Saturday, November 26, 2022

Pg. 99: Rachel E. Walker's "Beauty and the Brain"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Beauty and the Brain: The Science of Human Nature in Early America by Rachel E. Walker.

About the book, from the publisher:
Examining the history of phrenology and physiognomy, Beauty and the Brain proposes a bold new way of understanding the connection between science, politics, and popular culture in early America.

Between the 1770s and the 1860s, people all across the globe relied on physiognomy and phrenology to evaluate human worth. These once-popular but now discredited disciplines were based on a deceptively simple premise: that facial features or skull shape could reveal a person’s intelligence, character, and personality. In the United States, these were culturally ubiquitous sciences that both elite thinkers and ordinary people used to understand human nature.

While the modern world dismisses phrenology and physiognomy as silly and debunked disciplines, Beauty and the Brain shows why they must be taken seriously: they were the intellectual tools that a diverse group of Americans used to debate questions of race, gender, and social justice. While prominent intellectuals and political thinkers invoked these sciences to justify hierarchy, marginalized people and progressive activists deployed them for their own political aims, creatively interpreting human minds and bodies as they fought for racial justice and gender equality. Ultimately, though, physiognomy and phrenology were as dangerous as they were popular. In addition to validating the idea that external beauty was a sign of internal worth, these disciplines often appealed to the very people who were damaged by their prejudicial doctrines. In taking physiognomy and phrenology seriously, Beauty and the Brain recovers a vibrant—if largely forgotten—cultural and intellectual universe, showing how popular sciences shaped some of the greatest political debates of the American past.
Follow Rachel Walker on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Beauty and the Brain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twenty-five top novels based on true stories

At Oprah Daily Carole V. Bell and Trish Bendix tagged twenty-five novels based on true stories, including:
Beautiful Exiles, by Meg Waite Clayton

War correspondent Martha Gellhorn met Ernest Hemingway in 1936, and, despite Hemingway's marriage to journalist Pauline Pfeiffer, their flirtatious friendship quickly became romantic. Their own eventual marriage was tumultuous, which, of course, makes for a great read—especially with Clayton's talent for taking years of research and spinning it into something sexy. Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen starred in HBO's 2012 take on their relationship, Hemingway & Gellhorn, but Beautiful Exiles further explores who Gellhorn was in her own right.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Beautiful Exiles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 25, 2022

Pg. 69: Joyce St. Anthony's "Death on a Deadline"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death on a Deadline (A Homefront News Mystery) by Joyce St. Anthony.

About the book, from the publisher:
Editor-in-chief Irene Ingram pencils in her newest mystery in Joyce St. Anthony’s second captivating Homefront News mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Rhys Bowen.

As World War II rages in Europe and the Pacific, the small town of Progress is doing its part for the soldiers in the field with a war bond drive at the annual county fair. Town gossip Ava Dempsey rumors that Clark Gable will be among the participating stars. Instead of Gable, the headliner is Freddie Harrison, a B-movie star. When Freddie turns up dead in the dunk tank, Irene Ingram, editor-in-chief of The Progress Herald, starts chasing the real headline.

There are plenty of suspects and little evidence. Ava’s sister Angel, who was married to the dead actor, is the most obvious. The couple had argued about his affair with the young starlet Belinda Fox, and Angel was the last person to see Freddie alive.

Irene discovers there’s more than one person who might have wanted Freddie dead. As Irene draws on her well-honed reporter’s instincts to find the killer—nothing is what it seems in Progress, and now her own deadline could be right around the corner.
Visit Joyce St. Anthony's website.

Q&A with Joyce St. Anthony.

The Page 69 Test: Death on a Deadline.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Melanie Newport's "This Is My Jail"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: This Is My Jail: Local Politics and the Rise of Mass Incarceration by Melanie Newport.

About the book, from the publisher:
While state and federal prisons like Attica and Alcatraz occupy a central place in the national consciousness, most incarceration in the United States occurs within the walls of local jails. In This Is My Jail, Melanie D. Newport situates the late twentieth-century escalation of mass incarceration in a longer history of racialized, politically repressive jailing. Centering the political actions of people until now overlooked—jailed people, wardens, corrections officers, sheriffs, and the countless community members who battled over the functions and impact of jails—Newport shows how local, grassroots contestation shaped the rise of the carceral state.

As ground zero for struggles over criminal justice reform, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century, jails in Chicago and Cook County were models for jailers and advocates across the nation who aimed to redefine jails as institutions of benevolent transformation. From a slave sale on the jail steps to new jail buildings to electronic monitoring, from therapy to job training, these efforts further criminalized jailed people and diminished their capacity to organize for their civil rights. With prisoners as famous as Al Capone, Dick Gregory, and Harold Washington, and a place in culture ranging from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to B. B. King’s Live in Cook County Jail, This Is My Jail places jails at the heart of twentieth-century urban life and politics.

As a sweeping history of urban incarceration, This Is My Jail shows that jails are critical sites of urban inequality that sustain the racist actions of the police and judges and exacerbate the harms wrought by housing discrimination, segregated schools, and inaccessible health care. Structured by liberal anti-Blackness and legacies of violence, today’s jails reflect longstanding local commitments to the unfreedom of poor people of color.
Visit Melanie Newport's website.

The Page 99 Test: This Is My Jail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top SFF books about spies & espionage

Elijah Kinch Spector is a writer, dandy, and rootless cosmopolitan from the Bay Area who now lives in Brooklyn.

His debut novel is Kalyna the Soothsayer.

At Tor.com Spector tagged "five books featuring lies and espionage on a national (or intergalactic) scale." One title on the list:
Hard to Be a God by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

At first, the Strugatsky brothers wanted to write a fun adventure, which they described as “our spy on an alien planet,” as part of their Noon Universe: a post-scarcity future where communism has won. Then the Soviet Union had an unexpected backlash against the “wrong” kinds of art, which felt, at the time, like a return to Stalinism after the Thaw. The shock of it changed the Strugatsky brothers’ outlook considerably.

Boris described the feeling in the afterword to the 2014 edition: “We shouldn’t have illusions. We shouldn’t have hopes for a brighter future. We were being governed by goons and enemies of culture.” So, Hard to Be a God became the darkest “prime directive” Trek episode ever.

Our hero(?) Anton is doing the old “observe but don’t interfere” thing on a planet whose humanlike inhabitants live in what is, essentially, medieval Europe. According to the Noon Universe’s idea of progress, this planet should’ve had its enlightenment and begun to improve, but it just… didn’t. So Anton is stuck watching fascism bloom in a filthy and violent place; he has the knowledge and power to topple local despots, but his position as an undercover agent forbids it. His mission is to let their history develop “naturally,” but he begins to wonder whether it would really be so terrible to meddle.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Pg. 99: Larrie D. Ferreiro's "Churchill's American Arsenal"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Churchill's American Arsenal: The Partnership Behind the Innovations that Won World War Two by Larrie D. Ferreiro.

About the book, from the publisher:
Churchill's American Arsenal reveals how the technology, know-how, and production power behind the victorious Allied partnership during World War II extended beyond the battlefront and onto the home-front.

Many weapons and inventions were credited with winning World War II, most famously in the assertion that the atomic bomb "ended the war, but radar won the war." What is less well known is that both airborne radar and the atomic bomb were invented in British laboratories, but built by Americans. The same holds true for many other American weapons credited with the Allied victory: the P-51 Mustang fighter, the Liberty ship, the proximity fuze, the Sherman tank, and even penicillin all began with British scientists and planners, but were designed and mass-produced by American engineers and factory workers. Churchill's American Arsenal chronicles this vital but often fraught relationship between British inventiveness and American technical might.

At first, leaders in each nation were deeply skeptical that such a relationship could ever be successful. But despite initial misunderstandings, petty jealousies, and continuing differences over priorities, scientists and engineers on both sides of the Atlantic found new and often ingenious ways to work together, jointly creating the weapons that often became the decisive factor in the strategy for victory that Churchill had laid out during the earliest days of the conflict. While no single invention won the war, without any one of them, the war could have been lost.
Learn more about Churchill's American Arsenal at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Brothers at Arms.

The Page 99 Test: Brothers at Arms.

The Page 99 Test: Churchill's American Arsenal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about tycoons

Peter Stothard is an author, journalist, and critic. He is a former editor of The Times of London and of the Times Literary Supplement.

He is the author of The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar and most recently, Crassus: The First Tycoon.

“Peter Stothard is a master of modern writing about ancient Rome," says Mary Beard. "In Crassus] he cleverly explores the life of one of the most puzzling and elusive ‘big men’ in the history of Rome, and why it matters.”

At the Guardian Stothard tagged ten "books, each one based in different ways on power seekers who want it all," including:
The Last Tycoon by F Scott Fitzgerald

This unfinished classic novel, published posthumously in 1941, shows a movie man’s deep personal impetus for seeing, concentrating and expanding power, the rare mark of the tycoon. “These lights, this brightness, these clusters of human hope, of wild desire – I shall take these lights in my fingers. I shall make them bright, and whether they shine or not, it is in these fingers that they shall succeed or fail.”
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Pg. 69: Ethan Chatagnier's "Singer Distance"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier.

About the book, from the publisher:
The odds of the planet next door hosting intelligent life are—that’s not luck. That’s a miracle. It means something.

In December 1960, Crystal Singer, her boyfriend Rick, and three other MIT grad students take a cross-country road trip from Boston to Arizona to paint a message in the desert. Mars has been silent for thirty years, since the last time Earth solved one of the mathematical proofs the Martian civilization carved onto its surface. The latest proof, which seems to assert contradictory truths about distance, has resisted human understanding for decades. Crystal thinks she’s solved it, and Rick is intent on putting her answer to the test—if he can keep her from cracking under the pressure on the way. But Crystal’s disappearance after the experiment will set him on a different path than he expected, forever changing the distance between them.

Filled with mystery and wonder, Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance is a novel about ambition, loneliness, exploration, and love—about how far we’re willing to go to communicate with a distant civilization, and the great lengths we’ll travel to connect with each other here on Earth.
Visit Ethan Chatagnier's website.

Q&A with Ethan Chatagnier.

The Page 69 Test: Singer Distance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Anthony Rudd's "Painting and Presence"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Painting and Presence: Why Paintings Matter by Anthony Rudd.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book is concerned with why (or whether) paintings have value: why they might be worth creating and attending to. The author starts from the challenge expressed in Plato's critique of the arts generally, according to which they do not lead us to what is true and good, and may take us away from them. Rudd tries to show that this Platonic Challenge can be answered in its own terms: that painting is good because it does lead us to truth. What paintings can give us is a non-discursive "knowledge by acquaintance" in which the essence of the painting's subject-matter is made present to the viewer. Rudd traces this understanding of painting as ontologically revelatory from the theology of the Byzantine Icon to classical Chinese appreciations of landscape painting, to the work of Merleau-Ponty and other Phenomenologists inspired by European Modernist art. He argues that this account of painting as disclosing the essences of things can also take up what is right about expressive and formalist theories of painting; and that it can apply as much to abstract as to representational painting. But to disclose the reality of things can only be of value if the reality disclosed is itself of value; and in the concluding part of the book, Rudd argues that the value of painting can only be properly understood in the context of a wider metaphysics or theology in which value is understood, not as a human projection, but as a basic characteristic of reality as such.
Learn more about Painting and Presence at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Painting and Presence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top history books about the CIA

Hugh Wilford is a professor of history at California State University, Long Beach, and author of four books, including America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East and The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. He lives in Long Beach, California.

[The Page 99 Test: America's Great Game]

At Shepherd Wilford tagged five of the best history books about the CIA, including:
A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

There are several general histories of the CIA to choose from (including my own Great Courses video lectures) but this for my money is the best book available right now. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has been writing about the Agency for years, he’s scholarly yet highly readable, and he plots just the right course between recognizing the CIA’s successes and critiquing its errors. This book is concise but comprehensive, tracing the organization’s origins in the decades before its founding in 1947, and coming all the way down to 2022. A great place to start.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: A Question of Standing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Pg. 99: Monica Liu's "Seeking Western Men"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Seeking Western Men: Email-Order Brides under China's Global Rise by Monica Liu.

About the book, from the publisher:
Commercial dating agencies that facilitate marriages across national borders comprise a $2.5 billion global industry. Ideas about the industry are rife with stereotypes—younger, more physically attractive brides from non-Western countries being paired with older Western men. These ideas are more myth than fact, Monica Liu finds in Seeking Western Men. Her study of China's email-order bride industry offers stories of Chinese women who are primarily middle-aged, divorced, and proactively seeking spouses to fulfill their material and sexual needs. What they seek in their Western partners is tied to what they believe they've lost in the shifting global economy around them. Ranging from multimillionaire entrepreneurs or ex-wives and mistresses of wealthy Chinese businessmen, to contingent sector workers and struggling single mothers, these women, along with their translators and potential husbands from the US, Canada, and Australia, make up the actors in this multifaceted story. Set against the backdrop of China's global economic ascendance and a relative decline of the West, this book asks: How does this reshape Chinese women's perception of Western masculinity? Through the unique window of global internet dating, this book reveals the shifting relationships of race, class, gender, sex, and intimacy across borders.
Learn more about Seeking Western Men at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seeking Western Men.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top novels featuring ambitious women

Stephanie Feldman is the author of the novels Saturnalia and The Angel of Losses, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, and finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. She is co-editor of the multi-genre anthology Who Will Speak for America? and her stories and essays have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Catapult Magazine, Electric Literature, Flash Fiction Online, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

[The Page 69 Test: The Angel of LossesMy Book, The Movie: The Angel of LossesThe Page 69 Test: Saturnalia]

At Lit Hub Feldman tagged "seven books featuring driven women characters in a society that doesn’t want them to succeed," including:
Megan Abbott, Give Me Your Hand

Here’s a second thriller about competition and unspoken quotas, this time about life-long friends. As young girls, Diane and Kit awakened each other’s confidence and scientific ambition; now, as adults, they find themselves competing for the same coveted laboratory position. Give Me Your Hand explores how easily Diane and Kit’s passionate friendship tips into vicious rivalry, with the added pressures of a male-dominated milieu. Like all ambitious women, the novel is haunted by questions about women’s intelligence and stability, as embodied by the research topic of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
Read about another entry on the list.

Give Me Your Hand is among Alafair Burke's eight best female friendships in books, Lisa Levy's eight top thrillers about women in the workplace, Layne Fargo's eight top thrillers featuring ambitious women, Allison Dickson's ten thrillers featuring a dance of girlfriends and deception and Carl Vonderau's nine notable moral compromises in crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 21, 2022

Pg. 69: Mariah Fredericks's "The Lindbergh Nanny"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lindbergh Nanny: A Novel by Mariah Fredericks.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mariah Fredericks's The Lindbergh Nanny is a powerful, propulsive novel about America’s most notorious kidnapping through the eyes of the woman who found herself at the heart of this deadly crime.

When the most famous toddler in America, Charles Lindbergh, Jr., is kidnapped from his family home in New Jersey in 1932, the case makes international headlines. Already celebrated for his flight across the Atlantic, his father, Charles, Sr., is the country’s golden boy, with his wealthy, lovely wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, by his side. But there’s someone else in their household—Betty Gow, a formerly obscure young woman, now known around the world by another name: the Lindbergh Nanny.

A Scottish immigrant deciphering the rules of her new homeland and its East Coast elite, Betty finds Colonel Lindbergh eccentric and often odd, Mrs. Lindbergh kind yet nervous, and Charlie simply a darling. Far from home and bruised from a love affair gone horribly wrong, Betty finds comfort in caring for the child, and warms to the attentions of handsome sailor Henrik, sometimes known as Red. Then, Charlie disappears.

Suddenly a suspect in the eyes of both the media and the public, Betty must find the truth about what really happened that night, in order to clear her own name—and to find justice for the child she loves.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty.

The Page 69 Test: Death of an American Beauty.

Q&A with Mariah Fredericks.

The Page 69 Test: The Lindbergh Nanny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jefferson Cowie's "Freedom's Dominion"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Freedom's Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power by Jefferson Cowie.

About the book, from the publisher:
A prize-winning historian chronicles a sinister idea of freedom: white Americans’ freedom to oppress others and their fight against the government that got in their way.

American freedom is typically associated with the fight of the oppressed for a better world. But for centuries, whenever the federal government intervened on behalf of nonwhite people, many white Americans fought back in the name of freedom—their freedom to dominate others.

In Freedom’s Dominion, historian Jefferson Cowie traces this complex saga by focusing on a quintessentially American place: Barbour County, Alabama, the ancestral home of political firebrand George Wallace. In a land shaped by settler colonialism and chattel slavery, white people weaponized freedom to seize Native lands, champion secession, overthrow Reconstruction, question the New Deal, and fight against the civil rights movement.

A riveting history of the long-running clash between white people and federal authority, this book radically shifts our understanding of what freedom means in America.
Visit Jefferson Cowie's website.

The Page 99 Test: Freedom's Dominion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about the pharmaco-industrial complex

Anne K. Yoder's fiction, essays, and criticism have appeared in Fence, BOMB, Tin House, NY Tyrant, and MAKE, among other publications. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and is a staff writer for The Millions. She writes, lives, and occasionally dispenses pharmaceuticals in Chicago.

Yoder's new novel is The Enhancers.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "books I’ve encountered, read, and collected that speak to pharmaceuticals and the pharmaco-industrial complex in myriad ways," including:
Attention! A Love Story by Casey Schwartz

Casey Schwartz first chronicled her Ivy League and post-grad love affair with Adderall for the New York Times—the way it made her feel so focused and as if she exceeded her own limitations of mind. The attraction to this seemingly heightened focus belongs not just Schwartz but has become a cultural quandary as we’re surrounded by devices designed to distract. Adderall’s allure, Schwartz finds, falls short of its seeming promise—in the end causing panic and standing in the way of meaningful engagement. Schwartz goes on to chronicle antidepressants by way of DFW and psychoactive drugs à la Aldous Huxley. In a conversation with Joshua Cohen (who also wrote a book on attention), Schwartz admits that part of her impulse in writing this book was the search for a lost, let’s say more idyllic, baseline.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Q&A with Ethan Chatagnier

From my Q&A with Ethan Chatagnier, author of Singer Distance:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Singer Distance is a slightly mysterious and, hopefully, beguiling title. They’re both familiar words, but it’s hard to tell what they mean together. Is it talking about musicians? Is it talking about a person? Is singer the name of a kind of distance? I want readers’ curiosity to be piqued by it, and want readers who are up for the ride of finding out.

“Distance” or “Distant” was always going to be a part of the title. The crux of the book is an alien math proof that indicates human’s understand distance all wrong, and I use it as a way of exploring the emotional distances between characters. The narrator spends a lot of the novel pained by the distance of his fiancée, Crystal Singer, and overcoming that distance becomes his key quest.

What's in a name?

I started with the name Crystal for the genius mathematician and love interest of the book because I wanted her to...[read on]
Visit Ethan Chatagnier's website.

Q&A with Ethan Chatagnier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best novels with memorable, morally complicated characters

Charles Salzberg is a novelist, journalist, and founding member of the New York Writers Workshop.

His first novel, Swann’s Last Song, was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. After losing, he swore he’d keep writing crime novels until he won something.

After four more novels in the Henry Swann series, he wrote two successful stand-alone novels, Devil in the Hole (named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine) and Second Story Man (nominated for another Shamus and a David Award, both of which, true to form, he lost). He finally broke the losing streak when Second Story Man was named winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award.

At Shepherd Salzberg tagged five favorite novels with memorable, morally complicated characters, including:
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Farrel Coleman, called “a hard-boiled poet,” and a “noir laureate” has written somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty crime novels, including a number of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels. One of my favorites is Where it Hurts, which features divorced, retired cop Gus Murphy who’s picked up part-time work as a courtesy van driver for a run-down hotel. The only thing that interrupts his mindless routine comes when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks Gus to investigate the mysterious death of his son. Coleman is particularly strong when it comes to character. This book especially resonates with me because of Coleman’s ability to dig deep inside his character’s psyche, not only examining how they tick but why they tick. His books, especially this one, are tightly plotted but for me the real attraction is his examination of personal, moral dilemmas. I’m especially attracted to and admiring of Coleman’s books, especially this one, because, as in my book, I try hard to create characters who struggle with personal issues that color their behavior, sometimes for the good but often for the not-so-good.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Where It Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rick Wartzman's "Still Broke"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Still Broke: Walmart's Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism by Rick Wartzman.

About the book, from the publisher:
How America’s biggest company began taking better care of its workers–and why such efforts will never be enough.

Fifteen years ago, Walmart was the most controversial company in America. By offering incredibly low prices, it had come to dominate the retail landscape. But with this dominance came a suite of ethical concerns. Walmart was accused of wiping out of mom-and-pop businesses across the country; ruthlessly pressuring suppliers to cut costs, even if it meant closing up U.S. factories and moving production overseas; and, above all, not taking adequate care of its own employees, who were paid so little that many wound up on public assistance.

Today, while Walmart remains America's largest employer, the picture is very different. It has become an environmental leader among businesses, and has taken many other steps to use its immense scale to have a positive social impact. Most notably, its starting wage has risen from $7.25 to $12, and employee benefits have improved. With internal and external threats to its business looming, the company began to change directions in 2005—a transformation that accelerated in 2014, with the arrival of CEO Doug McMillon. By undertaking such large-scale change without a legal mandate to do so, Walmart has joined a number of major corporations that say they are dedicated to practicing a new, socially conscious form of capitalism.

In Still Broke, award-winning author Rick Wartzman goes inside the company's transformation, showing in novelistic detail how the company has gotten to where it is. Yet he also asks a critical question: is it enough? With a still-simmering public debate around the minimum wage and widespread movements by workers demanding better treatment, how far will $12 an hour go in today's economy? Or even $15? Or Walmart’s average wage, which now hovers above $17—but, even so, doesn’t pencil out to so much as $32,000 a year for a fulltime worker?

In the richest nation on earth, how did the bar get set so low? How did America find itself relying on an army of low-wage workers without ever acknowledging their most basic needs? And if Walmart's brand of change is the best we have, how can we ever expect to build a healthy society?

With unparalleled access to the key executives and change-makers at Walmart, Still Broke does more than document a remarkable business makeover. It interrogates the role of business in American life, and asks what the future of our economy and country can be—and whose job it is to make it.
Follow Rick Wartzman on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

The Page 99 Test: The End of Loyalty.

The Page 99 Test: Still Broke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Seven books that examine the thrill of life at sea, for good & evil

John Winn Miller is a former award-winning investigative reporter, foreign correspondent, editor, newspaper publisher, screenwriter, indie movie producer, and novelist. He lives in Lexington, KY, with his wife Margo, a potter and former college English instructor, two standard poodles, and a Maine Coon cat.

Miller's debut novel is The Hunt for the Peggy C.

At CrimeReads he tagged "seven books–fiction and non-fiction–that examine the thrill of life at sea, for good and evil," including:
JAWS by Peter Benchley.

Next to pirates, probably the scariest thing in the ocean is a shark, especially a great white shark with a ferocious and mysterious appetite for human flesh. Benchley’s novel about the hunt for such a monster plaguing a northeast beach town is substantially different from Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie. It has more subplots and more flawed characters, but it is still a terrific read that will make you never want to go back into the ocean.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jaws is among Jonathan Lee's top ten books about public spaces, L.C. Shaw's nine most unforgettable antagonists in fiction, Kat Rosenfield's list of eight books that’ll make you scared to go back in the water, Rebecca Jane Stokes's seven books not to bring to the beach, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books set at the beach, and six hugely popular books that accidentally screwed the world.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Claire Kells's "An Unforgiving Place"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: An Unforgiving Place by Claire Kells.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a remote corner of Alaska, Investigative Services Bureau agent Felicity Harland squares off against a mysterious cult leader with potentially deadly motives in this thrilling outdoor adventure for fans of Scott Graham and Nevada Barr.

While enjoying a rare weekend off from her duties as an agent with the Investigative Services Branch, Felicity Harland learns that a young couple has turned up dead in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Harland recruits her partner, ex-Navy SEAL Ferdinand “Hux” Huxley, to join her in the investigation. After processing the peculiar scene where the couple perished, Harland and Hux decide that this was no tragic accident. They soon hear about a man living off the land, recruiting couples to his “fertility cult” in the Arctic. Could this survivalist have played a role in the couple’s death? Determined to get to the truth before someone else meets a similar fate, Harland and Hux venture deep into the backcountry to find the cult’s campsite. But what they find there tests their relationship in ways they never imagined—and thrusts them into a dangerous and deadly game.
Visit Claire Kells's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Underwater.

Writers Read: Claire Kells (April 2015).

My Book, The Movie: Girl Underwater.

The Page 69 Test: An Unforgiving Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 18, 2022

Eleven novels about women misbehaving & making history

Kate Manning is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Gilded Mountain, My Notorious Life, and Whitegirl. A former documentary television producer and winner of two Emmy Awards, she has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Time, Glamour, and The Guardian, among other publications. She has taught creative writing at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, and lives with her family in New York City.

[The Page 69 Test: My Notorious Life]

At Electric Lit Manning tagged "eleven novels [that] challenge notions of how women lived in the past." One title on the list:
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

In 1660s Amsterdam, Ester Velasquez, a brilliant young Portuguese Jewish emigrant who has fled anti-Semitic violence, becomes a scribe for a blind rabbi, at a time when many women were kept illiterate. Ester’s work prompts her to ask dangerous and heretical questions about the nature of God, humanity, and the universe. Her story is woven into another from contemporary London, one in which a secret stash of Jewish theological papers written in Portuguese and Hebrew is discovered sealed in a wall. Historian Helen Watt sets out to discover the identity of the scholar who wrote these astonishing documents, racing another academic in the hunt for the truth. Kadish tells the stories of these women in fascinating detail, creating a novel that enriches history and renders visible what has been purposely obliterated: the courage and rebellion of women in the 17th century.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Weight of Ink is among Ruth Reichl's top six recent novels to cook to and Melissa Ragsdale's eight books that go right along with the spirit of Hanukkah.

My Book, The Movie: The Weight of Ink.

The Page 69 Test: The Weight of Ink.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stephen G. Rabe's "The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy: A Story of Resistance, Courage, and Solidarity in a French Village by Stephen G. Rabe.

About the book, from the publisher:
The fateful days and weeks surrounding 6 June 1944 have been extensively documented in histories of the Second World War, but less attention has been paid to the tremendous impact of these events on the populations nearby. The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy tells the inspiring yet heartbreaking story of ordinary people who did extraordinary things in defense of liberty and freedom. On D-Day, when transport planes dropped paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions hopelessly off-target into marshy waters in northwestern France, the 900 villagers of Graignes welcomed them with open arms. These villagers – predominantly women – provided food, gathered intelligence, and navigated the floods to retrieve the paratroopers' equipment at great risk to themselves. When the attack by German forces on 11 June forced the overwhelmed paratroopers to withdraw, many made it to safety thanks to the help and resistance of the villagers. In this moving book, historian Stephen G. Rabe, son of one of the paratroopers, meticulously documents the forgotten lives of those who participated in this integral part of D-Day history.
Learn more about The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy at the Cambridge University Press website and contact the author at his faculty email address.

The Page 99 Test: The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 17, 2022

What is Soraya M. Lane reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Soraya M. Lane, author of The London Girls.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Or more accurately, I’ve just finished reading it!

I honestly don’t know where to start with this book. It’s so uniquely different to anything I’ve ever read before, and I was about 10 pages in when I realised that it was going to be a very special read. I loved the way the story unfolded and how cleverly it was told, weaving the past with the present, and...[read on]
About The London Girls, from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of The Last Correspondent comes a remarkable story of three young women who defy the bombs to do their bit for Britain. Will they survive the dark streets of London to see the Allies win the war?

London, 1941.
The Blitz. When a Royal Navy memo arrives at head office, requesting female recruits to sign up as motorcycle dispatch riders, delivering highly classified orders across the country, three women jump at the chance to sign up for the most dangerous jobs in London.

Olivia grew up riding motorcycles with her brothers, and with them fighting abroad she feels it is her duty to join up. The thrill of adventure draws Ava, but with more enthusiasm than skill, will she learn to navigate the treacherous London streets safely? Having lost her family during one of the first air attacks, Florence knows how important it is to have help arrive on the scene―fast―and so she steps up, outmanoeuvring the men behind the wheel of an ambulance. When Olivia, Ava and Florence meet for the first time they know they have found something all of them need―family.

As bombs fall, decimating the city they love, these three brave women build a sisterhood amid the rubble, facing down anyone―even their own families―who objects to their service. And while romances bloom and fade, their connection grows ever stronger. But none of them dare consider the terrifying reality that one night Florence’s ambulance may be rescuing someone she loves…
Visit Soraya Lane's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Spitfire Girls.

The Page 69 Test: The Spitfire Girls.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets We Left Behind.

Q&A with Soraya M. Lane.

My Book, The Movie: Under a Sky of Memories.

The Page 69 Test: Under a Sky of Memories.

Writers Read: Soraya M. Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about unlikely revolutionaries

Andrea Wulf is an award–winning author of seven acclaimed books, including the Founding Gardeners and The Invention of Nature which were both on the New York Times Best Seller List. She has written for the New York Times, the Atlantic, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian and many others.

Her latest book is Magnificent Rebels. The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self.

At the Guardian Wulf tagged ten "fiction and non–fiction books" with "'heroes' [who] are all unlikely revolutionaries." One title on the list:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

At the heart of Whitehead’s novel is Cora, a slave who flees a Georgia plantation where she was born. She’s hunted, gang–raped and again and again faces capture and the horrors of slavery. The revolutionaries here are the black and white activists who in the early 19th century formed a secret network of safe houses and routes that help enslaved workers escape from plantations in the south to the northern states. In Whitehead’s imaginative and fictional retelling this metaphorical “underground railroad” becomes a literal system of underground tracks and stations. Besides Cora’s story, this harrowing and devastating novel evokes how ordinary people risked their lives to make the world a better place.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Underground Railroad is among Chris Mooney's six intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, Rachel Eve Moulton's top ten literary thrillers, Nathan Englander’s ten desert island books, Greg Mitchell's top ten escapes in literature, and President Obama's summer 2016 reading list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Joyce St. Anthony

From my Q&A with Joyce St. Anthony, author of Death on a Deadline (A Homefront News Mystery)::
What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Death on a Deadline is set during World War II. I’ve always been fascinated by that era, partly due to my mother. She and my dad met on a blind date in 1943 and were married two weeks later, and two weeks after that he was sent overseas. He died when I was two years old but my mother kept him alive by playing her Big Band records—Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” was her favorite song. I’ve wanted to write something set in the 1940s for a long time and I finally got my wish. My other non-literary inspiration is...[read on]
Visit Joyce St. Anthony's website.

Q&A with Joyce St. Anthony.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: D. M. Rowell's "Never Name the Dead"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Never Name the Dead: A Novel by D. M. Rowell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Old grudges, tribal traditions, and outside influences collide for a Kiowa woman as forces threaten her family, her tribe, and the land of her ancestors, in this own-voices debut perfect for fans of Winter Counts.

No one called her Mud in Silicon Valley. There, she was Mae, a high-powered professional who had left her Kiowa roots behind a decade ago. But a cryptic voice message from her grandfather, James Sawpole, telling her to come home sounds so wrong that she catches the next plane to Oklahoma. She never expected to be plunged into a web of theft, betrayal, and murder.

Mud discovers a tribe in disarray. Fracking is damaging their ancestral lands, Kiowa families are being forced to sell off their artifacts, and frackers have threatened to kill her grandfather over his water rights. When Mud and her cousin Denny discover her grandfather missing, accused of stealing the valuable Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe museum—and stumble across a body in his work room—Mud has no choice but to search for answers.

Mud sets out into the Wildlife Refuge, determined to clear her grandfather’s name and identify the killer. But Mud has no idea that she’s about to embark on a vision quest that will involve deceit, greed, and a charging buffalo—or that a murderer is on her trail.
Visit D. M. Rowell's website.

My Book, The Movie: Never Name the Dead.

Q&A with D. M. Rowell.

The Page 69 Test: Never Name the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Five top SFF books about crashed spaceships

Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Osama (2011), The Violent Century (2013), the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), and the Campbell Award-winning Central Station (2016), in addition to many other works and several other awards. He works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut’s by Locus.

Tidhar's new SF novel is Neom.

At Tor.com he tagged five favorite SFF books about crashed spaceships, including:
The Martian starship in Richard K. Morgan’s Broken Angels

The follow-up novel to Morgan’s explosive debut Altered Carbon sees Takeshi Kovacs hired for a battlefield mission to first open up an alien portal, then take possession of a mysterious miles-long starship filled with winged, dead Martians. Which is all in a day’s work for Kovacs, of course. It’s such a tantalizing promise—will it open the galaxy up for humanity? Will it make life better all around? Not in a Richard Morgan novel it won’t. The recent Netflix adaptation skipped this one, which was a shame–but with anime versions in the works maybe we’ll still get to see it on the screen.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Christian Bailey's "German Jews in Love"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: German Jews in Love: A History by Christian Bailey.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book explores the dynamic role of love in German-Jewish lives, from the birth of the German Empire in the 1870s, to the 1970s, a generation after the Shoah. During a remarkably turbulent hundred-year period when German Jews experienced five political regimes, rapid urbanization, transformations in gender relations, and war and genocide, the romantic ideals of falling in love and marrying for love helped German Jews to develop a new sense of self. Appeals to romantic love were also significant in justifying relationships between Jews and non-Jews, even when those unions created conflict within and between communities.

By incorporating novel approaches from the history of emotions and life-cycle history, Christian Bailey moves beyond existing research into the sexual and racial politics of modern Germany and approaches a new frontier in the study of subjectivity and the self. German Jews in Love draws on a rich array of sources, from newspapers and love letters to state and other official records. Calling on this evidence, Bailey shows the ways German Jews' romantic relationships reveal an aspect of acculturation that has been overlooked: how deeply cultural scripts worked their way into emotions; those most intimate and seemingly pre-political aspects of German-Jewish subjectivity.
Learn more about German Jews in Love at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: German Jews in Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "The Europeans"

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published soon. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally,  America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when I was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Henry James's The Europeans begins:
No one remembers John Jay Chapman; scarcely anyone still remembered him in 1938 when Edmund Wilson, the twentieth century’s most important literary critic, reviewed a volume of Chapman’s letters published in 1907. Only Henry James, according to Wilson, “had anything like the same sureness of judgment, the same freedom from current prejudices and sentimentalities” as Chapman, who wrote of the “debasement of our politics and government by unscrupulous business interests,” which is “the whole history of America since the Civil War.”

Everything had changed, and nowhere with more tragic results than among those who were educated in the American university.

“In the seventies, the universities were still turning out admirable professional men, who had had the old classical education, a culture much wider than their professions, and the tradition of political idealism and public conscience which had presided at the founding of the Republic.” Ten years later, “the industrial and commercial development which followed the Civil War had reached a point where the old education was no longer an equipment for life.” Those who “had taken it seriously, were launched on careers of tragic misunderstanding. The rate of failure and insanity and suicide in some of the college ‘classes’ of the eighties shows an appalling demoralization.”

It was the world of business, Big Business, a world in which “seriousness about man and his problems was abrogated by Business entirely in favor of the seriousness of Business about things that were not serious.” A man who had been educated for the old America could either “become the slave of Business at one extreme or drink himself to death at the other, but in any case absorb, perhaps unconsciously, enough of the commercial ideal to neutralize any other with which he might have started out. For one of the most depressing features of the American world of this period was that it hardly knew what was the matter with it.”

Something fundamental had changed. Henry Adams, the great-grandson of one president and the grandson of another, thought to find the cause.

“The world did not double or treble its movement between 1800 and 1900,” he wrote in 1909, “but, measured by any standard known to science - by horse-power, calories, volts mass in any shape - the tension and vibration and volume and so-called progression of society were full a thousand times greater in 1900 than 1800; - the force had doubled ten times over, and the speed, when measured by electrical standards as in telegraphy, approached infinity, and had annihilated both space and time.”

None of this could have happened, this astonishing acceleration in the rate of movement, had there not been an acceptance, a belief, that wealth and its pursuit were more important than anything else. The predatory values of business could become the motive power, the driving force, in the new American Empire only if materialism was no longer thought a sin. That meant, if the question were seriously pursued, that what had happened to America, what had become by the end of the nineteenth century clear evidence of a world unhinged, had been there from the beginning, that America had been unbalanced from the start.

Henry James wrote about the tension between the idealism and the greed of Americans when it first appeared, when the speed of things first began to change the standards and the conditions of American life. The Europeans, published in l878 when James was thirty-five, is...[read on]
About Buffa's recent novel Neumann’s Last Concert, from the publisher:
Neumann’s Last Concert is a story about music and war and the search for what led to the greatest evil in modern history. It is the story of an American boy, Wilfred Malone, who lost his father in the early days of the Second World War and a German refugee, Isaac Neumann, the greatest concert pianist of his age when he lived in Berlin, but who now lives, anonymous and alone, in a single rented room in a small town a few miles from San Francisco.

Wilfred has a genius for the piano, “a keen curiosity not yet corrupted by vanity” and “a memory that forgot nothing essential.” Neumann, alone in his room, is constantly writing, an endless labyrinth of questions and answers, driving him farther and farther back into the past, searching for the causes, searching for the meaning, of what happened in Germany, trying to understand what had led him, a German Jew, to stay in Germany when he could have left but instead continued to perform right up to the night that during his last concert they took his wife away.

Neumann’s Last Concert is a novel about the great catastrophe of the 20th century and the way in which music, great music, preserves both the hope of human decency amidst the carnage of human insanity and the possibility of what human beings might still accomplish.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third reading: The Europeans.

--Marshal Zeringue