Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fifteen of the best opening lines in literature

One title on the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticising any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Robert McCrum's list of ten of the best opening lines of novels in the English language.

The Great Gatsby appears among Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of five of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books, Elizabeth Wilhide's nine illustrious houses in fiction, Suzette Field's top ten literary party hosts, Robert McCrums's ten best closing lines in literature, Molly Driscoll's ten best literary lessons about love, Jim Lehrer's six favorite 20th century novels, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature and ten of the best misdirected messages, Tad Friend's seven best novels about WASPs, Kate Atkinson's top ten novels, Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition, Robert McCrum's top ten books for Obama officials, Jackie Collins' six best books, and John Krasinski's six best books, and is on the American Book Review's list of the 100 best last lines from novels. Gatsby's Jordan Baker is Josh Sorokach's biggest fictional literary crush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books that could change the way you understand modern cities

At io9, Annalee Newitz tagged ten books will help you untangle the mysteries of today's city life, including:
Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next, by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay

Business analyst Kasarda and journalist Lindsay teamed up to write a book that explores one of the key reasons why cities get built where they do: transportation systems. Previous generations built cities on waterways, next to ports, and adjacent to train stations. Today, we build them around airports. Published in 2011, this book takes for granted what Sassen explained in her work on global cities. In a global economy, one of the city's greatest assets is an airport — a physical connection to the rest of the world. Kasarda and Lindsay explore how modern transit infrastructure have created a new generation of global cities whose lifeblood runs through the air itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ten notable children’s books that celebrate diversity

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Molly Schoemann-McCann tagged "ten favorite beautifully illustrated children’s books that embrace a wide spectrum of children and families of different colors, cultures, abilities, and nationalities," including:
Donavan’s Double Trouble, by Monalisa DeGross

African American fourth grader Donavan thought this was going to be his year—but instead, he’s having trouble in school (spelling is no problem, but math is eluding him), and problems at home, where his beloved Uncle Vic has returned from the war in a wheelchair with both legs missing. Will his younger sister have to tutor him in math? And what are his friends are going to think when they see Uncle Vic in his wheelchair at a school event? Donavan’s perseverance in overcoming his problems with math and in repairing his relationship with his uncle will inspire and delight kids, particularly those who have struggled in school or at home. (Ages 8–12)
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five notable books about lost (and found) artifacts

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was adapted into a film called The Other Woman starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have appeared on “All Things Considered” and “The California Report.”

One of Waldman's favorite books about lost (and found) artifacts, as shared at Goodreads:
The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick

Lars Andemening, the tormented, deluded, and often (inadvertently) hilarious hero of this gem of a novel, has managed to convince himself that he is the son of Bruno Schulz, the Polish artist and writer murdered by the SS in the town of Drohobych in 1942. A young woman throws Lars's delusions into disarray by appearing with a copy of what she claims is Schulz's legendary lost manuscript, The Messiah. And like Lars, she claims Schulz as her father. To describe the novel as a philosophical musing on literary influence and on the losses and displacements of the Holocaust is accurate but insufficient. Its pleasure lies in its wit and in Ozick's manipulation of realism and surrealism in a way reminiscent of Schulz himself.
Read about the other books on the list.

Visit Ayelet Waldman's website.

Writers Read: Ayelet Waldman.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Treasure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ten of the best books that make heroes out of readers

Niall Williams, a Dublin born writer, has lived in Kiltumper, Co Clare in the west of Ireland for the past 30 years. He is the author of eight novels, three stage plays, four non-fiction works and several screenplays. His new novel is History of the Rain.

One entry on Willaims's list of ten of the best books that manage to make heroes out of readers, as shared at the Guardian:
Possession by AS Byatt

It's 1986. In the Reading Room of the London Library, (perfect bookworm setting) Roland Michell, a post-doctoral research student, (perfect bookworm job) is turning the pages of a book that once belonged to his hero, the Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash. The book is thick and black and covered with dust. Its spine broken, it is bandaged and tied together with a bow. But among its pages Roland finds two unsigned letters written in the unmistakeable hand of the poet. The letters suggest a love affair. So begins one of the great bookworm-as-detective novels.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Possession also appears on Kyle Minor's list of fifteen of the hottest affairs in literature, Emily Temple's list of the fifty greatest campus novels ever written, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fossils in literature, ten of the most memorable libraries in literature, ten of the best fictional poets, ten of the best locks of hair in fiction, ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, and ten of the best lawyers in literature, and on Rachel Syme's list of the ten most attractive men in literature, Christina Koning's critic's chart of six top romances, and Elizabeth Kostova's top ten list of books for winter nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three of the best books on China

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on China. One title on the list:
The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan

Blood, sweat and tears – and the pungent smell of garlic – run through Mo's gritty tale of penury and powerlessness in rural China.

The story, set in the late-1980s, is inspired by a real incident. Poor farmers in the ironically named Paradise County are encouraged by officials to plant garlic. But when a glut ensues, the corrupt officials, who have lined their pockets, refuse to buy any more of the crop and it is left to rot in the fields.

Facing ruin, the enraged farmers riot and burn down the county offices. Official retribution is swift and savage. The "revolt" is crushed, and the alleged ringleaders beaten and jailed.

Among those held are villagers Gao Yang and Gao Ma – the latter involved in a passionate but doomed love affair – who tell their stories through flashbacks.

Mo vividly portrays the peasants' harsh existence and the greed that corrupts families and bureaucrats – and ruins lives. His powerful, lyrical prose and tempered rage make The Garlic Ballads a rattling good read.

Mo Yan, a pen name that means "don't speak", was a controversial winner of the 2012 Nobel prize. Critics said the former army officer was too close to the state. This novel, however, was banned for a time.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books to read aloud to children

William Sutcliffe is the author of five adult novels, including the international bestseller, Are You Experienced?. His first novel for Young Adults, The Wall, was published in 2013 and has had much critical acclaim, including being longlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Circus of Thieves is his first novel for younger children.

One title on his top ten list of books to read aloud to children, as shared at the Guardian:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

There is something magical about this book, which works beautifully for pre-verbal children. This is a "story" that is actually all about the music of the words, and the way they fit with the unique and mesmerising pictures. Every baby should have a copy of this book as one of their first possessions.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Mal Peet's top ten books to read aloud to children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top ten time travel books

Damian Dibben is the creator of the internationally acclaimed series The History Keepers published in over 40 countries and translated into 26 languages.

One of his top ten time travel books, as shared at the Guardian:
Percy Jackson And The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

I consider this a time-travel book as elements of a mythic past come crashing into the modern day America. I have always been a fan of the Percy Jackson books – the mix of adventure, myth and humour is absolutely perfect – but this is my top choice. In this fifth installment, Percy, the demi-god son of Poseidon, has turned sixteen and the fate of the world is upon him. (That's what it feels like when you're sixteen!) Ultimately he and his friends must put up a final stand to protect Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. Threaded through sequences of non-stop action, there are many twists and mysteries, along with a triumphant and very emotional conclusion. What's not to like?
Read about the other titles on the list.

Percy Jackson is among Casey Lee's ten favorite book series.

Also see Michael Brooks's top ten list of time travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 26, 2014

Simon Sebag Montefiore's six best books

As a historian, Simon Sebag Montefiore's works include Jerusalem: The Biography, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, and Young Stalin, which was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Prize (UK), and Le Grand Prix de Biographie Politique (France). His novels include the critically acclaimed Sashenka and the newly released One Night in Winter.

One of the author's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

In my novel, teenagers in a Moscow reading club play out the duel scene from Pushkin's novel in a game that goes horribly wrong. But Pushkin's masterpiece is really about an adulterous love that cannot be. When Onegin meets his beloved at the end, she says she loves him too but can't be unfaithful to her husband: In my novel, which is really about love, an adulterous wife sends her lover that passage to say goodbye.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Simon Sebag Montefiore's five best books about Moscow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten orphans in children's literature

Katherine Rundell grew up in Africa and Europe and was elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She is the author of Girl Savage and Rooftoppers.

At the Guardian, Rundell named her top ten orphans in children's literature. One entry on the list:
Mowgli, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Mowgli's parents are eaten by a tiger, and he is taken in by a family of wise and friendly wolves. Freed from restraints of civilisation, he is allowed to consort with haughty panthers and anxious bears. The Disney film is fantastic, but the book – which is earnest and witty by turns - is even better.
Read about the other orphans on the list.

The Jungle Book is among President Kennedy's favorite books as a child.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thirteen of the most dysfunctional parents in literature

Julia Fierro's new novel is Cutting Teeth.

One entry on the author's list of the most dysfunctional parents in literature, as shared at the Huffington Post:
Mr. & Mrs. Lisbon in The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, 1993

My heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon, parents of the five beautiful Lisbon girls--13-year-old Cecilia, 14-year-old Lux, 15-year-old Bonnie, 16-year-old Mary, and 17-year-old Therese. The Lisbon family dysfunction reads like a tragic fairy tale. I can imagine that, as daughter after daughter slipped through Mom and Dad Lisbon's prayer-clenched fingers, the parents in Eugenides' novel felt certain they were cursed, forsaken by the God they worshipped so obediently and whose image was found throughout the Lisbon house in the form of rosaries and crucifixes and holy water. Poor Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon, whose fatal mistake--imprisoning their ethereal daughters in what they thought was the safety of their home--while borne by good intentions, may have been the very thing that smothered the girls and led them to destruction. The Virgin Suicides offers its readers a melancholy dysfunction, the mood of which lingers long after the last page is read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Virgin Suicides is among Rosa Rankin-Gee's ten top novellas about love, Kate Finnigan's top ten fictional fashion icons, Patrick Ness's top ten "unsuitable" books for teenagers, Cathy Cassidy's top ten stories about sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that changed Vikram Chandra

Vikram Chandra is the author of three highly acclaimed works of fiction, most recently Sacred Games, which won the 2006 Hutch Crossword Award, and the nonfiction book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty.

One of five books that changed him, as shared with the Sydney Morning Herald:
William Makepeace Thackeray

Two young women - the amiable Amelia Sedley and the aptly named Becky Sharp - leave school to discover the world, and the reader gets an ebullient ride through the pageant of Regency England. I read Vanity Fair when I was in graduate school, and was dazzled by its colour and variety.
Read about the other books on the list. 

Vanity Fair also appears on Joanna Trollope's six favorite books list, Maddie Crum's top ten list of fictional characters who just might be psychopaths, Allegra Frazier's list of five of her favorite fictional gold diggers, John Mullan's list of ten of the most memorable governesses in literature, Stella Tillyard's list of favorite historical novels, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fat men in literature and ten of the best pianos in literature, and Thomas Mallon's list.

Also see: Chandra's top ten computer books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Six top books about food

Mark Bittman, longtime food writer for the New York Times, is the author of How to Cook Everything and The VB6 Cookbook. One of his six favorite books about food, as shared at The Week magazine:
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Hazan brought real Italian cooking to America in 1973, demonstrating — long before "locavore" was a word — that decent ingredients treated simply yield wonderful food. This updated version may be the only Italian cookbook you'll ever need. Her tomato sauce with onion and butter will ruin you for all other marinara.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Grub Street's top 25 food memoirs of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books for "X-Men" fans

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill tagged six top books for X-Men fans, including:
Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey

What makes Sakey’s take on mutations so gripping is how real it feels. Since 1980, 1 percent of the population has been born “brilliant,” with some special power or another. In a world similar to our own, down to the hypersensitivity when it comes to threats of terrorism, Brilliance explores the reality of hunting down the gifted when their talents alienate the normals (e.g., the ability to manipulate the stock market with outrageous ease).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 23, 2014

The twenty greatest dystopian novels

One title on ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels:
The Wind Up Girl (2009)

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

A modern dystopian classic, Bacigalupi describes a world where catastrophes are commonplace, global warming has caused huge sea level rises and biotechnology rules, with mega corporations - calorie companies - controlling food production. Set in Thailand, he creates a vivid dystopian environment and, like so many on this list, an entirely believable one.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Wind Up Girl is on Annalee Newitz's list of books to prepare you for the economic apocalypse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Top ten Norwegian books available in English translation

Dea Brøvig is the author of The Last Boat Home.

One of her top ten Norwegian books available in English translation, as shared at the Guardian:
Hunger by Knut Hamsun (translated by Sverre Lyngstad)

Norwegians have never forgiven Knut Hamsun his politics, but his work earned him the Nobel prize in literature in 1920 and established him as one of the country's most important authors. Published in 1890 and hailed by many as an early example of modernism, Hunger follows the trials of a destitute writer who wanders the streets of Kristiania, his thoughts shifting between lucidity and daydream as starvation gnaws away at his sanity. Uncomfortable but essential reading.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Hunger is one of Jo Nesbø's seven favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ten top books that mimic the feeling of a summer vacation

Emma Straub is the author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures and Other People We Married, and her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Vogue, Tin House, the New York Times, and the The Paris Review Daily. Her new novel is The Vacationers.

One of Straub's ten top books that mimic the feeling of a summer vacation, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
In the Woods by Tana French

No one said that summertime books need to be peppy! Tana French is my favorite contemporary mystery novelist. All of her books take place in and around Dublin, Ireland, and she does an amazing job of making the city a character in each book. As a new mom, I treasure my sleep, but Tana French writes the kinds of books that force you to read just one chapter…and then another.
Read about the other entries on the list.

In the Woods is among the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books from Ireland's newer voices and Judy Berman's ten fantastic novels with disappointing endings.

The Page 69 Test: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top new memoirs

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Melissa Albert tagged six absorbing new memoirs, including:
Finding Me, by Michelle Knight

In 2002 Knight became the first kidnapping victim of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who kept her and two other women concealed in his home until their 2013 escape. Her account highlights the unimaginable misery not only of her “life” with Castro, but her life as a single mother, so estranged from her own family that after her disappearance she was eventually written off as a runaway. Despite its redemptive ending, her story’s horror will linger.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Six great YA retellings of classics

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Dahlia Adler tagged six great Young Adult retellings of classics, including:
Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

There are a great many retellings of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, but this the most intriguing and unusual version I’ve read so far. The story is not told by the titular character, but rather through the eyes of Tinker Bell as she follows the strong, fierce, enigmatic Tiger Lily through Neverland, where she resides with her adoptive genderqueer father. This is one of those books you don’t want to talk about too much for fear of giving anything away or informing reader opinion, but it’s a dark, fascinating interpretation of the tale and relationships within.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 19, 2014

Six notable books about being a woman

Writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh is a contributing editor to The Atlantic, host of the syndicated radio show The Loh Down on Science, and the author of several books including the newly released memoir, The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones. One of her six favorite books about being a woman, as shared at The Week magazine:
Sex Tips for Girls by Cynthia Heimel

For my particular tribe of Boomer/Gen X'er females, Heimel's hilarious, wry, and surprisingly useful Sex Tips was our initiation. My college dorm-mates and I read sections aloud and fell off our pine-hewn loft beds weeping with laughter. "Zen and the Art of Diaphragm Insertion"? Such a funny essay it almost makes me miss diaphragms. Almost.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Eleven books whose final pages will shock you

One title from Kirkus Reviews's list of eleven books whose final pages will shock you:
by Ian McEwan

"With a sweeping bow to Virginia Woolf, McEwan combines insight, penetrating historical understanding, and sure-handed storytelling despite a conclusion that borrows from early postmodern narrative trickery. Masterful."

McEwan's latest, both powerful and exquisite, considers the making of a writer, the dangers and rewards of imagination, and the juncture between innocence and awareness, all set against the late afternoon of an England soon to disappear.
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Atonement also appears on Nicole Hill's list of eleven books in which the main character dies, Isla Blair's six best books list, Jessica Soffer's top ten list of book endings, Jane Ciabattari's list of five masterpieces of fiction that also worked as films, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best birthday parties in literature, ten of the best misdirected messages in literature, ten of the best scenes on London Underground, ten of the best breakages in literature, ten of the best weddings in literature, and ten of the best identical twins in fiction. It is one of Stephanie Beacham's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Rick Wakeman's six best books

Rick Wakeman is an English keyboard player and composer best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes.

One of his six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:

I’m a huge thespian groupie and fan of 1930s, 1940s and 1950s films. This was unlike any other autobiography because it was completely rambling. It wasn’t chronological, he connected each bit anecdotally, which I loved. And it was very funny.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nine major works of scientific racism that are still influencing thinkers today

Annalee Newitz is the author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction and the editor in chief of io9. One of nine major works that have helped create a scientific frame for racist ideas, as tagged at io9:
The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994)

In this incredibly influential work of economics and sociology, researchers Herrnstein and Murray argue that class differences between whites and blacks in America can be traced back to differences in IQ. Blacks, they write, are simply not as intelligent as whites (and, to a certain extent, Asians — though mostly they're talking just about blacks and whites). Because many studies show that IQ is a very strong indicator of economic success, they believe that IQ differences are at the root of racial differences. They use "scientific" data about IQ scores to dismiss the idea that political inequalities and the history of slavery in the U.S. are causes of racial inequality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that changed Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, was published in 2012, and was a New York Times and international bestseller, with nearly twenty foreign editions and a major film deal. The Expats was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Macavity, and awards from the Strand Magazine Critics Circle, the Mystery Booksellers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, and received the 2013 Edgar Award and the 2013 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

Pavone's new novel is The Accident.

One of five books that changed him, as shared with the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

It's a tough moment to realise the world is filled with phonies and that you perhaps are one of them. Catcher has helped generations of young people get through the resulting crisis of faith - is life worth all the hassles? I used to read it every year, right before Christmas, as much as possible while sitting on a Central Park bench at the pond with the ducks, the one that's in the book.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Catcher In The Rye appears on Gabe Habash's list of the 10 most notorious parts of famous books, Robert McCrum's list of the 10 best books with teenage narrators, Antoine Wilson's list of the 10 best narrators in literature, A.E. Hotchner's list of five favorite coming-of-age tales, Jay McInerney's list of five essential New York novels, Woody Allen's top five books list, Patrick Ness's top 10 list of "unsuitable" books for teenagers, David Ulin's six favorite books list, Nicholas Royle's list of the top ten writers on the telephone, TIME magazine's list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school, Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, Dan Rhodes' top ten list of short books, and Sarah Ebner's top 25 list of boarding school books; it is one of Sophie Thompson's six best books. Upon rereading, the novel disappointed Khaled Hosseini, Mary Gordon, and Laura Lippman.

Visit Chris Pavone's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Expats.

Coffee with a Canine: Chris Pavone & Charlie Brown.

The Page 69 Test: The Accident.

Writers Read: Chris Pavone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 16, 2014

Six notable posthumous works of fiction

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged six top works of fiction that were completed and published after their authors died, including:
The Original of Laura, by Vladimir Nabokov

Before his death in 1977, Nabokov, ever the perfectionist, requested his family destroy the drafts of his final, incomplete novel. They declined (and can you blame them? It’s freaking Nabokov!) Nevertheless, the fragments that did exist weren’t published for another 30 years, though the result can barely be called a novel, consisting of a loose plot sketched on 138 index cards. Critics generally agreed that such preliminary material should never have been released.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten LGBT books for pre-teens

"[T]he last place any child should feel isolated, unwelcome or afraid is the library," writes author Susie Day in the preface to a top ten list of LGBT books for pre-teens at the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

A smart and very funny story about tolerance. Dennis likes Vogue magazine, fashion, and wearing his friend Lisa's handmade sequinned miniskirt it's about questioning the narrowness of traditional gender roles, instead of slotting a child into a category. The subplot about the nasty headmaster is an odd choice, but the hardest heart will swell at the Spartacus-style conclusion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Top ten loners in fiction

Robert Williams's first novel, Luke and Jon, won a Betty Trask Award, was translated into six languages and called "a hugely impressive debut" in the Daily Telegraph. His second novel, How the Trouble Started, was shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Fiction. His latest novel is Into the Trees. One of his top ten loners in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Arthur "Boo" Radley is a heroic loner. Stories have grown up around him because he is never seen and children believe he dines on raw squirrels and cats. He is only lured from his house to save the Finch children from being attacked. After terrible scenes unfold surrounding the trial of Tom Robinson, they begin to understand why someone might not want to be out in the world. Sometimes inside is the safest place to be.
Read about the other entries on the list.

To Kill a Mockingbird made Alyssa Bereznak's top ten list of literary heroes with weird names, Louise Doughty's top ten list of courtroom dramas, Hanna McGrath's top fifteen list of epic epigraphs, the Telegraph's list of ten great meals in literature, Nicole Hill's list of fourteen characters their creators should have spared, Isla Blair's six best books list, Lauren Passell's list of ten pairs of books made better when read together, Charlie Fletcher's top ten list of adventure classics, Sheila Bair's 6 favorite books list, Kathryn Erskine's top ten list of first person narratives, Julia Donaldson's six best books list, TIME magazine's top 10 list of books you were forced to read in school, John Mullan's list of ten of the best lawyers in literature, John Cusack's list of books that made a difference to him, Lisa Scottoline's top ten list of books about justice, and Luke Leitch's list of ten literary one-hit wonders. It is one of Sanjeev Bhaskar's six best books and one of Alexandra Styron's five best stories of fathers and daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Francine Prose's six favorite books

Francine Prose's new novel is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.

One of six works that guided Prose as she wrote the new novel, as shared at The Week magazine:
Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco

Glassco moved to Paris in the 1920s, and his lightly fictionalized memoir captures the mood of the era. With its accounts of wild nights of partying with the famous and the infamous, it helps us imagine what it was like to be young and free in Paris at that time. It's like a much kinder and more generous version of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Seven top suspense novels

E. Lockhart's new novel is We Were Liars. At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog she tagged her favorite suspense novels, including:
Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club has an everyman narrator, very relatable in his feelings of fear and frustration—until you realize he is far more complicated than you could possibly have imagined. The plot twist had me literally jumping up and down; I was so elated by it. I’d tell you more, but the “first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fight Club is among Joel Cunningham's top five books short enough to polish off in an afternoon, but deep enough to keep you thinking long into the night, Kathryn Williams's eight craziest unreliable narrators in fiction, Jessica Soffer's ten best book endings, Sebastian Beaumont's top ten books about psychological journeys, and Pauline Melville's top ten revolutionary tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six fascinating autobiographies by fiction writers

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged six fascinating autobiographies by fiction writers, including:
Little Failure, by Gary Shteyngart

If you’ve read Shteyngart, you know what to expect from his novels: a cast of colorful characters bouncing off one another in a world exaggerated to all-too-believable absurdity (see: Super Sad True Love Story; the appropriately titled Absurdistan). His recent memoir, which tells of his upbringing as an awkward, sickly child of immigrants who seem befuddled by their weird son (the title comes from his boyhood nickname…thanks, dad!) and his eventual success as an acclaimed author who perhaps still feels inadequate in his father’s eyes. With set pieces that include a late-in-childhood circumcision, you know the author’s holding nothing back.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 12, 2014

Twelve memoirs by women that will get you through anything

For Cosmopolitan, Julie Buntin tagged twelve memoirs by women that will get you through anything, including:
The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr

Poet and memoirist Mary Karr is one of America’s sharpest and most honest writers. Many credit The Liar’s Club for reawakening reader interest in the memoir. The story revolves around Karr’s childhood in an East Texas refinery town. She lovingly renders her crazy family — charismatic and sometimes violent father, artistic and clinically insane mother, whip-smart sister — so that by the end, you’ll feel you’ve met them in real life. Despite some seriously traumatic incidents, Karr renders growing up with wisdom and an irreverence that will keep you turning the pages.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Liars’ Club is among Calvin Trillin's five favorite memoirs and Rebecca Ford's favorite five non-fiction books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The five best moms in YA novels

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Dahlia Adler tagged the five best moms in YA novels, including:
Kat Hall (If I Stay, by Gayle Forman)

Kat may meet a tragic end early in the book, but there’s plenty of flashbacks to make clear she was one of the coolest moms ever. I mean, the woman makes a joke about a Yo-Yo Ma mosh pit and sneaks her daughter into a casino. If that doesn’t make you want to draw up an “I love you” card with your best crayons for her to proudly hang on the fridge, nothing will.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: If I Stay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fay Weldon's six favorite books

Fay Weldon is a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter who, at the age of 16, lived in a grand London townhouse as the daughter of the housekeeper. In addition to winning a Writers' Guild Award for the pilot of Upstairs Downstairs, she is a Commander of the British Empire whose books include Praxis, shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction; The Heart of the Country, winner of the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize; Worst Fears, shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award; and Wicked Women, which won the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award.

One of her six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

A black comedy but with nothing funny about it, a Depression (and depression) novel more apt today than ever, as a young (male) advice columnist takes on board the awfulness of life. Nothing changes. Once read, this book is never forgotten.
Read about the other books on Weldon's list.

Miss Lonelyhearts is one of Ann Patchett's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven fictional drugs with side effects that include creeping us out

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged eleven fictional drugs with side effects that include creeping us out.

One entry on the list:
In Afterparty, a new, near-future thriller from Daryl Gregory, the smart drug revolution has made it possible for anyone with a chemical printer and an internet connection to manufacture their own drugs at home. Even if the future, though, you should never really trust the internet. One such experimental drug, Numinous, intended as a treatment for schizophrenia, is being abused by addicts who like that it provides them a warm and fuzzy feeling of being close to God. Take too much of it, though, and the drug actually creates God for you—your own personal deity, living inside your head and giving you orders.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Afterparty.

The Page 69 Test: Afterparty.

Writers Read: Daryl Gregory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 9, 2014

Six convivial talking animals

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Sara Brady tagged six talking-animal characters she’d like to have a drink with, including:
Templeton (Rat from Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White)

Drink: Mojitos

Let’s be clear: this drink is less about finding out what Charlotte’s rodent sidekick (again with the rats) has to say, and more about interrogating Paul Lynde about why he never wrote an insanely juicy tell-all autobiography.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Charlotte's Web is among Joel Cunningham's favorite talking animals in fiction, Scott Greenstone's top twenty books with fewer than 200 pages, Mohsin Hamid's six favorite books and Sarah Lean's top ten animal stories; it is a book Kate DiCamillo hopes parents will read to their kids.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten greatest fictional underdogs

Phil Earle's books include Saving Daisy and the newly released The Bubble Wrap Boy.

One entry on his top ten list of zeros-to-heros in stories for children and young adults, as shared at the Guardian:
Ponyboy, Darry, Johnny, Dallas, Soda Pop in The Outsiders by SE Hinton

These boys have nothing in their lives. No jobs, no qualifications, no prospects, but they have each other, and an unbreakable bond of brotherhood that makes you root for each and every one of them. The one book I read every year to remind me what great writing looks like.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Outsiders is on one list of nine of the best literary groups of friends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Five top books on the "Mad Men" milieu

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on the Mad Men milieu:
Ogilvy on Advertising
by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy is often called the Father of Advertising: his 1983 book makes it clear why. This bracingly honest and engaging look at the way advertising agencies (particularly the author's own powerhouse outfit, Ogilvy & Mather) go about the business of creating indelible advertisements also serves up a brief and lively history of the industry as well. He's been cited by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner as a major influence on the show, particularly the character of Roger Sterling and his (far less successful) ad man memoir, Sterling's Gold.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Five novels told from the perspective of a terrible person

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Kristi Steffen tagged five titles told from the perspective of an extremely disturbed individual you would never want to meet, including:
Nick Corey (Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson)

Nick Corey is the notoriously sleazy, corrupt, and inept sheriff of a small county in Nowhere, Texas. What’s less known about him is that he’s also a master manipulator and psychopathic killer. In a series of horrifying, darkly comic vignettes, this noir leads us through the stone-cold spree of a disarmingly simple-seeming man so detached from basic empathy that he’d rather kill a gal than be troubled with breaking up with her. Additional recommendations: pretty much anything by Jim Thompson. If he ever wrote a book with a likable character in it, no one bothered to tell me.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten overlooked novels

John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London. He has written many books and articles on a variety of subjects - but mostly concentrating on Victorian fiction, the history of publishing, and twentieth-century fiction.

For the Guardian he named a top ten list of overlooked novels, including:
Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov, 1859

For my money (six shillings, when I first bought the Penguin Classic in 1957) the most enjoyable, and saddest, novel ever written. In the late 1940s – a peculiarly frantic period of British life – the critic VS Pritchett wrote a witty piece revolving around the paradox of what he called "the Russian day". It must have been longer than our 24 GMT hours, Pritchett speculated. Russian upper classes seemed – if Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Turgenev were to be believed – to have so much burdensome time on their hands. Clocks moved slower; weeks dragged; months crawled under the vast Russian skies and across the endless steppes. Life, for the Sashas, Pierres and Myshkins, seemed permanently on hold.

Goncharov's novel is set in the period shortly before the emancipation of the serfs – a period in which, as in the antebellum American south ("Peel me a grape, Beulah"), serfdom has rotted all willpower in the serf-owning class. Goncharov eponymously calls the Russian disease "Oblomovitis". Oblomov is "a gentleman by birth and a collegiate secretary by rank" who could more accurately be called an upper-class layabout. Lying about is, in fact, his main occupation in life. He can barely be bothered to get out of bed (where he's discovered as the story opens), unless it's to lumber across to his sofa and pass the day there, dressing-gowned, doing nothing other than wait for bedtime to roll round. He lives on the revenue of an estate, a thousand miles away from St Petersburg. The estate is worm-holed by parasites more energetic than he can be bothered to be. Oblomov does not care. No landlord is more absentee.

The novel describes, at extraordinary length, the Oblomovian day. He eats voraciously and unmercifully nags his luckless serf, Zakhar, who has "boundless loyalty" to the master whom nonetheless (like everyone else) he cheats whenever he can. Friends call. Oblomov never calls back.

This "sublime sluggard", as Pritchett calls him, is contemptible but lovable, and even – in a perverse way – admirable. He embodies "the poetry of procrastination". In the climax (so to miscall it) of Goncharov's narrative – after nothing happening apart from gorging, loafing, bickering, not working and not marrying (his friend gets the girl, Olga) – Oblomov is found, years on, now living in reduced circumstances in the country, still loafing, still scoffing, still serenely at peace with his world. He is stuffed, nowadays, on homelier fare than in St Petersburg, by his housekeeper, Agafya, who treats him rather as French peasants might do a particularly valued Strasbourg goose. Oblomov has a stroke and is paralysed (had he ever been anything else?) and five slow years later dies, well short of the statutory three-score-and-10; although doubtless his lifespan felt positively Methuselean to him. Boredom makes life longer.

Oblomov's departure happens off-stage. One cannot call it an "event". In a sense it can barely be said to happen. So torpid is his life in his final years that it is indistinguishable from rigor mortis. He drifts out of life as he drifted into it, and through it, leaving nothing behind him but a word, "Oblomovitis". His monument.

The novel can be read as a parable of Russia in terminal pre-revolutionary decay. Or it can be read as high comedy (which is how Spike Milligan travestied it in his long-running 1960s stage version). Or one can read Oblomov as a profound allegory of the human condition. "Oblomov? C'est moi."

Keynote line: VS Pritchett catches the charm of this novel, and of the long-day fiction of Goncharov and his ilk. It can stand as the novel's keynote line: "In all those Russian novels we seem to hear a voice saying: 'The meaning of life? One day all that will be revealed to us – probably on a Thursday.'"
Read about the other entries on the list. 

Oblomov is among Alexandra Silverman's eight top examples of sloth in literature, Francine du Plessix Gray's five favorite fictional portraits of idleness and lassitude and Emrys Westacott's five best books on bad habits.

The Page 69 Test: Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nine great books for people who love "Downton Abbey"

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Molly Schoemann-McCann tagged nine great books for people who love Downton Abbey, including:
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

This Booker Prize–winning novel tells the heartbreaking story of a devoted English butler who takes a road trip to reflect upon his life, which mainly revolved around a thirty-year career of service to his lordship. This story is a must-read for fans of the restrained, excruciatingly proper Downton Abbey butler Mr. Carson, as it explores the question of whether a faithful servant who spends a lifetime putting his duties first can do so while remaining true to his own values, and enjoying a full and rich life of his own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Remains of the Day is among Lucy Lethbridge's ten top books about servants and Tim Vine's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 23 best war and history books of all time

The Telegraph tagged the twenty-three best war and history books of all time, including:
The Guns of August
Barbara W Tuchman (1962)

Tuchman was awarded the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for this superb analysis of how and why the European powers went to war in 1914, and what could have been done to stop them. Tuchman enlivens the complex issue to make the book as compulsive as any thriller.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Guns of August is among Ruth Harris's five top books on Dreyfus and the Belle Epoque.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best road books

Mary Miller grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. Her collection of stories, Big World, was published in 2009. A graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, she will return to Mississippi in the fall of 2014 to serve as the John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at Ole Miss. The Last Days of California is her first novel.

For Publishers Weekly Miller tagged her ten best road books, including:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It took me a long time to get through The Road, a post-apocalyptic journey of a father and son pushing a shopping cart south, through the deserted and charred landscape, to escape the cold. I love McCarthy’s sentences but can’t read too many of them at once. After a few pages, I simply stop understanding the meaning of words. I black out, basically. But on the sentence level—on the paragraph level—he really astounds me. This book is dark and enormously repetitive, but it’s also beautiful. An ex-boyfriend used to read this book to me at night before we went to sleep. I could follow along better when he read it, but he broke up with me around page 100 and I had to finish it on my own; it nearly broke me, which seemed exactly right.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Road appears on Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, 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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Seven top graphic novels about war

Max Brooks is the best-selling author of World War Z. His new book, The Harlem Hellfighters, is a graphic novel that revisits the exploits of a highly decorated all-black World War I Army regiment.

One of his seven favorite graphic novels about war, as shared at The Week magazine:
Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Pierre Verney

As brutal and horrific as the Great War itself, this book rivals All Quiet on the Western Front when it comes to the insane idiocy of the conflict.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue