Monday, August 31, 2009

Five books that made a difference to Jennifer Garner

Actor Jennifer Garner told O, The Oprah Magazine about five books that made a difference in her life.

One title on the list:
Crimes of the Heart
by Beth Henley

I always loved acting, and I exhausted every performing opportunity my hometown had to offer. I never thought it was going to become anything more than a hobby for me, and when I started college, I was a chemistry major. I was so excited that there was a beginning acting class, so I signed up. Crimes of the Heart was the first play I read that I completely related to: I am the middle of three sisters, I come from a Southern family, and I wanted to be cast as one of the girls in this story. I changed my major to theater right after that. I love the immediacy—how a play distills the essence of the story. I've been a fan of Beth Henley's ever since. I've done bits of her plays in acting classes and they always fit like a glove.
Read about the other books on Garner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ten of the best devils

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

One devil on the list:
Muriel Spark's Douglas Dougal

It is not surprising that the devilish (and devoutly Roman Catholic) Spark should spring a Satanic manipulator on the modern world in The Ballad of Peckham Rye. The company of Meadows, Meade & Grindley hires the charming and resourceful Dougal to do "human research" on its employees. His diabolical ability is bringing out the worst in people. As the narrator keeps saying: "It wouldn't have happened if Dougal Douglas hadn't come."
Read about all ten devils on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Five best books on political conspiracy

Joseph Finder is a member of the ­Association of Former Intelligence Officers. His ­novels include Paranoia, High Crimes, and the recently released suspense thriller Vanished.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of novels on political conspiracy.

One title on the list:
by Don DeLillo
Viking, 1988

Don DeLillo, our poet of paranoia, here reimagines the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's a conspiracy theory about ­conspiracy theories, about the ­powerful ­mythology of the greatest crime of the American century. DeLillo's ­language is dazzling as he presents an ingenious fusing of fact and fiction, theory and reality. A CIA operative ­devises an "electrifying event" that will force the invasion of Cuba. He ­enlists a pawn, Lee Harvey Oswald, to unwittingly carry out a "spectacular miss." But of course a perfect plan conceived by "men in small rooms" must self-destruct in the cold light of reality. This is a ­hallucinatory ­meditation on the ­seductiveness of conspiracy: strangely lyrical and fraught with steadily ­encroaching ­terror. Oswald, the ­puppet, is no more paranoid than his masters; the difference is that they realize that there is always "a world inside the world."
Read about all five novels on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2009

Top ten books about the Berlin Wall

At the Guardian's books blog, Suzanne Munshower named a top ten list of books which "can provide a better understanding of the geography of, the history behind and the collateral damage caused by this monument to humankind's perversity."

One novel on the list:
It's this pre-Wall yet segregated city that takes centre stage in The Innocent, its disconnection as much a character as the novel's young English protagonist. Starting from the true story of a joint CIA-MI6 surveillance project, Ian McEwan has written an edge-of-the-seat espionage story that's also a searing tale of lost innocence and the untrustworthiness of naivete. His Berlin is both corrupted and corrupting, west as well as east.
Read the complete blog entry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2009

James Patterson's best children’s books

Bestselling novelist James Patterson named a best children's books list for The Week magazine.

One title on his list:
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (Delacorte, $14).

Nate understands that you have to solve a few minor-league cases before you can move on to Sam Spade–style crime-stopping. Great stories and snappy, clear writing. Attentive readers can help Nate pick up clues along the way.
Read about all six books on Patterson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Top ten Turkish books

Selçuk Altun's first novel was published in Turkey in 2001. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, his fourth, and the first to be translated into English, was published in 2008. His latest novel, Many and Many a Year Ago, is now available in the US.

One book on the list:
Memed, My Hawk by Yaşar Kemal

The only son of a poor widow, Memed has to fight for his love and life against an evil feudal lord in southern Turkey. A tour de force.
Read about all nine books on Altun's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eight YA novels with characters who are changed by music

Cecil Castellucci, author of five books including the rock novel Beige, named eight YA novels with characters whose lives are changed by music.

One novel on the list:
"Fat Kid Rules the World" by K.L. Going

Troy is a fat kid who doesn't have any friends, just can't take it anymore and decides to end it all. But high school music legend Curt McCrae steps in and saves him, and everything changes. Curt sees something in Troy that no one else sees; even though Troy can’t drum, Curt thinks that Troy should be the drummer for his new band Rage/Tectonic. It’s a funny thing how when someone starts seeing something special in you, you start seeing yourself in a different way, too.
Read about all 8 books on Castellucci's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ten of the best concerts in fiction

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

One book on the list:
Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Anne Elliot attends a recital in Bath, all a flutter with the knowledge that she has reawakened Captain Wentworth's romantic interest. The creepy Mr Elliot sits next to her and explains the lyrics of amorous Italian songs, while Wentworth stands at the back of the concert room and burns with jealousy.
Read about the other nine concerts on Mullan's list.

is among Elizabeth Buchan's "top 10 books guaranteed to give comfort during the ending of a relationship."

The Page 99 Test: Persuasion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Five best books about trial lawyers at work

The trial lawyer John Quinn is the founder and managing ­partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP in Los Angeles.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books about trial lawyers at work. One title on the list:
Courting Justice
by David Boies
Hyperion, 2004

In "Courting Justice," David Boies captures the life of a business trial lawyer, especially the way it often ­requires the simultaneous immersion in multiple, unrelated ­proceedings and different casts of characters—all of which the lawyer has to keep straight. One of the most interesting cases he describes is the antitrust action that the Justice Department, ­represented by Boies, brought against Microsoft in 1998. Bill Gates, who might have been a powerful voice for the company, was effectively neutered as a trial witness, thanks to his overly clever fencing with Boies at his deposition. It's a basic lesson that all litigators learn—at least the successful ones: A witness cannot be credible at trial if he has not been credible at deposition. The book brims with such hard-won insights.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2009

Critic's chart: 6 books featuring medical breakthroughs

Last year Thomas Stuttaford, The Times (London) doctor, named a critic's chart of six books featuring medical breakthroughs.

One title on the list:
Medicine's 10 Greatest Discoveries by Meyer Friedman and Gerald Friedland

This inspired book of science by two American clinicians shows keen observation for a human story.
Read about the other five books on Stuttaford's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best books: Kate Walbert

Kate Walbert, author of the new novel A Short History of Women, named a best books list of her favorite (unlikely) heroines for The Week magazine.

One novel on her list:
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

With Clarissa Dalloway, Woolf magically exposes the complexities and contradictions of an ordinary woman’s life through the course of one single brave day. While reading it, everything that’s possible in fiction suddenly hangs in perfect equilibrium.
Read about the other five literary heroines on Walbert's list.

Mrs. Dalloway also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best prime ministers in fiction, and among Michael Cunningham's 5 most important books and Dani Shapiro's 10 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top 10 graphic novels for teenagers

Malorie Blackman's has written more than 50 books, including Pig-Heart Boy, Hacker and Whizziwig. She also writes for theatre and TV. Her latest book, Double Cross, the fourth in the award-winning Noughts and Crosses series, has just been published in paperback in the UK.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of graphic novels for teenagers.

Number One on her list:
V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

This book started my love of graphic novels. I'd always read comics as a child but I didn't realise stories could be told in this format for adults and teenagers until I read this story. V For Vendetta is complex, absorbing and truly brilliant. The story is set in an England in the near future where those deemed "deviants" are sent to camps to be exterminated or experimented on. What I love about this story is that it celebrates the individual, how just one person can make a difference, can start a domino effect that can change a whole society. Awe-inspiring stuff.
Read about all ten books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The 10 best lady detectives

Adrian McKinty is the critically acclaimed author of Dead I Well May Be, the award-winning The Dead Yard, The Bloomsday Dead, and Hidden River. McKinty was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and educated at Oxford University. His latest novel is Fifty Grand.

For the (London) Times, he named a top ten list of the best lady detectives.

One lady detective to make the grade:
Precious Ramotswe: Except, ironically, in Botswana, you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t read at least one of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. The Susan Boyle of the crime fighting world Mma Ramotswe is a rather large, slightly comic, jovial lady who runs a private detective agency in the Botswanan town of Gaborone. Of course like Miss Boyle Precious has hidden depths: smart as a whip, an astute judge of character and with a self taught detecting skill set she is a force for good in a turbulent and often quite depressing landscape. Solving murders, missing persons cases and thefts Ramotswe is a charming, wise and likeable character that everyone could do with as an auntie. She loves the Queen, Nelson Mandela and politician Seretse Khama whose son Ian got moaned at by Jeremy Clarkson and having survived that is now the current President of Botswana.
Read about all ten lady detectives on the list.

Visit Adrian McKinty's blog.

Declan Burke says McKinty's Fifty Grand "is already one of the Top Five Crime Novels of 2009."

McKinty appears on Brian McGilloway's top 10 list of modern Irish crime novels.

The Page 69 Test: Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2009

Martin Meredith's 10 books to read on Africa

Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. His books include Mugabe and The Fate of Africa (UK title: The State of Africa).

Brian Schofield calls the latter "an epic survey of a continent gone wrong, starting from colonial independence after World War 2, to the present day. I cannot recommend it too highly - to be part of humanity in 2009, you have to try to understand Africa, and this book offers a tremendous guide to the whole tragic saga."

One book from Meredith's list of ten books to read on Africa:
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

While working as a river-boat captain, Conrad witnessed the madness of greed and corruption that overtook King Leopold's Congo Free State at the end of the nineteenth century, immortalising it in a short novel that remains one of the most scathing indictments of imperialism ever written. "The horror! The horror," whispers his chief character Mr. Kurtz on his death bed, memorable words replayed in Francis Ford Coppola's film 'Apocalypse Now.'
Read about all ten books on Martin Meredith's list.

Heart of Darkness also appears on Tim Butcher's list of the top 10 books about Congo, Thomas Perry's best books list, and is #9 on the 100 best last lines from novels list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Five best magic books in America's past

Owen Davies, Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire, has written extensively on the history of popular magic, witchcraft, and ghosts. His new book is Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on magic in an earlier America.

One title on the list:
The Long Lost Friend
by John George Hohman

When John George Hohman and his family sailed from the port of ­Hamburg and pitched up on American shores in 1802, they ended up in Berks County, Pa., where other ethnic Germans had settled. It was there that Hohman began peddling books of charms, blessings and recipes. "Der lang verborgene Freund"—"The Long Lost Friend"—was his most successful. Within its pages were instructions "to charm guns" and "to prevent being cheated, charmed, or bewitched." God and guns are key themes in the book, appealing to the pious self-sufficiency of the Protestant Pennsylvania Dutch communities. "Anybody could use the book," explained one woman to a folklorist. But, she said, "you had to have a little faith, you know, you would have to believe in God." First translated into English in 1846, "The Long Lost Friend" eventually spread beyond the German-American population and into America's other folk traditions.
Read about the other books on Davies' list.

Also see Davies' list of the top ten grimoires.

The Page 99 Test: Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top 10 books about U.S. military history

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.

For Foreign Policy, he named ten "books anyone interested in U.S. military history should read."

One title on the list:
Son of the Morning Star
by Evan S. Connell

A great take on Custer, and also of the life of the American soldier in the taking of the West.
Read about all ten books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2009

Five best: Detroit's car culture, and America's

Paul J. Ingrassia retired from The Wall Street Journal at the end of 2007, after 31 years. In 1993, as the Journal's Detroit bureau chief, Mr. Ingrassia won a Pulitzer Prize -- along with his deputy, Joseph B. White --for coverage of the prior year's crisis at General Motors. The two also won a Loeb Award. Messrs. Ingrassia and White co-authored Comeback: the Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, published by Simon and Schuster in 1994.

His new book, Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster, is due out in January 2010.

Back in 2005 he named a five best list of books that capture Detroit's car culture, and America's.

One title on the list:
"Sloan Rules" by David Farber (University of Chicago Press, 2002).

Henry Ford invented mass production, but General Motors' Alfred P. Sloan invented mass marketing and rolled right past Ford. Sloan, who led GM from the 1920s to the 1950s, left no private papers. But David Farber's research reconstructs his achievements and failures alike--the most notable failure being an inability to see beyond GM's narrow institutional interest: Sloan stoutly resisted turning GM's factories over to weapons production during World War II. Sloan "was not much ruled by a moral vision or a sense of compassion for others," Mr. Farber writes, but his work brought prosperity to millions.
Read about the other four books on Ingrassia's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The ten best children's cookbooks

The Independent came up with a ten best list of children's cookbooks.

One title on the list:
The Gastrokid Cookbook by Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans

One of the greatest challenges for parents is weaning children off their fussy eating habits. 'The Gastrokid Cookbook', birthed by a blog, seeks to help raise a generation of fearless foodies by slowly broadening palates, while encouraging children to get involved with the cooking.
Read about the other cookbooks on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Top 10 literary teenagers

Will Davis' first novel, My Side of the Story, was published in 2007 and took that year's Betty Trask prize. His new book is Dream Machine.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of literary teenagers. One teen on the list:
Elizabeth Wurtzel in Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Wurtzel's famous autobiographical novel does not skimp on any aspect of her debilitating depression, which first began when she was a teenager. It might pulsate with an egoism that would make Mariah Carey blush, but you can practically feel the catharsis as she pours out the illness that's marked her life.
Read about the other teens on Davis' list.

Related: Writers Read: Elizabeth Wurtzel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top 10 Elvis Presley books

Robert Fontenot, Jr. is an entertainment critic and journalist, and the guide to oldies music.

Number One on his top 10 list of Elvis Presley books:
"Elvis," Dave Marsh

There are a number of books that explore Elvis more intently from different viewpoints, but this is the only one to define him in all ways at once -- who he was as a person, why he rose, what he meant to music and culture, why he was so loved and hated, why he fell. As a result, this is the first book to buy if you're wondering what all the fuss was about, but there's plenty of thoughtful eulogy for hardcore fans, too. The stunning Bea Feitler photos are alone worth the price of purchase.
Read about the other books on Robert Fontenot, Jr's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2009

Five best books on food and cooking

Raymond Sokolov writes the "Eating Out" column for the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition.

In 2005 he named a five best list of books about food and cooking.

One title on the list:
"Mastering the Art Of French Cooking, Vol. 1" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961).

This overly meticulous and slightly dated introduction to la cuisine française is still the indispensable text for the cook who has learned the basics and wants to move on to the classic dishes of the world's greatest national food repertoire. By now, "Mastering" is also a historical document, the book that launched the American food revolution. It was based in part on an even greater primer, soon to appear in English, "La Cuisine de Madame Saint-Ange." But for neophytes, nothing will replace Julia.
Reads about all five books on Sokolov's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Five best books on the pleasures and hazards of booze

Iain Gately's books include Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization and Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on the pleasures and hazards of drink.

One title on the list:
Headlong Hall
by Thomas Love Peacock

The Enlightenment collides with the squirearchy in this ­Regency novel set in a Welsh manor over Christmas. Guests argue over “Progress” or its ­absence, and their host, Harry Headlong, moderates their ­debates with claret, port, brandy and aqua vitae. There are skulls, explosions, landscaped gardens, the Peacock-coined word osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary (the bony fleshy bloody gutsy gristly marrowy totality of the body), a ball and later betrothals—all lubricated with lashings of booze. ­“Headlong Hall” is also a roman à clef ­featuring Samuel Taylor ­Coleridge and other Romantic poets, drawn from life. Best of all, it is an enthusiastic and stylish picture of the joys of commensal drinking.
Read about the other four books on Gately's list.

The Page 99 Test: Iain Gately's Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ten of the best volcanoes

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

One title on the list:
Pompeii by Robert Harris

The hero of Harris's historical yarn is Roman engineer Marcus Attilius Primus, in charge of Pompeii's water supplies. In the process of trying to keep the aquaducts flowing, he discovers the corruption and decadence of the locals, and scientifically detects the signs of a coming catastrophe.
Read about the other nine volcanoes on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 7, 2009

Top 10 musical novels

Joyce Hackett's fiction and non-fiction have appeared in publications including Harpers, The Paris Review, London Magazine, Boston Review, Prospect (UK), The Independent, Salon, and the Berlin Daily Der Tagespiegel. Her first novel, Disturbance of the Inner Ear, won the 2003 the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman.

In 2003 she named a top 10 list of musical novels for the Guardian. One novel on the list:
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

"Invisibility... gives one a slightly different sense of time, you're never quite on the beat." Ellison takes the linear, progressive marching rhythms of Eurocentric music and turns them on their ear with a prose that, while it does not discuss much music, embodies jazz. In this story of a gifted black valedictorian who is tortured, taunted, and made invisible by the whites who must impose their myths upon him, Ellison explores, perhaps more intensely than any other prose writer, the literary possibilities of musical rhythm, time and form.
Read about the other nine musical novels on the list.

Visit Joyce Hackett's website.

The Invisible Mancomes in second on the list of the 100 best last lines from novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Leslie Cockburn's best books

Leslie Cockburn is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the director of American Casino, a documentary about the current economic crisis.

In May she named a best books list for The Week. One book on the list:
Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 by Charles Glass (HarperPress, London).

Before reading Charles Glass’ new book, it never occurred to me that so many Americans refused to leave Paris under Nazi occupation. Glass has uncovered a fascinating chapter of forgotten history.
Read about the other five books on Cockburn's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Top 10 time-travelling stories

Linda Buckley-Archer's time-travelling trilogy concludes with Time Quake, available in the U.S. in October.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten time-travelling stories. Her preface:
"My first proper short story was about a man obsessed with marking the new millennium (he missed it). Ever since, though I'm not sure why, the theme of time has managed to creep into almost everything I've written. We are so used to moving backwards and forwards in time in our heads - revisiting times past and speculating on our future - that the notion of time travel is easy to imagine and accept."
One title on the list:
The Time Machine by HG Wells

It's impossible to leave out this seminal time-travelling story from of one of science fiction's founding fathers. Having invented a machine capable of moving through the fourth dimension, a gentleman scientist journeys to the distant future where he discovers that mankind has evolved in disturbing ways. Wells's imagination was extraordinary. Published in 1895 (10 years before Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity) The Time Machine reflects Wells's fascination with both science and social issues.
Read about the other nine titles on Buckley-Archer's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Five best books on baseball as a business

Richard J. Tofel, author of A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees in 1939, named a list of the five best books on baseball as a business for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
by Michael Lewis
Norton, 2003

Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball” has become the modern ­baseball classic, charting how some of baseball’s have-not teams have hoped to use superior understanding of statistics to even the odds against them. Love it (quantitative baseball progressives, led by statistics maven Bill James) or hate it (anecdotal traditionalists), the book sharpened debates about how to build a winning team and how much difference money ­really makes. In an important sense, Lewis provided a rejoinder to George Will’s 1990 “Men at Work” (which isn’t listed here only because its focus is on the play of baseball rather than the business). One glitch in Lewis’s argument: The story’s hero, general manager Billy Beane, and his Oakland A’s still haven’t won a pennant, much less the World Series.
Read about the other four books on Tofel's list.

Also see Tim McCarver's five best list of baseball books, 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 fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2009

Malcolm Jones' 10 favorite crime novels

Newsweek's Malcolm Jones named his ten favorite crime novels.

One book on the list:
The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler:

Philip Marlowe has no serious competition as the quintessential hardboiled private eye. Here he travels through a Los Angeles where nothing—or at least anything good—is what it seems.
Read about the other nine books on the list.

(H/t to Sarah Weinman, who writes that the "dude needs to read more women.")

The Long Goodbye also appears on John Mullan's list of the ten best fake deaths in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ten of the best swimming scenes in literature

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

One title on the list:
The Sea by John Banville

Narrator Max Morden recalls a seaside holiday from childhood, including the best description I know of the absurd swimming styles of one's parents. His mother wallows in a soupy lagoon with "small, mistrustful pleasure"; his father goes "at a sort of hindered, horizontal scramble with mechanical strokes and a gasping sideways grimace and one starting eye". But swimming will also lead to a very bad ending ...
Read about the other nine swimming scenes on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jason Kottke: best books

Jason Kottke builds web sites and edits the famous blog.

He named a best books list for The Week. One title on the list:
The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (Walker, $15).

Even though it’s a history of the telegraph, this book is always relevant. The rise of the 1830s communication device continues to be a fantastic metaphor for each new Internet technology that comes along, from e-mail to IM to Facebook to Twitter.
Read about the other five books on Kottke's list.

The Victorian Internet also appears on Evgeny Morozov's list of ten books to learn how technology shapes the world.

--Marshal Zeringue