Monday, January 31, 2022

Five must-read books on Georgia O’Keeffe

At The Art Newspaper curator Theodora Vischer tagged five must-read books on the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, including:
Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern (2017) by Wanda M. Corn

O’Keeffe’s art and way of life was shaped by a Modernist aesthetic. This is reflected in her wardrobe, as well as the design and furnishings of her two homes in New Mexico. Wanda Corn has researched this decisive unity between art and life and presents her findings in this brilliant, richly illustrated catalogue.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Ten wintry science fiction and fantasy novels

At BookBub Jeff Somers tagged ten wintry SFF novels, including:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In the Russian wilderness of Arden’s story, winter is almost continuous. Within this cold, snowy world Vasya is a young woman who finds friendship and comfort in the spirits that inhabit the nearby forest. This is a world where snow piles up and the old gods regularly walk the local paths. When a new priest arrives in the village, a battle brews between the old and the new, with Vasya right at its center. Arden brings every aspect of her universe into sharp focus — especially the unforgiving Russian winter. In a cold world, your relationship with the world around you is crucial, giving Vasya insight and advantages that others lack as the snow piles up and the ice thickens.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Ten of the best books about basketball

Chris Herring is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He previously spent five years covering the NBA for ESPN and FiveThirtyEight, and prior to that spent seven years at The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the New York Knicks. He lives in Chicago and teaches at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in his spare time.

Herring's new book is Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks.

At Publishers Weekly Herring tagged ten of his "favorite basketball reads, many of which helped shape the way [he] went about writing [his] own book." One title on the list:
The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of One Turbulent Season with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls by Sam Smith

The first penetrating work written on arguably the greatest player of all-time. If someone were to read it now, for the first time, they’d be surprised that many of the things Jordan was defensive about then—particularly his harsh, at times mean-spirited treatment of his teammates—would later become hallmark features of one of the fiercest competitors to ever lace them up.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Follow Chris Herring on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 28, 2022

Five great winter storm thrillers

Heather Gudenkauf is a Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of novels, including The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden, Not A Sound, This Is How I Lied, and, most recently, The Overnight Guest.

[Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and MaxineCoffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & LoloMy Book, The Movie: Not A SoundThe Page 69 Test: Not A SoundThe Page 69 Test: Before She Was FoundThe Page 69 Test: This Is How I Lied]

At CrimeReads Gudenkauf tagged five favorite "thrillers and mysteries where an untimely winter storm takes center stage," including:
No Exit, by Taylor Adams

The very first line of No Exit by Taylor Adams had me hooked. I mean, who hates the iconic holiday song, “White Christmas” so much they tell classic crooner Bing Crosby to do something anatomically impossible two days before Christmas? Thus begins, No Exit. Darby Thorne is driving solo through the mountains of Colorado, desperately trying to get home to Utah and to her mother, who is suffering from late-stage pancreatic cancer before Christmas.

Equipped with only a quarter tank of gas Darby finds herself without cell coverage and in the belly of a raging blizzard that was only getting worse. In search of cell access and a hot cup of coffee, Darby’s only option is to pull over at a rest stop. There Darby meets four strangers, all waiting out the storm. Desperate to get a cell signal to call her mother, Darby goes back into the storm and makes a chilling discovery—a van with a young girl in a cage locked inside. In a race against time and the elements, Darby has only her wits to use as a weapon against an unknown evil.
Read about the other entries on the list.

No Exit is among Rektok Ross's nine top YA survival thrillers and Sophia LeFevre's six top isolated, snowy thrillers.

The Page 69 Test: No Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Top 10 novels inspired by Greek myths

Susan Stokes-Chapman was born in 1985 and grew up in the historic Georgian city of Lichfield, Staffordshire. She studied for four years at Aberystwyth University, graduating with a BA in Education & English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing.

Her debut novel, Pandora, was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction prize 2020 as well as longlisted for the Bath Novel Award that same year.

At the Guardian Stokes-Chapman tagged ten books that "have interpreted the Greek myths in different ways, but they are all testament to how these ancient stories have got under our skin." One title on the list:
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This critically acclaimed novel is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad, told from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan queen who is captured and forced to become the concubine of Achilles. It is a brave, powerful story about survival and resilience, which in no way shies away from the horrors of war and the cruelty women suffered at the hands of their enslavers. There are harrowing scenes including child murder, gang rape and suicide making it a ruthless story, but one that should not be ignored.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Silence of the Girls is among Elodie Harper's six notable novels set in the ancient world, Abbie Greaves's ten top books about silence, and Kris Waldherr's ten favorite books inspired by mythology.

Also see Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Five adrenaline pumping YA SFF survival books

Meg Long was born and raised in Louisiana and originally wanted to be a spy. Instead she somehow found herself teaching overseas in China and Malaysia before ending up in Colorado, where it snows entirely too much. She taught middle and high school for eight years before jumping to the tech industry as a content writer. When not reading or writing, she’s kicking things at her Muay Thai gym with her boyfriend, playing video games, or obsessing over Sailor Moon fanart. Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is her debut novel.

At Long tagged five favorite YA SFF books that will get your heart racing, including:
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

One of the older books on this list, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s first installment in their Starbound Trilogy is a gripping story about two very different teens. Socialite Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy while Tarver is a young war hero who came from nothing. But when the spaceliner they’re both on crashes on a deserted planet, they’re the only survivors and no one seems to be coming to save them. Not only will Lilac and Tarver have to figure out a way to survive the empty planet, but also the strange whispers and ghosts haunting their every step. This thrilling and devastatingly romantic story takes the deserted island trope to new extremes that are both heart-racing and heart-wrenching every step of the way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Six titles that explore the blurry boundaries of sibling intimacy

Sara Freeman is a Montreal-born writer currently based out of Boston. She graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in Fiction in 2013.

Freeman's new novel is Tides.

At Lit Hub she tagged six "novels that explore the blurry psychic boundaries of sibling intimacy" including:
Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden

This is the darkest, most claustrophobic of the novels on this list. Four siblings, ranging from ages six to seventeen, go to great lengths to cover up the fact of their mother’s death in order to stay together in their childhood home. Our narrator, Jack, is fifteen and nearly superstitious about his filth. He nurses a fascination for his beautiful older sister, Julie, and masturbates nearly constantly. Time bloats in the stagnant, increasingly malodorous house, and the kitchen, in particular, becomes ‘a place of stench and clouds of flies’. The four children, in their private pact against the outside world, play-act, fight, laugh, and slowly regress to a primitive, feral state. Encouraged by his older sisters, the youngest child, Tom, takes to acting like an infant girl, sleeping in an old cot attached to the eldest sister’s bed. Their eerie idyll is threatened when Derek, Julie’s snooker champion boyfriend enters the frame. This increasingly disquieting story culminates in a fantastically shocking final perversion, which is permanently seared in this reader’s mind. Not for the faint of heart.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Cement Garden is among Jeff Somers's ten literary kids with extremely difficult childhoods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 24, 2022

Ten novels inspired by true crimes

Steph Mullin is a creative director and Nicole Mabry works in the photography department for a television network. They met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Mullin relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2018, they continued to collaborate. Separated by five states, they spend hours scheming via FaceTime and editing in real time on Google Docs. The Family Tree is the duo’s first crime novel.

[The Page 69 Test: The Family TreeMy Book, The Movie: The Family Tree]

At The Strand Magazine Mullin and Mabry tagged ten novels inspired by true crimes, including:
Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

Nell Flynn is an FBI agent who returns home to Long Island to scatter her homicide detective father’s ashes. Upon her return, she is thrust into the investigation of the horrific murders of two Latina women. As Nell dives deeper into the case, she begins to suspect the killer may be her own father. And could he have killed her mother years ago? Girls Like Us is inspired by the real-life Gilgo Beach Murders (also known as The Long Island Serial Killer), the still unsolved case of 10-16 bodies that were dismembered and scattered along the South Shore of Long Island. In drawing inspiration from this case, Alger has created a suspenseful and realistic tale, dark and full of twists and turns. (Inspired by The Gilgo Beach Murders, 1996-2010)
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Eight mysteries with southern swampy settings

Stacy Willingham, worked as a copywriter and brand strategist for various marketing agencies before deciding to write fiction full time. She earned her BA in Magazine Journalism from the University of Georgia and MFA in Writing from the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Her new novel is A Flicker in the Dark.

At CrimeReads Willingham tagged eight mysteries that feature Southern settings, including:
Down River by John Hart

Down River begins with Adam Chase returning to his hometown of Rowan County, North Carolina. Five years prior, he was narrowly acquitted of a murder charge after the body of a boy was found bludgeoned to death on the banks of a river owned by Adam’s family. Now he’s back for reasons he won’t reveal, and when more bodies start turning up around town and the police begin to narrow in on Adam again, history threatens to repeat itself. Down River features three of my favorite things all wrapped up into one: gorgeously atmospheric writing, a Southern sense of place and complicated familial relationships that make the plot feel both intricate and emotional. You won’t be able to put this one down.
Read about the other mysteries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Nine haunting postapocalyptic novels

Jessie Greengrass spent her childhood in London and Devon. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and now lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, with her partner and children. Her collection of short stories, An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, won the Edge Hill Prize and Somerset Maugham Award. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Sight, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The High House is her most recent novel.

At Publishers Weekly Greengrass tagged nine haunting postapocalyptic novels, including:
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Butler’s novel is set in 2024, and this date’s proximity to ours does nothing to ameliorate the sense that it’s becoming more relevant as time passes. In a failed state version of America, water is scarce and safety the preserve of the rich; for the overwhelming majority, survival is a matter of choosing between wage slavery, scavenging, and, for the very poorest, cannibalism. Despite this it’s a profoundly hopeful book, centred on the transformative power of care. Travelling north from California in search of relative safety its young narrator, Lauren Olamina, grasps her way towards a new philosophy, and, as she does so, gathers around her a small band of followers who find solace in their companionship.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Parable of the Sower is among Liz Harmer's five works involving weird, unsettling isolation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 21, 2022

Twelve of the best thrillers in a vacation setting

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. She and her family now live in Hampshire, England

She is the author of The Perfect Girlfriend , The Last Wife, and the newly released The Ex-Husband.

At CrimeReads Hamilton tagged twelve thrillers in "the proud literary tradition of horrible deaths occurring on vacation." One title on the list:
They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

They All Fall Down is set on a private island off the coast of Mexico where all is not as it seems. Once again, paradise is hiding something darker, which is a favourite theme in the thrillers I love to read. Amidst the green seas and lush forest, secrets unfold amongst the group of strangers. The sense of foreboding and trying to survive makes this another truly frightening set up in what should be an idyllic location.
Read about the other entries on the list.

They All Fall Down is among Sandie Jones's six mysteries featuring large casts of characters, Andrea Bartz's seven thrillers about vacations gone wrong, Amy Suiter Clarke's seven great thrillers that play with form, Catriona McPherson's five top mystery novels set on islands, CrimeReads' ten best crime novels of 2019, Kristen Lepionka's seven favorite unlikable female characters.

The Page 69 Test: They All Fall Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Top 10 books about US presidents

Claude A. Clegg III is the Lyle V. Jones Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad and Troubled Ground: A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South.

Clegg's newest book is The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama.

At the Guardian he tagged "a mix of biographies, memoirs and reportage which, taken together, represent some of the best writings by and about the small group of powerful people who have occupied the White House." One title on the list:
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (2008)

This history of overlapping, intertwined families vivifies the world around Thomas Jefferson, the third US president, while skilfully making more legible the travails and aspirations of the enslaved people on his storied estate at Monticello. The decades-long relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings, one of the Black women he owned and who bore several of his children, occupies the core of the book, but Gordon-Reed manages to craft a complicated and often contradictory history that extends far beyond the tangle of race, gender, and status that marked the Jeffersons and the Hemingses’ commingled journey through US history.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Seven titles about navigating a post-pandemic world

Sequoia Nagamatsu is the author of the novels How High We Go in the Dark and Girl Zero, and the story collection, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven novels which
deal with a world changing event (a viral pandemic or something just as significant), but for all the background nods to cataclysm, these wildly inventive and deeply affecting stories ultimately focus on what it means to be human, what it means to be part of a community and the world at large.
One title on the list:
A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

Set in a world six years after a devastating pandemic, the novel starts with three characters in a recovering San Francisco: a widowed father raising a daughter, a famous musician whose fame is kept under wraps, and a wedding planner. In this world, trauma and anxiety (Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder) take center stage where people are not ready or willing to seek out new connections and form families to the degree that a Family Stability Board is created to protect a precious resource: children. When this Board threatens to take Sunny (the daughter) away from Rob (her father), hard truths about the past are revealed which leads Sunny to run away. The following journey of the book’s primary characters in search of Sunny provides a post-apocalyptic canvas for interrogating each character’s past and how they are moving through trauma through their newfound connections.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Beginning at the End is among Publishers Weekly's thirteen essential pandemic novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Seven books featuring young spies

Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. He was educated at Eton College (1985-1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990-1994), where he graduated with First Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”.

His new novel is BOX 88.

At CrimeReads Cumming tagged seven books featuring young spies, including:
The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry

Trust is at the heart of Charles McCarry’s terrific late novel, set in modern China. Can our unnamed protagonist – a 29-year-old deep cover American spy – trust the beautiful woman who one day crashes her bicycle into him on the streets of Shanghai? Though he suspects that the delectable Mei is an agent of Guoanbu, the Chinese intelligence service, our hero nevertheless embarks on a steamy love affair. No less a judge than Lee Child thinks that McCarry was a better writer of spy novels than John le Carré. I wouldn’t go that far, but he could certainly turn a sentence and his books benefit from the authenticity one would expect of a man who was himself a CIA officer before turning to the pen.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 17, 2022

Five top books to know the sea

Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) is a retired four-star officer who led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, counter piracy, and cyber security. He served as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, with responsibility for all military operations in Latin America from 2006-9. Admiral Stavridis earned a PhD in international relations and is Dean Emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Stavridis's newest book is The Sailor's Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea.

At Shepherd he tagged five of the best books to know the sea, including:
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

A novel about a rusty old destroyer minesweeper, a supremely difficult captain, a mixed bag officers in a dysfunctional wardroom, a horrific typhoon, and a nail-biting court-martial. The seagoing and combat portions of the novel are very realistic, reflecting Wouk’s time in uniform on a similar class of ship in the Pacific during WWII. In my hand as I write this is a battered 1951 first edition of the novel, with a slightly tattered cover, which I treasure above almost any book in the five thousand volumes in my personal library. Over the years of my career, I’ve returned again and again to The Caine Mutiny, and the fundamental lesson of this sea novel is what both leaders and followers owe each other, especially in the demanding crucible of the sea.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Caine Mutiny is among Anthony Horowitz's six favorite books for teens and Richard Snow's five best books on World War II.

"Each time I revisit [The Caine Mutiny] I’m more awed than the last," writes Dawn Shamp. "The manner in which he develops the character of Willie Keith is nothing short of brilliant. Wouk’s style is spare yet complex. Every word counts."

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Eight of the best female friendships in books

Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent novels include The Better Sister, The Wife, optioned for a feature film by Amazon, and The Ex, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel. She is also the co-author of the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. She currently serves as the President of Mystery Writers of America and is the first woman of color to be elected to that position. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan and East Hampton.

Burke's new novel is Find Me [UK title: The Girl She Was].

[Q&A with Alafair Burke]

At CrimeReads Burke tagged eight of her favorite female friendships in books, including:
Perhaps no crime writer resides as comfortably at the intersection between female friendship and competition as Megan Abbott. In Give Me Your Hand, Kit and Diane were best friends—until they weren’t. Now years later, the two ambitious women are at the top of their profession, and the secrets that tore them apart refuse to remain hidden.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Give Me Your Hand is among Lisa Levy's eight top thrillers about women in the workplace, Layne Fargo's eight top thrillers featuring ambitious women, Allison Dickson's ten thrillers featuring a dance of girlfriends and deception and Carl Vonderau's nine notable moral compromises in crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Eleven disturbing cliques in literature

Erin Mayer is a freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared on Bustle, The Today Show, Man Repeller, Literary Hub, and others.

A lifelong New Yorker, she now resides in Maine with her husband and her enamel pin collection.

Fan Club is her first novel.

At The Strand Magazine Mayer tagged eleven favorite enigmatic cliques in literature, including:
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

If you’ve read and loved The Secret History, this is just about the closest read-alike I’ve ever found. Yes, it revolves around a group of students who are drawn to a charismatic professor, but the real highlight is our narrator Blue, whose distinctive voice guides us through the story as mysteries unfold.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is among Kiley Reid’s five top novels with incredible child caregivers and Brian Boone's fifty essential high school stories.

The Page 69 Test: Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 14, 2022

Three killers in climate change/disaster thrillers

Claire Holroyde is a writer and graphic designer living outside of Philadelphia.

The Effort is her first novel.

[My Book, The Movie: The Effort]

At CrimeReads Holroyde tagged three titles from her favorite recent climate/disaster fiction, including:
In Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, [killers] serve as a haunting backstory. Most of the world’s population has perished in catastrophic flooding and the Energy Wars that followed. The Indigenous Navajos, or Diné, build the Wall to stay safe from the outside world, but there is too much starvation within. A band of killers surround Maggie Hoskie on the night of her sixteenth birthday. They butcher her grandmother but when they turn on Maggie, her supernatural clan powers awaken as a defensive mechanism. She saves her own life by becoming a killer of killers. Maggie changes, like the rest of the world, into something new entirely. Now an adult, she looks up at the Wall and remembers that her people “had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before. This wasn’t our end. This was our rebirth.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Top 10 books about amnesia

Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent novels include The Better Sister, The Wife, optioned for a feature film by Amazon, and The Ex, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel. She is also the co-author of the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. She currently serves as the President of Mystery Writers of America and is the first woman of color to be elected to that position. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan and East Hampton.

Burke's new novel is Find Me [UK title: The Girl She Was].

[Q&A with Alafair Burke]

At the Guardian Burke tagged ten favorite books about failing memory, including:
Last Words by Michael Koryta

It’s not often that a suspect in an unsolved murder is the one to call for the reopening of a cold case. Ten years ago, Sarah Martin disappeared into an elaborate, unmapped cave system in a small town in southern Indiana. Days later, Ridley Barnes emerged from the caves carrying the teenager’s lifeless body. Barnes was the natural suspect, but insisted that he had no memory of how or where he found Sarah, or even whether she was dead or alive. Now he is the one who asks private investigator Mark Novak to take a second look and help him find out if he is a murderer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Seven top getaway thrillers

Leah Konen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature. She is the author of the new thriller, The Perfect Escape. Her debut thriller, All the Broken People was a Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, She Reads, and Charlotte Observer best summer book pick.

At CrimeReads, Konen tagged "seven getaway thrillers that will have you clamoring for your next flight home," including:
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sylvie flies to the Netherlands for one last visit with her dying grandmother—before vanishing seemingly into thin air—leaving her sister and parents struggling to put the pieces together and understand what happened to her on her trip. Jean Kwok dazzles in this multi-generational story of a Chinese immigrant family that explores secrets, identity and the bonds of sisterhood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Searching for Sylvie Lee is among Andrea Bartz's seven top thrillers about vacations gone wrong, Jennifer Baker's twelve mysteries featuring BIPOC protagonists and Katherine St. John's eleven novels of vacations gone horribly wrong.

The Page 69 Test: Searching for Sylvie Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Nine titles with narrators retelling stories they’ve heard

Antoine Wilson is the author of the novels Mouth to Mouth, Panorama City, and The Interloper. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He is a contributing editor at A Public Space. Born in Montreal and raised in California and Saudi Arabia, he now lives with his family in Los Angeles.

[My Book, The Movie: Panorama City]

At Electric Lit Wilson tagged nine novels with nested narrators retelling stories they’ve heard, including:
Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

Jacques Austerlitz, transported as a child from Prague to England in 1939, raised as Dafydd Elias by a Welsh couple, recovers his identity and comes to terms with his past, including the fates of those who were left behind, in this atmospheric and meditative masterpiece from the late German writer. The nameless narrator, a contemplative and diaphanous figure, encounters Austerlitz several times over 30 years and listens to his harrowing story. In summary, indirect dialogue, and direct dialogue, Austerlitz’s voice and experience permeate the book and—crucially—the narrator as well. Why Sebald uses a narrator rather than letting Austerlitz tell his story directly is a question without a simple answer, but the narrator’s somewhat permeable presence is integral to this unique novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Austerlitz is among four books that changed Rosalie Ham, Charles Fernyhough's top ten books on memory, Susheila Nasta's top ten cultural journeys, and the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 10, 2022

Four thrillers with maximum escapism

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including the newly released My Darling Husband and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than in a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

[The Page 69 Test: Dear WifeQ&A with Kimberly BelleThe Page 69 Test: My Darling HusbandWriters Read: Kimberly Belle (December 2021)]

At CrimeReads belle tagged four "suspense novels I read and loved this past year," including:
The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jake is a promising young novelist with a well-received first book, but can’t manage to produce a second. A teacher at a third-rate MFA program, he’s floundering when one of his students shares the plot for a book, a story too good not to steal…and steal it Jake does. A year later he is famous, wealthy, successful beyond his wildest dreams. And then an e-mail arrives with the message, you are a thief. Suspenseful and compulsively readable, with an ending I didn’t see coming.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Plot is among Louise Dean's top ten novels about novelists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Six titles with charming, workshy anti-heroes

Peter Mann grew up in Kansas City. He teaches history and literature at Stanford and is a past recipient of the Whiting Fellowship. He is also a graphic artist & cartoonist and draws the online comic The Quixote Syndrome. The Torqued Man is his first novel.

At The Strand Magazine Mann tagged six favorites books featuring charming, if feckless, layabouts, including:
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces:

One of the few works I first read in my early teens and still adore, Toole’s 1980 novel stands or falls with its protagonist Ignatius Reilly—a truculent misanthrope with bowel trouble, living with his mother in New Orleans and fighting a one-man crusade to restore the world to a proper balance of “theology and geometry.”

Ignatius is content to stay in the cozy warmth of his childhood bed, reading Boethius, masturbating into his rubber glove, and writing screeds against modernity; that is until his mother wrecks the family car and he, like Murphy, has no choice but to risk life and limb and get a job. What follows is a picaresque romp of failed employments, from organizing an uprising at a pants factory to eating through his supply as a hotdog vendor. He goes to the movies and screams at the film stars (“Degenerates!”); he attends amateur art openings and decries the paintings (“Abortions!”); wherever he goes, he is a breath of fresh indignation, armed with hair-trigger invective.

Ignatius is by all accounts a right-wing authoritarian crank, but in the days before Trump and the internet he appears far more endearingly quixotic and lovably buffoonish than whoever his more loathsome and decidedly less funny 4chan counterpart would be today (an obese Jordan Peterson? a slovenly Ben Shapiro?). I shudder even to venture a comparison.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Ignatius Reilly is on Jeff Somers's list of five of the greatest, dumbest characters in literary history, Ginni Chen's top six list of fictional mustaches, Melissa Albert's list of six of the worst fictional characters to sit next to on a plane and Jill Boyd's list of five of the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving. A Confederacy of Dunces is among Nicole Holofcener’s ten desert island booksChrissie Gruebel's top eleven books that will make you glad you're singleChristian Rudder's six favorite books, the Telegraph's critics' fifty best cult books, Melissa Albert's eight favorite fictional misfits, Ken Jennings's eight notable books about parents and kids, Sarah Stodol's top ten lost-then-found novels, Hallie Ephron's top ten books for a good laugh, Stephen Kelman's top 10 outsiders' stories, John Mullan's ten best moustaches in literature, Michael Lewis's five favorite books, and Cracked magazine's classic funny novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Eight titles about surviving in the wilderness

Robin McLean worked as lawyer and then a potter in the woods of Alaska before turning to writing. Her story collection Reptile House won the 2013 BOA Editions Fiction Prize and was twice a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Short Story Prize. She now lives and teaches in the high plains desert of central Nevada at Ike's Canyon Ranch Writer's Retreat which she co-founded.

Her debut novel Pity the Beast was published November 2021.

At Electric Lit McLean tagged eight "books where travelers must navigate harsh landscapes in order to live," including:
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

In the Story Prize winner Battleborn, Claire Vaye Watkins’ modern-day Nevadans (I am one of them these days) are the true inheritors of the Old Wild West. In the short stories they populate, her characters are adapted to the harsh landscape. They are misfits, Manson followers, and missing persons. They inhabit brothels, dig desert debris of auto accidents, are quasi-prisoners in desert hideouts, seek out sparkling high rise casinos in Vegas where bad things happen. Watkins writes controlled chaos, dread and hope with the same virtuoso lines, wit and boldest of all feminist vantages.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 7, 2022

Five of the most realistic PIs in fiction

Elizabeth Breck is a California licensed private investigator. She went back to school and graduated summa cum laude from the University of California San Diego with a bachelor's degree in Writing. She writes the Madison Kelly Mysteries about her alter ego Madison Kelly.

The latest book in the series is Double Take.

[Q&A with Elizabeth Breck]

At CrimeReads Breck tagged five favorite authors who get the private investigator novel right every time, including:
Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich

Due to the comedic nature of this series, a person could think that Stephanie’s work isn’t presented realistically. In addition, this is another “technically, not a PI,” book series, but as an unlikely bounty hunter, Stephanie and her sidekicks do a lot of skip-tracing, finding someone who has skipped out on their bail, and that is what PIs do as well. There is accuracy in the way they locate their subjects, both in searching internet and other records, pounding the pavement to track the person, and even Stephanie pretending to be someone she’s not in order to get information. Sure, there is hilarity and downright schtick, but even a real-life PI can suspend some disbelief to have a good laugh. Janet gets it right on the serious stuff, where it matters.

One for the Money is a good place to start.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Top 10 books about musical subcultures

Kelefa Sanneh has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008, before which he spent six years as a pop-music critic at The New York Times. He is also a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. Previously, he was the deputy editor of Transition, a journal of race and culture based at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. His writing has also appeared in a number of magazines and a handful of books, including Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z, a Library of America Special Publication, and Da Capo Best Music Writing (2002, 2005, 2007, and 2011). He lives in New York City with his family.

Sanneh's new book is Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres.

At the Guardian he tagged ten books about popular music by "writers who were imaginative and perceptive enough to notice that something was going on, and write about it." One title on the list:
Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus

Riot grrrl was at least two things at once: a musical movement, which bloomed briefly in the 1990s, and a literary movement, sparked by fanzines, which jammed together punk rock and feminism, challenging and changing the identities of both of them. This book is an indispensable cultural history that emphasises both the strangeness and the sensibleness of riot grrrl, an unlikely movement that seems, in retrospect, inevitable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue