Friday, October 31, 2008

Colin Cotterill's "Curse of the Pogo Stick," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Colin Cotterill's Curse of the Pogo Stick.

Cotterill's entry begins:
It’s my own silly fault. I know that now. How am I ever going to break into Hollywood without a western protagonist? My sin, you see, is that all my characters are Lao. There have been, so far in the series, only one direct and one peripheral role for honkies and one of those was a Soviet circus performer. How can I get my movie made without any A-list actors queued up to play the main role of Dr. Siri Paiboun?

We could use makeup I suppose. In fifteen movies, Charlie Chan was played by a Swede, Warner Oland, and nobody noticed he was a Norseman. (I hesitate to suggest there was any racism involved in the fact that audiences could so happily accept him as an émigré from mainland China.) When poor old Warner passed away, who took over the mantle of the most famous Chinese in the west? Sidney Toler, a Scot. When they were looking for an actor to play Kentaro Moto, in a popular series about a Japanese secret agent they needed to look no further than Peter Lorre, the world’s most famous Hungarian. And after Lorre had made a Japanese name for himself in eight feature films, when it came to a remake, The Return of Mr. Moto, even as late as 1965, who did they call? (Sidney Toler was busy), good old Henry Silva, a New York Sicilian. It looks like there just weren’t any real Asians around in them days.

So, assuming we go with the clothes pegs behind the ears method, who should I ring in?...[read on]
Visit Colin Cotterill's website and his Crimespace page, and learn more about Curse of the Pogo Stick at the publisher's website.

Colin Cotterill is the author of The Coroner’s Lunch, Thirty-Three Teeth, Disco for the Departed, and Anarchy and Old Dogs, featuring seventy-three year old Dr. Siri Paiboun, national coroner of Laos. He and his wife live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he teaches at the university.

The Page 69 Test: Anarchy and Old Dogs.

My Book, The Movie: Curse of the Pogo Stick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10: books with secret signs

Justin Scroggie is the author of Tic-tac Teddy Bears and Teardrop Tattoos. For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of books with secret signs.

His introduction and one title from his list:
I'm an author (and television producer) with a passion for secret signs – all the ways that people in the know privately communicate with each other. I love books where something hinges on a sign or a symbol that the protagonist has to decipher. Authors are playful people, too, so I'm always on the lookout for any hidden messages they might have included, in a character's name, for example, or even on the cover.

* * *

The Name of the Rose

William of Baskerville arrives at a Benedictine abbey in medieval Italy to lay the groundwork for a theological meeting. Instead, there is a gruesome murder, and Baskerville (a pun on Sherlock Holmes), investigates. The plot revolves (and revolves!) around a secret book by Aristotle, hidden in a labyrinthine library. To penetrate the library and its secrets, Baskerville must decode manuscripts, solve riddles and much much more. Umberto Eco's 1980 classic is full of secret signs, from the abbey door to the abbot's ring – not surprising as Eco is a professor of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols as a form of language.
Read more about Scroggie's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mike Walsh's "Bowling Across America"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Bowling Across America: 50 States in Rented Shoes by Mike Walsh.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by his father’s unexpected passing, Mike Walsh, a 27 year-old Chicago advertising executive, quits his job to embark on a one-of-a-kind quest. The destination: bowling alleys in each of the 50 states. Though dubbed "career suicide" by colleagues, the endeavor soon touches a nerve among many people­—­from frustrated middle managers to radio talk show hosts to a woman who merely identifies herself as "Bowling Spice" in an innuendo-laden email.

Conversations and adventures with the people he finds in bowling alleys at all hours of the day and night—retired Maine lobstermen, saucy European nannies, recovering addicts, former bowling champions, college students, World War II vets and lingerie saleswomen, to name a few—combine to form a picture of what America looks like while standing in a pair of rented shoes.

Hilarious, insightful and at times moving, BOWLING ACROSS AMERICA is an epic journey that will enthrall readers everywhere.
Learn more about the book and author at the Bowling Across America website and blog.

Mike Walsh is one of the world’s leading authorities on the geographic nuances of rented footwear. A graduate of Miami University, he grew up in a family of six children in Upper Arlington, Ohio. He lives in Chicago within walking distance of four bowling alleys.

The Page 69 Test: Bowling Across America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What is Ann Littlewood reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Ann Littlewood, author of the new zoo mystery, Night Kill.

From her Writers Read entry:
I try to balance my reading thus: two mysteries, one non-fiction, one literary fiction. This plan was meant to nourish the zoo mystery series I write, my long-standing fascination with environmentalism, botany and zoology, and a large, erratic list of occasional interests. Well, it was a good idea. My actual current reading includes ... Darkness & Light by John Harvey and Hannah's Dream by Diane Hammond. [read on]
Ann Littlewood was a zoo keeper in Portland, Oregon for twelve years. She raised lions and cougars, an orangutan; and native mammals, as well as parrots, penguins, and a multitude of owls. The financial realities of raising primates (two boys of her own) led Ann to exchange a hose and rubber boots for a briefcase and pantsuit in the healthcare industry. Ann has maintained her membership in the American Association of Zookeepers and has kept in touch with the zoo world by visiting zoos and through friendships with zoo staffers.

Visit Ann Littlewood's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ann Littlewood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Archer's "The Long Thaw"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: David Archer's The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate.

About the book, from the publisher:
If you think that global warming means slightly hotter weather and a modest rise in sea levels that will persist only so long as fossil fuels hold out (or until we decide to stop burning them), think again. In The Long Thaw, David Archer, one of the world's leading climatologists, predicts that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide we may eventually cancel the next ice age and raise the oceans by 50 meters. By comparing the global warming projection for the next century to natural climate changes of the distant past, and then looking into the future far beyond the usual scientific and political horizon of the year 2100, Archer reveals the hard truths of the long-term climate forecast.

Archer shows how just a few centuries of fossil-fuel use will cause not only a climate storm that will last a few hundred years, but dramatic climate changes that will last thousands. Carbon dioxide emitted today will be a problem for millennia. For the first time, humans have become major players in shaping the long-term climate. In fact, a planetwide thaw driven by humans has already begun. But despite the seriousness of the situation, Archer argues that it is still not too late to avert dangerous climate change--if humans can find a way to cooperate as never before.

Revealing why carbon dioxide may be an even worse gamble in the long run than in the short, this compelling and critically important book brings the best long-term climate science to a general audience for the first time.
Read an excerpt from The Long Thaw, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

David Archer is professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, the author of Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast, and a frequent contributor to the weblog RealClimate.

Visit David Archer's webpage and read his blog posts at RealClimate.

The Page 99 Test: The Long Thaw.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pg. 69: Jeri Westerson's "Veil of Lies"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jeri Westerson's Veil of Lies.

About the book, from the publisher:
Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight, stripped of his rank and his honor - but left with his life - for plotting against Richard II. Having lost his bethrothed, his friends, his patrons and his position in society. With no trade to support him and no family willing to acknowledge him, Crispin has turned to the one thing he still has - his wits - to scrape a living together on the mean streets of London. In 1383, Guest is called to the compound of a merchant - a reclusive mercer who suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and wants Guest to look into the matter. Not wishing to sully himself in such disgraceful, dishonorable business but in dire need of money, Guest agrees and discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, presumably nothing good. But when he comes to inform his client, he is found dead - murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside. Now Guest has come to the unwanted attention of the Lord Sheriff of London and most recent client was murdered while he was working for him. And everything seems to turn on a religious relic - a veil reported to have wiped the brow of Christ - that is now missing.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Cornel West's most important books

Princeton professor Cornel West's latest book is Hope on a Tightrope.

For Newsweek, he named his five most important books.

And addressed a couple of related issues:
A classic that, upon revisiting, disappointed:

The poems of Philip Larkin. He's renowned for his comic sensibility, but I found mere wit and iciness.

A book you hope parents read to their children:

"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin. His letter to his nephew is wise advice to love and serve.
Read more about West's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pg. 99: Stephen Gundle's "Glamour: A History"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Stephen Gundle's Glamour: A History.

About the book, from the publisher:
Glamor is one of the most tantalizing and bewitching aspects of contemporary culture--but also one of the most elusive. The aura of celebrity, the style of the fashion world, the vanity of the rich and beautiful, and the publicity-driven rites of café society are all imbued with irresistible magnetism. But what exactly is glamor? Where does it come from? How old is it? And can anyone quite capture its magic?

Stephen Gundle answers all these questions and more in this first ever history of glamor. From Paris in the tumultuous final decades of the eighteenth century through to Hollywood, New York, and Monte Carlo in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from the glamorous fictional characters of Walter Scott to iconic figures such as Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe to modern idols such as Paris Hilton, this marvelous book maps the origins of glamor and investigates the forms that it takes in modern times. Gundle entertainingly discusses the role of writers, journalists, artists, photographers, film-makers and fashion designers, occupations like the model and the air stewardess, cities and resorts such as Paris, New York and Monte Carlo, and products including luxury cars and jets--all of which have been associated in the public mind with the magical aura of glamor. And he shows how glamor feeds on the middle class yearning for a thrilling and colorful life, a yearning reinforced by the cinema and the press, which serve as a stage for acting out scenes of a desirable life, while also creating trends, promoting fashions, and furnishing celebrities.

Here then is all the excitement and sex appeal of glamor, a fabulous tour of the beautiful, the rich, the sleazy, the false, and the tragic.
Learn more about Glamour: A History at the Oxford University Press website.

Stephen Gundle is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick. His books include Between Hollywood and Moscow: The Italian Communists and the Challenge of Mass Culture, 1943-91 and Bellissima: Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy.

The Page 99 Test: Glamour: A History.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Claire Berlinski reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Claire Berlinski, author of a new book, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, just out from Basic Books.

She has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Sun, the Oxford International Review, Asia Times, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, Policy Review, Azure, Traveler's Tales, and numerous anthologies.

Lion Eyes, the sequel to her novel Loose Lips, was published in Spring 2007. Her first non-fiction book, Menace in Europe, was published in February, 2006.

Part of her entry:
I read Bernard Henri-Levy's new book Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, because I was asked to review it. I don't know if I would have read it otherwise, but I'm very glad I did. I thought it was very effective. The second half of the book, in particular, is outstanding. Then I was thinking about Margaret Thatcher's speech at Bruges (this is the 20-year anniversary of that speech), so I went back to my shelf and had a look at the first and second volumes of her autobiography, as well as her book Statecraft (which I recommend enthusiastically to anyone looking for an introduction to her thoughts about foreign policy). I also re-read parts of John Campbell's gold-standard biography of Thatcher (the second volume), as well as an excellent book, which very few people know about, called The Future of Europe, by the economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi. They make a very compelling argument that Europe is on a state-subsidized train to economic and political irrelevance.[read on]
Visit Claire Berlinski's website.

Writers Read: Claire Berlinski.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pg. 69: Joe Barone's "The Body in the Record Room"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Joe Barone's The Body in the Record Room.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s 1954. When a mental patient who calls himself Roy Rogers finds a body in the hospital record room, his investigation leads him to the murder of Marcia Weinhart. Twenty years earlier, authorities found her mutilated corpse lying on the altar of St. Adrian's Catholic Church in Sunrise, Missouri.

Roy, his friend Harry, and Harry’s beloved dog, Bullet, move through the buildings and grounds of the Sunrise Mental Hospital, a thousand-acre facility with more than two thousand patients and eight hundred employees. They go from the record room to the hospital’s Catholic chapel, from the blacksmith shop to the hospital cemetery, looking for victims of the terrible abuse behind the Weinhart murder.

In the process, Roy comes to better understand the strength and moral stature of his hero, the real Roy Rogers. He is able to overcome the terror of his past, choosing to forgo violence and work within the law.

Joe Barone’s debut makes for an intriguing mystery while also elevating old-time heroes and their values.
Learn more about the book and author at Joe Barone's website and blog.

Joe Barone was raised on the grounds of a state mental hospital in the 1950's. He is a retired ordained minister who lives in Missouri.

The Page 69 Test: The Body in the Record Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

James Hynes: 10 Halloween stories

The writer James Hynes posted his 2008 list of Halloween stories on his website.

One item on his list:
"The July Ghost," by A. S. Byatt. This is the newest story in this list—it was published in 1987—and the only one not to come from one of the ancient anthologies of my youth. But it's also one of the best ghost stories I've ever read, and widely anthologized; I have it in several different volumes, including the Leithauser anthology [The Norton Book of Ghost Stories]. It's also, if you know anything about A. S. Byatt's personal history, almost unbearably poignant.
Read about another item on Hynes' list.

Related: Brad Leithauser's five best ghost tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Steve Brewer's "Lonely Street," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Steve Brewer's Lonely Street.

The entry begins:
An author may have a movie star in mind when he's writing his book, but it's practically guaranteed that Hollywood will choose someone else.

The director and producers have their own favorite stars. There are myriad business reasons that actors get picked for roles and those reasons may have no relation to how well-suited they are. Even if the author gets a chance to speak up (which is rare) and if someone is listening (even rarer), actors often are unavailable or too expensive or not interested.

Those are facts of life in Hollywood, but many of us still picture particular movie idols when "casting" our stories. It's a nice shortcut in thinking about characters.

My first novel, Lonely Street, was recently made into an independent movie, and virtually none of the actors resemble the people I pictured when writing the book more than 15 years ago.

Lonely Street features Bubba Mabry, a low-rent private eye in Albuquerque, NM. I've written eight different comic mysteries about Bubba, and have a very solid picture of him in my mind. The actor who would most closely resemble my balding, hangdog detective would be Nicolas Cage. So naturally, Bubba is played in the movie by...[read on]
Learn more about Steve Brewer at his website and his blog.

My Book, The Movie: Lonely Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Alan Jacobs reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of several books including The Narnian, a biography of C. S. Lewis, and Original Sin: A Cultural History.

His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in a wide range of periodicals, including the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, First Things, Books & Culture, and The Oxford American.

His entry opens:
Right now I'm in the middle of Nicholson Baker's witty and curious Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. Baker always writes beautifully, but he's also a man of enthusiasms and frustrations, which is not always good. This is for work, sort of, because I'm in the early stages of writing a book about reading, but I'm also making time to read things just for fun. That was the spirit in which I picked up David Liss's A Conspiracy of Paper: a book about a retired-pugilist-turned-private-investigator in 1719 London had to be quite distant from any contemporary concerns, right? — except that it's also about the early stock market, prone to bubbles of excitement and, and when confidence fails, sudden and dramatic crashes. As I say: quite distant from any contemporary concerns.[read on]
Alan Jacobs blogs at The American Scene.

Writers Read: Alan Jacobs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: J. Howard's "Concentration Camps on the Home Front"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: John Howard's Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow.

About the book, from the publisher:
Without trial and without due process, the United States government locked up nearly all of those citizens and longtime residents who were of Japanese descent during World War II. Ten concentration camps were set up across the country to confine over 120,000 inmates. Almost 20,000 of them were shipped to the only two camps in the segregated South—Jerome and Rohwer in Arkansas—locations that put them right in the heart of a much older, long-festering system of racist oppression. The first history of these Arkansas camps, Concentration Camps on the Home Front is an eye-opening account of the inmates’ experiences and a searing examination of American imperialism and racist hysteria.

While the basic facts of Japanese-American incarceration are well known, John Howard’s extensive research gives voice to those whose stories have been forgotten or ignored. He highlights the roles of women, first-generation immigrants, and those who forcefully resisted their incarceration by speaking out against dangerous working conditions and white racism. In addition to this overlooked history of dissent, Howard also exposes the government’s aggressive campaign to Americanize the inmates and even convert them to Christianity. After the war ended, this movement culminated in the dispersal of the prisoners across the nation in a calculated effort to break up ethnic enclaves.

Howard’s re-creation of life in the camps is powerful, provocative, and disturbing. Concentration Camps on the Home Front rewrites a notorious chapter in American history—a shameful story that nonetheless speaks to the strength of human resilience in the face of even the most grievous injustices.
Read one except from Concentration Camps on the Home Front at Southern Spaces, and another excerpt at the University of Chicago Press website.

Learn more about Concentration Camps on the Home Front at the publisher's website, and visit John Howard's faculty webpage.

John Howard is professor in and head of the Department of American Studies at King’s College London and the author of Men Like That: A Southern Queer History.

The Page 99 Test: Concentration Camps on the Home Front.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pg. 69: Elizabeth Bear's "All the Windwracked Stars"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Elizabeth Bear's All the Windwracked Stars.

About the book, from the publisher:
It all began with Ragnarok, with the Children of the Light and the Tarnished ones battling to the death in the ice and the dark. At the end of the long battle, one Valkyrie survived, wounded, and one valraven – the steeds of the valkyrie.

Because they lived, Valdyrgard was not wholly destroyed. Because the valraven was transformed in the last miracle offered to a Child of the Light, Valdyrgard was changed to a world where magic and technology worked hand in hand.

2500 years later, Muire is in the last city on the dying planet, where the Technomancer rules what’s left of humanity. She's caught sight of someone she has not seen since the Last Battle: Mingan the Wolf is hunting in her city.
Read excerpts from All the Windwracked Stars, and learn more about the author and her work at Elizabeth Bear's website and blog.

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. She is the author of eight sf/f novels, including A Companion to Wolves with Sarah Monette.

The Page 69 Test: All the Windwracked Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: ghost tales

Brad Leithauser, editor of The Norton Book of Ghost Stories, named a five best list of ghost tales for the Wall Street Journal.

One title from his list:
The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
Viking, 1959

For reasons perhaps only the dead could explain, the sophisticated ghost story reached its zenith in the Victorian era. Later supernatural fiction tended to be both grislier and less frightening. So there was a special pleasure, for fans of the old-fashioned tale, when Shirley Jackson resurrected the form in 1959 with "The Haunting of Hill House." Her haunted house is an all but living thing, intent on confounding the scientific investigators who come to probe it. Ghost stories often convey a feeling of eerie diminishment, in which the characters grow smaller and smaller as something large and inexplicable and implacable discloses itself. This is wonderfully the case in "The Haunting of Hill House," where the human interlopers dwindle as the "empty" house expands.
Read more about Leithauser's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pg. 99: Alexander Rose's "American Rifle"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Alexander Rose's American Rifle: A Biography.

About the book, from the publisher:
George Washington insisted that his portrait be painted with one. Daniel Boone created a legend with one. Abraham Lincoln shot them on the White House lawn. And Teddy Roosevelt had his specially customized.

Now, in this first-of-its-kind book, historian Alexander Rose delivers a colorful, engrossing biography of an American icon: the rifle. Drawing on the words of soldiers, inventors, and presidents, based on extensive new research, and encompassing the Revolution to the present day, American Rifle is a balanced, wonderfully entertaining history of this most essential firearm and its place in American culture.

In the eighteenth century American soldiers discovered that they no longer had to fight in Europe’s time-honored way. With the evolution of the famed “Kentucky” Rifle—a weapon slow to load but devastatingly accurate in the hands of a master—a new era of warfare dawned, heralding the birth of the American individualist in battle.

In this spirited narrative, Alexander Rose reveals the hidden connections between the rifle’s development and our nation’s history. We witness the high-stakes international competition to produce the most potent gunpowder . . . how the mysterious arts of metallurgy, gunsmithing, and mass production played vital roles in the creation of American economic supremacy . . . and the ways in which bitter infighting between rival arms makers shaped diplomacy and influenced the most momentous decisions in American history. And we learn why advances in rifle technology and ammunition triggered revolutions in military tactics, how ballistics tests—frequently bizarre—were secretly conducted, and which firearms determined the course of entire wars.

From physics to geopolitics, from frontiersmen to the birth of the National Rifle Association, from the battles of the Revolution to the war in Iraq, American Rifle is a must read for history buffs, gun collectors, soldiers—and anyone who seeks to understand the dynamic relationship between the rifle and this nation’s history.
Read an excerpt from American Rifle, and learn more about the author and his work at Alexander Rose's website and blog.

Born in the United States, Alexander Rose was raised in Australia and Britain. A military historian and former journalist, he is the author of Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, and his writing has appeared in the New York Observer, the Washington Post, Studies in Intelligence, and many other publications.

The Page 99 Test: American Rifle: A Biography.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pg. 69: Steve Carlson's "Final Exposure"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Final Exposure by Steve Carlson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The future looks great for David and Rebecca Collier. They are moving into more creative careers and moving to a beach house north of San Francisco. But life is altered considerably one day when Rebecca answers the door to a stranger, who calmly raises a silenced pistol and shoots her dead.

In the subsequent chase, David is wounded. He will never walk without a limp and he is nearly deaf when not wearing his rather temperamental hearing aid. He’s plagued by questions, most significantly: Why would anyone want to kill Rebecca? She was the sweetest person in the world---a photographer doing a photo/essay piece on “Northern California Mansions of the ’30s.” Someone wants him dead, too---a second attempt on his life is made before he even gets out of the hospital.

With the help of Chuck, his best friend from high school and a cop, David is determined to find the man who killed his beloved wife. Eventually they discover that Rebecca’s murder appears to be tied to one of the old houses she photographed, which guards a mysterious operation by some very dangerous men.

Steve Carlson’s debut mystery is a thrilling, emotional ride that signals a new and energetic talent in crime fiction.
Read more about the book and author at Steve Carlson's website.

Steve Carlson has been a working actor and screenwriter for more than thirty years. In his varied career, he has been a series regular on General Hospital, Young and the Restless, and A New Day in Eden on Showtime. He has also guest-starred in hundreds of hours of television and starred or costarred in ten feature films. Steve has written feature films, television episodes, and books on working in acting. Last year he applied the Page 69 Test to his novel, Almost Graceland.

The Page 69 Test: Final Exposure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Steven Pinker: most important books

Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University.

He is the author of several books, including How the Mind Works and, most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature.

Pinker told Newsweek about his five most important books.

And addressed two related issues:
A book you always return to:

"Principles of Psychology" by William James. Like Mark Twain, James has a witty quote on every subject.

A book you hope parents read to their kids:

"One, Two, Three, Infinity" by George Gamow. A delightful introduction to number theory.
Read more about Steven Pinker's most important books.

Related: Steven Pinker's "five best" list of of books that explore human nature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pg. 99: William B. Irvine's "A Guide to the Good Life"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.

About the book, from the publisher:
One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have.

Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own life. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.
Read an excerpt from A Guide to the Good Life, and learn more about the author and his work at William B. Irvine's website.

William B. Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of On Desire: Why We Want What We Want.

The Page 99 Test: A Guide to the Good Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Martha Brockenbrough reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Martha Brockenbrough, author of Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World.

One paragraph from her entry:
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. A young magician in England summons a reluctant demon, and together they have to save the world from power-hungry madmen. These books are built beautifully around interesting, compelling, and truly funny characters, and if you can get to the end of the third one without feeling a serious pang, then you need to have your heart examined.[read on]
Martha Brockenbrough is the founder of SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, as well as a writer for and the former editor-in-chief of

Visit Brockenbrough's websites at, and

Read an excerpt from Things That Make Us (Sic).

Writers Read: Martha Brockenbrough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matt Bondurant's "The Wettest County in the World"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Matt Bondurant's The Wettest County in the World.

About the book, from the publisher:
Based on the true story of Matt Bondurant's grandfather and two granduncles, The Wettest County in the World is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys were a notorious gang of roughnecks and moonshiners who ran liquor through Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition and in the years after. Forrest, the eldest brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; Howard, the middle brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; and Jack, the youngest, has a taste for luxury and a dream to get out of Franklin. Driven and haunted, these men forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat as they watch their family die, their father's business fail, and the world they know crumble beneath the Depression and drought.

White mule, white lightning, firewater, popskull, wild cat, stump whiskey, or rotgut -- whatever you called it, Franklin County was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. When Sherwood Anderson, the journalist and author of Winesburg, Ohio, was covering a story there, he christened it the "wettest county in the world." In the twilight of his career, Anderson finds himself driving along dusty red roads trying to find the Bondurant brothers, piece together the clues linking them to "The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy," and break open the silence that shrouds Franklin County.

In vivid, muscular prose, Matt Bondurant brings these men -- their dark deeds, their long silences, their deep desires -- to life. His understanding of the passion, violence, and desperation at the center of this world is both heartbreaking and magnificent.
Read an excerpt from The Wettest County in the World, and learn more about the author and his work at Matt Bondurant's website.

Matt Bondurant received a B.A. and an M.A. in English at James Madison University and a Ph.D. at Florida State University where he was a Kingsbury Fellow. His short fiction has appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, and New England Review, among others. His first novel, The Third Translation, was sold in fifteen countries.

The Page 69 Test: The Wettest County in the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Humphrey Hawksley's "Security Breach," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Humphrey Hawksley's Security Breach.

The entry begins:
Security Breach is a story of high-action and complex relationships – all of it revolving around the smart, vulnerable, kick-ass heroine, Kat Polinski.

I would like to develop the filmic style around the The Washington Post’s description of the book -- Die Hard meets 1984.

One idea would be to introduce two highly talented, but relatively unknown action actors into the lead roles, such as Livvy Scott or Emily Beecham as Kat, and James Layton as the superb, monosyllabic moral beacon of Mike Luxton. Alternatively, I would try to get Liv Tyler and Matt Damon for the same roles. [read on]
Visit Humphrey Hawksley's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The History Book.

My Book, The Movie: Security Breach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books about Elvis

Bob Stanley, music writer and a member of the pop band St Etienne, named a "critic's chart" of top books about Elvis for the (London) Times.

One book on the list:
Elvis and Me by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Short on scandal but still an astonishing tale from the King's teen bride.
Read about Number One on Stanley's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marco Iacoboni's "Mirroring People"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Marco Iacoboni's Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others.

About the book, from the publisher:
What accounts for the remarkable ability to get inside another person’s head—to know what they’re thinking and feeling? “Mind reading” is the very heart of what it means to be human, creating a bridge between self and others that is fundamental to the development of culture and society. But until recently, scientists didn’t understand what in the brain makes it possible.

This has all changed in the last decade. Marco Iacoboni, a leading neuroscientist whose work has been covered in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal, explains the groundbreaking research into mirror neurons, the “smart cells” in our brain that allow us to understand others. From imitation to morality, from learning to addiction, from political affiliations to consumer choices, mirror neurons seem to have properties that are relevant to all these aspects of social cognition. As The New York Times reports: “The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy, language, imitation, autism and psychotherapy.”

Mirroring People is the first book for the general reader on this revolutionary new science.
Read an excerpt from Mirroring People, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Marco Iacoboni is Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Iacoboni pioneered the research on mirror neurons, the “smart cells” in our brain that allow us to understand others. His research has been covered by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, The Economist, and major TV networks.

The Page 99 Test: Mirroring People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pg. 69: Martin Corrick's "By Chance"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Martin Corrick's By Chance.

About the book, from the publisher:
An author whose debut novel, The Navigation Log, garnered him comparisons with Waugh and Maugham, Martin Corrick now returns with a story even more dazzling. By Chance is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, a philosophical tale that is rivetingly readable.

“The events that resulted in Bolsover’s presence at the Alpha Hotel are closely related to his memories of his wife.” James Watson Bolsover is an apparently normal middle-aged man, a shy yet soulful engineer turned technical writer who for many years shared a passionate marriage with his lovely wife, Katherine. Bolsover’s wife and his deep interest in his work made his life perfect, but then–by chance, misfortune, bad luck–he lost Katherine and, with her, his innocence. Now he travels by sea to a remote island and checks into what seems to be an ordinary hotel; in this safe haven he hopes to understand the past and start afresh. But we quickly discover that all of the hotel’s occupants, like Bolsover himself, have uncertain histories: All of them are “someone else,” seeking to leave their former lives behind.

As Bolsover grows accustomed to his new surroundings–and close to a new woman–the truth of his life trickles out like blood from a wound. He is not quite the simple fellow he seems, but a man who has carefully shielded his own history not only from others but also from himself. Culpability, identity, morality, and luck–all these play a part in a story that echoes our own lives.

Writing in terse, elegant, and irresistible prose, Martin Corrick proves himself a new British master. By Chance is an unforgettable novel that combines intelligence with emotion, and lingers in the mind.
Learn more about By Chance at the Random House website.

Martin Corrick is the author of the acclaimed debut novel, The Navigation Log. He holds an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and for much of his working life was a university lecturer, but he has also worked as a journalist and copywriter.

The Page 69 Test: By Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peter Dauvergne reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Peter Dauvergne, author of the newly released The Shadows of Consumption and other works on the politics of global environmental change.

One paragraph from his entry:
I especially enjoy reading classics by writers who I feel can help me to improve my own writing. A few days ago I finished Ernest Hemingway's novel, To Have and Have Not. I finished this short book, but I was not able to relate to the rough language, wooden characters, or disjointed narrative: I would not recommend it. (The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls are much better.) I'm now near the end of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, a light novel with lively characters and humorous stories. (Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath are both more hard-hitting.) In the next day or so, I'll begin George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.[read on]
Peter Dauvergne is Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the politics of global environmental change, including current projects on sustainable consumption and corporate social responsibility.

In addition to The Shadows of Consumption (MIT Press, 2008), his books include Paths to a Green World (MIT Press, 2005) (with Jennifer Clapp), Loggers and Degradation in the Asia-Pacific (Cambridge University Press, 2001), and Shadows in the Forest (MIT Press, 1997), winner of the 1998 Sprout Award from the International Studies Association for the best book in global environmental affairs.

Read more about The Shadows of Consumption, and visit Peter Dauvergne's faculty webpage.

Writers Read: Peter Dauvergne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Fromkin's "The King and the Cowboy"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: David Fromkin's The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of the unlikely friendship between King Edward the Seventh of England and President Theodore Roosevelt, which became the catalyst for an international power shift and the beginning of the American century.

In The King and the Cowboy, renowned historian David Fromkin reveals how two unlikely world leaders—Edward the Seventh of England and Theodore Roosevelt—recast themselves as respected political players and established a friendship that would shape the course of the twentieth century in ways never anticipated.

In 1901, these two colorful public figures inherited the leadership of the English-speaking countries. Following the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, Edward ascended the throne. A lover of fine food, drink, beautiful women, and the pleasure-seeking culture of Paris, Edward had previously been regarded as a bon vivant. The public—even Queen Victoria herself—doubted Edward’s ability to rule the British Empire. Yet Edward would surprise the world with his leadership and his canny understanding of the fragility of the British Empire at the apex of its global power.

Across the Atlantic, Vice President Roosevelt—the aristocrat from Manhattan who fashioned his own legend, going west to become a cowboy—succeeded to the presidency after President McKinley’s 1901 assassination. Rising above criticism, Roosevelt became one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.

The King and the Cowboy provides new perspective on both Edward and Roosevelt, revealing how, at the oft-forgotten Algeciras conference of 1906, they worked together to dispel the shadow cast over world affairs by Edward’s ill-tempered, power-hungry nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. At Algeciras, the U.S and major European powers allied with Britain in protest of Germany’s bid for Moroccan independence. In an unlikely turn of events, the conference served to isolate Germany and set the groundwork for the forging of the Allied forces.

The King and the Cowboy is an intimate study of two extraordinary statesmen who—in part because of their alliance at Algeciras—would become lauded international figures. Focusing in particular on Edward the Seventh’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s influence on twentieth-century foreign affairs, Fromkin’s character-driven history sheds new light on the early events that determined the course of the century.
Read more about The King and the Cowboy at the publisher's website.

David Fromkin is the Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. He also holds appointments as Frederick S. Pardee Professor for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, University Professor, and Professor of International Relations, of History, and of Law.

The Page 99 Test: The King and the Cowboy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pg. 69: Zoë Sharp's "Third Strike"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Zoë Sharp's Third Strike.

About the book, from the publisher:
“I was running when I saw my father kill himself. Not that he jumped off a tall building or stepped in front of a truck but – professionally, personally – what I watched him do was suicide.”

The last person that professional bodyguard, Charlotte “Charlie” Fox, ever expected to self-destruct was her own father, an eminent surgeon. But when Charlie unexpectedly sees him admitting to gross professional misconduct on a New York news program, she can’t just stand by and watch his downfall.

That’s not easy when Richard Foxcroft, always cold towards his daughter, rejects her help at every turn. The good doctor has never made any secret of his disapproval of Charlie’s choice of career – or her relationship with her boss, Sean Meyer. And now, just as Charlie and Sean are settling in to their new life in the States, Foxcroft seems determined to go down in a blazing lack of glory, and take Charlie and everyone she cares about down with him.

But he has not bargained on Charlie’s own ruthless streak. And when the game turns deadly, Charlie will need to stake her life and her father’s against a formidable foe.
Read an excerpt from Third Strike, and learn more about the author and her work at Zoë Sharp's website.

Zoë Sharp's professional writing career began in 2001 with Killer Instinct, the first Charlie Fox book. This novel was followed by Riot Act, Hard Knocks, and First Drop, which earned a nomination for a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. Road Kill and Second Shot are the fifth and sixth titles in the series.

The Page 69 Test: Third Strike.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: the Civil War away from the battlefield

James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and the newly released Tried by War: Lincoln as Commander in Chief, named a five best list of "books about the Civil War away from the battlefield" for the Wall Street Journal.

One title from his list:
The Imagined Civil War
by Alice Fahs
University of North Carolina, 2001

In this sparkling study, Alice Fahs rescues from undeserved obscurity the vast outpouring of popular literature produced during the Civil War. Far from being the "unwritten war" described by literary historians, the conflict produced fiction, nonfiction and poetry that interpreted a people's war to the people. "Only weeks after the start of war in 1861," Fahs writes, "illustrated weeklies such as Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper began publishing columns labeled 'war humor,' 'war romance,' and 'thrilling incidents of the war.' " The most intriguing aspect of "The Imagined Civil War" is its discussion of magazine stories and books written for children, which not only shaped their perceptions of the earth-shaking events of their youth but also influenced their worldview as adults during the postwar era.
Read more about McPherson's list.

Learn more about McPherson's Tried by War: Lincoln as Commander in Chief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ariel Sabar's "My Father’s Paradise"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ariel Sabar's My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a remote and dusty corner of the world, forgotten for nearly three thousand years, lived an ancient community of Kurdish Jews so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic—the language of Jesus. Mostly illiterate, they were self-made mystics and gifted storytellers, humble peddlers and rugged loggers who dwelt in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in the mountains of northern Iraq. To these descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, Yona Sabar was born.

In the 1950s, after the founding of the state of Israel, Yona and his family emigrated there with the mass exodus of 120,000 Jews from Iraq—one of the world's largest and least-known diasporas. Almost overnight, the Kurdish Jews' exotic culture and language were doomed to extinction. Yona, who became an esteemed professor at UCLA, dedicated his career to preserving his people's traditions. But to his first-generation American son Ariel, Yona was a reminder of a strange immigrant heritage on which he had turned his back—until he had a son of his own.

My Father's Paradise is Ariel Sabar's quest to reconcile present and past. As father and son travel together to today's postwar Iraq to find what's left of Yona's birthplace, Ariel brings to life the ancient town of Zakho, telling his family's story and discovering his own role in this sweeping saga. What he finds in the Sephardic Jews' millennia-long survival in Islamic lands is an improbable story of tolerance and hope.

Populated by Kurdish chieftains, trailblazing linguists, Arab nomads, devout believers—marvelous characters all— this intimate yet powerful book uncovers the vanished history of a place that is now at the very center of the world's attention.
Read an excerpt from My Father’s Paradise, and learn more about the author and his work at Ariel Sabar's website and blog.

Ariel Sabar covered the 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns for the Christian Science Monitor and is an award-winning former staff writer for the Baltimore Sun and the Providence (RI) Journal. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Monthly, Mother Jones, Moment, Christianity Today and other publications.

The Page 99 Test: My Father’s Paradise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What is Peter Golenbock reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Peter Golenbock, whose books include two titles which hit the bookstands last Tuesday, In the Country of Brooklyn and American Prince, a book he wrote with Tony Curtis. His biography of George Steinbrenner comes out in the spring.

His entry begins:
More often than not, I read biographies or autobiographies. I recently finished reading Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector by Mick Brown, a really great journey into the life of one of rock's geniuses.[read on]
Learn more about Peter Golenbock and his work at his official website and blog.

Writers Read: Peter Golenbock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laurie Graff's "The Shiksa Syndrome"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Laurie Graff's The Shiksa Syndrome.

About the book, from the publisher:
Manhattan publicist Aimee Albert knows a good spin, but she’s the one who winds up reeling when her gorgeous, goyishe boyfriend breaks up with her—on Christmas! For a stand-up comedian, you’d think he would have better timing. But Aimee’s not about to let a man who doesn’t even have a real job get her down. She dusts herself off and decides to seek companionship with a member of her own tribe. There’s just one problem: all the shiksas are snapping them up!

So when the very cute, Jewish, and gainfully employed Josh Hirsch catches Aimee’s eye at a kosher wine tasting and mistakes her for a shiksa, what’s a girl to do? Hey, her heart was broken, not her head! Unfortunately, the charade goes on longer than Aimee planned, and her life becomes more complicated than a Bergman film. To make matters worse, Josh and Aimee aren’t exactly on the same page as far as their attitudes toward Judaism go, creating tension in the relationship. But as Aimee begins to discover that her identity isn’t as easily traded as a pair of Jimmy Choos, she must decide if having the man of her dreams is worth the price of giving up so much of who she is.

Wry and witty, The Shiksa Syndrome is a by turns laugh-out-loud funny and disarmingly poignant.
Read an excerpt from The Shiksa Syndrome, and learn more about the author and her work at Laurie Graff's website and The Shiksa Syndrome on MySpace.

Laurie Graff is the author of the novels You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs and Looking for Mr. Goodfrog.

The Page 69 Test: The Shiksa Syndrome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2008

What is Andy Clark reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Andy Clark, Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and the author of several books including Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and The Future Of Human Intelligence, and the newly released Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension.

Among the fiction included in his entry:
Michael Chabon: Kavalier and Clay
Neal Stephenson: Interface
[read on]
Visit Andy Clark's University of Edinburgh webpage.

Writers Read: Andy Clark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books on jazz

John Edward Hasse, curator of American Music at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, founder of national Jazz Appreciation Month, and author of Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, named a five best list of books on jazz for the Wall Street Journal.

One title from his list:
Reading Jazz
Edited by Robert Gottlieb
Pantheon, 1996

Don't be put off by the massive size of this anthology. You can dip into its 1,068 pages one piece at a time. Robert Gottlieb, former editor of The New Yorker, has judiciously selected and excerpted 106 examples of the most memorable English-language writing on jazz, culled from books and magazines between 1919 and the 1990s. In the autobiographical entries, we learn about the thoughts and experiences of musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Anita O'Day and Miles Davis. In "Reading Jazz" we also encounter the work of gifted writers, including Ralph Ellison, Martin Williams, Nat Hentoff, Gary Giddins and Dan Morgenstern. Their essays and criticism further strengthen this cornerstone collection.
Read about Number One on Hasse's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Kane's "Between Virtue and Power"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: John Kane's Between Virtue and Power: The Persistent Moral Dilemma of U.S. Foreign Policy.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this survey of U.S. history, John Kane looks at the tensions between American virtue and power and how those tensions have influenced foreign policy. Americans have long been suspicious of power as a threat to individual liberty, Kane argues, and yet the growth of national power has been perceived as a natural byproduct of American virtue. This contradiction has posed a persistent crisis that has influenced the trajectory of American diplomacy and foreign relations for more than two hundred years.

Kane examines the various challenges, including emerging Nationalism, isolationism, and burgeoning American power, which have at times challenged not only foreign policy but American national identity. The events of September 11, 2001, rekindled Americans' sense of righteousness, the author observes, but the subsequent use of power in Iraq has raised questions about the nation’s virtue and, as in earlier days, cast a deep shadow over its purpose and direction.
Read an excerpt from Between Virtue and Power, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit John Kane's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Between Virtue and Power.

--Marshal Zeringue