Monday, November 20, 2017

Six books that will transport you

Louise Erdrich's new novel is Future Home of the Living God. One of the author's six favorite books that will transport you, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

World entered: chess — specifically the suspenseful, treacherous world of high-stakes tournament chess as experienced by a prodigiously talented orphan. Will she conquer the Russians, or will her demons conquer her? The ending always moves me, so I try to forget the ending. That way, I can experience it again.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Six of the best ensemble casts in YA fiction

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the BN Teen blog he tagged six of the best YA ensembles, including:
The Sidekicks, by Will Kostakis

Australian author Kostakis’s first stateside novel is a touching exploration of grief that focuses on Ryan, Harley, and Miles, three teens struggling to come to terms with the death of their friend Isaac. The three are all very different—Ryan is the swimmer, the jock of the group; Harley is the rebellious drug-dealer; Miles is movie-obsessed—but they are all connected by the loss of Isaac. Each of them narrates a section of the book, which lets us see exactly how each one is processing what happened. None of them like each other at first. But as the novel progresses, they come to realize they might have more in common than they know, and having each other’s friendship might just be better than being alone.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Five books that rewrite magic, myths, and ballads

Jane Yolen's latest collection of fantasy short fiction is The Emerald Circus, which has both fantasy short stories and poems about fairy tales, fantasy authors and their works, and back matter about how she wrote the tales. One of her five favorite books that rewrite magic, myths, and ballads, as shared at Tor.com:
Gregory Frost took a huge leap writing Fitcher’s Brides, revisioning of the dark fairy tale “Bluebeard.” He sets the story of that peculiar mass murderer of young women in a utopian community that is part of the 1840s period of America’s “Great Awakening.” Elias Fitcher is a charismatic preacher in the Finger Lakes district of New York State. (The title of the novel comes from the Grimm variant of the fairytale, #46.) Fitcher has his wicked mind set on the Charter sisters. There is blood upon the key! Frost’s version of the tale is, in fact, eventually quite bloody, so take that as a trigger warning. It also has a slow and leisurely buildup to both the murders and the magic, which may put off readers who prefer plot-plot-plot driven books. But I till shiver fondly when I think of the this story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 17, 2017

Five of the best YA love triangles of all time

At the BN Teen blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged five top YA love triangles, including:
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

Speaking of love parallelograms, have you read The Raven Boys yet? Blue Sargent has been told since birth when she kisses her true love, he’ll die. So when she sees the spirit of a local private school boy on Saint Mark’s Eve, it seems likely he’ll be the recipient of her fateful first kiss. That boy turns out to be a the smart, rich, charming Gansey, and Blue can’t help but be curious, especially because Gansey is on a hunt to find and wake the body of a sleeping Welsh king named Glendower. Through Gansey, Blue meets the rest of the Raven Boys: angry Ronan, determined Adam, and quiet Noah. And though Blue is drawn to Gansey, she’s intrigued by Adam, too. It only gets more complicated as the series continues and even more feelings develop, but I promise you’ll love this messy, lovable group of friends and their quirkily paranormal world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books to take you on a trip to the medieval Middle East

S. A. Chakraborty's new novel is The City of Brass. At Tor.com she tagged five books "to take you beyond One Thousand and One Nights and on a trip to the medieval Middle East," including:
Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz

Moving into the modern era, Naguib Mahfouz, the master himself, takes on the aftermath of the Nights in a wickedly sharp, entertaining and poignant short novel. Shahrzad has used her stories to save herself and the women of her city from the blood-letting despot Shahriyar, but the magic of her tales is not quite done with them. Arabian Nights and Days, one of my favorite books, takes the themes and characters of the original story and imbues them with emotional heft, political satire and a reflection on faith that makes this a masterpiece.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eight YA must-reads with awesome inspirations and backstories

Sona Charaipotra is a New York City-based writer and editor with more than a decade’s worth of experience in print and online media. At the BN Teen blog she tagged eight YA must-reads with awesome origin stories, including:
Dear Martin, by Nic Stone

Nic Stone’s debut stunner, Dear Martin, has its roots in social justice. In the slim but powerful novel, the main character, Yale-bound teen Justyce, finds himself in hot water despite doing everything right. The inspiration for the story, she has said, was “a combination of three things: the shooting deaths of unarmed teens (specifically Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Mike Brown), the rise of Black Lives Matter, and the negative responses in the media that often cited MLK as someone who would be against the protests. Something about that last part just felt off to me, so I thought to myself, ‘How would Dr. King’s teachings hold up here in 2016 in light of everything going on?'”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten talking animals in books

Pajtim Statovci is the award-winning author of the debut novel My Cat Yugoslavia. One of his ten top talking animals in books, as shared at the Guardian:
Maf in The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan

Frank Sinatra gave Mafia Honey, a Maltese terrier, to Monroe as a Christmas present in 1960. O’Hagan’s fourth novel follows the final years of the actor from the point of view of this singular pooch. This well-educated and articulate dog will not only give you a unique perspective on Monroe’s life, it will steal your heart away. He’s that charming and spot-on.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ten numbers-obsessed sci-fi & fantasy stories for math geeks

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog he tagged ten SFF stories in "which math isn’t just a spice, it’s the main course," including:
Last Call by Tim Powers

Math is part of the bubbling atmosphere of this book’s universe, which mixes tarot, the Fisher King, and a host of other legends alongside the deeply magical mathematics of poker. That games of chance aren’t games of chance so much as games of complex math shouldn’t surprise anyone, but in this lush story, which begins with Bugsy Siegel building the Flamingo Hotel as part of a ploy to become the literal Fisher King and eventually sits the reader at a poker game played with tarot cards where every aspect of the environment alters the odds—and raise the stakes. You don’t need a degree in math to appreciate this wonderful novel, but a glancing familiarity will definitely deepen the experience.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Andy Weir's 6 favorite science fiction books

Andy Weir is the author of The Martian and its follow-up, Artemis, a heist story set in a city on the moon. One of his six favorite science fiction books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein

A survival tale set on a remote world. But not another Robinson Crusoe: This is a group of people stranded together. How they work together and keep one another safe is as much a part of the story as the alien planet they're on.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fifty top romance novels with magical elements

At B&N Reads Amanda Diehl tagged fifty top magical romance novels, including:
Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is the author to go to if you love beautifully detailed fantasy settings. Sorcha is the youngest of seven children, with six older brothers who are now cursed to take the form of swans. As her father takes a new wife following the death of Sorcha’s mother a decade earlier, things take a turn for the worse as she’s sent away, kidnapped by her family’s enemies. When a man comes to her rescue and takes her under his protection, Sorcha is conflicted between her blossoming feelings of love and her need to break her brothers’ curse.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ten top Cold War noir novels

At Literary Hub, John Lawton tagged ten top Cold War noir novels, including:
Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (1958)

The tale of Wormold, a man strapped for cash who reluctantly agrees to spy for the British in Cuba, where he runs an electrical goods shop. Greene called many of his books ‘entertainments’ —that doesn’t mean they do not end in darkness. Wormold invents a spy network, and passes off drawings of vacuum cleaner motors as plans for weapons bases. I rather think le Carré has read this. His The Tailor of Panama reads like an homage to Greene. The film? Alec Guinness at his best.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Our Man in Havana also made John Sweeney's top ten list of books on corruption, Francesca Kay's top ten list of books about the Cold War, Jesse Armstrong's top ten list of comic war novels, Allegra Frazier's top five list of books to remind you of warmer climes, Pico Iyer's list of four essential novels by Graham Greene and Alan Furst's five best list of spy books; it is one of Stella Rimington's six favorite secret agent novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of YA lit's sleuthing teens

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged seven favorite YA sleuthing teens, including:
Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani

Claire and her brothers have always believed that their father died of a heart attack a decade earlier, but suddenly, everything seems suspect when she comes across a letter that proves that he knew their stepfather. After all, there’s no reason for everyone to have kept that a secret, right? But then she learns her father was a member of the yakuza, and there are a whole lot of reasons to keep quiet when that’s the case. Now, Claire is determined to uncover the truth behind his death and whether her mother has simply brought another member into the family, no matter the danger that solving the mystery may bring.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The ten best non-fiction books about London

At the Guardian, Kathryn Hughes tagged the ten best non-fiction books about London. One title on the list:
London: A History in Maps (2012) by Peter Barber charts the city’s transformation from its Londinium days to the Olympiad of five years ago, by means of maps culled from the British Library’s rich collection. We start with a symbolic view of London from the late middle ages and end with a series of snapshots of where we are now: a census map showing South Asian immigrants living in London in 2001, a pigeon’s eye view of the King’s Cross redevelopment, and a plan showing the extent of the London railway systems in 2012. In addition to the detailed charting of the city’s inner workings, there are extravagant speculations about what London might have been, if only common sense and financial probity hadn’t got in the way of wild imagination.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 10, 2017

Five top books about cooking and eating

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Reads blog she tagged five top books about the joys of cooking, including:
Sweet Bean Paste, by Durian Sukegawa (translated by Alison Watts)

At the Doraharu shop on Cherry Blossom Street, a young man name Sentaro feels hopeless about the future because of his criminal past. When a widowed 76-year-old women, Tokue, who was quarantined most of her life, repeatedly asks him for a job making dorayaki (a honey pancake with sweet bean paste inside), he eventually relents, and they form a deep friendship that transforms both of their lives. Tokue’s exquisite version of dorayaki, and the tender care with which she makes the treats, astound Sentaro. When she offers to teach him her secrets, he’s able to envision a purpose for his existence. A beautifully rendered tale of outsiders coming together.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ten top books about royal families

Deborah Cadbury's latest book is Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe. One of the author's top ten books about royal families, as shared at the Guardian:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

Mantel brings the Tudor court alive with the immediacy of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, its ambiguous “hero” Thomas Cromwell giving us his private view of Henry VIII and his family. In her Reith lectures, Mantel described the process of writing a historical novel as “entering into a dramatic process” in which she hoped to activate the senses and find “the one detail that lights up the page”.
Read about the other books on the list.

Wolf Hall made Peter Stanford's top ten list of Protestants in fiction, Melissa Harrsion's ten top depictions of British rain, the Telegraph's list of the 21 greatest television adaptations of novels, BBC Culture's list of the 21st century’s twelve greatest novels, Ester Bloom's ten list of books for fans of the television series House of Cards, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Kathryn Williams's reading list on pride, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on baby-watching in Great Britain, Julie Buntin's top ten list of literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Hermione Norris's 6 best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best cardinals in literature, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on dangerous minds and Lev Grossman's list of the top ten fiction books of 2009, and is one of Geraldine Brooks's favorite works of historical fiction; Matt Beynon Rees called it "[s]imply the best historical novel for many, many years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ten retold tales featuring the figures of classic Victorian horror

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Meghan Ball tagged ten retold tales featuring figures from classic Victorian horror, including:
Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw

Dr. Greta Helsing (does that name sound familiar?) has followed in her illustrious family’s footsteps, and uses her medical background to care for sick monsters. Her life is quiet—dull even—until she’s swept up into a murder investigation that has left supernatural London paralyzed with fear. It’s a gripping story, dripping with charm, and full to bursting with classic creatures and literary easter eggs (including a reference to Varney the Vampire, one of the first vampires in fiction). The book is a delight, its stark horror leavened with humor to create a modern day urban fantasy that turns old Victorian tropes on their heads to create something new and exciting. It’s reportedly the first in a new series, so now is the time to check it out.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Johnny Ball's 6 favorite books

Johnny Ball is an English television personality and a popularizer of mathematics. His books include Wonders Beyond Numbers: A Brief History of All Things Mathematical.

One of Ball's six favorite books, as shared at the Daily Express:
THE ASCENT OF MAN by Jacob Bronowski

This was inspired by Darwin’s The Descent Of Man but Bronowski said it should be The Ascent Of Man because man has done incredible things – in poetry and art, as well as science and technology.

The future for young people is brighter than anyone imagines.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Eight books for fans of "Poldark"

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged eight perfect novels for fans of the historical drama, Poldark. One entry on the list:
Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati

Another sweeping epic of unexpected romance begins when Elizabeth Middleton departs England for New York in the 18th century. Just as Poldark confronts the injustices set upon the mine workers in Cornwall, Elizabeth must confront slavery and ill-treatment of Native Americans in the new world…and one man who confounds and ignites her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ten of the greatest political founding works

At the Guardian Rohan McWilliam tagged ten of the greatest political founding works, including:
The Prince by Machiavelli (1532)

Machiavelli’s The Prince is still essential reading for all leaders, but it has damaged the author’s reputation. His advice was that leaders should seek to be feared, rather than loved. An effective leader had to be prepared to engage in immoral skulduggery and duplicity in order to stay at the top. Cunning and military force were essential attributes. In the age of conniving Renaissance princes, this was good advice, but it has led to politicians being seen as ruthless and two-faced. If Machiavelli were around today, he would be writing scripts for House of Cards.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Six of YAs most ruthless heroines

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged six of YAs most cutthroat heroines, including:
Adelina from The Young Elites, by Marie Lu

The blood fever has killed so many around Adelina, but she is one of its survivors, marked with a mutation and in possession of powers that render her one of the hunted Young Elites. She isn’t supposed to exist, and neither is her strong, dark magic, but when she finds the others like her, she goes from surviving in near-captivity with her hateful father to thriving. And then she begins thriving a bit too much, and when her goals clash with those of everyone around her, her terrible strength makes her a formidable match to take on them all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten essential music books

Hanif Abdurraqib’s essay collection is They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. One of ten music books that shaped his knowledge of the songs he loves, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock ‘N’ Roll by Kandia Crazy Horse

I admired this book for years when looking for a language with which to explain the roots of black music. Kandia Crazy Horse traces rock and roll to black music, of course. But then takes a step further into blues, into soul, into gospel. The book leans on black rock musicians like Lenny Kravitz, Venetta Fields, and Slash, and it presents them matter-of-factly. Black people playing the music they were born into.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Five books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works

At the B&N Reads blog Brian Boone tagged five “adaptations” or “re-imaginings” of earlier works, including:
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is a remake of Shakespeare’s King Lear

One of big reasons why Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest author, or playwright, of all time, is because his stories and characters continue to resonate through the centuries. The Bard wrote his stuff 400 years ago, and it’s still solid, because his themes are universal and his characters are relatable. Once in a while, an author will use one of Shakespeare’s plays as a jumping-off point—they just need to update the language. And the settings. And the plots. And into prose from dialogue. Perhaps the best example of Shakespeare 2.0 is Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres. Because a king deciding which daughter to bequeath his kingdom to is a little irrelevant to the modern United States, Smiley made it about three daughters up to inherit their aging father’s farm. Smiley won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Thousand Acres is among Edward Docx's top ten Shakespearean stories in modern fiction, Emma Donoghue's six best books, Anne Tyler's six favorite books, Sally O'Reilly ten top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, and John Mullan's top ten twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 3, 2017

Five books about running away from one’s problems to join a space pirate crew

R.E. Stearns's new novel is Barbary Station. One of her five favorite books about running away from one’s problems to join a space pirate crew, as shared at Tor.com:
Let’s begin with a classic: Jack Crow of Armor by John Steakley (1984), running away from prison and various self-inflicted misfortunes to join a crew planning a research colony heist. I met him as he was plotting to kill somebody who didn’t need to die, and I was worried about the main character at the time, so I was not happy to see him in the book, at first. His alternative courses of action are all terrible, though, and he barely tolerates the legend that humanity has constructed around him. Because he’s an unlikable fellow, it’s fun to watch him suffer through everybody treating him as “Jack Crow, ferocious pirate.” He just wants to have a drink in peace and not be hassled, just once. He’s a fairly good pirate, and an awful person. He also has identifiable qualities. All of us are awful sometimes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven horror stories in which women are more than victims

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Elsa Sjunneson-Henry tagged seven stories in which women fight, win, and survive in horror, including:
Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

When the world isn’t safe even with your eyes open, when you’re pregnant and living with strangers, when you need to get your children to safety—you need strength. You need to be full of mettle. And that’s exactly what our heroine Malorie is made of, fighting to keep those she loves safe in a world in which an unseen horror has driven most everyone mad. A bonus for readers who follow me for my writing on disability, or who appreciate well-handled disability issues in fiction—this is the only horror novel I’ve encountered by a sighted person that deals with blindness in a way that does not make me furious. Malerman manages to make the experience of being blindfolded a “tourist experience” rather than that of an expert. You’ll see what I mean.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The top ten Protestants in fiction

Peter Stanford is the author of Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident. At the Guardian he tagged the top ten Protestants in fiction, including:
Harry Angstrom in John Updike’s quartet of Rabbit novels (1960-90)

While not perhaps a churchgoing Protestant himself – “without a little of it, you’ll sink” is his verdict on religion – “Rabbit” Angstrom is a peerless observer of guilt-ridden, hypocritical Protestant middle America, caught between an instinctive self-righteousness and the appeal of the strip joint in the shopping mall. But his creator, John Updike, was a Protestant to his bones, first a Lutheran, then a Congregationalist and finally an Episcopalian (Anglican). Likening Ronald Reagan to God, Updike once remarked: “You never know how much he knows, everything or nothing.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Updike's Rabbit books figure among Eliza Kennedy's top ten merry adulterers in literature, Sue Townsend's six best books, Julian Barnes's best books to travel with, William Sutcliffe's top ten relationship novels, and Aifric Campbell's top ten list of favorite jobs in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Five top books to make you less stupid about the Civil War

"For the past 50 years, some of this country’s most celebrated historians have taken up the task of making Americans less stupid about the Civil War," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. One title from that effort:
Battle Cry Of Freedom: Arguably among the greatest single-volume histories in all of American historiography, James McPherson’s synthesis of the Civil War is a stunning achievement. Brisk in pace. A big-ass book that reads like a much slimmer one. The first few hundred pages offer a catalogue of evidence, making it clear not just that the white South went to war for the right to own people, but that it warred for the right to expand the right to own people. Read this book. You will immediately be less stupid than some of the most powerful people in the West Wing.
Read about the other books on the list.

Battle Cry of Freedom is among Jay Winik's six favorite books, Ric Burns' six favorite books, and Malcolm Jones's eleven best books on the Civil War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twenty-five of the scariest horror books

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged "twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest," including:
Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin

The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Rosemary's Baby is among Christopher Shultz's top ten literary chillers and Kat Rosenfield's top seven scary autumnal stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chris Ware's 6 favorite books

Chris Ware's new book is Monograph.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

There's a reason Angelou's memoir of childhood rape is assigned in schools where books about reality aren't banned: The extraordinary will, life, and voice she forged in the wake of her trauma provide an example against which we all should dare to measure ourselves.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is among Dea Brøvig’s top ten books about mothers and Sona Charaipotra's six critical reads for Black History Month.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 30, 2017

Five YA novels that feature protagonists who identify as asexual

At the BN Teen blog, Nita Tyndall tagged five YA novels that feature protagonists who identify as asexual ("but what’s more important is the books don’t center around that fact"), including:
Before I Let Go, by Marieke Nijkamp

NY Times bestseller Marieke Nijkamp’s newest novel is just as chilling as her first, but in a completely different way. When Corey left her small town of Lost Creek, Alaska, she didn’t think it’d be the last time she’d ever see Kyra, her best friend. But now Kyra is dead and Corey has no idea why. And Lost Creek, the town that shunned Kyra when she was alive, has embraced her after her death. In flashbacks we see Kyra and Corey’s relationship, including discussions of Corey’s asexuality, that are handled with depth and care. This was a beautiful book about the price of friendships, and an asexual protagonist just made it better.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ten terrifying horror books you've never read

At The Week magazine Matthew Walther tagged ten terrifying horror books you may have never read, including:
The Cipher by Kathe Koja

By the '90s, I think it had become clear that the future of horror fiction did not lie in the direction taken by Stephen King and others of doorstopper-sized tomes filled with irritating details, sloppy prose, and too many explanations. Koja strips the genre down to the basics: A black hole appears inexplicably in the floor of a couple's apartment in Detroit and dreadful things happen. I paid $60 for my mass-market paperback copy of The Cipher, which has never appeared between hardcovers. The only easy way of getting hold of it these days is, alas, in ebook form. Any publisher willing to bring it back into print would be performing an invaluable service to literature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Five YA reads featuring rebels with a cause

At the BN Teen blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged five YA novels featuring rebels with a cause, including:
Dress Codes for Small Towns, by Courtney Stevens

As the pastor’s daughter in a small, southern town, Billie is already pushing the boundaries of acceptance by dressing like a boy. She doesn’t care, though, as long as she has her tight-knit hexagon of friends. Things get slightly more complicated when Billie realizes she’s crushing on two of her best friends—one a boy and one a girl—who also happen to be falling for each other. Keeping her feelings to herself seems like the best course of acton, until community service forces the friends to spend even more time together than normal. Soon it feels like everyone is kissing someone, and Billie’s no longer sure where she’ll end up. As someone who grew up in a similar environment, I love Stevens’ take on learning to explore ideas and beliefs beyond the world you’ve grown up in.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books featuring psychological hauntings

Sarah Porter is the author of the Lost Voices Trilogy (Lost Voices, Waking Storms, The Twice Lost) in addition to Vassa in the Night—all for the teen audience.

Her new novel is When I Cast Your Shadow.

One of Porter's five favorite books featuring psychological hauntings, as shared at Tor.com:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

The ghost as embodied mass trauma.

The most visionary of ghost stories suggests that individual tragedies may not be self-contained, but instead express an immense and devastating communal inheritance channeled through personal grief. After Sethe kills her two-year-old daughter to save the child from being returned to slavery, Beloved first manifests as a fairly classic poltergeist, venting her rage against her family. Later, though, she comes to Sethe as something much greater. Incarnate in the dewy, teenaged beauty that should have been hers, Beloved enacts infantile hunger, love, longing, and destructiveness. But behind her tantrums, Beloved keeps the secret of memories that she cannot communicate. She is not just the ghost of one little girl, but also the ghost of the Middle Passage’s uncountable victims. The trauma of her early death cannot be separated from the larger traumas of slavery. History haunts Beloved’s family through her; it returns embodied in a girl delicate, violent, and infinitely sad.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis' list of ten books that were subject to silencing or censorship, Jeff Somers's list of ten fictional characters based on real people, Christopher Barzak's top five list of books about magical families, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's ten top list of wartime love stories, Judith Claire Mitchell's list of ten of the best (unconventional) ghosts in literature, Kelly Link's list of four books that changed her, a list of four books that changed Libby Gleeson, The Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Elif Shafak's top five list of fictional mothers, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2017

Top ten books about pastoral life

Rosamund Young is the author of The Secret Life of Cows.

One of her ten top books about pastoral life, as shared at the Guardian:
As You Like It by William Shakespeare

In this gorgeous pastoral comedy, city meets countryside with the same yawning lack of understanding as today. When the perfumed court jester Touchstone encounters the simple shepherd Corin, whose greatest pride, like mine, is “to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck”, he chastises him for getting a living by the “copulation of cattle”. Similar criticism today might be found on billboards alongside the M25.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fifty YA novels adults will love, too

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged fifty YA novels adults will love, too, including:
This is Where it Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

A shooter causes havoc in a school over 54 minutes in this bestseller, a harrowing, emotional psychological thriller. Told through four perspectives, all with their own fears and secrets, this novel’s diverse cast shines light on the importance of inclusivity and mental health care.
Read about the other entries on the list.

This is Where it Ends is among Eric Smith's six top diverse YA thrillers.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Where It Ends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Twelve great books about the human brain

Jason Tougaw is the author of The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism and The Elusive Brain: Literary Experiments in the Age of Neuroscience. At Electric Lit he tagged twelve great books about the human brain, including:
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled

Ishiguro has told interviewers that his most audacious novel — people love it or hate it — is an experiment with writing in “the language of dream.” Each section begins with Ryder, the novel’s bewildered narrator, waking up from sleep he can never get enough of, and finding himself in a world where closet doors lead to art parties, where strangers turn out to be his wife and child, and where there’s a city full of people who are certain his opinions about aesthetics will save them. It’s an experiment in disorientation, and I guess that’s why so many readers find it frustrating. But to me it’s a page-turner. If I pick it up, I can’t put it down. Ishiguro is a master.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Unconsoled is among Robert McCrum's ten most difficult books to finish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ten hair-raising horror novels not written by Stephen King

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Theresa DeLucci tagged ten top contemporary horror novels, including:
The Red Tree, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Kiernan doesn’t consider herself a “horror” author and I want to respect that. But I couldn’t possibly exclude this Irish-American master of New Weird, Southern Gothic, and Lovecraftian terror. She is essential reading for anyone who loves evocative prose and truly frightening elements of existential awe. The Red Tree is a later work, combining several hallmarks of Kiernan’s distinctive wheelhouse: corrupt history, madness, and unreliable narrators that will force you to question everything. But, really, you should read as much of her bibliography as possible. And never feel safe again.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifteen of the best political novels and plays

At the Guardian Tim Adams and Robert McCrum tagged fifteen of the best political novels and plays, including:
Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)

Richard Wright wrote to his friend William Faulkner that black and white Americans were engaged in a “war over the nature of reality”. The terms of Wright’s engagement in that ongoing war were set by his 1940 novel Native Son, which sold 250,000 copies in its first three weeks. The novel tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a native of the south side of Chicago in the 1930s, who murders two women, one white and one black. Its controversy was rooted in the case Bigger’s lawyer makes in mitigating his crimes in the context of racist oppression – that white society is also responsible. The book did much to politicise the civil rights generation and continues to be a key reference point for #BlackLivesMatter.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2017

Twenty-one novels based on or inspired by Shakespeare

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged 21 novels based on or inspired by Shakespeare, including:
The Dead Father’s Club, by Matt Haig

Inspired by: Hamlet. Haig chooses a different route from most authors re-working Shakespeare, in that his story, though modernized, is pretty faithful to the original: the ghost of Phillip’s father visits the young man and implores him to murder his brother to prevent him from marrying Phillip’s mother and taking over the family business. Phillip pursues this goal, but slowly comes to doubt whether his father is right, while the reader begins to doubt Phillip’s grasp on reality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Dead Fathers Club.

My Book, The Movie: The Dead Fathers Club.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Six top books of poetry

Alice McDermott is the author of several novels, including After This; Child of My Heart; Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award; and At Weddings and Wakes. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her new novel is The Ninth Hour.

One of Alice McDermott's six favorite books of poetry, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

I love the value of big books of poetry, and for good reason: My parents literally weighed the paperbacks I was required to purchase for school. (Signet Classics' edition of Middlemarch at $5.95 was a good deal. Forty-five cents for The Turn of the Screw? Not so much.) Yeats' collected works might as well be called Poems for All Occasions. Love, marriage, death, divorce ("the hour of waning love is upon us"), reunions, elections. And of course there's "A Cradle Song" for a birth.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The perfect biographies of every US president

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged the ideal biographies of each US president, including:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: FDR, by Jean Edward Smith

One of our greatest presidents deserves one of the greatest biographies ever written, and Smith comes through with her epic, well-written, and impeccably researched 2007 book. Smith offers a panoramic view of FDR, a man born into wealth and affluence who wound up a champion of the middle class and poor, a president whose efforts to guide the country out of the Depression were failures until World War II came along—and yet a man who is still routinely included in the top five presidents of all time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best manifestos and tracts

At the Guardian Will Hutton tagged ten polemical masterpieces that transformed the west, including:
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

This was the foundation of the modern environmental movement. Painstakingly and exhaustively researched, it exposed the widespread use of toxic pesticides to improve crop yields as a menace to nature and humanity alike. The title brilliantly captured the book’s core message – that human and natural life are interdependent, that today’s generation has a duty to itself and succeeding generations to organise itself so life is sustainable and that the price of not doing so is not only materially damaging – it risks silencing the tumult of nature as it comes to life in the Spring. The chemical industry attacked the book and its author – but its popularity not only forced changes to the way pesticides were administered, but triggered a much wider examination of what humans were – and are – doing to nature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Silent Spring made a list of the best books on global warming at the Guardian in 2009. It is among Helen Macdonald's six favorite books, Tim Dee's ten best nature books, Gill Lewis's ten top birds in books, and John Kerry's five top books about progressivism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

Thirty YA books that speak out against assault & harassment

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged thirty YA books that address sexual harassment and/or assault, including:
Leftovers, by Laura Wiess

Blair and Ardith always have each other, but they don’t have much else. They’re forgotten by their families and face constant harassment and assault, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. There’s only one surefire way they know to get not only revenge but justice, though the destruction they’ll leave in their wake is its own kind of unspeakable. The clever crafting of this novel and unexpected character arcs make it a standout, and despite being a decade old, its relevance hasn’t lessened a bit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Leftovers.

Coffee with a canine: Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten imaginary drugs in fiction

Jeff Noon's latest novel is A Man of Shadows.

One of his top ten "modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights" in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Substance D (A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick)

Dick is perhaps the most prolific of the drug inventors. He used it as plot generator, a source of transformative energy – and a way to both escape reality and experience it more fully. He certainly put in the research in his own life, spending whole weeks off his head. Still, the books were written. Substance D is a psychoactive; it produces an initial euphoria, which is great until the user finds out what the D stands for: Despair, Desertion, Dumbness, and in its final incarnation, Death. Here lies the dark realism at the heart of Dick’s visionary craziness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Six novel novels about novelists

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Reads blog she tagged six novels about novelists, including:
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

“Minor novelist” Arthur Less is about to turn 50, and his younger, former lover Freddy is getting married. Down and out, and determined to escape the torturous nuptials—while not appearing as though he’s escaping—Less decides to accept every ham-fisted, bizarre invitation he’s received for the year. His writerly itinerary, which will take him from NYC to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, includes teaching a class, attending an award ceremony (in which high schoolers are the judges), and interviewing a more successful author. A surprise narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the end) adds poignancy and tenderness to this lovely and comedic story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Five books about the human and the divine

Karen Lord is the award-winning, Barbadian author of Redemption in Indigo, The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game, and editor of the anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean. One of her five favorite books that "show the perils and joys of a life lived beyond the boundaries of self, a life that finds the divine in the human, and the human in the divine," as shared at Tor.com:
The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov

I am recommending only the second part of this very variable book about the search for a safe, long-lasting source of energy by scientists in two different universes. Dua, who lives in the para-universe, is an unusual female of her species with unconventional desires and two conventional male spouses, Odeen, and Tritt. Reproduction for this threesome can go two ways. It may result in the birth of a Rational like Odeen, an Emotional like Dua, or a Parental like Tritt. But, eventually, the ecstasy of sex causes a permanent fusion of the three into one consciousness and a new being. Dua, Odeen and Tritt must figure out for themselves what they are and who they will become—and they must do it soon, while trying to communicate with scientists from our universe before they accidentally blow up our sun.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top ten modern Nordic books

At the Guardian, Icelandic novelist Sjón tagged ten essential books from the far north, including:
Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson (translated by Lytton Smith)

Bergsson is the grand old man of Icelandic literature and this is the novel every Icelandic author must love and resist. Written in 1966, when biographies of turn-of-the-century greats were dominating the bestseller lists in Iceland, the novel pretends to be the autobiographical musings of its ageing protagonist. Having nothing to his name but the fact that he is descended from Vikings, and the small flat where he lives in one room, renting the rest out to lodgers, Tómas does his best to prove worthy of a book of his own. Only recently translated into English, it is a fabulous feast of wilting light, with a whiff of Beckett’s Unnamable’s underpants.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifty books that will turn you into a modern-day polymath

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged fifty books that will prepare you to discuss just about anything with the confidence of an expert, including:
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, by Bobby Fischer

What You’ll Learn: Chess.

Why play chess? For one, it’s one of the oldest games ever played. For another, humans’ ability to play chess may be all that’s standing between us and our computer overlords. Fischer was nuts, but he was a genius at the game, and his book (written before his full-on breakdown) remains a classic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue