Saturday, October 21, 2017

The perfect biographies of every US president

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged the ideal biographies of each US president, including:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: FDR, by Jean Edward Smith

One of our greatest presidents deserves one of the greatest biographies ever written, and Smith comes through with her epic, well-written, and impeccably researched 2007 book. Smith offers a panoramic view of FDR, a man born into wealth and affluence who wound up a champion of the middle class and poor, a president whose efforts to guide the country out of the Depression were failures until World War II came along—and yet a man who is still routinely included in the top five presidents of all time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best manifestos and tracts

At the Guardian Will Hutton tagged ten polemical masterpieces that transformed the west, including:
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

This was the foundation of the modern environmental movement. Painstakingly and exhaustively researched, it exposed the widespread use of toxic pesticides to improve crop yields as a menace to nature and humanity alike. The title brilliantly captured the book’s core message – that human and natural life are interdependent, that today’s generation has a duty to itself and succeeding generations to organise itself so life is sustainable and that the price of not doing so is not only materially damaging – it risks silencing the tumult of nature as it comes to life in the Spring. The chemical industry attacked the book and its author – but its popularity not only forced changes to the way pesticides were administered, but triggered a much wider examination of what humans were – and are – doing to nature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Silent Spring made a list of the best books on global warming at the Guardian in 2009. It is among Helen Macdonald's six favorite books, Tim Dee's ten best nature books, Gill Lewis's ten top birds in books, and John Kerry's five top books about progressivism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

Thirty YA books that speak out against assault & harassment

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged thirty YA books that address sexual harassment and/or assault, including:
Leftovers, by Laura Wiess

Blair and Ardith always have each other, but they don’t have much else. They’re forgotten by their families and face constant harassment and assault, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. There’s only one surefire way they know to get not only revenge but justice, though the destruction they’ll leave in their wake is its own kind of unspeakable. The clever crafting of this novel and unexpected character arcs make it a standout, and despite being a decade old, its relevance hasn’t lessened a bit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Leftovers.

Coffee with a canine: Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten imaginary drugs in fiction

Jeff Noon's latest novel is A Man of Shadows.

One of his top ten "modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights" in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Substance D (A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick)

Dick is perhaps the most prolific of the drug inventors. He used it as plot generator, a source of transformative energy – and a way to both escape reality and experience it more fully. He certainly put in the research in his own life, spending whole weeks off his head. Still, the books were written. Substance D is a psychoactive; it produces an initial euphoria, which is great until the user finds out what the D stands for: Despair, Desertion, Dumbness, and in its final incarnation, Death. Here lies the dark realism at the heart of Dick’s visionary craziness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Six novel novels about novelists

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Reads blog she tagged six novels about novelists, including:
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

“Minor novelist” Arthur Less is about to turn 50, and his younger, former lover Freddy is getting married. Down and out, and determined to escape the torturous nuptials—while not appearing as though he’s escaping—Less decides to accept every ham-fisted, bizarre invitation he’s received for the year. His writerly itinerary, which will take him from NYC to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, includes teaching a class, attending an award ceremony (in which high schoolers are the judges), and interviewing a more successful author. A surprise narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the end) adds poignancy and tenderness to this lovely and comedic story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Five books about the human and the divine

Karen Lord is the award-winning, Barbadian author of Redemption in Indigo, The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game, and editor of the anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean. One of her five favorite books that "show the perils and joys of a life lived beyond the boundaries of self, a life that finds the divine in the human, and the human in the divine," as shared at
The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov

I am recommending only the second part of this very variable book about the search for a safe, long-lasting source of energy by scientists in two different universes. Dua, who lives in the para-universe, is an unusual female of her species with unconventional desires and two conventional male spouses, Odeen, and Tritt. Reproduction for this threesome can go two ways. It may result in the birth of a Rational like Odeen, an Emotional like Dua, or a Parental like Tritt. But, eventually, the ecstasy of sex causes a permanent fusion of the three into one consciousness and a new being. Dua, Odeen and Tritt must figure out for themselves what they are and who they will become—and they must do it soon, while trying to communicate with scientists from our universe before they accidentally blow up our sun.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top ten modern Nordic books

At the Guardian, Icelandic novelist Sjón tagged ten essential books from the far north, including:
Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson (translated by Lytton Smith)

Bergsson is the grand old man of Icelandic literature and this is the novel every Icelandic author must love and resist. Written in 1966, when biographies of turn-of-the-century greats were dominating the bestseller lists in Iceland, the novel pretends to be the autobiographical musings of its ageing protagonist. Having nothing to his name but the fact that he is descended from Vikings, and the small flat where he lives in one room, renting the rest out to lodgers, Tómas does his best to prove worthy of a book of his own. Only recently translated into English, it is a fabulous feast of wilting light, with a whiff of Beckett’s Unnamable’s underpants.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifty books that will turn you into a modern-day polymath

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged fifty books that will prepare you to discuss just about anything with the confidence of an expert, including:
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, by Bobby Fischer

What You’ll Learn: Chess.

Why play chess? For one, it’s one of the oldest games ever played. For another, humans’ ability to play chess may be all that’s standing between us and our computer overlords. Fischer was nuts, but he was a genius at the game, and his book (written before his full-on breakdown) remains a classic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ten top life lessons from Russian literature

Viv Groskop is the author of The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons From Russian Literature. One of her top ten life lessons from Russian literature, as shared at the Guardian:
You’re not as smart as you would like to think you are

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Poor Raskolnikov. Wanting to prove himself invincible, he hits on the perfect scheme to snaffle some cash by murdering an old lady. He bungles the job, kills an extra person by mistake and manages to leave most of the money behind. Rodion Romanovich, you are very silly indeed. But all is not lost. He can get some degree of comfort by becoming heavily religious. The lesson? Sometimes we do things so stupid that even God struggles to forgive us.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Crime and Punishment is among Annemarie Neary's top ten books about guilt, Becky Ferreira's seven best comeuppances in literature, Lorraine Kelly's six best books, the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer, Gerald Scarfe's six best books, and Andrew Klavan's five best psychological crime novels. Elmore Leonard has never read beyond page fifty of the tome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Six of the witchiest YA covens

At the BN Teen blog Nicole Hill tagged six of her favorite covens in YA fiction, including:
The Midnight Witch, by Paula Brackston

When Lady Lilith Montgomery’s father dies, he leaves her something to remember him by: the title of Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. Naturally, that new job comes with hefty responsibility and inherent danger. Lilith will lead the coven in its charge to guard the Elixir against the shadowy Sentinels who would reclaim it. Things are complicated when she goes and falls in love with a non-witch—a fact made more awkward by her engagement to someone else.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Brackston & Bluebell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lauren Child's six best books

Lauren Child is the creator of many best-selling and award-winning books, including the hugely popular Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean series and a spin-off series of novels about Ruby Redfort. She is also the author-illustrator of The New Small Person and That Pesky Rat, among other picture books. She is the Children's Laureate in the U.K. and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal.

Lauren Child lives in London.

One of the author's six favorite books, as shared at the Daily Express:
by Rose Tremain

This is about regret and how the main character, Merivel, loses the house he so loves. He’s a great character, joyful and a bit of a delinquent. We’re often told regret is a bad thing but it’s quite important because it reminds you how special some things are.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thirteen of the unluckiest characters in SFF

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged thirteen of the unluckiest characters in science fiction & fantasy, including:
Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

I don’t think it needs to be explained that waking up to discover that you’ve been transformed into a giant roach is bad luck of the highest order. When the story goes downhill from there, it really kind of redefines being born under a bad sign by a mind-blowing order of magnitude. When your death actually solves everyone else’s problems and no one mourns you for even a moment, you have crossed over into fields of bad luck no other living thing has ever inhabited.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Metamorphosis is among five books that changed Andy Griffiths, Jason Diamond's fifty most essential works of Jewish fiction, and Thomas Bloor's top ten tales of metamorphosis; Avi Steinberg says it is one of six books every prison should stock.

--Marshal Zeringue