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  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , harper lee, , , , , ,   

    10 Breakout Debut Authors Who Made Us Wait for Their Next Book 

    As much as we romanticize authors, it’s easy to forget that writing novels is a profession for most—both a creative calling and a way to pay the bills. As such, many authors approach success with diligent follow-up; if you manage to sell a first novel, you generally work hard to publish a second one as quickly as possible, if only to consolidate your fan base and prove the first wasn’t a fluke. It’s estimated that upwards of a million books are published every year, so it’s easy to imagine losing your toehold on readers’ imaginations if you let too much time go by.

    The ten authors on this list, however, didn’t feel any urgency, and made us wait years—sometimes decades—for their second novels.

    Susanna Clarke
    First novel: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
    Follow-up: Piranesi, expected September 2020
    Gap: 15 years

    It took Clarke a decade to write her door-stopping debut, an alternate history set in a version of 19th century England in which magic has recently returned after a long absence—although she’d earlier published several short stories in the same milieu. A massive bestseller and award-winner, it’s one of the most unusual works of fantasy you’ll ever read, filled with epic detail (much of it conveyed via cheeky footnotes) and a writing style that brings names like Dickens and Austen to mind. It’s a masterpiece, in short, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting Clarke’s next novel ever since—so color us delighted to learn that, after a decade and a half, it’s finally on the calendar—if still a year away as of this writing. Piranesi, due to hit shelves in September 2020, will introduce us to a whole new world of Clarke’s devising. All we know right now is that the title refers to the main character, who lives in a “watery labyrinth” of a house with thousands of rooms and spends his days assisting his friend “The Other” with research into “a great and secret knowledge.” Of course, not all is as it seems. Few novelists earn the benefit of the doubt based on a single prior novel—but Clarke is most definitely one of them.

    Erin Morgenstern
    First novel: The Night Circus
    Follow-up: The Starless Sea
    Gap: 8 years

    Erin Morgenstern’s debut won the Locus for Best First Novel, a fine feat for a work that began as a NaNoWriMo writing exercise—though it took six years of reworking and polish to turn it into the fantasy publishing phenomenon of 2011. It tells the story of five-year old Celia, struggling with controlling her instinctive mental powers while being raised by her father, Hector, better-known as Prospero the Entertainer in the Le Cirque des Reves—an uncanny circus that only opens at night—and of Marco, the magician’s son whom she is destined to duel. Eight years later, Morgenstern is finally back with The Starless Sea, in which a grad student named Zachary stumbles on evidence that a doorway to a magical world he refused to believe in as a child was actually the real deal—a passage to a huge, largely abandoned underground library where time is unpredictable. Learning that a secret society is working to hide the library and even seal it off forever, and Zachary finds himself at the center of the effort to save it. Eight years is a long time, but if that’s how long it takes to create something as otherworldly and transporting as The Night Circus, the wait will have been worth it.

    Stephen Chbosky
    First novel: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Follow-up: Imaginary Friend
    Gap: 20 years

    It might surprise you to remember it’s been two decades since the release of Chbosky’s generation-defining debut The Perks of Being a Wallflower—perhaps in part because the film adaptation came out in 2012, after the author spent years trying to get it made (eventually directing it himself). The emotional journey of its protagonist, Charlie, is messy and internal and incredibly heartfelt—the kind of novel that feels especially vital, for people who grew up feeling like outsiders in their own life story. Chobsky’s second book, Imaginary Friend, shifts gears hard, delivering something closer to Stephen King than John Hughes. It’s a terrifying nightmare tale about a young boy who disappears in the nearby woods for a week. He returns he’s physically unharmed but changed in other ways—he longer suffers from his learning disability, and hears voices telling him to build a treehouse in the woods. Even as he does, his town descends into chaos as a mysterious illness moves through the population and a host of disturbing entities begin to haunt it. It’s quite the leap in terms of subject matter, but the characters’ emotional journeys are as truthful as ever, and when it comes to the horror elements—well, don’t read this one late at night.

    Harper Lee
    First novel: To Kill a Mockingbird
    Follow-up: Go Set a Watchman
    Gap: 55 years

    If you recall, the announcement that Harper Lee would publish her second novel 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize was met with wild enthusiasm—and then dawning unease, as questions over who actually made the decision to publish what is essentially an early draft of that acclaimed novel arose. We may never know for sure what happened behind the scenes that led to Go Set a Watchman beings published in 2015, but we do know with a certainty that while it’s not a bad novel by any stretch, it’s simply not up to the standard set by Mockingbird. Though in all fairness that’s an extremely high bar to clear. The expectations piling ever-higher in the years after her timeless debut likely had something to do with the fact that Lee published almost nothing else, so whatever you think of Watchman, its mere existence is some kind of marvel..

    Joseph Heller
    First novel: Catch-22
    Follow-up: Something Happened
    Gap: 13 years

    Heller took eight years to write his debut novel, the ingenious satire Catch-22, so 13 for his second tracks pretty well. Few novels in any language capture the pure insanity of living within a massive bureaucracy quite as well as Catch-22, using a slippery sense of time and a numbing repetition of the absurd to really make you comprehend how little you understand about your own existence. Something Happened arrived in 1974 with a lot of expectations in tow, and was initially received as an overlong disappointment, perhaps because people were hoping for Catch-23. In the ensuing decades the novel’s reputation has risen, and it’s routinely featured on lists of “the best books you’ve probably never read.”

    J.R.R. Tolkien
    First novel: The Hobbit
    Follow-up: The Lord of the Rings
    Gap: 14 years

    The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are often considered as two parts of a larger single work, but making them fit together required extensive revision, resulting in a whole new edition of the first novel years being published years after its initial 1937 release. The Hobbit was originally imagined as a children’s novel. Tolkien began writing a sequel after sales were better than expected, but as his sequel grew in complexity and darkness, he later tinkered with The Hobbit to fit the more mature mythology and tone of The Lord of the Rings. And yes, it is actually a single novel; the publisher broke it into thirds, fearing the public wouldn’t be willing to take the risk on such a long work of fantasy—which is somewhat understandable, considering the genre we now understand to be “epic fantasy” didn’t yet exit. At more than 500,000 words and featuring one of the most well-developed and deeply-imagined fictional universes ever devised, fourteen years in the making doesn’t seem so long.

    Walter M. Miller
    First novel: A Canticle for Leibowitz
    Follow-up: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
    Gap: 38 years

    Miller was primarily a writer of short fiction; Canticle was actually a “fix-up” novel created by combining three short stories into one seamless story. Nevertheless, it is one of the great debuts in SFF, more than just a story of Earth recovering from an apocalypse but an examination of faith, religion, human nature, and the patterns of history itself. Miller had a deal with his publisher for a sequel, but turned down what he saw as an insultingly low advance. Regardless, he continued to work on the novel for the next 37 years, secured a new publishing deal, and then fell into a depression that left him unable to complete the book. He ultimately asked author Terry Bisson to help him complete the novel, which Bisson did, but Miller committed suicide before Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman finally published. Though the improbability of meeting nearly four decades’ worth of expectations meant the novel received a mixed reception, it’s certainly a fascinating extension of an undeniable classic of the genre.

    Alexander Chee
    First novel: Edinburgh
    Follow-up: The Queen of the Night
    Gap: 15 years

    It’s not like Alexander Chee was idle in the decade-and-a-half between the publication his award-winning novel Edinburgh, a devastating story about two young boys who fall in love and fall victim to horrifying abuse, and his sophomore effort, The Queen of the Night. THe author is a prolific writer of short fiction, and he also edits, teaches, and contributor to numerous magazines and websites. But Queen is a different kind of novel, a fantastic historical tale about Lilliet Hearne, an American orphan who joins a circus and travels to Paris, where she discovers, well, just about everything. Chee was actually all set to publish the book in 2013, but at the last minute discovered fresh information about one of his real-life characters, and pulled the book back from his publisher to include the new material, delaying things another few years.

    Helen DeWitt
    First novel: The Last Samurai
    Follow-up: Lightning Rods
    Gap: 12 years

    Behind Dewitt’s bestselling debut is a kind of amazing story: she originally wrote it in 1996, but was demoralized by the responses she got from editors and quickly pulled the novel from submission. By chance, an editor at Miramax saw the book and took it to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it caused what can only be called a stir, with people fighting over copies. Dewitt was dubious, worried that the complex story—involving several different foreign alphabets and a non-linear narrative—would be too challenging for publishers to handle properly. And she was right, in a sense: her signing of a contract set off a decade of battles—over the title (originally dubbed The Seven Samurai after the Kurosawa film, it was altered when the rights couldn’t be obtained, only to see the replacement used for a samurai movie starring Tom Cruise, which probably resulted in at least a few confused bookstore returns); with copy editors who ignored her corrections and altered her intention, with typesetters who lacked the ability to handle her complex requirements. Though the book was released in 2000 to general acclaim and strong sales, it soon fell out of print and the rights to the book reverted to the author in 2008. It was finally republished by the independent press New Directions in 2016, and met with a critical reevaluation that deemed it one of the most essential novels of the 20th century. Her follow-up, Lightning Rods, was actually written shortly after The Last Samurai, and was intended to be published first—a streamlined book that would establish her as a writer and pave the way for the more challenging novel; New Directions released it in 2012, and did a good enough job with it that the author trusted them to bring her first book back into circulation.

    Arundhati Roy
    First novel: The God of Small Things
    Follow-up: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
    Gap: 20 years

    Roy is another writer who wasn’t exactly idle in the years between books. Her debut—telling the story of fraternal twins that explored how small things can have an outsize effect on our lives—won the Man Booker Prize for fiction; for years Roy referred to ongoing work on her second novel, but no book appeared as she worked on a TV show and published numerous essays. For a while it seemed like she might have abandoned fiction altogether, but The Ministry of Utmost Happiness arrived in 2017 as almost a conceptual opposite of her first—a big book concerned with gender identity, celebrity, and the tectonic shifting of politics and intolerance that grind people to dust. If every book that took 20 years to write was this good, no one would complain.

    What other long-in-coming sophomore efforts did we miss?

    The post 10 Breakout Debut Authors Who Made Us Wait for Their Next Book appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/07/11 Permalink
    Tags: , frames of mind, harper lee, howard gardner, SMRT, ,   

    10 Books That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way 

    According to famed psychologist Howard Gardner, there is not one measure of intelligence, but nine: Spatial, Naturalist, Musical, Logical-Mathematical, Existential, Interpersonal, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Linguistic, and Intra-Personal. This means that if your goal is truly to become smarter, you have to think in broader terms and do more than plow through a few extra crossword puzzles every week—you have to feed every aspect of your intellect. The books below can help make you smarter in each area of intelligence. Embark on a reading journey that’ll make you feel like a genius—or at least more aware of your strengths.

    Frames of Mind, by Howard Gardner
    You might as well start at the source. Gardner’s seminal 1983 book lays out his theory of multiple versions of intelligence in detail. He describes the nine types of intelligence as different ways people process information, and argues that they operate largely independently—and that modern testing and education systems are fatally flawed, because they don’t take this variety into account. It’s a fascinating work that might change how you think about thinking.

    Spatial Intelligence: Spatial Intelligence: Why It Matters from Birth through the Lifespan, by Daniel Ness, Stephen J. Farenga, Salvatore G. Garofalo
    No book offers a more comprehensive outline of what, exactly, spatial intelligence is, and why you should be more aware of it. After explaining the natural tendency for all people to interrogate the world through spatial relationships and knowledge, it offers real-world parallels linking spatial skills to professional skills, and demonstrates how developing them can make you more effective and successful.

    Naturalist Intelligence: Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
    Our ability to identify and comprehend other living things has always been essential to our survival, from the first time someone died from eating the wrong berries, to our instinctive reaction to spotting a rabid dog on the street. Naturalistic Intelligence is severely underdeveloped in a large portion of the modern world, insulated as we are from the hunting and farming and wilderness survival that was once essential. Adams and Carwardine’s book focuses on species that are in imminent danger of extinction—an excellent place to start your naturalistic reeducation.

    Musical Intelligence: Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer
    You could buy a book on musical theory, or specifically on Musical Intelligence, which is how we interpret and react to sounds, rhythms, and tones. You could read this haunting, complex play, listening to the musical pieces referenced as you go, and climb into the head of a genius who seemed to translate everything he experienced into music. Mozart certainly possessed extraordinary musical intelligence, and if you can absorb just a bit of it, you’ll be better off.

    Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas R. Hofstadter
    This book isn’t solely focused on one form of intelligence—there is a lot of musical intelligence stuff in here as well, for example. But it’s a deep dive into questions, puzzles, and ways of thinking directly linked to the Logical-Mathematical part of your brain, and it’s so energetically written and wonderfully imagined, it’s also a damn hard book to put down. It’s not easy reading, but it will definitely leave your logic circuits buffed up once you’ve absorbed its stories, word games, linguistic puzzles, and deep references.

    Existential Intelligence: The Stranger, by Albert Camus
    On the surface, Camus’ classic is a straightforward story of a man who commits a terrible crime and pays the price. Underneath, it wrestles with fundamental questions of our existence, and there’s no better way to boost start your Existential IQ than reading it—twice, maybe—and thinking about the absurd view that Camus puts forward. Our existence, our being, is one of the fundamental facts of our lives, and yet it is a mystery in many ways. Read this novel, go have a good think, and you’ll come out smarter, whether you realize it or not.

    Interpersonal Intelligence: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    There’s a sense that this classic novel gets an inflated reputation because of its racially-charged subject matter, but that’s unfair—Lee’s first (and for some time, only) novel is a genius-level creation of Interpersonal iIntelligence and empathy. Science tells us that reading classic literature improves both dramatically anyway, partially because it forces us to experience lives much different from our own. That’s true of Mockingbird, but it’s also a book featuring a main character, Scout, with a genius-level Interpersonal IQ. Scout navigates the other characters with a strong instinct for who’s good, who’s bad, and how to deal with both, even though she often lacks the experience to put her instinct into words. You can learn a lot just by thinking about why she reacts in certain ways throughout the story.

    Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
    There are many books specifically about knowing your body and learning its limitations, but this work of fiction is one of the deepest to investigate the mysterious relationship between what we’re capable of doing and how we actually learn to do it. Harbach’s story about a skilled baseball player chasing a difficult record that’s derailed by a mysterious and sudden inability to do what was once came naturally—known in professional sports as ‛The Yips’—is not only a brilliant read, but a book that will have you thinking about the sometimes tenuous link between your mind and your body.

    Linguistic Intelligence: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
    People with Linguistic Intelligence find language to be a pliable tool, useful for accomplishing just about anything. Considering a huge portion of the words you use every day were invented by Shakespeare, it’s arguable he possessed one of the highest linguistic IQs in history. The challenge here is to read his plays in the original 16th-century English, without reference materials, and see how much you can follow. Then, go back and read them again, focusing on things you don’t quite get. You might eventually have to look some stuff up (some of Shakespeare’s reference were very topical), but forcing yourself to think hard about his words is a great exercise.

    Intrapersonal Intelligence: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
    At first blush, a book by a famous author about his running obsession might not seem right for intelligence focused on knowing yourself—but read it, and all becomes clear. This isn’t so much a book about running as it is a book about meditation, private thought, and finding that safe space where you can explore yourself without distraction or self-doubt. For Murakami, that pace is running. After reading it, you’ll be inspired to find that place for yourself.

    What books do you read to feel smarter?

    The post 10 Books That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:19 pm on 2016/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: harper lee   

    Remembering Harper Lee 

    Harper Lee, literary giant and author of the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, has passed away in Monroeville, Alabama, at the age of 89. Her death comes just seven months after the publication of Go Set a Watchman, which was set two decades after her Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.

    The Great American Novel
    It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of To Kill a Mockingbird to readers and, indeed, to our nation. There was, of course, the initial impact of a book that tackled issues of race, prejudice, and justice at a time when the Civil Rights movement was just gearing up—and that dealt with those issues thoughtfully and emotionally, from a place of simple human decency. Then, over the years, To Kill a Mockingbird became a touchstone for people everywhere, a fixture in our classrooms and our culture. Every year, a new generation of young readers is introduced to the simple beauty of Lee’s book. To Kill a Mockingbird becomes a favorite for most, and a shared cultural experience that links all of us. No one walks away from the novel without being changed—or, at the very least, provoked into thinking a little harder about the world. This is a book that has inspired legions to become lifelong readers, impassioned lawyers, and, simply, better people.

    The Woman Behind the Name
    Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926. She didn’t use her first name (which was her grandmother Ellen’s name backwards) professionally because she didn’t want people to call her “Nellie,” although people apparently did that all the time in Monroeville, Alabama, where Lee returned to live permanently several years ago after she suffered a stroke. The people of Monroeville adored Lee, and despite her resistance to the public life, residents told The New Yorker last year that Lee was “allergic to press, not people.”

    Those who’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird—that is, nearly all of us—may be justified in feeling they know Harper Lee a little. The story draws on Lee’s own family and experiences growing up in Monroeville, and Scout Finch shares something in common with her creator, who described herself as a tomboy. One of the most moving aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird is this emotional honesty. It doesn’t matter that we never met Harper Lee, and knew so little about her; thanks to her novels, we know the way her mind works, and when we need inspiration or comfort we hear, in our souls and hearts, the wry, warm, curious voice of Scout Finch.

    Just One Kind of Folks
    In the end, Harper Lee was a brilliant writer who created a masterpiece, and then stepped back, turning down press requests and keeping herself to herself. Her writing will ultimately guarantee her a place in history, and her writing is peerless—Lee accomplished more with two books than most writers manage with fifty.

    As Scout Finch says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” Every time we return to her work, Harper Lee helps us step outside ourselves and see the world from a new perspective. Although she is gone, her impact endures, her characters will keep inspiring us to do and be better, and her writing will live forever.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:29 pm on 2015/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , harper lee, you can never go back   

    10 Powerful Moments in Go Set a Watchman 

    The publication of Go Set a Watchman was one of the most exciting and unexpected literary events in recent memory. Now that we’ve all had a chance to digest a novel we never thought we’d get to read, we’re ruminating on a few of its most powerful and memorable moments. Warning: spoilers throughout.

    The first line
    “Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical.” For folks who grew up loving To Kill a Mockingbird, the first line of Go Set a Watchman is a door opening onto a world they never thought they’d get to revisit.

    One of the last lines
    One of the last lines lines of the book is also one of the most important: “As she welcomed him silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little.” In this sentence, Scout realizes that her father, whom she (and so many of us) idolized, is flawed—no longer the infallible Atticus, but simply a human being.

    The argument
    When Scout finally confronts Atticus about the issues that have been brewing between them throughout the story, it’s a raw, wrenching scene. And while Harper Lee couldn’t have intended it, our national obsession with To Kill a Mockingbird  means the readers feel the same disappointment and rage Scout does.

    Jem’s death
    Lee makes the Finch family, and the other citizens of Maycombe, seem like real people—people we feel we know. Jem’s death, which haunts the earlier parts of the book, is a sad postscript for a character we came to love nearly as much as Scout.

    Scout’s visit to Calpurnia
    Upset by her discoveries about her father, Scout visits her old caretaker, Calpurnia. The scene is emotionally draining, as Scout is treated coldly—but politely, which is somehow worse—by her beloved substitute mother, who cannot declare clearly that she does not hate the family she once cared for.

    “The time when your friends need you is when they’re wrong.”
    This line, spoken by Uncle Jack, is a bracing moment in the novel—one of those moments in which a great author has made you identify so closely with the lead character, you feel her moment of epiphany as much as she does.

    Atticus’ pride in Scout
    Upset by all she has discovered, Scout prepares to leave town, but a conversation with her uncle changes her mind, and she decides to visit her father. Atticus expresses nothing but pride in his daughter for having her own ideas and beliefs—and for sticking to them. After all the two characters have been through in the course of the novel, this little moment lands big.

    “Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.”
    For anyone who has left home and returned, years later, to find they no longer know it, this passage will hit like a blow. And anyone who read To Kill a Mockingbird and loved it will have a similar reaction to Scout’s return to Maycombe, which is so poignant, even sad.

    “I’ve got to live here, Jean Louise. Don’t you understand that?”
    This line is spoken by Henry, Scout’s romantic interest and Atticus’ protégé in Maycombe. As a reader, it’s easy to despise Henry just as Scout does. But his words almost make you feel sorry for him. Like weak men and women throughout history, he knows he’s wrong, but he’s not strong enough to stand up to his neighbors.

    “But Dill had long since gone from her.”
    Scout’s relationship with Dill was funny and sweet, and the fact that the two are no longer connected is no more tragic than it is when any of us lose touch with our old childhood crushes. But this line seems to be about more than just Dill. It is a sad acknowledgment that childhood itself, and innocence, can’t last.

    Go Set a Watchman is a fascinating novel by a brilliant writer, filled with emotional moments that make reading it a powerful experience. These are the ones that affected us most—what are yours?

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:42 pm on 2015/08/04 Permalink
    Tags: , harper lee, ,   

    6 Books to Read Now that You’ve Finished Go Set a Watchman 

    If you were excited about the long-delayed release of Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s first novel, chances are good you reread To Kill a Mockingbird in preparation. That’s a long time to be immersed in Lee’s lyrical midcentury South, awash in racial politics and moral quandaries. And now you can’t just go cold turkey on the Southern charm and themes of equality and injustice—that would lead to some ugly withdrawal symptoms. So here are six novels that share some of their soul with Harper Lee’s books, whether it’s the setting and time period, the political issues, or a combination of both.

    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
    With a similar setting (late 1930s American South, Georgia instead of Alabama), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is another one of those rare books that remains as powerful today as it was when published in 1940. The story of a deaf-mute man named John Singer and the five people who connect to him in the lonely small town they occupy, the story focuses on human relationships and how we all see others through the lens of our own needs and desires. It all leads up to a heartbreaking ending that still has cynical teenagers and distracted adults bursting into tears in public to this day. If you read Watchman for the relationships between Scout, Jem, Dill, and everyone else in Maycomb, this is the perfect followup.

    A Lesson before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines
    Set in 1940s Louisiana, A Lesson before Dying explores some of the same themes of Harper Lee’s books—namely, the way African Americans were (and continue to be) treated differently, and unfairly. When a slow-witted black man named Jefferson is falsely convicted of murder, his defense lawyer objects…by telling the jury he’s not a man who could conceive of such a crime, but more like a hog rooting in the dirt. When he’s sentenced to death anyway, his family reaches out to Grant, a black schoolteacher, to help Jefferson die like a man and not an animal. The struggle that ensues through one-hour visits in Jefferson’s jail cell, as Grant tries to convince him of his inherent dignity and humanity, is affecting, angry, and unrelenting. It’s a book about race that leaves marks.

    Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
    Capote and Lee were real-life best friends, and some even question whether he had a hand in Mockingbird. It’s therefore totally appropriate to make this semi-autobiographical 1948 novel your next read. It offers an inverse view of the deep South in the 20th century, one that underscores its lush rot and decadence. Joel Harrison Knox (a stand-in for Capote himself) is sent to live with his father on a sprawling plantation in Mississippi, where a central mystery surrounding his father—who the boy isn’t allowed to see—swirls around a tough young girl, a transvestite named Randolph, and a mysterious “queer lady” who watches him from a window in the mansion. Languid, disturbing, and still shocking to day, this book shows the underbelly of the South while addressing another oppressed class of people completely ignored in most novels.

    Native Son, by Richard Wright
    For a change in perspective, this grim and unrelenting story of race and rage in 1930s Chicago remains a blistering and sometimes difficult to read story. Bigger Thomas is a poor, uneducated black man who finds work as a chauffeur for his landlord’s family. Bigger lives his life in fear of the white people around him, who he sees as a collective force of oppression instead of individuals. Over the course of the novel Bigger does some terrible things, motivated by a combination of rage and fear, but after his conviction and sentencing to death towards the end of the novel he begins to see the world in a different way, and sees a chance to find some peace in himself at long last. Where Watchman is lyrical and thoughtful, Native Son is angry and blistering—and perhaps just what you need to read next.

    Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
    Ellison’s complex novel offers a modernist take on racial politics that requires some surprising twists that sometimes veer toward the symbolic. At its core, it explores the same themes as Watchman from the other side: how can a black man be true to himself when every society he joins already has a predefined, and often denigrating, role outlined for him? The narrator of Invisible Man struggles to find his footing in the world, but is forced into expected roles time and time again, with negative and ultimately tragic consequences. It’s a bracingly contrarian view of race relations in the 20th century.

    Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence
    This is a play, not a novel, and the perfect coda to a Harper Lee reading fest. It tells the true but fictionalized story of the Scopes Monkey Trial, which saw a schoolteacher arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in a Tennessee school in 1925. Using the trial as a subtle stand-in for the McCarthy Era of the 1950s, the play wallows in the same languid southern climate as Watchman and underscores the power of one man who believes in the purity of the law, much like Atticus Finch. While Henry Drummond (standing in for Clarence Darrow) loses the case, his passionate defense wins the day in every other way, offering a nice palate cleanse for those of you disturbed by the older Atticus Finch as depicted in Watchman.

     
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