Friday, August 31, 2007

John Leland's favorite road books

New York Times reporter John Leland contributed "The List" -- of his all-time favorite road books -- to The Week magazine this week.

One title to make the grade:
Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga by Stephen Davis.

An over-the-top ode to excess, this account of (mostly) road misadventures is “Spinal Tap” for the reality-based world. The groupies, the drugs, the egos, the tight trousers — did I mention the groupies?
Read about the other five books on Leland's list.

John Leland is the author of Hip: The History and the new book, Why Kerouac Matters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Top 10 dystopian novels for teenagers

Gemma Malley is the author of The Declaration, a futuristic, dystopian novel set in a world in which there are drugs which stop the onset of aging and there's no room left in the world for youth. With death no longer inevitable, children become an abomination and those that are accidentally born must live locked away in a borstal-like Surplus Hall. It is published in the U.S. by Bloomsbury and is scheduled for release in October.

She complied a "top 10 dystopian novels for teenagers" list for the Guardian.

The chart-topper:
1984 by George Orwell

The original and best - who can forget Winston in his fight against the machine of authoritarian government? This book stayed with me for years after I read it and probably informed many of my political views today. Big Brother, Room 101, the Mind Police - all brilliantly realised and wonderfully narrated, right up to the chilling end.
Read Malley's full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Critical Library: Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman told Critical Mass about five books she believes reviewers should have in their libraries.

One title from her list:
Walter Jackson Bate (editor), Criticism: The Major Texts. Any critic with a scholarly bent and a modicum of curiosity about his forebears should own this anthology, from the fourth century B.C. (Aristotle) to the mid-twentieth century (Edmund Wilson) – in other words, the pre-theoretical era. What is great literature? Does it have moral obligations? How should it be read and discussed? Bate’s grand tour of classical, Renaissance, neoclassical, Romantic, and modern critical thought provides some surprisingly useful perspectives for thinking about current literature and art.
Read about Fadiman's other suggestions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2007

Most important books: Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:

Paper Lion by George Plimpton.

For journalism, I learned how personal experience is a perspective no one else would be able to re-create.
Read about all five titles on Pollan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Five best: portraits of the era of America's founding

Jay Winik, author of the New York Times bestseller April 1865, selected a five best "portraits of the era of America's founding" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:

George Washington by Douglas Southall Freeman

Despite all that has been written about the legendary general and president, George Washington remains the most impenetrable of the founders, forever austere, dignified, aloof and unapproachable. Yet Douglas Southall Freeman, who is best known for his monumental biography of Robert E. Lee, has done as good a job as anyone in pulling together the threads of Washington's life. Washington emerges as not the most brilliant man of his day, or the most eloquent, or even the most militarily gifted. For that matter, his administration was troubled, such as by the controversy over its tax policies, which helped ignite the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in 1794. In the end, however, what comes across in this biography (I prefer the abridged edition published in 1968) is that, in a thousand little ways, Washington was destined to become the most important of America's Founders.
Read about Winik's other four titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Five best: guides to China and its history

Oliver August, author of Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man, selected a five best "guides to China and its history" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

Ha Jin is the master storyteller of modern China, and this is his best book. In the dozen stories collected in "The Bridegroom," he portrays his homeland in exceptionally dark colors. It is a place where anarchic privateering and lawlessness flourish below a surface of authoritarian control. Freebooters and corrupt officials inflict cruelties on the less fortunate, who then turn on one another rather than banding together. Still, Ha Jin's view of his countrymen is intensely affectionate. For three decades, they have faced immense social change, and yet even as their lives are repeatedly upended most people have responded with remarkable good grace. An exception is the man in one of the stories who wants to poison an entire town after being freed from false arrest. For the most part, though, Ha Jin traces the continuing toxic effects of the Cultural Revolution that began under Mao Zedong in the 1960s, when children informed on parents and even the most harmless comment could trigger persecution.
Read about August's other four titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Betsy Carter's list

Betsy Carter, founding editor of New York Woman magazine and the author of the memoir Nothing to Fall Back On, contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One of her titles:
Act One by Moss Hart

This is the funniest, best memoir ever written about: nursing a passion; succeeding beyond your wildest dreams; humiliating yourself in public; and going to summer camp. (Not necessarily in that order).
Read about Carter's full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2007

Most important books: Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Everything Is Illuminated, and other works. He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:
See Under: Love by David Grossman.

The novel of the 21st century.
Read about all five titles on Foer's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kimberlee Auerbach's list

Kimberlee Auerbach, author of The Devil, The Lovers, and Me: My Life in Tarot, was invited by to recommend "five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

Auerbach's response:
I'm obsessed with love. Romantic love. Platonic love. Self love. All of it. It's hard to write about love without being totally cheesy, so when someone does it well, I am taken. I fall absolutely head-over-heels in love.

Five books I'm head-over-heels in love with:

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen von Blixen-Finecke)

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone (Author), Michael Smollin (Illustrator)
Read Auerbach's interview at

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Five best: children's books

Meghan Cox Gurdon, who reviews children's books for The Wall Street Journal, selected a five best "children's books that are especially enthralling when read aloud" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

No one questions the civilizing utility of reading aloud to children, nor is there much doubt that the young will cheerfully sit still for almost any story, so long as it's read with a bit of style. The trick is to find picture books for small children that can stand frequent re-readings ("Again! Again!") and longer narratives for older listeners that won't drive you half-mad with over-long sentences, irritating digressions or endless landscape description. This children's favorite is, in my opinion, the gold standard of read-alouds for ages 5-12 and when read aloud far surpasses any of its flashy film versions: The sentences are crisp, the plot is full of surprises and, best of all, virtually every character lends itself to a rich, fruity accent. In our household, for instance, the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka is German ("Velcome to ze fectory!"), Grandpa Joe is Irish and the intolerably spoiled Veruca Salt comes from Dixie ("Ah've decided Ah want a squirrel! Git me one of those squirrels"!). That this approach creates a pig-pile of regional twangs only adds to the mad joy of the story.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gillian Flynn's list

Gillian Flynn, a critic for Entertainment Weekly and author of the acclaimed thriller Sharp Objects, contributed "The List" to The Week magazine last week.

One of her titles:
The Goodbye Look by Ross Macdonald

Hammett, Chandler, Ellroy — yes, yes, and yes. But Macdonald is California noir at its most classic. His prose is lovely, his families are twisted, and detective Lew Archer is the definitive gumshoe: Tough, jaded, and deeply decent. Goodbye Look was my introduction to Macdonald, so the choice is pure nostalgia — read it or pick any of his others; you really can’t go wrong.
Read about Flynn's full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Cornelia Read: five favorite non-fiction books

From Cornelia Read's Amazon profile page:
A true list of my favorite books would crash the server. Here are five non-fiction titles I always keep on my desk (okay, it's really more of a cupboard, but as a piece of furniture it still serves me well in a desk-like way):

Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir by Geoffrey O'Brien

Old Money: The Mythology of Wealth in America by Nelson Aldrich

The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister's Memoir of Autism in the Family by Paul Karasik

Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Third Edition by Vernon J. Geberth

Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson by Robert Polito
Visit Cornelia Read's website, and check out the entry for her multiple award-nominated A Field of Darkness at the Page 99 Test.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Most important books: Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven. He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme.

A breathtakingly original meditation on the volatile bond between fathers and sons.
Read about all five titles on Krakauer's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top 10: Asian crime fiction

Catherine Sampson is the Beijing-based author of the crime novels Falling Off Air, Out of Mind, and The Pool of Unease, all of which feature TV journalist and single mother Robin Ballantyne.

She named a top ten list of Asian crime fiction for the Guardian.

Number One:
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

Qiu is a Chinese writer now living in America. His Detective Chen is an inspector in the Shanghai police force. When a female model worker is found dead, Detective Chen investigates, and the trail leads him onto dangerous political ground. The book has a gentle feel to it which makes the violence of murder even more shocking. It is a vivid description of present day Shanghai, and the satisfying ending is utterly believable.
Read about the other nine titles.

Visit Catherine Sampson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2007

Kate Christensen's list

Kate Christensen’s latest novel, The Great Man, will be published later this month by Doubleday. She contributed "The List" -- six books that she rereads all the time -- to The Week magazine last week.

One of her titles:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Every time I read this book I feel the same passionate love for Jane. Under her stalwartly plain exterior beats the hungry, intelligent heart of a true heroine. She is a better person than I’ll ever be. I would trust her with my life.
Read Christensen’s full list.

See the Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Five best: biographies of American philanthropists

Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, selected a five best "biographies of American philanthropists" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw

Every time I think I know all there is to know about Andrew Carnegie, some other fascinating aspect of this complex man is revealed. Until I read David Nasaw's deeply detailed biography of the rags-to-riches steel magnate who essentially invented modern-day philanthropy, I did not know, for example, that he supported the progressive income tax and favored substantial levies on inherited fortunes. Having famously declared "He who dies rich, dies disgraced," Carnegie proceeded to create more than 20 organizations in the U.S. and abroad dedicated to advancing knowledge and education, rewarding heroes, creating pensions for teachers, and promoting international peace and other noble goals. This Scottish immigrant who became a champion of American democracy gave away over 90% of his fortune ($350 million, or tens of billions in today's dollars) and built more than 2,500 libraries. When he died in 1919, he did not die disgraced.
Read about the entire list.

Vartan Gregorian is the author of the autobiography The Road to Home ( 2003) and Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith (2004).

The Page 69 Test: Andrew Carnegie.

Read about David Nasaw's top five list of biographies of business moguls.

--Marshal Zeringue