Monday, October 21, 2019

Daniel Mendelsohn's six all-time favorite books

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (2017); The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006); How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays (2008), and Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture (2012). His latest book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones.

At The Week magazine he tagged his six all-time favorite books, including:
The Odyssey by Homer.

Yes, it's a pillar of the tradition, and yes, it's the first great sci-fi tale, anticipating everything from Star Trek to The Wizard of Oz. But its greatest virtue right now may be its celebration of the complexity of its hero, who is at once alluring and dangerous, charming and deadly — a useful lesson in the virtues of negative capability in the age of the "like."
Read about another entry on the list.

The Odyssey is among four books that changed Mardi McConnochie, four books that changed Nicole Trilivas, Jill Ciment's ten top dog stories, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven bad witches in literature, Ellen Cooney's ten top canine-human literary duos, Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog, Alexandra Silverman's biggest fictional literary crushes, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pg. 69: Nancy Richardson Fischer's "The Speed of Falling Objects"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Danger "Danny" Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else's needs. She's certain that her mom's bitterness and her TV star father's absence are her fault. If only she were more—athletic, charismatic, attractive—life would be perfect.

When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she's not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with Gus Price, the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships, falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to become an unlikely hero and light her way home.
Visit Nancy Richardson Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Falling Objects.

The Page 69 Test: The Speed of Falling Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine top crime novels set amid disasters

At CrimeReads, crime fiction maven J. Kingston Pierce tagged nine books that "have combined bona fide historical tragedies with invented misdeeds and mysteries, the disasters often complicating the detection," including:
Stealing Mona Lisa by Carson Morton (2011)

Morton’s sprightly caper novel merges two shocking, real-life incidents from early 20th-century Paris. In January 1910, heavy rainfall caused the River Seine’s water level to rise some 28 feet above normal, flooding city streets, businesses and homes, leading the sewers and electricity to fail, and drawing locals of all backgrounds together in defense of their beautiful metropolis. A year and a half later, in August 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa was pilfered from the Louvre by an Italian nationalist; it wasn’t recovered until 1914. Stealing Mona Lisa builds around one early theory regarding the painting’s disappearance: that it had fallen into the hands of a band of thieves and forgers led by charming Argentinean con man Eduardo de Valfierno. In Morton’s telling, Valfierno schemes to acquire the mystifying Mona, so that he can have it copied and then peddle those knockoffs to credulous American plutocrats. But when one of his “pigeons” proves to be less gullible than he’d hoped, quick thinking—and some quick stepping around a debilitating deluge (the 1910 flood, shifted in time here for dramatic purposes)—will be required to keep himself, his gang of rogues, and his plundered prize safe. The author’s meticulous re-creation of Belle Époque Paris and his explorations of a romance that will ultimately bring down Valfierno and his plans, enhance what is already a delightfully engineered mystery.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Stealing Mona Lisa.

My Book, The Movie: Stealing Mona Lisa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tracey S. Phillips's "Best Kept Secrets," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets: A Novel by Tracey S. Phillips.

The entry begins:
Envisioning Best Kept Secrets as a movie wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, throughout my writing process, I see each scene as it could be on TV or the big screen. I have a very visual imagination. And this might seem strange, but I see my story ideas as a picture first. The feelings—as in how it leaves the reader hanging—come second. Lastly, I write and flesh out the visual characters and scenes and they play out in my mind just like a movie.

Best Kept Secrets is first about Detective Morgan Jewell seeking justice and resolution for the murder of her best friend almost twenty years ago. As she finally begins to remember what happened, we go back in the past with her. Acting as the present-day Morgan, Jennifer Lawrence would be my first choice. She was fabulous as the tormented Katniss Everdeen. Morgan Jewell would come to life with Jennifer playing her role. I’m not in touch with the younger actresses these days. A likely candidate for the younger Morgan Jewell might be Chloe Grace Moretz.

Morgan’s partner and mentor is Donnie James. I see him played by someone like...[read on]
Visit Tracey S. Phillips's website.

My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Five of the best books that decode the language of politics

Jess Phillips is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley since 2015. She is the author of Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S.

At the Guardian, Phillips tagged five of the best books about parliament and the life of working politicians, including:
In the world of fiction, politics usually appears considerably more exciting than it is. In Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan, about an MP on trial for sexual violence, it is not the story but the atmosphere and attitude of the entitled that feel painfully realistic. The expectations of political greatness and privilege are brilliantly and realistically portrayed. I was left raging by how such a seemingly monstrous characterisation could be so very recognisable to me.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ulrich Baer's "What Snowflakes Get Right"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus by Ulrich Baer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Angry debates about polarizing speakers have roiled college campuses. Conservatives accuse universities of muzzling unpopular opinions, betraying their values of open inquiry; students sympathetic to the left openly advocate against completely unregulated speech, asking for "safe spaces" and protection against visiting speakers and even curricula they feel disrespects them. Some even call these students "snowflakes"-too fragile to be exposed to opinions and ideas that challenge their worldviews. How might universities resolve these debates about free speech, which pit their students' welfare against the university's commitment to free inquiry and open debate?

Ulrich Baer here provides a new way of looking at this dilemma. He explains how the current dichotomy is false and is not really about the feelings of offended students, or protecting an open marketplace of ideas. Rather, what is really at stake is our democracy's commitment to equality, and the university's critical role as an arbiter of truth. He shows how and why free speech has become the rallying cry that forges an otherwise uneasy alliance of liberals and ultra-conservatives, and why this First Amendment absolutism is untenable in law and society in general. He draws on law, philosophy, and his extensive experience as a university administrator to show that the lens of equality can resolve this impasse, and can allow the university to serve as a model for democracy that upholds both truth and equality as its founding principles.
Visit Ulrich Baer's website.

The Page 99 Test: What Snowflakes Get Right.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight suspenseful stories to tide you over until Halloween

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged eight top books for scary-story season, including:
After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag

The world is flooding. That’s not just what the science says, that’s what has already happened in this speculative debut thriller in which a woman is reeling from the abduction of her daughter by her own father while their home flooded in Nebraska. It’s seven years later and Myra is still searching for Row, the daughter she lost, all while trying to care for Pearl, the daughter she has left…in a world of water, where society has crumbled beneath the waves. Desperate for hope, Myra will do anything to reunite her family, but will it be worth the violence and betrayal? Seriously, this story has shocker after shocker, and just when you think you know how it will end, the tide turns.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: After the Flood.

The Page 69 Test: After the Flood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pg. 69: Derek Künsken's "The Quantum Garden"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Quantum Garden by Derek Künsken.

About the book, from the publisher:
The stunning, critically-acclaimed follow-up to best-selling The Quantum Magician

THE ULTIMATE CHASE

Days ago, Belisarius pulled off the most audacious con job in history. He’s rich, he’s back with the love of his life, and best of all, he has the Time Gates, arguably the most valuable things in existence. Nothing could spoil this…

…except the utter destruction of his people and the world they lived on. To save them, he has to make a new deal with the boss he just double-crossed, to travel back in time and work his quantum magic once again, tracking down the source of the wormholes.

If he can avoid detection, dodge paradox and stay ahead of the eerie, relentless Scarecrow, he might just get back to his own time alive.
Visit Derek Künsken's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Quantum Magician.

The Page 69 Test: The Quantum Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nicholas Lemann's "Transaction Man"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream by Nicholas Lemann.

About the book, from the publisher:
Over the last generation, the United States has undergone seismic changes. Stable institutions have given way to frictionless transactions, which are celebrated no matter what collateral damage they generate. The concentration of great wealth has coincided with the fraying of social ties and the rise of inequality. How did all this come about?

In Transaction Man, Nicholas Lemann explains the United States’—and the world’s—great transformation by examining three remarkable individuals who epitomized and helped create their eras. Adolf Berle, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s chief theorist of the economy, imagined a society dominated by large corporations, which a newly powerful federal government had forced to become benign and stable institutions, contributing to the public good by offering stable employment and generous pensions. By the 1970s, the corporations’ large stockholders grew restive under this regime, and their chief theoretician, Harvard Business School’s Michael Jensen, insisted that firms should maximize shareholder value, whatever the consequences. Today, Silicon Valley titans such as the LinkedIn cofounder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman hope “networks” can reknit our social fabric.

Lemann interweaves these fresh and vivid profiles with a history of the Morgan Stanley investment bank from the 1930s through the financial crisis of 2008, while also tracking the rise and fall of a working-class Chicago neighborhood and the family-run car dealerships at its heart. Incisive and sweeping, Transaction Man is the definitive account of the reengineering of America and the enormous impact it has had on us all.
Learn more about Transaction Man.

The Page 99 Test: Transaction Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten crime books with supernatural elements and comedy

Max Booth III is the author of several novels, including Carnivorous Lunar Activities.

At CrimeReads he tagged "ten crime books that a) feature supernatural elements and b) are a shitload of fun." One title on the list:
Edgar Cantero, Meddling Kids (2017)

Meddling Kids has one of the best covers and premises I’ve ever heard. Basically, we have a Scooby Doo’s Mystery Team knockoff who solved dozens of cases as children, then drifted apart as adults and got into various amounts of trouble. Now they’re getting the band back together to reopen an old case, one they might’ve gotten wrong all those years ago. This is Scooby Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft, featuring throwbacks and reshaped scenery guaranteed to tickle your nostalgia bone (if you’re unsure where this bone is located on your body, consult a doctor immediately). Some of the dialogue is very amusing, especially whenever one of the main character’s arguing with the hallucination of his dead friend, which gave me nice An American Werewolf in London vibes.
Read about another entry on the list.

Meddling Kids is among Sam Reader's top ten "books that cast forests in their proper light: dangerous, dark, and deep" and Jeff Somers's six books that will rearrange your childhood memories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pg. 69: K. Eason's "How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne Chronicles by K. Eason.

About the book, from the publisher:
First in a duology that reimagines fairy tale tropes within a space opera—The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia.

Rory Thorne is a princess with thirteen fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium.

Then her father is assassinated, her mother gives birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.

When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his throne. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination—how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but change the course of history.
Visit K. Eason's website.

The Page 69 Test: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s "Succession"

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession, including:
The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo

Four women—four sisters—struggle to come into their own in the looming shadow of their parents’ seemingly epic romance. Set in Chicago and its suburbs, this uniquely American saga spans almost fifty years and culminates when a long-buried secret shows up to unsettle their already trembling definition of family.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Fun We Ever Had.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robert B. Talisse's "Overdoing Democracy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in its Place by Robert B. Talisse.

About the book, from the publisher:
We live in an age of political polarization. As political beliefs on the left and the right have been pulled closer to the extremes, so have our social environments: we seldom interact with those with whom we don't see eye to eye. Making matters worse, we are being appealed to--by companies, products, and teams, for example--based on our deep-seated, polarized beliefs. Our choice of Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, Costco or Sam's Club, soccer or football, New York Times vs. Wall Street Journal is an expression of our beliefs and a reinforcement of our choice to stay within the confines of our self-selected political community, making us even more polarized. Letting it bleed into these choices in every corner of our lives, we take democracy too far and it ends up keeping us apart. We overdo democracy.

When we overdo democracy, we allow it to undermine and crowd out many of the most important social goods that democracy is meant to deliver. What's more, in overdoing democracy, we spoil certain social goods that democracy needs in order to flourish. A thriving democracy needs citizens to reserve space in their social lives for collective activities that are not structured by political allegiances. To ensure the health and the future of democracy, we need to forge civic friendships by working together in social contexts in which political affiliations and party loyalties are not merely suppressed, but utterly beside the point.

Drawing on his extensive research, Talisse sheds light on just how deeply entrenched our political polarization has become and opens our eyes to how often we allow politics to dictate the way we see almost everything. By limiting our interactions with others and our experience of the world so that we only encounter the politically like-minded, we are actually damaging the thing that democracy is meant to preserve in the first place: the more fundamental good of recognizing and respecting each other's standing as equals.
Learn more about Overdoing Democracy at the Oxford University Press website. 

The Page 99 Test: Overdoing Democracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Clay McLeod Chapman's "The Remaking," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman.

The entry begins:
What’s funny about The Remaking is… well, it’s a book about movies. Among other things, for sure. Lots of things. But film plays a major part of the story. Particularly horror movies.

Which is all to say, when I was writing the novel, I had a lot of different actresses running around the wilderness of my imagination. I kept thinking of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Jamie Lee Curtis in both Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018). Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Their on-set experiences and everything that happened to them afterward, positive, negative, or otherwise, is baked into the very genetic fabric of the novel itself…

I had the good fortune to meet...[read on]
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Remaking.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Top ten lighthouses in fiction

Nicholas Royle is the author of seven novels, two novellas and three volumes of short fiction​. He has edited twenty anthologies of short stories. Reader in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize, he also runs Nightjar Press, publishing original short stories as signed, limited-edition chapbooks.

At the Guardian, Royle tagged his top ten lighthouses in fiction. One title on the list:
In the Cut by Susanna Moore

There’s a little lighthouse in this New York-set thriller first published in 1995. We don’t see much of it, but it’s important. A creative writing teacher witnesses a sex act involving a woman who later winds up dead. On page four we read that “some of [her students] admitted that before completing the Virginia Woolf assignment they’d smoked a little dope and it had helped”. One of the best novels I’ve read in years – and about to be reissued.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark S. Ferrara's "American Community"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Community: Radical Experiments in Intentional Living by Mark S. Ferrara.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mainstream notions of the “American Dream” usually revolve around the ownership of private property, a house of one’s own. Yet for the past 400 years, a large number of Americans have dared to dream bigger and bolder, choosing to live in intentional communities that pooled resources, and they worked to ensure the well-being of all their members.

American Community takes us inside forty of the most interesting intentional communities in the nation’s history, from the colonial era to the present day. You will learn about such little-known experiments in cooperative living as the Icarian communities, which took the utopian ideas expounded in a 1840 French novel and put them into practice, ultimately spreading to five states over fifty years. Plus, it covers more recent communities such as Arizona’s Arcosanti, designed by architect Paolo Soleri as a model for ecologically sustainable living.

In this provocative and engaging book, Mark Ferrara guides readers through an array of intentional communities that boldly challenged capitalist economic arrangements in order to attain ideals of harmony, equality, and social justice. By shining a light on these forgotten histories, it shows that far from being foreign concepts, communitarianism and socialism have always been vital parts of the American experience.
Learn more about American Community at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Community.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Deborah Crombie's "A Bitter Feast"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Bitter Feast: A Novel by Deborah Crombie.

About the book, from the publisher:
New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie returns with a mesmerizing entry in her “excellent” (Miami Herald) series, in which Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are pulled into a dangerous web of secrets, lies, and murder that simmers beneath the surface of a tranquil Cotswolds village.

Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, have been invited for a relaxing weekend in the Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most enchanting regions, famous for its rolling hills, golden cottages, and picturesque villages.

Duncan, Gemma, and their children are guests at Beck House, the family estate of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s detective sergeant. The Talbot family is wealthy, prominent, and powerful—Melody’s father is the publisher of one of London’s largest and most influential newspapers. The centerpiece of this glorious fall getaway is a posh charity harvest luncheon catered by up-and-coming chef Viv Holland. After fifteen years in London’s cut-throat food scene, Viv has returned to the Gloucestershire valleys of her childhood and quickly made a name for herself with her innovative meals based on traditional cuisine but using fresh local ingredients. Attended by the local well-to-do as well as national press food bloggers and restaurant critics, the event could make Viv a star.

But a tragic car accident and a series of mysterious deaths rock the estate and pull Duncan and Gemma into the investigation. It soon becomes clear that the killer has a connection with Viv’s pub—or, perhaps, with Beck House itself.

Does the truth lie in the past? Or is it closer to home, tied up in the tangled relationships and bitter resentments between the staff at Beck House and Viv’s new pub? Or is it more personal, entwined with secrets hidden by Viv and those closest to her?
Visit Deborah Crombie's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Bitter Feast.

The Page 69 Test: A Bitter Feast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about the horror of girlhood

Damien Angelica Walters is the author of The Dead Girls Club, forthcoming in December 2019, Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of This is Horror’s Short Story Collection of the Year.

At Tor.com she tagged five "books that delve into the secrets and darkness of girlhood," including:
The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates

“The Corn Maiden” is a novella included in Oates’ collection The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares. After a field trip to view the Onigara exhibit of the Sacrifice of the Corn Maiden, Jude, the leader of a group of eighth grade girls, decides they’re going to kidnap and ultimately sacrifice Marissa, an eleven-year-old girl who attends the same private school.

They befriend the girl months before the kidnapping in order to establish trust and, one day after school, invite her to the large house in which Jude lives with her grandmother. There, they feed her drugged ice cream and after she’s unconscious, they carry her into a basement storage room beneath the unused guest wing of the house.

Jude tells the other girls that since Marissa came as a guest, it’s not kidnapping. They build her a bed with blankets and shawls. They clothe her in a nightgown and keep her drugged with Xanax. Jude insists they call her the Corn Maiden. Jude teaches her friends about the sacrifice ritual—the Corn Maiden was slowly starved, she was tied to an altar while still alive, and then shot with an arrow through her heart—but after keeping Marissa captive for six days, the other girls want to let her go.

It’s a chilling look at the group friendship dynamic and how it can easily be corrupted. But it’s also the story of a young, neglected girl trying to find control. Jude “…was infused with the power. The power of life-and-death.” Although Jude is the antagonist, her need to create this sort of order becomes easier to understand as more of her life is revealed. Her actions and the desired outcome are monstrous, but she isn’t a monster. She’s a girl broken by circumstance and desperate for guidance, a lost girl who isn’t missing, and the true horror is that her desperate wish for power ultimately takes control over her. The final scene between Jude and Marissa is both terrifying and heartbreaking. The first time I read it, I was shocked and sat staring at the words in disbelief for some time before I could go on.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Pg. 99: Anna Curtis's "Dangerous Masculinity"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Dangerous Masculinity: Fatherhood, Race, and Security Inside America's Prisons by Anna Curtis.

About the book, from the publisher:
For incarcerated fathers, prison rather than work mediates access to their families. Prison rules and staff regulate phone privileges, access to writing materials, and visits. Perhaps even more important are the ways in which the penal system shapes men’s gender performances. Incarcerated men must negotiate how they will enact violence and aggression, both in terms of the expectations placed upon inmates by the prison system and in terms of their own responses to these expectations. Additionally, the relationships between incarcerated men and the mothers of their children change, particularly since women now serve as “gatekeepers” who control when and how they contact their children. This book considers how those within the prison system negotiate their expectations about “real” men and “good” fathers, how prisoners negotiate their relationships with those outside of prison, and in what ways this negotiation reflects their understanding of masculinity.
Learn more about Dangerous Masculinity at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dangerous Masculinity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books on how banking rules the world

Grace Blakeley is a Research Fellow at IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice. She specializes in macroeconomic policy, with a particular focus on finance.

Blakeley's new book is Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation.

At the Guardian she tagged the five best books on the power of banks, including:
This [guilt-free] acquisitive culture [of bankers] extends far beyond the Square Mile. John Lanchester’s novel Capital follows inhabitants of Pepys Road – a fictional residential street in London – in the run up to the financial crisis. Many of the characters become caught up in the “delusion of thrift”, believing that they have amassed unimaginable wealth through their own hard work and smart investments, when in fact they are simply living through the tail end of a financial boom. Like so many others, residents of Pepys Road released the equity from their houses for home improvements without anticipating what would come next.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Johanna Stoberock's "Pigs"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Pigs by Johanna Stoberock.

About the book, from the publisher:
Four children live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s garbage. Trash arrives, the children sort it, and then they feed it to a herd of insatiable pigs: a perfect system. But when a barrel washes ashore with a boy inside, the children must decide whether he is more of the world’s detritus, meant to be fed to the pigs, or whether he is one of them. Written in exquisitely wrought prose, Pigs asks questions about community, environmental responsibility, and the possibility of innocence.
Visit Johanna Stoberock's website.

My Book, The Movie: Pigs.

The Page 69 Test: Pigs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Marco Rafalà's "How Fires End," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: How Fires End by Marco Rafalà.

The entry begins:
In my dreams for a movie adaptation of How Fires End, I often ask myself what would a modern Italian neorealist film look like? Especially one that encompasses a sweeping narrative from Sicily during the tragedy of the Second World War to the despair of the post-war era all the way to the United States and the Italian American immigrant experience in the 1980s. Who could make such a film?

I can think of only one person: Italian film director and screenwriter Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Baarìa). Tornatore is a master who can hold in his mind both a romantic notion of Sicily—the beauty of the landscape, its complicated people, and ancient culture—and the harsh realities of what life was like there during and after the Second World War. He can balance the modern while bringing the perfect Italian neorealist feel to the material that I tried to capture in the novel.

In terms of casting, I never thought about that beyond believing that...[read on]
Visit Marco Rafalà's website.

My Book, The Movie: How Fires End.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2019

Randall Munroe's six recommended books

Randall Munroe is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer, the science question-and-answer blog What If, and the popular webcomic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full-time.

Munroe's new book is How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems.

One of six favorite books the author recommended at The Week magazine:
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (2007).

This book explores the question of what would happen to the planet if humans abruptly vanished. How would the things we've built fall apart? It's a thoughtful reflection on how humans have altered the world.
Read about another entry on the list.

The World Without Us appears on Drew Williams's list of five books to help you recover from the loss of your planet, David Mitchell's six favorite books list, Annalee Newitz's list of thirty-five essential posthuman novels, and is one of Louise Erdrich's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lincoln A. Mitchell's "San Francisco Year Zero"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock and a Third-Place Baseball Team by Lincoln A. Mitchell.

About the book, from the publisher:
San Francisco is a city of contradictions. It is one of the most socially liberal cities in America, but it also has some of the nation’s worst income inequality. It is a playground for tech millionaires, with an outrageously high cost of living, yet it also supports vibrant alternative and avant-garde scenes. So how did the city get this way?

In San Francisco Year Zero, San Francisco native Lincoln Mitchell traces the roots of the current situation back to 1978, when three key events occurred: the assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk occurring fewer than two weeks after the massacre of Peoples Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana, the explosion of the city’s punk rock scene, and a breakthrough season for the San Francisco Giants. Through these three strands, Mitchell explores the rifts between the city’s pro-business and progressive-left politicians, the emergence of Dianne Feinstein as a political powerhouse, the increasing prominence of the city’s LGBT community, punk’s reinvigoration of the Bay Area’s radical cultural politics, and the ways that the Giants helped unify one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the nation.

Written from a unique insider’s perspective, San Francisco Year Zero deftly weaves together the personal and the political, putting a human face on the social upheavals that transformed a city.
Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

The Page 99 Test: San Francisco Year Zero.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven books about how impeachment works

Jeff Somers is the author of Writing Without Rules, the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Reads he tagged eleven books to help you make sense of the impeachment process, including:
Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, by David O. Stewart

Stewart offers a deeper dive into the party politics involved in Johnson’s impeachment—and offers few inspiring portraits, concluding ultimately that the impeachment proceedings against our 17th president were corrupt and poorly handled from the jump. It’s easy to imagine that our current political situation is uniquely depressing, but Stewart makes it clear that in 1868, the question of impeachment was just as fraught, the politicians were just as self-interested, and the machinery of the government was just as arcane. While this might be cold comfort for all of us as we live through another chapter of tumultuous history, Stewart provides plenty of insightful takeaways that apply to what’s happening in Washington right now.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sasha Dawn's "Panic"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Panic by Sasha Dawn.

About the book, from the publisher:
A page-turning story about a teen’s struggle to overcome her fears on her quest for truth, strength, and stardom.

Madelaine loves music, loves the stage, and loves performing. When she finds a fragment of poetry that inspires her to finish a song she’s been writing, she tracks down the poem’s author online in hopes of starting a collaboration. But as more pieces of the poem find their way to her, she realizes the online poet can’t possibly be the one who’s leaving them for her. At the same time, some shocking family secrets upend Madelaine’s home life. As Madelaine struggles to separate the images people present online from the realities of who they are, her quest for truth, strength, and stardom takes turns she never expected.
Visit Sasha Dawn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Panic.

The Page 69 Test: Panic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ten essential music biographies

Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and the award-winning author of sixteen books, including the New York Times bestseller The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang, 2014) and the new biography Janis: Her Life and Music (2019).

She is also the author of A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man (2014), Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry (2007), The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The First 25 Years (2009), Bonnaroo: What, Which, This, That, the Other (2012), Cowboy! How Hollywood Invented the Wild West (2002), Punk 365 (2007), Grateful Dead 365 (2008); and the children's books Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music (2006), Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll (2001), and The Cowgirl Way (2010).

One of George-Warren's ten favorite music biographies, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Heavier than Heaven: A Life of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross

A longtime music writer based in Seattle, Cross covered Cobain’s band Nirvana from its earliest gigs, and his incisive reporting on Cobain’s broken childhood in Aberdeen, his brilliance as an artist, songwriter, and musician, and his tragically short life is powerful and heartbreaking. (Cross’s biography of another Washington State icon, Jimi Hendrix–Room Full of Mirrors–is also exceptional.)
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nancy Richardson Fischer's "The Speed of Falling Objects," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer.

The entry begins:
Ahhhh, what author doesn’t imagine their book as a movie? For me, that comes before I write the first chapter! I see every novel I write unfold first as a movie and can even hear the underlying score.

The Speed of Falling Objects is a very cinematic story—A famous TV survivalist named Cougar, his timid 17-year-old daughter, Danny, and Gus, a teen movie idol, fly to the Amazon to film an episode of Cougar’s show. Their plane crashes in the rainforest leaving some dead, others injured. Who lives, lies, loves… dies? It’s a movie, right??? Please say yes!

So who would play the main characters...

Danger Danielle “Danny” Warren: I imagine Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone - one of my favorite movies of all time. Since JL is now too old to play 17 (sigh), my dream Danny would be an unknown actress with JL’s incredible acting ability. She’d have to be unafraid of bugs, deadly spiders, venomous snakes and scorpions as this book is set in the Amazon rainforest!

Cougar Warren: My dream Cougar is...[read on]
Visit Nancy Richardson Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Falling Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight crime novels for angry women in an angry world

Katie Lowe is a writer living in Worcester, UK. Her debut novel is The Furies.

At CrimeReads, Lowe tagged eight mysteries and thrillers that "feature female characters who aren’t necessarily good—but they’re sure as hell angry," including:
Dare Me, by Megan Abbott

Few novelists can make the fury of the teenage mind come alive quite as well as Megan Abbott—and in Dare Me, the dynamic between the main character, Addy, and her supposed best friend, Beth, practically sizzles with barely suppressed rage. “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls,” Abbott writes—and as the novel unfolds, we see this proven true, over and over again.

Abbott is something of a goddess among crime readers and writers alike, and for good reason—her early forays into detective noir are completely unputdownable—and it’s this skill for suspense, and her ability to bring to life the tiny moments of fury that make up the teenage experience, that makes Dare Me the kind of novel I have found myself forcing on everyone I know.
Read about another entry on the list.

Dare Me is among Kate Hamer's top ten teenage friendships in fiction, S.R. Masters's seven thrillers that capture some of the darker aspects of tight-knit friendship groups, Jessica Knoll's top ten thrillers, Brian Boone's fifty most essential high school stories, Julie Buntin's twelve books that totally get female friendship, L.S. Hilton's top ten female-fronted thrillers, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Anna Fitzpatrick's four top horror stories set in the real universe of girlhood and Adam Sternbergh's six notable crime novels that double as great literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Pg. 69: Rachel Eve Moulton's "Tinfoil Butterfly"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Emma is hitchhiking across the United States, trying to outrun a violent, tragic past, when she meets Lowell, the hot-but-dumb driver she hopes will take her as far as the Badlands. But Lowell is not as harmless as he seems, and a vicious scuffle leaves Emma bloody and stranded in an abandoned town in the Black Hills with an out-of-gas van, a loaded gun, and a snowstorm on the way.

The town is eerily quiet and Emma takes shelter in a diner, where she stumbles across Earl, a strange little boy in a tinfoil mask who steals her gun before begging her to help him get rid of “George.” As she is pulled deeper into Earl’s bizarre, menacing world, the horrors of Emma’s past creep closer, and she realizes she can’t run forever.

Tinfoil Butterfly is a seductively scary, chilling exploration of evil—how it sneaks in under your skin, flaring up when you least expect it, how it throttles you and won't let go. The beauty of Rachel Eve Moulton's ferocious, harrowing, and surprisingly moving debut is that it teaches us that love can do that, too.
Follow Rachel Eve Moulton on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Tinfoil Butterfly.

The Page 69 Test: Tinfoil Butterfly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Serhii Plokhy's "Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance by Serhii Plokhy.

About the book, from the publisher:
The full story of the first and only time American and Soviets fought side-by-side in World War II

At the conference held in in Moscow in October 1943, American officials proposed to their Soviet allies a new operation in the effort to defeat Nazi Germany. The Normandy Invasion was already in the works; what American officials were suggesting until then was a second air front: the US Air Force would establish bases in Soviet-controlled territory, in order to "shuttle-bomb" the Germans from the Eastern front. For all that he had been pushing for the United States and Great Britain to do more to help the war effort--the Soviets were bearing by far the heaviest burden in terms of casualties--Stalin, recalling the presence of foreign troops during the Russian Revolution, balked at the suggestion of foreign soldiers on Soviet soil. His concern was that they would spy on his regime, and it would be difficult to get rid of them afterword. Eventually in early 1944, Stalin was persuaded to give in, and Operation Baseball and then Frantic were initiated. B-17 Flying Fortresses were flown from bases in Italy to the Poltava region in Ukraine.

As Plokhy's book shows, what happened on these airbases mirrors the nature of the Grand Alliance itself. While both sides were fighting for the same goal, Germany's unconditional surrender, differences arose that no common purpose could overcome. Soviet secret policeman watched over the operations, shadowing every move, and eventually trying to prevent fraternization between American servicemen and local women. A catastrophic air raid by the Germans revealed the limitations of Soviet air defenses. Relations soured and the operations went south. Indeed, the story of the American bases foreshadowed the eventual collapse of the Grand Alliance and the start of the Cold War. Using previously inaccessible archives, Forgotten Bastards offers a bottom-up history of the Grand Alliance, showing how it first began to fray on the airfields of World War II.
Learn more about Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Empire.

The Page 99 Test: The Gates of Europe. 

The Page 99 Test: Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe.

The Page 99 Test: Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five stories about the lives of artificial objects

Andrew Skinner now works as an archaeologist and anthropologist, and is interested in folklore, rain-making arts, and resistance.

Steel Frame is his first novel.

At Tor.com, Skinner tagged "five stories about the lives of artificial objects, finding their own paths, making their own mistakes," including:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I love Murderbot, and you’ll love Murderbot too. Promise.

In All Systems Red, we meet something already intelligent, just not intentionally so. Murderbot is a SecUnit, a combat android assigned to expeditions on the fringes of settled space. Property of The Company, they are a rental security system, mall-cop to the stars. They’re also an emergent intelligence. Murderbot always had the means to be sentient, and all it took was a happy accident (or, in this case, a slightly bored accident) to move from something thoughtless to something racked with ennui.

The other artificial lives on this list are mostly quite different to our own; they have different shapes and different bodies, or live through layers of experience we could only ever guess at. They tend not to waste processor-time rolling their eyes. Murderbot is different to those objects because they are so much like ourselves, and that’s part of why I love Murderbot so much. This artificial life is cynical and sarcastic and often socially awkward, using its newfound intelligence to sulk through an unrewarding (if slightly murdery) nine-to-five.

Sure, there’s the occasional violent incident—that comes with the job—but that’s also just one of many pressing problems. Murderbot has to divide its time between fighting off vicious alien fauna, navigating a world that treats it very much as a thing, all the while trying to fulfill that most human of desires: to blob on the couch and marathon watch TV.
Read about another entry on the list.

All Systems Red also appears among Annalee Newitz's list of seven books about remaking the world, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Rivqa Rafael's five top books that give voice to artificial intelligence, T.W. O'Brien's five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots, Sam Reader's top six science fiction novels for fans of Westworld, and Nicole Hill's six robots too smart for their own good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 11, 2019

Johanna Stoberock's "Pigs," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Pigs by Johanna Stoberock.

The entry begins:
Envisioning Pigs as a movie is hard, particularly because, central to the novel, are a herd of giant, magical pigs. How do you put giant pigs on screen without diminishing their fierceness or their magic? I haven’t come up with an answer yet, other than that maybe you just don’t—maybe in a movie the pigs would be a presence that is felt and heard throughout but that is never seen.

Just as I don’t have a clear vision for the pigs, I also don’t have a clear vision for the film as a whole. But I do have an idea for a trailer.

To understand the trailer, you have to know a little bit about the novel’s plot: Pigs follows a group of parentless children who live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s trash. They gather it up and feed it to the enormous, insatiable pigs mentioned above. The children have to worry about not getting...[read on]
Visit Johanna Stoberock's website.

My Book, The Movie: Pigs.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Nancy Richardson Fischer reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer, author of The Speed of Falling Objects.

Her entry begins:
This is my pub month so I thought I’d treat myself to a book outside my normal genre. I’m reading Stephen King’s The Institute. I’m a huge SK fan - his imagination blows my mind, and the way he builds characters is a lesson in how to make the reader care. The Institute centers around extracting children with extra normal gifts from their families/homes, depositing them in an “Institute" and then torturing them with “tests” and using their skills for evil. I’m not done yet… I’m savoring it, but...[read on]
About The Speed of Falling Objects, from the publisher:
Danger "Danny" Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else's needs. She's certain that her mom's bitterness and her TV star father's absence are her fault. If only she were more—athletic, charismatic, attractive—life would be perfect.

When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she's not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with Gus Price, the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships, falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to become an unlikely hero and light her way home.
Visit Nancy Richardson Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top novels referencing pop music

Robert Haller holds an MFA in fiction from the New School in New York City. He lives in upstate New York. Another Life is his first novel.

At LitHub he tagged "six novels that reference pop music in interesting, effective ways," including:
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Undoubtedly, this is still the first book many readers think of when it comes to pop music references in fiction. There are almost as many band references as there are pages, but Hornby gets away with it because of the nature of his narrator. Rob is such a music junkie that it’s become the primary way he relates to other people. He’s the sort of the narrator who will tell the reader his ex-girlfriends’ top five recording artists but not their political or religious convictions. Part of the humor of the book is how much the reader is able to draw from Rob’s insights. Turns out we can learn a lot about a character by knowing her favorite singer is Joni Mitchell. In one particularly funny scene, Rob reorganizes his record collection in the order in which he bought them, which he likens to writing his autobiography without picking up a pen. A major theme of High Fidelity is how much of our identities are wrapped up in the things we like.
Read about another entry on the list.

High Fidelity also made Brian Boone's list of five classic books Hollywood should adapt into corny sitcoms, Lisa Jewell's six best books list, Jen Harper's list of seven top books to help you get through your divorce, Chris Moss's top 19 list of books on "how to be a man," Jeff Somers's lists of five of the best novels in which music is a character and six books that’ll make you glad you’re single, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Ted Gioia's list of ten of the best novels on music, Melissa Albert's top five list of books that inspire great mix tapes, Rob Reid's six favorite books list, Ashley Hamilton's list of 8 books to read with a broken heart, Tiffany Murray's top 10 list of rock'n'roll novels, Mark Hodkinson's critic's chart of rock music in fiction, and John Sutherland's list of the best books about listing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Coffee with a canine: Lincoln Mitchell & Isis

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Lincoln Mitchell & Isis.

The author, on how Isis got her name:
Well, if you name your dog Isis this question comes up a lot. She got the name Isis because my older son was 11 and studying Egyptian mythology in school when we started talking about dog names, so he proposed Isis. The rest of us thought it was a cool name and agreed. I also thought of the Bob Dylan song “Isis” which is a great tune. We call her a number of nicknames now because sometimes yelling “Isis!” in Central Park can create some problems. I call her...[read on]
About Lincoln A. Mitchell's new book, San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock and a Third-Place Baseball Team, from the publisher:
San Francisco is a city of contradictions. It is one of the most socially liberal cities in America, but it also has some of the nation’s worst income inequality. It is a playground for tech millionaires, with an outrageously high cost of living, yet it also supports vibrant alternative and avant-garde scenes. So how did the city get this way?

In San Francisco Year Zero, San Francisco native Lincoln Mitchell traces the roots of the current situation back to 1978, when three key events occurred: the assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk occurring fewer than two weeks after the massacre of Peoples Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana, the explosion of the city’s punk rock scene, and a breakthrough season for the San Francisco Giants. Through these three strands, Mitchell explores the rifts between the city’s pro-business and progressive-left politicians, the emergence of Dianne Feinstein as a political powerhouse, the increasing prominence of the city’s LGBT community, punk’s reinvigoration of the Bay Area’s radical cultural politics, and the ways that the Giants helped unify one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the nation.

Written from a unique insider’s perspective, San Francisco Year Zero deftly weaves together the personal and the political, putting a human face on the social upheavals that transformed a city.
Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lincoln Mitchell & Isis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Carlton F.W. Larson's "The Trials of Allegiance"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries, and the American Revolution by Carlton F.W. Larson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Trials of Allegiance examines the law of treason during the American Revolution: a convulsive, violent civil war in which nearly everyone could be considered a traitor, either to Great Britain or to America.

Drawing from extensive archival research in Pennsylvania, one of the main centers of the revolution, Carlton Larson provides the most comprehensive analysis yet of the treason prosecutions brought by Americans against British adherents: through committees of safety, military tribunals, and ordinary criminal trials. Although popular rhetoric against traitors was pervasive in Pennsylvania, jurors consistently viewed treason defendants not as incorrigibly evil, but as fellow Americans who had made a political mistake. This book explains the repeated and violently controversial pattern of acquittals. Juries were carefully selected in ways that benefited the defendants, and jurors refused to accept the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for treason. The American Revolution, unlike many others, would not be enforced with the gallows.

More broadly, Larson explores how the Revolution's treason trials shaped American national identity and perceptions of national allegiance. He concludes with the adoption of the Treason Clause of the United States Constitution, which was immediately put to use in the early 1790s in response to the Whiskey Rebellion and Fries's Rebellion.

In taking a fresh look at these formative events, The Trials of Allegiance reframes how we think about treason in American history, up to and including the present.
Learn more about The Trials of Allegiance at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Trials of Allegiance.

--Marshal Zeringue