Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ten top titles about boxing

Declan Ryan is a poet and critic in London. His first collection is Crisis Actor.

His reviews and essays have appeared in journals including New York Review of Books, The Baffler, Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Observer, Poetry, The Irish Times, The Telegraph, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Review of Books, and New Statesman.

At Electric Lit Ryan tagged ten "books use boxing as their entry-point to tell stories of loyalty, corruption, greed, luck and endurance," including:
Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing by Carlos Acevedo

Acevedo is one of the most talented boxing writers working today and this is a book in the lineage—and spirit—of some of the great
boxing compendia, McIlvanney on Boxing, or A.J Liebling’s round-ups. Acevedo’s choice of subject, as well as his mix of expertise and knack for character dissection, makes him compelling company in these essays about—often forgotten, or at least marginal—fighters. He is especially drawn to the tragic, the unseemly, and the backwards-facing sides of the sport. Despite shining a light into dark places his is not a spirit of relishing, but rather an attempt to get to the root cause of these often desperate, cornered and self-annihilating figures, as well as those who sought to benefit from their gifts while keeping their own hands clean.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Five thrilling sports titles even non-fans might like

Lindsay Powers is a book lover, writer (bylines include The New York Times and The Washington Post), and author of You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids: A Judgment-Free Guide to Stress-Free Parenting.

When not devouring narrative nonfiction, fiction, memoirs, and essays, Powers can be found out and about in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.

At the Amazon Book Review she and Al Woodworth tagged five "thrilling sports books even non-fans will cheer for." One title on the list:
A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Arshay Cooper

If you’ve seen George Clooney’s adaptation of bestseller The Boys in the Boat, then you have to read A Most Beautiful Thing—an unforgettable story about mentorship and personal investment, triumphing over adversity, sports and endurance, and about faith—in yourself, in others, and in your team. Arshay Cooper was part of the first all-Black high school rowing team, a feat that landed him on the cover of the Chicago Tribune, and catapulted his life, which at one time seemed destined for destruction, to higher education and the professional world. As he put it, “It takes a village to raise a child, and our village is gang members, drug dealers, drug addicts, and prostitutes. It’s easy to become a product of this.” At first, the thought of a Black rowing crew was laughable to Cooper and his friends, but the commitment of his coaches offered him something more: “I am done with my old life. I choose rowing. I choose a future.” And so began the pursuit of rowing in unison, which would expose Cooper and his teammates to college campuses in different states, internships, and jobs. In some ways this is a memoir of underdogs fighting their way to the top, but it’s also about how an entire population is left out of the opportunity loop and how a seemingly small thing like sports can change lives.
Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Six titles that draw inspiration from folk tales

Amanda Jayatissa is the author of My Sweet Girl, which won the International Thriller Writer’s Award for Best First Novel, and You're Invited.

She grew up in Sri Lanka and has lived in the California bay area and British countryside, before relocating back to her sunny island, where she lives with her husband and two Tasmanian-devil-reincarnate huskies.

Jayatissa's new novel is Island Witch.

At CrimeReads she tagged six books that span "across many genres and hail from different corners of the world, but they all draw inspiration from popular myths, lore, and folk tales." One title on the list:
Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Set in Mexico in the 1920s, the story follows Cassiopeia Tun, the granddaughter of a small town patriarch. Cassiopeia’s mother eloped with Cassiopeia’s dark-skinned father, disgracing the family, but had to return to home when her husband died. Cassiopeia is ordered to work as the family maid, and her future seems bleak until she opens a locked chest in her grandfather’s bedroom, and releases an imprisoned Mayan god of death, Hun-Kamé. Hun-Kamé sends Cassiopeia on a life-changing quest— one which features demons, evil spirits, sorcerers and flappers dancing the Charleston.
Read about the other entries in the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2024

Seven horror titles where the setting is a monster

Chase Dearinger is an Oklahoma native who now lives in Kansas with his wife and two daughters. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in magazines around the country, including Bayou, The Southampton Review, Short Story America, and Heavy Feather Review. He currently serves as the Chief Editor of Emerald City, a quarterly online fiction magazine, and directs the Cow Creek Chapbook Prize, an annual poetry chapbook contest. He is a professor of creative writing and literature at Pittsburg State University. This New Dark is his first novel.

At Electric Lit Dearinger tagged seven horror novels "in which the setting lurks in the shadows just as much as the monster," including:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Harlem in the Jazz Age: Hustler and street musician Tommy Tester’s life is upended when he meets a rich and enigmatic man who draws him into darkness and the occult. What he finds when he gets there: ancient rituals, eldritch horrors, and a cosmic showdown that could alter the fabric of reality. New York itself is full of no less horror, though; Tommy must confront poverty, police brutality, and racial injustice as he transforms over the course of the novel. LaValle weaves a gritty tale that at once deconstructs Lovecraft’s racist work and honors his legacy of cosmic horror.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Ballad of Black Tom is among Colleen Kinder's ten titles about chance encounters with strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Five top books about grief

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 books about grief that can help provide comfort and perspective, including:
Sad Book by Michael Rosen

Grief might not always be beyond words, but it sometimes needs little elaboration. This spare book, written about the sudden death of Rosen’s son, Eddie, illuminates how grief’s complexity can be rendered through seemingly simple words and images. “Who is sad?” , Rosen writes. “Sad is anyone. It comes along and finds you”. This is not strictly a children’s book, but a book that recognises how acutely grief can speak to the child within us. Quentin Blake’s grey wash illustrations create a space for sadness to breathe.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Four books juxtaposing the beauty & ugliness of ballet

Tammy Greenwood is the acclaimed author of fifteen novels and a four-time winner of the San Diego Book Award. Six of her novels have been Indie Next Picks, including her most recent, The Still Point, an “intimate journey into the exclusive world of ballet” (Mary Kubica) inspired by her own experiences as the mother of a professional dancer. Revolving around the cutthroat hothouse of a California dance school, it is both a love letter to the world of ballet and a challenge to its toxic hierarchies, intense competition, and dark drive towards perfection that pushes girls – and their families – to their physical and emotional extremes. Greenwood and her family split their time between Vermont and San Diego, where she teaches creative writing for The Writer's Center and San Diego Writers, Ink.

[My Book, The Movie: Rust and StardustThe Page 69 Test: Rust and StardustWriters Read: T. Greenwood (August 2019)The Page 69 Test: Keeping LucyMy Book, The Movie: Keeping LucyQ&A with T. GreenwoodThe Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl]

At CrimeReads Greenwood tagged four ballet "books—two novels and two non-fiction—which seek to peel back the satin and reveal the tender pain beneath." One title on the list:
Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet from Itself by Chloe Angyal

Journalist, Angyl, takes on the darker side of ballet in this meticulous exploration of an artform that is only now beginning to reinvent itself. A keen examination of a world that demands so very much of the dancers who embrace it, Turning Pointe is a must read for all ballerinas and consumers of dance. However, it is particularly informative for young dancers pursuing careers in the dance world—and those hoping to be agents of change within it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 23, 2024

Seven titles celebrating the healing magic of birds

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman is a writer and former reporter at HuffPost, where she covered the climate crisis and other social justice issues. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her debut novel is A Fire So Wild.

At Electric Lit Ruiz-Grossman tagged "seven incredible books [in which] the authors find similar refuge in the company of birds, be they clever crows who visit them daily to play, or kingfishers with regal blue crowns to whom their human observers mean nothing at all." One title on the list:
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

In this classic in the writing advice genre, Lamott guides creatives in how to get out of their own way and get words onto the page. The titular example she points to for those stuck in a rut is that of her older brother, back when they were kids, who had to write a report on birds and felt overwhelmed by the gargantuan assignment. Her father advised him: “Just take it bird by bird.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Twelve top long books

The Amazon Book Review editors tagged twelve of their favorite long books, including:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel has captivated readers and critics alike with her rich historical novels about the schemer, dreamer, henchman, and political mastermind Thomas Cromwell. The first Cromwell book, Wolf Hall, won the Man Booker Prize, as did the follow-up, Bring Up the Bodies, the final in the series, and The Mirror & the Light, was a bestseller and one of the best books of 2020. Clocking in at 560 pages (more than 2,000 pages for the full series), Mantel recreates the drama of King Henry VIII’s court as he vies to divorce his wife and marry Ann Boleyn with the help of his indefatigable aid, Cromwell. A sweeping moody historical portrait that is perfect for winter time reading.
Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wolf Hall made Mark Skinner's top ten list of books featuring English and British monarchs, Emily Mitchell's list of five of the best historical novels to remind you how strange the past really was, Jody Hadlock's list of nine historical novels featuring real people as main characters, Benjamin Myers's top ten list of mentors in fiction, Jessie Burton's list of eleven of the best books about/with cats, Pete Buttigieg’s ten favorite books list, Ruby Bentall's six best books list, Rula Lenska's six favorite books list, Deborah Cadbury's top ten list of books about royal families, Peter Stanford's top ten list of Protestants in fiction, Melissa Harrsion's ten top depictions of British rain, the Telegraph's list of the 21 greatest television adaptations of novels, BBC Culture's list of the 21st century’s twelve greatest novels, Ester Bloom's ten list of books for fans of the television series House of Cards, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Kathryn Williams's reading list on pride, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on baby-watching in Great Britain, Julie Buntin's top ten list of literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Hermione Norris's 6 best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best cardinals in literature, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on dangerous minds and Lev Grossman's list of the top ten fiction books of 2009, and is one of Geraldine Brooks's favorite works of historical fiction; Matt Beynon Rees called it "[s]imply the best historical novel for many, many years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Six top friends-to-frenemies thrillers

Leah Konen is the author of Keep Your Friends Close, You Should Have Told Me, The Perfect Escape, All the Broken People, and several young adult novels, including Love and Other Train Wrecks and The Romantics.

Her books have been featured in Vogue, Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, Reader’s Digest and The NY Post, among others.

Konen lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, New York, with her husband; their daughters, Eleanor and Mary Joyce; and their dog, Farley.

At CrimeReads she tagged "six slick thrillers that also portray the friends-to-frenemies relationship," including:
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Perhaps no modern book illustrates the danger of friends who don’t have our best interests at heart quite like R.F. Kuang’s captivating exploration of diversity, racism and cultural appropriation. June Hayward can’t get her writing career off the ground, but her pal, Athena Liu, is a literary darling. But when Athena dies choking on not-quite-cooked pancakes, June jumps at an opportunity to steal Athena’s next book and pass it off as her own. June’s every action—and excuse—will make readers gasp and cringe in equal measure, and waiting for her comeuppance keeps the pages turning in this fresh literary thriller.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Yellowface is among Garnett Cohen's seven novels about characters driven by their cravings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Eight dystopian novels that explore hope in the climate crisis

Scott Guild received his MFA from the New Writers Project at the University of Texas at Austin, and his PhD in English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He served for years as assistant director of Pen City Writers, a prison writing initiative for incarcerated students. He is currently an assistant professor at Marian University in Indianapolis, where he teaches literature and creative writing. Before his degrees, Scott was the songwriter and lead guitarist for the new wave band New Collisions, which toured with the B-52s and opened for Blondie.

Guild's new novel is Plastic.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight novels with a theme of hope, a "core value that their characters need in order to endure and fight the climate crisis, but difficult to maintain in the face of so many challenges." One title on the list:
The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Set in a near-future Florida, this vivid, intimate novel shows several decades in the life of Wanda Lowe, a woman born while a disastrous hurricane bears down on her state. In the years that follow Wanda’s birth, Florida will be largely abandoned and then finally “closed” as a state, “as if it were a rundown theme park with a roller coaster that was no longer safe to ride.” Wanda, however, will remain in Florida, along with her friend and teacher Phyllis, finding ways to survive amid the beauty and danger of a landscape returning to wilderness. A book that shows our deep bonds to nature even in the midst of climate disaster, the novel centers its optimism in Wanda’s enduring links to her environment, which—as the title suggests—remain radiant and luminescent despite the crumbling of human infrastructures.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 19, 2024

Fifteen top books with unreliable narrators

At PopSugar Kaley Rohlinger tagged fifteen of the best books with unreliable narrators, including:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Famously full of twists and turns, the unreliable narration of Gone Girl is what makes it so compelling — and the final plot twist so delicious. On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife, Amy, suddenly disappears and he's framed as the main murder suspect. Nick is left shocked and confused, wondering if he knows his wife at all. Amy's side of the story only makes things more confusing, and you'll stay up late so you can finally learn what happened — and who pulled what off.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gone Girl made 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

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Five literary crime books featuring family dynamics

Megan Nolan was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland. Her essays and reviews have been published by the New York Times, White Review, Guardian, and Frieze amongst others.

Her debut novel, Acts of Desperation, was the recipient of a Betty Trask Award, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Nolan's new novel is Ordinary Human Failings.

At CrimeReads she tagged five books that "combine the best of crime writing with the most reflective and thoughtful expositions of family dynamics." One title on the list:
Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn

This is in a sense a difficult book to recommend. Unquestionably one of the more incisive, brilliantly written and sensitive works of crime non-fiction I have ever come across, it is also so upsetting and appalling that it leaves you feeling you have learned some unfamiliar, crucial truths but in doing so have had your spirit degraded. Burn writes about the notorious British serial killing couple Fred and Rosemary West, who perpetuated rape, torture, kidnapping and murder upon members of their own family and strangers. Written to be as un-sensational as possible under the circumstances, nevertheless the sheer scale and depth of the couple’s depravity is chastening for the reader, not least because of what it suggests about a society which produced people capable of such deeds. The same society was then able to ignore their wickedness for decades, missing many opportunities to halt it. What marks Happy Like Murderers out for me as a work of true genius is that it upends the secrecy of the family unit and questions the wisdom of allowing ourselves to turn away from others with privacy as our excuse. It also looks at the world of brutal poverty and sexual abuse both Fred and Rose emerged from themselves, viciousness begetting viciousness. This is an almost haunted feeling work, but one which easily holds its own alongside The Executioner’s Song and In Cold Blood as a work of exceptional literary and journalistic merit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Eight new books about sex, relationships & romance

The Zoomer Book Club's Nathalie Atkinson tagged eight new books about sex, relationships and romance, including:
SPLINTERS by Leslie Jamison

The essayist superstar, a professor at Columbia University in New York, has written with breathtaking insight about everything from impostor syndrome and Barbie to her failed sobriety and the end of her marriage. Raw candour about the latter fuels her new memoir (already in its second printing from pre-release pre-orders alone!), which covers divorce, family and motherhood, and “what it means for a woman to be many things at once.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2024

Five top campus novels

At the Guardian Kate McCusker tagged five of the best campus novels, including:
Stoner by John Williams

In some ways Stoner is the anti-campus novel. A departure from the usual fetishisations of academia, its protagonist William Stoner is as repressed in later life by the Middle America university where he teaches as he was once liberated as a student. Covering Stoner’s life, death and anticlimactic career, it’s a novel that explores how life’s accumulated disappointments can wear a person down. If it sounds like a drag, rest assured that it’s precisely the opposite. A must-read for anyone who’s ever felt as if they betrayed their class in pursuit of a good education.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Stoner is among Sally Oliver's five books for the grieving, Kate Weinberg's five top university-based novels, Andrew Hunter Murray's top five books to make you feel less alone, Thomas Maloney's ten best deaths in fiction, Simon Kernick's six best books, The Secret Teacher author's ten top books about teaching, Jamie Fewery's ten best fictional fathers, and Colum McCann's top ten novels featuring poets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Seven books about sex, love, and intimacy

Annie Liontas is the genderqueer author of the novel Let Me Explain You and the coeditor of A Manner of Being: Writers on their Mentors. Their work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Gay Magazine, NPR, Electric Literature, BOMB, The Believer, Guernica, McSweeney’s, and other publications. A graduate of Syracuse University’s MFA program, they are a professor of writing at George Washington University. Liontas has served as a mentor for Pen City’s incarcerated writers and helped secure a Mellon Foundation grant on Disability Justice to bring storytelling to communities in the criminal justice system.

[The Page 69 Test: Let Me Explain You; My Book, The Movie: Let Me Explain You]

Liontas's new memoir is Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery.

At Electric Lit they tagged "seven writers [who] write honestly and openly about intimacy, desire, queerness, loneliness, annihilating marriages, enduring and contradictory love, and, of course, soulmates." One title on the list:
Relationship Status: “I am yours. I am still I.”

Human Dark with Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy

Sexy, dark, funny—everything you could want. No other poetry collection is as hot to the touch as Human Dark with Sugar. Shaughnessy’s celebrated second collection is addressed to the beloved. Restless, demanding attention, toying, longing, (“Oh, to be ready for it, unfucked, ever-fucked”), refusing to ask if you’ll stay but hoping you’ll still be here in the morning.
“To play without shame. To be a woman
who feels only the pleasure of being used
and who reanimates the user’s
anguished release in a land
for the future to relish, to buy
new tights for, to parade in fishboats.”
Titles like “I’ll go anywhere to Leave You But Come with Me,” “Replaceable Until You’re Not,” and “I’m Perfect at Feelings” tell us everything we need to know. And then, there’s “One Love Story, Eight Takes.”

“To see you again,” asks Shaughnessy—“isn’t love revision?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Six titles that elevate the serial killer thriller

The Fields is Erin Young’s first contemporary thriller, following Sergeant Riley Fisher of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office. On publication in 2022, it became a Glamor Book of the Year, a Times Thriller of the Month, was picked by Amazon USA as a best book of the month, and Young was named in Oprah Daily as one of the best female thriller writers of the year. The Fields was also a finalist for hardcover thriller of the year at the ITW awards. It is in development for TV by the producers of Big Little Lies and City on a Hill.

Original Sins, the sequel to The Fields, is now in bookstores.

At CrimeReads Young tagged six titles that dive into "the things that turn people into killers, the experience of victims, and society’s reaction to the murders," and elevate the serial killer thriller. One title on the list:
THE FIVE, Hallie Rubenhold

Rubenhold takes a grim tale we think we know – that of Jack the Ripper – and inverts it, so the story becomes about his female victims and the lives they led in late nineteenth-century London. Instead of the all-too-common focus on the shadowy Ripper and his grisly crimes, it’s the women – through Rubenhold’s deft and thoughtful skill as a historian – who come blazing into full color, as we explore their lives, loves, hopes and misfortunes, and the tragic circumstances and societal constraints that led each of them into a place where they were vulnerable to danger.

A timely and necessary read that makes us question our obsession with killers over victims.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Five is among Janina Ramirez's top ten books about women written out of history and Sarah Weinman's ten groundbreaking true crime books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Seven of the best love stories for cynics

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 Temple tagged seven great "love stories for those who basically tolerate love, but have their doubts." One title on the list:
Kelly Link, The Book of Love (2024)

I can’t resist including Link’s long-awaited doorstopper (insert wry/earnest commentary about this being the beloved MacArthur Genius Grant recipient’s debut novel here) in this list. It is actually a big and big-hearted (though not in the corny way) contemporary fantasy novel (for adults), and not cynical in the least, except for the snarky Buffy the Vampire Slayer energy that permeates its pages. But if you are, possibly, a cynic looking for something to give you some renewed faith in love/friendship/literature in this month of cold and candy hearts, and/or find yourself wishing for a little more magic in your life, this is the novel for you. It’s even red.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2024

Eight books for Black History Month

The Zoomer Book Club's Nathalie Atkinson tagged eight worthy books for Black History Month, including:
DREAM IN THE RHYTHM by Grace Wales Bonner

To accompany her ongoing exhibition in the Artist’s Choice series at New York’s Museum of Metropolitan Art, the acclaimed London-based designer and artistic director of the fashion brand Wales Bonner offers “an archive of soulful expression” through 80 artworks selected from the MoMA Collection and the very personal connections she makes between them. Texts and works by Lee Friedlander, Steve McQueen, Langston Hughes and Greg Tates, among others, are juxtaposed to reveal new meaning.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Seven Texas novels about mother-daughter relationships

Chris Cander is the USA Today bestselling author of A Gracious Neighbor, The Weight of a Piano, which was named an Indie Next Great Read in both hardcover and paperback and which the New York Times called, “immense, intense and imaginative,” Whisper Hollow, also named an Indie Next Great Read, and 11 Stories, named by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2013 and winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards for fiction. She also wrote the children’s picture book The Word Burglar, and the Audible Originals “Eddies” and “Grieving Conversations.” Cander’s fiction has been published in twelve languages. She lives in her native Houston with her husband and two children.

Cander's new novel is The Young of Other Animals.

[My Book, The Movie: The Weight of a PianoThe Page 69 Test: The Young of Other AnimalsMy Book, The Movie: The Young of Other AnimalsQ&A with Chris Cander]

At Electric Lit Cander tagged "seven books about mothers and daughters in Texas that illuminate how we’re more likely to be one person’s shot of whiskey than everybody’s cup of tea." One title on the list:
Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

This 1975 novel set in Houston is full of crisp prose and fascinatingly flawed characters. The story is centered on Aurora Greenway, an acerbic, eccentric Houstonian widow navigating life and a complicated relationship with her imminently practical daughter, Emma. For those readers who need their characters to be likable, this one—like most of the books on this list—might not be for you. Aurora is indeed often unlikeable, but at least she isn’t uninteresting. She is the sun of her own solar system, around which other characters—her daughter, her housekeeper, her string of male suitors—orbit. But it is her daughter who understands her the best, which seems to contrast the way Aurora feels about Emma, until at the most crucial moment, it doesn’t.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Four top boundary pushing mysteries in beloved series

Nick Petrie received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington, won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, and his story “At the Laundromat” won the 2006 Short Story Contest in the The Seattle Review, a national literary journal. A husband and father, he runs a home-inspection business in Milwaukee. His novels in the Peter Ash series include The Drifter, winner of the ITW Thriller Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel, Burning Bright, Light It Up, Tear It Down, The Wild One, The Breaker, and The Runaway. His latest novel in the series is The Price You Pay.

At CrimeReads Petrie tagged four novels that "were not only some of my favorites in each series, they’re also standouts in excellence that showcase how series writers can really shine by breaking their own rules." One title on the list:
Robert Crais – The Watchman (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #11)

The first books in this excellent series were focused on Elvis Cole. Joe Pike had a strong and distinctive presence, but the early novels were primarily from Elvis’s point of view. L.A. Requiem was a departure from that model, featuring combined first- and third-person points of view, and it rocketed Crais into the very top tier of crime writers.

I loved L.A. Requiem, but for me, the book that really redefined the series was The Watchman. For my money, it’s the first true Joe Pike book. I already knew Crais had serious chops, but this book really knocked my socks off, even on my third read. The voice and tone are entirely different from the early Elvis novels, and Crais puts the reader in Joe Pike’s head and heart in an utterly convincing way.

After this book, the series was never the same – in the best way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2024

Five of the best titles about gossip

Ella Creamer is a freelance politics and culture journalist.

At the Guardian she tagged five books that show that "gossipy networks pervade communities of all sizes, from small towns to the British political system." One title on the list:
On Ajayi Crowther Street by Elnathan John and Àlàbá Ònájìn

In this Lagos-based graphic novel, characters see gossip as a threat, worrying about the reputational damage of whispers spreading. After the pastor’s son Godstime falls in love with his guy friend and a gossip blogger writes about his sexuality, the pastor’s immediate concern is whether members of his church have heard. In the Sunday service, he attempts to quash the “whisperings of the agents of the devil”. Meanwhile, Godstime’s sister reassures him that “this is Nigeria. Something more scandalous will happen.” Ironically, the pastor is sitting on a genuinely egregious secret the whole time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Twelve top life-affirming bookshop and library tales

At the Waterstones blog Mark Skinner shared a list of twelve great novels set in a bookshop or library. One title on the list:
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

From the author of How to Stop Time comes this poignant, unique novel about regret, hope and forgiveness - and a library that houses second chances.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Midnight Library is among Clare Mackintosh's top ten books with “What if?” moments.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Ten of the best love stories in novels

At Mental Floss Kerry Wolfe tagged ten of the greatest love stories in novels, including:
Pride and Prejudice (1813) // Jane Austen

Jane Austen is no stranger to penning a great love story—and this yarn about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is no exception. Pride and Prejudice, which features the classic enemies-to-lovers plot, has remained popular centuries after it was first published anonymously. (Austen did not include her name on her novels; Pride and Prejudice’s title page simply stated it was written “by the author of Sense and Sensibility.”)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Annabelle Thorpe's top ten list of aunts in fiction, Harriet Evans's top ten list of close families in literature, Amelia Morris's top ten list of captivating fictional frenemies, David Annand's list of the top ten buildings in fiction, Off the Shelf's list of ten of the most fantastical (and sometimes fanatical) parties imaginable in novels, KT Sparks's seven best graceless literary exits, Lit Hub's list of twenty-five actually pretty happy couples in literature, Ellie Eaton's list of eight of literature's notable mean girls, Sarah Vaughan's list of nine fictional bad mothers in fiction, Jessica Francis Kane's top ten list of houseguests in fiction, O: The Oprah Magazine's twenty greatest ever romance novels, Cristina Merrill's list of eight of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance, Sarah Ward's ten top list of brothers and sisters in fiction, Tara Sonin's lists of fifty must-read regency romances and seven sweet and swoony romances for wedding season, Grant Ginder's top ten list of book characters we love to hate, Katy Guest's list of six of the best depictions of shyness in fiction, Garry Trudeau's six favorite books list, Ross Johnson's list of seven of the greatest rivalries in fiction, Helen Dunmore's six best books list, Jenny Kawecki's list of eight fictional characters who would make the best travel companions, Peter James's top ten list of works of fiction set in or around Brighton, Ellen McCarthy's list of six favorite books about weddings and marriage, the Telegraph's list of the ten greatest put-downs in literature, Rebecca Jane Stokes' list of ten fictional families you might enjoy more than the one you'll actually spend the holidays with, Melissa Albert's lists of five fictional characters who deserved better, [fifteen of the] romantic leads (and wannabes) of Austen’s brilliant books and recommended reading for eight villains, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance, Emma Donoghue's list of five favorite unconventional fictional families, Amelia Schonbek's list of five approachable must-read classics, Jane Stokes's top ten list of the hottest men in required reading, Gwyneth Rees's top ten list of books about siblings, the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Seven books about the triumphs & tragedies of mountain climbing

Karen Outen’s fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The North American Review, Essence, and elsewhere. She is a 2018 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award and has been a fellow at both the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and the Pew Fellowships in the Arts. She received an MFA from the University of Michigan. She lives in Maryland.

Dixon, Descending is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Outen tagged seven books thar "delve into the 'why' questions to give us more nuanced accounts of the triumphs and tragedies that so often go hand in hand in the mountains and in the lives of climbers." One title on the list:
Denali’s Howl by Andy Hall

Finally, you can find illumination about the drive to climb mountains and the dilemmas caused for those who must rescue them in a story much closer to home. Andy Hall’s Denali’s Howl is a page-turner with a unique perspective. It follows a 1969 expedition to North America’s highest peak: Denali to locals, Mt. McKinley to much of the country. The writer was the five-year-old son of the head of the park service charged with overseeing the climb as well as the search and rescue mission that ensued. Hall manages to give us fact and perspective without outright judgment. Still, he doesn’t shy away from entertaining questions about the responsibilities of the climbers as well as what can or should be done if they are in need of rescue.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 5, 2024

Forty-one top celebrity memoirs

The editors at Vogue shared a list of "41 celebrity memoirs that are actually worth reading," including:
One Life by Megan Rapinoe

“Olympic medalist and two-time Women's World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe shows a whole new side of herself in this memoir, in which she recounts coming out as gay in 2011—well before ‘inclusivity in sports’ was widely discussed, let alone prioritized—as well as her experience of taking a knee alongside former NFL player Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustice and police brutality. For those who prefer their celebrity memoirs with a side of romance, Rapinoe also dishes on her courtship with now-wife, WNBA champion Sue Bird.” —Emma Specter
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Ten top books for Black History Month

The Amazon Book Review editors tagged ten of their favorite books to celebrate Black History Month, including:
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

In this rousing tale of courage and pluck, a 14-year-old Nigerian girl is sold into servitude by her father when her mother—a proponent of education—passes away. You will root for Adunni as she endeavors to escape her sorry—and often harrowing—lot, and applaud the kind strangers who buoy her efforts, and her spirits.
—Erin Kodicek, Amazon Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Ten thought-provoking novels about Artificial Intelligence

Lorna Wallace has a PhD in English Literature and is a lover of all things science fiction and horror. She lives in Scotland with her rescue greyhound, Misty.

At Mental Floss Wallace tagged ten thought-provoking novels and novellas about AI, including:
I, Robot // Isaac Asimov

When it comes to fiction about artificial intelligence, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (1950) is foundational. The collection of short stories popularized the Three Laws of Robotics, a concept that Asimov first explicitly introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround” (which is featured in I, Robot). The laws are simple: an artificially intelligent robot cannot harm humans, either through action or inaction; it must obey humans (unless that conflicts with the first rule); and it cannot harm itself (unless that conflicts with the previous rules).

“I have my answer ready whenever someone asks me if I think that my Three Laws of Robotics will actually be used to govern the behavior of robots, once they become versatile and flexible enough to be able to choose among different courses of behavior,” Asimov wrote in a 1981 issue of Compute! The Journal for Progressive Computing. “My answer is, ‘Yes, the Three Laws are the only way in which rational human beings can deal with robots—or with anything else.’ —But when I say that, I always remember (sadly) that human beings are not always rational.”

Asimov’s laws are often discussed in conversations about the real-world ethics of AI. But although they’re a good starting point, the laws are far from perfect—as Asimov himself was aware: I, Robot explores just a few of the different ways in which they could fail. For instance, in “Liar!,” a robot lies to humans to avoid emotionally harming them, but it becomes trapped in a paralyzing paradox when it finds out that the lies themselves also cause pain.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I, Robot is among 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

Friday, February 2, 2024

Eleven books about seasonal & migrant farmworkers in America

Miguel M. Morales grew up in Texas working as a migrant and seasonal farmworker. Selected as a finalist for the 2023-2026 Poet Laureate of Kansas, he is a two-time Lambda Literary Fellow and an alum of VONA/Voices and of the Macondo Writers Workshops. He co-edited the anthologies Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando and Fat & Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. His work has been published in Duende Journal, Acentos Review, Green Mountains Review, Texas Poetry Review, Hawai’i Review, and World Literature Today, among other journals.

Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Putnam Books, and her fiction has appeared in Electric Literature, Kenyon Review, and Best Small Fictions, among other journals.

Morales and Everett co-edited "a portfolio of writing and art from twenty-seven contributors with roots in the farmworker community,' which was published in print and online in The Common magazine.

At Electric Lit they tagged eleven books that showcase
the richness and range of the farmworker experience. The struggle of it—the physical and mental strain, the mistreatment and low pay and food insecurity—but also the beauty of it: the pride of quick, skilled hands, the radiance of an early morning sunrise in the fields, the fierce love and resiliency of a close-knit family.
One title on the list:
Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena María Viramontes

Cornell professor Helena María Viramontes grew up in East LA, working summers in the fields of Fresno with her family—work they had done for generations. Under the Feet of Jesus centers on Estrella, a teenager who picks crops with her family. The novel beautifully evokes the physicality and sensations and settings of farmwork, but also teems with other life: Estrella falls in love with a young farmworker, and must fight back to protect him against the exploitative system they are all part of.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Top ten books about "mean girls"

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s writing takes readers behind the scenes of major moments in pop culture history and examines the lasting impact that our favorite TV shows, music, and movies have on our society and psyches. She investigates why pop culture matters deeply, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Seinfeld, to Sex and the City and Mean Girls, to Beyoncé, Taylor, and Barbie. She has written eight books, including the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia, When Women Invented Television, Sex and the City and Us, and So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (And Why We're Still So Obsessed with It).

[My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and TedThe Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and TedThe Page 99 Test: SeinfeldiaThe Page 99 Test: Sex and the City and UsThe Page 99 Test: Pop Star GoddessesThe Page 99 Test: When Women Invented TelevisionThe Page 99 Test: So Fetch]

At Lit Hub Armstrong tagged ten of "the best books about 'mean girls,' from classics to modern tales, fiction and non." One title on the list:
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

Want to go more classic to get your mean girls fix? Wharton’s 1905 novel follows Lily Bart, a beautiful socialite struggling to maintain her place in wealthy New York circles of the Gilded Age. She lives with her aunt and longs for lawyer Lawrence Selden, but feels she must pursue someone wealthier to improve her situation; she lost her parents at age twenty, and has gambling debts but no inheritance.

Things heat up when she discovers that Lawrence used to be romantically involved with mean girl Bertha Dorset, and many North Shore High-like machinations follow from there.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The House of Mirth is one of Kate Christensen's six favorite food scenes in fiction, Anna Murphy's ten "most inspiring fictional women [Lily Bart] you may never have heard of," Anna Quindlen's five best list of novels about women in search of themselves, Jay McInerney's five essential New York novels, Megan Wasson's five novels that explore the dark side in New York City, Rachel Cusk's five best books on disgrace and Kate Christensen's six books that she rereads all the time; it appears on Robert McCrum's top ten list of books for Obama officials.

Also see D.W. Buffa's Third Reading of The House of Mirth.

--Marshal Zeringue