Friday, May 31, 2013

Top ten utopias

The Wu Ming Foundation is a collective of novelists based in Italy. They are the authors of several novels. As of springtime 2013, four of them are available in English: Q, 54, Manituana and Altai.

One of ten top utopias they named for the Guardian:
Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick

On a terraformed planetoid called Kirinyaga (the Gikuyu name of Mount Kenya), a Gikuyu community tries to live as their ancestors did before Kenya was colonised. For Koriba, the self-appointed mundumugu (witch doctor) of the community, this is a dream come true. It goes without saying that things don't go as he expected, but after the predictable failure of the utopian programme, Kirinyaga becomes a much more intriguing book, a book on Koriba's return to a transfigured, futuristic Nairobi and the unrelenting utopian impulse which makes him a stranger in a strange city. He's got only two friends: an old man and a clone of Ahmed of Marsabit (the most famous elephant in the history of Kenya). When he achieves a creative synthesis between utopian impulse and death drive, he finds a way out.
Read about the other utopias on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three books that concern food but aren't in love with food

Jessica Soffer earned her MFA at Hunter College. Her work has appeared in Granta, the New York Times, and Vogue, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Connecticut College and lives in New York City.

Soffer's new novel, her debut, is Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.

For NPR she tagged three books that concern food but aren't in love with food, including:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Rose Edelstein has a very strange superpower: She can taste emotion. In her mother's lemon cake: sadness. In her father's pudding: distraction. In butter, she can taste the weariness of a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. In this way, she discovers the secret emotions of the world, but more immediately, more heartbreakingly, the deepest, darkest wells of pain of her family members. In order to just sustain herself — and not feel too much — poor Rose must resort to consuming factory-produced foods: the most absent, anonymous, nonthreatening things she can find. Eating, in this wonderful novel, is not an exercise in joy, or intimacy, or beauty — or even a means toward nourishment. It is nothing so benign.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was one of Janice Kaplan's twelve best fiction titles of the summer, 2010.

Visit Jessica Soffer's website and learn about ten of her favorite endings in books.

Writers Read: Jessica Soffer.

My Book, The Movie: Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on golf

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on golf:
The Heart of a Goof by P. G. Wodehouse

Golf is known as the gentleman's game, and who better to write about it than the eminent gentleman himself? In The Heart of a Goof, Wodehouse delivers nine short stories set on the fairway with his signature acerbic wit -- profiling golf-obsessed buffoons and the ladies who tolerate them.
Read about the other books on the list.

Another Wodehouse book, The Clicking of Cuthbert, is among Rick Gekoski's five favorite books on sports.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Three of the best books on Nigeria

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on Nigeria. One title on the list:
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Achebe is regarded as the father (perhaps now grandfather) of modern African literature. His first novel – written as a riposte to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and what Achebe saw as its distortions – has become a classic, and is one of the most widely read African novels. It tells the tragic story of Okonkwo, a powerful and ambitious warrior among Nigeria's Igbo people. Set during the scramble for Africa by the European powers in the 1890s, it portrays the devastating impact of English Christian missionaries and colonial laws on Igbo culture.

Achebe is a sympathetic voice, but he refuses to romanticise precolonial life and pulls no punches in revealing the flaws of his characters. Okonkwo is forced into a seven-year exile for accidentally killing a member of his clan. When he returns, he finds that traditional life is being corroded by the encroaching colonisers. When he and others, unwilling to adapt, try to combat this outside influence, things fall apart.

Through the novel, for the first time, outsiders were able to see Africans as they saw themselves.

Until his death on 21 March, Achebe was a thorn in the side of Nigerian military governments – and that often meant going into exile.
Read about the other books on the list.

Things Fall Apart is among Hallie Ephron's ten best books for a good cry, Helon Habila's three books to help understand Nigeria, and Martin Meredith's ten books to read on Africa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books on Burma

Rory MacLean's books include Under the Dragon: A Journey Through Burma. He has won the Yorkshire Post Best First Work prize and an Arts Council Writers' Award, was twice shortlisted for the Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph Travel Book Prize and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3 and 4.

One of his top ten books on Burma, as told to the Guardian:
Freedom from Fear and Other Writings by Aung San Suu Kyi

Few women in public life have suffered more for their beliefs than Aung San Suu Kyi, and inspired so many people by their example. "Concepts such as truth, justice, compassion are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power," she once wrote. Like the country itself, she too is working through a "democratic transition", from prisoner to parliamentarian, to (probably) president in 2015. In this collection of writings, which includes her Nobel peace prize speech, she shares the vision, hopes, principles and humanity that have sustained and continue to sustain her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Note: In 1989, the military government officially changed the English translations of many names dating back to Burma's colonial period, including that of the country itself: "Burma" became "Myanmar." The renaming remains a contested issue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thirteen post-apocalyptic stories that actually teach valuable lessons

At io9, Amanda Yesilbas, Katharine Trendacosta, and Annalee Newitz came up with thirteen post-apocalyptic stories that actually teach valuable lessons, including:
Always Coming Home, by Ursula Le Guin

Le Guin's novel is a direct retort to [Isaac Asimov's] Foundation. Instead of preserving the old civilization in vast storehouses, this book advocates throwing out the old civilization and starting over fresh with new ideas that won’t lead to a repeat of past mistakes. This book’s particular new civilization on a an idyllic, primitive matriarchy. Perhaps a little to Utopian for reality, but it does make a case for not repeating history.
Read about the other stories on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 27, 2013

Omid Djalili's six best books

Omid Djalili is a British Iranian stand-up comedian and actor. He appeared in Gladiator as a slave trader and was Cairo prison warden Gad Hassan in The Mummy.

One of his six best books, as told to the Daily Express:
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I read this on a film set and got so into the book that the filming became a bit of an annoyance.

By the end I was in floods of tears and couldn't come out of my trailer. I'm very moved by old love and the fact people hold on to love for years.
Read about the other books on the list.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is one of Olivia Williams's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three classic books on Colombia

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on Colombia. One title on the list:
Delirium, by Laura Restrepo

Restrepo sets her novel in the drug-fuelled 1980s heyday of cocaine king Pablo Escobar, and uses insanity in one family to reflect the collective insanity of her native Colombia. Aguilar, a grizzled, leftwing literature professor who is reduced to selling dog food to make ends meet, returns from a business trip to find that his beautiful wife, Agustina, has gone mad. In his search for the causes of her delirium, he uncovers secrets and lies from her troubled past.

This complex and captivating novel uses the voices of Agustina, her husband, her father and a former lover – Midas McAlister, a flamboyant money-launderer and drug trafficker – to give an account of a Colombia in thrall to narco-capitalism and battered by violence and corruption. The story mostly takes place in the capital, Bogotá, which Aguilar describes as a city "where everyone's at war with everyone else".

Restrepo has a sharp eye for exposing the hypocrisies and class divisions that dog Colombian society, and memorably depicts the period's excesses. Yet, through this morass, the novel remarkably ends on a note that is, if not quite happy, at least hopeful.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Top ten Colombian stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books by and about obsessed artists

Patricia Volk is the author of the memoir Stuffed; the novels To My Dearest Friends and White Light; and two collections of short stories, All it Takes and The Yellow Banana.

Her new book is the memoir, Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me.

One of Volk's five favorite books by and about obsessed artists, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Diary of a Genius
by Salvador Dalí (1965)

My grandmother would have thought he was out of his mind, but she would have loved Dalí's enthusiastic descriptions of his excreta. Dalí obsesses over his beloved rhinoceros horn, too, and his flatulence, flies (he is partial to the local gray-bellied variety) and Gala, whom he loves so much he marries three times. One year he makes over a hundred things. Paintings, of course. But there were movies, plays, books, scripts, sculptures and performance art before it had a name. In "Diary of a Genius" we observe the man at work in his beloved Port Lligat on the westernmost tip of Spain. There he is, painting naked, unaware of time, making you see what he sees. He makes you feel his paint creaming on. Here is Dalí at his serious-cum-antic best. Discovering the "Diary" when I was in college studying to be a painter hooked my dream life to my waking life. For full-bore pleasure, find copies of "The Assumption" (1952) and "Corpus Hypercubicus" (1954) to glance at while he describes painting them.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Five top books on the life and times of U.S. soldiers

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on the life and times of U.S. soldiers:
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
by Allen C. Guelzo

If Beevor's expertise [in D-Day: The Battle for Normandy] is in depicting a soldier's character, Allen C. Guelzo shines when conveying the sensory experience of a soldier going into battle, particularly within a conflict as uniquely devastating as the American Civil War. Consider Guelzo's depiction of troops so unwashed -- giving new meaning to the term "rank" -- that the enemy could actually smell them coming. Guelzo's depictions of the lay of the land - and clouds of gunpowder clouds overhead - set a vivid stage for the Battle of Gettysburg's devastating duel between two halves of a nation divided.
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn more about Gettysburg: The Last Invasion.

Also see: Five best books about war by authors who served.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2013

The top ten villains in fiction

Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen) was born in Wexford on the South-East coast of Ireland in 1965, where he and his four brothers were brought up by his father (an elementary school teacher, historian and artist of note) and mother (a drama teacher). After leaving school he got his degree from Dublin university and qualified as a primary school teacher, returning to work in Wexford. In 2001 the first Artemis Fowl book was published and he was able to resign from teaching and concentrate fully on writing.

Colfer's latest book is The Reluctant Assassin, the first in his new W.A.R.P. series.

One of the author's top 10 villains in fiction, as told to the Guardian:
Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Thunderball

James Bond's nemesis in three of Ian Fleming's books and several movie adaptations. We first encounter Blofeld in the novel Thunderball where he masterminds the theft of two nuclear bombs and uses them to blackmail the world's governments. What impressed me about Blofeld with his meticulous and dispassionate organisation of the plan. Every conceivable obstacle is planned for and, indeed, Bond only recovers the bombs by an almost incredible stroke of good fortune.
Read about the other villains on the list.

Blofeld appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best secret societies in literature and Marcus Sedgwick's top 10 list of tales from cold climes.

Also see: Derek Landy's top 10 villains in children's books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ten top coming-of-age novels

Kate Clanchy was born and grew up in Scotland but now lives in Oxford. Her poetry collections Slattern, Samarkand and Newborn have brought her many literary awards and an unusually wide audience. She is the author of the much acclaimed Antigona and Me, and was the 2009 winner of the BBC Short Story Award. Her new book is Meeting the English.

For the Guardian, she named ten top coming-of-age novels, including:
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Passionate, clever Maggie Tulliver can't fit herself into the narrow world of St Oggs and her brother Tom, yet yearns to be accepted and loved. Love, lust, betrayal and superbly-rendered petite blonde envy all culminate in a melodramatic flood.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Shani Boianjiu's five top novels about coming of ageEmily Bazelon's five top coming-of-age stories, and A.E. Hotchner's five favorite coming-of-age tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ten sci-fi novels that pack more action than most summer movies

At io9 Charlie Jane Anders compiled a list of ten science fiction novels that pack more action than most summer movies.  One title on the list:
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

As we wrote in our review a few years ago, this debut novel is popping with clever ideas, as if Morgan wasn't sure he'd ever get to write another one. And we added back then: "It could make a terrific movie, if they could travel back in time to 1990 and get Bullet In The Head-era John Woo to direct."
Read about the other entries on the list.

Altered Carbon is among Lauren Davis's ten most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios in science fiction and Charlie Jane Anders's top 10 science fiction detective novels of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Five of the best books about rivers, mighty and small

Robert Twigger is an explorer and the author of numerous books, including The Extinction Club, Real Men Eat Puffer Fish, and Angry White Pyjamas, for which he won the Somerset Maugham and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards. His new book is Red Nile: The Biography of the World's Greatest River. In addition to writing books, he has contributed to Esquire, Lonely Planet Magazine, and Maxim.

For the Telegraph, Twigger named five of the best books about rivers, mighty and small, including:
Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad remains the great African river book, though, when I recently reread it, I realised Conrad spends far less time describing the river than I remembered.
Read about the other books Twigger tagged.

Heart of Darkness also appears on Robert McCrum's list of ten of the best closing lines of books, Mark Malloch-Brown's lis of six favorite novels of empire, John Mullan's list of ten of the best fogs in literature, Tim Butcher's list of the top 10 books about Congo, Martin Meredith's list of ten books to read on Africa, Thomas Perry's best books list, and is #9 on the 100 best last lines from novels list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2013

Five top books celebrating Dante Alighieri

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books "celebrating The Divine Comedy author's wickedly rich poetics":
Dante in Love
by A. N. Wilson

This enchanting biography emerges as a culmination of A. N. Wilson's lifelong fascination with Dante. While retelling the poet's personal history -- his shadowy family life, his eventual exile, and his well-known love for Vita Nuova inspiration Beatrice Portinari -- Wilson also explores the political upheavals of medieval Europe, the restructuring of the Florentine banking system, and the societal turmoil that formed Dante's poetic vision. The book also serves as an introduction to The Divine Comedy, for those wishing to re-tackle it with fresh acumen or those who have not yet dared attempt it.
Read about the other books on the list.

Dante's work appears on Karl O. Knausgaard's top ten list of angel books, Jon McGregor's list of the top 10 dead bodies in literature, John Mullan's list of ten of the best visions of hell in literature, and Peter Stanford's list of the ten best devils in film and literature; The Divine Comedy is one of George Weigel's five essential books for understanding Christianity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Therese Anne Fowler's six favorite books

Therese Anne Fowler's new book is Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

One of Fowler's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

This recent novel imagines the belle-epoque lives of two sisters, including the girl who inspired Degas' sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14. Here is the unglamorous side of Paris and art and aspiration and desire, and the lives of young women whose opportunities to even survive, let alone thrive, are few.
Read about the other books on Fowler's list.

The Painted Girls is one of the Barnes & Noble Review's top five books on artists who have captivated our culture.

The Page 69 Test: The Painted Girls.

My Book, The Movie: The Painted Girls.

Writers Read: Cathy Marie Buchanan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Five top books for the Anglomaniac

Raymond Sokolov is the author of The Saucier’s Apprentice, the novel Native Intelligence, and a biography of A. J. Liebling, Wayward Reporter. His new book is Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food.

For the Wall Street Journal he named five top books for the Anglomaniac, including:
Joy in the Morning
by P.G. Wodehouse (1946)

Wodehouse wrote his masterpiece while interned in Upper Silesia as an alien enemy. "If this is Upper Silesia," he said, "what must Lower Silesia be like?" Then, to show his American fans he was keeping a stiff upper lip, he agreed to participate in a couple of chipper German broadcasts aimed at the still-neutral U.S. In Britain, they were seen as traitorous betrayals. The stink never abated and turned him into an exile from the homeland he never stopped recasting as a comic heaven of harmless pranks and pastoral misdoings. He was officially cleared of aiding the enemy and no sane observer has ever believed that Wodehouse understood the moral mess he was so blithely creating. With his feckless Bertie Wooster and his omniscient man's man Jeeves at the center of the sublime foolery, Wodehouse, in novel after novel, just kept on letting us smile at a world of privilege and big houses, upstairs and downstairs going gently topsy-turvy. "Joy" is the story of a country weekend from hell at Steeple Bumpleigh. Engagements crumble, jewelry is mislaid, tempers are lost, drinks drunk. Jeeves saves the day, really he saves the world and now has time to read the latest scholarly edition of Spinoza.
Read about the other books on Sokolov's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ten top books about siblings

Gwyneth Rees is half Welsh and half English and grew up in Scotland. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist but has now stopped practicing so that she can write full-time. She is the author of many bestselling books, including the Fairies series, the Cosmo series and the Marietta’s Magic Dress Shop series, as well as several books for older readers. Rees’s new books, My Super Sister and My Super Sister and the Birthday Party mark the start of an exciting new series about two sisters, Emma and Saffie, who have superpowers.

For the Guardian, Rees named her ten favorite books about siblings. One title on the list:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy

I think this has to be one of the most famous books ever written about sisters. Set at the time of the American Civil War the book is about the March sisters' home life with their mother while their father is away fighting. The family's life is depicted so clearly that you feel that you are there in the house with them. Yes, there is love and loyalty and friendship between these sisters, but this is no idealised account of sisterhood. The strikingly different personalities and aspirations of the sisters causes plenty of friction and it all feels very meaty and real as well as uplifting.
Read about the other books on the list.

Little Women also appears among Maya Angelou's 6 favorite books, Tim Lewis's ten best Christmas lunches in literature, and on the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Erin Blakemore's list of five gutsy heroines to channel on an off day, Kate Saunders' critic's chart of mothers and daughters in literature, and Zoë Heller's list of five memorable portraits of sisters. It is a book that disappointed Geraldine Brooks on re-reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Top ten books about Haiti

Ben Fountain is the author of a short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, and a novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

At the Guardian, Fountain named his top ten books about Haiti. One title on the list:
Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War by Mark Danner

The first section of this multi-part book – other sections focus on the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, and the "war on terror" – is drawn from Danner's award-winning reportage on the chaotic years of 1986 to 1990, when Haitian civil society was trying to gain traction against a well-entrenched complex of reactionary powers. But Danner goes far beyond the events of the moment, and digs deep into Haitian history and culture; these chapters are the best primer on Haiti available, a thoughtful and vivid overview that is as relevant now as it was when first published some 20 years ago.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five of the best books on film directors

Director William Friedkin's two most famous films, The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), both begin in a foreign country, in which something in that country is brought over to America and then dealt with by American "authorities" in that field. The French Connection has drugs coming from France and then dealt with by American narcotics officers; The Exorcist has a demonic presence (from an idol) coming from Iraq to America, and dealt with by American priests. Friedkin's memoir, The Friedkin Connection, has just been published.

One of his five best books on film directors, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Elia Kazan: A Life
by Elia Kazan (1988)

This is a book I've read several times over many years—an inspiration to me in its frankness. Elia Kazan doesn't spare himself. After he directed his first feature, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," he returned to New York: "I sat alone in my room in the Royalton Hotel . . . ," he writes, "and thought how worthless my life was. . . . It was just another movie. . . . It was mushy. . . . The whole thing was poverty all cleaned up." His confessions are those of a man who is both humble and arrogant: "I am a mediocre director except when a play or film touches a part of my life's experiences." From his apprenticeship as a shy jack-of-all-trades with the Group Theatre in the 1930s to his emergence in the 1940s and '50s as the leading director of Broadway plays, including "Death of a Salesman" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," he went on to direct some of the best American films: "On the Waterfront," "East of Eden," "A Face in the Crowd." His odyssey reads like an epic of the 20th century itself.
Read about the other books on Friedkin's list.

Elia Kazan: A Life is one of Stefan Kanfer's five best books on remarkable Hollywood lives and Richard Schickel's five best show-biz biographies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

John le Carré’s best novels

Ted Scheinman is a doctoral candidate and freelance writer based in Chapel Hill.

He has read all 23 of John le Carré’s novels...and ranked them for Slate. The best:
A Perfect Spy remains le Carré’s greatest novel, at once his most autobiographical, his most technically assured, and his most touching. I like to call it the author’s Tender Is the Night; Magnus Pym is a total Dick Diver, just with a few more passports.
Read about the ranking of the rest of le Carré’s novels at Slate.

A Perfect Spy is among Ann Patchett's favorite books, Jonathan Miles's five best books on the secrets of espionage, and Philip Pullman's forty favorite books.

Also see: Jon Stock's top ten John le Carré novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five top YA books

Sophie McKenzie is the bestselling author of more than fifteen novels for children and teens in the UK, including the award winning Girl, Missing and Blood Ties. She has won numerous awards, was one of the first Richard and Judy children’s book club winners, and has twice been longlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal. Close My Eyes, McKenzie's first psychological thriller for adults, debuts in the US this summer.

At the Telegraph, McKenzie named five favorite Young Adult books that appeal to teenagers, including:
Dead Time by Anne Cassidy

Dead Time is the first installment of The Murder Notebooks series. It’s a classic mystery, full of twists and turns, about two teenagers whose parents went out for a meal one evening and never returned. I particularly like the way that both this story and the next in the series - Killing Rachel - have satisfying endings, while still leaving elements of the story open to run and run through the series overall.
Read about the other books on McKenzie's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The ten best fictional mothers

In 2011 the Observer came up with a list of the ten best fictional mothers, including:
Mrs Bennet
Pride and Prejudice

Garrulous and excitable, Jane Austen’s Mrs Bennet is a masterclass in comic characterisation. Driven by the desire to arrange a good marriage for each of her daughters, she has little sense of social tact and manages to scare most potential suitors away. Austen paints her as “a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper”, but for all her flaws it is hard not to have a soft spot for Mrs Bennet ... and her conviction that all her daughters deserve the best.
Read about the other mothers on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The ten worst mothers in books

Jennifer Gilmore's latest novel is The Mothers.

From her list of the ten worst mothers in books, as told to Publishers Weekly:
Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Motherhood is a grand disappointment to Emma Bovary, just one in a list of many of her dissatisfactions. Initially she pretends to dote on her daughter, as a cover up of her transgressions, but soon her vanity and unstoppable desires lead her away from her daughter. When Emma swallows arsenic, killing herself (who can forget that wretched scene!) Berthe is left with her father. Soon he dies penniless and Berthe is alone and forced—to work!—in a mill.
Read about the other entries on Gilmore's list.

Madame Bovary is on Amy Sohn's list of six favorite books, 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.

Also see:'s 2010 list of the ten worst mothers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 10, 2013

Top ten books starring young detectives

Kate Pankhurst is a UK-based writer-illustrator of a series of books about a girl detective called Mariella Mystery, aged nine and a bit.

For the Guardian, Pankhurst named ten top books starring young detectives. One title on the list:
The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé

Great snakes! While away the hours following Tintin's globetrotting mystery solving comic book exploits to bring the bad guys in. Tintin's lucky to have one of the most loyal canine sidekicks in the detective genre – not Bruiser the great big Alsatian but Snowy, the (mostly) fearless little white dog.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Tintin appears among Penelope Bush's top ten teen twin books, Sally Gardner's top ten books for children with dyslexia, and Rachel Cooke's ten best graphic novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Five top books on mothers and children

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's 2013 list of five top books on mothers and children:
Amy and Isabelle
by Elizabeth Strout

Pulitzer-winning Elizabeth Strout’s emotionally wrenching debut novel portrays a mother-daughter bond on the brink of dissolution amid secrets, scandal, and the cloistered temperance of old New England. When daughter Amy is found in the backseat of a car with her high school math teacher, the women are wrested apart forever in the throes of small-town gossip -- as mother Isabelle’s shameful past also starts creeping to the surface.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Elizabeth Lowry's five best books about mothers of many sorts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ten top advice books for graduates

Roman Krznaric is the author of How to Find Fulfilling Work. John-Paul Flintoff is the author of How to Change the World. For The Daily Beast, together they came up with a list of ten books new graduates can turn to for practical insights about the real world.

One of Krznaric's suggestions:
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
by Studs Terkel

Hotel clerks, stockbrokers, and every other kind of worker you can think of speak about their experiences of work in their own voices, as recorded by Chicago oral historian Studs Terkel in the 1970s. This superb book contains universal insights about how people choose—and do not choose—their careers.
Read about the other books on the list.

Working is among Sheila Heti's top ten books that began as speech and Daniel H. Pink's six favorite books about work

Also see: Five top books for graduates that will last a lifetime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Five top faked deaths in fiction

David Nobbs is an English comedy writer and novelist.

For the Telegraph he tagged five top faked deaths in fiction, including:
In Raymond Chandler’s world, very little is as it seems, so surely drunken Terry Lennox hasn’t really committed suicide in The Long Goodbye (1953)? You have to read right to the end of this complex, beautifully written book to find out.
Read about the other books Nobbs noted.

The Long Goodbye is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best fake deaths in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lee Child's six favorite debut novels

Lee Child is the author of the Jack Reacher thrillers.

For readers of The Week magazine, he recommended six debut novels that led to greater things, including:
The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald

MacDonald, also restless after the war, broke away from his prosperous background to become a prodigious pulp wordsmith — Westerns, sci-fi, anything to pay the rent. Until, in the early '60s, he dreamed up a leathery boat bum named McGee and launched one of the greatest series ever. What if MacDonald had gone to work for GM?
Read about the other debut novels on Child's list.

Learn about Lee Child's hero from outside literature and the fictional character he would most like to have been.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ten top new books for all kinds of moms

The staff of the Christian Science Monitor came up with a list of the 10 best 2013 books for 10 different kinds of book-reading moms.

One title on the list:
The Movement of Stars, by Amy Brill: for the history-loving mom

The Movement of Stars is a love story set in 1845 Nantucket and based on the life of astronomer Maria Mitchell. In this, her debut novel, Amy Brill manages to blend themes of love, motherhood, women's history, and science into a compelling historic romance.
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn more about The Movement of Stars and its author at Amy Brill's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Movement of Stars.

Writers Read: Amy Brill.

My Book, The Movie: The Movement of Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Five best books on life in the Soviet police state

David Satter's latest book is It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past.

One of his five best books on life in the Soviet police state, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Kolyma Tales
by Varlam Shalamov (1980)

The Kolyma region, the coldest area in the Northern Hemisphere, was the cruelest outpost of the Soviet Gulag. Varlam Shalamov, a young journalist, was arrested in 1937 and spent 17 years there. His short stories are the definitive chronicle of those camps. Each is devoted to a single incident told in the voice of an emotionally detached observer. On the edge of death, all human traits are lost, and everything is focused on physical survival, but this is treated by Shalamov as completely normal. In "An American Connection," a group of starving prisoners attack a barrel of grease intended for a bulldozer. They finish off half the barrel before guards arrive. In another story, two prisoners escape from a camp at night and go to a burial site, searching for a fresh corpse from which to steal the underwear. Shalamov's dispassionate narrative and his often lyrical descriptions of Siberian nature give his stories the mesmerizing quality of a message from another world. As Shalamov said: "If you don't believe it, take it as a fairy tale."
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn more about It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 3, 2013

Seven top history books

Nathaniel Philbrick's books include In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, Sea of Glory, The Last Stand, and the newly released Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution.

One of his seven favorite history books, as told to The Daily Beast:
Black Elk Speaks:Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
by John Neihardt

This understated gem contains an immense amount of ethnographic material even as it tells the very personal story of a man caught in a cultural cataclysm. For those wanting to read the transcripts of the interviews that formed the basis of Neihardt’s masterpiece, see Raymond DeMallie’s The Sixth Grandfather.
Read about the other books on Philbrick's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Four top books to assign to inmate-students

Joseph H. Cooper was editorial counsel at The New Yorker from 1976 to 1996. He teaches ethics and media law courses at Quinnipiac University.

He shared with the Christian Science Monitor a list of over a dozen books he considered assigning to a group of inmate-students. Great Expectations and The Executioner’s Song did not make the final cut, but the following did:
"The Green Mile"

Most of the inmate-students had heard of Stephen King and many had seen a movie based on one of his books. Although I recoil at horror stories and contrived scares, this Depression-era saga, in its way, presents the scary realities of a rush-to-judgment and death row. The similes and metaphors – along with the descriptions of “old sparky,” the exit room, and the tunnel used to take out the cadavers – gave us plenty to linger over and relish linguistically. Unlike "Rita Hayworth" and "Shawshank Redemption," whose bad guy is the abusive, despotic, and corrupt warden, the Green Mile guards (the death-row “screws”) are sensitive to the sensibilities of their charges and the sensitivities of their special tasks. Remorse and atonement become factors in the guards’ lives.
Read about the other books Cooper considered.

Also see: Six books every prison should stock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Five notable books on drugs

Melvin Burgess may be best known for Junk, his 1996 novel dealing with the tricky and controversial subject of heroin addiction in teenagers. His latest novel, The Hit, is out now in Britain.

He named five notable books on drugs for the Telegraph, including:
A ... realistic tale of the dangers of drugs is Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993): one of the first to deal with real-life experience rather than imagery.
Read about the other books Burgess tagged.

Trainspotting is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best drug experiences in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue