Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Seven too-good-to-be-true tech stories

James Folta is a writer and the managing editor of Points in Case. He co-writes the weekly Newsletter of Humorous Writing.

At Lit Hub he tagged seven titles that "feature technology that’s not ready for primetime." One entry on the list:
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

One of the earliest and greatest stories about tech tinkering gone wrong, Mary Shelley’s book about a grad student who works through his grief by defying God, only to get sick and forget about the giant man that he created, is a classic of the “whoopsie, now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” genre. Although to be fair, haven’t we all forgotten about some leftovers in the fridge, only to later find a whole Whoville of mold growing in there? Maybe we should go easier on self-driving car guys who are unleashing multi-ton unmanned and under-scrutinized cars onto our roads.
Read about the other titles on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2024

The best literary novels masquerading as crime novels

Ash Clifton grew up in Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida, where his father was a deputy sheriff and, later, the Chief of Police. He graduated from U.F. with a degree in English, then got an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He lives in Gainesville with his wife and son. He writes mystery, thriller, and science fiction novels.

Clifton's new novel is Twice The Trouble.

At Shepherd he tagged five titles that feel "like a genre novel (that is, it has a great plot) but also has the depth and vividness of a literary novel." One title on the list:
Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

This is my favorite novel. I read it every year or so, and each time, I feel like it makes my own writing better.

Set in the latter years of the Vietnam War, it tells the story of two friends—Converse, a war-traumatized journalist, and Hicks, a world-weary, cynical marine—who smuggle three kilos of heroin back to Berkeley, California.

I love the realism of this book, but it might be too brutal were it not tempered by how intelligent and sympathetic the main characters are, even when doing terrible things. The book feels exactly like a crime/adventure novel, exploring the dark underbelly of the counterculture in the 1970s. It’s also an amazingly complex and philosophical novel about the balance between morality and ego.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Dog Soldiers is among T.C. Boyle's six best books that explore man's inherent violence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Ten top books about books

Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Brighton mystery series, as well as the standalone novels The Stranger Diaries, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and The Postscript Murders. She is the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

[The Page 69 Test: The Crossing PlacesMy Book, The Movie: The House at Sea’s EndThe Page 69 Test: A Room Full of BonesThe Page 69 Test: A Dying Fall]

Griffith's newest Ruth Galloway mystery is The Last Word.

At CrimeReads she tagged her ten favorite books about books, including:
Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang

This story of a writer who steals her dead friend’s unpublished manuscript was deservedly a smash hit. It is by turns hilarious and tragic and says important things about cultural appropriation and the corrosive nature of success. I used to be an editor and I defy any ex-publisher not to cringe at the editorial scenes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Yellowface is among Toby Lloyd's seven books that show storytelling has consequences, Sophie Wan's seven top titles with women behaving badly, Leah Konen's six top friends-to-frenemies thrillers, and Garnett Cohen's seven novels about characters driven by their cravings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Seven books featuring fictional tech with world-altering consequences

Joe Fassler is a writer and editor based in Denver, Colorado. He is an MFA graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in The Boston Review and Electric Literature. In 2013, Fassler started The Atlantic’s “By Heart” series, in which he interviewed authors—including Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Carmen Maria Machado, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and more—about the literature that shaped their lives and work. That led to editing Light the Dark, a book-length collection that included favorites from “By Heart” alongside new contributions. Fassler’s nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Guardian, Longreads, and The Best American Food Writing. Fassler currently teaches writing at Vermont’s Sterling College. The Sky Was Ours is his first novel.

At Electric Lit Fassler tagged seven "warped versions of reality [in which] tech is expanding the scope of what’s possible, at a cost." One title on the list:
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

In some ways, the invention at the heart of Egan’s novel isn’t so different from today’s internet: it’s a portal that lets billions of strangers connect. But our texts and posts and reels seem pretty crude compared to what’s possible with the Mandala Consciousness Cube, which lets you crawl fully inside another person’s skull. With the help of a few electrodes, people can upload their memories into a vast repository, where they can be viscerally experienced by anyone with a cube. (The device, as it works, becomes “warm as a freshly laid egg.”) It’s an unnerving portrait of the way technology hacks individual agency, coercing us into adoption no matter how much we might want to resist. And as the cube collapses distance between people, resulting in new connections that can be redemptive or uncomfortably close, Egan seems to wonder: Do we really need Silicon Valley to understand each other better? Don’t we already have fiction?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2024

Five top books about queer relationships

At the Guardian Safi Bugel tagged five "rich, nuanced LGBTQ+ tales," including:
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

While many will be familiar with the title from its 2002 BBC adaptation, the original text by Sarah Waters is even more of a treat. Set in the 1890s, the story follows Nan, a young Whitstable oyster girl, as she comes to terms with her sexuality. After becoming infatuated with a “male impersonator” (what we might now call a drag king) at a local music hall, she dumps her boyfriend and plunges into a sequence of queer affairs, with plenty of drama and racy moments along the way. It’s funny, raunchy and extremely camp, but Tipping the Velvet is also a whistle-stop tour through different corners of British lesbian history, building fiction around real-life subcultures.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Tipping the Velvet is among Lianne Dillsworth's seven titles about the theater set in Victorian LondonSam Cohen's thirteen books that explore codependent relationships, and Kate Davies's ten top books about coming out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The five best gothic novels about distressed women

Chin-Sun Lee is the author of the debut novel Upcountry (2023) and a contributor to the New York Times bestselling anthology Women in Clothes (2014).

Her work has also appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub, The Georgia Review, and Joyland, among other publications. She lives in New Orleans.

At Shepherd Lee tagged five favorite gothic novels about distressed women. One title on the list:
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

Most people are familiar with the movie, and I was, too, before I read the novel—which is shockingly good! Though published in 1967, the prose is modern and restrained.

Rosemary is betrayed by those she trusts, most heinously by her opportunistic husband, but she’s no passive victim; instead, she becomes ferocious. I give props to Levin for channeling the burgeoning feminist rage of the times, which he also did in his 1972 classic, The Stepford Wives. The dream/hallucination scene where Satan impregnates Rosemary and her confrontation with Guy the morning after is so well-written and horrific it made me want to stab him with a pitchfork.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Rosemary's Baby is among Lisa Unger's five top horror novels that explore the darkest corners of our minds, Alice Blanchard's ten chilling thrillers to get you through a winter storm, Ania Ahlborn's ten scariest books of all time, Jeff Somers's twenty-one books that will give you an idea of how the horror genre has evolved and "twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest," Christopher Shultz's top ten literary chillers, and Kat Rosenfield's top seven scary autumnal stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Six crime stories set in small towns

Samantha Jayne Allen is the author of the Annie McIntyre Mysteries. She has an MFA in fiction from Texas State University. Her writing has been published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Common, and Electric Literature. Raised in small towns in Texas and California, she now lives with her husband in Atlanta.

Allen's new novel is Next of Kin.

[Q&A with Samantha Jayne Allen]

At CrimeReads she tagged six "titles that use crime as the vehicle and small towns as the fuel, all in service of a well-told story." One entry on the list:
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller

Another brilliant series, the Bell Elkins mysteries are, like many of the genre, concerned with crime and punishment, but what sets them apart is the overarching theme of retribution in all its forms and what it really means to hold ourselves and our institutions accountable. A native of the small town of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, Bone on Bone opens with former prosecutor Bell returning home after a prison stint. She has it in mind to begin work on a long-term project holding big pharma responsible for the ravaging of her community by opioids, but soon narrows her focus, hired to look into a drug-related homicide by the thinly-stretched local law enforcement. The grip the opioid epidemic has on this town is tight, and it’s hard for anyone—the law, the family of those lost to overdoses or the addicted themselves—to imagine a way forward. Keller doesn’t pull any punches, but the book is not overly grim in its portrayal of the region; the deep, thoughtful characterizations of the community members who haven’t lost all faith—Bell, also a disabled former deputy and the new county prosecutor—show that in the pursuit of truth, in loving a place even when it’s complicated, you might work through some of your own demons and find glimmers of hope for a better future along the way.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Seven titles about unconventional situationships

Christine Ma-Kellams is a Harvard-trained cultural psychologist, Pushcart-nominated fiction writer, and first-generation American.

Her work and writing have appeared in HuffPost, Chicago Tribune, Catapult, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.

The Band is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Ma-Kellams tagged seven books that feature situationships "replete with the kind of sexual tension that makes you wonder: will they or won’t they?" One title on the list:
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel

Patel’s obsessive, thoroughly modern novel also has plenty of sex—forget “spicy”; this book will burn the roof of your mouth with the searing, unflinching way it talks about the kind of intercourse that can only be called f*cking and not “love-making.” This makes it all the more ironic—and unusual—that the central relationship of the book is not between the 31-year old narrator and her roster of both official and unofficial lovers, but rather, between her and the woman she is obsessed with, the ex-girlfriend of the man she wants to be with. It’s a situationship—or “delusionship”—unlike any other and I am here for it. By all the critical accolades it’s been getting (here’s to the Women’s Prize), I’m not the only one.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2024

Nine books to read after David Nicholls's "One Day"

British author David Nicholls is best-known for the globally bestselling love story One Day, adapted first as a feature film and more recently as a major Netflix production. It charts the lives of two people over 20 years on the same day.

People magazine called One Day an "instant classic.... One of the most ...emotionally riveting love stories you’ll ever encounter."

Nicholls's new novel is You Are Here.

At the Waterstones blog Mark Skinner tagged nine literary love stories for fans of One Day. One title on the list:
Normal People by Sally Rooney

Capturing the zeitgeist with all the skill and subtlety of her debut, Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s Normal People is both a study of how one person can irrevocably shape another, and a profound examination of love, power and influence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Normal People is among Emily Austin's top ten millennial heroines in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Five top murder mysteries set in college towns

Harry Dolan is the author of the mystery/suspense novels Bad Things Happen, Very Bad Men, The Last Dead Girl, The Man In The Crooked Hat, and The Good Killer. He graduated from Colgate University, where he majored in philosophy and studied fiction-writing with the novelist Frederick Busch. A native of Rome, New York, he now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dolan's new novel is Don't Turn Around.

At CrimeReads he tagged "five crime novels that have entertained and influenced me—all of them set in college towns." One title on the list:
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

When the body of a newborn girl is found near the campus of Ridgedale University in New Jersey, local reporter Molly Anderson is assigned to the story. Soon Molly’s efforts to understand what happened to the child result in her discovering a series of unsettling crimes that have taken place in the town over a period of two decades. Interwoven with Molly’s investigation are chapters from the perspective of three other women: Barbara, the wife of Ridgedale’s chief of police; Sandy, a teenage girl from the wrong side of the tracks; and Jenna, Sandy’s troubled mother. In the course of the narrative, we learn how these characters’ lives are interconnected, as Molly’s search for answers leads her down a tangled path through Ridgedale’s history—and ultimately to darker truths than she could have imagined.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Eight thrillers about dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships

K.T. Nguyen's features have appeared in Glamour, Shape, and Fitness. After graduating from Brown University, she spent her 20s and 30s bouncing from New York City to San Francisco, Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei, and has now settled just outside Washington, D.C. with her family. Nguyen enjoys native plant gardening, playing with her rescue terrier Alice and rooting for the Mets.

You Know What You Did is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Nguyen tagged eight thrillers that "explore the darker side of mother daughter relationships ...[and] deliver raw emotion, tension, and complexity." One title on the list:
The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

The Leftover Woman is a poignant family drama with the page-turning engine of a thriller. Jasmine Yang flees her rural village in China and travels to New York City in search of her daughter, given up at birth for adoption by her abusive husband. In debt to the snakeheads who smuggled her into the United States, Jasmine is forced to work as a waitress in a seedy strip club. Just a few miles away—but it might as well be another country—privileged publishing executive Rebecca Whitney struggles to balance a high-powered career, marriage, and caring for her adopted Chinese daughter Fifi, who Rebecca begins to worry has bonded a little too much with the new Chinese-speaking nanny. The dual storylines collide in an emotionally satisfying conclusion to Kwok’s suspenseful study of motherhood, identity, and class.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2024

Five top books to understand modern China

Amy Hawkins is the Guardian's senior China correspondent.

One of five books she tagged that "are a good place to start if you want to know more about [China] and its people:"
Leftover Women by Leta Hong Fincher

When Hong Fincher first published her landmark book about gender inequality in China in 2014, China’s birthrate was 14 per 1,000 people. By January 2024, just after the updated 10th anniversary edition of Leftover Women was published, that number had halved. Understanding why more and more women are rejecting the social and political pressure to become mothers also requires understanding why Chinese women are so disenchanted with marriage. In accessible, entertaining prose, Leftover Women guides the reader through the economic and social inequalities embedded in marriages in China that are so off-putting for increasingly educated young women.
Read about the other books on the list at the Guardian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The eleven best books about John F. Kennedy

Emily Burack is the Senior News Editor for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects.

At Town & Country she tagged eleven top books about John F. Kennedy, including:
An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963 by Robert Dallek

Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life uses new material (new as of 2003, we should clarify) to give a full portrait of JFK. As the publisher notes, "Dallek succeeds as no other biographer has done in striking a critical balance—never shying away from JFK's weaknesses, brilliantly exploring his strengths—as he offers up a vivid portrait of a bold, brave, complex, heroic, human Kennedy."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Nine novels about grand estates that are filled with secrets

Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba, Our Last Days in Barcelona, and The Cuban Heiress.

Her latest novel is The House on Biscayne Bay.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine of her "favorite novels featuring grand estates that are filled with secrets." One title on the list:
The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

When Alicia Calder inherits half of a manor house in the Scottish Highlands, she’s transported back in time to face her childhood secrets. Her father disappeared twenty-seven years ago, and alongside the half-sister who is practically a stranger to her, Alicia is forced to confront both the house’s past and her own. There’s something treacherous about the home and the surrounding grounds, and this atmospheric thriller will keep readers guessing until the end.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing Years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Eight magical libraries in literature

Douglas Westerbeke is a librarian who lives in Ohio and works at one of the largest libraries in the U.S. He has spent the last decade on the local panel of the International Dublin Literary Award, which inspired him to write his own book.

His debut novel is A Short Walk Through a Wide World.

At Electric Lit Westerbeke tagged eight books "which are only the smallest sample of the breadth and variety of ideas writers have mined from libraries." One title on the list:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Much of this tale of two dueling magicians concerns the collection and curation of books. The library Mr. Norrell keeps is full of rare magic books, containing spells and incantations, a history of magic, and other rare and forbidden knowledge. Mr. Norrell is quite stingy about whom he shares his library with, which is one of the themes of the book, the attempt by these two magicians to control the magic around them. The climatic moment, when magic finally rebels, takes place in the library and it is a stunner.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is among Trip Galey's five books with devilishly dangerous fairy deals, Gita Trelease's five best intrusive fantasy books, Emily Temple's top ten contemporary Dickensian novels, April Genevieve Tucholke's top five books with elements that echo Norse myth, and D.D. Everest's top ten secret libraries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2024

Five inspirational and instructional gardening books

At The Amazon Book Review Seira Wilson tagged five inspirational, and instructional, gardening books, including:
Bird-Friendly Gardening: Guidance and Projects for Supporting Birds in Your Landscape by Jen McGuinness

One of my favorite things about a garden is watching the birds, bees, and butterflies enjoying it too—and these invaluable critters need us more than ever. This book is so easy to understand and use, with sections for small, medium, and large spaces, and covering pretty much any conditions you might need, including condo-friendly plantings and how to create a hummingbird haven on your balcony or patio. Easy-to-use charts of plants in full color outlining what each needs to grow and thrive, along with which birds and pollinators they will attract, made me want to grab my gloves and dig in right now!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Six top campus crime novels

Ali Lowe has been a journalist for 20 years. She has written for magazines, newspapers, and websites in London and then Australia, after she moved to Sydney sixteen years ago on a trip that was meant to last a year. She was Features Editor at OK! in London, where she memorably stalked celebrities in Elton John's garden at his annual White Tie and Tiara ball.

Lowe lives on the northern beaches of Sydney with her husband and three young children.

Her newest novel is The School Run.

At CrimeReads the author tagged six of her favorite campus crime novels. One title on the list:
What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a Scandal), by Zoe Heller

Barbara Covett is a lonely and introverted school teacher who attaches herself to the new art teacher at St George’s School in north London, the whimsical and childlike Sheba Hart. When Sheba begins an illicit affair with a fifteen-year-old male pupil, Barbara uses the situation to her own advantage, claiming a sort of ‘ownership’ over Sheba. The crime in this story (nominated for the 2003 Man Booker Prize and later made in to a film starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench) is obviously Sheba’s sexual relationship with a minor, which makes for uncomfortable reading. But so does Barbara. A gritty psychological thriller that touches on obsession, victimhood and regret.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Notes on a Scandal is among Elizabeth Brooks's ten top novels with unreliable narrators and Charlotte Northedge's top ten novels about toxic friendships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2024

Five top books about siblings

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Six top bad-neighbor thrillers

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

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

[ Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass]

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Seven top titles about total solar eclipses

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Seven novels set in refugee camps

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

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

Benedict's new novel is The Good Deed.

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2024

Six mysteries about translators

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

At CrimeReads Odintz tagged "six recent stories in which translators and interpreters play a pivotal part," including:
Harriet Crawley, The Translator

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ten novels with rotating perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Eight novels sparked by the authors' work life

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Bones to Ashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2024

Five top psychological thrillers by women

Nadia Khomami is arts and culture correspondent at the Guardian.

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Ten top marriage-gone-bad thrillers

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Nine top nonfiction baseball books

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

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

[The Page 99 Test: Outside Shot]

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Seven novels inspired by the Bible

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue