Friday, July 31, 2009

Ten books to learn how technology shapes the world

Evgeny Morozov is a fellow at the Open Society Institute in New York and is working on a book about the Internet's role in authoritarian societies. His writing has appeared in The Economist, International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Foreign Policy, Slate, San Fransisco Chronicle, and other media.

For Foreign Policy, he named ten books to learn how technology shapes the world. One book on the list:
Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge by Cass Sunstein

It's the most optimistic (and direct) of Cass Sunstein's writings about the Web. It's an important book that added much-needed nuance to the powerful (but often overblown) arguments that Sunstein expressed in his other writings on the subject.
Read about the other nine books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Infotopia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five best books on cosmetic surgery

Gerald Imber is an internationally known plastic surgeon and has written numerous scientific papers, several books, and lectured widely on prevention and correction of facial aging.

In 2005 he named a list of the five best books on cosmetic surgery for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
"On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin (John Murray, 1859).

No, I have never read it cover to cover. Still, this book is always worth going back to. It inspires with its thoroughness and open-minded vision and with the way it helps us to understand the world. (And no, I do not want to get into the heated discussions about evolution swirling around us nearly 150 years later.) For the plastic surgeon, there is a simple lesson here, about cosmetic surgery and the survival of the fittest. The juxtaposition is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Two equally qualified people seek a position. The more attractive person usually prevails. Vital individuals at the top of their skills are perceived as ineffective because of signs of aging. Survival of the fittest on a micro-scale looms everywhere. Cosmetic surgery answers some of these needs. It is not the be-all and end-all, but in its proper place, and applied with common sense, it can enhance our lives.
Read about the other four books on Imber's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ten books that make you boil with rage

Brian Schofield has been a journalist since 1998, and has worked as executive editor on GQ Active magazine, and as editor of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. His writing has appeared in the New Statesman, The Sunday Times, the Independent on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Conde Nast Traveller, GQ and FHM.

His first book, Selling Your Father's Bones, a work of literary non-fiction on the history and ecology of the American North-West, was published in 2008.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of "furious books that scream at the system." His inspiration, and one book on the list:
I never thought of myself as an angry man. More easy-going, even-handed, with roughly the same temperament as the BBC editorial guidelines. Then I wrote a book and the critics put me straight. The chap from the Times said I was 'quietly furious', while the Seattle Times reviewer called me 'relentlessly and scornfully scolding'. Turns out, I'm a ball of rage. And looking afresh at my bookshelves, they have a point – because I love angry books. I'm surrounded by furious, indignant works, howls against injustice or screams at the system, the type of books you can't read in bed, because you'll be too fired-up to sleep. It's a miracle I'm not typing this with one eyelid, following a crippling, book-induced aneurysm. So here's 10 books that make you boil with rage.

* * *
The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler

An urbane, hilarious rant against the toxic architecture of sprawl and sameness that blights modern America – which our own town planners all appear to have read, but sadly as a guidebook.
Read about the other nine titles on the list.

Visit Brian Schofield's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Memoirs: 10 addictive true stories

Oprah and company came up with a ten best list of memoirs.

One title on the list:
Happens Every Day
by Isabel Gillies
272 pages; Scribner

Josiah Robinson (not his real name) falls in love with Isabel Gillies (her real name) when he is 7. Fifteen years later, they remeet. This time Isabel reciprocates. Josiah, a beautiful poet ("Heathcliff with an earring"), says: "I will call you at 2:30 and if you aren't there I'll try every minute after until you are." Reader, she marries him. She abandons her New York acting career and follows him to a teaching post in Ohio.

"I missed any signs of trouble," Isabel writes in Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story. The reader won't. Isabel throws Josiah into her new best friend Sylvia's path over and over. She makes the thing happen she is most afraid of happening.

If Gillies weren't so plucky, she would break your heart. When the blow comes, it's her sons she is most devastated for. They are blessed to have her kind of love. It's the same kind of love Isabel got growing up, mother-lode mother love.

"I am not a writer, but I have been told I write good e-mails," Gillies says. I bet.
Patricia Volk
Read about all ten books on the list.

Also see Iain Finlayson's critic's chart of the best faked memoirs, Benjamin Radford's top five faked memoirs, and Laura Lippman's top ten memorable memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ten of the best novels about novelists

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best novels about novelists.

One book on the list:
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Maurice Bendrix, the sour narrator of Greene's tale of doomed, obsessive love, is a novelist as well as a lover. Bendrix, who is used to making his characters do what he wants, finds himself a character in a story he passionately resents. Sarah, his lover, turns away from him to religion. "We are inextricably bound to the plot, and wearily God forces us, here and there, according to his intention."
Read about the other nine novels on Mullan's list.

The End of the Affair also appears on Douglas Kennedy's ten best list of books about grief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seven books for dog lovers

Oprah and associates came up with 7 books for dog lovers.

One work of nonfiction on the list:
by Lee Montgomery
256 pages; Viking

Another book about dogs? More slobber and soulfulness and uncurbed enthusiasm? Yes, because Woof!, edited by Lee Montgomery, is an especially fetching collection of essays (including two, by Abigail Thomas and Jim Shepard, first published in O) that proves you can't have too many lessons in ferocious devotion. Wolf down Anna Keesey's growling "Let's Go, My Love" and Chris Adrian's "A Good Creature"—as soulful as they come. — Cathleen Medwick
Read about the other six books on the list.

Visit Lee Montgomery's website.

Also see: Five best books about dogs and Five best books for your canine, and you.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Five best novels about immigrants in America

Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, named his five favorite novels about immigrants in America for his newspaper.

One title on the list:
by Vladimir Nabokov
Doubleday, 1957

Timofey Pnin, the 52-year-old with “a glossy bald head” who teaches Russian at “somewhat provincial” Waindell College, is lost. Train schedules, the proper use of articles in English and the habits of the natives routinely stump him. His is a common immigrant’s plight. Yet there’s no one quite like Pnin in literature, or life. Among Nabokov’s creations, he’s the anti-Humbert Humbert—that is, a man very different from the wayward ­narrator of “Lolita,” also a foreigner in America. Pnin, Nabokov once ­explained, is “a man of great moral courage, a pure man, a scholar and a staunch friend, serenely wise, faithful to a single love, he never descends from a high plane of life characterized by authenticity and integrity.” He is also a comically tragic, absent-minded and endearing character—an intellectual cast adrift in America and ­nostalgic for a lost world. In Pnin’s case, as in Nabokov’s, the lost world is that of pre-Revolutionary Russia.
Read about the other four books on Kaminski's list.

Pnin also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best breakages in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2009

Five best: show-biz biographies

Richard Schickel is a film critic, documentary film maker and movie historian, who has written over 30 books, including Elia Kazan: A Biography.

A few years ago he named his five favorite show-biz biographies for the Wall Street Journal. One book on the list:
"Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams" by Nick Tosches (Doubleday, 1992).

The writer doesn't just report the wised up lingo of low-biz, he uses it, sometimes to almost poetic effect, to tell the story of Dino Crocetti, a k a Dean Martin, rising from Steubenville, Ohio, lounge lizard to superstardom. The man had impeccable timing, as his decade-long run as Jerry Lewis's straight man proved, and he could be a very effective screen actor (as "Rio Bravo" showed). But the public nice guy's emotional detachment was radical and he came to a sad, silent, isolated ending. Mr. Tosches overwrites, but his rhythms are as seductive as the dialogue in a Martin Scorsese gangster epic. And he also has a gift for recounting the social history of anti-social people. In the end, he makes Martin's story a powerful parable about the high cost of living in America's fast, stupid lane.
Read about the other four biographies on Schickel's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Christopher Buckley: best books

Novelist, editor, and humorist Christopher Buckley's most recent book is the memoir Losing Mum and Pup.

Back in 2002 he named a best books list for The Week. One title on the list:
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Bantam Books, $5).

I know, I know: It’s way overwritten, and why should we care about some nutball amputee captain, and the whale parts are so much yadda blubber yadda, but it never fails to raise the hairs on my arm and even make me chuckle or say Wow.
Read about the other five books on Buckley's list.

Moby-Dick also appears among Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Top ten books from cold climes

Marcus Sedgwick's latest novel Revolver, now available in the U.K., is a tense psychological drama set in the Arctic Circle.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten books from cold climes. One novel on the list:
White Fang by Jack London

Although he is better known for The Call of the Wild, I prefer this story (an inversion of the other) in which London describes the adventures of a wild wolf dog, a half-breed who is eventually tamed and brought to civilisation. Set against the Klondike Gold Rush at the close of the 19th century, much of the book was based on London's own experiences in the Yukon, and remains fascinating reading for that alone.
Read about the other nine books on Sedgwick's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

61 essential postmodern reads

Carolyn Kellogg, George Ducker, and David L. Ulin came up with a list of essential postmodern reads at the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog.

"The thing about postmodernism is it's impossible to pin down exactly what might make a book postmodern," Kellogg acknowledges. Some of the attributes of the texts on the list include: "the author is a character, fiction and reality are blurred, the text includes fictional artifacts, such as letters, lyrics, even whole other books, and so on."

One title on the list:
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
Read about the other books on the list.

Hopscotch also appears on Chris Power's "critic's chart" of six linguistic experiments.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2009

Six great moon novels

Accompanying his essay "Curse You, Neil Armstrong!," author Ted Gioia offers a list of "six great moon novels."

One title to make the grade:
The First Men in the Moon
by H.G. Wells

Jules Verne ridiculed this novel for its flippant disregard of Newton's laws. The propulsion device H.G. Wells uses to get to the moon is reminiscent of "Flubber" from Walt Disney's The Absent-Minded Professor.
Read about the other five titles to make Gioia's list.

Also see: Five best insider accounts of the Apollo moon landings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ten of the best failed couplings in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best failed couplings in literature.

One book on the list:
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

"Leisured American" John Dowell elopes with the fascinating Florence. On their wedding day they set sail for Europe "in a great gale of wind – the gale that affected her heart". Her doctor suggests that "I had better refrain from manifestations of affection". But Dowell discovers she has been carrying on a vigorous affair with his friend.
Read about all ten failed couplings on Mullan's list.

The Good Soldier also appears on Mullan's list of ten great novels with terrible original titles and the Guardian's list of ten of the best unconsummated passions in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: The Good Soldier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Five best insider accounts of the moon landings

Harrison H. Schmitt, a former U.S. senator for New Mexico and, as Apollo 17’s geologist and lunar-module pilot, the last man to step on the moon, is the author of Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise and Energy and the Human Settlement of Space.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of insider accounts of the Apollo moon landings. One title on his list:
Carrying the Fire
by Michael Collins
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974

“I have been places and done things you simply would not believe,” writes Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins near the end of “Carrying the Fire.” That observation reflects my own memories of exploring the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow. Forty years ago, ­Collins spent the day alone in lunar ­orbit as the command-module pilot while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the moon’s surface. Collins ultimately gave us arguably the best personal story by an astronaut, capturing all the hard work, family interactions and excitement of being in the group of men who would be the public face of Apollo. They and all with whom they worked believed, correctly, that this was the most important contribution they could make with their lives.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2009

Top 10 literary tear jerkers

David Nicholls named a top ten list of literary tear jerkers for Britain's Independent.

One book on the list:

This list is more than usually personal and subjective, and with that in mind I should immediately confess my immunity to Austen and the Brontes. Wuthering Heights always struck me as far too mad to be moving, a very strange book indeed. This list will also shows up certain shameful gap in my reading. Anna Karenina, for example, or The Mill on the Floss, or a lot of recent fiction that I've yet to catch up with.

I have, however, read Great Expectations at least ten times, and am always struck by how genuinely moving it is, and largely free of that comic grotesquerie that can sometimes try the patience. In his big emotional scenes, Dickens walks a fine line between mawkish and affecting; "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing," as Oscar Wilde put it. But Great Expectations is much better than that, and the scene between Pip and the dying Magwitch is a beauty. Dickens loved a good death scene, see also Smike in Nicholas Nickleby, Nancy in Oliver Twist, Joe in Bleak House but this is the finest.
Learn about the other nine literary tear jerkers on the list.

Great Expectations also made John Mullan's ten best list of fights in fiction and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Five best studies of consumer culture

Paco Underhill is CEO of Envirosell Inc. and the author of Why We Buy and Call of the Mall.

In 2006 he named a five best list of studies of consumer culture for the Wall Street Journal. One title on the list:
"FutureShop" by Daniel Nissanoff (Penguin, 2006).

I was not prepared to like "Futureshop" by Daniel Nissanoff. Books about e-commerce tend to be like uninspired sex: a convenient shortcut to a nap. But this one is like the jolt of a double espresso. Who knew that secondary markets could be so interesting? In Daniel's view, eBay is creating an "auction culture" that is transforming the way we shop on- and offline. After all, when a used car is transformed into a "preowned" Lexus, secondhand status has lost all its stigma. Lee Scott, the CEO of Wal-Mart, is quoted as having no concerns about the threat of Target, but eBay keeps him up at night.
Read about the other four books on Underhill's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top 10 computer novels

Jeffery Deaver's many novels and two short story collections include the newly released Roadside Crosses.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten novels featuring the internet or computers.

One novel on his list:
A Maze of Death by Philip K Dick

I don't write science fiction, though I read much of it growing up. No top 10 of computer-oriented novels would be complete without something by Dick, as the devices figure in one way or another in all of his stories. His Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the basis for the movie Blade Runner) and Ubik are more frequently mentioned, but Maze is my favorite. It's less relentlessly bleak than some (that is a compliment, by the way) and it speeds along like a classic thriller. A disparate group of colonists end up on a distant planet and are forced to fend for themselves in a world where reality and perception blur. I consider this a computer novel because of the mysterious "tenches," part oracle, part circuitry, part Jell-O.
Read about the other nine novels on Deaver's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ten of the best smokes in fiction

One title from the Guardian's "ten of the best smokes" list:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Once upon a time, the smell of cigar smoke was thought to be delicious, arousing. In the proposal scene of Brontë's novel, Jane catches the whiff of Rochester's cigar - "I know it well" - in the garden at Thornfield. It mingles with "sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose". With the heroine giddy on these blended scents, only one outcome is possible.
Read about the other smokes on the list.

Jane Eyre also made the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction," appears on Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan list of ten of the best weddings in literature.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sen. Chris Dodd: best books

Chris Dodd is the senior U.S. senator from Connecticut and author of Letters From Nuremberg, a tribute to his father, who was one of the lead prosecutors in the Nazi war-crime trials.

Last year he named a best books list for The Week.

One title on the list:
The Odyssey by Homer.

Homer created the Western imagination. The story of human life as a journey and the mythological element of the story reminds us that we are not alone in the universe. Now that I have two children, Odysseus’ longing for home—what the Greeks called nostos and we call nostalgia—adds a new resonance to this undying story.
Read about the other five books on Dodd's list.

The Odyssey also appears on John Mullan's list of the ten best shipwrecks in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Five best novels about arduous journeys

Rose Tremain’s novels include ­Music and Silence and The ­Colour. Her most recent work, The Road Home, has just been released in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novels about arduous journeys.

One book on the list:
The Crossing
By Cormac McCarthy
Knopf, 1994

Cormac McCarthy is ­America’s greatest contemporary poet of the wild. His fictional journeys have strange beginnings and desolate endings, confirming man’s smallness in a world where “God sits and conspires in the destruction of what he has been at such pains to ­create,” as McCarthy writes in “The Crossing.” Here, 16-year-old Billy ­Parham, son of a rancher, rescues a she-wolf from a trap one winter’s morning and decides to light out from home, dragging the wolf behind his horse across the border into Mexico. Billy’s intention is to release the wolf into the inaccessible mountains from which she strayed, but by crossing a geographical and temporal border, he enters a world of anarchy and violence. Piece by inevitable piece, he is stripped of everything that gives his life ­sustenance and meaning. Billy’s ­courage in the face of pain, loss, ­hunger and bereavement, no less than his unsentimental understanding of the lives of animals, makes him a ­remarkable and timeless hero. This heroism is, in its turn, heroically served by McCarthy’s dark unraveling ­sentences that gather like storm clouds and break in freakish thunder.
Read about the other four books on Tremain's list.

Also see Hugh Thomson's top ten books of South American journeys, Dava Sobel's five best list of books which "record extraordinary journeys of discovery," and Rory Stewart's six favorite travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The 50 best summer reads ever

The editors at the Guardian picked their 50 best summer reads ever.

The list is thinner on crime novels than one might have guessed. Nevertheless, it includes:
The Lady in the Lake - Raymond Chandler

Private eye Philip Marlowe travels from Los Angeles into the mountains in pursuit of a rich man's missing wife. The hard-boiled narration - and the corpse in the water - don't entirely negate the beauty of the surroundings.

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Ripley's first outing takes him to the Italian Riviera, where he learns his trade by stepping into the shoes of a glamorous young socialite.
Read about all fifty books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 10, 2009

Five best: Catherine Crier's top crime books

Catherine Crier is a former district court judge turned television personality. She is also the author of several non-fiction books, including Contempt: How the Right Is Wronging American Justice.

A few years ago she named her five top crime books for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
"Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo.

Never mind the kitsch Broadway version: Victor Hugo's epic novel of the struggle between Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Inspector Javert, delivers a moving commentary on injustice, oppression and rehabilitation. Valjean is sentenced to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released only to commit a second minor crime. Javert vows that the act shall not go unpunished, and the chase is on. This grand drama, much of which is set against the political tumult of the French Revolution, is an exciting read that transcends its time. Hugo's words deliver valuable lessons about the inequities that shape so many lives today and the longing for liberty that we all share.
Read about all five books on Crier's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Top 10 tales of the American frontier

Scottish playwright Chris Hannan set Missy, his first novel, in 1862 California.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten tales of the American frontier.

One title on the list:
Roughing It by Mark Twain

A young Mark Twain left Missouri in 1861, crossed the continent by stagecoach, and got his first job as a journalist in the biggest, roughest mining town on the western frontier. He wrote it all up in this travel book; the miners and sharpers and gunslingers he met and drank with, and the greed and fantasising that drove everyone on the frontier, himself included.
Read about all ten tales on Hannan's list.

Visit Chris Hannan's website.

Linda L. Richards calls Hannan's Missy "a quite marvelous and original book.... [U]nforgettable. Carefully wrought, beautifully executed. And definitely not for kids."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Five best books for your canine, and you

Back in 2005 at the Wall Street Journal, Kari Harendorf named a five best list of books for your canine, and you.

One title on the list:
"Dog Friendly Dog Training" by Andrea Arden (Howell Book House, 1999).

There is so much advice about dogs out there that it can be confusing (and, unfortunately, conflicting). Andrea Arden's book is clear, fun, easy to read and packed with valuable instruction. Learn how even a child can position a 100-pound dog with the help of a piece of kibble. Learn, too, the significance of the truth that training takes place all the time--and why, instead of correcting a dog only when he's doing something wrong, it's so important to reinforce him when he's doing something right.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ten of the best jewels

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best jewels in fiction.

One novel on the list:
The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope

The priceless jewels of the title come into the possession of the adventuress Lizzie Greystock after the death of her nasty husband, Sir Florian. They do not properly belong to her, but she is determined to keep them. Thieves eventually succeed in taking them, and in the course of the subsequent police investigation, Lizzie is revealed as an inveterate liar and disgraced.
Read about all ten jewels on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 6, 2009

You're no Einstein: five best

Walter Isaacson is the author of Einstein: His Life and Universe (April 2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).

In 2005, for the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books that "compare Einstein with other great minds."

One title on the list:
"Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps" by Peter Galison (Norton, 2003).

We've seen much hoopla in 2005 regarding the centennial of Albert Einstein's miracle year, when he published seminal papers on special relativity and the quantum nature of light. Several smart books on Einstein were also published, adding to the growing library of works on this endlessly fascinating man. One particularly interesting approach of writers over the years has been to consider Einstein in tandem with another great genius and compare how their minds worked. Among the best of these is "Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps" and the four others that follow here. Henri Poincaré, the great polymath, hit on many elements of relativity just before Einstein did, but he did not make the full leap. Mr. Galison describes how Poincaré's study of time zones and Einstein's work in the Swiss patent office examining devices to synchronize clocks may have influenced their scientific thinking. Some scholars feel Mr. Galison goes too far. But this intriguing book provokes us all to wrestle with our own approach to ideas: How do various influences, conscious or not, flow together to produce a new concept?
Read about all five books on Isaacson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ten of the best shipwrecks

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best shipwrecks in literature.

One title on the list:
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Young David Balfour is kidnapped at the behest of his miserly uncle who knows he is the rightful heir to his estate. He finds himself on a ship, bound for slavery in the Carolinas. But the ship strikes a reef and David is washed ashore, returning to claim his birthright.
Read about all ten shipwrecks on the list.

Kidnapped also appears on Mullan's list of ten of the best misers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Five best: baseball books

A few years ago, former major league catcher Tim McCarver named a five best list of baseball books for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
"The Boys of Summer" by Roger Kahn (Harper & Row, 1972).

This is a memoir focused on the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s, a team that Roger Kahn covered as a sportswriter. He brings the whole era back in marvelous detail, with sketches of the players who were the life of that team. They included Jackie Robinson, of course. What I didn't know until I had read the book was the pivotal role played by Pee Wee Reese, a white Southerner and captain of the Dodgers, in easing Robinson's transition to the big leagues. Looking back now it is mind-boggling to think of what it took to establish Robinson and break the race barrier--which has to be considered one of the central events in American history.
Read about all five titles on McCarver's list.

Also see Roger Kahn's five best list of outstanding memoirs, Tom Werner's six favorite baseball books, Fay Vincent's five best list of baseball books, and Nicholas Dawidoff's five best list of baseball novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seven indie titles on Oprah's summer list

Books from independent publishers have been an extreme rarity on Oprah's recommended summer reading lists. Until this year.

MobyLives identified seven books (out of a total 25) by independent publishers on Oprah's list.

One of the indie books:
One D.O.A., One on the Way
By Mary Robison
Counterpoint, 2009
Read more about the indie books on Oprah's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ten worst books in international relations

Daniel W. Drezner named the 10 worst books in international relations for Foreign Policy. His criteria:
to earn a place on this list, we're talking about:

* Books by prominent international policymakers that put you to sleep;
* Books that were influential in some way but also spectacularly wrong, leading to malign consequences.
One title on the list:
Kenichi Ohmae, The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies.

Plenty of management consultants have tried to write the Very Big Book. And plenty of authors have predicted the demise of the nation-state in their books. Ohmae encapsulates both of these trends. Still, there's something extra that puts him on this list -- over 90% of the footnotes in this book are to... other works by Kenichi Ohmae. It's the most blatant use of the footnote as a marketing strategy that I have ever seen.
Read about all ten books on Drezner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top 10 stories set outside the city

Edward Hogan is the winner of the Desmond Elliott first novel prize for Blackmoor, his story of a Derbyshire village during the miners' strike.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of stories that "show that you don't need to write about big cities to say big stuff."

One book on the list:
Union Street by Pat Barker

A brilliant, and quite correctly disturbing book. Of Union Street's women, the story of Kelly Brown – a victim of rape – made the biggest mark on me. Barker's take on the care and oppression of communities is complex and thoughtful. "You can get used to anything," Kelly says, ominously, at the start of the book.
Read about all ten stories on Hogan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue