Sunday, October 22, 2017

Linda Gordon

Linda Gordon, winner of two Bancroft Prizes and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, is the author of The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and the coauthor of Feminism Unfinished. She is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University and lives in New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Gordon's reply:
I’m loving Yuri Slezkine’s The House of Government, one of an unfortunately small and quirky category of history books that I enjoy, a book that takes a piece of the background and makes it the foreground, the plot, the interpretation and everything else. It’s a biography of a building, possibly the largest apartment building in Europe, built in Moscow in 1931 to house Communist big-wigs. It provided 505 furnished apartments, and all the services of a small town—cafeteria, grocery, medical clinic, bank, gym, etc. , not to mention a theater seating 1300 and a cinema seating 1500. In 1935 it had 2,655 residents. The story begins with portraits of the pre-Bolshevik young revolutionaries—often teenagers high on utopian dreams revealed in remarkably intimate letters and diaries, then proceeds to introduce the Stalin-era functionaries replete with their gossip and power struggles, and ends with tragedy, when some 800 of them were imprisoned or killed in Stalin’s purges. (Disclosure: I was once an historian of Russia.)

Because I’m interested in non-standard ways of writing history, another genre I enjoy is mystery/spy novels, either fictionalizing true stories and/or mixing real with imaginary characters. Several years ago I was gripped by the novel HHhH, standing for Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich, or Himmler's brain is called Heydrich, by Laurent Binet and translated from the French. Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi ObergruppenfĂĽhrer, aka “the butcher of Prague,” led the plan to murder all the Jews, gays, disabled people, etc.  Another practitioner of that genre is Joseph Kanon, whose Los Alamos concerns the espionage going on as physicists rushed madly to build an atomic bomb. We meet J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the project, and many of his co-workers, often refugees from Nazidom, as well as a fictional hero and, of course, a love affair.
Visit Linda Gordon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

Paul Halpern

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of fifteen popular science books, including Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog.

Halpern's new book is The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading, and greatly enjoying, The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, which had been recommended to me by many people.  It is fabulously written, full of many profound insights about the nature of time and the brevity of life.  I’m finding Mann’s description of a sanatorium (health spa for patients with tuberculosis and other illnesses) in the Swiss Alps fascinating because of the connection with my own book.  Feynman’s first wife Arline had tuberculosis and sadly died at a young age in a sanatorium.  With his incredibly rich descriptive prose, it is no wonder that Mann won the Nobel Prize.  Plus, he was a friend and colleague of Einstein in Princeton, which makes his life story even more interesting.
Visit The Quantum Labyrinth website.

My Book, The Movie: The Quantum Labyrinth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Abeer Hoque

Abeer Y. Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. She has published a book of travel photographs and poems called The Long Way Home, and a book of linked stories, photographs and poems called The Lovers and the Leavers. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has received several other fellowships and grants. Her writing and photography have been published in Guernica, Outlook Traveller, Wasafiri, ZYZZYVA, India Today, and The Daily Star. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco.

Hoque's latest book is Olive Witch: A Memoir.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have been on a Booker Long List reading kick this summer/fall. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, was an often brutal, sometimes beautiful genre-mashing slave narrative. Reading the novel, it’s impossible not to draw parallels between pre-Civil-War times and the Great Migration and Jim Crow and Civil Rights and now 2017, the year of white supremacy in the White House.

I loved Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire (also from the Booker long list), with its sharp and finely drawn scenes, precise and clever dialogue, and a plot that vibrates with increasing intensity. The novel stretches from family ties and community to the wider sweep of global terrorism, religion and radicalism, immigration and nativism, and what we do for love and war.

I picked up Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, because the author is of Nigerian descent, and it’s just been optioned for an HBO series. I’m excited that a story with Nigerian/pan-African characters and folklore will hit the screens in a big way. I found the writing and characterization a bit uneven and choppy, but it’s a thrilling plot, wildly inventive, mythic, and feminist. I’m looking forward to its TV adaptation.

I was riveted by Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Starting from our earliest human ancestors, going into the present day and beyond, Sapiens is irreverent, indicting, entertaining, and informative. If you’re tender about things like religion or capitalism or even human rights, you won’t get a break, but it’s rollicking and relevant.

And my most recent reading foray was volume one of Margaret Atwood’s comic book, Angel Catbird, a collaboration between the much beloved prize winning literary author (I’m a huge fan of her novels) and an illustrator and colorist. Angel Catbird is a bit standard in terms of plot and structure, but sprinkles lessons for cat owners here and there, and my favourite bit – a half-cat creature of Anishinaabe descent, a First Nations people.
Learn more about the book and author at Abeer Y. Hoque's website.

The Page 99 Test: Olive Witch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tracey Neithercott

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

Neithercott's new novel is Gray Wolf Island.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually read five to 10 books each month, but September has been odd. With massive day job deadlines and my debut novel about to release, I’ve been slowly making my way through only one: Laura Ruby’s middle grade novel, York.

I fell in love with Ruby’s writing in Bone Gap, her 2015 Printz Award–winning and National Book Award–nominated YA novel. When I heard she was writing another book, I knew I needed to read it. And when I learned what it was about—a puzzle of sorts in which three kids search for a treasure in an alternate New York—I knew I needed to read it right now.

Middle grade isn’t my go-to genre (though I admit I do need to read more of it!), but I’m loving York so far. Ruby is a master at creating quirky, well-rounded characters. I also appreciate the level of intelligence in the story—the next time someone tells me children’s books need to be dumbed down for kids, I’m going to hand them York (and then a giant stack of more middle grade and young adult novels). I can’t wait to find out how the book’s trio solves the cleverly crafted clues to find the treasure.
Visit Tracey Neithercott's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gray Wolf Island.

The Page 69 Test: Gray Wolf Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sarah Porter

Sarah Porter is the author of the Lost Voices Trilogy (Lost Voices, Waking Storms, The Twice Lost) in addition to Vassa in the Night—all for the teen audience.

Her new novel is When I Cast Your Shadow.

Recently I asked Porter about what she was reading. Porter's reply:
For the last few years I’ve been working intermittently on an historical novel set in 1816. The amount of research it takes to understand the period is truly intimidating, and most of my reading now is focused on that era. I see a lot of historical fiction that takes great care with the dresses and carriages, but gives the characters completely modern outlooks. I’m trying to grasp how people of that era actually thought about the issues confronting them. Free speech was still a contested ideal in England, with journalists clapped in the stocks for criticizing the regent. The deceased Mary Wollstonecraft was fervently hated for asserting that women might possess something resembling humanity. And even radicals thought that organizing working-class people was simply too dangerous to risk.

Recently I’ve been reading Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes. My characters are intellectuals and poets, o Shelley and his friends offer a great window into the ideas they would have been discussing. It’s a fascinating but very long biography, published in 1975. I sometimes find it painfully sexist—Mary Shelley’s mind was “curiously masculine,” really? But overall it’s providing a lot of insight into the attitudes of the era. After the Shelley bio, I have a volume of Byron’s letters waiting. There’s a particular tone to 19th century snark that I’m trying to capture, and Byron’s snark was the best of his time!

Now and then I can’t resist taking a break from research. I recently finished Brittany Cavallaro’s The Last of August, a mystery in which the descendants of Watson and Holmes team up to find Charlotte Holmes’s missing uncle. It’s dark, brutal, scathing, and yet still full of charm and wit. And Ann Leckie’s Provenance just came out. I’m not made of stone and I won’t be able to hold back from reading it for long!
Visit Sarah Porter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sarah Bailey

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Bailey's first novel is The Dark Lake.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading pile has been dominated by Australian authors of late and I feel fortunate to have been on some memorable journeys with some incredible characters.

Sam, the young protagonist in Ben Hobson’s To Become a Whale was a beautiful young soul and his coming of age tale set against the harsh Australian landscape was very vivid. I spent the majority of the book wishing that I could adopt him.

I have also recently enjoyed Kylie Ladd’s The Way Back which was a really interesting twist on the thriller genre, exploring the impact a kidnapping has on the family of the young girl taken, rather than purely focusing on the drama of her abduction. The characters were all wonderfully drawn and incredibly engaging.

I always have a few crime thrillers on the go and have just re-read Michael Robotham’s Watching You which is a great little ride and part of his wonderful series featuring the psychologist Joe O’Loughlin.

I’m currently reading a Camilla Lackberg thriller The Lost Boy, set in icy Sweden. Ironically, I picked this up on a holiday in sunny Queensland – it’s especially nice to read about somewhere cold when you are somewhere warm! I always enjoy Lackberg’s mix of crime and human drama.
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

My Book, The Movie: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

David Biespiel

David Biespiel was born in 1964 and grew up in Houston, Texas.  He is a poet, literary critic, columnist, and contributing writer at The Rumpus, American Poetry ReviewPolitico, New RepublicPartisan, Slate, Poetry, and The New York Times, among other publications.

He is the author of ten books, most recently The Education of a Young PoetA Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction, and The Book of Men and Women, which was chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry.

Recently I asked Biespiel about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m reading Men, Women, and Other Anticlimaxes by Anatole Broyard. It’s collection of pieces by the late New York Times book critic about, as the title tells, men and women in different stages of their lives. Broyard’s style is terrifically easy, complimentary, without neurosis. He can handle the bucolic and the mean streets with an undisturbed acquaintance with their complexities and simplicities. I’m also reading the June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo, translated by Jeffery Yang. The poems are hit and miss really, by my tastes, but the subject matter about the struggle for human rights in China, about the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 wonderfully thrusts language and meaning into the widest civic sphere a poet can.
Visit David Biespiel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash is the New York Times best selling author of the novels The Last BalladA Land More Kind Than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Cash's reply:
I just finished Scott McClanahan's gorgeous and dangerous new novel The Sarah Book. It's the first person account of a young father going through the breakdown of his marriage, a breakdown that is primarily fueled by his own uncontrollable urges and proclivity toward chaos. Much has been made of the hillbilly since JD Vance's elegy, but McClanahan's novel proves that Vance's book isn't the last word on the culture, nor is it the most eloquent or powerful or insightful. While many of the socio-economic struggles of Appalachia can be traced back to regional isolation and an economy shackled to dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, there is no better way to unravel the psychology of a region than to throw yourself into McClanahan's novel, which, much like the culture itself, I have no explanation for.
Visit Wiley Cash's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Land More Kind Than Home.

My Book, The Movie: This Dark Road to Mercy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2017

Meryl Gordon

Meryl Gordon is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mrs. Astor Regrets and Phantom of Fifth Avenue, a Wall Street Journal bestseller. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair. She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on “elder abuse” and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.

Gordon's new book is Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
This happens to be a season when several friends have published books, all very different, and I have been enthusiastically devouring them. Julie Glass's new book, A House Among the Trees, is so beautifully written that I found myself stopping to re-read every sentence, about a famous but secretive children's book author and what happens to those near and dear when he dies.

Linda Fairstein's latest mystery, Deadfall, has great New York City details and she keeps the plot moving.

Betsy Carter's new novel about German immigrants in America in the 1940's, We Were Strangers Once, is wonderfully evocative of an era.
Visit Meryl Gordon's website.

Meryl Gordon's five best chronicles of high society.

The Page 99 Test: The Phantom of Fifth Avenue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lydia Kang

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang's novels include Control, Catalyst, and the newly released A Beautiful Poison.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Kang's reply:
I usually have a few things going at the same time. I used to be a serial reader and wouldn’t pick up a book until the last one was done, but due to a cramped schedule that’s out the window. I find that I DNF more often, and I’m usually reading for research as well as for pleasure, depending on the time of the day.

Right now for research, I’m reading Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York, by Catherine Elizabeth Havens, a ten year old girl who wrote between 1849-1850 in New York City. My current WIP in set there, and nothing beats a day-to-day account to understand the language, location, and cultural mores were.

For fun, I’m reading Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. I read both YA, adult nonfiction, and fiction, and this is one I’ve had a long while but haven’t cracked. I’ve only just started it, but the opening line is “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” I’m hooked! It’s won a lot of praise, which makes me both nervous and excited—will it be as good as I hope it will be? I’m about 20% in, and so far, it’s amazing.
Visit Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

The Page 69 Test: Catalyst.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue