Saturday, April 13, 2024

Eight books by writers who use horror as a way to understand themselves

Richard Scott Larson is a queer writer and critic. His debut memoir is The Long Hallway.

Born and raised in the outer suburbs of St. Louis, he studied literature and film criticism at Hunter College in Manhattan and earned his MFA from New York University in Paris. He has received fellowships from MacDowell and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and his work has also been supported by residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Paragraph Workspace for Writers, La Porte Peinte, and the Willa Cather Foundation.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight "books that helped [him] understand how writing about horror can be a way of writing about ourselves." One title on the list:
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

“The memoir is, at its core, an act of resurrection,” writes Machado in the opening pages of In the Dream House, an innovative account of her experience of domestic abuse that embeds her personal story within an extensive cultural history. The book is structured as a series of brief sections titled after various tropes—many of them from horror film iconography, such as “Dream House as Creature Feature,” “Dream House as Haunted Mansion,” “Dream House as Demonic Possession,” “Dream House as Apocalypse,” and “Dream House as Nightmare on Elm Street”—expressing elements of her time in a house in Indiana where her girlfriend lived during most of the duration of their relationship while Machado was a graduate student in Iowa. Her story is punctuated by harrowing moments of conflict that feel, because of their specificity, almost uncannily familiar. Readers come to inhabit her mind so wholly that the claustrophobia of her relationship with this other woman is made present first in the mind and then in the body, a cancer spreading quietly beneath the skin.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2024

Five top books about siblings

Sophie Ratcliffe is professor of literature and creative criticism at the University of Oxford and a fellow and tutor at Lady Margaret Hall. In addition to her scholarly books, including On Sympathy, she has published commentary pieces and book reviews for the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other outlets, and has served a judge for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and the Wellcome Book Prize.

Ratcliffe's forthcoming book is Loss, A Love Story: Imagined Histories and Brief Encounters.

At the Guardian she tagged five of the best books about siblings, including:
Mayhem by Sigrid Rausing

Rausing’s account of her brother Hans’s and sister-in-law Eva’s struggles with drug addiction is, in many ways, an ordinary story. The “individuality of addicts”, Rausing writes “is curiously erased by the predictable progress of the disease”. But in this case, the Rausing family’s Tetra Pak fortune, and the grim circumstances around her sister-in-law’s death, created something more seemingly sensational, and her family’s life swiftly became the stuff of tabloid headlines. This is a thoughtful and compelling memoir about guilt, boundaries and the fictions of memory – “the stories that hold a family together, and the acts that can split it apart”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Six top bad-neighbor thrillers

Seraphina Nova Glass is an Edgar Award-nominated author. Her fifth and latest book is The Vacancy in Room 10.

Named a New York Times Book Review Summer Read and an Amazon Editor’s Pick in Mystery & Thrillers, her last book, On A Quiet Street, earned her #1 bestselling status in the Thriller category on Amazon. It was also hailed by Bustle as one of “10 Must-Read Books” and one of “10 Top Thrillers To Read On Your Summer Vacation” in the Boston Globe.

[ Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass]

At CrimeReads Glass tagged six "thrillers is guaranteed to give you the chills and keep you up all night." One title on the list:
Stranger In The Lake by Kimberly Belle

Charlotte has escaped her troubled past and impoverished childhood and now lives her dream life, in her dream house, with a loving husband and seemingly no problems…except that everyone talks. Did she get pregnant to trap him, did the trailer park girl marry him for his money?

That all seems like petty gossip when a body washes up by the dock behind their house and she’s faced with real, life altering problems. Does she really know the man she married? Can she trust his friends who are all suspect and seem to be hiding secrets themselves? Is she in danger?

This story was immediately gripping and atmospheric. Belle breathes fresh life into a familiar storyline and creates a truly page-turning and spellbinding mystery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Seven top titles about total solar eclipses

At B&N Reads Isabelle McConville tagged seven top books about solar eclipses, including:
American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron

What better way to spend this eclipse than reading about a historic one? Scientists race against time to capture a total solar eclipse in its full magnitude and remind us that even though it’s been almost 150 years, we have always looked to the sky in wonder. (How do you think Thomas Edison would feel about our nifty eclipse glasses?)
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Seven novels set in refugee camps

Helen Benedict, a British-American professor at Columbia University, is the author of eight novels and six books of nonfiction, several of which feature refugees and war. Her latest nonfiction on refugees is Map of Hope and Sorrow: Stories of Refugees Trapped in Greece, co-authored with Syrian writer, Eyad Awwadawnan.

[My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen; The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen; The Page 69 Test: Wolf Season]

Benedict's new novel is The Good Deed.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven novels set in refugee camps; in each novel "the overarching theme is not misery but love, whether for a romantic partner, a parent, sibling, friend, or child." One title on the list:
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

This novel, too, centers on African refugees, but in this case, their settlement is not a camp but first a shanty town on the streets of Berlin, which is set up as a protest, and then an anthill-like building in the city that was once an old people’s home. There, refugees from all over Africa—Niger, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and more—live in stark, dorm-like conditions while awaiting either asylum or deportation.

Erpenbeck, a German author of some acclaim, writes feelingly from the point of view of a retired and widowed professor named Richard, who is at a loss over what to do with himself until he falls into a fascination with the refugees in his city and begins to visit them in their anthill of a building to give lessons in German. The story weaves between Richard’s perspective and that of the refugees themselves, bringing out Erpenbeck’s compassion and respect for her characters. Soon enough, as Richard gets to know certain men in the building, they emerge from the word “refugee” into fully realized human beings, each with his own story, needs, and claim on Richard’s conscience.

In essence, this thoughtful and elegantly-written novel is about how the privileged can actually help after all, if only with their money, shelter and sympathy; almost the opposite message to the much more cynical one in The Wrong End of the Telescope. And yet, Go, Went, Gone remains a condemnation of how the Western world, Europe in particular, pushes refugees around like so many sacks of refuse. As Erpenbeck has a character say near the end of the novel, “Where can a person go when he doesn’t know where to go?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2024

Six mysteries about translators

Molly Odintz is the managing editor for CrimeReads and the editor of Austin Noir. 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 "six recent stories in which translators and interpreters play a pivotal part," including:
Harriet Crawley, The Translator

Harriet Crawley was married to a Russian, lived and worked in Russia for decades, and is a fluent Russian speaker, so it’s no surprise that her 2017-set novel feels as authentic as a le Carre tale when it comes to underhanded deeds and doomed romance. Crawley’s narrator is a skilled translator called up by the British government to help negotiate an important trade deal. His mission soon goes off-course when he encounters another translator, his former lover, who needs his help: her surrogate son, a hacker who got on the wrong side of the FSB, has died suspiciously, with few interested in a thorough investigation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ten novels with rotating perspectives

Shilpi Somaya Gowda is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of four novels: Secret Daughter (2010), The Golden Son (2015), The Shape of Family (2020), and A Great Country (2024).

Her novels have been translated into over 30 languages, been #1 international bestsellers in several countries and sold more than two million copies worldwide.

At Lit Hub Gowda tagged ten "favorite novels, where the varied voices of family members together create richly layered stories." One title on the list:
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a master of creating authentically believable stories about celebrity figures who don’t exist. In her third novel, she takes a fictional 1950s crooner who was minor character in a previous novel (Evelyn Hugo), makes a cameo in another (Daisy Jones), and shows us his legacy in the form of his four children.

The Riva children, with varying levels of glamour, appear to have classic Southern California lifestyles, as professional surfers and swimsuit models. But they are far from caricatures; indeed, they’re fully drawn, complex and flawed human beings who give us insight into their lives, their relationships with one another, and how they’ve been impacted by their famous but absent father.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Malibu Rising is among Laura Griffin's seven suspense titles in which paradise is not what it seems and María Amparo Escandón's eight top books about living in Los Angeles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Eight novels sparked by the authors' work life

Alexia Casale is a British-American author, script consultant, and course director of the MA in Writing for Young People program at Bath Spa University. The Best Way to Bury Your Husband is her adult debut. Casale has over a decade of experience as an editor specializing in the field of male violence against women and girls, having been an executive editor of an international human rights journal. She holds two master’s degrees from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from Essex.

At Electric Lit Casale tagged eight novels inspired by the author’s day job, including:
Forensic Anthropologist: The Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs

From Patricia Cornwell (who worked at a medical examiner’s office) to Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist whose crime novels inspired long-running TV-series Bones), crime writers with a background in policing or the analysis of evidence have become increasingly common as an ever more sophisticated readership looks for greater authenticity. It’s not just the ‘telling details’ that matter—and which are easily enough seized upon—but the types of story that emerge organically from specific types of work, happening in specific contexts, within a specific professional culture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Bones to Ashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2024

Five top psychological thrillers by women

Nadia Khomami is arts and culture correspondent at the Guardian.

She tagged five favorite psychological thrillers by women, including:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

No list of psychological thrillers is complete without Gone Girl. Flynn’s 2012 novel has become a staple of the modern suspense thriller and a reference point for the entire publishing industry. Both of Flynn’s narrators – Nick Dunne and his wife Amy, who write alternating accounts of their stricken marriage – are unreliable. It’s dark, funny and unexpected, and the twist hits you like a gut punch. It’s a testament to its ingenuity that the book has spawned an inexhaustible list of imitators.
Read about the other entries at the Guardian.

Gone Girl made Kaley Rohlinger's list of fifteen of the best books with unreliable narrators, Katherine A. Olson's list of five books with righteous female rage, Azma Dar's list of five dark novels that explore the sinister side of marriage, Jonas Jonasson's top ten list of books about revenge, Suzanne Redfearn's list of six novels about women trying to outrun their past, Max Manning's top ten list of psychopathic crime & thriller characters, Steven L. Kent and Nicholas Kaufmann's list of six favorite literary human monsters, Elizabeth Macneal's list of five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, Jo Jakeman's top ten list of revenge novels, Amanda Craig's list of favorite books about modern married life, Sarah Pinborough's top ten list of unreliable narrators, C.A. Higgins's top five list of books with plot twists that flip your perception, Ruth Ware's top ten list of psychological thrillers, Jane Alexander's top ten list of treasure hunts in fiction, Fanny Blake's list of five top books about revenge, Monique Alice's list of six great fictional evil geniuses, Jeff Somers's lists of the top five best worst couples in literature, six books that’ll make you glad you’re single and five books with an outstanding standalone scene that can be read on its own, Lucie Whitehouse's ten top list of psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart and Kathryn Williams's list of eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Ten top marriage-gone-bad thrillers

Debut author L.K. Bowen was born in Boston and made her way to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry. Like Ellie, her protagonist in For Worse, her debut novel, Bowen has the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, which is slowly destroying her vision. To learn more about rp and other degenerative retinal diseases, or to contribute to finding treatments and cures, please visit www.fightingblindness.org.

At CrimeReads Bowen tagged ten favorite marriage-gone-bad thrillers, including:
The Family Remains, by Lisa Jewell, pub. 2022

This is a sequel to The Family Upstairs, following the lives of the children in the aftermath of their traumatic childhood. This is a tale where many different strands from the past come together to inform and heal the characters in the present, something Jewell does brilliantly. There is a Marriage Gone Bad amid the strands, and it’s horrifying, but it’s only one part of a complex and compelling story that, like most Lisa Jewell novels, you can’t put down.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Nine top nonfiction baseball books

Keith O'Brien is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist.

He has written four books, been a finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting, been longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and has contributed to multiple publications over the years.

[The Page 99 Test: Outside Shot]

O'Brien's new book is Charlie Hustle: The Rise and Fall of Pete Rose, and the Last Glory Days of Baseball.

At Lit Hub O'Brien tagged nine great nonfiction baseball books, including:
Howard Bryant, The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

Baseball biography is its own category, deserving of its own list. But a great place to start is this sweeping biography of Henry Aaron, the man who passed Babe Ruth in 1974 to claim baseball’s home run record. It was one of baseball’s greatest moments, but one that also revealed hard truths about America’s worst problems. Some fans were upset because Aaron was Black.

“The racial divide in America was apparent,” Bryant writes, “even during his victorious trip around the bases.” In this retelling of Aaron’s story, he’s more than just a ballplayer; he’s living proof of how America is changing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Seven novels inspired by the Bible

Jeanne Blasberg is an award-winning and bestselling author and essayist. Her novel The Nine (2019) was honored with the 2019 Foreword Indies Gold Award in Thriller & Suspense and the Gold Medal and Juror’s Choice in the 2019 National Indie Excellence Awards. Eden (2017), her debut, won the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best New Voice in Fiction and was a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award for Historical Fiction. Her new novel is Daughter of a Promise, a modern retelling of the legend of David and Bathsheba, completing the thematic trilogy Blasberg began with Eden and The Nine.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "novels based on the Bible that prove love, passion, and jealousy will always be universal," including:
Paradise by Toni Morrison

In the Bible, Exodus is the story of an enslaved people searching for a home for their community: a paradise. Weaving together multiple timelines, Toni Morrison’s Paradise follows former African American slaves who founded the town of Haven, and then Ruby, in Oklahoma as a refuge from racism. The allusion to the Garden of Eden is also obvious in the novel’s title, Paradise, which foreshadows the inevitability of tensions arising between members of the community. Convent, an all-female inhabited house, crops up on the outskirts of town in response to Ruby’s patriarchal governance. Convent becomes both a scapegoat and a threat to the male leaders of Ruby. The novel explores generational trauma, the women of Convent are haunted by their pasts as well as the collective history of the community.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2024

Eight dark science mystery novels

Nova Jacobs has an MFA from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and is a recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jeremy. She is the author of The Stars Turned Inside Out and The Last Equation of Isaac Severy.

At CrimeReads Jacobs tagged:
eight dark science gems: some are recent, some prefigure the dark academia craze entirely—all use science to underpin the murkier aspects of human nature.
One title on the list:
Give Me Your Hand, Megan Abbott

This is truly a laboratory novel. Abbott’s story pitches between past and present, but we spend much of our time among the benches of a chemistry lab getting a sense for our heroine Kit’s postdoctoral research into a severe premenstrual disorder, right down to the grim business of the laboratory mice. After the research group’s newest hire turns out to be Kit’s high school frenemy—and a dead body on the grounds throws their relationship into a shaky détente—the already fraught tension of the lab is heightened by a police investigation. Add to that a rich backstory of female friendship tainted by grave secrets and academic competition, and you’ve got an all-consuming science thriller.
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Ten of the best historical fiction books

At Vogue Mia Barzilay Freund tagged ten "of the best historical fiction books of the last several decades," including:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This stunning debut novel follows a single family over eight generations and numerous settings, from colonial Ghana to Jazz Age Harlem. Gripping and emotionally resonant, theirs is a story of hope, sacrifice, and heritage, as the plans and promises made by characters in one chapter become the lived realities of those characters’ descendants many pages later.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Homegoing is among Catherine Menon's top ten homecomings in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Five novels of generational wealth and income inequality

Glenn R. Miller launched his professional career by working on television soap operas and game shows on the back lots of NBC Burbank. He holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has served as a CBS-affiliate news producer, public television producer, and creative director at production agencies within the Twin Cities. He and his wife live in Minneapolis and are the parents of two grown sons.

Miller's new novel is Doorman Wanted.

At Lit Hub he tagged five old and new titles which thoughtfully explore generational wealth and income inequality, including:
Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians

In Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, the matter of hiding one’s inheritance and family stature takes center stage. Kwan’s main character, Nick, hides from his family’s outrageous wealth by coming to America and joining the world of academia. It would be hard to imagine a more effective hiding place. So effective, in fact, that his professor girlfriend, Rachel, has no idea of his background or familial circumstances. This allows him to develop an authentic relationship with her based on love, not pocketbook.

But as the reader soon realizes, downplaying one’s financial standing does not necessarily mean that one is not obsessed by wealth and status. This fixation on social status is most effectively demonstrated through the character of Nick’s mother, Eleanor. Throughout the novel, Kwan explores various strata of social hierarchies, almost all based on variations of wealth and income, and, arguably, superficial.

Like [Buddenbrooks author Thomas] Mann’s writing of the previous century, Kwan effectively explores themes of conflict between commerce and intellectual or artistic pursuits.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Crazy Rich Asians is among Julia Fine's eight titles about friendships with wealth disparities and Joseph Finder's seven best books about dysfunctional rich families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2024

Five top books about social media

Aneesa Ahmed is a 2022/23 recipient of the Scott Trust bursary.

At the Guardian she tagged five "titles that explore how we consume, share, and manipulate information on social media platforms." One book on the list:
Irresistible by Adam Alter

Have you ever wondered why you can’t stop scrolling on your TikTok “for you” page, or obsessing over how many likes you got on a recent Facebook post? You’re not alone, and Adam Alter’s book explores why we get sucked into the digital world. He answers what makes an online addiction, whether it be to emails, Instagram, or Netflix, different to other forms of addiction – and warns us of the dangers this could cause long-term. As well as introspection, he gives practical solutions to how digital addiction can be controlled for good.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Seven titles about unconventional serial killers

Joanna Wallace studied law before working as a commercial litigation solicitor in London. She now runs a family business and lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She was partly inspired to write You’d Look Better as a Ghost, her debut, following her father’s diagnosis of early onset dementia.

At Electric Lit she considered:
seven books that have introduced us to unforgettable characters and pose the question—why do we find these serial killers so likeable? (And what does that say about us?)
One title on the list:
Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Someone else who is extremely interesting to ponder but definitely from a safe distance, is Hannibal Lecter. In fact, if one was brave/unfortunate enough to meet him in real life, the list of questions for the serial killer first introduced in the novel, ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris would be endless. How can a genius doctor and cannibalistic monster co-exist in the same human form? And maybe therein lies the answer. Maybe the behaviour of Hannibal Lecter is so extreme, so far removed from conventional norms that we no longer consider him human. Perhaps it is his complete lack of morality that allows us to skim over the killing and be entertained instead by his intelligence, charisma and sharp wit. Any character who ‘preferred to eat the rude’ is indisputably grotesque, but certainly not boring.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Five mysteries and thrillers with a reality TV twist

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of ten novels including Everyone Is Watching, out this week. Her debut novel, The Weight of Silence, was an instant New York Times bestseller and remained on the list for 22 weeks. Gudenkauf’s critically acclaimed novels have been published in over 20 countries and have been included in many Best Of lists including Seven Thrillers to Read This Summer by the New York Times, The 10 Best Thrillers and Mysteries of 2017 by The Washington Post, Amazon Best Book of 2022, GoodReads Most Anticipated Mysteries of 2022.

[Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and MaxineCoffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & LoloMy Book, The Movie: Not A SoundThe Page 69 Test: Not A SoundWriters Read: Heather Gudenkauf (April 2019)The Page 69 Test: Before She Was FoundThe Page 69 Test: This Is How I LiedThe Page 69 Test: The Overnight GuestQ&A with Heather Gudenkauf]

At CrimeReads the author tagged "five mysteries and thrillers that put the thrill in books with a reality TV twist," including:
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

When fourteen-year-old Marjorie Barrett begins to display troubling behavior, her parents take her to their family physician, but they are unable to offer any answers. Desperate for help, the Barretts turn to the local Catholic priest, Father Wanderly, for guidance. Convinced that an evil entity possesses Marjorie, Father Wanderly believes the only way to save her is through an exorcism. Out of work and drowning in household and medical bills, the Barretts reluctantly agree to have their experience filmed for a new reality series called The Possession, which becomes an overnight sensation. What the camera captures is terrifying and will change the Barrett family forever. Years later, Merry Barrett, Marjorie’s younger sister, reflects on her family’s dance with the devil; she comes to question everything that occurred in the home and what was real in front of and behind the cameras.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Head Full of Ghosts is among Lee Kelly's eight fictional dinner parties gone wrong and Wendy Webb's eight top modern gothic mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Eight top rabbit books

The Zoomer Book Club's Nathalie Atkinson tagged eight books with a connection to the "rabbit, a symbol of feminine power, arguably has connections to creativity, resistance and survival." One title on the list:
RABBIT RABBIT RABBIT by Nadine Sander-Green

The Calgary-based, B.C.-raised author’s debut literary novel explores a woman’s identity and coming of age in a toxic relationship. The novel follows the dysfunctional relationship between Millicent, 24, a young reporter who has relocated to Whitehorse to work at the local newspaper, and the middle-aged filmmaker she meets there, set against the stark isolation of the landscape and her struggle to regain her sense of self.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2024

Seven stories of robot-human relationships

Sierra Greer grew up in Minnesota before attending Williams College and Johns Hopkins University. A former high school English teacher, she writes about the future from her home in rural Connecticut.

Greer's new novel is Annie Bot.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven "novels and stories [in which] authors delve into personal relationships between humans and A.I. consciousnesses that may or may not inhabit bodies. Themes of loneliness, love, personhood, and power are inescapable." One title on the list:
Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

In “Robbie,” the introductory story in Isaac Asimov’s collection I, Robot (1950), eight-year-old Gloria is distraught when her parents dismiss her wordless robot playmate, Robbie. Asserting that Robbie is not a machine but a person and a friend, Gloria pinpoints the essential paradox of the robot conundrum.

If an entity is merely a machine, it can be dismissed as insignificant, but once we love this entity, it merits our respect, and in turn, this expands our hearts. In short, a machine can make us more human, if we let it. Asimov’s iconic story presages all the works that follow.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I, Robot is among Lorna Wallace's ten thought-provoking novels about Artificial Intelligence, KT Tunstall's six best books, and Matt Haig's ten top fictional robots. Susan Calvin from I, Robot is on io9's list of the ten greatest (fictional) female scientists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Seven titles that show storytelling has consequences

Toby Lloyd was born in London to a secular father and a Jewish mother. He studied English at Oxford University before moving to America to pursue an MFA in creative writing at NYU. He has published short stories and essays in Carve Magazine and the Los Angeles Review of Books and was longlisted for the 2021 V. S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. He lives in London.

Lloyd's new novel is Fervor.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven "novels and memoirs that reveal truths (or untruths) that were better left unsaid." One title on the list:
Zuckerman Bound by Philip Roth

Like [Francine] Prose, Roth was particularly energized by the ethics of writing Jewish stories in postwar America. This quartet of novels, written after he was catapulted to fame by Portnoy’s Complaint, chart the rise and fall of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. In the beginning, Zuckerman is a writer in his twenties, enjoying the first flashes of literary success for short stories that offer intimate, sometimes unflattering portraits of Jewish characters. Already, he faces a backlash; certain Jewish authority figures accuse Zuckerman of recycling tropes that will provoke hatred of his people. As he embarks on his literary career, he has a choice. Will he do as he’s told by his father and his rabbi, and only write nice stories about nice Jewish families? Or will he continue down the road he’s started along, and pursue a darker form of artistic truth whatever the consequence?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Four novels that show the power of siblings in mysteries & thrillers

Margot Douaihy is the author of the lyrical crime novel Scorched Grace, which was named a Best Crime Novel of 2023 by The New York Times, The Guardian, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, CrimeReads, and BookPage, and one of the most anticipated crime books of the year by THEM and LGBTQ Reads. The second book in the Sister Holiday Mystery series, Blessed Water, was named a most anticipated crime book by BookRiot and Apple Books. She is also the author of Bandit/Queen: The Runaway Story of Belle Starr, a true-crime poetry project, and Scranton Lace, a documentary poetry collection about a lace factory.

At CrimeReads Douaihy tagged "four novels [that] show us how sibling relationships can be much more than backdrops or backstories in crime fiction, supercharging narratives with primal terror and emotional range." One title on the list:
My Sister, the Serial Killer

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s narrative is a case study in scalpel-sharp dark humor, inventive scene work, and sisterhood reimagined. The bond between sisters Korede and Ayoola is constantly tested, not by quotidian squabbles, but by a string of boyfriends who end up dead (murdered in cold blood, in fact). Braithwaite keeps this tensile book alert with vital questions of loyalty and survival, threading gender and societal commentary into an incredibly tight ripper. The novel doesn’t just entertain, which it absolutely does; it dissects the very essence of “sisterly duty,” drenching a crime narrative with resonant explorations of PTSD, where and how trauma is stored in the body, and complex ethical decisions. I teach this book in my “Plotting the Perfect Crime” course, a plot-centric crime writing class at Emerson College; it’s illuminating to see how the MFA students celebrate the novel’s fine-tuned craft, confident plotting, emotional wreckage, humor, and creative quotient. I love books that offer a dialect—asking how two apparent opposites are simultaneously true? This narrative is distinct in its ability to balance withering satire with poignant insights into the love and sacrifice of sisters who just want to survive and thrive in an unfair world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Sister the Serial Killer is among Francesca McDonnell Capossela's seven books about women committing acts of violence, Tessa Wegert's five thrillers about killer relatives, Catherine Ryan Howard's five notable dangers-of-dating thrillers, Sally Hepworth's top five novels about twisted sisters, Megan Nolan's six books on unrequited love and unmet obsession, Sarah Pinborough's top ten titles where the setting is a character, Tiffany Tsao's top five novels about murder all in the family, Victoria Helen Stone's eight top crime books of deep, dark family lore, and Kristen Roupenian's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2024

Five of the best titles about the Victorians

Kathryn Hughes is emerita professor of life writing at the University of East Anglia and a literary critic for The Guardian. She is the author of Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum and George Eliot: The Last Victorian.

Her latest book is Catland: Louis Wain and the Great Cat Mania.

At the Guardian Hughes tagged "five of the best books that track how the Victorians gradually unravelled and learned to let loose." One title on the list:
The Other Victorians by Steven Marcus (1966)

At the height of the sexual revolution, Steven Marcus, a professor at Columbia University, produced a book suggesting that the Victorians could swing with the best of them. Delving deep into medical sources on taboo topics including masturbation, as well as such out-and-out pornographic texts as My Secret Life by the pseudonymous “Walter”, Marcus rewrites Victorian England as an erotic playground. Within weeks of appearing in Britain in 1966, The Other Victorians sailed past Nancy Mitford’s biography of Louis XIV, The Sun King, to top the national bestseller list. The Times described the book as “ghastly stuff” and derided Marcus as “a student of smut”. These days, the book is revered as a gamechanger.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Ten Taylor Swift song-to-book recommendations

At B&N Reads Isabelle McConville shared ten Taylor Swift song-to-book recommendations, including:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Marriage is work, for better or for worse. When a woman’s husband goes to jail for something she knows he didn’t do and she leans on their childhood best friend for support, we get a brilliant story that makes us think of Betty, James and Augustine from “cardigan,” all grown up.
Read about the other entries on the list.

An American Marriage is among Robin Kirman's seven novels told from both members of a couple, Christopher Louis Romaguera's nine books about mistaken identity, Scarlett Harris's eight classic and contemporary novels, written by women, that offer insight into damaged male psyches, Tochi Onyebuchi's seven books about surviving political & environmental disasters, Ruth Reichl's six novels she enjoyed listening to while cooking, Brad Parks's top eight books set in prisons, Sara Shepard's six top stories of deception,and Julia Dahl's ten top books about miscarriages of justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Eight novels about divorce

Rowan Beaird is a fiction writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and The Common, among others. She is the recipient of the Ploughshares Emerging Writer Award, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart. She has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and StoryStudio, and she currently works at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her first novel, The Divorcées, is out this month from Flatiron Books.

At Lit Hub Beaird tagged "eight books that explore the ends of marriages and the new beginnings that follow." One title on the list:
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is in Trouble

This novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (who should be contractually obligated to interview every celebrity alive) explores so many things: divorce, dating in the twenty-first century, and entering the murky period of middle age. It’s also somehow a compelling mystery.

Toby Fleishman is undergoing an acrimonious divorce from his wife Rachel, a successful talent agent. One morning, after Rachel unexpectedly drops their children off at Toby’s apartment, she disappears. What follows is an account of Toby’s search for both Rachel and himself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fleishman Is in Trouble is among Claire Kilroy's top ten novels about motherhood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Seven titles about women on a journey to figure out who they are

Phoebe McIntosh is an actress and playwright from London. She wrote and performed in a sell-out run of her first play, The Tea Diaries, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, followed by her solo show, Dominoes, which toured the South East and London. She completed the Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab program, and her most recent full-length play, The Soon Life, was shortlisted and highly commended for the Tony Craze Award as well as being longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. McIntosh won a place on the inaugural Tamasha x Hachette creative writing program and was selected for Penguin’s WriteNow program.

Dominoes is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit McIntosh tagged seven novels "about women who, at any one time, have had their doubts about who they are and who they present themselves to the world as." One title on the list:
Temper by Phoebe Walker

Purpose and identity are often inextricably linked to place for many women. We feel this in almost every line of Phoebe Walker’s debut. Infused with her characteristic poetic imagery and keenly observant eye for the world around her, she gives us yet another unnamed narrator (a theme worthy of a reading list of its own!) who has left London on the coat tails of her corporate boyfriend and his new job. Being a freelance writer, she has the freedom to work from anywhere, and the Netherlands, she reasons, is as good a place as any. But the promise of expat life, with its shiny, social media-ready exterior and the feeling of excitement in the first days and weeks, quickly fades. What our protagonist is left with is creeping isolation, loneliness and a lack of purpose. When she reluctantly befriends an untrustworthy fellow expat who has been shunned by everyone else who knows her out there, the narrator’s reflections on just how and exactly where to go about building a life for oneself in a big world, becomes all the more intriguing and absorbing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2024

Six spooky & fantastical missing-persons tales

Melissa Albert is the New York Times and indie bestselling author of the Hazel Wood series (The Hazel Wood, The Night Country, Tales from the Hinterland) and Our Crooked Hearts, and a former bookseller and YA lit blogger. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages and included in the New York Times list of Notable Children’s Books. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Albert's new novel is The Bad Ones.

At CrimeReads she tagged six "supernatural and horror-inflected stories in which vanishings drive the plot." One title on the list:
The Return by Rachel Harrison

Four women gather for a girls’ trip in a super-hip, highly secluded inn to celebrate the mysterious return of one of their number: Julie, back after two years gone, without any apparent memory of where she has been. Things are a little awkward—they haven’t been together in a long time, their friendship dynamics are uneven. Not to mention the fact that Julie is skinny and stinking and craving raw meat. Fresh meat. Things degrade from there in a disgusting fashion, featuring Harrison’s usual excellent character building and funny, sharp dialogue. This is a friendship story to soothe your ego if you’ve ever lived through a less than perfect reunion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Eight titles for St. Patrick’s Day

The Zoomer Book Club's Nathalie Atkinson tagged eight notable new reads in the Irish literary wave, including:
THE HUNTER by Tana French

Fans of the American-born Irish writer love the loosely connected mysteries of her superb and psychologically astute Dublin Murder Squad series. But in 2020, French ventured away from Dublin with The Searcher, to feature retired Chicago detective Cal Hooper, who moved to rural western Ireland for solace. In this sequel – ingeniously told largely through conversations – he continues to learn what makes his neighbours tick, as the absent father of Trey (Hooper’s teen protégé from the earlier novel) comes back to the village with an ulterior motive.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Five top Irish reads

The Amazon Book Review editors tagged five of their favorite Irish reads, including:
Last Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

I hadn’t read a love story like Jack and Raine’s, and I cherished every minute. Raine is a musician with ADHD traveling Europe as a busker until an unfortunate theft leaves her stranded at The Local in Cobh, Ireland. Enter Jack, charming Irishman and owner of the bar. Their chemistry is instant, but Jack has a different idea – hire Raine to bring life back into his bar. The only problem is Jack’s OCD makes change a struggle. Raine and Jack’s endless compassion for one another challenges them to think beyond the limitations they’ve put on themselves in both life and love. This tender, sexy, witty romance was a breath of fresh air, and I was rooting for Jack and Raine from the first page to the last. There was also a fantastic supporting cast of characters, including an enigmatic cat (is there any other kind) named Sebastian.
—Abby Abell, Amazon Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2024

Five top books inspired by classic novels

Sophie Ratcliffe is professor of literature and creative criticism at the University of Oxford and a fellow and tutor at Lady Margaret Hall. In addition to her scholarly books, including On Sympathy, she has published commentary pieces and book reviews for the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other outlets, and has served a judge for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and the Wellcome Book Prize.

Ratcliffe's forthcoming book is Loss, A Love Story: Imagined Histories and Brief Encounters.

At the Guardian she tagged five of the best books inspired by classic novels, including:
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

A passionate, feminist prequel to Jane Eyre, Rhys’s final novel gives a voice to the madwoman in the attic. Before she became Bertha Mason, Rochester’s first wife was we learn, the beautiful, troubled Antoinette Cosway. Dramatic and painterly, Rhys’s narrative captures the beauties of the landscape of Jamaica, Cosway’s childhood home, as well as the ugliness of historical guilt and complicity. Groundbreaking on its publication in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea has lost none of its charge.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wide Sargasso Sea is among Jane Corry's ten heroines who kept their motives hidden, Siân Phillips's six favorite books, Richard Gwyn's top ten books in which things end badly, and Elise Valmorbida's top ten books on the migrant experience.

--Marshal Zeringue