But the statistics have to be collected and analysed with everyone in mind, not just a default white male. This is a powerful, insightful book.
Read about the other books on the list at Tim Harford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ten romance novels that tug at the heartstrings

Libby Hubscher is an author and scientist. She studied biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and holds a doctor of philosophy in molecular toxicology from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared online and in textbooks, scientific journals, and literary journals. Her short story “The Unwelcome Guest” was long-listed for the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2018. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two young children, and a menagerie of pets.

Hubscher's debut novel is Meet Me in Paradise.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten favorite romance novels that tug at the heartstrings, including:
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Hoang’s heartaching and beautiful novel is the exquisite story of Esme, who leaves her home and young daughter in Vietnam for the promise of love and the American dream, only to be met with the brilliant, but tortured Khai, whose past traumas have instilled in him the misbelief that he is incapable of love. As Esme wrestles with her feelings of unworthiness and her affection and admiration for Khai, the book becomes an intricately layered portrait of two people who could be perfect each other, if they’d only overcome the seemingly insurmountable emotional obstacles keeping them apart. Fortunately the torment of deep hurt and heartbreaking things left unsaid is offset by the care these characters show each other as well as their growth as they each realize their own truths and go after what they want.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 9, 2021

Five books featuring fictional women who are, unashamedly, wicked

Heather Walter has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with both English and Information Science degrees, books are–and always will be–a definitive part of her life. Her new novel is Malice.

As an author, Walter loves writing about what-ifs, flawed protagonists, and re-imagined history. Her favorite characters are usually villains.

When not writing, you can find her reading (duh), knitting, binging TV, and planning her next travel adventure.

At Walter tagged five favorite books featuring fictional women who are, unashamedly, wicked. One title on the list:
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

A wicked woman doesn’t have to be a heartless one. Villoso’s epic fantasy features one of the most complex female protagonists I’ve encountered. Talyien is queen of Oren-Yaro. But the bitter warlords heading the clans of her realm hate her. Talyien is supposed to be a mere consort to her husband, but he abandons her in favor of exile, and Talyien insists that she be crowned alone. Her reign may be holding the nation together (by a thread), and protecting the rights of her son and heir, but civil war looms. With scant allies and the constant threat of assassination, Talyien must prove herself far more often than any man would have to do. When her husband sends Talyien a secret letter asking to meet, she agrees. But the journey proves rife with betrayals, political intrigue, and forbidden arts. Talyien’s husband expects a wife ready to cede to his whims. He gets a sword-wielding badass, bent on protecting her son and securing her rule—no matter the cost. And things get pricey.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Top 10 homecomings in fiction

Catherine Menon is Australian-British, has Malaysian heritage and lives in London. She is a University lecturer in robotics and has both a PhD in pure mathematics and an MA in Creative Writing.

Her short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, was published in 2018. Her short stories have won or been placed in a number of competitions. Her work has been broadcast on radio, and she’s been a judge for several international short fiction competitions.

Fragile Monsters is Menon's debut novel.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books [that] offer intimate, startling perspectives on homecomings: some that celebrate it, some that examine the challenges and others that question the nature of what it means to return." One title on the list:
Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri

This novel is a love letter to Bombay (now Mumbai), but a specific, very personal Bombay constructed from the narrator’s memories. Amit, a character created simultaneously from the writing and the life of Amit Chaudhuri, makes several returns to Bombay. The city changes each time and Chaudhuri gives us the sense that Bombay itself is constantly experiencing a homecoming of its own. The protagonist’s one constant, Ramu – the titular friend – is absent for the first half of the book and this absence lends a depth and poignancy to this elegiac novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Thirteen titles that explore codependent relationships

Sam Cohen was born and raised in suburban Detroit. Her fiction is published in Fence, Bomb, Diagram, and Gulf Coast, among others. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship and a PhD fellow at the University of Southern California, Cohen lives in Los Angeles.

Her new story collection is Sarahland.

At Electric Lit Cohen tagged thirteen "books that explore the earth-shattering capacity of the power of two," including:
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Midcentury American David moves to Paris at least unconsciously so that he can explore his homosexual desire. He drifts his way into a bar of swishy men with their own language of she pronouns and witty repartee and falls for Giovanni. The eponymous room is dark and at the edge of town, and in it, away from the rules and the gaze of the world, David and Giovanni are liquefied by desire. Only, David remains a little solid, eventually leaves the nest of mutual queer reconstitution for a life of bourgeois respectability. Giovanni says he will die without David, and, via a series of devastating events, does.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Ten of the best novels about fictional bands

Glenn Dixon is the #1 bestselling author of the memoir Juliet’s Answer. He has played in bands all his life, traveled through more than seventy-five countries, and written for National Geographic, the New York Post, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and Psychology Today. Before becoming a full-time writer, he taught high school English for twenty years. He lives in Calgary with his girlfriend.

Dixon's new novel is Bootleg Stardust.

At Lit Hub he tagged his top ten novels about fictional bands. One entry on the list:
Daisy Jones and the Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones and the Six

Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of this Fleetwood Mac-like band (disastrous relationships galore) in an enticingly original documentary style. Snippets of interviews from the band’s five members propel the plot forward to a final reveal about the mysterious event that caused the band’s sudden end. And we’ll soon hear the music of Daisy Jones as the book has been optioned for a limited series on Amazon Prime (produced by no less than Reese Witherspoon).
Read about the other entries on the list.

Daisy Jones and the Six is among Benjamin Myers's top ten mentors in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue