Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ten literary books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy

At io9 Charlie Jane Anders came up with ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, including:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and was made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey. And it's a story about a family after the Civil War who are haunted by a revenant — apparently the ghost of the two-year-old girl they killed — and later meet a young girl whom they believe to be the ghost brought back to life. Here's an interview where Morrison talks about the importance of ghosts in her work.
Read about the other titles on the list.

Beloved also appears on Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", 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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Twenty notable books with doomed lovers

Chris Bohjalian's newest novel is The Light in the Ruins.

When asked him to curate a bookshelf, he decided on a "corner of the library... for the Doomed Lovers --- or, at least, for those lovers who will need a whole lot of luck for their romance to survive."

One of the twenty books he tagged:
Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt.
Learn about the other books Bohjalian tagged.

Visit Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pictures of You.

My Book, the Movie: Pictures of You.

Writers Read: Caroline Leavitt (May 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Chris Kluwe's six favorite books

Chris Kluwe is a NFL punter and an active promoter of equal rights for all Americans.

His new book is Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities.

One of Kluwe's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Card's novel about children trained for space combat is an amazing story about childhood and what it means to truly understand others and oneself. It's unfortunate that the author, who's been vocal about his anti-gay views, appears in real life to have entirely missed the points about empathy he made here, but his book is still well worth reading.
Read about the other books on Kluwe's list.

Ender's Game is on Jennifer Griffith Delgado's list of the 11 most mind-blowing surprise endings in science fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2013

Five top books on unusual journeys

Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge, UK.  His latest book is The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

For the Wall Street Journal, Clark named five top books about unusual journeys, including:
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)

In this book, a childhood favorite that I have since read countless times, an ethereal boy from a distant asteroid and a pilot forced to land in the Sahara engage in conversation. As a child, I was gripped by the sense that there was more to this strange tale than I could actually understand. A cosmonautical boy with no visible means of transport, a vain and needy rose, a fox who wants to be tamed, a lamplighter who can never rest because the sun rises and sets every few minutes on his tiny planet—this was a long way from the cozy world of "The House at Pooh Corner." I still remember the jolt of recognition when I first understood the true meaning of the scene where the deadly yellow desert snake, entwining herself around the boy's ankle, promises to take him back to where he came from. I told my mother: "I felt happy and sad at the same time." "That's called being moved," she replied.
Read about the other books on Clark's list.

The Little Prince is among the best literary quotes ever tattooed, Simon Callow's six best books, Sita Brahmachari's top 10 books that take you travelling, Maria Popova's seven essential books on optimism, and Dalia Sofer's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ten books about James "Whitey" Bulger

Christian Science Monitor contributor Casey Lee came up with a list of ten books about reputed Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, including:
"Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice," by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy

Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy have been covering the Bulger story for years. Their combined backgrounds allow them to delve deeply into Bulger's past an criminal career. This book explores Whitey's youthful beginnings in a life of crime, the network of family and friends that connected him to Boston establishment figures as well its underworld, the crimes that put him on the FBI's most wanted list, and the process that finally brought him to justice.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on boating

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on boating:
The Starboard Sea
by Amber Dermont

This brooding tale of boarding school malaise is Dermont's fiction debut, a story of student and competitive sailor Jason Prosper coming to grips with a friend's suicide, transferring schools, and falling in love, against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market crash. Jason's first-person narrative of his turbulent teenage years is deftly peppered with sailing facts and the nautical knowledge of a well-traveled mariner.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Starboard Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ten books for recent grads

At The Hairpin, Alexis Coe recommended ten books for recent grads, including:
Many a J. Courtney Sullivan apologist have sheepishly professed love for Commencement, but there’s no shame in feeling kinship with Celia, Bree, Sally and April as they form unlikely friendships at Smith. The girls themselves greatly—and sometimes painfully—struggle with each other’s post-collegiate choices, but soon realize life without their friendships is a far worse fate.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Commencement.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The five best books by Nelson Mandela

Christian Science Monitor contributor Casey Lee came up with a list of the five best books by Nelson Mandela, including:
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

This 1994 autobiography tells the story of Mandela's life: including his early years, beginning in 1918, Transkei; his career as a lawyer and then as an African National Congress leader; a recounting of his 27 years in prison (this comprises about a third of the book); an examination of the toll being separated for so many years from his wife and children took on him; and on up to to Mandela's inauguration as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994.

The book also describes the remarkable journey Mandela made from being considered a problem by the South African government to being embraced as a great leader by the nation's people.

Mandela's story is stirring and some of his most-frequently-quoted words have been drawn from "Long Walk to Freedom." Here are a few favorite passages from Mandela's autobiography:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“A leader ... is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Read about the other books on the list.

Long Walk to Freedom is on Don Mullan's top ten list of books on heroes and Sammy Perlmutter's five best list of books from Nobel winners who didn't win their medal for literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books on vaccines

Seth Mnookin is the Co-Director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won the National Association of Science Writers 2012 “Science in Society” Award and the New England chapter of the American Medical Writers Association’s Will Solimene Award for Excellence.

He discussed five of the best books on vaccines with Sophie Roell at The Browser, including:
Arthur Allen’s Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver. I suppose the title says it all. I thought this was just a fantastic book.

Arthur is a wonderful writer. He covers the huge sweep of the story — he goes back to variolation and Edward Jenner and then takes it all the way through the development of vaccines, the nationalization of vaccine programmes, various social pressures, up to some of the more recent controversies. From my experience I know that when I’m trying to synthesize a huge amount of information, it becomes harder and harder to think about the writing itself — as opposed to just spitting everything out. But he does it in a way that at least I, as a reader, never felt it was just a document dump. For me, it had that page-turning quality all the way through, one because it is life-and-death in a lot of cases, but also because he was able to frame all of the individual stories in a way that was gripping. At each step along the way, I wanted to find out what happened next — even when, in most cases, I knew the answer. I know that polio has been eliminated in the United States. I know the story of Edward Jenner. One thing Arthur illustrates is how in almost every good thriller, the mystery isn’t what the ending is going to be, it’s how you get there. He’s able to build the mystery of how we got to each step along the way really nicely.

The other thing that comes out of the book, which I didn’t realize quite the extent to which it was true, is that, historically, vaccinations were quite dangerous. It’s not something we want to think about too much now, but…

I agree. That is one of the things that makes the book so impressive. In the world we’re living in today, the issue of vaccines is so freighted, or, as Arthur says in the title, so controversial, that it can be really tricky to write something that, on the one hand, supports the evidence for vaccines and, on the other hand, takes a really clear-eyed look at what some of the problems have been. Arthur definitely does that. You don’t get the sense, reading his book, that, “Oh this is a promotional book written by someone who is just a cheerleader for vaccines or for public health…” He really looks at where things, and how things went wrong, and talks about it. He isn’t afraid to be critical.
Read about the other books Mnookin tagged at The Browser.

The Page 69 Test: Arthur Allen's Vaccine.

Writers Read: Arthur Allen (July 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 24, 2013

Top ten dynamic duos in fiction

Elizabeth Wein has lived in Scotland for over ten years and wrote nearly all her novels there. Her first five books for young adults are set in Arthurian Britain and sixth century Ethiopia. The most recent of these form the sequence The Mark of Solomon, published in two parts as The Lion Hunter (2007) and The Empty Kingdom (2008). The Lion Hunter was short-listed for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2008.

Wein's more recent novels for teens mark a departure in a totally new direction. Code Name Verity is a World War II thriller in which two young girls, one a Resistance spy and the other a transport pilot, become unlikely best friends. Her latest book, Rose Under Fire, set towards the end of the second world war, also features a young heroine with plane-flying skills.

For the Guardian, Wein named her top ten dynamic duos in fiction, including:
Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien)

I confess it - I read The Lord of the Rings 20 times when I was 14. Any subtext of class or sex that might mar this pairing for me as an adult went straight over my head when I was a teenager. Frodo was the love of my life, and his under-the-radar heroism in the face of cosmically proportioned evil shaped every character I've ever invented. It's true that I only really adored Sam because he also adored Frodo; but there's no doubt that without their teamwork the One Ring could never have been destroyed.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lord of the Rings also made Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten sources that inspired the dark storytelling of Game of Thrones, Rob Bricken's list of 11 preposterously manly fantasy series, Conrad Mason's top ten list of magical objects in fiction, Linus Roache's six best books list, Derek Landy's top ten list of villains in children's books, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs' list of ten classic SF books that were originally considered failures, Lev Grossman's list of the six greatest fantasy books of all time, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best women dressed as men, ten of the best bows and arrows in literature, ten of the best beards in literature, ten of the best towers in literature, ten of the best volcanoes in literature, ten of the best chases in literature, and ten of the best monsters in literature. It is one of Salman Rushdie's five best fantasy novels for all ages. It is a book that made a difference to Pat Conroy.

Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Wein (January 2008).

Writers Read: Elizabeth Wein (July 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The 12 most unfaithful movie versions of science fiction & fantasy books

At io9 Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders came up with the twelve most unfaithful movie versions of science fiction and fantasy books. One entry on the list:
Almost Every Philip K. Dick Movie

There have been a slew of movie versions of Philip K. Dick's novels and short stories — and for the most part, they've taken insane liberties. Often, Dick's mind-bending explorations of identity and reality and what it means to be human are transformed into facile thrillers — see Paycheck, for example. Blade Runner, though a great film, has very little in common with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, other than Deckard bounty-hunting replicants. Both versions of Total Recall take huge liberties as well. And The Adjustment Bureau has nothing in common with the Dick short story "Adjustment Team," other than the idea of a secret group of people managing reality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? also appears on Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, John Mullan's list of ten of the best titles in the form of questions, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of ten classic sci-fi books that were originally considered failures and Robert Collins's top ten list of dystopian novels.

A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick is one of Jeffery Deaver's top 10 computer novels.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick is on Sam Taylor's top 10 list of books about forgetting.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ten books every zombie fan must read

At LitReactor, Kimberly Turner named the ten books every zombie fan must read, including:
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

Temple is a 15-year-old girl who has never known a world that didn't involve bashing in the skulls of zombies (here known as "slugs"). She handles these encounters like I handle seeing a spider in my house—as unpleasant but survivable encounters. What she does not handle as well is the guilt, grief, and emotional baggage she drags around during her quest for redemption. The bleak, painfully honest portrayal of Temple's loneliness and self-doubt—not the "slugs"—put this book at the top of our list. In fact, the origin of the slugs is never even revealed. What's passed is in the past, and the narrative lives in the present. "Beautiful" is not a word normally used to describe zombie tales, but this is no ordinary zombie book. It hits you with unexpected moments of joy amidst the horror, and with prose that owes quite a debt to Southern Gothic literature, The Reapers Are the Angels proves that zombie stories can be literary. They can make you cry. They can introduce you to introspective, believable, memorable characters that stay with you long after you've finished reading. One last thing: Don't think that because the protagonist is a teenager, this is a YA book. It's not. You'll scar your kiddos with this one.

For fans of: Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, strong female protagonists, zombies
Read about the other books on the list.

Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord.

Writers Read: Alden Bell.

The Page 69 Test: The Reapers Are the Angels.

My Book, the Movie: The Reapers Are the Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2013

Five books on groupthink

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on groupthink and the danger of conformity:
The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs
by Jim Rasenberger

The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion -- America's clandestine initiative to overthrow Fidel Castro -- was the classic example that led psychologist Irving Janis to originate his theory of groupthink: a phenomenon of otherwise competent people making bad decisions in the name of group harmony -- and in this case, saving face. Using recently declassified CIA documents, Jim Rasenberger reveals that President Kennedy, long viewed as the naïve party in the bungled operation, had huge misgivings regarding its success, yet the mission went forward nonetheless. Relying on the CIA's assurances about the weakness of the Cuban military, Kennedy dispatched over 1,000 troops to Cuba's southern coast -- where they were swiftly defeated, as the Bay of Pigs invasion earned its reputation as one of the most embarrassing foreign policy fiascos in history.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Jim Rasenberger's The Brilliant Disaster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ten top psychiatry critiques

James Davies graduated from the University of Oxford in 2006 with a PhD in social and medical anthropology. He is a senior lecturer in social anthropology and psychotherapy at the University of Roehampton.

Davies is also a psychotherapist, who started working for the National Health Service in 2004 and he is a member of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.

Cracked: The Unhappy Truth about Psychiatry, his first book written for a wider audience, is a critical exploration of modern-day psychiatry based on interviews with leaders of the profession.

One of his ten top books that challenge received wisdom about mental illness and how to treat it, as told to the Guardian:
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell has become a guru of the "smart thinking" set. There is a simple reason: he knows how to tell a story. And this book is rich with compelling stories about men and women who, as he puts it, "are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us". What is gripping – and sometimes tragic – about outliers is that they are so regularly misunderstood. We are too prone to recast their difference as pathology. Gladwell deploys insightful psychological research to challenge our most basic assumptions about normality.
Read about the other books on the list.

Outliers is one of Chris Bohjalian's six favorite books about plane crashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The ten worst fathers in books

Fiona Maazel is the author of the novels Last Last Chance and Woke Up Lonely.

For Publishers Weekly, she came up with a list of the ten worst fathers in books, including:
Humbert Humbert - Okay, let’s just get it over with: Humbert Humbert! Worst stepdad ever! We find him in Nabokov’s Lolita, contriving to marry one Charlotte Haze so that he can get close to her twelve-year-old daughter. When Charlotte dies (as if in penance for having discovered Humbert’s lust), he has his way with Dolores. But not without recording his transgressions in such gorgeous prose, you almost don’t care that he’s a pedophile. For instance: “You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limbs, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate—the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”
Read about the other bad dads on Maazel's list.

Lolita appears on Jennifer Gilmore's list of the ten worst mothers in books, Steven Amsterdam's list of five top books that have anxiety at their heart, John Banville's five best list of books on early love and infatuation, Kathryn Harrison's list of favorite books with parentless protagonists, Emily Temple's list of ten of the greatest kisses in literature, John Mullan's list of ten of the best lakes in literature, Dan Vyleta's top ten list of books in second languages, Rowan Somerville's top ten list of books of good sex in fiction, Henry Sutton's top ten list of unreliable narrators, Adam Leith Gollner's top ten list of fruit scenes in literature, Laura Hird's literary top ten list, Monica Ali's ten favorite books list, Laura Lippman's 5 most important books list, Mohsin Hamid's 10 favorite books list, and Dani Shapiro's 10 favorite books list.

Visit Fiona Maazel's website

Writers Read: Fiona Maazel (April 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Neil Gaiman's top ten mythical characters

Neil Gaiman's novels for young readers include Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

One of Gaiman's ten favorite characters from myths that haunt him, as told to the Guardian:

My favourite character in the Odyssey. As Odysseus takes the long way home, encountering Circe and sirens and cylops and such, Penelope waits and weaves and unpicks her weaving. She was the only one who seemed even faintly responsible or grown up in the story.
Read about the other characters on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ten of the best historical novels

One title on the Telegraph's list of the ten best historical novels:
Master and Commander is the first of O’Brian’s famous Aubrey/Maturin 20-novel series. This book, published in 1962, establishes the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, who becomes his secretive ship’s surgeon and an intelligence agent.

O’Brian is widely applauded for his detailed and historically accurate portrayal of life aboard an early 19th century man-of-war, including weapons, food, conversation and ambience.
Read about the other novels on the list.

The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian also appears on Bella Bathurst's top ten list of books on the sea. Master & Commander is one of Peter Mayle's six best books. Dr Stephen Maturin is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best good doctors in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Five of the best brainy beach reads

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams. Her new novel is Sisterland.

For the Wall Street Journal, Sittenfeld named "five beach reads that are devour-able without being dismissible," including:
The Yacoubian Building
Alaa Al Aswany (2006)

More than a dozen characters living in the same Cairo building fight, fall in love, sleep together and betray one another in this soap-operatic saga. A major cultural phenomenon and a controversy in the author's home country, this was the best-selling Arabic language book of 2002 and 2003.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Yacoubian Building is one of Humphrey Davies's five top works of contemporary Egyptian fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Philip Pullman's seven favorite anthologies

Philip Pullman's latest book is Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version.

For The Week magazine, Pullman named his seven favorite anthologies of poetry, prose, and song, including:
The Oxford Book of English Verse edited by Christopher Ricks

This is the big one, the one where you expect to find everything you half-remember as well as a great deal you don't know. Everything is here, from "Sumer is icumen in" to Seamus Heaney.
Read about the other entries on Pullman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hermione Norris's six best books

Hermione Norris is the actor known for her roles in Cold Feet, Wire In The Blood, Kingdom, and Spooks [US title: MI-5].

One of her six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
Regeneration by Pat Barker

Her vivid portrayal of life in the war was so harrowing it moved me to tears.

What fascinated me was the psychology of what those men went through, their response to the trauma and their treatment when they came back from war having seen what they’d seen. Compelling and brilliant.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Regeneration Trilogy is on William Skidelsky's list of the 10 best historical novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five unforgettable fathers from fiction

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction:
To the Lighthouse
by Virginia Woolf

In the form of the imperious philosopher Mr. Ramsay, Virginia Woolf delivers an electrifying, disturbing portrait of her unconventional father, in this story of a family's loss and the birth of a young woman's artistic vision. A winding, skillful introspection on the complexities of family dynamics, To the Lighthouse is Woolf's modernist masterpiece.
Read about the other entries on the list.

To the Lighthouse appears among Margaret Drabble's top ten literary landscapes, the American Book Review's 100 best last lines from novels, Amity Gaige's best books, and Adam Langer's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Top ten father memoirs

Andre Gerard is the founder of Patremoir Press and the editor of Fathers: a Literary Anthology.

One of his top ten father memoirs, as told to the Guardian:
Father and Son by Edmund Gosse

The first of all father memoirs, this is still one of the best. Interestingly, Gosse's first attempt to write about his father took the form of an official biography. Written shortly after his father's death on 23 August 1888, The Life of Philip Henry Gosse was admired by Henry James as "a singularly clever, skilful, vivid, well-done biography of his father, the fanatic and naturalist – very happy in proportion, tact and talent". Luckily, at least two other readers – John Addington Symonds and George Moore – suggested that Gosse should be more autobiographical and explore the father-son relationship.

Almost 20 years later, Gosse unburdened himself of Father and Son. Though the book was an immediate success and the reviews were largely enthusiastic, the reviewer of the Academy had reservations about the "close anatomisation by a son of a father", and the Times Literary Supplement raised the question of "how far in the interests of popular edification or amusement it is legitimate to expose the weaknesses and inconsistencies of a good man who is also one's father". Perhaps not always fortunately, subsequent writers, far more frank and confessional, showed far fewer qualms in writing about their fathers.
Read about the other books on the list.

Father and Son is one of Alexander Waugh's five best books that capture the complexities of father-son relationships. Susan Cheever called it a "model for writing about a parent."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ten must-read historical thrillers

Matt Rees is an award-winning crime novelist. His series about Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef won a CWA Dagger. His latest novels are Mozart's Last Aria, a historical thriller about the composer's death, and A Name in Blood, a portrayal of Italian artist Caravaggio and his mysterious disappearance.

One title on Rees's list of ten must-read historical thrillers:
The Silence. J. Sydney Jones

In this marvelous novel the real mayor of Vienna at the onset of the twentieth century, Karl Lueger, is at the heart of a conspiracy to raise big money from the sale of the Vienna Woods and at the same time to gain political capital by blaming Jewish property developers for the destruction of the city’s beloved green belt. It’s a measure of Jones’s skill as a writer that, while his hero is a lawyer-turned-investigator of Jewish origin, the novel’s Jews are not really better or worse than the society around them. They aren’t portrayed as poor saintly victims. They’re simply part of Jones’s Vienna, as they were part of historical Vienna. There’s also a youthful role for little Ludwig Wittgenstein. For lovers of Sherlock Holmes, you can’t go wrong with Jones.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Silence.

Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website.

My Book, The Movie: Mozart's Last Aria.

The Page 69 Test: Mozart's Last Aria.

Writers Read: Matt Rees (December 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mohsin Hamid's six favorite books

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, and his essays in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. Born in 1971, he has lived about half his life, on and off, in Lahore. He also spent part of his early childhood in California, attended Princeton and Harvard, and worked for a decade as a management consultant in New York and London, mostly part-time.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Dune by Frank Herbert

This 1965 space saga set on a desert planet is a racy read and one of the best-selling sci-fi novels of all time. But for me it was the Middle Eastern, indeed quasi-Muslim, inspirations that Herbert layered into his book that introduced me to the idea of literary hybridity. It's sadly hard to imagine, post-9/11, this novel being written today.
Read about the other books on Hamid's list.

Dune is among io9's ten science fiction novels you pretend to have read, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best vendettas in literature and ten of the best deserts in literature, and among the best and worst childbirth scenes in sci-fi & fantasy.

Visit Mohsin Hamid's website and Facebook page.

Mohsin Hamid's most influential book.

Mohsin Hamid's 10 favorite books.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Writers Read: Mohsin Hamid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ten sources that inspired "Game of Thrones"' dark storytelling

At io9 Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders came up with a list of ten sources that inspired Game of Thrones' dark storytelling, including:
J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

You probably won't be surprised to hear that Martin borrowed a lot from Tolkien for his epic fantasy series. Both the idea of a "secondary world," in which certain things (like the seasons) are very different, but also the initial structure. Tolkien was "my great model" for the handling of the characters in Song of Ice and Fire, Martin has said. Lord of the Rings "begins with a tight focus, and all the characters are together. Then by end of the first book the Fellowship splits up, and they have different adventures." Apart from Daenerys, all of Martin's characters are together in his first book, and they all split into groups, which eventually split up as well. Adds Martin: "The intent was to fan out, then curve and come back together. Finding the point where that turn begins has been one of the issues I’ve wrestled with." Another major influence from Tolkien: the restrained use of magic. You don't see Gandalf casting a lot of spells or throwing fireballs in the Lord of the Rings saga. When there's danger, Gandalf mostly pulls out his sword.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lord of the Rings also made Rob Bricken's list of 11 preposterously manly fantasy series, Conrad Mason's top ten list of magical objects in fiction, Linus Roache's six best books list, Derek Landy's top ten list of villains in children's books, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs' list of ten classic SF books that were originally considered failures, Lev Grossman's list of the six greatest fantasy books of all time, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best women dressed as men, ten of the best bows and arrows in literature, ten of the best beards in literature, ten of the best towers in literature, ten of the best volcanoes in literature, ten of the best chases in literature, and ten of the best monsters in literature. It is one of Salman Rushdie's five best fantasy novels for all ages. It is a book that made a difference to Pat Conroy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Five top books on privacy

Jeffrey Rosen is the president and chief executive of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and a law professor at George Washington University. He is legal affairs editor of The New Republic, and co-editor (with Benjamin Wittes) of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change.

Prefacing his Washington Post list of five favorite books on privacy, Rosen recommends first reading "the best article on privacy ever written: Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis’s 'The Right to Privacy,' first published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890 and available online."

One of Rosen's top books on the right to privacy:

In addition to illuminating how the Internet works, Zittrain explores the transition from what he calls Privacy 1.0, where threats to privacy came mostly from data stored in government and corporate databases, to Privacy 2.0, where the data is generated, recorded and shared by individuals. Zittrain helps illuminate why the government and the private sector can share information so easily, and why the law seems to make that easier, not harder.
Read about the other books on Rosen's list at the Washington Post.

Learn about a couple of Rosen's favorite books on the Supreme Court, and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on heat waves and hot places

Biologist Bill Streever wrote the national bestseller, Cold, and the follow up, Heat. He lives with his son, Ish Streever, his partner and wife, marine biologist Lisanne Aerts, and the resident dog, Lucky (who was adopted from Sakhalin, Russia) in Anchorage, Alaska. The four of them ski, hike, dive, bike, and camp as often as time and their varying abilities allow.

One of five top books on heat waves and hot places that Streever named for the Wall Street Journal:
The Devil's Highway
by Luis Alberto Urrea (2004)

'In the desert,' writes Luis Alberto Urrea, "we are all illegal aliens." The desert he describes is the Sonoran, in southern Arizona, and the real-life story he tells, set in 2001, is of a group of people desperate enough for jobs to cross the desert on foot and without immigration papers. Walking at night to avoid the sun, they went west and south when they should have gone north. They ran out of water. Fourteen of them perished. From a survivor: "I do not know who was dying or how many because I too was dying." Of the 26 men who began the journey, only 12 lived. Interviews with survivors and others, captured in Urrea's brilliant writing, mix accounts of the heat's toll with observations on politics and human decency. Urrea's chronicle shimmers like an image seen through the heat haze of a desert afternoon, becoming clearer and more tragic with the passing of every word.
Read about the other books on Streever's list.

Learn about Streever's five best books about extreme cold.

Visit Bill Streever's website.

The Page 99 Test: Cold.

Writers Read: Bill Streever (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Five top books about the body

Gabriel Weston is an English surgeon and author. Her memoir entitled Direct Red: A Surgeon's Story was published in February 2009. It was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award in September 2009 and won the PEN/J Ackerley Award for Autobiography in May 2010. Her new novel is Dirty Work.

One of five books about the body that Weston tagged for the Telegraph:
The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (1985) by Oliver Sacks crystallised my desire to become a doctor, not only for its meaty medical subject matter but also the poetic glow of the writing. Sacks showed me that there is space for the imagination in medicine.
Read about the other books Weston named.

The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is one of Lisa Genova's six favorite books about science & literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 7, 2013

Top ten unusual fictional families

Matt Whyman is a bestselling author, also known for his work as an advice columnist for numerous teenage magazines.

He has written two novels for adults, Man or Mouse and Columbia Road, as well as both fiction and non-fiction for teenagers, including Superhuman, XY, Boy Kills Man, XY:100, The Wild, the So Below trilogy, Inside the Cage and Goldstrike. His latest novel is The Savages.

One entry on Whyman's top ten list of unusual fictional families, as told to the Guardian:
The Radleys by Matt Haig

Rowan and Clara seem to be typical teenagers living an everyday existence under the guidance of their conservative parents. Things take a turn for the strange when the pair discover that there's a reason why they burn easily in sunlight, dislike garlic and scare birds out of trees. But can vampires really abstain, as Mr and Mrs Radley strive to believe, or will their bloodlust prove impossible to repress?
Read about the other families on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Radleys.

My Book, The Movie: The Radleys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Five top portraits of grief

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book, and Swimming Across the Hudson, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book and The World Without You, winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction and a Finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award.

One of his five best portraits of grief, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Half a Life
by Darin Strauss (2010)

'Half my life ago, I killed a girl." So begins Darin Strauss's brutally unsentimental memoir of when he was 18 and Celine Zilke, a girl from his Long Island high school, swerved her bicycle in front of his car in what may have been a suicide. Told in bursts of chapters, some only a paragraph long, the book is an exquisitely wrought examination of Strauss's feelings of guilt (he was cleared of all wrongdoing) and of the guilt he feels for feeling guilty in the first place. Should he visit Celine in the hospital? Should he go to her funeral? How, Strauss wonders, can he even ask such questions? If he thinks of the accident as being about him, he will diminish what happened to Celine and her family. Yet everywhere he goes, he is made to feel that the accident is about him: in school assemblies, on dates, even by Celine's mother, who tells him: "Whatever you do in your life you have to do it twice as well now. Because you are living it for two people." "Half a Life" is about Strauss's failure to do this—about the very impossibility of the enterprise.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Darin Strauss' Half a Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Five of the best children's book protagonists

Clara Vulliamy is the author and illustrator of numerous series for children, including the Martha and the Bunny Brothers series, Muffin series, Lucky Wish Mouse series, and The Bear with the Sticky Paws series. She lives in London, England.

One of Vulliamy's five best children's book protagonists, as told to the Telegraph:
Piglet, from ‘The House at Pooh Corner’
by AA Milne

Piglet is brave, honourable and trusting, but beset by constant anxieties. With his ears trembling with nerves and his lovely round belly in an all-in-one stripy green vest, he is a sublime example of appearance and personality working together as one. His conversations with devoted pal Pooh are the soundtrack of my childhood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

AA Milne and EH Shepard made Chris Riddell's top ten list of author/illustrator double acts. When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne is on Glen Roven's list of seven poetry books to ignite your imagination. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner is a book to which Jonathan Kozol will always return; and Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the Barnes & Noble Review's top five books featuring toys and a book Walter Mosley hopes parents would read to their children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ten of the biggest book adaptation flops

One of the ten biggest book-to-film flops--adaptations that were a critical/audience failure and a box office failure--Gabe Habash named for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly:
All the King’s Men (2006)

Net Losses (inflation adjusted to 2012): $52,511,544

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 11%

Representative Review Quote: “Failures on the scale of writer-director Steven Zaillian’s All the King’s Men are as rare as falling sequoias, and they make a noise even if no one’s in the woods to hear them.” -New York Daily News

In 1949, Robert Penn Warren’s classic was adapted for the screen and won Best Picture, Best Actor (Broderick Crawford) and Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge). In 2006, the book was adapted again, this time with Sean Penn screaming over inspirational music for two hours. No awards were won and the movie was called “depressing,” “dull” and “hysterically over-the-top yet strangely lifeless.”
Read about the other flops on the list.

All the King's Men appears on David Blight's list of five outstanding novels about the Civil War era, Heather Brooke's top five list of books on holding power to account, Melanie Kirkpatrick's list of her five favorite novels of political intrigue, and H.W. Brands's five best list of books on truth or just in print; Robert McCrum called it a book to inspire busy public figures.

Also see: Fifteen top film adaptations of literary classics; Five great books that worked as films; and The Daily Telegraph's top 25 book to film adaptations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fareed Zakaria's six favorite books

Fareed Zakaria is host of CNN’s flagship international affairs program—Fareed Zakaria GPS, editor at large of TIME, a Washington Post columnist, and a New York Times bestselling author. He was described in 1999 by Esquire magazine as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation.” In 2010, Foreign Policy named him one of the top 100 global thinkers. Since 2008, he has hosted Fareed Zakaria GPS, which airs Sundays worldwide on CNN.

Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World: Release 2.0, was heralded in the New York Times book review as “…a relentlessly intelligent book” and The Economist called it “…a powerful guide” to facing global challenges.

One of Zakaria's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Most "idea books" are bloated essays; this one, from a Nobel Prize–winning economist, is worth reading all the way through. Kahneman offers a fascinating set of ideas about how human beings think and reason, for better and worse.
Read about the other books on the list.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is among Penn Jillette's 6 favorite books and Dylan Ratigan's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue