Saturday, June 30, 2007

Essential reading for modern humans asked Richard K. Morgan to "Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

Here's what he came up with:

Essential Reading for Modern Humans: Six Books That Will Change the Way You View the World (Though You May Not Thank Them for It):
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human by Matt Ridley

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism by Robin Morgan (no relation!)

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk

Culture and Prosperity: Why Some Nations Are Rich But Most Remain Poor by John Kay
Read the entire Ink Q & A with Richard Morgan.

The Page 69 Test: Thirteen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thomas Perry's list

Thomas Perry, author of Nightlife -- and over a dozen other excellent thrillers, including the soon-to-be-released Silence -- contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One of his titles:

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

It’s Faulkner’s dramatization of storytelling — how human beings piece together the past based on what is known, what can be surmised, and what is always true of human beings. Miss Rosa Coldfield tells the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen and his family, and then Quentin Compson and his friend Shreve retell the old story until they know they’ve got it right.

Read about Perry's other picks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Patricia O'Toole's 5 most important books

Pulitzer Prize-nominated biographer Patricia O'Toole has chronicled the lives of powerful figures such as Henry Adams (The Five of Hearts) and Teddy Roosevelt (When Trumpets Call).

She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

The only one on her list that I haven't read:
The Journal of John Winthrop

Now there was a leader. Humane, visionary and just.
Read about the other four titles on Patricia O'Toole's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gordon Brown's favorite books

Gordon Brown, the incoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, talked to Mariella Frostrup of the BBC's Radio 4 about his five all-time favorite books.

One title mentioned:
Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 by Linda Colley.
Read about the rest of Brown's list.

What does the list reveal about Brown? Something impressive, according to Ben Macintyre of the London Times; not so much, says Richard Lea at the Guardian books blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Joanna Scott: 5 books that "cast a spell"

Joanna Scott is the Roswell Smith Burrows Professor of English at The University of Rochester and author of numerous books, including Everybody Loves Somebody, a collection of stories and Liberation, a novel.

In an interview with Ink Q & A, she was asked to "Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

Her response:
I'm always looking for books that cast a spell, whatever that means. It should be a simple quality to describe, yet it's infinitely mysterious. I can't give any recipe for this or even offer a list of ingredients. But I can offer examples of the spellbinding books I've read or reread recently:

1. The Silver Screen by Maureen Howard
2. King by John Berger
3. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
4. Two Women by Alberto Moravia
5. Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Five best: books about Germany & Germans

Steven Ozment is a professor of ancient and modern history at Harvard University. His most recent book is A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People.

He selected five books that "excel in their portraits of Germany and the German people" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:

The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples by Herwig Wolfram (University of California, 1997).

Why do thousands of Germans annually visit the 19th-century monument near Detmold honoring the first-century barbarian prince Arminius? Herwig Wolfram explains all. Arminius was the first barbarian to defeat Roman legions, and in his life and deeds one finds the first stirrings of the "German people" among polyglot tribes migrating to the borders of the Roman Empire. At this time, barbarians served Rome as the members of federated armies and as agricultural workers, the talented becoming Roman citizens. By the fourth century, crack Germanic warriors occupied virtually every senior military post in the Roman army. As the Romans were "barbarized," the barbarians were "Romanized." The resulting mix of Roman, Christian and Germanic cultures lay at the heart of what became the German nation.

Read about all five titles on Ozment's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2007

Matt Richtel's list

Matt Richtel, author of the new Silicon Valley thriller Hooked, contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One of his titles:

Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp by C.D. Payne

I nearly injured myself laughing. The story is about a geeky 14-year-old desperate to lose his virginity while bearing a larger-than-life vocabulary and worldview.
Read about the other books to make Richtel's list.

Matt Richtel is an author, journalist, and cartoonist. Hooked is his first novel, and he is currently writing a second, tentatively titled Idle's Mind. He makes most of his living as a New York Times reporter, covering technology and telecommunications from the San Francisco bureau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Paulette Jiles's 12 favorite books

In a spring 2007 interview with Barnes & Noble, Paulette Jiles named her twelve favorite books:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett

The Great Code: The Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye

Grimms' Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Peru by Gordon Lish

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The above are my favorites because they are so beautifully written, because of the intelligence that shines from the stories, because of the urgency behind their presentation, and because of the authors' conviction that the story being told matters deeply. Grimms' Fairy Tales, of course, are not by any one author. They are like an open window into an ancient and probably ageless part of our minds that lusts for stories.
Read the complete interview.

Stormy Weather is Paulette Jiles's second novel. Her first novel, Enemy Women, was published in 2002. A national bestseller, it was hailed as "a delight from start to finish" by author Tracy Chevalier, and praised as a "book with backbone, written with a tough, haunting eloquence" by Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Willy Vlautin: 5 great books set in the West

Willy Vlautin, author of The Motel Life, named these "five great books set in the West" for a Q & A with Powell's.
Winter in The Blood by James Welch
Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
Sweet Promised Land by Robert Laxalt
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
True Grit by Charles Portis
Read more of the Q & A at Powell's.

Here's how Vlautin described his novel:
The Motel Life is a novel set in Reno, Nevada. It's about two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who end up living on their own in a motel at an early age, 14 and 16. These are decent kids who end up bouncing around for the next nine years living from place to place and going from job to job. Then one night Jerry Lee, while driving home, accidentally hits a boy on a bike and kills him. This changes the brothers' lives forever, because instead of reporting it, Jerry Lee goes to his brother for help and the two decide to run.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson's 5 most important books

American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told Newsweek about his five most important books.

The only novel on his list:
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

He says Mars has two moons a century before that's discovered. Lucky guess.
Read about the other four titles on Neil deGrasse Tyson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Five best: American literature of the 1920s

Jeffrey Hart, an emeritus professor of English at Dartmouth College and author of Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe (2001) and The Making of the American Conservative Mind (2005), selected five books "essential to appreciating American literature of the 1920s" for Opinion Journal.

One title to make the grade:
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, 1929)

In my opinion, this is Hemingway's best novel, written with a style and lyrical force that is apparent from the famous opening: "In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.... Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees." Catherine Barkley, Hemingway's greatest heroine, is an English nurse's aid in Italy during World War I. Her fiancé, a British officer, has been killed on the Somme, blown to bits. Then a wounded man, an American ambulance driver named Frederic Henry, is brought into the hospital where Catherine works, and they find a certain solace in each other. As she later lies dying in childbirth and Frederic tries to comfort her with empty words, she passes the British officer's discipline on to him. " 'I'm going to die,' she said; then waited and said, 'I hate it.' " Her resolution in the face of death -- she "holds her line under the maximum exposure," as Hemingway put it elsewhere -- reflected the writer's own stylistic and moral imperative.
Read about all five titles on Hart's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tina Brown's list

Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and the author of a new biography of Princess Diana, The Diana Chronicles, contributed "The List" -- of "some of her favorite recent reads" -- to the The Week magazine.

One of her titles:
The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson

An absorbing portrait of a hitherto forgotten figure in British history, John Cooke, the heroic lawyer who was selected by Parliament in 1649 to prosecute the trial of Charles I. Cooke righted British democracy, then paid for his courage with his life.
Read about the other books to make Brown's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Roman Simic's literary top ten

Roman Simic, a short fiction writer from Croatia, took the Pulp Net quiz.

A couple of his answers:
My favourite novel that no-one else seems to have heard of

At least here, in Croatia, Donald Barthelme’s The Paradise

The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again

I can and I do! The book that I have re-read at least 20 times is Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Please, don’t laugh too loud.
Read the other entries to Roman Simic's literary top ten.

From Pulp Net:
Roman Simic was born in 1972 in Zadar, Croatia. He is artistic director for the Festival of the European Short Story and the editor of the series Anthologies of European Short Story. His own short fiction has been included in various selections and anthologies of contemporary Croatian prose and translated into many European languages. His publications include the U trenutku kao u divljini (In the Moment Like in the Wilderness), (1996, Zagreb; Goran prize for Young Poets); A Place Where We’re Going to Spend the Night, short stories, 2000, Zagreb), and What Are We Falling in Love With, (short stories, 2005) which won the Jutarnji list prize for the best Croatian prose book of the year 2005, and is about to be translated into German, Spanish, Slovenian and Serbian (2007).
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Jennifer Egan's 5 most important books

Jennifer Egan told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title on the list:
Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.

In reading it, I saw my own life differently.
Read about the other four titles on Egan's list.

Jennifer Egan is the author of three novels, The Invisible Circus, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award, and the bestselling The Keep, and a short story collection, Emerald City. She has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's and Ploughshares, among others, and her journalism appears frequently in the New York Times Magazine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2007

Larry Doyle's list

Larry Doyle, author of I Love You, Beth Cooper, contributed "The List" to the The Week magazine.

One of his titles:
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson

A coming–of–age novel both hilarious and heartbreaking, following young Penman as he teaches himself to become a master locksmith in order to break into his grandfather’s legendary pornography collection. Plus, there’re gypsies.
Read about the other five books on Doyle's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rebecca Ford's favorite five fiction books

Rebecca Ford is the editor of OUP Blog, the official blog of Oxford University Press. Prior to joining OUP she worked at Creative Loafing, an alternative newspaper in Atlanta.

In February 2007, she named her favorite five non-Oxford fiction books:
  • Paul Auster, Leviathan
  • Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
  • Charles Dickens, Bleak House
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Orson Scott Card , Ender’s Game
Read about Ford's favorite five non-fiction books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Five best: books on the criminal mind

Theodore Dalrymple is a former prison doctor. His most recent book is Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy.

He selected a list of "favorite books on the criminal mind" for Opinion Journal.

Number One:

On Murder by Thomas De Quincey

Everyone loves a good murder, so long as it happens at a distance. The English essayist and critic Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) was most likely the first person to express the thought in print. "On Murder" collects this and many other of De Quincey's observations about the subject. The book includes one of the most famous essays in the English language: "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." It was inspired by the notorious John Williams, who claimed seven victims, from two families, in London's East End in 1811. As De Quincey puts it: "People begin to see that something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed.... Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry, sentiment, are now deemed indispensable." If there were not something in what he says, why would we all dote on murder mysteries?

Read Dalrymple's entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Top 10 books about unlikely friendships

Sarah Salway, a prize-winning short story writer, poet, and novelist, selected a top ten list of books about unlikely friendships for the Guardian.

Her framework:
Everyone knows the value of a 'friend in need' but what about the friendships that take us by surprise, and in doing so, change the way we think?

Fiction's full of these often difficult relationships: some good, some bad, some completely, bloodily, awful. So in order to pick 10, I had to make rules: no love interest (which cut out the Empress of Blandings and Lord Emsworth), no traditional master-servant relationships (step down Rebecca and Mrs Danvers), and nothing I haven't read but people keep telling me to put in (Don Quixote. Oh, the shame).
Number one on Salway's list:
Burn Marks by Sara Paretsky

The elderly Mr Contreras is detective VI Warshawski's fretting friend and neighbour in all the books of Paretsky's popular crime series. I don't know what would happen to Vic without Mr Contreras to worry about her. Not only do the fictional duo share two dogs, Peppy and Mitch, but Mr Contreras (Sal) is as stubborn as Vic and they have the kind of niggling arguments that only true friends can. She provides the excitement he needs in his life (and then some), and he is the father-substitute she's searching for.
Read about the other nine picks.

Visit Sarah Salway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Scott Turow's 5 most important books

Scott Turow told Newsweek about his five most important books.

The only book on his list by a personal acquaintance:
Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen.

She was my teacher at Amherst. It's a neglected classic. She was the first writer of enormous scope and power I knew personally.
Read about the other four titles on Scott Turow's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 4, 2007

Amity Gaige's list

This week Amity Gaige, author of O My Darling and The Folded World, contributed "The List" to the The Week magazine.

One of her titles:
Rabbit Run by John Updike

A gangly young man, married too young and getting his spirit timecarded out of him, makes a run for it. This 1960 novel heralded a whole generation of crumbling marriages. But the writing, as precise and intelligent as it gets, converts the tale into beauty.
Read about the other five books on Gaige's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Five best books: America in the Arab world

Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East From 1776 to the Present.

He selected a five best list of books that "vividly capture the long history of America's encounters with the Arab world" for Opinion Journal.

A nineteenth-century title on the list:

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1869)

Commissioned by two U.S. newspapers to report on the voyage of the steamship Quaker City in 1867, the relatively unknown humorist Samuel Clemens sailed for the Middle East. The realities he encountered there bore little resemblance to the romantic fantasies that he and millions of Americans had imbibed in "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights." Middle Eastern men, Clemens concluded, were "filthy, brutish, ignorant, unprogressive, and superstitious," and the women so ugly that "they couldn't smile after ten o'clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath." These caustic observations and a wealth of others were published in a single volume under Clemens's new pen name, Mark Twain. The Middle East made him: "The Innocents Abroad" earned $300,000, a fortune for the time. Yet pre-"Innocents" myths about the Middle East remained deeply ingrained in the American imagination, later inspiring a cavalcade of fanciful movies, from "The Sheik of Araby" to "Aladdin," from "The Wind and the Lion" to "Indiana Jones." America's romance with the region continued until 9/11, the day the fantasy died.

Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue