Saturday, September 22, 2018

Catherine Reef

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, and other highly acclaimed biographies for young people. Her new book is Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator.

From Reef's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Mary Shelley in your new young adult biography?

A: I had so many good reasons to write about Mary Shelley. First, Frankenstein, her most famous book, continues to be widely read by people in a broad age range. Young adults study it in high school and college English classes, and some even seek it out on their own.

Second, 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, which means that a biography of Mary Shelley published this year is especially timely.

And third, and perhaps most important in terms of creating an absorbing narrative, Shelley’s life story is such a compelling one. Think of it: she eloped with the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 16 years old and began writing her classic horror novel two years later. She had to cope with children born and lost, suicides, drownings, and early widowhood.

In my book I write that if an author were to pack all this melodrama into a novel, readers would complain that the goings-on were too wild to be believed. But...[read on]
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

My Book, The Movie: Noah Webster.

The Page 99 Test: Florence Nightingale.

My Book, The Movie: Victoria: Portrait of a Queen.

The Page 99 Test: Victoria: Portrait of a Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 21, 2018

Bandy Lee

Bandy Lee is an internationally recognized expert on violence. Trained in medicine and psychiatry at Yale and Harvard Universities, and in medical anthropology as a fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health, she is currently on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine’s Law and Psychiatry Division.

Lee is the organizer of A Duty to Warn and editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

From her Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

What was the response from people in your profession to your book, and what is the state of the debate on some of the issues you were trying to raise?

The book actually incurred an enormous response. It was an instant New York Times best-seller. For a multi-authored specialized knowledge book, this was rather surprising.

For those within our field, within mental health, we had garnered a lot of respect after the book came out. Those who have specialized knowledge will know that we kept the standard quite high, to, you might say, peer-reviewed standards, while still making the language accessible. And we removed all financial conflicts of interest. In other words, none of us are taking any profit from the book. And all of the income is being donated for the service of public mental health.

What was the main thing you were trying to get across in the book?

The initial impression for those who don’t read the book is that we’re diagnosing and we’re violating ethics. But people who have read the book would come back to us and state that they were really astonished by the ethical rigor and just how accurate and rigorous our assessment was.

The message is basically that we wanted the public to know of the dangers we saw. Dangerousness is different from diagnosis, so we tried to explain that. But the main crux is that the situation is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 20, 2018

S.K. Perry

S.K. Perry is the author of the new novel Let Me Be Like Water. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Let Me Be Like Water, and for your character Holly?

A: I started writing the book in 2012, when I'd just finished university and was working in a call centre.

I was writing on my journey to and from work and on my breaks, and the scraps of writing ever so slowly became a novel; it wasn't something I initially set out to do, and up til that point I had kept most of my writing very private.

Then I started performing spoken word poetry and so experimenting with work that is written to be heard out loud, and the book started to grow into that; I was trying to shape Holly's voice - speaking as she does to Sam - as an auditory one.

Holly was someone I got to know slowly. It was my first novel and I really enjoyed discovering this about all the characters, how they take over and do their own thing, showing you who they are themselves.

I guess one thing I did deliberately with Holly was make her as young as she is, partly because I had not encountered many depictions of women in their early 20s experiencing such an intimate...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sam Wineburg

Sam Wineburg is the author of Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone).

From his Q&A with Rebecca Onion for Slate:

Rebecca Onion: How does the kind of education we need in order to be smart about the internet differ from the critical thinking module I took in eighth grade, back in 1991?

Sam Wineburg: It irks me to no end [when people say,] “Well, [the education we need] is just critical thinking. We don’t need ‘21st-century skills.’ ” And my response is that if we could get a necromancer to bring Socrates back to life, and sit him in front of a computer, he wouldn’t know about keywords and he wouldn’t know about search engine optimization, and he wouldn’t know how to put words in quotation marks in Google, so that Google searches for them contiguously. And I’ve watched really intelligent people, Ph.D. historians with incredible pedigrees, spin themselves in circles because they lack some basic skills in search.

Think of it as a Venn diagram. So hopefully in 1991, you were taught to not decouple information from its source, and to think of the motivation and intention behind a particular document, that it wasn’t self-evident information presenting itself de novo, but it came with a purpose and it was written down or said to achieve a particular aim. And that had to be taken into account when evaluating that information. And that’s what I learned when I took AP history and had to wrestle with a DBQ [document-based question] for the first time. A good history teacher takes away your innocence about information.

But you didn’t learn about SEO, which is not a skill, it’s an awareness and an orientation—[the idea] that Google is not a being of celestial intelligence that cannot be gamed. You find naïveté about Google in a lot of different venues. Most recently a researcher at Data & Society [Francesca Tripodi] did a report about evangelicals that found that they think Google is a neutral source. They think Wikipedia is biased against conservatives, but Google is just straight information. Without realizing that, you know, Google is in a never-ending cat-and-mouse game with the people who try to game it. So that’s a piece of knowledge that’s important for people using the internet to fact-check or to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mark R. Cheathem

Mark R. Cheathem is a professor of history at Cumberland University, where he also directs the Papers of Martin Van Buren. He is the author of The Coming of Democracy: Presidential Campaigning in the Age of Jackson and several other books on the Jacksonian era, including Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democratic Party and Andrew Jackson, Southerner.

From Cheathem's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the 1824-1840 period in your new book?

A: My main interest is in Jacksonian-era politics, and I wanted to write about one of the key elections during that period. Originally, I intended to write specifically about the 1840 presidential election, which historians often hail as the first modern presidential campaign.

As I researched, however, it became apparent that while 1840 was a pivotal year, it was the culmination of developments stretching over several presidential campaigns.

So, I started at what I considered the beginning of the story rather than the end. The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign of 1840 is still prominent, but I think readers will have a better understanding of how the U.S. arrived at the campaign than if I had stuck with my original idea.

Q: What do you see as some of the most important changes in presidential campaigning during those years, and what led to those changes?

A: The most obvious changes to me are...[read on]
Learn more about The Coming of Democracy at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

Writers Read: Mark R. Cheathem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lydia Kiesling

Lydia Kiesling's new novel is The Golden State.

From her Q&A with Lili Loofbourow for Slate:

Lili Loofbourow: How were you thinking about plot while you were writing this book?

Lydia Kiesling: When I started writing, all I knew about the book was that it was about a woman with a baby in her grandparents’ mobile home in the far northeast of California. That was what felt urgent and important for me to get down on paper. As I started writing, plot hung over me as a problem that needed to be solved. I have fairly staid literary tastes and it’s always somewhat irritating to read a book that feels plotless, so it was odd to find myself writing one, and I had to think about the nips and tucks that would give shape to the thing. I love novels that are full of interiority but still have a wonderful story—The Last Samurai is a wonderful example.

I knew that we needed a “why” for Daphne. Why was she alone with the baby? And, crucially, why would she get up from her desk one day, walk out of her office, collect her child and all of their things, and head north in the Buick? I think many people will recognize the impulse, but ...[read on]
Visit Lydia Kiesling's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica's new novel is When the Lights Go Out.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for When the Lights Go Out, and for your characters Jessie and Eden?

A: My initial spark of an idea was the twist itself – I won’t say much about that for obvious reasons!

That said, I always try to dig deeply into the psychology of my characters, which was a tactic I employed quite a bit with this book. I loved getting inside Jessie and Eden’s minds and discovering how they were transformed by such things as love, loss, grief and unfulfilled dreams.

I thought up Jessie first – a young woman who has just lost her mother to breast cancer - and from her story created that of Eden: a woman so desperate to become a mother she’s willing to...[read on]
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Every Last Lie.

The Page 69 Test: When the Lights Go Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar's new book is Heart: A History.

From his Q&A with Marion Winik at Newsday:

In "Heart," you tell us that the doctor who contributed most to the invention of the heart-lung machine — a pump used during heart procedures — had been thinking of quitting med school to pursue a career in writing, until his family dissuaded him. "That advice sounded very familiar," you say. Yet now you have a successful career in both fields. How did you manage it?

To my father, a top geneticist, "nonscience is nonsense." To him, a career in writing was anathema. When I was in medical school in St. Louis and was offered an internship at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he didn't think I could do both at once. My brother, on the other hand, pointed out that there's a lot of time in each day, and much of it actually goes to waste. If I took the job, I would have to catch up with all the lectures I missed at school by reading written transcripts. Still, I thought I could do it. That internship taught me to write on deadline and gave me a strong set of clips. Those clips landed me an assignment from The New York Times.

The idea of not wasting time stands me in good stead now. I write at night, after the kids are in bed; I'll steal a few minutes in between patients, or if one cancels; I do a lot of writing while driving, by dictating scenes into a tape recorder. I'm doing what I enjoy.

What do you consider the most surprising revelation in your book?

The heart for millennia was considered the locus of our feelings, and while this is incorrect, we have now learned that...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

The Page 99 Test: Doctored.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2018

Michele Campbell

Michele Campbell's new novel is She Was the Quiet One.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for She Was the Quiet One, and for your twin characters, Bel and Rose?

A: I knew I wanted to keep writing about [the] intense relationships between women [I’d written about in my first novel] and dig even deeper.

I read a gripping profile of Lee Radziwill that talked about her fraught, competitive relationship with her sister Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the light bulb went off. I thought – sisters!

In the first draft of the book, Rose and Bel were not twins; they were sisters, one year apart in age, with Rose being the elder. But the age difference unfortunately caused logistical complications in the plot.

My brilliant editor, Jennifer Enderlin, suggested making them twins so they would be the same year in school. I’m so glad she suggested that, because it led to...[read on]
Visit Michele Campbell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mara Einstein

Mara Einstein is a Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. She brings more than twenty-five years of marketing and advertising experience to this work. She has worked as a senior marketing executive in both broadcast (NBC) and cable (MTV Networks) television as well as at major advertising agencies working on such accounts as Miller Lite, Uncle Ben's, and Dole Foods. Einstein's books include Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help and Advertising: What Everyone Needs to Know.

From her Q&A at the OUP blog:

How come ads seem to follow me around the Internet?

This is what is known as retargeting. In the sales funnel paradigm, marketers want to interact with you as far down the funnel as possible, the best place being the point of sale. Online, that means the shopping cart. If you put an item into the cart— say, a pair of jeans or the latest bestseller— and then decide you don’t have time to buy it right away, an ad for that product will begin to follow you around the Internet. And it will go from your computer to your cell phone to your iPad or other tablets. The same holds true if you are doing research for something to buy. You begin looking into vacations on Cape Cod or a bicycle trip to Ireland and you can be sure that competitive advertising will follow—even after you book your trip.

When I am being tracked, do marketers really know that it is me by name?

Marketers claim they do not know who is connected to an IP address, nor do they care—at least not beyond the behavior that occurs on the computer, particularly as it relates to prod­uct purchases.

While this rings true and, from my discussions with people in the industry, I think it is, this does not mean that the infor­mation connected to our computer is anonymous. A number of books, and certainly Edward Snowden, have proved this point.

Two New York Times reporters were able to identify a sixty-two-year-old Georgia woman using anonymous search data from AOL. University of Texas researchers have “de-anonymized” information from Netflix’s database, including information about political preferences. One particularly concerning fact...[read on]
Learn more about Advertising: What Everyone Needs to Know at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Compassion, Inc.

The Page 99 Test: Advertising: What Everyone Needs to Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

John Lingan

John Lingan is the author of Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What first interested you about singer Patsy Cline and her hometown of Winchester, Virginia?

A: I tend to write a lot about music, particularly mid-century American music, so I just happened to be listening to Patsy one night and thought she might be fun to write about.

Then I was surprised to learn that she grew up quite close to my home near D.C. The proximity and the incredible timeless aura of her music made me want to find out more, and it ended up being a much bigger story than I ever expected.

Q: How did you learn about the Troubadour Bar & Lounge, and its owner, Jim McCoy?

A: Jim is a key figure in Patsy's life and career, the first person to ever put her on the radio. They were both teenagers at the time, and he was the sole country DJ at WINC in Winchester.

Everyone who cares about Patsy in Winchester told me to visit him, so I did, purely out of respect. I then learned about his own life and career, which is much...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jason Stanley

Jason Stanley's new book is How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

From his Q&A with Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:

Q: Anti-intellectualism has been present throughout much of American history. How is the kind of anti-intellectualism linked to fascist ideas different? Or is it the same?

A: Our suspicion of elites and what could be seen as anti-intellectualism can be healthy at times; we can see the American philosophical traditions of pragmatism and empiricism in this light, which can in fact serve as counterweights to the grandiose myths of fascist politics. But even this version has proven to be a weakness, one that makes us more susceptible to being manipulated politically. We have seen this play out in the case of climate change, where essentially apolitical scientists were successfully demonized as ideologues. We also have a history of what I think of as more classically fascist anti-intellectualism.

Fascist anti-intellectualism sets the traditions of the chosen nation, its dominant group, above all other traditions. It represents more complex narratives as corrupting and dangerous. It prizes mythologizing about the nation’s past, and erasing any of its problematic features (as we see all too often in histories of the Confederacy and the Reconstruction period, or of the treatment in history books of our indigenous communities). It seeks to replace truth with myth, transforming education systems into methods of glorifying the ideologies and heritage of the members of the traditional ruling class. In fascist politics, universities, which present a more complex and accurate version of history and current reality, are attacked for being places where dominant traditions or practices are critiqued. Fascist ideology centers loyalty to power rather than truth. In fascist thinking, the university is...[read on]
Visit Jason Stanley's website.

The Page 99 Test: How Propaganda Works.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 10, 2018

Suzanne Matson

Suzanne Matson's new novel is Ultraviolet.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always always ask every writer—because I believe this is true—what was haunting you into writing this particular book? What was the question that you wanted answered? And did the answer surprise you?

Family histories from both my father and my mother always struck me as powerful source material for writing, and yet for a long time I wasn’t sure how to use this legacy. I first wrote two novel drafts from the Finnish immigrant, coal-mining side of the family (my dad’s). Then I set those aside to begin a story that imagined my mother’s young life in India as the daughter of Mennonite missionaries. It occurred to me that what I really wanted to write was the story of a marriage, because the fact that my mother and father had ended up together had always seemed like one of life’s great mysteries. I sometimes think that my childhood spent trying to get to the bottom of that strange match is what prompted me to become a writer. It got me into the habit of asking questions about people’s inner lives and what drives them to their actions. My mother was the more verbal and self-examining person of the two, often speculating about her mother’s situation as a missionary wife, as well as the constraints she felt born into, so that’s where the eventual book came from: women’s lives threaded down across decades, and how the woman in the middle generation—Kathryn—negotiated her choices, limits, and consequences. It’s Kathryn we follow from...[read on]
Visit Suzanne Matson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui's new novel is America for Beginners.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for America for Beginners?

A: The idea for this book really came from the tour of the United States that my now in-laws took in 2014.

They had come to the United States for the first time to celebrate the graduation of their son, my now husband, from NYU-Tisch, and because it was their first time in the United States, and, for my father-in-law and sister-in-law, their first time outside of India, they wanted to see as much of the country as possible, but they also, all three of them, reacted to being outside of India in really fascinating ways.

They reacted to me in fascinating ways. They were extremely warm and welcoming and great, but they felt so fragile, so helpless, in really interesting ways. They didn’t go places alone. They depended on my husband for everything. They took this tour, which my husband went on with them, and he just loathed it deeply, but even though it exhausted them, they sort of liked it.

They covered six cities across the States in 11 days, and the trip guaranteed 11 Indian dinners. The places the tour company picked for them, most of them were places I’ve never gone, or would go, like Niagara, and Vegas. But for my new Indian family, that is America, and that’s so interesting to me.

My mother-in-law came back and stayed with my husband and me for a month when we got married a few months later. This is typical for Indians, although I found it insane and a bit of an imposition. But it did give us a chance to get to know each other better, and for me to learn more about her.

She was unlike my parents; uncomfortable with people of different backgrounds, horrified by homosexuality, but also she was like my parents, she was and is adaptive, so smart, empathic when she has context. All those things living in one person fascinated me. I was...[read on]
Visit Leah Franqui's website.

Writers Read: Leah Franqui.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Andreas Schleicher

Andreas Schleicher is the Division Head and coordinator of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment and the OECD Indicators of Education Systems program. His book is World Class: How to Build a 21st-Century School System.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: And in America, as I recall from one of your reports, America is almost unique in the rich countries in the world in that it spends less money on poorer school districts and more money on rich ones. Everywhere else, it's the other way around, you assume that the poorer districts need more money. But because in America we fund education through local property taxes, you actually have the opposite.

SCHLEICHER: Yes, that's actually an outlier. Now most countries have, you know, put more money into disadvantaged. But more importantly, they also try to get the better resources. It's not so much in the number of teachers, it's do you really make sure that every student benefits from excellent learning.

ZAKARIA: The places that do really well, I mean, in China, as you say, is extraordinary because it's still a middle income country, in many places a poor country, and its educational outcomes have shot up. Singapore has done fantastically, South Korea. What I'm struck by is, they all have some version of what we would do in America, called the common core. There are national standards, you have to meet them. Does that strike you as important?

SCHLEICHER: It is very important that we have a clear vision of what good performance really looks like in a way that students understand what they are studying for, the teachers have an idea of what could student learning really looks like. And that's very hard to do at a very local level. So most countries have a clear vision of what good performance. There is sort of the real belief that every student can learn even if it takes students different paths to get there.

And that's what we see in the outcomes. And actually in the highest performing education systems, neither social background nor context makes much of a difference.

ZAKARIA: The poor kids can move very quickly.

SCHLEICHER: Think about it this way. The 10 percent most disadvantaged children in Shanghai, China, do as well as the 10 percent wealthiest Americans at...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2018

John Kerry

John Kerry is a decorated Vietnam veteran, five-term United States senator, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and US Secretary of State for four years. His new memoir is Every Day Is Extra.

From the transcript of Kerry's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

TERRY GROSS: John Kerry, welcome to FRESH AIR. I want to start with the swift boat campaign against you, which you write about in your memoir. And I want to start here because it's a turning point in how lies, falsehoods that are demonstrably untrue can be used effectively against a candidate. So before we talk about the falsehoods, let's talk about the reality of what happened on your swift boat, the mission that people were talking about when they were trying to call you a liar.

JOHN KERRY: In the early spring of 2004, a book came out by Doug Brinkley called "Tour Of Duty," which was a book about my service in Vietnam. And a small group of veterans who disagreed with some of the characterizations by Doug Brinkley, not me, rebelled against it and attacked me for it. He used it as a vehicle to try to attack me. It was led by a guy who had actually appeared in my life way back in the antiwar days - 1971 - who had acted on behalf of the White House - the Nixon White House - and attacked back then. But this time they did it by major distortions in the record.

And initially our campaign pushed back against it and corrected the record. My military record spoke very directly to what had happened. The people who were actually on the boats involved in these ambushes in Vietnam in these attacks and incidents spoke to it. But that didn't stop them. They had a strategy. Their strategy was simply to provide alternative facts, to make them up much in the vernacular that we see today. And we answered that as forcefully as we could. We released my military records. We had people speak who were there. And the major media of the nation carried it.

So in the campaign, our advisers believed we had adequately, quote, "answered." The problem was that the right wing got behind this with major funding from some of the very same names who are doing major right-wing funding in the country today. And they started to pick up on these alternative facts and pushed them out there in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Katherine J. Chen

Katherine J. Chen is the author of Mary B: A Novel: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Pride and Prejudice's Mary Bennet in your novel Mary B?

A: It happened organically. Just like you may discover one morning that you can’t really relate to the cartoon heroes of your youth anymore, I found myself growing more and more distant from the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet.

My eye began to wander to the corners of the screen and of the page, and I was intrigued by the sister who lived in the shadows.

People are quick to cast Mary off as a bookworm or as a sermonizing, pseudo-intellectual fool. Austen herself describes Mary as, “the only plain one in the family,” yet she “worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments [and] was always impatient for display.”

Pride and Prejudice, being a cornerstone of English literature, is a book you can return to again and again. You’ll find new gems within the text each time.

So, on one of the occasions I re-read Pride and Prejudice, and in the state of mind I was in at the time, I began to develop a curiosity for Mary.

It interested me that she is singled out as being physically deficient, even defective. A daughter who can’t be married off (unless she is independently wealthy) is more or less a life-long burden to her family.

It interested me that, as a result of being aware of her own faults, she...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full-time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001.

Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards.

Lippman's latest novel is Sunburn.

From her Q&A with Martha Greengrass at the Waterstones blog:

Your book plays very inventively with stereotypes, particularly the trope of so-called ‘bad girls’ in fiction. Were those stereotypes something you were keen on interrogating and subverting from the outset?

I definitely wanted to invert much of the classic set-up, in which an attractive stranger comes to town, only to be distracted by someone. That’s how The Postman Always Rings Twice begins. But Postman is also a story about a wanderer versus someone who yearns for domesticity/rootedness, and I didn’t try to flip that script. Polly wants a home, something she’s never really had.

The novel begins with a woman, Polly, making the decision to walk out on her husband and child. Why you think the censure levelled at women who leave their families is one of the most entrenched social taboos? Did you set out to write a story that would encounter the different ways in which men and women are held to account about their family responsibilities?

I was always very interested in the sly way women spoke about Ladder of Years when it came out. Anne Tyler’s novel is warm and comic, her character is pretty much justified in bolting - but all the women I knew at the time, especially those with families, spoke...[read on]
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Another Thing to Fall.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

The Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences.

The Page 69 Test: I'd Know You Anywhere.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Dangerous Thing.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

My Book, the Movie: Wilde Lake.

The Page 69 Test: Sunburn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Crystal Hana Kim

Crystal Hana Kim is the author of If You Leave Me.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that in writing this novel, you “wanted to skew from the traditional male-centered war narrative and focus on what happened to the women left behind.” How did you come up with your character Haemi?

A: All four of my grandparents survived the Korean War, so I grew up learning bits and pieces about this terrible history.

I’m particularly close with my maternal grandmother, who had to flee her home with her widowed mother at the start of the war. I always loved how loud, independent, and unrelenting she was, so when I began writing, I wanted to have a similarly fierce heroine as the central figure of my novel.

I’m also deeply interested in gender, femininity, and society, so I wanted to investigate these constructs while also considering the trauma of war for...[read on]
Visit Crystal Hana Kim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2018

Pat Barker

Pat Barker's new novel is The Silence of the Girls. From her Q&A with FiveDials:

I read your first book right after I read your most recent. I felt a tether between...

You’ve a tidy mind, haven’t you?

I grabbed it off the shelf. Thankfully they were all lined up. I could go straight to the beginning. It felt like there was a line connecting the women in Union Street to the Trojan women. When did your interest in the Greeks begin?

Much later. I would’ve said about five years ago. Actually, somebody pointed out that there’s a passage in Life Class where Elinor Brooke is describing the Café Royale and the way the atmosphere had changed in the first days of the First World War. She says the old men were all panicking because they thought their day was over and the young men were spouting things they had read in the newspapers. And the women had gone absolutely silent. She said it was like the beginning of The Iliad. When Agamemnon and Achilles are making these fantastic speeches and the girls they are talking about say nothing at all.

Behind those great figures are other voices...

That are not being heard, yes.

When did you find your way to these voices?

I had just read The Iliad and was astonished by that silence. The eloquence of the men, the absolute silence of the women they’re quarrelling about.

It’s interesting. Obviously by chance...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.

Davis's new novel is The Masterpiece.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What inspired you to center your new novel on New York’s Grand Central Terminal?

A: A reader, actually. I was giving an author talk for The Address and an audience member suggested I look into the Terminal for my next book. Later, she mentioned she could arrange for a behind-the-scenes tour. I couldn’t resist.

Yet even after the tour, I still wasn’t sure it would work as a setting. The space is massive, and there are so many possibilities, I was quite overwhelmed.

But then I read about the Grand Central School of Art, which was co-founded by John Singer Sargent in the 1920s and located on one of the top floors. I realized if I focused on that as a setting, it might work.

I love the fact that my first book, The Dollhouse, dealt with jazz, the second with architecture, and this one with art. The...[read on]
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

My Book, The Movie: The Masterpiece.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Laura van den Berg

From Jill Radsken's Harvard Gazette Q&A with Laura van den Berg about her latest novel, The Third Hotel:

GAZETTE: When did your interest in horror films develop?

VAN DEN BERG: I started watching in college. There were all these slasher films — the “Scream” movies, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” — and this, to my mind, was around the time when the “final girl” trope — the last female character alive to confront the killer — entered into the popular lexicon. Being scared by a movie offers a safe catharsis, because the terror is confined to the screen. It’s an adrenalin spike, and when I come back down, I feel a bit more leveled. And the best horror has a way of distilling really potent human questions, by using extreme dislocations of reality to explore human questions that are fundamental and central: instability around trust and intimacy; the idea that your secrets will undo you; our inability to reckon with history and the cost of that looking away; the peculiar doors that transformative experiences, from grief to parenthood to trauma, might swing open. As a writer who naturally veers toward the strange and the disorienting, the genre...[read on]
Visit Laura van den Berg's website.

Learn about Laura van den Berg's 6 favorite unconventional mystery novels.

Writers Read: Laura van den Berg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 31, 2018

Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan's new middle-grade novel for kids is Takedown.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you became interested in wrestling when your son was involved with the sport. What inspired your characters Mikayla and Lev?

A: My son started wrestling in second grade and stuck with the sport through middle school. There’s a lot of my son in Lev’s character, including his best wrestling friends, the Fearsome Threesome.

When our family was active in the sport, there were no girls on my son’s teams. It was rare to see a girl competing at tournaments. By the time I started working on Takedown, that was changing. Over the past several years, women’s wrestling has been growing as a sport.

I had a lot of fun developing Mikayla’s character. Through her, I got to write about what it’s like to be a girl in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jeremy Finley

Jeremy Finley is the author of The Darkest Time of Night.

From his Q&A with Lenny Picker at Publishers Weekly:

Who in your family gave you the idea for this novel?

To have my mother-in-law, who often holds conversations with sewing in her lap, casually mention that she had once worked as a secretary in an astronomy department for a professor who did alien abduction research, was a true lightning-bolt encounter. She went on to mention that she used to take bizarre messages for him, from people who believed they’d been abducted. I used her to create the character of a woman who quietly served her family, while harboring a secretive, hidden life that no one, not even her husband, was aware of.

