Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top ten books for reluctant and dyslexic readers

Tom Palmer is a UK-based writer of fiction for children.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top books for reluctant and dyslexic readers, including:
Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson books are fantastic, but you need a bit of stamina to read them. They are long for reluctant readers, but perfect for when someone who has not been a big reader until now, but is ready to have a go at longer books. The storylines – weaving modern children with Greek Myths – are awesome. A brilliant idea, brilliantly written. Lots of action. The eponymous hero is dyslexic.
Read about another entry on the list.

Percy Jackson is among Casey Lee's ten favorite book series. Percy Jackson And The Last Olympian is one of Damian Dibben's top ten time travel books.

Also see Sally Gardner's top ten books for children with dyslexia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 26, 2015

What is Alyssa Brugman reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Alyssa Brugman, author of Alex as Well.

Her entry begins:
I have a few books on the go at the moment.

The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers is a memoir about a family who own a backpacker lodge in Zimbabwe during the time Robert Mugabe was reclaiming white farms. Books about Africa generally have the drama of landscape, as do books set in Outback Australia, or Newfoundland, or Alaska, or anywhere that being a human in that landscape is its own contest. I can identify with that, coming from a place that is pretty comfortable for most of the time, but can be devastated in a heartbeat by the elements. We are also a British colony, and we have racial tension here too, so there is a lot that feels familiar to me, while at the same time being completely foreign. This book has that, but also political tension, family tension and a protagonist not sure of his own path either. He has a really beautiful flow to his writing, and makes astute observations...[read on]
About Alex as Well, from the publisher:
Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.
Visit Alyssa Brugman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Alex as Well.

The Page 69 Test: Alex as Well.

Writers Read: Alyssa Brugman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books about literal & metaphorical monsters

Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and, more recently, The Last American Vampire.

For The Week magazine he tagged his six favorite books about literal and metaphorical monsters, including:
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Some monsters wear scaly skin and dark cloaks. Others wear pastel sweaters and perfect smiles. This book did for yuppies what Jaws did for great white sharks. The fact that we find ourselves rooting for Patrick Bateman says more about us than it does about him.
Read about another entry on the list.

American Psycho appears on Ginni Chen's list of the eight grinchiest characters in literature, Whitney Collins's top sixteen list of totally awesome books that every Gen Xer needs, Chrissie Gruebel's top six list of fictional fashion icons, Jonathan Lee's list of the ten best office dramas in print and on screen, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best bankers in literature and ten of the best zoos in literature, Richard Gwyn's list of ten books in which things end badly, Nick Brooks' top ten list of literary murderers and Chris Power's list of his six top books on the 1980s. It is a book that Nick Cross "Finished Reading but Wanted My Time Back Afterwards."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kathryn Gin Lum's "Damned Nation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction by Kathryn Gin Lum.

About the book, from the publisher:
Among the pressing concerns of Americans in the first century of nationhood were day-to-day survival, political harmony, exploration of the continent, foreign policy, and--fixed deeply in the collective consciousness--hell and eternal damnation. The fear of fire and brimstone and the worm that never dies exerted a profound and lasting influence on Americans' ideas about themselves, their neighbors, and the rest of the world.

Kathryn Gin Lum poses a number of vital questions: Why did the fear of hell survive Enlightenment critiques in America, after largely subsiding in Europe and elsewhere? What were the consequences for early and antebellum Americans of living with the fear of seeing themselves and many people they knew eternally damned? How did they live under the weighty obligation to save as many souls as possible? What about those who rejected this sense of obligation and fear? Gin Lum shows that beneath early Americans' vaunted millennial optimism lurked a pervasive anxiety: that rather than being favored by God, they and their nation might be the object of divine wrath. As time-honored social hierarchies crumbled before revival fire, economic unease, and political chaos, "saved" and "damned" became as crucial distinctions as race, class, and gender. The threat of damnation became an impetus for or deterrent from all kinds of behaviors, from reading novels to owning slaves.

Gin Lum tracks the idea of hell from the Revolution to Reconstruction. She considers the ideas of theological leaders like Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney, as well as those of ordinary women and men. She discusses the views of Native Americans, Americans of European and African descent, residents of Northern insane asylums and Southern plantations, New England's clergy and missionaries overseas, and even proponents of Swedenborgianism and annihilationism. Damned Nation offers a captivating account of an idea that played a transformative role in America's intellectual and cultural history.
Learn more about Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction at the Oxford University Press website.

Cover story: Damned Nation.

The Page 99 Test: Damned Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: William C. Dietz's "Deadeye"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Deadeye by William C. Dietz.

About the book, from the publisher:
The national bestselling author of the Legion of the Damned novels, “a must-read for any fan of Mil Fic,” (Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy) begins a brand new science fiction police procedural series…

In the year 2038, an act of bioengineered terrorism decimated humanity. Those who survived were either completely unaffected or developed horrible mutations. Across the globe, nations are now divided between areas populated by “norms” and lands run by “mutants”…

Detective Cassandra Lee of Los Angeles’s Special Investigative Section has built a fierce reputation taking down some of the city’s most notorious criminals. But the serial cop killer known as Bonebreaker—who murdered Lee’s father—is still at large. Officially, she’s too personally involved to work on the Bonebreaker case. Unofficially, she’s going to hunt him to the ends of the earth.

In the meantime, duty calls when the daughter of Bishop Screed, head of the Church of Human Purity, is kidnapped by mutants and taken into the red zone to be used for breeding. Assigned to rescue her, Lee must trust her new partner—mutant lawman Deputy Ras Omo—to guide her not only through the unfamiliar territory but through the prejudicial divisions between mutants and norms…
Learn more about the book and author at William C. Dietz's his website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Fall.

My Book, The Movie: Andromeda's Fall.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Choice.

Writers Read: William C. Dietz (December 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Deadeye.

--Marshal Zeringue

S. G. Redling's "Ourselves," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Ourselves by S. G. Redling.

The entry begins:
Ourselves is the first book of the Nahan series, about a complex culture of predators hidden in our midst. They’re not cursed or supernatural; they are human in every sense of the word. They’re just different. They’re private and insular and, by their own reckoning, they’re a step above common humans on the evolutionary chain. They also happen to be the creators and manipulators of vampire myths throughout history.

Because they are a race that is biologically isolated, (No half-breeds here, my friends.) they have distinctive physical qualities -- black hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. It sounds simple but that leaves quite a range of looks.

I’ve been casting secondary characters for months. In my mind, the killer Anton Adlai is Christian Kane from Leverage; Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick could be Tomas’ best friend Louis. For the lovely and ambitious Aricelli, I see...[read on]
Visit S.G. Redling's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Ourselves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ten top books for Liane Moriarty fans

Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of six internationally best-selling novels, including Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist's Love Story and the number 1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies.

At B & N Reads Rebecca Jane Stokes tagged ten books for readers who read and loved Moriarty's books, including:
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith

The first in J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike detective series, and absolutely delicious. Strike is called in to investigate the mysterious death (and supposed suicide) of an up-and-coming young fashion model. Twists and turns galore, with Rowling’s instinctively good sense of plotting.
Learn about another book on the list.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is on Amy Wilkinson's list of six books for people who love Harry Potter.

See: Liane Moriarty's 3 favorite books of 2014.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Becky Masterman reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Becky Masterman, author of Fear the Darkness.

Her entry begins:
For an introvert, the holidays are the best time of the year to have a head cold. You have a good excuse to opt out, drink hot tea, enjoy your ladder turned bookcase turned tree, and binge read a nice long book so you don’t even have to make decisions about what to read next. For me, it was Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. I’ve been a Faber fan since reading his The Crimson Petal and the White, and being his fan isn’t hard work since he only writes a novel every seven years.

This book was a special treat for me because...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
It’s hard to recognize the devil when his hand is on your shoulder. That’s because a psychopath is just a person before he becomes a headline….Psychopaths have preferences for Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, denim or linen, Dickens or…well, you get the point.

Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn has seen more than her share of psychopaths. She is ready to put all that behind her, building a new life in Tucson with a husband, friends, and some nice quiet work as a private investigator. Sure, she could still kill a man half her age, but she now gets her martial arts practice by teaching self-defense at a women's shelter.

But sometimes it isn't that simple. When her sister-in-law dies, Brigid take in her seventeen-year-old niece, Gemma Kate. There has always been something unsettling about Gemma-Kate, but family is family. Which is fine, until Gemma-Kate starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife.

Meanwhile, Brigid agrees to help a local couple by investigating the death of their son—which also turns out not to be that simple. Her house isn't the sanctuary it used to be, and new dangers—including murder—seem to lurk everywhere. Brigid starts to wonder if there is anyone she can trust, or if the devil has simply moved closer to home.
Learn more about Fear the Darkness at Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Against the Dying.

The Page 69 Test: Rage Against the Dying.

My Book, The Movie: Fear the Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Fear the Darkness.

Writers Read: Becky Masterman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stuart B. Schwartz's "Sea of Storms"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina by Stuart B. Schwartz.

About the book, from the publisher:
The diverse cultures of the Caribbean have been shaped as much by hurricanes as they have by diplomacy, commerce, or the legacy of colonial rule. In this panoramic work of social history, Stuart Schwartz examines how Caribbean societies have responded to the dangers of hurricanes, and how these destructive storms have influenced the region’s history, from the rise of plantations, to slavery and its abolition, to migrations, racial conflict, and war.

Taking readers from the voyages of Columbus to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Schwartz looks at the ethical, political, and economic challenges that hurricanes posed to the Caribbean’s indigenous populations and the different European peoples who ventured to the New World to exploit its riches. He describes how the United States provided the model for responding to environmental threats when it emerged as a major power and began to exert its influence over the Caribbean in the nineteenth century, and how the region’s governments came to assume greater responsibilities for prevention and relief, efforts that by the end of the twentieth century were being questioned by free-market neoliberals. Schwartz sheds light on catastrophes like Katrina by framing them within a long and contentious history of human interaction with the natural world.

Spanning more than five centuries and drawing on extensive archival research in Europe and the Americas, Sea of Storms emphasizes the continuing role of race, social inequality, and economic ideology in the shaping of our responses to natural disaster.
Learn more about Sea of Storms at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sea of Storms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Five top Young Adult horror novels

One title on Dahlia Adler's list of five top YA horror novels, as shared on The Barnes & Noble Book Blog:
I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

I have to confess I haven’t yet read this one, but in my defense, it’s because I’ve heard Lyga read aloud from it at a panel, and I was so terrified by a single scene that I couldn’t handle sitting down with the entire book. Those braver than I can enjoy a whole lot of terror in this series about a boy with a serial killer father; not only did the final book of the trilogy, Blood of my Blood, publish [recently], but the prequel novella, Lucky Day, is now available in digital format as well.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Blood of My Blood.

My Book, The Movie: Blood of My Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peter Hancock reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Peter Hancock, author of Hoax Springs Eternal: The Psychology of Cognitive Deception.

His entry begins:
This is a great time for a blog on what writers read since the holiday break is when professors like me store up all the books they wanted to read during the semester but didn’t get time to. The first book I read served to put my academic cortex on park and just revel in the joy of reading fiction; I chose Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty. I have enjoyed previous books by Horowitz and also like the Foyle’s War series on PBS and fie on the reader who doesn’t revel in Sherlock Holmes. But Horowitz extends the domain beyond the usual pastiche and indeed neither Holmes nor Watson feature in this novel. Let me say that I enjoyed the book which kept my attention, if not my rapt attention. We begin again at the pesky Reichenbach Falls where apparently nobody died and...[read on]
About Hoax Springs Eternal, from the publisher:
Unlike sleights of hand, which fool the senses, sleights of mind challenge cognition. This book defines and explains cognitive deception and explores six prominent potential historical instances of it: the Cross of King Arthur, Drake's Plate of Brass, the Kensington Runestone, the Vinland Map, the Piltdown Man, and the Shroud of Turin. In spite of evidence contradicting their alleged origins, their stories continue to persuade many of their authenticity. Peter Hancock uses these purported hoaxes as case studies to develop and demonstrate fundamental principles of cognitive psychology. By dissecting each ostensible artifact, he illustrates how hoaxes can deceive us and offers us defenses against them. This book further examines how and why we allow others to deceive us and how and why we even deceive ourselves at times. Accessible to beginner and expert alike, Hoax Springs Eternal provides an essential interdisciplinary guide to cognitive deception.
Learn more about Hoax Springs Eternal at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hoax Springs Eternal.

Writers Read: Peter Hancock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Corina Vacco's "My Chemical Mountain"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: My Chemical Mountain by Corina Vacco.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jason and his friends live for the rush of racing their dirt bikes on Chemical Mountain and swimming in chunky orange Two Mile Creek. But they hate wealthy and powerful Mareno Chem, the company responsible for invading their territory, polluting their town, and killing Jason’s father. The boys want to get even. But revenge has a price—and more than one person will pay.
Visit Corina Vacco's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: My Chemical Mountain.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Batchelor's "Tennyson," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find by John Batchelor.

The entry begins:
For a film of my biography of Tennyson? I don't really like bio-pics, although I think the recent film about Turner, Mr. Turner, is a masterpiece in the genre (the portrayal of John Ruskin in that film is disappointing, though).

A biographical film about Tennyson's life would be...[read on]
Read more about Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five top inspiring books on mental health

Sarah Rayner is the British author of five novels and one non-fiction book, Making Friends with Anxiety.

For the Picador Blog she tagged five inspiring books on mental health, including:
Sane New World by Ruby Wax

If you've not encountered how mindfulness techniques can help with depression before, this book is a good place to start. It explains the concepts simply and wittily, and provides useful exercises at the end to help put the theory into practice. There are, it's true, other more fulsome tomes on mindfulness out there, and more searing accounts of going through breakdown too, but they don't detract from this book, which, as a cross between the two genres – part self-help tome, part memoir – aims to do something different.

The short chapters make it easy to assimilate, and Ruby's willingness to expose her own vulnerabilities makes it feel as if you're in the company of a friend as you read. Moreover, because Ruby Wax is a household name, there's every chance Sane New World will find its way into the hands of people who might not otherwise read about depression, and that can be no bad thing. I have enormous respect for Ruby and admire what she's done (and continues to do) to raise awareness of mental illness by admitting she’s had problems herself. To my mind that takes even greater courage than stand-up comedy, and I'm sure I'm not alone in being grateful for her bravery.
Read about another book on the list.

Also see: Eight great YA novels involving characters who struggle with mental illness and Five best novels that focus on mental disorders.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Colleen Oakley reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Colleen Oakley, author of Before I Go.

Her entry begins:
I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I loved The Husband’s Secret, but I think I liked this one even more. Moriarty has a real gift for her wry observation of human nature in current society. As a parent, I completely related, cringing and laughing in turns, at the various parents I recognized from my own social circle. But the best part about her writing is that she never slips into stereotypes— each character is fully realized as a three-dimensional person that you can empathize with — they’re never just...[read on]
About Before I Go, from the publisher:
A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?
Visit Colleen Oakley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Before I Go.

Writers Read: Colleen Oakley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Udi Greenberg's "The Weimar Century"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Weimar Century: German Emigres and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War by Udi Greenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Weimar Century reveals the origins of two dramatic events: Germany’s post–World War II transformation from a racist dictatorship to a liberal democracy, and the ideological genesis of the Cold War. Blending intellectual, political, and international histories, Udi Greenberg shows that the foundations of Germany’s reconstruction lay in the country’s first democratic experiment, the Weimar Republic (1918–33). He traces the paths of five crucial German émigrés who participated in Weimar’s intense political debates, spent the Nazi era in the United States, and then rebuilt Europe after a devastating war. Examining the unexpected stories of these diverse individuals—Protestant political thinker Carl J. Friedrich, Socialist theorist Ernst Fraenkel, Catholic publicist Waldemar Gurian, liberal lawyer Karl Loewenstein, and international relations theorist Hans Morgenthau—Greenberg uncovers the intellectual and political forces that forged Germany’s democracy after dictatorship, war, and occupation.

In restructuring German thought and politics, these émigrés also shaped the currents of the early Cold War. Having borne witness to Weimar’s political clashes and violent upheavals, they called on democratic regimes to permanently mobilize their citizens and resources in global struggle against their Communist enemies. In the process, they gained entry to the highest levels of American power, serving as top-level advisors to American occupation authorities in Germany and Korea, consultants for the State Department in Latin America, and leaders in universities and philanthropic foundations across Europe and the United States. Their ideas became integral to American global hegemony.

From interwar Germany to the dawn of the American century, The Weimar Century sheds light on the crucial ideas, individuals, and politics that made the trans-Atlantic postwar order.
Learn more about The Weimar Century at Udi Greenberg's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Weimar Century.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best recent books to give an honest account of war

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At B & N Reads Somers tagged seven of the best recent books that give an honest account of war, including:
Shock Factor: American Snipers in the War on Terror, by Jack Coughlin and John R. Bruning

This engrossing, often thrilling book explores the life of the modern-day sniper, switching from pulse-pounding action tale to heartbreaking emotional exploration of the very human people behind the scope. Coughlin is a retired sniper who provides an insider’s perspective that’s compelling and absolutely authentic, with eye-opening examples of snipers embroiled in tense battles of wills with their counterparts, playing central roles in historic moments, and discovering the inhuman practices of their own allies.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sara Raasch's "Snow Like Ashes," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.

The entry begins:
I adore Ksenia Solo for my main character, Meira. The moment I saw her in Lost Girl, with her spunk and her positivity and her confidence, I fell in love. She'd...[read on]
Visit Sara Raasch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Snow Like Ashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ten top novels about lost friendships

Chris Killen is the author of the novels The Bird Room and In Real Life.

At the Guardian he tagged a top ten list of novels about lost friendships, including:
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

Beautifully written and quietly playful in its mixture of lies, truth and shifting, dreamlike perspectives, the unnamed narrator of A Sport and a Pastime chronicles, among other things, his short and intense friendship with a young American expat during an endless summer in France.
Read about another entry on the list.

A Sport and a Pastime is among Emma Straub's top ten holidays in fiction, Thomas H. Cook's five must reads on the writing life, Adam Ross's favorite books under 200 pages, Lorin Stein's six Paris Review book picks, and Jeff Gordinier's list of five books that will make you question the wisdom of ever falling in love.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peter Toohey reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Peter Toohey, author of Jealousy.

His entry begins:
I’m rereading Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Lantern. I try to read his autobiography every year. Sometimes it’s more than once. This helps make sense of his films. But that’s not the main reason I keep on reading the book. The Magic Lantern is such an uncompromisingly honest and inspiring vision of a great creative mind. Bergman is very hard on himself (he calls his The Serpents Egg “an embarrassing failure”). But he never gave up (“I do not regret for a moment making The Serpent’s Egg; it was a healthy learning experience”; he was 59 when the film came out and he was still learning). All of the themes from his movies are there in the vivid fragments of his autobiography: the indifference of the artist to their family and friends (Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata or the knight at the beginning of The Seventh Seal), the love of childhood (Fanny and Alexander) and families (Wild Strawberries), marriage, its difficulties, its solace (Smiles of a Summer Night or much later in the mesmeric TV of Scenes from a Marriage), and of course the silence of God (the best is Through a Glass Darkly: the schizophrenic Bibi Anderssen sees God – a spider...[read on]
About Jealousy, from the publisher:
Compete, acquire, succeed, enjoy: the pressures of living in today’s materialistic world seem predicated upon jealousy—the feelings of rivalry and resentment for possession of whatever the other has. But while our newspapers abound with stories of the sometimes droll, sometimes deadly consequences of sexual jealousy, Peter Toohey argues in this charmingly provocative book that jealousy is much more than the destructive emotion it is commonly assumed to be. It helps as much as it harms.

Examining the meaning, history, and value of jealousy, Toohey places the emotion at the core of modern culture, creativity, and civilization—not merely the sexual relationship. His eclectic approach weaves together psychology, art and literature, neuroscience, anthropology, and a host of other disciplines to offer fresh and intriguing contemporary perspectives on violence, the family, the workplace, animal behavior, and psychopathology. Ranging from the streets of London to Pacific islands, and from the classical world to today, this is an elegant, smart, and beautifully illustrated defense of a not-always-deadly sin.
Learn more about Jealousy at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Peter Toohey's Boredom: A Lively History.

Writers Read: Peter Toohey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Judy Wajcman’s "Pressed for Time"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism by Judy Wajcman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The technologically tethered, iPhone-addicted figure is an image we can easily conjure. Most of us complain that there aren't enough hours in the day and too many e-mails in our thumb-accessible inboxes. This widespread perception that life is faster than it used to be is now ingrained in our culture, and smartphones and the Internet are continually being blamed. But isn't the sole purpose of the smartphone to give us such quick access to people and information that we'll be free to do other things? Isn't technology supposed to make our lives easier?

In Pressed for Time, Judy Wajcman explains why we immediately interpret our experiences with digital technology as inexorably accelerating everyday life. She argues that we are not mere hostages to communication devices, and the sense of always being rushed is the result of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set rather than the machines that help us set them. Indeed, being busy and having action-packed lives has become valorized by our productivity driven culture. Wajcman offers a bracing historical perspective, exploring the commodification of clock time, and how the speed of the industrial age became identified with progress. She also delves into the ways time-use differs for diverse groups in modern societies, showing how changes in work patterns, family arrangements, and parenting all affect time stress. Bringing together empirical research on time use and theoretical debates about dramatic digital developments, this accessible and engaging book will leave readers better versed in how to use technology to navigate life's fast lane.
Learn more about Pressed for Time at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pressed for Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alyssa Brugman's "Alex as Well"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.
Visit Alyssa Brugman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Alex as Well.

The Page 69 Test: Alex as Well.

--Marshal Zeringue

Cover story: "¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico"

Marie Sarita Gaytán is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah.

Her new book is ¡Tequila!: Distilling the Spirit of Mexico.

Here she explains the connection of the book's cover to the pages within:
Two iconic Mexican calaveras (skulls) gaze at a glass of tequila. The male figure, dressed in a suit, tie, and sombrero firmly holds a bottle of tequila with one hand, and confidently lifts a glass with the other. Smoking a cigar, this caballero (gentleman) has just poured a tequila as his female companion gently rests her chin on his shoulder. Perhaps she is about to ask him for a sip from his glass; or perhaps she is sneaking a peek at how the evening is going. He raises his glass to make a festive toast among friends as he savours his drink, eats posole, and plays cards. What does this scene reveal about tequila’s ties to Mexican identity?

Manuel Manilla’s Calavera Tapatía evokes a sense of nostalgia and other worldliness at the same time that it highlights the importance of everyday events—themes that play a central role in the story of how tequila became Mexico’s spirit, and by extension, a national symbol. As the cork on the left side of the table indicates, these calaveras are drinking a brand of tequila named “La Tapatía”—a term of endearment for people from the second largest city, Guadalajara, which is also located 45 kilometres from Tequila, the drink’s town of origin. Although made in the late 1800s, Manilla’s etching foreshadows the eventual importance of Guadalajara as the country’s most traditionally Mexican city, a reputation that would gain significant traction in comedia ranchera (ranch melodramas) films of the 1940s and 1950s. Tequila’s fame, as a drink for loyal and noble charros (Mexican cowboys), frequently played by beloved actors, including Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante, would also become solidified in these movies. Drinking in cantinas, at rodeos, and parties, on the big screen, charros showed Mexican audiences how tequila functioned as an emotive, patriotic, and “everyman” elixir.

As ¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico makes clear, paying attention to ordinary occasions matters—what, how, and with whom people consume can provide insight into the origins of how certain goods become associated with a nation’s customs. Although high-status individuals, including government officials and movie producers, unquestionably strengthened tequila’s ties to lo mexicano (Mexicanness), so too did members of the poor and working classes. Indeed, by the close of the nineteenth century, when Calavera Tapatía made, tequila was already becoming regarded as symbol of populist resistance to the Mexican elite, who favored European drinks like cognac and brandy.

Today in Mexico, tequila’s significance crosses class lines, and is widely seen as inclusive spirit, one that is often placed on the tables of weddings and one that can be purchased in cantinas and high-end bars across the country. Outside of Mexico, tequila, is the common drink of choice for rowdy college students and merrymaking tourists who liberally “shoot” or “slam” shots. Despite these raucous rituals, as the gentleman calavera in Manilla’s etching suggests, tequila is best sipped instead of slammed, so that it may be enjoyed among friends and family.
Learn more about ¡Tequila!: Distilling the Spirit of Mexico at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 21st century’s twelve greatest novels

BBC Culture polled several dozen book critics and asked each to name the best novels published in English since 1 January 2000. The critics named 156 novels in all. The title that topped the top twelve:
1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

The winner in this BBC Culture critics’ poll is Junot Diaz’s first novel, about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love. It also was named as the number-one book by the most critics. “It is a big deal for me to fall in love with a book when its DNA is science fiction, fantasy and testosterone,” says Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune’s literary editor-at-large. “This was only the second book by a Latino author to receive the Pulitzer Prize in fiction,” notes critic and author Rigoberto Gonzalez. “Oscar Wao reaffirmed the strong connections Latinos maintain with their ancestral homeland’s culture, language and history. It also re-energised these questions: Who is American? What is the American experience?” Critic and playwright Gregg Barrios concurs, “Díaz’s deft mash-up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes totally rocks. Nerdy Oscar and the book’s macho narrator Yunior resonate as authentically as Roth’s Portnoy, Updike’s Rabbit, Bellow’s Augie or Toole’s Ignatius.”
Read about another book on the list.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao also appears among Emily Temple's fifty greatest debut novels since 1950, Niall Williams's top ten bookworms' tales, Chrissie Gruebel's nine best last lines in literature, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, Jami Attenberg's top six books with overweight protagonists, Brooke Hauser's six top books about immigrants, Sara Gruen's six favorite books, Paste magazine's list of the ten best debut novels of the decade (2000-2009), and The Millions' best books of fiction of the millenium. The novel is one of Matthew Kaminski's five favorite novels about immigrants in America and is a book that made a difference to Zoë Saldana.

The Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jennifer Robson reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jennifer Robson, author of After the War is Over.

Her entry begins:
I tend to have a number of books on the go at the same time, a mix of things I’m reading for research, for pleasure and for general brain-stretching purposes. At the moment I have four books on my nightstand.

I’m actually re-reading Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins, an extended, novella-length version of a New Yorker profile of Sara and Gerald Murphy that was first published in 1962. Tomkins was friends with the Murphys, who had been at the center of literary and artistic life in France in the early 1920s, and his portrayal of them is so fascinating and appealing that I’ve...[read on]
About After the War Is Over, from the publisher:
The International bestselling author of Somewhere in France returns with her sweeping second novel—a tale of class, love, and freedom—in which a young woman must find her place in a world forever changed.

After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.

Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.

Edward Neville-Ashford, her former employer and the brother of Charlotte’s dearest friend, is now the new Earl of Cumberland—and a shadow of the man he once was. Yet under his battle wounds and haunted eyes Charlotte sees glimpses of the charming boy who long ago claimed her foolish heart. She wants to help him, but dare she risk her future for a man who can never be hers?

As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

Writers Read: Jennifer Robson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Raphael Brewster Folsom's "The Yaquis and the Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Yaquis and the Empire: Violence, Spanish Imperial Power, and Native Resilience in Colonial Mexico by Raphael Brewster Folsom.

About the book, from the publisher:
This important new book on the Yaqui people of the north Mexican state of Sonora examines the history of Yaqui-Spanish interactions from first contact in 1533 through Mexican independence in 1821. The Yaquis and the Empire is the first major publication to deal with the colonial history of the Yaqui people in more than thirty years and presents a finely wrought portrait of the colonial experience of the indigenous peoples of Mexico's Yaqui River Valley. In examining native engagement with the forces of the Spanish empire, Raphael Brewster Folsom identifies three ironies that emerged from the dynamic and ambiguous relationship of the Yaquis and their conquerors: the strategic use by the Yaquis of both resistance and collaboration; the intertwined roles of violence and negotiation in the colonial pact; and the surprising ability of the imperial power to remain effective despite its general weakness.
Learn more about The Yaquis and the Empire at the Yale University Press website.

Cover story: The Yaquis and the Empire.

The Page 99 Test: The Yaquis and the Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Marcus Sedgwick's "The Ghosts of Heaven"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick.

About the book, from the publisher:
Timeless, beautiful, and haunting, spirals connect the four episodes of The Ghosts of Heaven, the mesmerizing new novel from Printz Award winner Marcus Sedgwick. They are there in prehistory, when a girl picks up a charred stick and makes the first written signs; there tens of centuries later, hiding in the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who people call a witch; there in the halls of a Long Island hospital at the beginning of the 20th century, where a mad poet watches the oceans and knows the horrors it hides; and there in the far future, as an astronaut faces his destiny on the first spaceship sent from earth to colonize another world. Each of the characters in these mysterious linked stories embarks on a journey of discovery and survival; carried forward through the spiral of time, none will return to the same place.
Visit Marcus Sedgwick's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ghosts of Heaven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alyssa Brugman's "Alex as Well," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman.

The entry begins:
This book is about gender, and the idea that gender is a spectrum rather than a dichotomy. In the book there is a male Alex and female Alex, who are the same character, but reflect the dilemma that Alex faces in having to choose one gender over the other. I’d be interested in whether a director would want to have them played by different actors or the same one.

In my head, when I was writing the book, Alex looked like...[read on]
Visit Alyssa Brugman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Alex as Well.

--Marshal Zeringue