Thursday, September 30, 2021

Top 10 books about human consciousness

Charles Foster is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.

His books cover many fields. They include books on travel, evolutionary biology, natural history, anthropology, theology, archaeology, philosophy and law. Ultimately they are all attempts to answer the questions ‘Who or what are we?’, and ‘what on earth are we doing here?

Foster's newest book is Being a Human: Adventures in 40,000 years of consciousness. It tries to answer the question ‘What sort of creature is a human?’

At the Guardian Foster tagged ten top books about human consciousness, including:
Nine-Headed Dragon River by Peter Matthiessen

Matthiessen, best known for The Snow Leopard, was an advanced Zen practitioner. This book contains some of his meditation diaries. They’re full of vertiginous worked examples, showing how to watch your own mind working.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Adrian Owen's top ten books about consciousness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Ten notable books about water

Giulio Boccaletti is a globally recognized expert on natural resource security and environmental sustainability. He is an honorary research associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford. Trained as a physicist and climate scientist, he holds a doctorate from Princeton University, where he was a NASA Earth Systems Science Fellow. He has been a research scientist at MIT and was a partner at McKinsey & Company, where he was one of the leaders of its Sustainability and Resource Productivity Practice, and the chief strategy officer and global ambassador for water at The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest environmental organizations.

Boccaletti's new book is Water: A Biography.

At Lit Hub he tagged ten top books about water, including:
Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew

Perkins was in the Roosevelt administration. The first woman to hold a cabinet office in the history of the United States, she was a leader of remarkable consequence. Aside from being the longest serving Secretary of Labor, she was the architect of countless policy reforms, not least the architect of Social Security. The book is interesting both because of who wrote it and because of the portrait of FDR that emerges. Through her words, amongst other things, you see just how devoted Roosevelt was to the success of the Tennessee Valley Authority as a model for the world. Plus, it is well written: a first-person account of one of the most important periods in modern American history. Well worth it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Five notable aviation books

T.J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021.

She wrote much of Falling, her first novel, on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep.

Newman lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite stories set in the world of aviation, including:
Flight 232 by Laurence Gonzales

An absolutely gripping piece of real-life detective work, Gonzales' meticulous piecing together of a horrific aeroplane crash from survivors' testimonies and official records reads like the most page-turning fiction.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Newman's Falling is among Louise Candlish's six top mysteries set on moving vehicles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 27, 2021

Ten mysteries featuring the high country of the American West

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Women Writing the West. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima's latest novel is Striking Range.

[Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and TessCoffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & HannahMy Book, The Movie: Burning RidgeThe Page 69 Test: Burning RidgeThe Page 69 Test: Tracking GameMy Book, The Movie: Hanging FallsThe Page 69 Test: Hanging FallsQ&A with Margaret Mizushima]

At Crimereads Mizushima tagged ten mysteries in which the rugged terrain and unforgiving elements of the high country of the American West become characters central to the story, including:
Dana Stabenow, A Cold Day for Murder

New York Times bestselling author Dana Stabenow writes the Kate Shugak novels set in the Alaskan wilderness among millions of mountainous acres that comprise The Park. A Cold Day for Murder is book one of twenty-two in the series and introduces Kate Shugak, an Aleut who left her home village of Niniltna to pursue education and a career in the justice system. When two national park rangers go missing, Kate, a former investigator for the Anchorage DA, is called back from a self-imposed exile to help find them. Readers can immerse themselves in the rugged Alaskan mountains as they follow Kate and her canine partner Mutt from one adventure to another in this terrific series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The top 10 party girls in literature

Marlowe Granados is a writer and filmmaker.

She co-hosts The Mean Reds, a podcast dedicated to women-led films. Her advice column, "Designs for Living," appears in The Baffler. After spending time in New York and London, Granados currently resides in Toronto. Happy Hour is her début novel.

At Electric List she tagged ten favorite titles featuring "glittering characters who pursue pleasure in a world that doesn't want them to succeed," including:
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

When I think of a Rhys novel, I envision scenes of a lone woman drinking Pernod at a café she can’t afford and gazing at shop windows for a dress she’ll spend the last of her allowance on. Good Morning, Midnight follows a middle-aged Sasha Jansen as she returns to Paris and is haunted by memories of a life that she’ll never return to. Rhys’s talent is in painting a scene that at turns is tragic, but cut through with moments of humor and lightness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Good Morning, Midnight is among Leslie Jamison's six top books about addiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Top 10 novels of the 1930s

Alec Marsh is the author of the Drabble & Harris books.

Rule Britannia, a light-hearted historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Abdication Crisis in 1936, is the first in a series featuring protagonists Ernest Drabble and Percival Harris. The second novel in the series, Enemy of the Raj, is set in British India in 1937. The latest installment, Ghosts of the West, sees Drabble and Harris journey to the United States. Marsh is working on the fourth book in the series which will be set in Turkey.

At the Guardian Marsh tagged ten top novels of the 1930s, including:
Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse

Jeeves, who first appeared in 1915, is an Edwardian immortal who had barely got into his stride in 1934 when this second full-length Jeeves and Wooster novel appeared. Regarded by some as the best in the series, John le Carré said it was one of his favourite books, and Stephen Fry is a noted admirer. Gerald Gould, reviewing it for the Observer, described it as “one long scream from start to finish”. It has a great comedic conceit: that Wooster is fed up with friends asking Jeeves for help, so insists on solving their problems for himself. In the end, only one gentleman’s gentleman can possibly save the day. Jeeves and Bertie, of course, kept going until 1974.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Right Ho, Jeeves is among Michael Hogan's top ten bachelors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 24, 2021

Five books about death & what comes next

TJ Klune is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, Klune believes it's important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

His new novel is Flash Fire, the sequel to The Extraordinaries.

[Q&A with TJ KluneThe Page 69 Test: Flash Fire]

At Klune tagged five books about death and what comes next, including:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A different take on what comes next. The novel follows a girl named Susie Salmon who is murdered at the age of fourteen. She finds her heaven, but worries about those left behind: her family. Sebold’s prose is lovely and kind, even given the heavy subject matter. This novel is heartbreakingly wonderful look at the relationships between parents and their children, and what they do in order to protect each other. It’s also an unflinching look at grief, both Susie’s and her community reeling from her murder. There is a film version of this novel helmed by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame), but to me, it loses something in the translation. In this case, the book is much, much better than the adaptation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lovely Bones is among Tim Thornton's top ten books about the afterlife, Louise Doughty's top ten ghost stories, Tim Thornton's top ten books about the afterlife, Jeff Somers's top eight speculative works with dead narrators, Nadiya Hussain's six best books, Judith Claire Mitchell's ten best (unconventional) ghosts, Laura McHugh's ten favorite books about serial killers, and Tamzin Outhwaite's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Top 10 books about lies and liars

Aja Raden studied ancient history and physics at the University of Chicago and, during that time, worked as the Head of the Auction Division at the famed House of Kahn. For over seven years, she worked as the Senior Designer for Los Angeles-based fine jewelry company Tacori. Raden is an experienced jeweler, trained scientist, and well-read historian. Her expertise sits at the intersection of academic history, industry experience, and scientific perspective. Raden's books include the New York Times bestseller Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World.

Her latest book is The Truth About Lies: The Illusion of Honesty and the Evolution of Deceit.

At the Guardian Raden tagged ten of her favorite books about lies and liars, including:
The Folly of Fools by Robert Trivers

So how do we work? Well, inconsistently, and with a great deal of contradiction according to one of the brilliant evolutionary theorists of our time, who argues that self-deception has been selected for on every level of biological life, from the microscopic, to us, the readers, because to lie to others we must first possess the ability to lie to ourselves. The Folly of Fools is evolutionary biology at its best; dense with bench science and psychology, yet wonderfully readable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Six top novels with mysterious protagonists

Christopher Swann is a novelist and high school English teacher. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, he earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He has been a Townsend Prize finalist, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize, and twice been a finalist for a Georgia Author of the Year award. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

Swann's new novel is A Fire in the Night.

At CrimeReads he tagged six great novels with "narrators and protagonists who deliberately keep secrets from us, or whose pasts are mysteries that loom over the story and are only revealed a piece at a time." One title on the list:
A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O’Nan (1999)

Set in the tiny town of Friendship, Wisconsin a few years after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying is the beautiful and harrowing story of Jacob Hansen, a Civil War veteran who is the town’s undertaker, constable, and pastor. He lives with his wife Marta and their baby daughter Amelia, a young family with a bright future. A man of faith, Jacob feels a great responsibility for the citizens of Friendship. He also speaks in the second person, a narrative choice that increases our empathy for Jacob and also thrusts us with startling and uncomfortable immediacy into Jacob’s mind—“You don’t like to be around horses anymore. It’s understandable, having had to eat them during the siege, to burrow into their warm, dead guts for cover, but you don’t talk about that, or only to Marta, who’d never let it slip.” Such revelatory moments are precursors to a sinister pair of events: a mysterious and fatal plague that spreads quickly through the town, and a wildfire that is moving inexorably toward Friendship, turning the idyllic prairie into a hellish landscape of flames and ash. In his struggle to save Friendship, Jacob’s faith, love for his family, and sense of duty are all tested beyond the breaking point. Watching a good man become slowly unhinged is tragic, but the second-person narration that O’Nan employs adds to the horror, and to our desperate hope that Jacob will survive. At just under two hundred pages, written in spare but gorgeous prose, A Prayer for the Dying is a powerful and haunting narrative about faith, guilt, and grief.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Top 10 books about long-distance relationships

Amber Medland's debut novel is Wild Pets. In the novel, the author writes in the Guardian:
Iris – a depressed writer studying in New York – is in two transatlantic relationships, one with her boyfriend, Ezra, who is touring with his band, and one with her best friend, Nance. They email, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, share Spotify playlists, etc. Technology promises a sense of togetherness, but it cannot appease our hunger for physical closeness.
At the Guardian Medland recommended ten books about long-distance relationships, including:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A study of how plotlines in love stories can break apart and then converge. Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love at high school in Lagos. She goes to the US to study. Obinze tries to follow her, but post 9/11 he cannot get a visa, and slips into undocumented life in London. They both face a matrix of different, racially loaded challenges. Their bond is close and this book shows how hard it is for young people to grow at the same pace in the face of so much change. When something happens to Ifemelu that she cannot bear to share with Obinze – he doesn’t need to know – she stops taking his calls.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Americanah is among Lupita Nyong’o’s ten favorite books, Yara Rodrigues Fowler's ten favorite tales told in multiple languages, Greta Gerwig's ten favorite books, and Nada Awar Jarrar's ten favorite books about exile.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Six books with city settings that play a significant part

Alan Parks was born in Scotland and attended The University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. Bloody January is his debut novel.

At CrimeReads he tagged six crime "books that have nothing in common but the huge part the cities in which they are set play," including:
Caleb Carr, The Alienist

The Alienist is a historical mystery set in turn of the century New York. Lazlo Kreizler is The Alienist of the title. An alienist being the word used at the time for a sort of proto-psychiatrist. Against general opposition and suspicion, Kreizler uses his unusual talents to solve a series of murders with the help of his staff and pal John Moore, a wealthy newspaper reporter. The book was so successful when it was published in 1994 that it spawned its own mini-genre in which the crimes are solved by the first psychiatrists or even Sigmund Freud himself.

What’s so astonishing about the book is the insight into ‘Gilded Age’ New York. Carr was a historian before he wrote the book, and it certainly shows. But the research doesn’t lie heavy or stop the forward movement of the narrative, He manages to use his historical research to enlighten and add to the page-turning aspect of the novel. Like Luc Sante’s Low Life the book introduces us to a New York that is wonderfully strange.

It features Theodore Roosevelt and dive bars, unimaginable wealth and child prostitutes. It’s a portrait of New York full of industrial fortunes and immigrants fresh off the boat struggling to survive. It’s a remarkable achievement, huge in scope and narrative drive. If you haven’t read do yourself a favor and get a copy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Alienist is among Rosemary Simpson's six historical crime novels set during The Gilded Age.

--Marshal Zeringue