Summer Reads, Part 1: June's Best Reads

Dark Matter (2016)

Blake Crouch

 

According to NPR, this book is a “whole bag of barbecue chips.” It is (or your particular chip of choice). The science-fiction/thriller plotting makes the book hard to put down. The existential implications about our identities, our decisions, and the questions of whether we truly ever can know ourselves make the book deeply unsettling. Science is astounding, but in human hands, it also has a dark side. 

 

 

The Underground Railroad (2016)

Colson Whitehead

 

Whitehead is no stranger to the horror genre. He wrote the zombie novel Zone One. Now he has won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award with his latest literary work. During our haunted house series, we talked about how American history has wounds that refuse to be ignored and often remain open in our supernatural literature and at our haunted historical landmarks. In The Underground Railroad, readers face the horrific history of slavery and the courage, hope, humanity, and dangers of the book title’s escape network to the North. Whitehead represents the railroad with an actual subterranean train that crisscrosses America, lending a speculative element to the historical fiction with its haunted characters. 

March's Best Reads

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, by David Jaher

If you enjoyed our series on the occult, especially our discussion of mediums and Houdini’s work debunking them, this one is for you. In the 1920s, Scientific American offered a prize for a medium whose talents could withstand scientific investigation, and Houdini was one of the investigators. The most famous medium to perform for the committee was Mina Crandon, a.k.a. “Margery,” a.k.a. “The Witch of Lime Street.” The book focuses on her and her husband’s struggle against Houdini’s disbelief, but readers also get a detailed rundown of the major players of the time and the movement, including Arthur Conan Doyle and Oliver Lodge.

 

The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London

This is a classic that we discussed in our first apocalypse episode. Influenced by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” London imagines a plague raging through the world in the early twenty-first century. Suddenly, people start turning red, having seizures, and dissolving into dust. It’s worth reading for the picture he presents of the world in 2013 from his 1915 vantage point. And it’s narrated by an English professor. 

 

It, by Stephen King

Children terrorized by a creepy clown in Derry, Maine. Need I say more? Probably not. But with the release of the new trailer, this classic deserves a revisit. It's Stephen King as his best...and proof that childhood fears can linger in the nightmares of adults. Worth a mention, too, is the upcoming release of Sleeping Beauties, which Stephen King wrote with his son Owen King. Set for a September release, this one should go on your to-read list. 

 

We're also looking forward to the upcoming release by Andy Davidson. In The Valley of the Sun releases this summer. Pre-order it now, so you can tell your friends you knew about it before everyone else did. 

 

2016: A Year’s Review of Books

By the end of every year, I am exhausted. I’m tired from too many celebrations. I’ve eaten too much sugar and drank too much wine. I’m wishing that darkness didn’t begin to fall at 4 p.m. Usually, I’m eager to put the holidays behind me and get back to my “real” life. But the prospect of a new year also brings excitement. 

 

I love getting to review my past year and, yes, make plans for the next. Every year, I try to read 50 books, though I rarely make it. This year, I finished 33; if I count the six that I’m in the middle of, then I’m at 39, and I didn’t do so poorly. Of course, there’s always 2017 to beat that record.