Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Martha Brockenbrough

Martha Brockenbrough is the founder of SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, as well as a writer for and the former editor-in-chief of

Her new book is Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Writing is my day job, but I’m always thinking about what kind of writing I’d like to do next, and how I might stretch my muscles. This means I don’t read a ton of non-fiction, though I do always enjoy it.

I’ve become completely enchanted with children’s literature—specifically, novels for young adults. There have been several articles written about the renaissance of the form and how we’re living in a new golden age, and it’s true. There’s some really incredible stuff out there. If you’re just getting started, check out the Michael Printz award for ideas. The National Book Award committees also pick good choices, and they just released a new raft of nominees. I’ve started seeking out literature from other parts of the world. As the world becomes a more global, interconnected place, I think we’ll see more sharing of literature. So far, most of what I’ve loved hasn’t been translated, but I definitely have my eye on Japan as my next country to visit through a book (so much cheaper than airfare).

Here are some books I’ve enjoyed lately:

The White Darkness is written by the English author Geraldine McCaughrean. She feeds the fierce hunger I've had of late for books written by non-American writers. There's just something that really tickles my ears when I read something with an accent.

My other favorites:

Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn. These are set in feudal Japan. Originally a trilogy, the series expanded to five books. I would have happily read ten more, and can't wait to see the forthcoming movie. Her writing is beyond gorgeous, and her characters are rich and fantastic—think Ninjas, witches, and superheroes in love and at war. Hearn is an English author living in Australia, though she's spent years in Japan.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. A young magician in England summons a reluctant demon, and together they have to save the world from power-hungry madmen. These books are built beautifully around interesting, compelling, and truly funny characters, and if you can get to the end of the third one without feeling a serious pang, then you need to have your heart examined.

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty. Arthur A. Levine, the editor best known for bringing Harry Potter to the United States, has a great eye for international books that deserve an American audience. He's published Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass) Markus Zusak (Getting the Girl, and one of my non-Levine favorites, The Book Thief). I absolutely love Jaclyn Moriarty, and think Listen Taylor is her best yet. It tells the story of an adolescent girl who discovers a book of spells that undo the lives of all the adults around her. It's marketed as a young-adult novel, but I can't imagine anyone well into old-adulthood (sigh) not loving it.
Visit Martha Brockenbrough's websites at, and

--Marshal Zeringue