Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Books by women, recommended by male writers

Mary Ann Sieghart leads a portfolio life. She makes programs for BBC Radio 4 and is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London. She spent 2018-19 as a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where she researched her book, The Authority Gap, on why women are taken less seriously than men. She is Chair of the judges for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022.

For the Guardian Sieghart asked a number of well-known male writers about their favorite books by women. One entry on the list:
Richard Curtis: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Strout is my absolute favourite, and Olive Kitteridge is the masterpiece. Its profound humanity; its deeply flawed but wonderful heroine; its remarkable structure, separate stories from one life that add up to a total picture; its perfect language page after page. It would be crazy to generalise about men’s books and women’s books – but I do feel my whole life has been hugely enriched and my sense of the world deepened by at last flying around in the other half of the sky.
Read about the other books on the list.

Olive Kitteridge is among Elizabeth Lowry's top ten difficult marriages in fiction, Lisa Harding's six top out-of-control characters in literary fiction, Genevieve Plunkett's seven books about the search for intimacy, Emma Duffy-Comparone’s seven darkly humorous titles about relationships, Susie Yang's six titles featuring dark anti-heroines, Sara Collins's six favorite bad women in fiction, Laura Barnett's ten top unconventional love stories, and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 30, 2022

The 10 most captivating apocalypse books

David Yoon is the New York Times bestselling author of Frankly in Love, Super Fake Love Song, and for adult readers, Version Zero and City of Orange.

He’s a William C. Morris Award finalist and an Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature Honor book recipient.

At CrimeReads Yoon tagged ten of his favorite apocalypse novels. One title on the list:
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

This riveting non-fiction book takes a simple question—What happens after humans go extinct?—and follows the thread all the way to Earth’s inevitable disintegration. It even talks about how our broadcast waves will eventually disappear, too, unless aliens are game and able enough to record them. It’s a strangely comforting book. Sure, one day, anything humans ever did or said will be gone without a trace. But so will all our preoccupations with legacy and reputation and legend, too. So why worry?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The World Without Us appears on Randall Munroe's list of six recommended books, Drew Williams's list of five books to help you recover from the loss of your planet, David Mitchell's six favorite books list, Annalee Newitz's list of thirty-five essential posthuman novels, and is one of Louise Erdrich's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Six books featuring unconventional families

Amy Feltman graduated from Vassar College in 2010 and earned her M.F.A. in Fiction at Columbia University in 2016, where she was also a Creative Writing Graduate Teaching Fellow. She is the author of Willa & Hesper (2019), which was longlisted for the National Jewish Book Awards’ Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction.

Her new novel is All the Things We Don’t Talk About.

At Lit Hub Feltman shared a reading list of books featuring unconventional families. One title on the list:
Ann Patchett, Commonwealth

The Killers asked: “It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?” That line that goes through my head whenever I think about this gorgeous, wide-scope family novel. We hit the ground running when Bert Cousins crashes a christening party and kisses Beverly, the (married) mother of the newly christened Franny. What follows is the end of both marriages and the turbulent, at times disastrous, blending of the Keating and Cousins families. Tracking the relationships among the children as they grow up is both a joy and a stressfest.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Commonwealth is among Ingrid Persaud's ten top novels about unconventional families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Eight novels of wonder and darkness by women writers

Born and raised in Virginia, Ashleigh Bell Pedersen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Pedersen’s fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, and New Stories from the South, and has been shortlisted for a Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories. Her short story “Crocodile” won the 2020 Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest.

Pedersen's new novel is The Crocodile Bride.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight of her favorite magical novels by women writers, including:
Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is set in the world of the Greek gods, and tells the story of our heroine’s journey from her upbringing as the daughter of narcissistic Helios and Perse, to her life as an exiled sorceress. It explores themes of love, connection, family, and solitude—to name a few—but what I found most moving of all was this novel’s exploration of mortality through the lens of immortality. So much of Circe’s journey is about her relationship, not to magic, but to the ordinary aspects of life that magic cannot touch. It is a stunning read, one I think about often.
Read about the other entries on the list at Electric Lit.

Circe is among Kelly Barnhill's eight books about women's rage, Sascha Rothchild's most captivating literary antiheroes, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's eleven top unexpected thrillers about female rage, Kat Sarfas's thirteen enchanted reads for spooky season, Fire Lyte's nine current classics in magic and covens and spellsElodie Harper's six top novels set in the ancient world, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's seven best books about islands, Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts's thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2022

Five of the most salacious thrillers

May Cobb earned her MA in literature from San Francisco State University, and her essays and interviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly.

She is the author of the novels The Hunting Wives and the newly released My Summer Darlings.

A Texas native, Cobb lives in Austin with her family.

At CrimeReads she tagged her five favorite salacious thrillers, including:
More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez

I had the pleasure of reading this mesmerizing, groundbreaking literary suspense early and I’m here to testify that this is the kind of novel that will resound for years to come. Even the tag line is salacious: “The dance becomes an affair, which becomes a marriage, which becomes a murder.” More Than You’ll Ever Know follows a propulsive, dual narrative that follows Lore Rivera, who, in 1985, finds herself living a double life in both Laredo, Texas, and also in Mexico City by marrying two men in each city, one who eventually gets arrested for murdering the other. The other pov is set in present day and is that of Cassie Bowman, a true-crime writer who stumbles across Lore’s story and becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of Lore’s past. The oft-tropey themes of infidelity, betrayal, secrets and lies–and also our society’s fixation on true crime—are so artfully explored in Gutierrez’s deft hands that they become intensely nuanced and personal, an elevated meditation on marriage, motherhood, and the shadow self that lies in wait inside all of us.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Top 10 novels about inheritance

Cressida Connolly is a reviewer and journalist who has written for Vogue, the Telegraph, the Spectator, the Guardian and numerous other publications. Connolly's books include The Happiest Days, which won the MacMillan/PEN Award, The Rare and the Beautiful, My Former Heart, and After the Party.

Her new novel is Bad Relations.

At the Guardian Connolly tagged ten top novels about inheritance, including:
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Johnson examines an alternative America in which the white supremacist attack that took place in Charlottesville in 2017 was only a beginning. Fleeing racist militia, fugitives from a threatened neighbourhood pitch up at Monticello, the plantation home of the third US president, Thomas Jefferson. The story is narrated by Da’Naisha, a descendant of his from his relationship with an enslaved woman, Sally Hemings. This book is a history lesson, a fable, an inquiry into the nature of historic monuments, a heartfelt tale of community and above all a nail-biting story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Five horror titles that will change your view of everyday objects

Nina Nesseth is a professional science communicator. Her background is rooted in biomedical sciences and science communication, with a special interest in human biology. She is a staff scientist at Science North in Sudbury, Ontario. In 2017, Nesseth co-authored The Science of Orphan Black: The Official Companion, published by ECW Press.

Her forthcoming book is Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films.

At Tor.com Nesseth tagged "five horror novels that, at some point in my life, really made me rethink what sort of stuff I keep lying around my house." One entry on the list:
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

“Guts” is probably the most well-known story featured in Palahniuk’s 2005 novel Haunted; it’s infamous for its high
fainting-factor during live readings. If body horror isn’t your thing, all you need to know is this: a teen boy experiments with the suction of his family’s swimming pool’s drainage system for pleasure. Things take a turn for the grisly.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it might be because the Final Destination franchise similarly employed a pool drain to deadly effect a few years later in The Final Destination (2009). While it’s true that faulty drain covers can actually be dangerous, between “Guts” and The Final Destination, you might find yourself a little more nervous than necessary next time you go to take a dip in the pool.
Read about the other entries on the list at Tor.com.

Haunted is among Jeff Somers's six novels that can teach you real-life skills, five books that work equally well as both novels and story collections, and four huge books that will hurt your brain—but in a good way, Ginni Chen's top eight bone-chilling books to help beat the summer heat, and Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's ten horror novels that are scarier than almost any movie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Seven titles that show a different side of horse girls

Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre, Touch, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and the handbook Before and After the Book Deal: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting, and surviving your first book. Her writing has been widely published in such outlets as BuzzFeed; the New York Times; O, the Oprah Magazine; and Poets & Writers.

[The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without YouThe Page 69 Test: TouchThe Page 69 Test: Costalegre]

Maum's new book is the memoir, The Year of the Horses.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books about "horse girls who are dirty, daring, and feminist as hell," including:
Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks

An enslaved but gifted groom on the eve of the civil war, a gallery owner haunted by a 19th-century equestrian oil painting and two Smithsonian scientists—one of whom is studying the suppressed history of Black horsemen—all come together in this sweeping exploration of racial injustice by Pulitzer Prize-winning Geraldine Brooks.
Read about the other entries on the list at Electric Lit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2022

Nine titles featuring teens behaving badly

Davida G. Breier was born in Miami, FL and spent her formative years in Florida, rural Minnesota, urban New Jersey, and suburban Pennsylvania. She’s worked as a youth sports photographer, TV extra, substitute teacher, jewelry maker, bookseller, and ATM cleaner. Breier discovered the world of zines and independent publishing in 1994 and Baltimore’s City Paper awarded her with “Best Local Zinester” in 2000 and “Best Zine” in 2003. She won the Literary Death Match, Baltimore 3.0 event in 2011. She’s spent the last two decades in various roles within the book industry and currently works for Johns Hopkins University Press. Breier lives in Maryland with her family, a pack of wee rescue dogs, a rescue tortoise, and two companion chickens.

Her new novel is Sinkhole.

At CrimeReads Breier tagged nine books featuring teens behaving badly, including:
A Secret Place by Tana French

Set at St. Kilda’s School, a girls’ boarding school in Dublin, Tana French brings readers inside the clandestine underworld of teenage girls. A Secret Place refers to a physical message board where students leave anonymous posts that range from the mundane to the cruel to cries for help. French has said she was inspired by the site PostSecret. A message is left with a photo of a boy who was found murdered on school grounds a year ago with the caption, “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.”

The murdered boy, Chris Harper, was handsome and popular and the investigation into his death has been at a standstill. The Dublin Murder squad, in this installment Detective Stephen Moran and Detective Antoinette Conway, are called in to investigate. They are faced with the daunting task of penetrating tight cliques of teenage girls to discover the truth.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

The Secret Place is among C. J. Cooke's eight thrillers & mysteries with underlying supernatural elements, Cambria Brockman's five thrillers featuring a small group of friends, Adele Parks's eight crime novels featuring intense female friendship, Kristen Lepionka's ten top female detectives in fiction, the B&N Reads editors' five favorite fun, fearless femmes fatales in fiction, and Kelly Anderson's seven amazing female friendships in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Nine of the best road trip novels

Bud Smith works heavy construction and lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is the author of Teenager (2022), Double Bird (2018), Dust Bunny City (2017), among others. His fiction has been published in The Paris Review, The Believer, The Baffler, and The Nervous Breakdown, and many others (collected below). He is also a creative writing teacher and editor.

At Lit Hub he shared nine of his favorite road trip novels, including:
Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato

An absurdist war novel. A high art page turner. A soldier decides to go AWOL, and walk from Vietnam to Paris. His platoon goes after him, on the strangest walk of their lives. Beyond the borders of their war, into the hallucinogenic territory of the soul. The same dream logic that seemed to guide the U.S.’s botched war effort, guides the telling of this novel about fleeing that same effort. O’Brien won a deserved National Book Award for this one. It’s hilarious, wrenching, goes farther and wilder than most would ever imagine and then goes a little farther still.
Read about the other entries on the list at Lit Hub.

Going After Cacciato is among Anthony Swofford's five best books about war by authors who served.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Seven books where fun & games threaten to turn fatal

Heather Chavez is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley’s English literature program and has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor, contributor to mystery and television blogs, and in public affairs for a major health care organization. She lives with her family in Santa Rosa, California.

Blood Will Tell is Chavez's new novel.

At CrimeReads she tagged "seven novels that are a lot of fun for readers, if not for their game-playing characters." One title on the list:
The Escape Room, Megan Goldin

Escape rooms are fun, right? Break out of prison. Complete a secret mission. Escape an elevator or possibly die. Actually, that last one doesn’t sound all that fun, though it does make an intriguing premise for a novel. In Goldin’s thriller, four high-powered Wall Street colleagues are lured to a vacant high-rise under the pretense of a team-building exercise. When they board an elevator, the lights go out, the doors won’t budge, and a message appears on a monitor: Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive. The tense elevator scenes are interspersed with the story of a young woman on their team who disappeared.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

The Escape Room is among Amy Gentry's eleven top thrillers set in toxic workplaces.

The Page 69 Test: The Escape Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2022

Ten of the best novels featuring sisters

Alison Espach is the author of the novels Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance, an Indie Next Pick and Amazon Editors’ Pick for 2022, and The Adults, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Barnes and Noble Discover pick.

At Publishers Weekly Espach tagged ten books in which "the sisters are the hearts of each story," including:
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

A retelling of King Lear that explores the darker side of sisterhood. What happens when, at the end of a father’s life, he cuts one of his three daughters out of the will? A lot, it turns out—much between the Cook sisters gets revealed, heightened, and examined in the wake of the disinheritance. The hidden tensions and the secrets of the sisters are set against the absolute beauty of Smiley’s prose.
Read about the other entries on the list at Publishers Weekly.

A Thousand Acres is among Renée Branum's seven novels about family curses, Lois Leveen's five novels that riff on—and rip off—Shakespeare, Stacey Swann's seven novels about family members making each other miserable, Robert McCrum's ten top Shakespearean books, Rachel Mans McKenny's eleven books about midwesterners who aren’t trying to be nice, Hannah Beckerman's top ten toxic families in fiction, Brian Boone's five books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works, Edward Docx's top ten Shakespearean stories in modern fiction, Emma Donoghue's six best books, Anne Tyler's six favorite books, Sally O'Reilly ten top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, and John Mullan's top ten twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Five books that get demon summoning right

Lana Harper is the New York Times bestselling author of Payback's A Witch and From Bad to Cursed. Writing as Lana Popovic, she is also the author of YA novels Wicked Like a Wildfire, Fierce Like a Firestorm, Blood Countess, and Poison Priestess. Harper studied psychology and literature at Yale University, law at Boston University, and is a graduate of the Emerson College publishing and writing master's program. She was born in Serbia and lived in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania before moving to the United States, where she now lives in Chicago with her family.

At Tor.com Harper tagged five titles that get demon summoning right, including:
The Possession by Michael Rutger

The second in the author’s The Anomaly Files, this book is equal parts absolutely horrifying and hilarious, largely due to Rutger’s incredibly deft and droll first-person narration. The Possession follows American myth and legend “explorer” (with only an underfunded and relatively unpopular YouTube show under his belt) Nolan Moore—the wisecracking, thoughtful, and genuinely delightful Indiana Jones we all need—as he and the gang explore the phenomenon of unexplained, freestanding walls in a picturesque small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I’ve never seen this extremely clever take on demons before, and I don’t want to spoil it, but it relies on the notions that 1), these mysterious walls function as a barrier, keeping demonic entities out of our world; and 2), reality is fundamentally an illusion, a constantly shifting amalgam pieced together by our brains rather than anything concretely real. So, what if demons could manipulate this perception, and entirely alter what reality even means to us? It triggered every phobic fear I have about not being able to trust my own mind, and I loved it. (So much that I had to stop reading the book at night.)
Read about the other entries on the list at Tor.com.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Eight top New England psychological thrillers

Brian Lebeau was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden. After being awarded an “A” in high school English once and denied a career in music for “lack of talent” repeatedly, he taught economics at several colleges and universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island before moving to Fauquier County, Virginia, to work as a defense contractor for two decades.

A Disturbing Nature is Lebeau’s first novel.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight favorite New England psychological thrillers, including:
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, published in 2001, is a seminal psychological thriller and ranks among my all-time favorite novels. The story follows three childhood friends who navigate adulthood burdened by past trauma. Things come to a climax after the murder of one of their daughters. As the story plays out in a working-class neighborhood of Boston, Lehane uses the nearby Mystic River as a metaphor for the past, the future, and karma. Despite being dirty and polluted, the river washes characters clean of their sins. Mystic River gets us thinking about the lingering impact of childhood trauma and leaves us wondering how we might’ve turned out if certain events had unfolded differently.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Mystic River is among James Lee Burke's six top books for aspiring novelists and Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Seven novels about women who refuse to fit in

Anne Heltzel is a New York-based novelist and book editor. In addition to writing horror, she has penned several milder titles for children and young adults.

Just Like Mother is her adult debut.

At Electric Lit Heltzel tagged seven books "about characters...who are unable to be the type of women their communities expect them to be." One title on the list:
Chemistry by Weike Wang

In Chemistry, we meet another woman with a life that is by all accounts rewarding, yet fails to deliver happiness. The novel’s narrator is working toward her PhD in chemistry—a goal foisted on her by her parents—and her perfectly lovely boyfriend has proposed. But she’s mired in ambivalence about her career and relationship and struggles to untangle her own wants from the wants foisted on her. As the story develops, the narrator reveals aspects of her childhood that led to her present state of indecision. This is a moving, character-driven illustration of what happens when the presence of others looms so large that there’s no room left to develop your own identity.
Read about the other entries on the list at Electric Lit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2022

Eight thrilling titles about mountaineering

Amy McCulloch is the author of eight novels for children and young adults, including the internationally bestselling YA novel The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Manaslu in Nepal--the world's eighth-highest mountain. She also summited the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua, in -50°F temperatures and 55 mph winds, and has visited all seven continents. Breathless is her adult fiction debut.

At CrimeReads McCulloch tagged eight "favorite thrilling books to read about mountaineering," including:
Thin Air by Michelle Paver

A book with a similar title to Krakauer’s but completely different set-up. Michelle Paver has written a cracker of a ghost story novel here, set in 1935 and following a British doctor and gentleman adventurer Stephen on an expedition to Kanchenjunga—the world’s third highest mountain. Brimming with historic detail about early climbing expeditions (like how climbers used to stuff their boots with straw to ward off frostbite, or the joys of eating pemmican), the novel takes an increasingly creepy turn as Stephen is haunted by a spectral figure from a prior failed expedition—or is it hypoxia driving him mad? Paver plays beautifully with our expectations and fears, delivering a truly terrifying tale in the high peaks.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Six top children's books featuring mythical creatures

A.F. Steadman grew up in the Kent countryside, getting lost in fantasy worlds and scribbling stories in notebooks. Before focusing on writing, she worked in law, until she realized that there wasn’t nearly enough magic involved.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is her debut novel.

At the Waterstones blog Steadman tagged six "favourite children's books featuring richly imagined and beautifully realised mythical creatures. From beloved classics to exciting new stories," including:
Frostheart by Jamie Littler

Another book I adore is Frostheart. At its heart are monsters called Leviathans, that lurk beneath the ice. Their songs are central to the main character’s adventures and I’m sure I had nightmares about them while reading the books! Another mythical creature, a yeti called Tobu, also plays a big role in the story and I loved the way his and Ash’s friendship develops across the series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Eight titles about women's rage

Kelly Barnhill lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Her novels include The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal for the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. She is also the winner of a World Fantasy Award and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award, the SFWA Andre Norton Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize.

Barnhill's new novel is When Women Were Dragons.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books that explored "rage, feminism, memory, and maybe dragons too." One title on the list:
A Natural History of Dragons, by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons is written as a memoir (albeit of a fictional person, in a fictional world) of Lady Isabella Trent, the world’s most famous dragon naturalist. Though her interest in science and natural observation was tolerated as a child, as she grew it became very clear to Isabella that her future was limited by her gender and social status, and that her duty to her family was to make an acceptable matrimonial match. How vexing! And how unacceptable. This is a story about dragons, obviously, and science, and the practice of biological research, as well as a play on manners and expectations and the ridiculousness of society. But it is more besides: persistence, curiosity, attention to detail, a refusal to be dominated, and a profound sense of that deep joy of learning, and wonder. The way that Lady Trent pushes on the boundaries of her society, and deftly steps beyond them, was a thrill to read.
Read about the other entries on the list at Electric Lit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2022

Six creepy novels involving childcare

Jason Rekulak is the author of The Impossible Fortress, which was translated into 12 languages and was nominated for the Edgar Award. For many years, he was the publisher of Quirk Books, an independent press, where he acquired and edited multiple New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Philadelphia with his family.

Rekulak's new novel is Hidden Pictures.

At CrimeReads the author tagged "six of my favorite books featuring inquisitive nannies, creepy children, supernatural forces, curiously distant parents, disapproving housekeepers, and so much more." One title on the list:
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The title gives a not-so-subtle nod to Ware’s inspiration. This high-tech update on Henry James finds a nanny named Rowan taking a job in a mansion full of surveillance devices and smart-home technology. The interview brings plenty of warning signs (the last few nannies have abruptly quit; one of the children sobs “it’s not safe here…”) but Rowan takes the job, anyway. Is it any wonder things start going bump in the night?
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Also see Amanda Craig's best books about nannies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Top 10 novels about neighbors

Ayşegül Savaş is a Turkish writer living in Paris.

Her first novel, Walking on the Ceiling, was published in 2019.

Her new novel is White on White.

At the Guardian Savaş tagged ten books that "investigate lives at close proximity, at once familiar and distant," including:
The Borrowers by Mary Norton

How could I not include this enchanting book, which I read and re-read in the years that my family lived in the Danish commune. It must, in part, be responsible for my fascination with neighbours and their secret lives. The borrowers are tiny people who live in the walls and under the floorboards of an English house and “borrow” from the big humans. Though the house’s tenants are unaware of their miniature neighbours, one boy starts a friendship with the young borrower, Arrietty Clock.
Read about the other entries on the list at the Guardian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Ten notable close families in literature

Harriet Evans is the author of several top ten bestsellers including the Sunday Times bestselling The Garden of Lost and Found and Richard and Judy bookclub selection The Wildflowers. She used to work in publishing and now writes full time, when she is not being distracted by her children, other books, sewing projects, puzzles, gardening, and her much-loved collection of jumpsuits. Last year, she and her family moved from London to Bath.

Evans's newest book is The Beloved Girls.

At CrimeReads she tagged "ten of my favorite close families in literature, and they’re my favorites because it’s often their closeness that threatens to pull them apart." One entry on the list:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I couldn’t leave Wuthering Heights out, because as a teenager studying it for my school exams I had a family tree of the Earnshaws and Lintons and it was worryingly sparse as everyone marries everyone. WH is what happens when you live in a remote village and only know one other family. Rereading it last year, I thought of it as a metaphor for lockdown. Too much socialising with your own kind makes you hate them all—and yourself. But the passion! The emotion! Even trying to reread it now exhausts me. Feelings!
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Wuthering Heights appears on Jane Healey's list of five of the best gothic love stories, Brett Kahr's list of books helpful for understanding blended families, Siri Hustvedt’s ten favorite books list, Robert Masello's list of six classics with supernatural crimes at their center, André Aciman's list of five favorite books about the intensity of a once-in-a-lifetime love, Emily Temple's top ten list of literary classics we (not so) secretly hate, Cristina Merrill's list of eight of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance, Kate Hamer's list of six top novels with a strong evocation of atmosphere, Siri Hustvedt's six favorite books list, Tom Easton's top ten list of fictional "houses which themselves seem to have a personality which affects the story," Melissa Harrison's list of the ten top depictions of British rain, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Ed Sikov's list of eight top books that got slammed by critics, Amelia Schonbek's top five list of approachable must-read classics, Molly Schoemann-McCann's top five list of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Becky Ferreira's list of seven of the worst wingmen in literature, Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Jimmy So's list of fifteen notable film adaptations of literary classics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best thunderstorms in literature, ten of the worst nightmares in literature and ten of the best foundlings in literature, Valerie Martin's list of novels about doomed marriages, Susan Cheever's list of the five best books about obsession, and Melissa Katsoulis' top 25 list of book to film adaptations. It is one of John Inverdale's six best books and Sheila Hancock's six best books.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Seven titles inspired by the dictionary

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, Bustle, the Ploughshares blog, the Chicago Review of Books and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged "seven books that explore the dictionary and its cultural impact as a scholarly pursuit, as a place to find purpose, as a text to
be challenged and changed, and a way to find meaning." One title on the list:
Americanon: An Unexpected U.S. History in Thirteen Best-Selling Books by Jess McHugh

Admittedly, this book isn’t exclusively or primarily about dictionaries. But it does explore the impact that seemingly un-biased reference texts have on our society and one particularly eye-opening chapter on a dictionary that originated American mythology we still see today. Journalist Jess McHugh shares the history of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which was first written by Noah Webster in the 1780s.

Webster’s project was to standardize a distinctly American English language. As McHugh explains, that included dropping the “u” in words like “color” and providing pronunciation guides that matched Webster’s own Connecticut accent. It also included using the right examples to illustrate the uses of these words, drawing from Protestant beliefs and American literature.

Even from its inception, the reference text was anything but neutral. Pick this one up for McHugh’s exploration of this American dictionary, but keep reading for how other benign texts like The Betty Crocker Cookbook and The Old Farmer’s Almanac contribute to our understanding of American identity today.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2022

Five top bittersweet novels

Meg Mason began her career at the Financial Times and The Times of London. Her work has since appeared in The Sunday Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Telegraph. She has written humour for The New Yorker and Sunday STYLE, monthly columns for GQ and has been a regular contributor to Vogue, ELLE and marie claire, before becoming an author full time.

Her first book Say It Again in a Nice Voice, a memoir of early motherhood, was published in 2012. Her novel You Be Mother followed in 2017. Sorrow and Bliss is her third novel. She lives in Sydney, with her husband and two daughters.

[The Page 69 Test: Sorrow and Bliss]

At the Waterstones blog Mason tagged five favorite bittersweet novels including:
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett

If there were a special fiction prize for uncut poignancy, The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett would clean up the field. A love story from about 17 directions, equal parts humour and pathos, with the kind of characters, and an ending that won’t let you go.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Seven dark novels about motherhood

Zach Vasquez is a native of Los Angeles, California. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Little White Lies, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Full Stop, and other publications.

At CrimeReads he tagged six dark titles about motherhood, including:
Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

In Flynn’s debut novel, a troubled reporter returns to her small Missouri hometown to investigate the gruesome murder of two teenage girls and ends up discovering the truth behind her own late sister’s death, as well as the physical and psychological harm currently being inflicted on her much younger half-sister.

At the center of it all is Adora Crellin, an aristocratic businesswoman from genteel stock who, along with being the protagonist’s mother, is also the matriarch of the town in which the novel is set. The scars—both literal and figurative—that the outwardly cold, but deeply unhinged Crellin has inflicted on both her daughters and her neighbors are eventually revealed in a series of devastating revelations.

While not as deliciously evil or charismatically brassy as some of the other mothers on this list, Adora Crellin (who would be brought to life by Patricia Clarkson in the 2018 HBO miniseries adaptation of the novel) stands as one of the most legitimately unnerving.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Sharp Objects is among Christina Dalcher's seven crime books that challenge the idea of inherent female goodness, Nicole Trope's six domestic suspense novels where nothing is really ever what it seems, Heather Gudenkauf's ten great thrillers centered on psychology, and Peter Swanson's ten top thrillers that explore mental health.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Top 10 wilderness stories

Irene Solà is a Catalan writer and artist, winner of the Documenta Prize for first novels, the Llibres Anagrama Prize, the European Union Prize for Literature, and the Amadeu Oller Poetry Prize. Her artwork has been exhibited in the Whitechapel Gallery.

Her newest novel is When I Sing, Mountains Dance.

At the Guardian Solà tagged ten wilderness stories that transcend "the passive landscape or the backdrop of compelling beauty and instead appreciates it as an active entity," including:
The Vorrh by Brian Catling

The vorrh, in Catling’s The Vorrh trilogy, is a very ancient forest, so old that it’s thought of as being home to the garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve roam along with cyclops and anthropophagi (cannibal rogues that attract humans deep into the forest with pails of water and food). This forest is in itself an entity that has sentience and perhaps even a will, and it rejects the presence of humans by driving them insane.
Read about the other entries on the list at the Guardian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2022

Five books that trace the portrayal of mental disorders in literature

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

Shemilt's new novel is The Patient.

At CrimeReads the author tagged five books that
reflect the age in which they were written; if mental illness is diagnosed by doctors it is also defined by society because society decides what makes behaviour unusual, undesirable or even ‘mad.’
One title on the list:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte published in 1848

The story, set in the Victorian era, concerns Jane Eyre, an orphan sent by relatives to live in an orphanage which she leaves as a young woman when she finds employment as a governess to the ward of the Mr Rochester at Thornfield Hall, a place of mystery that appears haunted. Against this ghostly drop back, Jane and Edward Rochester fall in love but on the point of marriage to Mr Rochester, he is is revealed to have a mad wife, Bertha living under lock and key at Thornfield Hall. Jane leaves, returning at the end of the story to find Mr Rochester alone and blinded after a vain attempt to save Bertha as she was in the act of burning down the hall. The two marry.

Madness as embodied in the form of Bertha, the first wife, contributes narratively crucial elements of gothic suspense and intrigue; the reader is made aware, as Jane is, of laughter and footsteps in Thornfield, culminating in danger and horror. This gives the story its power and is key to the narrative arc, being the reason for the mystery and why Jane cannot marry and has to escape.

However, there are unsettling elements to this enduring story: the mad woman is described as animal-like, with wild hair and disheveled appearance, locked in a windowless room. To modern sensibilities this is a sensationalist and stereotypical portrait of a woman with a mental illness, whose punishment was essentially a social construct; those who were considered mad were indeed locked up without any documentation. Insanity was portrayed as bad and certainly dangerous. However, by the time Jane Eyre was actually published, this view was already out of step with current attitudes of the day as political awareness was changing and a commission had been set up by the government to look into the treatment of mentally ill with the finding that it was important change the environments in which they were held.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Jane Eyre also made Lucy Ellmann's top ten list of gripes in literature, Elizabeth Brooks’s list of ten of the creepiest gothic novels, Kate Kellaway's list of the best romantic novels that aren’t riddled with cliches, Julia Spiro's list of seven titles told from the perspective of domestic workers, Jane Healey's list of five favorite gothic romances, Annaleese Jochems's list of the great third wheels of literature, Sara Collins's list of six of fiction's best bad women, Sophie Hannah's list of fifteen top books with a twist, E. Lockhart's list of five favorite stories about women labeled “difficult,” Sophie Hannah's top ten list of twists in fiction, Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue