Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ten novels told by unusual narrators Culture’s Lucy Scholes tagged Ian McEwan’s new novel Nutshell (narrated by a fetus) and nine more novels told by strange narrators, including:
Jenny Diski, Like Mother (1988)

McEwan’s unborn narrator is striking enough, but he’s not the first author to turn to the narrative possibilities of an exceptional baby. Jenny Diski’s Like Mother is narrated by an anhydranencephalic baby – born without a brain. ‘Nony’ (from ‘Nonentity’) narrates the story of her mother Frances’s life: “I want to pass the time. I have nothing but the story of my mother to tell… I have a gift to compensate for my empty skull.” Diski negotiates the problem of logic by making us suspend our disbelief; it’s “a story told in imagined words,” Nony explains, told to “an imagined listener.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Sarah Skilton's six most unusual YA narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four literary families who sabotaged each other’s careers

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 four literary families who sabotaged each other’s careers, including:
Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt

Sisters Drabble (The Pure Gold Baby) and Byatt (Possession) have between them won dozens of awards, sold a mess of books, and earned literary reputations many would kill for. They also, in no uncertain terms, hate each other. They throw shade at one another in both interviews and in their fiction, and haven’t spoken in decades except through withering insults offered up in interviews. Neither ever fails to say something negative—sometimes openly hostile —when the other publishes a new book. The product of an intensely unhappy and ultra-competitive upbringing, each remembers the other being mother’s favorite, and resents it with a passion. It’s entirely possible that, had the sisters evolved different artistic interests, they’d have maintained a relationship. With both of them pursuing storied literary careers, however, their sibling rivalry was doomed to blossom into something that can be culled only with fire and blood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Five books about loving everybody

Nisi Shawl's new novel is Everfair. One of her five favorite polyamorous tales, "stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame," as shared at
Tales of Nevèrӱon by Samuel R. Delany

Tales of Nevèrӱon contains one of my favorite polyamorous situations. Obviously thumbing his authorial nose at traditional anthropology’s tendency to reframe other cultures’ practices within its own values, Delany writes of the polygamous Rulvyn from a feminist viewpoint. Among these mountain people, the sage Venn explains, “a strong woman married a prestigious hunter; then another strong woman would join them in marriage—frequently her friend—and the family would grow.” Reversing the conventional interpretation of polygamy’s power dynamic while keeping numbers and gender identical, Delany calls familiar readings of such relationships into question. Yet the brief passage on Rulvyn mores is only one of the many neat tricks he pulls off in this stunning 1979 fantasy, which on its surface is simply another book in the sword-and-sorcery subgenre.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2016

The nine greatest (worst) urban sprawls in sci-fi

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 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged nine of the greatest (worst) megacities in sci-fi, including:
The Roar, by Emma Clayton

Clayton’s debut book for young readers is set in a future where the world’s population has retreated behind a huge wall after a plague turns every animal into a vicious predator. A poisonous agent has been introduced outside the wall to kill everything, while urban sprawl on the other side has made the world into one enormous city, overcrowded and unhappy. As Clayton’s main character, Mika, investigates his sister’s disappearance, he begins to suspect that the people haven’t been told everything. What sets Clayton’s sprawl apart is the sense of claustrophobia, as most of the population lives in crowded, flooded slums—and any attempt at finding some space means running up against the monolithic wall.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books with memorable characters

Lisa McInerney’s first novel, The Glorious Heresies, won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize, was shortlisted for Best Newcomer at the Irish Book Awards, and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. One of her six favorite books with memorable characters, as shared at The Week magazine:
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Nobody captured the desperation of lives lived on the periphery quite like Selby did. His full-tilt prose was as provocative as he was empathetic. Although it's impossible to elect just one masterpiece from his work, this 1964 tale, with its cast of hopeful losers and souls warped by disadvantage and environment, is surely a contender for the Great American Novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Last Exit to Brooklyn is among Richard Price's five most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Eight top books set at the dawn of time

At the B&N Reads blog Ross Johnson tagged eight of the best novels taking us back to before the earliest stories of humankind were written, including:
Shaman, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Timeframe: 32,000 years ago.

Another writer best known for his science fiction, Kim Stanley Robinson set this novel among the early modern humans of Europe (in what is today southern France, to be specific, with references to cave art that Werner Herzog fans might be well familiar with). It’s the story of Loon, a young man who survives an early test of manhood, as well as a violent encounter with the “Old Ones” (humans that we would call Neanderthals), both events setting him on a path to becoming the shaman-in-training for his tribe, even as he skirts the rules and conventions by taking on a family in defiance of his master, Thorn. The book doesn’t suffer for having an author whose work is typically about looking ahead; Loon is himself deeply focused on the future, even if the future looks very different from the perspective of ice age-era France.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that changed Iain Reid

Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction, One Bird's Choice and The Truth About Luck, and the novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things. One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Loser
Thomas Bernhard

Funny, weird, and unsettling. I bought this special book for $2 at a secondhand bookshop and devoured it while living in Toronto, a couple of years after graduating university. I was, and remain, amazed at how often the book makes me laugh, considering the content. I enjoy returning to it once a year or so, as I always find something else that I appreciate. Intricate in the very best way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Six modern adaptations of classic stories

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged six modern adaptations of classic novels, including:
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

The most literary of the books on this list, Boy, Snow, Bird is the most unique Snow White retelling I’ve ever read. In 1953, Boy Novak moves from New York to Massachusetts, looking for a new life. She marries a widower and by way of their marriage becomes stepmother to the beautiful and tempestuous Snow. Slowly, Boy finds herself becoming a wicked stepmother of fairytale lore, especially when her daughter, Bird, is born. Bird is dark-skinned, and Boy and her husband are exposed as light-skinned African Americans passing as white. A captivating examination of self-love, self-loathing, race, and gender in modern America, this is one fairytale you’ll never forget.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seven notable angry YA protagonists

At the BN Teen blog Sarah Skilton tagged seven notable angry YA protagonists, including:
Imogen in Bruised, by Sarah Skilton

Full disclosure: I wrote this one, and I put my heroine through the wringer. When Imogen witnesses a robbery and fails to prevent the shooting that follows, she blames herself for the loss of life. Why? Because she’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has been training for years to handle that type of situation. Anger at herself, her womanizing older brother, her parents, her TKD instructor, and her friends manifests in the urge to participate in a real fight, no holds barred, no padding, and most importantly, no protective gear. Will she get her wish? And what will it do to her if she does?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ten essential books about The Beatles

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 ten top books about The Beatles, including:
Here, There and Everywhere, by Geoff Emerick

Emerick was the sound engineer on two of The Beatles’ most popular albums, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which arrived after the band gave up live performances to focus on working in the studio. The sound of these two albums reverberates through pop music today. Emerick offers a nice balance of engineering geekery and straightforward explanation that will make you hear the music differently.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Philip Norman's ten top books about The Beatles and five top books on The Beatles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten seaside novels

Alison Moore's first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Moore's new novel is Death and the Seaside.

One of the author's ten top seaside novels, as shared at the Guardian:
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)

In the summer of 1962, Edward and Florence are honeymooning in a hotel on the Dorset coast. On their first night, as they sit down to supper, they are all too aware of the view, through the open bedroom door, of a four-poster bed with a pure-white bedcover. With the point of view shifting tidally between them, the narrative traces the couple’s history, their anxieties, and the crucial failures of communication and understanding that lead to the story’s painful denouement.
Read about the other entries on the list.

On Chesil Beach also appears among Radhika Sanghani ten top books about losing one's virginity, Ella Berthoud's five top books on love, Eli Gottlieb's top 10 scenes from the battle of the sexes, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best honeymoons in literature, ten of the best beaches in literature, ten best marital arguments in literature, and ten of the best failed couplings in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Five terrific novels about art and artists

At B&N Reads Jenny Shank tagged five top novels about art and artists, including:
The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins

In this novel that seamlessly weaves together historical and contemporary fiction, a writer named Marianne Wiggins (who has some biographical overlap with the author) has written a book about Edward Curtis, the famed photographer of Native Americans and other inhabitants of the old West. Some disturbing news about her wayward father sends her on a roadtrip and gets her meditating on the life of Curtis. A section of the book is told from the perspective of Curtis’s frequently abandoned wife, Clara. Clara remembers what her dad told her about artists: “Talent, her father used to say, is more abundant than you think. You have to have the temperament to tolerate hard work. You have to flirt with luck. You have to take the chances that most people wouldn’t take.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eight speculative works narrated by dead people

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 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged eight speculative works with dead narrators, including:
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Perhaps the most famous modern example of the form, Sebold’s bestseller is both a meditation of what death does to the survivors who must reassemble their lives with one huge piece missing, and an exploration of one possible version of the afterlife. As the novel opens, 14-year-old Susie Solomon is cruising around a strange version of heaven that is shaped by her own living dreams and imaginings, even as she peers into the lives and hearts of her surviving family members—and spies on the man who murdered her. Though a literary sensation, this one could easily be shelved with other works of fantasy, as the speculative elements only become more prominent as the book reaches its somber, sad, ultimately uplifting finale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lovely Bones is among Nadiya Hussain's six best books, Judith Claire Mitchell's ten best (unconventional) ghosts, Laura McHugh's ten favorite books about serial killers, and Tamzin Outhwaite's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seven of the most unlikely platonic pairings in YA lit

At the BN Teen Blog Sarah Hannah Gómez tagged seven of the most unlikely platonic pairings in YA lit, including:
Dess and Hope (Peas and Carrots, by Tanita S. Davis)

Dess just wants to be reunited with her baby brother, but that means going to live with his foster family, since they haven’t seen their biological mother in years. And when Dess arrives, she finds she has a foster sister just her age, Hope. They are instant enemies. Hope sees Dess as rude, and she doesn’t like that Dess already seems to be fitting in with the cooler kids at school. But being forced to live together helps them to start seeing the ways they can help each other.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Five fantasy books you won’t find in the fantasy section

Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work. His newest collection of short fiction is Not So Much Said the Cat. One of Swanwick's top five fantasy books you won’t find in the fantasy section, as shared at
Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt

Commissioned to rework a myth in novella form, Byatt chose to concentrate on a “thin child” in WWII Britain who knows her RAF pilot father will not return from the war. The girl (Byatt herself) discovers a book on the Norse gods, whose vivid, terrifying stories have much greater application to what feels like the end of the world than do those of the kindly god she hears in church. Ragnarok is full of invention, Rándrasill, the undersea mega-kelp equivalent of Yggdrasil, the World-Tree, being a particularly brilliant example. Byatt also provides unexpected insights into the original myths. She points out, for example, that Loki can change shape when none of the other gods can, and then draws a moving portrait of his strange yet loving relationship with his daughter, the world-serpent.

In addition to everything else, Ragnarok serves as a lovely introduction to Byatt’s longer works.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five fabulous works of fiction for musicians

At B&N Reads Jenny Shank tagged five fabulous works of fiction for musicians, including:
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

Patchett’s riveting 2001 novel involves an opera singer who is taken hostage at the home of the Vice President of an unnamed South American country. In order to entice Katsumi Hosokawa, a Japanese business executive and opera lover, to invest in his country, the Vice President throws him a birthday party featuring the soprano Roxane Cross. When terrorists break in and discover that their target, the President, has not attended the party, they decide to hold everyone hostage. During this crisis, two pairs of characters fall in love. Patchett was inspired by the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru in 1996, thinking it sounded operatic, and according to the Chicago Tribune, her working title for the book was “How to Fall in Love with Opera.” An editor talked her out of that one, worried it would be filed in the how-to section. Patchett’s love of opera was requited: last year the Lyric Opera adapted Bel Canto into an opera.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Bel Canto is among Jeff Somers's top five novels set in a single pressure cooker location, Tatjana Soli's six favorite books that conjure exotic locales, Kathryn Williams's six top novels set in just one place, Dell Villa's top eight books to read when you’re in the mood to cry for days, John Mullen's ten best birthday parties in literature, and Joyce Hackett's top ten musical novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Five notable gateway books

Keith Yatsuhashi's debut novel is Kojiki. One of five gateway books that opened the door for him to specific genres, as shared at
Gateway to Post-apocalyptic: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I know The Hunger Games could fit nicely in the post-apocalyptic sub-genre, but that series started me reading YA, so I needed something else. The title that hit the spot for me here was M.R. Carey’s grim The Girl with All the Gifts. This book is horrific and exhilarating, and for some unknown reason, reminds me of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Maybe because it’s elegant, or maybe it’s because Carey took a tried-and-true formula—zombies, end of the world, survival, etc.—and turned the whole clichéd premise on its head and made it something completely new. I blew through this book in a day or two because I was riveted. The Girl with All the Gifts isn’t as well known as the others on this list, but it should be.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Girl with All the Gifts is among C. A. Higgins's top five books with plot twists that flip your perception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2016

Twelve kick-ass women from sci-fi and fantasy

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. His new story is The Stringer.

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Somers tagged twelve kick-ass women from sci-fi and fantasy whose strength doesn’t necessarily imply masculine traits, including:
Tan-Tan, Midnight Robber, by Nalo Hopkinson

When her father commits an unforgivable sin, Tan-Tan is banished along with him to the alien world of New Half-Way Tree, where the castoffs of a technologically advanced future Earth must eke out a primitive kind of survival among a strange alien race. Brutalized by her father, Tan-Tan kills him in self-defense, and flees into the forests, where she must contend with hardship, integrate herself into an alien society, and plan her revenge against those responsible for her situation. By the time she takes on the mantle of the Midnight Robber, a Robin Hood-like character who takes from the rich, Tan-Tan has hardened herself to the point she’s hardly recognizable. Hopkinson’s novel is a painful, ultimately triumphant look at the terrible reservoirs of strength it takes for an abused, controlled girl to emerge from the shadows of her past as her own strong, independent woman.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about long marriages

Jane Rogers has published eight novels, written original television and radio drama, and adapted work for radio and TV. Her last book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, was the 2012 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction; it was also longlisted for the Booker Prize. She has won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book, has been a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and she lives in Banbury, England.

Rogers's new novel is Conrad & Eleanor.

One of the author's top ten books about long marriages, as shared at the Guardian:
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015)

Tyler often writes about marriage, and always writes true. The first 10 pages of this novel are almost entirely dialogue and reveal Abby and Red Whitshank brilliantly. They are arguing helplessly over how to handle a phone call from their son Denny announcing he is gay. Abby theorises that his getting a girl into trouble while he was still at school might have been a symptom of homosexuality. Red asks, “Come again?” “We can never know with absolute certainty what another person’s sex life is like.” “No, thank God.” Their love for one another is as comfortable and worn as the old slippers and colourless dressing gown each wears.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Seven top genre-bending historical fiction YA books

Eric Smith is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating and Inked. One of seven genre-bending historical fiction YA books he tagged at the BN Teen blog:
Sekret, by Lindsay Smith

I’ve talked up Smith’s duology on here before (make sure you pick up Skandal too!), as it’s probably my favorite genre-bending alternative history. In it, we’re taken back to the Cold War, and while the rest of the world thinks mankind is simply stewing in fear over nuclear weapons and the threat of war, the reality is far more interesting: Psychic. Soldiers. The KGB wants Yulia, a teen with special psychic gifts she uses to survive the landscape of Communist Russia, but she’d rather not get scooped up and forced to fight. However, with a powerful American psychic soldier hot on her trail, she might not have a choice. It’s packed with political intrigue, romance, and serious suspense, set against a brilliantly researched backdrop.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sekret is one of Dahlia Adler's top eight internationally set YA novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ten of the best satires

Michael Honig is a former surgeon and lives in England. The Senility of Vladimir P. is his first novel. One of his top ten satires, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
The House of God by Samuel Shem

As a medical student, I was given this book by a well-meaning (or possibly satanically mischievous) relative who happened to be a nurse. My God! It was like being brought to the wall of fire that is TRUTH and having one’s eyes held open by a pair of red hot toothpicks. Extreme situations bring out the extremes of human foibles, and few situations are more extreme than the first years of being a doctor. Set in a lightly disguised Boston hospital of high repute, Shem’s novel dives deep into the agony of absurdity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Joel Cunningham's seven of the sharpest modern satires, ten satirical novels that could teach you to survive the future, and Adam Thorpe's top ten satires.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Five top YA novels set in both the past and the present

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the BN Teen blog he tagged five dual YA narratives that bridge history and the present day, including:
Crow Mountain, by Lucy Inglis

If you like your YA with romance, rugged cowboys, and historical narratives, you’re going to love this. When Hope arrives in Montana from London, she’s an unwilling passenger, accompanying her mother on a research trip. But when Caleb Crow (rugged cowboy alert!) picks them up from the airport, Hope reconsiders her position. As Hope and Caleb spend more time together (away from Hope’s disapproving mother), they discover a diary labeled Montana, 1867. It belonged to Emily Forsythe, another British teenager forced to travel to Montana. As Caleb and Hope read the journal, we see the ways Emily’s story mirrors Hope’s to a spooky degree. This is a Western about love, freedom, and finding yourself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2016

Garry Trudeau's six favorite books

Garry Trudeau is the creator of Doonesbury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political comic strip. His latest book is Yuge!, a compilation of 30 years of Doonesbury cartoons that satirize Donald Trump.

One of Trudeau's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

OK, so I've never actually read this Austen classic. But the person I sleep with reads it repeatedly ("my default book"), so I've heard most of it. With Austen, every character — no matter how minor — is so fully and originally imagined, each could command his or her own novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Tara Sonin's list of seven sweet and swoony romances for wedding season, Ross Johnson's list of seven of the greatest rivalries in fiction, Helen Dunmore's six best books list, Jenny Kawecki's list of eight fictional characters who would make the best travel companions, Peter James's top ten list of works of fiction set in or around Brighton, Ellen McCarthy's list of six favorite books about weddings and marriage, the Telegraph's list of the ten greatest put-downs in literature, Rebecca Jane Stokes' list of ten fictional families you might enjoy more than the one you'll actually spend the holidays with, Melissa Albert's lists of five fictional characters who deserved better, [fifteen of the] romantic leads (and wannabes) of Austen’s brilliant books and recommended reading for eight villains, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance, Emma Donoghue's list of five favorite unconventional fictional families, Amelia Schonbek's list of five approachable must-read classics, Jane Stokes's top ten list of the hottest men in required reading, Gwyneth Rees's top ten list of books about siblings, the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2016

President Obama's summer 2016 reading list

Here's what President Obama is reading this summer:
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Learn about what the President was reading last summer, and check out his summer playlist.

Also see: six of President Obama's favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight funny books for dire times

Eight Star Tribune critics tagged a funny book for readers anxious about our supposedly dire times. One recommendation:
“The Dog of the South” by Charles Portis.

Portis is best known for “True Grit,” but he also produced five other novels. “The Dog of the South” will propel you from melancholy to jubilation in exactly one page flat. Ray Midge’s wife, Norma, has run off with a sorry character called Guy Dupree, taking Ray’s beloved Ford Torino and leaving him Guy’s 1963 Buick Special “standing astride a red puddle of transmission fluid.” What follows is a road saga of exquisite deadpan humor and almost surreal bathos.--KATHERINE A. POWERS
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Top ten crime novels set in Boston

Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Graham Purdy are the authors of Serpents in the Cold and We Were Kings. One entry on their list of the top ten crime novels set in Boston, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
Prince of Thieves (2004) – Chuck Hogan

Prince of Thieves is a tense, psychologically gripping novel set in Charlestown, a working class Boston neighborhood that produces more bank robbers and armored car thieves than any square mile in the world (or so the introduction tells us). It centers on townie Doug MacRay, the brains behind a tough crew of bank robbers, and his precarious and dangerous relationship with the bank manager his crew had taken hostage during a robbery and then later released. The pervasive yet unmanageable question that haunts the main characters in so many of Hogan’s books is: Once you’ve traveled too far into darkness, what is the cost of returning? A compelling, artfully crafted story that shows Hogan writing at the top of his game. In the crime and thriller genre, there aren’t many who do it better.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Prince of Thieves is among Matthew Quirk's top five books about the myths and realities of how to pull a heist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five dark YA novels for "Heathers" fans

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged five dark YA novels for Heathers fans, including:
Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

Told from the more serious perspective of the girlfriend of a shooter, Brown’s debut is unmatched. It has been five months since Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, shot up their school. Five months of recovering from the bullet that struck her when she was trying to stop him from shooting a classmate, of mourning the guy she loved, of wondering how things took such a drastic turn, and of bearing the hate of everyone in her life, thanks to her implication as a result of the targets coming from a list she helped him create. Now Val wants her life back, or at least to survive what remains of high school with some semblance of a life intact, but is that even possible when you’re public enemy number one?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 12, 2016

Five great literary monomaniacs

At the Guardian, Charlotte Seager tagged five well-known literary obsessives who take things too far, including:
Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Another character glued to her past: Miss Havisham is consumed by despair at being jilted as a young woman, and harbours a lifelong fixation with a traumatic wedding day that never was. Her ghostly appearance is so odd that it terrifies Pip when he first meets her:
She was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table … I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.
Miss Havisham’s obsession manifests in her adopted daughter Estella, who she teaches to break hearts. But the irony of her predicament is that seeing Estella hurt Pip and others only causes her more pain, as she relives her own heartache. Miss Havisham suffers an operatic ending but at least this ensures that the desolate, dusty scene of her humiliation will not outlive her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Great Expectations appears on TheReadDown's list of seventeen books to read during wedding season, Phoebe Walker's list of eight of the best feasts quotes in literature, Rachel Cooke's top ten list of single women, Robert Williams's top ten list of loners in fiction, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Melissa Albert's list of five interesting fictional characters who would make undesirable roommates, Janice Clark's list of seven top novels about the horrors of adolescence, Amy Wilkinson's list of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth, Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of Great Expectations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Six of the most unexpected narrators in YA lit

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the BN Teen blog she tagged six of the most unusual YA narrators, including:
Narrator: Death

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Narrated by Death (who reminds us gently but firmly at the beginning that we’re all going to die), and set in Germany during the 1930s and ’40s, Zusak’s book depicts the life of young Liesel as she struggles through World War II. The thief of the title, she steals her first book before she can even read, and after the death of her brother and parents, goes to live with a foster family who encourage her literary development. She also befriends the Jewish refugee her new family is protecting from Nazi capture. This award-winning best seller is an unsentimental look at people’s capacity for both kindness and brutality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Book Thief also appears among Tracy-Ann Oberman's six best books, Kathryn Williams's top eleven Young Adult books for readers of all ages, Nicole Hill's top seven books with Death as a character, Lenore Appelhans's top ten teen books featuring flashbacks, and Kathryn Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books writers should read

DBC Pierre won the Booker Prize in 2003 for his debut novel Vernon God Little. One of ten books he says writers should read, as shared at the Guardian:
In case Brexit didn’t show why pure democracy should be sparingly used:

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay

No matter the strength of hero or the scale of glory we plan to write about, it never hurts to see how bizarre we can be en masse. Written in beautiful 19th-century prose, this book is a forensic jaunt through history’s strangest crazes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds also appears on John Gapper's top five lisy of books on financial speculation, Frank Partnoy's five best list of books on financial schemes, and Jonah Lehrer's list of the five best books on irrational decision-making.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Five top books featuring adventuring parties

At Adrian Tchaikovsky tagged five books featuring adventuring parties--"an ensemble cast with a particular feel to it—that mix of clashing characters and different skillsets." One entry on the list:
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

When the wizard is evil but so is just about everyone.

I could just as easily have gone for the excellent Best Served Cold, but I have the cast of a crime caper novel lined up below, so let’s go for Abercrombie’s own deconstruction of the epic Tolkienien quest. “Bajaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past,” as the back of my copy says. Because when you’re a gamer, the party can set out with the most heroic aspirations and end up doing the most horrible and misguided things, and Abercrombie captures that experience perfectly.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ten SFF stories lousy with giant spiders

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 the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Somers tagged ten top SFF stories lousy with giant spiders, including:
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

While Mr. Nancy appears to be an older black man with just the hint of a West Indian accent, he’s actually Anansi, the Trickster God, who can take the form of a spider and summon the assistance of arachnids around the world. He’s also, yes, one of the old gods, so no, not actually a spider per se, but witnessing the cantankerous and sarcastic black gentleman you just met suddenly sprout six extra legs or call on hordes of spiders to do his bidding is the sort of thing that will stick with you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

American Gods is among Josh Ritter's six favorite books that invoke the supernatural and John T. Ottinger's top 12 science fiction and fantasy novels and stories that are uniquely American.

--Marshal Zeringue

Val McDermid's six best books

Crime novelist Val McDermid's latest book is Out of Bounds.

One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
ON BEULAH HEIGHT by Reginald Hill

Pretty much a perfect crime novel, this features Dalziel and Pascoe. Hill was a cunning storyteller with a wry humour and this is his most emotional book. He was literate and humane. I always have to look something up when I read his books.
Read about the other books on the list.

See Val McDermid's top 10 Oxford novels.

Learn about McDermid's hero from outside literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 8, 2016

Six top books by comedy queens

Whitney Collins is the author of The Hamster Won't Die: A Treasury of Feral Humor, creator of the website The Zen of Gen X. At B&N Reads she tagged six hilarious books by funny women, including:
Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

Known best for The Mindy Project, her role on The Office, and her first memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling is back and better than ever with Why Not Me? An assemblage of witty writings that cover (among other things) her “weird” relationship with BJ Novak, Hollywood sex scenes, hair extensions, and meeting Bradley Cooper and Obama, Why Not Me? is perhaps most notable for its comedic yet incredibly sage advice regarding being young, having confidence, and what women deserve.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Six top books about New York City

Jay McInerney's newest novel is Bright, Precious Days. One of his six favorite books about New York City, as shared at The Week magazine:
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

This black comedy set in Depression-era Manhattan follows the career of a cynical advice columnist who struggles to find a moral compass while dispensing trite advice, under the name Miss Lonelyhearts, to desperate city dwellers. It's film noir with a laugh track.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Miss Lonelyhearts is among Fay Weldon's six favorite books and Ann Patchett's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books that have destroyed real life friendships

At B&N Reads Ginni Chen tagged six books that have destroyed real life friendships, including:
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Though very different in character, Harper Lee and Truman Capote were close friends from their childhood in Alabama. Lee, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, contributed heavily to the research, interviews, and extensive background work that went into Capote’s nonfiction novel about the murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. When In Cold Blood was published, Capote failed to give Lee any credit. The snub hurt Lee terribly and caused a great deal of damage to their friendship.
Read about the other entries on the list.

In Cold Blood also appears on Jeff Somers's list of five of the best books that busted genre conventions, Allegra Frazier's list of five top books that started out as magazine serials, Claire Zulkey's list of six nonfiction books that will give you nightmares, Lauren Passell's top 20 list of peanut butter & jelly reads, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, Sarah Weinman's list of best true crime books, Catherine Crier's five top crime books list, Ann Rule's five best list of true-crime books, and Bryan Burrough's six best books list. Kansas' first poet laureate Jonathan Holden's chose In Cold Blood for The Great Kansas novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Eighteen of the best books for the Olympics

At the Guardian, John Dugdale assembled eighteen literary accompaniments to the key Olympic sports, including:
Taekwondo: Ian Fleming

Oddjob in Goldfinger is taekwondo-trained, though his tactic of choice is hurling his steel-brimmed hat. Other fictional martial arts exponents tend to appear in comics, but the eponymous hero of John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer moonlights as a manager of MMA fighters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Goldfinger is among Joel Cunningham's top five James Bond titles. Honor Blackman played Pussy Galore in the movie version of Goldfinger. Learn about her six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five great meals from literature

Matt Suddain is the author of Hunters & Collectors.

One of his five favorite culinary scenes from literature, as shared at
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Hannibal Lecter’s anecdote detailing what he did with a hapless census taker—or, specifically, with his liver—made many readers squirm. “A young man once came to my door to sell artisan typewriters,” he might have said if the book was written today. “He had an immaculately groomed beard and spent ten minutes telling me about fair-trade fava beans. So I invited him in. We opened a bottle of Antinori Vinsanto and made a night of it. Who’d judge me?” No one, that’s who. Lecter sees his acts as relative to a great cultural threat. “The exposition of Atrocious Torture Instruments could not fail to appeal to a connoisseur of the worst in mankind. But the essence of the worst, the true asafoetida of the human spirit, is not found in the Iron Maiden or the whetted edge; Elemental Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Silence of The Lambs is among Elizabeth Heiter's ten favorite serial killer novels, Jill Boyd's five books with the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving, Monique Alice's six great fictional evil geniuses, sixteen book-to-movie adaptations that won Academy Awards. Red Dragon appears on Kimberly Turner's list of the ten most disturbing sociopaths in literature and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best dragons in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, and the (U.K.) Telegraph 110 best books; Andre Gross says "it should be taught as [a text] in Thriller 101."

Also see: top ten memorable meals in literature and ten great meals in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 5, 2016

Five middle grade novels with older siblings off to college

Melissa Sarno writes novels for young readers and creates interactive play experiences for kids of all ages. At the BN Kids blog she tagged five top middle grade novels with older siblings off to college, including:
Lea Dives In, by Lisa Yee

The 2016 American Girl of the Year, ten-year-old Lea Clark, is also dealing with the estrangement of an older sibling. Her older brother, Zac, has been away at college, but she gets to spend an unforgettable visit with him in Brazil, where he’s been studying the rainforest for the past year. Lea is more than ready to explore the world, just like her intrepid grandmother, but she also struggles with a fear of the ocean, and wishes that her brother didn’t treat her like such a child. Lea learns how to face her struggles and fears head-on in this light-hearted adventure.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of President Obama's favorite books

At the B&N Reads blog Kat Rosenfield tagged six of President Obama's favorite books, including:
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s sweeping war novel was named by President Obama in a Rolling Stone interview as a work that inspired him as a young man, with its themes of love, loyalty, idealism, and courage. Interestingly, this is also a book with documented bipartisan appeal; it’s a big favorite of one-time Republican presidential nominee (and Obama political opponent) John McCain.
Read about the other entries on the list.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is among five books that changed Elizabeth Gilbert, Michael Dobbs's six best books, John Mullan's ten best bridges in literature, Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books, and John McCain's five best books about men in battle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Six insane fictional presidents

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. One of Somers's six favorite insane fictional presidents, as shared at B&N Reads:
Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter, in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

...Grahame-Smith’s vision of Abe Lincoln, the most iconic of American presidents, moonlighting as a merciless vampire hunter is satisfying for many reasons, chief among them the security implications. Action movies continuously imagine presidents with Bourne-level reflexes and Bondian smarts, but they pale in comparison to the general badassery Lincoln is revealed to possess is this twisted secret history. Seeing a candidate go ax-crazy on live television after a horde of undead bursts in to violently protest your party platform would certainly be a game-changing moment in American politics—and a much better reason to vote for someone than their snooze-worthy tax policy
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Top ten philosophers' fictions

Esther Leslie is a lecturer in English and humanities at Birkbeck College, London. One of her ten top novels and stories by philosophers, as shared at the Guardian:
Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

...Goethe is an immensity: a poet, an administrator, a statesman, a playwright, short story writer and a novelist. He is impelled by a philosophical vision that suffuses his literary writings as much as his natural-philosophical experiments in colour theory and optics, botany and evolution. This novel integrates his various interests in its exploration of human chemistry and its attractions, repulsions, affinities and reactions.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top overlooked modern crime novels

For The Strand Magazine, Maxim Jakubowski tagged ten top overlooked modern crime novels, including:
Emily St. John Mandel/Last Night in Montreal (2009)

A stunning debut by a young Canadian author. An existential thriller with deep resonance about the way people’s past influences their lives despite their best effort to subvert it. Fathers on the run, lovers on the run, a crisscrossing waltz, past and present, across North America’s desolate roads, with souls on fire and sadness prevailing. To cap it all, a heartbreaking ending that might not have been allowed had the novel not been initially issued by a small press. Mandel has since moved on to larger shores and her fourth novel, Station Eleven, reached the bestseller lists, albeit in a different genre. Her follow-up, The Singer’s Gun, is equally worthy of inclusion in this list.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night in Montreal.

The Page 69 Test: The Singer's Gun.

My Book, The Movie: The Singer’s Gun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Five romantic novels for those with a taste for travel

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged five sexy novels to unleash your wanderlust, including:
Interview with a Vampire, by Anne Rice

New Orleans, Eastern Europe, Paris…sounds like a whirlwind trip, especially if you’re immortal. If you’re like me and watched the movie adaptation of Anne Rice’s gothic novel detailing the saga of Louis and Lestat (and Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise), then there’s no time like the present to pick up the moody, evocative, and lushly descriptive novel. Louis is living on a New Orleans plantation in 1791 when he meets Lestat, a vampire who turns him, hoping for a lifelong companion. But tensions arise between them because Lestat feeds on humans, while Louis attempts to deny his nature. What begins as a journey of them traveling the world together becomes a story of Louis traveling alone, trying to reconcile his morals with his immortality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Interview With The Vampire is among Jeff Somers's eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Jonathan Hatfull's ten best vampire novels, Ryan Menezes' top five movies that improved the book, Will Hill's top ten vampires in fiction and popular culture, and Lynda Resnick's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue