Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top 10 vampire novels

Kevin Jackson's childhood ambition was to be a vampire (“you’d get to live in a castle – how cool is that!”) but instead he became the last living polymath. His colossal expertise ranges from Seneca to Sugababes, with a special interest in the occult, Ruskin, take-away food, Dante’s Inferno and the moose. He is the author of numerous books on numerous subjects, including Fast: Feasting on the Streets of London (Portobello 2006), and reviews regularly for the Sunday Times. His new book is Bite: A Vampire Handbook.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of vampire novels.

One title on the list:
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

No one who has seen the justly acclaimed film version of Lindqvist's bleak but unexpectedly humane novel will need much encouragement to seek out the original, where much that is cryptic about the on-screen story becomes clarified. The heart of the narrative remains the same – a story of friendship and love between Oskar – a lonely, sad, bullied boy – and Eli, the girl (or is she?) vampire who comes to be his protector. But the book encompasses other tales too, and makes explicit the fact that Eli's older male companion is in fact a paedophile as well as a killer. Harsh, and uncomfortable, but compelling.
Read about all ten novels on Jackson's list.

Also see Lisa Tuttle's top six vampire books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2009

Harold Evans' six favorite­ bio­graphies and memoirs

Harold Evans is The Week’s editor-at-large and author of The American Century. His autobiography, My Paper Chase, will be released in the coming week.

For The Week, he named his six favorite­ bio­graphies and memoirs.

One title on the list:
Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion (Cornell, $24).

A literary sensation in 1919, this vivid memoir-diary has just been reissued. A witty and observant naturalist, its author learned on the day he was declared unfit for service in World War I’s trenches that he was already fatally ill. His diary assumes a dramatic intensity and becomes an uplifting journey.
Read about the other five books on Evans' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sandi Toksvig's top 10 unsung heroines

Sandi Toksvig is a Danish-born English comedian, author and presenter on radio and television. Her many books for children include Hitler's Canary, based upon her family's experiences in Nazi-occupied Denmark, and Girls Are Best, a look at the overlooked achievements of women down the ages.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of unsung heroines. Her spur to thought:
"When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. "This is often considered to be man's first attempt at a calendar" she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. 'My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman's first attempt at a calendar.'

"It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women's contributions? How often had I sped past them as I learned of male achievement and men's place in the history books? Then I read Rosalind Miles's book The Women's History of the World (recently republished as Who Cooked the Last Supper?) and I knew I needed to look again. History is full of fabulous females who have been systematically ignored, forgotten or simply written out of the records. They're not all saints, they're not all geniuses, but they do deserve remembering."
One woman on Toksvig's list:
Catherine Littlefield Greene (1755-1814)

As a child growing up in the United States I was taught that a man called Eli Whitney changed the face of the American economy with the invention in 1793 of the cotton gin, a machine that mechanised the cleaning of cotton. In fact it was Catherine's idea but in those days women didn't take out patents.
Read about the other women on Toksvig's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 books about comedians

William Cook's books about comedy include: Ha Bloody Ha - Comedians Talking (Fourth Estate); The Comedy Store - The Club That Changed British Comedy (Little, Brown); Tragically I Was An Only Twin - The Complete Peter Cook, and Goodbye Again - The Definitive Peter Cook & Dudley Moore (both published by Century); 25 Years of Viz (Boxtree), Eric Morecambe Unseen - The Lost Diaries, Jokes & Photographs (HarperCollins), and Morecambe & Wise Untold (HarperCollins).

In 2006 he named his top ten books about comedians for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation by John Lahr

An absorbing backstage biography of the comedienne sometimes mistaken for Barry Humphries, by the theatre critic of the New Yorker - and the son of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Lahr taped 34 hours of interviews with Australia's finest (and funniest) cultural export, but it's his colourful descriptions of Dame Edna, Sandy Stone and Sir Les Patterson that make this book live and breathe. A life in showbiz, seen from the wings.
Read about the other nine titles on Cook's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Top ten Halloween books

In 2006 Book Sense came up with a top ten list of Halloween books. One title on the list:
THE INHABITED WORLD: A Novel, by David Long (Houghton) "This beautifully written ghost story is a moving speculation about the world beyond. A man wakes up to the realities of having dodged just about every stand he could have taken and, 10 years after his suicide, realizes that he's at another branch in the road. If he can't intervene in the world of the living, perhaps the living world can help spur him on to do what he needs to do."
Read about all ten books on the list. Also see James Hynes' 2008 top 10 list of Halloween stories and Brad Leithauser's five best ghost tales. --Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2009

Desmond Morris' six best books

Desmond Morris is an internationally famous zoologist, ethnologist and artist. He is a prolific author, whose works include The Naked Ape, Manwatching and Amazing Baby. His new book is Planet Ape.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One book on the list:
by Charles Darwin
John Murray, £12.99

Although Darwin’s most famous book is The Origin Of Species my favourite is his later study of human facial expressions, postures and gestures. He ends the book by saying that his observations confirm “that man is derived from some lower animal form”, adding “but as far as my judgment serves, such confirmation was hardly needed”.
Read about the other books on Morris' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ten of the best examples of moon poetry

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best examples of Moon poetry.

One poem on his list:
"I Watched the Moon Around the House" by Emily Dickinson

Another moon-obsessed poet, Dickinson took the mysterious orb as a metaphor for all sorts of moods. One night, sleepless as ever, she encountered it as a familiar reflection of her own strangeness. "I watched the Moon around the House / Until upon a Pane – / She stopped – a Traveller's privilege – for Rest – / And there upon / I gazed – as at a stranger –."
Read about the other nine Moon poems.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Five best books on New York City history

Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, named a five best list of books on the history of New York City for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on his list:
The Gangs of New York
by Herbert Asbury
Knopf, 1928

Herbert Asbury, a journalist in the 1920s, took upon himself the task of describing for New Yorkers of his era—the flappers and snazzy gents sucking cocktails—the much wilder life of the forebears on whose graves they gaily danced. His "informal history" of New York's seamy 19th-century underclass reads more like a collection of myths and legends. Chapter titles convey some of the flavor: "The Killing of Bill the Butcher," "The Police and Dead Rabbit Riots," "When New York Was Really Wicked." We meet a gaudy cast of disreputable characters, including Louie the Lump, Kid Twist and Madame Killer, in this bawdy, not terribly trustworthy but highly enjoyable portrait of the city and of a long-gone lower Manhattan neighborhood, Five Points. Movie director Martin Scorsese was understandably intoxicated by "The Gangs of New York" and in 2002 tried to capture on film what the city was like when its mean streets were made of cobblestones.
Read about the other four books on Shorto's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tracy Kidder: best books

Tracy Kidder is the Pulitzer–winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and House.

His new book, Strength in What Remains, follows a refugee from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda who returns to Africa to open a medical clinic.

For The Week magazine, Kidder named his six best books.

One book on his list:
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (Vintage, $15).

To me, this is Nabokov at his very best. Among Pale Fire’s astonishing contents is a long and rather lovely poem written by a principal character: a poem written by Nabokov, of course, but not by Nabokov, as it were. This is one of the strangest and funniest novels I know.
Read about the other five books on Kidder's list.

Pale Fire
is the novel Charles Storch would save for last. It is one of "6 Memorable Books About Writers Writing" yet it disappointed Ha Jin upon rereading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Five best biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Richard Norton Smith is Scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George Mason University. A presidential historian and former head of six presidential libraries, his books include An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986) and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993). His book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize.

In 2006 he named a five best list of biographies of FDR for the Wall Street Journal. One title on the list:
"Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom" by James MacGregor Burns (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970).

Long overshadowed by its companion volume, "The Lion and the Fox" (which covers FDR's life from 1882 to 1940 and is an invaluable guide through the labyrinth of his character), this gripping account of Roosevelt during World War II presents a would-be crusader adapting to events on a global scale. "I am waiting to be pushed into the situation," the president told associates in the spring of 1941. This strategy of no strategy was deceptive--there was nothing passive, after all, about the $7 billion lifeline to embattled Britain known as Lend-Lease. After Pearl Harbor, the original Great Communicator eased his countrymen through a string of early defeats, inspired mobilization on a staggering scale, refereed an administration often at war with itself and juggled utopian possibilities and crass realpolitik.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top 10 antiheroes

Francesca Simon is one of the UK’s best-selling children’s writers. She has published over 50 books, including the immensely popular "Horrid Henry" series, which has now sold over twelve million copies.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of fictional antiheroes. The context for her choices:
"I have always loved books about rebels and non-conformists, people who swagger through life with a fierce edge and a stubborn refusal to behave themselves. No one in these books would ever win Miss Congeniality or Mr Nice Guy. Their faults definitely exceed their virtues. I'm also partial to selfish, and self-obsessed characters (no surprises there), so I've picked some favourite anti-heroes and heroines. Let's face it, we all need to let our inner imp out sometimes."
One book on her list:
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

I read book one of the Bartimaeus trilogy lying on a sofa, and did not get up until I'd finished. Jonathan Stroud has had a brilliant idea, that Britain is secretly run by a cabal of magicians who get power by summoning and enslaving "djinnies". These djinns hate their masters, and of course will do anything to break free. Our young anti-hero, Nathaniel, summons the sarcastic, powerful Bartimaeus, whom he orders to steal the Amulet from Nathaniel's nemesis. The witty, sarcastic Bartimaeus is a wonderful creation, and I loved the tense relationship he has with the arrogant, immature and somewhat amoral Nathaniel.
Read about the other antiheroes on Simon's list.

Read about Jonathan Stroud's favorite fantasy books.

Writers Read: Jonathan Stroud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top ten books of Russia

James Meek worked in Moscow as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian from 1991 to 1999, and has won several awards (including Foreign Correspondent of the Year) for his reporting from Iraq and Guantanamo.

His books include the novels We Are Now Beginning Our Descent and the Booker-longlisted The People's Act of Love, which is set in Siberia in 1919 and tells the story of an obscure Christian sect and a stranded regiment of Czech soldiers.

In 2005 he named his top ten books of Russia for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, 1842

A novel of comedy and shame.

"Chichikov saw that the old woman was far from grasping the issue, and that he needed to make it clear. In a few words he explained that the transfer, or purchase, would take place only on paper and that the souls would be registered as if they were living.
'And what good are they to you?' asked the old woman, her eyes bulging.
'That's my business.'
'But, really, all the same, they're dead.'
'Who said they were alive? You're losing money because they're dead: you're still paying for them, and I'm offering to rid you of all these bills and bother. Do you understand? Not just rid you, but give you 15 roubles into the bargain. Is that clear?'
'Really, I'm not sure," said the proprietress hesitantly. "I've never sold dead people before, you know.'"
Read about all ten titles on Meek's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten of the best journeys to the Moon

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best journeys to the Moon.

One novel on his list:
From Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne

American gun-enthusiast Impey Barbicane makes a wager that he can design a canon that will fire men from the Earth. After much argument and calculation, the huge gun is sited on a hill in Florida (not far from the present-day Nasa space centre). Michel Ardan (a French adventurer and Verne's representative) joins two Americans on the successful trip.
Read about the other nine Moon journeys on Mullan's list.

Also see a five best list of insider accounts of the Apollo moon landings and Ted Gioia's list of six great moon novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Six best books: Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington was the Director-General of MI5 from 1992 to 1996 and the first woman to hold the post. Her spy novels feature the ambitious MI5 officer, Liz Carlyle.

One of her six best books:
The Riddle of the Sands
by Erskine Childers

This classic thriller was obviously written to draw people’s attention to the fact that we weren’t really prepared for war with Germany. However, it’s very atmospheric – you can almost feel the fog as Carruthers and his friend sail through the German Frisian islands – and remains a first-class read.
Read about the other five books on Rimington's list at the Daily Express.

Learn about Rimington's favorite author.

Also see Rimington's five best list of books about spies in Britain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Five best: academic studies of fairy tales

Holly Tucker, the author of Pregnant Fictions: Childbirth and the Fairy Tale in Early-Modern France, teaches at Vanderbilt University.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of academic studies of fairy tales.

One book on the list:
The Uses of Enchantment
by Bruno Bettelheim
Knopf, 1976

Fairy tales are hardly the stuff of sweet childhood dreams. The original versions of the Brothers Grimm tales and Mother Goose overflow with blood, sex and death. But Bruno Bettelheim reassures us that a little fairy fright can be a good thing. From his perspective as a practicing psychoanalyst, the horrors of wicked witches and candy houses allow children to process their darkest fears and greatest desires. Here, Freud's theories take center stage: Cinderella's shoe transforms into a symbol of female sexuality that, when lost, spells the end of virginity. "The Uses of Enchantment" moved the fairy tale into mainstream psychology when it was first published in the 1970s. In fairy tales, adults often meet horrible fates. In real life, so did Bettelheim: He committed suicide in 1990 and, not long after, his reputation was tarnished by accusations of child abuse.
Read about the other four books on Tucker's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2009

Top ten books for Obama officials

Robert McCrum is assistant books editor for the Observer. Back in March 2009 he named a list of ten books for Obama officials, based on the premise that "we want the men and women who are running the world economy to have a bit more light and shade [than can be found in, say, Epictetus] in their intellectual hinterlands , and to have the confidence to go off-piste in their reading. In other words: to relax, to let their minds spin freely, to loosen their imaginations in the company of a great book."

One book on his list:
Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth.

This classic comedy of manners is also a brilliant portrait of an oddly contemporary woman. Lily Bart lives for pleasure and material rewards, and can only find fulfilment through conspicuous consumption. This strain runs deeper in the US than Democrats might like to admit.
Read about all ten books on McCrum's list.

The House of Mirth appears among Kate Christensen's six books that she rereads all the time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Freakonomics guys: best books

Journalist Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steven D. Levitt are the co-authors of Superfreakonomics, the follow-up to their best-selling Freakonomics, which will be published this month.

They named their six best books for The Week magazine. One title on their list:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Free Press, $14).

Yes, it’s a novel, the only one on our list, but anyone looking for a good snapshot of ­modern India would do well to read this ­rambunctious, tragicomic story of a young striver whose ambitions lead him off the rails. It’s all of India writ small: the corruption, the tradition, the hope, the commerce, the sex—and, alas, always another layer of corruption.
The Page 69 Test: The White Tiger.

Read about all six books on the Freakonomics guys' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top 10 revolutionary tales

Pauline Melville is the author of two story collections, Shape-Shifter (1990) and The Migration of Ghosts (1998), and the novels The Ventriloquist's Tale (1997) and Eating Air (2009).

For the Guardian she named a top ten list of revolutionary tales. One novel on the list:
The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Greene's cool masterpiece of betrayal and political intrigue is set in Vietnam in the 1950s. Pyle, the eponymous protagonist and probable CIA operative, is betrayed by an older Englishman and love-rival who despises his naive complicity in a terrorist attack in Saigon.
Read about the other nine tales on Melville's list.

The Quiet American is among Malcolm Pryce's top ten expatriate tales and Catherine Sampson's top ten Asian crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Top ten books on cults and religious extremists

Sam Jordison is the author of Crap Towns, Crap Towns II, The Joy Of Sects and Bad Dates.

In 2005, for the Guardian, he named a top 10 list of books on cults and religious extremists. One book on the list:
The Satanic Bible by Anton S LaVey

So impressive was Anton LaVey's shaven-headed appearance as the leader of the Church Of Satan that Roman Polanski employed him to play the devil himself in the film Rosemary's Baby. He was a smart writer too. Skip all the strange stuff in the bizarre Enochian language and concentrate on LaVey's startling and lucid essays. They're surprisingly funny and diabolically clever.
Read about all ten books on Jordison's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2009

Top ten most depressing books

AbeBooks asked its customers to identify their most depressing reads.

#1 on the list: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006).

The Road
also appears on Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, and David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers.

Fans of The Road include Paulette Jiles, Joshua Clark, David Dobbs, Andrew Pyper, Dan Rather, Jim Lehrer, Michael J. Fox, Mark McGurl, and this guy.

Learn about all ten books on most depressing reads list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ten of the best: secret societies in literature

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

One organization on his list:

Waste is a surreptitious postal organisation: We Await Silent Tristero's Empire. Obscure? Not if you read Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, which features the centuries-old rivalry between two mail distribution companies. In this satire on paranoia (or paranoid satire?), Oedipa Maas, Pynchon's heroine, begins seeing the signs of Waste's covert activity all around her.
Read about all ten secret societies on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Five best books about extinction

Clive Finlayson is the director of the Gibraltar Museum and author of The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived.

He named a five best list of books about extinction for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
Wonderful Life
by Stephen Jay Gould
Norton, 1989

This superb book recounts the discovery of a rich assemblage of invertebrate fossils high in the Canadian Rockies. For Stephen Jay Gould, the extinct animals of the Burgess Shales are the world's most important fossils, outranking even dinosaurs and ape-men. On the evidence found in the shales, an astonishing variety of strange creatures appeared on Earth in a burst of biological diversity some 570 million years ago. Most of these creatures then vanished in mass extinctions, but some made it through, including the seemingly insignificant little eel-like Pikaia. Gould saves the Pikaia for the end: From this plucky survivor descended the vertebrates and, ultimately, humans. As Gould reminds us, chance plays a role of staggering importance in the history of life.
Read about all five books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stephanie Beacham: six best books

Stephanie Beacham, the English actor who played Sable Colby in Dynasty and Iris McKay in Beverly Hills, 90120, named her six best books for the Daily Express.

One title on the list:
The Behaviour of Moths [US title--The Sister]
by Poppy Adams

A dark and funny tale of two elderly estranged sisters – reclusive moth expert Ginny and her younger sibling Vivi – reunited in the crumbling mansion that was their childhood home. I want to write a book and I’m very envious that this is her first.
Read about the other five books on Beacham's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2009

John Krasinski's best books

Actor John Krasinski, of NBC’s The Office, recently made his film-directing debut with Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, an adaptation of a short-story collection by David Foster Wallace.

He named his six best books for The Week magazine. One work of non-fiction on the list:
The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb, with an ­introduction by Peter Benchley (Newmarket, $15).

This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest books about making movies. Gottlieb, who wrote the screenplay for Jaws, gives a day-to-day account of the process of making the film, from choosing the location to building the shark ... or rather, sharks! You get to see the magic—and madness—of moviemaking, from the crazy shoot to the blockbuster hit. If you have ever had a fascination with how movies are made, why not learn it from the best?
Read about all six books on Krasinski's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Top ten most pirated eBooks of 2009

At the Independent, Marjorie Kehe reports on the 10 books most downloaded on BitTorrent (a free file-sharing application). "Don’t look at this list if you want to believe that the Internet is feeding a hunger for a deeper kind of learning," she cautions: the list does "not include titles by Victor Hugo or Emily Brontë (or even Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling)."

One book that appears on the list:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex by Sari Locker.
Read about the other nine pirated eBooks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top ten books about cycling

Matt Seaton, author of the memoir The Escape Artist, is editor of the Guardian's "Comment is free," a former cycling columnist, and a self-proclaimed "all-round bike nut."

In 2005 he named a top ten list of books about cycling for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Rider by Tim Krabbé

Krabbé is probably best known in this country as the author of the novel adapted as the film The Vanishing, but in his native Netherlands The Rider is his bestselling book. As a young man, Krabbé's forte was chess - in his late teens, he was inside the top 20 players in Holland - and he only discovered a talent for cycle-racing relatively late in life, in his 30s. That new-found passion eventually found its way into this autobiographical novella about a bike race in south-west France, but the chess knowledge still figures as Krabbé narrates the intricate battle of tactics and psychology as the race plays itself out against the bleak landscape of les causses. Like much of Krabbé's oeuvre, The Rider has a strange, dark, philosophical flavour: it is both a paean to pain and a hymn to the fellowship of the road. Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing.
Read about the other nine books on Seaton's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2009

Books to change the climate

For the Guardian, Felicity Lawrence, John Vidal and Sarah Crown came up with "a stimulating and manageable reading list from the profusion of green books on the shelves."

Their fiction selections:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The Science in the Capital series by Kim Stanley Robinson
Read about all of the books on the list.

The Road also appears on Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories.

Also see--Ten of the best: green stories in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The 10 bloodiest bedtime stories

At the Independent, Matilda Battersby compiled a list of the ten bloodiest bedtime stories.

One title on the list:
Little Red Riding Hood

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood..." is the rather innocuous beginning to one of the most twisted bedtime stories there is. The sweet little girl in question secures a rather grisly fate for her poor defenceless grandmother when she blabs to a scary wolf she meets in the forest, telling him her grandmother's address and that she's not very well. The wolf knocks on grandma's door and impersonates Little Red Riding Hood's voice in order to get in, before gobbling grandma up in one go. Not content with his meal, he then takes up cross-dressing, adorning grandma's nightie, mob cap and glasses to await the arrival of her tasty young granddaughter before swallowing her in one go as well. Most modern versions would have you believe that a passing woodcutter heard the little girl's cries and slashed open the wolf with his axe to reveal the unharmed Little Red Riding Hood and granny. But the earliest known version by Charles Perrault (before Brothers Grimm) has no happy ending or retribution apart, perhaps, from a severe case of indigestion for the wolf.
Read about the other bloody bedtime stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Five best books on working in television

Seth Freeman, a multiple Emmy-winning writer for television, created the series Lincoln Heights.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on working in television.

One title on the list:
When Hollywood Had a King
by Connie Bruck
Random House, 2003

Master power broker Lew Wasserman is the "king" of the title. His colorful reign as an agent and studio executive at MCA and Universal Pictures, roughly from 1950 to 1990, is insightfully recounted by New Yorker writer Connie Bruck. Her fascinating behind-the-scenes portrait also provides a revealing account of collusion and insider deal-making. Particularly striking is the brazenness of the cozy relationship between MCA and NBC, which once reached the point where NBC allowed MCA executives to set the network's own prime-time schedule with "fourteen series that were either produced or sold by MCA." Wasserman cultivated presidents of both political parties, but he was especially proud of his bond with Ronald Reagan, who had been helpful to MCA as the leader of the Screen Actors Guild in the early 1950s and whose fading acting career MCA later helped revive. Bruck details how Wasserman used his connections to Washington and to another major power center, the mob, to great effect, contributing to his legendary "aura of invincibility."
Read about all five books on Freeman's list.

Also see: Cheers writer Rob Long's five favorite TV books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2009

Best books: Drew Barrymore

For The Week magazine, the actor Drew Barrymore named her six best books.

One title on her list:
Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins (Bantam, $14)

This 1980 novel poses the question, by Page 2: “How do you make love stay?” And the psychedelic, fun, and adventurous way in which Tom Robbins goes about the exploration of this question is like a fairy tale for wild adults.
Read about the other five books on Barrymore's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Top ten cultural journeys

Susheila Nasta is the editor and founder of Wasafiri magazine, which marks its 25th anniversary this month. "Wasafiri," the Kiswahili word for travellers, captures the magazine's vision to focus on writing as a form of "cultural travelling."

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of "books that take her on a globe-spanning, literary adventure." One title on the list:
Austerlitz by WG Sebald

As one of the Kindertransport children, five-year-old Jacques Austerlitz arrives in Britain in 1939 to live with foster parents in Wales. All conscious memory of his previous life is obliterated. As a story about loss and redemption, trauma, repression and memory, this poignant narrative leads us through a maze of uncanny dialogues. An inconsolable Holocaust history, this is a major chronicle of our times.
Read about the other books on the list.

Austerlitz is among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey.

--Marshal Zeringue