Monday, August 31, 2015

Ten of the best castles and manors in fiction

Helen Maslin's first book is a YA ghost story called Darkmere. At the Guardian she tagged ten of the most evocative fictional castles and manors, including:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

“Northanger Abbey! – These were thrilling words, and wound up Catherine’s feelings to the highest point of ecstasy.” Of all Jane Austen’s famous country houses, Northanger Abbey is irresistible simply because it’s so...disappointing. It is believed by the heroine to be the sort of spooky old ruin that features in Gothic novels – an Otranto or a Udolpho.

During the journey into Gloucestershire, Henry is amused to discover that Catherine imagines his family home will have secret passages, narrow cells and a ruined chapel. Instead, she finds modern lodges, elegant furniture, wide-paned windows and an army of well-trained servants. In her room, a strange bureau contains only a bundle of receipts. A sinister chest contains a counterpane. Finally – after making the mistake of suspecting Henry’s father of murder – Catherine reaches the conclusion that “Charming as were all Mrs Radcliffe’s works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for!”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Northanger Abbey is among Johanna Lane's five best imaginary castles in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Five top novels about mothers and daughters

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-editor of Discount Noir. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero."

Abbott's new novel is Concrete Angel.

One of the author's five favorite novels about mothers and daughters, as shared at Crimespree Magazine:
AMY AND ISABELLE by Elizabeth Strout.

This was Strout’s first novel and boy, was it an amazing beginning to what’s gone on to be a sterling career (OLIVE KITTEREDGE, THE BURGESS BOYS, ABIDE WITH ME). In AMY AND ISABELLE, a mother’s shocked to learn her teenage daughter is having a sexual relationship with a teacher at her school. Strout sets the book in a small town where other issues like crop failures and UFO’s add to the confusion. The closeness yet distance of mother-daughter relationships comes across especially strongly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Amy and Isabelle is among James Mustich's five top books on mothers and children.

The Page 69 Test: Concrete Angel.

Writers Read: Patricia Abbott.

My Book, The Movie: Concrete Angel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 29, 2015

David Simon's six favorite books

David Simon is the creator of the 2002–08 crime series The Wire. His new six-part miniseries, Show Me a Hero, is about a desegregation battle in Yonkers, New York.

One of Simon's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Two Nations by Andrew Hacker

In its quiet way, this slim, thoughtful 1992 volume from a careful political scientist demolishes the easy and indulgent notion that we are in any way, shape, or form living in a postracial America. A primer for anyone interested in honestly discussing our racial pathologies.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2015

Seven top YA sociopaths

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Teen blog she tagged seven of her favorite YA sociopaths, including:
Brutal Youth, by Anthony Breznican

Between the stressed-out staff and sadistic students, sociopaths are the norm at St. Michael’s, the boarding school where this novel takes place. My favorite is probably Colin Vickler (aka “Clink”), who stars in the prologue. Having been pushed to the breaking point by bullies, he stands atop the high school’s roof, flinging jars of hideous science class specimens at his fleeing victims. But the heart of the book belongs to Peter, Noah, and Lorelei, three freshman students to love and root for, even as they’re forced to make tough choices and suffer through even tougher mistakes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten top dog stories

Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, Heroic Measures, and Act of God, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir.

One of her top ten dog stories, as shared at the Guardian:
The Odyssey by Homer

Argos, Odysseus’s loyal hound, is one of the first dogs in western literature. After waiting 20 years for his master’s return, Argos must make a most painful decision. He realises that Odysseus is in disguise. If he greets his master, or if his master acknowledges him, Odysseus will be in mortal danger. Argos has to accept that after two decades of longing for this moment, he will only be rewarded with a glimpse of the man he loves.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Learn about two dogs named Argos by their writer-humans: Ceiridwen Terrill & Argos and Jehanne Dubrow & Argos.

The Odyssey is among Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven bad witches in literature, Ellen Cooney's ten top canine-human literary duos, Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog, Alexandra Silverman's biggest fictional literary crushes, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

The Page 69 Test: Jill Ciment's Heroic Measures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Six exciting novels featuring teens in Tinseltown

At LitReactor Riki Cleveland tagged six top novels featuring teens in Hollywood, including:
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

When small town girl Ellie O’Niell receives an email meant for someone else, she never imagines it could be the start of a flirtatious relationship. Graham Larkin might very well be the most well known teenage heartthrob out there, but he is smitten with Ellie from their first email exchange. From opposite sides of the country the two teens strike up a sweet rapport, discussing everything except their identities. When Graham finds out that Ellie’s small Maine hometown will make the perfect location for his latest film, he decides to take their relationship to the next level, but will Ellie ever find a way to live in the media’s spotlight?

Chock full of witty dialogue and the most adorable meet-cute ever, readers are sure to fall in love with Ellie and Graham. It is quirky and fun, with a swoon-worthy romance and wonderful sense of setting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Five top novels on the perils of education

Ian R. MacLeod is an acclaimed writer of speculative and fantastic fiction. For he tagged five top novels on the perils of education, including:
Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers

A blocked writer tries to recover from a torrid love affair by teaching a computer how to read and interpret fiction. The computer is called Helen, and a touching, but inherently doomed relationship evolves. The more Helen learns about books and the world, the less she understands, and she ends up deciding to shut herself down.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2015

Top nine historical novels

Philippa Gregory's new novel, The Taming of the Queen, tells the story of Henry VIII’s final bride, Kateryn Parr. One of the author's top nine historical novels, as shared at B & N Reads:
The King Must Die, by Mary Renault

The famous retelling of the story of Theseus, the minotaur and the classical world. Essential reading for the holidaymaker in Crete, who finds that it makes the Palace of Knossos come alive, and for the serious scholar alike.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ten must-read YA novels you've probably never heard of

Guardian children's books site teen blogger John Hansen tagged ten must-read YA novels that deserve a bigger following, including:
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

It’s written like a longform piece of journalism. After Addison Stone, a talented street artist, mysteriously drowns, her former teacher investigates her death. The book itself is a compilation of the teacher’s findings, relaying what happened to Addison through interviews with Addison’s friends, which are interwoven with pictures of both Addison and her art. It’s a gripping read with a seriously ominous ending, and, because all of the characters are fictional, the way the author decided to tell the story makes it one of the most unique books I’ve ever read.
Read about the other books on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Adele Griffin and Edith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair

Jason Sizemore is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable and For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, a three-time Hugo Award loser, and an occasional writer. For he tagged five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, including:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Women are subjugated by a patriarchal society. They are used for menial chores and propagation. Our protagonist, Offred, can remember the days of freedom, and longs to find an escape. As the book moves forward, Offred becomes more desperate and depressed.
I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window opens only partly and why the glass in it is shatter-proof. It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.
Not a fun read, but thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and a siren’s call that we need to remain vigilant when it comes to equal rights for all.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Handmaid's Tale made S.J. Watson's list of four books that changed him, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's list of eight of the most badass ladies in all of banned literature, Guy Lodge's list of ten of the best dystopias in fiction, art, film, and television, Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Charlie Jane Anders and Kelly Faircloth's list of the best and worst childbirth scenes in science fiction and fantasy, Lisa Tuttle's critic's chart of the top Arthur C. Clarke Award winners, and PopCrunch's list of the sixteen best dystopian books of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Young Adult reads in which poetry is part of the plot

Eric Smith is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating and Inked. One of his five top YA reads in which poetry is part of the plot, as shared at the B&N Teen blog:
Paper Towns, by John Green

Feels timely, what with the movie out, right? Walt Whitman plays a big role in John Green’s road trip novel. In Paper Towns, we meet Quentin, a boy who’s been smitten with Margo, the girl next door, since forever. When they surprisingly connect for one wild night, and she vanishes the next day, he has to follow a series of odd clues to find his way to her. One of them happens to be a poem from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass collection, “Song of Myself.” It’s a quick reference, but an important one.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten crime capers

Robin Stevens is the author of the Murder Most Unladylike series. One of her top ten sleuthing stories, as shared at the Guardian:
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

Poor Emil. He falls asleep on the train on the way to visit his grandmother in Berlin and his pocket is picked. Too terrified to admit what has happened to the adults around him, he instead chooses to team up with the local children to solve the case and bring the criminal to justice. I love how resourceful Emil and his detectives are: Kästner doesn’t for a moment belittle the bravery or intelligence of his child heroes, and they solve the case absolutely on their own merits. This book is a wonderful caper for any detective fan.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top ten conservative novels

Kate Macdonald is the author of Novelists Against Social Change: Conservative Popular Fiction, 1920-1960.

One of her top ten conservative novels, as shared at the Guardian:
Gaudy Night (1935) by Dorothy L Sayers

Sayers’ unquestioning acceptance of the social hierarchy, and her passion for Lord Peter Wimsey’s background and social assumptions make her a conservative novelist. Gaudy Night, a great feminist novel, also advocates the conservative status quo. The servants’ loyalty to the college is a metaphor for loyalty to a feudal society, even if the dons wear frocks. And order (it is a detective novel, underneath the romance) must be restored: the most conservative impulse of all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gaudy Night is one of Anna Quindlen's favorite mystery novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Five books that prove mankind shouldn’t play with technology

Chuck Wendig's latest novel is Zeroes.

One of the author's five books that prove mankind shouldn’t play with technology, as shared at
Jurassic Park—Michael Crichton

Certainly Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the godmother of what we are talking about here (and I’ll be honest, if we could talk shorter works I’d make room for Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter”), and I think that makes Jurassic Park the daddy in this family. It’s a story we all know thanks to the Spielberg movie (and its three less successful sequels), but if you haven’t read the novel—which shows what happens when we resurrect dinosaurs as a form of amusement—you need to. It’s a deeper, weirder read than what shows up on screen. (Avoid the novel sequel, Lost World, as it loses almost everything that made the first book great in an effort to turn in something more “cinematic.”)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jurassic Park is among Jeff Somers's top seven books that explore what might happen when technology betrays us, Damian Dibben's top ten time travel books, and Becky Ferreira's eleven best books about dinosaurs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Five top novels about high school outsiders

Rachel Paxton-Gillilan is a freelance writer and semi-professional nerd.

At the B & N Teen Blog she tagged five "outsider stories to remind you it’s okay to not fit in with the in crowd," including:
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga

Sophomore year is tough, particularly for Donnie, aka Fanboy, who seems to be the constant target of bullies’ attention. He’s an outsider—a comic book geek who doesn’t fit in at his jock-run school. And he gets bullied for it, yes, but this book is about more than just bullying. It’s about finding your place and your people even as an outsider. When he meets kindred spirit Krya, aka Goth Girl, he starts to wonder if maybe he really could hope for a little more. At times a little dark, it’s also funny and full of geeky references.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ten top novels with multiple narratives

Susan Barker is the author of the novels Sayonara Bar (2005), The Orientalist and the Ghost (2008), and The Incarnations (2014). One of her top ten novels with multiple narratives, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

It would be unthinkable to have a top ten list of multiple narrative novels that doesn’t include David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas is the most obvious choice, but I have opted for Mitchell’s slightly lesser known debut, Ghostwritten. A globalised multiplicity of voices and stories, the characters in Ghostwritten include a record store employee in Tokyo, a British banker in Hong Kong, an elderly woman living on a mountain in China, a gangster’s moll in Russia, and a jazz musician London. Though at first seemingly disparate, the stories are more linked than appears, as Ghostwritten hints at the chaotic interconnectedness of everything in a gripping, ingenious and genre-crossing read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Frank Rich's top ten books

Frank Rich joined New York magazine in June 2011 as Writer-at-Large, writing monthly on politics and culture, and editing a special monthly section anchored by his essay. His books include Ghost Light: A Memoir and, most recently, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina.

For One Grand he named ten books that influenced him before he finished high school (Woodrow Wilson High, Washington, D.C., class of ‘67). One title on the list:
David Copperfield
Charles Dickens

Poverty and emotional hardship made palpable and gripping, yet by some miracle veined with comedy.
Read about the other books on the list.

David Copperfield is among John Boyne's top ten child narrators, Lynn Shepherd's top ten fictional drownings and Elizabeth Gilbert's six favorite books. It appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best seductions in literature, ten of the best trips to Canterbury in literature and ten of the best valets in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten stoners from the arts and entertainment

At the Guardian Tim Lewis tagged his top ten stoners from the arts and entertainment. Only one novel made the list:
Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano
Roberto Bolaño's novel The Savage Detectives

The New York Times once claimed that Roberto Bolaño, the Chilean poet and author who died in 2003, aged 50, was addicted to heroin. The accusation was strongly contested by his wife and his agent. Either way, his novel The Savage Detectives – typically considered his masterpiece – can be seen as a modest contribution to stoner literature. The main characters are Lima and Belano, two shambling poets in Mexico City who fund a literary magazine, Lee Harvey Oswald, by trafficking an expensive marijuana called Acapulco gold; they seem to partake themselves, too, especially Belano, who is an alter ego of Bolaño’s. “They weren’t writers,” one of the 50-odd narrators in The Savage Detectives notes. “Sometimes they wrote poetry, but I don’t think they were poets, either. They sold drugs.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Savage Detectives appears among Sam Munson's six best stoner novels and Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes; it is one of Edmund White's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Five books featuring runaway parents

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At B & N Reads Somers tagged "five novels in which parents ran off and left their children to fend for themselves—with powerful consequences," including:
Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews

Okay, Corrine Dollanganger doesn’t literally run away from her family. In fact, when her husband dies and leaves her deep in debt, she brings her children with her to her parents’ estate, where her own mother initially insists the children live in the attic, hidden from their grandfather. Later, seeking to ensure her inheritance and have a clean slate for a new marriage, Corrine turns into the villain of the story when she increasingly ignores her own children—making her metaphorical flight from her family very real, very sad, and very horrifying. Corrine Dollanganger proves you don’t have to physically leave in order to run away from your family, though most readers would likely agree they’d prefer parents just go one and run if the alternative is imprisonment and, ultimately, attempted murder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Flowers in the Attic is among Nicole Dieker's top nine books even non-readers will love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2015

Top ten psychological thrillers

Ruth Ware has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

One of her ten top psychological thrillers, as shared at B & N Reads:
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I know, I know, I’m only the 1,034th person to recommend this book to you. But it’s just really really good. Toxic marriage, exuberantly nasty characters, twisty plot—what’s not to like?
Learn about the other books on the list.

Gone Girl made Jane Alexander's top ten list of treasure hunts in fiction, Fanny Blake's list of five top books about revenge, Monique Alice's list of six great fictional evil geniuses, Jeff Somers's lists of six books that’ll make you glad you’re single and five books with an outstanding standalone scene that can be read on its own, Lucie Whitehouse's ten top list of psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart and Kathryn Williams's list of eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ten top books about food

J. Ryan Stradal's new novel is Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

One of his ten top books about food, as shared at the Guardian:
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”

At the time Bourdain’s first book came out, I don’t recall there being anything quite like it. His cynical, brash, and detailed look at the demanding milieu of restaurant kitchens and his often reckless and indulgent rise through the ranks is entertaining and revealing. For good reason, it helped make him a superstar. An essential title in contemporary food writing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Kitchen Confidential is among the Telegraph's list of the ten best food and drink books of all time, Grub Street's top 25 food memoirs of all time, the Guardian's top ten food books of the last decade, David Kamp's six books notable for their food prose, Trevor White's ten notable books about dining, and Laura Lippman's top ten memorable memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Five of the creepiest monsters in fantasy fiction

Aliette de Bodard has won two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and a BSFA Award, and has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Sturgeon, and Tiptree Awards. Her new novel is The House of Shattered Wings. For she tagged her five creepiest monsters in fantasy, including:
Plague Demonspawns—Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

There’s something I find really creepy about body horror: incubating something that will destroy you within your own body. Bear’s plague demons fit the bill, and more: they grow within a person’s lungs, slowly choking them to death; and then tear themselves messily free at the death of the host. Eeep.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ten books that changed the world

The Guardian asked ten authors to pick a book that changed the world. Helen Lewis tagged:
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

“Unsatisfied, cold, priapic, nymphomaniac, lesbian, a hundred times aborted, I was everything, even an unmarried mother,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir of the reaction to the second volume of The Second Sex. This outpouring of angst – which included the Vatican placing the book on its banned list – was brought on by De Beauvoir’s frank discussion of female sexuality, including lesbianism and cross-dressing. But there is so much more to The Second Sex, which asks the most fundamental question in the whole of feminism: what does it mean to be a woman?

De Beauvoir rejects biological essentialism – a woman is more than a womb – and instead investigates the nebulous quality of femininity, leading to her most famous dictum: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Woman, she observes, is the Other, the exception, the oddity – allowing Man to become the unexamined default form of humanity. De Beauvoir compares women’s oppression to that of Jews, the US’s black population, the proletariat and colonised nations, but she concludes that sexism is a unique force because women live with, even love, their oppressors.

From these theoretical underpinnings, she offers a panoramic sweep through women’s lives: work, motherhood, representation in literature, economic independence, sexuality, ageing and the boredom of cleaning the dust behind the wardrobe. (Housework “is holding away death but also refusing life”, she observes, which is my new go-to explanation for the filthiness of my fridge). De Beauvoir’s prose is piercing, aquiline; she is unapologetic about its intellectual demands. Her answers are simple, but endlessly elusive: women must be educated like men, paid like men, and given unfettered access to birth control and divorce. Women must be treated like full human beings, as men are.

Unsurprisingly given its scope and force, The Second Sex was a publishing sensation. It sold 22,000 copies in its first week in Paris in 1949, and its English translation was an immediate bestseller in America. It has influenced feminists as divergent as Betty Friedan, Judith Butler and Audre Lorde. Its reputation has survived better than many of the second wave works it inspired, although in a 2010 review of the new translation, Francine du Plessix Gray criticised De Beauvoir’s “paranoid hostility toward the institutions of marriage and motherhood... [which] is so extreme as to be occasionally hilarious.” Modern feminism is also less judgmental about any woman who adopts stereotypically feminine mannerisms or clothing – such as “fragile” high heels that “doom her to impotence”. But De Beauvoir was well aware of the contradictions and complications of her own position, hence the epigram to the second volume, from her lover Jean-Paul Sartre’s play Dirty Hands: “Half victims, half accomplices, like everyone else.”
Read about the other books on the list.

The Second Sex is among Belinda Jack's five best literary counterblasts against misogyny and Lisa Appignanesi's top 10 books by & about Simone de Beauvoir.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2015

Top ten classics to read before you're 10

Mary Sebag-Montefiore adapts adult classics for children and has rewritten everything from Wuthering Heights to War and Peace. At the Guardian she tagged ten classics every child should read before they are 10, including:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is one of the best family stories ever. It’s easy to identify with all four March sisters. What creative girl is not like furious, ambitious, masterpiece-scribbling Jo? Who does not have Meg’s vanities, Beth’s love of home, or Amy’s irritating ways? The joy of this book is its strong, un-saccharine picture of family life. Squabbles, scolding, jealousy, revenge (it’s not always cosy being a sister or a daughter…) are underpinned with indissoluble affection.
Read about the other books on the list.

Little Women also appears among Jeff Somers's five books that are arguably the first in their respective genres, Kate Kellaway's ten best Christmases in literature, Bea Davenport's top ten books about hair, nine notable unsung literary heroines, Sophie McKenzie's top ten mothers in children's books, John Dugdale's ten notable fictional works on winter sports, Melissa Albert's five favorite YA books that might make one cry, Anjelica Huston's seven favorite coming-of-age books, Bidisha's ten top books about women, Katherine Rundell's top ten descriptions of food in fiction, Gwyneth Rees's ten top books about siblings, Maya Angelou's 6 favorite books, Tim Lewis's ten best Christmas lunches in literature, and on the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Erin Blakemore's list of five gutsy heroines to channel on an off day, Kate Saunders' critic's chart of mothers and daughters in literature, and Zoë Heller's list of five memorable portraits of sisters. It is a book that disappointed Geraldine Brooks on re-reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Five of the strongest single mothers in fiction

At B & N Reads Jenny Shank tagged five of the strongest fictional single moms, including:
Nerese “Tweetie” Ammons (Samaritan, by Richard Price)

Detective Nerese Ammons is the kind of single mom who makes the world go round. Not only is she a capable detective, solving crimes and teaching kids from the impoverished New Jersey neighborhood she clawed her way out of how to stay clear of trouble, but she’s raising her teenage son, Darren, and supporting her elderly alcoholic mother, her uncle, and her 97-year-old, Alzheimer’s-addled former father-in-law. She also looks out for her ne’er-do-well brothers. As she puts it, “I got a ton of people I’m carrying.” Nerese plans to retire to Florida after 20 years as a police officer, but first she agrees to solve the case of an assault on a childhood friend, Ray, who once helped her out of a jam. Still, she keeps her eyes on the Florida prize. “I tell my son Darren, he’s almost eighteen, I tell him if he don’t get accepted into a college with a scholarship attached, or have a real job come June? He’s going into the army, ’cause Mommy has left the building.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Annie Baker's six favorite books

Annie Baker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright.

One of her six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

The beginning of Mann's 1924 novel has one of my favorite lines of all time: "Only thoroughness can be truly entertaining." This book also made me excited about playing with time. The first chapter covers an hour, the second chapter covers around a day, and as you keep going time keeps speeding up at an alarming rate. By the end of the book, years are flying by.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Magic Mountain also appears on Lars Iyer's top ten list of literary frenemies, Edmund Morris's five best list of novels on time and memory, Brian Dillon's list of the five best books on hypochondria, Arthur Phillipss' list of five novels about life during the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best visits to the cinema in literature and ten of the best depictions of the Alps.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that changed Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult's many books include the young-adult (YA) novel, Off The Page, which was co-written with her daughter, Samantha van Leer.

One of four books that changed Picoult, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald shows the concept of the unreliable narrator beautifully here and it intrigued me: what if the person telling you the story is lying to the reader? It's a technique I've employed a lot as a result, because it leaves the reader trying to piece together the narrative and separate it from the narrator's motives.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Great Gatsby appears among Joseph Connolly's top ten novels about style, Nick Lake’s ten favorite fictional tricksters and tellers of untruths in books, the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature, 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

Friday, August 7, 2015

Five of the greatest, dumbest characters in literary history

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At B & N Reads Somers tagged five of the best morons in literary history, including:
Benjy Compson, The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

Benjy is easily one of the most complex, challenging characters in literature. His lyrical, time-jumping, emotionally inarticulate narration at the start of Faulkner’s novel has caused more than one reader to admit defeat and back away from the book slowly, as one would from a hungry bear that has crashed your campsite. Benjy is never a figure of fun—he is a tragic, almost a force of nature, a person who cannot speak or communicate with those around him, a character who clings to the few stable aspects of his life like a drowning man to a log. Seeing the world from Benjy’s point of view is incredibly challenging, but in the end, his tragic life is the one we get to know best, lending The Sound and the Fury an elegant sadness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Sound and the Fury is among James Runcie's top ten books about brothers and Mario Batali's five great American books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Top ten literary hoaxes

Mark Blacklock is a writer, editor, researcher, and author the newly released debut novel, I'm Jack.

One of his top ten literary hoaxes, as shared at the Guardian:
Clifford Irving – Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1971)

In 1970 the novelist Clifford Irving and his friend Richard Suskind cooked up a plan to write the ‘autobiography’ of Howard Hughes, who had completely withdrawn from public life since the late 1950s. Irving had form in these grey areas, having written a biography of the Hungarian art forger Elmyr de Hory entitled Fake! (1969). Forging documents bearing Hughes’s signature, Irving and Suskind secured large advances before being rumbled post-publication when the reclusive Hughes gave a press conference. Irving served 17 months for fraud. His story was featured in Orson Welles’s final film F for Fake! and he gave his own version of events in his book The Hoax (1981), made into a film starring Richard Gere.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Seven amazing female friendships in fiction

At B & N Reads, Kelly Anderson tagged seven awesome books that celebrate female friendship, including:
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

A WWII story, this fascinating book focuses on the very active role two teens play in the conflict. Maddie is a pilot who sometimes drops agents and supplies into France to aid the resistance, and Julie? Well, she seems to do all sorts of things she doesn’t talk about, things that eventually deliver her into the hands of an SS officer who interrogates her for weeks on end. The novel opens with Julie in prison; as tells the story of her intense friendship with Maddie, we discover how everything came to be. Julie is one of those people you never forget—the kind who’s always in motion, always planning, always doing, and who hides damage and secrets you might never guess. Code Name Verity is one of those novels I just can’t say much more about until you’ve read it, so get to it! Trust me, this is a secret you want to be in on.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Code Name Verity also appears on Natalie Zutter's top seven list of YA books where friendship trumps romance, Arwen Elys Dayton's top five list od books about false identities, Melissa Albert's top five list of YA books that might make one cry, Sara Brady's list of six of the best spies in romance, Lenore Appelhans's top ten list of teen books featuring flashbacks and Lydia Syson's list of ten of the best historical novels for young readers.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Wein (May 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ten top kids' books from the ’90s that have proven to be utterly timeless

At B & N Reads Jen Harper tagged ten top kids' books from the ’90s that have proven to be utterly timeless, including:
Holes, by Louis Sachar (1998)

Camp Green Lake is a place for bad boys, and it has but one philosophy: “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” But Stanley Yelnats is not a bad boy; he just has bad luck. And now he’s been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and must serve his time at the boys’ detention center. But, as Stanley soon realizes in this funny and quirky tale, the hole-digging isn’t just about improving the boys’ character—the mean and powerful warden is looking for something. Can Stanley actually figure out what it is and clear his name?
Read about the other books on the list.

Holes is among Ross Montgomery's top ten books for young danger lovers, Phil Earle's top ten zeros-to-heros in stories for children and young adults, Leah Hyslop's six best beverages in books, and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald's top ten books featuring grandparents.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2015

Four books that changed Laura Lippman

Since the publication of her first novel in 1997, Laura Lippman has won virtually every major award given to U.S. crime writings, including the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Agatha Award, Nero Wolfe Award, Shamus Award, and the Quill Award. She is a New York Times bestseller.

Lippman's novels include a number standalones as well as Hush Hush, her twelfth Tess Monaghan novel.

One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
Zuckerman Unbound
Philip Roth

One of the first books I bought for myself as an adult, not for a college class – and not in the half-price bookstore where I purchased most books in my 20s. It felt thrillingly adult to buy a hardcover book with a paper cover and it's a novel I re-read frequently. Perhaps that's because it centres on the unruly passions that a novelist can engender in readers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Top ten fictional headmistresses

Esme Kerr went to ten schools and studied History at Oxford and Cambridge. The Glass Bird Girl and Mischief at Midnight are the first two boarding school mysteries in her Knight’s Haddon series.

One of her ten top fictional headmistresses, as shared at the Guardian:
Miss Cackle in The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The most powerful headmistresses, of course, have no need of threats or tirades, but can quell the unruliest classroom with the slightest frown. Miss Cackle, the kindly headmistress of Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, located in an old castle on top of a mountain, is an exemplar of the genre. In contrast to the Academy’s “horrifically strict” Potions Teacher Miss Hardbroom, Miss Cackle’s power lies in her popularity, which inspires every child with a dread of displeasing her. Her mild rebukes - “You must be the worst witch in the entire school … It’s just not good enough, my dear” – are always delivered with a patient sigh, but leave the squirming Mildred Hubble feeling “about an inch high”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Five old-school thrillers that would be hits today

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At B & N Reads Somers tagged five timeless old-school thrillers, including:
Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith

Perhaps one of the most brilliant setups in thriller history, you can find elements of Strangers on a Train in plenty of modern books—but there’s only one original. An unhappy man wants to be rid of his wife, an unbalanced heir wants to be rid of his father. When they meet and exchange their stories, they agree to “trade” murders, committing crimes they have no motive for. That’s brilliant enough, and remains brilliant no matter how many years go by. Highsmith ups the ante when the husband fails to take the conversation seriously—and then fails to go to the authorities when his wife is killed and his friend from the train starts to press him to keep his side of the bargain. The pressure mounts as Highsmith pursues one of her favorite themes: people becoming linked irrevocably to others they neither control nor understand. The reader is left wondering at the power of idle chat with the wrong person, an element of paranoid chaos that is just as powerful today as it was decades ago.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Strangers on a Train is on Stella Gonet's six best best books, Lars Iyer's top ten list of literary frenemies, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best railway journeys in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue