Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Five books on the question of intersubjectivity

Siri Hustvedt is the author of four novels, What I Loved, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, and The Sorrows of an American, as well as a collection of essays, A Plea for Eros.

For a Ink Q & A, she named five books "that all turn on the question of intersubjectivity: the "I" and the "you":

Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bahktin

Between Man and Man by Martin Buber

The Child, the Family, and the Outside World by D.W. Winnicott

The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity by Jurgen Habermas

Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self by Allan N. Schore
Read Siri Hustvedt's Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 28, 2008

Five best: books for Holocaust Remembrance Day

At the Wall Street Journal, Robert Rozett named five "essential books to keep in mind for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 2."

Number One on his list:
Nazi Germany and the Jews
by Saul Friedländer
HarperCollins, 1997, 2007

The Nazi onslaught against the Jews shattered an entire universe, leaving random fragments. Good historians like Saul Friedländer do their best to collect the fragments and construct a coherent picture despite missing pieces. In "Nazi Germany and the Jews," Friedländer uses an array of sources, including many first-hand accounts, to portray the unfolding war and Holocaust. He shows us Hitler at the center of the crime. But by giving voice to survivors, he never lets the reader forget that the crime itself was perpetrated not by a single evil leader but by humans against fellow humans. The two volumes of this narrative are the best attempt to date by a single author to set forth the history of the Holocaust.

Read about all five titles.

Robert Rozett is the director of the Yad Vashem Library in Jerusalem and author of Approaching the Holocaust: Texts and Contexts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mario Batali: five great American books

Mario Batali is the author of the James Beard Award-winning Molto Italiano, the newly released Italian Grill, and other cookbooks.

At, he named "Five Great American Books:"
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Read Batali's interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 25, 2008

Top Arthur C. Clarke Award winners

Lisa Tuttle, a sci-fi reviewer for the Times (London), selected a critic's chart of the top Arthur C. Clarke Award winners.

Number One on her list:
The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood (1987)

Chilling vision of a future America where women's rights have been revoked by Christian zealots.
Read about the other five titles on Tuttle's list.

Matthew de Abaitua, Stephen Baxter, Sarah Hall, Steven Hall, Ken MacLeod and Richard Morgan are the six authors shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2008, the UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature. The award ceremony will take place on April 30th as part of the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Top ten: books about wilderness

At the age of 10, Sarah Anderson's arm was amputated as a result of cancer. She has gone on to write several travel books, including the newly released (in the U.K.) Halfway to Venus, which is "about life with one arm, about phantom and prosthetic limbs, about what hands and arms mean in different cultures and how they are portrayed in art and literature."

Anderson also founded the Travel Bookshop, that formed the setting for the movie Notting Hill.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten books about wilderness. One book on her list:
Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler

Antarctica is probably the ultimate wilderness - "The last great journey left to man" (Shackleton), but it is of course its interpretation that is most interesting. Sara Wheeler writes beautifully about Antarctica both as a continent and a metaphor, a place in the imagination with which we can all identify.
Read Anderson's full top ten list.

Read more about Halfway to Venus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 21, 2008

Junot Díaz's most important books

Junot Díaz, the Dominican-born author who won a Pulitzer this month for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title to make the list:
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.

A profound survival story that becomes an act of healing in itself.
Read about the other books on Díaz's list.

Junot Díaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown was a national bestseller and won numerous awards. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao “a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.”

The Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Five books that will make you question the wisdom of ever falling in love

Writer Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World, was invited by a Powell's interviewer to "recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

He named:
Five Books That Will Make You Question the Wisdom of Ever Falling in Love — Probably While You Throw Yourself Headlong into It Anyway:

Crush by Richard Siken

Love Poems by Anne Sexton

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Read the full interview.

Learn more about X Saves the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Five best: books about New York society

For the Wall Street Journal, Frances Kiernan named a five best list of books that helped her understand "the ways of New York society."

Number One on the list:
Washington Square
by Henry James

Just about everything I know about New York society I've gleaned from novels while looking for a good story, preferably a romance. If I've sometimes been disappointed, I've never come away empty-handed. I was 15 when I first read this uncharacteristically straightforward tale by the Master, in which he depicts the insular world of his New York childhood, a place where it was only natural to assume that a handsome young gentleman in possession of no fortune must be in search of a rich wife. By the time that I realized that Catherine Sloper, the plain and phlegmatic heiress pursued and then dropped by Morris Townsend, was no spirited Jane Austen heroine, I also understood that love affairs in great novels do not necessarily end well. Just as important, I understood that, for all that it valued fine manners and good breeding, New York society, like the steely-eyed doctor who threatens to disinherit his love-struck daughter, placed an even higher value on protecting its wealth.
Read about the other books on Kiernan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Telegraph's "perfect library"

The (U.K.) Telegraph came up with "the perfect library," 110 books across several categories--classics, poetry, literary fiction, romantic fiction, etc.--that comprise the ultimate reading list.

Here are the books from the "history" section:
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon

Compressing 13 turbulent centuries into one epic narrative, this is often labelled the first 'modern' history book. Gibbon fell back on sociology, rather than superstition, to explain Rome's demise.

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples
Winston Churchill

Taking us from Caesar's 55BC invasion to the Boer War's end in 1902, Churchill’s four-volume saga makes the proud, but now-unfashionable, connection between speaking English and bearing 'the torch of Freedom'.

A History of the Crusades
Steven Runciman

Still the landmark account of the Crusades, Byzantine scholar Runciman's work broke with centuries of Western tradition, claiming the crusading invaders were guilty of a 'long act of intolerance in the name of God'.

The Histories

Ostensibly about Greece's defeat of the invading Persians in the 5th century BC, it blends fact, hearsay, legend and myth to tell tales of life in and around Ancient Greece.

The History of the Peloponnesian War

Famously fastidious over the reliability of his data and sources, Thucydides – with this detailed study of the 25-year struggle between Athens and Sparta – set the template for every historian after him.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom
T. E. Lawrence

Lawrence of Arabia's fascinating, self-mythologising account of how he united a string of Arab tribes and successfully led them to rebellion against their Ottoman overlords.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Compiled at King Alfred's behest in the AD890s, this is the earliest-known history of England written in old English. It's also the oldest history of any European country in a vernacular language.

A People's Tragedy
Orlando Figes

Figes charts the Russian Revolution in stark detail, telling the tale of 'ordinary people' and boldly concluding that they 'weren't the victims of the Revolution but protagonists in its tragedy'.

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
Simon Schama

Before he was on television, Prof Schama offered 948 pages of proof that there was more to the French Revolution than fraternity, equality and eating cake.

The Origins of the Second World War
A.J.P. Taylor

Was Hitler all that bad? Wasn't he just an opportunist who took advantage of Anglo-French dithering and appeasement? The label 'iconoclastic' applies to few historians so well as it does to Taylor.

Read about all 110 books to make the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Five best: works about the lives of popes

Jay Scott Newman, a Catholic priest and canon lawyer, is pastor of St. Mary's Church in Greenville, S.C. He picked the five best "works about the lives of popes" for the Wall Street Journal.

Number One on his list:
The Oxford Dictionary of Popes
By J.N.D. Kelly
Oxford, 1986

Not counting pretenders and anti-popes, the Roman Catholic Church numbers the present bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, as the 265th Pastor of the Universal Church. J.N.D. Kelly's dictionary is the indispensable reference to every pope from Simon Peter to John Paul II, describing each man and the times in which he lived. Kelly (1909-97), who was a priest in the Church of England and one of the 20th century's greatest scholars of Christian history, accompanied Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury to Rome in 1966 for an epochal meeting with Pope Paul VI. This visit awakened in Kelly the desire to provide (as he puts it in the dictionary's preface) "a one-volume handbook in English containing systematic, concise accounts of all those who have been, or claimed to be, popes." Kelly succeeded brilliantly, and given that there are still no reliable biographies of even recent popes (like Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI), Kelly's work remains the lodestar for those seeking to understand the papacy.
Read about the other titles on Newman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The four greatest rock ’n’ roll books

Jim DeRogatis is the pop music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, the co-host of Public Radio’s “Sound Opinions,” the world’s only rock ’n’ roll talk show, and the author of several books about music, including Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic and Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma’s Fabulous Flaming Lips, both published by Broadway Books.

His list of the "four greatest rock books ever" (as of April 8, 2008):
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story by Nick Tosches

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth

The Night (Alone: a novel) by Richard Meltzer
Visit the website of Jim DeRogatis to read his Chicago Sun-Times blog and recent articles, and to learn more about his books and other projects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Five best books about journalism

Veteran newsman Roger Mudd picked the five best books about journalism for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
The Elements of Journalism
By Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Crown, 2001

"The purpose of journalism is to provide people with the information they need to be free and self-governing" -- as clear a statement of purpose as has ever been written. Former newspapermen Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel know what they are talking about. The problem, of course, is that journalists labor in an extraordinarily complicated world that sometimes gets in the way. They are paid by the corporation but work for their readers; their copy is screened by editors who are appointed by management; the pressure of entertainment news eats away at their purity; and their owners, more and more coming from outside the news business, are motivated primarily by the bottom line. In 1997 the authors assembled the Committee of Concerned Journalists, composed of 25 leading members of the profession, in an attempt to restore journalism's fading credibility. After three years of studies and public forums, Kovach and Rosenstiel laid out the committee's findings in "The Elements of Journalism." The central message: Unless journalists themselves "reclaim the theory of a free press," they "risk allowing their profession to disappear." The book was an immediate best seller. Translated into 22 languages, it is a standard textbook in almost every journalism school in the country. It also belongs on the shelf of every citizen who reads the paper or watches the tube.
Read about all five books on Mudd's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Critic's chart: top books on time

Iain Finlayson, who reviews nonfiction for the Times (London), named his top six books on time for the newspaper.

The title that topped his list:
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

In which the reader hears the first cosmic Big Bang, falls into black holes and gets tied up in superstring theory.
Read about all six books on the chart.

--Marshal Zeringue