Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Thirty-three essential fiction titles by Iranian writers

The work of British-born, Iranian-American artist Niloufar Talebi appears in a variety of media, often inspired by Iranian culture while taking great leaps into Western art forms. The vision driving her work is to address the invisibility and erasure of non-dominant voices through projects of cultural translation. Foundational to her projects are literary texts that she authors, translates, curates, and remixes.

Niloufar is the author of Self-Portrait in Bloom (2019).

At Lit Hub she shared a list of 33 essential works of fiction by Iranian writers, including:
Dalia Sofer, Man of My Time
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Set in Iran and New York City, Man of My Time tells the story of Hamid Mozaffarian, who after decades of ambivalent work as an interrogator with the Iranian regime, travels on a diplomatic mission to New York, where he encounters his estranged family and retrieves the ashes of his father, whose dying wish was to be buried in Iran. This is a novel not only about family and memory but about the interdependence of captor and captive, of citizen and country. Sofer is also the author of Septembers of Shiraz, which was made into a major motion picture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Six titles to restore hope in humanity

Cathy Rentzenbrink was born in Cornwall, grew up in Yorkshire, lived in London for a couple of decades and has now returned to Cornwall. Her first book, The Last Act of Love, is about the life and death of her brother. Her second book is called A Manual for Heartache; it is a broader look at sorrow, anguish, despair, loss and how to try to live with the knowledge that the world can be a cruel place. Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books is Rentzenbrink's new book.

At the Guardian she tagged six books that confirm her faith in people. Three titles on the list:
I like reading about people who have witnessed the worst of humanity and found a way through. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl has kept me company through many a long night, and The Choice by Edith Eger, who survived Auschwitz and became a therapist, is generous and wise. Maya Angelou lights the way with grace. I love this from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: “She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”
Read about the other books Rentzenbrink recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2020

Eleven cult books that lost their cool

Hephzibah Anderson memoir Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year without Sex was published by Chatto & Windus in the UK, Penguin Viking in the US, and Editions Michel Lafon in France.

She is currently a columnist at Prospect magazine, feature writer for BBC Culture and Fiction Editor at the Mail on Sunday.

For BBC Culture she tagged eleven previously hip books that have not aged well, including:
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 1952

Hemingway’s supposed masterpiece of a novella describes a luckless old fisherman who sets sail on a solo fishing expedition and finds himself in a three-day tussle with a gigantic marlin. Lacking the complex plots and satisfying character arcs of his better work, its wisdom includes pearls such as “pain does not matter to a man”. There are alternative readings of this text but so long as ‘Papa’s’ persona as a bullfighting brawler retains its power, it will remain a paean to faltering virility that’s likely to put readers off his entire oeuvre.
Read about the other entries on the list

The Old Man and the Sea is among Cynan's Jone's ten top books about the hostile ocean, Ross King's top ten books about old men, Jeff Somers's top ten books to read before traveling to Cuba, four books that changed Angelica Banks, Leo Benedictus's five best books for men who never read, Jung Chang's 6 favorite books, Kathryn Williams's thirteen best stories about pride, Scott Greenstone's twenty best books with fewer than 200 pages, Michael Palin's six favorite books, Robson Green's six best books, and Dave Boling's five best examples of how to structure a novel. N.M. Kelby has suggested that The Old Man and the Sea may be The Great Florida Novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Five fantasy novels featuring self-taught protagonists

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five fantasy novels starring self-taught protagonists, including:
The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk (2020)

If she were a man, Beatrice Clayborn would be trained; she possesses strong natural skills and has the potential to be a great magus. But Beatrice is a woman and in Chasland she will be denied magic until she is past menopause. Even then, what magic she can learn will be strictly circumscribed.

Nevertheless, she persists. There are grimoires, by women for women. Beatrice finds one in a bookstore, a text that will teach her to “summon a greater spirit and propose the pact of the great bargain.” She is one purchase away from achieving her dream…except that Ysbeta Lavan beats Beatrice to the coveted tome.

Too bad for Ysbeta that she cannot read the text she just purchased. Beatrice can. Perhaps an alliance is in order…
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Seven satirical titles about social upheaval

Adam Wilson is the author of three books: the novels Sensation Machines (2020) and Flatescreen (2012), and the collection of short stories What's Important is Feeling (2014).

At Electric Lit he tagged seven "books that push us out of complacency and force us to stare at our ugliest selves," including:
Slumberland by Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty is best known for his Booker Prize-winning 2015 novel, The Sellout, and his cultishly admired 1996 debut, The Whiteboy Shuffle. Both are great, but so are Beatty’s other novels, Tuff and Slumberland. I’m especially fond of the latter. Set in Berlin just after the fall of the Wall, Slumberland chronicles the adventures of a “jukebox sommelier” in search of a lost avant-garde jazz musician. The novel opens with what is certainly the funniest riff on tanning salons ever put to print, and keeps moving with the speed and precision of a NASCAR racer navigating the Autobahn. Beatty’s prose is pyrotechnic, and the joke-to-page ratio is unprecedented, but Slumberland also offers profound insights on expat culture and the end of The Cold War.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2020

Ten American masterpieces that are actually crime novels

Smith Henderson is the author of Fourth of July Creek and lives in California and Montana. Jon Marc Smith teaches English at Texas State University and lives in San Marcos, Texas. Make Them Cry is their first novel.

At CrimeReads, the authors tagged ten American masterpieces that are actually crime fiction, including:
These Women, by Ivy Pochoda

These Women is another book about misogynistic violence, this time centered on the strippers and prostitutes of Los Angeles. The genius of Pochoda’s book is how well it does away with the murderer—there is little in the way of a manhunt or clue-finding. Instead, the book draws its power and astonishing narrative momentum by focusing on the lived lives of the women killed, nearly killed, and troublingly proximate to this monster. No less riveting than a traditional serial killer story, what emerges from These Women is a more complex portrait of our relationship to horrific violence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: These Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ten top books about social media

Matthew Sperling's first novel, Astroturf, was published by riverrun in August 2018, and was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2019. His second novel, Viral, is out this month. His writing has also been published in 3:AM, Best British Short Stories 2015, The Guardian, The Junket, The Literateur, the New Statesman, The White Review, and elsewhere.

At the Guardian, Sperling tagged ten books that "trace the development of social media across the last decade, explore its effects in everyday life, and place it in its wider context. They share a sense of its enormous dynamism and power, as well as its vertiginous capacity for harm." One title on the list:
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

If [The Twittering Machine by Richard] Seymour doesn’t convince you to delete, Zuboff just might. Her study of how private experience has been colonised by data-harvesting tech firms (not just social media platforms but also Google), expropriating and monetising every aspect of our thoughts, choices and bodily lives, reveals how easily we as citizens have connived at the process.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Seven titles about confinement and the need to escape

David Moloney worked in the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, New Hampshire, from 2007 to 2011. He received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he now teaches. He lives north of Boston with his family.

He is the author of the novel Barker House.

At Electric Lit, Moloney tagged seven "books that deal with confinement, but also the need to escape," including:
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

In a dual narrative set in different timelines, this novel follows Ruth as a young girl, and then older and mute as Aunt Ruth. Her confinement, in the beginning, is physical, trapped in upstate New York on The Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission. Most of the children have deformities, including Ruth, who has scar-like constellations on her face, which The Father wants, because damaged children are easily converted to his church. The Father once prepared for the Apocalypse, his go-to teaching to end each lesson, but now he doesn’t want to survive it at all.

Ruth and Nat channel the dead, and find themselves linked with a salesman, a Comet-sniffing cult, and each other. In the present, Aunt Ruth takes pregnant Cora on a journey through New York state, where, in the end, both timelines converge into a powerful climax. Mr. Splitfoot is a ghost story about motherhood, family, and faith.

Though, right now, we aren’t on a physical journey, we are traveling through something fantastically unique to our timeline and, like Cora, we will learn more about ourselves and our mission.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Seven medical thrillers set outside the emergency room

Joel Shulkin, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and United States Air Force veteran with a master’s in public health. Having been lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary Michael Palmer, his short stories have appeared in various print and online journals, and he has won several national and local writing awards for fiction and poetry. He lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.

Shulkin's new medical thriller is Adverse Effects.

At CrimeReads he tagged seven medical thrillers that go beyond the emergency room, including:
Outbreak by Robin Cook

When asked to name a novel by Robin Cook, widely considered the founding father of medical thrillers, most think of his debut Coma. But I chose Outbreak, featuring a pediatrician turned CDC epidemiologist who investigates a devastating Ebola outbreak that may have been deliberate. While there are hundreds of books about plagues and epidemics—and likely many more to come after this year—this is a good example of a how a medical thriller doesn’t have to be only about solving a medical mystery or racing for a cure. The what is clear in this book. It’s the who and why that will leave you in a cold sweat.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2020

Top ten books of autofiction

Nina Bouraoui was born in 1967 to a French mother and an Algerian father. She lived in Algiers until the age of fourteen before moving to France and becoming a writer. She is one of France's most renowned living novelists, and has won several prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix Emmanuel Robles, the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Renaudot, and she was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Her novel All Men Want to Know is translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins.

Onbe title on her list of ten favorite books of autofiction ("It may not be the absolute truth the author is telling, but it is her truth as she lived and experienced it") as shared at the Guardian:
To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life by Hervé Guibert, translated by Linda Coverdale

Guibert is the father of autofiction, the master of finding that perfect balance of truth and beauty. In this book, he tells the story of his illness, Aids, in the late 1980s. He tells of how life with the virus became an existential adventure, how it affected a generation, how it stole his friends and lovers, and how writing was for him a bulwark against death and destruction. It’s the story of an era, a turning point – when Aids transformed our relationship with desire and sexuality forever.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Nine of the most memorable antagonists in fiction

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. When editing her work, she loves to procrastinate by spending time on social media, and when stuck on a plot twist has been known to run ideas by her Silver Labrador and Golden Retriever who wish she would stop working and play ball with them. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Shaw's new novel is The Silent Conspiracy.

[Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson; The Page 69 Test: The Network; My Book, The Movie: The Network.]

At CrimeReads, she tagged "nine antagonists so memorable that they’ve gone beyond the pages of the book and become famous in their own right." One entry on the list:
Rebecca, in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca

Throughout the novel, we’re led to believe that the new Mrs. de Winter can never measure up to the brilliant, beautiful, and beloved Rebecca. We never even learn the name of Max’s second wife, only the labels others give to her. But evidence of Rebecca as the first and seemingly rightful Mrs. de Winter is ubiquitous. We can almost see her signature, written in her elegant hand, the “R” dwarfing the other letters. Even as a ghost, in every way but paranormal, Rebecca dominates the story, her presence almost tangible. When Rebecca’s true character is finally revealed, the extent of her evil and duplicitousness nature lands her solidly in the villain camp.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Rebecca appears on Eliane Glaser's list of six of the best books on leadership, Penelope Lively’s list of five of her favorite gardens in literature, Xan Brooks's top ten list of terrible houses in fiction, Tom Easton's top ten list of fictional "houses which themselves seem to have a personality which affects the story," Martine Bailey's list of six of the best marriage plots in novels, Stella Gonet's six best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best conflagrations in literature, Tess Gerritsen's list of five favorite thrillers, Mary Horlock's list of the five best psychos in literature, and Derwent May's critic's chart of top country house books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Five memorable books involving amnesia

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five unforgettable books involving amnesia, including:
The True Queen by Zen Cho (2019)

Arriving in a tumultuous storm, Sakti and Muna know their names but nothing of their past. The pair are so similar that the Janda Baik islanders assume they must be sisters. Offered a home by formidable witch Mak Genggang, the pair start new lives. One small complication: the sisters are both cursed: where Sakti is full of magic, Muna has not a jot. Sakti’s curse is more existential: she is progressively vanishing. Perhaps the English Sorceress Royal’s college for magically gifted women can help…

It’s convenient that, even though the English are her enemies, the Sorceress Royal is a friend of Mak Genggang. It’s less convenient that Sakti vanishes while the sisters are traversing Faerie to reach England.

It is up to powerless Muna to rescue Sakti. If only Muna were not utterly powerless. If only Faerie were not on the verge of declaring war on England.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 18, 2020

Eight great reads about women who disappear

Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages and topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad. They have been selected by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, The Today Show and The Book of the Month Club, and have been optioned for both television and film.

[The Page 69 Test: Don't Look for Me; Q&A with Wendy Walker.]

At CrimeReads, Walker tagged eight favorite thrillers in which a woman is missing, including:
Perfectly Famous, Emily Liebert
Missing Woman: A Famous Author

Technically, mother and famous author, Ward DeFleur, hasn’t disappeared in any way that has involved the authorities. She has simply chosen to vanish after the devastating murder of her teenage daughter, Stevie. Enter Bree Bennett—a recently-divorced, former-journalist-cum-housewife—desperate to fill her days with something other than Pilates classes and grocery shopping. When she decides to try her hand at writing a piece devoted to finding her favorite author, she runs into resistance from Ward’s people, and danger from Stevie’s possible killer. Suspects emerge from every corner and the ending has a delicious surprise!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ten top books about doomed love

Eleanor Boudreau is a poet who has worked as a dry-cleaner and as a radio reporter. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House, Barrow Street, Waxwing, Willow Springs, FIELD, Copper Nickel, and other journals. Currently, she is finishing her PhD and teaching creative writing at Florida State University.

Boudreau's first book, Earnest, Earnest? (2020), won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.

At Electric Lit she tagged ten books about doomed love, including:
Crush by Richard Siken

“The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell,” writes Richard Siken, “Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.” And it is at breakneck pace that the lovers in Siken’s poems come together and split apart. Before he wrote Crush, Siken’s boyfriend died in a car accident, but that loss is transmuted in the book, so the lovers are torn apart for different reasons across the three sections—sometimes the cause is death, sometimes choice, but the result is always heartbreak.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Five top novels about destructive romantic friendships

Micah Nemerever was trained as an art historian. He wrote his master’s thesis on queer identity and gender anxiety in the art of the Weimar Republic. He is an avid home chef and amateur historian of queer cinema.

After studying in rural Connecticut and Austin, Texas, he now resides in the Pacific Northwest.

These Violent Delights is his first novel.

At CrimeReads, Nemerever tagged "five books [that] invite the reader to surrender again to the intoxication of a destructive relationship, and to follow it to a nightmarishly logical end," including:
Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

Stories of codependent friendships often feature an element of social aspiration, with one friend yearning to adopt the other’s higher economic class, beauty, or social prestige. The relationship at the heart of Ugly Girls has no such clearly lopsided social dynamic. Both Perry and Baby Girl live in severe poverty and struggle to make friends besides each other. What unites them, in their acerbic but fiercely protective friendship, is a keen awareness of the threats posed by the outside world. They propel each other to toughness and nihilistic rebellion, but each girl is merely performing toughness, and neither has any illusions about the other’s true fragility. In the early pages Perry half-fondly thinks of Baby Girl as a “fake-ass thug,” but it becomes clear over the course of the story that Perry shares her friend’s false confidence. They desperately conceal their own frailty and show no mercy for each other’s. For all their posturing, it is this very vulnerability that propels the girls to an act of violence. Their situations are dire, their prospects bleak—and the outside threat that encroaches on their friendship is a matter of their very survival.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Ugly Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Five books to bring you closer to mindfulness

Sharon Salzberg is a central figure in the field of meditation and a world-renowned teacher and author. She is the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestseller Real Happiness.

He new book is Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World.

At Lit Hub, Salzberg shared five books that brought her closer to mindfulness, including:
Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (Basic Books)

Judith Herman’s book is a landmark in understanding the impact of trauma on society and giving readers tools to address it. The part of it that informed my thinking for Real Change was Herman’s exploration of how our ability to address traumatic experiences is linked to the world’s consciousness of social issues. To acknowledge trauma and name it, to find that there are others like you, and to begin to share that experience, is the personal journey for those who have suffered.

In Trauma and Recovery, Herman shows how an interior journey is reinforced as society changes. She describes how issues of sexual abuse came to the forefront with the rise of the women’s movement, giving women a greater platform to speak. Herman also explores how research into Post-traumatic stress disorder emerged as a societal concern as the country recognized the difficulties of war veterans re-integrating into society. With both issues, there was resistance and denial, as this inner state borne of trauma came forward. Herman portrays how these steps are part of the process of movement from inner to outer that creates the context for change.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2020

Eight frothy, female-led thrillers

Michele Campbell is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School and a former federal prosecutor in New York City who specialized in international narcotics and gang cases.

Her latest novel is The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

At The Strand Magazine, Campbell tagged eight female-led thrillers with a "frothy concoction of thrills, friendship, glamor and humor," including:
Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald.

The suspense builds in this tale of a daughter suspected in her mother’s murder. Eva was struck by lightning the night her mother died and remembers nothing of what happened. As she investigates the murder to clear her own name, terrible secrets and buried memories emerge. Told in alternating, time-shifting chapters by mother and daughter, this seamless, accomplished psychological thriller will keep you riveted.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Five of the best books to inspire compassion

A registered nurse for twenty years before becoming a writer and researcher, Christie Watson won the Costa First Novel Award for her debut, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away. In 2017 she published a memoir of her time as a nurse, The Language of Kindness which is currently being adapted for television.

Watson's new book is The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion.

At the Guardian, she tagged five books that explore kindness and courage in the face of suffering, including:
The neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was only 36 when he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, as he relates in his memoir When Breath Becomes Air. Kalanithi explains why he gave up English literature to train in medicine, and charts the philosophical journey he took to embody the meaning and importance of compassion: “As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives – everyone dies eventually – but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness.” The book was published after his death, but Kalanithi lives on with his beautiful words.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Five crime & mystery novels featuring deaf characters

Nell Pattison's new novel is The Silent House.

At CrimeReads she tagged five crime and mystery novels in which the authors refuse to use deafness as a narrative device. One title on the list:
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic

Insurance investigator Caleb Zelic was deafened at the age of five by meningitis, and clearly carries a lot of anger at the barriers this has placed in his way. As he becomes embroiled in the investigation into the death of a friend, he is forced to face his own issues surrounding his deafness, as well as some pretty violent criminals. His pride leads to a reluctance to ask for help when he needs it, and this feels really genuine, highlighting the insecurity that he feels, and Viskic has done a great job at portraying the different modes of communication he uses with different people, depending on their relationship. He has a colleague whose poor attempts at sign language add some comic relief to the darkness of the plot, a brother whose moods can be read depending on whether he will sign, and an ex-wife who knows him intimately enough to blend speech and sign in the most effective combination for him.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 11, 2020

Ten books about the merits & dangers of alternative schooling

Jae-Yeon Yoo is a volunteer intern at Electric Literature.

She tagged ten books about the promise and perils of alternative schooling. One title on the list:
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

This mega-bestseller documents the dangers of an isolated upbringing, and the power of knowledge to change one’s life. Westover grows up under survivalist parents, loosely “homeschooled” by her mother and closely monitored by her paranoid, controlling father. Under these abusive conditions, she secretly studies for the ACT; it is only through attending Brigham Young University that Westover finally leaves Buck’s Peak, a rural mountain in Idaho. Educated has garnered well-deserved acclaim for its sharp, visceral depiction of rural isolation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The 20 best 9/11 books

In 2011 Justin Webb, Pankaj Mishra, and Jason Burke tagged twenty of the best 9/11 books at the Guardian. One of the novels on the list:
Falling Man by Don DeLillo

“It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night.” So begins this slightly self-conscious but ultimately successful attempt to recreate in fiction the horror of the day and the days that followed. Boy, there were some ghastly attempts at 9/11 fiction and some utterly fatuous suggestions that it was somehow too difficult to approach in a novel (do people not write about wars?), but this work overcame all the pitfalls and pratfalls and manages to be heartfelt without too much sentimentality.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Falling Man is among Porochista Khakpour's ten best 9/11 novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top goddesses in fiction

E. Foley and B. Coates are writers and editors based in London. They are the authors of the number-one bestseller, Homework for Grown-ups: Everything You Learnt at School and Promptly Forgot, as well as Advanced Homework for Grown-ups, The Homework for Grown-ups Quiz Book and Shakespeare for Grown-ups, and What Would Boudicca Do?: Life Lessons from History's Most Remarkable Women. Their latest book is You Goddess! Lessons in Being Legendary from Awesome Immortals.

At the Guardian, they tagged ten "brilliantly varied examples of how goddesses have been approached in fiction, sometimes revelling in the divine spotlight and sometimes in more background roles." One title on their list:
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

This is a joyfully comic modern-day novel where several Olympian gods and goddesses are now living in Hampstead (Aphrodite works on a sex chatline and Artemis is a dog-walker). When they tangle with mortals Neil and Alice things go awry, as they often do when deities and humans mix. Neil has to use Angel tube to get into the underworld to save Alice, and sort out a problem caused by the Greek gods’ famously predatory attitude towards women.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gods Behaving Badly is among Mary Norris's twelve notable books on Greece, by Greeks and philhellenes.

The Page 69 Test: Gods Behaving Badly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Seven essential Native American crime novels

David Heska Wanbli Weiden is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He's a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Tin House Scholar, and the recipient of the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship. A lawyer and professor, he lives in Denver, Colorado, with his family.

Weiden's new novel is Winter Counts.

At The Strand Magazine he tagged seven of the most important crime novels by Native writers, including:
The Sharpest Sight (1995) by Louis Owens (Choctaw-Cherokee).

I’d argue that Louis Owens is the most important figure in the genre of Native American crime fiction, as he wrote compelling page-turners that also interrogated questions of identity, culture, and colonization. Nominally the story of the death of Attis McCurtain, The Sharpest Sight’s characters travel between the earthly and spirit worlds as the question of Attis’s murder is resolved. This complex narrative set the stage for a unique indigenous style of suspense fiction that incorporates political, legal, and cultural issues.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The best books about love

Kate Kellaway is a feature writer and deputy theatre critic for the Observer.

A reader wrote in asking her to "recommend some good romantic novels that are not cliched." Part of Kellaway's reply:
Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is gorgeously sensual. For those seeking gay romance, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies and What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell are winners (the last particularly elegiac and passionate). Also worth adding is Sally Rooney’s smash hit Conversations With Friends – balanced between sophistication and naivety; Colm Tóibín’s superb Brooklyn – exploring love when geography is not on its side; and Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday – a beautiful novella about a Jane who does not share Jane Eyre’s good luck.
Read about more of Kellaway's recommendations.

Love in the Time of Cholera also made Jojo Moyes's list of five happy literary novels, Isabella Hammad's list of six top books of correspondence, Sameer Rahim's list of five essential works by Gabriel García Márquez, Jill Boyd's top six list of memorable marriage proposals in literature, the Christian Science Monitor's list of six novels about grand passions, Ann Brashares' six favorite books list, and Marie Arana's list of the best books about love; it is one of Hugh Thomson’s top ten books on South American journeys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 7, 2020

Five novels on motherhood and maternal fear

Kate Riordan is a British writer and journalist who worked for the Guardian and Time Out London.

Her new novel is The Heatwave.

[Q&A with Kate Riordan; The Page 69 Test: The Heatwave.]

At The Strand Magazine, Riordan tagged five "novels about maternal fear which challenge as much as they chill," including:
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

Published in 1988 and undoubtedly a classic of the genre of ambivalent mothers, Lessing’s fifth child – Ben – is described from the start in monstrous fashion, with his oddly-shaped head and yellowish skin. A changeling in a family which had been effortlessly harmonious before his arrival, he fights his way out of utero and bites his mother’s nipples until they’re black. As he grows older and stronger, animals are duly tortured and ultimately the decision is made to institutionalize him. Deeply unsettling right through to the twist at the end.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Five top crime novels that explore social issues

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018.

Cole's new novel is When No One Is Watching.

At CrimeReads she tagged five "books that explore social issues, and the effects that ripple out from them in ways large and small," including:
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Cha’s taut thriller follows two families, one Korean American, one Black American, and the two timelines that link them in the past and present—a bond forged through violence then and now. Inspired by the real life killing of Latasha Harlins by store owner Soon Ja Du, the story delves into the aftermath of trauma, death, and resentment for the families and communities affected by it, and how the pain of the past injustice still resonates today.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Your House Will Pay is among Sara Sligar's seven California crime novels with a nuanced take on race, class, gender & community and Karen Dietrich's eight top red herrings in contemporary crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifteen great campus novels published in the last 10 years

Emily Temple holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

Temple's new novel, her first, is The Lightness.

At Lit Hub she tagged fifteen great campus novels published in the last ten years. One title on the list:
Pamela Erens, The Virgins (2013)

Erens pulls off more than a few tricks in her second novel, the most impressive of which is her very unlikeable, very unreliable narrator, a villain jealously imagining the love affair (and sexual practices) of a couple at their shared boarding school—almost as if the narrator of Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime was sinister, and involved. The novel itself is a brutal delight, and surely a contemporary classic of the genre.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Virgins is among Tiffany Gibert's ten erotic books hotter and better than Fifty Shades of Grey and Radhika Sanghani's ten top books about losing one's virginity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Five thrillers with riveting mother-daughter dynamics

S.F. Kosa (aka Sarah Fine) is a long-time clinical psychologist. She was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast.

The Quiet Girl is her debut psychological suspense novel.

At The Strand Magazine, Kosa tagged five favorite thrillers with riveting mother-daughter dynamics, including:
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

It’s fair to question why this gem is on the list, given that Maria, the mother, is dead at the end of the first chapter (which poses the mystery central to the plot). But the structure of this book, as well as the perspectives of Zoe, Maria’s daughter and one of the main characters, and Tessa, Maria’s sister, give us insight into the determination of a mother to sacrifice for and protect her offspring, shield them from consequences—unearned and otherwise—and sculpt a better future for them, even while daring to hope for happiness in her own life. This intricate story also explores how maturing girls can see their mothers’ vulnerabilities with a poignant, tense kind of insight, limned with both bafflement and gratitude, as they gain strength to come into their own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue