Monday, November 30, 2020

Sixteen nonfiction books that attempted to define America

Tom Zoellner is the author of several nonfiction books, including Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire and the newly released The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America.

At Electric Lit, he tagged sixteen attempts at the "one nonfiction book that encapsulated the grandeur, folly, ugliness, bravado, idealism, and tempestuousness of the United States of America," including:
The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson

A young male journalist jumps in a vehicle and makes a giant loop around the country making witty observations along the way. This idea is as least as old as the railroad, and has been seized on by a diverse cast including J. Ross Brown, Mark Twain, Matt Field, Josiah Gregg, Ian Frazer, Richard Grant, and Jonathan Raban. To this groaning table, Bryson brings his characteristic mix of casual erudition mingled with wit, though he mainly finds reasons to be grumpy. Rural folk don’t come off particularly well in this supposed paean to small-town America.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Five SFF titles packed with twists and turns

Born and raised in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana Pinguicha is a computer engineer graduate who currently lives in Lisbon. She can usually be found writing, painting, devouring extraordinary quantities of books and video games, or walking around with her bearded dragon, Norberta. She also has two cats, Sushi and Jubas, who would never forgive her if she didn’t mention them.

Pinguicha's new novel, her debut, is A Curse of Roses.

At she tagged five sci-fi & fantasy "books that start one way, and by the time you’re done with them, there have been so many twists and turns your brain will feel like it’s completely lost in a maze," including:
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

I kid you not, all the lists I pitched for this article had Legendborn in it. It’s just a legendary book, and I’m sure most of you have heard of it. But, in case you haven’t, let me tell you about possibly the greatest YA Contemporary Fantasy that’s graced our shelves

Legendborn follows Bree Matthews, who just lost her mom in an accident. On her first days at her early-college program, she decides to go to a party. Which is all good, until a monster appears. The young mage who drives the beast away tries to erase Bree’s memories of that night—and fails, leaving Bree (and you!) with a whole lot of questions. What’s a Merlin? Legendborn? Secret Society? WHAT?

Not only is it a masterclass in worldbuilding, it’s full to the brim with surprises and twists, and a cast of characters you will love to death. I know I will lie down on the train tracks for them. And if you hear a small voice in the wind telling you to sit down and read this immediately, it’s me.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Five unconventional fictional families

Katie Yee is a Brooklyn-based writer and the Book Marks associate editor at Lit Hub. If you follow @bookmarksreads on Instagram, you'll see lots of photos of her rescue dog, Oliver.

At Lit Hub she tagged five unconventional fictional families that’ll make you miss your own. (Maybe.) One title on the list:
Elf and Yoli in Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows

So maybe your sister is not a wealthy, world-renowned pianist, but the bond between Elf and Yoli feels incredibly relatable and true-to-life. (I think. I don’t have a sister. I have a brother who hates books who is thankfully not coming home for Thanksgiving.) Now, this is a very sad book. It takes place in the aftermath of the world-renowned pianist’s suicide attempt. But there are also so many surprising moments of genuine laugh-out-loud joy, too. If you need additional inducement to spend time with these sisters, here are their delightful plans for a future together: “…chop wood, pump water, fish, play the piano, sing together from the soundtracks of Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables, re-imagine our pasts, and wait out the end of the world.” My heart!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2020

Five top mystery novels set on islands

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010. She writes the multi-award-winning Dandy Gilver series, set in the old country in the 1930s, as well as a strand of multi-award-winning psychological thrillers. Very different awards. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the humorous Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry look at California life. These are not multi-award-winning, but the first two won the same award in consecutive years, which still isn’t too shabby.

[My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide; The Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide.]

McPherson is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.

Her latest Dandy Gilver mystery is The Turning Tide.

At CrimeReads, McPherson tagged five of her favorite mystery plots set on islands, including:
The Island: Mictlan
The Novel: They All Fall Down

Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down is definitely the off-spring of Christie’s classic. She set out deliberately to write a modern twist on the “going down like ninepins” plot. But every child has two parents, right? Not only are the characters here about as different from Christie’s generals and schoolmarms as you could imagine—Miriam Macy is a terrific tragicomic invention—but the island itself is a good deal more thrilling than Purbeck. Mictlan, named for the Aztec underworld and reached on a boat called La Charon, is a private paradise off the Mexico coast in the Sea of Cortez. Another wonderful updating is that the guests gathered there to await their fate have been lured on the pretext of an appearance on a reality show. They’re told this in an email signed “A.Nansi”, by the way. So the signs are clear that they should have let the chance go by. I’m so glad they didn’t; this novel is a ton of fun.
Read about the other entries on the list.

They All Fall Down is among CrimeReads' ten best crime novels of 2019 and Kristen Lepionka's seven favorite unlikable female characters.

The Page 69 Test: They All Fall Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ten top books about consent

Mia Levitin is a cultural and literary critic based in London. Her work appears regularly in publications including the Financial Times, The Spectator and the Guardian.

She is the author of The Future of Seduction.

At the Guardian, Levitin tagged ten of the "books that informed [her] understanding of the complexities of consent," including:
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

Several novels in the past few years have delved into teacher-student relationships, including Susan Choi’s tricksy Trust Exercise, which expanded the question of consent to include who has the right to tell a story, and Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa. Among these narratives is The Friend, which features a college professor who regularly beds his students. When students complain about being addressed as “dear”, he stops, “but not without sulking”. What bothers him more than evolving standards of appropriateness, however, is his waning attraction as he ages. Submitting to him without desire, what drives the young women instead “is narcissism, the thrill of bringing an older man in a position of authority to his knees”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Friend is among Lee Conell's seven books about New York City’s stark economic divide and Eliza Smith's twenty books to help you navigate grief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Six snowy thrillers

At Book Riot, Sophia LeFevre tagged six isolated, snowy thrillers to match the season, including:

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop and has big plans to restore the shop to its former glory. But due to unexpected construction delays, she misses her original summer season launch. Instead, on the day she opens shop, there’s a massive snowfall that keeps visitors away. Her day worsens when she finds a dead body outside her shop lying in the snow, a man who harbors an old feud with her family. When her father is implicated in the man’s murder, Bronwyn must balance running a new business with trying to clear her father’s name.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Eight top books about feminist folklore

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 [US title: The Butchers' Blessing], is set in the Irish borderlands during the 1996 BSE crisis, and was published to widespread acclaim in March 2020.

[Q&A with Ruth Gilligan.]

Gilligan holds degrees from Cambridge, Yale, UEA and Exeter. She contributes literary reviews to the Irish Independent, Guardian, TLS and LA Review of Books. She works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham and is an ambassador for the global storytelling charity Narrative 4.

At Electric Lit the author tagged eight weird and wonderful "books that combine feminism and folklore; books where uncanny tales are used to empower female voices (and, crucially, female bodies)." One title on the list:
The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Megan Hunter’s premise is as bizarre as it is simple—Lucy’s husband has been unfaithful, so now in return, she is allowed to cause him pain exactly three times. As the mythic and domestic begin to merge, Lucy becomes increasingly obsessed with harpies—those classical creatures of revenge—until she undergoes a shocking metamorphosis of her own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2020

Seven titles for fans of "The Queen’s Gambit"

Aisling Twomey was born in Cork and lived in Dublin for a few years before quitting her old life in 2015 and starting a brand new one in London. Forever reading books in the bath and consequently wondering why her paperbacks are a bit wobbly, Twomey has been a writer for almost ten years.

At Book Riot she tagged seven books for fans of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, including:

Chess is fundamentally dominated by the achievements of white men who have received a large majority of the opportunities on offer. That’s not to say they’re not worthy players, but women and people of colour have been left behind. This nonfiction work focuses on Phiona Mutesi, a teenage girl and a chess prodigy from Kampala, Uganda. Many people online seem to be asking if Beth Harmon is real— alas, she isn’t, but Phiona Mutesi and the women who come after her could strike new paths for a more inclusive chessboard. This one is also a movie, which is getting to be a bit of a trend with this list.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Eleven titles about midwesterners who aren’t trying to be nice

Rachel Mans McKenny was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, a YoungArts Scholar, and a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She received a degree in creative writing at Creighton University and an MA in literature from Iowa State University. She teaches composition and public speaking at Iowa State.

A Midwesterner born and raised, Mans McKenny is a writer and humorist. Her work has been published in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and other outlets. Her debut novel, The Butterfly Effect, is forthcoming from Alcove Press in December 2020.

At Electric Lit, Mans McKenny tagged eleven books "in which Midwestern writers, poets, and characters are unwilling to demur or make apologies to smooth over an issue for the sake of social grace." One title on the list:
Marlena by Julie Buntin

Another Michigan novel, Marlena tracks the unhealthy friendship of Marlena and Cat. Mixing flashback with a present narrative, Buntin marks the threads of a disordered friendship, hedged by substance abuse, playing hooky, and ultimately the untimely death of the title character. This novel is just as much about poverty and class as it is about the either misunderstood or too well-understood title character.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Five books about women fighting their way out

James S. Murray is a writer, executive producer, and actor, best known as "Murr" on the hit television show Impractical Jokers on truTV. He is also one of the stars of the TV show The Misery Index on TBS along with his comedy troupe, The Tenderloins.

His new novel, with Darren Wearmouth, is Don't Move.

At CrimeReads, Murray tagged "five books dedicated to women fighting their way out." One title on the list:
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

What happens when a group of Southern housewives in the 90s realize that their new neighbor might be a blood-sucking demon? That’s the question Grady Hendrix answers in his latest novel. In his protagonist Patricia Campbell, Hendrix has created a refreshing transformation of the common housewife trope into something more meaty and real. As the story heats up and the bloody consequences are revealed, Patricia and her book club achieve vigilante levels of determination to tackle the paranormal evil and social evils that have riddled their community. Not to mention the laugh out loud moments that are sprinkled throughout. Great read through and through.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2020

Eight books you should read instead of "Hillbilly Elegy"

At the Los Angeles Times, Lorraine Berry tagged eight books that offer a more honest approach to America's working class than Hillbilly Elegy, including:
Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Aliu’s 2018 novel explores the relationship between a mother and daughter in Waterbury, Conn., where factory closings have cut off opportunities for Elsie’s immigrant family and neighbors. With a daughter’s arrogance, Elsie mocks the choices made by her mother, Luljeta, while furiously making plans to leave Waterbury behind. It’s a sadly typical narrative in a postindustrial America without safety nets, where accidents can thwart the best-laid plans.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ten top books about great thinkers

Peter Salmon was born in Australia but now lives in the UK. His first novel The Coffee Story was a New Statesman Book of the Year. He has written for the Guardian, the Sydney Review of Books, the New Humanist, as well as Australian TV and radio. He has received the Writer's Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.

Salmon's new book is An Event, Perhaps: A Biograph y of Jacques Derrida.

At the Guardian, he tagged ten of the best books about great thinkers, including:
Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk

For anyone studying philosophy, reading Wittgenstein can feel like taking a draught of cool water. Suddenly the deepest problems seem easy, to be mere problems of language, easy to solve. And then, as you read more deeply, that all falls apart as every problem becomes knottier, every question deeper still. Ray Monk’s biography is the gold standard in the genre, revealing a man whose life was as simple and complicated as his work.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Five top psychological thrillers set in isolated places

Claire Douglas has worked as a journalist for fifteen years writing features for women’s magazines and national newspapers, but she’s dreamed of being a novelist since the age of seven. She finally got her wish after winning the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award, with her first novel, The Sisters. She lives in Bath with her husband and two children.

Douglas's new novel is Do Not Disturb.

At CrimeReads she tagged "five of [her] favorite psychological thrillers that use isolated locations to create that sense of menace and fear." One title on the list:
The Shining by Stephen King

Probably the most well-known of all isolated locations due to the bestselling book being made into a Stanley Kubrick film. This is one very creepy thriller/horror story. It has everything; a boy with psychic ability, a dad who is suffering from his own demons, a cold, empty hotel out of season, a remote and snowy landscape. This is a masterclass in using location as a character in its own right to create tension, horror and suspense.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Shining is among Leslie Jamison's five best books to understand drinking, Jeff Somers's ten all-time scariest haunted house books and five books totally unlike their adaptations, Laura Purcell's five top gothic novels, Sam Riedel's six eeriest SFF stories inspired by true events, Joel Cunningham's top seven books featuring long winters, Ashley Brooke Roberts's seven best haunted house books, Jake Kerridge's top ten Stephen King books, Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten horror novels that are scarier than most movies, Charlie Higson's top ten horror books, and Monica Ali's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Eight of the best serial killer thrillers

Aurora Lydia Dominguez is a high school teacher, professor, journalist, writer and moderator as well as a cosplayer based in sunny Hollywood, Florida.

At Book Riot she tagged eight books about serial killers that will chill you to the bone, including:
Open House by Katie Sise

Following happenings from a decade ago in upstate New York, no one forgets when art student Emma McCullough walked into the woods and was never seen again. It’s a mystery that still haunts the university town and her family, especially her sister, Haley, who obsessively seeks closure. When the first piece of evidence about the vanishing is found, Emma’s bracelet, it triggers people who loved and cared for Haley. When a woman is attacked during an open house at the university, the connections between the two crimes, years apart, suddenly begin to surface. This twisty tale is full of secrets and thrills sure to keep you interested in what is going on through the very end.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 16, 2020

Nine titles about mistaken identity

Christopher Louis Romaguera is an intern at Electric Literature. He has a monthly column at The Ploughshares Blog.

At Electric Lit he tagged nine books about mistaken identity, including:
The Likeness by Tana French

In Tana French’s mystery novel, detective Cassie Maddox takes on a murder case that comes uncomfortably close: the victim looks just like Cassie herself, and has an ID using one of her old undercover aliases. In order to solve the murder, Cassie must take on Alexandra’s identity and life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Likeness is among Simon Lelic's top ten false identities in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The fifty greatest apocalypse novels

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 fifty great apocalypse and post-apocalypse novels. One title on the list:
Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse (2011)

For a little relief from nuclear war and pandemics, enter the robopocalypse—which, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like. It begins, of course, with a brilliant scientist and a sentient computer program, Archos, which kills its creator and decides that its purpose for being is to save the planet from the human race. Archos spreads to machines around the world, which kill or enslave humans—until a few begin to fight back. Another breath of fresh air: this novel is told from the other side of the apocalypse, a reminder that these things can be reversed, at least sometimes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Robopocalypse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Six titles on America's swinging ideology

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. Raised in a small town in Ohio, he was educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006 Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist, in 2013 President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities, for “deepening our understanding of community in America,” and in 2018 the International Political Science Association awarded him the Karl Deutsch Award for cross-disciplinary research. He has received sixteen honorary degrees from eight countries, including in 2018, the University of Oxford.

Putnam's books include Bowling Alone and, with Shaylyn Romney Garrett, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.

At The Week magazine. he tagged six books on America's swinging ideology, including:
Drift and Mastery by Walter Lippmann (1914).

At a critical historical moment when the nation was drifting down an ever-darkening path, the 25-year-old Lippmann called on citizens to repudiate fatalism and embrace their role as agents of change. His book reads like a voice from the past exhorting today's youth to master the future of our democracy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 13, 2020

Five fictional hackers who use their skills for good

James Swallow is an author and scriptwriter with over fifteen years of experience in fiction, television, radio, journalism, new media, and video games. He is a three-time New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty-five novels with over 750,000 books currently in print in nine different worldwide territories. He was nominated by the BAFTA for his writing on the critically acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Ghost is the latest novel in Swallow's Marc Dane thriller series.

At CrimeReads, the author tagged five of fiction’s greatest hacker-heroes, including:
Lisabeth Salander

If Kevin Flynn was the archetype for Eighties hackers, Lisabeth Salander is undoubtedly the model for the Oughts. Her creator Stieg Larsson suggested she was a “grown-up Pippi Longstocking”, but clearly one with a life full of dark turns and grim realities. A wiry, asocial goth-geek, Salander first appears in Larsson’s 2005 novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and swiftly sets out her persona as the damaged but defiant hacker dedicated to exposing the violent and the hateful. In the following books – The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007), Salander’s journey uncovers bleak truths about her own past intertwined with conspiracies that she drags into the light. After Larsson’s death, the character has returned in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015) and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (2017), continued by David Lagercrantz, and played variously by Noomi Rapace, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in movie adaptations of the novels.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo made Amy S. Foster's list of five books featuring women who shoot first and ask questions later, E(ugene). C. Myers's top five list of books featuring heroic hackers, Fanny Blake's top five books about revenge, Kat Rosenfield's list of the eight most famous body parts in fiction, Rebecca Jane Stokes's top ten list of books about women in peril…who fought back, Maureen Corrigan's top five list of crime & mystery novels of 2008, Camilla Läckberg's top ten list of Swedish crime novels, and is one of Lynda Bellingham's six best books. The Millennium Trilogy is one of Ken Follett's five best trilogies, and Lisbeth Salander is among Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends we'd like to have as anything close to real-life friends and Anne Holt's top ten female detectives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Ten top books about Lebanon

Born and raised in Beirut, Naji Bakhti graduated from the American University of Beirut (Lebanon, 2011). He recently obtained a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Between Beirut and the Moon is his first book.

At the Guardian, Bakhti tagged ten "books about Lebanon which do not immediately concern themselves with the civil war, except when they do." One title on the list:
A House of Many Mansions by Kamal Salibi

At the age of 12, I was asked by the pre-eminent historian in the land, Dr Kamal Salibi, about my latest history lesson at school. When I mentioned the Phoenicians, he shook his head and suppressed a smile as if I had just relayed a lewd joke beyond my years. In A House of Many Mansions, Salibi proceeds to dismantle the founding myth of Phoenicianism (that the Lebanese are the descendants of Phoenicians), while also dissecting Arab nationalism and other competing narratives. Crucially, he offers a sweeping, eloquent reinterpretation of Lebanese history that exposes the many facets of a country in crisis.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ten top eco-fiction novels

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist and internationally published novelist of eco-fiction, science fiction and fantasy. In addition to eight published novels, Munteanu has written award-nominated short stories, articles and non-fiction books, which have been translated into several languages throughout the world. Her latest novel is A Diary in the Age of Water.

At, Munteanu tagged ten "impactful, highly enjoyable works of eco-fiction," including:
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Climate change and its effect on the monarch butterfly migration is told through the eyes of Dellarobia Turnbow, a rural housewife, who yearns for meaning in her life. It starts with her scrambling up the forested mountain—slated to be clear cut—behind her eastern Tennessee farmhouse; she is desperate to take flight from her dull and pointless marriage to run away with the telephone man. The first line of Kingsolver’s book reads: “A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.” But the rapture she’s about to experience is not from the thrill of truancy; it will come from the intervention of Nature when she witnesses the hill newly aflame with monarch butterflies who have changed their migration behavior.

Flight Behavior is a multi-layered metaphoric study of “flight” in all its iterations: as movement, flow, change, transition, beauty and transcendence. Flight Behavior isn’t so much about climate change and its effects and its continued denial as it is about our perceptions and the actions that rise from them: the motives that drive denial and belief. When Dellarobia questions Cub, her farmer husband, “Why would we believe Johnny Midgeon about something scientific, and not the scientists?” he responds, “Johnny Midgeon gives the weather report.” Kingsolver writes: “and Dellarobia saw her life pass before her eyes, contained in the small enclosure of this logic.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ten top books with “What if?” moments

With more than two million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

Both Mackintosh’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club.

Mackintosh’s latest novel is After the End.

At Lit Hub, she tagged ten of the best books with “what if?” moments, including:
Matt Haig, The Midnight Library (Viking)

The eponymous library in Haig’s latest novel provides protagonist Nora Seed with the chance to change her life. Each library book represents a life she could have had, had she made a different choice. Poignant and uplifting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 9, 2020

Ten contemporary books by Korean American authors

Caroline Kim was born in Busan, South Korea, but moved to America at a young age. Her newly released collection of short stories, The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories, won the 2020 Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

At Electric Lit, Kim tagged "ten contemporary books that enlarge our understanding of Korean America and introduce characters who, until now, haven’t existed seriously in literature," including:
Drifting House by Krys Lee

This is one of my favorite collections of short stories, and “The Salaryman” is my favorite in this collection. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Krys Lee takes us into the life of one of the many faceless white-collar workers one sees packed into South Korea’s subway trains, one of many not thriving in Korea’s golden economic boom. After losing his job, Mr. Seo lives on the street with other jobless men like himself, so ashamed they can’t go home to their families. Instead they spend their time waiting in line for free food, dreaming of driving trucks or working as laborers in America, contemplating selling their kidneys for cash, and lying to their families. One such man “will call his parents and his wife, as he does every week, pretending to be in America. He will tell his parents that he, the oldest son, is their guarantee. He will promise to bring his wife over after he gets settled.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Drifting House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Nine top works of prison fiction

Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.

Their new novel is House of Correction.

At CrimeReads, they tagged nine great works--films and books--of prison fiction, including:
Kolyma Tales, by Varlam Shalamov

The greatest work of prison fiction? It might be this. The Gulag was almost its own country within the country of the Soviet Union and Shalamov, a poet, spent seventeen years there. When he was released he embarked on the almost insanely courageous process of writing about it while still living in the Soviet Union. With an entirely clear eye and a straightforward prose style, he portrayed a society of total cynicism, corruption and violence, with the tiniest moments of decency and love and even humor. The result was a devastating account of the Soviet system which had to be smuggled out of the country and published abroad in the 1970s. But his own health was broken by his years of imprisonment and his stories were only published in Russia in 1989, seven years after his death.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Seven titles about families in exile

Christopher Louis Romaguera is an intern at Electric Literature. He has a monthly column at The Ploughshares Blog.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven books about lost homes and the stories passed from generation to generation, including:
In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menéndez

Ana Menéndez’s In Cuba I was a German Shepherd plays off the joke, “Here in America, I may be a short, insignificant mutt, but in Cuba I was a German shepherd.” It’s a common joke among Cuban exiles who live in Miami and elsewhere in the United States, who mostly only have their stories (and sometimes, their embellishments) of who they were and what they had in Cuba. These eleven short stories share the theme of self-mythologizing, and how people can keep a part of their home (and pass on something of their home to the next generation) through stories.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 6, 2020

Six titles featuring dark anti-heroines

Susie Yang was born in China and came to the United States as a child. After receiving her doctorate of pharmacy from Rutgers, she launched a tech startup in San Francisco that has taught 20,000 people how to code. She has studied creative writing at Tin House and Sackett Street. She has lived across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and now resides in the UK. White Ivy is her first novel.

At CrimeReads, Yang tagged six books featuring dark anti-heroines who test the limits of morality, including:
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is one of the most humane, astute writers I’ve read, and Olive Kitteridge is a testament to her ability to make a
cranky, mean, utterly un-self-aware old woman not only compelling, but sympathetic. As readers, we can hate Olive but she is trapped in her own mind and body and that is infinitely worse. This book took me on a roller-coaster of emotions, from sorrow to anger to disgust to pity. Olive could have been an aunt of mine whose tactless actions and bullying words I deplore, but in the small moments of silence and reflection and loneliness, I felt Olive’s confusion and grief. In some ways, I think all of us have a bit of Olive in us. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Olive Kitteridge is among Sara Collins's six favorite bad women in fiction, Laura Barnett's ten top unconventional love stories, and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Top 10 books about books

Antoine Laurain is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, director and collector of antique keys. A truly born and bred Parisian, after studying film, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris. The experience provided the inspiration for his first novel, The Portrait, winner of the Prix Drouot.

The Reader’s Room is Laurain's latest book.

At the Guardian, Laurain tagged nine novels and one work of nonfiction that offer "an insight into the strange world of creating books, the bizarre job that is being a novelist and the magic that can exist (sometimes literally) within the books that we read." One title on the list:
The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte

One of Perez-Reverte’s strangest stories. Book dealer Lucas Corso embarks on a mission to find a lost book, printed in Venice in the 16th century. But this book contains engravings that, following a certain ritual can, summon the devil.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Dumas Club is among Peter Colt's eight novels featuring unlikely detectives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Seven books about the making and unmaking of women politicians

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The BirthdaysThe Daylight Marriage, which was optioned for film, and Impersonation.

[The Page 69 Test: The Daylight MarriageMy Book, the Movie: The Daylight MarriageQ&A with Heidi Pitlor.]

A former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pitlor has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is also the editorial director of the literary studio, Plympton. Her writing has been published in The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeLit HubPloughsharesThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She lives outside Boston.

At Electric Lit, Pitlor tagged seven books about women in government managing their public image, including:
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

What if Hillary never married Bill? This absorbing novel offers a kinder alternate reality in which Hillary is given a fair or at least fairer chance at the highest office in our country. What would the world look like from Hillary’s point of view? What would she have thought about her image makers—and about Bill’s?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Seven novels featuring characters with imaginary friends

Evie Green is a pseudonym for a British author who has written professionally for her entire adult life. She lives by the sea in England with her husband, children, and guinea pigs, and loves writing in the very early morning, fueled by coffee.

Green's new novel is We Hear Voices.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven titles featuring characters with imaginary friends, including:
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

Eight year old Jessamy lives in London with her Nigerian mother and British father. On a visit to her mother’s family in Nigeria she meets her first real friend, a girl she calls TillyTilly. TillyTilly takes Jess to forbidden, impossible places and makes her see the things differently. Jess goes home to London: a little while later TillyTilly turns up saying she’s just moved in nearby. It takes Jess a while to realize that no one else can see her new friend, and she struggles to resist acting on TillyTilly’s more destructive ideas. Through her new friend Jess discovers a truth about herself that she had never consciously known before, but which, perhaps, has been at the root of her anxiety all along. Sinister and scary, this is a gripping read all the more impressive because of the fact that it was written while the author was still at school.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 2, 2020

Eight of the best books about Trump

Peter Conrad taught English literature at Christ Church, Oxford, for four decades. He has written more than twenty books, including Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life; The Hitchcock Murders; How the World Was Won: The Americanization of Everywhere; Creation: Artists, Gods, and Origins; Modern Times, Modern Places: Life and Art in the Twentieth Century; and Mythomania: Tales of Our Times from Apple to ISIS.

At the Guardian, Conrad tagged eight of the best books about Donald Trump. One title on the list:
A Very Stable Genius: Donald J Trump’s Testing of America
Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

A while ago, updating his claim to be a genius, Trump invited us to admire his “magnificently brilliant” answers in a television
interview; I’d rather trust his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who viewed him as “a fucking moron”. This book is the blackest of comedies, nihilistically hilarious in its documentation of Trump’s incompetence. Rucker and Leonnig also give us a glimpse of his sulphurous cynicism as he sneers at the suckers who voted for him. “I’m a total act,” he told his director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, “and I don’t understand why people don’t get it.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue