Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top 10 westerns of the decade

Bill Ott named the top ten westerns of the last decade (with an emphasis on more recent titles) for Booklist.

One title on the list:
Jericho’s Road. By Elmer Kelton

The sixth book in Kelton’s wonderful Texas Ranger series about the development of the Lone Star State during the turbulent 1800s deftly uses characters from past entries while folding in new personalities. This is arguably the best ongoing western series in the genre today.
Read about the other novels on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2010

Five best books about extreme cold

Bill Streever, a biologist who lives and works in Alaska, is the author of Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about extreme cold. One title on the list:
The Children's Blizzard
by David Laskin

David Laskin applies his talent for personalizing history to the blizzard of 1888 on America's northern Plains. Kids go to school on a pleasant January morning, but then temperatures plummet without warning and blinding snow rushes in. Young Etta Shattuck, one of the storm's victims, takes refuge in a haystack, only to die later from complications of severe frostbite. "The Children's Blizzard" gives us a portrait of life on the American prairie just before the 20th century but also a story of hypothermia, of wind chill and of people becoming "cold stupid" as they try to find a safe haven. "The dulled mind," Laskin writes, "begins to throb around a single image—really more a sensation than an image: the craving for warmth." He believes that the brutal storm—it killed hundreds, many of them children—marked a turning point in the pioneer romance with an unforgiving land. Laskin also leaves us with a well-placed fear of severe cold's implacable danger.
Read about the other books on the list.

Read an excerpt from Cold, and learn more about the book and author at Bill Streever's website.

The Page 99 Test: Cold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ten of the best railway journeys

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

One novel on the list:
Possession, by AS Byatt

There comes a crucial moment in Byatt's tale of two modern-day academics who have discovered the love letters of two famous Victorian poets, when the story suddenly shifts to the 19th century. "The man and the woman sat opposite each other in the railway carriage." The train is the transport of illicit love.
Read about the other entries on the list.

also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best locks of hair in fiction, ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, ten of the best lawyers in literature, and ten of the best dragons in literature, as well as on Christina Koning's top six romances critic's chart and among Elizabeth Kostova's top 10 books for winter nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Six books...to take to war

Patrick Hennessey was born in 1982 and educated at Berkhamsted School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read English. He joined the Army in January 2004, undertaking officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where he was awarded the Queen’s Medal and commissioned into The Grenadier Guards. He served as a Platoon Commander and later Company Operations Officer from the end of 2004 to early 2009 in the Balkans, Africa, South East Asia and the Falkland Islands and on operational tours to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007, where he became the youngest Captain in the Army and was commended for gallantry.

His book is The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.

For The Week magazine, he recommended six books to take to war. One title on his list:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I loved Heller’s masterpiece before I joined the British army, but didn’t realize how scarily accurate it was. War shouldn’t be laugh-out-loud funny, but it can be, and Heller’s book catches that expertly. Despite its dark humor, Catch-22 retains a glimmer of hope—“Yossarian lives.”
Read about the other books on Hennessey's list.

Catch-22 is among Jasper Fforde's five most important books, Thomas E. Ricks' top ten books about U.S. military history, and Antony Beevor's five best works of fiction about World War II. While it disappointed Nick Hornby upon rereading, it made Cracked magazine's "Wit Lit 101: Five Classic Novels That Bring the Funny."

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 10 books you were forced to read in school

TIME magazine came up with a list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school.

One title on the list:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's 1960 paean to the South is one of the most beloved American novels ever written. Some of that is due to the 1962 classic film adapted from it, which stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer who also happens to be the most upstanding and sympathetic father ever. But much of the respect accorded the novel (the author's only book) has to do with its memorable main characters, brother and sister duo Jem and Scout. With its competing subplots about a black man on trial for allegedly raping a white woman and the children's attempts to learn about their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley, the novel is perfectly structured to provide half a dozen lessons about history and acceptance and injustice and compassion. No wonder it's the staple of all middle-school staples.
Read about the other books on the list.

To Kill a Mockingbird
also made John Mullan's list of ten of the best lawyers in literature, Lisa Scottoline's top ten list of books about justice, and Luke Leitch's list of ten literary one-hit wonders. It is one of Sanjeev Bhaskar's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five classic chase novels

Louise Bagshawe is the author of twelve bestselling novels and a Conservative MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire.

One classic chase story she discussed with Anna Blundy at FiveBooks:
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

This is another terrific chase story with a bit more characterisation, Ken Follett’s first really big success as an author. It’s interesting because the protagonist is a German spy who has to transmit important information to Germany and he goes on the run to try to do it. He knows the British are staking out the locations of the D-Day landings and he is trying to get that information to Germany until the very end, when he falls in love. And the woman he falls in love with on a remote island in Scotland, is charged with tracking him down and killing him. Follett brings in more elements of psychology and of love and love gone wrong – the woman he falls in love with is the wife of a paralysed man and he tells some of that backstory, but again it’s a fascinating chase story with psycho-drama. It is fantastic. You’re in a weird position of wanting the German spy to fail, but at the same time you can’t help admiring his cleverness even though he is a psychopath.
Read about the other books on Bagshawe's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Books that made a difference to Brian Williams

NBC news anchor Brian Williams told O, The Oprah Magazine about a short list of books that made a difference to him.

One title on the list:
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
by Bill Bryson

Bryson's memoir of growing up in Des Moines captures the optimism of American life in the 1950s. "My wife gave this to me," says Williams. "She thought that I could use a little lightness in my reading. My memories as a kid are of a kind of clunky, grindingly middle-class America, where an American cheese slice individually wrapped was the biggest deal in the world. Also, a roasted marshmallow. And half a Popsicle—you had to get the crack absolutely right or someone got shortchanged. This book is how I grew up. I laughed through it in bursts, in paroxysms, in spasms."
Read about the other books on Williams' list.

Also see Brian Williams' favorite "portraits of Americans."

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eoin Colfer's six favorite books

Eoin Colfer is the author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series. He named his six favorite books for The Week Magazine.

One title on his list:
Any Human Heart by William Boyd

The story of a man’s life from beginning to end, with all the heartache and laughter that go along with such a journey. This book takes us to the final moment in all our lives, and it’s heartbreaking.
Read about the other books on Colfer's list.

Any Human Heart also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best novels about novelists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ten of the best pigs in literature

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

One novel on the list:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

"Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!'" All those angelic choirboys become true primitives when they learn to hunt and kill wild pigs on the idyllic, hellish island. The Lord of the Flies – a rotting pig's head, stuck on a stick – presides.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Lord of the Flies
is on AbeBooks' list of 20 books of shattered childhoods and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best pairs of glasses in literature and ten of the best horrid children in literature, and William Skidelsky's list of ten of the best accounts of being marooned in literature. It is a book that made a difference to Isla Fisher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Five best books on the oil industry

Peter Maass is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and has reported from the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. He has written as well for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post and Slate. Maass is the author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, which chronicled the Bosnian war and won prizes from the Overseas Press Club and the Los Angeles Times.

His latest book is Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on the oil industry. One title on the list:
The Bottom Billion
by Paul Collier

Oil is an amazing product of nature, though not always in ways we expect. Its discovery, for instance, can do more harm than good to the countries where it is found. In what is known as the resource curse, some countries become poorer, not richer, as the influx of oil revenues deadens other economic growth and encourages corruption. Oil riches also tend to fire the imagination of aspiring dictators. Paul Collier explores the paradox of oil's baleful effects in revelatory detail in "The Bottom Billion." Collier, an Oxford professor and former World Bank official who blessedly writes like neither an academic nor a banker, doesn't restrict his argument to oil—plentiful supplies of gold, iron and other natural resources all can have deleterious effects on national development. Collier proposes a rescue of countries where the "bottom billion" reside, calling on the Group of Eight industrialized nations to institute preferential trade policies, do a better job of policing corruption and even consider military intervention.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Bottom Billion.

Learn more about Crude World and its author at Peter Maass' website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Crude World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels

Janet Rudolph is the organizer of Mystery Readers International and the editor of Mystery Readers Journal. She also blogs at Mystery Fanfare.

She named her ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels for The Rap Sheet. One title on the list:
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammett.

The quintessential San Francisco mystery--the alleys, streets, fog, and noir of the City by the Bay. Sam Spade is the most famous San Francisco detective. No further explanation needed.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Maltese Falcon appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best femmes fatales in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 20, 2010

Twenty book covers featuring body parts

Emily Temple posted twenty gorgeously designed book covers featuring body parts at Flavorwire.

One book cover to make the grade: How to Be Inappropriate, a collection of humorous nonfiction by Daniel Nester, a journalist, essayist, poet, editor, and teacher.

Nester's first two books, God Save My Queen (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and God Save My Queen II (2004), are collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen. His third, The History of My World Tonight (BlazeVOX, 2006), is a collection of poems.

Among the praise for How to Be Inappropriate:
A "deeply funny new collection of booger-flecked nonfiction"
--Time Out New York

"His stories are, as the title suggests, inappropriate, and they often engender squeamishness, discomfort, and laughter. But they are fresh and, at times, touching, qualities that make this an enjoyable read."
--Library Journal

"One of the year's funniest books."
--Largehearted Boy
Visit Daniel Nester's website.

Writers Read: Daniel Nester.

Check out the other book covers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Top 10 approachable astronomy books

Stuart Clark is the acclaimed author of The Sun Kings and one of the UK's most widely read astronomy journalists. His new book is The Big Questions: The Universe.

For the Guardian he named his top ten approachable astronomy books.

One title on the list:
Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

The most dramatic retelling of the Galileo story for a generation, and a rather tragic tale to boot. Sobel's memorable prose relies on letters between Galileo and his oldest daughter, a nun, to shine new light on the iconic astronomer. A masterful blend of history and astronomy.
Read about the other books on Clark's list.

See Dava Sobel's five best list of books which record extraordinary journeys of discovery.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Five best books on mortality and existential angst

Jon Krakauer is the author of Where Men Win Glory, Under the Banner of Heaven, Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about mortality and existential angst. One novel on his list:
The Moviegoer
by Walker Percy

Oblique and haunting, set in 1950s New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Walker Percy's novel "The Moviegoer" spans a week in the life of John Bickerson "Binx" Bolling. This scion of the Southern aristocracy, wounded in the Korean War, is about to turn 30 and is content working 9-to-5, seducing a succession of pretty secretaries and going to the movies. But one morning he wakes up feeling like a castaway "on a strange island" and begins reconsidering his complacent existence. Binx embarks on an existential quest to transcend the "fitful twilight" of "everydayness" and impulsively decides to marry his manic-depressive cousin, Kate. "They all think any minute I'm going to commit suicide," Kate confides. "What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I'm as cheerful as a nitwit."
Read about the other books on Krakauer's list.

The Moviegoer is one of Richard Ford's 5 most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eight great literary love affairs

Jessica Ferri is a writer at work on her first book.

She named eight famous literary affairs for The Daily Beast. One couple on her list:
Norman Mailer and Norris Church Mailer

Although Norman Mailer had tried to kill his second wife with a penknife at a party, Norris Church, a 26-year-old single mom from Arkansas, still went for him and became his sixth and last wife. She would write him sweet little poems: "You were there / and I was there / in a pocket / of sunshine / in a vacuum of space." In her memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, Church writes that Mailer was constantly unfaithful to her, and she considered leaving him—"why had I been so consumed by this old, fat, bombastic, lying little dynamo?" But as stepmother to his eight children and with a child of their own, she felt their family was reason to stay. "I had been around town long enough to know the guys who were available, and I thought: Is there somebody else I want to make a life with? Is there someone else I want to be the father of my children? I couldn't think of one single person. If I had, maybe I would have taken that step." Plus, as she said in a recent New York Times interview, "The sex was always great. That was the glue that held all this mess together, or the honey."
Read about the other affairs on the list.

Also see: Norris Church Mailer: five best memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ten of the best wicked uncles in literature

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

One uncle on the list:
Ebenezer Balfour

Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped tells of the machinations of David Balfour's evil uncle Ebenezer, who has cheated him of his rightful inheritance. After attempting to arrange his "accidental" death, David's uncle has him bound and gagged and shipped off to be a slave in the Carolinas.
Read about the other entries on Mullan's list.

also appears on Mullan's lists of ten of the best misers in literature, ten of the best shipwrecks, and ten of the best towers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jenny Eclair's six best books

Jenny Eclair is a comedian and novelist who was the first female solo winner of the Edinburgh Festival’s Perrier Comedy Award.

She named her six best books for the Daily Express. One title on her list:
by Curtis Sittenfeld

There’s nothing like a good beach read and my last holiday was made even more enjoyable by Curtis Sittenfeld’s book. The only off-putting thing about this novel was looking round and seeing so many other middle-aged women reading the same book. I’ve been a fan of Sittenfeld since she first wrote Prep years ago.
Read about the other books on Eclair's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rob Sheffield's 6 favorite books

Rob Sheffield has been a music journalist for more than twenty years. He is a columnist for Rolling Stone, where he writes about music, TV, and pop culture. He regularly appears on VH1. He is the author of the national bestseller Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut.

Sheffield named his six favorite books for The Week magazine. One title on the list:
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Two lonely teens meet, try to connect, keep failing. (Not that I can relate or anything.) I bought this novel last year at Grand Central Station because I loved the title and needed something for the train. All the way to Poughkeepsie, I kept thinking, Stop it. You can’t cry here. But I just couldn’t stop reading it. Still can’t.
Read about the other books on Sheffield's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mary Roach's 6 favorite books

Mary Roach explored the "curious lives of cadavers" in Stiff and the "curious coupling of science and sex" in Bonk. Her new book is Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

She named her six favorite books for The Week magazine. One title on the list:
Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane

You have to love an astronaut who refers to the space shuttle’s elaborate emergency abort procedures as “busy-work while dying.” Being an astronaut takes balls, but maybe the bravest thing Mullane ever did was publish this book.
Read about the other books on Roach's list.

Also see John Mullan's list of ten of the best journeys to the Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three books about Nigeria

Helon Habila is a Nigerian novelist and poet. His first novel Waiting for an Angel won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Best First Book, Africa Region) in 2003.

For the BBC, he named three books that will help readers better understand Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

Two titles on the list:
The Man Who Died by Wole Soyinka

The Famished Road by Ben Okri
See the complete list, and listen to a brief interview with Helon Habila about why he chose those particular books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top ten war stories

Karl Marlantes, who served as a marine in Vietnam and was awarded numerous medals including two Purple Hearts, is the author of Matterhorn, a novel about his experience of combat in the jungle.

He named his top ten war stories for the Guardian. One novel on the list:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I've read this twice and am going through it for the third right now with the new Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. This man's genius is to handle a huge cast of characters and points of view, from an Olympian historical analysis, to the minds of dictators and generals, to the minds of individual soldiers. When I read how Prince Andre felt when he went down mortally wounded, seeing the concrete nothingness of the sky, I actually had to stand up and take a walk it hit me so profoundly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

War and Peace also appears among Niall Ferguson's five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best floggings in fiction.

Also see: five best books about soldiers at war and five best works of war poetry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five best books on statesmanship

Philip Terzian, author of Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century, named a five best list of books on statesmanship for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
For the Survival of Democracy
by Alonzo L. Hamby

No single president is more important to American foreign policy in our time than Franklin D. Roosevelt, and there is no better account of FDR's stout defense of democracy against the twin dangers of Nazism and Soviet Communism than Alonzo L. Hamby's great work. His thesis concerns the extent to which the Depression blighted the modern world by scuttling post-World War I prosperity, weakening democratic capitalism in Europe and America at its moment of greatest peril, and rendering a second military cataclysm inevitable. FDR had to contend with the Depression while awakening his countrymen to Hitler's menace and stiffening the spines of European democrats. The consensus on the New Deal remains unsettled; but Roosevelt's global leadership in the late 1930s and throughout World War II made America the superpower it remains.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Five best books about statesmen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ten of the best motorcycles in literature

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

One novel on the list:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M Pirsig

Philosophical disquisition or autobiographical novel? However you define this once-cult classic, no literary motorbiking column could omit it. The narrator introduces you to the main schools of western philosophy via metaphors from motorcycle mechanics, while travelling across the US with his son on the back of his bike.
Read about the other entries on Mullan's list.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance also appears on Sebastian Beaumont's top ten list of books about psychological journeys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Emily Gould's top 10 favorite memoirs

Emily Gould is the author of And The Heart Says Whatever, published by Free Press in May 2010.

She named her ten favorite memoirs for The Daily Beast. One title on the list:
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
by Phoebe Gloeckner

Gloeckner has worked as a medical illustrator, drawing cadavers in cross-section, and her comics and writings tend to emphasize the sordid and miraculous inner workings of people’s minds and hearts—including her own. Drawing from the diaries she kept during her Bay Area adolescence in the Free Love-hangover late '70s, Gloeckner traces her alter ego Minnie Goetze’s journey from innocent childhood to artistic and romantic awakening; the latter comes at the hands of her neglectful mother’s boyfriend, and Gloeckner doesn’t shy away from the sordid and tragic details even while refusing to shunt the story’s nuances into a clichéd trauma-and-recovery narrative arc. Anyone who has ever been or known a teenage girl will relate.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rick Gekoski's five favorite books on sports

Rick Gekoski is a rare book dealer, writer, and occasional broadcaster. An American who relocated to England in 1966, he taught English Literature at the University of Warwick from 1971-1987, and has published books on Joseph Conrad, William Golding, Premiership football (Staying Up), a collection of essays entitled Tolkien's Gown and Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books (based on his BBC Radio 4 Series Rare Books, Rare People), and Outside of a Dog: A Bibliomemoir. In 2005 he was one of the judges for the Man Booker prize, and he is currently chair of the judges for the Man Booker International prize 2011.

He named his five favorite books on sports for the Guardian. One title on the list:
PG Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922

A story concerning both golf and literature, so hilarious that on first reading it, seated on Eurostar on the way to Paris, I laughed so uncontrollably that I had to remove myself and stand between the carriages. Then I got a cramp in my stomach muscles, and ending up on the floor clasping myself in agony, still laughing. The staff inquired solicitously if I was alright, and perhaps needed a doctor. I thrust the book at them: "You must read this!" I said. I can't imagine they did, but they should have. Everybody should.
Read about the other books on Gekoski's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ten most memorable literary farewells

Terry Breverton is a former businessman, consultant and academic and now a full-time writer. He is the author of numerous books has been awarded the Welsh Books Council "Book of the Month" award five times. His new book is Immortal Last Words, "a fascinating, diverse collection of history's most uplifting, entertaining and thought-provoking dying remarks and final farewells."

From the Guardian's excerpt of Immortal Last Words, ten of the more memorable literary farewells:
LEO TOLSTOY 1828 – 1910
‘We all reveal ... our manifestations ... This manifestation is over ... That's all’

Tolstoy left his estate, aged 82, to begin a new life as a peasant. Reaching the small town of Astapovo he contracted pneumonia, and died a few days later in the stationmaster’s house. According to the stationmaster, his last words were: ‘But the peasants … how do the peasants die?’ His friend Vladimir Chertkov preferred to remember something from the night before. 'He was lying on his back, breathing heavily … all of a sudden - as if arguing with himself - broke out in a loud voice: "We all reveal ... our manifestations ... This manifestation is over ... That's all".'
Read about the other nine literary goodbyes.

Also see: Best last lines from novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Elin Hilderbrand's favorite summer books set in New England

Elin Hilderbrand's latest novel is The Island.

For The Daily Beast, she named her favorite summer books set in New England.

One title on the list:
Union Atlantic
by Adam Haslett

Set in Finden, Massachusetts, this book is about money and the abuse of power, timely subjects, but it is also about a sense of place, land, family, and history. Adam and I went to the University of Iowa together, and I have to say, I am hyper-envious of this magnificent book. There are multiple narrators, including two dogs, one who channels Malcolm X and one who channels Cotton Mather. That Haslett—or anyone—successfully pulls this off is enough to put this book on my list!
Read about the other entries on Hilderbrand's list.

The Page 69 Test: Union Atlantic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top ten graphic design books

Patrick Cramsie is a graphic designer whose work has centered on corporate identity and book design.

It was while reviewing books for the Times Literary Supplement in London that he felt the need to have a comprehensive history of graphic design that also served as a introduction to the subject. The result is his new book, The Story of Graphic Design: From the Invention of Writing to the Birth of Digital Design.

For the Guardian he named a top ten list of graphic design books.

One title on the list:
The Passport by Saul Steinberg

I could have chosen any number of Steinberg's books, but this is the first one I owned and so it's the first I fell in love with. Steinberg was best known as a cartoonist for the New Yorker – his New Yorker's view of the world showing Ninth and Tenth Avenues in the foreground, a strip of the Hudson River and New Jersey in the middle distance, and then a few rocky outcrops marking China, Russia and Japan will ring a bell with some – but actually he was a truly great artist. Has anybody explored the ideas surrounding individual identity with as much graphic skill, humour and intelligence?
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Five books on the cult of celebrity

Fred Inglis, author of A Short History of Celebrity and other books, is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sheffield. Previously Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Warwick, he has been a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, and Fellow-in-Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.

At FiveBooks, Daisy Banks asked him about his five best books on the cult of celebrity. One title they discussed:
[Banks]: Your next choice is Sources of the Self by Charles Taylor.

[Inglis]: What is so powerful and marvellous about Taylor’s book is what the title announces – this deep question of where do we get our ideas of ourselves from? And the answer is history. We tend to suppose that our selfhood is something tremendously precious and all our own. And one of the things that I am at pains to emphasise in my book is that we are wholly made out of our history, including our most intense and personal feelings.

At one point I sketch out a short history of feelings to indicate how different frames of feelings emerge from this period across 200 or 300 years. Those frames of feelings co-existed, and this is something Taylor brings out with beautiful force. For example, he shows how the Romantic Movement brought in a new place for passionate feeling as itself the vindication of who one is.

I have tried to analyse this through Verdi’s Traviata. There, supremely, we find dramatised this idea that our strongest feelings belong to the truest version of ourselves. But at the same time that is at odds with another frame of feeling, which is dictated by class. There we find the practice of the alternation of deference on the one side and condescension on the other. So the powerful condescend in the old-fashioned sense of the word, ie, to indicate their proper sense of social position, which then needed gratifying by the people with whom one did social business.

This whole concept was knocked sideways by the Romantic Movement’s idea that I am as good as the next person and equality is more important than due respect for persons. Taylor’s great book traces those sources. The celebrity in all this becomes someone who will have identified for us what feelings we ought to be having.

Where do you think that leaves us today?

My history picks up a new kind of inspection of the feelings which begins to come over us during the 20th century, which can be traced in the famous novelists between about 1880 and 1920: I mean writers such as Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and particularly Henry James, in whose work people aren’t sure what they feel, and study their feelings minutely in order to find out what they are and then what to do about it.

The intense study of one’s feelings in a spirit of truthfulness to oneself becomes a characterising moment as the 20th century advances. And of course you then get the trade of feeling therapy and psychoanalysis just because we are no longer sure of our true feelings. And as time goes by many people find they don’t feel anything and they have to bully themselves in order to have some feelings. Celebrity in all this business is, you might say, the public dramatisation of our best and worst feelings, and endlessly discussed as such.
Read about the other books on Inglis' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 2, 2010

Five best books on female adventurers

Frances Osborne worked as a barrister and investment research analyst before becoming a full-time writer.

Her latest book, The Bolter, is the true story of Idina Sackville, an extremely adventurous English aristocrat who divorced five times in the 1920’s and 30’s, had lovers without number and hosted partner-swapping party games in her farmhouse in Kenya.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books about female adventurers.

One title on the list:
Mistress of Modernism
by Mary V. Dearborn

By taking down New Yorker Benjamin Guggenheim in 1912, the Titanic put his children in line for modest fortunes when they turned 21. To daughter Peggy that meant waiting until 1919—when she was free to run off to Europe and embark on a life marked by a love of both art and sex. Mary Dearborn tracks her through it all in this captivating biography. Guggenheim befriended Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi; she married a Dada artist named Laurence Vail. She had an affair with Samuel Beckett; her second husband was artist Max Ernst. During a week in bed with Beckett, she was persuaded by the writer to start collecting modern art, not just modern artists. Guggenheim opened her first gallery in London in 1938, buying "a picture a day" and amassing a collection that included the work of Picasso, Braque, Miró, Mondrian, Dalí and Calder. Yearning for a museum instead of an ever-changing gallery, Guggenheim eventually installed her collection in a Venetian palazzo, later donating the building and its contents to the museum in New York named for her uncle, Solomon R. Guggenheim. Dearborn's narrative of Guggenheim's life was criticized for the author's attachment to her subject, but this affection makes the work all the more enjoyable.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Frances Osborne's The Bolter.

Also see Jennie Rooney's list of the top ten women travelers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ten of the best dragons in literature

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

One novel on the list:
Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris

Francis Dolarhyde, the psychopathic villain of the novel that came before The Silence of the Lambs, is obsessed with William Blake's scary, apocalyptic paintings of the Great Red Dragon, representative of Satan. He has a huge tattoo of the dragon on his back.
Read about the other entries on Mullan's list.

Red Dragon also appears on Mullan's list of ten of the best tattoos in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue