Monday, October 31, 2022

Top 10 horror short stories

Simon Crook has been a film journalist for over twenty years, visiting film sets and interviewing talent for Empire magazine. A new and exciting voice in domestic horror, he is perfectly placed to translate the recent successes of the genre from the silver screen to the written word – while adding something new and wholly his own.

Crook's new story collection, Silverweed Road, is "[s]et on a cursed suburban street, the horrors lurking behind each door unlock tales of were-foxes, predatory swimming pools, vengeful urns and a darts player’s pact with the devil."

At the Guardian Crook tagged ten top horror short stories, including:
The Forbidden by Clive Barker

When Books of Blood was unleashed in 1984, Stephen King said: “I have seen the future of horror – and his name is Clive Barker.” With six volumes and 30 stories, what do I pick? The man-made giants of In the Hills, the Cities? The Body Politic’s army of skittering hands? The demonic slapstick of The Yattering and Jack? To hell with it: let’s go with The Forbidden. Candyman is a fine Hollywood adaptation, but in relocating it sacrifices the cold, wintry dread of Barker’s Spector Street Estate: a graffiti-ravaged brutalist pit of social-realist despair where its urban legend looms.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Seven titles set during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bekah Waalkes is a writer and PhD candidate in English Literature at Tufts University. Her work has appeared in Real Life, Cleveland Review of Books, Bon Appétit, Longreads, and the Ploughshares blog, among others. She is an editorial intern at Electric Literature.

At Electric Lit Waalkes tagged seven "novels [that] refuse to recount lockdown on its own, instead thinking about what we learn about people and their breaking points, what the pandemic made
possible for people like us, and, of course, what it took away." One title on the list:
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence follows a haunting: one woman, Tookie, who works at an indie bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted by the ghost of the store’s most annoying customer, Flora. But this haunting quickly becomes one of many—the novel begins on All Soul’s Day (November 1) in 2019, and ends on All Soul’s Day in 2020, covering one year of isolation, turmoil, and challenge. The book follows the COVID-19 pandemic as it slowly, then quickly, emerges, including ways the bookstore must try to survive, but it also follows the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests. Tookie, herself formerly incarcerated, explores the link between being sentenced and reading a sentence, reflecting on the ways books can liberate us—and the ways they can’t.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Sentence is among Aleksandra Hogendorf's seven favorite books set in bookstores.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The best (or worst!) books to read in a secluded cabin in the woods

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of twenty novels, including Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six (coming November 8), Last Girl Ghosted, and Confessions on the 7:45 — now in development at Netflix, starring Jessica Alba.

With books published in thirty-two languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is regarded as a master of suspense.

At Zibby Mag Unger tagged six of the best (or worst!) books to read in a secluded cabin in the woods, including:
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

True-crime writer Wylie Stark retreats to an isolated farmhouse to finish her new book. It might be the perfect escape, except that decades earlier two people were murdered in cold blood and a young girl disappeared without a trace. When a snowstorm bears down, Wylie finds herself snowed in and discovers a lost child in the blizzard. Gudenkauf weaves a tight and twisty double narrative that’s character rich and full of suspense and surprises. The house is both a shelter and a prison of long-buried secrets. And Wylie is the one who is truly haunted. This one is perfect for reading by the fire after you’ve listened to your favorite true-crime podcast. But if you hear someone knocking at the door, don’t answer!
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Overnight Guest is among Deborah E. Kennedy's seven top mysteries set in the Midwestern winter.

The Page 69 Test: The Overnight Guest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 28, 2022

Fourteen new & upcoming books featuring witches

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 Odintz tagged fourteen new and upcoming books featuring witches, including:
Jennifer Givhan, River Woman, River Demon

“A psychological thriller that weaves together the threads of folk magick with personal and cultural empowerment” is the publisher’s description of this one, and damn if that doesn’t sound good.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: River Woman, River Demon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Ten notably scary books

Emily Temple is the author of The Lightness and the Managing Editor at Literary Hub. She earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

[My Book, The Movie: The Lightness; The Page 69 Test: The Lightness]

At Lit Hub she and her fellow editors tagged ten books that scared them. Julia Hass's pick:
Tana French, Broken Harbor

Tana French is the master of the slow build, the quiet suspense, the minutia of life and thought that occurs around a mystery: usually a murder in a closed-setting location, where the town is small, but everyone is a suspect. These books are meticulous character and town studies, and usually delve deep into a specific cultural facet of Ireland that French deems worthy of excavation. She’s always right: they’re immersive and captivating, but I would never call these books scary, as a whole. The anomaly of the bunch is Broken Harbor, the fourth book in the Dublin Murder series. The word scary is even up for debate: do I mean disturbing? Deeply distressing?

The difference between this and the others in the series is that rather than the traditional cause, effect, and clean solution that one typically expects in a murder mystery, this book is about something more insidious, and ultimately scary in its unpredictability: madness. The Spain family moves to a new housing development that promises the suburban dream: happy kids biking through the streets, cookouts with the neighbors, and a giant return on the investment of a lifetime, only for the development to halt construction midway through, though firmly after the Spains have already sunk their savings into a house that will never offer a return. This financial decision upends the family’s status quo and sets the ball rolling steadily downhill. Worse and worse things befall the Spains, and the family enters into both economic and psychological ruin. What makes this story so affectingly terrifying is the sheer possibility of it, how life can turn on a dime (or a huge down payment). It reveals the fine balance one’s stability is hanging upon, especially for men in traditional communities who can predominately bear the weight of “providing” for a family, and the violence that can occur in the wake of male failure.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Broken Harbor is among Wil Medearis's seven novels that explore real estate swindles and Lucie Whitehouse's ten top psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Seven titles about being stuck in Hell

Claudia Lux is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has a master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sign Here is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Lux tagged seven "books that address Hell as any lack of escape, which, when combined with the tedium and terror of being left outside of time, sharpens into a pain even the most skilled torturer could never inflict." One title on the list:
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

In typical Rushdie style, this novel balances real world issues with fantasy in a literal and metaphorical take on the Heaven vs. Hell narrative, which results in something truly unique for both the characters and the reader. Starting with two men falling from a bombed airplane and landing in London, safe but changed, this novel grapples with questions about immortality, the choices for the afterlife and who is really in charge.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Satanic Verses is among Stuart Jeffries's top ten postmodern books, Monique Alice's seven books for readers who love Haruki Murakami, Felicity Capon and Catherine Scott's twenty top famously banned books, Seth Satterlee's top six famously banned books, Diarmaid MacCulloch's five best books about blasphemy, Atul Gawande's favorite books, and Karl O. Knausgaard's top ten angel books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Seven hot mysteries set in the Midwestern winter

Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut, Tornado Weather, came out with Flatiron Books in 2017 and was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe best first novel prize by the Mystery Writers of America. Kennedy has worked as a reporter, teacher, and editor, as well as a cookie packer, ice cream scooper, and children’s baseball coach. She also holds a Master’s in Fiction Writing and English literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She currently lives in Forest Grove, Oregon with her mother and young son.

[My Book, The Movie: Tornado WeatherThe Page 69 Test: Tornado WeatherWriters Read: Deborah E. Kennedy]

Kennedy's new novel is Billie Starr's Book of Sorries.

At CrimeReads the author tagged seven page-turners that run red-hot in the deep Midwestern cold, including:
The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Much has obviously been written about the Donner Party, probably too much at this point, but in the skilled hands of Alma Katsu, that infamous family finally gets the truly spine-tingling treatment it deserves. Katsu borrows much from the historical record for her story, but she allows herself just the right amount of poetic license as well, and you’ll want to keep the lights on for this one. Here’s a taste of what Mary Graves, one of the would-be pioneers, encountered when the wagon train hitched up outside a cabin in Ash Hollow, Nebraska: “She could still picture the tiny makeshift shack, boards bleached bone-white by the relentless prairie sun. A sad, lonely place, like the abandoned farmhouse she used to pass every Sunday on her way to service. Stripped nearly bare by the elements, dark empty windows like the hollow eye sockets of a skull.” Strap in. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hunger is among Meagan Navarro top ten scary good horror novels, Jac Jemc's top ten haunting ghost stories and Mallory O'Meara's top thirteen spine-chilling books written by female authors.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 24, 2022

Five notable SFF stories set in academia

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five favorite SFF stories set in academia, including:
Worlds by Joe Haldeman (1981)

One of the half million who call the orbiting habitats (the Worlds) home, Marianne O’Hara’s academic ambitions draw her down from New New York to its namesake on Earth. A fourth-generation child of the Worlds, O’Hara looks forward to an enriching education on Earth. Pity that so much of it will be intensely unpleasant.

New York is a violent, crime-ridden city. While the Second Revolution brought an unstable peace to the United States, stark divisions remain, wanting only a spark to flare into civil war. Likewise, while the world took a lesson from the cataclysmic South American nuclear war, across the planet vast nuclear arsenals remain, awaiting only the right spark to be unleashed. O’Hara may be that spark.

Worlds is a compact exploration of late-1970s, early 1980s American enthusiasms and anxieties: space cities on the plus side of the ledger, and urban decay, political strife, and nuclear doom on the minus. There are other contemporary works that draw from the same well of inspiration, but Haldeman’s was one of the better written books.
Read about the other entries on the list at

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Eight titles for the recovering nice girl

Mia Mercado is a humor writer. Her second book, She's Nice Though: Essays on Being Bad at Being Good is now available Her debut collection
of funny non-fiction essays is Weird but Normal.

Mercado is currently a contributor to The Cut and writes a weekly column called I Can’t Shut Up About, providing shallow dives in her latest online obsession.

At Electric Lit she tagged "some required reading for fellow nice girls who are learning to spread their nasty little wings." One title on the list:
Hysterical by Elissa Bassist

Hysterical is a memoir about being heard or, more often, not being heard. It follows Bassist’s experience with mystery ailments (and doctors who couldn’t make sense of her pain), the #MeToo movement (and men who couldn’t make sense of female rage), and the frustrating and liberating experience of finding one’s own voice. Bassist manages to be funny, precise, and intimate while dissecting the mess of modern feminism—wow, women can have it all!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Five of the best books about journalism

Margaret Sullivan is an award-winning media critic and a groundbreaking journalist. She was the first woman appointed as public editor of the New York Times and went on to the Washington Post as media columnist. She started her career as a summer intern at her hometown Buffalo News and rose to be that paper's first woman editor-in-chief.

Of Sullivan's new book, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life, Molly Jong-Fast wrote: “It's rare that a respected critic writes a dishy, fun book that also packs an important message, but when she does, it's a must-read.” Steve Coll called Sullivan "the critic American journalism requires."

At Lit Hub Sullivan tagged five favorite books about journalism. One title on the list:
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men

This seminal 1974 book about how two young and hungry Washington Post reporters broke open the Watergate scandal not only launched the classic movie of the same name but ignited innumerable journalism careers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All the President’s Men is among Emily Temple's ten books that defined the 1970s.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2022

Six top books set in & around the theatrical world

Joanna Quinn was born in London and grew up in Dorset, in the southwest of England, where her debut novel, The Whalebone Theatre, is set.

She has worked in journalism and the charity sector. She is also a short story writer, published by The White Review and Comma Press, among others.

Quinn lives in a village near the sea in Dorset.

At CrimeReads she tagged six of the best books set in and around the theatrical world, including:
Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild

The urtext for me, as far as books about theatre are concerned. Streatfeild’s tale of three orphan girls who go to stage school, with a household of interesting lodgers and warm-hearted guardians cheering them on, is a children’s classic for good reason. But Streatfeild doesn’t shy away from depicting the bleakness of children from cash-strapped families having to audition to help pay the bills. Nor does she allow her characters to become starry-eyed. The eldest Pauline becomes unbearable when she gets a main part – and is quickly demoted (‘nobody is irreplaceable’, the director tells her). But despite its harsh lessons, the stage offers the determined sisters their best chance to make both their fortune and their name.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Top 10 experimental feminist books

Selby Wynn Schwartz holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Bodies of Others: Drag Dances and Their Afterlives, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and the forthcoming novella A Life in Chameleons.

Her new novel After Sappho reimagines the intertwined lives of feminists at the turn of the twentieth century.

At the Guardian Schwartz tagged ten "21st-century experimental feminist books that inspire" her, including:
The Silk Road by Kathryn Davis

Traversing The Silk Road involves moving simultaneously through many layers. It is much like our lives on this planet, where the permafrost is melting but we also fall in love, where plagues stalk the land but somebody also needs to make dinner. The novel is peopled by an endearingly mortal set of siblings – it’s the Cook who obligingly makes dinner, the Archivist who goes weak with love, the Topologist who leaves her guidebook on a cafe table – and it is set in a mystical limbo of landscapes. This is a beguiling novel of journeys beyond individual selfhood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Eight titles that wrestle with the complexities of religion

Michelle Webster-Hein and her family work a small homestead in the southern Michigan countryside where she was born and raised.

Out of Esau is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Webster-Hein tagged eight books -- fiction and non-fiction -- that interrogate spirituality with nuance, including:
On Beauty by Zadie Smith

The most fascinating character in the book is Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt historian who doesn’t much care for Rembrandt. Belsey is so anti-Christian that he has become rather a fundamentalist about it—banning Christmas from his house, for example, and cursing the church woman who visits his ailing father, whom Howard himself has not visited for years. Belsey’s arch-nemesis, the deeply religious and conservative pundit Monty Kipps, commits parallel moral failings to those of Belsey, and in the end, Smith leaves the reader marooned between Kipps’ apparently unhelpful God and the god Belsey has made of himself, urging us to squint toward the mysteries that lie beyond our own tiny ideas.
Read about the other entries on the list.

On Beauty is among Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Brian Boone's twenty books that are absolute dorm room essentials, Ann Leary's top ten books set in New England, and Tolani Osan's ten top books that "illuminate how disparate cultures can reveal the mystery and beauty in each other and make us aware of the hardships, dreams, and hidden scars of those we share space with."

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Five essential food memoirs

Award-winning food and travel writer Sylvie Bigar was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and lives in New York City. Her writing has appeared widely, including in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food & Wine,, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Edible, Departures, Travel & Leisure, and National Geographic Traveler. In French, Bigar has contributed to Le Figaro, Histoire Magazine, Le Temps, and

Her new book is Cassoulet Confessions: Food, France, Family and the Stew That Saved My Soul.

At Lit Hub Bigar tagged five favorite food memoirs, including:
Heartburn by Nora Ephron

It may not seem very appetizing to open a list of treasured food memoirs with the word ‘heartburn’ but Nora Ephron’s first novel, Heartburn, remains a personal favorite. But wait, novel or memoir? When the book came out in 1983, recounting the story of cookbook author Rachel Samstat’s discovery of her husband’s affair with her friend Thelma, most readers understood that this fictionalized tale was really a personal memoir. Ephron had recently uncovered her second husband Carl Bernstein’s affair with Margaret Jay, the daughter of a former British Prime Minister. And if this wasn’t enough to inspire an opera, the plot thickens since the author is slugging through the seventh month of her pregnancy.

Heartburn is a food memoir disguised as a novel, and its cast of characters include a vinaigrette and the key lime pie Rachel/Nora throws at her husband. Throughout, she delivers easy to follow recipes mixed in with her unique, punchy wit, “Even now,” she says, “I cannot believe Mark would want to risk losing my vinaigrette.”
Read about the other titles on the list.

Heartburn is among Elizabeth Lowry's top ten difficult marriages in fiction, Candice Carty-Williams's six heroic women in literature, Jeff Somers's ten books to read before getting divorced, Diana Secker Tesdell's top ten memorable meals in literature, and Anna Murphy's top ten lesser-known literary heroines.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 17, 2022

Eight thrillers featuring characters with memory issues

Bradeigh Godfrey is a physician, mom of four, and a writer. Her medical career is focused on caring for veterans with visible and invisible disabilities, and she is passionate about improving quality of life and wellness in veterans through research, teaching, and clinical work.

Her debut novel, Imposter, is a psychological thriller exploring sisterhood, secrets, and the neuroscience of memory and trauma.

At CrimeReads Godfrey tagged eight favorite psychological thrillers, including:
All is not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

In one of my favorite psychological thrillers, a young woman who suffered a brutal sexual assault is given an experimental drug to erase the memories of the event. But in the following weeks, even though she has no conscious memory of the attack, she is left with physical and emotional scars that will not allow her to forget.

Could this really happen? To my knowledge, no drug can erase specific memories, however, the body and the emotional centers of the brain can hold trauma that the person doesn’t consciously remember. So yes, the general concept makes good medical sense, and is the setup for an emotionally resonant and heartbreaking story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Q&A with Wendy Walker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Five scary titles that use setting to embody horror

Stephanie Feldman is the author of the novels Saturnalia and The Angel of Losses, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, and finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. She is co-editor of the multi-genre anthology Who Will Speak for America? and her stories and essays have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Catapult Magazine, Electric Literature, Flash Fiction Online, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

[The Page 69 Test: The Angel of LossesMy Book, The Movie: The Angel of LossesThe Page 69 Test: Saturnalia]

At Feldman tagged "five novels that prove place is everything in horror," including:
Leeches by David Albahari

Serbian-Canadian author David Albahari isn’t known as a horror writer, but his books are unshakably disturbing. Leeches is set in 1990s-era Zemun, a town that’s now part of Belgrade, and tells the story of a journalist who discovers a covert struggle between anti-Semitic and Jewish factions. That conflict soon erupts into violence, which the journalist may be able to stop with a mystical Kabbalistic text called The Well. The creepy elements here—secret societies, stalking, a psychologically unraveling narrator—are familiar, but they’re sharpened to a brutal point by Serbian and European history, both recent—the Yugoslav Wars of the ‘90s—and longstanding—the region’s unrelenting campaigns against Jews.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Seven titles starring characters with rare abilities

Rita Zoey Chin is the author of the widely praised memoir, Let the Tornado Come.

[The Page 99 Test: Let the Tornado Come]

She holds an MFA from the University of Maryland and is the recipient of a Katherine Anne Porter Prize, an Academy of American Poets Award, and a Bread Loaf scholarship. She has taught at Towson University and at Grub Street in Boston. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Tin House, and Marie Claire.

Chin's new book, The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern, is her first novel.

At Electric Lit the author tagged seven books "filled with ghosts—ghosts of the dead, ghosts of memory, living ghosts, manufactured ghosts—and with haunted characters who live at the cusp between worlds and who shine with grief and hope." One title on the list:
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

When Cora, eleven, meets her aunt Ruth for the first time—“hair glistening like it had been oiled with star shine, looking like she could box down a mountain”—along with Ruth’s charming friend, Nat, who has a talent for talking to dead people, Cora is instantly infatuated with them both. But when Ruth returns 14 years later—“No Nat. No beauty. No power. No shine. Skinny as death and even older”—Ruth no longer speaks, though she is able to convey that she wants Cora to follow her out into the night. What ensues is a haunted (and haunting) journey like no other, told in exquisitely written chapters that alternate between Ruth and Cora’s mysterious trek through the wilds of upstate New York and Ruth’s young life, growing up with Nat in The Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission, where she first crosses paths with Mr. Bell, a conman who, like Ruth, is more than he seems. The ways their lives intertwine across years and miles in this gothic tale that writhes with zealotry, greed, and the grotesque—but that glistens with unexpected galaxies of love—builds to a crescendo that broke my heart and rearranged my mind in the best possible ways.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 14, 2022

Eighteen of the best new & recent horror novels

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 Odintz tagged eighteen "new and recent novels perfect for spooky season," including:
Clay McLeod Chapman, Ghost Eaters (2022)

Another innovative take on grief horror, this one involves a street drug called Ghost that allows the taker to communicate with those that haunt them. Because this takes place in the South, there are far more than just personal ghosts ready to appear.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Top 10 road novels

James Yorkston is a singer-songwriter and author from the East Neuk of Fife, Scotland, and one of the most celebrated artists in British contemporary music. Over the course of a 15-year career as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he’s recorded a series of acclaimed albums showcasing a balance of folk and contemporary roots, often drawing deeply on traditional songs and narrative heritage. As a popular live performer and an in-demand collaborator, Yorkston has toured continuously throughout the UK, Europe and North America, gaining a loyal and dedicated following.

At the Guardian Yorkston tagged ten top road novels, including:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This fine book, about a world I have little knowledge of, I read while touring one wet winter. It pulled me far from my then reality of skipping from one train to another and placed me in a low-down American landscape of synthetic drugs, broken-family torment and brutal racism. There are plenty of ghosts in the book too, which I appreciate – ghosts of America’s (sometimes very recent) past, alongside more recognisable friends. They help frame and tell the tale of this dysfunctional family road trip to Mississippi State Penitentiary to visit the father who has been incarcerated.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sing, Unburied Sing is among Stacey Swann's seven novels about very dysfunctional families, Una Mannion’s top ten books about children fending for themselves, Sahar Mustafah's seven novels about grieving a family member and LitHub's ten books we'll be reading in ten years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Eight titles featuring intergenerational narratives about women

E. M. Tran writes fiction and creative nonfiction.

Her debut novel, Daughters of the New Year, is out this month from Hanover Square Press/HarperCollins. Her stories, essays, and reviews can be found in such places as the Georgia Review, Joyland Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Harvard Review Online, and more.

Tran spent an inordinate proportion of her adult life working towards an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Mississippi and a PhD in English & Creative Writing from Ohio University.

She is from and currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two dogs.

At Electric Lit Tran tagged eight novels "about family history passed down from mother to daughter," including:
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

The Mountains Sing follows two timelines: one from the perspective of Trấn Diệu Lan, who flees North Vietnam during the Communist land reform in 1954, and another from the perspective of her granddaughter, Hương, during the Vietnam War of the 1970s. By alternating chapters in each timeline, we can see how history cycles again and again, forcing each generation to carry their own traumas reproduced by wars rooted in conflicts long past. The resilience of women, as they continue to protect family and community despite French colonization, Japanese occupation, and Communist political machinations, and displacement, endures in this narrative.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Nine top novels of art and seduction

Lauren Acampora is the author of The Paper Wasp, The Wonder Garden, and the newly released The Hundred Waters.

The Hundred Waters has been named one of Vogue’s best books of the year, a Lit Hub best book of the summer, and one of The Millions’s most-anticipated books of 2022.

At Lit Hub Acampora tagged nine novels that "feature spellbinding artists and their rapt admirers—and spellbound artists enrapt by their own subjects.... Ultimately, in each of these novels, art is the great seducer, sometimes spiraling the lives of its victims out of control." One title on the list:
Marisha Pessl, Night Film

This propulsive, genre-defying novel straddles literary fiction, thriller, and hard-boiled detective novel, peppered throughout with postmodern elements of media pastiche. Investigative reporter Scott McGrath is drawn to the mystery surrounding reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova, around whom a rabid cult has formed, complete with secret codes and underground screenings of his violently disturbing films, banned in public. Banding together with two other young New Yorkers who are similarly absorbed, McGrath takes it upon himself to investigate the mental breakdown and suicide of the director’s grown daughter. He finds himself embroiled in an elaborate, mystical web of derangement—becoming increasingly entranced by the darkly glittering aura that surrounds the director and his daughter both—and eventually questioning his own sanity.
Read about the other books on the list.

Night Film is among Kate Reed Petty's seven thrillers about filmmakers & subversive art and Jeff Somers's four huge books that will hurt your brain—but in a good way.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 10, 2022

Five of the best Christmas-themed mysteries

Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture, and is the author of the multi-award-winning Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series.

The newest title in the series is Blackmail and Bibingka.

At CrimeReads Manansala tagged five favorite Christmas-themed mysteries, including:
Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon

I love the Gethsemane Brown series, which follows a Black classical musician who moves to a small Irish village to start a quiet new life, only to befriend the ghost haunting her cottage and become an amateur sleuth in the process. While I love romance (if I hadn’t made that abundantly clear in my opening), I know it’s not for everyone, so this is a great series for those not interested in romantic relationships, but still invested in deep familial and platonic ties. The second book in the series has Gethsemane accidentally conjuring up the wrong ghost in order to save her brother-in-law, who stopped in for a visit and is now the main suspect for art theft and murder. A typical Christmas vacation, am I right?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Nine of the best fiercely political women writers

Eve Fairbanks writes about change: in cities, countries, landscapes, morals, values, and our ideas of ourselves. A former political writer for The New Republic, her essays and reportage have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among other outlets. Born in Virginia, she now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa's Racial Reckoning is her debut.

At Lit Hub Fairbanks tagged nine women "writers we can read to adjust the masculine take on political analysis that still dominates." One entry on the list:
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid

A clinical psychologist, Gobodo-Madikizela repeatedly visited a South African prison to face the white man responsible for plotting some of apartheid’s most grotesque injustices against Black South Africans. “Have I ever killed any of your friends or family?” the former police colonel, Eugene de Kock, asks her once. As well as delivering a deeply arresting portrait of how people come to do evil for political causes, Gobodo-Madikizela considers how someone like her—a victim and, like most people, a witness to great events—can think about large-scale evil and tragedy and remain a motivated citizen.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Eight titles that showcase the eroticism & savagery of cannibalism

Sheila Yasmin Marikar’s debut novel, The Goddess Effect, is out now from Amazon's Little A. Her work has been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Economist, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vogue, and many other publications. Her New York Times Magazine profile of the chef Gaggan Anand was selected for the 2021 edition of Best American Food Writing. Marikar began her career at ABC News. A native of New Jersey, she is a graduate of Cornell University, where she studied history. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

At Electric Lit Marikar tagged "eight works of literature that explore cannibalism in manners both overt and discreet," including:
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

No round-up of cannibalistic literature would be complete without a mention of Thomas Harris’ 1988 icon of horror fiction, which revolves around the serial killer and human organ gourmand Hannibal Lecter. Immortalized on screen by Anthony Hopkins, the 1991 film version of Lecter took liberties with Harris’s prose. In the book, Lecter recounts eating a victim’s liver with fava beans and a “big Amarone.” Wary that viewers might not be able to identify the Italian wine, the film’s producers changed the line, giving Chianti a reputation that it has yet to live down.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Silence of The Lambs is among Sascha Rothchild's ten top literary antiheroes, Andrew Bourelle's four best ticking-clock thrillers, Ben McPherson’s ten thrillers based on real-life events, E.G. Scott's best frenemies in fiction, Caroline Louise Walker's six terrifying villain-doctors in fiction, Kathy Reichs's six best books, Matt Suddain's five great meals from literature, Elizabeth Heiter's ten favorite serial killer novels, Jill Boyd's five books with the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving, Monique Alice's six great fictional evil geniuses, sixteen book-to-movie adaptations that won Academy Awards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 7, 2022

Ten top novels with unreliable narrators

Elizabeth Brooks is the author of The Orphan of Salt Winds, The Whispering House, and The House in the Orchard.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten great novels with "unreliable narrators [who] range from guardians of moral virtue, to enchanting spinners-of-yarns, to out-and-out psychopaths." One title on the list:
Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003).

Notes on a Scandal is the story of school teacher, Sheba Hart, and her affair with a teenaged pupil. It is also—or perhaps it is really—the story of a very twisted friendship, as told by Sheba’s colleague and confidante, Barbara Covett. Barbara, a lonely woman in her sixties, who has struggled all her life to maintain proper friendships, is deeply drawn to her younger, prettier co-worker, and an unequal friendship begins: superficial on Sheba’s part, increasingly obsessive on Barbara’s. When the illicit teacher-pupil affair becomes a public scandal, Sheba’s life implodes, and she becomes a pariah. How ‘fortunate’ then (inverted commas very much intended) that Barbara is on hand to provide comfort and protection. Notes on a Scandal is a dazzling exploration of the blurred border between love and cruelty, and it is Barbara’s voice—insinuating, needy, touching, domineering, sinister—that generates the story’s power.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Notes on a Scandal is among Charlotte Northedge's top ten novels about toxic friendships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Top 10 books about Nigeria

Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer. He is best known for writing the novels The Fishermen (2015) and An Orchestra of Minorities (2019), both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize in their respective years of publication.

Obioma is the James E. Ryan Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

At the Guardian he tagged ten books that should "enrich anyone’s understanding of Nigeria," including:
Be(com)ing Nigerian by Elnathan John

John has written fiction, but his satirical broadside about modern-day Nigeria is a biting and penetrative take, with deadpan jokes such as “Nigerians have the shortest memories amongst human beings worldwide” and, “A good Nigerian politician knows how to use God for protection.” The title itself suggests various interpretations of what it means to be Nigerian, and how we navigate this both within Nigeria and outside it. You will laugh while also shaking your head in dismay.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Seven novels that blend romance and body horror

Rachel Harrison is the author of Such Sharp Teeth, Cackle, and The Return, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, as an Audible Original, and in her debut story collection Bad Dolls. She lives in Western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.

At Electric Lit Harrison tagged seven books that "blend elements of body horror and romance, both conventionally and unconventionally, with beautifully grim and sometimes gruesome results." One title on the list:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”

As most of us grow up under the impression that Frankenstein’s monster is a big green oaf with bolts sticking out of its neck, reading Mary Shelley’s horror classic for the first time can be jarring. The Creature in the novel is a gentle, intelligent soul trapped in a monstrous form, aware his appearance prohibits the love and connection he craves. The Creature’s dilemma taps into the fear that we won’t be embraced and accepted for who we are because of how we look, that our love won’t be reciprocated because of the superficial. It’s the most obliterating intersection of romance and body horror, where the former can’t exist because of the latter. Reanimation and revenge-plot aside, it’s pretty relatable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Frankenstein is among Binnie Kirshenbaum's ten top books about vegetarians, Jeff Somers's top ten seemingly unrelated books that complement each other, Olivia Laing's top ten books about loneliness, Helen Humphreys's top ten books on grieving, John Mullan's ten best honeymoons in literature, Adam Roberts's five top science fiction classics and Andrew Crumey's top ten novels that predicted the future.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Seven literary mysteries that embrace the gray areas

Stacey D’Erasmo is the author of five novels and one book of nonfiction. Her first novel, Tea, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Her second novel, A Seahorse Year, was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and Newsday and won both a Lambda Literary Award and a Ferro-Grumley Award. Her third novel, The Sky Below, was a favorite book of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun Times, and the New York Times. Her fourth novel, Wonderland, was named one of the ten best books of the year by Time and the BBC, also among NPR’s best books of 2014. Her nonfiction book The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between was published in 2013.

D’Erasmo's new novel is The Complicities.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven favorite literary mysteries that embrace the gray areas. One novel on the list:
The Book of Evidence, by John Banville

You may know that Banville is also Benjamin Black, author of a successful series of terrific, conventional mysteries set in 1950s Dublin, but in The Book of Evidence from 1989, Banville as Banville turned his abundant literary imagination to one Freddie Montgomery, a murderer who is writing a confession—or is it an apologia? Montgomery has a turbulent inner life, a spectacular way with words, and troubles, terrible troubles, that really are not his fault. While he did, yes, murder someone, there were circumstances. He can explain. And he does, in prose that is as exhilarating as it is profoundly unsettling.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue