Saturday, May 26, 2018

The ideal first novel for 10 “must read” authors

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten "ideal 'starter novels' for authors guaranteed to be on many, if not most, lists of can’t miss writers," including:
Haruki Murakami. Start Here: A Wild Sheep Chase

Murakami is another mainstay on the list of challenging contemporary authors, and it’s usually because people recommend his most famous works first—dense bricks like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore. These books are brilliant, but they are also difficult to parse, unique in both style and structure, not to mention imagery. To ease into Murakami, start with A Wild Sheep Chase—it’s got all the trademark weirdness, but within a much more straightforward story. It will help you feel like you “get” Murakami, even the parts you don’t, so by the time you read one of his “must-read” books, your head (probably) won’t explode. Some might argue for Norwegian Wood, which has more in common with traditional Western literature, but that one is an outlier in his bibliography, and won’t prepare you for the epic strangeness of his major works.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 25, 2018

Five unforgettable prisons in science fiction and fantasy

Corey J. White is a writer of science-fiction, horror, and other, harder to define stories. He is the author of The VoidWitch Saga, containing Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow. One of five unforgettable prisons in science fiction and fantasy that he tagged at Tor.com:
Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch

You could be excused for thinking that the title of Thomas Disch’s 1968 novel is a simple play on the term ‘concentration camp,’ but delve into the book and you’ll find it’s not as simple as that. Locked up at a subterranean prison called Camp Archimedes, Louis Sacchetti is tasked with monitoring an experimental program whereby inmates are infected with a strain of syphilis designed to break down mental walls and provide genius-level intellect. Similar to Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, Camp Concentration uses the device of journal entries to tell its story, but where Vonnegut’s novel follows a free man who many consider a war criminal, Camp Concentration is the story of a writer imprisoned as a conscientious objector to an unpopular war.

While much of Sacchetti’s journal chronicles his efforts to hold onto his sense of self while in prison, he also details the actions and aspirations of the other prisoners, and even the staff of Camp Archimedes. Some of the prisoners use their newly-gifted intelligence to re-examine alchemical theories abandoned centuries earlier, but their objectives seem to pale in comparison to one of the warders whose goal is nothing less than the destruction of the entire human race.

It’s a dryly and darkly funny book, filled with references to Dante’s Inferno, Faust, the Bible, the operas of Wagner, and much more, with the pomp and prestige of these works standing juxtaposed against the depressing grimness of the prison’s underground setting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ten books that reveal secret histories

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten books that "offer perspectives on history that remained hidden for a long time," including:
Medical Apartheid, by Harriet A. Washington

Most people are familiar with the horrific Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the U.S. government allowed 600 black men sick with syphilis to go untreated so the disease could be studied, but Washington points out that this is merely the most famous instance of incredible racism inside the medical and scientific world. We tend to think of doctors and scientists as fair-minded and objective, but after reading this book you’ll know better. From slaves sold off for medical experiments to hospitals waiving fees for deceased black patients solely so they could claim the bodies for anatomy lessons and prison populations used for involuntary studies, there’s a whole secret and shameful history of abuse here that goes far beyond what most people think of when they think about racism.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Five books about royal marriages

Kate Williams is a novelist, social historian and broadcaster who appears regularly on radio and television as a historical and royal expert. One of five books about royal marriages she tagged at the Guardian:
And the most tragic wedding? There is hot competition, but I would choose Lady Jane Grey, who in May 1553 was married at just 15 to Lord Guildford Dudley, as Philippa Gregory recounts in her moving novel The Last Tudor. The teenage king, Edward VI, was too sick to attend but Lady Jane, dressed in silver and gold, danced happily. However, her new father‑in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, saw her as a route to power. Jane indeed became queen in the weeks after her wedding, but she reigned for only nine days. Within nine months of their wedding, both bride and groom were executed.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Six of the more terrifying fictional digital viruses

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at strangelibrary.com. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged six terrifying fictional digital viruses and plagues, including:
Snow Crash (Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson)

An insidious visual/digital plague that takes the form of a designer drug, the eponymous virus from Neal Stephenson’s post-cyberpunk classic first causes users’ digital interface rigs to crash with a static effect similar to “snow” on an old television screen. Its progression from there is dramatic, as the subliminal messages inside the viral program cause the user first to go comatose, then begin babbling in tongues thanks to a combination of audio signals, linguistic hacking, and ancient Sumerian memetic viruses that can alter DNA. Worse still, the virus makes its way into the hands of a Christian televangelist and his floating pirate nation, who want to use it to control both the physical world and the Metaverse, Snow Crash’s version of the internet. Scary stuff.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

Six books that illuminate the workings of singular minds

Helen DeWitt is the author of the novels The Last Samurai and Lightning Rods, and the new story collection Some Trick. One of her six favorite books that illuminate the workings of singular minds, as shared at The Week magazine:
Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein

I once thought insurance was boring, too. Bernstein, in his history of probability and forecasting, argues that the foundations of insurance are revolutionary, defining the boundary between modern times and the past. The mastery of risk means that the future can be understood as something more than a whim of the gods.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ben Okri's six best books

Poet and novelist Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, northern Nigeria, to an Igbo mother and Urhobo father. He grew up in London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. He is the author of The Famished Road, which won the Booker Prize in 1991.

One of Okri's six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
DON QUIXOTE
by Cervantes

One of the greatest stories about the power of storytelling and the price paid for following the uniqueness of one’s thoughts. Its humour is very invigorating and it has two of the greatest characters in world literature: Quixote and Sancho Panza who between them define a broad range of humanity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Don Quixote was the second most popular book among prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay. It is on Bruce Wagner's six favorite books list, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten list of fictional best friends we'd like to have as nonfictional best friends, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best literary women dressed as men and ten of the best books written in prison.

Paul Auster always returns to Don Quixote; Claire Messud hasn't read it.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Eleven recent novels that powerfully tackle gun violence

At Entertainment Weekly Mary Kate Carr  tagged eleven recent novels that powerfully tackle gun violence. One title on the list:
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

After being welcomed to a new semester by the principal of Opportunity High School, the students and teachers find themselves trapped in the auditorium as a ruthless shooter begins to open fire. Told through four different perspectives over the course of 54 minutes, the students do what they can to survive one classmate’s deadly revenge.
Read about the other entries on the list.

This is Where it Ends is among Jenny Kawecki's six top YA novels that take place in a single day, Tara Sonin's fifty YA novels adults will love, too, and Eric Smith's six top diverse YA thrillers.

The Page 69 Test:This Is Where It Ends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2018

YA novels that get teen anxiety right

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler rounded up some expert opinion on YA novels that get teen anxiety right. One title to make the list, recommended by Sierra Elmore:
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now begins with the titular character’s fear experienced during her first airplane ride, fear that you feel through a careful mix of dialogue, inner turmoil, and soothing words from stranger. From the start, Dana L. Davis’s debut YA contemporary weaves together a complicated story of grief and loss with the complications that come from generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. Davis states in the Author’s Note that Tiffany’s experiences are based on her own, leading this #OwnVoices book to ring true in a way I don’t see often in YA. Add to this the devastation of entering a new, strict household (with four siblings!), and you get a novel that entertains as it introduces the reader to life with an anxious mind.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top ten books to understand happiness

Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist, lecturer, author, blogger, media pundit, science communicator, comedian and numerous other things, depending on who’s asking and what they need. Although employed as a tutor and lecturer by the Cardiff University Centre for Medical Education in his day job, Burnett is best known for his satirical science column ‘Brain Flapping‘ at the Guardian, and his internationally acclaimed debut book The Idiot Brain. His latest book is Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why.

One of Burnett's ten top books to understand happiness, as shared at the Guardian:
Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl

Humans are an incredibly social species, so our brains are often affected by, or geared towards, interpersonal interaction. Consequently, much of what we feel and experience is heavily influenced by other people. This has consequences for our happiness and how we go about achieving it.

In her first book, New York magazine’s Melissa Dahl focuses largely on the nature of embarrassment, in exquisite but accessible detail, providing a brilliantly insightful look at what the perceptions of others do to us on a fundamental level. Having it on your shelves would be nothing to be embarrassed about.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Five books to understand transhumanism

Mark O’Connell is a Dublin based writer. He is a books columnist for Slate. His work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Observer, and The New Yorker.

O'Connell is the author of To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death.

One of the author's five books to understand transhumanism, as shared at the Guardian:
Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K is a haunting story about an aging billionaire who arranges for himself and his dying wife to be cryogenically preserved, in the hope of being reanimated once the technology’s been developed to allow them to live eternally. There are obvious echoes of the transhumanist movement, and the Silicon Valley cult of eternal youth and transformative technology that it feeds off, as DeLillo brilliantly captures the broader perversity of our culture’s fraught relationship with technology, and the strange apocalyptic tenor of our current moment.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Six top stories of sand and sea

Melissa Broder's new novel is The Pisces.

One of her six favorite stories of sand and sea, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

I had suspected that my professed reasons for not wanting to have children — too selfish, not sane enough, will regret it — could be easily overcome if I actually wanted children. But Ferrante's 2006 novel about a mother on a seaside holiday affirms that those reasons can't be discounted.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue