Thursday, May 31, 2012

Five notable books for graduates that will last a lifetime

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books for graduates that will last a lifetime:
10½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said
by Charles Wheelan

The perfect antidote to the shopworn platitudes that some graduates have to endure at the hands of uninspired speakers, Charles Wheelan's compendium of advice about happiness and success is refreshingly honest and funny. Though the moment when a diploma is granted is undoubtedly a time of celebration, it can also be fraught with anxiety, and the author seeks to acknowledge and allay those fears with hard-won wisdom, lent additional charm by the whimsy of New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner's irreverent illustrations.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jessie Knadler's "Rurally Screwed," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Rurally Screwed by Jessie Knadler.

The entry begins:
My top pick to play the role of Jessie (that would be me) would be Kate Winslet, the pitch perfect blend of kookiness, warmth and intensity. Since there’s not a chance in hell this will ever happen (she’s only one of the best actresses on the planet and to my knowledge, doesn’t do romantic comedies), Emily Blunt, Drew Barrymore, Emma...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessie Knadler's website.

Writers Read: Jessie Knadler.

My Book, The Movie: Rurally Screwed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Bruce DeSilva's "Cliff Walk"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva.

About the book, from the publisher:
Prostitution has been legal in Rhode Island for more than a decade; Liam Mulligan, an old-school investigative reporter at dying Providence newspaper, suspects the governor has been taking payoffs to keep it that way. But this isn’t the only story making headlines…a child’s severed arm is discovered in a pile of garbage at a pig farm. Then the body of an internet pornographer is found sprawled on the rocks at the base of Newport’s famous Cliff Walk.

At first, the killings seem random, but as Mulligan keeps digging into the state’s thriving sex business, strange connections emerge. Promised free sex with hookers if he minds his own business—and a beating if he doesn’t—Mulligan enlists Thanks-Dad, the newspaper publisher’s son, and Attila the Nun, the state’s colorful Attorney General, in his quest for the truth. What Mulligan learns will lead him to question his beliefs about sexual morality, shake his tenuous religious faith, and leave him wondering who his real friends are.

Cliff Walk is at once a hard-boiled mystery and an exploration of sex and religion in the age of pornography. Written with the unique and powerful voice that won DeSilva an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, Cliff Walk lifts Mulligan into the pantheon of great suspense heroes and is a giant leap for the career of Bruce DeSilva.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady.

The Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Five of the best Holocaust memoirs

Elliot Perlman is the author of The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, Seven Types of Ambiguity, and The Street Sweeper. He also cowrote the award-winning screenplay for a film version of Three Dollars, his first novel.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of Holocaust memoirs.

One title on the list:
Eyewitness Auschwitz
by Filip Müller (1979)

That Filip Müller, a Slovakian Jew, survived to write this essential Holocaust document is statistically quite astonishing. He was deported in April 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Germany's six death camps. More than a million Jews were murdered there. A month after arriving, he was made to work in the camp's Sonderkommando unit. The SS regularly liquidated these work crews, yet Müller somehow survived. To read his account is to gain an insight into the mechanics and relentlessness of the killing process. "I had come to believe that there were no human feelings left inside me," Müller writes, but then he sees his father's corpse on a trolley in the crematorium. "While my team-mate recited the Kaddish my soul mourned in pain and grief. As the flames busily devoured the mortal remains of my father, the words of the traditional prayer gave me solace."
Read about another title on the list.

Also see Robert Rozett's list of five essential books to keep in mind for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kim Culbertson reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Kim Culbertson, author of the YA novels Songs for a Teenage Nomad and Instructions for a Broken Heart, and the eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue.

Her entry begins:
Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Like, well, everyone, I read Utopia in college and I’ve always been drawn to the idea of an idealized community. In Arcadia, Groff explores one such community through the eyes of beautiful Bit, who starts the novel as a boy, held in the arms of his mercurial mother, Hannah, and ends the novel a man – somewhere in a not too distant future. This book is lush and dreamy, and for me it triumphed because of Bit. Lovely Bit – who sees the world differently because he notices beauty in small things and loves people even when they are hard. Arcadia is a meditation on the line between community and freedom, and the ache that grows from needing people, but also knowing...[read on]
About Instructions for a Broken Heart, from the publisher:
Top 20 Reasons He’s a Slimy Jerk Bastard
Jessa: To help you get over your train wreck EX, I’ve enclosed 20 envelopes. Each one has a reason why Sean is a jerk and not worth the dirt on your shoes. And each one has an instruction for you to do one un-Jessa-like thing a day. NO CHEATING!
Ciao! —C

When Jessa catches her boyfriend, Sean, making out with Natalie “the Boob Job” Stone three days before their drama club’s departure to Italy, she completely freaks. Stuck with a front-row view of Sean and Natalie making out against the backdrop of a country that oozes romance, Jessa promises to follow all of the outrageous instructions in her best friend’s care package and open her heart to new experiences. Enter cute Italian boy stage left.

Jessa had prepared to play the role of humiliated ex-girlfriend, but with Carissa directing her life from afar, it’s finally time to take a shot at being a star.
Visit Kim Culbertson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Kim Culbertson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Jenny Smith & Angus

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Jenny Smith and Angus.

The author, on how she and Angus were united:
When Angus was six weeks old, we visited some local kennels specializing in West Highland Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers. There he was, looking up at me with his big brown eyes, with his huge pointy ears which made him look slightly like Yoda. It was love at first sight for me....[read on]
About Diary of a Parent Trainer:
A must-read novel for anyone requiring tips on how to control their parents, written by (undiscovered) genius Katie Sutton.

Katie is an expert on operating Grown-Ups. She knows exactly how to get the best out of them, so she decides to write a guide to help the world's long-suffering teenagers do the same. But she soon finds out she is not as much of an expert as she thinks...
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Smith's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Jenny Smith.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jenny Smith and Angus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paul L. Harris's "Trusting What You're Told"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Trusting What You're Told: How Children Learn from Others by Paul L. Harris.

About the book, from the publisher:
If children were little scientists who learn best through firsthand observations and mini-experiments, as conventional wisdom holds, how would a child discover that the earth is round—never mind conceive of heaven as a place someone might go after death? Overturning both cognitive and commonplace theories about how children learn, Trusting What You’re Told begins by reminding us of a basic truth: Most of what we know we learned from others.

Children recognize early on that other people are an excellent source of information. And so they ask questions. But youngsters are also remarkably discriminating as they weigh the responses they elicit. And how much they trust what they are told has a lot to do with their assessment of its source. Trusting What You’re Told opens a window into the moral reasoning of elementary school vegetarians, the preschooler’s ability to distinguish historical narrative from fiction, and the six-year-old’s nuanced stance toward magic: skeptical, while still open to miracles. Paul Harris shares striking cross-cultural findings, too, such as that children in religious communities in rural Central America resemble Bostonian children in being more confident about the existence of germs and oxygen than they are about souls and God.

We are biologically designed to learn from one another, Harris demonstrates, and this greediness for explanation marks a key difference between human beings and our primate cousins. Even Kanzi, a genius among bonobos, never uses his keyboard to ask for information: he only asks for treats.
Learn more about Trusting What You're Told at the Harvard University Press website.

Paul L. Harris is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education at Harvard University.

The Page 99 Test: Trusting What You're Told.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ten of the best sexy French books

Helena Frith Powell is the author of All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation Into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women and other books.

Back in 2005 she named a top ten list of "sexy French books" for the Guardian.

One title on her list:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

No list of French books of whatever genre is complete without Madame Bovary. The unfortunate heroine, whose only crime is an endless search for romantic love, gives us some of literature's sexiest moments: the mussed-up bed, the carriage ride, the sheer foolishness of falling in love with French men. Madame Bovary's choice of lovers are 19th-century versions of Bridget Jones's fuckwits.
Read about Frith Powell's criteria for the list and another title on it.

Madame Bovary is on the Christian Science Monitor's list of six novels about grand passions, John Mullan's lists of ten landmark coach rides in literature, ten of the best cathedrals in literature, ten of the best balls in literature, ten of the best bad lawyers in literature, ten of the best lotharios in literature, and ten of the best bad doctors in fiction, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

Writers Read: Helena Frith Powell (February 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi's "The Sugar Girls," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Sugar Girls by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi.

The entry begins:
The Sugar Girls is based on interviews with women who worked at Tate & Lyle’s East End factories in the 1940s and 1950s. One of our core interviewees, Gladys Taylor, wasted no time in announcing her desire to be a character in a feature film. We had just arrived at her house for our first interview, and hadn’t even had a chance to sit down, when she demanded, ‘Is this going to be a film then, like Made in Dagenham?’ before pondering who might play her part.

Certainly, if The Sugar Girls were to make it to the big screen, Made in Dagenham would be the obvious reference point – and Nigel Cole, who directed both that film and Calendar Girls, would be an obvious first choice for director. Like both those films, our book focuses on the friendship and camaraderie of ordinary women – and our sugar girls were as tough and strong-willed as their sisters at the Ford motor plant, calling unofficial strikes at work when they felt they weren’t being treated fairly.

It’s actually rather hard to imagine...[read on]
Learn more about the book and authors at the official blog of The Sugar Girls, which includes pictures, excerpts, reviews and more.

The Page 99 Test: The Sugar Girls.

Writers Read: Duncan Barrett.

My Book, The Movie: The Sugar Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elizabeth Percer's "An Uncommon Education"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer.

About the book, from the publisher:
A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this elegant and remarkably insightful coming-of-age debut.

Afraid of losing her parents at a young age—her father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed mother—Naomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Wellesley College. But when Teddy, her confidant and only friend, abruptly departs from her life, it's the first devastating loss from which Naomi is not sure she can ever recover, even after her long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.

Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by loneliness—until the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.

The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. Naomi finally begins to detach from the past and so much of what defines her, immersing herself in this exciting and liberating new world and learning the value of friendship. But her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings irrevocable consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but part of growing up is learning that sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.

An Uncommon Education is a compelling portrait of a quest for greatness and the grace of human limitations. Poignant and wise, it artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the bittersweet inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Percer's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Uncommon Education.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 28, 2012

Five notable books on due dates and deadlines

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on due dates and deadlines:
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
by Atul Gawande

Checklists save lives. Gawande, a surgeon and the bestselling author of Complications, digs up a slew of scientific and anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that when a hospital creates and consults checklists for certain procedures, death and infection rates drop dramatically. His call to action is written with fiery passion and cool logic.
Read about another book on the list.

Learn about Atul Gawande's 10 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jenny Smith reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jenny Smith, author of Diary of a Parent Trainer and My Big Fat Teen Crisis.

Her entry begins:
I’ve been the member of a local book group for the past ten years, and we’ve read our way through a wide variety of writers and genres.

We recently read Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson which was absolutely gripping. It’s about a woman who loses her memory each night and has to learn about her life all over again every morning. However as she begins to make notes in a diary, she wonders if she can really trust the man she is living with, her husband. Although I found the story slightly unlikely at times, I didn’t mind because it was such an entertaining page turner. An ideal...[read on]
About Diary of a Parent Trainer:
A must-read novel for anyone requiring tips on how to control their parents, written by (undiscovered) genius Katie Sutton.

Katie is an expert on operating Grown-Ups. She knows exactly how to get the best out of them, so she decides to write a guide to help the world's long-suffering teenagers do the same. But she soon finds out she is not as much of an expert as she thinks...
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Smith's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Jenny Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jesse H. Rhodes's "An Education in Politics"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: An Education in Politics: The Origins and Evolution of No Child Left Behind by Jesse H. Rhodes.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the early 1990s, the federal role in education—exemplified by the controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—has expanded dramatically. Yet states and localities have retained a central role in education policy, leading to a growing struggle for control over the direction of the nation's schools. In An Education in Politics, Jesse H. Rhodes explains the uneven development of federal involvement in education. While supporters of expanded federal involvement enjoyed some success in bringing new ideas to the federal policy agenda, Rhodes argues, they also encountered stiff resistance from proponents of local control. Built atop existing decentralized policies, new federal reforms raised difficult questions about which level of government bore ultimate responsibility for improving schools.

Rhodes’s argument focuses on the role played by civil rights activists, business leaders, and education experts in promoting the reforms that would be enacted with federal policies such as NCLB. It also underscores the constraints on federal involvement imposed by existing education policies, hostile interest groups, and, above all, the nation’s federal system. Indeed, the federal system, which left specific policy formation and implementation to the states and localities, repeatedly frustrated efforts to effect changes: national reforms lost their force as policies passed through iterations at the state, county, and municipal levels. Ironically, state and local resistance only encouraged civil rights activists, business leaders, and their political allies to advocate even more stringent reforms that imposed heavier burdens on state and local governments. Through it all, the nation’s education system made only incremental steps toward the goal of providing a quality education for every child.
Learn more about An Education in Politics at the Cornell University Press website.

Jesse H. Rhodes is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Page 99 Test: An Education in Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Five notable books on Southern California

Dennis McDougal is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, who won more than forty awards for his hard-nosed coverage of the entertainment industry. He is the bestselling author of The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood and Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty.

One of five top books on Southern California he discussed with Eve Gerber at The Browser:
Southern California
by Carey McWilliams

“An Island on the Land” is what Carey McWilliams called LA. Your first choice is a book with that subtitle by McWilliams, the former editor of The Nation, in 1946. It chronicles the evolution of Southern California in the early 20th century. What will we learn by reading it and why have you recommended it?

An Island on the Land is narrative journalist Carey McWilliams’s attempt to trace Southern California’s cultural inheritance back to its roots. The book looks at what the city sprung from – for instance, the missions and missionaries that were established in the area as far back as the 18th century. He looks at the early activists, like Helen Hunt Jackson who worked to improve the treatment of Southern California natives. And he highlights the charismatic characters that preceded the movie stars, like Aimee Semple McPherson, a California evangelist showwoman who combined revival with Hollywood fireworks. She laid the groundwork for Southern California being characterised as “the land of fruits and nuts”.

It’s a fun book to read and reread. An Island on the Land, for me, is a fundamental text for getting a grasp on what makes Southern California tick.

Please explain the title.

The first thing you have to understand about Southern California is that it’s a desert. The Los Angeles Basin is a small crescent of land ringed by a minor mountain range that has a climate comparable to the Mediterranean. But beyond that everything is arid. That’s why Carey McWilliams called LA “an island on the land”.

Water powers everything. If you don’t have water you don’t have a city. There is no [fresh] water in the Los Angeles Basin so the people who wanted to take advantage of the fabulous year-round weather for which Southern California is quite justifiably famous had to bring water to the land. Los Angeles boosters in the late 1800s – the chamber of commerce, the newspaper, the engineers, all those people who wanted to see the city increase in size – had to bring water to the city. The way they did it was by robbing farmers in the Owens River Valley, which is southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountains and bringing the water by aqueduct across the desert to Los Angeles, a distance of a couple of hundred miles.

People called it water theft. But the aqueduct, which was built in the early 20th century, enabled LA to become what it is today. Now, in the opening couple of decades of the 21st century, Los Angeles has more people than ever before, they are thirsty and the water supply is running short.

McWilliams wrote about the so-called water wars first and best. This book engendered the plot of the movie Chinatown.
Read about a novel McDougal tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Erika Marks's "Little Gale Gumbo," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks.

The entry begins:
I have to believe there isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t cast her or his novel at some point along the way—whether in the earliest draft or in the final product. Although my story takes place over 30-plus years, I’ve only cast the adult roles (but would love to hear if anyone has any suggestions for the younger versions of the characters.)

For the role of Camille, the Creole woman who leaves New Orleans with her teenage daughters and opens a café in coastal Maine, I would cast Thandie Newton. Not only is she a beauty, but I imagine her conveying Camille’s warmth and calm, her passion and sensuality, as well as her determination to do what she needs to do to care for her daughters and make their new life on the island.

Camille’s daughters are complete opposites in every way, but are absolutely devoted to one another. Older sister Dahlia, who is fiercely independent and outspoken but also comfortable with her sexuality, strongly resembles her mother, Camille; I think either Paula Patton or...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Erika Marks's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Little Gale Gumbo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Stephanie Reents's "The Kissing List"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Kissing List by Stephanie Reents.

About the book, from the publisher:
An inventive debut that recalls the imagination of Aimee Bender and the sardonic wit of Lorrie Moore.

The interlocking stories in The Kissing List feature an unforgettable group of young women – Sylvie, Anna, Frances, Maureen – as their lives connect, first during a year abroad at Oxford, then later as they move to New York on the cusp of adulthood. We follow each of them as they navigate the treachery of first dates, temp jobs and roommates, failed relationships and unexpected affairs – all the things that make their lives seem full of possibility, but also rife with potential disappointment.

Shot through with laugh-out-loud lines, yet still wrenchingly emotional and resonant, The Kissing List is a book about women who bravely defy expectations and take outrageous chances in the face of a life that might turn out to be anything less than extraordinary.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Reents's website.

Reents's fiction has been included in the O. Henry Prize Stories, noted in Best American Short Stories, and has appeared in numerous journals. She has been a Bread Loaf Conference Scholar, a Stegner Fellow, and a Rhodes Scholar. Reents is an assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Page 69 Test: The Kissing List.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Top ten books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Matthew Pearl is the author of the novels The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, The Last Dickens, and The Technologists. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.

In 2006 Pearl named a top ten list of books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.

One title on the list:
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

One of Poe's most lasting legacies is that of the narrator who is frantic, frenetic, a little deranged, who nevertheless somehow grows on us. We trust his world vision even when we don't believe a word he's saying. Roth's Portnoy is a great example of a latter-day evolution of that species of Poe's narrators. He is delusional but somehow in touch with a cultural and emotional reality that is evocative and unforgettable. There is also a sexual self-torture that cannot fail to remind us of Poe's characters and his persona. (Similarly, think of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, who explicitly tips his hat to Poe.)
Read about another book Pearl tagged at the Guardian.

Visit Matthew Pearl's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Dickens.

The Page 69 Test: The Technologists.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jessie Knadler reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jessie Knadler, author of Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading a book recommended to me by my father, The Dog of the South by Charles Portis (of True Grit fame), published in 1979. I make a point of reading every book my dad suggests because he’s the most avid reader I know and has never steered me wrong even though half the books he recommends aren’t ones I’d think to pick up on my own. What I love most about Portis’s underappreciated “redneck quest novel” is the utterly ludicrous but...[read on]
About Rurally Screwed, from the publisher:
Jessie Knadler was a New York City girl, through and through. An editor for a splashy women's magazine, she splurged on Miu Miu, partied hard, lived for Kundalini yoga, and dated a man-boy whose complexion was creamier than her own. Circling the drain both personally and professionally, Jessie definitely wouldn't have described herself as "happy"; more like caustically content. Then one day, she was assigned a story about an annual rodeo in the badlands of Eastern Montana.

There, she met a twenty-five-year-old bull rider named Jake. He voted Republican and read Truck Trader. He listened to Garth Brooks. He owned guns. And Jessie suddenly found herself blindsided by something with which she was painfully unfamiliar: a genuinely lovable disposition. In fact, Jake radiated such optimism and old-school gentlemanliness that Jessie impulsively ditched Manhattan for an authentic existence, and an authentic man. Almost overnight, she was canning and sewing, making jerky, chopping firewood, and raising chickens. And all the while one question was ringing in the back of her head: "What the !#*$ have I done with my life?"

A hilarious true-life love story, Rurally Screwed reveals what happens to a woman who gives up everything she's ever known and wanted-job security, money, her professional network, access to decent Thai food-to live off the grid with her one true love (and dogs and horses and chickens), and asks, is it worth it? The answer comes amid war, Bible clubs, and moonshine.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessie Knadler's website.

Writers Read: Jessie Knadler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paul Thagard's "The Cognitive Science of Science"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Cognitive Science of Science: Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change by Paul Thagard.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

Thagard develops cognitive perspectives on the nature of explanation, mental models, theory choice, and resistance to scientific change, considering disbelief in climate change as a case study. He presents a series of studies that describe the psychological and neural processes that have led to breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology. He shows how discoveries of new theories and explanations lead to conceptual change, with examples from biology, psychology, and medicine. Finally, he shows how the cognitive science of science can integrate descriptive and normative concerns; and he considers the neural underpinnings of certain scientific concepts.
Learn more about The Cognitive Science of Science at The MIT Press website.

Visit Paul Thagard's University of Waterloo faculty webpage and blog for Psychology Today.

The Page 99 Test: The Brain and the Meaning of Life.

The Page 99 Test: The Cognitive Science of Science.

--Marshal Zeringue

Steve Guttenberg's 6 favorite books

Steve Guttenberg starred in such films as Diner, The Boys From Brazil, Cocoon, Three Men and a Baby, Police Academy, and Short Circuit. His new memoir is The Guttenberg Bible.

One of Guttenberg's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
The Last Boy by Jane Leavy

Leavy, who's also written about Sandy Koufax, interviewed more than 500 people to craft this wonderful biography of Mickey Mantle. The Mick's upbringing in tiny Commerce, Okla.; his early years; the "tape-measure" 565-foot home run; and the alcoholism that killed him are all illuminated in this account of what it is like to be the best, and to have a mind full of contradictions. Not for everybody, just the serious baseball fan.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 25, 2012

Five top off-the-beaten-path philosophy books

At The Daily Beast Carlin Romano, author of the new book America the Philosophical, named five of his favorite idiosyncratic philosophy books.

One title on the list:
John Dewey in China: To Teach and To Learn by Jessica Ching-Sze Wang (2007)

What would John Dewey have done if Mr. Chen had burst into his Chinese abode and asked for help? The great American progressive spent an unexpected two years in China (1919-21). Wang’s book, apart from its amusing reports of a great thinker on tour, provides a useful lens through which to view current U.S.-Chinese understandings and misunderstandings.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jennifer duBois's "A Partial History of Lost Causes," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois.

The entry begins:
A Partial History of Lost Causes follows the stories of two very different characters facing fundamentally similar challenges. Aleksandr Bezetov is a Russian chess champion turned political dissident launching a quixotic political campaign against Vladimir Putin. Irina Ellison is a young American academic who is positive for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative neurological disease that killed her father. In the year before she knows she’s likely to become symptomatic, Irina travels to Russia to get an answer to the question her chess-obsessed father had once posed in an unanswered letter to Bezetov: how do you proceed when you’re confronting a lost cause?

Part of the fun of fantasy-casting A Partial History of Lost Causes is that the book spans thirty years, so almost every actor would need to look many decades older or younger than he or she actually is at some point in the movie. But in my imaginary film, the make-up/prosthetic budget is limitless. (The same is true of my imaginary nation-state.) Also, in my imaginary film, hugely famous actors are lining up for bit parts. You’re welcome, Bill Murray!

Aleksandr: Robert Downey Jr., because he can do anything.

Irina: There’s no obvious choice for her, since she’s ornery and cerebral and over 30, but I suppose movie-Irina would have to be a bit sweeter and prettier than book-Irina. I love Emma...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Jennifer DuBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

My Book, The Movie: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Keith Brooke's "Harmony"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Harmony by Keith Brooke.

About the book, from the publisher:
The aliens are here, all around us. They always have been. And now, one by one, they're destroying our cities. Dodge Mercer deals in identities, Hope Burren has no identity and no past, but she does have a multitude of voices filling her head. In a world where humans are segregated and aliens can tear worlds apart, Dodge and Hope lead a ragged band of survivors on a search for sanctuary in what may be the only hope for humankind.

The aliens are here, all around us. They always have been. And now, one by one, they're destroying our cities.

Dodge Mercer deals in identities, which is fine until the day he deals the wrong identity and clan war breaks out. Hope Burren has no identity and no past, but she does have a multitude of voices filling her head.

In a world where nothing is as it seems, where humans are segregated and aliens can sing realities and tear worlds apart, Dodge and Hope lead a ragged band of survivors on a search for sanctuary in what may be the only hope for humankind.
Learn more about the book and author at Keith Brooke's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Harmony.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Five top books on the equestrian life

Mary King, one of Britain's most successful equestrians, is the winner of two world championship gold medals and an Olympic silver medal. She has three horses qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.

With Daisy Banks of The Browser, King discussed five top books on the equestrian life, including:
Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

I presume Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was a childhood favourite.

Yes, my mother read this to me as a bedtime story. As a horsey young girl, it was a wonderful book to have read to you. It was written in 1877, in the first person – which was ground-breaking at the time. Basically it is the memoir of a horse called Black Beauty, who starts off as a happy young colt on a farm then gets sold to pull cabs in London and isn’t treated very well, but finally ends up in a happy retirement.

The book went on to become one of the bestselling books of all time, selling 50 million copies worldwide. What effect did it have on you when you read it?

You fall in love with him at the start of the book, then there is a pulling of heartstrings when he is so badly treated, and then happiness when it turns out alright at the end.

Anna Sewell wrote the novel in order to “induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment of horses”. Because of the way she portrayed the plight of working horses, many people were concerned about their welfare and much was done to improve their situation.

Yes, and that was a very good thing.
Read about another novel King tagged at The Browser.

Black Beauty is among Megan Wasson's eight great books about horses and Lauren St. John's top ten animal adventures.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Paul Seabright reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Paul Seabright, author of The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present.

His entry begins:
When I was younger I used to read four works of fiction for every work of non-fiction, but now it’s the other way round. I’ve just finished Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch, which is like most of Tyler’s books in being fantastically informative, written as though dictated at breakneck speed, and utterly original. He annoys foodies by telling them that the best food is often available in the scruffiest restaurants, makes us all feel inadequate for knowing so little about all the planet’s ethnic foods (even waxing lyrical about North Korean cuisine!), and should make it impossible for you ever to eat a quiet meal again without finding yourself doing some surreptitious economics at the same time. All in all, a terrible book for your peace of mind, which is one of the highest compliments I...[read on]
About The War of the Sexes, from the publisher:
As countless love songs, movies, and self-help books attest, men and women have long sought different things. The result? Seemingly inevitable conflict. Yet we belong to the most cooperative species on the planet. Isn't there a way we can use this capacity to achieve greater harmony and equality between the sexes? In The War of the Sexes, Paul Seabright argues that there is--but first we must understand how the tension between conflict and cooperation developed in our remote evolutionary past, how it shaped the modern world, and how it still holds us back, both at home and at work.

Drawing on biology, sociology, anthropology, and economics, Seabright shows that conflict between the sexes is, paradoxically, the product of cooperation. The evolutionary niche--the long dependent childhood--carved out by our ancestors requires the highest level of cooperative talent. But it also gives couples more to fight about. Men and women became experts at influencing one another to achieve their cooperative ends, but also became trapped in strategies of manipulation and deception in pursuit of sex and partnership. In early societies, economic conditions moved the balance of power in favor of men, as they cornered scarce resources for use in the sexual bargain. Today, conditions have changed beyond recognition, yet inequalities between men and women persist, as the brains, talents, and preferences we inherited from our ancestors struggle to deal with the unpredictable forces unleashed by the modern information economy.

Men and women today have an unprecedented opportunity to achieve equal power and respect. But we need to understand the mixed inheritance of conflict and cooperation left to us by our primate ancestors if we are finally to escape their legacy.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Seabright's website.

The Page 99 Test: The War of the Sexes.

Writers Read: Paul Seabright.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sherry L. Smith's "Hippies, Indians and the Fight for Red Power"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power by Sherry L. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
Through much of the 20th century, federal policy toward Indians sought to extinguish all remnants of native life and culture. That policy was dramatically confronted in the late 1960s when a loose coalition of hippies, civil rights advocates, Black Panthers, unions, Mexican-Americans, Quakers and other Christians, celebrities, and others joined with Red Power activists to fight for Indian rights.

In Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power, Sherry Smith offers the first full account of this remarkable story. Hippies were among the first non-Indians of the post-World War II generation to seek contact with Native Americans. The counterculture saw Indians as genuine holdouts against conformity, inherently spiritual, ecological, tribal, communal-the original "long hairs." Searching for authenticity while trying to achieve social and political justice for minorities, progressives of various stripes and colors were soon drawn to the Indian cause. Black Panthers took part in Pacific Northwest fish-ins. Corky Gonzales' Mexican American Crusade for Justice provided supplies and support for the Wounded Knee occupation. Actor Marlon Brando and comedian Dick Gregory spoke about the problems Native Americans faced. For their part, Indians understood they could not achieve political change without help. Non-Indians had to be educated and enlisted. Smith shows how Indians found, among this hodge-podge of dissatisfied Americans, willing recruits to their campaign for recognition of treaty rights; realization of tribal power, sovereignty, and self-determination; and protection of reservations as cultural homelands. The coalition was ephemeral but significant, leading to political reforms that strengthened Indian sovereignty.

Thoroughly researched and vividly written, this book not only illuminates this transformative historical moment but contributes greatly to our understanding about social movements.
Learn more about Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Five best books about the seamy side of long-ago New York

Geoffrey C. Ward is the coauthor of The Civil War (with Ken Burns and Ric Burns), and the author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, which won the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and the 1990 Francis Parkman Prize. His new book is A Disposition to Be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor's Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States.

One of Ward's five best books that capture the seamy side of long-ago New York, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
A Pickpocket's Tale
by Timothy J. Gilfoyle (2006)

This book is doubly a triumph—the raw, previously unpublished autobiography of a lifelong 19th-century criminal, edited and elegantly contextualized by an academic historian who can really write. George Washington Appo was born in New York on July 4, 1858, the son of a Chinese father and an Irish mother. He started out as a child pickpocket in the Five Points, graduated to the confidence game, and became an opium addict, a witness against police corruption and a celebrity criminal who played himself on stage. Through it all, Appo said that he took pride in having been "a Good Fellow in the eyes and estimation of the underworld ... a nervy crook, a money getter and spender" who understood the risks he ran and was willing to accept the consequences if he got caught. He got caught a lot. Put on trial at least nine times, he served 10 years in four prisons. He was also brutalized by his jailers, half-blinded, stabbed once and shot twice but somehow survived until 1930, leaving behind this extraordinary insider's account of a world that, without him, would have been forever hidden from the rest of us.
Read about another book on the list.

A Pickpocket's Tale is one of Elliott Gorn's five best books about criminals.

--Marshal Zeringue

S.G. Browne's "Lucky Bastard," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne.

The entry begins:
While I see my books visually as I’m writing them and have been told that my short chapters and style of writing lends my novels to film adaptation, I didn’t have any actors or actresses in mind when I wrote Lucky Bastard.

Although I have a short list of actors I’ve come up with for the characters in my first two novels (Breathers and Fated), I didn’t come up with the lists until after the books were written. Had I imagined certain actors playing those roles, I think it would have influenced or affected the development of the characters as I was creating them. Imbued them with a voice or a demeanor that was similar to previous roles I’d seen those actors play in other films. So I just allowed my characters to become who they were before casting anyone to play them in the film version.

In case you’re curious, the actors on my short list...[read on]
Learn more about Lucky Bastard and the author at S.G. Browne's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament.

The Page 69 Test: Lucky Bastard.

Writers Read: S.G. Browne.

My Book, The Movie: Lucky Bastard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Patrice Kindl & Dante

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Patrice Kindl and Dante.

The author, on Dante's connection to her latest novel:
Dante is a major character in Keeping the Castle. It is a comic Regency romance, and a miniature spaniel was exactly the right breed to be a gift from a gentleman to a lady he was courting in the early 1800s. Dante’s character also is amply described by the traditional name which he bears in the novel, “Fido,” meaning...[read on]
Learn more about Keeping the Castle and the author at Patrice Kindl's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Patrice Kindl and Dante.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alyson Hagy's "Boleto"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Boleto: A Novel by Alyson Hagy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Will Testerman is a young Wyoming horse trainer determined to make something of himself. Money is tight at the family ranch, where he’s living again after a disastrous end to his job on the Texas show-horse circuit. He sees his chance with a beautiful quarter horse, a filly that might earn him a reputation, and spends his savings to buy her.

Armed with stories and the confidence of youth, he devotes himself to her training—first, in the familiar barns and corrals of home, then on a guest ranch in the rugged Absaroka Mountains, and, in the final trial, on the glittering, treacherous polo fields of Southern California.

With Boleto, Alyson Hagy delivers a masterfully told, exquisitely observed novel about our intimate relationships with animals and money, against the backdrop of a new West that is changing forever.
Learn more about Boleto at the Graywolf Press website.

Alyson Hagy was raised on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of three collections of short fiction and the novels Keeneland and Snow, Ashes. She lives and teaches in Laramie, Wyoming.

The Page 69 Test: Boleto.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What is Katie Ganshert reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Katie Ganshert, author of Wildflowers from Winter.

Her entry begins:
Reading is one of my favorite things to do. Whether I’m sitting on my porch swing out in the sun while my son runs around the backyard or curled up under the covers in bed, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book.

I prefer reading two books at once. One that I listen to on audio (usually while cleaning), another that I read.

I recently finished Submerged, a romantic suspense by debut novelist, Dani Pettrey. I believe this is the first romantic suspense I’ve ever read, and I have to say, it was a great introduction to the genre. I really enjoyed the characters, the fast-paced storyline, and the great romantic set up for...[read on]
About Wildflowers from Winter:
A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not even sure exists?
Learn more about the book and author at Katie Ganshert's website and blog.

See--Coffee with a Canine: Katie Ganshert & Bubba.

Writers Read: Katie Ganshert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 novels influenced by Shakespeare

Matt Haig is the author of the novels The Last Family in England, The Dead Fathers Club, The Possession of Mr Cave, and The Radleys, as well as numerous children's books.

In 2006 he named a top ten list of novels influenced by Shakespeare.  One title on the list:
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

"A fellow of infinite jest" is how Hamlet describes the dead court jester Yorick in the famous graveyard scene. Infinite Jest in Wallace's satirical, zillion-page novel is the name of a film produced by Poor Yorick Productions. The film eventually kills its viewers by entertaining them to death. Wallace, like Shakespeare, is always aware of the skull behind a jester's smile.
Read about another book Haig tagged at the Guardian.

Visit Matt Haig's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dead Fathers Club.

My Book, The Movie: The Dead Fathers Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Labrador Pact.

The Page 69 Test: The Radleys.

Writers Read: Matt Haig (February 2011).

My Book, The Movie: The Radleys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: André Millard's "Beatlemania"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America by André Millard.

About the book, from the publisher:
The fame, talent, and success of the Beatles need no introduction. Nor does the world need another book exploring the band's skill and its influence on music and society in the United States, Britain, and the rest of the world. André Millard instead studies the Beatlemania phenomenon from an original perspective—the relationship among the music business, recording technologies, and teens and young adult culture of the era.

Millard argues that, despite the Beatles' indisputable skill, they would not have attained the global recognition and been as influential without the convergence of significant developments in the way music was produced, recorded, sold, and consumed. As the Second Industrial Revolution hit full swing and baby boomers came of age, the reel-to-reel recorder and other technological advances sped the evolution of the music business. Musicians, recording studios and record labels, and music fans used and interacted with music-making and -playing technology in new ways. Higher quality machines made listening to records and the radio an experience that one could easily share with others, even if they weren't in the same physical space. At the same time, an increase in cross-Atlantic commerce—especially of entertainment products—led to a freer exchange of ideas and styles of expression, notably among the middle and lower classes in the U.S. and the UK. At that point, Millard argues, the Beatles rode their remarkable musicianship and cultural savvy to an unprecedented bond with their fans—and spawned Beatlemania.

Refreshing and insightful, Beatlemania offers a deeper understanding the days of the Fab Four and the band's long-term effects on the business and culture of music.
Learn more about Beatlemania at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

André Millard is a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of several books, including The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon.

The Page 99 Test: Beatlemania.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ann Pearlman's "A Gift for My Sister," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: A Gift for My Sister by Ann Pearlman.

The entry begins:
I don’t think of movie stars when I envision my characters. My characters exist so fully in my mind no real person could match my imagination. Yet, Lionsgate turned one of my books, Infidelity, into a Lifetime movie and the people they chose fit the movie they created. I had not imagined that Kim Delaney who I loved on NYPD Blue would play the lead and that Kyle Secor, who became the President’s husband on Commander and Chief, would be her husband. Cristian de La Fuente was the ‘other man’. I loved being on the set and watching my book morph into a project that grew from the creativity and imaginations of cast and crew. When a book is made into a movie, it becomes the producer, director, and cast, and scriptwriter’s collaborative art project.

A Gift For My Sister would make a fabulous movie. There’s the psychological tension between the characters, with settings as rich as rap concerts, and an entire trip across America. Each actor will bring something new to the character that cannot match my image. Here are some ideas for the characters in A Gift for My Sister.

Michelle Williams for Sky because she reveals huge amounts of emotion in small gestures. She can portray a cautious, yet internally anxious and angry, character.

Katharine...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Pearlman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Gift for My Sister.

Writers Read: Ann Pearlman.

My Book, The Movie: A Gift for My Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books about tough stuff from out there

Elizabeth Laird was born in New Zealand of Scottish parents, but grew up in London. Before studying French and German at university, she taught at a girls’ school in Malaysia. During her twenties she lived and worked in Ethiopia, teaching and travelling, and was a disc jockey on a late night music show, broadcasting to Africa and India.

Laird is best known for her fiction for children and young adults. Novels include Red Sky in the Morning (1988), about a disabled child; Kiss the Dust (1991), about Kurdish asylum seekers in Iraq; Secret Friends (1996); Jay (1997), which has a drug theme; and Jake’s Tower (2001), in which a boy has to cope with a violent stepfather. The Garbage King (2003) is set in Addis Ababa, and is about Ethiopian street children. A Little Piece of Ground (2003) is set in Ramallah, Palestine, from the point of view of boys caught up in the intifada. Secrets of the Fearless (2006) is a historical adventure story set against the backdrop of Nelson's navy. Laird's latest book, The Prince Who Walked With Lions, is a historical epic, based on a true story, about an Ethiopian prince who is torn from his mountain home and must build a new life as an "English gentleman."

One of Laird's top ten books "showing teens tackling tough stuff and all their trials and triumphs along the way," as told to the Guardian:
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Trent Reedy is a most unexpected children's author. He is an American National Guardsman who was called up to take part in the war in Afghanistan, and he has written a novel about a young Afghan girl with a cleft palate and a hopeless life ahead of her, who is operated on by good-hearted American surgeons. A recipe, you might think, for a whitewash of the United States' disastrous intervention in Afghanistan. You would be wrong. Words in the Dust is a subtle, nuanced story, which shows a real understanding for family life in Afghanistan, and a respect for the people and their suffering. I couldn't put it down.
Read about another book on Laird's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jennifer duBois's "A Partial History of Lost Causes"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Jennifer duBois’s mesmerizing and exquisitely rendered debut novel, a long-lost letter links two disparate characters, each searching for meaning against seemingly insurmountable odds.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, world chess champion Aleksandr Bezetov begins a quixotic quest. With his renowned Cold War–era tournaments behind him, Aleksandr has turned to politics, launching a dissident presidential campaign against Vladimir Putin. He knows he will not win—and that he is risking his life in the process—but a deeper conviction propels him forward. And in the same way that he cannot abandon his aims, he cannot erase the memory of a mysterious woman he loved in his youth.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, thirty-year-old English lecturer Irina Ellison is on an improbable quest of her own. Certain she has inherited Huntington’s disease—the same cruel illness that ended her father’s life—she struggles with a sense of purpose. When Irina finds an old, photocopied letter her father had written to the young Aleksandr Bezetov, she makes a fateful decision. Her father had asked the Soviet chess prodigy a profound question—How does one proceed against a lost cause?—but never received an adequate reply. Leaving everything behind, Irina travels to Russia to find Bezetov and get an answer for her father, and for herself.

Spanning two continents and the dramatic sweep of history, A Partial History of Lost Causes reveals the stubbornness and splendor of the human will even in the most trying times. With uncommon perception and wit, Jennifer duBois explores the power of memory, the depths of human courage, and the endurance of love.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Jennifer DuBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Duncan Barrett reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Duncan Barrett, co-author of The Sugar Girls: Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End Factories.

His entry begins:
I am rather hopeless at finishing one book before I start another – so, as is often the case, I currently have three on the go. Melanie McGrath’s wonderful book Hopping is a sequel of sorts to her bestseller Silvertown, and describes the annual East Enders’ ‘holiday’ to the hop-fields of Kent, based on a true story she came across in correspondence with a reader. It was on my to-read list when I was working on my book The Sugar Girls, about women factory workers in the East End, but my co-author and I ended up dividing up the books we had bought between us to save time, and I’ve only just got around to it now. It’s a beautifully written, captivating glimpse at a lost way of life, as well as a very...[read on]
About The Sugar Girls, from the publisher:
In the years leading up to and after the Second World War thousands of women left school at fourteen to work in the bustling factories of London’s East End. Despite long hours, hard and often hazardous work, factory life afforded exciting opportunities for independence, friendship and romance. Of all the factories that lined the docks, it was at Tate and Lyle’s where you could earn the most generous wages and enjoy the best social life, and it was here where The Sugar Girls worked.

Through the Blitz and on through the years of rationing The Sugar Girls kept Britain sweet. The work was back-breakingly hard, but Tate & Lyle was more than just a factory, it was a community, a calling, a place of love and support and an uproarious, tribal part of the East End. From young Ethel to love-worn Lillian, irrepressible Gladys to Miss Smith who tries to keep a workforce of flirtatious young men and women on the straight and narrow, this is an evocative, moving story of hunger, hardship and happiness.

Tales of adversity, resilience and youthful high spirits are woven together to provide a moving insight into a lost way of life, as well as a timeless testament to the experience of being young and female.
Visit the official blog of The Sugar Girls for pictures, excerpts, reviews and more.

Duncan Barrett studied English at Cambridge and now works as writer and editor, specializing in biography and memoir.

The Page 99 Test: The Sugar Girls.

Writers Read: Duncan Barrett.

--Marshal Zeringue