Thursday, October 31, 2013

Twelve books to creep yourself out with

At The Hairpin Jia Tolentino came up with a list of twelve books to read whenever you want the chills, including:
Cheerleader noir! ...[T]his one's the page-turner; it's a murder mystery with a Sleigh Bells/Lana Del Rey aesthetic and a series of twists that genuinely surprised me (admittedly, not the sharpest reader) at the end. From the first chapter, in which the cheerleaders meet their magnetic, mysterious new coach:
There I am, Addy Hanlon, sixteen years old, hair like a long taffy pull and skin tight as a rubber band. I am on the gym floor, my girl Beth beside me, our cherried smiles and spray-tanned legs, ponytails bobbing in sync. Look at how my eyes shutter open and closed.

[...] Did she look at us that first week and see past the glossed hair and shiny legs, our glittered brow bones and girl bravado? See past all that to everything beneath, all our miseries, the way we all hated ourselves but much more everyone else? Could she see past all of that to something else, something quivering and real, something poised to be transformed, turned out, made? See that she could make us, stick our hands in our glitter-gritted insides and build us into magnificent teen gladiators?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten horror books

Joseph D’Lacey is best known for his shocking eco-horror novel Meat. The book has been widely translated and prompted Stephen King to say “Joseph D’Lacey rocks!” His other published works to-date include Garbage Man, Snake Eyes, The Kill Crew, The Failing Flesh and Splinters – a collection of his best short stories. He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 2009.

D’Lacey named his top ten horror books for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

You might want to call this post-apocalyptic fantasy, but The Road is stacked with enough bleak terror to sit proudly in the horror section of any bookshop. It's a simple story of a father and son making a perilous journey in the aftermath of a global cataclysm. But it's really about keeping the light of the world aflicker, even in the darkest times. And, whilst it's disturbing as hell, it's also incredibly beautiful.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

The Road appears on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. Sam Anderson of New York magazine claims "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Eight notable fictional literary crushes

The Barnes & Noble Book Blog contributors shared their biggest fictional literary crushes. Alexandra Silverman's pick:

It’s a weird crush, not least because Odysseus is way too short for me—he’s an ancient Greek, and I’m 5’10” in Chuck Taylors—but I don’t know how anyone could read The Odyssey and not fall a little in love with Homer’s hero. Odysseus outsmarts gods, charms witches, wins the Trojan War, and only loses his level head when he’s tied to the mast of a boat while sirens try to sing him to his death. He also has the alluring distinction of ending up in Dante’s 8th circle of hell (for fraud), less debased than only a few men, including Cain, Judas, and Satan himself. I think of Odysseus as the original international man of mystery: an adventurer of wits who lives by a code and gets the girl (Penelope, Circe, Calypso, me…).
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Odyssey is among James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten great meals in literature

The Telegraph tagged ten great meals in literature, including:

“It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.” Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick boasts an entire chapter dedicated to piping hot clam and cod chowder. In chapter 15, the little Moss anchors in Nantucket and Ishmael and Queequeg go out in search of sustenance. At an inn called Try Pots, their acute hunger, sharpened by a frosty voyage, is satiated with steaming chowder: nectar to any wind-swept seafarer.
Read about the other meals on the list.

Moby-Dick also appears among Brenda Wineapple's six favorite books, Scott Greenstone's top seven allegorical novels, Paul Wilson's top ten books about disability, 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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 20 best books under 200 pages

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Scott Greenstone tagged twenty of the best books with fewer than 200 pages, including:
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

Kurt Vonnegut said that all great stories are about how much life sucks, or something like that. Proof that he was correct? The Old Man and the Sea.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Old Man and the Sea appears among Michael Palin's six favorite books, Robson Green's six best books, and Dave Boling's five best examples of how to structure a novel. N.M. Kelby has suggested that The Old Man and the Sea may be The Great Florida Novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 28, 2013

Six books you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Josh Sorokach tagged six books you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse, including:
The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

If someone handed me the proper tools and instructed me to fix his car engine, I’d tilt my head slightly to the side and offer him a confused squint—like a dog watching a human dance. The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook will be useful come the ultimate worst-case scenario: the zombie apocalypse.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Ten paranoid science fiction stories that could help you survive and Ten satires to teach you to survive the future.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten fictional fashion icons

At the Telegraph Kate Finnigan tagged ten literary characters who have been her style inspiration, including:
Cecilia Lisbon, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Lisbon sisters from the book that was turned into a film by Sofia Coppola are possibly the coolest teenage girls in 20th century literature (apart from in the obviously uncool way that they all kill themselves). Lux may be the one who dates Trip Fontaine but Cecilia, the youngest at 13, wears a stained, chopped-off vintage 1920s wedding gown and bites her nails. Enough said.
Read about the other icons on the list.

The Virgin Suicides is among Patrick Ness's top ten "unsuitable" books for teenagers and Cathy Cassidy's top ten stories about sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Six of the best spies in romance

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Sara Brady tagged six romantic heroes and heroines who play the spy game successfully, including:
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein. Wein’s young adult novel, narrated partly by a Scottish spy captured by the Nazis in 1943 France and partly by her pilot best friend, is the story of two girls brought together by an insane war. Intelligence officer “Verity” and airwoman Maddie tell how they came to crash in the French countryside, with spy Verity falling into the hands of the Gestapo. Darkly witty and devastatingly emotional in its depiction of a young friendship more intense than most romances, it most definitely does not make concessions to a younger audience. The book is vibrantly detailed and tackles the spy experience from the angle of what happens when tradecraft becomes a desperate bargain for survival.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Code Name Verity also appears on Lenore Appelhans's top ten list of teen books featuring flashbacks and Lydia Syson's list of ten of the best historical novels for young readers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ten top short story collections

Carolyn Cooke's new story collection is Amor and Psycho. For Publishers Weekly, she named ten legendary collections, including:
Love is Power, Or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett

A brand-new collection by a brilliant young Nigerian-Jamaican writer--and the most exciting, scary collection I read last year. Barrett’s characters don’t usually think about colonialism or corruption--they can’t afford the luxury of despair. Whole lives contain less agonizing detail than one of these stories.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five enduring works of baseball fiction

Leigh Montville's books include biographies of baseball greats Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, 7-foot-7 basketball player Manute Bol, motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, and the Mysterious Mantague, a forgotten golfer from the 1930s. He was a sports columnist at the Boston Globe for 21 years and a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for nine years.

One of five enduring works of baseball fiction he tagged for the Wall Street Journal:
Bang the Drum Slowly
by Mark Harris (1956)

Not only is the autobiography a staple of the sports book market; it now dominates the field. Take a famous name, hire a touch-typist ghost and away you go. The famous name tells a few stories into a tape recorder, the ghost shapes the stories into grammatical form, the famous name heads for the talk-show circuit, the book heads to the best-seller list. The beauty of Henry Wiggen, the famous-name narrator created by Mark Harris and spread over a four-book series, is that he cut the ghost out of the equation, along with an editor or two. The best pitcher in baseball, star of the New York Mammoths, tells his story in a wonderful vernacular filled with misspellings, misstatements and misunderstandings but also with warmth and emotion. Made into a terrific 1973 movie with Michael Moriarty as Henry and a young Robert De Niro as dying catcher Bruce Pearson, "Bang the Drum Slowly" the book is even better. Harris, more than 50 years ago, perfectly captured the voice of the self-centered, self-conscious star. Henry would talk the same way today but maybe in tweets and posts and with an accompanying picture of his beautiful house, beautiful wife and beautiful car.
Read about the other entries on Montville's list.

Bang the Drum Slowly is among Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books and Tom Werner's best baseball books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seven books that lied to you

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Lauren Passell tagged seven books that seemed too good to be true...and were, including:
A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey

When it turned out that James Frey lied in his book A Million Little Pieces, Oprah, who’d chosen the memoir for her book club, asked the author back onto the show, where he admitted that he was only in jail for a few hours and not 86 days, Lily didn’t hang herself, and he wasn’t involved in a train accident.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Million Little Pieces is one of Benjamin Radford's top five faked memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The seven best haunted house books

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Ashley Brooke Roberts tagged seven of the best haunted house books, including:
Hell House, by Richard Matheson.

At the behest of an eccentric millionaire, four investigators enter the Belasco House, considered to be the most haunted house in the world. Who among them will make it through the week? File this one under very scary. In fact, I just looked over my shoulder while writing this because I got a weird feeling. Not for grandmothers or the weak of heart.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten counter-factual novels

D. J. Taylor is a novelist, critic, and biographer whose Orwell won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. His most recent books are Kept; Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation; Ask Alice; Derby Day, which was nominated for the Booker Prize and was selected as a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; and the newest novel, The Windsor Faction.

For the Guardian he named his top ten counter-factual novels, including:
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)

The second world war from the other side of the Atlantic, where the aviator Charles Lindbergh rallies the nation's isolationists, defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election and concludes an entente with Hitler (known as "the Iceland Understanding") which allows the US to stand aside from the war. All this naturally has dire consequences for America's Jewish population.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Plot Against America is on David Daw's list of five American presidents in alternate history, Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten list of epic power struggles, Steven Amsterdam's list of five top books on worry, Stephen L. Carter's list of five top presidential thrillers, and David Daw's list of five American presidents in alternate history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three notable novels featuring lawyers

Scott Turow's new novel is Identical.

Noah Charney asked Turow to recommend three novels featuring lawyers for readers at The Daily Beast. One title to get the nod:
Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope, the story of an Irish lawyer who more or less wanders into Parliament. (It was recommended to me years ago by the then Cook County State’s Attorney, Dick Devine.) It’s Trollope, wonderfully chatty, with occasional passages repeated hundreds of pages apart, but Phineas’s evolution in the way he thinks about the law, and its relationship to the problems of life, is discerning.
Read about the other recommended novels.

See: Scott Turow's five best legal novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best mystery books

Thomas H. Cook is a thriller and mystery writer of over 20 books. His latest novel is Sandrine's Case.

He tagged his top ten mystery books for Publishers Weekly. One title on the list:
A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

“It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet.” It is a line that has since become famous, but it is only one of the many literary beauties of the book. Dimitrios, in life and death, is a figure of surpassing fascination, his life a tale of struggle and fierce intrigue that I have never forgotten. The secondary characters are wonderfully drawn. From the moment Charles Latimer meets Colonel Haki and hears of the mysterious Dimitrios, the reader is returned to the lost Balkan world that flourished between the two world wars, a boiling cauldron of expediency and deceit that Ambler renders in exquisite detail.
Read about the other books on Cook's list.

A Coffin for Dimitrios is among Charles Cumming's top five works on espionage and Otto Penzler's best thrillers.

Learn about Thomas H. Cook's five top books on the writing life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five of the best books of criticism

John Freeman is an award-winning writer and book critic. The former editor of Granta and onetime president of the National Book Critics Circle, he has written about books for more than two hundred publications worldwide, including The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, La Repubblica, and La Vanguardia. His first book, The Tyranny of E-mail, was published in 2009. His poetry has been published in The New Yorker, ZYZZYVA, and The Paris Review. His new book is How to Read a Novelist.

For The Daily Beast, Freeman named his favorite books of criticism. One title on the list:
Hugging the Shore by John Updike.

For 20 months, between marriages, John Updike lived alone in Boston, “my foam-rubber reading chair three paces from my dining table and two paces from my bed.” Hugging the Shore, Updike’s fourth collection of assorted prose, grew out of this period, and shows what marvelous things can be done with readerly solitude. Filled with travel pieces on Venezuela, essays on going barefoot, and reviews of an astonishing array of writers, from Ngugi wa Thiong’o to Buchi Emecheta to V.S. Naipaul and John Cheever, it displays the roaming sweep of Updike’s light-house mind at its most curious and powerful and generous.
Read about the other books on Freeman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifteen top books for toddlers

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 fifteen of the best books for the youngest bookworms, including:
I Am A Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry

Every child’s library needs lots and lots of Richard Scarry, but if you could only choose one of his delights, I’d pick this one. It’s actually written by Ole Risom and illustrated by Scarry, but it’s perfect for younger kids because, instead of hundreds of things happening at once in typical Scarry fashion, this one simply teaches kids about the wonder of nature and the four seasons. Plus, it’s so cute I could scream.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 21, 2013

The ten best novels on music

Ted Gioia is a musician and author, and has published eight non-fiction books, most recently the bestselling The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire.

For The Daily Beast he came up with "ten novels that... are stellar works of fiction, but also manage to pull off the almost impossible task of capturing the magic of music on the printed page," including:
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
by Oscar Hijuelos

We love reading about the superstars of music. But the failed stars and might-have-beens make for even more compelling narratives. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 1989 by the late Oscar Hijuelos, we encounter two Cuban brothers who enjoy a short-lived notoriety—performing a minor hit song on the I Love Lucy sitcom—and learn that even this brief taste of fame may be too much to handle. Hijuelos, who passed away a few days ago at age 62, was the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and this book deserves a spot on any short list of outstanding Hispanic-American fiction.
Read about the other books on Gioia's list.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is among Lucette Lagnado's six favorite books and Leonardo Padura's top ten Cuban novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Five science fiction books that matter

Robin Sloan is author of the e-book Ajax Penumbra 1969 and the novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

At The Daily Beast he shared his five favorite books from science fiction, which he calls his essential genre. One title on the list:
Dune by Frank Herbert.

OK, you don't need me to tell you to read Dune. Except maybe you do! Maybe you're like I was: you know it's a classic, and yet there your copy sits, unread, gathering dust like Arrakis itself. The book just feels so … daunting. So dense. What you don't realize yet—what I didn't realize—is that Dune is an essential document of the environmental movement, as essential as Silent Spring. The sequels stretch on and on, but Dune stands alone: deeply political, still relevant, forever supported by mythopoeic scaffolding as tall and sturdy as Tolkien’s.
Read about the other books on Sloan's list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten most dramatic deaths in fiction

At the Telegraph, Rachel Thompson named a top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction. (SPOILER ALERT, obviously). One entry on the list:
Anna in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878)

It all goes wrong for the heroine of Leo Tolstoy’s tragic novel, when she gets ditched by her lover, ostracised by society, and prevented from seeing her son by her cuckolded husband. Distraught, Anna leaps in front of a train travelling at a rate of knots[*].
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Anna Karenina also appears on Melissa Albert's recommended reading list for eight villains, Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, David Denby's six favorite books list, Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

*Collins English Dictionary explains "a rate of knots" means "very fast."

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Six great Halloween books for kids of all ages

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged six great Halloween books for kids of all ages, including:
The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Since I have yet to read a Roald Dahl book that I didn’t feel an intense need to miniaturize and stick in a locket (so I could carry it everywhere with me), this is an annual must-read in my household in the chilly days leading up to All Hallow’s Eve. This story focuses not on the caricatured witches who gained notoriety in The Brothers Grimm and films like “The Wizard of Oz,” but on the witches masquerading as real ladies—the ones who have infiltrated our society and are swiftly consolidating power. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy and provides each new generation of young readers with the hope that, though witches be crazy, they don’t always have to win.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Witches is one of Thomas Bloor's top ten tales of metamorphosis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books guaranteed to make you sound brilliant

Alina Simone is a singer and writer based in Brooklyn. Her new novel is Note to Self.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Simone highlighted "five books just bursting with facts that can make you the toast of your next dinner party, or at least a bit more interesting in a crowded elevator," including:
The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, by James Palmer

You’d think the eighteen-word title says everything you need to know, but the truly extraordinary thing about this book is the way it gives lie to the cliché that Buddhists are all kind, peace-loving people. Palmer’s Mongolia is teeming with orgies, murder, corruption, and mind-searing cruelty. Anecdotes from this book are particularly popular with people who hate yoga.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 18, 2013

The top 25 food memoirs of all time

Grub Street "factored in a book's originality, lasting appeal, influence on the genre, and — most important — how enjoyable it is to read" to come up with the top 25 food memoirs of all time.

One title to make the grade:
Heat by Bill Buford

Bill Buford's 2006 book is as much a memoir about his time working at Babbo — first as research for a story, soon after as a means of dealing with a midlife crisis — as it is a look at the culture of celebrity chefdom. The book focuses much of its attention on Mario Batali, contrasting his shows and jovial personality with the hard realities of life in a professional kitchen. It all moves at a brisk clip, and is interspersed with amazing, hilarious tales of culinary legends (Batali recalls Jeremiah Tower asking for a hand job when the two first meet) — and it might just be the most readable work on the list.
Read about the other books on the list.

Heat is on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books about pasta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Howard Norman's six favorite books

Howard Norman's books include the novels The Northern Lights and The Bird Artist, and the memoir, I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place.

One of the author's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Daniel Deronda, one of Eliot's greatest characters, has a dramatic encounter with a young Jewish woman before discovering that he too is Jewish. The book is a grand orchestration, composed, in equal measure, of sweeping romance and the stark reality of prejudice.
Read about the other books on the list.

Howard Norman's The Bird Artist is one of Michael J. Fox's six best books.

Daniel Deronda is on John Mullan's list of ten of the most memorable hunting scenes in literature, Dani Shapiro's ten favorite books list, and Ruth Wisse's list of essential works about Judaism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Eight books to change a villain

Some very twisted characters populate our favorite books.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert highlighted eight fictional villains and recommended books that might have sorted them out. One entry on the list:
Tom Ripley [of The Talented Mr. Ripley and sequels]: Eat, Pray, Love.

Fiction’s most adaptable sociopath is a magpie of human behavior, stealing the bits he can use to “pass” in whatever company he’s running with. But who’s the real Ripley? I’m hoping this book will send him on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Eat, Pray, Love is among Jill Halfpenny's six best books, Deborah Batterman's six books with three word titles,  and Sophie Thompson's six best books.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, 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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books for Black History month

John A. Kirk, the George W Donaghey professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is author of Martin Luther King Jr (2005) and Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970 (2002), and editor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement: Controversies and Debates.

At the Guardian, Kirk named his top ten books for Black History month. (Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February and the United Kingdom in October.) One title on the list:
Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North by Thomas J Sugrue

We often think of the civil rights movement as a distinct episode in the history of the US south. More recent studies like Sugrue's have shown that discrimination against African Americans existed nationwide, as did African American struggles to overcome it. His book not only challenges us to reconsider the chronology of the movement beyond the 1950s and 1960s, but also shifts its geographic coordinates to marshal an enormous wealth of research and an impressively diverse range of events.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sweet Land of Liberty is one of John McWhorter's top ten under-recognized books on race.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nine of the best witches in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged the best witches in literature, including:
The Witches of Eastwick

Though John Updike’s novel is heavier and darker than its film adaptation, it’s hard to get the image of Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, and Cher as the three eponymous Rhode Island vixens out of your head. It’s fun-ish Updike. Plus Cher!
Read about the other witches on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine of the best art-and-book-cover matches

"[S]ometimes a savvy [book cover] designer finds an extant piece of art that’s so perfect it seems as if it were created just to be put on the jacket," writes Gabe Habash for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly. One of his top nine examples to fit that bill:
Underworld by Don DeLillo

The art on the cover: New York, 1972 by André Kertész

The iconic photo was taken the year before the official dedication ceremony for the World Trade Center, from Kertész’s apartment.

The story behind the choice for the photo as the cover, according to Don DeLillo’s Underworld: A Reader’s Guide:

Troubling yet inarguably heavy-handed in its dialectic, the image, even when the novel appeared in 1997, seemed to fit too perfectly DeLillo’s examination of the postmodern wasteland and the bleak possibilities of spiritual renewal in the age of multinational capital. With a foreboding play of light and shadow, Kertész’s photograph suggest a dystopian metropolis [...] DeLillo himself found the photograph but was worried that it might be too religious. His editor at Scribner, Nan Graham, then hired a photo researcher to find a cover image: “she came back with the same image DeLillo had found on his own” (Passaro, “Don DeLillo and the Towers”).
Read about the other books and covers on Habash's list.

Underworld is on Alex Cross's top ten list of long books and Chad Harbach's top five list of notable novels with sporting themes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Seven of the best revenge stories in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Becky Ferreira tagged seven favorite tales of revenge in literature, including:
The Iliad, by Homer

Not only is this the grandaddy of all revenge stories, it features multiple layers of devastatingly petty infighting. Menelaus seeks revenge against Paris for stealing his wife, Helen, and he brings the entire Greek army with him. Then, Achilles hunts Hector down to deliver comeuppance for killing Patroclus. Even the gods are playing the revenge game, taking sides in the fallout of a disastrous beauty pageant. The question with The Iliad is not who is seeking revenge, but who isn’t?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Achilles and Patroclus made Nicole Hill's list of fourteen characters who should have lived.

The Iliad also appears on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on the Olympians, Madeline Miller's list of ten favorite classical works, Bettany Hughes's six best books list, James Anderson Winn's five best list of works of war poetry, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best funerals in literature and ten of the best examples of ekphrasis. It is one of Karl Marlantes's top ten war stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

James Franco's six favorite books

James Franco is the talented, ubiquitous, popular, and provocative actor, director, author, and visual artist. His first book, the story collection Palo Alto, was published in 2010. His first novel, Actors Anonymous, debuts this month.

One of the author's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece recounts the horrific 19th-century adventures of the scalp-hunting Glanton gang in language that reaches for the biblical. This is how Westerns should be done now: No white hat, black hat; no good cowboys and bad Indians. Here, everyone is as evil as pitch.
Read about the other books on the list.

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among Philipp Meyer's five best books that explain America, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, David Vann's six favorite books, Robert Olmstead's six favorite books, Michael Crummey's top ten literary feuds, Philip Connors's top ten wilderness books, six books that made a difference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns, Maile Meloy's six best books, and David Foster Wallace's five direly underappreciated post-1960 U.S. novels. It appears on the New York Times list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

Also see: James Franco's 2010 six best books list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ten top literary doorstops

Alex Clark tagged her top ten long reads for the Observer. One title on her list:
Roberto Bolaño, 2004

Published after the Chilean novelist’s death in 2003, this vast novel – 912 pages – had critics salivating in anticipation. He envisaged that each of its five sections could be read separately – but they add up to something unclassifiably brilliant. The story begins with a literary puzzle – the whereabouts of German novelist Benno von Archimboldi. Four critics head to a Mexican border town on his trail, whereupon the novel switches focus to become a fictional recreation of the unexplained mass murders of young women in Ciudad Juárez.
Read about the other books on Clark's list. 

2666 appears on Gillian Orr's reading list of top unfinished novels; it was #1 in one tabulation of the critics' consensus book of the year for 2008.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Five top books that explore & celebrate Hemingway's career

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books that explore and celebrate Ernest Hemingway's career:
Hemingway: The Final Years
by Michael Reynolds

In the final volume of his biographical trilogy, Reynolds chronicles the last two decades of the writer's life -- years marked by literary triumph, personal tumult, and increasing physical and psychological distress. Unable to disentangle himself from the myth of the adventurer and sportsman he had so assiduously cultivated, Hemingway grappled with paranoia and depression even as the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes cemented his literary stature. Portions of his 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which Robert Jordan considers suicide to avoid capture, foreshadow Hemingway's eventual self-destruction. The tragic arc of the writer's twilight years has never been more movingly captured.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Five top books on Hemingway in Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten Norman Mailer books

J. Michael Lennon is the late Norman Mailer’s archivist and authorized biographer. Lennon's new book is Norman Mailer: A Double Life.

For Publishers Weekly, Lennon named his picks for the ten best Mailer books. One title on the list:
The Executioner’s Song

An immense panoramic nonfiction novel with over 300 characters that recreates the last nine months of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore. Relying heavily on the actual words of those involved (taken from 15,000 pages of interviews), Mailer depicts Gilmore’s Romeo-and-Juliet love affair with a young mother, Nicole Baker (both attempted suicide), and details the legal struggle between those who sought Gilmore’s reprieve and those who opposed it—the latter led by Gilmore, who insisted that his death sentence be carried out. He won and in January 1977 got four bullets through the heart—the first execution in the U.S. in ten years. Lawrence Schiller, Gilmore’s advisor, media spokesman, literary executor and the distributor of his ashes, holds the narrative together, and stands in for Mailer, who tells the story anonymously in what he called “a quiet voice from the other side of the hill.” He won his second Pulitzer for this book.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Executioner's Song also appears among Ron Hansen's five best literary tales of real-life crimes and Sarah Weinman's seven best true crime books; it is one of five books that made a difference to Josh Brolin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stella Gonet's six best books

Stella Gonet is one actor from the UK who has not appeared in a Harry Potter movie yet has performed in many productions of Shakespeare's plays and appeared in several popular television series and movies.

One of Gonet's six favorite books, as told to the Daily Express:
REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier

One of the great gothic pieces of writing. Du Maurier really knows how to plot and develop character and I always imagine I’m playing every part. I was 14 when I first read it because I loved the Olivier film.
Read about the other books on Gonet's list.

Rebecca appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best conflagrations in literature, Tess Gerritsen's list of five favorite thrillers, Mary Horlock's list of the five best psychos in literature, and Derwent May's critic's chart of top country house books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fourteen characters who should have lived

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged 14 poor fictional "souls, taken too soon, who should have lived, through whatever deus ex machina necessary," including [SPOILER ALERT]:
Achilles and Patroclus

You might be saying, “Achilles was cool, sure, but I do not remember ever mustering the slightest whiff of sentiment for Patroclus in The Iliad. In point of fact, I barely remember The Iliad except for that one Brad Pitt movie.” Allow me to direct you to Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, Homer’s epic for the Tumblr generation. Miller paints an intimate love between Achilles and Patroclus that will not only make you ship them, but also compel you to try to tear out your aorta when they inevitably end up six feet under.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seven scary autumnal stories

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kat Rosenfield tagged seven scary October reads, including:
Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin

A posh NYC apartment building becomes the spawning ground for a baby demon in this terrifying classic horror novel. Malevolent paternalism plus midcentury Devil worship equals the scariest book about pregnancy ever written (unless you count the ones full of recipes for cooking and eating your own placenta, eeeeeeuuuuwwww).
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Chris Priestley's top ten scary short stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top literary woods

Lucy Christopher's novel Stolen was named a Printz Honor Book by the ALA and received England's Branford Boase award and Australia's golden Inky for best debut. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it "an emotionally raw thriller...a haunting account of captivity and the power of relationships." She is also the author of Flyaway, a novel for younger readers. Christopher's latest book, The Killing Woods, is a psychological thriller for teens.

For the Guardian she named her top 10 literary woods, including:
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

I read this recently, thinking it might be research for my novel The Killing Woods. What I discovered was a novel deeply infused with the magic and mystery of the folklore of English woodlands. When Tara disappears from the local bluebell woods, no one expects to hear from her again … until she returns twenty years later, looking exactly as she did the day she left. Did fairies, helped along by the heady scent of the bluebells, bewitch her? Or has she actually gone mad and lost her mind and memories?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Top ten lost words

Mark Forsyth is a writer, journalist, proofreader, ghostwriter, and pedant. He was given a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary as a christening present and has never looked back. He is the creator of The Inky Fool, a blog about words, phrases, grammar, rhetoric, and prose. He lives in the UK.

Forsyth's latest book is Horologicon. One of his top ten lost words, as told to the Guardian:

Another old Scots word, to groke is to gaze at somebody while they're eating in the hope that they'll give you some of their food. The word was originally used to refer to dogs – and any dog owner whose canine friend has salivated beside them while they eat a steak will know why – but it can also be used to describe that colleague who sidles up to you from across the office when you open a box of chocolates.
Read about the other lost words on Forsyth's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sixteen great writers snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee

At The Daily Beast Thomas Flynn tagged 16 great writers snubbed by the Nobel Prize, including:
Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov was nominated in 1974, but was ignored in favor of the obscure Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson. Both were on the Nobel committee at the time.
Learn about the other writers on the list.

Nabokov is on Ben Frederick's list of ten influential authors who came to the US as immigrants.

The author's Lolita appears on Boris Kachka's six favorite books list, 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.

Nabokov's Lectures on Literature is among Gish Jen's five top lectures on writing. His memoir Speak, Memory is among Eva Hoffman's top five memoirs of identity, dislocation & belonging and Susan Cheever's favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five hilarious, heart-rending books about dying teens

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams tagged five of the best funny books about dying teens, including:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines, his friend Earl, and Dying Girl Rachel are brought together by mutual respect for the films of Werner Herzog, Rachel’s leukemia, and Greg’s mother, who is insistent that Greg befriend said dying girl. Greg is a pathologically self-deprecating aspiring filmmaker whose narrative style, like his film homage to Rachel (Rachel the Film), is “perhaps most noteworthy for its confusing mishmash of styles,” featuring “absurdist one-offs with extremely limited relevance to the subject matter.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Richard Dawkins' five favorite books

Richard Dawkins, one of nonfiction's bad boys, is the author of the newly released An Appetite for Wonder, the first volume of what will be a two-part memoir.

One of his five favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Sword of Honor by Evelyn Waugh

How could so profoundly sensitive a writer of beautiful English have been such an apparently shallow, even unpleasant, man? Whatever the answer, I re-read Waugh's books again and again, mesmerized by the chiseled craftsmanship of every sentence. I could have chosen any of his books, but the Sword of Honor trilogy, an affectionately comic portrayal of the bungling chaos of military life, is perhaps my favorite.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 8 most famous body parts in fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kat Rosenfield tagged the eight most famous body parts in fiction, including:
Cyrano de Bergerac

The real Cyrano de Bergerac had a prominent schnoz, but nothing like the giant honker that plagues his fictional counterpart in the play based on his life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: John Mullan's ten best noses in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue