Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Edmund White's most important books

Edmund White is the author, most recently, of Hotel de Dream. He told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.

The living heart of this book is the knowledge of what it would be like to be young and poor, and in love with art and sex.
Read about all five titles on White's list.

Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and A Married Man. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and a memoir, My Lives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thomas Mallon's list

Novelist and critic Thomas Mallon is the author of Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, and Bandbox. His latest novel, Fellow Travelers, is set in McCarthy-era Washington, D.C.

He contributed "The List" to The Week magazine last week.

One title on his list:
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

What Keats would have produced had life substituted poison gas and hand grenades for urns and nightingales. Owen’s stirring combination of lyric and narrative, of gentleness and brutality, still has the power to harrow the emotions.
Read more of Mallon's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Essential works about Judaism

Ruth Wisse, whose Jews and Power has just been published by Schocken, teaches Yiddish literature and comparative literature at Harvard. She selected a five best list of essential works about Judaism for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (1876)

One of the finest books about Jewish experience was written by an Englishwoman. George Eliot studied Judaism for years before writing this novel, her last, and her hero's gradual discovery of his Jewish origins seems to reproduce her own evolving appreciation of what Jews were about. Daniel Deronda's mother despised being Jewish, and when he was born she arranged for him to be raised as the ward of a wealthy English gentleman. But Deronda is pleased as his self-discovery unfolds, and he dreams of helping Jews find their own land "such as the English have"--in effect becoming a Zionist more than two decades before Theodor Herzl founded the Zionist movement. The novel has its painful side. Deronda's Jewish path thwarts his potential romance with the lovely Gwendolen Harleth, and well-meaning Christians who want to envelop Deronda in their embrace must learn from him the art of "separateness with communication."
Read about the other titles on Wisse's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2007

Most important books: Dalia Sofer

Dalia Sofer is the author of The Septembers of Shiraz. She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title to make the list:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

It's about the issues we all face every day: love, friendship, loyalty and finding a safe place.
Read about all five titles on Sofer's list.

Dalia Sofer was born in Iran and fled at the age of ten to the United States with her family. She received her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 and has been a resident at Yaddo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Five best: books on fashion

Woody Hochswender, a former features editor of Harper's Bazaar and style reporter for the New York Times, is the author of The Buddha in Your Rearview Mirror. He selected a five best list of books about fashion for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
D.V. by Diana Vreeland

Fashion's folderol reaches its zenith in the Alice-in-Wonderland mind of Diana Vreeland, the great Vogue and Harper's Bazaar editor. Written long after she was a legend and immortalized on film as the inspiration for "Funny Face" in 1957 ("Think pink!"), this discursive autobiography, edited by George Plimpton, follows her stream of consciousness at its most meandering and fantastical. It's a red river with pink fish constantly overflowing the banks of reason. "I loathe nostalgia," she says at the outset, then proceeds to give us about 200 pages of it. She was born in Paris (of course). Buffalo Bill taught her to ride. Picasso and Diaghilev hung out in the parlor. Clark Gable and, later, Jack Nicholson were her drinking buddies. Amid the torrent of hauteur and slightly batty pronouncements, there is a wealth of genuinely funny insight. And Vreeland had a real point of view. In fashion, this is crucial. Imperial, categorical, irrational, prophetic -- yes, all of the talented fashion editors I have known have been a bit like this. But Vreeland was the dressmaker's model for the type.
Read about the other titles on Hochswender's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2007

Penelope Trunk’s list

Penelope Trunk’s first book is Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. Her syndicated career column appears in The Boston Globe and hundreds of other publications worldwide.

She contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One title on Trunk's list:
The Sensuous Woman by “J”

I read this book 400 times in seventh grade trying to understand how the world works. It took me a while to realize that the anonymous author was saying that if you can just be yourself, you’ll be good in bed. I decided that probably this was true of life out of bed as well, and I started trying it.
Read more about Trunk's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Top 10 kids' books with kickass heroines

Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread-shortlisted Chocolat (made into a major film starring Juliette Binoche), Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Jigs & Reels, Sleep Pale Sister, Gentlemen & Players and, with Fran Warde, The French Kitchen: A Cookbook and The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchen. Her first children's novel, Runemarks -- it features Maddy, a kickass heroine with magical rune powers -- is coming soon to America.

Harris named a top 10 list of "kids' books with kickass heroines" for the Guardian.

Number One on the list:
The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

This novel is splendidly written in the tradition of the Victorian melodrama, but Sally Lockhart is no simpering miss. Raised by her father, she can shoot, fight and speak Hindustani, and has none of the accomplishments thought necessary to a young lady of her time. Left in the care of a relative following her father's death, and threatened with the horrid possibility of having to become a paid companion, she runs away, but is haunted by dreams and strange messages that point her to the mystery in her own past.
Read the entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Most important books: Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon is the author, most recently, of the memoir Circling My Mother. She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title to make the list:

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.

The combination of complexities and emotionally intense timbre is an inspiration.
Read about all five titles on Gordon's list.

Mary Gordon is the author of the novels Spending, The Company of Women, The Rest of Life, Final Payments, and The Other Side, as well as the memoir The Shadow Man. She has received a Lila Wallace—Reader’s Digest Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 1997 O. Henry Award for best story.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Five best: books with political trials

Bruce Watson, author of the recently published Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, selected a five best list of books with "riveting" political trials for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson
Equal parts political fight, religious battle and media circus, the Scopes Trial in 1925 was labeled "the trial of the century" even before John Scopes was dragged into a Tennessee courtroom for teaching his high-school students about evolution. In Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Summer for the Gods," the author brings a novelist's eye to depicting each telling moment: civic leaders deciding that a headline trial might put Dayton, Tenn., on the tourist map; lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan sparring over the Bible; the jury returning a guilty verdict, and the judge handing down a wrist-slapping fine. But the trial fills only a third of the book. In the section titled "Before," Larson explores the converging histories of religious fundamentalism and evolution. "After" shows how the Scopes Trial, by mocking fundamentalists, fueled a fight for respect and influence in public schools that carries on to this day.

Read about the other books on Watson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ann Packer's list

Ann Packer is the award-winning author of the 2002 best-seller The Dive From Clausen’s Pier. Her new novel, Songs Without Words, has just been published by Knopf. She contributed "The List" to The Week magazine this week.

One title to make the list:
Disturbances in the Field by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Families can be messed up in any number of ways, most heartbreakingly by grief. This is a tremendously moving novel about a family facing the most unthinkable kind of loss. It’s told without a trace of sentimentality, and the result is breathtaking.
Read about the other five books on Packer's list.

Learn more about Ann Packer's Songs Without Words.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Most important books: Claire Messud

Claire Messud is the author of, most recently, The Emperor's Children. She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title to make the list:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Every detail is incredibly telling and reveals a huge amount, but there's a wonderful simplicity to Tolstoy's fiction.
Read about all five titles on Messud's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2007

Five best: literary depictions of religion and politics

Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, selected a five best "literary works [which] excel in their depiction of religion and politics" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

Trollope might regard politics, sex and religion as the stuff of high comedy, but they are also at the dark heart of Mario Vargas Llosa's portrayal of the last days of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. This brilliant study of tyranny is not for the squeamish. Yet the sickening detail enables one to grasp how terror combined with corruption can paralyze an entire society, stifling the merest impulse toward resistance. The novel's account of the dictator's increasingly brutal efforts to hold power alternates with the story of one of his victims, a young girl whose father delivered her to "the goat" for deflowering in hopes of regaining political favor. What lifts "The Feast of the Goat" into the front rank of political novels is the author's depiction of how, against all odds, probabilities were finally shifted in the direction of democracy. In Vargas Llosa's telling, a few courageous priests and sisters stand out as forces for decency, and a crucial turning point occurs when all five Dominican bishops issue a pastoral letter condemning the regime.
Read about the other books on Glendon's list.

--Marshal Zeringue