You’ve dealt with missing persons’ cases in the course of your work. Did you draw on any actual cases for the novel?

In my career as a reporter, I have written extensively about missing people. I did not want any of the true-life cases I have researched to be reflected in a work of fiction. While I certainly have interviewed detectives repeatedly about their processes of trying to find missing people, I...[read on]
Visit Jeremy Finley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Inman Majors

Inman Majors is the author of five novels including the newly released Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

A native of Tennessee, Majors received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from The University of Alabama. He is a professor of English at James Madison University and makes his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From Majors's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Penelope Lemon?

A: The idea for the book came after years of coaching my son’s youth baseball teams in Waynesboro, Virginia, a small Appalachian town over the mountain from Charlottesville.

My teams were populated primarily by kids with single moms who worked at the Little Debbie factory, the Target distribution center, and other places where they punched the clock.

I admired the toughness of these women, their moxie, good humor, and grace. They seemed to keep a lot of balls in the air at once—working tough jobs, taking kids to sports practices, worrying about the oil light on their cars—and to do so with sense of self intact.

These were women in their 20s and 30s, most of them with more than one child to raise, most of them living paycheck to paycheck. It struck me that they didn’t feel particularly put-upon by life.

This was life: scrambling to be in two places at once, scrambling to pay bills, scrambling when life throws you a curveball like a blown head gasket on the car or the sudden loss of a job.

The character in this book is something of...[read on]
Visit Inman Majors's website.

The Page 69 Test: Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

William Boyle

William Boyle's novels include The Lonely Witness.

From his Q&A with Dawn Ius at The Big Thrill:

What can you tell us about the inspiration for THE LONELY WITNESS?

My grandmother was housebound and had communion delivered weekly. She also had a woman sitting with her a few days a week, a sort of caretaker while my mother was at work. This was when her dementia was in its nascent stages and she could still be alone some of the day. That woman, my grandma’s caretaker, was the mother of a kid I went to school with; I liked him back then, but he’d gone down a pretty dark path somewhere around junior high. I started to wonder what would happen if he just showed up instead of this woman, and what if he’d turned out bad. And then there was Amy—I was reading a lot of Dorothy Day, and I saw how Amy had embraced the good part of the Catholicism of her youth and how she was trying to make meaning of her existence in a new way. Those things came together, and the book just opened itself up to me.

This book is many things, and could be categorized numerous ways—but I love the term “gritty” and think it’s a great fit for THE LONELY WITNESS. Who are some of the writers that have influenced your work?

Thanks—I really like the term “gritty,” too. It definitely reflects my interest in exploring the dark underside of things. Megan Abbott and Sara Gran are two of my biggest writing heroes. I think their influence is all over this book. David Goodis, Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor, Denis Johnson, William Kennedy, Chester Himes, Elmore Leonard, James M. Cain, Donald...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2018

Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber grew up in New York City and has lived in rural Connecticut since 1976, when she married the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber. (They have two daughters and a grandson.) She also spends parts of the year in West Cork, Ireland, and in London. She is the author of five previous novels and a memoir.

Weber's new novel is Still Life With Monkey.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that part of the inspiration for your new novel was a friend of yours who was injured in an accident. How did you come up with the characters of Duncan and Laura?

A: In writing about the profound effects a spinal cord injury can have on a life, thinking about the before and after of such a traumatic event, I recognized early in the process of planning the narrative that an accident and its aftermath inevitably have a huge impact on the people in that person’s life, especially partners and siblings.

For the novel to have emotional resonance, there had to be conflict between Duncan’s ambivalence about living this new life and at least one other person, someone who desperately wants him to choose to keep living. There is no emotional velocity if a character wants something and there’s nobody else in the story to share or oppose the want.

Virginia Woolf once wrote in her diary, “I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” Life is other people, other characters.

I have always been drawn to fiction that portrays the complexity and nuance of marriages of long duration, and I count...[read on]
Visit Katharine Weber's website.

The Page 99 Test: Triangle.

The Page 69 Test: True Confections.

The Page 99 Test: The Memory of All That.

Writers Read: Katharine Weber.

My Book, The Movie: Still Life With Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, his novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie's new novel is One of Us.

From his Q&A with Shaz at Jera’s Jamboree:

Please summarise One of Us in 20 words or less.

One of Us is a dark fantasy described as The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?

Published by Orbit in the second half of July 2018 and available in hardcover, trade paperback, eBook, and audiobook, One of Us is about a disease that produces a generation of monsters now coming of age in ramshackle orphanages in the American Deep South.

Abused and rejected by the human race, they aspire and become willing to fight for the same rights and opportunities as everybody else, resulting in a violent uprising. The result is a misunderstood monster novel that is also an examination of prejudice, violence, and what makes a monster a monster.

The concept had several influences, notably Southern Gothic literature; The Island of Dr. Moreau, with is examination of what makes a beast a beast; and the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, with its beastly underclass rising up against their masters. I particularly liked the idea of...[read on]
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

The Page 69 Test: One of Us.

Writers Read: Craig DiLouie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A.J. Banner

A.J. Banner's new novel is After Nightfall.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for After Nightfall, and for your character Marissa?

A: Our rescued cats whisper book ideas into my dreams while I sleep. They might as well, as I have no idea where I get my ideas.

I love Stephen King’s quote from his book On Writing: “…good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky.” This is absolutely the case.

Perhaps my first thought about After Nightfall was the first sentence: “Lauren is flirting with my fiancé over the dinner I spent hours preparing.” I knew someone would die after a party, and all the guests would become suspects, but I unearthed the rest of the story as I worked through several drafts.

Marissa might have popped into my mind as a speech language pathologist conjured to treat Anna, a child in the story who suffers from speech disfluencies. Where did Anna come from? Who knows? Maybe...[read on]
Visit A.J. Banner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's novels include Chesil Beach and Atonement.

From his Q&A with Rosanna Greenstreet at the Guardian:

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

Angela Merkel. Under attack from all sides, she tries to keep alive the dreams of a tolerant, inclusive, open society.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My second serve at tennis.

What makes you unhappy?

Species extinction, habitat destruction and climate change.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Clint Eastwood.

Which book changed your life?

The Go-Between
by LP Hartley. I read it at the age of 13 and identified strongly with its central character, Leo. Atonement was in part my tribute to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Stephen McCauley

Stephen McCauley is the author of The Object of My Affection, True Enough, and Alternatives to Sex. Many of his books have been national bestsellers, and three have been made into feature films. The New York Times Book Review dubbed McCauley “the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen”, and he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. His fiction, reviews, and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, Vogue, and many other publications. He currently serves as Co-Director of Creative Writing at Brandeis University.

McCauley's new novel is My Ex-Life.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for My Ex-Life and why did you decide to focus on two ex-spouses reuniting after many years?

A: I've always been interested in writing about friendships that are close and loving and that perhaps blur the definitions of "friend" and "lover."

I know a lot of people who, through internet stalking and such, have started writing to and flirting with exes. It's the lure of history and the familiar combined with a new and exciting context.

In this case, the exes know they will never be a couple again in the same way, so it made for...[read on]
Visit Stephen McCauley's website.

Writers Read: Stephen McCauley.

The Page 69 Test: My Ex-Life.

My Book, The Movie: My Ex-Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Reading Women:

Why did you choose the title The Great Believers for your novel?

It’s from an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay called “My Generation.” I first encountered just the line “We were the great believers,” and was intrigued by the contrast between that and what Gertrude Stein had said to Hemingway (“You are all a lost generation.”) When I saw the full quote, which I use as an epigraph to the novel, I was even more struck by the question of what happens to the survivors of a decimated generation. My book is mostly about the AIDS generation in Chicago, and only a little about the Paris arts scene before and after WWI, but I like that the title helps tie them together.

When did you first start thinking about the parallels between the Lost Generation in the 1920s and the generation that suffered through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s?

Those parallels really started for me with...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jane Lazarre

Jane Lazarre is the author of the memoir, The Communist and the Communist's Daughter.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about your father, and how long did it take you to complete it?

A: I decided to write this memoir about my father over 40 years after his death for many reasons – some formal and intellectual, and some in Toni Morrison’s words, “deep story” reasons.

I realized I had large gaps in my knowledge of my father’s life as an immigrant, not even knowing what ship he came on from Kishinev, Romania in the early 1900s, nor much about his life in the American Communist Party, nor of his experiences as a volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.

I knew he had been in prison in Philadelphia as a young man for making a political speech, but I did not know much more than that. Finally, I had in my possession a huge FBI file I had obtained many years before, and I wanted to make use of it.

As to formal reasons, I have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cherise Wolas

Cherise Wolas's new novel is The Family Tabor.

From her Q&A with Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl:

GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?

CW: The deep-diving I do into the marrows of the people in my novels—I never call them characters because they are completely real and alive to me—organically creates their unique voices, their specific cadences of thought and speech, which includes how they grammatically express themselves. The particular voices come naturally, but then I work very, very, very hard to get each voice absolutely right; every interiority and every line of dialogue must belong to that particular person, and could not be thought or spoken by any other person in the book.

I feel incredibly fortunate that the ways in which my fictional people think and express themselves, affects readers so much they feel my people jumping off the page and into their own lives. With The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, I’ve received many requests from readers asking where they can purchase the story collections and novels written by Joan Ashby and excerpted in the book. This lets me know that I made Joan Ashby fully real and completely alive. This overwhelming response is joyous to a writer. And the same incredible response seems to be happening with The Family Tabor, for...[read on]
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Tabor.

Writers Read: Cherise Wolas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

June is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, It Started with Goodbye, was released in May 2017; the newly released Everywhere You Want to Be is its companion.

From June's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everywhere You Want to Be, a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood story?

A: I knew Tilly, the "evil" stepsister from my first book It Started With Goodbye, had a story to tell, and after going with my good friend, Lisa Maxwell, on a research trip to New York (for her New York Times bestseller The Last Magician), I wanted to write a New York book too!

And what better substitute for the evil forest in Little Red Riding Hood than the skyscrapers of NYC? The rest just fell into place as I began to brainstorm.

Q: What did you see as the right blend of the traditional fairy tale and your new characters?

A: A lot of fairy tales we loved as children have just a few really recognizable elements, but when you dig deeper, it's the themes that stick with us.

I wanted to make sure the things we associate with the story were there--the red cape, the big bad wolf, Grandma, the basket of bread--but...[read on]
Visit Christina June's website.

Writers Read: Christina June.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Vince Beiser

Vince Beiser's new book is The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization.

From his interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to start with the obvious. How are we running out of sand? It would seem to be an infinite resource.

BEISER: It would seem. Well, in fact, there is an awful lot of sand in the world. It's, in fact, the most abundant thing on the planet. But at the end of the day, there's only so much of it like anything else in the world. And how we can be running out of it is it's also the resource that we consume more of than anything else except for air and water. So you put it all together, especially concrete, and we are using 50 billion tons of sand every year. That's enough sand to cover the entire state of California.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. And there are different types of sand, though. You point out in your book sand in water is more important for industrial use than desert sand.

BEISER: Yeah. One of the great ironies of the whole issue is desert sand, which, you know, we have so much of, is basically useless. And the reason for that is the No. 1 thing that we use sand for is making concrete. And desert sand is too round to work in concrete. Desert sand has been worn down through thousands of years of erosion by wind tumbling and tumbling it and tumbling it. So the grains - the actual grains themselves end up kind of rounded with their edges and corners broken off, whereas sand that you find in riverbeds and on beaches and at the bottom of the ocean is more angular. So it locks together much better to form concrete.

It's like the difference between...[read on]
Visit Vince Beiser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2018

Keith O'Brien

Keith O'Brien's new book is Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Fly Girls, and how did you choose the five women to write about?

A: I stumbled upon this idea by accident in the spring of 2016. I read a stray line in another book – a line that mentioned a female air race in 1929.

To be honest, I had never heard of such a thing. So I dug down a little. And then I dug a little more. And then I went to the library and I stayed there, spending long nights in newspaper archives. It quickly became clear to me that this was an important story that needed to be told.

Choosing the characters – really focusing the story – was the next step. Lots of women flew airplanes between 1927 and 1937 – the decade when Fly Girls takes place.

Who do you include? Especially when each of them is so fascinating? And who do you leave out? This is where it’s important to know your story, know your narrative.

Once I knew that, it was pretty simple to figure out which characters mattered. I was telling a story about women fighting for the right to fly and race airplanes. You can’t do that without...[read on]
Visit Keith O'Brien's website.

The Page 99 Test: Outside Shot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Cynthia Miller-Idriss

Cynthia Miller-Idriss is the author of The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany.

From her Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Why did you write this book?

I stumbled across the new forms of commercialization analyzed in this book while I was sorting through photographers’ databases in search of a cover photo for my first book. I was immediately hooked—fascinated by how much had changed in German far right subculture since I had completed my prior fieldwork five years earlier. The skinhead aesthetic that had dominated the youth scene since the 1980s had all but disappeared, and was replaced with mainstream-style, high-quality commercial brands laced with far right ideology, symbols, and codes. I planned to write an article about it, but the project wouldn’t let me go. I literally found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the codes, trying to disentangle their meanings and wondering whether youth even understood them. I felt compelled to understand it, and that’s what led to this book.

How does the coding work within the commercial products?

The brands and products encode historical and contemporary far right, nationalistic, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and white supremacist references into...[read on]
Visit Cynthia Miller-Idriss's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Extreme Gone Mainstream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Helaine Becker

Helaine Becker is the author of the new children's picture book, Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a children's picture book about the mathematician Katherine Johnson?

A: I was working on another book about space for National Geographic when I stumbled across a brief snippet on line about Katherine Johnson. This was well before Hidden Figures came out, so there was almost nothing out there about her. I was smitten. I wanted to make sure everyone else out there knew how amazing she was!

Throw in the mix that I am a staunch feminist and sick and tired that women's accomplishments - minorities too - are continuously erased from the record. I wanted to set the record straight.

Q: How did you research the book?

A: Katherine Johnson was 96 years old at that time. It wasn't easy to find her - she...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tim Harford

Tim Harford's latest book is Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.

From his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Steam engines, silicon chips, social media, these are the sorts of inventions that people point to when asked what made the modern economy, but the undercover economist Jim Harford looks at the subject differently. He always puts a twist on any subject he covers and that's why I love reading his columns in the "FT" and his books.

His latest book is called "50 Inventions That Shape the Modern Economy."

Tim Harford, so you have figured out what are the 50 inventions that shaped the modern economy. Actually they are the fun ones. This is sort of--


TIM HARFORD: Yes. Yes. Not the steam engine, not the motor car, the ones that we don't appreciate, the ones that we overlook. The bar code or barbed wire or one of my favorites is paper. It's--

ZAKARIA: Paper? Explain that.

HARFORD: Well, when I started looking on this book, "50 Inventions," people said you must talk about the Gutenberg press, the movable type printing press that was revolutionary, it was disruptive, the novel, the newspaper, all of this was made possible by the printing press. And of course, that's true but the whole point of the printing press is it's a way of mass producing writing and there is no point in mass producing writing unless you can also mass produce a writing surface.

And that's paper, and if you try to use a printing press on, say, animal skin parchment or silk, you can do it, technically it works, economically completely impossible. So then paper was just a wonderful symbol to me of an invention that's very inexpensive, it's quite simple and it's disruptive, it's important because it's so inexpensive.

ZAKARIA: And the gramophone. Another strange invention to my mind, why do you think it defined or -- you know, the modern world?

HARFORD: Well, the thing about the gramophone is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Tim Harford's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics books.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

The Page 69 Test:The Logic of Life.

The Page 99 Test: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.

The Page 99 Test: The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.

Writers Read: Tim Harford (February 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue