Friday, July 31, 2015

Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby is the author of seven novels, including the just-released The Devil's Share, the fourth in his series about professional thief Crissa Stone. He lives in New Jersey.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Stroby's reply:
I’d been meandering back and forth between four different books lately – including two short story collections – without any of them capturing my undivided attention. That ended when I started Gene Kerrigan’s 2011 Dublin-set crime novel The Rage (Europa/World Noir). The novel, Kerrigan’s fourth, follows a just-released ex-con who’s in over his head with an ambitious heist, and a slightly tarnished cop who’s doggedly pursuing a cold case murder. Their trajectories intersect, of course, but in ways that are always surprising.

A year or so ago, I stumbled on Kerrigan’s 2009 novel Dark Times in the City and loved it. He’s a terrific writer (and journalist) who crafts wonderfully stripped-down but complex tales of Dublin crooks and cops in the aftermath of economic collapse. The Rage won the 2012 Golden Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year from the U.K. Crime Writers Association, and rightly so. Kerrigan is rapidly becoming one of my favorite crime writers from any country.
Visit the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Margaret Fortune

Margaret Fortune wrote her first story at the age of six and has been writing ever since.

Her new novel is Nova.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Fortune's reply:
My tastes in reading are quite eclectic and can probably be best described as “whatever happens to catch my fancy.” Fiction, non-fiction, children’s—I’ll read anything that looks interesting. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of genre fiction. When I signed a deal with DAW Books in 2014 for my science fiction series, I decided I wanted to get to know my publishing house better by reading some DAW books. As such, I usually have at least one DAW book on hand these days, among other things.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road. While I’m only partway through this ghost story, already I’m drawn in by the writing and atmosphere. The prose is truly lovely and used with great effect to build this fascinating twilight world where the living and dead collide. I’m a writer who cares deeply about not simply putting words on the page, but putting words on the page that are beautiful, so when I see another writer who does the same, I always get really excited.

Before that, I recently finished all four books of the Otherland series by Tad Williams. As a reader, I’ve never been a fan of long books or series. So the fact that I read this series consisting of 700-page tomes from start to finish says a lot. The scope and breadth of this virtual world Williams creates is, quite frankly amazing, but more than that, I really grew to care about the characters over the course of the series. Nothing endears me to a book the way characters I love can.

In between DAW books, I’ve read a variety of other things, including The Battle for Wondla, the third book in Tony DiTerlizzi’s awesome middle grade sci-fi trilogy. I am a sucker for non-picture books that have illustrations in them, but it’s not often I find them. Between the beautiful illustrations running throughout the book, the made-up alphabet, the incredible worldbuilding, and powerful story, this series exemplifies creativity at its best and shows just how great children’s fiction can be.
Visit Margaret Fortune's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nova.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lee Robinson

Lee Robinson practiced law for over 20 years in Charleston, South Carolina, and was the first female president of the Charleston County Bar. She teaches at the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Robinson's new novel is Lawyer for the Dog.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished two books which dazzled me for different reasons. Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is so vividly rendered, so tactile, as we feel the world through the sensibility of the blind girl at its center. This is a book I’ll return to again. (The first read was for pleasure, the next time will be to study its structure.)

I like to alternate fiction with nonfiction, so after Doerr’s novel I picked up Jan Jarboe Russell’s The Train to Crystal City, a fascinating and well-researched account of the internment camp in South Texas, where during World War II secret trains carried thousands of Japanese, German and Italian immigrant and their American-born children.

Next on my bedside stack is another novel, Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. I was a latecomer to what has now become an American classic, her Housekeeping, and I want more of Robinson’s storytelling, with its fearless yet tender portrayal of family relationships.
Visit Lee Robinson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lawyer for the Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

David Morgan

David Morgan is Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies. He is the author of The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling and The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice, and coeditor of the journal Material Religion.

Morgan's new book is The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
At the moment I am reading three deeply suggestive books, classics in their own right: Friedrich Schiller’s Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (1950), and Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment (1976). The three work together very well because at the heart of each is a rich appreciation of the nature of play. This is directly relevant for my current book project, whose title is Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment. Schiller argued that human beings are most human when they are at play, and he understood art generally as a form of play. Huizinga took up this idea and came to regard play as fundamental to human culture. He produced a searching reflection that is broadly informed by the history of philosophy, poetry, myth, and language. Bettelheim brings to the examination of fairy tales his work as a psychoanalyst of children, arguing that fairy tales are powerful instruments for children to engage the welter of dark, inchoate forces of the psyche in creative interpretation, investing them in symbols children are able to manipulate and therefore use to resolve on their own terms the tensions that might otherwise haunt them.

All of these writers work with a deep understanding of the tradition of thought and art shaped by German Romanticism and Idealist philosophy. The irrational side of life gets attention in this tradition, whether it is the violence and horror of Grimm’s Fairy Tales or the seething, impetuous Id of Freudian psychoanalysis. That means that enchantment in my project is a way of resisting the temptation to insist that human experience be resolved in rationally coherent terms. Sometimes that works, but often it does not. Enchantment, a playful indulgence in the virtual space of different kinds of ritual absorption, is a pervasive set of strategies and material devices—from games to art to good luck charms to religious techniques of penance and devotion—that make life work in spite of its paradoxes and persistent incongruities.
Learn more about The Forge of Vision at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is the international bestselling author of The Good Girl (2014) and Pretty Baby (2015). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

Recently I asked Kubica about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m in the middle of two books right now, which are both quite different. Pam Jenoff’s The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is the first one, a historical fiction novel about World War II, which releases this July. This is the second novel of Jenoff’s that I’ve read and I’m absolutely enamored with her authentic characters and riveting writing. She has this lush, evocative way of creating beautiful love stories within the ravages of war, juxtaposing the misery and deprivation of wartime Europe with the tender friendships and love stories of those who find themselves living in it.

The second book is Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue. I’m an animal fanatic, so I was at once drawn to the image of four Labrador retriever puppies on the cover. But more than this, I had the chance to meet Meg and pick up a signed copy of the novel at Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest, where I was able to listen as Meg described the novel: a book about a pet bereavement counselor who finds herself grieving for the loss of her own beloved dog and needs to rely on an also-grieving patient to help pull her through. Both touching and humorous, the novel is a must read for everyone, but especially those who love their animals as much as I do mine.
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Peter A. Shulman

Peter A. Shulman is an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University. His new book is Coal and Empire: The Birth of Energy Security in Industrial America.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Shulman's reply:
As a historian, I'm fortunate that I get to read a lot of books for my research and teaching. Having just finished my first book, I'm starting a new project about the history of ideas about intelligence in America. For that, I'm reading Jamie Cohen-Cole's recent The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, a fascinating look at the intersection of cognitive science and American culture and politics after World War II. In the academy, in school curricula, and among public intellectuals, the idea of the open mind played a key role in how Americans thought about themselves, the practice of science, and human nature. It's a terrific read.

Before bed, I try to avoid works I'd feel compelled to take notes on. Instead, I tend to pick up other works of history that have nothing to do with what I work on myself, like Vikings or early Islam and stuff. Right now, I'm making my way through Empires and Encounters, a collection of essays on world history between 1350 and 1750 edited by Wolfgang Reinhard. This is the third volume in Harvard University Press's A History of the World, edited by Akira Iriye and J├╝rgen Osterhammel. These volumes are so huge that each contributor's essay is really a small book (and at least one of these essays from another volume, Charles S. Maier's Leviathan 2.0: Inventing Modern Statehood, has in fact appeared as a stand-alone work). I'm currently reading the essay on "Empires and Frontiers in Continental Eurasia" by Peter Perdue, who was a professor of mine in graduate school and a leading expert on early modern China.

I'm alternating that work with Andrew Hartman's terrific A War for the Soul of America, a history of the culture wars. Hartman situates the culture wars -- fought most aggressively in the 1980s and 1990s -- as an inevitable consequence of the social and cultural transformations of the 1960s. While these conflicts have often been represented as a kind of atheistic liberalism against a fundamentalist conservative Christianity, Hartman locates the earliest intellectual opposition to the social changes of the 60s in the group of writers and intellectuals who came to be called neoconservatives. His chapters on race, gender, and school curricula are fascinating.

I have two kids and this list wouldn't be complete without mentioning what I'm reading with them. The older one is about to turn eight, and he's a voracious reader on his own, but we still like to read some special books together a couple of times a week. He and I just finished Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and we're now making our way through a series of Sherlock Holmes short stories. He's also into math and we keep coming back to Raymond Smullyan's Alice in Puzzle-Land, a fantastic work of logic for kids (and grownups). We'd already read Lewis Carroll's original Alice in Wonderland, and while you don't need it to enjoy this book, it adds to the fun to remember where the ridiculous characters posing ridiculous puzzles came from.

With my five year old, who's just starting to read himself, I'm reading Isaac Bashevis Singer's marvelous Stories for Children. Singer has always been one of my favorite writers, and these stories are just magical. There are several about the lovable fools from Chelm (the one about Shlemiel and his boots is my favorite), and many more set in both Eastern Europe and America.
Learn more about Coal and Empire at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paul Moses

Paul Moses is Professor of Journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY and former city editor of Newsday, where he was the lead writer for a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. His book The Saint and the Sultan won the 2010 Catholic Press Association award for best history book. His new book is An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians.

Recently I asked Moses about what he was reading. His reply:
In June, I traveled to southern Italy to see the tiny villages where my two Italian grandparents were born. Carlo Levi’s classic Christ Stopped at Eboli was the perfect book to read. The idea behind the title is that the south of Italy was so marginalized that Christ never got there, having stopped further north in Eboli. Levi gives a vivid picture of the poverty in rural Basilicata in the 1930s, but what comes through even more so is the peasants’ dignity, wisdom and sense of pride. It gave me a sense for my own roots in the region.

When I returned home, I read the bound galley for John Norris’s upcoming book Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism. I found it to be an enjoyable read. McGrory was a Washington columnist for more than 50 years, so her life story gives an inside view of the worlds of politics and journalism, with many interesting anecdotes about powerful pols. More on that when my review appears in Commonweal.

Now, I am on to Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See. I’ve just started it, so the most I can say is that the writing is masterful.
Learn more about An Unlikely Union at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2015

Spencer Quinn

Spencer Quinn is the author of the Chet and Bernie mystery novels: Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail, To Fetch a Thief, The Dog Who Knew Too Much, A Fistful of Collars, The Sound and the Furry, and Paw and Order. He lives on Cape Cod with his dogs Audrey and Pearl. When not keeping them out of mischief, he is hard at work on the next Chet and Bernie mystery.

Quinn's latest novel, the eighth book in the Chet and Bernie series, is Scents and Sensibility.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough. It's the story of six domestic terrorist groups - which is what we'd call them now - of the 1960's and 1970's. This is a fascinating, dumbfounding, and very well-reported book. It's telling to compare the history of the Weather Underground, led by upper-middle-class whites like Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, with that of the other self-proclaimed revolutionary bands, who came from less-privileged backgrounds. Most of the latter ended up paying a heavy (and pretty much deserved) price. Dohrn and Ayers, who spent much of their time underground living in a California beach town, were able to pick up the threads of the comfortable lives they would have had anyway. It's amazing to me that the president of the United States could be friends with someone like Bill Ayers, at least as he's portrayed in Days of Rage.
Visit Chet the Dog's blog and Facebook page, and Spencer Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Audrey (September 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Pearl (August 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Dog Who Knew Too Much.

The Page 69 Test: Paw and Order.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jane Lindskold

Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Firekeeper series, which began with Through Wolf’s Eyes and concluded with Wolf’s Blood, as well as many other fantasy novels. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Lindskold's new novel is Artemis Invaded, the second book in the Artemis Awakening series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a lot… Sometimes it’s not all in print, though. Audiobooks make it possible for me to turn chore time into “reading time.”

My current audiobook is City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. So far, I’m enjoying it a great deal. The setting is richly detailed, so much so that it’s been easy to overlook that – at least to this point – the plot is comparatively skimpy, and the characters fall into very familiar types. It will be interesting to see if this changes once the setting is laid.

Before that, I listened to So You Want to be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry, both by Diane Duane. The first is solidly middle-grade, but Deep Wizardry begins to dip its toes into young adult concerns. I liked a great deal – especially that there’s a reason for wizardry, and for young wizards being at the heart of the action. Definitely a series I will continue.

I also took a very short side jaunt into the children’s book, The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Vividly illustrated in rich color, it’s a wonderful little story. I’d definitely buy it for children, especially new readers. Of special note: Delightful to see a princess depicted as a little girl, not a supermodel.

My main print reading has been the anthology The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth edited by S.M. Stirling. Set in Stirling’s Emberverse, this very long collection features stories from a wide variety of locations and times after the “Change.” My own “The Hermit and the Jackalopes,” set in the New Mexico malpais is included. I don’t always read anthologies in which I have a story but, in this case, many of the featured authors are from New Mexico, and so we keep doing panels together about this collection. I started out reading more or less as “homework,” but have come to sincerely enjoy.

Between post-apocalyptic disaster tales, I read the poetry collection Island Dreams by Gerald Hausman. It’s a vivid, highly personal selection of strongly imagistic poems – mostly free verse, but escaping the clunking “prose cut into chunks” of so much free verse. The brief “Zelazny’s Advice” perfectly caught Roger’s voice.

I’ve also been reading the Naruto manga. Just finished number 70. And, yes, I’ve been following this one pretty much from the start. Amazingly well-done characterization, especially for a story that covers so many years and so many lives.

Somewhere in there, I slipped in Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy by Wendlin Van Draanen. This is the third volume in a series of mysteries centered around junior high-aged Samantha “Sammy” Keyes, whose life is about as far from Nancy Drew-like perfection as possible. I have the next one on my bedside bookshelf….
Visit Jane Lindskold's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Thirteen Orphans.

The Page 69 Test: Five Odd Honors.

The Page 69 Test: Artemis Awakening.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney is the author of more than 90 suspense, mystery, and romance novels for teenagers, which have sold over 15,000,000 copies and are published in several languages. The Face on the Milk Carton has sold over 3,000,000 copies and was made into a television movie. Her books have won many state library awards and are on many booklists, such as the New York Public Library’s annual teen picks. Cooney grew up in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, and spent most of her life on the shoreline of that state but is now in South Carolina near her family. She is currently researching the exciting, terrifying, and completely unexpected story of the children who will one day sail on the Mayflower to the New World.

Cooney's latest novel is the YA thriller, No Such Person.

Recently I asked Cooney about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm reading David McCullough's The Wright Brothers, a topic that did not interest me in the slightest, but I loved his other books, so I felt I owed it to him. Now I am completely into Orville and Wilbur. Of course they deserve such a fine author after all. Here's my favorite line so far: when asked for advice on how to get ahead in life, Wilbur remarked, "Pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio."

I read a mystery a few months ago, again with low expectations, by Felix Francis, who continued his father Dick Francis's series. Of course I can't tell you the title because mainly those books have one word titles, and who can remember whether the book you read was Gamble or Refusal. I loved it. Now I've read (I think) all the Felix ones. So now I have gone back into Dick’s books, which begin in the 1960s and continue into the 80s. Maybe even 90s. Anyway, enough to keep me busy for the summer. They're such fast reads, they're sort of one-a-day books.

Alongside, I am working my way (that’s the correct phrasing) through the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Girl. I ordered this probably a year ago when I read the review but somehow it was unavailable for months. Now it’s here. If you really, really loved the Little House series, you will love this, too, but otherwise, move on. A stunning amount of research went into this very long and thick book. I feel weak, just picturing it. I particularly like the references to one of the illustrators, Helen Sewell, because when I was very little, she briefly lived across the street from us.
Visit Caroline B. Cooney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kent Wascom

A native of the Gulf south, Kent Wascom attended Louisiana State University and received an MFA from Florida State University. He was awarded the 2012 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for Fiction.

Wascom is the author of The Blood of Heaven (2013), and the newly released Secessia.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
My reading habits tend toward a certain stratigraphy, with fiction and poetry forming the base and research material mounting as the day wears into afternoon. In the evenings I read strictly horror and weird fiction, which relaxes and pleasantly warps me so that I wake up the next morning with just a touch of the otherworldly to my perceptions.

So, moving from the beginning of the day, I’m reading DeLillo’s Underworld, which is formidable and mysterious—think walking through the desert and stumbling on a succession of sphinxes, each informing you slightly more about the riddle of the next, and an advance copy of Fallen Land by Taylor Brown, who is a hell of a writer, and whose book is sating my need for thrumming southern prose and powdersmoke. I’m bopping between the poems of Robert Hayden and Derek Walcott and waiting eagerly for the release of the first comprehensive edition of Alejandra Pizarnik’s poems in English, which comes out later this summer (Bless you, New Directions).

The research reading varies according to what scenes I’m working on or towards. Recently I’ve been digging everything from the writings of Jose Marti to early twentieth-century newspapers to Thomas Belt’s The Naturalist in Nicaragua, which was a favorite of Charles Darwin’s and has been an invaluable source of information about the natural world of late 19th century Nicaragua. My nighttime weirdness has lately included the stories of Algernon Blackwood and the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which complement each other quite well in terms of the unreal.
Visit Kent Wascom's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ingrid Thoft

Ingrid Thoft was born in Boston and is a graduate of Wellesley College. Her interest in the PI life and her desire to create a believable PI character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle with her husband.

Thoft's new novel is Brutality.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
It’s a treat when a book satisfies me as both a writer and a reader, and that’s been my experience reading The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. Given to me by a friend at the Seattle Police Department, its premise is that fear is an essential part of our wiring and that, too often, we ignore the signals that could keep us safe. As a reader and an urban dweller, I’m finding the practical solutions in the book to be illuminating. As a writer, the case studies that De Becker provides offer insight into the criminal mind, which will undoubtedly inform my writing.

One of De Becker’s most important points is that we value logic over intuition—otherwise known as the unease you feel when something or someone in your environment doesn’t seem quite right. Our erroneous assumption is that intuition isn’t based on data when, in fact, it is. The problem is that our bodies and unconscious have evolved to signal danger in the blink of an eye, but our rational brains don’t want to accept the conclusion without the proof. De Becker writes “Intuition is the journey from A to Z without stopping at any other letter along the way. It is knowing without knowing why.”

The Gift of Fear argues that we spend too much time worrying about the threats out of our control that are statistically unlikely—like plane crashes and terrorist attacks—and not enough time considering the more likely threats in our day-to-day environments. The suitor who won’t take “no” for an answer and the “helpful” stranger in the parking lot are more apt to cause you grief and harm, but a variety of factors, including a fear of being rude, prompts us to ignore the warning signs and enter into potentially dangerous interactions and relationships. You may assume that the book is alarming and a downer, but I’m finding it to be quite the opposite. It’s given me permission to always listen to the little voice in my head that warns when something isn’t quite right, and it’s providing best practices for avoiding victimization. And a charming conman who manipulates his victims using subtle wordplay? He may just show up in a future novel.
Visit Ingrid Thoft's website.

The Page 69 Test: Brutality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ted Kosmatka

Ted Kosmatka was born and raised in Chesterton, Indiana, and spent more than a decade working in various laboratories where he sometimes used electron microscopes. He is the author of Prophet of Bones and The Games, a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2012. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards and has appeared in numerous Year's Best anthologies. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest and works as a writer in the video-game industry.

Kosmatka new novel is The Flicker Men.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
One of the great things about being a writer, and hanging out with writers, is that you sometimes get to read stuff before anyone else, so I’m currently roaring through a late draft of Patrick Swenson’s second novel, The Ultra Big Sleep, which I’m really enjoying. I’m also reading the Digital Rapture anthology, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, which I suspect is going to be a classic resource for decades to come. If you are interested in the Singularity, you have to read this book. On the top of my bedside right now is Will McIntosh’s Defenders, which people are saying great things about. Will reminds me of a bit of Daryl Gregory in that he writes great sci-fi with a keen attention to prose style.

Speaking of Daryl, one of the books I’ve finished recently, was We Are All Completely Fine, which is deserving of the Hollywood attention that it’s getting. Jason M. Hough’s Zero World was an absolute juggernaut of a read, and Bridget Foley’s Hugo and Rose was thoughtful and poignant. Both books leave you thinking about them for weeks afterward.
Visit Ted Kosmatka's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Games.

My Book, the Movie: The Games.

My Book, the Movie: Prophet of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: Prophet of Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2015

Siobhan Roberts

Siobhan Roberts is a Toronto journalist and author whose work focuses on mathematics and science. Her new book is Genius at Play, The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway (Bloomsbury, 2015). While writing the Conway biography, she was a Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, and a Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

Her previous books are Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering (Princeton University Press, 2012), and King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry (Bloomsbury, 2006). King of Infinite Space won the Mathematical Association of America’s 2009 Euler Prize for expanding the public’s view of mathematics.

Roberts also wrote and produced a documentary film about Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry, for TVOntario’s The View From Here (September 2009).

And she is the recipient of four National Magazine Awards in the science and technology longform features category (two Silver; two Honourable Mention).

Recently I asked Roberts about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m on a David Mitchell jag at the moment. I started with his latest book, The Bone Clocks. And then I went to Black Swan Green, which I distinctly remember eyeing on the new books table when it came out in 2006, at Book City near my house in Toronto, but for whatever reason I wasn’t taken in at the time. However, it was definitely meant to be. My copy now has several dog-eared pages (though I am conflicted on whether or not this is an advisable practice; my husband thinks not). For instance, therein I found: “Fitting words together makes time go through narrower pipes but faster.” I think that is notion is true of writing, and reading, both. Reading can be challenging. And at the moment I’m finding Mitchell’s book Cloud Atlas challenging. As well as The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, which was recommended to me as Mitchell’s best. But for some reason my brain is not latching on to either. The pipes are too small, and/or the flow is blocked, and so time, and the pages, almost stand still. I’m thinking maybe it is a sign of the state of my brain— which is to say helter-skelter. And then in the midst of all this, a couple of weeks ago I read a reassuring New York Review of Books piece by Tim Parks, titled, “Reading is Forgetting.” It’s a nice meditation on reading. As Parks writes:
…I ran across a quotation from Vladimir Nabokov on the Internet: “Curiously enough,” the author of Lolita tells us, “one cannot read a book: one can only reread it.” Intrigued by this paradox, I checked out the essay it came from. “When we read a book for the first time,” Nabokov complains, “the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation.” Only on a third or fourth reading, he claims, do we start behaving toward a book as we would toward a painting, holding it all in the mind at once.
So maybe this is simply what’s in store with me and reading, generally, for the time being. But then again, as Parks concludes (and it was this sentiment, sampled by a friend on Twitter, that attracted me to the essay in the first place): “No reader ever really takes complete control of a book—it’s an illusion—and perhaps to expend vast quantities of energy seeking to do so is a form of impoverishment.”
Learn more about the book and author at Siobhan Roberts' website.

The Page 69 Test: King of Infinite Space.

The Page 99 Test: Wind Wizard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Harry MacLean

Harry MacLean is a lawyer and writer based in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of In Broad Daylight, which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was a New York Times bestseller for twelve weeks; his second book, Once Upon A Time: A True Story of Memory, Murder, and the Law was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and his third book, The Past Is Never Dead: The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi's Search for Redemption was shortlisted for the William Saroyan Award, given by Stanford University.

MacLean's new novel is The Joy of Killing.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Like many readers, I keep several books going at once, often one at my bedside, one to travel with and one in my den. I recently finished Dead Wake, The Sinking of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson, and was once again impressed by his ability to take an historical event and make it come alive by deep research and rich character development. Not quite up there with In the Garden of Beasts, his fascinating work on pre-WWII Nazi Germany, but awfully close.

I’m re-reading Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, in anticipation of the BBC production of Wolf Hall, and am intrigued with her original presentation of Cromwell. I’m particularly caught up in her development of the almost father-son relationship of Cardinal Wolsey and Cromwell. She moved away from the awkward grammar which made the book Wolf Hall somewhat of a difficult read for many.

I’m also in the middle of Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg. I quit Mafia and mob books a few years back, when the stories grew a little worn out, but this one is unique: a mob hit man screws up and reinvents himself as a Rabbi in Las Vegas. The preposterousness of the notion quickly fades as you find yourself pulling for the Rabbi in spite of his bloody past. Goldberg found just the right mix of drama and humor to keep the story lively and intriguing.
Visit Harry MacLean's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Joy of Killing.

The Page 69 Test: The Joy of Killing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Emily Mitchell

Born in London, Emily Mitchell moved to the United States as a teenager. She has since lived in Vermont, Osaka, London, New York, San Francisco,West Virginia, Ohio, and Washington DC. She holds a B. A. from Middlebury College in Vermont, and worked as an editor at Index on Censorship magazine in London and at About.com in New York before getting her M. F. A. at Brooklyn College.

Mitchell is the author of a novel, The Last Summer of the World, an imaginative account of art-photographer Edward Steichen’s work in aerial reconnaissance during World War One, which was a finalist for the 2008 New York Public Library Young Lions Prize and a best-book-of-the-year in the Madison Capital Times, the Austin American-Statesman and the Providence Journal. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, Viral (Norton, 2015).

Recently I asked Mitchell about what she was reading. Her reply:
The book I finished most recently is Tania James's incredible new novel The Tusk that Did the Damage. I have been a fan of James's fiction for a while and was delighted to find this new book. It's set in rural India and it tells the story of a rogue elephant, one that has taken to attacking human beings, and the people who are drawn into the drama created by these attacks. It's structured as a braided narrative and it uses two first-person narrators, an American documentary maker who has come to India to make a film about ivory poaching and a local villager whose cousin is killed by the elephant known as "The Gravedigger". Their stories are told beautifully but for me the most moving part of the book is the third strand of the narrative: a close third-person narrative that tells the elephant's own story from his infancy and which dips inside the consciousness of this long-suffering and highly-intelligent creature in a way that is utterly convincing and very affecting.

I also just recently read Michael Martone's lovely, funny Blue Guide to Indiana which is a work completely after my own heart. What do you even call it? Is it a novel or something else? I'm not sure. It presents itself as a guidebook to a version of the state of Indiana that I wish really existed and gives a detailed and thoughtful introductions to (for example) the great Trans-Indiana Mayonnaise Pipeline, the Eli Lilly Land pharmaceutical theme park and the Underground Levittown, where all the houses are a quarter mile underneath the surface of the earth. Wonderful.

Finally, I am in the middle of Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox. A famous writer finds himself caught up in his own fictions and toyed with by his own muse in a game that seems destined to go on exploring endless different permutations of love and power until... what? I haven't finished it yet. This is the first book of Oyeyemi's that I've read and it is remarkable, daring and very funny. I doubt that it will be the last.
Visit Emily Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue