Thursday, July 31, 2008

Danny Fingeroth: top 10 graphic novels

Danny Fingeroth is an American comic book writer and editor. His latest book is The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels.

For the Guardian, he selected his top ten graphic novels. Fingeroth's criteria, and Number One on his list:
"[F]or my top 10, I decided to take the crème de la crème, the graphic novels that I most enjoyed. These are graphic novels, some famous, some less well-known, that do what all great literature does, in that they give you such a pleasurable experience while reading that you're simultaneously eager to uncover the ending, yet also dreading it, knowing that the experience will then be over."

* * *
Maus by Art Spiegelman

If producing a serious, straightforward narrative about the Holocaust is difficult, Spiegelman's tactic – interpreting genocide through the medium of a comic strip populated by cats, mice and dogs – might appear to make it almost impossible. Yet while Maus probably sounded like an absurd proposition in 1973, when its first chapter appeared, it has proved perhaps to be the definitive literary graphic novel, garlanded with a Pulitzer prize and enough critical praise to cement its place in any canon of memoirs.
Read about the other nine titles on Fingeroth's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Five most important books: Cristina García

Cristina Garcia was born in Havana and grew up in New York City. Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, was nominated for a National Book Award. Her other books include the recently released, A Handbook to Luck.

She told Newsweek about her five most important books.

Number One:
"Labyrinths" by Jorge Luis Borges.

Intelligence and imagination have never been so ecstatically merged.
Read about the other titles on Garcia's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 28, 2008

Catherine Sampson's top 10 books on Beijing

Catherine Sampson, a crime novelist who lives in China, named her top 10 books on Beijing for the Guardian.

Number One on her list:
Beijing Coma by Ma Jian

Published this year, Ma Jian describes the events that led up to the 1989 massacre in Beijing. He has found the perfect metaphor. Dai Wei, a student activist, lies paralysed years after being wounded during the army action of June 4. Those around him believe Dai Wei to be unconscious, but he can see and hear and, most importantly, remember. He is locked in - just as China is locked in - unable to speak or communicate freely, but silently remembering, unable to forget. The novel is rich in contemporary detail – doctors who gouge families for cash for treatment; bulldozers that threaten demolition of homes. Like much of the book, the intricate description of factional rivalries among students is rooted in fact. Ma Jian lives in London.
Read about the other nine titles on Sampson's list.

Read about Sampson's top 10 list of Asian crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Five best books about spies in Britain

For the Wall Street Journal, former MI5 director-general Stella Rimington named a five best list of books about spies in Britain.

One book on her list:
Shot in the Tower
by Leonard Sellars
Leo Cooper, 1997

This humane and touching book describes the fate of 10 men who came to England to spy for Germany before World War I. They discovered little of value before they were caught, tried and shot in the Tower of London, that grim symbol of the determination of the British state to destroy its enemies. We read about the spies' lives, from their recruitment and brief espionage careers in London and the naval ports to their trial and execution. Unfortunately for these men, who lie in largely forgotten English graves, German espionage tradecraft at the time was primitive; several of the spies had similar cover stories and codes for their messages, making detection by British authorities relatively easy. In one case, after British counter-intelligence had broken the code and arrested the spy, his captors fed false information to the Germans and in return received a pay-off sufficient to buy a motor car for office use.
Read about the other four titles on Rimington's list.

Stella Rimington's latest novel, Illegal Action, is out this month from Knopf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 25, 2008

Critic's chart: books about sporting rivalries

Richard Whitehead, the Deputy Editor of Books at the London Times, picked a critic's chart of the "top books about sporting rivalries."

One book on the chart:
Beyond Glory by David Margolick

Max Schmeling had Hitler in his corner, Joe Louis fought for Black America.
Read about all six titles on Whitehead's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top 10 food scenes in children's literature

Jane Brocket is the author of The Gentle Art of Domesticity and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer.

For the Guardian, she named her top 10 food scenes in children's literature.

Her prefatory remarks and Number One from the list:
"I spent my childhood revelling and luxuriating in lovely descriptions of meals and picnics and treats, and found that it was the taste memories that lingered on long after the details of plots had faded from my mind. Children's literature contains a feast, a banquet, a menu gastronomique of treats and delicious foodstuff; this is my top 10 evocative, mouth-watering and memorable food moments from the past."

Maria's tea party in The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

There are quite a few wonderful tea parties in children's literature, but nothing can beat Maria's spectacular affair. The catering is done by Marmaduke Scarlet, the strange little cook at Moonacre who possesses almost mystical powers in the kitchen, plus the skills and artistry to conjure up all sorts of treats and delicacies at a moment's notice. A truly dedicated baker, he relishes the planning and his list what he prepares makes the reader desperate for an invitation. There's plum cake, saffron cake, meringues, Devonshire splits, almond fingers, parkin, cream horns, lemon curd sandwiches, cinnamon toast, gingerbread, eclairs and plenty more. It's a veritable litany of great British tea-time treats, and one of the most mouth-watering literary moments ever.
Read about the other nine scenes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Five best literary guilty pleasures: Jackie Collins

For the Wall Street Journal, Jackie Collins picked a five best list of literary guilty pleasures.

Number One on her list:
The Godfather
by Mario Puzo
Putnam, 1969

One reason why Francis Ford Coppola was able to make such a spellbinding movie version of "The Godfather" was the richness of the source material. Mario Puzo's novel is a brilliant study of a gangster family, a book that succeeds in creating such stunningly detailed portraits of each and every character that you find yourself rooting for people you should hate, but end up loving. First on the list would be Sonny Corleone, the impetuous son of mafia don Vito Corleone. Sexy, macho and quite irresistible, Sonny spreads sexual tension wherever he goes. But he is just one among many extraordinarily vivid characters who transport you into a criminal world. It's a book about family ties (the closest kind) and bitter rivalries (the lethal kind). The sex ratio is pretty high, too -- nothing wrong with that! I re-read "The Godfather" every year.
Read about all five titles on Collins' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2008

Niall Ferguson's 5 most important books

Niall Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School.

He told Newsweek about his five most important books.

Number One on the list:
"War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy.

The book that, more than any other, persuaded me to be a historian.
Read about the other four books on Ferguson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Five great books about teenage girls and sex

Kerry Cohen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacific University.

A practicing psychotherapist, she is the author of the young adult novel Easy and the newly released, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.

Invited by to "[r]ecommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise," she came up with:
Five Great Books about Teenage Girls and Sex (in no way an exhaustive list)

The Only Girl in the Car by Kathy Dobie

Towelhead by Alicia Erian

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Read the interview from which this list is drawn.

Visit Kerry Cohen's website and her blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Matt Taibbi's most important books

Rolling Stone political columnist Matt Taibbi's books include Spanking the Donkey: On the Campaign Trail with the Democrats, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire, and The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire.

He told Newsweek about his five most important books.

Number One on the list:
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol.

I've probably read this book 50 times. A great novel about how human society is basically an unbroken string of tragic misunderstandings.
Read about the other four titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Critic's chart: mothers and daughters in literature

Kate Saunders, who reviews fiction for the Times (London), picked a critic's chart of "mothers and daughters in literature."

Her chart-topper:
Little Women Louisa May Alcott

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy would have been nowhere without their “Marmee”, arguably literature's most perfect mother.
Read about the other books on Saunders' chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Five best: books on father-son relationships

Alexander Waugh is the author of Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family.

For the Wall Street Journal, he came up with a five best list of books that "capture the complexities of father-son relationships."

Number One on his list:
Father and Son
By Edmund Gosse
Scribner's, 1907

Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), an eminent man of letters and a distant relation of mine, first brought the Waughs to literature by arranging my great-grandfather's first job, as a publisher's reader, in the 1890s. His "Father and Son" is a touching and original work in which he chronicles his relationship with his father, Philip Henry Gosse, a botanist and fundamentalist Christian. "With me," Gosse senior once said, "every question assumes a Divine standpoint and is not adequately answered if the judgement-seat of Christ is not kept in sight." This was the same person who invented the Creationist defense against Darwin according to which God made fossils only as a ploy to test the faith of mankind. Edmund was "ground to powder" by his father's relentless religiosity and eventually rejected it. The book outlines a terrible clash of personalities in a chilling account of a miserable, pious Victorian upbringing.
Read about the other books on Waugh's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sarah Salway's literary top 10

Sarah Salway published numerous short stories and won several writing competitions before her first novel, Something Beginning With, was published in 2004 by Bloomsbury in the UK and Ballantine in the US (as The ABCs of Love). It has been translated into several language. Her second novel, Tell Me Everything, was published by Bloomsbury (UK) and Ballantine (US) in 2007.

She has published a collection of short stories, Leading the Dance, and, co-authored with Lynne Rees, the experimental collaboration, Messages (both from bluechrome publishing).

Salway blogs at Sarah's Writing Journal and A Quiet Sit Down.

From Sarah Salway's literary top 10 at
My favourite novel that no-one else seems to have heard of

Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch. Probably the book that started me writing, as much for the rhythm of the sentences as the painterly descirptions. I found it in this amazing English-language bookshop in Amsterdam, was hooked, and not only read everything he wrote after that but ended up living only a couple of miles from the area he lived in and wrote about. Not a coincidence, as we’d spend many days cycling along the routes he wrote about — his descriptions are vivid enough to follow. It sounds as if I’m a stalker, but Denton Welch died in 1948. Probably one of the most exciting moments of my life was when I went into a neighbour’s house and saw photographs of him everywhere — this neighbour had been married to DW’s best friend.

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

Recently I asked on a web forum if anyone could identify a children’s book which I’d loved but couldn’t remember the name of — all I knew was that contained a tower, a girl admiring her shoes and sugar-iced biscuits (I’d even forgotten the horse). Anyway I got dozens of replies straight away and was happily reunited with The Little White Horse. So now I’d probably say it was the book I wrote in my head one night — it was absolutely perfect and completely shaped. Of course when I woke up, I couldn’t remember one thing about it, except that it was a masterpiece.
Read the entire entry for Salway's literary top 10.

Also see: Salway's top 10 books about unlikely friendships.

Writers Read: Sarah Salway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Toni Jordan's top 10 flawed romantic heroines

Toni Jordan, whose debut novel Addition was selected for the Richard & Judy book club's summer reading list, named her "top 10 flawed romantic heroines" for the Guardian.

Her prefatory remarks, and Number One on the list:
"As a card-carrying member of Hopeless Romantics Inc, I see Lerve stories everywhere. So my top 10 flawed romantic heroines aren't confined to traditional romance novels: for me, the most intriguing part of many novels, whether they be literary, crime or popular fiction, is the romantic bit. Sigh."

1. Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Beatrice might be beautiful, brave and loyal, but you'd better stay on her good side. When someone comments that Benedick "is not in your books", she replies, "No; an he were, I would burn my study." When told that Benedick is friends with Claudio, she says, "O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease ... God help the noble Claudio!" Luckily Benedick likes it rough - when he finally proposes, she agrees " ... upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption." I wouldn't want to be in Benedick's shoes if he misses bin night.
Read about the other nine titles on Jordan's list.

The Page 69 Test: Addition.

Writers Read: Toni Jordan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 7, 2008

15 green books to take to the beach

For Grist, Michelle Nijhuis, winner of the 2006 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism, named 15 green books to take to the beach this summer.

Number One on her list:
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring
Richard Preston, Random House, 2007

Think nature writing is boring? The Wild Trees is about as boring as a car chase. Master storyteller Richard Preston follows a motley group of professional and amateur botanists into the canopies of the tallest trees in the world, where they explore a sky-high ecosystem almost entirely unknown to humans. A great tale of science and adventure -- and a love story to boot.
Read about all fifteen books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Five best books about Afghanistan

Ann Marlowe, author of The Book of Trouble, was embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan twice in 2007. She has visited the country 10 times since 2002.

For the Wall Street Journal, she came up with a five best list of books that "afford a deeper understanding of Afghanistan."

Number One on her list:
Heroes of the Age
By David B. Edwards
University of California, 1996

David B. Edwards's thesis in "Heroes of the Age" is that Afghanistan's problems come from "the moral incoherence" of the country itself. Afghans share a myth of the nation, but not an idea of the state, Edwards argues. The principles of Islam, honor and state governance are all respected, but often incompatible. The conflict is vividly on display in Edwards's engrossing essays about a three larger-than-life and arguably psychopathic men: Mullah Hadda, a saintly late-19th-century mullah from Ghazni, in central Afghanistan; Amir Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan's brutal, unifying king from 1880 to 1901; and Sultan Muhammad Khan, who participated in Afghanistan's last tribal rebellion, in the 1940s (he blinded his mother for denying him the opportunity to avenge his father's death). Their stories, which unfold largely in the still-volatile eastern frontier provinces, would be useful to American soldiers in understanding the dysfunctional aspects of the society in which they are operating.
Read about the other books on the list.

Check out Marlowe's 2006 literary guide to Afghanistan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 4, 2008

Books about the Spirit of California

Invited by to "[r]ecommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise," debut novelist Jonathan Evison came up with:
Books about the Spirit of California, by California Writers:

McTeague by Frank Norris

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Ask the Dust by John Fante

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Read the interview with Jonathan Evison from which this list is drawn.

Visit Evison's website and learn more about his novel, All About Lulu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ten best atlases

Rebecca Armstrong, a features writer for the Independent, named a list of the ten best atlases for her paper.

One title on the list:
Atlas of Exploration

With transparent pages and a CD-Rom, this all-singing, all-dancing atlas could be gimmicky, but it’s not. It’s a fascinating way to bring the voyages of history’s greatest explorers to life.
Read about all ten atlases.

--Marshal Zeringue