Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Top ten graphic novels

Andrew Arnold, who writes the TIME.comix column covering the world of graphic literature, has developed a list of the top ten graphic novels.

Here are two titles from the list:

Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly; 2000)
Part of an incredibly ambitious, years-in-the-making project, this is just the first volume of a series of novels that will all take place during the combustible Weimar era of the titular city. Drawn with clean lines and an attention to architectural detail that pays homage to such European comics as Hergé's "Tintin," City of Stones follows a young woman art student who starts an affair with a weary leftist journalist against a background of boiling politics and decadence. Filled with rich characters and period detail, even if the follow-up books never come, it will still be one of the premier works of historical fiction in the medium.

Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf; 2003)
This semi-autobiographical novel set in the snowy hinterlands of Wisconsin tells the story of a lonely, artistic young man who struggles with his fundamentalist Christian upbringing when he falls in love. Fluidly told over 582 pages, Blankets magically recreates the high emotional stakes of adolescence. Thompson has set new bars for the medium not just in length, but breadth.

Read the entire list.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Five best: law and literature

John Mortimer, British playwright, former practicing barrister, and author -- most recently of the novel Rumpole and the Reign of Terror -- picked the five best books about law and literature for Opinion Journal.

One of his selections:

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

"Bleak House" is one of Dickens's best books. All life is there, from the aristocratic Sir Leicester Dedlock to Poor Joe, the starving little crossing-sweeper. And everybody's secrets, particularly those of the beautiful Lady Dedlock, are known to Mr. Tulkinghorn, the enigmatic lawyer to whom knowledge is power. He appears as "a little old man called Tulkinghorn" and he dies, with all his secrets, shot through the heart in his dining room, his wine half drunk, under his painted ceiling. "Bleak House" castigates the law's insufferable delays. The great case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce destroys the health and sanity of generations of litigants and is wrapped in a legal fog, much like that which descends on London and follows the Thames up to the Law Courts and finally enters the Lord Chancellor's throat. For Dickens the all-pervading fog is an apt simile for the laws of Chancery.

Read about his other selections.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Susan Cheever's favorite books

Susan Cheever, author of American Bloomsbury: The Lives of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts from 1840 to 1868 and My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson -- His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous, lists her 20 favorite books at her website.

Here are the first four titles:

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
A book suffused with longing for the lost world of adulthood.

Father and Son by Edmund Gosse
A model for writing about a parent.

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
A book suffused with longing for the lost world of childhood.

In Pharoah's Army by Tobias Wolff
Elegant and electrifying book about the war in Vietnam and the war in our hearts.
Click here to read the rest of the list and read an early review of Cheever's new book, American Bloomsbury.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The top 20 from "The Top Ten"

The top twenty works of literature according to the contributors to The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favourite Books:

1 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

2 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

3 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

4 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

5 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

6 Hamlet William Shakespeare

7 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

8 In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust

9 Stories of Anton Chekhov Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

10 Middlemarch George Eliot

11 Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes

12 Moby-Dick Herman Melville

13 Great Expectations Charles Dickens

14 Ulysses James Joyce

15 The Odyssey Homer

16 Dubliners James Joyce

17 Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

18 King Lear William Shakespeare

19 Emma Jane Austen

20 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez

From The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favourite Books, J. Peder Zane, editor, reprinted in the London Times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 works of literature: Stephen King

The top ten works of literature according to Stephen King:

1 The Golden Argosy edited by Van H. Cartmell and Charles Grayson

2 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

3 The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie

4 McTeague Frank Norris

5 Lord of the Flies William Golding

6 Bleak House Charles Dickens

7 1984 George Orwell

8 The Raj Quartet Paul Scott

9 Light in August William Faulkner

10 Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy

From The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favourite Books, J. Peder Zane, editor, reprinted in the London Times.

Top 10 works of literature: Peter Carey

The top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey:

1 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

2 Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne

3 Great Expectations Charles Dickens

4 Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes

5 Middlemarch George Eliot

6 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

7 Austerlitz W. G. Sebald

8 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel GarcÍa Márquez

9 The Portrait of a Lady Henry James

10 Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë

From The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favourite Books, J. Peder Zane, editor, reprinted in the London Times.

Top 10 works of literature: Norman Mailer

The top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer:

1 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

2 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

3 Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

4 The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky

5 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

6 U.S.A. (trilogy) John Dos Passos

7 Moby-Dick Herman Melville

8 The Red and the Black Stendhal

9 Buddenbrooks Thomas Mann

10 Labyrinths Jorge Luis Borges

From The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favourite Books, J. Peder Zane, editor, reprinted in the London Times.

Six books that make the most of lists

According to Tara Ison's website, her new book, The List, is "[f]or anyone who has ever broken up with someone...a smart, sophisticated, and darkly comic novel about a dysfunctional couple who make a list of 10 things to do before they break up."

For The Week she named six favorite books that also make the most of lists.

One of her titles:
The Kama Sutra by Vatsayana

Sure, we all know the exhaustively gymnastic mix-and-match listings of Sexual Union found here (“Congress of the Cow”!). But don’t overlook the lists on how to choose friends and messengers, resolve “love quarrels,” the Arts & Sciences to be studied, and generally terrific (and still relevant) relationship advice.
Read about the other five titles.

John Sutherland, in his list of books about lists, intentionally omitted one title that Ison includes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Six top literary killers

Marcel Berlins, who reviews crime fiction for the London Times, named his six top literary killers.

Here are the top three:

MEURSAULT Albert Camus
The Outsider’s protagonist kills an Arab in the hot sun and doesn’t care, influencing a million budding existentialists.

TEMPLE GAULT Patricia Cornwell
Gruesome appearances as Dr Kay Scarpetta’s nemesis in so many bestsellers (from 1993’s Cruel and Unusual onwards) make him the most read fictional killer ever.

RASKOLNIKOV Fyodor Dostoevsky
Destitute, he murders an old woman pawnbroker; would have escaped justice but for love and his conscience.
Read about numbers 4-6.

--Marshal Zeringue

© Campaign for the American Reader. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top 10 books with a happy ending

Elise Valmorbida is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Matilde Waltzing and the forthcoming collection of true stories about finding love, The Book of Happy Endings.

She recently came up with a list of the top 10 books with a happy ending for the Guardian.

Her frame of reference, followed by the top two:
"It's a challenge to choose good books with happy endings. Tragedy is generally more interesting and most of my favourite books are bleak. Voss. Beloved. Lord of the Flies. Wide Sargasso Sea. The God of Small Things. Anything by Samuel Beckett, George Orwell or Michael Ondaatje. When I write fiction, it's normally bleak, which perversely makes me happy. But I out-smiled the Cheshire Cat as I wrote about real people with joy to share in this doomsday world. In The Book of Happy Endings you'll meet, amongst others, Iraqi political dissidents full of hope and love, strangers who discover passionate devotion after a year of transatlantic letters, and a frail old London widow whose approach to life is truly inspirational."

1. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
At a talk in Brighton, the author joked about this book as the best she could do when her publishers begged her for something with a happy ending. If you've read Postcards or any of her other richly poetic but bleak books, you'll know that The Shipping News is as happy as it gets. The hero fumbles his way into love after lots of bad weather and squidburgers, not to mention death on all sides. But the ending is happy. Really it is.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is one of those books I adored as a child. It's still a deeply affirmative read now that I'm a grown-up. The racists are defeated by wisdom, Atticus kills the rabid dog in one shot, and the dreaded Boo Radley turns out to be benign after all. Plot aside, the language is as sharp as a peppermint drop. And that makes me happy.
Read the rest of Valmorbida's list.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

David Lehman's favorite poetry anthologies

David Lehman, editor of the Best American Poetry series and the new Oxford Book of American Poetry, named his favorite anthologies for The Week magazine.

A couple of the titles:

Reading Lyrics edited by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball

Whether you consider them as poems or as occupying a field of their own, the best lyrics of Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein, Gus Kahn, Leo Robin, and many others amount to an American cultural glory full of wit and romance and charm. This is an indispensable book.

The New American Poetry edited by Donald Allen

In the 1960s battle of the anthologies, Allen’s—which represented the countercultural, adversarial, and avant-garde alternatives to the academic poetry of the time—won readers’ hearts and minds and gained legitimacy for the Beats, Black Mountain poets, and the New York School.
Read about the other four collections of Lehman's list.

Lehman's most recent book of poems is When a Woman Loves a Man.

The title poem opens:
When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.
Read on.

--Marshal Zeringue

© Campaign for the American Reader. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tom McCarthy's literary top 10

Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder, has a literary top 10 posted at

Two items on his list:
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Tells you what to do if someone’s shooting at you, or a bear’s chasing you, or your parachute doesn’t work, and a bear’s shooting at you, etc.

Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature

Alain Robbe-Grillet. Most important French post-war writer after Beckett and Claude Simon, who both won the prize. His whole aesthetic is about geometry, space, repetition – and psychosis.