Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ten of the best riddles in literature

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

One entry on the list:
The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien

Bilbo has to defeat Gollum in a riddle competition if he is to escape from the tunnel under the Misty Mountains. Here is his first one. "Thirty white horses on a red hill, / First they champ, / Then they stamp, / Then they stand still." Answer: teeth. Gollum's reply? "Voiceless it cries, / Wingless flutters, / Toothless bites, / Mouthless mutters." Easy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hobbit is a book Niall Ferguson hopes parents will read to their kids.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jonathan Coe's six favorite books

Jonathan Coe’s awards include the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Prix Médicis Étranger, and, for The Rotters’ Club, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize.

His latest novel is The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien

Along with Tristram Shandy, this cerebral Irish comedy ties for best postmodern novel ever written. Enclosing stories within stories, O’Brien makes us reflect on the fraught, often absurd, relationship between writers, their characters, and their readers. The jokes are frequent and exquisitely precise.
Read about the other books on the list.

Flann O’Brien is, according to Max McGuinness, one of four unjustly overlooked Irish writers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reading list: five family memoirs

At the Independent Alice-Azania Jarvis compiled a brief reading list of family memoirs.

The title on the list under "music:"
I Slept with Joey Ramone by Legs McNeil and Mickey Leigh

Joey Ramone co-founded The Ramones, offering one of the defining sounds of 1970s New York. Here, his brother, Mickey Leigh, documents the rock star's evolution: from the suburban child with low self-esteem and possible obsessive compulsive disorder, to the Greenwich Village hipster and musical pioneer. A vibrant musical memoir.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top ten journalist's tales

Tom Rachman was born in 1974 in London, but grew up in Vancouver. He studied cinema at the University of Toronto and completed a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York. From 1998, he worked as an editor at the foreign desk of The Associated Press in New York, then did a stint as a reporter in India and Sri Lanka, before returning to New York. In 2002, he was sent to Rome as an AP correspondent, with assignments taking him to Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt. Beginning in 2006, he worked part-time as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris to support himself while writing fiction. His debut novel is The Imperfectionists.

One of Rachman's top ten journalist's tales, as told to the Guardian:
The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Fowler is a middle-aged British correspondent in the professional habit of watching others' suffering from a distance. When he encounters an idealistic young American with plans to fix Vietnam, Fowler must decide whether to act. As relevant today as when published in 1955.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Quiet American is among John Mullan's ten best journalists in literature, Charles Glass's five best books on Americans abroad, Robert McCrum's books to inspire busy public figures, Malcolm Pryce's top ten expatriate tales, Catherine Sampson's top ten Asian crime fiction, and Pauline Melville's top 10 revolutionary tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Five of the best historical crime novelists

J. Kingston Pierce is both the editor of the award-winning crime-fiction blog The Rap Sheet and the senior editor of January Magazine.

For his column as Kirkus Reviews’ lead blogger in the Mysteries and Thrillers category, he came up with five of the best and most interesting historical crime novelists, including:
Michael Gregorio.

Behind that byline hide husband-and-wife authors Daniela De Gregorio and Michael G. Jacob, residents ofcritique Italy who have now penned four historical mysteries featuring early 1800s Prussian magistrate-cum-detective Hanno Stiffeniis. It’s best to begin reading at the start of this series, with Critique of Criminal Reason (2006), in which Stiffeniis must determine who’s responsible for doing in four people, none of whom shows obvious signs of violence. Fortunately, Stiffeniis has help from his aging mentor, German philosopher Emmanuel Kant, who uses these slayings to test his hypotheses about criminal-probing methodologies.
Read about the other novelists on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Michael Gregorio's Hanno Stiffeniis novels.

Also see: David B. Rivkin, Jr's five best historical mystery novels and Randy Dotinga's top five historical true-crime books of the last decade.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five best works of fiction on baseball

Allen Barra's books include Rickwood Field: A Century in America's Oldest Ballpark and Brushbacks and Knockdowns: The Greatest Baseball Debates of Two Centuries.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of baseball fiction, including:
Ring Around the Bases
by Ring Lardner (1992)

To paraphrase Hemingway on "Huckleberry Finn," all baseball literature comes from one book by Ring Lardner, "You Know Me Al" (1916), the first-person account of the trials and tribulations of a shallow young bush-league braggart. Lardner's appeal extended far beyond readers of the sports pages: His fans even included Virginia Woolf, who said that Lardner "writes the best prose that has come our way, often in a language which is not English." She was right; it is pure American. In "Ring Around the Bases," the stories of "You Know Me Al" are reprinted along with some of Lardner's other great baseball writing, including such tales as "Alibi Ike," "My Roomy" and "Hurry Kane." Some of it deals with a motor-mouthed young outfielder named Casey Stengel—who, before he re-emerged in 1949 as the manager of the Yankees, many thought Lardner had invented. As Matthew Bruccoli makes clear in his introduction, Lardner's brilliance as a fiction writer was due in large part to his keen journalist's ear: He did not so much create a new language as reveal one.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Marjorie Kehe's ten best list of baseball books, Doug Glanville's best books on baseball, Richard J. Tofel's list of the five best books on baseball as a business, Tom Werner's six favorite baseball books, Fay Vincent's five best list of baseball books, Tim McCarver's five best list of baseball books, and Nicholas Dawidoff's five best list of baseball novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2011

Top ten animal adventures

Lauren St. John is the author of the White Giraffe series and the Laura Marlin mysteries.

For the Guardian she named her top ten animal adventures.

One title on the list:
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I don't believe anyone who reads Black Beauty is left unchanged by it. Anna Sewell's deeply sympathetic and empathetic story of the horse's troubles as he passes from owner to cruel owner before finally finding peace in retirement on a farm broke literary ground on its publication in 1878 and was enormously influential in changing public opinion about the treatment of working horses. It is the sixth biggest selling book in the English language and remains one of the best animal books of all time.
Read about the other stories on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Five books on family dynasties

At the Independent Will Dean compiled a brief reading list on family dynasties, including one novel:
The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Forget the John and Bobby K, America's most famous dynasty is the Corleones. Puzo's first bestseller covers the story from father Vito's decline to son Michael's rise. Extra family history comes from literary sequels such as The Sicilian, and the original screenplays of the Godfather movie sequels. Puzo co-wrote those with Francis Ford Coppola – whose own dynasty now reaches across Hollywood.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Godfather is one of Jackie Collins' six best books and five best literary guilty pleasures. It appears on Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on the Mafia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Carmela Ciuraru's six favorite pseudonymous books

Carmela Ciuraru is the author of Nom de Plume: A Secret History of Pseudonyms.

Carmela Ciuraru is not a pseudonym. Her anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them (Scribner) and Solitude Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Everyman’s Library). A graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, she is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and PEN American Center. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, O, The Oprah Magazine, and other publications.

She is a 2011 Fellow in Nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

For The Week magazine, Ciuraru named her favorite pseudonymous books, including:
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Orwell’s literary debut, chronicling the lives of the working poor, is considered a masterpiece of reportage. But it was initially rejected by two publishers, and the author (whose real name was Eric Blair) admitted that he was not proud of it. Thus the persona "George Orwell" was born.
Read about the other books on the list.

See Carmela Ciuraru's list of ten great books by pseudonymous authors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ten best spy novels

At the Independent, Samuel Muston complied a list of the ten best spy novels.

One title on the list:

The finest book in the Bond franchise. Russian counter-intelligence agency Smersh, with its comically foul boss Rosa Klebb, is out to kill James. No prizes for guessing who comes out on top.
Read about the other novels on the list.

From Russia with Love also made John Mullan's lists of ten of the best chess games in fiction, ten of the best punch-ups in fiction, and ten of the best breakfasts in literature, and a list of eleven presidents' favorite books. It is one of Keith Jeffery's five best books on Britain's Secret Service.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top ten Iranian books

Kamin Mohammadi is a writer, journalist and broadcaster specializing in Iran. She also writes travel books and is a magazine editor and lifestyle journalist with specialties in Italy, health, beauty, yoga and fashion. Her book, The Cypress Tree, is out this month in the UK from Bloomsbury.

At the Guardian she named her top ten Iranian books, including:
Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński

Legendary Polish foreign correspondent Kapuściński was in Iran throughout the revolution and his pared-down account of the events of those days is gripping and insightful. He has enormous understanding and the ability to tell a harrowing story in the most graceful way, while also preserving a delightful sense of the absurd. He is unusual in that he does not subscribe to an Orientalist point of view – and so is able to comment on the events of the day and the peculiarities of the Iranian character and system with objectivity – even affection – but without the usual implicit sense of superiority that western writers tend to slip into when writing about Iran.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Five best books on scandals, real or made-up

H. W. Brands's latest book is The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield.

At the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on truth or just in print.

One title on the list:
All the King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren (1946)

Inspired by the rise and fall of Huey Long, the populist demagogue from Louisiana, Robert Penn Warren's roman à clef is arguably the greatest of American political novels. Willie Stark begins his career honestly but is corrupted by ambition and power. He sells offices, shakes down government contractors and sleeps with women not his wife—including the sister of one of Stark's appointees, who discovers the affair and kills him. Jack Burden, Stark's political fixer, retrospectively narrates the story, which reveals his own disillusionment. The novel was a brilliant popular success and won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for fiction; the 1949 film version received the Academy Award for best picture. "All the King's Men" remained a powerful literary influence a half-century later: Joe Klein modeled "Primary Colors" (1996) on the novel to explain the scandalous and self-destructive charm of Bill Clinton.
Read about the other entries on the list.

One critic argues that while it's not the best Louisiana novel, All the King's Men is The Great Louisiana Novel. The book appears on Melanie Kirkpatrick's list of her five favorite novels of political intrigue; Robert McCrum called it a book to inspire busy public figures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Six great books on France and the French

Andrew Carter, an editorial assistant at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, came up with six great books on France and the French, including:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey
by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser explores the life of France’s ill-fated queen, from her early life as an Austrian archduchess to her final days as a political prisoner during the revolution. Through it all, Fraser creates a highly sympathetic portrait of Marie Antoinette, detailing her humiliations, such as the very public fact that she and her husband were unable to consummate their marriage for seven years. Fraser defends the queen’s lavish spending on clothing and jewelry, which was not uncommon at the time. She also puts to rest several famous unfounded rumors about Marie Antoinette, many of which, Fraser insists, were created by her enemies to discredit her.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Howard Bloch's five best books about France.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2011

Five best books: cruelty in fact and fiction

Adam Ross is the author of the novel Mr. Peanut and a new collection of short stories, Ladies and Gentlemen.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on cruelty in fact and fiction, including:
by J.M. Coetzee (1999)

In post-apartheid South Africa, this novel's protagonist, a professor named David Lurie, flees to his daughter Lucy's farm to escape the scandal provoked by his affair with a student. After years of disaffection, David and Lucy enjoy a rapprochement. But after an attack in which Lucy is sexually assaulted, they are forced to re-examine their relationships with both each other and their homeland. J.M. Coetzee is insightful about the violence at the heart of male sexuality and about the unbridgeable distance between parents and children. Finally, though, "Disgrace" is a meditation on cruelty, whether that inflicted by state-sponsored apartheid or by South Africans reclaiming their country or by the owners of the animals rescued by the shelter where David volunteers. Despite cruelty's depredations, though, Coetzee ultimately shows us that a path to redemption can be found.
Read about the other books on the list.

Disgrace also appears on Ian Holding's top ten list of books that teach us about southern Africa and among Yann Martel's five favorite books and T.C. Boyle's four favorite books to turn to for comfort; it is one of Vendela Vida's favorite books of the last ten years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ten of the best Latin titles in literature

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

One entry on the list:
Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett

It takes the fearless autodidact Pratchett to parody the most over-used of all Latin idioms: carpe diem ("seize the day" – itself the title of a Saul Bellow novel). Pratchett's cod Latin version means "seize the throat" – an appropriate bit of mock-sententiousness for a parody of vampire literature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 16, 2011

19 books about the joys & terrors of transportation

At the Los Angeles Times book blog, Carolyn Kellogg, Nick Owchar and David L. Ulin came up with a list of books about the joys and terrors of transportation.

The titles on the list starting with C-words:
"Car" by Harry Crews. A man eats a car, one piece at a time, for money. Satirical, edgy and smart.

"Crash" by J.G. Ballard. Nobody wants to get in a car crash -- except for the subculture in this novel, full of people who find cars sexualized. Car crashes, mmmmm.

"Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang" by Ian Fleming. The James Bond author's only book for kids, the story of an inventor, his family and their marvelous floating, flying car.

"Christine" by Stephen King. The 1958 Plymouth Fury is beautiful, but she's dangerous. Reading this book will make you understand the terrifying possibilities of automobiles.

"Cosmopolis" by Don DeLillo. A young billionaire tries to cross Manhattan in his stretch limousine as the world begins to come apart.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top ten tales of Americans in Europe

Esi Edugyan is the author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten tales of Americans in Europe, including:
The Dean's December by Saul Bellow

This one goes against the grain: here Europe isn't a romanticised seat of ancient culture, but a bleak place to escape some bleaker American problems. Corde, the dean of a Chicago college, travels with his wife to Bucharest to see his dying mother-in-law. Having made himself a target of hate for some influential people back in Chicago, and having also ended up at the centre of a controversial trial in which two blacks are accused of killing a white student, Corde has much to hide from. But communist Romania's decay and corruption only highlight all he's tried to leave behind, and he comes to realise Europe is no exit at all.
Read about the other titles on the list.

Also see: Alex Berenson's five favorite books on Americans abroad and Charles Glass's five books on Americans abroad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ten great books written by pseudonymous authors

At The Daily Beast Carmela Ciuraru, author of Nom de Plume: A Secret History of Pseudonyms, named ten great books written by pseudonymous authors.

One title on the list:
Party Going
by Henry Green

To call this a novel about nothing is almost an overstatement. Henry Green, the pseudonym of Henry Yorke, was fairly perverse in his insistence on disorienting readers and depriving them of relatable characters and tidy conclusions. (Nor was he interested in the notion of a linear narrative.) "Life," Green once said, "is one discrepancy after another." Party Going follows a group of spoiled, rich young people stranded one evening at a London railway station during a thick fog. (Green, who came from a wealthy family himself, despised social privilege.) Nothing much happens. His characters are given to banal musings and indecision. Desire is thwarted by inaction and overanalyzing: "[W]hile she had wondered so faintly she hardly knew she had it in her mind or, in other words, had hardly expressed to herself what she was thinking, he was much further from putting his feelings into words, as it was not until he felt sure of anything that he knew what he was thinking of." One of the pleasures of reading Green is his insistence on incomprehension, his dizzying sentences (with their strange syntax and oft-missing articles), and his peculiar brand of humor. Although Party Going is not "about" anything, it serves to reveal the banality of existence and the failures and mysteries of human interaction.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Top ten pirate books

Justin Somper is the bestselling author of the Vampirates books.

At the Guardian, he named a top ten list of pirate books.

One book on the list:
The Odyssey by Homer

Time for some ancient pirate action on the wine-dark seas! Odysseus confesses to two acts of piracy on his epic journey and it's not only his tales but the non-judgmental reaction to them which is of interest. The Odyssey is a useful reminder that piracy is by no means restricted to the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries. Whenever I found myself writing long lists of ships in transit, in Immortal War, I found myself giving a nod of thanks to Homer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Odyssey also made John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

Also see John Mullan's list of ten of the best pirates in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Five books on grammar

At the Independent Alice-Azania Jarvis compiled a brief reading list on grammar, including one humorous book:
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

In his characteristic wry style, Bryson, best known for his tongue-in-cheek travel memoirs, takes a rollicking look at the origins and evolution of the English language. How did it become so internationally dominant? How did today's version emerge? Where do dialects come from? Packed with anecdotes, nuggets of wisdom and hilarious instances of grammar gone wrong, The Mother Tongue offers an accessible, refreshing survey of the linguistic landscape.
Read about the other books on grammar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ten of the best snakes in literature

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

One entry on the list:
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

Zealous Baptist Nathan Price takes his family to the Belgian Congo where he works as a missionary. Someone starts planting snakes in the homes of those who know them. One morning they find a curled-up green mamba and, as it slithers off, hear a shriek from Ruth May, the youngest of the four Price sisters. She has been bitten on the shoulder and dies as they watch.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Six recommended books featuring female sleuths

Tess Gerritsen is the best-selling author of the Jane Rizzoli crime thrillers, including The Silent Girl.

For The Week magazine, she named six favorite books featuring female sleuths, including:
The Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene

It’s impossible not to mention the one sleuth who influenced just about every female mystery writer in America: Nancy Drew, whose stories were ghostwritten by several authors under the Keene pseudonym. Quick-witted and courageous, Nancy demonstrated to girls of my generation that we could accomplish anything, even with our girlfriends in tow.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Nancy Drew made Adrian McKinty's top ten list of lady detectives.

Also see Anne Holt's top ten list of female detectives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Five depressing beach reads

Sloane Crosley is the author of How Did You Get this Number and I Was Told There'd be Cake.

For The Daily Beast, she named five depressing beach reads.

One title on the list:
The Beach
by Alex Garland

In the book version of the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is British, not American, which makes the novel less of a statement about American travel hubris but much more saddled with pathos. Despite ending unhappily—you know what they say about not eating the yellow snow? Don’t lie in the red sand, ya hear?—it is quick and good and after about 30 pages, you can see why it was ripe for movie adaptation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Beach
also appears on the Guardian editors' list of the 50 best summer reads ever and John Mullan's list of ten of the best swimming scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 8, 2011

Five best: literary tales of real-life crimes

Ron Hansen is the author, most recently, of the true-crime novel A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of literary tales of real-life crimes.

One book on the list:
by Joyce Carol Oates (2000)

I have read several biographies of Marilyn Monroe but found none that can match Joyce Carol Oates's "Blonde"—a striking and tragic portrait of a lost, anxious girl who would in time become an exploited, indulged, mercurial star with an endless hunger for love and security. The familiar outlines of the Monroe story are here: marrying fame in Joe DiMaggio and seeking a father figure in playwright Arthur Miller, neither of whom could help her. She was seemingly involved with President John F. Kennedy when she was found dead of a drug overdose. This end to her life is generally viewed as a suicide; "Blonde" depicts Monroe's death, convincingly if controversially, as murder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Blonde appears on Janet Fitch's book list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top 10 fairytales

Cornelia Funke is an internationally bestselling, multiple award-winning author, best known for writing the Inkworld trilogy, Dragon Rider, and The Thief Lord.

Named by Time magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in the world today," Cornelia currently lives with her family in Los Angeles, California, in a house full of books.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten fairytales.

One entry on the list:
The Birthday of the Infanta

Another tale that has quite modern origins. I mention this one, because it touched me so deeply that I illustrated it once for a picture book project, but in fact all of Oscar Wilde's fairytales should be on this list. He is the master for me, when it comes to modern fairytales. I like him better than Andersen, who doesn't have Wilde's social compassion. The ugly dwarf doesn't turn into a beautiful swan. Wilde loves him as the ugly dwarf.
Read about the other fairytales on the list.

Also see: Five best academic studies of fairy tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ten of the best: love at first sight

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best coups de foudre in literature.

One entry on the list:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

At the railway station to meet his mother, Vronsky steps back to let a lady out of her compartment and glimpses her face. "In that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the suppressed eagerness which played over her face ... It was as though her nature were so brimming over with something that against her will it showed itself now in the flash of her eyes, and now in her smile". Their fates are sealed.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Anna Karenina also appears on Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's list top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top seven detective series set in foreign locales

At the Christian Science Monitor, Colby Bermel named the top seven detective series set in foreign locales.

Two entries on the list:
"Omar Yussef" series, by Matt Beynon Rees

Set in today’s Middle East, Matt Beynon Rees’ works recount the mystery-solving of reluctant history-teacher-turned-detective Omar Yussef, who lives in a Palestinian area of the West Bank. Yussef’s first case is an effort to prove that one of his former students, arrested for allegedly assisting Israel snipers to assassinate a member of the Palestinian Martyrs Brigade, is innocent.

"Dr. Siri Paiboun" series, by Colin Cotterill

The only doctor left in 1970s communist Laos, the eccentric 72-year-old Siri Paiboun is appointed to be the government’s chief medical examiner. Hardly a qualified professional, the sardonic Siri uses unorthodox methods (talking with forest spirits and the dead, perhaps?) to solve crimes like bizarre murders and mysterious disappearances.
Read about the other series on the list.

Visit Colin Cotterill's website, and learn more about Dr. Siri Paiboun at The Page 69 Test: Anarchy and Old Dogs and My Book, The Movie: Curse of the Pogo Stick.

Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog. Learn more about Omar Yussef at: The Page 69 Test: The Collaborator of Bethlehem; My Book, The Movie: The Collaborator of Bethlehem; The Page 69 Test: A Grave in Gaza; The Page 69 Test: The Samaritan's Secret; The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Assassin; and My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Assassin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ten best literary picnics

At the Guardian, Kate Kellaway named the ten best literary picnics.

One picnic on the list:
Enduring Love
by Ian McEwan

The setting is a beech wood in the Chilterns and the picnic ought to have been tasteful, middle-class and uneventful. The ingredients were bought at Carluccio’s in London, the centrepiece is “a great ball of mozzarella”. There are olives, mixed salad and focaccia. The wine is a 1987 Daumas Gassac – opened but never enjoyed because of what is to eclipse the picnic forever and launch the turbulent novel: a hot air balloon in trouble which has the narrator abandoning his picnic and running across the fields.
Read about the other picnics on the list.

Enduring Love also appears on Douwe Draaisma's list of the five best novels about mental disorders and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best examples of unrequited love in literature and ten of the best balloon flights in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Adam Ross's favorite books under 200 pages

Adam Ross is the author of the novel Mr. Peanut and a new collection of short stories, Ladies and Gentlemen.

For The Daily Beast, he named his favorite books under 200 pages.

One title on the list:
A Sport and a Pastime
by James Salter

On its surface, Salter’s 191-page classic recounts the erotic odyssey of Yale dropout Phillip Dean and French shopgirl Marie Costallat. A closer reading reveals the unnamed narrator’s struggle to live life rather than be condemned to the role of observer. Sensual and atmospheric, it’s been passed among writers like contraband since its 1967 publication partially out of reverence for Salter’s matchless style: “The waitress … wears a turtleneck sweater, black shirt, a leather belt cinched tightly around her waist dividing her into two erotic zones. Behind the bar the radio is going softly. Outside, the snow is falling, covering the car like a statue of a hero, filling the tracks that lead to where it is parked.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Simon Armitage's six best books

Simon Armitage was born in and lives in West Yorkshire, England. His books include Killing Time, Selected Poems, The Universal Home Doctor, Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid, and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In 1993, he was named the London Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year; he is the recipient of a Forward Prize and in 2010 won the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster, and playwright; writes extensively for radio, television, and film; has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop; and is professor of poetry at the University of Sheffield.

Knopf will release Seeing Stars, his new collection of poems, in the US in August 2011.

One of Armitage's six best books, as told to the Scottish Sunday Express:
Le Morte d’Ar thur by Sir Thomas Malory

Malory’s masterwork is a jewel in the crown of British literature. He pulled all the Welsh myths and French Romances together creating the definitive work by which we know the tales of King Arthur. Malory himself was a shadowy figure, he was a knight-prisoner who may have written the work while he was incarcerated in the Tower of London.
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn about Simon Armitage's top ten bird poems.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 1, 2011

Five books that inspired Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is a columnist at the New York Times and a professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. In 1991 the American Economic Association awarded him its John Bates Clark medal, a prize given every two years to "that economist under forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic knowledge." In 2008 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. His books include The Accidental Theorist and The Conscience of a Liberal.

With Sophie Roell at FiveBooks, Krugman discussed why he considers himself a liberal as well as five books that inspired him, including:
by Isaac Asimov

The first book you’ve chosen isn’t about economics at all; it’s a work of science-fiction, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. But was it part of what inspired you to become an economist?

Yes. This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

I do get a sense from your columns in The New York Times that you are on a mission…

Obviously I try to do straight economics and I do it as well as I can. But this is for a purpose. That purpose is not to find better ways of making money – although I have no problem with people doing that. The purpose is actually to make a better world. So yes, I do feel that I am trying to do something that goes beyond just the analysis.

When I read your book, The Conscience of a Liberal, I came to realise that that purpose is to save the middle-class America you grew up in. Do you feel it’s under threat?

It’s not under threat – it’s actually largely, but not completely, gone. We’re trying to recapture it. We really have had a tremendous polarisation [in wealth]. People notice it every once in a while and it comes as a huge revelation to them. So for example, in last week’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof had a column about how maybe we’re turning into Pakistan. It’s clear that we are not at all the relatively equal middle-class society we were, and we’re getting less so. That’s something you want to try to turn around.
Visit The Browser to read about the other books on Krugman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue