Friday, November 30, 2012

Five great literary subjects

The famed literary editor and author Robert Gottlieb's latest book is the new biography, Great Expectations: the Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens.

For The Daily Beast, Gottlieb named five great literary subjects, "those men and women who never cease to fascinate, whose lives we can follow again and again in various reiterations." One entry on the list:
The Brontës

The six children of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, all of whom predeceased him, two of them writers of genius. Their isolated life on the moors; the painful attempts at teaching and governessing; the disaster of the one boy, Branwell, brilliant and dissolute; the amazing success of Jane Eyre; the relentless loss of life to tuberculosis (although Charlotte died of complications connected to childbirth)—it’s so painful and moving a saga that no respectable biographer has failed it. The classic is the life of Charlotte by her close friend the brilliant novelist Elizabeth Gaskell; the most complete version is the series of individual volumes by the scholar Winifred Gérin. But don’t worry—you really can't go wrong.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top ten time travel books

Michael Brooks is a consultant for New Scientist and the author of 13 Things That Don't Make Sense and Can We Travel Through Time?

He named a top ten list of time travel books for the Guardian, including:
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

In 1980, Adams wrote about a computer that could point you to the nearest restaurant. We're halfway to Adams's vision already – all we need is for Google to offer locations in time as well as space. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is brilliantly conceived, and its take on the farce of human existence seems to become more relevant with every passing news cycle.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of Charles Yu's top ten time travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ten must-read books to understand the Earth's history

At io9 Annalee Newitz tagged "ten books you must read if you want to understand [the Earth's] transformation, from the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere to the mass deaths of the dinosaurs," including:
Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors, by Lynne Margulis and Dorion Sagan

Famed evolutionary biologist Lynne Margulis is known for demonstrating that bacteria should be classified as their own branch on the tree of life, and her classification of these tiny species is now part of every school kid's biology lessons. She was also an expert on symbiosis, the process by which two species form a mutually beneficial unit — and also, many believe, a process that was integral to the evolution of cells and multicellular life. So she's the perfect person to give you a tour of how life evolved on Earth from the first scribbles of chemicals in the global ocean. Readable and fascinating, Microcosmos will help you understand what it really means when scientists say that all life evolved from bacterial slime.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ten of 2012's best crime novels

At Kirkus Reviews, J. Kingston Pierce named his favorite crime novels of the year, including:
The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye:

Set in an alien but captivating New York City of 1845, this character-propelled yarn introduces Timothy Wilde, a disfigured and love-starved ex-bartender hoping to acquire fresh purpose by joining the nascent New York Police Department. Wilde rapidly becomes embroiled in the mystery of a young girl who escaped from one of the town’s better brothels, drenched in blood. Plumbing her story leads Wilde to a field glutted with concealed corpses and into the midst of anti-Irish violence that could destroy New York just as surely as the flames that periodically besiege its skyline.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten teen thrillers

Sophie McKenzie is the award-winning author of a range of teen thrillers, including the Missing series (Girl, Missing, Sister, Missing, and Missing Me), Blood Ties and Blood Ransom and the Medusa Project series.

One of her top ten teen thrillers, as told to the Guardian:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I was fascinated to read that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games series when she was flicking between TV channels – one showing war footage and the other a reality TV talent contest. The Hunger Games has a fantastic premise, brilliantly realised, as teenagers fight each other to the death on live TV. The first chapter of the first book is an absolute masterclass in creating the world of the story (vital and particularly challenging when you're setting your story in a fantasy future), establishing the main character and her core relationships and – most importantly – setting out a massive challenge for that character and making the reader care about her achieving it.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fifteen top film adaptations of literary classics

For The Daily Beast, Jimmy So named fifteen top film adaptations of literary classics, including:
Sense and Sensibility by Ang Lee

With only six novels to consume, it is no surprise that we always want more Jane Austen, and the thirst spills into films. Every year an Englishman or two invariably makes an attempt on the hand of Ms. Austen, and Mr. Wright did a good enough job in 2005. But it is a Taiwanese who has presented the most faithful and handsome Austen ever, because in the case of Jane you really do need to get out of her way and let her songlike sentences sing while you simply try not to mess it up with too much interference. Persuading Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant helps.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sense and Sensibility is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best wills in literature and Sam Baker's top ten list of literary stepmothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Five top books on love in literature

Ella Berthoud is a bibliotherapist – she recommends books as a form of therapy and prescribes fiction for life’s ailments.

With The Browser's Alec Ash, Berthoud discussed five top books on love, including:
On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan

Moving onto On Chesil Beach. Will you set the scene please?

This short novel is set in July 1962, when Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting are just married. It’s about the first night of their marriage, on honeymoon in a Georgian hotel next to Chesil beach on the coast of Britain. The book describes their courtship and how they got to this point, then the crucial scene is what happens on their wedding night. Edward climaxes much too soon in his excitement, and somehow they don’t get over this.

Because they hadn’t slept together before – this being one year before sexual intercourse began, according to Philip Larkin. But is it simply this disastrous shag that splits them apart, or do you feel there was something else lurking under the surface?

I think it’s a unique conglomeration of circumstances. Florence has quite a deep fear of sex – she almost can’t bear to be touched by anyone – while Edward is really looking forward to total sexual abandon. It’s obvious to the reader that this is not going to happen, because they’re so completely different in their feelings about sex. And their lack of communication causes this unbearable tragedy. It does seem to me a uniquely English tragedy and very much of that time, just before sexual liberation. Ten years later they probably would have been able to deal with it. This book is a great warning for not holding back on sex before marriage.

Do you think that it works describing sex in books?

Well, there’s a lot of bad sex in books. On Chesil Beach takes the biscuit for one of the most awful sex scenes in literature.
Read about the other books Berthoud tagged at The Browser.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Five best books on work and working

Aman Sethi was born in Bombay in 1983 and attended the Columbia School of Journalism. He is a correspondent for The Hindu and the recipient of an International Committee of the Red Cross award for his reportage.

His new book is A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi.

Sethi named five notable books on work and working for the Wall Street Journal, including:
Down and Out In Paris and London
by George Orwell (1933)

In 1928, George Orwell moved to the Latin Quarter in Paris, where a stroke of sudden misfortune left him almost penniless. A keen observer of the absurdities of class and power, Orwell introduced in this, his first book, many of the themes that he fleshes out in his later works. He captures vividly how a quick descent into temporary penury altered how he bought bread, smoked cigarettes, and was perceived by friends and strangers. As his friend Boris explains: "It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you." Eventually, Orwell finds work as a plongeur, washing dishes in an expensive hotel where a double door divides the chic restaurant from the filth and chaos of the kitchens. The sections set in London, where he returned after a year and a half, are a searing indictment of the criminalization of poverty. Orwell tramps from workhouse to workhouse, thanks to city laws that keep the poor in perpetual motion: A man may stay in a given workhouse only once a month or face a week's confinement, but he also can't sleep in the open. So one either sleeps in the day and misses work or spends the night in a workhouse and spends the waking hours searching for a place to sleep.
Read about the other books on the list.

Down and Out in Paris and London is on Roman Krznaric's five recommended books on the art of living, Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list about unemployment, and Carmela Ciuraru's list of six favorite pseudonymous books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2012

Oliver Ford Davies's six best books

Oliver Ford Davies played Sio Bibble, the governor of Naboo, and the head of the Royal Advisory Council, in several Star Wars films.

One of his six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
Bleak House
by Charles Dickens

It’s my favourite Dickens, packed with all the things he’s good at.

It’s a thriller, whodunnit, a study of class from the poorest to the very rich, a scathing attack on the legal system and a wonderful battery of characters. Even the young women are well drawn for once.
Read about the other books on the list.

Bleak House is one of Ian Rankin's 5 favorite literary crime novels, Tim Pigott-Smith's six best books, James McCreet's top ten Victorian detective stories and one of Rebecca Ford's favorite five fiction books. It is on John Mortimer's list of the five best books about law and literature and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best thunderstorms in literature and ten of the best men writing as women, and is among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten best ghost stories

Rebecca Armstrong, the features editor for the Independent, named ten of the best ghost stories for her paper. One title on the list:
The Winter Ghosts, By Kate Mosse

A great introduction to Mosse’s work if you haven’t read her longer novels. A young man, mourning his brother who died in the Great War, gets caught in a snow storm in the Pyreneese. He finds a village in which to take refuge and learns more about love and loss. Mosse’s book takes in 13th-century Cathar life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books of ghost stories, Kate Mosse's top 10 ghost stories, Peter Washington's top ten ghost stories, and Brad Leithauser's five best ghost stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giveaway: "Shakespeare's Common Prayers"

Oxford University Press and the Campaign for the American Reader are giving away a copy of Shakespeare's Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age by Daniel Swift.

HOW TO ENTER: Visit the Campaign for the American Reader Facebook page, scroll down, and "like" the post for Shakespeare's Common Prayers. Contest closes on Friday, November 23d. Winner must have a US mailing address. Good luck!

Learn more about Shakespeare's Common Prayers at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Shakespeare's Common Prayers.

--Marshal Zeringue

The top ten cities in literature

Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and the newly released Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis, his first book of nonfiction. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.

For Publishers Weekly, he named his ten favorite cities in literature, including:
City Primeval by Elmore Leonard

Detroit! As you can imagine, picking one Motor City book wasn’t easy for me. I almost went with Getting Ghost, Luke Bergmann’s account of his harrowing embed with a pair of teenage drug dealers, which is as visceral and moving as any season of The Wire. But this Elmore Leonard novel perfectly captures the bad old Detroit of a different era (the late Seventies), and citing it gives me the opportunity to ask: why hasn’t any filmmaker adapted this book as a period piece yet?!
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five top books on madness

Jon Ronson’s books include the New York Times bestseller The Psychopath Test, and Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats—both international bestsellers. His latest book is Lost at Sea.

One of his favorite books on madness, as told to The Daily Beast:
by Kurt Vonnegut

When I first read this as a teenager, I thought Billy Pilgrim really had been kidnapped and taken to the planet Tralfamadore and mated with a porn star called Montana Wildhack and put in a zoo. Then when I reread it I realized that Billy was in fact just the victim of what Vonnegut called the ‘bad chemicals” that sloshed around in his brain. A lovely, empathetic novel about middle-aged mental frailty.
Read about the other books Ronson tagged.

Slaughterhouse-Five also made John Mullan's list of ten of the best aliens in science fiction, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of twelve great stories to help you to cope with mortality, Sebastian Beaumont's top 10 list of books about psychological journeys, and Tiffany Murray's top ten list of black comedies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Five top books on worry

Steven Amsterdam is the author of Things We Didn’t See Coming, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and won The Age Book of the Year Award, among other honors. A native New Yorker and a nurse, he lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He discussed five notable books on worry with Daisy Banks for The Browser, including:
The Plot Against America
by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Are we in the realm of paranoia?

Yes, one of the classic worries. It is more usual for the speculative to inhabit the future and meditate on all that could go wrong, but Roth goes back in time. What if Charles Lindbergh won the presidency in 1940? He didn’t have much political experience, but, hey, he was a celebrity. He could fly a plane and Roosevelt couldn’t walk. It’s not outside of the realm. What follows, politically, is utterly believable. Rather than dive into World War II, Lindbergh goes isolationist (as only an able-bodied man could). He allies the US with Germany and Japan. Yes, it’s still America, but increasingly, more fascist, more anti-Semitic.

The best way to tell stories of horrific times is not through the central players amassing power, but through the lives of the people off to the side, simply trying to survive. In The Plot Against America, it’s a Jewish family from New Jersey, who happens to be the Roths, and the story is told by Philip, aged seven. The family is distressed by Lindbergh’s nomination to the Republican ticket, but it isn’t till later, after his election, that their worst nightmares get teeth. It happens during that perfectly innocuous American tradition, the family trip to Washington DC. Their hotel reservation has disappeared. A simple enough error, but we know that it’s not an error, and we know that it’s only the beginning.

Why the love?

The book stuns through its complete plausibility from a historical angle and the prism of the seven-year-old’s youthful but (unsurprisingly) intelligent perspective. Years after reading it, the broad sweep of the book lingers in my mind as a cautionary tale, as if this was some almost-true alley of history we narrowly avoided.

And retrospective speculation doesn’t normally have the force that The Plot Against America has. What gives the book its immediacy are the parallels with War on Terror mindset taking hold in the beginning of the last decade. The justifications for clamping down, for profiling, for marginalising suspect groups are all there and all well worth worrying about.
Read about the other books Amsterdam tagged at The Browser.

The Plot Against America appears on Stephen L. Carter's list of five top presidential thrillers and David Daw's list of five American presidents in alternate history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best Twinkies in fiction

You are what you eat. And if an author writes you eating a Twinkie in a story, your character may be a stoner, a very hungry forager, or an apocalypse survivor.

Or someone in dire need of cheap comfort food:
Lula is introduced as a minor character working as a hooker in One For the Money, the first book of Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" series; over a dozen books into the series, Lula evolves into a file clerk and sometime partner for Stephanie. (In the big-screen adaptation of One For the Money, Lula is played by Sherri Shepherd.) In Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Stephanie introduces her sidekick: "Lula's got a plus-size personality and body, and a petite-size wardrobe." At a moment of crisis, Lulu's socioeconomic position shows through in her choice of comfort food:
"Hell yeah, I'm okay. Don't I look okay? I'm just freakin' is all. I need a doughnut or something." She went to my kitchen and started going through cabinets. "You don't got nuthin' in here. Where's your Pop-Tarts? Where's your Hostess Twinkies and shit? where's your Tastykakes? I need sugar and lard and some fried crap."
Read about nine other fictional characters partly defined by their Twinkie consumption.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2012

Penn Jillette's six favorite books

Penn Jillette is an author and magician. His latest book is Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

My favorite book; I'm always reading it. As soon as I finish it, I start it again. Consider this line: “So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.” To me that means the white whale is God, and Ahab is wasting his life chasing God.
Read about the other books on the list.

Moby-Dick also appears among Peter F. Stevens's top ten nautical books, Katharine Quarmby's top ten disability stories, Jonathan Evison's six favorite books, Bella Bathurst's top 10 books on the sea, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best nightmares in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession, Christopher Buckley's best books, Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Five best books of notable correspondence by eminent men

Frederic Raphael is the author of more than twenty novels, including The Glittering Prizes, f ive volumes of short stories, biographies of Byron and W. Somerset Maugham, and five volumes of his personal notebooks and journals. His new books include A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of collections of notable correspondence by eminent men, including:
The Letters of Gustave Flaubert
Trans. by Francis Steegmuller (1980-82)

When Jean-Paul Sartre titled his (unfinished) biography of Gustave Flaubert "The Idiot of the Family," it was the revenge of talent on genius. Sartre reproached Flaubert for lacking the kind of political commitment that led his biographer to endorse Stalin and Mao. Flaubert's crime, according to Sartre, was his failure to rally to the 1870 Commune in Paris or to denounce those who suppressed it. Flaubert's one persistent allegiance was to his art. He spent most of his life in his workroom in gloomy rural Normandy. While writing "Madame Bovary," he did occasionally go to Paris, to see his mistress, Louise Colet, but he preferred to keep her warm through a long, somewhat passionate correspondence. "Love me forever, do," he tells her and sends her "a kiss, a long one, two of them, good and long; a hundred. Next time we'll talk only about you. Meanwhile, work hard, as much as you can. The problem is not to look for happiness, it's to avoid being bored. It can be done, if you stick at it. A toi mon amour." You cannot entirely admire the man who kept poor Louise on the back burner until he had learned from her all that he needed to make Emma Bovary a believable (foolishly romantic) woman. Once the novel was done, so too was Louise. Often literally stuck in the provincial mud, Flaubert kept in touch with all manner of friends, including Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, George Sand and Guy de Maupassant. To the critic Sainte-Beuve, who had written scornfully of Flaubert's novel "Salammbô," he addressed a classic letter beginning "Cher Maître," in which he responds with deliciously mordant deference. We should all dare to be Flaubert's kind of idiot.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Frederic Raphael's top 10 talkative novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Five top books on The Beatles

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on The Beatles:
A Hard Day's Write
by Steve Turner

For anyone who's wondered whether there was a real meter maid named Rita, Steve Turner has the answer. The biographer of Van Morrison and Marvin Gaye tells the story of where every lyric from every Beatles song originated and illustrates just how much ordinary people and events can influence the creative process. Hundreds of photographs add a rich visual dimension to these revelations.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2012

Top ten deadly YA books

A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Gregg Olsen has written eight nonfiction books, eight novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

His books include the YA novels Envy and Betrayal of the Empty Coffin series.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of murderous teen reads, including:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

OK, this is not a murder book per se, but if there has ever been more violent/tragic death than the killing of little Rue, I haven't seen it. Knowing the premise of the games themselves (only one kid is going to come out alive) I knew that Katniss Everdeen would live – and yet my heart was captured by Rue. When she was killed, it literally took my breath away.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top ten books of the forest

Sara Maitland is the author of several books including Book of Silence and Daughter of Jerusalem, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award in 1978. Her latest book is From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairytales.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten books of the forest. One title on the list:
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

One of the best picture books ever – so it is not at all surprising (though lucky for me) that the wild things are in a very wild wood. The story follows the pattern of the old fairytales: the young hero goes into a forest that is genuinely frightening. But thanks to his own courage and independence, he earns a kingdom and comes home to a hot supper. It is one of the few modern and original children's books.
Read about the other books on the list.

Where the Wild Things Are is one of Anthony Browne's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

David Denby's six favorite books

David Denby is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author, most recently, of Do the Movies Have a Future?

For The Week magazine, he named his six favorite books.  One title on the list:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

What is there to say except that it's the greatest of all realist novels? Tolstoy, like Virgil, is completely adequate (by which I mean amazingly capable) for any situation that he chooses to look at — love, sexual disgust, family, social life high and low, physical labor, despairing death.
Read about the other books on the list.

Anna Karenina also appears on Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's 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 erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, 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, November 13, 2012

Five best books on ciphers & codebreakers during WWII & after

Sinclair McKay is a features writer for The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. He is also the acclaimed author of the bestselling The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on ciphers and codebreakers during World War II and after, including:
From Russia With Love
by Ian Fleming (1957)

James Bond himself is rarely troubled with the grueling, time-devouring and cerebral work of codebreaking. But his adventures—rather like the wartime experiences of his creator—bring him into the orbit of encryption technology. In the 1964 novel "You Only Live Twice," it is the Magic 44 code; in "From Russia With Love," perhaps Ian Fleming's finest, tautest thriller, it is a new Russian encryption machine, which the Soviets use to lure Bond into a deadly trap. As Bond muses to himself: "The Spektor! The machine that would allow them to decipher the Top Secret traffic of all. To have that . . . would be a priceless victory." As a naval intelligence officer, Fleming regularly visited Bletchley Park and was one of the very few to have full knowledge of the work done there. He was required to stay quiet after the war, so his creation 007 never got to witness a Colossus decoding machine in action. In real life, 007 himself would never have gained the necessary security clearance; the nature of Bletchley Park's work was kept from many MI6 agents. Apart from anything else, there was the danger that such knowledge could be betrayed by captured agents under torture.
Read about the other books on the list.

From Russia with Love also made John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in literature, 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 on Keith Jeffery's five best list of books on Britain's Secret Service and Samuel Muston's ten best list of spy novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sheila Bair's six favorite books

Sheila Bair is a former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and author of Bull by the Horns, a first-hand account of the government response to the 2008 financial crisis.

One of her six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
All the Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera

McLean and Nocera show just how badly our "self-correcting" markets and government fell down on the job. There are plenty of devils to blame for the 2008 debacle.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top ten non-fiction books about Britain in World War I

Paul Dowswell has written over sixty books, including Ausländer, shortlisted for the Red House Children's Book Award and the Booktrust Teenage Prize. His latest book, Eleven Eleven, is about three combatants who are thrown together on the last day of the First World War.

For the Guardian, Dowswell named his top ten non-fiction books about Britain in the first world war, including:
The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell

This is one for older readers, but Paul Fussell's text is accessible and moving, despite his academic background. It's especially good at explaining the awful gulf between the expectations of the keen young recruits and the dreadful reality that awaited them. I found the passage on the use of "heroic" language especially thought-provoking: the dead are "the fallen", a horse is "a steed", the enemy is "the foe", private soldiers are "plucky", and officers are "gallant". An echo of such language still feeds into official war reporting and ought to make anyone who hears it wary.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Great War and Modern Memory is one of Wade Davis's six notable books about World War I.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fifteen essential zombie reads

At the Tor Books blog Stubby the Rocket came up with a list of essential zombie reads, including:
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Probably the most unique take on zombies on this list, this one is an honest-to-goodness sexy zombie romance. Don’t think zombies can be sexy or romantic? Well, check out the book that will defy all the preconceptions you might have about love and the undead!
Read about the other titles on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Warm Bodies.

Writers Read: Isaac Marion.

My Book, The Movie: Warm Bodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ten of the most difficult books to finish

At the Observer, Robert McCrum came up with ten of the most difficult books to finish, including:
Under the Volcano
by Malcolm Lowry

Anthony Powell, describing the excitement and terror of the Blitz, once expressed a preference for difficult or “dull books”, for instance a history of the Druids, to calm the nerves. Lowry, contemporary with Powell, is anything but dull, but his semi-autobiographical novel is unquestionably difficult. Lowry tells the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British consul in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac on the Day of the Dead, 2 November 1938. After many rejections, and a narrow escape from a fire, it is now recognised as a 20th-century classic
Read about the other titles on the list.

Under the Volcano is among Iain Sinclair's six top books about dark journeys and Iain Gately's five best books on the pleasures and hazards of drink.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ten key books on Muslim extremism

Jason Burke is the south Asia correspondent of the Guardian and the Observer newspapers. His books include The 9/11 Wars and Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam. Lee Konstantinou called Burke’s Al-Qaeda" a really eye-opening look at how the terrorist organization was born and how it really operates."

Burke named a top ten list of books on militant Islamism for the Guardian, including:
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden by Stephen Coll

There are many great things about this fine investigative history, but the way Coll nails the idea that the US created Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida is one of the most valuable. As Coll explains, and my own research has confirmed, US aid in the 1980s went via the Pakistanis to Afghan groups, not Arab extremists. Bin Laden clearly had no need of US dollars. That al-Qaida was a Frankenstein the CIA created makes for a neat morality tale, but it just isn't true.
Read about the other titles on the list.

See Burke's five top books on Islamic militancy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top ten school stories

Andy Mulligan was brought up in South London, and educated at Oxford University. He worked as a theatre director for 10 years, before travels in Asia prompted him to re-train as a teacher. He has taught English and drama in India, Brazil, the Philippines and the UK. His Ribblestrop was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl funny prize in 2009 and Return to Ribblestrop won the Guardian children's fiction prize in 2011.

He named his top 10 school stories for the Guardian, including:
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Some children read Dickens, I'm sure of it. In the first part of this epic, young Nicholas gets a freezing stagecoach to frozen Dotheboys Hall – he's to be the new teacher. He witnesses the terrible abuses of wicked principals Mr and Mrs Squeers, who flog the boys with terrifying sadism. It's a truly cynical school, based on real places the writer visited, and when Nicholas snatches the cane and thrashes the schoolmaster…oh, the scent of revolution!
Read about the other entries on the list.

Nicholas Nickleby is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best wicked uncles in literature and is one of Paulette Jiles's 12 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Five top tales of true crime

Errol Morris is an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. He has directed nine films, including The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line, and most recently, Tabloid.

His new book is A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.

Morris named five top tales of true crime for the Wall Street Journal.  One title on the list:
My Dark Places
by James Ellroy (1996)

A modern master of detective fiction connects his obsession with the 1947 murder of actress Elizabeth Short—known as the Black Dahlia—with the 1958 murder of his mother, neither of which has ever been solved. It is last on this list not only because it is recent. It is a story about crime stories, written by someone who is both detective and victim. Ellroy describes his mother (whom he claims to despise) in the terse language of a police report, and yet the book is a moving tribute to her power over his art. "My Dark Places" explains and animates all of Ellroy's work. It is restless, but dreamlike and easy to read. We understand what drove Ellroy's imagination to dark places, obliged him to think about thorny problems that most of us are spared—the difference between fiction and fact, good and evil, seeking and finding.
Read about the other titles on the list.

My Dark Places is one of Peter Collier's five best books about writers' lives.

Also see Errol Morris's five worthy books on photography and reality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amy Sohn's six favorite books

Amy Sohn's novels include Prospect Park West, My Old Man, and Run Catch Kiss. She has written television pilots for such networks as HBO, Fox, and ABC.

Her new novel is Motherland.

One of Sohn's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

All of Flaubert's characters are equally wrongheaded in their attempts to escape the prison of bourgeois life. That's what makes the novel remarkable. You must read Lydia Davis's recent translation, whether for your first time through Bovary or your fifth.
Read about the other books on the list.

Madame Bovary is on Sue Townsend's 6 best books list, Helena Frith Powell's list of ten of the best sexy French books, the Christian Science Monitor's list of six novels about grand passions, John Mullan's lists of ten landmark coach rides in literature, ten of the best cathedrals in literature, ten of the best balls in literature, ten of the best bad lawyers in literature, ten of the best lotharios in literature, and ten of the best bad doctors in fiction, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

Visit Amy Sohn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Motherland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Top ten dystopian novels

Back in 2005 Robert Collins, author of Soul Corporation, named a top ten list of dystopian novels for the Guardian.

One title on the list:
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

"Monkey Planet" (as it was first translated from the French) uses an exquisite device which the movies it spawned couldn't replicate - the human narrator struggling to make himself understood to his simian captors, to prove that he's not just a burbling primitive brute. Off-the-scale in terms of fantastical, topsy-turvy allegory. It shouldn't work - but it does.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Five top books set at the beach

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books set at the beach:
by J. Courtney Sullivan

Every summer, the Kellehers descend on their Maine beachfront property, won in a barroom bet just after WWII. It's a grand old place where grandchildren dig through forgotten furniture and discover old secrets. But the grownups hope that certain drawers remain shut, as three generations of Kelleher women have something to hide. From J. Courtney Sullivan, who winningly explored female friendship in her previous novel Commencement, comes a sun-drenched tale of family drama.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: John Mullan's list of ten of the best beaches in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2012

Top ten reimagined classics

Ronald Frame is the author of thirteen internationally published works of fiction, and is an award-winning television and radio scriptwriter. His debut novel, Winter Journey, was the joint winner of the first Betty Trask Prize for Fiction. The Lantern Bearers was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and won the Saltire Award for Scottish Book of the Year. Frame's latest novel is Havisham.

He named his top ten reimagined classics for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James

Intriguing attempt to fuse bookshop genres: 'crime' (a blood-soaked body in the woods) with 'classic' (Pride and Prejudice). The author and Jane Austen have enough in common – story-telling finesse, beady-eyed observation of surfaces, unsentimental appraisal of human behaviour and motivation – for this experiment to work very well. (And not a zombie in sight.)
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top ten nautical books

Peter F. Stevens is the award-winning author of The Voyage of the Catalpa: A Perilous Journey and Six Irish Rebels' Escape to Freedom.

In 2003 he named his top ten nautical books for the Guardian.  One title on the list:
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

This is not strictly a maritime saga, but the pages teem with 17th century mariners encountering disaster or near-disaster as they grapple with the most perplexing nautical problem since time immemorial: a means to determine longitude. In Dava Sobel's work, we meet the man who tackled the dilemma that had baffled the likes of Galileo and Newton. The conqueror's name was John Harrison, a clockmaker by trade, who solved the riddle of fixing an east-west position and thus earned the sobriquet 'Longitude' Harrison. I love this book for its unique hero, hardly the quintessential maritime legend, and for Sobel's fascinating, white-knuckle looks at the woes that ship's masters faced without the means to determine longitude.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Longitude is on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on navigators.

--Marshal Zeringue