Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ten top graphic novels

Robin Etherington is a comic book creator. He tagged his top ten graphic titles for the Guardian, including:
Tintin and the Black Island

Long before Spielberg was approached by the creator's family to bring the world's most iconic comic character to life, Herge conjured up the Black Island, one of his most action-packed adventures. The Scottish scenery is beautifully rendered, the villains are as crooked as their crimes and the story grips you to the very end. If you only read one Tintin volume in your life, this volume is a must.
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books on gluttony

"Among the list of the Seven Deadly Sins," writes Nicole Hill at at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, gluttony, alongside lust and well-performed greed, is the most fun." One title on Hill's reading list on gluttony:
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri

One can only assume Dante’s description of the level of hell reserved for gluttons is similar to what was going on behind the scenes at the Wonka factory. For indulging too much in life, you will, in the afterlife, be subjected to the three gaping maws of Cerberus. Oh, and here’s Virgil with the weather: “It is still raining here, folks. Looks like pus, feces, and hail. Expect severe storms for the rest of eternity.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 29, 2013

Three top new books for the digital citizen

Annie Coreno named three top books for the digital citizen for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly, including:
Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

When it comes to technology, Clive Thompson sees the glass half full. Rather than a definitive take on technology, this book is more of a counter point to arguments against the digital revolution. Thompson engages readers while leaving room to debate. It’s a stepping stone for skeptics.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books for fans of "The Fault in Our Stars"

"What J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins started, John Green finished," writes The Barnes & Noble Book Blog's Melissa Albert: "The Fault in Our Stars made young adult readers of us all."

One book she recommends for Green's fans:
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler

This tenderhearted tale of high-school lust, from the author sometimes known as Lemony Snicket, is told through the objects accrued by sensitive cinephile Min Green, a high school junior, throughout her brief, doomed relationship with senior jock Ed Slaterton. The objects—including bottle caps, a Polaroid, and a movie ticket—are depicted in drawings by Maira Kalman, and somehow capture exactly the feeling of teen love, where everything your crush object touches becomes a totem. Handler’s Min is smart, ever-so-slightly pretentious, and prone to fits of melancholy—just like, ya know, every actual teen girl reading the book. Bonus: Min’s movie love is explored through multiple references to invented films that I’m dying to see, rivaling Green’s creation, in The Fault in Our Stars, of sadly nonexistent book An Imperial Affliction. Invented pop culture FTW!
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Five top books on how the world’s political economy works

Mark Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University. He is the author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century.

His new book is Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea.

With Toby Ash at Five Books, Blyth discussed five top books on how the world’s political economy works, including:
[L]et’s take a closer look at the first of your five books [The Passions and the Interests by Albert O. Hirschman], which I believe looks at the effects of trade on social patterns.

The book isn’t really about that. There’s one section called The Thesis of Doux Commerce in which he talks about the gentling effects of commerce and the late seventeenth century French theory that trade amongst individuals polishes the manners and creates civilité, but that’s a minor part of the book.

The book is about the two notions of the passions and the interests. If you go back to the philosopher David Hume, he says “Reason is, and only ought to be the slave of the passions.” What drives and animates us as human beings is our passions. Reason should be the slave of them. The great victory of the Enlightenment was to make passions the slave of the interests and to push interests forwards. So if we think about it in the context of economics in the modern world, people follow their interests not passions. People who follow their passions are a bit weird.

What does this all mean? He takes us back to the 1700s to show that what you had at the end of the feudal and medieval world was a search for certainty. If you take away the church and the fear of death - which the Enlightenment was busy doing through the scientific revolution - you are left with the potential for anarchy. So something was needed to contain those passions. Hirschman goes back through a reading of Machiavelli and others all the way to the American Federalist Papers, where you have the notion of the balance of passions and the division of powers. He is showing us the search for Newtonisation, a search for the law-like social world, which is the beginning of the mathematical side of the social sciences.

What Hirschman is showing is that it’s all about power. This whole notion of trying to find a balance of the passions to produce interests is about a particular economic society that’s emerging which we now call capitalism. It used to be that people had interests, of course, but no one regarded them as primary. Your interests were often referred to by your ‘corporate’ interests or occupation – you were a peasant or a priest, for example. But notions of individuals having interest in money were very much frowned upon in the Christian medieval world. But all this was coming apart, and what Hirschman does is show how a series of thinkers - up to and including Adam Smith and David Hume - basically tried to find a balance of the passions but ended up creating, through the emergence of a mercantile society, a notion of self-interest which is uniquely individual and uniquely to do with money and earning cash. The notion in the whole book, which Keynes echoes in his, is that it is far better for man to lord it over his bank balance than it is over his fellow man. What capitalism does is give everyone the same self-interest, and that same self-interest gives us predictability, and with predictability you have very small, low cost government because you have self-regulating beings, running around playing the same game – the pursuit of money.

This book has all this wonderful intellectual history which tells us something important about the modern world. We didn’t always think of ourselves as individuals. We didn’t always think the pursuit of money and markets was natural. These things were constructed by people with a particular interest at a particular point in time. That interest, in many ways, had very little to do with the making of money. It was a means to an end to control people rather than an end in itself, which is where we have got to today.
Read about the other books Blyth tagged at Five Books.

The Page 99 Test: Austerity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Jill Boyd tagged five of the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving. One entry on the list:
The Joads (The Grapes of Wrath)

Picture this: Per tradition, you ask all of your guests to share what it is for which they are most thankful. It’s such a heartwarming exercise. Your sister says, “I’m thankful for my new job.” Your best friend says, “I’m grateful for the home my wife and I have just purchased.” And then you get to Ma Joad. Oh, no. This was a terrible idea. Please, someone say something to fill the silence before she’s forced to utter, “Well, I guess I’m grateful that my daughter’s no-good husband left her so he didn’t see her nursing a dying man with the breast milk she should have been giving to her stillborn baby. Hooray.”
Read about the other entries on the list. 

The Grapes of Wrath also appears on a list of three of Ali Khamenei's favorite novels, Segun Afolabi's top 10 list of "on the move" books, Mark O'Connell's list of the ten best songs based on books, John Kerry's list of five books on progressivism, Stephen King's five best list of books on globalization, John Mullan's list of ten of the best pieces of fruit in literature, and Honor Blackman's six best books list. It is one of Frederic Raphael's top ten talkative novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Top ten sports books

John Gaustad started Sportspages, the UK's first bookshop devoted solely to sports books in 1985, and subsequently co-founded the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, now in its 25th year.

At the Guardian, Gustad named his top ten sports books. One title on the list:
Fever Pitch: A Fan's Life by Nick Hornby

A blindingly obvious choice perhaps, but it was a hugely significant, ground-breaking book, and it's also sublimely written, telling more about what sport means to fans than almost any other. We now see it as an established classic, but at the time it was a brave piece of publishing. I remember the publishers consulting me about it – they were not at all convinced there was really a market for an "intelligent" football book. I assured them there was, and once I'd read the manuscript, and been utterly bowled over, urged them to get it out as soon as they could.
Read about the other books on the list.

Fever Pitch is one of Mihir Bose's top ten soccer books.

--Marshal Zeringue

The seven best comeuppances in literature

Having previously tagged seven favorite tales of revenge in literature at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Becky Ferreira has now come up with the best comeuppances in literature. (Revenge and comeuppance "definitely overlap," Ferreira points out, yet "revenges are engineered by mere mortals. Comeuppances, however, read as if the universe itself stepped in to make sure that justice is doled out properly.")

One entry on the list:
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment: demolishing people’s brains since 1866. This famously intense read follows the inner machinations of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished student who convinces himself that because he is smart, he’s above the law. His “punishment” is carefully wrought and full of brilliant insights into moral relativism, class tension, and individualism. We expect nothing less of Dostoevsky, whose books are basically riveting philosophical Rubik’s Cubes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Crime and Punishment is among Lorraine Kelly's six best books  and the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer, and one of Gerald Scarfe's six best books; it appears on Andrew Klavan's five best list of psychological crime novels. Elmore Leonard has never read beyond page fifty of the tome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten top crime novels of 2013

J. Kingston Pierce is both the editor of The Rap Sheet and the senior editor of January Magazine.

At Kirkus he shared his ten favorite crime novels published in 2013, including:
Perfect Hatred, by Leighton Gage: Only months before his death in July, Gage witnessed the release of his sixth novel featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva of Brazil’s Federal Police. Perfect Hatred finds the middle-aged, notably scrupulous cop trying to get to the bottom of two knotty, violent crimes: a bombing at the American Consulate in São Paulo that left 67 people dead, and the daytime assassination of an anti-corruption candidate for governor in the state of Paraná. As Silva and his men investigate, they discover links between these outrages and a boys-only Muslim religious school that may be graduating future terrorists. Gage spices his plot mix further with smuggling operations in Paraguay and a prosperous landowner accused of murder, who’s hoping to take Silva off his case—permanently. I’m sorry that Gage’s demise leaves only one more Silva book to come: The Ways of Evil Men, due out in the States in January.
Read about the other books on Pierce's list.

The Page 69 Test: Perfect Hatred.

Writers Read: Leighton Gage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven book recommendations for "Game of Thrones" fans

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged seven choice gift ideas for fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and its HBO adaptation, Game of Thrones.

One entry on the list:
The Blood of Gods, by Conn Iggulden

Even if you’ve missed Iggulden’s Julius Caesar–focused Emperor series up to this point—which, shame on you, if so—you can revel in this bloody, treacherous tale of the aftermath of Caesar’s murder. King’s Landing isn’t what you’d call a safe neighborhood, but Rome wasn’t built in a day—it was built upon years and years of unbridled ambition, ruthless quests for revenge, and sweaty pride. And even the most unsympathetic characters here are more likable than Joffrey!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 25, 2013

Three of the best books on Mexico

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on Mexico. One title on the list:
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

In Villalobos's small but perfectly formed 2011 debut novel, reality and surreality overlap in a darkly comic tale that offers a fresh take on Mexico's nasty narco-wars.

Tochtli ("rabbit" in Nahuatl, an indigenous language), the precocious, seven-year-old narrator, tells us about his life as the son of a drug kingpin called Yolcaut ("rattlesnake" in Nahuatl). They live in an isolated and well-guarded palace ("the thing is we have a lot of money. A huge amount"), where the boy's every whim is indulged but he is lonely. He knows only "13 or 14 people … [But] if I counted dead people, I'd know more".

He has a passion for hats, samurai, guillotines – and Liberian pygmy hippopotamuses. Tochtli reads the dictionary every night, and among the words he likes to use are "pathetic", "devastating", "disastrous" and "sordid".

His father sees him as part of the gang and doesn't shield him from violence. As a result, the child is chillingly knowledgeable about bullets, knives and the disposal of corpses. "I think at the moment my life is a little bit sordid. Or pathetic," says Tochtli.

Although easily devoured in one sitting, this clever little book is to be contemplated at length afterwards.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Randi Zuckerberg's six favorite books

Randi Zuckerberg is the CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, a tech savvy production company, and editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, a modern lifestyle community and blog. She was an early employee of Facebook where she pioneered live streaming initiatives and struck groundbreaking deals with ABC and CNN. Her new book is Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives.

Zuckerberg shared her six favorite books with readers of The Week magazine. One title on the list:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini was a former Olympic athlete whose U.S. bomber went down in the Pacific during World War II. In a story that’s a testament to human endurance, Zamperini clings to life and is later challenged by an even greater trial when he becomes a prisoner of war. Hillenbrand is a skillful storyteller, as evidenced by her earlier success with Seabiscuit.
Read about the other books on the list.

Unbroken is among Dell Villa's top five books you might want to have in tow if you were shipwrecked and faced with the exciting reality of creating a new civilization and Lauren Passell's top seven books that belong on every runner’s bookshelf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five essential JFK assassination books

At The Daily Beast, Allen Barra shared his list of the only five books written about JFK’s death that count. One entry on the list:
by Don DeLillo

In an author’s note at the end of Libra, Don DeLillo writes that he has made “No attempt to furnish factual answers to any questions raised by the assassination.” In other words, this is a novel and does not purport to solve any of the myriad mysteries surrounding the killing of JFK. But as a novel, Libra can go places where fact cannot go.

Published close to the 25th anniversary of the assassination, DeLillo, starting from the know facts available from the Warren Commission’s report, court records and newspaper and magazine investigations, creates interior voices for the principal characters. He arrives at an explanation for the killing of the President far different from the official one presented by the Warren Commission, but one which ultimately depend on conspiracy.

Anne Tyler, reviewing Libra for the New York Times, wrote, “Lee Harvey Oswald has always seemed both much-too-familiar (his rabbity, weak-jawed face staring out of the grimmer sections of every city in America) and endlessly mysterious. To Mr. DeLillo’s credit, that ambiguity is kept alive in Libra. It may even be heightened, because the portrait is so intimate—Oswald washing dishes, Oswald playing with his baby, Oswald cuffing his wife—and he still manages from time to time to surprise us. Oswald is a loser, a loner, pathetic and self-aggrandizing, one of those people who seize crazily upon the significance of every insignificant coincidence…”

Libra, then, is a painstakingly in-depth portrait of a shallow man who changed the world and the chaos that followed in his wake.
Read about the other books on the list.

Libra is one of Joseph Finder's five best books on political conspiracy.

Also see: Three essential books on the Kennedy assassination.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Six top dystopian YA books series

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged six great young adult book series for fans of The Hunger Games, including:
The Divergent Trilogy, by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant): The clear successor to the subgenre throne, the just-completed Divergent trilogy is sure to become even bigger next year with the release of the first film adaptation. It’s set in a postapocalyptic Chicago whose inhabitants are tested as teenagers and placed into one of five factions that make up the “virtues” of humanity: Amity (peacefulness), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Unfortunately for our hero, Tris, she doesn’t fit into any of the factions—she is Divergent. That’s a big no-no. Like The Hunger Games, the Divergent series offers a perfect blend of fight against government oppression and swoon-worthy romance. (Not to mention a controversial finale.)
Read about the other series on the list.

Divergent is on Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten science fiction novels that pack more action than most summer movies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jon Meacham's six favorite books

Jon Meacham is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion, a biography of Andrew Jackson, and the 2012 best-seller Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.

One of his six favorite books, as shared with The Week magazine:
Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch

This first volume of Branch's three-part history of Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact opens unconventionally, with a portrait of Vernon Johns, King's forgotten predecessor. By the time the book closes, in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings in Birmingham, Ala., and the assassination of President Kennedy, we've gotten as close to King and the people around him as readers possibly can.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Parting the Waters is on Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's list of five important books about prejudice, the Christian Science Monitor's list of ten of the best books about Martin Luther King, Jr and Gal Beckerman's list of six favorite books about political movements, and appears on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on the civil rights movement.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seven books for people who love Malcolm Gladwell

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Josh Sorokach tagged seven books for people who love Malcolm Gladwell, including:
Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

Written by a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Thinking, Fast and Slow comprehensively explains the two systems that drive the way we think and offers insightful theories that can be implemented in our day-to-day life. One such theory is the halo effect—our tendency to like or dislike everything about a person, including things we have not observed. Another is the principle of independent judgments that discusses the biases that can arise in group meetings. Kahneman offers a simple remedy to neutralize a group bias: “Before an issue is discussed, all members of the committee should be asked to write a brief summary of their position. This procedure makes good use of the value of the diversity of knowledge and opinion in the group.”
Read about the other titles on the list.

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

Learn about Malcolm Gladwell's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Three essential books on the Kennedy assassination

Peter Cannon named three essential books on the Kennedy assassination for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly, including:
In History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Howard P. Willens, a lawyer who served on the Warren Commission, provides a straightforward account of the proceedings that serves as a rebuttal to those critics who claim that the committee gave into pressure not to seek and tell the truth. Willens makes a strong case that he and the other lawyers worked hard to do the best job they could, despite the lack of full cooperation from the FBI and CIA, each of whom had reason to withhold evidence. Willens stands by the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter and there was no credible evidence of a conspiracy.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fifty books that define the past five years in literature

At Flavorwire, Jason Diamond tagged 50 books that define the past five years in literature. One title on the list:
Half a Life, Darin Strauss (2010)

There are three types of memoirs: the good celebrity ones, the total bullshit celebrity ones, and the type of true story that Strauss gives us about an accidental tragedy, and what comes after. Few books will move you like this one.
Learn about the other books on the list.

Half a Life is one of Joshua Henkin's five top portraits of grief.

The Page 99 Test: Half a Life.

Writers Read: Darin Strauss (October 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books to read before traveling to France

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kat Rosenfield tagged five books to read before your trip to France, including:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

A concierge at a Parisian apartment building, Renée Michel takes great pains to conceal her second, secret life as an intellectual—lest it upset the delicate prejudices of her extremely upper-class tenants. But when she develops an unexpected rapport with an unbalanced girl, Renée begins to understand that the beauty of art, literature, and music is in how it connects us to each other. An international best-seller, this book is a beautiful depiction of the depth and mystery in what the French call “la vie quotidienne.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Top ten unsinkable characters in literature

Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian writer of fiction, essays, and literary criticism. In Malarky, her widely-acclaimed first novel, Schofield writes, she was "was determined to create a portrait of a woman who wouldn't be sunk by what life served her and would interrogate it instead."

One of the author's top ten unsinkable characters in literature, as shared with the Guardian:
Memoir [All Will Be Well in the US] by John McGahern

McGahern's father was a cruel man. When his mother died, the young McGahern was not allowed to attend her funeral and followed it on the arms of a clock he held in his hand. His memoir documents how, rather than bail out of his homeland, he decided to return and psychologically break into County Leitrim. I found that gesture remarkable and thanks to it, we have his life's work on our bookshelves. This is a compelling account of how to respond to ridiculous things with an air of dignity about you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifteen top stories about greed

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams came up with a reading list on greed. One book she tagged:
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

Just about everyone around Detective Sam Spade dies trying to get their hands on a bird figurine worth…$10,000. Hopefully something is lost in inflation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Maltese Falcon appears on Sara Brady's top five list of books with plots propelled by the search for an object, J. Kingston Pierce's top ten list of introductions to crime fiction and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fat men in literature and ten of the best femmes fatales in literature, and among Armistead Maupin's five best San Francisco novels and Janet Rudolph's ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Five movies that improved the book

At Cracked, Ryan Menezes tagged five movies that improved the book (according to the author), including:
Interview With the Vampire Casts Tom Cruise as the Villain

Anne Rice wrote vampire fuck fiction back before it was cool. Or, if you prefer, "Anne Rice wrote vampire fuck fiction back when it was still cool." Or, if you insist, "Anne Rice wrote Gothic fiction and erotica before the genres collapsed into the mess we have today." It was all the way back in 1976 when Rice first adapted her book Interview With the Vampire into a screenplay and sold the rights. She spent the next two decades battling with terrible Hollywood rewrites. One version tried to turn two of the homoerotic male characters into women, because two guys kissing is "gross." The little girl, Claudia, was to be switched out for an adult, because little girls getting killed -- even if they're undead monsters -- is just too depressing. In short, Hollywood tried to cut everything dark and sexual about the dark and sexual vampire book that built an audience mostly on its dark sexuality.

By the time the 1994 film was in production, Rice had lost all faith in Hollywood. And then she found out about the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat. Can you imagine? You write a strange underground horror novel and Hollywood takes your homoerotic undead sex-god and fills the role with Top Gun. Hope is dead, and the thing that lives in its place is a mockery that must be destroyed.

"It's almost impossible to imagine how it's going to work," Rice said of the decision.

We imagine they filtered out the profanities and sobbing.

Rice began openly badmouthing the film before she'd even seen it. She alluded to "bullshit and foolishness" that she couldn't even talk about and refused to attend any of the screenings. She wouldn't even look at clips. One of the producers had to send her a copy on tape and insist that she watch it at home. She put it in her VCR and settled down to watch -- but only after locking all the sharp objects away and putting herself on suicide watch.

Then the movie started, and Rice exploded with fangirl joy. She loved it so much, she wrote an 8,000-word open letter to her readers describing it as "perfect," "impeccable," and "extraordinary." The cast was "marvelous," "magical," and "magnificent and flawless." Rice thought Cruise's Lestat, whom she had initially doubted to the point of bloodlust, would "be remembered the way Olivier's Hamlet is remembered." In fact, Rice was so overcome with love for the adaptation she had literally spent two decades despising that she personally paid for a two-page ad in several magazines to sing the film's praises.

Wow. That's not just reversing direction, that's turning around and burning everything in your original direction so that no human being may ever walk the path again.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Interview With The Vampire is among Will Hill's top 10 vampires in fiction and popular culture and Lynda Resnick's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten fairy tales

Severely dyslexic Sally Gardner, who couldn't read until she was 14, won the Carnegie medal and the Costa children's books award with her novel for teens, Maggot Moon. Tinder, her latest book, was inspired by the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Tinderbox.

One of Gardner's top ten fairy tales, as told to the Guardian:

The story of Cinderella is about a thousand years old and originated in China. It was at first an orally told story and its many incarnations took years to reach the shores of England. The shoe and the size of the shoe are to do with the binding of Chinese women's feet and it was a story never intended for girls younger than twelve. In one of its many versions Cinderella's mother, the Queen, tells the King on her deathbed that he may marry again if he can find a woman as beautiful as she, and as long her finger fits her ring. The King searches his land and finding no one of that description except his daughter, decides to marry her. Cinderella runs away to the house of the merchant where begins the story as we know it today. The story has great elasticity and has been used and will be used again and again. Perhaps one of its greatest retellings is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 18, 2013

Five underappreciated war books

Jake Tapper is the anchor and chief Washington correspondent for CNN and the author of The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.

One of five war books he recommended to readers of The Daily Beast who have already read the best-known war books:
Pretty Birds
by Scott Simon

Simon, the affable host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, tells the story of a fictionalized teenage Bosnian sniper based on his actual time in the 1990s covering the war in Sarajevo. His is a beautifully rendered novel of modern urban warfare. Irena, a half-Muslim former high school basketball star, is both a refugee struggling in near-impossible circumstances, and a guerilla.

The contemplation of the rules of war—its situational morality—is made all the more cruel in the mind of a teenager: her chief Tedic “had told her not to shoot at children. The morals were dubious and the publicity devastating. On her own, Irena had determined that she would not shoot at pets. Tedic had instructed her not to shoot at grandmothers, and when she’d wondered if grandfathers were included by the same logic, he had reminded her that Milosevic and Karadzic could have grandchildren…Irena decided that she would not shoot at someone who looked like Sting, the Princess of Wales, or Katarina Witt. She wanted to be able to enjoy looking at their pictures without seeing ghosts. She would not shoot at someone who was already wounded, though she would judge if someone limped because he had truly been wounded or because he had jammed his toe kicking a plugged-up toilet. Irena knew that Tedic would have a score of sensible objections to each of her rules. What if Serb snipers started tucking puppies under their arms? What if a Serb mortar team carried a little ginger cat as their mascot? Would she shrink from firing at a Serb setting off an artillery piece if he had eyebrows like Katarina Witt? Irena kept her rules in confidence so that she could not be reasoned out of them.”
Read about the other books on his list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Octavia Spencer's six favorite books

A veteran character actress and one of Hollywood’s most-sought-after talents, Octavia Spencer has become a familiar fixture on both television and silver screen. Her critically acclaimed performance as Minny in the DreamWorks feature film The Help won her a 2012 Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a Broadcast Film Critics’ Choice Award, among countless other honors.

Spencer is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, and holds a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. She lives in Los Angeles.

Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit is her first novel.

One of Spencer's six favorite books, as shared with The Week magazine:
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

To this crime-fiction lover, there is nothing more fun than reading an Alex Cross thriller and rooting for its protagonist, a black psychologist turned detective turned FBI agent. I've always felt a strong connection to Cross, a widower with three young children who are looked after by his grandmother, Nana Mama. Patterson had me from the start.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top travel books about an intense experience of a particular place

Paul Theroux is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. His latest book is The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari.

For The Daily Beast Theroux tagged five top books in which "what is illuminated is the landscape and the people—the place rather than the traveler or the trip," including:
Christ Stopped at Eboli
by Carlo Levi

This is one of those important books that compelled me, after I’d read it, to go to the place and see it for myself. I visited Aliano (Levi calls it Gagliano) in Lucania, in southern Italy, when I was on my around-the-shore-of-the-Mediterranean trip. It was a detour from the coast, but a memorable one. I wrote about it in The Pillars of Hercules. “He wasn’t Italian,” an old man told me in the town, speaking in Italian. “He was a foreigner—a Russian.” I questioned this. “’Breo,” the man said. At first I didn’t understand, and then I guessed at the word: Ebreo, a Jew. So everything Levi experienced in 1935, and wrote about in 1943, was still true in 1995: these people were remote, mentally and geographically, off the map in every sense.

The book describes the oddity of this educated Florentine among the peasants of a remote village in the deep south of Italy—a forgotten people, hardly Christian. Christ didn't get to Aliano, they explain to him; Christ stopped miles away, at Eboli. “We’re not Christians,” they say. They are superstitious, violent, passionate, mercurial, and secretive, with a greater belief in dragons than in any saint.
Read about the other books on Theroux's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Five books that changed Gary Corby

Gary Corby is a novelist and former systems programmer at Microsoft. His Athenian Mystery series, stars Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating pre-adult brother Socrates. Corby lives in Australia with his wife and two daughters.

In 2012 Corby shared with the Sydney Morning Herald a list of five books that changed him. One title on the list:
A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin

Imagine a magical world where a boy goes to a school for wizards, where he must learn to control his enormous talent and come to terms with his own mortality. No, it's not Harry Potter. It's A Wizard of Earthsea, written 25 years before J.K. Rowling put pen to paper. Earthsea's worth it for the beautiful place names alone, and the gorgeous map of the archipelago, where an arrogant young goatherd grows up to become the humble Archmage of all the isles.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Wizard of Earthsea is one of Lev Grossman's top five fantasy novels.

Visit Gary Corby's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pericles Commission.

Writers Read: Gary Corby (November 2010).

My Book, The Movie: The Pericles Commission.

My Book, The Movie: The Ionia Sanction.

Writers Read: Gary Corby (November 2011).

The Page 69 Test: The Ionia Sanction.

The Page 69 Test: Sacred Games.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

My Book, The Movie: Sacred Games.

--Marshal Zeringue

The five lamest boyfriends in fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Molly Schoemann-McCann tagged five of the lamest boyfriends in fiction, including:
Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë)

This is a hard one for me to write, because I would take up with Mr. Rochester in a hot minute if I got half the chance. Despite my criticisms, he’s still one of my favorite fictional boyfriends of all time, and Jane Eyre helped shape my impressionable young mind about what an ideal romance should be like (not that this is good). But to be honest, Mr. Rochester was, for a number of reasons, a terrible boyfriend. For one thing, before admitting his true feelings for Jane, he concocted a fake romance with a beautiful woman right in front of her to make her jealous, which was not very sporting. Then there was the memorable evening he disguised himself as a fortune-teller and then was all, “Hey Jane, what do you think of that Mr. Rochester guy, do you like like him?”—that’s a manipulative tactic straight out of middle school, minus the cross-dressing. Finally, he wooed Jane and asked her to marry him while he was, in fact, still wedded to a crazy lady he kept locked in the attic. Party foul there, friend. And that’s three strikes for you.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Jane Eyre also made Janice Clark's top seven list of timeless coming-of-age novels, Lauren Passell's list of 20 peanut butter & jelly reads, Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of the ten hottest men in required reading, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five top anti-memoir memoirs

Marco Roth is the author of The Scientists: A Family Romance. He named his five favorite anti-memoir memoirs for The Daily Beast. Roth asks -- "Is it possible to write a memoir about how you mistook your own life, about what you didn’t yet know or failed to see, and when you didn’t know it? About how your character and judgments were formed and how you came to unlearn that first and not always painful formation?"

One anti-memoir memoir on Roth's list:
Memoirs of an Egotist by Stendhal.

Written in 1832, when he was 49, and one year after the publication of The Red and the Black, Souvenirs d’Égotisme (perhaps better translated as Remembrances of an Egotist, since Stendhal avoided calling it un mémoire) is an account of a 10-year period in the author’s life which was spent mostly failing to write, failing to find a lover, failing to fit in to an increasingly socially and politically conservative Parisian society, failing to find employment, and ultimately failing to commit suicide. It’s a remarkable document of what Stendhal often calls “The Pursuit of Happiness,” written with his typical speed and self-undermining chattiness. A scene of impotence while visiting a famous Parisian prostitute wouldn’t be out of place in a Philip Roth novel. Looking back, Stendhal recognizes his failure as its own kind of happiness, “How many humiliations I’ve suffered! But if I’d been more astute, I’d have become disgusted to the point of nausea with women, and thus with music and painting. Instead of that, I have the good fortune to be as naïve as at the age of 25. This is why I will never blow my brains out from boredom with life.”
Read about the other entries on Roth's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books with plots propelled by the search for an object

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Sara Brady tagged five "books focused on an object that sets the plot in motion," including:
Dashiell Hammett’s noir classic The Maltese Falcon is arguably more famous as a film than a book, thanks to Humphrey Bogart’s indelible performance as the original hard-boiled detective, Sam Spade. The elusive bird figurine around which all the action orbits would just a few years later earn itself a name as an enduring trope of movies and, later, television: the MacGuffin.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Maltese Falcon appears on J. Kingston Pierce's top ten list of introductions to crime fiction and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fat men in literature and ten of the best femmes fatales in literature, and among Armistead Maupin's five best San Francisco novels and Janet Rudolph's ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Five memorable pets in literature

Adam Thorpe is a poet, playwright and novelist...and a translator of Madame Bovary.

"Pets are said to reflect their owners, which makes them a godsend to novelists," writes Thorpe in Telegraph, "but they can also serve as counterpoints, bringing a deeper colouration to a character, or – as in The Hound of the Baskervilles – a growl of terror."

One entry on Thorpe's list of memorable pets in literature:
Obese Count Fosco, the villain in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859), is made a lot more creepy by his fondness for his “frail little pets” – which include a vicious cockatoo, two singing canaries and a family of white mice who “crawl all over” his corpulent body as he kisses and fondles them.
Read about the other pets on the list.

The Woman in White is among Elizabeth Kostova's top ten books for winter nights and Philip Pullman's forty favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about servants

Lucy Lethbridge has written numerous books, as well as writing articles for the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, the Times Literary Supplement, Art News, and Art+Auction. She lives in London.

Lethbridge's new book is Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times.

From her top ten list of books about servants as shared with the Guardian:
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

This was among the inspirations for Upstairs, Downstairs. Published in 1968, the high summer of the country house seemed already very far away. Powell became in old age a celebrity authority on life below stairs – although she had railed furiously against it in her years as a kitchen maid and cook. With her radical politics, her tart conversation and her size nine feet she must have been a formidable figure in the servants' hall. Her voice is intelligent, witty, observant, waspish and wise, and her memoir is a gripping portrait of the inter-war world of the upper-middle classes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Twelve top books for book-reading dads

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged twelve books to give your dad this year.

One title on the list:
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell

Maybe what he needs to snap out of that Washington-induced funk is an examination of the mighty disadvantaged. Just as he did in The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Gladwell—offering friendly data-driven observations since wee Nate Silver was but a twinkle in his calculator’s screen—once again takes all the things you thought you knew and turns them on their head. Dyslexic? Enjoy either a million-dollar empire or a prison stay. Small class size in your child’s school? Uninspired snooze-fest. You’ll have given your father the gift of discussion topics for many family dinners to come.
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn about Malcolm Gladwell's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve top books for book-reading moms

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged twelve books to give your mom this year.

One title on the list:
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Just think of British mystery novelist Kate Atkinson’s wildly imaginative, colossal undertaking Life After Life as a Choose Your Own Adventure (And Subsequent Demise) novel. A darkly comic narrative follows heroine Ursula Todd as she features in several significant historical events—and abruptly dies many deaths—throughout the 20th century, starting with her death on the night in 1910 when she is born. The chronological shifts are rapid, so chapters denoting the month and year are helpful. It’s an unforgettable read.
Read about the other books on the list.

Life After Life is on Judith Mackrell's list of five young fictional heroines in coming-of-age novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ten stories where technology is indistinguishable from magic

At io9 Annalee Newitz and Emily Stamm and came up with a list of ten stories where technology is indistinguishable from magic, including:
Dune by Frank Herbert

The premise of the first novel in Herbert's famous cycle of stories about humanity's distant, galaxy-spanning future is that humans have abandoned technology after a horrific apocalypse involving AI. In its place, they have medieval-style "guilds" of witches, pilots, and other groups who have been genetically altered by the spice melange to do jobs that computers once did. The humans in the books have a very spiritual relationship to both the spice and the ways they are transformed by it. Though they are clearly operating in a technological world of spaceships and intelligence explosions, most characters view themselves as part of a mystical system.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Dune is among Robin Sloan's five science fiction books that matter, 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

Seven of the best literary oddballs

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged seven favorite literary oddballs, including:

It would be understandable to assume that zombies, those great flesh-eating metaphors for herd mentality, consumerism, and all bad things, would be identical. This is not always so, as Warm Bodies illustrates. Here you have a thinking man’s zombie—or at least one who does, in fact, think. R thinks so much that he feels, feels enough to fall in love with a live broad. If ever there was someone who didn’t quite fit in, it’s the zombie who makes sly herpes jokes and groans Sinatra. Awwwww.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Warm Bodies.

Writers Read: Isaac Marion.

My Book, The Movie: Warm Bodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thirteen top stories about pride

"[V]ice ... is what makes characters interesting," writes Kathryn Williams at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog in her introduction to a reading list on pride. One book she tagged:
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Henry VIII had enough self-regard to completely dismantle the religious underpinnings of his country for the privilege of upgrading to the newer model. Epic balls.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wolf Hall made the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on baby-watching in Great Britain, Julie Buntin's top ten list of literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Hermione Norris's 6 best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best cardinals in literature, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on dangerous minds and Lev Grossman's list of the top ten fiction books of 2009, and is one of Geraldine Brooks's favorite works of historical fiction; Matt Beynon Rees called it "[s]imply the best historical novel for many, many years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Ann Patchett's six favorite recent books

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays that examines the theme of commitment.

One of Patchett's six favorite recent books, as shared with The Week magazine:
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

I'm not a fan of historical fiction or child narrators. But this novel about the abolitionist John Brown narrated by a child slave — a boy passing as a girl called Onion — is the most electric, provocative, and funny (I mean really funny) book I've read in years.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Eight great books for fans of "The Secret History"

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged eight great books for fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, including:
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.

If you thought Donna Tartt’s novel was good but was missing a few witches and wizards, Grossman’s literary fantasy novel has plenty to satisfy your craving. Bored New York rich kid Quentin has always longed for an escape, so when he stumbles across the existence of Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, a school devoted to the study of real spells-and-stuff magic, he never looks back. He soon finds an in with the school’s academic elite, an insular group that’s been practicing magic that goes far beyond their coursework. Fantasy trappings aside, Grossman’s novel is perhaps the closest in spirit to Tartt’s, and shares with it a focus on what a high-pressure environment can do to warp, mutate—or poison—friendships.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Lev Grossman's The Magicians.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The fifty best cult books

The Telegraph's critics came up with a list of the fifty best cult books--"A cult book may be hard to define but one thing is for sure: you know a cult book when you see one"--including:
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

Ignatius J Reilly is a fat anti-hero to thwart Promethean selfdramatisation in any reader. With the medieval poetry of Hroswitha swirling in a head jammed into a green hunting cap with earpieces, Reilly eats steadily, despises modernity, seeks solace in canine fantasies and remembers with terror his one experience of leaving New Orleans.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Confederacy of Dunces is among Melissa Albert's eight favorite fictional misfits, Ken Jennings's eight notable books about parents and kids, Sarah Stodol's top ten lost-then-found novels, Hallie Ephron's top ten books for a good laugh, Stephen Kelman's top 10 outsiders' stories, John Mullan's ten best moustaches in literature, Michael Lewis's five favorite books, and Cracked magazine's classic funny novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that changed Evie Wyld

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

She has written two novels, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice and All the Birds, Singing.

Wyld shared with the Sydney Morning Herald a list of five books that changed her. One title on the list:
Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

The first book I read that made me want to write. I got the wrong idea about writing from it, though. I was desperate to know what the characters were up to now and I pictured Tim Winton having a spin-off series in his head. I was obsessed with this book as a teenager. I wanted to be every character. It made life seem amazing and sprawling.
Read about the other books on the list.

Cloudstreet is one of Mariella Frostrup's six best books.

Evie Wyld runs a bookshop in Peckham, London, called Review.

Follow Wyld on Twitter and visit her website.

Learn about Wyld's five notable books about farmers.

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

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Evie Wyld & Juno and Hebe.

--Marshal Zeringue