Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ten books that challenge what we think we know as "history"

Peter Dimock is the author of the novel, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time.

For Publishers Weekly, he came up with ten "works of literature, written or published between the 1927 and 2001, whose authors seem intent upon jolting their readers into radical distrust of the conventional history that they had been given through which to experience their present," including:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

This novel puts an end to the perennial competition among American authors to award themselves, or to be awarded, the crown for having written “the great American novel.” Beloved puts an end to the competition not by winning it (although it may have done that too), but by refusing the competition itself as a limiting and stupid enterprise to begin with. History is not a vehicle for literature. What happens is what matters. Beloved ends this way: “This is not a story to pass on.... By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss. Beloved.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Five top coming-of-age stories

Emily Bazelon's new book is Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.

For The Daily Beast, she named her five favorite coming-of-age stories.  One title on the list:
Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool

This is one of the best books I’ve listened to with my kids and husband. Another Newbury winner, it unfurls as a historical detective story, moving back and forth between the Depression-era present in the made-up town of Manifest, Kansas, and the World War I past a generation earlier. In the audio version, different actors read various characters’ voices, adding to the drama. I especially love the relationship between the girl narrator, Abilene Tucker, and Miss Sadie, the wise older seer of Manifest. Their bond shows, without ever having to tell, what a lost child can gain in love and knowledge from someone who takes on the role of adoptive grandparent.
Read about the other books on the list.

Read "Don’t Be a Bystander: How to teach kids to step in and stop bullies in their tracks" by Emily Bazelon.

Writers Read: Emily Bazelon (September 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ben Mankiewicz's six favorite books

Among Ben Mankiewicz's six favorite books are three novels perfect for the screen, including:
Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard.

Django Unchained is a blast, but Quentin Tarantino's best film remains Jackie Brown, adapted from this novel. In Tarantino's skillful screenplay, Leonard's signature flair for dialogue comes through.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Top 25 book to film adaptations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2013

Five top novels of the literary life

D.J. Taylor was born in 1960, went to Norwich School and St John's College, Oxford, and is the author of two acclaimed biographies, Thackerary (1999), and Orwell: The Life, which won the Whitbread Biography Prize in 2003. He has written nine novels, the most recent being Derby Day (2011), At the Chime of a City Clock (2010), Ask Alice (2009) and Kept: A Victorian Mystery (2006).

Taylor is also well known as a critic and reviewer, and his other books include A Vain Conceit: British Fiction in the 1980s (1989) and After the War: the Novel and England since 1945 (1993). His journalism appears in the Independent and the Independent on Sunday, the Guardian, The Tablet, the Spectator, the New Statesman and, anonymously, in Private Eye.

For the Wall Street Journal he named five top novels of the literary life, including:
New Grub Street
by George Gissing (1891)

A fastidious classical scholar with a fraught emotional life who found himself compelled to make a living out of writing fiction, Gissing loaded this intensely felt study of the London literary bourse of the 1880s with boxcars full of autobiographical freight. Edwin Reardon, his diffident and humbly born hero, has a freak success with a novel. On the strength of this he marries an ambitious girl called Amy (who mistakenly assumes that she has hitched herself to a genius) and instantly falls prey to writer's block. All this is observed by the couple's young friend Jasper Milvain, a no-nonsense journalist unburdened by artistic scruples who writes "for the market" and lectures Edwin on the necessity of producing what the public wants. Behind the central pairing of Reardon and Milvain lurks a long procession of minor characters in hapless thrall to the dictates of the commercial behemoth that they serve and a pointed little fable about the difficulties of pursuing your creative vision in a world where art has become commodified. No prizes for guessing who, once the Reardons' marriage collapses and Reardon dies, marries the widow.
Read about the other books on Taylor's list.

Also see D.J. Taylor's top 10 literary parodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Top ten animal stories

Sarah Lean is the author of A Dog Called Homeless and A Horse for Angel.

One of her top ten animal stories, as told to the Guardian:
The Call of The Wild by Jack London

Buck is a domestic dog who, because of his size and strength, is forcefully recruited as a sled dog. Buck's struggle is to adapt from domesticity to the brutal life he now leads and to overcome the difficulties he faces from people, other dogs and the harsh environment. But ultimately it's the reflection on how Buck reverts to his instincts to survive and triumph that makes this powerful.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Call of the Wild is among Ben Frederick's eleven essential books for dog lovers, Megan Miranda's top ten books set in a wintry landscape, Jill Hucklesby's top 10 books about running away, Charlie English's top ten snow books, and Thomas Bloor's top ten tales of metamorphosis. It appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best wolves in literature and Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Five top books on crossing cultures

Pico Iyer is the author of several books about cultures converging, including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul, Abandon, and, most recently, The Man Within My Head.

One of his five top books on crossing cultures, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The English Patient
by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

There's no leading character in Ondaatje's candlelit labyrinth of a novel and nothing like a dominant point of view. Instead, he ushers four wounded characters into a bombed-out convent, in 1944, and—at a time when people are dying for the passports they carry or the race they represent—allows them to interact without any of them caring or much noticing where the others are from. The English patient, almost fatally, isn't English; the one who is risking his life to defuse bombs for the British army is a Sikh, from India. The gypsy called Caravaggio has lost both thumbs to an Italian; and Hana, the nurse who tends to them all, has a name that could come from anywhere. It's wildly romantic and beautiful and very tough-minded, of course; but every time I go back to the novel, I'm reminded how much it's also revolutionary, charting the outlines of a mongrel society in which all simple divisions blur. If you think this is pure fiction, recall that in Toronto, Ondaatje's base for 40 years, the average citizen today was born in a foreign country.
Read about the other books on Iyer's list.

The English Patient also made John Mullan's list of ten of the best deserts in literature and Jane Ciabattari's list of five masterpiece stories that worked as films.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five top rock-and-roll books

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Paul Muldoon, whose new collection is The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics, picked his favorite rock-and-roll books for The Daily Beast.

One title on the list:
The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll
By Preston Lauterbach

Among those precursors to whom Keith Richards is deeply indebted are the blues guitarists so memorably summoned up in Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll, including his near namesake Little Richard.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Chitlin' Circuit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Five top books on making movies

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on making movies:
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
by Peter Biskind

Peter Biskind's long, strange trip of interviews with the flower children who comprised the "New Hollywood" auteur youth movement in American motion pictures -- spanning from the late 1960s until the studio system’s return to power in the early '80s -- proved a powder keg upon publication. Either a debauched masterpiece or the greatest tabloid ever written, Easy Riders is utterly intimate, insightful, and scathingly honest about the films and chaotic lives of everyone from perennial mainstays Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Jack Nicholson to the era’s eccentric geniuses Hal Ashby, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture). Despite showing Hollywood’s finest at their best and worst, Biskind proves a thoughtful, dignified curator with a flair for capturing great scenes and an ardor for these artists who forever changed film culture.
Read about the other books on the list.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is on Leo Braudy's list of the five best books on Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The seven best books by U.S. presidents

Allen Barra's latest book is Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee.

He named a list of the seven best books by U.S. presidents, including:
The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden

A treasure for lovers of American history as well as aficionados of Augustan prose, this is a superb combination of both personal writings (biographical sketches and more than 200 letters) as well as public papers including his two inaugural addresses and both the original and revised versions of the Declaration of Independence. The best one-volume Jefferson available.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Six top books on people who have beaten the odds

Keith O’Brien is a former reporter for the Boston Globe.

His new book is Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness.

For The Week magazine, O'Brien named his six favorite books about people who have beaten the odds, including:
King of the World by David Remnick

When Muhammad Ali dies, obituaries will recount his flair and his fists, his career statistics, and his penchant for poetry. We'll hear interviews with people who once knew Ali, the kid from Louisville who made good. Mostly, though, people should just read Remnick's book.
Read about the other books O'Brien tagged.

View the video trailer for Outside Shot, and visit Keith O'Brien's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Outside Shot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ten top mythical creatures

Cressida Cowell lives in London with her husband, Simon; their children Maisie, Clementine, and Alexander; and two cats, Lily and Baloo. In addition to the How to Train Your Dragon series, she has also written and illustrated picture books including Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, Little Bo Peep's Library Book, and That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten mythical creatures, including:
Witches: Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline l'Engle

Mrs Whatsit looks like a tramp, was once a star, and can transform herself into a centaur, among other things, so she is no ordinary witch. She is exactly 2,379,152,497 years old, and along with her friends Mrs Who and Mrs Which they are fighting the power of "the Black Thing". She has a fine way with words: "Wild nights are my glory," Mrs Whatsit said. "I just got caught in a down draft and blown off course." "Life is like a sonnet", Mrs Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself."

Other great witches: The Grand High Witch from The Witches by Roald Dahl (this bald horror will scare your socks off), The White Witch from the Narnia stories, by CS Lewis, (I'd like to see her in a fight with the Grand High Witch – I'm not sure who'd win) Madam Mim from 'The Sword in the Stone' by TH White.
Read about the other entries on Cowell's list.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of Steve Cole's top ten space books for kids of all ages.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2013

James Dreyfus's six best books

In the film Notting Hill, James Dreyfus played Martin, the ineffective assistant at William's (Hugh Grant) bookshop.

One of Dreyfus's six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
by Salman Rushdie

I’m not a Rushdie fan but I was fascinated to read what happened in the 10 years after he had the fatwa put on him.

People didn’t realise that he had to find safe houses and pay for them himself. He’s also very open about how miserable he can be. I was hooked.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Five top books on immigration & multiculturalism

David Goodhart is the director of the think tank Demos and editor at large at Prospect magazine.

One of his five top books on immigration and multiculturalism, as told to Alec Ash of The Browser (in early 2012):
Brick Lane
by Monica Ali

...The novel opens in Bengal before moving to London’s East End – so we empathise from the get-go with the immigrant perspective.

I thought Monica Ali was brilliant at getting under the skin of a Bangladeshi woman brought to England as part of an arranged marriage. There’s a spirit in her that wants to break out. In that sense it’s a very Western, Hollywood narrative of breaking out from constraint. I wasn’t quite sure about the communication with the sister in Bangladesh, which I didn’t feel quite worked. But I thought it was a fantastic read – a sweeping, Dickensian novel. Monica Ali has lived in Britain most of her life, middle-class and completely Western. But she is herself from a Bangladeshi background, and brings insights from that world.

A lot of people say we will have problems integrating immigrant groups into British society, for instance because of their attitudes towards women – the purdah notion of not having contact between women and non-family men, and other traditions that we see as constraining and discouraging gender equality. But equally, I’ve heard it said many times that the great hope for improved integration in Britain are the young women who do well at school and go to university. But then they don’t want to marry the young men from their community. Nazneen, the protagonist of this novel, is an emblem of that. She breaks out and wants to take part in the fantastic freedoms and opportunities that British society offers.

As Monica Ali did.

Absolutely. It would also be good to mention the other novels about these issues that I’ve read and learnt from. Andrea Levy’s Small Island is one, about the Caribbean experience. It’s particularly brilliant on what I call the original sin of immigration, which was the appalling way that we treated Caribbeans when they first came to Britain – exacerbated by the fact that they came with such high expectations, expecting to be embraced because they had invested part of their national identity in Britain.
Read about the other books Goodhart tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Wood's six favorite books

John Wood worked for Microsoft for nine years, helping expand the company’s international profile. He resigned at thirty-five and founded Room to Read, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s top nonprofit organizations. He documented his decision and the creation of Room to Read in his memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. His new book is Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy.

One of Wood's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Powerful meditations and remembrances of piloting airmail planes across vast, isolated, and dangerous stretches of Africa. In an era of instantaneous and never-ending communication, it's a pleasure to hark back to the days when a long-distance message required weeks of waiting and the risking of lives. I admire how Saint-Exupéry looked past the technology of aviation to embrace the simple love of flying. We could apply that same theory today: It's easy to get caught up in the technology of communicating rather than enjoy the actual experience.
Read about the other books on Wood's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ten top Romeo and Juliet stories

Na'ima B. Robert's novels for young adults include From Somalia with Love, Boy vs Girl, Far From Home, and Black Sheep.

One of her favorite tales of star-crossed lovers and unrequited love, as told to the Guardian:
1984 by George Orwell

An unexpected choice, I know, inspired, no doubt, by the brilliant George Orwell season on BBC Radio 4. Orwell's prescient tale of a totalitarian dystopia may seem to have little in common with Shakespeare's famous love story but, for me, the central love story is the same. For a start, Winston Smith and Julia are Party members. As such, their liaison is strictly forbidden and they risk death with every stolen moment. And then there is their terrible, tragic end. Not being "erased", as they once feared; indeed, they suffer a fate far worse: they end up betraying each other in order to save themselves. Aged, weary and cowed at last, the two lovers who believed that they could change the world end up with nothing but bitter feelings for each other. The only consolation is that, finally, Winston finally gives in to what the state requires of him: he loves Big Brother, possibly the most tragic ending the story could have had.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Nineteen Eighty-four is on Gabe Habash's list of ten songs inspired by books and a list of the 100 best last lines from novels. The book made Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten science fiction novels we pretend to have read, Juan E. Méndez's list of five books on torture, P. J. O’Rourke's list of the five best political satires, Daniel Johnson's five best list of books about Cold War culture, Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels, Gemma Malley's top 10 list of dystopian novels for teenagers, is one of Norman Tebbit's six best books and one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It made a difference to Isla Fisher, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best Aprils in literature, ten of the best rats in literature, and ten of the best horrid children in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Top ten marriage tales

Dan Rhodes has written eight books, including the newly released Marry Me. In 2010 he won the E.M. Forster Award. One of his top ten books for Valentine's Day reading, as told to the Guardian:
Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block

This includes a beautifully bleak drug-addled ceremony in Las Vegas, but to be honest I'm mainly including it because it was the first book in the Hard Case Crime series, which is just about the best bit of publishing there has ever been – hardboiled suspense fiction old and new in glorious paperbacks. It's hard to read anything else these days.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Five best works that explore marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ten of the most angsty characters in fiction

Panayiota Kuvetakis is a student at UC Berkeley studying comparative literature and theater. For Writer's Bloq, she named a top ten list of the most angsty characters in fiction, including:

His existential woes include unique anxieties over sexuality, coming of age, corrupted innocence, etc. These elements, along with mommy drama, a fatal misstep of thwarted action, manipulative friends, a suicidal girlfriend, and nostalgic memories of a dead clown really cover every case scenario of angst.

So thanks Shakespeare, for stealing every plot idea ever.

“To be, or not to be, — that is the question”

Yep. Pretty much!
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ten perfect books for Valentine's Day gifts

Last year at the Christian Science Monitor, Marjorie Kehe came up with a list of ten perfect books for Valentine's Day gifts.

One title on the list:
Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie

This deft Pulitzer Prize-winner tells the stories of a handful of characters – Americans and British – in search of love and life in London. At first glance Virginia Miner – a 50-something American academic drawn into an affair with a tourist from Oklahoma – may not seem a promising heroine for a romance. But this modest novel has magic to work and the tale that Lurie spins is comic, touching, and true.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on American flags

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on American flags:
Betsy Ross and the Making of America
by Marla R. Miller

A richly-woven life of a patriot and a portrait of Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia, Miller's biography seeks to dispell the many apocryphal myths that have grown up around the flag's creation. In her telling, Ross was a gifted craftswoman who lived "only a handshake away" from the Founding Fathers, one of the many ordinary men and woman whose industry was invaluable to helping American win independence. She may not have copied a design handed to her by George Washington (though the Washington family coat of arms appears to have inspired the stars and stripes motif), but Miller credits Ross with replacing the six-pointed star with its now- iconic five-pointed representation --- and with playing a part nurturing the nation through its infancy.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Betsy Ross and the Making of America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ten science fiction novels that will never be movies

Charlie Jane Anders, editor at io9, named ten science fiction novels that will definitely never be movies.

One entry on the list:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is one of the all-time great science fiction novels - and yet, it's also exceedingly challenging. People tend to fixate on one obvious bit of strangeness - the fact that the natives of the planet Winter (or "Gethen," in their own language) are neither male nor female except when they experience brief periods of "Kemmer." But that's just one odd point in a book that's full of oddness - Gethenian politics are also incredibly complex, including what seems to be an impending war on a world that has no concept of war. The experiences of Genly Ai, a visiting envoy from the Ekumen, involve a series of misunderstandings, political upheavals and long journeys. A lot of the action depends on understanding made-up cultural concepts such as "shifgrethor." And a huge plot device in the story, the ansible, is purely a communications tool that allows for instantaneous communication with other worlds. There's almost no way to capture even a fraction of what's going on in this novel in a standard motion picture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Left Hand of Darkness is one of Ian Marchant's top 10 books of the night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top ten laugh-out-loud reads for 5-8-year-olds

Joanna Nadin is a bestselling British author of middle grade, teen and YA fiction, a speechwriter, and a former Special Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Nadin writes the Penny Dreadful series for younger readers. Her latest YA novel is Paradise.

One of ten top laugh-out-loud reads for 5-8-year-olds the author named at the Guardian:
The Twits by Roald Dahl

Having (not without difficulty) restricted myself to a single Dahl, I've picked the tale of how the marvellous Muggle-Wump monkeys get the better of the vile Mr and Mrs Twit, with the help of Hugtight Sticky Glue. Hairy, hilarious and horrible in equal measure.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Paradise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Five top books on life behind the Iron Curtain

Philip Sington is the author of The Einstein Girl, Zoia’s Gold, and, his latest novel, The Valley of Unknowing.

One of five top books on life behind the Iron Curtain that he named for the Wall Street Journal:
The Joke
by Milan Kundera (1967)

Milan Kundera's debut tells the story of Ludvik, a student in Prague who, jealous of his girlfriend's naive devotion to the Communist Party, sends her a postcard poking fun at socialist sloganizing. The result is a sense-of-humor failure par excellence, on the part of his girlfriend and everyone else. His studies terminated, Ludvik ends up doing military service down the mine. Years later he sets out to avenge himself on the principal agent of his downfall by seducing the man's wife. Nothing goes according to plan, and in the unraveling that follows the entrails of Ludvik's world (interior and exterior) are laid bare. "The Joke" had a tortuous time at the hands of Western editors, whose first four English versions, according to the author, bore little resemblance to the original. Perhaps it's no surprise: The book has multiple narrators; the action jumps about in time and space; Moravian folk traditions are explained at length (illustrated with musical notation). But "The Joke" was truly seminal. Grittier than the author's later successes, it poses all the essential Kunderian questions—about free will, love and the seemingly irresistible forces of history—with a freshness that is all its own.
Read about the other books on Sington's list.

The Joke is one of Ray French's top 10 black comedies.

Visit Philip Sington's website.

Writers Read: Philip Sington.

The Page 69 Test: The Valley of Unknowing.

My Book, The Movie: The Valley of Unknowing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top ten misbehaving literary rogues

Andrew Shaffer is the author of Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors and Great Philosophers Who Failed At Love.

"They may have written such generation-defining classics as The Great Gatsby and On the Road, but they were just as likely to go on epic benders as they were to hit the bestseller lists," writes Andrew Shaffer about the subjects of his new book. "They were outspoken and polarizing, and lived fast and too often died young. They were the bad boys and girls of Western literature, the literary rogues." One rogue on his list:
Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker smoke, drank, and slept around—in short, everything her male colleagues in the Algonquin Round Table were doing. Unfortunately, she went a little overboard with the alcohol and cigarettes (three packs a day), forcing her to use an undertaker’s perfume to mask the smell of her vices. She was well known for her contrarian wit, and was not afraid to speak her mind. “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force,” she once said after reading a terrible book.
Read about the other entries on Shaffer's list at The Daily Beast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ten top music books

Howard Goodall is an award-winning composer of choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores, is well known as a TV and radio broadcaster, and from 2007-11 was England’s first ever National Ambassador for Singing.

For the past 15 years Goodall has written and presented his own TV documentary series on the theory and history of music. For these he has been honored with a BAFTA, an RTS Judges’ Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Education in Broadcasting and over a dozen other international broadcast awards. In January 2013, Howard Goodall’s Story of Music, 6 hour-long films for BBC2 will be broadcast, with an accompanying book.

For the Guardian, Goodall named ten of his favorite music books, including:
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties by Ian Macdonald

The only book you need to read on the Beatles and their musical impact. I say musical, because Macdonald, like me, is not at all interested in their roles as fashion icons, leaders of change in teenage morals, social and gender politics, the Swinging Sixties blah blah blah. They were important musicians. You don't need to know anything else.
Read about the other entries on Goodall's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ten addictive sci-fi & fantasy book series

Charlie Jane Anders, editor at io9, named ten book series so addictive, you never want them to end.

One entry on the list:
The Company books by Kage Baker

Baker's novels about time-traveling cyborgs who plunder history for their corporate masters in the 24th century tend to suck you in — and maybe it's partly because they contain the best of several genres, including time travel, steampunk, alternate history, and space adventure. As we wrote a few years ago, these books combine, "time-traveling adventure, humor, conspiracy, romance and chocolate."
Read about the other series on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The ten most attractive men in literature

Rachel Syme is working on a book about F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sheilah Graham, and Hollywood in the 1930s. At Slate she came up with a list of the 10 most attractive men in literature. From her list:
Ultimately, Murray Thwaite, the grizzled, boozing professor in Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, is a terrible man, a blowhard with too many opinions and too little moral fiber. But the way that Danielle feels when she is enmeshed in an affair with him, beauty and pain all mixed together like a soaring aria—we all want to feel that at least once.
Read about the other attractive men on the list.

The Emperor’s Children is among the (London) Times' 100 best books of the last decade and the New York Times' 10 best books of 2006.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 4, 2013

The ten most attractive women in literature

Simon Akam's writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, the Observer, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, the Independent, the New Statesman, the New Republic, the Literary Review, Intelligent Life and Tatler.

From his list of the ten most attractive women in literature, compiled for Slate:
Take Alejandra in Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses. The daughter of a Mexican gentleman-rancher, she bewitches aspirant cowboy John Grady Cole. Alejandra, with “the nape of her neck pale as porcelain,” is beautiful, but what compels Cole—and readers—is her carefully modulated inaccessibility. She and Cole sleep together, before she honors her promise to her family to break off the affair. Alejandra therefore sits at the exact interstice of prohibition and possibility.
Read about the other women on the list.

All the Pretty Horses is among Meg Rosoff's top 10 adult books for teenagers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Six top books on the mannerisms of 20- & 30-somethings

Benjamin Nugent is the author of the new novel Good Kids, and American Nerd, a mix of history and memoir (Scribner, 2008). Born in Massachusetts in 1977, he was educated at Reed College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His essays have appeared in the New York Times Op/Ed page, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. His short stories have appeared in Tin House and The L Magazine. Director of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, he teaches in its MFA and undergraduate programs.

One of Nugent's six favorite books about the mannerisms and social rituals of his generation, as told to The Week magazine:
The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison

All of the books on this list capture the mannerisms and social rituals of my generation. This novel, about a young woman meeting her estranged aunt, does that brilliantly, offering 90 distinct shades of self-hatred.
Read about the other books on Nugent's list.

The Page 69 Test: The Gin Closet.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten most notorious parts of famous books

One of the ten most notorious parts of famous books Gabe Habash named for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly:
The “My mother is a fish.” chapter in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The most famous five-word chapter in literature is also, approximately, the moment when frustrated teenagers around America, assigned the book for school, give up trying to make sense of Faulkner’s obfuscating narrative and go back to playing Call of Duty.
Read about the other entries on the list.

As I Lay Dying is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best teeth in literature, Jon McGregor's list of the top ten dead bodies in literature, Roy Blount Jr.'s list of five favorite books of Southern humor, and James Franco's six best books list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Five top books on football

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on football:
The Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick

No recent portrayal of football better reminds us that the term fan derives from the word fanatic. Quick casts his hero, Pat Peoples -- recently sprung from the psych ward -- as a reluctant participant in the frenzy surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles' loyal flock, no bird more fixated than his manic bookie father, Pat Sr. When Peoples is deemed a good-luck charm, a high-stakes, two-prong bet is placed upon both an Eagles win and Pat’s score in a local dance contest. Can he develop fancy footwork, keep his cool, ditch sins of the father, and read the signals of romance emerging between him and Tiffany Maxwell, his sardonic-but-alluring dance partner? A victorious comedy, balancing true grit with acquired optimism.
Read about the other books on the list.

Read--The Page 69 Test: The Silver Linings Playbook.

Also see: ten top football books, five top books about the Super Bowl, five top books about football (and its dark side).

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on missing persons and absent figures

Heidi Julavits's novels are The Uses of Enchantment, The Effect of Living Backwards, The Mineral Palace, and The Vanishers.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books on missing persons and absent figures, including:
by Percival Everett (2001)

The main character of Percival Everett's novel is Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, the author of a number of mixedly received novels. Considered "not black enough" by the critical establishment—in part because his novels don't concern race issues, in part because he is the privileged product of an upper-middle-class family—Ellison is (yes) an invisible man, or at least an invisible writer. Disgusted by the celebration of a novel called "We's Live in Da Ghetto," Ellison writes a parody intended to make fun of the commercialization of African-American struggle stories. His book, called "My Pafology" and published under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh, becomes a best seller. Now Ellison must juggle two identities. Everett is a writer of exquisite perversion, but girding this bleakly comic cultural critique are his protagonist's travails with his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother and a secret kept by his father, dead of suicide. A decade after it was published, "Erasure" remains a prescient and provocative read.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 1, 2013

Top 10 fictional female friends that would make good real-life friends

Panayiota Kuvetakis is a student at UC Berkeley studying comparative literature and theater. For Writer's Bloq, she named a top ten list of fictional female friends we'd like to have as anything close to real-life friends, including:
Lisbeth Salander – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So…even though she ignores interaction with Blomkvist in all of book two…and though most of their conversations are through email… and despite the fact that she is very much a sociopath…Salander’s brilliance as a fellow detective and dependability as a friend is essentially the equivalent of Watson on steroids. She is the (boxing, computer-hacking-genius) peanut butter to Blomkvist’s (attractive and strong-willed) jelly, if you will. Not to mention she saves him from the clutches of a ruthless, sadomasochistic serial killer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is among Lynda Bellingham's six best books and Camilla Läckberg's top ten Swedish crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue