Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Six of the best recent hidden histories

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Alexandra Silverman tagged six top recent hidden histories, including:
Shady Characters: The Secret Live of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, by Keith Houston

Fresh, arcane, fascinating, divisive, and continuously evolving—Houston’s characters, including the asterisk (*), at sign (@) and pilcrow (¶), are revealed to have truly vibrant hidden histories. Houston fell down the punctuation rabbit hole after reading Eric Gill’s An Essay on Typography and climbed his way out via careful research of typographical marks “from ancient Greece to the Internet,” producing this polished, entertaining, and properly punctuated book. Don’t take my word for it: Julia Turner, Slate’s deputy editor, endorsed it in a recent gabfest, and film critic Dana Stevens nearly snatched it out of her hands.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 30, 2013

Five of the lamest girlfriends in fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Molly Schoemann-McCann tagged five of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, including:
Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte)

Don’t even get me started on my love of Heathcliff—now there’s a man who could wander across my bleak, windswept moor any day. Granted, you can argue that he was just as reprehensible as his lover, the beautiful and tempestuous Catherine Earnshaw. However, while Heathcliff remained eternally devoted to Cathy, she did not always return the favor. After all, why marry a rootless (if smoking hot and fanatically loyal) orphan boy when you’ve managed to snag the eye of the frail, snobbish heir to a neighboring estate? Thus the impetuous young Cathy became engaged to wussy little Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange, allowing her desire for social acceptance and advancement to prevail over her love of the brooding Heathcliff. (I mean, why have steak, when you can have a turkey slider?!) This drove Heathcliff away from Wuthering Heights and ultimately sent him down a destructive path of single-minded revenge and madness that lasted until he died, miserable and alone. Way to go, Cathy. Heathcliff loved you so much that after your tragic early death he dug up your grave so that he could visit you. Trust me, it was romantic. I guess you had to be there.
Read about the other girlfriends on the list.

Also see: Five of the lamest boyfriends in fiction.

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

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the most notable New Years in literature

A couple of years ago at the Guardian, John Mullan tagged the ten most notable New Years in literature. One title on the list:
White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Smith's novel begins on New Year's Day 1975, with Archie Jones trying to kill himself. He fails and ends up at a New Year's Eve party that is still going from the night before. There he meets Clara, a vision of eccentric perfection, and before long he has another wife.
Read about the other entries on the list.

White Teeth is on Melissa Albert's list of five notable--and ambitious--debut novels and Nigel Williams's list of ten of the best books about suburbia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten top books for "Wolf Hall" fans

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged ten books for people who loved Wolf Hall, including:
The Fifth Queen Trilogy, by Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford is the greatest, and while I love his books set during the Great War, this trilogy might be my favorite. It’s strange that a man could so perfectly re-create the strange circumstances of Katharine Howard’s life at Henry’s court, but do that he does. Also, because it is ever-so-loosely based on fact, you can read it while shaking your head and going, “Oh giiiiirl, this is NOT going to end well!” It won’t, but thanks to Ford, it will at least end beautifully.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Twelve food books that will feed your mind

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged twelve food books that will feed your mind.

One title on the list:
Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, by Ann Mah

Mah, freelance food writer and Francophile, giddily accompanies her diplomat husband, Calvin, on the assignment of a lifetime: Paris. However, plans run awry when Calvin is called away unexpectedly to Baghdad for a year, leaving Mah to navigate “a new country, a new language, and a new culture alone while trying to keep the worry and loneliness at bay.” Invoking another spunky diplomat’s wife at many turns (as the title suggests), Mah refuses to dwell on her recently acquired “table pour un” status, and embarks on a regional tasting tour of France. Seeking out comforting cassoulets and andouillette sausages along the way, she encounters a cast of quirky characters, stumbles upon invaluable lessons, and deepens her love of great food one bite at a time.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ten attention-worthy books about the rest of the world

At The Daily Beast Kapil Komireddi tagged ten books about the rest of the world that deserve your attention, including:
Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, by Husain Haqqani

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington between 2008 and 2011, has written the most clear-eyed history of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship yet published. From the day of its founding, Pakistan’s leaders saw America as a credulous superpower whose anxieties about communism could be exploited to Pakistan’s advantage. Pakistan volunteered itself as any ally in Washington’s fight against the Soviet Union, extracted aid and ammunition, and then used the generous benefactions to wage war against India. This pattern, established sixty years ago, remains unchanged. America can do nothing to mend its relationship with Pakistan because it cannot grant Islamabad what it seeks: the territorial disintegration of, and incontestable supremacy over, India. The Taliban, created by Pakistan to choke India in Afghanistan, could overrun Punjab tomorrow and Pakistan’s rulers would still be carping about India. It’s an obsession that is simultaneously the source of Pakistan’s survival and the cause of its degeneration. To be Pakistan’s friend is to be singed—first by impossible demands, and then by the charge of treachery for failing to meet those demands. Not only should Haqqani’s book be read by everyone with an interest in Pakistan; it ought be compulsory reading for members of Congress and officials at the State Department.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four of the most memorable holiday gifts in fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert highlighted a few of the most memorable holiday gifts in fiction. One entry on the list:

After being given the runaround by a handful of ghosts, world’s worst boss Ebenezer Scrooge finally sees the error of his selfish, selfish ways. In Dickens’ classic tale, he’s inspired to gift his long-suffering clerk Bob Cratchit with a “prize Turkey,” classing up his family’s meager Christmas meal and inspiring one of the most famous lines in lit: “God bless us, every one!”
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Christmas Carol is on Chrissie Gruebel's list of six top fictional holiday parties and Tom Lamont's list of ten of the best time travelers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Four famous writers who spent time in jail

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Alexandra Silverman tagged four famous writers who spent time in jail, including:
Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov, Poor Folk)

In 1849 the young Dostoevsky had just published a couple novels and resigned his post as a military engineer to concentrate on writing full-time. He was hanging with friends, discovering socialism, maybe doing a bit of gambling—when he was arrested, along with fellow members of a progressive literary group. The government feared that Europe’s 1848 Revolutions would spread to mother Russia should these intellectuals be allowed to continue spreading their dangerous ideas. Seventeen years before Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment, he was almost executed by firing squad for crimes far less grave than Raskolnikov’s. Thankfully, a last-minute letter from the Tsar commuted the death sentence, but Dostoevsky spent over four years in exile in Siberia. Like [Jack] London and [Oscar] Wilde, he wrote about his incarceration. His semiautobiographical novel The House of the Dead was published in 1861, seven years after his release from prison.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Brothers Karamazov made Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked priests in fiction, James Runcie's top ten list of books about brothers, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer.

Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is among Becky Ferreira's seven best comeuppances in literature, 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 never read beyond page fifty of the tome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The twelve weirdest stories of Christmas

R. Clifton Spargo is the author of the novel Beautiful Fools, The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald (2013).

One entry on his list of the twelve weirdest stories of Christmas, as shared at The Huffington Post:
David Sedaris, "SantaLand Diaries" (1992)

Sedaris, as a Macy's department store elf, gives us the gift of rant. 20,000 people visit SantaLand each day. They get into fistfights, they vomit and throw tantrums; and if they're really unlucky, they're greeted by the gibes of an impish elf. When mothers call for him to be fired, Sedaris has only this to say: "Go ahead, be my guest. I'm wearing a green velvet costume. It doesn't get any worse than this." Oh, but it does. One elf makes advances on other elves and Santas indiscriminately. A naughty boy acts out in the check-out line, only to be reined in (at the mother's request) by the good elf Sedaris, who puts the fear of Santa into the boy. Not just lumps of coal and a shortage of toys. We're talking about a Santa who commits full-scale larceny, stealing televisions, electrical appliances, the family car -- a vengeful fantasy halting only when the mother cries, "enough." But that's exactly Sedaris's point in this personal essay: when it comes to Christmas-time commercialism, enough is enough already.
Read about the other stories on the list.

The Santaland Diaries is on Guy Browning's top 10 list of Christmas books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Six notable New York City books

Cathleen Schine's latest novel, Fin & Lady, is about life in Greenwich Village in the swinging Sixties. One of her six favorite New York books, as shared with readers at The Daily Beast:
The Nero Wolfe Mysteries
by Rex Stout

The slang, the streets, the taxi drivers, the offices and brownstones and crummy apartments—these books always feel like the New York of black-and-white movies from the ’30s to me. A fantasy reality I'm convinced existed.
Read about the other books on the list.

Check out--Coffee with a Canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of the worst fictional characters to sit next to on a plane

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert highlighted six of the worst fictional characters to sit next to on a plane. One entry on the list:
Bridget Jones.

13 minutes into the flight, she’s drunk all her mini-bottles (and yours), eaten her in-flight snack (and yours), and is embarking on the epic(ly boring) tale of how her friend got really skinny just using cranberry extract, but Bridge is sure she’s wearing Spanx, too, the cheat, and what do you think about it? Oops, never mind, she’s gone off talking again without giving you a chance to respond. Don’t even try the headphones trick. She won’t notice.
Read about the other characters on the list.

Bridget Jones's Diary also appears on Allegra Frazier's list of five top diary novels, Gigi Levangie Grazer's list of six favorite books that became movies, Caryn James's top five list of recent novels that channel classics, Sean O'Hagan's list of the ten best fictional hangovers in print, film and song, Christina Koning's list of the best of chick-lit, and a list of eight books for the broken-hearted.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bruce Wagner's six favorite books

Bruce Wagner is the author of Dead Stars, Memorial, The Chrysanthemum Palace (a PEN/Faulkner fiction award finalist), Still Holding, I’ll Let You Go, I’m Losing You, Force Majeure, and two companion novellas under the title The Empty Chair.

One of his six favorite books, as shared with readers of The Week magazine:
Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac virtually resides in my American DNA, but I came to him late. In Big Sur, the author's stand-in goes through a breakdown that shares a lot in common with Fitzgerald's general crack-up at the juncture of early fame and alcoholism. The story is suffused with the beauty of impermanence and emptiness.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Eleven of literature’s most eccentric kin

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged eleven of the most eccentric relatives in fiction, including:
Grandfather (Everything is Illuminated)

There’s nothing more comforting than arriving in a foreign country, strolling up to the car waiting on you, and finding your driver has brought along his seeing-eye dog. In this case, Sammy Davis Jr., Jr., is not needed in her “officious” capacity, as Grandfather is not blind, despite his protestations. But her presence sets the scene for one of the more cantankerous, uproarious elderpersons this side of Grampa Simpson.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Everything is Illuminated is on Judy Berman's top ten list of fantastic novels with disappointing endings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Five great American journeys in literature

Simon Winchester is a best-selling British author, living in Massachusetts and New York City. His newest book is The Men Who United the States.

One title on his list of five great American journeys in literature, as shared with Telegraph readers:
Jonathan Raban also knows a thing or two about melancholy. From his years wandering the American landscape, perhaps the most poignant stories came from eastern Montana, where he unearthed the tales of misled pioneers he accumulated into his memorable Bad Land (1997).
Read about the other books Winchester tagged.

Bad Land is among Paul Theroux's five top inner-journey travel books and Fred Pearce's top ten green books.

See Winchester's five top novels on U.S. frontier social history and his five top novels on U.S. frontier social history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best nonfiction books for sports fans

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

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Zulkey tagged seven books for sports fans, including:
Ball Four: The Final Pitch, by Jim Bouton

Any baseball fan would be tantalized by a memoir that caused the baseball commissioner to proclaim it “detrimental to baseball,” before trying to coerce the author into signing a statement declaring the book fictional. That was the effect Ball Four had when it came out, detailing (before scandalous sports tell-alls were common) all the dirt that went on off the field, including drinking, drugging, and cheating. This edition comes with a new epilogue from Bouton, who pitched for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros, and Atlanta Braves between 1962 and 1978.
Read about the other books on the list.

Ball Four is one of Tim McGarver's five best baseball books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top ten music histories

Bob Stanley has worked as a music journalist, a DJ, and a record label owner and is the cofounder and keyboard player for the band Saint Etienne. He lives in London. His new book is Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Modern Pop Music. One of Stanley's top ten music histories, as shared with the Guardian:
Revolution In the Head by Ian MacDonald

I've avoided straight biographies on this list, but the Beatles' story is the perfect pop story, and – by going through every Beatles song chronologically – no one tells it better than Ian MacDonald. It's wildly unpredictable. MacDonald has a problem with George Harrison's general moodiness, and describes Helter Skelter as a "drunken mess", but you don't have to agree with him. His writing is so good that, against all odds, it'll make you listen to the most overplayed songs in history all over again.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Greil Marcus's five top books on rock music, Nile Rodgers's top ten music books, Samuel Muston's ten best music memoirs, and Kitty Empire's ten best rock autobiographies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fifteen of the best biographies of 2013

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged fifteen of the best biographies of 2013 including:
Wilson, by A. Scott Berg:

Quick, without looking it up, when was Woodrow Wilson president? I’ll even accept the correct century. If you got it wrong, you probably aren’t the political wonk in your family, but either one of you would probably enjoy this in-depth account (from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author) of one of our lesser-known commanders-in-chief.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine of 2013’s best books about pets and animals

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova tagged nine of 2013’s best books about pets and animals, including:
For much of modern history, dogs have inspired a wealth of art and literature, profound philosophical meditations, scientific curiosity, deeply personal letters, photographic admiration, and even some cutting-edge data visualization. But what is it that makes dogs so special in and of themselves, and so dear to us?

Despite the mind-numbing title, The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think by Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and Vanessa Woods offers a fascinating tour of radical research on canine cognition, from how the self-domestication of dogs gave them a new kind of social intelligence to what the minds of dogs reveal about our own. In fact, one of the most compelling parts of the book has less to do with dogs and more with genius itself.

In examining the definition of genius, Hare echoes...[read on]
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Genius of Dogs.

The Genius of Dogs is one of Becky Ferreira's 11 best books about dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seven notable (non-cookbook) books for foodies

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams came up with seven notable (non-cookbook) books for foodies. One book she tagged for the hell-raiser foodie:
Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control, by Brandon Baltzley

The hard-living, tattooed chef is something of a cliché now, thanks to potty-mouthed geniuses like Anthony Bourdain, but Chef Baltzley, once called “the Salvador Dalí of cooking,” has wrestled as many demons as any of them and lived to tell the harrowing tale.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best African fiction titles of 2013

One title from the Guardian's list of the best African fiction of 2013:
Happiness like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta's first work, Runs Girls, was published in the Exit Strategies issue of Granta magazine. Happiness like Water is her debut collection of short stories, centred on the challenges facing Nigerians at home and abroad. A couple struggling to conceive; two women isolated in different ways seeks comfort with each other; and a young woman struggles with a dilemma to save her mother's life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jung Chang's six favorite books

Jung Chang is the best-selling author of Mao: The Unknown Story and the memoir Wild Swans. Her latest book is Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.

One of Chang's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

People have given different interpretations as to what this timeless classic is about. To me it is not about love thwarted by social conventions, as some seem to think; it's about all feverish and unreserved loves, which come with a destructive and futile seed buried in them. We all lose our head once, but Anna lost hers completely.
Read about the other books on the list. 

Anna Karenina also appears on Rachel Thompson's top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction, 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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top funny books for kids

Jim Smith is the author of the Barry Loser series and winner of this year's Roald Dahl funny prize.

At the Guardian he shared his top ten funny books for kids, including:
Are you there God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I used to steal my older sister's Just Seventeen magazines, just to read the problem pages. It was the same with this book - a funny way to find more out about girls.
Read about the other books on the list.

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret is one of Gabriel Weston's five notable books about the body.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 16, 2013

Five favorite fictional nannies

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Hanna McGrath tagged five favorite fictional nannies, including:
Jane Eyre

Oh, Jane. If only Care.com had been around when she was searching for a governess position—maybe she would have thought twice about signing on at Thornfield Hall! Well, probably not, since people aren’t inclined to mention the mentally ill wife they’ve locked in the attic when searching for childcare applicants. But before all of the Mr. Rochester business began, Jane proved a very capable governess to Adele Varens.
Read about the other nannies on the list. 

Jane Eyre also made Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of five of the lamest boyfriends in fiction, 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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Five top books by women writers

Meg Wolitzer's latest novel is The Interestings.

For Chatelaine magazine, she tagged five favorite books by women writers, including:
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece (well, one of them), which contains a section called ‘Time Passes,’ seemed to have a completely different feel to it when I read it recently, than it had had when I read it as a much younger person. And that was because, of course, time had passed. This is a lyrical, difficult and highly rewarding book that I am sure will have yet another feel to it when I read it again in a few years.
Read about the other entries on the list.

To the Lighthouse appears among Laura Frost's top 10 best modernist books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Margaret Drabble's top ten literary landscapes, the American Book Review's 100 best last lines from novels, Amity Gaige's best books, and Adam Langer's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten great YA books

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Dahlia Adler tagged ten great books from the recent boom in teen novels, including:
Just One Day, by Gayle Forman

The acclaimed author of If I Stay delivers the perfect budget-friendly cure for adolescent wanderlust in this exploration of transformative experiences—and people—and the way they affect who we are versus who we want to be. Follow it up with book two in the duology, Just One Year, told from the perspective of the love interest.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: If I Stay.

Writers Read: Gayle Forman (April 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Five of the best books about walking

Robert Macfarlane is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and has contributed to the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, and Harper’s as well as the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books.

"To describe Macfarlane as a philosopher of walking," Rob Nixon wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "is to undersell the achievement of The Old Ways: his prose feels so firmly grounded, resistant to abstraction. He wears his polymath intelligence lightly as his mind roams across geology, archaeology, fauna, flora, architecture, art, literature and urban design, retrieving small surprises everywhere he walks…Macfarlane has given us a gorgeous book about physical movement and the movement of memory, one that resounds with stories told to "the beat of the placed and lifted foot."

One of Macfarlane's five favorite books about walking, as told to the Telegraph:
The relationship between walking and writing is as old as culture: footsteps are our first prints, our tracks tell, and every walk is a step away from a story. No wonder, then, that there should be such a long and extraordinary literature of the leg. I have about 15 rucksacks-full of such books. Some are ... exuberant with the joy of the open road, such as Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts (1977), the first of three books describing his legendary tramp in the early Thirties from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople.
Read about the other four books Macfarlane tagged.

Also see: John Mullan's list of ten of the best long walks in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 13, 2013

Six top fictional holiday parties

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Chrissie Gruebel tagged six top fictional holiday parties, including:
The Fezziwig’s Christmas Party
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Bust out the petticoats and the dance cards, Mr. Fezziwig is rocking his most baller white wig and he’s ready to get his jig on. The thing about Fezziwig that’s so delightful is that he’s a businessman but he’s also a business, man—and his business is showing family, friends, partners, and apprentices the time of their lives come holiday season. It’s the “best holiday party in London” and a Christmas party in the truest sense of the words (guaranteed figgy pudding!), so we’re all about it. Just watch out for ghosts who are teaching invaluable life lessons.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Christmas Carol is on Tom Lamont's list of ten of the best time travelers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine of the biggest martyrs in fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged nine of the biggest martyrs in fiction, including:
Cash Bundren (As I Lay Dying)

To save time here, Cash is William Faulkner’s Jesus-like character, right down to the carpentry. And in a book so darkly, tragically comic that it should have been a Coen brothers adaptation yesterday, Cash is the lone voice of reason. On the least-fun road trip since the Donner Party, the eldest Bundren is all business (the business of getting Ma in the ground, that is), allowing his broken leg to fester to the point of disuse and never complaining about it. But at least Vardaman doesn’t think he’s a fish.
Read about the other martyrs on the list. 

As I Lay Dying is on Nicole Hill's list of five books that, like country and western songs, tell "stories of agony and ecstasy, soaring highs and mighty powerful lows, heartache and hard living," Laura Frost's list of the ten best modernist books (in English), Helen Humphreys's top ten list of books on grieving, John Mullan's list of ten of the best teeth in literature, Jon McGregor's list of the top ten dead bodies in literature, Roy Blount Jr.'s list of five favorite books of Southern humor, and James Franco's six best books list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Five books on Mandela and South Africa

Adam Hochschild’s books include The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey, a portrait of the country near the end of the apartheid years. In June 2013 he came up with a recommended list of five books on Mandela and South Africa for the Washington Post. One title on the list:
Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela (1994).

A reader should have even more skepticism about any politician’s autobiography, especially one published on the eve of an election. In 1994, when South Africans of all colors were able to go to the polls for the first time, Mandela was eager, in this book, to reassure the white population that his presidency would not be one of hatred and revenge. But he was deeply sincere in this, and despite its predictable bows to political allies, this memoir of an extraordinary man’s life, in the way he wanted to tell it, is an important historical document.
Read about the other books on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top diary novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Allegra Frazier tagged five top diary novels, including:
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

This novel is also a personal record intended for an audience of one. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner is the journal of elderly and dying Reverend John Ames of Gilead, kept to be read later by his 7-year-old son. Ames details how he met his much younger wife and the effect she had on him, as well as touching events from his son’s early years. He also ruminates on his own childhood, his own father and grandfather, and his faith.
Read about the other novels on the list.

Gilead is on Michael Arditti's ten best list of fictional clerics, Ayad Akhtar's list of three notable books on faith in the US, Michael Crummey's top ten list of literary feuds and Geraldine Brooks's five most important books list; it is a book Dalia Sofer would like to share with her children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Top ten books about communes

Ewan Morrison is the author of four novels: Swung, Menage, Distance, and Close Your Eyes, and a collection of short stories.

For the Guardian he tagged his top ten books about communes, including:
Drop City by TC Boyle

It's the late 60s in California and a loose group of refuseniks, draft dodgers, musicians and pot smokers escape from the scene in Haight Ashbury to find true freedom on virgin soil in the wilds of Alaska. What they find instead are wild animals that eat their goats, an epidemic of genital lice, a phenomenon know as winter and rather hostile neighbours who have guns. TC Boyle's epic of culture clash presents us with one of the problems inherent in novels about communes – there are so many characters that we need an index and they have names like "Pan" and "Star". Who is the protagonist? No one, the commune is against protagonists!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books for people who loved "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged seven books for people who loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, including:
The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

I did not stop holding my breath throughout this entire novel. That’s right. I’m dead now. I am a ghost telling you that this story of a TIME-TRAVELING SERIAL KILLER and the plucky girl journalist who sets out to stop him is beyond riveting. Go forth. Gift it!
Read about the other books on the list.

The Shining Girls is also on Bidisha's list of ten of the best books about women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Laura van den Berg's six favorite unconventional mystery novels

Laura van den Berg's second story collection, The Isle of Youth, explores the lives of women mired in secrecy and deception.

For The Week magazine, she tagged six favorite unconventional mystery novels. One title on the list:
Big Machine by Victor LaValle

Ricky Rice, the hero of this wild and wonderful novel, has one of the most intoxicating voices I've encountered. As we follow Ricky through California sewers, a mysterious Vermont compound, a supernatural impregnation, and his tormented memories of a youth spent in a religious cult, a twisty mystery — and a meditation on what it means to believe — take hold of the reader and won't let go.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Big Machine.

Visit Laura van den Berg's website and blog.

Writers Read: Laura van den Berg (January 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top books on writing

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams came up with a list of eleven top books on writing. One book she tagged:
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose

I am a slow reader. As a writer, that seems like a liability. I can’t breeze through bookshelves like some of my colleagues. But here’s why: I read like a writer. That means I read each sentence, each word, and always, in the back of my mind, I’m wondering how and why the author did it this way. I’m like a contractor looking for studs. In this “Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them,” Prose (oh, to be born with that destiny) teaches readers and writers how to slow down and pay attention, because we learn to write by reading.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 9, 2013

Six top foodie novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Alexandra Silverman tagged six choice examples of foodie fiction, including:
The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones

Don’t read Mones’ book unless you’re prepared to compulsively crave Chinese food for every meal as you follow recently widowed food writer Maggie McElroy from L.A. to Beijing to face both personal and professional challenges—determining if her husband fathered a daughter with his mistress, Gao Lan, and profiling handsome, talented chef Sam Liang, whose grandfather wrote the (fictitious) culinary masterwork The Last Chinese Chef. Sam’s also auditioning for the Chinese national cooking team (I’m still not sure if that’s a real thing). Maggie’s emotional baggage and budding romance with Sam, insider details about Chinese culture and history (Mones worked there for two decades), and intriguing minor characters like Gao Lan are really just garnish for the food bits. How do you say bon appétit in Mandarin?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ian Rankin's five perfect mysteries

Ian Rankin's latest novel is Saints of the Shadow Bible.

For Chatelaine magazine, he tagged his five perfect mysteries, including:
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco.

This extended homage to the crime novel is also an ingenious story in its own right, as well as offering a philosophical commentary on language, text, and meaning. A series of gruesome and unexplained deaths in a medieval monastery brings William of Baskerville to the scene. The ensuing plot is mazey enough to suit purists, while Eco has fun with our expectations, as well as painting a well-researched and nuanced portrait of the theological debates of the time. Eco showed a wider international public what fans had always known – that crime novels need not simply be about the puzzle, but are capable of dealing with rigorous themes while tackling big moral questions.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Name of the Rose is on John Mullan's top ten list of the most memorable libraries in literature, Andy McSmith's top 10 list books of the 1980s, and Vanora Bennett's list of five favorite historical novels.

Learn about Ian Rankin's best books and the best selling book Rankin wishes he'd written.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top ten adventure stories

Bear Grylls is the host of the summer 2013 NBC reality series Get Out Alive. Previously he starred for seven seasons in the adventure series Man vs. Wild. Educated at Eton, Grylls served in the elite UK Special Forces unit 21 SAS and was made an honorary lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy. He climbed Mt. Everest in 1998 at the age of twenty-three—just eighteen months after breaking his back in a parachuting accident in Africa. His latest book, Strike of the Shark, is the sixth in his Mission Survival series.

He named his top ten adventure stories for the Guardian, including:
Treasure Island by RL Stevenson (1883)

This was definitely my favourite book as a kid – such an exciting adventure of life on the high seas! Jim shows incredible resourcefulness as he deals with treacherous pirates, hidden treasure and the villainous Long John Silver. Sadly, I've never managed to find any buried treasure on any of my expeditions!
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Treasure Island also appears on Eoin Colfer's top 10 list of villains in fiction, Charlie Fletcher's top ten list of swashbuckling tales of derring-do, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best first lines in fiction, John Mullan's list of ten of the best pirates in fiction, and among Mal Peet's top ten books to read aloud, Philip Pullman's six best books, and Eoin Colfer's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top YA novels for grownup readers

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kathryn Williams came up with eleven top Young Adult books for readers of all ages. One book she tagged:
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

Murder-suicide is not traditionally considered safe YA ground, which is what makes Matthew Quick’s latest novel daring and also great for adult YA readers. With a damaged and lost (but not irretrievable) protagonist in the titular Leonard Peacock, this book might interest fans of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why (though be prepared for some quirkier narrative devices).
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The 18 greatest fictional versions of Alan Turing

Charlie Jane Anders, editor at io9, came up with a list of eighteen fictional versions of Alan Turing, the Father of Computer Science.

One entry on the list:
Virtual Girl by Amy Thompson

This fantastic novel about artificial intelligence — still one of the best A.I. novels, even after 20 years — includes an A.I. named Turing, who lives inside a library computer. And one of the novel's lovely moments happens when Turing, the A.I., succeeds in passing the Turing Test — convincing someone that it's human.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fourteen top stories about wrath

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Alexandra Silverman tagged fourteen entries on her reading list of wrathful stories, including:
Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy

Shocking, sparkling violence—profane, mundane, and profound—pulls McCarthy’s story from one bloody sunset to the next—but the judge’s exalted wrath transcends scalpings and beatings, glues the novel together, and is almost cosmically powerful.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among James Franco's six favorite books, 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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 6, 2013

Top ten family-themed picture books

Jessica Ahlberg, daughter of the acclaimed author/illustrator team, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, studied fine art at Winchester College and has gone on to illustrate several books for children, including Goldilocks and Half A Pig.

She shared her top ten family-themed picture books with the Guardian. One title on the list:
Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Dogger is a story about Dave's lost toy - a heart-wrenching idea if you love your toy as much as I loved my teddy and Dave loves Dogger. But it's not just about the lost toy - it's also about Dave's brilliant big sister Bella, and the wonderful thing she does for Dave. Bella is my hero.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books that started out as magazine serials

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Allegra Frazier tagged five top books that started out as magazine serials, including:
Gentlemen Of The Road, by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s 2007 historical/alternate universe novel about two bandit Jews roaming the Caucuses was initially published in 17 installments in New York Magazine. The rambunctious plot (including but not limited to con artistry, the wronging of royals, numerous fight scenes, and plenty of witty banter) and structure are modeled on the serialized adventure novels of the 19th century. Always a writer with a penchant for the adventurous, the serialized format suited Chabon well. The complete novel was released shortly after the New York installments as the third of Chabon’s alternate universe explorations into Jewish culture, after The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Five top short yet deep novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged "five great books short enough to polish off in an afternoon, but deep enough to keep you thinking long into the night," including:
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (49,459 words):

Vonnegut’s masterwork packs more ideas—time travel, gender politics, a potent antiwar allegory, er, aliens putting people on display in zoos—than most novels twice its length. (Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle would also fit nicely on this list, and is equally rich with weirdness.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Slaughterhouse-Five also made Tom Lamont's top ten list of time travelers, Melissa Albert's list of six favorite fictional book nerds, Jon Ronson's five top list of books on madness, Charlie Yu's top ten list of time travel books, John Mullan's list of ten of the best aliens in science fiction, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of twelve great stories to help you to cope with mortality, Sebastian Beaumont's top 10 list of books about psychological journeys, and Tiffany Murray's top ten list of black comedies.

Also see: Twenty of the best books under 200 pages.

--Marshal Zeringue

The top ten books given in books

W.B. Gooderham is the author of Dedicated to...: The Forgotten Friendships, Hidden Stories and Lost Loves found in Second-hand Books, a book made up entirely of notes people have written in other books.

For the Guardian he tagged his ten favorite examples of book-giving in fiction, including:
The Son of the Wolf by Jack London. From Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov.

Poor Pnin. His life bumps gently along from one small failure to the next. Even the simple act of buying a Jack London novel for his ex-wife's visiting son, Victor, becomes yet another lesson in compromise and disappointment. Wanting a copy of Martin Eden, he is only able to find an old edition of London's lesser work The Son of the Wolf. "'I think I'm going to like this,' said polite Victor."
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pnin made Matthew Kaminski's list of the five best novels about immigrants in America, and Nabokov is on Ben Frederick's list of ten influential authors who came to the US as immigrants.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The ten most badass women in fantasy literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Paul Goat Allen tagged the ten most badass women in fantasy literature, including:

The White Witch in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles is about as tough as they come. She’s the one who froze Narnia in the Hundred Years Winter and adorned the halls of her castle with the petrified statues of her enemies.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Anjelica Huston's seven favorite books

The actor Anjelica Huston's new memoir is A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York. A Story Lately Told ends as Huston launches her Hollywood life. The second part of her story—Watch Me—opens in Los Angeles in 1973 and will be published in Fall 2014.

One of her seven favorite books, as shared with The Week magazine:
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.

This 1945 novel was the first in a trilogy about an upper-class British family whose second-oldest daughter is haunted in her own pursuits of love and marriage by her mother's reputation as "The Bolter." Love in a Cold Climate and Don't Tell Alfred fill out the series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Pursuit of Love is among Elizabeth Buchan's top ten books to comfort & console during a divorce and Anna Quindlen's five best novels on women in search of themselves.

--Marshal Zeringue