Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ten must-read books that take place in the Midwest

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Lauren Passell tagged ten must-read books that take place in the Midwest, including:
The Devil All The Time, by Donald Ray Pollock

The Midwest might not have a reputation for churning out literature kicks to the stomach, like the South does, but this gritty book stands with the best Gothic tales. The Devil All The Time illustrates the (lesser-known) lawlessness of mid-century Ohio and West Virginia with grotesque and unforgettably bizarre characters (an orphan with a commitment to violently Old Testament-like justice; murderous, vacationing hitchhikers; and a preacher on the lam) who kick the wholesomeness right out of the Midwest with grit and fearlessness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Thirteen great books out of the Midwest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The ten best modernist books (in English)

Laura Frost, an associate professor of literary studies and chair of liberal studies at The New School, is the author of the new book, The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents.

For Publishers Weekly she named the ten best modernist books (in English)--and offered a few tips for reading them:
1. Take your time: you’re not just reading for plot here; you’re reading for the play of the words on the page, the structure, the overall effect. 2. Be curious: if something is daunting or disorienting, ask yourself what makes it so. 3. Play the game: each book has different principles. The more you figure them out, the more you’ll enjoy reading. 4. Don’t get bogged down: when you come across something like the notoriously difficult “Oxen of the Sun” episode of Ulysses, do your best but keep going until something clicks for you. 5. Finally, re-read. Joyce once claimed, “The demand that I make of my reader is that he [sic] should devote his whole life to reading my works.” That kind of commitment is not required, but it helps.
One title on Frost's list:
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930) - Southern Gothic at its most terrible and comic. Fifteen different characters think about a matriarch on her deathbed. Faulkner doesn’t throw any Thomas Aquinas or Sanskrit at you, à la Joyce or Eliot, but the shifting points of view can be just as disorienting. Focus on each character’s eccentricities and how the various voices are arranged. “My mother is a fish”: Discuss.
Read about the other works on the list.

As I Lay Dying is on Helen Humphreys's top ten list of books on grieving, 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.

The “My mother is a fish.” chapter in As I Lay Dying is among the ten most notorious parts of famous books according to Gabe Habash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books about marriage

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the novels Commencement, Maine, and the recently released The Engagements.

One of her six favorite books about marriage, as told to The Week magazine:
A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano

Author Flannery O'Connor is the star of this novel, a fictionalization of the great Georgia novelist's final years. But the book begins with an unforgettable pre-wedding night, in which peacocks howl into the wee hours and the bride, one of O'Connor's neighbors, ends up with a black eye. The marriage that follows is just as surprising and complicated.
Read about the other books on the list.

Visit J. Courtney Sullivan's website.

Writers Read: Ann Napolitano (April 2011).

The Page 69 Test: J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement.

Also see: Top ten marriage tales and Five best works that explore marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 29, 2013

Twenty books made better when read together

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Lauren Passell tagged 20 peanut butter & jelly reads (books made better when read together), including:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, and Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

You’ve probably read Jane Eyre, the famous coming-of-age story featuring one of the strongest female characters in literature—and the infamous woman in the attic, Bertha Mason, who has been interpreted as representing everything from the confining nature of Victorian marriage, to the British Empire’s exploitation of its colonial subjects, to Jane herself. Wide Sargasso Sea, written as a prequel to Brontë’s tale, imagines the story from Bertha’s point of view.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wide Sargasso Sea is among Siân Phillips's six favorite books, Richard Gwyn's top ten books in which things end badly, and Elise Valmorbida's top ten books on the migrant experience.

Jane Eyre also made Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of the ten hottest men in required reading, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Science fiction's five best guides to the present

"It's 2013 and there are no bases on Mars or even Luna. We aren't exploring the galaxy at warp speed and, given the impossibility of faster-than-light travel, we never will be," notes Damien Walter in the Guardian. Yet, he adds, science fiction is "the only reliable guide I've found to the weird present we're now all living in."

One of five SF realms that Walter suggests helps us understand the world today-- psychic powers:
Far be it from me to make any claims to psychic powers, but in the last 24 hours I've plucked thoughts from the minds of hundreds of other humans in 140-character bites and read dozens of news stories published only minutes before they hit my mind. Octavia E Butler's Patternist novels are a speculative vision of psychic powers operating between human minds, and it's remarkable how many parallels to the internet are to be found there and in other SF tales of psychic powers like Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. We may not have reached the full Vulcan mind-meld just yet, but our smartphone obsession is not a million light years away from it.
Read about the other four themes Walter mentions: Algorithmic robot overlords. Microsoft Big Brother. Post-Scarcity economics. Quantum reality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Anthony Bourdain's ten favorite books

Anthony Bourdain is a world traveler who has had successful careers as a chef, TV host, and author.

He named his ten favorite books for Business Insider. One title on the list:
True Grit by Charles Portis

"The greatest female protagonist I've ever read. Portis is one of the most underrated under appreciated authors of the 20th century. Forget the film versions. Read the book. His book, 'Dog Of The South,' is also brilliant," Bourdain said.

This classic American novel follows a teenage girl as she tries to avenge the murder of her father in the wild west.
Read about the other books on Bourdain's list.

True Grit also appears on Andy Borowitz's list of five top comic novels, Tad Friend's five best list of novels on success, Willy Vlautin's list of five great books set in the West, and Jonathan Lethem's list of five terrific novels overshadowed by their film versions.

Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential is among the Guardian's top ten food books of the last decade, David Kamp's six books notable for their food prose, Trevor White's ten notable books about dining, and Laura Lippman's top ten memorable memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top fictional gold diggers

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Allegra Frazier tagged five of her favorite fictional gold diggers, including:
Llewellyn Moss (No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy).

While hunting in the south Texas desert, Vietnam vet Llewellyn Moss stumbles across the bloody site of a drug deal gone wrong. Unwisely, he takes the case of money (complete with tracking device) left behind, putting him in the sights of ruthless hit man Anton Chigurh. Even as Chigurh closes in on him, Moss refuses to yield the money to him or anyone, in spite of the fact that refusing to do means his days are numbered.

Happiness factor: It’s hard to be happy when you’re dead.
Read about the other gold diggers on the list.

No Country For Old Men is among Kimberly Turner's ten most disturbing sociopaths in literature and Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mickey Sumner's six best books

Mickey Sumner is the daughter of musician/actor Sting and producer Trudie Styler. She is best-known for playing Francesca in the TV drama The Borgias. Her latest film is Frances Ha.

One of Sumner's six best books, as told to The Daily Express:
NEVER MIND by Edward St Aubyn

I love the Patrick Melrose series, of which this is the first, and I cannot put them down. This is very dark and twisted but funny and incredibly well written. It starts in the south of France before moving on to New York and then to England. It's great.
Read about the other books on Sumner's list.

"If there is one book, or series, that is, I would want everyone to pick up and read it would have to be the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn," writes the historian Douglas Smith. "Acerbic, witty, unflinchingly honest and simultaneously heartrending and hilarious, St. Aubyn’s books—Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last, published in the US earlier this year—are without doubt one of the great literary achievements in English of the past decades. St. Aubyn is one of those rare writers who has to be read and then read again and again."

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten excellent international thrillers

One of ten excellent international thrillers according to the editors of The Barnes & Noble Review and reported at the Christian Science Monitor:
"The Missing File," by D.A. Mishani

Depressive Israeli detective Avraham Avraham searches for a vanished teenage boy who fascinated his suspicious, obsessive neighbor in this provocative novel built on multiple perspectives, all leading up to a satisfying, heartbreaking conclusion.
Read about the other novels on the list.

Visit D. A. Mishani's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing File.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing File.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 26, 2013

Eight fictional women who stood by their men

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged eight fictional women who stood by their men, including:
Kathy (Little Children, Tom Perrotta).

In this novel about repressed sexuality and stifled dreams set in a small suburb, married former feminist Sarah begins an affair with hunky, also married Todd. Though Sarah’s husband eventually leaves her, Todd’s gorgeous wife, Kathy, holds on. (Though she cannot get over the fact that he picked Sarah, a woman she deems ugly, for his extramarital activity.)
Read about the other women on the list.

Little Children is on Sonja Lyubomirsky's list of six top books that examine the idea of happiness.

Sarah from Little Children is one of the ten worst mothers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Five top books on Britain's royal inheritors

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on baby-watching in Great Britain, past and present:
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery
by Eric Ives

On other occasions, an extended family member is seated upon the throne. When King Edward VI died suddenly in 1553, his cousin Lady Jane Grey assumed the throne as queen of England -- and was unceremoniously beheaded two weeks later in a plot initiated by Edward’s illegitimate half sister, Mary. This revealing look at one of the greatest scandals in Tudor history is an adroit, compelling portrait of Lady Jane -- a woman of poise and great integrity, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten hottest men in required reading

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged the ten hottest men in required reading, including:
Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte). Ugly, surly, and full of secrets? Yes. Mad good at wooing pixie-like dames who’ve been raised in orphanages and believe themselves to be unworthy of affection? Double yes. Hold me back!
Read about the other leading men on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Top ten descriptions of food in fiction

Katherine Rundell grew up in Africa and Europe and was elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She begins each day with a cartwheel and believes that reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: It turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless. Rooftoppers, her latest book, was inspired by summers spent working in Paris, where at night, she trespassed on rooftops.

At the Guardian, she named her top ten descriptions of food in fiction. One title on the list:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Amy's pickled limes are both enticing and puzzling. "If one girl likes another, she gives her a lime," she say. "If she's mad with her, she eats one before her face, and doesn't offer even a suck." A few years ago I found a simple 19th-century recipe for pickled limes: scrubbed limes in a jar of water and seasalt. Possibly I didn't leave them to marinade for long enough. They were not delicious.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Little Women also appears among Gwyneth Rees's ten top books about siblings, 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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The ten best underdogs in literature

Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in the interestingly named village of Swineshead, England. From the ages of 5-11, he enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as a chess player, winning numerous national championships and travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg to pit his wits against the finest young minds in Russia. He won only one game.

In his first novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, epileptic teen Alex Woods is a target of bullies ... and at least one object from space. (He became a national celebrity at age 10 when he was hit by a meteorite.) What reader wouldn't pull for the kid?

For Publishers Weekly, Extence named ten of the best underdogs in literature, including:
Captain John Yossarian, Catch-22 – The perennial victim of Catch-22. In order to escape the horrors of World War Two, Yossarian has to request that the army’s psychiatrists discharge him on the grounds of insanity. The only problem is that any such request will be viewed as incontrovertible proof of his sanity, as you’d have to be insane not to make the request. After 500 pages of vicious circles, this is another book with an ending that is simply sublime.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Catch-22 is among Lee Camp's five top books on political satire, Shalom Auslander's top ten comic tragedies, Jim Lehrer's 6 favorite 20th century novels, Charles Glass's five books on Americans abroad, Avi Steinberg's six books every prison should stock, Patrick Hennessey's six books to take to war, Jasper Fforde's five most important books, Thomas E. Ricks' top ten books about U.S. military history, and Antony Beevor's five best works of fiction about World War II. While it disappointed Nick Hornby upon rereading, it made Cracked magazine's "Wit Lit 101: Five Classic Novels That Bring the Funny." Joseph Heller is one of five authors who inspired William Boyd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ten top books based on other books

Álvaro Enrigue's story collection Hypothermia explores identity and isolation through the eyes of garbage collectors, professors, and outcasts. It's also loosely based on Dante's Inferno. For Publishers Weekly, Enrigue tagged ten "great literary works which have set out to modify our reading of other, earlier ones," including:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - A book that everyone has read –or at least must pretend to have read– and which is based on another one, even more classic: Don Quixote. Few phrases have been quoted more than Flaubert’s: “Madame Bovary, that’s me.” If the author identified perhaps a little closely with his character, it’s also true that the wife of Doctor Bovary is a feminine incarnation of Don Quixote de la Mancha: he lost his mind reading novels of chivalry while she lost hers reading romance novels.
Read about the other books on the list.

Madame Bovary is on Jennifer Gilmore's list of the ten worst mothers in books, 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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Twenty great insults from science fiction & fantasy books

At io9 Amanda Yesilbas and Katharine Trendacosta came up with a list of twenty great insults from science fiction and fantasy books, including:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

The Marauder’s Map evisceration of Snape:

"Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business.

Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git.

Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a Professor.

Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slime-ball."
Read about the other entries on the list.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban also appears on Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest prison breaks in science fiction and fantasy.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best owls in literature, ten of the best scars in fiction and ten of the best motorbikes in literature, and Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, Charlie Higson's top 10 list of fantasy books for children, Justin Scroggie's top ten list of books with secret signs as well as Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of well-known and beloved science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers didn't want to touch. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire made John Mullan's list of ten best graveyard scenes in fiction.

The Harry Potter books made Cressida Cowell's list of ten notable mythical creatures and Alison Flood's list of the top 10 most frequently stolen books.

Dolores Umbridge is among Emerald Fennell's top ten villainesses in literature and Derek Landy's top 10 villains in children's books. The Burrow is one of Elizabeth Wilhide's nine most memorable manors in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Five books for the pregnant Kate Middleton

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Amy Wilkinson tagged five books Kate Middleton should read while waiting to give birth, including:
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Besides the fact that Great Expectations is an awful pun for the media furor surrounding the royal baby’s arrival, the book is rich with themes like good versus evil, the rich versus the poor, and love and rejection—all of which the future leader of England should think about.
Read about the other books on the list.

Great Expectations appears on Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of "Great Expectations".

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best children's books with disabled characters

Sean Stockdale and Alex Strick are the authors of Max the Champion, (illustrated by Ros Asquith), a picture book about a sports-mad little boy, also featuring dozens of subtle visual references to disability and inclusion.

For the Guardian, they named ten of the best children's books featuring (or even just including) disabled characters, including:
The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

This book, from the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is our wild card. It's a rather quirky novel about a young boy who is born defying the laws of gravity – much to the mortification of his painfully "normal" parents who, quite frankly, cannot and will not cope with the humiliation of having a child who is different. What we loved here were the messages about society's perceptions of 'normality' and the desire to correct those who don't fit the norm. We also liked the inclusion of various other diverse characters including a same-sex couple.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Top ten books about disability.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 19, 2013

Eleven books every aspiring television writer should read

At io9 Charlie Jane Anders came up with a list of eleven books that every aspiring television writer should read, including:
Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

Jose Molina (Firefly, Haven, The Vampire Diaries) recommends this as a great book for screenwriters specifically. "The Goldman book is a brutally honest account of the life of a writer in Hollywood. (It focuses mostly on features, but it's a great primer for anyone who wants to know what it's really like. When I was 21 and first starting out, Michael Piller insisted I read it. The whole time I was reading, I was like "it'll be different for me — I won't have to eat any of this shit." I was 100% wrong." This isn't a writing book per se, but it's an essential book "about the Hollywood culture," Molina adds. "How writers are perceived and treated. It's a book you have to read, simply because you need to be warned what you're getting into. It's the first necessary step in losing the naivete with which so many people approach the industry."
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Top ten literary works about ancestors

Daisy Hildyard was born in Yorkshire in 1984 and currently lives in London, where she is studying for a PhD on scientific language. Hunters in the Snow is her first novel.

For the Guardian, she named the ten best poems, books, and plays about our human inheritance, including:
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Near the beginning, Darwin considers what we do not know about our ancestors.

"The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; [or] why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor."
Read about the other entries on the list.

On the Origin of Species is among Clive Finlayson's five best books on extinction and Gerald Imber's five best books on cosmetic surgery.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Five children’s books that make you feel like you're drunk

Whitney Collins is the author of The Hamster Won't Die: A Treasury of Feral Humor and the creator and editor of two humor sites -- errant parent and The Yellow Ham.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog she tagged five "specimens of outlandish children’s literature [that] will convince you that you’ve spent the day bar-hopping," including:
Fox In Socks, by Dr. Seuss
I hear that when people get pulled over for a DUI, the cops ask them to recite the alphabet backward. You know what? Just have them read one page of Fox In Socks. Sweet Lorax! It’s impossible. I know this book is meant to teach children rhyming and phonics, but all it’s doing is teaching them that Mommy sounds like a wino when she has to deal with excessive alliteration.
Read about the other books on Collins's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Five top books about farmers

Evie Wyld grew up in Australia and London, where she currently lives. She received an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and was featured as one of Granta’s New Voices in May 2008.

Her novels are After the Fire, a Still Small Voice and All the Birds, Singing.

One of Wyld's five favorite books about farmers, as told to the Telegraph:
Pearl S Buck’s The Good Earth (1931) shows a life of almost relentless toughness for Wang Lung and O-Lan. Plough the earth in the morning, give birth in the afternoon, sow seeds as night falls, always keeping their eyes turned to the soil.
Read about the other four books Wyld tagged.

The Good Earth is one of Tiger Mom's 5 best books on being a Mother.

Visit Evie Wyld's website.

The Page 69 Test: After the Fire, a Still Small Voice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top mix-tape books

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged five books that inspire great mix tapes, including:
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby.

Hornby’s hilarious, allusion-heavy writing is at its hyperliterate best in this finally-coming-of-age story of a London record store owner who reexamines the entwined histories of his love lives—both with inevitably disappointed women and, more importantly, with music. Perhaps the best writing out there on the art of the mix tape.

Favorite tracks: “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” Stevie Wonder; “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” Solomon Burke; “Let’s Get it On,” Marvin Gaye
Read about the other books on the list.

High Fidelity also made Rob Reid's six favorite books list, Ashley Hamilton's list of 8 books to read with a broken heart, Tiffany Murray's top 10 list of rock'n'roll novels, Mark Hodkinson's critic's chart of rock music in fiction, and John Sutherland's list of the best books about listing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2013

Emily Brady's six favorite books

Emily Brady was born and raised in Northern California. A graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism, she has written for the New York Times, Time, the Village Voice and other publications. She has reported from Latin America, Europe, Asia and New York City and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Brady embedded in an insular community for a year to produce Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier, her book-length portrait of a California region getting rich on marijuana farming.

One of Brady's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

In haunting, lyrical language, Urrea digs deep into a tragedy: In 2001, 26 men attempted to cross illegally from Mexico into the U.S., and only 12 survived. Urrea's book explores what drove those men to walk across a desert in search of a better life, as well as the codependent relationship that binds two neighboring nations.
Read about the other books on Brady's list.

The Devil's Highway is one of Bill Streever's five top books on heat waves and hot places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Top ten U.P. writings of all-time

Ron Riekki has an M.F.A. in Theater Arts from Brandeis, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Virginia, and a Ph.D. in Literature & Creative Writing from Western Michigan.

He is the author of U.P.: A Novel, several poetry chapbooks, and numerous plays, including Dandelion Cottage, A Play.

Riekki's latest book is The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works.

His July 2013 list of the top ten Upper Peninsula (of Michigan) writings of all-time:
Bamewawagezhikaquay's writing in The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky--

Robert Dale Parker, in the introduction to the book, calls her "the first known American Indian literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, by some measures the first known Indian poet"; hopefully people will realize that Native American literature, in many ways, begins in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Catie Rosemurgy's The Stranger Manual--

Catie Rosemurgy's work is stunning; she writes books slowly. There was an eight-year gap between her first poetry book and her second. And she seems on pace for another eight years until the next, but the payoff is worth it. She whispers her poems to you and the intimate voice is sheer beauty, even when it's ugly.

Austin Hummell's Poppy--

Hummell, like Rosemurgy, just simply understands poetry, like his brain has shifted to think poetically, in ways others of us can't. There's something ineffable in what Rosemurgy and Hummell do line-by-line, but the result is consistently interesting. Also, like Rosemurgy, he seems to write rarely, having a seven-year gap between his first and second book. And now he's going into a decade-long gap since Poppy. Hummell fans are anticipating the next book, myself included.

Catie Rosemurgy's My Favorite Apocalypse--

Rosemurgy herself sees her later collection The Stranger Manual as superior to My Favorite Apocalypse, but Rosemurgy's worst poems are better than many authors' best poems. You can turn to any page in this collection and find a truly unique American voice.

Robert Traver's Laughing Whitefish--

As can be seen from the top four writers on this list, the Upper Peninsula is making significant contributions to poetry. Fiction, though, has been problematic. The voices that seem to get widely accepted the most tend to be outsider representations/misrepresentations of the Upper Peninsula in which the cliches of its geography make the page and the characters never truly feel authentically Yooper. Traver is that rare (and desperately needed) U.P. fiction writer who was born, raised, and lived in the U.P., so his characters feel wonderfully real. I'm from Negaunee and his description of the city in its opening felt so dead-on that I was amazed at the detail, especially in contrast to some of the hollow town descriptions I've seen in other books. (I will add this--it will be a breakthrough for the history of U.P. literature the moment that Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan University, or Lake Superior State actually hires a born and raised Yooper for its creative writing faculty who has a major publisher book deal. That simple act would be powerful for U.P. literature, as we could have a writer dedicated to that area able to survive financially and continue to write about the area and have a broad audience to tell those stories. It will be a very happy day for me the day that happens. Maybe they can try to seduce Tom Bissell or Ander Monson to take a position there.)

Jonathan Johnson's Mastodon, 80% Complete--

Johnson's love of the U.P. shows in his poetry. He lacks pretentiousness, instead replacing that with a wonderful embracing of the beauty and flaws of U.P. life.

Ander Monson's Other Electricities--

Monson is one of the strangest writers ever to come from the area. He's the only writer on this list that I would consider post-modern. The results are mixed. Monson has some writing that makes me feel completely neutral, as if it was written by a scientist instead of a creative writer. On the other hand, Monson can come with a surprise left-hook that can make one of his stories or poems so impressive that you walk away thinking he just might be the best writer ever to come from the region. In fact, Monson is probably the author I would choose as the most possible to end up with a Pulitzer Prize. He's hit-and-miss, but when he hits he's absolutely flawless. Or, perhaps, rather, the flaws are so elegant that you wish you could learn how to control those Leonard-Cohen-esque cracks.

Wendell Mayes' Anatomy of a Murder--

Of course, I'm just trying to be controversial here with the name of the writer. I've never read Anatomy of a Murder. I've seen it. As a kid, I read the first page and it just felt a hundred years from where I was at in my life. I've never picked it up again, but I'll get to it eventually. Laughing Whitefish I read much later in life when I was literarily ready for it, I suppose. The first time I saw the film I thought it was OK. Again, it didn't have the immediate connection of a Quentin Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson for me. But the second and third viewings, again, when I was older, made me realize that a lot of that screenplay is genius. Mayes evaporates the U.P. authenticity turning the area into a sort of nameless Hollywood version, which is a major problem, but the writing is so good, especially considering what could be written in the 1950s and actually make it to the screen, that I have to include it in the top ten. (By the way, the screenplay is so good, of course, I'm sure, largely because of Traver.)

Rebecca Tavernini's and Grace Chaillier's Voice on the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now--

I wish this book was 200 pages instead of 250+. There are some clunkers included that lower the quality of the overall experience of the book, but eliminate those roughly 50 pages of weaker writings and the remaining 200 pages are an enjoyable, important read. The writing of Echoe Deibert and Clara Corbett immediately come to mind, two writers whose voice is so unique and true that you feel you want to meet them and talk to them for hours at a bonfire after reading their poems.

Carroll Watson Rankin's Dandelion Cottage--

Rankin is problematic. Some of the language in regards to Native Americans can make you wince, but jump over those issues of 1904 authorship and there is some wonderful humor and a softly inspirational story of dealing with issues of poverty to create a beautiful little life in a cottage. The book is charming and its roots in very early U.P. literature make it a YA must-read.
Visit Ron Riekki's website and follow him on Twitter.

Learn more about The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works.

--Marshal Zeringue

Siân Phillips's six favorite books

The Welsh actor Siân Phillips may be best known for her television role as the mother/empress Livia in the classic BBC series I, Claudius, and as the Reverend Mother in the science fiction epic film Dune.

One of her six favorite books, as told to The Daily Express:

I reread this recently and it's so crafty and crafted. I'm surprised every time by how she goes back and forward in time. And the way you realise that you're half in another book, Jane Eyre, is startling.
Read about the other books on the list.

Wide Sargasso Sea is among Richard Gwyn's top ten books in which things end badly and Elise Valmorbida's top ten books on the migrant experience.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Top ten funniest fictional families

Jeremy Strong is the author of over 80 children's books, including the series The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog and My Brother's Favourite Bottom series. His latest book is My Brother's Famous Bottom Gets Crowned.

One of his ten top funniest fictional families, as told to the Guardian:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley and his family is well known to millions around the globe and rightly so, but this family will also be familiar because in many ways it is like so many, with constant internal strife, warfare, coming back together, splitting apart again, sibling treachery and so on. There's laughter on every page of Jeff Kinney's monster success.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is one of Adam Lancaster's top ten "library" books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ten female writers' favorite books

For forty years Virago has dedicated itself solely to publishing women’s writing. To mark the anniversary, ten female authors chose their favorite books from Virago's backlist.

Hilary Mantel's pick:
Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (1957)

At the end of Victoria’s reign Angel is 15, plain and peevish, the daughter of a provincial shopkeeper, a girl with no prospects. But she has secret assets: devouring ambition and a reckless way with words. When Angel begins to write scandalous novels about high society – of which she is totally ignorant – an adoring public laps them up. Elizabeth Taylor’s tender, funny, exquisitely stylish novel keeps us on Angel’s side, even though we are appalled by her narcissism and shocked into laughter by her self-delusion. She is a monster, but a delicious monster, and the novel poses, for writers, questions that don’t date. That’s why I’m so drawn to the book and have loved it for years; there’s a bit of Angel in every writer, I fear.
Read about the other nine books at the Telegraph.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about disability

Paul Wilson is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Mouse and the Cossacks. He works for part of the week as the Business Writer for Pluss, the UK`s largest Social Firm and a leading provider of disability employment services, for whom he writes a regular blog. In 2010 he was elected Vice Chairman of BASE, the British Association for Supported Employment.

One of Wilson's top ten books about disability, as told to the Guardian:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

There's an ongoing debate in disability politics over to what extent disability should be seen as a deficit or as a difference. Melville's classic sticks rigidly to the former view, but creates a memorable tale of would-be revenge sought by the one-legged Captain Ahab against his nemesis, the whale.
Read about the other books on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ten top French Revolution novels

Jonathan Grimwood, writing under the name Jon Courtenay Grimwood, has won the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel twice, and his work has been published in over fifteen languages. His new book is The Last Banquet.

For the Guardian, he chose fiction's best treatments of the mother of modern revolts, the French Revolution. One title on the list:
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Morality tale, shocking exposé of aristocratic corruption or tragic love story? De Laclos' scandalous 1782 novel featuring Vicomte de Valmont, the Marquise de Merteuil and perversity at war with innocence exposed to an avid French public the squalor and malice of court life (and may or may not have helped bring the revolution closer). In 1985 Christopher Hampton reworked it as play and it's been the basis for several films.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses also appears on Helena Frith Powell's top ten list of sexy French books, H.M. Castor's top ten list of dark and haunted heroes and heroines, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best lotharios in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue