Monday, May 28, 2007

Jasper Fforde's 5 most important books

Jasper Fforde told Newsweek about his five most important books.

Number five on his list:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Much has been written about this book, and it is all true. Especially notable for the way in which the narrative unfolds as we go from character to character.
Read about the other four titles on Jasper Fforde's list.

Simone Swink interviewed Fforde for January Magazine in 2005 and described the appeal of Fforde's work:
It's hard to recommend one of Jasper Fforde's novels without laughing to yourself. Plus the novels themselves are rather complicated to describe. It's best just to hand them over and hope your friends share Fforde's jubilance for poking fun at some of our most revered "classic" books. For anyone who has ever suffered through the agonies of dissecting Shakespearean plays, Jane Eyre, or any book by Dickens under the guidance of an uninspired teacher, these novels are an amusing reminder that a good story is what is most important when it comes to reading. [read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 26, 2007

John McCain's 5 best books about men in battle

Senator John McCain picked a five best list of books about soldiers in battle for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Before I entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a young man, I'd read "For Whom the Bell Tolls," a book that helped bring home to me one of the fundamentals of military experience: what it is that moves soldiers in battle. Clashing ideologies and interests might be the genesis of war, but for the soldier any conflict comes down to fighting for his brothers. In Ernest Hemingway's novel, the main character, Robert Jordan, is an American teacher who has joined the International Brigades; he is an idealist battling against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. But he becomes disenchanted -- not necessarily with his cause but with its leaders and with their foreign allies. Still, in the end, Jordan voluntarily sacrifices his life for the sake of the people he fought alongside, the people he had come to love. Hemingway himself was not a veteran, but he saw war close up in the ambulance corps in World War I -- a perspective that gave him a profound grasp of the instinct that binds warriors together.

Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Robert Kurson's list

Esquire contributing editor Robert Kurson is the author of the 2004 bestseller Shadow Divers.

His new book, Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See, is "the stunning true story of one man’s heroic odyssey from blindness into sight."

This week he contributed "The List" to the The Week magazine.

One of his titles:
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

The single book that truly changed my life. Becker’s idea — that man’s inescapable fear of death is at the root of human motivation, psychology, culture, and good and evil — explains so much about why people do what they do that you’ll never look at the world in the same way again.
Read about the other five books on Kurson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Adam Thorpe's top 10 satires

Adam Thorpe is a poet, playwright and novelist. He selected a top ten list of satires for the Guardian. Most of his picks were written by men long dead.

One possible reason for that, according to Thorpe:
"Satirists have it hard, these days. They can barely match the truth. And shallow satire is no good at all; it is merely cynical, as husked of all value as the average TV chat show and its meaningless laughter. Good, deep satire has both rage and compassion behind it - along with the hope of something better."
Only one title on his list is by a living writer -- who happens to be the only woman on the list:
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

There are few books that nail the futility of our consumerist mores so that they bleed. This is one of them. Set in a prosperous new English suburb, it has the subdued rage of all effective satire, yet Cusk's control of language is supreme. Even its rather Woolfian cruelty - little children are favourite targets - only improves the relish.
Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2007

Alexander McCall Smith's 5 most important books

Alexander McCall Smith told Newsweek about his five most important books.

Number five on his list:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Poor Anna.
Read about the other four titles on Alexander McCall Smith's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Five best true-crime books

Ann Rule, best-selling author of two dozen true-crime books, named a "five best" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on her list:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Writing on true crime requires a capacity to deliver a kind of psychological autopsy of both the dead and the deadly. Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," about the murder of a Kansas farm family in 1959, superbly exemplifies that skill. In a classic true-crime story the central question is not the how but the why -- why did this happen? The case must be complex, the characters -- including the detectives and prosecutors -- unpredictable. Capote's mesmerizing book, which I read when it was first published, was the inspiration that led me to try, on my own, to get inside the mind of a murderer -- which is how it happened that I did my study, 15 years later, of Ted Bundy, poster boy of serial killers. Despite latter-day criticism of Capote's ethics and technique, he continues to be the author whose singular work represented a new way of getting at the truth of so dark a crime.

Read about the other four titles on Rule's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lee Child's list

Lee Child, best–selling author of Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, and eight other novels about former military police officer Jack Reacher, named The List for The Week magazine.

A couple of my favorites made the list, including:

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Like hearing from Conan Doyle’s American cousin 50 years later ..… our genre’s other bookend. Sherlock Holmes has morphed into Philip Marlowe. All the Marlowe books are great, but this tale of the hapless Terry Lennox mixes great humanity with world–weary cynicism. Style, wit, grace, a seminal hero, and some of the loveliest writing ever committed to paper.
Read about all the titles on Child's list.

Lee Child’s latest Reacher novel is Bad Luck and Trouble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jamie Ivey's top 10 books about wine

At the Guardian, London lawyer turned wine professional Jamie Ivey lists his top 10 books about wine.

Ivey's introduction to the list:
"Drinking wine is fun and reading about it should be as well. This selection might not please the purist, but it's as varied as a good cellar, with authors ranging from a 12th-century Persian poet to a Hollywood scriptwriter, and whether it's by a pool with a glass of rosé or curled on the couch with some warming rioja, the books below are the perfect accompaniment to your favourite tipple."
The title by the screenwriter:
Sideways by Rex Pickett

Miles loves Pinot Noir, his friend Jack likes women, and luckily the Californian vineyards are filled with both. So, just days before Jack's wedding, they head off into the vine-filled slopes for a last hurrah. Downing pitchers of wine at the appropriately named Hitching Post, Miles attempts to ignore the fact that his life is collapsing around him - he steals cash from his elderly mother, his novel is rejected by publishers and his best friend demonstrates a moral code as flexible as a cabinet minister's, fleeing naked from a lover's bed just hours before his nuptials. Comic and sad, there's also plenty of interesting stuff about wine, provided you don't drink Merlot. And it's all penned by the LA screenwriter Rex Pickett.
Read the entire list.

Jamie Ivey's Extremely Pale Rosé is out in paperback in June.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2007

5 best books about powerful women

Harriet Rubin, author of the new book, The Mona Lisa Stratagem: The Art of Women, Age and Power, named a five best books about powerful women list for Opinion Journal.

The only story on her list set in America:

Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Blanche Wiesen Cook's twin volumes on Eleanor Roosevelt dilate in tendentious detail on the life of the woman who many said was the first female president -- critics of the first couple called the president Franklin "Eleanor" Roosevelt. But this biography rewards patience. E.R. made the world her court by creating an alliance with an unwilling collaborator, her distracted husband, with whom she communicated by in-box rather than by pillow talk. Eleanor turned herself into the people's president by speaking up for those beleaguered by segregation, anti-Semitism and the Great Depression. She lived Cato's ideal: "The winning cause pleases the gods but the losing cause pleases Cato."

Read about all five titles on Rubin's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Laura Lippman's 5 most important books

Laura Lippman told Newsweek about her five most important books.

Number one on her list:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

I began reading this at 12 because I had inferred that it was very dirty. I think I was 19 by the time I identified the dirty parts, and by then I no longer cared. My favorite novel, hands down.
Read about the other titles on Lippman's list.

About Lippman's new novel, What the Dead Know, Wendy Werris remarked on "Lippman's almost poetic style of characterization. It's branded a mystery, but the narrative and characters are so boldly drawn that it rises well above the genre."

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lore Segal's list

Winner of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and the Carl Sandburg Award for Fiction, Lore Segal is the author of the novels Other People’s Houses and Her First American (both available from The New Press), and several books for children.

Her new book is Shakespeare’s Kitchen.

This week at The Week magazine, she named The List. It includes:
The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick

And one contemporary: Agree or disagree with her politics, Cynthia Ozick’s language rushes you on a wild ride; her unlikely metaphors spit fire. Who else (maybe Gabriel García Márquez) could fashion a girl Golem out of dirt from the flowerpot and get her elected mayor of New York? You’re past being surprised or shocked? Read on to Puttermesser’s death.
Read Segal's entire list.

The Page 99 Test: Lore Segal's Shakespeare's Kitchen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Five books about medicine or dissection

Sherwin B. Nuland suggests five books "about the fascinating history of medicine or of anatomical dissection" in The New Republic (free registration req.).

One title from Nuland's list:
Jacalyn Duffin, History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction

Duffin, a recent president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, is as well known for her attractive writing style as she is for her major contributions to scholarship. In this book, she has done what many might consider impossible: filter the long and intricate history of medicine through a lens that shines a bright focus on its endlessly interesting highlights, and do it with a sense of humor.
Read about the rest of the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tom McCarthy's top 10 European modernists

"From time to time, Western literature undergoes an upheaval so momentous that its entire landscape is transfigured," writes Tom McCarthy at the Guardian. "The old order falls away, or rather is devoured and transformed by its own offspring, and the tremors carry on for decades, even centuries, with fault lines spreading out in all directions. Modernism is not a movement, nor even a way of thinking, but an event: an event with which any serious writer has, in some way or another, to engage, and to which they should respond."

So who tops McCarthy's top 10 list of European modernists?
James Joyce

If the Dutch claim to have developed "total football" in the 70s is true, "total writing" pre-dates their achievement by five decades. With the publication of Ulysses in 1922, the novel reaches a point at which each line, each image and each turn of phrase crackles and hums with the associations that it's firing off to every corner of the work. Tram-wires, advertising hoardings and printing presses speak to one another as they penetrate the most intimate reaches of consciousness. While written by a perhaps not-quite-European Irish holder of a British passport, and set in Dublin, it's for the most part in the high-Modernist melting pot of Paris that Ulysses finds its shape. With the publication 17 years later of Finnegan's Wake, Joyce takes his total-writing logic to its ultimate conclusion, and presents what in effect is the source-code of the novel itself - of all novels, their very possibility.
Read about the nine writers who stand in Joyce's shadow.

Tom McCarthy's acclaimed novel Remainder is currently being adapted for the cinema by Film Four/Cowboy Films.

See--The Page 69 Test: Remainder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Naomi Wolf's list

For The Week magazine, Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, chose six recent books that have had a strong impact on her.

One book on her list:
To Begin the World Anew by Bernard Bailyn

People today labor under a fallacy about democracy: They tend to think that American democracy can stand up to any assault — but what leaps off the pages of Bernard Bailyn’s wonderful narrative is that the Founders did not think so at all. They knew that human nature united with unchecked power leads inexorably to abuse, and they were scared to death of the prospect of the rise of an American despot.
Read about all six titles on Wolf's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 7, 2007

Tom Wolfe's 5 most important books

Tom Wolfe told Newsweek about the five books most important to his own writing.

One title from the list:
Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara.

It gave me the idea for how to write The Bonfire of the Vanities, which is told from various points of view.
Read about the other four titles at Newsweek.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Five best books about France

Howard Bloch, Sterling Professor of French at Yale University and author of, most recently, A Needle in the Right Hand of God (about the Bayeux Tapestry) , named a five best books about France list for Opinion Journal.

Number one on the list:

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

In her portrait of life in France during the early years of World War II, Irène Némirovsky -- who died at Auschwitz in 1942 -- left behind a work of unforgettable poignancy. Her eye in the two novellas that make up "Suite Française" is as sharp as that of Flaubert or Proust. There is no better depiction of the human animal stripped of centuries of civilization than her re-creation of the flight from Paris as the Germans arrived in June 1940, no better sounding of the complexities of the human heart than the scenes of Occupation. "It was deplorable, but no one would even know in the future. It would be one of those things posterity would never find out, or would refuse to see out of a sense of shame." This masterpiece waited six decades to see the light of day.

Read about all five books on Bloch's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 4, 2007

Eric Blehm's ten favorite books

Eric Blehm is the author of The Last Season, the "true story of the life and mysterious disappearance of James Randall Morgenson, who, over the course of 28 summers spent in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, became arguably the most celebrated ranger in the National Park Service's most adventurous unit."

One of the titles from the list of his ten favorite books that he shared with Barnes and Noble:
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson --

For laugh-out-loud bedtime reading -- whether in a sleeping bag on a rock ledge or in a featherbed at the Ritz -- Bryson is the master of "travel" writing. He propels you along through a place, giving you bits and pieces of natural history while you lick your chops waiting for the next brilliant lines of dialogue. Bryson reminds me that it's okay, in fact endearing, to make fun of yourself. I have read this book multiple times -- it's that good.
Read the rest of Blehm's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Etgar Keret's literary top ten

Etgar Keret, author of the new book, Missing Kissinger, took the Pulp Net quiz.

A couple of his answers:
Best short story I’ve ever read

"Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

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

I think Kurt Vonnegut really deserved that prize, but had too much of a sense of humour for the Swedes to see him as a serious contender.
Read the other entries to Etgar Keret's literary top ten.

Etgar Keret has published four books of short stories, one novella, three books of comics and a children's book.

His book Missing Kissinger has been listed among the 50 most important Israeli books of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue