Friday, March 31, 2023

Ten top alternate history thrillers

Josh Weiss is a first-time author from South Jersey. Raised in a proud Jewish home, he was instilled with an appreciation for his cultural heritage from a very young age. Today, Weiss is utterly fascinated with the convergence of Judaism and popular culture in film, television, comics, literature, and other media. After college, he became a freelance entertainment journalist, writing stories for SYFY WIRE, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, and Marvel Entertainment.

Weiss's new novel is Sunset Empire, the thrilling alternate history sequel to Beat the Devils.

[My Book, The Movie: Beat the Devils; The Page 69 Test: Beat the Devils; My Book, The Movie: Sunset Empire]

At CrimeReads Weiss recommended ten must-read alternate history thrillers, including:
In the Presence of Mine Enemies, Harry Turtledove (2003)

It’s hard to discuss alternate history without mentioning Harry Turtledove, one of the most (if not the most) prolific writer of the genre. Not only is the author’s output impressive, but the work itself is astonishingly great every time. One might even go so far as to call Mr. Turtledove the Stephen King of multiversal storytelling.

I haven’t even made a tiny dent in his bibliography, but In the Presence of Mine Enemies is one of those reads I simply could not put down. As a practicing Jew — and, more importantly, a practicing Jew whose family was directly affected by the Holocaust — making my way through the novel felt like a constant panic attack.

In this universe, the United States remained neutral and the Axis powers conquered the world. Nearly half a century later, the self-proclaimed “Germanic Empire” flexes its supremacy on the global stage with manned missions to Mars, the radioactive remains of the Liberty Bell, and a society completely devoid of Jews…or so they think.

A number of Hebraic individuals actually survived the Final Solution and have been living (and procreating) in secret all these years — just like the Marranos of the Spanish Inquisition. If anyone in this civilization raised on a steady diet of hate were to find out the truth…
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Top 10 stories about wolves

Erica Berry is a writer based in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where she was a College of Liberal Arts Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, Outside Magazine, Catapult, The Atlantic, Guernica, and elsewhere. Winner of the Steinberg Essay Prize and the Kurt Brown Prize in Nonfiction, she has received fellowships and funding from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Tin House, the Ucross Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. A former Writer-in-Residence with the National Writers Series in Traverse City, Michigan, she is currently a Writer-in-the-Schools with Literary Arts in Portland.

[The Page 99 Test: Wolfish]

Berry's new book is Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear.

At the Guardian she tagged ten stories that "made me consider the wolf and our vision of it in an important new light," including:
The Wolf [US title: American Wolf] by Nate Blakeslee

In tracing the reign of O-Six, a wolf mother renowned for her empathy and leadership in Yellowstone Park, Blakeslee pulls off a high-wire journalistic feat, unspooling moments of the wolf’s life as if from some hidden Go-Pro camera. He patched together these novelistic scenes after receiving more than 2,500 pages of notes from dedicated wolf-watchers and the result, rendered in high-definition prose, at times makes you feel you are inside a wolf’s skin. He describes O-Six seeing a car as “like anything else on the landscape that was neither predator nor prey – like a rock or a tree or even a bison. It wouldn’t harm her, and she couldn’t eat it; it was a nonentity.” Even now, years after first encountering this book, I sometimes see a car and think of this sentence – of how the car would appear if I were a wolf.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ten novels with heroines who are hot messes

Justine Sullivan was born and raised just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where she failed to learn how to shuck a crab and never attended a single Orioles game. She did, however, discover a passion for reading at her local Harford County Library. She went on to study English Literature at the University of Delaware and then earned her master's in journalism from Boston University and has since spent a number of years working in both newsrooms and the world of branded content. Sullivan lives outside of Boston with her husband and two terribly behaved dogs. He Said He Would Be Late is her debut novel.

At Lit Hub Sullivan tagged ten favorite novels with heroines who are hot messes, including:
Wahala by Nikki May

Why have one hot mess heroine when you can have three? In Nigerian culture, “wahala” means “trouble.” So sets the stage for this delightfully messy novel about three Anglo-Nigerian besties navigating friendship, motherhood, ambition and betrayal.

This book is juicy; so many twists and turns, I had whiplash by the last page.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Eight titles with all the band drama of "Daisy Jones & the Six"

At Vulture Jessica Gentile tagged eight books with all the band drama of Daisy Jones & the Six, including:
Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album, by Ken Cailait and Steve Stiefel

Rumours is an album chock full of sensational hits with just as much sensational interpersonal drama behind it. It’s an obvious inspiration for Daisy Jones & the Six’s Aurora — if you’re familiar with the dynamics within Fleetwood Mac you’ll quickly recognize the parallels. The 1977 record gave us the songs that earwormed their way up the Billboard charts, onto our TikTok feeds, and deep into our lovelorn hearts for decades. If you’re interested in learning more about how Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s screaming matches (much akin to Billy and Daisy’s) resulted in the stone-cold pop classics, this is the read for you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2023

Seven crime titles that engage with reality TV

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 seven "great thrillers and mysteries coming out over the past few years that engage with reality
TV, its artifice, its struggies, and its discontents." One title on the list:
Sarah Strohmeyer, We Love to Entertain

Home improvement gone haywire!!! In We Love to Entertain, three teams are competing to win a design and home improvement contest on a reality show called “To the Manor Build,” but disaster strikes when the engaged couple rehabbing an estate in Vermont disappears on the eve of their wedding. Their assistant, already ostracized by her home town for a mysterious incident in high school, quickly becomes the main suspect, but her mother is determined to clear her name and find the real culprit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Eight titles with characters who go to therapy

Lisa Zhuang is an intern at Electric Literature. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Emory University and currently resides in mid-Missouri.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books that "showcase characters who receive some kind of mental health care," including:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is a bit of a social misfit, but she’s fine with that. Really. She enjoys her life of solitude, routine and her weekly “chats” with Mummy. She even splurges on pizza and vodka over the weekends. Nothing is missing—until she sees Johnnie Lomond in concert and realizes he is the love of her life. What follows is one woman’s unhinged attempt to fill every empty vacuum of her life with her celebrity crush. When Eleanlor’s attempts predictably prove unsustainable, she subsequently crashes and burns.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is among Emily R. Austin's seven books that will make you feel happy to be sad, Fay Bound Alberti's top ten books about loneliness and Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's top ten books about self-reinvention.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Seven novels featuring multicultural London

Cecile Pin grew up in Paris and New York City. She moved to London at eighteen to study Philosophy at University College London, followed by an MA at King’s College London. She writes for Bad Form Review, was longlisted for their Young Writer’s prize and is a London Writers Awards 2021 winner (Literary Fiction category). Her debut novel is Wandering Souls.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven favorite "novels that deal with displacement in London," including:
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

On the then-divided island of Cyprus in the 1970s, two teenagers, one a Greek Cypriot the other a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. There, a fig tree bears witness to their growing love, and their ultimate departure – war breaks out, and the capital is destroyed.

Years later, a Ficus tree grows in Ada’s back garden in London, the only connection she has to an island – and past – she knows little about. A troubled teenager, Ada is given a school assignment which leads her to untangle her family’s troubled history.

Dealing with war and its aftermaths, loss, love, and also the environment, The Island of Missing Trees is a wonderful tale about belonging and longing for a home you don’t know.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 24, 2023

Eight top bad seed novels

Nathan Oates’s debut collection of short stories, The Empty House, won the Spokane Prize. His stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, West Branch, The Best American Mystery Stories, and elsewhere. He is an associate professor at Seton Hall University, where he teaches creative writing. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his family.

Oates’s new novel is A Flaw in the Design.

At CrimesReads he tagged eight novels featuring "bad seeds and the threat they pose to their families, their communities, and, in some cases, the world." One entry on the list:
Pet Sematary, Stephen King

Speaking of innate evil: The revenant child (and, before that, cat), in what I think is King’s scariest book, is a visceral evocation of our most primal fears of parenting. Rereading it now, I find the accident on the road as terrifying and awful as any of the supernatural terror that surrounds it. King has an unusual and unmatched ability to tap into childhood fears – an evil-tainted graveyard in the woods here, but I’m also thinking of the basement in Salem’s Lot, and the drainage tunnel in The Shining – and rework them so that childhood fears are awakened and magnified in the adult mind. This is, perhaps, at the heart of all horror, and few writers do it as well.
Read about the other titles on the list.

Pet Sematary is among David Barnett's top ten books about graveyards, C. J. Tudor's six thrillers featuring terrifying changelings, Jeff Somers's top 25 cats in sci-fi & fantasy, Jessica Ferri's five top books on American small towns, and Sandra Greaves's top ten ghost stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Top 10 books about corruption

David Beckler's new Antonia Conti thriller is A Stolen Memory.

In the Guardian he writes:
When I wrote the first of the Antonia Conti novels, A Long Shadow, in 2013, I believed most readers didn’t think we had a problem with corruption in the UK. Some early feedback I got from publishers and agents mentioned it was a bit “far-fetched”. By the time it came out last year, public opinion had changed.
One of the author's top ten books about corruption:
It’s Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong

Wrong, an experienced Africa journalist, had a unique opportunity to understand Kenyan corruption when John Githongo came to stay in her London flat. Githongo was a high-profile journalist and outspoken critic of the corrupt regime of Daniel arap Moi who had been in power in Kenya for 24 years. When Mwai Kibaki beat him in 2002, it felt like a momentous change and was celebrated across Africa. Kibaki promised to end the corruption endemic under his predecessor, and he appointed Githongo to help. Within two years, Githongo had resigned and was in hiding in London. This account, which reads like a thriller, explains what happened.
Read about the other entries on the list at the Guardian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Seven frightening books featuring fungi

Vanessa Armstrong is a book lover and writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny, her daughter Maddie, and her husband Jon.

At Vulture she tagged seven "delicious sporror books to check out if you’re hankering for another tale [like The Last of Us] based on fungal fears." One title on the list:
The Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

The Last of Us isn’t the only story to imagine zombies created by Cordyceps. Some of the infected in this novel by M.R. Carey, however, are markedly different from the Clickers, Bloaters, and Runners that Joel and Ellie face. While most of the fungally challenged in The Girl With All The Gifts act in expected zombie fashion, some of the younger ones retain their intelligence along with their need to consume human flesh, and scientists want to know why. Ten-year-old Melanie is one of those children, though she doesn’t know it at first. She starts out the book in a research lab, where she and other subjects are studied and, ultimately, vivisected in hopes of finding a cure. But one of her doctors, Dr. Justineau, still sees Melanie as human, and when some of the not-so-smart infected attack the research lab, Melanie saves Dr. Justineau and realizes her true nature. The two flee the lab, join some other humans, head to a larger stronghold, and find out more about the fungal infection along the way. While there are obvious similarities here to The Last of Us, The Girl With All the Gifts does something quite different with that basic premise — especially with the ending, which is drastically different.

Shroom Score: 9/10 spores. Fungi have their roots in every aspect of this book, including the protagonist.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Girl with All the Gifts is among C.J. Tudor's eight thrillers featuring a child with a mysterious supernatural power, Keith Yatsuhashi's five gateway books that opened the door for him to specific genres and C. A. Higgins's top five books with plot twists that flip your perception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Six of the best crime-in-the-family thrillers

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard became a writer on the limb of a Sycamore tree when she was in elementary school. Since then she’s written in abandoned buildings, cemeteries, parks, and even on a tall ship, but her favorite place to write has always been the woods. Higgs-Coulthard graduated from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor's in education and earned a master's degree from Indiana University, before completing her doctorate in Education through Northeastern University. She has taught kindergarten, third, and fifth grades. Now she trains teachers at Saint Mary’s College and offers writing camps and classes for children and teens through Michiana Writers’ Center.

Higgs-Coulthard's new novel is Junkyard Dogs.

At CrimeReads she tagged six favorite crime-in-the-family thrillers, including:
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Fifteen-year-old Mary Addison served six years in “baby jail” for allegedly killing a child left in her mother’s care before being transferred to a group home. The group home isn’t much of an improvement over jail, but it does allow Mary to volunteer at a retirement center where she meets and falls in love with Ted, a parolee from another group home. Mary has never talked much about the events that led up to her incarceration, but when she discovers she is pregnant and that the state might take away her baby, Mary decides it is time to talk. The story she tells paints her mother as a narcissistic abuser, but it is up to her to prove it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 20, 2023

Five top titles about growing up queer

Richard Mirabella is a writer and civil servant living in Upstate New York. His stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Split Lip Magazine, wigleaf, and elsewhere.

His debut novel is Brother & Sister Enter the Forest.

At Lit Hub Mirabella tagged five "books about children learning about the troubles of the world, young adults trying to find their place as queer people in a straight society, and a few adults who don’t quite fit into the mold of expected adulthood, who are still trying to shake off the skins of their former selves." One title on the list:
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

An intelligent, heartfelt novel about family, racism in the sciences, sisters, and self-discovery. If you follow her on Twitter, you already know that Greenidge is astute and erudite, unafraid to tell the truth about our culture and political climate. Her first novel works on every level, the personal, the political, historical, emotional. The Freemans of the title move to a research facility to participate in an experiment where they will live with a chimpanzee that was abandoned by his mother.

Simultaneously, we learn the racist history of the institute itself. Within this complex tapestry is our guide, Charlotte, the soul of the book, a teenager dealing with a strange situation, who is also, we discover, queer. The awkward, painful beginning of her life as a queer woman is handled deftly by Greenidge. A sensitive and loving portrayal.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Five books that get the pressures of flying right

Ward Larsen is a USA Today bestselling author, and seven-time winner of the Florida Book Award. A former fighter pilot, he has served as an airline captain, federal law enforcement officer, and is a trained aircraft accident investigator.

His latest book, Deep Fake, is a political thriller.

At CrimeReads Larsen tagged five novels that have an authentic portrayal of the pressures of flying, including:
Flight of the Intruder, by Stephen Coonts, put readers in the cockpit of a Navy attack jet during the Vietnam War. Readers can barely catch their breath as pilots skim the treetops and dodge incoming missiles. Bombs are dropped and wingmen take hits, all with an awareness that the greatest challenge is always ahead—landing at night on a heaving carrier deck. Coonts’s portrayal of skill and nerve is absorbing in its own right, but is made even more visceral as set in the framework of twin accelerants: the cruel vagaries of chance that select who lives and dies, and the incendiary politics of the day.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Ten books that take you inside their characters’ brains

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged ten books that take you inside their characters’ heads, including:
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

For an irresistible novel perfect for fans of The Secret History and true crime stories, pick up Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions for You. Bodie Kane, our main character, returns to the campus of her boarding school as a professor and becomes transfixed on the murder that rocked the school when she attended as a student. A captivating mystery, an interrogation of the past, an entrancing campus novel, I Have Some Questions for You is a propulsive page-turner. 
Read about the other entries on the list.

I Have Some Questions For You is among Anne Burt's four top recent titles with social justice themes and Heather Darwent's nine best campus thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 17, 2023

Five books to understand the rise of the Russian oligarchs in London

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of eight novels, most recently Red London, Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a thirty-five-year career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies, including the CIA and NSA, as well as RAND, the global policy think tank. Katsu is a graduate of the masters writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelors degree from Brandeis University. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband, where she is a consultant to government and private industry on future trends and analytic methods.

[The Page 69 Test: The Taker; My Book, The Movie: The Hunger; The Page 69 Test: The HungerThe Page 69 Test: The Deep; The Page 69 Test: Red Widow; Q&A with Alma Katsu; The Page 69 Test: The Fervor; My Book, The Movie: Red London; The Page 69 Test: Red London]

At CrimeReads Katsu tagged five books that help us understand the impact of the Russian oligarchs on Great Britain, including:
The Man without a Face, Masha Gessen

You can’t understand modern Russia without understanding Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer who has spent the past nearly 25 years molding the country and its people to his will. This book, also somewhat dated (2012) by National Book Award-winning author Gessen, was widely praised for its coverage of Putin’s rise to power and analysis of his tactics.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Man without a Face is among Michael Honig's top ten books on Vladimir Putin's Russia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Top 10 visionary books about scientists

Martin MacInnes was born in Inverness in 1983. He has an MA from the University of York, has read at international science and literature festivals, and is the winner of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and the 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize.

His debut novel, Infinite Ground, won the Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Awards.

His second novel, Gathering Evidence, led to his inclusion in the National Centre for Writing / British Councils’s list of ten writers shaping the UK’s future.

MacInnes's newest novel is In Ascension.

At the Guardian he tagged ten titles "capturing scientists’ obsessive quest for knowledge," including:
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The four women who enter Area X are named only by their profession: biologist; anthropologist; psychologist; surveyor. It is the biologist who is closest to VanderMeer’s heart, clear in the gorgeous accounts of the living world they walk through and in the novel’s concern with ecstatic dissolution and eroded borders, an awful commonality linking all things. The novel is suffused in beauty and grief, as the biologist goes on, determined to find out what it all means.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Annihilation is among John Searles's five novels set in abandoned places, Rin Chupeco's five top stories where nature does its best to kill you, and Nicholas Royle's ten top lighthouses in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ten titles that celebrate the bonds between women

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged ten books that highlight the bonds between women, including:
The Daughters of Madurai by Rajasree Variyar

Profound and haunting, it’s hard to not be deeply moved by The Daughters of Madurai. Our March Book Club Pick is a stunning read that spans 1990s South India and present-day Australia, featuring complex family dynamics and a compelling mystery. Exploring the horrors of female infanticide and the bond between mothers and daughters, this novel will linger with you long after you’ve finished.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Four recent novels with social justice themes

Anne Burt is the editor of My Father Married Your Mother: Dispatches from the Blended Family and coeditor, with Christina Baker Kline, of About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror. Her essays and fiction have appeared in numerous publications and venues, including Salon, NPR, and The Christian Science Monitor; she is a past winner of Meridian’s Editors’ Prize in Fiction. Burt lives in New York City.

Her debut novel is The Dig.

At CrimeReads Burt tagged "four recent crime novels that seamlessly thread issues of social justice throughout their propulsive storytelling," including:
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Fostering the ability to see the world through the eyes of others—empathy—is often at the heart of social justice teaching and learning. Novels can short-circuit the distance between two people by bringing the reader inside the mind and heart of the characters on the page. Angie Kim employs multiple perspectives to explore ableism, racism, sexism, and anti-immigration in her 2019 Edgar-award-winning mystery Miracle Creek. In a small Virginia town, a disparate group of people connect through a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident. Kim gives each of her point-of-view characters, including the ultimate perpetrator of the criminal act that provides the hinge for this complex and utterly gripping courtroom drama, a backstory influenced by societal exclusion in realistic ways. Kim credits her experiences as a lawyer, the mother of a child with a disability, and a Korean immigrant for much of the inspiration behind the plot.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Miracle Creek is among Zhanna Slor's seven suspenseful titles that examine immigrant identity.

My Book, The Movie: Miracle Creek.

The Page 69 Test: Miracle Creek.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 13, 2023

Five top maternal thrillers

Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree before working as a lawyer. She lives in Birmingham, England, where she now writes full-time.

McAllister's latest novel is Wrong Place Wrong Time.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite "novels in the rising genre of maternal page-turners," including:
Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah

A conceptual thriller by an author who always favours a high-wire act and absolutely always pulls it off. Beth sees her old friend’s children out one day, but they haven’t aged at all in twelve years. How could this be? As always, Hannah takes an irresistible premise and runs with it, without ever stretching the plot beyond credulity. The answer is so satisfying that it feels obvious, but you’d never have thought of it yourself. What sets this novel apart, though, is the relatability of the middle-aged, wry protagonist, and her relationship with her own daughter, the fabulously witty and enthralling Zannah. Achingly funny, sharp and sincere, their love beats joyfully through the otherwise dark heart of the book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Ten top novels featuring bees & beekeepers

Julie Carrick Dalton is the author of Waiting for the Night Song and The Last Beekeeper.

[Julie Carrick Dalton's top ten works of fiction about climate disaster]

At Electric Lit she tagged ten novels from around the world about bees and their keepers, including:
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia, translated by Simon Bruni

Mexican author Sofía Segovia leans into the magic often associated bees. When a disfigured, abandoned child, Simonopio, is found covered in a blanket of bees, locals consider him a bad omen. His adoptive parents, however, see beyond what their neighbors fear in the mysterious child. Simonopio, who is constantly followed by his swarm of guardian bees, can see the future—the good and the terrifying. Set against the instability of the Mexican Revolution and the 1918 flu outbreak, The Murmur of Bees is about love, family, and faith in the impossible.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Five titles featuring witchcraft

Emilia Hart grew up in Australia and studied English Literature at university before training as a lawyer.

Weyward is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads Hart tagged five novels featuring witchcraft, including:
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

First published in 1926, at a time when women were dependent upon male guardians for financial security, this moving, funny novel might be the original example of “witch lit.” Fed up of relying on the charity of her male relatives, English spinster Laura
“Lolly” Willowes moves to the rural village of Great Mop in search of independence. There, she adopts a kitten named Vinegar, and makes a pact with the devil. Lolly becomes a witch, as she puts it, “to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others.” An ode to female freedom that’s as relevant now as it was a century ago.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Mark Skinner's twenty top witch lit titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 10, 2023

Five books on the rise & fall of German militarism

Peter H. Wilson is the author of Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire, an Economist and Sunday Times Best Book, and The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy, winner of the Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Military History. He has appeared on BBC Radio and has written for Prospect, the Los Angeles Times, and Financial Times. President of the Society for the History of War and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Wilson is Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford. His work has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Spanish.

Wilson's new book is Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500.

[The Page 99 Test: The Thirty Years War; The Page 99 Test: Iron and Blood]

At Lit Hub he tagged five books that provide "insight into the diversity of the German experience of war, its conduct, societal impact, and human cost." One title on the list:
Felix Römer, Comrades: The Wehrmacht From Within

This book gave me nightmares. It is based on an extraordinary set of sources compiled by British and American intelligence. Based on experience from the First World War, British officers began to collect information systematically from German prisoners of war using interrogations, questionnaires, wiretaps of inmates’ cells, and “stool pigeons” recruited from the captives. A group of officers, including Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming, took these techniques to the United States after its entry into the war in 1941. The result is over a quarter of a million pages of transcripts of conversations between prisoners who had been specially selected as possessing potentially useful information and sent to a secret camp concealed from the Red Cross.

Römer uses this material to understand what motivated Germans to fight a genocidal war. This question has been addressed by many other books and remains hotly contested in Germany today. Römer’s account is distinguished by his careful handling of the material and avoidance of monocausal explanations. He recognizes that the prisoners inhabited several mental worlds simultaneously, while they were not always reliable narrators when bragging to their comrades, or concealing matters which might have reflected badly on themselves. One man’s war was not necessarily the same as another’s and there were considerable differences between branch of service, location or deployment, and the time of capture.

He concludes that soldierly ethos trumped Nazi ideology in persuading men to fight despite increasingly difficult circumstances. The quality of junior officers and squad leaders was also crucial to the small unit cohesion that Allies came to admire and sought to replicate in their own armies after 1945. Though most soldiers had a poor grasp of Nazism, core elements of that ideology were deeply rooted in other beliefs they did share and encouraged the shocking violence many of them engaged in. An enlightening but also deeply disturbing book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Top 10 retold fairytales

Idra Novey is the award-winning author of the novels Ways to Disappear and Those Who Knew. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages and she’s written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. She teaches fiction at Princeton University.

[The Page 69 Test: Ways to Disappear]

Novey's new novel is Take What You Need.

At the Guardian she tagged ten top retold fairytales that "upend readers’ expectations in wondrously subversive ways." One title on the list:
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Petrushevskaya was born in Moscow under Stalin’s rule. Now in her 80s, she’s experiencing old age under Putin. In her brutal, beautiful fairytales, no wolves are ever sated for long. These are stories of appalling hungers, housing shortages. But Petrushevskaya’s characters laugh and have sex and enjoy each other’s company regardless. The dire circumstances of their lives in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia are not what moves the stories forward. Petrushevskaya is more inventive than that, and the English co-translations by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers are superb.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Eight notable thrillers with emotional depth

Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She loves a good hike and can often be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cup of milky tea in the other. Lyu is the author of The Best Lies and I Will Find You Again.

[Q&A with Sarah Lyu; My Book, The Movie: I Will Find You Again]

At CrimeReads Lyu tagged eight favorite thrillers with emotional depth:
Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

A prequel to We Were Liars, this follow-up explores the past generational trauma of the Sinclair family and the darkness carefully buried underneath their perfect smiles and beautiful homes. Returning to another sun-soaked summer on the family’s private island, the novel follows Carrie as she grapples with her place within the family and what it costs to not only be a Sinclair but stay one.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Five top novels with academic settings

Rebecca Makkai is the author of the novels I Have Some Questions for You, The Great Believers, The Hundred-Year House, and The Borrower, and the story collection Music for Wartime. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, The Great Believers received an American Library Association Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other honors, and was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times. A 202 Guggenheim fellow, Makkai is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is the artistic director of StoryStudio Chicago. She lives on the campus of the midwestern boarding school where her husband teaches, and in Vermont.

[My Book, The Movie: The Borrower; The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House; My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House; My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers]

At the Waterstones blog Makkai tagged five favorite novels that bring characters together in an educational setting, including:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I might be cheating a bit here, but I do consider Meg Wolitzer’s 2014 The Interestings to be a campus novel. Yes, it’s set at a summer camp for the performing arts rather than at an accredited academic institution, but we still have a limited cast of characters coming of age together on an isolated patch of land. Camp, campus — what’s the difference? We follow three camp friends from the 1970s to the 2010s, asking what promises and curses we carry with us from adolescence. That a novel this long and this character-driven and realist can still be propulsive is a testament to the way Wolitzer imbues everyday moments with their full importance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Interestings is among Sabrina Rojas Weiss's five novels ripe for adapting as a TV series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 6, 2023

Ten titles for fans of "Daisy Jones & the Six"

Amazon Book Review editor Al Woodworth and colleagues tagged ten books for fans of Daisy Jones & the Six, including:
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

This iconic 1996 book has sold more than 1 million copies, and been immortalized on screen (as a movie in 2000, and as a Hulu adaptation starring Zoë Kravitz in 2020), and even in a Broadway show. Rob Fleming owns a record shop in London, and he’s
going through an existential crisis after his girlfriend dumps him. Inspired by two quirky employees who are obsessed with creating “top five” mixtapes, Rob decides to look back at his five worst break-ups. What follows is a story that has something for everyone—love lost and found, friendship, and of course plenty of music. That mix of ingredients—rock, romance, nostalgia—makes it a perfect book to pick up after Daisy Jones.
Read about the other entries on the list.

High Fidelity also made Glenn Dixon's top ten list of novels about fictional bands, Robert Haller's list of six top novels referencing pop music, Brian Boone's list of five classic books Hollywood should adapt into corny sitcoms, Lisa Jewell's six best books list, Jen Harper's list of seven top books to help you get through your divorce, Chris Moss's top 19 list of books on "how to be a man," Jeff Somers's lists of five of the best novels in which music is a character and six books that’ll make you glad you’re single, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Ted Gioia's list of ten of the best novels on music, Melissa Albert's top five list of books that inspire great mix tapes, Rob Reid's six favorite books list, Ashley Hamilton's list of 8 books to read with a broken heart, Tiffany Murray's top 10 list of rock'n'roll novels, Mark Hodkinson's critic's chart of rock music in fiction, and John Sutherland's list of the best books about listing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Seven 2023 crime novels centered around musicians

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

At CrimeReads she tagged "seven [2023] novels exploring the intersection of creativity, celebrity, and crime, with a variety of musical genre inspirations, including pop stars, punk rockers, classical musicians, metalheads, aging folk singers, and even a tribute to grunge," including:
Daniel Weizmann, The Last Songbird

So, let’s say Joan Baez was your regular Lyft client, and you’re a budding songwriter/former private investigator, and she asked you to look into some mysteries from her past, and then was found murdered. You’d obviously avenge Joan Baez, right? I mean, who wouldn’t. Joan Baez is perfect. Also, props to Daniel Weizmann for respecting older women as artists and for his clear dedication to writing about music in an evocative and intelligent manner.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Seven titles about immigrant mothers who defy societal expectations

Asale Angel-Ajani is a writer and Professor at The City College of New York. She's the author of the nonfiction books Strange Trade: The Story of Two Women Who Risked Everything in the International Drug Trade and Intimate: Essays on Racial Terror. She has held residencies at Millay, Djerassi, and Playa, and is an alum of VONA and Tin House.

A Country You Can Leave is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Angel-Ajani tagged seven novels about "women with children who pursue their own independence, dreams, and desires," including:
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

This novel’s beating heart is an immigrant mother, Patsy, who refuses to be boxed into traditional roles or societal expectations. Patsy unapologetically chooses herself by leaving Jamaica for New York in hopes of reconnecting with her first love, Cecily. In order to truly be herself, Patsy leaves behind her daughter, Tru, who Patsy has mixed feelings about. She obviously loves her daughter and feels destroyed by their separation, and yet Patsy isn’t sure if she’s capable of being the mother Tru deserves. Though Patsy’s arrival in Brooklyn doesn’t turn out as she expects, there is a kind of coming of age for Patsy, one that asks readers to stop and pause before they judge a mother for leaving a child behind.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 3, 2023

Eight top books on borders concrete and intangible

Fatin Abbas is the author of Ghost Season: A Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta, Freeman’s: The Best New Writing on Arrival, The Warwick Review, and Friction, amongst other places, and her journalism and non-fiction have appeared in The Nation, Le Monde diplomatique, Zeit Online, and Africa Is a Country, among other venues.

Abbas teaches fiction writing in the department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT.

At Lit Hub she tagged eight "favorite books on borders, border towns and border crossings of all kinds: physical as well as social crossings, cosmic escapades, and gender-defying odysseys." One title on the list:
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)

An unnamed colonial magistrate sits waiting in a remote outpost located on the border of The Empire. Beyond this frontier, the “barbarians,” the territory’s indigenous people, live. The magistrate, who narrates the story, recounts the events. When the Empire declares a state of emergency, officials from the “Third Bureau” arrive to conduct torture interrogations on the “barbarians” whom they accuse of fomenting rebellion. As things unravel, the magistrate finds himself questioning the very Empire he’s charged with defending. Coetzee’s novel is one of the most brilliant and haunting depictions of the colonial frontier in literary fiction.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Waiting for the Barbarians is among Anjan Sundaram's six top works about people trapped in oppressive systems.

--Marshal Zeringue