In 1982, Philip K. Dick passed away at the age of 53. He was a well-known author, publishing over 40 works, primarily science fiction. He influenced many authors and filmmakers, and some of his works provided the basis for films such as Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. His fiction explored questions on identity, perception, and human nature. Characters often struggled against science fiction elements such as alternate realities, authoritarian governments, and simulacra.
If you’ve enjoyed films like Donnie Darko, Inception, or The Truman Show, you can thank Philip K. Dick for influencing those filmmakers. And that means you’re ready to dive into some of his own works!
Prolific storyteller Neil Gaiman was born on this day 61 years ago. From short stories to graphic novels to nonfiction to screenplays, Gaiman has left no storytelling stone unturned. While a large swatch of his fan base are avid sci-fi and fantasy readers, Gaiman still has mass appeal. Children’s books, such as Coraline, have garnered an adult fan base. Films and television shows have been created based on his books and Gaiman has even written episodes for beloved series like Doctor Who.
Gaiman has written screeplays, produced films, and directed some too. He has an immense body of work with no signs of slowing down. The Sandman television series (based on Gaiman’s own DC Comics of the same name), a comic adaptation by Colleen Doran (from Gaiman’s Chivalry), and Miraclemancomics were all released this year.
No need to be overwhelmed, though! Here’s a list of offerings in every area Gaiman has his hands.
It may be considered a children’s book, but this creepy tale can be read at any age. Young Coraline and her parents move to a big, old house converted into apartments. Accompanied by an odd cast of characters, Coraline soon finds another world that is parallel to her own. While it seems perfect, it quickly becomes a nightmare Coraline must escape.
Gaiman, a master of dark fantasy and magical realism, has also proven his mastery of human connection. The narrator, returning to his town to attend a funeral, reminisces on a tragedy that he witnessed as a child. Sometimes recommended as a children’s book, this fares better for an adult reflecting on their childhood.
In addition to providing the source material, Gaiman was a writer and executive producer for this television series adaptation.
As New Gods gain prominence, the Old Gods worry they are becoming irrelevant. Shadow Moon, recently released from prison, becomes embroiled in this world of magic and the mission of uniting the Old Gods to rebuild their status.
Fifty six years ago, Star Trek made its television debut on NBC. Featuring William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Leonard Nimoy, and a host of other formidable actors, the original show has spawned numerous iterations, including spin-off television series, films, magazines, exhibitions, and books. Love of Star Trek spans generations, creating communities with each new release. Even if you’re not a “Trekkie”, there’s no getting around the fact that Star Trek has had quite the impact on popular culture.
I’ve compiled a few books that are sure to interest any Trekkie, and hopefully reach the non-Trekkies too!
Interested in the newer generations of Star Trek but not sure how to get started? Try this prequel novel about Star Trek: Picard, from 2020. You’ll be introduced to Picard and a new cast of characters, bringing your Star Trek knowledge up to par.
Shatner also wrote an autobiography that goes beyond just his experiences as Captain Kirk. From motorcycle trips to stage productions to grappling with the uncertainty of life, Shatner explores it all in reflections full of humor and vulnerability.
George Takei is well-known for his acting roles in Star Trek and as a fierce LGBTQ+ activist. Born to Japanese-American parents, their family was forcibly imprisoned in a Japanese interment camp during World War II. This graphic novel memoir depicts Takei’s experiences in the camp, as a young child trying to make the most of the situation and grappling with horrific atrocities. A must-read for anyone, Trekkie or otherwise.
Whether you’ve been with Star Trek since the beginning or you’ve never seen a single episode, Ryan Britt’s in-depth look into the Star Trek phenomenon will provide insight into this illustrious franchise.
One of the most beloved episodes of Star Trek, with the original script by Harlan Ellison, adapted into a graphic novel. Fans will love being able to see how the script changed into what is seen on screen.
Today may be National Pinot Noir Day but there are plenty of other wine-related topics to celebrate. If you drink wine, you know that a glass can elevate a dining experience. But between all the varietals and rules, it can be hard to know what exactly you’re drinking and which to drink with which food. Fortunately, there are plenty of books to teach us!
First off, there is no need to become an expert because as Victoria James’ autobiography Wine Girl explains, the journey to becoming a sommelier (not to mention America’s youngest sommelier!) is quite the intense journey. If that doesn’t scare you off, peruse Rosie Schaap’s book Becoming a Sommelier and really take your wine knowledge to the next level. But if you’d rather take a step back, there’s Aldo Sohm’s book Wine Simple. Sohm takes his expertise and makes it manageable for those of us that just want to know which wine goes best with pizza.
And maybe you don’t want to take it that far and just want to know what wines come from where, learn something, and impress your dinner guests. Around the World in Eighty Wines by Mike Veseth is an excellent resource, broken into continents, countries, and cities, delving into the history and making of their wines. Wine Isn’t Rocket Science by Ophélie Neiman breaks down how to buy and pair every type of wine, so you’re never left wondering if you should have a white or red with dinner.
And if you’d rather just read wine-themed books, have we got options for you!
As I am the resident science fiction and fantasy nerd librarian, you probably figured that of course my TBR list for this summer would be heavy with the weirdest and most interesting books. And you’d be right! Below are the five books I am most excited to read this summer, in no particular order.
Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can put them on hold with your library card number and PIN.
Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise
I love any retelling of classic fairy tale, but a feminist retelling? Gotta have it. In Wise’s version, Wendy has grown up and has had children of her own. When Peter Pan kidnaps her daughter, Wendy must follow him to Neverland to save her daughter from the clutches of the boy who wouldn’t grow up.
Published June 1, 2021.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Like fellow librarian Nicole, I also want to read this fantasy reimagining of The Great Gatsby! There’s magic, mystery, and Jordan, a side character in the original novel, reimagined as a queer Vietnamese girl. Sign me up!
Published June 1, 2021.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
When a book is described as Mulan meets Song of Achilles, how could this not be on my TBR list? In this fantastical retelling of Chinese history, a queer female monk will rise to greatness against the Mongol army.
Published July 20, 2021.
A Master of Djinn by P. DJÈLÍ Clark
Another historical reimagining, this debut novel stars a female detective tasked with solving a mass murder set in an alternate history 1912 Cairo where both humans and supernatural creatures dwell.
Published May 11, 2021.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Last but not least, this novel features a princess and a priestess working together to save their homeland from the princess’ traitor brother.
Published June 8, 2021.
Fellow science fiction and fantasy readers: did I miss any books that you’re excited to read this summer? Let me know!
An excellent speculative fiction alternate history set during the Napoleonic Wars featuring a time travelling LGBTQ+ love story. In The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley, Joe Tournier wakes up on a train station platform with no memory of who he is. He’s in London, but everyone is speaking French. When he receives a postcard with his name on it, mailed a hundred years ago, Joe journeys to the lighthouse pictured on the card and is kidnapped through a portal into the past by a mysterious man.
Pulley’s novel is at once both a romantic love story across time and space and a well-researched alternate history that examines how the use of future technology would change events in the past, and how far nations would be willing to go for information from the future. This book is for anyone who has ever wondered what would have happened if the French won at Trafalgar, if the telegraph was invented fifty years earlier, or even what would happen if a sailing ship battled against a steam-powered battleship. The twisty, turny plot may be confusing or hard to follow at first, but the payoff in the end is well-earned. Pulley does not pull her punches, either in the story or the action, but her take on naval ship battles is visceral without being over the top with gore. For anyone who loved Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.
Look for the Kingdoms on May 25!
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!
In typical librarian fashion, I am always reading a book or two, in addition to having a plethora of books sitting in various to-be-read piles in my house. Back in the days of spending time at my library office desk, I would always keep a book there to read during my meal breaks (stares nostalgically out window thinking of my desk…). Of course, now that I’m home most of the time I keep a book in the dining room to read during lunch breaks. There is always a book on my night stand (usually my Kindle hangs out there) as well and a book on my coffee table, so I’m prepared for reading at all times. Take a look below to see what I’m currently reading and what I have lined up for the next couple months!
I was so excited to snag an ARC of this book from NetGalley! I’m only about halfway through but it is great so far. After escaping a dangerously strict religious compound, where she was forced to marry the nefarious leader Reverend Sherman, teenage Vern escapes to the woods pregnant and alone. She gives birth to twins in the forest and tries her best to survive the harsh realities of this isolated life, all the while being pursued by a mysterious fiend, odd hallucinations, and experiencing uncanny changes in her body and abilities.
You can read a full review of this novel from my colleague Shannon by clicking here!
Collecting issues #6-10 of this horror comic series, readers catch up with monster killer Erica Slaughter after she has slain the beast who was terrorizing the small town of Archer’s Peak. The only problem is that the monster had babies and now they are loose in the town. A mysterious man from The House of Slaughter arrives (is this the monster slayer version of a Watcher?) to help clean up the mess but seems to make matters worse.
I am not usually an audiobook person, but every once in a while I check out an audiobook on Hoopla to listen to while I’m in the kitchen. I adore Shirley Jackson but have yet to read all her short stories and this audiobook has been a joy to listen to. Humorous, dark, and sometimes tragic, this powerful collection of haunting stories is read by a variety of voice actors making for an interesting and engaging experience.
2020 has been a year in which I read many trilogies: Shades of Magic by Schwab, Lady Astronaut series by Kowal, Star Trek: The Janus Gate by Graf, The Broken Earth by Jemisin, and The Dam Keeper by Kondo and Tsutsumi
My top 10 list (in chronological order that I read them)
This has been an unusual year (such an understatement!) and (not shockingly) it’s translated to what I wound up reading this year… (so much insight!) But like every previous year, it was a struggle to decide which books and why. Hopefully you’ll find a new book to try or you’ll have a happy “oh! meeee too!” moment! (Bonus comments in parentheses because you can’t see me doing eyerolls at myself. Enjoy!)
Now let’s get on to the goods, in alphabetical order by author, The Books:
Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen
It felt like reading an excellent BBC series: engaging characters, smart mystery, and a great WWII time/place setting. The second book in the series will be out before the end of the year: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers! (Historical Mystery)
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Mr. Backman can write a likable, curmudgeonly character like few can but this book is really more of an ensemble journey and each character has their own quirky personality. The beginning is a little dark but quickly becomes an uplifting story of how individuals can build their own supportive community. (General Fiction)
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Just like when you hear about any picture of a perfect wife, husband, or marriage, it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfect. Quiet and thoughtful, suspenseful and satisfying, this book was everything I wanted it to be. (General Fiction)
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
I loved Ready Player One and was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original, what a waste of a decent worry! All the pop culture references, interesting future-thinking ideas, and plenty of exciting plot twists, this is *chef’s kiss* a delight! Fun extra -the IRL setting is Columbus, Ohio!(General Fiction/Science Fiction)
Weather by Jenny Offill
Odd, quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely engaging. If you’re looking for a book short on pages and long on impact, this might be the one for you! (Literary Fiction)
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was on my list last year and prompted me to read this older title by the same author. Yep, just as good! It’s a long-game mystery with shades of The Shining suspense. (Mystery)
The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
The family relationships, the wanting to be a part of something while also needing to be an individual, watching how society’s views on a variety of topics changed with the decades, all made each page of this book a pleasure. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll feel this story that much more deeply. (General Fiction)
Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
Mix a little Thin Man, Nick and Nora, with a little Mickey Spillane, add a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson, put World War II espionage into the background, and you’ll get close to understanding why you want to read this next. It’s a debut and I’m typing this with my fingers crossed that the second book will be coming soon! (Historical Mystery)
Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman
This author consistently connects her characters and action in smart and surprising ways, with conclusions that are unexpected and satisfying. I’ve only listened to the audio versions of Ms. Steadman’s books, and I don’t plan to change that, it’s like hearing a radio drama with all the sound effects a listener could hope for! (Mystery)
Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson
Charming and insightful, this is the story of a “bot” who has a degree of self-awareness that he needs to seek therapy before going on a journey to fulfill his dreams. It’s not a simple journey as he needs to hide his true nature as our society is prejudiced against AI and are as likely to attack him as help him. You might shed a tear or two along the way, but it’s worth it. (General Fiction)
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
If you like superhero/supervillain movies or you’ve watched The Boys on Amazon Prime, you will love every page of this book. Anna shows some small but special abilities with numbers but she’s tired of being a contract worker for whichever villain needs temporary help. Offered what seemed to be an easy and high paying gig changed everything, just not for the better. With engaging characters, interesting thoughts on how we think of good vs. evil, and some really clever surprises, this book checked all the boxes for me this year. (General or Science Fiction)
Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America by David Giffels
The 2020 General Election may have cost Ohio our “bellwether state” title but if you want a better understanding of how one state can represent so much of the entire USA, this book is the one to read. The author uses his own travels to different locations and conversations with individuals to make each experience engaging for the reader. (Nonfiction)
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
I’m embarrassed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Gladwell but this book sent me off on a “what else” deep dive, and now I’m a die-hard fan. I learned so much but reading the book felt more like I was reading a series of short, connected, stories. If you pick this one up, we can talk about how crazy it is that our brain defaults to what we want to believe even when the facts show a different reality. Just, so good!
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Individually, they are funny and the laughs only increase as they tell how they became a couple. I listened to the audio version and highly recommend this option as Megan and Nick are the readers -it starts to feel like you’re in a candid conversation with new friends.
The Darkness Duology: Courting Darkness and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
The characters and setting are part of the His Fair Assassin series, and it feels like catching up with old friends (who can kick some serious hiney). Sybella must protect her younger sisters from being used as political pawns while also trying to keep the new Queen safe from enemies within the Royal House. The author always provides such strong women as main characters but remembers to give them flaws and quirks so they remain relatable. Ms. LaFevers never disappoints! (Historical Mystery)
Of course, I also think pretty highly of the books I suggested for the RRPL Gift Guide -ya know- and I might be counting those books as part of a bigger list for the year? Anyway… Happy Holidays, with books and snackies, for all!!
This year I stayed quite nicely tucked into my reading comfort blanket of weird, atmospheric, and dark reads for the most part. I read more than one collection of short stories, and one novella, which reflects my unpredictable ebb and flow of reading ambition the past ten months: some days I couldn’t focus on reading for more than fifteen minutes, while others days I was inspired to plant myself on the couch and read all weekend. Below you’ll find my ten favorite books I read this past year: including some supernatural thrillers, weird and beautiful science fiction, horror short stories, literary fiction, and more!