Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Four riveting nonfiction adventure books

At the Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Amelia Schonbek came up with four riveting nonfiction adventure books, including:
Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is best known for writing the much loved book The Little Prince. But he was also an aviator in the early days of flight, and this memoir, which National Geographic named a Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time, recounts his time spent flying airmail planes in the 1930s throughout Africa and South America. It was treacherous work; the pilots flew “open ships and thrust our heads out round the windshield, in bad weather, to take our bearings.” The book is filled with Saint-Exupéry’s tales of near-disaster—and then there were the actual disasters, like a crash in the Sahara that nearly killed him. But the story is really about Saint-Exupéry’s discovery of the alternate reality of flight, and his meditation on making “an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wind, Sand and Stars is one of John Wood's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ten timeless classics that belong in every child’s library

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged ten timeless classics that belong in every child’s library, including:
Anatole, by Eve Titus

Before Ratatouille, there was another French rat looking to impress humans with his gourmet tastes. Though the story is delightful, the element that really sticks in the memory is Paul Galdone’s sparsely colored artwork, which manages to stick relatively close to rodent anatomy without coming off as, well, disgusting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Rebecca Stead's top ten American children's classics you may have missed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six famously banned books

Seth Satterlee named six famously banned books for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly, including:
The lesser the power, the more creative the retribution. After publication of [Graham] Greene’s 1966 novel set in Haiti, The Comedians, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier denounced the book as propaganda and declared Greene Haiti’s Public Enemy Number 1. Running out of ideas, Duvalier commissioned his Ministry of Foreign Affairs to print a repudiation: “Graham Greene Finally Exposed.” Suffice it to say, the pamphlet wasn’t nearly as convincing as The Comedians.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Comedians is among Paul French's five best books on the misadventures of expatriates and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 28, 2014

Six books for fans of the BBC’s "Sherlock"

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged six books for fans of the BBC's Sherlock, including:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King

Holmes’ illustrious career has been well-documented; his retirement remains somewhat murkier. In this imaginative story of Holmes’ beekeeping years, the great detective is confronted with something he likely never expected: a teenage girl to match wits with! In Mary Russell, we have the most intriguing woman in the Baker Street universe since Irene Adler. Vatican cameos!
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ten must-read classics by African American authors

One title on Bruna Lobato's list of ten must-read classics by African American authors, as shared at the Christian Science Monitor:
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

This Pulitzer Prize-winning epistolary novel follows the story of Celie, a woman who is abused by her father during childhood and strives to protect her sister from the same fate. Celie is married off to an abusive husband but, eventually, a loving relationship and an upsetting discovery drive her to seek independence, mutual love, and creative fulfillment.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Color Purple is among Hanna McGrath's list of five fictional characters who tell it like it is, Andy McSmith's top ten books of the 1980s, and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven fictional gateways to incredible sci-fi

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham paired eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror with works more clearly at home among those genres, including:
If you were haunted by Ben H. Winters' existential detective story The Last Policeman, read The City & the City, by China Miéville. Like the detective in Winters' novel, who wrestles with the futility of his job in the face of imminent impact by a world-killing comet, the protagonist of Miéville's noir pastiche must struggle against inertia in a society that would rather he didn't.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: Countdown City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The eleven best sentences in literature

The editors of The American Scholar tagged their ten (plus one bonus) best sentences, including:
In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor.

—Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Things They Carried is among Simon Mawer's five top war novels and Olen Steinhauer's six favorite books, and is one of Roger “R.J.” Ellory's five favorite human dramas. Melinda L. Pash, author of In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation: The Americans Who Fought the Korean War, says The Things They Carried changed her life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 25, 2014

Six bad girls of historical fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged six historical novels that feature "rule-breaking, trailblazing, and nearly always scandalous women," including:
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

Kidd’s latest epic accounts for about 40 years of slavery, oppression, and brutality in the American South, and is told in two distinct voices: that of a slaveholder, real-life historical figure Sarah Grimke, who became a Quaker and abolitionist after a painful upbringing on a Southern plantation, and the slave she’s given as a girl, Hetty “Handful,” created by Kidd. Inspired by Grimke’s uncommon fortitude in an era of American history that had no place for female independence, Kidd explains (in her notes following the novel) that she chose to recognize Grimke’s contribution to the abolitionist and women’s movements of the 19th century by creating a complex character who resides “at the intersection of history and imagination.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten Shakespeare books for children

Andrew Matthews is an internationally renowned author who has written numerous books for children and teenagers, including Shakespeare Stories. One of ten top Shakespeare books for children he tagged for the Guardian:
Mr William Shakespeare's Plays by Marcia Williams

This is an ingenious and delightful book. The plays are presented as a comic strip, with characters speaking lines taken directly from Shakespeare, and a simplified account of the plot running in a band under each strip. Around the edges of each page, we see characters from the audience in the Globe Theatre commenting on the action, as they would have done in real life. The seven plays on offer are Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale, Hamlet, and The Tempest.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top ten animal companions in fiction

Django Wexler is the author of The Thousand Names and The Forbidden Library. At the Guardian, he shared a top ten list of animal companions in children's fiction, including:
Bartimaeus from The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Bartimaeus is of course a demon – specifically a djinn – rather than an animal, but he spends a fair bit of time in the form of various creatures both real and supernatural. His snarky, sarcastic tone makes me think that he and Ashes would get along famously.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

George Saunders' six favorite books

George Saunders is an acclaimed short-story writer and a professor at Syracuse University.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Dispatches by Michael Herr

I re-read Dispatches whenever I want to be reminded of how intelligent and communicative prose can be. This is the best writing about war anyone ever accomplished. Herr is a legendary stylist, a great reporter, and a profound human being, and this book feels newer and more essential every time I open it.
Read about the other books on the list.

Dispatches appears on Lawrence F. Kaplan's list of five books on American intervention abroad, Gail Caldwell's five best list of memoirs, and Judith Paterson's list of the 10 best books of social concern by journalists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top five books about Mississippi published in the past year

At Country Living, Lyn Roberts, the general manager of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, tagged five top books about Mississippi published in the past year, including:
The past provides rich material for novels, such as The Tilted World (William Morrow) by husband and wife team Beth Ann Fennelly (a regular Country Living contributor) and Tom Franklin. The story is set in the Delta at the time of the 1927 flood, which was a huge disaster for the state.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top book series

Christian Science Monitor contributor Casey Lee strongly recommended ten favorite book series, including:
Percy Jackson

Percy is a half-blood, meaning that one of his parents is mortal and the other is a god. Along with gods and half-bloods there are satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, and monsters. That's just to name a few of the characters you'll meet in this fantastic series by the prolific Rick Riordan. The monsters are drawn towards the half-bloods. The more powerful your god-like parent, the more danger you are in. Percy's dad is Poseidon, one of the big three. Percy is only safe at Camp Half-Blood. He finds his true friends at camp, which is why he'll go to such extremes to protect it. Follow Percy and his friends as they go against gods and monsters alike to protect their camp and protect the world.
Read about the other series on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Six favorite redheads in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Becky Ferreira tagged six favorite redheads in literature, including:
Ygritte (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin)

Ygritte is kind of the archetypal redhead. Stubborn, fearless, and bossy, she embodies many of the tropes popularly associated with the hair color. Among her people, her locks are considered lucky, and “kissed by fire,” but she’s not all that unique in Westeros, follicle-wise. Red hair also runs heavily through the Stark and Tully families, while the priestess Melisandre has been “kissed by fire” in a much more literal way.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

A Song of Ice and Fire is among Ferreira six best books with dragons, Joel Cunningham's seven top books featuring long winters. The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords is one of Ferreira's top six most momentous weddings in fiction. The Lannister family from A Game of Thrones is one of Jami Attenberg's top ten dysfunctional families in literature. A Game of Thrones is one of Nicole Hill's top six books on gluttony.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nine books so funny you're guaranteed to laugh

One title on Kirkus Reviews' list of book so funny you're guaranteed to laugh:
by Aaron Thier

"An improbable laugh riot."

Academic satire meets anti-globalization polemic in Thier's debut.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Hallie Ephron's top ten books for a good laugh.

The Page 69 Test: The Ghost Apple.

My Book, The Movie: The Ghost Apple.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Five top books on The Cold War

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on The Cold War:
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
by Eric Schlosser

Americans were well aware of the threat of nuclear warfare during the twentieth century, but few know today how close our country came to destruction -- all because of simple human error on our own soil. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, takes a close and unsettling look at the precarious nature of our nation’s radioactive arsenal, and finds countless examples of nuclear accidents and close calls whose resolution suggests unbelievable luck, rather than any human skill or sound judgment.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see--Five best forgotten Cold War thrillers, Five best windows on the Cold War, Five best books about Cold War culture, and Five best Cold War classics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that changed Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the best-selling author of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love and the recent novel The Signature of All Things.

One of five books that changed her, as shared with the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

I am never very far from a copy of this book. I find something incredibly soothing about the notion of a long-dead Roman emperor worrying about the same stuff I worry about - namely, how are we to be? What makes a good person? What is honour? What is duty? How do we endure disappointment? How do we find comfort despite chaos and impermanence? He does not necessarily always have the answers, but the eternity of the questions themselves always calms me (and reminds me yet again why they call the study of classics "the humanities".)
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Top ten dogs in children's books

Cliff McNish's first dog-themed book aimed at 8-12 year-olds is Going Home. The author named his top ten dogs in children's books for the Guardian, including:
Buck from Call of the Wild by Jack London

The great children's dog ever? My favourite, certainly. There's a paragraph in the novel where his owner, Thornton, asks Buck to haul an incredible pack-weight on his sledge. An impossible weight. A weight no dog should ever be able to pull. "Thornton knelt down by Buck's side. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek. He did not playfully shake him, as was his wont, or murmur soft love curses; but he whispered in his ear. 'As you love me, Buck. As you love me.'" And does he? You bet he does.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Call of the Wild is among Brian Payton's top ten books about Alaska, Joshua Glenn's top 32 list of adventure novels of the 19th century, Sarah Lean's top ten animal stories, Ben Frederick's eleven essential books for dog lovers, Megan Miranda's top ten books set in a wintry landscape, Jill Hucklesby's top 10 books about running away, Charlie English's top ten snow books, and Thomas Bloor's top ten tales of metamorphosis. It appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best wolves in literature and Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five essential works by Gabriel García Márquez

Spurred by the author's death this week, the Telegraph's Sameer Rahim tagged five essential works by Gabriel García Márquez, including:
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; English translation 1970)

This remarkable novel catapulted García Márquez from being a well-regarded Colombian writer to an international star – especially after it was translated into English by Gregory Rabassa in 1970. (The author claimed, somewhat mischievously, that he preferred the English version to his own Spanish.) One Hundred Years of Solitude launched the vogue for South American magical realism – in which the mundane and miraculous exist side-by-side – that would later influence Salman Rushdie and Louis de Bernières among others. Set in the fictional town of Macondo, the novel follows the fortunes – or rather misfortunes – of the Buendía family. Multiple characters share the same name – there are three Aurelianos – and their lives fade into one another in a dreamlike way. In one of many famous magical events, Remedios the Beauty rises to heaven holding a white sheet. Absorbing and exhilarating, this can also be a frustrating book to read if you’re looking for linear plot development. The secret to enjoying Solitude is to forget trying to make perfect sense of it all and abandon yourself to this intoxicating world of strange gipsies, brutal soldiers and ingenious prostitutes.
Read about the other books on the list.

One Hundred Years of Solitude made Isabel Allende's list of six favorite books, Sara Jonsson's list of five books to read when you can't go to sleep, Juan Gabriel Vásquez's five best list of novels about South America, Pushpinder Khaneka's list of three of the best books on Colombia, Michael Jacobs's list of the top ten Colombian stories, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families and Rebecca Stott's five best list of historical novels. It is one of Lynda Bellingham's six best books, Walter Mosley's five favorite books, Eric Kraft's five most important books, and James Patterson's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

The top ten novels of desert war

Robert Allison has been a theatre director, a film music reviewer and a copy-editor. He lives in London. His novel The Letter Bearer is published by Granta Books.

One of Allison's top ten novels of desert war, as shared at the Guardian:
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje's Booker-winning masterpiece is more a plaint against ownership than an enquiry into the consequences of battle. Based (very) loosely on the history of the Hungarian desert cartographer and aristocrat, László Almásy, the novel sees the badly burned patient of the title assume anonymity after a doomed attempt to steal another man's wife. "Do you understand the sadness of geography?" Ondaatje asks, his dying patient's mythic desert landscapes divided and claimed by warring powers, their wonders reduced to mere waypoints and coordinates.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The English Patient also made Joel Cunningham's list of sixteen book-to-movie adaptations that won Academy Awards, Pico Iyer's top five list of books on crossing cultures, John Mullan's list of ten of the best deserts in literature and Jane Ciabattari's list of five masterpiece stories that worked as films.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Five perfect books for men who never read

Leo Benedictus is a freelance feature writer for the Guardian. His first novel The Afterparty was published in 2011 by Jonathan Cape. At the Guardian, he tagged five perfect books for men who never read, including:
The Road By Cormac McCarthy

a) It's an incredibly exciting short novel about a father and son trying to survive a global catastrophe. b) It's a practical guide to surviving a global catastrophe, which might one day be useful. c) It does away with the need to survive global catastrophes because you'll be so depressed you won't care. If you have ever been curious about what makes people cry in books, this is pretty much the deep end.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Road appears on Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books to read if you love "Orphan Black"

Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series starring Tatiana Maslany ("Sarah Manning") as several identical women who are revealed to be clones. At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged five books to read if you love the show, including:
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

In episode one, Sarah Manning slips not-so-seamlessly into the life of a woman who shared her face (and, ya know, DNA). As the ultimate chameleon, Ripley would’ve done it better, and he wouldn’t have had any pesky morality issues holding him back from really digging into the part. Highsmith’s highly practical sociopath Ripley takes a rich man’s commission to convince his golden-boy son to come home from sunny Italy, but instead finds himself drawn by fascination, envy, and greed into taking over the young man’s life.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ten of the least competent time travelers

At io9, Rob Bricken came up with a list of the ten least competent time travelers, including:
Hank Morgan, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

I'm guessing Mark Twain hadn't heard of "the butterfly effect" when he wrote his classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, because when Hank Morgan wakes up in ancient England, he does the equivalent of murdering every goddamn butterfly he sees. He immediately uses his knowledge of a solar eclipse to convince everybody he's a wizard, and becomes the second most powerful man in the kingdom. He shoots knights with his revolver, blows up Merlin's tower with explosives, creates bicycles, gets King Arthur arrested for slavery, starts a war with the Catholic church, and basically messes with every single person and thing he finds in 528 AD. Where's a timecop when you need one?
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is on Michael Brooks's top ten list of time travel books; it's also the book Roman Simic most likes to re-read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top works of noir

Benjamin Black, an alter ego of Irish novelist John Banville, named five favorite works of noir at Goodreads, including:
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Cain is said to have dashed off this noir masterpiece over a long weekend. The book has been filmed so many times that everyone must know the story by now: the drifter, the bored wife, the hapless husband who ends up dead. An acrid, disenchanted masterpiece.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seven books for golfers and fairway fans

At the Christian Science Monitor, Ross Atkin collected excerpts from seven notable books for golfers and fairway fans. One entry on the list:
Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
by Bill Fields

" 'I'm not much for spending a lot of time in the office,' [Arnold] Palmer says, pausing between wedge shots about 3 p.m. on a recent Wednesday at the Bay Hill practice range, the Orlando club he bought in 1976. 'It makes me stiff and sore and usually irritable. Eleven o'clock is checkout time.'

" ''That's nice work if you can get it,' someone says.

" ' Hey, I've been working seventy-eight years to get it,' Palmer says. 'I figure I ought to be able to check out at eleven.'

"Palmer is a little grouchy at having stayed in his small upstairs office in the Bay Hill clubhouse longer than is his custom. Just before leaving for the day, a man had come in and offered to donate $5,000 a hole for one of the hospitals Palmer is involved with if Palmer would play nine with him. 'Usually my price is a little higher than that,' Palmer says, admitting that such off-the-street propositions happen more frequently than you might think. 'But that's a pretty good offer, isn't it? We usually don't turn those babies down.'"
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on golf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten grade-school classics you’ll never be too old to reread

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged ten grade-school classics you’ll never be too old to reread, including:
A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

“It was a dark and stormy night.” Nothing could be cozier than cocoa in a warm kitchen on a storm-tossed night, or creepier and more thrilling than a sudden interruption from the outside world. After this stellar beginning in the Murry family home, Meg Murry, her brilliant little brother Charles Wallace, and her soulmate, Calvin, follow three strange old women (who are much, much more than they appear) through time and space to save the Murrys’ scientist father from, nbd, forces of pure unadulterated evil. Lucky for us readers, this was just the first in a five-book series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Wrinkle in Time is among Cressida Cowell's list of ten top mythical creatures and Steve Cole's top ten space books for kids of all ages.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 14, 2014

Top ten books about missing persons

Laura Lippman's latest novel is After I'm Gone.

At the Guardian, she explained the allure of a particularly seductive and well-populated corner of literature in the preface to her top ten list of books about missing persons:
[T]he open-ended nature of missing person stories make them even more compelling [than murder stories]. They are real-life ghost stories, in which those who remain behind are haunted endlessly by the possible fates of those who have left them. In writing After I'm Gone, I thought a lot about how we can ever reconcile ourselves to the loss of someone vital. Even if – or especially if – it's a person that others feel we have no real claim on.
One title on Lippman's list:
The Song is You, by Megan Abbott

One of my favourite crime writers, Abbott is probably best known for her stunning novels that centre on the lives of contemporary teenage girls. But she also has written several outstanding period pieces, including this one, inspired by the 1949 disappearance of the actress Jean Spangler. The story is told from the point of view of jaded PR guy Gil "Hop" "Hopkins and, to use the parlance of its characters, it's a knock-out.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The seven best fictional depictions of female friendship

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Becky Ferreira tagged seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship, including:
Clarissa Dalloway and Sally Seton in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

Though the main action of Virginia Woolf’s ruminative novel takes place after Clarissa and Sally have grown apart, the vivid descriptions of their youthful closeness merits their rounding out this list. Infatuated by her friend’s brash rebellion and rejection of the status quo, Clarissa fell in love with Sally, and even shared a thrilling kiss with her. But with their wilder days behind them, the sexual tension eased into a comfortable friendship, revisited in Woolf’s classic book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Mrs. Dalloway also appears on Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of seven favorite fictional shopaholics, Suzette Field's top 10 list of literary party hosts, Jennie Rooney's top ten list of women travelers in fiction, John Mullan's list of ten of the best prime ministers in fiction, and among Michael Cunningham's 5 most important books, Dani Shapiro's 10 favorite books, and Kate Walbert's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books for toddlers

In 2013 the Christian Science Monitor surveyed parents about their favorite books to read with their toddlers. One of the ten most popular titles recommended:
'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss

No child's library is complete without a copy of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham." The lyrical text is as fun for grown-ups to read aloud as it is for children to hear – though be forewarned, the rapid fire rhymes can leave parents breathless. The delightful tale of Sam I Am's quest to get his friend to try green eggs and ham appeals to kids' silly side while reinforcing parents' perpetual pleas for kids to try new foods. "Green Eggs and Ham" was first published by Random House in 1960.

Don't miss these other titles by Dr. Seuss, "The Cat in the Hat," "Oh the Thinks You Can Think," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," and "The Lorax." Many of Dr. Seuss's tales have recently been made into motion pictures, but nothing beats meeting the master wordsmith on the page.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Fifteen top books for toddlers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Six great YA novels about reality TV

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Dahlia Adler tagged six great YA novels about reality TV, including:
Something Real, by Heather Demetrios

Don’t let the deceptively bright cover fool you—there’s something wonderfully and authentically dark about this look inside a reality TV family from the perspective of one of its own. After a four-year hiatus from having her entire life filmed, Bonnie Baker is back in the public eye, whether she likes it or not. And she definitely doesn’t. Especially not since it jeopardizes both her budding romance and her brother’s long-term, closeted one. The aforementioned relationships are only two of the exceedingly well-crafted ones in this can’t-miss debut that’ll make you wish you could hug every one of Jon and Kate’s eight.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on peace

John Gittings's books include The Changing Face of China and 2012's The Glorious Art of Peace.

One of five top books on peace he discussed with Alec Ash at The Browser:
The Iliad
by Homer (translated by EV Rieu)

You wanted to draw particular attention to book 18 – why?

I would say, first of all, that throughout The Iliad there is a counter-narrative of lost opportunities for peace. Obviously, if peace had been achieved there would have been no Trojan war or it would have come to an end sooner. But Homer reminds us from time to time that there were alternatives. There’s a very remarkable scene in book two, near the beginning, when the entire Greek army, misunderstanding a speech by their commander Agamemnon, turns on its heels and runs to the boats, hoping to go back home. Homer is telling us that the rank and file were not bent on fighting to the end. The Gods, on that occasion, intervene to stop the Greek army from sailing away. Even the wily Odysseus is unable to stop his men from launching their boats.

Book 18 is significant because it describes the making of a new shield for Achilles, who had withdrawn from battle. His friend Patroclus had borrowed his armour in his place and been killed, and his armour had been seized by the Trojans. So Achilles needed a new suit of armour, which was made for him by the heavenly blacksmith Hephaestus. If you read other accounts of Greek warriors, what you put on your shield is invariably something to frighten the enemy – a Gorgon’s head or a serpent or a wild lion. Homer instead describes a set of images on Achilles’s shield, almost all of which are concerned with peace not war – including young men and women dancing, labourers in the field bringing in the harvest grapes or ploughing the fields, and a council in which a case is arbitrated by peaceful means. This assembly of images, in my view, is designed to tell us that there is, or should be, a peaceful alternative to war.

So Homer, or whoever wrote The Iliad, had a peace agenda?

This is also an example of the passages in Homer which lead me to believe he was a single individual, because if it was stitched together from epic material then a scene such as the above would not appear – there would be stock images of a much more conventional shield instead. Homer, like Shakespeare, encompassed all humanity in his work, and in The Iliad he encompasses peace as well as war. A number of Homeric scholars have pointed out that the text, as we have it, is divided roughly into three thirds. The central third is almost entirely concerned with war and fighting. But the first third, where the plot is developed, is very different, and so is the final third. So the subject matter of The Iliad is war, but the feelings and emotions of the people concerned are much more complex.
Read about the other books Gittings discussed at The Browser.

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

The Page 69 Test: John Gittings's The Changing Face of China.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ten top fictional robots

Matt Haig's first YA book, Echo Boy, is now out in the UK from Bodley Head. One of the author's ten favorite fictional robots from film and literature (and pop music), as shared at the Guardian:
R. Giskard Reventlov, from the Robot stories by Isaac Asimov

A lot of the robots in Asimov's novels are interesting more as concepts than characters, but this one is different. As an unintended result of experiments carried out on him by the daughter of a famous roboticist, he ends up being able to read and influence emotions. ('Emotions are readily apparent, thoughts are not'.) His telepathy leads to a desire to save humanity. The 'R' stands for robot.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Susan Calvin from I, Robot is on io9's list of the ten greatest (fictional) female scientists. The Naked Sun is one of Joel Cunningham's five books that predicted the internet.

Also see: The six most memorable robots in literature and ten books that will change the way you look at robots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five books that show real life in Chicago

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, the author of the new collection of stories Painted Cities, tagged five books that show real life in Chicago, including:
My Bloody Life: The Making a Latin King
by Reymundo Sanchez

One of the more brutal tales of life on the street, life as a gangbanger, I have ever read. And even with that this book gives us so much collateral damage, the really young kids, the city itself, the school system. This book is hard to put down. A truly memorable read. Much like Chicago Cop, Tales from the Street, the first book in this selection, there’s an emotional pull that gets stronger with each successive page. I think this emotional pull is perspective, these authors are writing about their lives from a position of distance, maybe emerging maturity, and it’s heartbreaking to live the process along with the authors.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Top ten diary books

Rebecca Westcott was born in Chester. She went to Exeter University to train as a teacher and has had a variety of teaching jobs that have taken her to some very interesting places, including a Category C male prison. She started writing a diary when she was 8 years old, although she had no idea that one day her entries would be used to help her write a novel. Westcott's debut novel, Dandelion Clocks, follows the diary of 11-year-old Liv from thirteen weeks before to six months after the death of her much-loved mother from cancer.

One of Westcott's top ten diary books, as shared at the Guardian:
Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari

12-year-old Mira's beloved Nana Josie is dying. There is no doubt about this – Nana has plans to decorate her own coffin and when it arrives on Mira's birthday it's clear that Nana hasn't got long to go. At the same time, Mira joins a writing club at school where she is encouraged to write a diary. The timing is perfect. Things are changing and Mira is suddenly less keen to confide in her best friend. The diary becomes her keeper of secrets. This is a beautiful book, full of what it means to love and be loved. It also contains the sentence I most wish I had written. It's a sentence that keeps coming back to me and could be the opening line to a thousand different stories. "You can have too much history when you're only twelve years old." Sita Brahmachari has created characters that leave you longing to know more about them and their lives.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Sita Brahmachari and Ringo Star.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The five best novels set in Greece

Henriette Lazaridis Power is a first-generation Greek-American who has degrees in English literature from Middlebury College; Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar; and the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Harvard for ten years, serving as an academic dean for four of those. She is the founding editor of The Drum, a literary magazine publishing exclusively in audio form.

Her latest novel is The Clover House.

One of the author's top five novels set in Greece, as shared at the Huffington Post:
Barry Unsworth: Pascali's Island (1980)

Unsworth wrote a few books set in Greece, ancient and modern. Pascali's Island immerses the reader in the world of Greece under Ottoman rule, as it follows the machinations of Basil Pascali, a quasi-spy reporting back to the Ottoman authorities on the actions of his countrymen. Unsworth is skilled at describing Greek attitudes and culture, as well as the perspective of the outsider, often the expatriate, who wants to belong. His early novel The Greeks Have A Word For It (1980) also belongs on my list.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Visit Henriette Lazaridis Power's website and blog.

Writers Read: Henriette Lazaridis Power.

The Page 69 Test: The Clover House.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Henriette Lazaridis Power & Finn.

--Marshal Zeringue

The six most memorable robots in literature

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Becky Ferreira tagged the six most memorable robots in literature, including:
Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams)

Only Douglas Adams could come up with a twist on super-intelligence as hilarious as Marvin. Instead of being empowered by his vast troves of programmed knowledge, Marvin is crippled by it. He suffers extreme existential despair and rambles on about the meaninglessness of his life to anyone who will listen. For example, this is how he describes his early life. “The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.” God, we miss that trademark Adams wit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy appears on Charlie Jane Anders's lists of the ten most unbelievable alien races in science fiction, eleven books that every aspiring television writer should read and ten satirical novels that could teach you to survive the future, Saci Lloyd's top ten list of political books for teenagers, Rob Reid's list of 6 favorite books, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of ten of the best bars in science fiction, Don Calame's top ten list of funny teen boy books, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best instances of invisibility in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 7, 2014

Top ten books on memory

Charles Fernyhough is an award-winning writer and psychologist. His book A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind was a Parade magazine pick of the week and has been translated into seven languages. The author of two novels, The Auctioneer and A Box of Birds, Fernyhough has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Telegraph; contributes to public radio's Radiolab; blogs for Psychology Today; and is a part-time Professor of Psychology at Durham University, UK.

Fernyhough's latest book is Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.

One of the author's top ten books on memory, as shared at the Guardian:
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

To the extent to which they track selves through time, all novels are about memory. But Barnes's 2011 Man Booker-winning novel thinks more deeply about it than most. Middle-aged protagonist Tony finds himself trying to make sense of past relationships and their painful consequences, questioning the reliability of his own story-telling mind as he explores how memories are charged with and shaped by emotion.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Edmund Morris's five best novels on time and memory.

The Page 99 Test: Charles Fernyhough's Pieces of Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The thirteen best John Steinbeck books

Susan Shillinglaw is professor of English at San Jose State, former director of the SJSU Steinbeck Center, Scholar in Residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, and author of the recently published On Reading “The Grapes of Wrath” (Penguin 2014) and Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage (Nevada, 2013).

One title from her list of the thirteen best John Steinbeck books, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Of Mice and Men (1937)

Only a year after the March 1937 publication of the book and opening of the Broadway play (November), Steinbeck’s George and Lennie had entered America’s popular lexicon. This odd couple still worms its way into readers’ hearts—“a little study in humility” Steinbeck called his novella. Lennie’s worshipful love of George and George’s equally sharp need for Lennie’s adoration is archetypal. Everybody is lonely in this book—where a visionary cooperative farm is a temporary and ever-poignant stay against confusion. “Tell me about the rabbits, George.” Who wouldn’t sign on?
Read about the other books on the list.

Of Mice and Men is among Becky Ferreira's six most memorable bullies in literature, Paul Wilson's ten top books about disability, and Sarah Salway's top ten books about unlikely friendships.

--Marshal Zeringue

David McCallum's six best books

To an older generation, David McCallum is perhaps best known for his portrayal of U.N.C.L.E. agent Ilya Kuryakin in the hit TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964). To a younger audience, he is best known for his character Dr. Donald "Duckie" Mallard on the hit CBS series, NCIS (2003).

One of McCallum's six best books, as shared with the Daily Express:

This book is like a wonderful soap opera, the Dallas and Dynasty of its period.

It tells the story of young farmer Gabriel Oak and his pursuit of the elusive and wayward Bathsheba Everdene.

The background of the tale is Hardy's fictional Wessex countryside and the writing style makes it quite wonderful.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Far from the Madding Crowd also appears on David Nobbs' list of five notable faked deaths in fiction, John Mullan's list of ten of the best fake deaths in fiction, and Marjorie Kehe's list of ten perfect books for Valentine's Day gifts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The ten best bad mothers in literature

Charlotte Runcie writes about arts and culture, particularly books, theatre, music and TV. One of her ten best bad mothers in literature, as shared at the Telegraph:
Charlotte Haze – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

We only ever see Charlotte Haze through the eyes of Humbert Humbert, who shows her initially as a vaguely repulsive obstacle to Humbert's advances on the young Lolita, and then even more worthy of his disgust because of her own dislike of her daughter. Charlotte seems to realise that Lolita is competing for Humbert's affections, but that only makes Charlotte like her even less. Difficult to forgive.

Read about the other entries on the list.

Lolita appears on Kathryn Williams's list of fifteen notable works on lust, Boris Kachka's six favorite books list, Fiona Maazel's list of the ten worst fathers in books, Jennifer Gilmore's list of the ten worst mothers in books, Steven Amsterdam's list of five top books that have anxiety at their heart, John Banville's five best list of books on early love and infatuation, Kathryn Harrison's list of favorite books with parentless protagonists, Emily Temple's list of ten of the greatest kisses in literature, John Mullan's list of ten of the best lakes in literature, Dan Vyleta's top ten list of books in second languages, Rowan Somerville's top ten list of books of good sex in fiction, Henry Sutton's top ten list of unreliable narrators, Adam Leith Gollner's top ten list of fruit scenes in literature, Laura Hird's literary top ten list, Monica Ali's ten favorite books list, Laura Lippman's 5 most important books list, Mohsin Hamid's 10 favorite books list, and Dani Shapiro's 10 favorite books list. It is Lena Dunham's favorite book.

Also see:'s 2010 list of the ten worst mothers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books to make you cry for days

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Ester Bloom recommended ten books that may make you cry for days, including:
About Alice, by Calvin Trillin

Trillin’s wrenching, straight-from-the-heart tribute to his late wife. It received such acclaim when it first appeared in the New Yorker that it was put out as a standalone book. And, though it will make you laugh, it will also make you cry like a fifteen-year-old watching Titanic, wondering whether you will ever experience a love so pure.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Charlie Jane Anders's list of fifteen moments from science fiction and fantasy that will make absolutely anyone cry, Melissa Albert's five favorite YA books that might make one cry, Dell Villa's top eight books to read when you’re in the mood to cry for days, and Hallie Ephron's ten best books for a good cry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five fictional characters who tell it like it is

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Hanna McGrath tagged five fictional characters who tell it like it is, including:
Shug Avery (The Color Purple, by Alice Walker)

It’s hard to define the relationship between Shug Avery and Celie, the book’s narrator. They’re friends, lovers, confidantes, family, and kindred spirits. For two who are so close, they couldn’t be more different. Compared to the perpetually abused and neglected Celie, Shug is as independent and confident as a woman can be. She is fearless, saying and doing whatever she wants and refusing to kowtow to the restrictions that race, sexuality, or gender placed upon other women of her time. It’s these differences, in part, that draw the two together, as well as allow Shug to grasp the gravity of Celie’s situation with her abusive husband. Shug not only talks Celie out of killing him, she also challenges the way Celie views God. The possibility that God could be anything other than a belligerent white man is a radical idea for Celie, but one that gives her the strength she has so desperately needed to finally claim her life as her own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Color Purple is among Andy McSmith's top ten books of the 1980s and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on hoaxes, frauds, and con men

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on hoaxes, frauds, and con men:
The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York
by Matthew Goodman

In August 1835, the New York Sun reported that a new telescope could see poppy fields, waterfalls, unicorns, and horned bears on the moon, as well as four-foot-tall "man-bats" building temples and speaking an alien language. Republished around the globe, the hoax marked the beginning of tabloid journalism and demonstrated how new technologies, intended to illuminate the truth, could be used to perpetuate falsehoods.
Read about the other books on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days.

The Page 99 Test: Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days.

--Marshal Zeringue