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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , bentley little, bird box, blindness, , carrion comfort, , cormac mccarthy, , dathan auerbach, dawn, , exquisite corpose, , ghost story, , hell house, , , , jack ketchum, jose saramago, josh malarian, koji suzuki, lionel shriver, , , , , , penal, , peter straub, poppy z. brite, ramsey campbell, , richard matheson, ring, rosemary’s baby, scott smith, , something wicked this way comes, , the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, , , we need to talk about kevin,   

    25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever 

    Literature can be a moving, beautiful artistic experience. Skilled writers can bring us face to face with scenarios and emotions we might never encounter in real life, expanding our understanding of both the universe and our fellow man.

    It can also scare the living daylights out of us. Horror novels don’t always get the respect they deserve; just because something is scary doesn’t mean it’s not “literary” or well-crafted art, but if the core purpose of a story is perceived to be “making you soil yourself in fear” for some reason that story won’t get much respect. Of course, a story can be terrifying without necessarily being great art. If your goal is to be so terrified of a book that you put it in the freezer and book a hotel room for a few days, here are twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest.

    Literally Everything Edgar Allan Poe Wrote
    Poe had a knack for infusing everything he wrote with visceral dread. His characters and narrators tend towards the mentally fragile and the insane, people who are haunted by things that might be literal or might be manifestations of their unsound thought processes. Either way, stories like The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado retain their power to petrify more than a century-and-a-half after their publication because Poe tapped into the fundamental fear we all have that the world and people around us are not what they seem.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Put simply, House of Leaves is one of the most frightening books ever written. From a fairly standard horror premise (a house is revealed to be slightly larger on the inside than is strictly possible) Danielewski spins out a dizzying tale involving multiple unreliable narrators, typographic mysteries, and looping footnotes that manage to drag the reader into the story and then make them doubt their own perception of that story. It’s a trick no one else has managed to such dramatic effect, making this novel more of a participatory experience than any other work of literature—which, considering the dark madness at its core, isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
    The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.

    The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
    When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea done so often it’s frequently an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson, however, was no ordinary writer, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. The Haunting of Hill House is simply the best haunted house story ever written. The scares come not just from the malevolent actions of a house that seems sentient and angry, but from the claustrophobia we experience from the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and excruciating and only begins after we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming relatability of her early persona.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    The great sage Pat Benatar once sang that hell is for children. Golding’s account of children stranded on an island without supplies or adult supervision is absolutely terrifying for one simple reason: there’s nothing supernatural going on. It’s a story about insufficiently socialized humans descending into savagery because that’s our fundamental nature. You look into the abyss at the center of this novel and the abyss looks back.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
    Another story centered on the terror of children, the horror inherent in this story comes from the fact that the human beings we create eventually become their own people—and possibly strangers to us. Not everyone has a close and loving relationship with their parents, and while the idea that your own kids might grow up to be criminals isn’t pleasant, most people assume they will at least recognize themselves in their kids. But what if you don’t? What if your child—your child—is a blank monster?

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    In the Internet Age it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pop culture obsession, and there are still dark areas of culture that haven’t had a wiki created around them. Pessl’s story about a mysterious underground filmmaker whose movies may or may not contain hints of dark power and horrific events and the journalist who becomes obsessed with him asks the reader how you can be certain there’s a clear line between fact and fiction, then, once that wedge of doubt is established, presents a terrifying fiction to fill that space.

    Ring, by Kōji Suzuki
    The novel that inspired the horror films of the same name, the premise is well-known: anyone who watches a mysterious videotape of creepy images is informed that they will die in seven days—and then they die. The investigation into the tape and how to avoid this grim fate leads to what remains an incredibly shocking backstory involving rape, smallpox, and a forgotten well. Technology has shifted, but the terror never really relied on VHS tapes—it’s the concept that ideas can be deadly, that simply by experiencing something you can be doomed, that’s so horrifying.

    Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
    Pivoting on the idea that we’re often blinded by the details we can see, making it impossible to see the bigger picture, Auerbach’s debut began life as a series of creepypasta stories on the Internet. The episodic nature of the story is ideal for the effect he achieves; the narrator tells of being a young boy and sending a penpal request attached to a balloon with his classmates, including his best friend Josh. He doesn’t receive a response until nearly a year later, and his life takes a turn for the bizarre shortly afterwards. A series of tragic and strange things happen to him and everyone around him, building a sense of dread that is only increased when the truth is revealed.

    Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
    Simmons’ novel follows several groups of people who have The Ability, a psychic power that allows them to take control of others from a distance and force them to perform any action. When one of their puppets murders someone, the person with The Ability is invigorated and strengthened. Simmons doesn’t shy away from the implications of this power on history and the future, and the book will destroy any sense of security you have in the world around you, revealed to possibly be simply a worldwide board game for those who can control us all like pawns.

    Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
    Several of King’s books could be on this list, but he frequently blunts the terror of his stories with the richness and humanity of his characterizations and the sprawl of his narratives. Pet Sematary manages to be his most terrifying novel by dint of its simple, devastating concept: a magical cemetery where buried things come back to a sort-of life—but aren’t quite what they once were. From that simple idea King ramps up to a climax that gets under your skin in a fundamental way most horror stories fail to.

    The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
    Horror often pivots on the corruption or warping of societal norms and rules; once you feel like you can’t rely on the natural social order, literally anything is possible. Ketchum’s disturbing novel about the unimaginable abuse suffered by two sisters when they are forced to live with their mentally unstable aunt and her three savage sons is based on real events, but it’s the central theme of an adult giving official sanction to the atrocities that makes this story so utterly horrifying.

    Blindness, by Jose Saramago
    Helplessness is a key factor in a lot of horror; most people labor under the delusion that they are in charge of their destiny and their lives, and horror is often effective simply by reminding us how little control we actually have. An epidemic of blindness leaves an entire city’s population secluded in a mental institution as society within and without crumbles. The brutality and descent into animalistic madness is all too realistic, and Saramago manages to capture the terrifying confusion and helplessness experienced by people in a society that no longer functions.

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
    McCarthy’s entire writing style and technique is terrifying; the man could write a grocery list that leaves the reader dripping with dread. This tale of extreme, ruthless, and pervasive violence in the American west emerges from under a sheen of the unreal to become all too real, and the greatest trick McCarthy manages here is by making the single most terrifying aspect of the story—the main character’s death—the one act of brutality he doesn’t depict, leaving the terrors contained within that scene to our imagination—which is infinitely worse than anything he might have conjured.

    Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z. Brite
    Brite’s most famous novel follows two serial killers who initially aim to kill each other but, upon discovering a fellow traveler, instead engage in a spree of horrific sex and murder. The matter-of-fact way the pair concocts a plan to kidnap, torture, and then consume a beautiful gay man named Tran is the sort of stuff that could simply be shocking, but Brite continuously considers the value of existence and what we could all be doing with the time we have left—time we too often imagine to be infinite when, of course, we’re all going to be consumed someday by something.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s epic rumination on childhood and adulthood tells the story of a magical circus come to a small town, offering the residents dark gifts they weren’t aware they wanted—most notably the carousel that can change your physical age, making boys who yearn to be adults grow older, and middle-aged men and women who yearn for their lost youth to grow younger. Bradbury knows the worst horror in the world is losing the natural order of your life, and perfectly captures the combination of dread and excitement everyone experiences as they crack the mysteries separating them from adulthood.

    Hell House, by Richard Matheson
    What Matheson taps into in this classic haunted house story is the universal fear that we are already lost, already broken. Hired to investigate the existence of an afterlife by exploring the notoriously haunted Belasco House, a team moves in and slowly succumbs to the influence of the entity within—an entity that only uses their own weaknesses and secret shames against them. Their descent into the depths of horror is too close for comfort as a result—for everyone reading the book knows all too well that they have weaknesses, and secret shames, as well.

    The Face That Must Die, by Ramsey Campbell
    Campbell wrote a number of books that are absolutely terrifying, but this one stands out in the way he forces the reader to completely inhabit the mind of a very sick man, Horridge. As he fixates on an overweight man living in his neighborhood, the reader is forced to see the world consistently through his eyes. Everything is off-beat, everything drips with ominous meaning and horrific intent. Horridge sees the entire world as a horror that must be destroyed, and for a while the reader is carried along on that uncomfortable point of view, leaving them exhausted and terrified.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Told in alternating chapters that depict a group of aspiring writers voluntarily secluded in an unusual writer’s retreat and the stories they’re writing, Haunted not only contains one of the most disturbing short stories ever published (“Guts,” which caused several people to faint when Palahniuk read it in public) it’s also a deep dive into madness as the reality-TV obsessed characters start sabotaging their experiment in a quest for fame. The sense of suffocating dread that Palahniuk applies grows so incrementally you don’t notice it until you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath for five pages.

    Dawn, by Octavia Butler
    Although technically science fiction, this story of the human race centuries after a devastating apocalypse is straight terror in many ways. Lilith is one of the last surviving humans, awakened on an alien ship. The aliens, three-sexed and many-tentacled, offer Lilith a deal: they will help her repopulated the Earth, but their price is to breed with humanity to gain humanity’s “talent” for cancer (and the creative possibilities it offers) while blunting their self-destructive tendencies. The horror imbued in each page is subtle, but it exerts tremendous mental pressure as you progress through the story.

    The Walking, by Bentley Little
    Far from just another tale of zombies, Little’s story of a man whose father rises from death after a stroke sizzles with a sense of doom long before the reader understands what’s at stake. Discovering that many families are hiding zombie relatives, and have been for some time, private investigator Miles Huerdeen digs into the mystery—and what he finds is easily the scariest stuff about zombies you’ll ever read. If you watch zombie movies and shows and laugh at their shuffling, mindless threat, this book will change your mind.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Smith’s story is deceptively simple: a group of tourists in Mexico go off in search of an archaeological site where a friend has set up camp; they find a pyramid covered in odd vines, the land around it salted and barren. Once on the pyramid, they discover the dead body of their friend, covered in the vines, and that the nearby villagers have arrived with guns to force them to remain on the pyramid. The vines are one of those simple monsters that seem so easy to defeat at first blush, yet the inexorable doom that descends on the characters slowly, grindingly proves otherwise.

    Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
    Malerman’s intense story of a world that slowly crumbles as people go murderously insane after seeing mysterious creatures—referred to simply as The Problem—is so scary because the reader only has the information that the characters have, and that’s not much. The world collapses and the survivors can only seal themselves off from the outside and try to avoid the worst, leading to a torturous wearing down of hope that leaves the reader defenseless against the horrible images Malerman conjures.

    Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    A good old-fashioned ghost story is designed to terrify and entertain, and Straub’s breakthrough novel does both. Five old friends gather regularly to trade ghost stories, but when one of them dies mysteriously and the survivors begin to dream of their own deaths, a secret from their past is revealed—and the simple pleasures of a ghost story are explored to their most frightening ends by a master of the form.

    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    If you don’t think of Beloved as a horror story, you haven’t been paying attention. Morrison’s skill as a writer is in full effect as she draws the reader into what is assuredly one of the saddest and most horrifying stories committed to paper. There’s no more terrifying sequence than the long slide into madness as escaped slave Sethe, convinced the young woman calling herself Beloved is the daughter she murdered in an attempt to keep her safe from slavers come to reclaim them, grows steadily thinner and weaker as she gives everything she has—including food—to Beloved, who grows steadily larger.

    Did we leave off any truly terrifying books? Let us know in the comments.

    The post 25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 12:45 pm on 2016/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: ayana mathis, , , , , cormac mccarthy, , ekhart tolle, , , , , , oprah's picks,   

    10 Favorites from Oprah’s Book Club 

    Deciding which book is the “next big thing” is a tough job. Good thing we have Oprah to do the job for us! Her thought-provoking book club selections are some of my favorites of all time—and in honor of her latest pick, announced today, we’re taking a look back at some of her best previous selections.

    Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
    Cheryl Strayed’s world was in shambles: her marriage was crumbling, she was struggling with drugs and infidelity, and she still hadn’t moved on from her mother’s death four years earlier.  So she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail—over one thousand miles of rough terrain—alone. This memoir-turned-movie (starring Reese Witherspoon) is gut-wrenchingly sad but ultimately uplifting, as Cheryl finds the physical and emotional strength to push forward, both on the trail and in her life.

    The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
    “Handful” Grimke is a slave in Charleston during the 1800s. When she’s ten years old, she’s given to Sarah, the daughter of her owner, as a gift. The two girls are thrust together during a tumultuous period in history, both suffering great losses—and sharing in one another’s joys—against the backdrop of the abolition and women’s rights movements. Based on the true story of abolitionist Sarah Grimke, this novel tracks the evolution of a young girl brought up in privilege, and how she eventually fought for the liberation of people everywhere, especially slaves and women.

    The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis
    Hattie’s story is one of devastation and grit. She escapes Georgia in 1923 in pursuit of the American dream in Philadelphia. Instead, she marries a man she will grow to hate—especially after the deaths of her firstborn children, which could have been prevented. As a result, Hattie hardens herself toward her following nine children, hoping to better prepare them for the troubles that surely await them in a world that was not kind to their mother. Each child’s perspective is see in chapters carrying them all the way through 1980, resulting in a beautiful portrait of a family let down by a world they long to thrive in.

    Ruby, by Cynthia Bond
    Ephram Jennings has always loved Ruby Bell, ever since she was a little kid in their small Texas town of Liberty. But Ruby ran away as soon as she could, escaping a violent household and seeking refuge in 1950s New York City. Years pass, and when Ruby is finally lured home again by family tragedy, she and Ephram are reunited. But Ruby’s mental state begins to unravel once she’s home, and Ephram is forced to make a choice: rescue her from her own pain, or remain loyal to his hometown.

    Nightby Elie Wiesel
    A memoir of the author’s experience surviving the Holocaust, Night is a simultaneously terrifying and uplifting story of what happens when the entire world is ripped out from beneath you, and the strength it takes to begin again after tragedy strikes. Elie was an almost 11-year-old in Romania when World War II began, and the encroaching Nazi threat began to destroy Jewish families’ way of life. Eventually, Elie and his family were taken to Auschwitz, where he lost his father, endured unspeakable atrocities, and questioned whether God existed. A book that forces the reader to confront the deepest evils of humanity, Night is haunting, beautiful, and essential reading.

    A New Earth, by Ekhart Tolle
    Moving on from fiction to self-help, this next Oprah book club pick is all about you unleashing your best self on the world. In Tolle’s view, the ego is humanity’s enemy, and if we release our conscious attachments to our egos, we will live more fulfilling lives—and also end most of the conflict and suffering in the world. If you’re looking for a new start, this is the book for you.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    A man and his young son wander a postapocalyptic American wasteland, searching for survival on the coast—what awaits them there, they don’t know, but it can’t be worse than what they’ve left behind. The two are alone after the suicide of the boy’s mother, unable to live in the nuclear winter. Written in beautiful, minimalistic prose, The Road is mysterious, brutal, and ultimately hopeful, a treatise on the true love between a father and his son when the entire world around them has broken down.

    The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
    Against the backdrop of the Congo’s rebellion against Belgian Rule, Nathan Price brings his wife and four daughters to help him in his evangelist cause. The story is narrated by Orleanna, his wife, and later, their four daughters, as they recount their father’s involvement in the western colonization of Africa through a unique and sometimes prejudiced lens. But their time in Africa changes them irrevocably, and their journeys take them on different paths towards redemption.

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    The book opens with Cal sharing a defining fact of his life: he has not always been Cal, and sometimes goes by Calliope. Cal was born intersex, possessing both female and male genitalia. The journey Cal takes towards self-acceptance and understanding begins even before birth: it kicks off with the history of Cal’s entire family, beginning in 1922 with their grandparents’ journey to America, and the reveal of another secret: Cal’s grandparents were siblings, and married one another for protection in their strange new world. Family and personal history mingle with some of the most important moments in American history in this emotional story of a person reconciling their past and present.

    Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    And finally, drumroll, please—Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, is the newest Oprah’s Book Club pick! Continuing the pattern of her previous picks, this novel deals with the intersection of race and gender against the cruelty and desperation of the Antebellum South. Cora, a slave, learns about the underground railroad from Caesar, a new arrival on the plantation where she labors. Together they decide to escape, encountering not just terror, pain, and the dogged pursuit of a slave hunter, but slipstream twists to the historical narrative, including the transformation of the metaphorical railroad into a literal one.

  • Kathryn Williams 5:00 pm on 2015/09/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , cormac mccarthy, , , hemingway, , , ,   

    9 Revelations from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic 

    Before she was Elizabeth Gilbert: International Bestseller, Guru of Self-discovery, and Julia Roberts’s Real-life Inspiration, Elizabeth Gilbert was just another writer toiling away at her craft. (She’ll tell you that even after Eat, Pray, Love, she is still just another writer toiling away at her craft.) In her latest work of non-fiction, Big Magic, Gilbert throws wide open a window on her writing process and creative philosophy. As the ancient Greeks called forth the Muse, Gilbert invokes “Big Magic.” Her world is animated with benevolent creative spirits—ideas—begging to be made manifest. To do so takes courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, even a touch of the divine.

    Gilbert is best when she’s at her most personal, and what the author reveals of herself in Big Magic is as enlightening as the advice she gives. Here are 9 of our favorite discoveries.

    1. Ann Patchett wrote Elizabeth Gilbert’s book—and Gilbert is okay with that
    Of course Patchett didn’t literally write a book published under Gilbert’s name; there was no stealing, no plagiarizing, no ghostwriting. As Gilbert’s story goes, the idea for a novel set in the Amazon jungle came to her. It occupied her, it inflamed her, it energized her…and then it didn’t. She set aside her inspiration, and so it left her, like a lover too long taken for granted. It migrated to the mind of her friend and fellow writer, Patchett, where it grew into that author’s bestselling novel set in the Amazon jungle, State of Wonder. If we don’t engage with our creative ideas, Gilbert learned, they’ll go looking for other willing collaborators. (And may we be as gracious as Gilbert if they do.)

    2. Gilbert doesn’t believe in MFA programs
    This critical darling does not have a masters in creative writing and does not recommend spending tens of thousands of dollars to earn one. The Class of 2015 might respectfully disagree, but Gilbert has a point. Creativity is about self-cultivation. Dig deep within yourself; don’t dig yourself into a financial hole. If you want to study under the masters, you can find them at a greatly reduced rate in the library, at the museum, or on the screen.

    3. She told her husband that no one would read the book she was writing about him
    Wrong. Eat, Pray, Love stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for more than 200 weeks. The point is that Gilbert was not writing in order to be read or even understood. She was writing to understand and—hold onto your hats—because she liked doing it. That was the only motivation and permission she needed.

    4. At 16 years-old, she took a vow to be a writer
    Gilbert did not vow to be rich or famous or even terribly good at writing. But by golly, she lit a candle, got down on her knees in her childhood bedroom, and committed herself to her creative process. Fear, procrastination, and need for recognition: speak now or forever hold your peace. Amen.

    5. She had a short-lived Southern Gothic period
    (She is from Connecticut.) She also had a Hemingway stage and a Cormac McCarthy stage. She stank at imitating, but at least she was writing. Finally she reached her Elizabeth Gilbert stage.

    6. Sometimes she puts on lipstick to write
    Elizabeth Gilbert dates her creativity. She dresses up for it. She takes a shower for it. She shows up, and she seduces it.

    7. She is a self-described “deeply disciplined half-ass.”
    Gilbert has published books that were, in her own esteem, good enough. Many writers have. The truth is that good enough is the only way creative endeavors ever exist. Perfection is an illusion and a trap. That doesn’t mean you should not create. It means embracing the paradox that what you create both matters and doesn’t matter one stinking whit. Work your tail off, and then let it go.

    8. She threw out an entire book
    It was called Go Set a Watchman. Just kidding. But just like the time Gilbert had to hack away 30% of the first short story she ever published, or the time an editor who once rejected her story enthusiastically accepted it in the very same form several years later, she realized that her ego would not serve her in that moment. Demanding that her story remain intact, asking why her writing was suddenly deemed brilliant when it had not been earlier, howling in frustration at failure—all these would have turned her away from what she really needed most: more wonder, less ego.

    9. When she started her last novel, The Signature of All Things, about a 19th-century botanist, she was not a gardener
    Gilbert needed an idea. Something. Anything. She did not have an innate passion for gardening—in fact she’d once seriously disliked the activity—but that’s okay because what she did have was curiosity. It was a tepid curiosity, perhaps, but it had perched on her shoulder, and so she paid attention. She followed her curiosity on what would become a deep and wide and long scavenger hunt, ending in a novel and, lo and behold, a garden.

  • Jenny Shank 4:00 pm on 2015/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: , Benjamin Percy, , , cormac mccarthy, Nicholas Carr, road trippin, , , ,   

    Five Audiobooks to Avoid on a Family Road Trip 

    When you hit the road on the way to your summer vacation destination, perhaps you and your family plan to listen to an engrossing audiobook. But, just as in-flight magazines eschew printing any articles about air travel gone awry, you might want to avoid listening to tales in which road trips become harrowing adventures, such as those depicted in these excellent books that are perhaps best enjoyed in the comfort of your home, when the kids aren’t listening.

    The Dead Lands, by Benjamin Percy
    Benjamin Percy’s absorbing new novel imagines a future America after global nuclear warfare and a flu pandemic, where humans survive in a few desperate outposts, including one in St. Louis: “The Sanctuary,” rimmed by a wall and ruled by a cruel mayor. The people inside don’t know if any other humans are out there, and so a group of intrepid adventurers steal away—including a man named Lewis and a woman named Clark—and re-create the famed Corps of Discovery mission across the U.S. The difference? This road trip includes run-ins with huge mutant bats, ravenous bears, nuclear contamination sites, and slavers looking for fresh stock. A new version of famed mountain man John Colter is along for the ride, and yes, he does reenact his legendary naked run to save his life.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    In Cormac McCarthy’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner, a father and son try to survive and forage for food as they make their way through a postapocalyptic America. Unless botulism-contaminated canned goods and babies roasting on a spit are your idea of fun sites to see with the kids, it’s best to avoid this audiobook in the car.

    The Harder They Comeby T.C. Boyle
    Talk about vacation mayhem. T.C. Boyle’s engrossing 25th book kicks off with an elderly Vietnam veteran, Sten Stenson, on holiday in Costa Rica. When robbers hold up Sten’s tour group, the vet kills one of them with his bare hands. And the fun doesn’t end there! Sten’s grown son Adam, back home in California, is mentally ill and suffers from delusions that he can transform himself into a self-sufficient survivalist like John Colter. Sarah, a farrier by trade, picks Adam up as a hitchhiker. Sarah is anti-government and doesn’t believe in the seatbelt law—and when she’s pulled over for flouting it, it kicks off her and Adam’s crime spree.

    Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
    Charles Frazier’s 1997 National Book Award winner reimagines Homer’s The Odyssey in the setting of America after the Civil War, as wounded soldier W.P. Inman tries to make his way home to his beloved Ada in North Carolina. In true Odyssey style, his journey isn’t as straightforward and uneventful as we’d like our road trips to be. Along the way, Inman is captured by the Home Guard and threatened with robbery, violence, and starvation. Let this book serve as a reminder to pack adequate snacks for your trip. 

    The Glass Cage, by Nicholas Carr
    In the provocative and thoughtful The Glass Cage, technology thinker Nicholas Carr examines how increasing dependence on automation is undermining us. He cites evidence that suggests use of such technologies as autopilot dull our ability to react to emergencies whenever life throws the computer something it can’t handle. Carr even cites studies suggesting our reliance on technologies such as Google Maps might impair our brains, as we become less aware of our spatial surroundings, and might even increase the onset of dementia as we use certain parts of our brains less often. Perhaps this is not what you want to hear as you brave a highway full of fellow technology-addicted Americans.

  • Jenny Kawecki 3:00 pm on 2015/05/20 Permalink
    Tags: books you were born for, cormac mccarthy, daniel o'malley, , , , , , , , , ,   

    Books to Read Based on Your Birth Order 

    Maybe you’re the seventh of twelve, or maybe you’re the first of one; whichever it is, your birth order definitely has an effect on your personality…and, consequently, the stack of paperbacks relaxing on your bedside table. In honor of all those times your little brother borrowed your favorite book and returned it with syrup stains on half the pages, here are some book recommendations based on your sibling status alone:

    Only Child

    Cloud Atlasby David Mitchell
    You can’t help it, but you’re a bit of a precocious perfectionist (being the only outlet for your parents’ attention tends to do that). With that in mind, you’ll love Mitchell’s complicated, circling novel. It follows a series of intertwining characters over several centuries, trying out multiple styles and narratives along the way. This book is sort of like you: it’ll monopolize all the attention, then impress you with its maturity and talent.

    The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
    Maybe what you really want is to know what it’s like to have a large family. Well, The Corrections ought to do the trick. Enid and Alfred are tired of their empty nest, and Enid’s trying to get all three of her children back together for one more family holiday. But with Gary struggling to get along, Chip wrapped up in an intense new job, and Denise juggling an affair and a new restaurant, bringing the kids together is harder than it sounds. With a bit of luck, this book might just remind you how glad you are you don’t have siblings.

    Then try:
    Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion

    Oldest Child

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    You know that overwhelming need you have to take care of everyone and everything? Now imagine that feeling multiplied by disaster. Stuck in a postapocalyptic world, a father and son attempt to stay alive despite near-constant life-threatening situations. The familiar exhaustion of trying to make sure everything turns out right, the driving need to be more and do more—this book was pretty much made for a firstborn.

    The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley
    Cautious, in control, aware of everything around her: Myfanwy Thomas has the personality of an oldest child. Of course, she also has no memory and no clue what’s going on in her life, besides the notes left to her by her former self that let her know someone is trying to kill her. With a secret organization to run and an evil plot to stop, Myfanway has no choice but to take charge and be the responsible overachiever you are every day.

    Then try:
    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

    Middle Child

    I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
    Cassandra falls into the “What am I doing here?” trap all middle children face. She doesn’t get the attention her older sister, Rose, gets, so she’s stuck trying to please everyone and keep the peace—not so easy when you live in a broken-down castle with your crazy father and absolutely no money. With her need to be on good terms with everyone and her tendency to be overlooked, Cassandra will speak straight to the middle child in you.

    American Godsby Neil Gaiman
    Shadow has that rebellious streak favored by middle children, only bigger: he’s an ex-con. After the sudden death of his wife, he finds himself working for a man named Wednesday, who happens to be in the center of the ultimate power play. And if you think it’s hard to keep your older and younger siblings on speaking terms, try it with a handful of grouchy immortals with ego issues.

    Then try:
    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Geniusby Dave Eggers

    Youngest Child

    Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
    For the fun-loving theatrical side of you, here’s a book about a love story between a young Italian innkeeper and a beautiful Hollywood actress…and that same love story again, picked up decades later, when the (now old) innkeeper sets out to rediscover the old flame. It’s an easy, entertaining ride, but touching all the same—perfect for sharing with those stuffy older siblings of yours.

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
    Every youngest child experiences that moment where everyone seems to be moving on without you. And what do you do when everyone treats you like you’re younger than you are? In Paloma’s case, plot something dramatic to snag their attention, or befriend someone who recognizes the old soul beneath the youthful exterior—enter Renée, the inconspicuous concierge who’s more on top of things than people think. For every baby of the family who doesn’t want to be the baby any more, this book is for you.

    Then try:
    Where’d You Go Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

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