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

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Six top psychological thrillers set in Washington D.C.

Aggie Blum Thompson worked as a newspaper reporter, covering cops, courts, and trials, with a healthy dose of the mundane mixed in. Her writing has appeared in newspapers such as The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. A native New Yorker, she now lives just over the Washington D.C. line in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband, two children, cat, and dog.

Thompson's new novel is Such a Lovely Family.

At CrimeReads she tagged six top non-political thrillers set in the nation’s capital, including:
The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine may sound like the title of a political thriller, but this psychological suspense explores a rocky second marriage, rife with gaslighting and suspicion. After the tragic deaths of their respective spouses two years earlier, Sloane Chase and Senator Whit Montgomery marry in the hopes of moving on with their lives. Felled by illness in her beautiful Georgetown home, Sloane struggles with who she can trust as she fights to uncover what happened to her first husband.

What to visit: Georgetown, where you can dine at Café Milano, which makes an appearance in the book and has been dubbed by The New York Times as “Where the world’s most powerful people go.” If the prices there are a little steep, there are plenty of other eateries and cafes nearby. Take your coffee down to the waterfront, and if you’re up for it, walk the mile along the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Eight titles about characters with psychic abilities

Katya Apekina is a novelist, screenwriter and translator. Her novel, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, was named a Best Book of 2018 by Kirkus, Buzzfeed, LitHub and others, was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, and has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, French, German, and Italian. She has published stories in various literary magazines and translated poetry and prose for Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky (2008), short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award. She co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film New Orleans, Mon Amour, which premiered at SXSW in 2008. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George grant, an Olin Fellowship, the Alena Wilson prize, and a 3rd Year Fiction Fellowship from Washington University in St. Louis, where she did her MFA. She has done residencies at VCCA, Playa, Ucross, Art Omi: Writing, and Fondation Jan Michalski in Switzerland. Born in Moscow, she grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter and dog.

Apekina's new novel is Mother Doll.

At Electric Lit the author tagged eight "stories about characters who can predict the future and connect to the other side," including:
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Larissa Volokhonsky

This book is in my canon, the reason I became a writer. It wasn’t published until after Bulgakov’s death, because its biting social satire couldn’t get past the Soviet censors. The writer in the book is channeling the story of Pontius Pilate, which is confirmed by Satan and his entourage when they descend on Moscow and wreak havoc, trolling the literary elite. Satan, In the opening scene, psychically predicts the death of the man in charge of Massolit, saying mysteriously that “Annushka has already spilled the sunflower oil.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Master and Margarita is among Jeff Somers's twenty-five best cats in sci-fi & fantasy, Gabriel Weston's five best books by doctors, Joel Cunningham's nine favorite talking animals in fiction, Josh Ritter's six favorite books that invoke the supernatural, Cornelius Medvei's's top ten talking animals in literature, Joseph Fiennes' six best books, and Daniel Johnson's five best books about Cold War culture. It's also a book that English actor and writer Stephen Fry tries to read as often as he can.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Seven top vacation and road trip rom-coms

New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch's novels include Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing, In Twenty Years, and Time of My Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and their two rescue dogs, Hugo and Mr. Peanut.

Her new novel, Take Two, Birdie Maxwell -- think Notting Hill meets The Proposal -- is new in bookstores.

At LitHub Scotch tagged seven favorite great vacation and road trip rom-coms, including:
Sarah Adler, Mrs. Nash’s Ashes

Okay, you need to pick this one up for the premise alone: our heroine, Millicent, promises her elderly best friend that she will carry her ashes from Washington D.C. to Florida to reunite her remains with the woman she believed was her one true love. (Seriously, this is the best idea—I read this wishing I had come up with it!) When flights get cancelled, Millicent is forced to drive, along with an acquaintance who may or may not be a smoke-show, and who, of course, is as cynical about love as Millicent is optimistic.

I loved this book for its swoony vibe, its exploration of many facets of love, and of course, the crackling leads.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2024

Seven modern gothic novels featuring a feminist perspective

Paulette Kennedy is the bestselling author of The Witch of Tin Mountain and Parting the Veil, which received the prestigious HNS Review Editor’s Choice Award. She has had a lifelong obsession with the gothic. As a young girl, she spent her summers among the gravestones in her neighborhood cemetery, imagining all sorts of romantic stories for the people buried there. After her mother introduced her to the Brontës as a teenager, her affinity for fog-covered landscapes and haunted heroines only grew, inspiring her to become a writer. Originally from the Missouri Ozarks, she now lives with her family and a menagerie of rescue pets in sunny Southern California, where sometimes, on the very best days, the mountains are wreathed in fog.

Kennedy's new novel is The Devil and Mrs. Davenport.

At CrimeReads the author tagged seven books that "serve to illustrate the dangers of misogyny while centering the power and resilience of all women." One title on the list:
A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland

When village midwife Jean discovers a laboring mother outside her cabin one dark and stormy night, she falls into a web of dark secrets centering on her neighbor and his mysterious new wife in this sapphic retelling of The Selkie Wife folktale. While charming Muirin claims to be happy with her husband, Jean can’t overlook the fear in her new friend’s eyes. Her growing concern—and growing feelings—for Muirin means she can’t set her worries aside. But when the answers she’s seeking are more harrowing than she ever could have imagined, Jean finds herself in peril as she strives to save the woman she loves.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Ten books to read on St. Patrick’s Day

At The Zoomer Book Club Athena McKenzie tagged ten "notable books illuminate the history, culture and food of the Emerald Isle," including:

The judges for the An Post Irish Book Awards described Fintan O’Toole’s chronicle of his country as “a book that will remain important for a very long time – a reflection of who we are and where we came from. Truly, this is a book for the ages.” The 64-year-old journalist and author uses his own life and experiences as a guide to chart the course of Ireland’s tumultuous social, cultural, and economic change.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Eight titles from across the world about isolation

Scott Alexander Howard lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, where his work focused on the relationship between memory, emotion, and literature.

The Other Valley is his first novel.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight novels from across the world about isolation, including:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is about memory, lies, and hope. Another theme, emblazoned in its title, is loneliness. Kathy is an itinerant “carer” whose adult life is a slow blur of passing fields, motorway pit stops, and hospital visits. As her own ominous transition into a hospital grows near, she reflects on her childhood at a secluded school called Hailsham, before her friends were distributed around England for a purpose long kept secret from them. Ishiguro’s novel is a tender look at the transience of human connection. It’s also a masterpiece of worldbuilding-by-elision that blends golden nostalgia with growing horror.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Kat Sarfas's list of thirteen top dark academia titles, Raul Palma's list of seven stories about falling into debt, Akemi C. Brodsky's list of five academic novels that won’t make you want to return to school, Claire Fuller's list of seven top dystopian mysteries, Elizabeth Brooks's list of ten great novels with unreliable narrators, Lincoln Michel's top ten list of strange sci-fi dystopias, Amelia Morris's lits of ten of the most captivating fictional frenemies, Edward Ashton's eight titles about what it means to be human, Bethany Ball's list of the seven weirdest high schools in literature, Zak Salih's eight books about childhood pals—and the adults they become, Rachel Donohue's list of seven coming-of-age novels with elements of mystery or the supernatural, Chris Mooney's list of six top intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, James Scudamore's top ten list of books about boarding school, Caroline Zancan's list of eight novels about students and teachers behaving badly, LitHub's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Meg Wolitzer's ten favorite books list, Jeff Somers's lists of nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare and "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other" and eight tales of technology run amok and top seven speculative works for those who think they hate speculative fiction, a list of five books that shaped Jason Gurley's Eleanor, Anne Charnock's list of five favorite books with fictitious works of art, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, Sabrina Rojas Weiss's list of ten favorite boarding school novels, Allegra Frazier's top four list of great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, James Browning's top ten list of boarding school books, Jason Allen Ashlock and Mink Choi's top ten list of tragic love stories, Allegra Frazier's list of seven characters whose jobs are worse than yours, Shani Boianjiu's list of five top novels about coming of age, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2024

Five top books about democracy in crisis

Rafael Behr is a Guardian columnist and leader writer. He was formerly a correspondent in the Baltic region and Russia. He is the author of Politics: A Survivor's Guide.

At the Guardian he writes about
the permacrisis – a state of perpetual turbulence that folds geopolitical tension into cultural polarisation and spins it all around in a furious vortex. It can feel like being knocked over in the sea, unsure which way is up, afraid that another wave will strike the moment you breach the surface.
Behr says the "usual political narratives aren’t adequate to explain what is happening." He recommends five books that "go deeper," including:
Why Politics Fails by Ben Ansell

Ansell is professor of comparative democracy with a ferociously sharp mind and a genial turn of phrase. He has organised pretty much the whole of political practice and theory into five paradoxes (traps, he calls them) from which policymakers and voters around the world struggle to break free. This book is clinical, an MRI scan of the democratic soul in torment.
Read about the other entries at the Guardian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Seven top books with women behaving badly

Sophie Wan is a graduate of UC Berkeley and spent too long writing emails before she picked up writing fiction.

As a Bay Area native, she has no choice but to enjoy outdoor activities, but prefers those where her feet remain firmly on the ground. She’s currently shivering her way through grad school in Philadelphia.

Wan's debut novel is Women of Good Fortune.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven of her "favorite books with women behaving badly." One title on the list:
The Housekeepers by Alex Hay

London, 1905. Mrs. King gets unceremoniously let go from her position as housekeeper of one of the grandest homes in Mayfair. After the wrongs that have been committed towards her, she pulls together a crew of skilled women to ransack her former place of employment during a grand costume ball. It’s always refreshing to watch the wronged take back power for themselves, especially during a period when social hierarchy was defined so rigidly. I can never resist a good heist, and this one was no exception.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Eight books about young women searching for identity & purpose through work

Vanessa Lawrence is a writer, editor and native New Yorker. For almost two decades, she covered fashion, society, culture, design, art, and beauty on staff at publications including WWD and W Magazine. She has interviewed a wide range of creative personalities, such as Anna Sui, Kristen Stewart, Norma Kamali, Janelle Monae, Sandra Oh, Emma Watson, Kyle Abraham, Laura Kim, Judith Light, Sarah Sze, Timothée Chalamet, Jennifer Hudson, and Riley Keough, among many others. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in history and she has an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

Lawrence debut novel is Ellipses.

At Electric Lit she tagged "eight books ... featur[ing] women protagonists coming-of-age through and against the backdrop of their work." One title on the list:
All this Could be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews

Sneha, the protagonist of Mathews’s novel, moves to Milwaukee for a corporate consulting job. She is fresh out of college. America is enveloped in a recession. Her parents have returned to India. Sneha is exploring her queer identity for the first time in the local dating pool. At first her traditional gig seems to provide her with the kind of cushy stability of which many a recent graduate might dream. That security proves a mirage as a mix of work troubles, housing insecurity, romantic turmoil, and family secrets threaten Sneha’s burgeoning adulthood. Interrogating the promise of a capitalist American Dream, this novel explores the role of community and human connection vs. individualistic success in personal happiness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Five top thrillers featuring amnesiacs

Amy Tintera started writing novels as a kid during her middle school science classes, which probably explains why she has always been very bad at science. She is now the New York Times bestselling author of several novels for young adults, including Reboot, a Kids Indie Next pick and YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, the Ruined series, The Q, and All These Monsters, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection. Her novels have been translated into 16 languages and sold into more than 20 territories.

Tintera has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M and a master’s degree in media arts/screenwriting from Emerson College. She worked as a talent agency assistant in Hollywood before becoming an author. Raised in Austin, Texas, she frequently sets her novels in the Lone Star state, but she now lives in Los Angeles, where there's far less humidity, but not nearly enough Tex-Mex.

Her new novel, Listen for the Lie, is her first novel for adults.

At CrimeReads Tintera tagged five of her favorite "lost memory books," including:
In The Woods by Tana French

Three kids go into the woods, two never come back. This book is about Rob, the third child, who is found with blood-soaked shoes and no memory of what happened to his friends. Twenty years later, he’s a detective investigating a child’s murder in those same woods. This book employs another popular amnesia trope – the trauma-suppressed memory. This is the most devastating way to use the trope, in my opinion, because it causes a sense of dread through the whole book. We want the character to remember, but we also worry that he’ll be traumatized forever if he does. The ending of this one can provoke strong opinions, and one thing is for sure – you won’t forget it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

In the Woods is among Emily Schultz's eight top novels about memory loss, Gabino Iglesias's fifty best mysteries of all time, Kate Robards's five thrillers unfolding in wooded seclusion, Paula Hawkins's five novels with criminal acts at their heart, Alafair Burke's top ten books about amnesia, Caz Frear's five top open-ended novels, Gabriel Bergmoser's top ten horror novels, Kate White's favorite thrillers with a main character who can’t remember what matters most, Kathleen Donohoe's ten top titles about missing persons, Jessica Knoll's ten top thrillers, Tara Sonin's twenty-five unhappy books for Valentine’s Day, Krysten Ritter's six favorite mysteries, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Emma Straub's ten top books that mimic the feeling of a summer vacation, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books from Ireland's newer voices, and Judy Berman's ten fantastic novels with disappointing endings.

The Page 69 Test: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2024

Twenty autobiographies that inspired influential women to dream big

Glamour "reached out to 20 women who inspire us—CEOs, authors, journalists, founders, influencers, and more—to ask them which women’s autobiographies have challenged them, made them dream bigger, or helped them feel more confident to carve their own paths."

Diana Fersko's pick:
Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, by Rebecca Walker

As a teen I read a lot of feminist books. One that stuck with me was Rebecca Walker’s Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. I was always interested in reading about the particular experiences of women, especially women who didn’t fit into the narrow confines of society in one way or another. Walker’s book was about exactly that. She couldn’t fully be herself in most situations; there was always a part left out.

As a Jewish girl in a predominantly Christian culture, I could relate to her experience in my own way. I was always shifting my identity, downplaying and even hiding my Jewishness…. I remember, she didn’t wrap it all up in a neat bow at the end. She acknowledged that she was still evolving, still becoming who she was meant to be. I found that inspirational.
--Rabbi Diana Fersko, senior rabbi of the Village Temple in Manhattan and author of We Need to Talk About Antisemitism
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Seven books about women over 60 who defy societal expectations

Andrea Carlisle is the author of a recently released collection of essays on aging, There Was an Old Woman: Reflections on the Second Coming of Age. She taught fiction and nonfiction for the Oregon Writers’ Workshop and other writing organizations in Oregon and Washington. Her work has been published in literary journals, newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and by independent presses. Her popular blog, Go Ask Alice ... When She’s 94, focused on her mother's aging, on the deep and often funny intergenerational exchanges between mother and daughter, and on caregiving.

At Electric Lit Carlisle tagged seven books "from around the world that take older women seriously," including:
Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

A literary mystery set in wintry Poland among a group of mostly deserted houses, this novel touches on not only crime, alarm, and bizarre events but slowly reveals a deeper mystery: what lives in the heart of a singular old woman. Janina is our guide through the strange happenings that unfold. Witty, quietly charming in her way, and darkly smart, she is an astrologer, an observer, an animal lover and caretaker of the houses abandoned for the season by wealthier neighbors. Her telling of what happens in this remote area is reminiscent more of a fairy tale than a mystery, the sort where children are lost in a forest and stalked by something coldly threatening.

The original mystery may not turn out to be the reader’s ultimate reason for wandering deeper and deeper into the marrow of this novel, but it’s a hard book to describe without ruining that element of it. Like Um Qasem, Janina sees that the world we naively sum up and set apart as “nature” entwines with out of control human desires and ambitions. She must confront the perceived imbalances that threaten what she cares about. Her telling of shadowy events may be riveting, but not as riveting as she is.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is among Francesca McDonnell Capossela's seven titles about women committing acts of violence.

--Marshal Zeringue