Monday, September 30, 2013

Four of the best romance novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Sara Brady tagged four of the best romance novels, including:
One of my favorite historical writers, Joanna Bourne, [has] published just five books, but each is a gem. (Bourne’s sixth novel is due fall 2014, and I have had to stop myself from marking each day off the calendar like a crazy person.) Her most recent, The Black Hawk, is a decade-spanning love story of emotionally damaged French spy Justine and equally effed up (but dashing—oh, so very dashing!) English spy Hawker as they wrangle their way through the Napoleonic wars. This is the book I whack people over the head with and scream, “READ IT I LOVE IT YOU’LL LOVE IT OH MY GOD JUST READ IT!” My histrionics aside, the precision and beauty of Bourne’s writing is summed up in one spare, perfect paragraph:
She did not think he was truly surprised. Hawker would always know what she was going to do before she did it. They had worked together and against each other for too many years. They knew even the small crevices of each other’s minds.
You cannot hear the noise I am making just thinking about this book. Read it. Please.
Learn about the other books on the list.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Joanna Bourne and Brittany.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jojo Moyes's six favorite books

Jojo Moyes's new novel is The Girl You Left Behind.

One of her six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Eyewitness to History edited by John Carey

This fascinating book gathers 300 firsthand accounts of significant events throughout history, from Pliny the Younger's take on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to an early breast-removal operation described by the patient herself. It made me want to be a reporter.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The 10 best science fiction stories where humans are the monsters

At io9 Emily Stamm and Charlie Jane Anders came up with a list of the ten best science fiction stories where humans are the villains, including:
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

In this tragic war story, humans believe that we've been attacked by aliens, so we send out ships to destroy the Tauran ships, and massacre their people. We don't bother to try and communicate with the Taurans for years, until we finally develop our own clones who can talk to the Taurans — and then we find out that we were the aggressor in the war.

Something similar plays out in Ender's Game and the Orphan's War series by Robert Buettner.
Read about the other stories on the list.

The Forever War made Charlie Jane Anders's list of the 12 greatest science fiction war stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Five of the best contemporary British-Asian novels

Sathnam Sanghera is a British journalist and author of Marriage Material: A Novel and The Boy With The Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton.

One of his best contemporary British-Asian novels, as published in the Telegraph:
Top of the list is Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), which feels as fresh now as it did when it was first published. Kureishi was about a decade ahead of the curve when it came to identity and multiculturalism. Hats off to the guy.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Nikesh Shukla's top ten Anglo-Asian books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four top books that should be paired with a cold, hard drink

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged four books that "will drive all but the staunchest teetotaler to the nearest cocktail shaker," including:
The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler.

I abide by the rules of The Long Goodbye, which states that “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.” That recipe’s the only definite in this bleak and rangy thriller, full of soap opera twists and narrated by the pitbull gumshoe Philip Marlowe. Gin gimlets are the drink of choice of the friend he meets in the book’s first pages, and Marlowe drinks them in his honor throughout. While we’re on the subject, don’t make friends with a noir-novel detective. Things never go well for those guys.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Long Goodbye is among some Guardian readers' ten best writers in novels, David Nobbs's top five faked deaths in fiction, Malcolm Jones's ten favorite crime novels, David Nicholls' ten favorite film adaptations, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best fake deaths in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2013

Top ten books about Paris

Lisa Appignanesi is a prize-winning writer, novelist, broadcaster and cultural commentator. A Visiting Professor at King’s College London, she is former President of the campaigning writers association, English PEN, and Chair of London’s Freud Museum. Her books include Mad, Bad, and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors and the novel Paris Requiem.

One of her top ten books about Paris, as told to the Guardian:
Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

Along with Lost Illusions, this is one of my great favourites in Balzac's many-volumed and populous Human Comedy. Balzac's depiction of Restoration Paris from the vantage point of an aspiring innocent from the provinces shows it to be a ruthlessly inhuman capital of inequality: only vice and manipulative corruption triumph. Seduction, love, talent are all tools for climbing the greasy pole to success, and along with filthy lucre, a means of buying a foothold at the aristocratic summit. Balzac's detail allows us to smell the grimy boarding house, the Maison Vauquer on Rue Neuve-Saint-Geneviève, where his provincial law student, Rastignac, begins his Parisian odyssey. At the end, after old Goriot's funeral, Rastignac stands on the heights of the Père Lachaise Cemetery and launches his challenge to the city: "A nous deux maintenant." ("It's between us two now.")
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad, and Sad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seven of the worst wingmen in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Becky Ferreira tagged seven of the worst wingmen in literature, including:
Heathcliff of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

Can you imagine how awful a night out with Heathcliff would be? His tortured soul would completely bum out anyone within 10-mile radius, and he’s a rude jerkbrain to boot. On top of all that, he’s broodingly handsome, so any potential dates that dare to approach your table would be locked into the kind of ungodly obsession this nutcase so casually inspires. Leave him to Cathy; those maniacs deserve each other.
Read about the other wingmen on the list.

Wuthering Heights appears on Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Jimmy So's list of fifteen notable film adaptations of literary classics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best thunderstorms in literature, ten of the worst nightmares in literature and ten of the best foundlings in literature, Valerie Martin's list of novels about doomed marriages, Susan Cheever's list of the five best books about obsession, and Melissa Katsoulis' top 25 list of book to film adaptations. It is one of John Inverdale's six best books and Sheila Hancock's six best books.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five notable books by musicians

Claire Zulkey is a writer who lives in Chicago.  Her books include the novel An Off Year. She also edits the aptly named website,

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Zulkey tagged five top books "written by folks more famous for rocking out," including:
Life, by Keith Richards

I was always a Beatles girl, but Keef’s epic autobiography made me start appreciating the Stones, not just for their bad-boy ways but for their deep dedication to music. Sure, Keith will always look like Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad, but deep down he’s secretly an unknown blues musician from Chicago. Life contains dark and delightful anecdotes to entertain Stones fans, from the dilettantes to the hardcore. But regardless of where you lie on the spectrum, be prepared to download a few Stones tunes, because this book will have you itching to hear the accompanying soundtrack.
Read about the other books on the list.

Life is one of Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Paul Muldoon's five top rock-and-roll books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ten of the best books about women

Bidisha is a writer and broadcaster specializing in human rights, international affairs and the arts and culture. She also does outreach work in UK detention centers and prisons. She is an International Reporting Project 2013 Fellow, working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to raise awareness of global development issues. Her most recent book is Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine.

One of her top ten books about women, as told to the Guardian:
The Shining Girls
Lauren Beukes 2013

A guy’s killing women all over town and all over time-space, until one woman decides that she’s just not going to take it any more. She turns detective and reclaims her power. This urban joyride from the award-winning author of Zoo City is both a sizzling urban fantasy and a satisfying revenge plot, bloodthirsty and righteous. A vindication of victims, an indictment of male violence, a fightback and a page-turner, it became a cult classic as soon as it came out. Its brilliance lies in its interweaving of slick language, pummelling action and social conscience, pulp and politics.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2013

The fifty greatest campus novels

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple tagged the fifty greatest campus novels ever written.  One title on the list:
Possession, A.S. Byatt

One of the greatest campus novels of all time doesn’t even much take place on a campus – though there are certainly enough scenes in scholars’ offices to get a picture. This beautifully written book is billed by Byatt as a romance, but really it’s a romance within a romance, and a caper and a mystery besides, all set in gorgeous landscapes both literal and literary.
Learn about the other titles on the list.

Possession also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fossils in literature, ten of the most memorable libraries in literature, ten of the best fictional poets, ten of the best locks of hair in fiction, ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, and ten of the best lawyers in literature, and on Rachel Syme's list of the ten most attractive men in literature, Christina Koning's critic's chart of six top romances, and Elizabeth Kostova's top ten list of books for winter nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books for instruction or entertainment on a desert island

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged five books you might want to have in tow if you were shipwrecked and faced with the exciting reality of creating a new civilization, including:
Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson

This example of narrative nonfiction brings to life not only the early history of the radio, but also a cross-Atlantic chase of Hawley Crippen, an otherwise benign murderer who, with his paramour (and Scotland Yard hot on his trail), boarded a high-speed steamer bound for Canada. Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of material within for me to extrapolate for my own gain: how to operate a wireless radio (in case I need to assume control of on-board communications), and tips on how to blend into the cruising crowd (if I want to appear nonchalant as I make a desperate dash for the lifeboat with the Baywatch-y captain.)
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Ten of the best accounts of being marooned in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Five top books on the hospital and modern medicine

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on the hospital and modern medicine:
Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon
by Mark Bostridge

A definitive voice in the annals of modern medicine, Florence Nightingale wasn't just the sentimental figure of the "Lady with the Lamp," charged with aiding wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. She was also responsible for major advances in public health reform as well as the complete overhaul of appalling conditions in unprepared, understaffed wartime hospitals. Mark Bostridge's illuminating biography portrays a fierce yet ultimately misunderstood pioneer of sanitation in healthcare. See the full review by The Barnes & Noble Review's Bill Tipper here.
Read about the other books on the list.

Florence Nightingale is one of Sandi Toksvig's top ten unsung heroines.

--Marshal Zeringue

Michael Dobbs's six best books

Michael Dobbs is a best-selling author and member of the House of Lords. The US television adaptation of his book House Of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, had nine Emmy nominations. Dobbs's new thriller is A Ghost At The Door.

One of the author's six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway

Robert Jordan is an American who volunteers to fight for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. His task is to blow up a bridge. His fate is to encounter brutality, heroism and the beautiful Maria. Hemingway knew the war at first hand and his writing is truly explosive.
Read about the other books on the list.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is among John Mullan's ten best bridges in literature, Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books, John McCain's five best books about men in battle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Top ten Stephen King books

Jake Kerridge, the (London) Telegraph's crime critic, named his top ten Stephen King books.

One title on the list:
The Shining

Jack Torrance, recovering alcoholic, struggling writer and caretaker of a haunted hotel, is a more nuanced and sympathetic character than the demonic maniac portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s film version – something of a relief, since King cites Torrance as his most autobiographical character.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

The Shining is among Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten horror novels that are scarier than most movies, Charlie Higson's top ten horror books, and Monica Ali's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books that belong on every runner’s bookshelf

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Lauren Passell tagged seven books that belong on every runner’s bookshelf, including:
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the beautiful and inspiring story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner-turned-WWII lieutenant whose plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 1943. Zamperini survived the open ocean, blood-thirsty sharks, thirst, starvation, enemy aircraft, and more, before reaching land in Japan, where he was admitted into a POW camp—something that probably made him wish he was back with the sharks. But Zamperini survived and survived and survived—it’s something that all runners like to think they’re capable of doing. Perseverance and the ability to accomplish the unthinkable is any athlete’s dream. This non-fiction story is truly stranger than fiction, and you won’t be able to put it down.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Ten inspiring books about running.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nine philosophical thought experiments that will keep you up at night

Canadian futurist, science writer, and ethicist, George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology—particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. He is a contributing editor at io9, the Chairman of the Board at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and is the program director for the Rights of Non-Human Persons program.

At io9 Dvorsky tagged 9 philosophical thought experiments that will keep you up at night, including:
Original Position

This thought experiment is why I’m a complete fanboy of John Rawls. He asks us to imagine ourselves in a situation in which we know nothing of our true lives — we are behind a “veil of ignorance” that prevents us from knowing the political system under which we live or the laws that are in place. Nor do we know anything about psychology, economics, biology, and other sciences. But along with a group of similarly situation-blind people, we are asked, in this original position, to review a comprehensive list of classic forms of justice drawn from various traditions of social and political philosophy. We are then given the task of selecting which system of justice we feel would best suit our needs in the absence of any information about our true selves and the situation we may actually be in in the real world.

So, for example, what if you came back to “real life” to find out that you live in a shanty town in India? Or a middle class neighborhood in Norway? What if you’re a developmentally disabled person? A millionaire? (Or as I proposed in my paper, “All Together Now,” a different species?)

According to Rawls, we would likely end up picking something that guarantees equal basic rights and liberties to secure our interests as free and equal citizens, and to pursue a wide range of conceptions for the good. He also speculated that we’d likely choose a system that ensures fair educational and employment opportunities.
Read about the other entries on Dvorsky's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten love stories with a twist

Holly Bourne's debut YA novel, Soulmates, twists the usual romantic expectations by asking "what if finding your soulmate was the worst thing ever?"

One of the author's top ten love stories with a twist, as told to the Guardian:
Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

Oh how we love a good story about people who have lost lovers and can't quite get over it. If it isn't Catherine's ghost catapulting herself around the moors, it's Queen Victoria still laying out clothes for her dead husband each morning. In Goodbye for Now, computer-whizz Sam Elling invents a virtual reality programme allowing you to Skype the dead. Just what would Heathcliff have done with that, eh? When tragedy strikes in Sam's own love life, dare he use his own technology? This book examines so much: grief, letting go, and our culture's growing love affair with virtual realities, and ultimately virtual relationships.
Read about the other love stories on the list.

See--Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Frankel and Calli.

My Book, The Movie: Goodbye for Now.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye for Now.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Five of the best books about Texas

Rick Bass’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. His memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His new novel is All the Land to Hold Us.

One of Bass's five favorite books about Texas, as told to The Daily Beast:
An Unreasonable Woman
by Diane Wilson

Diane Wilson’s An Unreasonable Woman? ... It will change your life. Wilson is a maximum bad-ass single mother of five, a shrimper who singlehandedly fought Formosa Chemicals in Seadrift, Texas, to a zero-discharge policy. An incredibly harrowing adventure tale; I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a corker.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Attica Locke's five books on Texas, and The Great Texas Novel, part 1 and The Great Texas Novel, part 2.

--Marshal Zeringue

The top ten absent fathers in fiction

D.W. Wilson was born and raised in the small towns of the Kootenay Valley, British Columbia. He is the recipient of the University of East Anglia's inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship - the most prestigious award available to students in the MA program. Wilson's short stories have been awarded the BBC National Short Story Award and the CBC Short Story Prize. Ballistics is his first novel.

For the Guardian, Wilson named his top ten admirable absent fathers in fiction, including:
Annie and Suzanne Bird's missing father in Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

He's rarely mentioned, but his absence provides the space for one of the novel's two narrators, Will Bird, to take up the father-figure slack – though Will himself can't exactly claim a flawless record when it comes to loyalty and family. Set in northern Ontario, this book traces, simultaneously, a young woman's search for her missing sister and an ageing man's multi-generational feud.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Read Ray Taras's review of Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five top fictional mothers

Elif Shafak is the most widely read female writer in Turkey. Her books include the novels The Bastard of Istanbul and The Forty Rules of Love and the memoir Black Milk.

She named five favorite literary mothers for the Telegraph, including:
Toni Morrison’s Beloved tells the tale of a slave woman. She can give birth to children but will never have any rights over them. The pain a woman goes through when her most basic right to motherhood is denied to her is told through violence and love, cruelty and compassion, interwoven in this tale as in life and history.
Read about the other mothers on the list.

Beloved also appears on Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, 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.

Also see: the ten best fictional mothers; the ten worst mothers in books; Elizabeth Lowry's five best books about mothers of many sorts; and the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on mothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books for the insomniac

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Sara Jonsson tagged five books to read when you can't go to sleep, including:
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

Márquez’s tale is written the way your grandparents would tell you a bedtime story—it all happened long ago, it’s full of magic and gypsies and warning, and you can pick it up each night and dive into a different story that fits neatly into the mosaic that is the Buendia family’s fate.
Read about the other books on the list.

One Hundred Years of Solitude made Juan Gabriel Vásquez's five best list of novels about South America, Pushpinder Khaneka's list of three of the best books on Colombia, Michael Jacobs's list of the top ten Colombian stories, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families and Rebecca Stott's five best list of historical novels. It is one of Lynda Bellingham's six best books, Walter Mosley's five favorite books, Eric Kraft's five most important books, and James Patterson's five most important books.

See: Ten of the best bouts of insomnia in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five of the best vanishings in literature

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top vanishings in literature:
Visitation Street
by Ivy Pochoda

Two teenage girls set out on a raft into New York's harbor, but when only one returns, suspicion and fear quickly descend on their close-knit waterfront community of Red Hook. Reviewer Anna Mundow calls Ivy Pochoda's Visitation Street a "seductive" work of suspense that brings its Brooklyn neighborhood to life before our eyes, and artfully captures the timeless mysteries that lie beneath dark waters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Writers Read: Ivy Pochoda.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nine of the best true-crime books

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Lauren Passell tagged nine books for the true-crime obsessed, including:
Columbine, by Dave Cullen

Everyone knows what happened at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, but it takes the detailed version written by Dave Cullen, who remained in Aurora for ten years after the shooting, to really get a feeling for what happened that day. In one scene, students hide under desks as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold storm through classrooms, looking for their next victim. Not until reading Cullen’s words was I able to fathom what it would be like to be there—targeted and waiting for two violent, unstable, fearless boys to act. Cullen takes us under those desks. He takes us through the whole thing, splitting fact from fiction, offering insight into the why, and coloring in all the gaps of the tragedy we thought we understood.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Randy Dotinga's five favorite historical true-crime books from the last decade; Errol Morris's five top tales of true crime; Ron Hansen's five best literary tales of real-life crimes; Sarah Weinman's seven best true crime books; and Ann Rule's five best list of true-crime books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Boris Kachka's six favorite books

Boris Kachka is a contributing editor for New York magazine, where he has written and edited pieces on literature, publishing, and theater for more than a decade. His new book is Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

One of his six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Each of the Russian émigré's books taught me something different about the possibilities of English (non-native for both of us). What I really love in Lolita isn't the transgressive love story but the love song to midcentury America, intoned with bemused ardor by one very odd fish out of water.
Read about the other books on Kachka's list.

Lolita appears on Fiona Maazel's list of the ten worst fathers in books, 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. It is Lena Dunham's favorite book.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Top ten books about 1970s art

Rachel Kushner’s new novel is The Flamethrowers. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. It was named a best book by the Washington Post Book Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. Kushner's fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street. She lives in Los Angeles.

For the Guardian, Kushner named ten of her favorite books about 1970s art, including:
The Andy Warhol Diaries by Andy Warhol with Pat Hackett

In the summer of 1976, Warhol bought a second Rolls Royce, an old, rare station wagon. He already owned a Rolls Silver Shadow, for which he paid cold cash but told people he traded it for art. This book of recorded phone conversations arranged as diary entries, which begin just after the purchase of the second Rolls, is important not for understanding the art of the 1970s but for understanding, instead, Warhol's total commitment by the late 1970s to money, fame, and socialites. Some people love this bitchy Andy. I don't. And yet I read and read, fascinated. Of Jim Jones's Guyana massacre, Andy laughs and says: "Just think, if they'd used Campbell's Soup I'd be so famous, I'd be on every news show, everyone would be asking me about it. But Kool-Aid was always a hippie thing."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine top literary groups of friends

The writers at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog tagged the groups of friends in books that they wish they could join. Molly Schoemann-McCann's pick:
I always enjoyed the friendship between Nancy and her two closest gal-pals in the Nancy Drew series. There was dark-haired, slender George Fayne, the adventurous tomboy, and plump, blonde Bess Marvin, the sweet, pretty worrywart. I just knew that I’d get along like gangbusters with George, who was clever, fearless and athletic, just like I wanted to be, though I identified more with kind, sensitive Bess, who would rather stay home and bake muffins than steal a speedboat and head for Haunted Island. Needless to say, I loved Nancy the most of all for her boldness, her cunning, her tenacity and her great hair—but I often found myself frustrated with her quick wittedness and ability to stay five steps ahead of everyone else. The trio could have used an additional brunette sidekick (like me) who would be known for saying things like, “Race you to the end of the pier, George—and then let’s do deadlifts with the mysterious locked chest we find there!” and “Thanks Bess, but I would definitely explode if I ate another waffle…Oh, ok, one more.” Finally, my presence on the team would help clear up possible plot confusions for other slower-on-the-uptake readers who, like me, got easily lost. “Why are we going down this dark staircase?” I might ask, or “If Mr. Anders says he didn’t take the missing statue, what’s the point of searching his desk while he’s in the other room?” Most importantly, I’d be the one to finally tell Nancy that she was way too good for stodgy old Ned Nickerson. Come on. Somebody needed to.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Nancy Drew made Tess Gerritsen's list of fix favorite books featuring female sleuths and Adrian McKinty's top ten list of lady detectives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The twelve best dates in fiction

Amanda Bullock is Director of Public Programming at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City and Co-founder and -organizer of Moby-Dick Marathon NYC.

She came up with a list of the 12 best dates in fiction for HowAboutWe, including:
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Gogol and Moushumi
Childhood family friends meeting after a long estrangement as adults at a bar, segues to dinner.
“They meet at a bar in the East Village, a place Moushumi had suggested when they’d spoken on the phone. It’s a small, dark, silent space, a single square room with just three booths against one wall. She’s there, sitting at the bar reading a paperback book, when he arrives, and when she looks up from its pages, though it is she who is waiting for him, he has the feeling that he is interrupting her. [About an hour later...] He hadn’t planned to take her to dinner. He had intended to go back to his apartment after the drink, and study, and order in some Chinese food. But now he finds himself saying that he is thinking of getting something to eat, did she want to join him?”
A classic, tried-and-true, nearly can’t-fail first date: meet at a bar you know and like. You’re maybe not sure if you want to commit to spending the time it takes (and the money, perhaps) on a full meal with someone. Notably, Gogol allows Moushumi to split the bar tab with him but insists on picking up dinner, making an ambiguous meeting between old family friends definitely a date.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven of literature's more evil characters

Koren Zailckas's new novel is Mother, Mother.

One of her 11 favorite evil characters, as told to Publishers Weekly:
Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley

Evil wants status, even if it has to fake it or steal it. Living in New York at the book’s start, Ripley is “bored, goddamn bloody bored, bored, bored,” enduring “constant demoralization because of having no money,” and taking up with “silly, stupid people in order not to be lonely or because they could offer him something for a while.” Leaping at the chance to go to Italy and bring home Dickie Greenleaf, the playboy son of a shipping magnate, Ripley finds what’s he’s actually been missing: a personality, and a larger than life one at that. First making a study of Greenleaf’s mannerisms, interests, preferences and past, Ripley goes on to assume his name, wear his clothes and cash his checks, murdering (or trying to murder) anyone who suspects the truth.

Ripley is a chilling example of the way Evil sizes people up, taking an interest only in things it feels it can use to its advantage. And Highsmith leaves us with this frightening reminder: faced with its own inconsistencies, Evil would rather kill the person doing the questioning than take a realistic look at itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

Also see: The 50 greatest villains in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2013

Eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams tagged eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators, including:
Nick and Amy Dunne, Gone Girl

Not to spoil it for the 2.3% of people who have not yet read this book, but Nick and Amy Dunne (oh, especially Amy) are not the most trustworthy of sources. Twists and turns and deliberate deceit turn the story on its head, and readers are shocked because Flynn is toying with our ability to discern reliability.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sam Thomas "absolutely loved ... Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.... I’m a sucker for unreliable narrators, and without spoiling too much, I think it’s safe to say that both of Girl’s narrators fit that description."

Also see Henry Sutton's top ten unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten short stories

Tessa Hadley's novels include Accidents in the Home, Everything Will Be All Right, The Master Bedroom, The London Train, and Clever Girl. She has stories published regularly in The New Yorker, and also in Granta and the Guardian; a collection, Sunstroke and other stories, was published in 2007. A second collection, Married Love, came out in 2012.

She named her top ten short stories for the Guardian. One title on the list:
"Love of a Good Woman" by Alice Munro

Munro has changed our sense of what the short story can do as radically as Chekhov and Mansfield did at the beginning of the 20th century. She uses the form so capaciously – a whole community in 1950s rural Canada is captured in the loose weave of this one – around a woman who believes she's uncovered the secret of a violent death. She makes plans to do the right thing, bring the secret into the light of day. There's never a false or fussy note, as Munro penetrates in words into the hidden roots of how we choose to live, and why we act.
Read about the other stories on the list.

Also see: Rosamund Bartlett's five top books on Russian short stories, Chris Priestley's top ten scary short stories, Jane Ciabattari's five must-read short-story collections, and Alison MacLeod's top ten short stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Five of the most important books about prejudice

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is the author of the international bestseller Hitler's Willing Executioners, A Moral Reckoning, Worse than War, and the new book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism.

One of his most important books about prejudice, as told to The Daily Beast:
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
by Jean Hatzfeld

A singular book presenting the testimonies of the Hutu mass murders of the Tutsi. They speak freely and reflect upon the character and depth of their dehumanizing and demonizing beliefs about Tutsi, how such prejudice was part of the common sense of Hutu society, how it was imparted to them, and how it led them to slaughter defenseless men, women, and children willingly because they conceived of the victims as snakes and demons. Like the willing German killers of Jews half a century before them, the power of prejudice was so great that, in the words of one of the Hutu, believing and saying what they did about the Tutsi “it’s already sharpening the machete.”
Read about the other books on Goldhagen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best 9/11 novels

At The Daily Beast, Jimmy So named five novels that deal with 9/11 in significant if oblique ways, including:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
by Mohsin Hamid

A young Pakistani named Changez tells an American the story of his life in America in the months before and after 9/11. Changez went to Princeton, was hired as a business appraiser by a New York firm, and falls in love with Erica, an aspiring writer and daughter of an Upper East Side family, whose friends blindly assert their cultural superiority, which rubs off on Changez, much to his own disgust. This might seem a set piece for preaching ambivalent values, but it is precisely the complexity of the immigrant ambivalence that makes the substance of the confession so deft and troubling. Mira Nair directed a film adaptation last year.
Read about the other books on So's list.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is one of Ahmede Hussain's five top books in recent South Asian literature.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Also see: David Ulin's five essential 9/11 books, five best works of literature on 9/11, five of the best new 9/11 books and eight worthy 9/11 books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Six top novels set in just one place

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams tagged six notable novels set in just one place, including:
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

It’s not so much the container for this bestselling novel (a lifeboat) as its occupants (a boy, an adult Bengal tiger, and briefly, a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena) that drive the story, but without the raft, you’d have just another (spoiler alert) Boy Sublimates Horrific Experience into Alternate Narrative Where He Is a Tiger story.
Read about the other novels on the list.

Life of Pi is on Scott Greenstone's list of seven top allegorical novels, Sara Gruen's six favorite books list, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on castaways, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best zoos in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books that changed Sean Beaudoin's life before he could drive

Sean Beaudoin's books include You Killed Wesley Payne, Going Nowhere Faster, which was nominated as one of YALSA's "Best Books for Young Adults," Fade to Blue, which was called "Infinite Jest for teens" by Booklist, and The Infects. His short stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications.

Beaudoin's new novel is Wise Young Fool.

One of ten books that changed his life before he could drive, as told to Teen Librarian's Toolbox:
Neuromancer by William Gibson -- a book that foresaw the Internet a full ten years before the Internet, the mix of Asian-inflected sci fi, tech commerce, and Blade Runner-style apocalyptic doom was startlingly original and well written.
Read about the other books on the list.

Neuromancer made Chris Kluwe's list of six favorite books, Inglis-Arkell's list of ten of the best bars in science fiction, PopCrunch's list of the sixteen best dystopian books of all time and Annalee Newitz's lists of ten great American dystopias and thirteen books that will change the way you look at robots.

Visit Sean Beaudoin's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Wise Young Fool.

The Page 69 Test: Wise Young Fool.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The top 32 adventure novels of the 19th century

At HiLobrow, Joshua Glenn named his top 32 adventure novels of the 19th century. One title on the list:
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 18th c. avenger-type adventure Kidnapped, in which young David Balfour is sold into servitude by his wicked uncle. With the help of Alan Breck, a daring Jacobite, David escapes and travels across Scotland by night — hiding from government soldiers by day.
Read about the other books on the list.

Kidnapped also appears among Charlie Fletcher's top ten swashbuckling tales of derring-do, M. C. Beaton's five best cozy mysteries and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best wicked uncles in literature, ten of the best misers in literature, ten of the best shipwrecks, and ten of the best towers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jill Halfpenny's six best books

Jill Halfpenny is a well-known television actor in Great Britain. One of her six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t a patch on the book.

I love anything where the central characters are dealing with mental issues or they’re misunderstood.

If you don’t read much or find it hard to get into a book, I recommend this. It’s short, funny and intriguing.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Silver Linings Playbook is among the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books on football and the eight book adaptations that won 2013 Golden Globe awards.

The Page 69 Test: The Silver Linings Playbook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013

Six of the more notorious teachers in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged six of the more notorious teachers in literature, including:
Hannah Schneider (Special Topics in Calamity Physics).

Hannah’s a sexy, worldly film teacher who cares about her students. Well…she cares about six of her students, whom she’s molded into an impenetrable little clan of elite snobs. Aside from feeding them alcohol and giving them an (unwarranted) inflated sense of self, she takes them on an unsanctioned and ultimately treacherous field trip, then up and dies on them in mysterious and terrifying fashion (for the uninitiated: this is not a spoiler). That’s not even the worst of it…but go any further, and I will hit spoiler territory.
Read about the other teachers on the list.

Also see: Ten of the best teachers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Brenda Wineapple's six favorite books

Brenda Wineapple's new book is Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877.

She named her six favorite books for The Week magazine. One title to make the grade:
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

In the twisting tale of Thomas Sutpen and his overweening ambition, Faulkner anatomizes the Southern past, transforming it into a drama about race, class, clan, and miscegenation. As such, the novel is about the implosion known as the Civil War, and how it changed everything for Southerners.
Read about the other books on Wineapple's list.

Absalom, Absalom! also appears on Jacket Copy's list of sixty-one essential postmodern readsSarah Churchwell's list of six books on the American Deep South, and Thomas Perry's favorite books list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Top ten self-contained worlds in fiction

Fletcher Moss won the (London) Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2012, with his swashbuckling novel The Poison Boy.

He works as an assistant head teacher at a school in Greater Manchester, having previously worked as a classroom teacher, shelf-stacker and van driver in France and Spain.

For the Guardian, Moss named his ten favorite claustrophobic parallel worlds to get lost in, including:
My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

When I first read this I couldn't help but think of M Night Shyamalan's movie The Village, mostly on account of Sedgewick's setting; the small settlement of Chust, sealed in a woodland clearing. This village, however, is the eastern European type plagued by vampires; proper vampires, rather than the moon-eyed Hollywood types more inclined to fall in love with you than drink you dry. The story is intense and brutal - entirely focused on a square acre of so of ravaged woodland. When, in the final chapter, the action moves to a distant city, the relief of escape is intense.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five great books of 1922

Kevin Jackson has written thousands of articles, primarily on film, photography, modern art, literature and cultural history for, among others, The New Yorker, Granta, Prospect, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Evening Standard and Vogue. He has been a script editor and script consultant, lectured and taught at the National Film Theatre, the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, presented documentaries for Radio 3 and Radio 4, directed and produced films for television, written the book and lyrics for a rock opera, curated film seasons and a photography exhibition as well as authored and edited more than twenty books, including Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One.

For the Telegraph, Jackson named five great books from 1922, including:
Katherine Mansfield’s friend, Virginia Woolf (whose breakthrough novel Jacob’s Room was also published in 1922) was driven to confiding jealously in her diary about how praise was being heaped on Mansfield’s collection The Garden Party. Sadly, any joy that Mansfield may have taken in this literary triumph was soured by her ill health; she died in 1923.
Read about four other great books of 1922.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Five notable--and ambitious--debut novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged five notable--and ambitious--debut novels, including:
V., by Thomas Pynchon.

This time- and country-hopping novel, bristling with disparate narratives and eccentrically named characters, loosely coalesces around the search for a constantly morphing creature/concept that goes by the name of V. It opens on grade-A schlemiel Benny Profane, fresh out of the Navy and slumming around New York, and ends on the shores of Malta; what comes in between is impossible to synopsize. Prior to V.’s release in 1963, Pynchon was an unknown. What happened after (sudden fame, National Book Award nomination, pathological publicity shyness) has been mythologized to the point that for years I believed he once vaulted out a window and jumped onto a conveniently passing bus to Mexico rather than talk to reporters (I still like to think this happened).
Read about the other debuts on the list.

V. also made John Mullan's list of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten most unbelievable alien races in science fiction

Charlie Jane Anders, news editor for io9, compiled a list of the ten most unbelievable alien races in science fiction. Entries come from comic books, movies and television, and this one from the fiction shelves:
Pierson's Puppeteers, from Larry Niven's Known Space books

These aliens get points for originality and not simply being humanoid. As Tim Morris explains, "Its biology is singularly bizarre, it has 2 heads (each with one eye, one mouth, and three lip-fingers), neither of which has a skull or brain. The brain and skull are actually on top of the rib-cage, at the base of the 2 "necks", this essentially makes the "heads" simply glorified elephant trunks or eye-stalks. Also, they have three legs, 2 front, and one back." But a number of people singled out these creators of insane high technology as not really holding up. Says Sean Toleson, "They don't have hands to make things, and are consummate cowards."
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on aliens and John Mullan's list of ten of the best aliens in science fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sixteen of the best books for city-hopping through Europe

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Jess Dukes tagged 16 of the best books for city-hopping through Europe, including:
The Messenger of Athens, Anne Zouroudi

Zouroudi’s murder mystery immerses readers in the pristine beauty of the Greek islands, where the past is very much alive and outsiders are treated with suspicion. When a stranger from Athens shows up and announces that he’s going to investigate a young girl’s suicide as a homicide, the locals circle the wagons to protect their own.
Read about the other books on the list.

Writers Read: Anne Zouroudi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top novels of 1998

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged seven top novels of 1998, including:
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman’s rendition of a sweet old-fashioned fairy tale is his standard fare: the surreal meets the familiar, magic is complemented by charming reality. Don’t be fooled: it may be fluffy on the outside, but the quest to find one’s Heart’s Desire can be bitingly funny. Not to mention, it introduces a phenomenal naming strategy for large families: on Primus, on Secundus, on Tertius…
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue