Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Anthony Holden's list

Anthony Holden is the author of Bigger Deal: A Year Inside the Poker Boom. He contributed "The List" to The Week magazine last week.

One of his titles:

Shut Up and Deal by Jesse May

Before giving up the game and turning TV commentator several years ago, May wrote the finest poker novel since Richard Jessup’s The Cincinnati Kid. As Mickey navigates through the shark-infested waters of the card rooms, you learn as much about luck as about life.
Read Holden's full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 30, 2007

Most important books: Natasha Trethewey

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey recently told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title to make the list:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

It's so dark and romantic, and I was inspired by the way Brontë used the language of the characters to communicate their class differences.
Read about the other titles on Trethewey's list.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Five best: history of assassinations

George Fetherling, a Canadian novelist and poet and author of The Book of Assassins, selected a five best "works that excel in tracking the unsettling history of assassinations" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman

After 30 years of research, Michael Kauffman produced perhaps the most penetrating book about the inner workings of an individual assassin. His depiction of John Wilkes Booth is not the usual caricature of a famous but delusional actor who gets off a lucky shot at Abraham Lincoln. Rather, Kauffman's Booth is the author of the 19th century's most complex assassination conspiracy, designed to cripple the country's command structure by eliminating the president, vice president and secretary of state in a single night's work. Kauffman writes reliably about psychology while sparing us the usual guesswork about Booth's mental state, and he does an excellent job evoking the draconian suspension of civil liberties in the desperate days after the assassination, when authorities ran the killer and his conspirators to ground.
Read about the other books on Fetherling's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 27, 2007

Top 10 tales of metamorphosis

Thomas Bloor named a "top ten tales of metamorphosis" list for the Guardian.

Number One on the list:
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

An obvious place to start. A man wakes up one morning to find he's changed into a giant beetle. The transformation has already taken place when the story opens and Kafka offers no explanation as to why or how this has occurred. Instead he focuses on the trials of family life when you've become an enormous insect overnight. Needless to say, it ends in tragedy.
Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kate Blackwell's list

Kate Blackwell, author of the story collection You Won't Remember This, was invited by Powells.com to recommend "five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

Blackwell's response:
I've never forgotten the shock of pleasure these five books gave me when I first came upon them. For sheer originality of language and unique vision they occupy a category of their own among fiction I've read.

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse

Willa Cather, The Professor's House

Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower

Mavis Gallant, Varieties of Exile (stories)

Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
Read Blackwell's interview at Powells.com.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 23, 2007

Five best: lives of artists

Meryle Secrest, who has written biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Rodgers and Salvador Dalí (among others), is the author of Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject (Knopf, 2007).

She selected a five best "books which indelibly portray the lives of artists" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Edward Hopper by Gail Levin (Knopf, 1995).

There is something about the work of Edward Hopper that uncannily evokes a decade. Look at "Nighthawks," his famous painting of a deserted street lit at night by a café, its inhabitants frozen on their bar stools. Once again it is the early 1940s. It took years for Hopper to refine his signature style, which infused seemingly innocent images, whether of small towns or of the Cape Cod landscapes he loved so much, with an inner intensity. Who he was, how he painted and why -- these matters are exhaustively explored by Gail Levin, who has written widely about Hopper and based her authoritative account of his life on the diary of his wife, Jo. Levin's analyses of Hopper's work are astute and telling. But ultimately any study of such an introspective personality can take us only so far. In the end, we have to return to the evidence of the work itself and to its reflection of a universal truth that Hopper understood -- that is, the essential loneliness of the human spirit.
Read about the other books on Secrest's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Most important books: John Banville

John Banville recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:
The Catholic Church Catechism

This was certainly the most influential book in my childhood. By the age of 7 I knew what simony is, not to mention concupiscence and lust.
Read about the other titles on Banville's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 20, 2007

Linda Greenlaw's list

Linda Greenlaw is the best-selling author of The Hungry Ocean, The Lobster Chronicles, and All Fishermen Are Liars. Her debut novel, Slipknot, is out this summer from Hyperion. She contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One of her titles:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

An enlightening and entertaining chronicle of our planet from the Big Bang to the discoveries of contemporary scientists. Bryson contributes great insight into some of the most perplexing questions about where we are and how we got here.
Read Greenlaw's full list.

Visit Linda Greenlaw's website and learn more about Slipknot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jonathan Stroud's favorite fantasy books

Jonathan Stroud is the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy and other books.

Some time ago he named a top 10 list of his favorite fantasy books for the Guardian.

The most recent title on his list:
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, 1979

Recent developments have seen the divisions between folk-tales, children's fiction and adult fantasy blur more than ever, but Carter's collection is an unashamed reappropriation of fairy stories for a specifically adult audience. She revels in the carnality of Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Bluebeard et al, re-energising the form, while doffing her cap to the traditions on which modern fantasy is based.
Read about the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Best books about major decisions of World War II

Ian Kershaw, whose books include a two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler and Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, selected a five best "books about major decisions of World War II" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:

Closing the Ring by Winston S. Churchill (Houghton Mifflin, 1951)

In this fifth volume of Winston Churchill's six-volume "The Second World War," he describes how tensions arose between Britain and the U.S. in 1943 as the Western Allies faced difficult decisions about an invasion of German-occupied western Europe. Stalin was pressing hard for a "second front," but there were evident dangers for the forces advancing through Italy if troops had to be withdrawn too early to support a landing in France. The British prime minister takes us behind his desk as he tells the story of "Operation Overlord," relating his dealings with Roosevelt and Stalin in the year before D-Day. The book lacks some of the drama of earlier volumes in Churchill's history, but it still makes compelling reading. Of course, as he later acknowledged, Churchill was not just making history but writing it, too, to cement his own reputation for posterity.

Read about all the titles on Kershaw's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2007

Andrew Gross's list

Andrew Gross, co-author with James Patterson of five No. 1 best-selling thrillers as well as his solo debut thriller, The Blue Zone, contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One of his titles:
Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

A game-changing novel. The first to interweave Vietnam, drug smuggling, the underside of the ’60s, and violence into a powerful, suspenseful, and ultimately heartbreaking classic. Opened the gate to the modern “literary” thriller.
Read about all six titles on Gross's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Top 10 books about psychological journeys

Novelist, literary journalist, and psychotherapeutic counsellor Sebastian Beaumont developed a top 10 list of books about psychological journeys for the Guardian.

The backdrop:
It was whilst compiling this list of my top ten psychological journeys that I realised that my own novel, Thirteen, relates to a lineage of stories that explore both literal journeys and metaphorical voyages into the terrifying darkness of the human psyche. Why we have to "travel" in order to find ourselves is one of the more mysterious and fascinating aspects of psychological maturation. I have been drawn, from my earliest days, to such texts, especially those that blur the boundaries of consensus 'reality' and psychological reality.
Number 10 on Beaumont's list:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Not fiction, but Pirsig is a rollicking story teller and this reads like the best of novels. It is an engrossing tale of a journey across America by motorcycle, and into psychological and philosophical meltdown. The climax, in which Pirsig faces his own madness and the collapse of his collusion with constructed reality, is both breathless and magnificent. We can never step outside ideology, but Pirsig makes it clear that if we really face it, we can radically reduce its tyranny. My sense of the world was never the same again after reading this book.
Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Five top narco-reads

Powells.com asked Jerry Stahl -- author of, most recently, Love Without, a collection of short stories -- to "Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

Here's what he came up with:

Drugs are always a fun topic. Since the subject is never really drugs — but far deeper elements of society and the human soul. Plus some of them are screamingly funny. These are five top drawer narco-reads.

Trinities, Nick Tosches

Requiem for a Dream, Hubert Selby

Junky, William Burroughs

Wrecking Crew, John Albert

Cain's Book, Alexander Trocchi

Read the entire Powells.com Ink Q & A with Jerry Stahl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Elmore Leonard's five most important books

Elmore Leonard recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins.

The best crime novel ever written. I read it and learned how to do bad guys.
Read about the other titles on Leonard's list.

Related: Elmore Leonard, feminist novelist?

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Five best: books about Hollywood

Robert Osborne is a Turner Classic Movies host.

He selected a five best books about Hollywood list for Opinion Journal.

The most recent title on the list:

The Grand Surprise by Leo Lerman (Knopf, 2007).

Leo Lerman (1914-94) never produced a movie or directed a play, but as a writer, editor and critic at Condé Nast he ran in glamorous circles. His celebrated friends included many who were identifiable by just one name: Marlene, Tru, Jackie, Cary. Lerman kept detailed journals tracking his social scamperings (even before he could afford it, he entertained constantly). But in the journals he also confessed to fears of failure and inadequacy alongside those glittering souls. "The Grand Surprise" (edited by Stephen Pascal), with an intoxicating mix of gossip, anecdotes and character sketches, will be for many a grand surprise. Lerman writes with just the right touch of brio and bite as he evokes a vanished time.

Read about all five titles on Osborne's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Top 10: outsider books

Londoner Neil Griffiths -- author of Betrayal in Naples and Saving Caravaggio -- named a top 10 list of outsider books for the Guardian.

Griffiths on what makes an outsider:
To be an outsider is to feel disconnected from life, from other people, from oneself, the sight lines of communication always just slightly skewed. Outsiders can be perceptive readers of inmost thoughts, but they slip off surfaces and are awkward on firm ground. It is their unfortunate role to stand against life, in Heidegger's sense of next-to yet in conflict-with. No outsider wants to be one, it is not a lifestyle choice. Whatever its psychological aetiology, it is like an accident of birth: you are either in or you're out.
Number One on his list:
Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky

The first modern novel features the first modern outsider. A monologue of sarcastic rage from a man who has chosen isolation because he knows he doesn't fit in. Irascible, clever, proud, the Underground Man harangues the ordinary world for its naivety, optimism, self-regard; he knows - feels - that man's freedom is in the choice to decide against himself, to spurn benefit and reward, to turn himself inside out and display the fear, misery, meanness of his desperate self. The Underground Man is the outsider as dark mirror. The final pages are some of Dostoyevsky's best, and they are some of his grimmest. Grim Dostoyevsky: it doesn't get better than that.
Read about the other nine outsider books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Aryn Kyle's favorite books

Aryn Kyle's acclaimed first novel is The God of Animals.

She recently told Barnes & Noble about her favorite books. Her list included:
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson — Her prose is perfection. I was assigned this novel for a college class, and during that time I followed my roommate around our apartment, reading lines aloud to her while she was trying to do laundry or clean the kitchen. I think she wanted to strangle me.

That Night by Alice McDermott — McDermott takes a subject so familiar and makes it absolutely mythic through her telling. I first read this on an overseas flight. It's such a slim little novel that I finished it long before my plane landed. I was so overwhelmed by the book that after I finished it, I turned back to the first page and read it a second time through.
Read about the other titles that made Kyle's favorites list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Jeff Noon's literary top ten

Jeff Noon took the Pulp Net quiz.

A couple of his answers:

My favourite opening line of a novel:

“Call me Ishmael.” Imagine: beginning such a massive book (Herman Melville’s Moby Dick), about such a massive subject (hunting for a giant white whale), with such a note of doubt. What does Melville mean by saying “Call me Ishmael?” Isn’t that the narrator’s real name? It’s an alias? He’s keeping secrets, from sentence one. Why? So then, a great start.

* * *
Deceased author I’d most like to meet at a bus stop late at night when the last bus is nowhere to be seen:

Samuel Beckett. I’d ask him the time and he’d reply, “Time, time, have you had done with your abominable time! One day we are born; one day we die. Is that not enough for you?!” And I’d say in reply, “Hey, Sam, I was only asking.”
Read the other entries to Jeff Noon's literary top ten.

From Pulp Net:
Jeff Noon was born in Manchester, England. He was trained in the visual arts, and was musically active in the punk scene. His first novel, Vurt, won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Since then he has concentrated on finding new ways of writing, suitable for portraying the modern world in all its complexity. His other books include Automated Alice, Pixel Juice, Needle in the Groove and Falling Out Of Cars. His plays include Woundings, The Modernists and Dead Code.
--Marshal Zeringue