Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ten of the best books with fictional apocalypses...graded for plausibility

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Jeff Somers tagged ten top books with fictional apocalypses...and gave them a plausibility grade. One title on the list:
The Children of Men, by P.D. James

The apocalypse James imagines is a slow strangulation of the human race through the simplest manner possible: sterility. While the ultimate cause for the human race’s inability to reproduce isn’t explored in detail, the fact is, fertility rates have been dropping in the real world for some time, so this is one slow, whimpering world’s end that is entirely plausible—as is the horrific societal breakdown surrounding it.

Plausibility rating: Growing likelier by the day.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Children of Men is on Justin Cronin's list of ten top world-ending novels, Anita Singh's list of five P.D. James novels you should read, Torie Bosch's top twelve list of great pandemic novels, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven scary fictional diseasesJohn Mullan's list of the ten most notable New Years in literature, Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the twelve most unfaithful movie versions of science fiction and fantasy books, Ben H. Winters' list of three books to read before the end of the world, and John Sutherland's list of the five best books about the end of England.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 30, 2016

Harold Bloom's 6 favorite books that helped shape "the American Sublime"

Harold Bloom's many books include The Daemon Knows, which celebrates twelve writers whose works shaped what he calls the American Sublime. One of the author's six favorite books that helped shape "the American Sublime," as shared at The Week magazine:
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hester Prynne remains the grandest, most poignant, and most enduring female character in American literature. She is our truest feminist in that she will not yield to the Puritan morality that condemns her and her heroic sexuality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Scarlet Letter is among Gabe Habash's ten biggest book-to-film flops, Sara Maitland's top ten books of the forest, Susan Cheever's six favorite Massachusetts books, John Mullan's ten of the best reformations in literature, and Paul Auster's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five memorable books set on New Year’s Eve (and Day)

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.

In 2014 at B&N Reads Somers tagged five memorable books set on New Year’s Eve (and Day), including:
Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Only a small portion of this classic piece of literature takes place on New Year’s—but any excuse to pick up this amazing novel is a good excuse. The New Year’s Day portion is a great scene filled with Eliot’s typically sharp observations of her fellow human beings. The party thrown by the Vincys is superficially cheerful and jolly, but tensions roil just underneath the surface, as observed by the smart and good-hearted vicar Mr. Farebrother. This is a great scene to read in preparation for heading out to a New Year’s bash.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Middlemarch also made Lauren Groff's list of six favorite portrayals of marriage in literature, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best bankers in literature, ten of the best marital rows, ten of the best examples of unrequited love, ten of the best funerals in literature, and ten of the best deathbed scenes in literature. It is among Emrys Westacott's five top books on philosophy & everyday living, Selma Dabbagh's top 10 stories of reluctant revolutionaries, Philip Pullman's six best books, Rebecca Goldstein's five best of novels of ideas, Tina Brown's five best books on reputation, Elizabeth Kostova favorite books, and Miss Manners' favorite novels. John Banville and Nick Hornby have not read it.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five famous novels that have huge mistakes

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Reads blog he tagged five famous books that contain huge mistakes, including:
The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Chandler’s classic hardboiled detective novel—the gold standard for stories of world-weary private investigators—has a plot so famously dense and twisty that an entire murder not only goes unsolved, but completely ignored. At one point, a chauffeur is found murdered in the car. The reader is given the details of the crime scene, implying it’s going to be important, and then it’s never mentioned again. When Hollywood made a film version a few years later the producers contacted Chandler to ask who killed the chauffeur, and Chandler’s response has become the stuff of legend: “Damned if I know!”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Big Sleep also appears on John Sweeney's top ten list of books on corruption, the Telegraph's top 23 list of amazing--and short--classic books, Lucy Worsley's ten best list of fictional detectives, Becky Ferreira's list of seven of the best books set in Los Angeles, Ian Rankin's list of five perfect mysteries, Kathryn Williams's reading list on greed, Gigi Levangie Grazer's list of six favorite books that became movies, Megan Wasson's list of five top books on Los Angeles, Greil Marcus's six recommended books list, Barry Forshaw's critic's chart of six American noir masters, David Nicholls' list of favorite film adaptations, and the Guardian's list of ten of the best smokes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten slangy crime novels

Max Décharné is an author, songwriter and musician. His latest book, Vulgar Tongues: An Alternative History of English Slang. One of his ten top slangy crime novels, as shared at the Guardian:
If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes (1945)

Pioneering black crime writer Chester Himes moved to Paris in the 1950s to escape American racism, afterwards creating the landmark series of crime novels featuring Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. This, however, was written in California. Characters say rest the weight (sit down), you still on rubber? (do you have a car?) and use then-current jazz terms such as pad and groovy, two decades before the hippies thought they invented them.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sixteen of the most indispensable books of the 1950s

At B&N Reads Melissa Albert tagged sixteen of the biggest books of the 1950s, including:
From Here to Eternity, by James Jones

The first of James Jones’ trio of World War II novels, followed by 1962’s The Thin Red Line and 1978’s Whistle, From Here to Eternity won the National Book Award and was made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra. It centers on three soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the warm months of 1941, as they brawl and haze and betray each other, attempt to assert their individual will, and discover what happens to the nail that stands up.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Five books about backwoods horror

Cullen Bunn is an American comic books writer, novelist, and short story writer. One of his five favorite books about backwoods horror, as shared at
The Old Gods Waken by Manly Wade Wellman

Wellman’s Silver John is a kind of country-folk Dr. Strange or John Constantine. Armed with a silver-stringed guitar and a wealth of folksy know-how, John the Balladeer wandered the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, facing druids, ancient deities, and black magic. The Old Gods Waken is the first of the Silver John novels, and it is heavy with country-folk hoodoo and Native American folklore. This is a story that shows how the old world and ancient traditions impact the “modern” backwoods world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top books with thinking zombies

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ceridwen Christensen tagged seven top books with thinking zombies. One title on the list:
Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion

In this update of Romeo and Juliet, the zombie R eats Perry’s brains, and acquires both his memories and affection for the lovely Julie. Much of the novel is narrated from R’s locked-in zombie point of view, and his inability to express himself is both frustrating and horrifying. Like its young lovers, Warm Bodies maybe isn’t as deep as it wants to be, but R’s tongue-tied urgency resonates with us fools who remember love’s first bite.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Warm Bodies is among Jeff Somers's eight best speculative works with dead narrators, Sarah Skilton's six most unusual YA narrators, Rachel Paxton-Gillilan's five funniest YA zombie novels, Nick Harkaway's six favorite holiday books, and Nicole Hill's seven favorite literary oddballs.

The Page 69 Test: Warm Bodies.

My Book, The Movie: Warm Bodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 26, 2016

25 notable books by billionaires

One title from Business Insider's list of "25 books by billionaires that will teach you how to run the world":
Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates

With a net worth of $75 billion, Forbes estimates the Microsoft founder is the richest person in the world. In "Business @ the Speed of Thought," Gates explains how business and technology are inextricably linked.

Using examples from companies like Microsoft and GM, Gates suggests that businesses see technology as a way to enhance their operations. While the book was initially published in 1999, many of Gates' insights remain accurate and relevant today.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve great books that deserved more buzz in 2016

The Newsday staff tagged twelve great books that deserved more buzz in 2016, including:
The Gloaming by Melanie Finn

A tiny press has published a psychologically astute thriller that belongs on the shelf with the work of Patricia Highsmith. In the opening paragraphs, the narrator in Switzerland has discovered her husband’s infidelity, and the shock of the deception leads to a lethal car accident. For reasons that only gradually become clear, she decamps to Tanzania. Alternating chapters between two continents, the book is brilliant on the pervasiveness of corruption and the murkiness of human motivation. When the narrator disappears, five of the characters she has encountered take over the story, which ends with an existentially perfect flourish. Here is a page-turner that leaves its reader wiser.—KAREN R. LONG
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Five top Christmas-filled fantasy books

At the BN Kids blog, Charlotte Taylor tagged five top fantasy books full of Christmas, including:
The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper

This is a classic fantasy story set at Christmas, in a snowy corner of England where the age-old struggle between the forces of Light and Dark collides with the ordinary life of a boy named Will. It is a midwinter day, Will’s eleventh birthday, and he’s looking forward to a white Christmas with all his many older siblings at home when he finds that he has a part to play on the side of the forces of Light. Suddenly the familiar landscape of his home and the snowy woods around it changes into an ancient landscape of magic. And as winter tightens its grip and the cold grows stronger, the Dark comes rising. A time-travel interlude back to a Victorian Christmas house party adds an additional touch of seasonal charm. This is a truly gripping adventure, and the Christmas setting makes it one I like to re-read myself this time of year, with great enjoyment every time around. Although it’s technically the second in the series, it stands alone just fine.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Top ten Christmas books

Matt Haig's newest books include The Girl Who Saved Christmas and A Boy Called Christmas. One of the author's ten top Christmas books, as shared at the Guardian:
Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien

I’m not the biggest Tolkien fan, I must admit, but I make an exception for his letters from the big man himself. These were letters Tolkien gave to his children every year, and tell wonderfully detailed little tales of life in the North Pole, about reindeer and fantastical polar bears. It’s magical.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2016

Four of the worst holidays in fiction

At the B&N Reads blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged four of the worst holidays in fiction, including:
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

All Enid wants is to have her whole family together again for the holidays. Unfortunately for Enid, her husband’s health is rapidly declining due to Parkinson’s, her oldest son can’t convince his wife or children to make the trip, her daughter is in the middle of an affair, and her youngest son’s life is falling apart. Undaunted by resistance on every front, Enid sets about to advance her mission, armed with nothing but a serious ability to guilt trip. After all, nothing says Christmas like desperately trying to make your life appear perfect in front of your closest relatives.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Corrections is on Nigel Williams's top ten list of books about the people in suburbia, Tim Lewis's list of the ten best Christmas lunches and John Mullan's list of ten of the best episodes of drunkenness in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve of the weirdest Christmas stories

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

One entry on his list of the twelve weirdest stories of Christmas, as shared at The Huffington Post:
Alice Walker, “My Face to the Light: Thoughts About Christmas” (1988)

In reminiscences about her shifting ideas of Christmas, Walker recalls how growing up in a rural black Southern community she believed in Santa Claus as the only white man who was ever generous to blacks. Still, she wonders how many white people would welcome a “stealthily moving large black man” into their homes. Ultimately, she rejects Santa Claus as a symbol of her parents’ misguided worship of an “ideal white man,” in the effort to instill in their children belief in the miraculous changes that might occur in human nature. In a compromise with the holiday, Walker decides its true meaning pertains to the winter solstice, the day the sun begins to return to the northern hemisphere. A whisper of Jesus’s birthday remains, but absolutely no more jolly old white men shelling out false cheer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top ten escapes in literature

Greg Mitchell is the author of The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill. One of his ten top escapes in literature, as shared at the Guardian:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

And let’s close with a current novel, which won the National Book Award in the US and has been published to favourable reviews in the UK. You might say it is one long escape saga, as slaves in the American south attempt to make their way to freedom in the north at great risk. (The tunnels under the Berlin Wall that I wrote about in my book were often referred to as a kind of underground railroad.) This may sound like academic nonfiction, but Whitehead brilliantly introduces the fantasy of actual underground trains ferrying people to the north. “Two steel rails ran the visible length of the tunnel,” Whitehead writes, “pinned into the dirt by wooden crossties. The steel ran south and north presumably, springing from some inconceivable source and shooting toward a miraculous terminus.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Underground Railroad was on President Obama's summer 2016 reading list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top ten literary detective novels

One entry on Christopher Charles's list of the top ten literary detective novels, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
The Day of the Owl, Leonardo Sciascia

The Day of the Owl is both a brilliant exemplar of the genre in its most literary form and a scathing indictment of a society that allows the Mafia to thrive. This one’s a must-read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five books inspired by Beethoven's Fifth

Matthew Guerrieri is a musician living in Massachusetts, and the author of The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination. At Publishers Weekly, he tagged "five novels, both famous and forgotten, that make Beethoven and/or his most recognizable piece a crucial character," including:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The history of a piece of music is inseparable from the history of its fans, so it's worth starting with Burgess's dystopian classic and its anti-hero, Alex, literature's most celebrated Beethoven-loving sociopath. In the book (unlike Kubrick's film adaptation), it's the Fifth that is used to torture/brainwash Alex into a semblance of conformity, and the psychological weaponization of Beethoven is what finally trips Alex's sense of morality: “It's a sin.” In an interview later in life, Burgess (a composer as well, and who wrote another novel, Napoleon Symphony, that he structurally modeled after Beethoven's Third) imagined that, after the conclusion of A Clockwork Orange, Alex had himself gone on to become a great composer. Read in that light, the book becomes a fantastically lurid portrait of the monstrosity of genius.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Clockwork Orange is among four books that changed Peter Twohig, Darren Shan's top ten books about outsiders for teenagers, Ian Rankin's six best books, and Laura Hird's literary top ten.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2016

Five books totally unlike their adaptations

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Reads blog he tagged "five adaptations that appear to be based on alternate universe versions of their source material," including:
The Shining, by Stephen King

Stephen King was famously unhappy with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel about alcoholism, madness, and isolation. In the novel, both Jack Torrance’s drinking and the hotel’s corrosive supernatural elements are front and center, forming the core of a story about familial disintegration. The film sacrifices much of that for a horror thriller far more open to interpretation and far less naturalistic in style. Although the skeleton of the plot is the same, the performances transform the characters into completely different people, and even the “character” of the hotel is drastically changed. King was so displeased, he took a leading role in creating a 1997 television adaptation closer to his vision of the material.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Shining is among Sam Riedel's six eeriest SFF stories inspired by true events, Joel Cunningham's top seven books featuring long winters, Ashley Brooke Roberts's seven best haunted house books, Jake Kerridge's top ten Stephen King books, Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten horror novels that are scarier than most movies, Charlie Higson's top ten horror books, and Monica Ali's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Five books that changed Reece Hirsch's life

Reece Hirsch is the Thriller Award-nominated author of four thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney, the latest of which is Surveillance.

One of five books that changed Hirsch's life, as shared at Crimespree Magazine:
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.

Turow’s groundbreaking legal thriller was published the summer before I entered law school at U.S.C. Although I didn’t start writing in earnest for several more years, it made writing a novel seem a little more possible. Presumed Innocent is still for me the gold standard in legal thrillers and a classic example of storytelling misdirection, hiding the killer in plain sight. As I labored over my first novel, the legal thriller THE INSIDER, I often had Turow in mind. For one thing, we were partners in the same law firm during much of the writing of that book. For another, Turow is said to have written Presumed Innocent while riding the train to work as a U.S. Attorney. I do much of my writing on the BART train heading in to San Francisco to my law firm job. Turow got off his train after Presumed Innocent, but I’m still very much on it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Presumed Innocent is among Fiona Barton's ten favorite books centering on marriages that hold dark secrets and Alafair Burke's favorite "Lawyers are People Too" books. Sandy Stern in Presumed Innocent is one of Simon Lelic's top ten lawyers in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top holiday coloring books

At the BN Kids blog Jen Harper tagged eight great holiday coloring books, including:
Christmas Coloring Book, by Thaneeya McArdle

Put the whole family in a festive mood by doling out pages from Thaneeya McArdle’s whimsical Christmas-themed coloring book. Artists will enjoy coloring the 30 pages of fun patterns and designs like reindeer, Santa Claus, snowmen and snowwomen, candles, wreaths, and more. Pick your medium—markers, colored pencils, gel pens, or even watercolors—and start filling in these beautiful images printed on extra-thick paper to avoid bleed-through.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gene Wilder's all-time favorite books

Gene Wilder starred in several modern classic movies, including Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. In 2005 he published a memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, and shared his favorite books in the pages of The Week magazine. One title on the list:
Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Irving Stone

The letters of my favorite painter to his younger brother Theo. Van Gogh gives an insight into his creative process, which I found fascinating. I carried this book with me for many years and it always gave me courage when I was depressed.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top romances that invoke the holiday spirit

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged five top romance novels that invoke the holiday spirit, including:
Her Naughty Holiday, by Tiffany Reisz

Clover Green resents Thanskgiving: it’s just another opportunity for her annoying family to pester her with a blooper reel of all her previous mistakes. But this year, she has a plan—bring a fake boyfriend to the festivities so everyone will be focused on him and leave her alone. And she has just the guy in mind: Eric Fields, the contractor she’s been holding a candle for. But when Eric agrees, and passion ignites between them, Clover’s fake holiday could turn into something all too real, too fast.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 16, 2016

Six top books for comedy nerds

At B&N Reads, Brian Boone tagged six books for hardcore comedy fans, including:
Young Frankenstein, by Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks is responsible for at least three of the top five comedy films of all time, and topping that list is Young Frankenstein. In this coffee table book, Brooks relates in tantalizing detail the process of how his classic spook of classic monster movies was conceived, produced, and received. (In short, it was the idea of dearly departed star Gene Wilder to make a movie about the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein, a legitimate scientist who can’t but help to reanimate live tissue in an old castle. He took it to Brooks, who took it to studios, who somehow let him do it in black and white.) Actors, designers, and other people involved in the film add in their two cents (along with a forward by comedy icon Judd Apatow), which weave around script excerpts and never before seen set photos.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kathy Reichs's 6 best books

Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist and bestselling crime novelist. Her books include Déjà Dead, Cross Bones, and the story collection The Bone Collection, as well as the Virals series for young adults. She created the TV series Bones. One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:

This follows Garp through his whole life. I love the combination of humour and very dark topics and the idea of the strong, independent single mother. There are separate framed narratives within the book and I admired that as a way of revealing the character.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The World According to Garp is among ten books that changed Sean Beaudoin's life before he could drive and John Niven's ten best writers in novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Top ten gothic novels

Lynne Truss is the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Cat Out of Hell, the newly released The Lunar Cats, and other books. One of her ten top gothic novels, as shared at the Guardian:
The Monk by Matthew Lewis

While there are now some classy editions of The Monk (1796), with scholarly introductions and fine art on the covers, my own copy is a Sphere paperback from 1974. It is proudly announced as number 24 of the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult and features a photograph of a busty loose-haired woman wearing a crucifix, with a dark cowl obscuring the top of her face. It is ghastly, but mainly for the wrong reasons. “She lifted her veil slowly. What a sight presented itself to my startled eyes! I beheld before me an animated corpse.” Wheatley’s introduction may not be academic in nature, but it does come with a facsimile signature (readers always appreciate that), and also provides the knockout information that “Monk” Lewis was the first tenant of a particular apartment (K1) in Piccadilly’s famous Albany. By a creepy coincidence, it was in K1 itself that the idea of the Library of the Occult series was first proposed…
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Six famous novels that don’t have an ending

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Reads blog he tagged six novels "that have been published and praised despite the fact that they’re clearly unfinished," including:
The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon unfolds The Crying of Lot 49 like a detective novel. Along the way, Oedipa Maas goes from determined to worrying about her sanity, from intensely interested in the mystery to being almost exhausted by it. Just as she seems about to give up, a final clue draws her to the titular auction, and readers might be forgiven for assuming at least some resolution to the mystery would be on offer, but instead, the book ends just as the auction begins. To paraphrase Willy Wonka, we get nothing. Now, Pynchon’s probably the genius here, but wouldn’t it be fun to imagine that he also tried to write a novel in one month, and just typed out “The End” when the deadline hit?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Crying of Lot 49 is among the Barnes & Noble Review's six top books on surveillance and John Mullan's ten best secret societies in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seven of the best road trips in YA lit

At the BN Teen blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged seven top road trips in YA lit, including:
Back When You Were Easier to Love, by Emily Wing Smith

Joy has no idea if her relationship is over. All she knows is her boyfriend, Zan, just left for college without so much as an “It’s over” text. So she does what anyone would do: she grabs his best friend, hops in a car, and drives to California to find Zan and figure things out. But she’s not prepared for is how much Zan has changed in such a short time—or has he really changed at all? Smith’s writing is hilarious and quirky, and it’s hard not to relate to Joy’s relationship blinders. Don’t worry, Joy. We’ve all been there.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 12, 2016

Five fantasy novels with perfect opening lines

At, Soman Chainani tagged five SFF novels with perfect opening lines, including:
William Gibson’s Neuromancer

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

Character often works better than setting as the subject of a stirring first line, but here Gibson uses an image so stark, arresting, and memorable that we can both clearly visualize the gray, drab world as well as sense the flat monotony of a new dystopia. Though the image itself is bleak and stagnant, that itself is the point: already we’re asking the question what kind of hero can rise above it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Neuromancer made Abhimanyu Das and Gordon Jackson list of eleven science fiction books regularly taught in college classes, Steve Toutonghi's list of six top books that expand our mental horizons, Ann Leckie's top ten list of science fiction books, Madeleine Monson-Rosen's list of 15 books that take place in science fiction and fantasy versions of the most fascinating places on Earth, Becky Ferreira's list of the six most memorable robots in literature, Joel Cunningham's top five list of books that predicted the internet, Sean Beaudoin's list of ten books that changed his life before he could drive, Chris Kluwe's list of six favorite books, Inglis-Arkell's list of ten of the best bars in science fiction, PopCrunch's list of the sixteen best dystopian books of all time and Annalee Newitz's lists of ten great American dystopias and thirteen books that will change the way you look at robots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ibram X. Kendi's 6 favorite books

Ibram [EEE-brum] Xolani [ZO-LAA-NEE] Kendi [KEN-DEE] is currently an assistant professor of African American History at the University of Florida. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won this year's National Book Award for nonfiction.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings

Giddings microscopically renders not only the life of Ida Wells and all her courageous anti-lynching activism, but the life of the 19th- and early 20th-century United States that Wells navigated and endlessly challenged. It is the best biography I have ever read of an American activist.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Twelve top 1960s science fiction novels

At io9, Annalee Newitz tagged twelve 1960s science fiction novels everyone should read, including:
J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962)

Though the post-apocalypse subgenre is nearly as old as SF itself, it wasn't until Ballard came along that people really started to enjoy it. Literally. The Drowned World is a global warming story, where "solar radiation" has melted the poles — and our naturalist hero loves nothing more than to watch the city of London slowly melting into a neo-Triassic muck. This novel paved the way for a whole subgenre of darkly satirical apocalypse tales that suggest the end of the world might be what we secretly want (and deserve).
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Five top romances for a good cry

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged five of the best romances for a good cry, including:
Yours Until Dawn (Fairleigh Sisters #3), by Teresa Medeiros

Gabriel Fairchild may be a hero, but the costs of valor are more than he can bear: has lost his sight, and the woman he loved. Darkness has descended on every part of his life, a darkness that even nurse Samantha Wickersham can’t lift. The nurse charged with caring for him, Samantha may be a woman, but she is no doormat, and refuses to let Gabriel wallow in self-pity. Eventually, Samantha determines that the key to healing Gabriel may not be trying to bring him into the light, but meeting him halfway, in the shadows, where their love begins to grow.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lynne Truss's six best books

Lynne Truss is the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Cat Out of Hell, the newly released The Lunar Cats, and other books. One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
COLD COMFORT FARM by Stella Gibbons

A parody of rural tragedies by the likes of Hardy and Lawrence that is so funny. The main character has no time for maudlin mincing about so she enters the novels and sorts people out. It’s very clever.
Read about the other books on the list.

Cold Comfort Farm is among Duncan Minshull's top ten walks in books, Henry Alford's six favorite books, Belinda McKeon top ten farming novels, John Mullan's ten best parodies in literature, and Lisa Armstrong's top books on shoes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2016

Five books featuring improbable twists on history and myth

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, the Spellsong Cycle, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.

For, Modesitt tagged "five books with startling twists on history and myth, but twists presented in a different way each time," including:
Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

The Egyptian pantheon in a high-tech far-future

A nameless man wakes in the House of the Dead, where he has served Anubis for a thousand years. He is tortured, questioned, and destroyed—and then re-embodied and sent forth to destroy the Prince Who Was a Thousand, but this nameless assassin is not who or what he seems, nor is the Prince, nor pretty much anyone else in a future Universe where the Tides of Life are pulled by the strings of the House of Life and the House of the Dead. And when the nameless man discovers who he is, then matters get even more interesting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ten top cats in literature

Lynne Truss is the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Cat Out of Hell, the newly released The Lunar Cats, and other books. One of her top ten cats in literature, as shared at the Guardian:
Thomasina, the Cat Who Thought She Was God by Paul Gallico

Mystical cat

Thomasina is a large tabby belonging to the small daughter of a Scottish vet – a stiff and angrily bereaved man. Thomasina requires the vet’s services on a day when he has his hands full and he orders for her to be put to sleep. His daughter, deranged by grief, becomes catatonic. Meanwhile Thomasina drifts into a past life in which she was an Egyptian goddess and is rescued by a nice witchy lady who heals sick animals by mystical means. As the poor child lapses into fever and reaches a crisis, Thomasina recovers her memory and returns home to save the day at the very last minute.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see the 25 best cats in sci-fi & fantasy and the top ten cats in children's books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Eight of the best portal fantasy novels

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Martin Cahill tagged eight truly transporting portal fantasy novels, including:
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

One of Gaiman’s earlier novels, with a successful movie adaptation from Laika Studios, Coraline is one of those deceptively terrifying books that draw you with mysterious descriptions, and then hold you tight as the scares and the creeps come faster and faster. Coraline and her family move to a new house, and young Coraline is pretty fed up with it; it’s old, it’s boring, and her parents do not give her the attention she wants. But when she discovers the key to a locked door in the living room, she goes through into a different world: a big, beautiful, lavish house, with parents who shower her with attention and treats, with entertainment around every corner. It is perfect. So perfect, she doesn’t even mind that her Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes. And that they don’t like when she leaves. And, in fact, don’t want her to go at all. Gaiman’s spooky story is a prime illustration of how sometimes, an imperfect world is a perfectly fine thing, and that what you journey to find may have been in front of you all along.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coraline appears among Keith Donohue's five notable books about puppets and living dolls, Christopher Edge's top ten parallel worlds in fiction, Aliette de Bodard's five creepiest monsters in fantasy, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven awesomely scary novels, and Sam Leith's top ten alternative realities.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten tales of adventure

Jane Johnson has written a number of books under the pseudonym Jude Fisher: the official guides to Peter L. Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and Fool’s Gold fantasy trilogy. One of her top ten tales of adventure, as shared at the Guardian:
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

I defy anyone not to read this gripping story, Simpson's first book, in a single sitting. Even though my rational mind was whispering that the author must by some miracle have survived his horrifying fall on the way back down from an Andean peak, my heart was racing and (as a climber) my palm sweating in sympathy as the tale unfurled in all its appalling detail. Amazing, real-life adventure.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five YA books for "Westworld" fans

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged five YA novels for fans of HBO's Westworld, including:
Girl Parts, by John Cusick

David is plugged in. He’s always online, and has friends everywhere. Charlie, not so much. However, David is clinically “disassociated,” and to help him learn how to connect, his parents buy him the newest Companion Bot, a redhead called Rose. David has some ideas about how he’d like to connect, but unlike in Westworld, this robot has strict intimacy protocols (and no “girl parts”), and shocks him whenever he’s being inappropriate. Useful trick. Rose gradually begins to understand what she is, and develops more emotional responses. Which is when she runs away, and runs into Charlie. The story focuses on Rose as she becomes more than a machine, but we also get two very vivid portraits of lonely teenagers struggling to relate to a world they don’t understand in David and Charlie. Friendship, love, and loss mix in this unique sci-fi fable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Esquire's 25 best books of 2016

At Esquire Maris Kreizman and Angela Ledgerwood came up with a list of the 25 best books of 2016, including:
Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted is one of those Important Books That Every American Should Read that you might pass up because it looks so Important and Not Fun. But you should know that it's worth a full read—the excellence of Evicted lies not only in the overall message that the housing crisis in America is an endless cycle of pain and inequality, but in the details that humanize the facts and figures that accompany the writing. Matthew Desmond is a sociologist and urban ethnographer who gets in on the ground of the poorest districts in Milwaukee and reports on eight families who are on the brink, along with the landlords and the city officials with whom they interact. With a presidential election coming up, there's no book that speaks more to the injustice of America's infrastructure.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

Roz Chast's 6 favorite books

Roz Chast is a New Yorker cartoonist and author of the award-winning graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? One of her six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

One of my favorite books of all time. The central character is a young man who goes to a tuberculosis sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to visit his ailing cousin and winds up spending seven years there. It's about sickness and health, but also about politics, religion, sexuality, and a continent on the brink of World War I.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Magic Mountain also appears on Annie Baker's six favorite books list, 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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Five novels that represent the ins and outs of large families

At B&N Reads Hanna McGrath tagged five top novels that really represent the ins and outs of large families, including:
The Gathering, by Anne Enright (12 kids)

This winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize follows the Hegerty family, a large Irish brood raised in Dublin. As the book opens, the Hegertys are gathering for the funeral of their brother Liam. The novel centers on Liam’s sister Veronica, and the history of the family unfolds through her recollections and memories. There are so many elements in this book that fall into what is stereotypically “Irish”: drunken fights, domestic violence, melancholy, suicide, and pretty much everything depressing. But this book is so much more than that. Thanks to Enright’s command of language, the story doesn’t dwell (or depend too much) on these tragic tropes to move it along; rather, they act as idiosyncrasies of each character. Through Veronica’s memories, the reader is also asked an important question any family faces: How do you know what’s true and what’s fiction in stories when they become as much a part of a family as the people in them?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Five books about human horror

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. One of her five "favorite horror stories where the real danger is human, rather than paranormal," as shared at
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Told from the perspective of the mother of a school shooter writing letters to her estranged husband, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the question of nature versus nurture in determining human wickedness. When I told my mom I was doing this list and asked if she would consider Kevin a horror novel, she stared at me for a second and said, “That last scene, J.A. That last scene.” I agree. Though it’s technically literary fiction, and very much grounded in reality, this deft and unflinching portrayal of a family torn apart by violence is truly horrifying. The novel’s last few scenes are particularly brutal, culminating in a heave-up-your-lunch final image that is burned forever in my mind.
Read about the other entries on the list.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is on Dea Brøvig’s top ten list of books about mothers, Michael Hogan's list of the ten best fictional evil children, Fiona Maazel's list of the ten worst fathers in books, John Mullan's list of ten of the best sentences as book titles, and Shirley Henderson's six best books list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2016

Six classic mysteries

Charles Finch is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries. His first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal's Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list. His first contemporary novel, The Last Enchantments, was published in 2015.

In 2014, for USA Today, he tagged six classic mysteries every fan should read, including:
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (1988)

If you like, you can draw a picture of two opposing strands of mystery: the British one (the tidy drawing room solutions of Holmes and Poirot) and the American one (the messier darkness of Archer and Highsmith's other great creation, the title charlatan of The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Elizabeth George combined them. She gave murder back to the upper classes – one of her detectives, Thomas Lynley, is an earl – but she's an American, and all of her books, especially her early ones, have terrific psychological depth. She understood what Somerset Maugham said: that murder is so fascinating to us because it's the one act a person can't take back. In A Great Deliverance, a woman is found sitting with an ax beside her father's corpse, and immediately admits: "I did it." What follows is totally gripping, blending the old and new traditions of the mystery novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ten top books about New Orleans

The Guardian invited its readers to come up with the best books about New Orleans. One title to make the list:
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (1984)

This novel features four main storylines, set in eighth-century Bohemia and modern-day Paris, Seattle and, of course, New Orleans. One of writer Patrick Ness’s top “unsuitable” books for teenagers – that he nevertheless enjoyed in his teen years: “I was amazed to discover that fiction could be, of all things, playful. That it didn’t always need to be polite. That it could have runaway metaphors just for a laugh”.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top ten books about postwar Britain

Orange Prize winning and Booker Prize shortlisted author Linda Grant's new novel is The Dark Circle. One of Grant's ten top books about postwar Britain, as shared at the Guardian:
The Virgin in the Garden by AS Byatt

The optimism about the new Elizabethan age – anticipated after the Queen was crowned in 1953 – is reflected in Byatt’s novel about a group of young people in Yorkshire putting on a pageant to commemorate the coming coronation. In another part of the landscape a new university is planned, part of the concrete and plate-glass expansion of higher education that would arrive in the 60s. Byatt would follow her characters through to late middle age in subsequent novels.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five sci-fi & fantasy books that treat mental illness with compassion

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ardi Alspach tagged five works of speculative fiction that address mental illness with compassion, including:
Planetfall, Emma Newman

Emma Newman is known for her Split Worlds urban fantasy series, the first of which was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards. She also hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast “Tea and Jeopardy.” Planetfall is her first science-fiction novel, and is absolutely stunning. Newman has been open about her own struggle with anxiety, and it clearly informed the direction of this novel, which follows a new colony of humans inhabiting a seemingly empty alien world. The setting is littered with the remnants of ancient alien architecture that prove key to solving the mystery surrounding the death of the colony’s founder and visionary, but the most fascinating element of the narrative is that we experience everything through the eyes of the deeply troubled Ren, who is coping successfully and not-so-successfully with isolationism, loss, and the burden of carrying secrets in a small, hermetically sealed society. When an impossible stranger enters their midst, the careful balance Ren has struck between herself and the other colonists is threatened. I hesitate to reveal more about the plot, as the shattering beauty of the book hinges so much on the journey of discovery for both the narrator and the reader. I’m very much looking forward to the companion volume, After Atlas, in November.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue