Saturday, December 31, 2022

Eight fantasy tales about the joys of bread and baking

Lindsay Eagar was born and raised just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She lives surrounded by mountains with her husband and two wild daughters. She loves sharks, coffee, flannel, winter, roller-blading, baking, running, playing the piano, non-fiction about jungle exploration, and making up stories.

Her debut, Hour of the Bees, came out from Candlewick Press to critical acclaim, and her follow-up, Race to the Bottom of the Sea, was named by Booklist as one of the “50 best middle grade books of the century.” Her most recent work is The Patron Thief of Bread.

At Eagar tagged eight fantasy tales about the joys of bread and baking, including:
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
For spite

Gingerbread is a fairy tale, but it’s a fairy tale through a splintered magnifying glass. Helen Oyeyemi’s work is always challenging, always striking, and always magical, and this is no exception. Telling the story of Perdita Lee, who lives with her mother in London, and theirs is a strange existence. Their house is warped and full of interesting wallpapers and stairways and dolls, and at the center of the novel is a family recipe for gingerbread that derives from the fictional country of Druhastrana.

This is not comfort food. This gingerbread is not a happy Christmastime treat, it is used as a bribe, a poison, a gift, a threat, a celebration, an heirloom. Eating this gingerbread is like a revenge, says Oyeyemi. And yet it sounds delicious all the same.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 30, 2022

Seven titles that celebrate underappreciated crafts

Aanchal Malhotra is a writer and oral historian from New Delhi, India. A co-founder of the Museum of Material Memory, Malhotra has written two nonfiction books on the human history and generational impact of the 1947 Partition, titled Remnants of Partition and In the Language of Remembering.

The Book of Everlasting Things is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Malhotra tagged seven books "centering the ancient traditions and unique occupations endangered by a modernizing world," including:
Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns: A Magical History of India by John Zubrzycki [US title: Empire of Enchantment: The Story of Indian Magic]

One of my early childhood memories in India is of the magicians, puppeteers, and snake-charmers that attended our birthday parties. There are photographs of them making eggs appear and disappear in our hands, pulling doves from top hats, finding coins behind a cousin’s ear. India’s association with magic goes back centuries, and in this magnificent book, Australian writer, John Zubrzycki explores how “magic descended from the domain of the gods to become part of daily ritual and popular entertainment.” Highly imaginative and rich in detail, the book draws on archival records, newspaper articles, interviews, and memoirs of Western and Indian magicians and illusionists to culminate in an extraordinary cultural history of oddities.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Empire of Enchantment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Top 10 books about the Iron Curtain

Timothy Phillips is the author of The Secret Twenties: British Intelligence, the Russians, and the Jazz Age (2017) and Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1 (2008). He grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in London. He holds a doctorate in Russian from Oxford University and has written and spoken widely on British and Russian history.

Phillips's new book is The Curtain and the Wall: A Modern Journey along Europe’s Cold War Border [US title: Retracing the Iron Curtain: A 3,000-Mile Journey Through the End and Afterlife of the Cold War].

At the Guardian he tagged ten "books that reveal the essence of the most menacing border the world has yet seen," including:
Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary and the Crisis That Shook the World by Alex von Tunzelmann

This rare gem focuses on two of the biggest events of the period, the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution. Both reached their culmination at the same time in 1956. More often treated separately, in Von Tunzelmann’s hands the twin crises regain their full geopolitical force. She has an eye for illuminating detail; the action often unfolds hour by hour. It reads like a thriller.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Five top novels with dual timelines

Liv Andersson is an author, lawyer, and former therapist whose background has inspired her thrillers and mysteries. She and her husband live in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont with their sons and three dogs.

Her new novel is Little Red House.

[The Page 69 Test: Little Red House]

At CrimeReads Andersson tagged five favorite novels with dual timelines, including:
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

In Morton’s riveting, multilayered novel, a group of Nineteenth Century artists and a young woman born more than a century later have something in common—Birchwood Manor. In the summer of 1862, a group of artists, led by artistic visionary Edward Radcliffe, visits Birchwood Manor on the banks of England’s Upper Thames. The young artists are determined to spend the summer in a creative bliss. Things don’t turn out as planned, however, and by the end of their time at Birchwood Manor, Radcliffe’s fiancée has been killed and another woman has disappeared. One hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young London archivist, makes a surprising find that entwines her own story with the suspicious events that happened all those years ago near Birchwood Manor.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Five books to read for when you’re lonely

Claire Alexander lives on the west coast of Scotland with her husband and children. She has written for The Washington Post, The Independent, The Huffington Post, and Glamour. In 2019, one of her essays was published in the award-winning literary anthology We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor.

When she’s not writing or parenting, Alexander is on her paddle board, thinking about her next book.

Her latest book is Meredith, Alone.

At Lit Hub Alexander tagged five books that have given her "comfort during periods of disconnection or retreat," including:
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Single mother and research scientist Elizabeth Zott definitely isn’t your average 1960s woman. She refuses to be held back by her misogynistic male counterparts and in the absence of a supportive family, assembles her own out of a group of equally quirky, intriguing characters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 26, 2022

Five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed

Karen Osborne is the author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion from Tor Books. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, FiresideEscape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding.

Osborne lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, two cats and a family.

At the she tagged five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed, including:
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Corporations in science fiction aren’t always evil—but they’re usually out to ruin everyone’s day by assuming this, that, and the other thing, and that’s certainly the case with Leviathan Wakes and its sequels. This time, the Mao-Kwikowski Corporation has uncovered an alien substance known as the protomolecule, and they’re attempting to use it to do what corporations generally want to do: increase their profits. The crew of the Rocinante,
captained by idealist James Holden, stumbles upon the conspiracy, which eventually leads to a domino-fall of lies, cover-ups, and all-out war.

Corey’s corporates cause so much trouble because they assume they can control the alien substance—but, throughout, the protomolecule is dispassionate and efficient and largely uncontrollable. The result of human refusal to even try to understand it is death by blindness, death by spaghettification, death by being turned into a blue glowy murder monster or smashed into a thin red goo—you get the picture. Assumptions lead to every single death.

Holden is part of the minority that realize that a healthy scientific respect of the alien devices is the only advantage the humans have in their dealings with the protomolecule. Leviathan Wakes is what happens when you can’t talk to the aliens at all, because they’ve sauntered off and left their toys behind for humans with their many and manifold conflicts to puzzle out and assume (#4? #5? #2827372?) the aliens’ original intentions.

That ends about as well as you’d imagine.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Expanse series is among Charlie Jane Anders's five fantastic books about colonizing other planets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Nine top travel books

At Tripadvisor Perri Ormont Blumberg surveyed several travel experts to share their favorite recent book recommendations. One title on the list:
The Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles

This list wouldn’t be complete without one of 2021’s hottest works of fiction. “Set in 1954, [the book follows] four boys on a road trip that turns into a surprising tale of adventure, friendship, and mischief,” says Sophia Lin, Google Search’s general manager of food. “I couldn't put it down—it's an instantly immersive read with rich storytelling, whimsical dialogue, and utter suspense. The ending left me speechless.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Suzanne Redfearn called The Lincoln Highway "a coming-of-age story set in the fifties ... told in true Towles’s style, full of rich details and fully realized characters."

--Marshal Zeringue

Some of the crime fiction experts' favorite books of 2022

J. Kingston Pierce is the editor of both The Rap Sheet and Killer Covers, the senior editor of January Magazine, and a contributing editor of CrimeReads. At The Rap Sheet he's rounded up lists of some experts' favorite crime fiction of 2022. One title on Kevin Burton Smith's list:
Hell and Gone, by Sam Wiebe (Harbour):

Beautiful British Columbia, my ass! Vancouver, B.C., has long been touted as one of North America’s most gorgeous cites, but Sam Wiebe’s series featuring young, idealistic local private eye Dave Wakeland and his partner, Jeff Chen, has always shone an unflinching and unflattering light on a Vancouver that visitors (with any luck) never see—and that the tourist industry certainly doesn’t mention. Beneath the peaceful, postcard-ready façade lies a simmering underworld of organized and unorganized crime, and multiple layers of money launderers, drug dealers, swindlers, gangs both local and international, and of course, homicide. Not that Dave and Jeff really want to deal with such things—particularly not the always ambitious, businesslike Jeff, who has great plans for the agency. Dave doesn’t want to get involved with the rough stuff, either—at heart, he just hopes to help people. But all of that changes when Dave, working alone in their agency’s Chinatown office, witnesses a bloody shootout on the street outside, and everyone wants to know if he can identify the gunmen. Not wishing to become any more involved than he already is, Dave plays dumb. However, the cops, local bikers, various gangsters, retired Triad members, a shady international security company, and even Jeff all insist that Dave spill the beans. He stands firm, though—at least until some of the shooters themselves are killed, and Dave realizes...[read on]
At The Rap Sheet read about the favorite 2022 crime fiction titles tagged by J. Kingston Pierce, Kevin Burton Smith, Ali Karim, Stephen Miller, Jim Napier, Fraser Massey, and Jim Thomsen.

Q&A with Sam Wiebe.

The Page 69 Test: Hell and Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Hell and Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Five titles with lessons to turn a post-apocalyptic novel into a thriller

Pedro Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novels American Afterlife, Too Shattered For Mending, This Is The Part Where You Laugh, Graphic The Valley, and others.

At CrimeReads he tagged five novels he read and studied to learn how to write a post-apocalyptic thriller, including:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Since I’d already read the brilliant off-screen violence of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” I set out to study Cormac McCarthy, the literary grandchild of O’Connor. There’s the obvious thriller No Country For Old Men, and I’d read that before, but I really wanted to focus on McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road since it’s probably the closest book to a post-apocalyptic thriller. Therefore, starting with the big picture, I got to see what the finished product might look like.

I read The Road twice, my first reading at a quick pace, and the second reading at a slower, note-taking pace. The first reading impacted me emotionally, taught me how a combo genre should feel, but the second reading taught me to pay attention to the smaller details. I asked questions like, “What moments of backstory add tension to this novel?” “How does McCarthy use travel to raise the stakes?” And “Why is the reader so terrified throughout the novel that the boy will be left all alone?” Also, “What separates the two main characters from everyone else in this destroyed landscape?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Road appears on Malcolm Devlin’s list of eight zombie stories without any zombies, Michael Christie's list of ten novels to reconfigure our conception of nature for the better, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Ceridwen Christensen's list of ten novels that end their apocalypses on a beach, Steph Post's top ten list of classic (and perhaps not so classic) road trip books, a list of five of the best climate change novels, Claire Fuller's top five list of extreme survival stories, Justin Cronin's top ten list of world-ending novels, Rose Tremain's six best books list, Ian McGuire's ten top list of adventure novels, Alastair Bruce's top ten list of books about forgetting, Jeff Somers's lists of five science fiction novels that really should be considered literary classics and eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Amelia Gray's ten best dark books list, Weston Williams's top fifteen list of books with memorable dads, ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels, Mary Miller's top ten list of the best road books, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2022

Nine books for a good cry

Eight Vogue staffers shared "the books that make them well up every time, whether in sadness or happiness or just flat-out amazement at a perfectly put-together sentence." One pick from Jessie Heyman, executive editor,
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

What I found most remarkable about Didion’s 2005 memoir—which tells the story of the death of her husband and longtime creative collaborator, John Gregory Dunne—was the way that in it, she functioned as both the subject and the observer. As she chronicled that event and its aftermath, when Didion was also caring for her ailing daughter, Quintana Roo, she created a kind of manual for grieving, one that I’ve returned to in moments of loss throughout my life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Year of Magical Thinking is among Ali Millar's ten books that explore the possibilities and perils of remaking one’s life, Mary-Frances O'Connor's five books for the grieving brain, Karolina Waclawiak's six books on loss and longing, Tara Westover's top four inspirational memoirs, Mark Whitaker's six favorite memoirs, Adam Haslett's five best deathless accounts of mourning, Douglas Kennedy's top ten books about grief, and Norris Church Mailer's five best memoirs. It is a book that made a difference to Samantha Bee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Top 10 books about hellraisers

David Fleming has been an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a journalist, whose articles have appeared in the Guardian, Independent, The Telegraph and the Mail of Sunday.

His new book is Hellfire: Evelyn Waugh and the Hypocrites Club.

At the Guardian Fleming tagged ten notable books about hellraisers, including:
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Most of the main characters – the Skagboys – use heroin. One who doesn’t stands out: the violent, vainglorious alcoholic Franco Begbie. Set in Edinburgh at the fag end of the Thatcher era, the anomie and despair of the central characters, though never preached, is clear. In a key scene Begbie and protagonist Renton encounter an “auld drunkard” in a now defunct railway station. “What yis up tae lads? Trainspottin, eh?” “Ah realised thit the auld wino wis Begbie’s faither.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Trainspotting is on the Scottish Book Trust's list of favorite Scottish novels of the last 50 years, Melvin Burgess's top five list of books on drugs and John Mullan's list of ten of the best drug experiences in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Five top modern LA noir titles by women writers

Alex Kenna is a lawyer, writer, and amateur painter based in Los Angeles.

Before law school, Kenna studied painting and art history at Penn. She also worked as a freelance art critic and culture writer. Originally from Washington DC, Kenna lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and giant schnauzer, Zelda. When she’s not writing Kenna can be found nerding out in art museums, exploring flea markets, and playing string instruments badly.

Her debut novel is What Meets the Eye.

[Q&A with Alex Kenna; My Book, The Movie: What Meets the Eye]

At CrimeReads Kenna shared "a short list of modern LA noir books by women writers sure to keep you flipping pages well after the lights should be out." One title on the list:
Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara’s prolific repertoire includes the engaging Mas Arai series, starring a toothless, grizzled Japanese American gardener from Hiroshima. When we first meet Mas, he’s had his share of trouble: still mourning the wife he loved but didn’t fully appreciate, trying to keep his gambling-addicted best friend from self-destructing, and dealing with decades of guilt after surviving the fall of the A-bomb.

Despite his troubles, Mas has worked hard and built a life for himself in the LA suburbs, running his own lawn care business. Then one day, two strangers show up and start asking questions that threaten to reveal long buried secrets. When a body drops and an innocent man is arrested, Mas has to confront his past, connect with an old friend, and help right a wrong that is half a century in the making. In addition to telling an engaging story, Hirahara confronts tragic historical events, and themes of inherited trauma, survivor’s guilt, and intergenerational miscommunication.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Five humans turned weapons of science fiction

Karen Osborne is the author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion from Tor Books. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fireside, Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding.

Osborne lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, two cats and a family.

At the Tor/Forge Blog she tagged five favorite science fiction humans turned weapons, including:
Takeshi Kovacs and the Envoys — Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

In Morgan’s cyberpunk world, people are virtually immortal. Human minds are separated from bodies to be “re-sleeved” at will. Takeshi Kovacs was a criminal before he was a member of the United Nations Envoy Corps, a group of supersoldiers who aren’t trained as much as conditioned, able to achieve superhuman feats partially because their conditioning strips them of all inhibitions when it comes to violence. (There’s a reason Envoys are prohibited from holding public office.)

When Kovacs leaves the service, he becomes a criminal again, and his recidivism is understandable. It’s impossible for a post-conditioning Envoy to live a normal life. There’s no bumpy transition back to a civilian world because the changes to his mind make it impossible for him to become a civilian. Kovacs is arrested and imprisoned in digital storage for years before being resurrected to work hazardous private-eye gigs, because if there’s something a human weapon knows how to do, it’s dueling spy operatives, blowing out airships, and taking out mob bosses—while getting reincarnated to do it over and over again.

Kovacs, of course, finds his place in it. After all, he’s a weapon now.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Altered Carbon is among Nick Petrie's top nine science fiction novels built on the chassis of crime fiction, Neal Asher's top five favorite about achieving immortality, Ernest Cline’s ten favorite SF novels, Jeff Somers's five books that lived up to the hype, Lauren Davis's ten most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios in science fiction and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten science fiction novels that pack more action than most summer movies and top 10 science fiction detective novels of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2022

Seven top New Orleans crime fiction titles

T. G. Herren is the pen name of an award winning author who has published over thirty-six books and over fifty short stories under various names. Herren is a long time resident of New Orleans, where every day is Anything Can Happen Day. Herren has also worked as sports/fitness journalist, an editor, and spent far too many years working in the airline industry.

His new novel is A Streetcar Named Murder.

At CrimeReads Herren tagged seven top New Orleans crime novels, including:
Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron

Ricki James leaves Los Angeles after her husband is killed performing a stunt designed to get him clicks on the Internet and comes home to New Orleans to try to rebuild her life. She gets hired at the Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, turning her hobby of collecting vintage cookbooks into her job. But then she finds an unpleasant co-worker in a box that is supposed to contain vintage cookbooks, and it’s up to Ricki to find the truth and clear her own name. Byron’s love for New Orleans shines through every page, and Ricki herself is likable and charming. A second volume is forthcoming, and here’s hoping the series has a good long run.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Five SFF novels about unrest & rebellion

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five top SFF novels about unrest & rebellion, including:
The Unbroken by C. L. Clark (2021)

Touraine might have led a happy uncivilized life in her native Qazāl. But she is taken by imperial Balladairans—“kidnapped” is such a harsh word—and transported far from Qazāl, where she will be educated in proper Balladairan ways. Touraine will spend her life paying for her education as a conscript (some might say slave) for the Balladairan cause.

Touraine’s Balladairan masters are supremely confident in their soldiers’ conditioning. Why not assign Touraine to El-Wast in her home country of Qazāl? What could possibly go wrong with returning a highly skilled soldier to the land of her birth? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Ten must-read novels about Asian American politics

Ryan Lee Wong was born and raised in Los Angeles, lived for two years at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, and currently lives in Brooklyn, where he is the administrative director of Brooklyn Zen Center. Previously, he served as program director for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and managing director of Kundiman. He has organized exhibitions and written extensively on the Asian American movements of the 1970s. He holds an MFA in fiction from Rutgers University–Newark.

Which Side Are You On is his first book.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten of the best novels about Asian American politics, including:
I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

This sprawling, 700+ page epic pays tribute to the Asian American Movement that defined this new identity. It was written decades later, but has all of the humor, bite, hope, and surrealism you might expect from a novel of vignettes set in the Bay Area of the 1960s and ’70s—scenes of Black Panthers and young Asian American radicals in a hotel room in Chinatown, of an Alcatraz Island takeover, of free folk concerts in Golden Gate Park, and, of course, of the demonstrations to save that hotbed of organizing and elder care and arts making, the I Hotel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 16, 2022

Eight books that capture a life in motion

Tree Abraham is an Ottawa-born, Brooklyn-based writer, art director, and book designer. Her authorship experiments with fragmented essay and mixed media visuals.

Cyclettes is her first book.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight of her "favorite books that keenly track on the page the experience of a mind in motion." One title on the list:
Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee

Published a year after Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing and a week before the country entered COVID-19 quarantine, Headlee’s book is a more pragmatic dismantling of productivity. She charts the evolution of work culture—the rise of the 8-hour work day, how busyness became a virtue, careers got equated with identity, and people began working harder rather than smarter. Headlee challenges the foundation around which we assess the quality of our life, presenting research on how the brain reacts to technology, being overworked, and under socialized. She offers strategies for how to better perceive and make use of time, idle with intent, and enact daily habits to destress. The art of doing nothing is a trendy topic. This book is one accessible introduction to a greater consciousness around how and when to power down.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Top 10 books about freedom

Adam Wagner is a human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. He is the founder and Chair of RightsInfo.

His new book is Emergency State: How We Lost Our Freedoms in the Pandemic and Why it Matters.

Jonathan Freedland, author of The Escape Artist, on Emergency State: "Clear-eyed, forensic and compelling, Wagner sets out what happened during the Covid-19 pandemic - and the lessons we need to learn."

At the Guardian Wagner tagged ten "books that show us what freedom is and others that tell more frightening stories of freedom being taken away." One title on the list:
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls

Not quite a poolside page-turner, but Harvard professor John Rawls’s book offers, as much as any other work of 20th-century philosophy, a blueprint for a society where freedom can be enjoyed by most people, most of the time. It was probably the book that led me to human rights law, along with Rawls’s great inspiration, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Rawls’s grand project is designing a society where liberty and equality can be achieved – and he came closer than many.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Theory of Justice is among George Dvorsky's nine philosophical thought experiments that will keep you up at night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Five titles featuring (possibly) murderous children

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

Garza's new novel is A Mother Would Know.

At CrimeReads she tagged five books in which "mothers must choose between protecting their children and protecting others from their children." One title on the list:
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

I’m glad I read this book after my kids were grown. Had they been little, I would have slept with my eyes open. In one of the most chilling and creepy books I’ve ever read, seven-year-old Hanna is sweet as pie to her dad Alex, but constantly torments her mom, Suzette. Since Alex never sees that side of Hanna, he has a hard time believing his wife’s accusations and it drives a wedge between them, which only further fuels Hanna’s manipulations. No matter how bad things become, though, Suzette loves her daughter and continues trying to help her, even to her own detriment.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Baby Teeth is among Christina Dalcher's seven crime books that challenge notions of inherent female goodness, May Cobb's five psychological thrillers featuring single-minded villains & anti-heroes, Jae-Yeon Yoo's top ten books about the promise & perils of alternative schooling, Pamela Crane's five top novels featuring parenting gone wild, Damien Angelica Walters's five titles about the horror of girlhood, and Sally Hepworth's eight messed up fictional families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Seven titles that use mystery to examine race

Erin E. Adams is a first-generation Haitian American writer and theatre artist. She received her BA with honors in literary arts from Brown University, her MFA in acting from The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program, and her MFA in dramatic writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. An award-winning playwright and actor, Adams has called New York City home for the last decade. Jackal is her first novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven novels that "explore what it means to be a person of color navigating a justice system rooted in racism." One title on the list:
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay details the historical tensions between the Black and Korean communities in Los Angeles. While living with her Korean immigrant parents and working in the family pharmacy, Grace Park struggles to understand the distance between her parents and her sister Miriam. After a police shooting of another Black teenager, Shawn Matthews grapples with his relationship with his family while mourning the memory of his sister who was also killed by police and keeping his own demons at bay. When a shocking crime roils L.A., the Parks and the Matthews face a reckoning decades in the making.

Cha deftly constructs a story where the personal is also political. Using real life events and beautifully drawn characters, the mystery breaks open and reveals the complexities of past and present racial tensions at every turn.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Your House Will Pay is among María Amparo Escandón's eight books about living in Los Angeles, Alyssa Cole's five top crime novels that explore social issues, 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

Monday, December 12, 2022

Ten top novels about communicating with extraterrestrial life

Ethan Chatagnier is the author Singer Distance, a novel just out from Tin House Books, and of Warnings from the Future, a story collection from Acre Books in 2018. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of literary journals including the Kenyon Review Online, Georgia Review, New England Review, Story, Five Points, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Cincinnati Review. His stories have won a Pushcart Prize and been listed as notable in the Best American Short Stories and the Million Writers Award.

Chatagnier is a graduate of Fresno State, where he won the Larry Levis Prize in Poetry, and of Emerson College, where he earned an MA in Publishing and Writing. He lives in Fresno, California with his family.

Chatagnier's new novel is Singer Distance.

[Q&A with Ethan ChatagnierThe Page 69 Test: Singer Distance]

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten brilliant novels that allow "us to hold up a mirror to our own way of inhabiting the universe, and at the same time to consider forms of life almost beyond imagining." One title on the list:
Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Like [Ken Kalfus's] Equilateral, Richard Powers’s most recent novel lacks extraterrestrials, but I’m including it as a brilliant example of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence as it stands today. The book is about a father, Theo, struggling to manage his neurodivergent son’s relationship, and his own, to a world that is falling apart, its seams being torn by environmental collapse and political discord. To comfort themselves, they lean into Theo’s work analyzing the composition of distant planets and imagining what they might be like. It’s an all-to-real look at the troubles we face at home while we dream of life on distant planets.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Eight novels about the devil

Luke Dumas was born and raised in San Diego, California, and received his master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. His work has appeared in Hobart, Last Exit, and the queer anthology The Whole Alphabet: The Light and the Dark, among others.

Dumas's new book A History of Fear, is his debut novel.

[The Page 69 Test: A History of Fear]

At LitHub Dumas tagged eight novels in which "the devil is ... presented as ... an embodiment of the darkest parts of ourselves." One title on the list:
Victor LaValle, The Devil in Silver (2012)

In this work of social horror, a decidedly sane troublemaker, Pepper, finds himself incarcerated at the New Hyde mental hospital in Queens for a crime he can’t quite remember. Even worse than the hospital’s pill-pushing staff is the creature that lives behind the silver door—the devil, described as an old man with the head of a bison—who comes out at night and terrorizes the patients. This culturally observant exploration of race, madness, and the systems meant to heal and protect us was named one of the best books of the year by the The New York Times Book Review and is in development as an AMC anthology series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Devil in Silver is among Latonya Pennington's top eight sci-fi & fantasy books that center mental health, Craig Davidson's eight top paranormal books, and Jason Segel's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Twelve wacky, weird, and wildly entertaining thrillers & mysteries

Molly Odintz is the Senior Editor for CrimeReads and the editor of Austin Noir, forthcoming from Akashic Books. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople, and recently returned to Central Texas after five years in NYC. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads she tagged twelve extremely entertaining light-hearted thrillers and mysteries, including:
Michelle Gagnon, Killing Me
(Putnam, March 2023)

In this wild ride of a thriller, a woman finds herself rescued from the clutches of a serial killer by a mysterious female vigilante. She should be happy. Or at least trying to heal. But post-escape she’s now a person of interest who also happens to be a con artist. Her now-threatened exposure forces her to go on the run to Vegas, where she starts a cautious flirtation with a sex worker and meets a madam with a heart of gold. Things are going well—that is, until the vigilante returns with a very particular agenda.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2022

Eight novels featuring schemers & opportunists

Elyse Friedman was born in Toronto, where she still lives. She is a critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, poet, and playwright who has written four novels (The Opportunist; The Answer to Everything; Then Again; Waking Beauty), a book of short fiction (Long Story Short, a Novella & Stories), and a collection of poems (Know Your Monkey).

Friedman's work has been short-listed for the Trillium Book Award, Toronto Book Award, ReLit Award and Tom Hendry Award. Her short story "The Soother" won the gold National Magazine Award for Fiction, and she has twice won the TIFF-CBC Films Screenwriter Award.

At Electric Lit Friedman tagged eight "novels about conniving characters plotting for power, sex, revenge, riches," including:
The Plot by Jean Hanff-Korelitz

A fun one, especially for writers. Jacob Finch Bonner’s first novel garnered the “New and Noteworthy” stamp of approval from the New York Times Book Review. His second was a bit of a bust. His third and fourth couldn’t find publishers. Now, the once promising writer is slogging it out as a teacher in a series of third-rate MFA programs around the country. As he begins his latest gig at Ripley College, Jake expects the usual cast of MFA-program types. What he doesn’t expect is Evan Parker, a smug young man who says writing can’t be taught and that he only joined the program to get an agent out of it. Parker informs Jake that he is well into a novel, one with such a compelling plot it will be an unparalleled success, a “sure thing” that Oprah will pick for her book club and everyone will buy and love. One evening, Evan privately shares the plot of his novel with Jake, and Jake realizes with chagrin that the arrogant jerk is right. The story is so good it can’t be messed up. When the program is done, Jake waits for the news of Parker’s outrageous advance and insta-success. But it doesn’t arrive. And Jake learns why: Evan has died. So, Jake pinches the plot and writes the novel himself, and just as Evan predicted, it’s a huge success, propelling Jake to the top of the bestseller lists and back to literary stardom. There’s just one problem: somebody out there knows Jake stole the story, and he’s going to have to deal with the repercussions.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Plot is among E.G. Scott's five best books-within-books, Kimberly Belle's four thrillers with maximum escapism, and Louise Dean's top ten novels about novelists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Top 10 polar photobooks

Elizabeth White is, with Mark Brownlow, the series producer of the BBC's Frozen Planet II.

She was a producer on the BBC's landmark series Blue Planet II and the first Frozen Planet series and has worked on many natural history documentaries for the BBC, including The Great British Year and The Coral Gardener.

At the Guardian White tagged ten favorite polar photobooks, including:
Born to Ice by Paul Nicklen

One of the best-known photographers of the polar world, Nicklen grew up in the Canadian Arctic before becoming a National Geographic photographer and his images from decades of visits to both poles – along with his personal story – provide a fabulous body of imagery for some armchair polar exploring. Beyond its photographic merit, and the clear love it shows for the landscape and wildlife, you can feel Nicklen’s passion to protect these fragile lands.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Four atmospheric thrillers with unusual settings

Tessa Wegert is the author of the Shana Merchant novels, which include Death in the Family, The Dead Season, Dead Wind, and The Kind to Kill. A former freelance journalist and digital media strategist, Wegert’s work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist. She grew up in Quebec and now lives with her husband and children in Connecticut.

[My Book, The Movie: The Dead SeasonThe Page 69 Test: The Dead SeasonQ&A with Tessa WegertThe Page 69 Test: Dead WindWriters Read: Tessa Wegert (April 2022)Writers Read: Tessa Wegert (December 2022)]

At CrimeReads Wegert tagged four novels that embrace "unusual settings that are loaded with both atmosphere and crime fiction potential," including:
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Louise Penny fans would probably be satisfied if she never took her series beyond the Three Pines village green, but with Bury Your Dead, the author relocates Chief Inspector Gamache to Quebec City just in time for Winter Carnival. The famed Sûreté du Québec detective is meant to be on medical leave. Instead, a snowy walk with his dog leads to his involvement with a murder and a centuries-old Canadian mystery.

While the homicide isn’t directly linked to Carnaval de Québec, references to the festival’s traditional drinks, street entertainers, and frigid weather create a captivating backdrop. In my opinion as a long-time Penny reader, this book represents the author’s first outing into thriller territory (though titles like All the Devils Are Here later follow suit). The pacing in this one is lightning-quick, the present-day mystery interspersed with gripping flashbacks to Gamache’s traumatic police stakeout gone wrong. This book should be required reading for anyone visiting Quebec City (and does a stellar job of conveying the importance of good winter gear).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Seven titles about life in Queens by writers of color

Bushra Rehman grew up in Corona, Queens. She is co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, and author of the poetry collection Marianna's Beauty Salon and the dark comedy Corona, one of the New York Public Library's favorite books about NYC.

Rehman's new novel is Roses in the Mouth of a Lion.

At Electric Lit the author tagged seven "books about living and loving in Queens by writers of color," including:
Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir by Rajiv Mohabir

This beautiful memoir, a mix of poetry, song and passion, tells the story of Rajiv, an Indo-Caribbean poet growing up in the United States. Young Rajiv longs to know more about his family’s history in India and the legacy of his ancestors who were indentured laborers working on sugar plantations in Guyana. When he comes to New York City to stay with relatives in Queens, he discovers a community of queer brown activists who share his longing for the past but are also looking towards the future. But even here, Rajiv feels like an outsider. When his cousin outs him as an “antiman”—a Caribbean slur for gay men—Rajiv is disowned by his family. Healing this pain through music and poetry, he embraces his identity and claims his status as an antiman—forging a new way of being entirely his own.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue