Thursday, April 30, 2020

Ten top novels about moving

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Her new novel is How Much of These Hills Is Gold.

At the Guardian Zhang tagged ten top novels that "deal with movements physical and emotional," including:
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

The loneliness of living in another country, with all its attendant awkwardness and desire for physical contact, drives a novel that swallows its reader whole. Though I encountered this book during a hot summer, I remember feeling physically cold, so completely was I transported to the cramped apartments and dim streets of a morally ambiguous Sofia.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ten top novels about France

Liz Boulter is a subeditor on the Guardian travel desk.

One of her "personal top 10 novels that give une véritable saveur" of France:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This Pulitzer-prize-winning novel seems tailor-made for these days. The title refers to a teacher’s comment in the book about how our brains, locked in our skulls without a spark of light, build for us a luminous world. And today we, in lockdown, can rebuild in our imaginations 1940s Paris and the “open-air fortress” of Saint-Malo. We do this partly through the mind of young Marie-Laure, blind since she was six, who finds her way using scale models her brilliant father builds for her. Characters in the occupied Brittany town come to life, and readers’ hearts go out to Marie-Laure and young German counterpart Werner as they confront a world of hate and horror with grace and integrity.
Read about the other entries at the Guardian.

All the Light We Cannot See is among Emily Temple's fifty best contemporary novels over 500 pages, Jason Allen's seven top books with family secrets, Whitney Scharer's top ten books about Paris, David Baldacci's six favorite books with an element of mystery, Jason Flemyng's six best books, Sandra Howard's six best books, Caitlin Kleinschmidt's twelve moving novels of the Second World War and Maureen Corrigan's 12 favorite books of 2014.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Eight novels that explore the uncanny in fiction

Camilla Bruce was born in central Norway and grew up in an old forest, next to an Iron Age burial mound. She holds a master's degree in comparative literature, and has co-run a small press that published dark fairytales. Bruce currently lives in Trondheim with her son and cat.

You Let Me In is her first novel.

At CrimeReads, Bruce tagged eight novels to make you question reality, including:
The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Sarah Crowe, a struggling author, rents a remote house in order to battle writer’s block and work through the grief following her partner’s suicide. What she does not know when moving in is that the plot of land she is staying on also houses a large red oak that has been surrounded by rumors and folklore for centuries. This is a case of stories within stories, told through various manuscripts, but mainly Sarah’s journal. She is not the most reliable of narrators, though, and as the legacy of the oak is slowly being revealed, Sarah’s own world unravels. Toeing the line between psychological thriller and Lovecraftian horror, this makes for a deliciously unsettling read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2020

Five of the best sibling relationships in fiction

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Her new novel is How Much of These Hills Is Gold.

At the Waterstones blog Zhang tagged five favorite sibling relationships in fiction, including:
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

There are not one but two pairs of conflicted brothers in Steinbeck’s novel, which is inspired by the Biblical brothers Cain and Abel. Emotions are appropriately grand in scope. There are grim suicides, brutal assaults, seductions, plots, heartbreaks, power struggles, betrayals. Though the one-dimensional nature of certain characters – including an almost comedically evil seductress – can be grating, there’s no denying the ambition of this book. At its best it hums with the agony of brothers who are joined by brutality and dark history, and the question of whether they can ever break the cycle.
Read about the other entries on the list.

East of Eden is among four books that changed Mary Norris and John Mullan's ten best fraternal hatreds in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Fourteen crime novels in the time of plague

Molly Odintz is the Associate Editor for CrimeReads. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople for years before her recent move up to New York City for a life in crime. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads she tagged fourteen "mysteries and thrillers set against a backdrop of epidemics, contagions, and outbreaks," including:
A Beautiful Poison, Lydia Kang
Setting: New York City, 1918
Plague: Influenza

A Beautiful Poison takes place during the last great pandemic—the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. As the epidemic rapidly spreads through New York City, a socialite desperate for distraction from her coming engagement teams up with an apprentice medical examiner to examine a number of suspicious deaths in her social circle, attributed to the disease but quite possibly stemming from the most unnatural cause of murder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Seven top SFF murder mysteries

Elisa Shoenberger is a freelance writer and journalist. At she tagged seven books that combine "the genre of murder mysteries with that of fantasy and science fiction, whether it’s the locked room mystery but in space, or innovative retellings of the British manor history." One title on the list:
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

It’s the quintessential locked room murder mystery but in space. When Maria Arena wakes up in her cloning vat, she is surprised to see dried blood from the body of her former self. Turns out that Arena is not the only person of the seven crew of the spaceship Dormire who wakes up in a new clone body after their violent deaths. The crew has to figure out what happened and who is responsible. The story explores the ethics and logistics of a world where cloning is common and widespread.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2020

Eight toxic friendships in crime fiction

Lisa Levy is a columnist and contributing editor at LitHub and CrimeReads. She is the former EIC of crime fiction site The Life Sentence and the former Mystery/Noir editor at the LA Review of Books.

At CrimeReads Levy tagged eight of the most toxic friendships in crime fiction, including:
Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Women are not the only ones who can have toxic friendships. Exhibit A, and essential to the founding of the trope is Tom Ripley. Ripley, desperate to move among the very rich, gets himself hired to find the son of a rich guy: a young man named Dickie Greenleaf who has disappeared in Italy. Tom finds him irresistible, but Dickie is obsessed with Marge, an American dilettante. The constant shifting of alliances and affection runs through Highsmith’s five Ripley novels, one of the few books in which she alluded to homosexual feelings (Highsmith was a lesbian).
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Elizabeth Macneal's list of five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, Laurence Scott's list of seven top books about doppelgangers, J.S. Monroe's list of seven suspenseful literary thrillers, Simon Lelic's top ten list of false identities in fiction, Jeff Somers's list of fifty novels that changed novels, Olivia Sudjic's list of eight favorite books about love and obsession, Roz Chast's six favorite books list, Nicholas Searle's top five list of favorite deceivers in fiction, Chris Ewan's list of the ten top chases in literature, Meave Gallagher's top twenty list of gripping page-turners every twentysomething woman should read, Sophia Bennett's top ten list of books set in the Mediterranean, Emma Straub's top ten list of holidays in fiction, E. Lockhart's list of favorite suspense novels, Sally O'Reilly's top ten list of novels inspired by Shakespeare, Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ten top Latin American short stories

Fernando Sdrigotti's latest story collection is Jolts.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top Latin American short stories, including:
"Letter to a Young Lady in Paris" by Julio Cortázar

Reading Cortázar’s Bestiario as a teenager was my literary “listening to the Sex Pistols” moment. I devoured the book from cover to cover and ran to my mother’s Olivetti to start churning out my own short stories. Some of these early attempts still exist in my box of memories but needless to say none of them is as good as Letter to a Young Lady in Paris, from this extraordinary book. A flat swap starts to go wrong when our hero, who writes the missive of the title, starts vomiting bunnies that proceed to destroy the flat. Sounds strange? Welcome to Cortázar’s world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Ten top crime-fighting duos

Darynda Jones's new novel is A Bad Day for Sunshine.

At CrimeReads, she tagged ten "must-read teams to which every lover of crime fiction should treat themselves," including:
Bones and Booth

Kathy Reich’s self-inspired character Temperance Brennan (a.k.a. Bones) is a forensic anthropologist who is teamed up with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth. While Bones is a just-the-facts kind of girl, methodical and unflappable, Booth is more intuitive and charming, two characteristics that have gotten him far in life. Bones and Booth have great chemistry and make a fantastic crime-fighting team in this brilliant series that begins with Deja Dead (1997).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Five horror novels driven by maternal instinct

Amanda Mactas is a freelance writer based in New York City. She’s on a mission to stay in as many haunted houses around the world as possible and is currently reading her way through the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Despite what it may seem, she’s pretty normal.

At, Mactas tagged five novels in which maternal instinct helps to drive the plot, including:
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Alternating between the past and present day, this novel weaves together two stories that take place in the same old house in a creepy, rural town in Vermont. In the early 1900s, Sara was mysteriously found dead behind her home a few months after the tragic passing of her daughter. In current day, Alice and her two daughters live in Sara’s old home when one day Ruthie, her oldest, wakes up to discover her mother has gone missing. In Ruthie’s search for her mother, she uncovers Sara’s old diary and begins to find out what really happened to her family so long ago. The Winter People isn’t the first novel to explore how far people would go to hold on to the ones they love and it certainly won’t be the last. Like in Pet Sematary and Harry Potter, we find out that bringing people back from the dead never goes as planned. These families, along with others in the story, show their love through desperation and their attempts to spend just a few more moments with the people they love. It’s chilling, relatable and completely unpredictable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Winter People is among Melissa Albert's five dark thrillers to soothe your Valentine’s Day hangover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ten top books about parents with secrets

Sarah Zettel is an award-winning author. She has written more than thirty novels and multiple short stories over the past twenty-five years, in addition to hiking, cooking, stitching all the things, marrying a rocket scientist, and raising a rapidly growing son.

Her new novel is A Mother's Lie, a "compulsive family drama about a mother’s desperate search to reclaim her daughter from the horrors of her own past.

At CrimeReads, Zettel tagged ten books "that contain that most emotional and involving of themes: a parent with a secret." One title on the list:
The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Like the sins of the father, the secrets of the father are frequently visited on the children. This is the story of a motherless daughter, “lab schooled” by her brilliant, seemingly loving but eccentric father. But her father has another creation that no one knows anything about or even truly understands. A bit of Frankenstein, a bit of The Imitation Game, this is a heartfelt story of a young woman coming to grips with the paradox of being irrevocably separate from her parents, and yet inescapably connected.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Funny reads for dark times

Geoff Dyer is the author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi and other novels and non-fiction books. Dyer has won the Somerset Maugham Prize, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, a Lannan Literary Award, the International Center of Photography’s 2006 Infinity Award for writing on photography and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ E.M. Forster Award. In 2009 he was named GQ’s Writer of the Year. He won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2012 and was a finalist in 1998. In 2015 he received a Windham Campbell Prize for non-fiction. His books have been translated into twenty-four languages. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he is Writer in Residence at the University of Southern California.

At the Guardian, Dyer tagged a few titles (that you may not have read) for dark times, including:
Speaking of sex, drugs and California, Slow Days, Fast Company is the best book by Eve Babitz, who seemed to get high – often in bed – with practically everyone in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s. At one point in this collection she ends up in Palm Springs in the company of thinly altered versions of Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner and his wife. The house where they’re staying is such a sleek celebration of modernism that the sliding doors leave one of the guests longing for doorknobs.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Six top fantasies for nature lovers

Emily B. Martin splits her time between working as a park ranger and an author/illustrator, resulting in her characteristic eco-fantasy adventures. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger help inform the characters and worlds she creates on paper.

When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

Martin's new novel, due out in May 2020, is Sunshield.

At she tagged six stunning eco-fantasies for nature lovers, including:
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This middle-grade book, by Coretta Scott King award-winner Jewell Parker Rhodes, is a lush dive into magical realism, set in the Louisiana bayou at the time of the Gulf oil spill. The story follows Maddy, a New Orleans girl spending the summer with her mysterious Grandmère. Through her grandmother’s tales and the beauty of the bayou, Maddy discovers magic in herself and the world around her, from firefly companions to whispers in her mind to mermaids in the swamp. I love how Maddy uses her magic to combat environmental degradation—it feels intensely here-and-now while remaining uplifting for young readers. Rich with African folklore and natural splendor, this book is perfect for long summer evenings on the screen porch.

Great for: Big dreamers, bug chasers, and those who find magic in both the mundane and the extraordinary.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2020

Seven darkly fascinating books about charismatic sects

Joanna Hershon is the author of five novels: St. Ivo, Swimming, The Outside of August, The German Bride and A Dual Inheritance.

[See: The Page 69 Test: St. Ivo.]

Her writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, One Story, Virginia Quarterly Review, and two literary anthologies, Brooklyn Was Mine and Freud’s Blind Spot.

At Electric Lit, Hershon tagged seven darkly fascinating books about cults, including:
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

This 2013 National Book Award finalist for nonfiction is an exhaustive and wildly entertaining look at the famous celebrity-studded organization/cult/religion started in the 1950’s by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and currently led by David Miscavige. The title itself is brilliant; “going clear” is how Scientology refers to the state of being freed from “engrams” which are “subconscious memories of past trauma.” Prepare to be amazed, especially if—like me—you know some practicing Scientologists or at least some Scientology apologists.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ten top novels about unconventional families

Born in Trinidad, Ingrid Persaud won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017 and the BBC Short Story Award in 2018. She studied law at the London School of Economics and was a legal academic before earning degrees in fine art at Goldsmiths College and Central Saint Martins. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Prospect, and Pree magazines. Persaud lives in London and Barbados.

Her new novel is Love After Love.

At the Guardian, Persaud tagged ten of her favorite "books with families that make you laugh and cry same time," including:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Some people does go looking for trouble. In Commonwealth it started with a kiss, and next thing two marriages mash up and children blending in a new setup. Old folks like me will remember television’s perfect blended family – The Brady Bunch. This is no Brady Bunch. The children of the Keating-Cousins family pass through neglect, death and everything in between. Nonetheless, memory, duty and affection weave through this imperfect family, and we long for them to find peace.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Six technothrillers featuring digital surveillance & voyeurism

Rabeea Saleem is a Pakistan-based book critic presently writing for a bunch of international publications including Book Riot and Chicago Review of Book. At she tagged six technothrillers featuring digital surveillance and voyeurism, including:
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

As a huge fan of Schweblin, I was naturally looking forward to reading her latest. I’m glad to report that it was worth the wait. In this book, Kentukis are smart toys equipped with built-in cameras that can be remotely controlled. These plush robots are all the rage, and can be controlled by people called dwellers who can monitor your every move through these high tech toys. This book gives us a harrowing glimpse of the near future in the age of voyeurism. Bought by people who are only craving human connection, it soon becomes apparent how in the wrong hands, Kentukis can be used as a means to devious ends, as in for blackmail. Schweblin unnervingly illustrates the dark side of technology and connectivity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Seven California crime novels with a nuanced take on race, class, gender & community

Sara Sligar is an author and academic based in Los Angeles, where she teaches English and creative writing as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in History from the University of Cambridge. Her writing has been published in McSweeney’s, Quartz, The Hairpin, and other outlets.

Take Me Apart is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Sligar tagged seven "books [that] offer some moments of sun-kissed glamour that play into California fantasies—but they also represent an important move toward a more textured, nuanced view of the Golden State." One title on the list:
Steph Cha, Your House Will Pay

Steph Cha’s widely acclaimed Your House Will Pay focuses on one of the most formative periods in L.A.’s recent history, the 1992 L.A. riots. As Cha moves between two narrators—an African-American man who lost a loved one in 1992 and a Korean-American woman looking into her family’s mysterious history—she explores interracial tensions and intergenerational trauma with impressive nuance. (If you’ve already read Your House Will Pay, try jumping to Cha’s backlist. Her Juniper Song series follows a would-be private investigator around Los Angeles, offering a perfect update to the tropes of L.A. noir.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Your House Will Pay is among Karen Dietrich's eight top red herrings in contemporary crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2020

Twenty-five novelists' comfort reads

The Guardian collected twenty-five novelists' comfort reads.

The contribution from Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is the novel I return to when I am in need of comfort. When most people talk about this book, they lean so heavily on the issues of child abuse, poverty, and racism. And while these societal ills are part of the weave of this powerful story, it is also a testament to love of all types – romantic, familial, spiritual, any kind of attachment that binds one heart to another. Also, Walker’s down-home humour is on full display in this work, not a laugh-to-keep-from-crying sort of humour, but the kind of humour that reminds us that the human spirit always hits every note on the scale of emotion. She grants us the happy ending we long for, but she makes us work hard for it. Like the old folks say: to get to freedom, you got to cross the river.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Color Purple is among Isabella Hammad's top six books of correspondence, Jenn Ashworth and Richard V. Hirst's top ten modern epistolary novels, Sarai Walker's ten top novels about women's political awakening, Hollie McNish's top ten literary works about breasts, Sarah Alderson's top ten feminist icons in children's and teen books, Bruna Lobato's top ten must-read classics by African American authors, Hanna McGrath's top five fictional characters who tell it like it is, Andy McSmith's top ten books of the 1980s, and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The fifty best contemporary novels over 500 pages

Emily Temple is a senior editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, will be published by William Morrow in 2020.

One title from her list of the fifty best contemporary novels over 500 pages:
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (531 pages)

Can’t argue with those receipts—and honestly, despite my supposed literary snobbery, I don’t want to. Sure, it’s a little obvious (blind French girl, orphaned German boy, WWII) but man, it works. The writing is lovely too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All the Light We Cannot See is among Jason Allen's seven top books with family secrets, Whitney Scharer's top ten books about Paris, David Baldacci's six favorite books with an element of mystery, Jason Flemyng's six best books, Sandra Howard's six best books, Caitlin Kleinschmidt's twelve moving novels of the Second World War and Maureen Corrigan's 12 favorite books of 2014.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Five notable literary romantic comedies

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times (UK) bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. Her novel The Switch is due out in the US this summer.

She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

At the Waterstones blog, O'Leary tagged five favorite literary comedies bursting with love and optimism, including:
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

This debut is smart, filthy and totally hilarious. Our protagonist Julia hasn’t had sex in three years… until she finds herself making eyes at a sexually confident lesbian over confrontational modern art. She begins to think that she’s been looking for love (and good sex) in all the wrong places. In at the Deep End touches on some dark topics, but without ever losing its ultimate sense of lightness and joy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 10, 2020

Five great diverse crime novels

Originally from Sacramento, Elle Marr explored the urban wilderness of Southern California before spending three wine-and-cheese-filled years in France. There, she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and discovered her love of writing novels.

Currently, she lives and writes outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, son, and one very demanding feline; she is hard at work on her second thriller.

Marr's new novel is The Missing Sister.

At CrimeReads she tagged five great crime novels bringing multicultural heroes and representation to mystery, including:
The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani (translated from Chanson douce)

Beginning with the murder of two small children by their nanny—the recounting of which will give you chills—The Perfect Nanny throws the reader into the deep end of this Paris-based, tour de force thriller. When French-Moroccan lawyer Myriam returns to work, she and her husband Paul must find the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. Louise, a devoted woman who plans kiddie parties and sings to the children, turns out to be the caretaker of their dreams, and the couple quickly becomes dependent on her. Jealousy and resentment mount with each chapter until tensions peak, exploding into hot-button issues of class, race, and motherhood. Translated from the French Chanson douce, it was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 2016, while The Perfect Nanny was named Best Book of the Year by multiple American lists when it was published stateside in 2018. Whether you read it in French or English, you will be hooked from the first page.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Ten top books about Londoners

Panikos Panayi was born in London to Greek Cypriot immigrants and grew up in the multicultural city developing during the 1960s and 1970s. A leading authority on the history of migration, he is Professor of European History at De Montfort University.

Panayi's new book is Migrant City: A New History of London.

At the Guardian, Panayi tagged ten books about "the modern history of London, providing an insight into its ethnic and social diversity." One novel on the list:
Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)

One of the best fictional accounts of the realities of life in wartime and early postwar London for West Indian migrants to the heart of empire, tracing racism, which trumped social status with regard to the way in which the white British reacted to the new arrivals, despite the relatively positive reception for West Indian servicemen during the second world war. The novel also offers an insight into the social and economic realities of London life in the 1940s and 1950s for all ethnic groups.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Small Island is among J.R. Ramakrishnan's seven novels that celebrate the 40% of Londoners who aren't white, Virginia Nicholson's ten top books about women in the 1950s, Martin Fletcher's five best books on nations and lives in transition, and Gillian Cross's top ten books that throw everything you think you know upside down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Six notable literary escapes

Nell Freudenberger is the author of the novels Lost and Wanted, The Newlyweds and The Dissident, and of the story collection Lucky Girls, which won the PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Named one of The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” in 2010, she is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and son.

At The Week magazine Freudenberger recommended six literary escapes, including:
Disoriental by Negar Djavadi (2016).

A woman visits a fertility clinic in Paris, hoping to have a child, while her family's past in Iran rises up before her in dazzlingly precise vignettes. The daughter of intellectuals, Kimia Sadr survives the revolution and a harrowing escape to France, where, Djavadi writes, "we unlearn — at least partially — what we used to be, to make room for what we have become."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Six top books for bookish girls

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, and for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first class degree in history from King’s college, London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain's King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

At LitHub, Hadlow recommended a reading list for bookish girls. One title on the list:
Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book is a classic of Japanese literature. Written in the ninth century, when Shōnagon was a lady in waiting at the imperial court, it’s a collection of observations and anecdotes written in her own unmistakeable voice: sharp, aloof and infinitely amused. Shōnagon was an aristocrat, but not a very distinguished one; it was the quickness of her mind, and the depth of her learning, rather than her background, that catapulted her into favor and fame. Anyone wishing to be taken seriously as a Japanese courtier was obliged to possess a thorough knowledge of poetry, and Shōnagon’s ability to recognize poetic allusions, to improvise upon them, and to compose her own verse made her one of the court’s most glittering stars. Reading The Pillow Book is to enter a world where, contrary to what we think we know about the past, a sprightly form of female creativity was much prized. It reminds us that ideas of what is considered appropriate for a woman to know have not been fixed and immutable and that cleverness has sometimes been a form of currency that could change a life forever.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2020

Ten books besides "To Kill a Mockingbird" that tackle racial injustice

The PBS NewsHour asked educators from different parts of the country to share their picks for books besides To Kill a Mockingbird that tackle racial injustice. One title on the list:
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

“Children of Blood and Bone” is a beautiful book. It reminds me in some ways of “Harry Potter” because of its magical elements and young characters struggling through a difficult journey that tests their ideas of who they are and who they can trust. The author was inspired to write it after so many unarmed black people have been killed by police, but that is not entirely obvious. I thought more of authoritarian governments, women’s empowerment, and coming-of-age issues, but ideas of equality are central to all of those threads.
— Diana Dempsey
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nine notable unabashed books about bodies

Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son (Harcourt), The Stylist (HarperCollins), and Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). A sequel to Weather Woman, called Sinking Islands, is forthcoming.

Her latest book is the story collection, Vanishing, winner of the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

At LitHub, Emmons tagged nine books that "are notable for the frank eye they bring to physical pleasure and pain, and the overall messiness of human bodies." One title on the list:
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams forays into various corners of human experience, but ultimately its central concern is the female body and pain. As a survivor of anorexia, cutting, alcoholism, as well as abortion, heart surgery, and numerous accidents, Jamison is uniquely equipped to address this subject. Part personal essay and part academic treatise, Jamison composes her pieces by synthesizing her own experiences alongside the work of other writers, thinkers, and artists. “I’ve got this double-edged shame and indignation about my bodily ills and ailments—jaw, punched nose, fast heart, broken foot, etc. etc. etc. On the one hand, I’m like, Why does this shit happen to me? And on the other hand, I’m like, Why the fuck am I talking about this so much,” she says of herself, in the final essay entitled “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” Her final question in this essay is: “How do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative?” Both self-disclosing and brainy, the book offers numerous riveting vignettes and deep dives into what it means to possess a body, in particular one of the female persuasion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Thirteen essential pandemic novels

The staff at Publishers Weekly tagged thirteen essential pandemic novels, including:
A Beginning at the End
Mike Chen

The rebuild after a plague is the focus of this novel, which follows three San Franciscans trying to put the pieces back together after a disease known as MGS has taken out over half the population. The three acquaintances—a single dad, a former pop star, and a consultant who helps people cope with the tragedy—are put together by chance, but begin to bond as various threats surface. Chen's novel is a more hopeful take on end of the world that "manages to imbue the apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2020

Five top titles in the complicated literature of daughters & mothers

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series.

A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Engel's new novel is The Familiar Dark.

At CrimeReads she tagged five of her "favorite novels that tackle the complicated bond between mothers and daughters," including:
Carrie by Stephen King

The mother-daughter relationship in this one is a doozy. Carrie and her religious zealot of a mother have a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship dialed up to ten. There is love between them, but also abuse, fear, and loathing. And Carrie is a daughter who has finally had enough. An extreme example of what happens when the mother-daughter relationship goes horribly awry.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Carrie is on Lizzy Barber's list of five of the most chilling extreme religion believers in fiction, Katie Lowe's top ten list of books about angry women, Jo Jakeman's list of the ten best revenge novels, Ania Ahlborn's list of ten of the scariest books of all time, Jeff Somers's list of the five worst mothers in literary history, Becky Ferreira's list of six of the most memorable bullies in literature, Julie Buntin's list of favorite literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, and James Dawson's top ten list of books to get you through high school.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Ten top Irish gothic novels

Ruth Gilligan is a writer and academic from Dublin now based in the UK. She has published five books to date and was the youngest person ever to top the Irish Bestsellers’ List.

Her most recent novel, The Butchers, is set in 1996 during the BSE crisis and was published in March 2020.

At the Guardian, Gilligan tagged ten “Irish gothic” offerings from which she drew eerie inspiration for The Butchers, including:
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (1992)

The dysfunctional tale of Francie Brady – a border-town native growing up in the 1960s – is not for the fainthearted. We follow Francie from childhood (cue alcoholic father and suicidal mother), through to industrial school (cue abusive priests), all the way to working life in an abattoir (cue a lot of dismembered pig carcasses). A disturbing portrait of a disintegrating mind, The Butcher Boy gave rise to the phrase “bog gothic” and revealed the sordid realities that often lurked behind romanticised depictions of rural Ireland.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Butcher Boy is on Ray French's top ten list of black comedies, Allen Barra's top twelve list of the best postwar Irish novels, Nick Brooks's top 10 list of literary murderers, Declan Burke's 2008 top ten list of Irish crime fiction, and Edward Hogan's top ten list of stories set outside the city.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ten scary good horror novels

At Bloody Disgusting, Meagan Navarro tagged ten scary good horror novels, including:
Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero

In 1977, the teen detectives of the Blyton Summer Detective Case and their Weimaraner cracked open a significant case that leaves a costumed culprit behind bars for a very long time. Cut to thirteen years later, and the gang has long split up. None of them faring well in adulthood. Police want one of the members across multiple states, another battles alcoholism, and another has spent many years in Arkham Asylum. Nightmares and the suicide of the fourth member bring the gang back together to retrace the steps of their last case; there was something much worse than a masked man behind it all. Something otherworldly and Lovecraftian, and it wants free. Cantero remixes the Scooby-Doo setup with Lovecraftian terror, merging light-hearted horror with Dagon-like beasts. He avoids the pitfalls of oversaturating the prose in pop-culture references in favor of earnestness and action-horror.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Meddling Kids is among Max BoothII's top ten crime books with supernatural elements and comedy, Sam Reader's top ten "books that cast forests in their proper light: dangerous, dark, and deep" and Jeff Somers's six books that will rearrange your childhood memories.

--Marshal Zeringue