Sunday, September 30, 2012

Five best books on catastrophes, natural and otherwise

John Kelly's latest book is The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best books list on catastrophes, natural and otherwise, including:
The Great Influenza
by John Barry (2004)

It took the collective genius of mankind four years and billions of francs, pounds, marks and dollars to slaughter 10 million men in the trenches of World War I. The influenza pandemic spawned by the war achieved much more with much less. Between 1918, when the first flu cases appeared on the desolate Kansas plains, and 1920, when the pandemic expired in the back places of Asia, the virus killed 50 million to 100 million people. In "The Great Influenza," John Barry catches the sweep of the worst biological disaster in human history in a multilayered account that encompasses the interrelationship between war and disease, the politics of Wilsonian America, and the reflexive obtuseness of the bureaucratic mind. Patriotic parades that had to be held, troop ships that had to sail, draft quotas that had to be met created large pools of vulnerable young men in the teeming military establishments in the East and Midwest. The doughboys spread the disease to the civilian population, then carried it to Europe. What makes "The Great Influenza" a standout in the vast literature on the 1918 pandemic is Barry's description of the seminal role it played in the modernization of American medicine and science. It's a novel lens through which to view the flu, one that dramatizes the critical role that crises have in driving human progress.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Top ten books about quantum theory

David Kaiser is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society and the Department of Physics. His books include How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival.

For the Guardian, Kaiser named his top ten books on quantum theory. One title on the list:
How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, by Chad Orzel (2009)

If physicist Chad Orzel's dog, Emmy, can get the gist of the uncertainty principle, Bell's theorem, and even quantum teleportation, so can you. An expert in the latest efforts to harness the weird features of quantum theory in the laboratory, Orzel has a knack for helpful analogies. Best of all, his book broaches many of the latest ideas and developments, delivering an accessible account every bit as engaging as classics such as Gamow's Mr Tompkins, now brought up-to-date.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 28, 2012

Top ten horse books

Belinda Rapley is the author of the Pony Detectives series. She is a British Horse Society Instructor, has a National Diploma in Horse Studies and has spent time working in show jumping and flat racing.

Rapley named her top ten horse books for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I can't read this book or watch the film without at least one packet of tissues next to me. It's a timeless reminder to me of the fate horses and ponies have – they're the only pet we have which is sold on when they're outgrown, get too old to carry on doing what they were bought to do, or when they're simply no longer wanted. They're likely to experience many different homes and different fortunes through their life. With each move they have to settle into new routines and yards, make new horsey friends and wait while their new owners work out how they tick. Although Black Beauty holds up to the mirror the thoughtless cruelty of the Victorian world she inhabits, I think her voice still serves as a modern day reminder for all horse owners to think of the world from our horse's perspective, rather than our own. My own horse, Zano, will stay in my care forever to avoid any of the fates Black Beauty endured.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Black Beauty is among Mary King's five top books on the equestrian life, Megan Wasson's eight great books about horses, and Lauren St. John's top ten animal adventures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five best books on Hollywood

Leo Braudy is among America's leading cultural historians and film critics. He currently is University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. His books include The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon.

For the Wall Street Journal, Braudy named a five best list of books on Hollywood, including:
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
by Peter Biskind (1998)

By the early 1970s, old Hollywood was moribund—the studio system had withered, unable anymore to connect with the mass audience of its golden years. Ticket sales had plummeted to 15.8 million in 1971 from 78.2 million in 1946, Peter Biskind says in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," his engrossing chronicle of what came next: an upheaval in the film business caused by an array of young filmmakers. Directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, allied with actors including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, set about creating some of the decade's iconic films—"Star Wars," "Jaws," "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," "Chinatown." We know the movies well; Biskind tells us what was going on behind the scenes. He chronicles the betrayals, hostilities, confusions, missteps and general pettiness that can bedevil any collective artistic venture, but he also artfully mixes in production details, biography and salacious gossip, creating a vivid portrait of a vibrant time. In the end, Biskind says, success spelled the end of the creative ferment. Describing Spielberg at a party teasing John Travolta for owning a lesser Learjet, the author notes: "Money was the solvent that dissolved the tissue of the '70s like acid on flesh."
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Steven J. Ross's five best books on politics & the movie industryStefan Kanfer's five best books on remarkable Hollywood lives, and Jane Ciabattari's five best list of novels on Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Top ten books about exploration

Max Jones is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at The University of Manchester and author of The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice.

In 2003 he named his top ten books about exploration for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

The title of Cherry-Garrard's account of Scott's last Antarctic expedition refers not to the polar journey, but to the trek he endured with Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers in search of the eggs of the emperor penguin. The three men barely survived the first journey ever attempted during an Antarctic winter, experiencing temperatures as low as -77.5ºF (-25.3ºC), only to die only a few months later. Mourning for his lost friends, disillusioned by war and assisted by his neighbour George Bernard Shaw, Cherry-Garrard composed a work which transcends the confines of the expedition to offer a powerful meditation on the nature of exploration and intellectual curiosity in the modern world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Worst Journey in the World is on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on navigators, Ian Marchant's top ten list of books of the night, and the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on winter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Five of the best trilogies

Ken Follett emerged in the book world with Eye of the Needle, an award-winning thriller and international bestseller. After several more successful thrillers, he published The Pillars of the Earth and its long-awaited sequel, World Without End, a national and international bestseller. Follett's new historical epic, The Century Trilogy, opened with the bestselling Fall of Giants which is followed by the newly released Winter of the World.

Follett named his five best trilogies for The Daily Beast. One entry on the list:
The Millennium Trilogy
by Stieg Larsson

Once you start you can’t stop reading, and the main reason is Lisbeth Salander, one of the great literary characters. She’s vengeful yet sympathetic, scary but sexy, and so logical that everyone thinks she’s crazy. I wish I had created her.
Read about the other trilogies on the list.

Lisbeth Salander is one of Anne Holt's top ten female detectives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best accounts of great African journeys

Tim Jeal is the author of the acclaimed biographies Livingstone, Baden-Powell, and Stanley, each selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He was selected as the winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

His latest book is Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure.

One of Jeal's five best accounts of great African journeys, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo
by Redmond O'Hanlon (1996)

If you love books by famous explorers and have a masochistic yearning to write up your own historic trek, it's tough now that there is so little left to discover. But a book about a great journey is still possible if you possess the skills of an outstanding travel writer and a major novelist, along with the courage of a red-blooded Victorian. Redmond O'Hanlon has all the above and erudition too. His tragicomic masterpiece, "No Mercy," brilliantly chronicles his predictably doomed quest to locate not a river's source but a leftover dinosaur allegedly living in a remote Congolese lake. After hypnotic portrayals of his traveling companions and endangered animals, including the infant gorilla he adopts and falls in love with ("his dark brown eyes were milky-white at the edges, the black skin in the middle of his low forehead was furrowed with three vertically curved worry lines"), Mr. O'Hanlon, by then ill and disoriented, dramatizes the struggle in his head between different versions of reality (Western science versus the African sorcerer's "logic of a dream"). He describes his own near breakdown in the jungle among rats, driver ants and sweat-drinking bees as he clutches his fetish: a piece of monkey fur wrapped around a child's finger bone.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top ten books about Hitler and the Third Reich

Anthony Read's books include The Devil's Disciples: The Lives and Times of Hitler's Inner Circle.

In 2003 he named his top ten books about Hitler and the Third Reich for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L Shirer

For me, this is the grandaddy of them all, the standard work by which all others on the subject are still measured. A brilliant and respected journalist, Shirer was actually there for much of the time and it shows. Erudite, comprehensive and detailed, always lively and readable, it is the model of what a popular narrative history should be. My own copy has been read and referred to so often it is falling apart.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Five top books on the English Revolution of 1688

Steven Pincus is professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England, Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideologies and the Making of English Foreign Policy, 1650-1668, and England’s Glorious Revolution: A Brief History with Documents.

His latest book, 1688: The First Modern Revolution, has won a number of prizes, including the 2010 Morris D. Forkosch Prize given by the American Historical Association.

With Sophie Roell at The Browser, Pincus discussed five top books on the English Revolution of 1688, including:
The Anglo-Dutch Moment
by Jonathan I Israel

The next book on the list, Jonathan Israel’s The Anglo-Dutch Moment was the crowning achievement of [the view that one really needs to place Britain in a much broader international context]. Israel’s collection of essays, and most importantly his own contributions to the volume, were extremely innovative and extremely important. But they seem to have had little effect. What was really exciting about Israel was his pushing for placing things in a European context, and indeed an extra-European context, though Israel doesn’t go quite that far in the book. But most British historians and people working in this field have in fact turned much more inward, and talked about the relations between England, Scotland and Ireland. That had the effect of moving the discussion away from Europe and the broader European issues that Pieter Geyl had asked for and Jonathan Israel demanded. I felt, in a sense, that it was a lost opportunity. It was that tradition, which had become a dead end, that I tried to follow up and develop more in my book.

Can you tell me a bit more about the Israel book? I’ve always been a huge fan of his, I have to confess.

He’s a wonderfully innovative scholar. There’s another really, really important contribution that Jonathan Israel made in The Anglo-Dutch Moment, and, again, something that has largely gone unnoticed. His argument was that there was a Dutch invasion and the Dutch transformed the English polity and then the British polity. It was a real revolution. There was revolutionary change, and it came from outside. Israel was the first person to break the consensus about the un-revolutionary nature of the English Revolution of 1688-9. Where I differ from Israel is that I draw on everything he says and say he’s absolutely right, but he’s underestimated the extent to which there was a radical tradition developing within England itself. The reason why the radical Whigs in England turned to William was precisely because they thought he was sympathetic with their ideas.

So you’re recommending the book largely for the contributions by Israel himself? Because there is also an essay in there saying the revolution was conservative.

Yes, there’s John Morrill’s essay on Trevelyan which says exactly that. But the Israel essays are a book almost in and of itself. They’re really incredibly innovative and well researched.
Read about the other books Pincus tagged at The Brower.

The Page 99 Test: 1688: The First Modern Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Five best tales of stormy couples

Amanda Bennett's books include In Memoriam (1997, with Terence B. Foley), The Man Who Stayed Behind (1993, with Sidney Rittenberg), The Death of the Organization Man (1990), and the recently released memoir, The Cost of Hope.

For the Wall Street Journal she named a five best list of tales about stormy couples, including:
Travels With Myself and Another
by Martha Gellhorn (1978)

Take but one look at classic photos of Ernest Hemingway as Big Game Hunter and you'll realize whose voice he preferred the sound of. Martha Gellhorn, the second of his four wives, always hated the thought that, having married him, she was doomed to be a footnote in his biography. After reading this volume of remembered travels, I might vote him a footnote in hers. Glamorous, witty, fearless, poisonously acerbic, selfish and probably mean, she was one of the few female foreign correspondents for the rest of us to daydream about. She did the Spanish Civil War, took a rickshaw to see Zhou Enlai in hiding on the eve of the revolution; and rode a dynamite boat carrying supplies to D-Day. She hates pretty much everything here: The German delegation that bumps her from the last room in a hotel consists of "a short man who resembled an irritated warthog and two subservient underlings." Imperial and demanding herself, she rails against despotism, imperialism and racism: "Always delighted to grab any privileges I can get, I don't like the sense of being privileged by law." She does a hilarious cameo of her spouse, who appears only as the Unwilling Companion, or U.C.: "He was able to sit with a bunch of men for most of a day or most of a night or most of both a day or a night... all of them fortified by a continuous supply of drink, the while he roared with laughter at reminiscences and anecdotes. It was a valid system for him."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 21, 2012

Six top books about dark journeys

Iain Sinclair is the author of many books, including Downriver, Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, and Ghost Milk: Recent Adventures Among the Future Ruins of London on the Eve of the Olympics.

For The Week magazine, he named his six favorite books about dark journeys, including:
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

A compulsively readable account of an alcohol-fueled hallucination in an alien landscape — a reckless danse macabre through the Mexican Day of the Dead. The physical struggle to shape a literary masterpiece from years of abortive travel informs every hard-won sentence.
Read about the other books on the list.

Under the Volcano is one of Iain Gately's five best books on the pleasures and hazards of drink.

Also see Iain Sinclair's list of five novels that capture the spirit and rich history of London.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on wine

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on wine:
The Billionaire's Vinegar
by Benjamin Wallace

When a scion of the Forbes family paid a record $156,000 for a single bottle of wine at auction in 1985, he thought he was getting a 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeauxone that had been owned by Thomas Jefferson. The truth proved far murkier. Delving into the controversy provides author Benjamin Wallace ample opportunity to explore the fervor at the heart of wine collecting.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Billionaire’s Vinegar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Five top books about life in the theater

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral (he played Gareth). His books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy on Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published), and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay. His recent books include My Life in Pieces, which won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011, and Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World.

One of his five best books about life in the theatre, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Last Call
by Harry Mulisch (1985)

In this remarkable novel the great Dutch author, who died in 2010, approaches his obsessively repeated subject of World War II from an unusual angle: An obscure old cabaret artist is recruited by an avant-garde company to play a Prospero-like figure in "Hurricane," a new play modeled after Shakespeare's "The Tempest." A newspaper interviewer discovers that the old man happily performed for the Nazis during the war and that he expresses no regret for it; he is nonetheless allowed to continue with the play. His motives and personality are more and more complexly delineated as the novel becomes a meditation on art and theater, on aging and on transcendence, incorporating as it goes reflections on the "Fushikaden," the great 15th-century Japanese acting manual. Finally, and sublimely, the novel modulates into a re-creation of a farewell performance of "The Tempest" by a great Dutch actor, until the Shakespearean echoes that have proliferated throughout the book reach a kind of ecstatic culmination. It is an extraordinary novel, hallucinatory in parts but hallucinatory in the way the stage can sometimes be, a series of bewitching and unsettling illusions that bespeak profound truths.
Read about the other books on the list.

See--Simon Callow's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Five books that influenced Justice Stephen Breyer

Stephen Breyer is a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

With Eve Gerber at The Browser, Breyer discussed five books that have influenced his thinking, and explained why reading widely, including literature, is essential for judges and lawyers. One book he tagged:
La Peste
by Albert Camus

Let's move onto Camus and The Plague. Why do you cite this classic novel as intellectually formative?

Because it really speaks to my generation. I grew up during World War II. Though I was a young child, I can still remember blackout shades coming down in San Francisco because people were worried about an invasion. My wife is English. We just saw a documentary about Churchill, and in it there were lots of English women carrying their babies into Tube [metro] stations during air raids. I thought maybe one of those babies is [my wife] Joanna. That was the world that we were born into. Camus, in The Plague, writes about that world. Although the story takes place in Algeria, he's really writing about the Nazi occupation of France.

Most read this work on an allegorical level.

He talks about the plague. Well, the plague is that part of a human being which can be very evil. That germ, he says at the end, never dies, it simply goes into remission. It lurks. It lurks in the cupboards, it lurks in the hallways, it lurks in the filing cabinets. It lurks throughout the house, perhaps one day to reawaken and once again send forth its pestilence into what was once a happy city.

All over the world, people are trying to stop that plague because it's still there, in the hearts of people. To keep the plague away, we build institutions including independent judiciaries to interpret constitutions that contain words, which are protective of human beings’ basic rights. That's true in Europe, it's true in the United States, and it’s more and more true throughout the world. I have a job that is one small part of the effort to build a barrier against another epidemic of evil like what we saw in World War II.
Read about the other books on Breyer's list at The Browser.

La Peste is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best rats in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Science fiction’s 10 most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios

At io9 Lauren Davis named ten of science fiction’s most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios, including:
Going into storage: Most people in Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon do experience old age — in fact, thanks to the resleeving process, they often experience it twice. But while science has found a way to put you in a new body, it hasn't found a way to make the aging process more pleasant. After two full lifetimes, most folks who aren't rich enough for frequent resleevings put their memories and personalities in storage, opting for only occasional and temporary resleeving.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Altered Carbon is one of Charlie Jane Anders's top 10 science fiction detective novels of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2012

Five top books on the history of war

Jeremy Black is Professor of History at the University of Exeter, UK. He is an authority on early modern British and continental European history, with special interest in international relations, military history, the press, and historical atlases.

Black discussed five top books on the history of war with Daisy Banks at The Browser, including:
The Echo of Battle, the Army’s Way of War
by Brian McAllister Linn

Your final book is The Echo of Battle, the Army’s Way of War by Brian McAllister Linn.

I think The Echo of Battle takes us to the world’s leading military power. It is looking at the United States and it reminds us that institutional cultures play a role and it reminds us that America is not, as it were, set in stone. There are actually complex issues within the United Sates – regulars against the militia, and expansionists against people who are much more cautious.

The book covers a few hundred years so it gives us a range and specificity, which is what, in my view, one should try to offer.

But the two values are in a way opposed and I find this when I try to write. You try to write clearly but that is hard because you are also trying to write in a qualificatory fashion. You are trying to give a balance between the two halves and to show people there are different views, which sometimes makes for clumsy prose. The longer you work on a subject, the harder it is to explain exactly what happened and why.

I think this is a general problem with books. It tends to be the case with history that the weakest books are often the easiest ones to read. They are like television history – sit quietly and Simon or David will tell you the answers. This kind of approach, which gives you one answer, is the one which is terribly popular. Books that tell you the answers sell very well, but they are, although not invariably, conceptually unsophisticated and intellectually suspect. In practical terms history is something where we cannot recover the experiment. We cannot know exactly what happened. The one thing we do know is that whatever we are writing now other historians, who hopefully will be of equal merit, will come along and do just as much research but will reach completely different conclusions! And that is good because people should not be writing in the sense that they know the answer.

Whenever I see a book that says on the cover that this is the definitive answer to this question I think this isn’t a good history book. Instead, what one needs to do is to embrace a humane scepticism, which is both valuable to the subject but also a culturally important point, and not just for our culture but on a global scale.
Read about the other books Black tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top ten literary otters

Miriam Darlington is a prizing winning English poet. Otter Country, her new book, is an account of the author's search for wild otters in the remote places of Britain, which blends natural history, memoir, literary history and travel writing. Darlington travelled from her home in Devon to the wilds of Scotland, to Cumbria, Wales, Northumberland, Cornwall and Somerset in search of the aquatic mammals.

For the Guardian, Darlington named her top ten literary otters, including:
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

In this children's classic, Otter and his son Portly are astutely portrayed. He complains disapprovingly of the noisy and materialistic behaviour of the other anthropomorphised animals on the river. He possesses one attribute in particular that is very ottery: he frequently disappears mid-conversation with no consideration for manners. Portly, meanwhile, goes missing and a search party has to be drummed up to find him. These well-observed characteristics of otters and their disappearances will be recognisable to anyone who has attempted to watch otters in the wild.
Read about the other otters on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Five top books on handwriting

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on handwriting:
Script & Scribble
by Kitty Burns Florey

In this engaging, witty, and thought-provoking book by the author of Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming, we observe the history of handwriting from the evolution of writing implements to the grace and rigor of the Palmer Method, drilled into Florey at Catholic school.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty Burns Florey's Script and Scribble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five top books about football (and its dark side)

Rick Telander, who played football for Northwestern University, has been sports columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times since 1995. His books include Heaven is a Playground which was named as one of the best sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated.

With Eve Gerber at The Browser, Telander tagged five top books about football (and its dark side), including:
“You’re Okay, It’s Just a Bruise”
by Rob Huizenga

A memoir from a football physician is your next selection. Tell us about the autobiography of Los Angeles Raiders internist Rob Huizenga.

In this book Dr Huizenga divulged the incredibly damaging things that team doctors did to get players back in the game. Not things that were good for the player’s health; things that were good for the team and the owners. In his view, the coaches, the owners and the doctors themselves were in cahoots. They did not care about the players’ wellbeing, they did not care about their mental health, they did not care about their physical health because they had to win. The job description of the team doctor was not to make the players better; they’re there to help the team win. So if somebody is crippled in the process of making a touchdown, they’ve won that game for you and if you have to cut them that’s fine. Huizenga was the first person from the medical profession to explain all that.

He talks about a neck specialist from Philadelphia named Dr Torg who cleared a player to play after other doctors urged the athlete to retire or get surgery. He talks about Dean Steinkuhler, a tremendous player for the Raiders, who had 13 knee surgeries and another guy, Mike Munchak, a great player too, who had nine surgeries on his right knee alone. This is while they’re playing, so any doctor could warn, “You guys are crippling yourselves.” Huizenga watched all this and felt guilty about it. The Hippocratic oath says first you do no harm. Well, team doctors were doing harm.

Dr Huizenga resigned in disgust.

You either endorse what you see or you have to leave it. He saw that the medical staff’s mission was to help the owner because that’s why they were hired. He said, “I’m not going to do it.” And so then he wrote this book about it and the thing is nobody cares. It’s like, nice read, but nothing will change.

In a series of recent suits, dozens of former NFL players are seeking damages for brain trauma they suffered on the field. Will the game change because of the new focus on brain injuries?

Well, it’s been forced to change but not because people care. The insurance aspect of it has made the NFL do something and made parents more aware. But the obviousness of this has always been there. You can’t hit anything, including people, with your head without sustaining damage.

Most kids just quit, they play football for a while and they may be tough but they will say there’s something wrong with this sport. Something inside of them will tell them that, “This isn’t right. I don’t mind getting my knee injured or my ankle, my shoulder, my hip, my hand, or my wrist. But my brain? This is my essence, this is who I am and that’s not something to mess with.” We haven’t really identified what a person is but there are people who played football and when they’re done they’re not the same any more. They might be willing to risk it at a young age. But even one concussion can have an impact. Doctors are saying no amount of padding for the head can stop a concussion because a brain is loose jelly inside of the skull. The skull may not break, but the brain still collides with its sides and that concussion causes damage. One time of being knocked out cold – the bleeding, the trauma, the bruising – it can hinder you for life.

So what we get to is: Is this game playable? Concussions happen all the time. Is that something that should be tolerated? Guys will say, “I’m a gladiator.” Well, being a gladiator was outlawed a couple of thousand years ago. Civilised societies do not have gladiators. We’ve outlawed a lot of things. We don’t duel with swords any more. We don’t allow people to go out in the street and shoot each other. We recognised if we allowed these things, we would lose something as a civilisation. That’s the point we’re approaching in football. Nobody wants to acknowledge the obvious because it’s a wonderful game. Ninety-five per cent of it is within civilised bounds, but that 5%? It is a wonderful game but, knowing what we know, maybe we shouldn’t play it any more.
Read about the other books Telander discussed at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The 12 most important science fiction war stories

Charlie Jane Anders and io9 crowdsourced a list of the twelve most important science fiction war stories of all time.

One title on the list:
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Skip the Verhoeven movie version, and go straight to the source material — the original novel about power-armored soldiers in space fighting insect aliens. Writes Gregory, "Apparently Starship Troopers the book is prescribed reading at the US Marines college. Heinlein's concepts of futuristic war and powered armour were visionary." Adds Marc, "if you think it's fascist, you missed the whole point of the book." This is being made into a whole new movie, and let's hope it's closer to the book this time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Simon Callow's six best books

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral (he played Gareth). His books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy on Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published), and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay. His recent books include My Life in Pieces, which won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011, and Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World.

One of his six best books, as told to the Daily Express:
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The author was a much-decorated French pilot whose plane disappeared during the war in uncertain circumstances.

The sweetly grave personality of a friend’s son provoked Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece, a heart-stoppingly simple fable filled with memorably expressed truths about childhood, about human life and above all about love.
Read about the other books on Callow's list.

The Little Prince is among Sita Brahmachari's top 10 books that take you travelling, Maria Popova's seven essential books on optimism, and Dalia Sofer's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Five essential 9/11 books

David L. Ulin is the author of The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith and book critic at the Los Angeles Times.

One of his five essential 9/11 books:
"American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center" by William Langewiesche (2002).

Originally serialized in the Atlantic, Langewiesche's inside account of the dismantling of the Trade Center site is a masterpiece of compression, a sober look at an emotionally loaded operation and a subtle rendering of the territorial battles between police, fire fighters and construction crews that were only heightened by the tragedy. Langewiesche was on the rubble from the beginning, and his observations — understated, reflective and insightful — remind us of the power of work to root us amid horror, as well as the courage involved in doing what needs to be done.
Read about the other books on Ulin's list.

Check out my review of American Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 10, 2012

Top ten genre-defying novels

Kit Whitfield grew up in London. In her time, she has trained as a chef and a masseur, as well as working as a website editor, quote hunter, toy shop assistant and publisher. Her novels include In Great Waters and Benighted.

In 2006 she named her top ten genre-defying novels for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

A perfect little thriller, and much subtler than the movies would have you believe. Something is going on in Stepford, but exactly what is left hanging. Is the heroine's sci-fi theory correct, meaning that she's stuck in a town of murderers? Is she losing her marbles in a world of psychological horror, building up her fears of sexism and entrapment into a crazed fantasy? Is she right that there's something terrible happening, but wrong about what it is? The secret of Stepford hangs tantalisingly out of reach in a gripping and graceful little sleight of hand that keeps the book eternally fresh.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Top nine writers' muses

Simon Gough is a former actor and antiquarian bookseller. The White Goddess: An Encounter, the fictional retelling of the extraordinary events surrounding his relationship with his "Grand Uncle" Robert Graves, is his first novel.

One of his top nine muses, as told to the Guardian:
F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

Hemingway loathed Zelda Fitzgerald, claiming that she was an anti-muse to her husband, "constantly making him drink because she was jealous of his working well". But Zelda was one of Fitzgerald's most powerful inspirations. His tragic, flawed masterpiece Tender is The Night is not only about her, and for her, but even partly written by her, since Fitzgerald was famously keen on including excerpts from her diaries in his writing. Given the choice between the bombastic Hemingway and the flawed but touchingly sensitive Fitzgerald, I'd have left them both to sort it out, and invited Zelda out to dinner.
Read about the other muses on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Marcus Samuelsson's six favorite books

A James Beard Award–winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie Rose, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place.

In 1995, Samuelsson became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from the New York Times for his work at Aquavit. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem, where he lives with his wife.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle tells her story with wit and charm, chronicling her journey from her mother's kitchen all the way to the one at her New York restaurant, Prune. So much of this book hit close to home for me. I have deep respect and admiration for this woman who fought to become the success she is, something that isn't easy to do for a woman in our industry.
Read about the other books on Samuelsson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2012

Five top books on authors and editors

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on authors and editors:
Lives and Letters
by Robert Gottlieb

In his years as Editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker, Gottlieb built an enduring reputation as one of the century's most exacting and brilliant editors. But his copious talents as an essayist are no less impressive, as this delightful volume makes clear. As fascinated by a juicy scandal as he was by an artist's magnum opus, Gottlieb offers diversions for every reader. Writing for the B&N Review, columnist Brooke Allen insists when it comes to his subjects, "Gottlieb is not just a critic or a scholar but an unabashed and passionate fan."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best political campaign classics

David Masciotra is the author of Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen. He is at work on his second book, Faith That Won’t Die, a work of literary journalism about life in the rust belt.

At The Daily Beast, he named ten of the best political campaign classics, including:
Hartsburg, USA
by David Mizner

Mizner uses his experience as a political consultant and speechwriter to write a more hopeful novel than Vidal’s Washington D.C. Hartsburg, USA chronicles a school-board race in a small Ohio town between two clichés of the culture wars—a liberal atheist who once worked as a Hollywood screenwriter and a fundamentalist Christian woman from the nearby megachurch. Mizner wrote the book before Sarah Palin became a household name, but his Republican candidate for school board is the literary Palin if there ever was one. The way in which the novel depicts the personal details of each character’s family, and the way in which he leaves hope for unity, uplifts the reader into remembering, or at least believing, that the distance we see between us and our political opposites is often imaginary. Considering that Obama versus Romney is one of the most negative races of recent history, Mizner’s smart and moving novel may act as an anodyne.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: David Mizner's Hartsburg, USA.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The ten best contemporary African books

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey is the deputy editor of Granta Magazine.

At The Observer, she named the 10 best contemporary African books, including:
Looking for Transwonderland
Noo Saro-Wiwa (2012)

With this memoir, Noo Saro-Wiwa, daughter of the murdered environmental and political activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, establishes herself as a pioneer in contemporary travel writing – Africa as seen by Africans. Travelling from the mayhem of Lagos across Nigeria, she brings family history and the sometimes conflicted eye of an African raised away from the motherland to look at this vast, fascinating land. Only one who calls the country home could write such an honest account of contemporary Nigeria.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Five top books on teaching and learning

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on teaching and learning:
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark

At of heart this deceptively slim novel is the larger-than-life figure of Miss Brodie, a teacher the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh just before the outbreak of World War Two. Readers, much like her pupils, are sure to fall under her spell. But is she a dangerous fantasist or merely living her life vicariously through the girls she teaches?
Read about the other books on the list.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is one of Ian Rankin's 6 best books. Miss Jean Brodie is one of John Mullan's ten best teachers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Five best: fiction of broken hearts

Sally Ryder Brady, a writer, agent, teacher, and editor, is the author of a highly successful novel, Instar, an illustrated book of adult humor called Sweet Memories, and the non-fiction, A Yankee Christmas, Volumes I and II. Her latest book is the memoir A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage.

One title from her five best list of fiction of broken hearts, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Last Day
by James Landis (2009)

There is not a drop of religiosity in this gripping, memoir-like novel, though there is a character whom the book's narrator, Warren, a former Army sniper, identifies as Jesus. Back home in New England after a combat stint in Iraq, Warren spends his first night on the beach, "my mind dark as night." In the glare of the rising sun, he sees a man approach as if walking on water. "Call me Ray," he says to Warren. They've never met, yet talk is easy between them. Jesus/Ray—in jeans, T-shirt and Timberland boots—is the kind of guy you want to hang out with; he knows a lot; he's droll; he's full of new ideas. They set out together to visit the people most important to Warren, people he hasn't seen since his Iraq posting. Memories unfurl with each encounter: with his father, his best friend, his beloved Bethie and their young daughter. He also experiences apocalyptic flashbacks to Iraq. Ray/Jesus unobtrusively helps Warren see his past and present in the redemptive and heartbreaking rediscovery of his own short life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2012

Nick Hornby's six favorite books

Nick Hornby's novels include High Fidelity, About A Boy, and Fever Pitch.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris

Harris' brilliantly researched study of the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1968, following a pivotal year in Hollywood history, is my favorite book about cinema. It's enormous fun to read but also extremely accomplished: Harris understands the collaborative and random nature of the business better than anyone else I've come across.
Read about the other books on Hornby's list.

Writers Read: Mark Harris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Five top books about heists

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on heists:
by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell

In the dead of night on Valentine's Day 2003 in Antwerp, $108 million in diamonds and other gems disappeared from a purportedly airtight vault in the largest theft of precious stones in history. No alarms sounded. No guards were harmed. So how did it happen? Selby and Campbell put the pieces together: the planning of an audacious heist, the curious characters involved, and the colorful, multi-faceted history of the European gem trade. Their painstaking recreation of the events yields a read as pleasurable as a great caper film.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Seven of the best children's books about New York

At the Guardian, Julia Eccleshare recommended several books which would give children a good introduction to New York, including:
Shaun Tan's The Arrival.

Wordlessly, through it's intensely moving illustrations, and completely without preaching, it tells nothing less than the story of immigration: what it feels like to be a newcomer to a country; the hope, despair, courage, support from others that are part of every new arrival's journey. The story is the backbone of New York City's history, and the book would provide a perfect reference point before a visit to Ellis Island.
Read about the other books Eccleshare tagged.

--Marshal Zeringue