Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top 10 African crime novels

Michael Stanley is the writing team of native Africans Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.

They named their top ten crime novels for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

2009 saw the debut of a talented Ghanian crime writer who lives in the United States. Inspector Darko Dawson is a detective in Accra, a moody and potentially violent man. He is asked to investigate a murder in the rural village of Ketanu where he has relatives. Soon he is embroiled with traditional beliefs and fetish priests juxtaposed with modern doctors and AIDS concerns. Kwei reveals the cultural conflicts of an African country trying to become a modern nation; many of the issues remind us of similar tensions in Botswana. Darko ponders these issues as he lights a joint, and slowly, with clever intuition and careful police work, homes in on the solution to the case. A solution he would rather not have found.
Read about the other novels on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Wife of the Gods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Books to inspire busy world leaders

At the Guardian, Robert McCrum named a few books to inspire busy public figures.

His suggestions for George Osborne, Britain's new Tory chancellor of the exchequer:
1. Hard Times by Charles Dickens

2. Sybil, or the Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli

3. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
Read about the other books on McCrum's lists.

The Road to Wigan Pier appears on Ian Jack's list.

See The Page 99 Test for The Bolter by Frances Osborne, who is married to George Osborne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 28, 2010

Six books that made a difference to Samantha Bee

The Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee is the author of I Know I Am, but What Are You?

For O, The Oprah Magazine, she named a list of books that made a difference in her life. One book on her list:
Rabbit at Rest
by John Updike

In the last book in Updike's series about the life of Rabbit Angstrom, the character is in the most comfortable phase of his life financially and socially, but he's mired in nostalgia. I'm a little obsessed with stories about middle-aged men who can't grow up. I'm interested because I don't want to be blindsided by aging. I don't want to wake up one day and say, "Wait a second! Who is this person looking back at me?"
Read about the other books on Bee's list.

Updike's Rabbit, Run figures among Julian Barnes' best books to travel with, William Sutcliffe's top 10 relationship novels, and Aifric Campbell's top ten list of favorite jobs in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ten of the best beaches in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best beaches in literature.

One beach on the list:
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

The Dorset beach is where Edward and Florence find themselves on the first night of their honeymoon, angrily venting their worst feelings after their first, disastrous attempt at sex. Chosen as a beautiful retreat for lovers, it is a stony place by moonlight – a bare stage for the couple's painful drama.
Read about the other literary beaches on Mullan's list.

On Chesil Beach also appears among Eli Gottlieb's top 10 scenes from the battle of the sexes, and on John Mullan's lists of ten best marital arguments in literature and ten of the best failed couplings in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Five best books on alcohol

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of the New York Times, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking, and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace. He was also a featured commentator on Ken Burns’s PBS series, Baseball, and is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he remains an Associate.

His new book is Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on alcohol. One title on his list:
Domesticating Drink by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Johns Hopkins, 1998

Despite her subtitle, "Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940," Catherine Gilbert Murdock's primary subjects are female and her perspective decidedly feminist. But by focusing on women and drink—territory previously unexplored by scholars of her ability—she is able to tease out some of the puzzling and persistent anomalies and contradictions in American attitudes toward booze: women soldiers of the temperance movement co-existing with matrons who chugged Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound (20.6% alcohol!) to alleviate their "female complaints"; the instant acceptance of women into the speakeasy, after they had been barred for decades from the saloon; and the absolutely decisive role of women in bringing about Prohibition's repeal, just they had been critical to its creation.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Daniel Okrent's Last Call.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 25, 2010

David Mitchell's six favorite books

David Mitchell is the author of Cloud Atlas and number9dream, both of which were finalists for the Man Booker Prize. His latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, will be published this month by Random House.

He named his six favorite books for The Week magazine.

One title on the list:
The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

An Arctic-lit thing of beauty about a houseful of misfits living outside Reykjavik, Iceland. Such is home to Álfgrímur, a boy who strikes up a sporadic but formative relationship with Iceland’s celebrated “world singer” Garoar Hólm. Hólm has a secret hanging around his neck, and Álfgrímur ultimately has a role in his redemption.
Read about the other books on the list.

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is one of Maile Meloy's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thirty-five essential posthuman novels

"Science fiction has always asked what comes after Homo sapiens," writes Annalee Newitz at io9. "A superhuman version of our species, or a dying planet devoid of intelligent life? This list of 35 essential posthuman novels will get you started answering the big questions too."

One book on the list:
The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

A futurist thought experiment, Weisman imagines what would happen to the planet if Homo sapiens disappeared tomorrow. Based on research and interviews, this work of narrative nonfiction reads like apocalyptic SF about the posthuman world.
Read about the other works on the list.

Writers Read: Alan Weisman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Top ten women travelers in fiction

Jennie Rooney's first novel, Inside the Whale, was shortlisted for the Costa first novel award in 2008. Her new novel, The Opposite of Falling, in which Ursula Bridgewater takes Thomas Cook's famous new tour of America after her engagement is broken off, is out now in the U.K.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of fiction's most engaging female adventurers. One entry on her list:
Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

An interior journey, this one. Told through a stream-of-consciousness narrative, it is the story of Mrs Dalloway's preparations for a party that evening, and takes place over a single day in June. The action is mainly restricted to flashbacks, but by the end of the book, it is clear that this day has been a journey through Clarissa's mind.
Read about the other women travellers on the 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, Dani Shapiro's 10 favorite books, and Kate Walbert's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Books that made a difference to Zoë Saldana

A few months ago the actor Zoë Saldana (Avatar) told O, The Oprah Magazine about a few books that made a difference to her.

One book on her list:
by Jamaica Kincaid

Lucy is a Caribbean girl who travels to an unnamed North American city to work as an au pair for a very wealthy family. The story is set in the late '60s, when so many changes were happening and women were going through a very liberating time. Lucy is trying to find a home in this foreign society and also find her purpose.

Why she chose it:
My heritage is Caribbean, and I'd never read anything that really breaks down Caribbean culture politically, historically, socially, and in terms of gender. Lucy did that—it called out to me, to the kind of life I had and the kind of person I am. One thing I love about the book is how painfully honest Kincaid is about Lucy's issues with her mother. Lucy is fueled by pride and rebellion and pain, but the emotions guiding her at first aren't the ones driving her at the end of the story. She realizes she needs to make peace with the fact that no matter how far she might go in the world, she will never stop being her mother's daughter.
Read about the other books that made a difference to Saldana.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 21, 2010

Five best books about inventions

William Rosen is the author of The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about inventions.

One title on the list:
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
by Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes's story of the birth of the nuclear age is an epic that, in terms of scientific discovery, unfolds in the blink of an eye—Hiroshima, after all, was destroyed just 34 years after the discovery of the atomic nucleus. His cast of characters is a virtual Who's Who of 20th-century physics, from Albert Einstein to J. Robert Oppenheimer, but one that also gives star turns to brilliant and dogged engineers like Vannevar Bush and Gen. Leslie Groves. Rhodes pays his readers the compliment of assuming that they are familiar enough with the story to foresee critical moments. We know, for instance, before Glenn Seaborg himself, that Seaborg will name element 94 ("this speck of matter God had not welcomed at the Creation," Rhodes writes) for the Roman god of the dead: plutonium.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb is one of Michael Evans' top six books on nuclear war.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ten of the best good doctors in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best good doctors in literature.

One doctor on the list:
Henry Perowne

Perowne is a noted neurosurgeon and protagonist of Ian McEwan's Saturday. Only slightly less accomplished than Patrick O'Brian's] Maturin, this squash player and bon vivant has his comfortable world threatened by a criminal psychopath – whose life he saves in a properly doctorly fashion.
Read about the other doctors on the list.

Saturday also appears on Mullan's list of ten of the best prime ministers in fiction.

Also see Mullan's list of ten of the best fictional bad doctors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Peter Mayle's six best books

Peter Mayle worked in advertising until he decided to live where he most longed to, Provence, and try his hand at writing. With the success of his first book describing his new life, A Year in Provence, his life took a notable turn for the better.

He told the Daily Express about his six best books.

One title on the list:
Master & Commander
by Patrick O’Brian

I love all 20 volumes of O’Brian’s fabulous sea saga. Indeed it’s better than the Hornblower series. It boasts great characters and is a good way to learn some history.
Read about the other books on Mayle's list.

The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian made Bella Bathurst's top ten list of books on the sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 18, 2010

Top ten books written for teenagers

Melvin Burgess is best known for Junk, his 1996 novel dealing with the tricky and controversial subject of heroin addiction in teenagers. His latest novel, Nicholas Dane, a modern-day adaptation of Oliver Twist, is out now in Britain.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of books written for teenagers.

One title on the list:
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer is a game-changer. For years, publishers have been looking for mass-market teen fiction, and she's the first to have broken through. There's nothing new here: Meyer is no stylist; her characters are predictable; this is really just good old-fashioned romance with a supernatural twist. But if your brain is mashed from too much studying, curl up with a Twilight and she'll do the rest.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 17, 2010

11 science fiction novels for fantasy fans

John Ottinger III came up with a list of eleven science fiction novels for fantasy fans.

One title to make the grade:
Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell

Buckell’s series of novels with a Caribbean vibe starts with this one. While the latter two, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose are decidedly space opera, the first, Crystal Rain, blends space opera and heroic fantasy. Like other space fantasies, Buckell’s characters are trapped on a planet and have lost some of their former technological prowess. His primary characters are a product of that former expertise, and are entwined in a tribal culture. Since the story takes place almost entirely on planet and bears many of the characteristics of epic fantasy, if not quite the same tropes, I do feel that the story should appeal to epic fantasy readers where its cousins would not.
Read about the other books on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Ragamuffin.

The Page 99 Test: Sly Mongoose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Christopher Hitchens' 6 best books

Christopher Hitchens is a critic, journalist, and author of the new memoir, Hitch-22.

He named six books that helped shaped his memoir for The Week magazine. One title on the list:
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Can “holy writ” be used for literary purposes? This brilliant novel, with its deft and sinuous discussions of Koranic text (and its satire on British society), answers yes. The Satanic Verses began a great battle between the ironic mind and the literal mind that is still going on.
Read about the other books on Hitchens' list.

The Satanic Verses is one of Atul Gawande's favorite books, one of Karl O. Knausgaard's top ten angel books, and one of Diarmaid MacCulloch's five best books about blasphemy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Anthony Browne's six best books

Anthony Browne has written more than forty books for children including Gorilla and Little Beauty and is a recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for services to children’s literature.

Last year he named his six best books for the Daily Express. One title on the list:
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Probably the best picture book for children ever. The mischievous Max is sent to bed without his supper but his bedroom is mysteriously transformed into a forest with an ocean and a boat. He sails away until he comes to a land full of Wild Things. The perfect combination of words and pictures takes us into his dark world and back out into the light.
Read about the other books on Browne's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 14, 2010

Five must-read books on soccer

For The Daily Beast, Joshua Robinson named five must-read books on soccer.

One title on the list:
by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

When England inevitably gets eliminated in some tragic quarterfinal penalty shootout, the country may plunge into a summer-long depression. But Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski won’t be surprised. In fact, according to their counterintuitive economic analysis, England will have once again overachieved at the World Cup. Based on factors like population and wealth, they explain that there really isn’t much reason for countries like England and France to expect to do well at international tournaments. Meanwhile, they argue that countries like the United States and China are destined to become the next great superpowers of soccer. Even for the longtime fans who may disagree with the arguments—like the baseball purists who bristle at the mention of MoneyballSoccernomics provides a slew of talking points for the World Cup.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Top ten soccer books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ten of the best bad doctors in fiction

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best bad doctors in fiction.

One character on the list:
Charles Bovary

Emma Bovary's dull husband is an incompetent doctor. In one of the most painful episodes in Flaubert's novel, Homais, the creepy local chemist, encourages Bovary to attempt a revolutionary new surgical procedure to cure the clubfoot of a servant. The operation is a disaster, leading to the man having his whole leg amputated.
Read about the other doctors on Mullan's list.

Madame Bovary is on Mullan's lists of ten of the best bad lawyers in literature and ten of the best lotharios in literature, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Five best books about curmudgeons

For the Wall Street Journal, John Derbyshire named a five best list of books on curmudgeons.

One title on the list:
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

One component of curmudgeonliness is the Cold Eye, seeing humanity plain. Jonathan Swift saw us rather too plain. The "savage indignation" he wrote of in his own epitaph was rooted in the disgust, physical and moral, he felt toward people. His famous satire "Gulliver's Travels"—about an Everyman wandering through "remote nations of the world" and encountering beings of different sizes and sensibilities—can be mined endlessly for insights into the human condition. I never hear the utterances of our high-minded PC-ocracy without thinking of Gulliver's encounter with the nation of horses called Houyhnhnms, whose sleek hides and icy rationality had none of those physical and moral failings that excited Swift's disgust. Casting his own Cold Eye on the Houyhnhnms two centuries later, George Orwell said: "The 'Reason' by which they are governed is really a desire for death."
Read about the other books on the list.

Gulliver's Travels
is one of Neil deGrasse Tyson's 5 most important books and appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best vegetables in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 11, 2010

Five books that made a difference to Josh Brolin

A few years ago the actor Josh Brolin told O, The Oprah Magazine about a few books that made a difference to him.

One book on the list:
The Executioner's Song
by Norman Mailer

I remember that my mind and emotions were thrown all over the room the first time I read this book, and I still feel haunted whenever I think of it. I became so emotionally caught up in the story of Gary Gilmore, who was convicted of murder in the 1970s and sentenced to death. Mailer gives you the story of the guy from moment to moment. Gilmore knew that he'd done a horrendous deed, but he felt that the judicial system was not living up to what it espouses. He forbade his lawyers to appeal and forced the state of Utah to execute him. He basically said, "Why don't you say what you're going to do and do it?" I felt this great fluctuation between loving his principles and hating the man.
Read about the other books on Brolin's list.

The Executioner's Song also appears on Sarah Weinman's list of the seven best true crime books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Top ten soccer books

Mihir Bose is an award-winning sports journalist with a career spanning more than 30 years as a sports writer for the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard. He was the BBC's sports editor until last year. The 2010 World Cup will be the sixth consecutive tournament he has covered.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of football books. One title on the list:
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

A classic which brought into British sports reporting some of the style and verve already part of American sports writing. Scott Fitzgerald had rebuked Ring Lardner for wasting his time writing about baseball. Brian Glanville had always found it difficult to be taken seriously as a novelist because he wrote on football. Hornby used football to display his literary skills.
Read about the other books on the list.

Read an excerpt from Fever Pitch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Five novels to help you wait for the coming post-scarcity society

At H+ Magazine, Jason Stoddard came up with five positive science fiction novels, i.e. works about the transformative powers of science.

One title on his list:

One night, the stars go out. Earth is encased in a slow-time bubble, as the universe outside rushes towards its end, only twenty years away. Examining the last 20 years of Earth would be enough for many authors, but the people of Wilson’s earth decide to fight their fate by terraforming Mars, which is outside the bubble. And then the Martians show up...
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ten of the best examples of rowing in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best examples of rowing in literature.

One novel on the list:
The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

Tom and rich Dickie decide to go for a little row off the Amalfi coast. What could be nicer? Except that it is rather hot and tempers fray, and isolated by all that sea water, a few home truths get told. And then conscience-less Tom decides there is another possible use for his oar...
Read about the other items on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Tana French's top 10 maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 7, 2010

Books that made a difference to Ethan Hawke

The actor and author Ethan Hawke told O, The Oprah Magazine about a few books that made a difference to him. One book on the list:
by Herman Melville

I found this novel so surprising. I thought it would be a deep, interesting tale like Anna Karenina; instead it's a giant prose poem that, paragraph by paragraph, has some of the most beautiful writing in the English language. But I won't lie; it's homework.
Read about the other books that made a difference to Hawke.

Moby-Dick also appears among John Mullan's list of ten of the best tattoos in literature, Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession, Christopher Buckley's best books, 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, Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales, and Carsten Jensen's top 10 seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Five best books about financial dynasties

Fouad Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins, named his five favorite books about financial dynasties for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
by Jean Strouse

Jean Strouse doesn't set out to redeem J.P. Morgan's reputation in writing his biography, but by the time she is done he emerges as a figure of great probity. The U.S. didn't have a central bank until 1913, the year of Morgan's death, for the man had been, in essence, the nation's central banker. He managed to keep America on the gold standard during a monetary crisis in 1895, he saw the banking system through the crash of 1907. He helped transform the U.S. from a largely agrarian society into an industrial colossus. In a legendary exchange before a congressional committee in 1912, Morgan rejected the suggestion that commercial credit was based primarily on money or property. "No sir; the first thing is character. Because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom."
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ann Brashares' 6 favorite books

Ann Brashares is the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. For The Week magazine she named her six favorite books.

One title on the list:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

A few years ago I told my friend I hadn’t read Lonesome Dove yet and she said, “I am jealous of you.” After I read it I understood. It is 960 pages of pure pleasure. At the end you feel sadly cast back out into your lesser world. If you have not read Lonesome Dove, I am jealous of you.
Read about the other books on the list.

Lonesome Dove may just be The Great Texas Novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 4, 2010

Otto Penzler's favorite thrillers

New York Magazine tasked Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop and editor of the Agents of Treachery, a collection of previously unpublished spy fiction, to name some thrillers under the theme "If You Liked My Book, You’ll Love These."

One title on his list:
Child 44 (2008)
by Tom Rob Smith

Gorky Park meets 1984. The novel, loosely based on a true story, is set in the Russia of Joseph Stalin and follows a government agent investigating a serial killer who is protected by the Communist Party’s official policy: There was no crime in the Soviet Union.
Read about the other books on Penzler's list.

The Page 69 Test: Child 44.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tamzin Outhwaite's 6 best books

The award-winning English actor Tamzin Outhwaite told the Daily Express about her six best books.

One title on the list:
The Delta of Venus
by Anaïs Nin

A powerful novel about a woman’s sensuality and about how different it is to a man’s. My first real introduction to erotic writing of any sort, it’s also a beautifully written book, which is part of the reason for its continued popularity.
Read about the other books on Outhwaite's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top ten 20th-century gothic novels

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of The Shadow of the Wind, the most successful novel in Spanish publishing history after Don Quixote.

He named a top ten list of 20th-century gothic novels for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

One of the very best ghost stories ever written. Shirley Jackson's writings are a must for aficionados of the gothic and of good literature. Take this as a first step and discover one of the most unusual and underrated writers of the last century.
Read about the other gothic novels on the list.

The Haunting of Hill House also appears on Brad Leithauser's five best list of ghost tales.

Related: Patrick McGrath's best gothic novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Five best books: secret meetings of the Second World War

Laurence Rees is the author of World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on fateful secret meetings of the Second World War.

One book on the list:
Katyn and the Soviet Massacre of 1940
by George Sanford

This is my favorite of all the books on Katyn because it eschews outrage—it is easy to be outraged by the Katyn massacre—and concentrates instead on the details of how and why this horror happened. George Sanford synthesizes recent discoveries by Russian scholars that are not available in English and, in the process, reveals how out of character this particular kind of mass murder was for Stalin. "Normal" Soviet practice was to deport unwanted people en masse to camps in Siberia or other far-off Soviet republics, but at a meeting with his military advisers in March 1940, Stalin resolved that thousands of the Polish elite should be killed at once. Why? Was he perhaps inspired by the knowledge of the murderous atrocities being committed by the Nazis in their section of Poland?
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue