Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Pg. 99: Suisheng Zhao's "The Dragon Roars Back"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Dragon Roars Back: Transformational Leaders and Dynamics of Chinese Foreign Policy by Suisheng Zhao.

About the book, from the publisher:
China is unique in modern world history. No other rising power has experienced China's turbulent history in its relations with neighbors and Western countries. Its sheer size dominates the region. With leader Xi Jinping's political authority unmatched, Xi's sense of mission to restore what he believes is China's natural position as a great power drives the current course of the nation's foreign policy. When China was weak, it was subordinated to others. Now, China is strong, and it wants others to subordinate, at least on the issues involving what it regards as core national interests.

What are the primary forces and how have these forces driven China's reemergence to global power? This book weaves together complex events, processes, and players to provide a historically in-depth, conceptually comprehensive, and up-to-date analysis of Chinese foreign policy transition since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), arguing that transformational leaders with new visions and political wisdom to make their visions prevail are the game changers. Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Xi Jinping are transformational leaders who have charted unique courses of Chinese foreign policy in the quest for security, prosperity, and power. With the ultimate decision-making authority on national security and strategic policies, these leaders have made political use of ideational forces, tailoring bureaucratic institutions, exploiting the international power distribution, and responding strategically to the international norms and rules to advance their foreign policy agendas in the path of China's ascendance.
Follow Suisheng Zhao on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Dragon Roars Back.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of the best dogs in post-apocalyptic books

Lorna Wallace has a PhD in English Literature and is a lover of all things science fiction and horror. She lives in Scotland with her rescue greyhound, Misty.

At Wallace tagged eleven of the best dogs in post-apocalyptic books and films, including:
Jasper — The Dog Stars (2012) by Peter Heller

There’s something irresistibly cute about dogs riding shotgun in a car—something which multiple mutts on this list do—even though I would never let my own dog do it (she’s huge, okay, she wouldn’t fit). But The Dog Stars goes one better: Jasper the dog gets to fly around as a passenger in a little Cessna airplane. He lives in an airplane hangar with his owner, Hig, after a deadly flu has wiped out most of the population. The writing style of this book wasn’t for me but I’m sure there are readers out there who will love it, and I can’t deny that Jasper is an excellent friend for the end of the world.
Read about another entry on the list .

The Dog Stars is among Siobhan Adcock's six crime novels that explore the experience of veterans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pg. 69: Aaron Philip Clark's "Blue Like Me"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Blue Like Me (Book 2 of 2: Trevor Finnegan) by Aaron Philip Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
A brutal homicide sets an ex-cop and his former partner on the hunt for an enigmatic killer in a gripping thriller by the author of Under Color of Law.

When former detective Trevor “Finn” Finnegan became a PI, he adopted a new mandate: catch the LAPD’s worst in the act. While on surveillance in Venice Beach, Finn tails two potentially dirty cops: Detective Martin Riley and Finn’s ex-partner, Detective Sally Munoz. Things take a deadly turn when an unknown assailant executes Riley and wounds Munoz. In an instant, Finn goes from private eye to eyewitness.

Munoz needs Finn to help find Riley’s killer, but doing so could blow his cover. She’s an officer shaded by rumors. Maybe she’s still a good cop―but maybe she’s not. Finn’s reluctance ends when his dear “uncle,” an ex-LAPD detective, is murdered, and it might be connected to Riley’s death.

To prevent more bloodshed and avoid becoming the next targets on the killer’s list, Finn and Munoz will have to bury their complicated past, trust each other, and come face-to-face with painful secrets that could destroy them both.
Visit Aaron Philip Clark's website.

My Book, The Movie: Under Color of Law.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Like Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vincent W. Lloyd's "Black Dignity"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Black Dignity: The Struggle against Domination by Vincent W. Lloyd.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why Black dignity is the paradigm of all dignity and Black philosophy is the starting point of all philosophy

This radical work by one of the leading young scholars of Black thought delineates a new concept of Black dignity, yet one with a long history in Black writing and action. Previously in the West, dignity has been seen in two ways: as something inherent in one’s station in life, whether acquired or conferred by birth; or more recently as an essential condition and right common to all of humanity.

In what might be called a work of observational philosophy—an effort to describe the philosophy underlying the Black Lives Matter movement—Vincent W. Lloyd defines dignity as something performative, not an essential quality but an action: struggle against domination. Without struggle, there is no dignity. He defines anti-Blackness as an inescapable condition of American life, and the slave’s struggle against the master as the “primal scene” of domination and resistance. Exploring the way Black writers such as Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Audre Lorde have dealt with themes such as Black rage, Black love, and Black magic, Lloyd posits that Black dignity is the paradigm of all dignity and, more audaciously, that Black philosophy is the starting point of all philosophy.
Learn more about Black Dignity at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Black Natural Law.

The Page 99 Test: Black Dignity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top crime novels for details of legal and illegal professions

Lia Matera is the author of twelve crime novels in two series, one featuring politically conflicted lawyer Willa Jansson and the other, high-profile litigator Laura Di Palma. Matera has also published eleven short stories and a novella.

She is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, where she was editor-in-chief of the Constitutional Law Quarterly. She is a member of the California Bar and was a Teaching Fellow at Stanford Law School before becoming a full-time writer.

Two of her novels were nominated for the mystery genre's top prize, the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Three were nominated for the Anthony Award, and two were nominated for the Macavity Award.

At Shepherd Matera tagged five of the "best crime novels for details of legal, intermittently legal, and definitely illegal professions," including:
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs

What is it like to be a thief? I picked up Ghostman after writer Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) joked on Facebook that the book taught her how to rob a casino. This exciting story does that and much more. The protagonist is forced to untangle a caper gone FUBAR and then disappear without a trace. Through multiple twists and backstabbings, readers learn the fine points of pulling off grand thefts and long cons, the tricks and trials of becoming a permanent “ghost.” The information is offered seamlessly, with no jarring breaks from action or characterization. In my opinion, there’s never been a better heist novel, though its sequel, Vanishing Games, comes close. (Sadly, Hobbs died when he was only 26, leaving behind no additional manuscripts.)
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Ghostman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2022

Pg. 99: Sandra Joireman's "Peace, Preference, and Property"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Peace, Preference, and Property: Return Migration after Violent Conflict by Sandra F. Joireman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Growing numbers of people are displaced by war and violent conflict. In Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Syria, and elsewhere violence pushes civilian populations from their homes and sometimes from their countries, making them refugees. In previous decades, millions of refugees and displaced people returned to their place of origin after conflict or were resettled in countries in the Global North. Now displacements last longer, the number of people returning home is lower, and opportunities for resettlement are shrinking. More and more people spend decades in refugee camps or displaced within their own countries, raising their children away from their home communities and cultures. In this context, international policies encourage return to place of origin.

Using case studies and first-person accounts from interviews and fieldwork in post-conflict settings such as Uganda, Liberia, and Kosovo, Sandra F. Joireman highlights the divergence between these policies and the preferences of conflict-displaced people. Rather than looking from the top down, at the rights that people have in international and domestic law, the perspective of this text is from the ground up—examining individual and household choices after conflict. Some refugees want to go home, some do not want to return, some want to return to their countries of origin but live in a different place, and others are repatriated against their will when they have no other options. Peace, Preference, and Property suggests alternative policies that would provide greater choice for displaced people in terms of property restitution and solutions to displacement.
Visit Sandra Joireman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Peace, Preference, and Property.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top literary evocations of winter

At the Waterstones blog Anna Orhanen tagged eleven of "the very best literary evocations of winter," including:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

One of the greatest tragic love stories in the history of literature, Tolstoy’s passionate tale of a young, married St Petersburg aristocrat who begins an affair with a dashing cavalry officer is a soul-stirring exploration of power dynamics in both society and love. Full of moral complexity as well as unforgettable winter scenes, the story of Anna Karenina – and what it has to say about the nature of desire and sacrifice – will never grow old.
Read about another entry on the list.

Anna Karenina also appears on Cathy Rentzenbrink's top ten list of bookworms in fiction, Amanda Craig's list of ten of the best-dressed characters in fiction, Ceri Radford's list often of the finest literary romances ever told, Tessa Hadley's list of six favorite examinations of art in fiction, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite epic novels, Jane Corry's list of five of literature's more fearsome families, Neel Mukherjee's six favorite books list, Viv Groskop's top ten list of life lessons from Russian literature, Elizabeth Day's top ten list of parties in fiction, Grant Ginder's top ten list of the more loathsome people in literature, Louis De Berniéres's six best books list, Martin Seay's ten best long books list, Jeffrey Lent's top ten list of books about justice and redemption, Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Hannah Jane Parkinson's list of the ten worst couples in literature, Hanna McGrath's top fifteen list of epigraphs, Amelia Schonbek's list of three classic novels that pass the Bechdel test, Rachel Thompson's top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction, Melissa Albert's recommended reading list for eight villains, Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, David Denby's six favorite books list, Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Pg. 69: Rae Meadows's "Winterland"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Winterland: A Novel by Rae Meadows.

About the book, from the publisher:
Perfection has a cost . . . With transporting prose and meticulous detail, set in an era that remains shockingly relevant today, Winterland tells a story of glory, loss, hope, and determination, and of finding light where none exists.

Soviet Union, 1973: There is perhaps no greater honor for a young girl than to be chosen for the famed USSR gymnastics program. When eight-year-old Anya is selected, her family is thrilled. What is left of her family, that is. Years ago, her mother disappeared without a trace, leaving Anya’s father devastated and their lives dark and quiet in the bitter cold of Siberia. Anya’s only confidant is her neighbor, an older woman who survived unspeakable horrors during her ten years imprisoned in a Gulag camp—and who, unbeknownst to Anya, was also her mother’s confidant and might hold the key to her disappearance.

As Anya rises through the ranks of competitive gymnastics, and as other girls fall from grace, she soon comes to realize that there is very little margin of error for anyone and so much to lose.
Learn more about the book and author at Rae Meadows's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mothers and Daughters.

The Page 69 Test: I Will Send Rain.

The Page 69 Test: Winterland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five speculative fiction books featuring tarot

Electra Pritchett is a lapsed historian who splits her time between reading, research, and her obsession with birds and parfait. Born in New Jersey, she has lived on three continents and her studies have ranged from ancient Rome to modern Japan.

At she tagged "five works of genre fiction that incorporate the tarot or a tarot analog into the worldbuilding of their novels," including:
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers

Tarot does not appear directly in the narrative, but some of the major arcana resonate both with the novel’s themes and the themes of the series overall. Sayers’ eighth Lord Peter Wimsey mystery is based on her experiences working in the advertising industry: to catch a murderer, Peter spends almost the whole book undercover, working in an advertising office as Death Bredon. During his investigation, he repeatedly encounters a dissolute group of “bright young things” led by the aristocratic Dian de Momerie, who is usually high out of her mind.

Dian’s ravings about seeing a “hanged man” behind Peter point to the major arcana: she herself can be taken as the Moon, while Peter—in costume as the Harlequin—resonates with the Fool, the protagonist of the major arcana as well as of the novel. On top of that, Peter is closely associated with three cards that follow each other in many decks: Justice, the Hanged Man, and Death. I’ll leave most of these interpretations as an exercise for the reader, but it’s worth nothing that among other things the Hanged Man recalls Wodan, who hung on the tree for nine days and nights, just as Peter takes nine books to become a man in full before he is ready to meet Harriet Vane as an equal in the tenth, Gaudy Night.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

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 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