Reading Horror Can Arm Us Against A Horrifying World

Why read horror when the world is already so creepy?
Maree Searle/Getty Images/EyeEm

Tom Lehrer famously said that satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet here we are, still struggling to exaggerate the follies of power until power can’t get around us. Horror has much the same resilience. As terrifying as the world becomes, we still turn to imagined terrors to try and make sense of it. To quote another favorite entertainer, Neil Gaiman, “Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Horror, descended from those tales, tells us about more monsters — and more strategies for beating them.

The banal evils of the world — children shot, neighbors exiled, selves reframed in an instant as inhuman threats — these are horrible, but they aren’t horror. Horror promises that the plot arc will fall after it rises. Horror spins everyday evil to show its fantastical face, literalizing its corroded heart into something more dramatic, something easier to imagine facing down. Horror helps us name the original sins out of which horrible things are born.

Some of my favorite horror stories are those in which real-world terrors grow gradually into something stranger. Mariana Enriquez, recently translated into English in Things We Lost in the Fire, writes a Buenos Aires in which poverty and pollution inevitably swell into risen corpses and sacrificial cults. Stephen King’s Carrie only destroys her town because abuse and bullying feed her frustrated teenage telekinesis. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic “The Yellow Wallpaper” starts from the simple psychological claustrophobia of well-meaning relations and deep-rooted sexism.

All of which gives horror the opportunity to be radically empowering, and to condemn these evils in the starkest of terms. But it doesn’t always do so. In too many stories the Thing That Should Not Happen is simply someone violating the status quo, or outsiders existing visibly. H. P. Lovecraft is a prototypical example — his world-shattering deities are worshipped primarily by those without other means to power: immigrants, rural folk, dark-skinned people trying to summon dreadful entities. His monsters are closely entwined with mental illness and “miscegenation.” His works insist, again and again, that civilization depends on keeping such creatures out of both sight and mind. Nor is Lovecraft (conveniently dead and ostensibly “of his time”) the only one. How much modern horror still draws frissons of fear from disabled villains, or the threat of “madness,” or whatever Other happens to be convenient? How many can only imagine threats as violations of white-picket-fence comfort, overcome when the monster’s defeat allows a return to that comfort for those who had it in the first place?

While it’s tempting to write horror from the perspective of those most easily shocked — those in a position to believe the universe dispenses comfort evenly to all — the best modern work depicts terrors fit for those already intimate with fear. Mira Grant (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) is brilliant at this. Her Newsflesh trilogy amplifies the perils of political journalism, mindful that authorities’ response to disaster can make the difference between zombie apocalypse and zombie inconvenience. Victor Lavalle, another favorite, finds ways to faze protagonists who already face segregation, police violence, and the cosmic indifference of everyday prejudice.

Horror as a genre is built around one truth: that the world is full of fearful things. But the best horror tells us more. It tells us how to live with being afraid. It tells us how to distinguish real evil from harmless shadows. It tells us how to fight back. It tells us that we can fight the worst evils, whether or not we all survive them — and how to be worthy of having our tales told afterward.


Editor’s Note:
Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series and co-writes’s Lovecraft Reread. She lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with her wife and their large, strange family. You can find her on Twitter as @r_emrys.

By RUTHANNA EMRYS, August 5, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR


Library Shelfie Day - Fourth Wednesday in January

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The fourth Wednesday in January offers a unique opportunity for book lovers on Library Shelfie Day.

Some collectors of books tend to arrange their collections so their spines can be admired pleasantly.  Others have a system of organization that results in an alternative art form.  However our books are organized on the shelf, on Library Shelfie Day, they are meant to be photographed and shared on social media.


Whether you have just a small library with a few select favorites or are a true bibliophile, on Library Shelfie Day, arrange your collection on a shelf and take a picture.  Use #LibraryShelfieDay to share on social media.


The New York Public Library founded Library Shelfie Day as a way to observe various national holidays by displaying shelfies representing books from each day.


When I was 10 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a vegetarian. They responded by telling me that was all well and good, but I had to learn how to cook healthy meat-free meals for myself. And so my search for the best vegetarian recipes began in earnest at a very young age. After years at the vegetarian cooking game, I can confidently recommend these vegetarian cookbooks.

15 of the best vegetarian cookbooks, as tried and tested by a vegetarian. cookbooks | book lists | vegetarian cookbooks | best vegetarian cookbooks | vegetarian eating | vegetarian recipes


Plenty More is the follow up to London celebrity chef Yottam Ottolenghi’s first vegetarian cookbook Plentyand it features over 150 new recipes organized by cooking method. Ottolenghi is often praised for his originality and his unique mixture of flavors, and this cookbook features plenty (pun intended) of both. This book promises to change the way you cook and eat vegetables.



Blogger Kathryne Taylor of Cookie + Kate offers over 100 healthy recipes in this, her first cookbook. In addition to providing recipes for delicious and wholesome vegetarian meals, Taylor offers easy substitutions to make all of her meals special diet-friendly. So if you’re looking for gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free options, this cookbook has you covered! The recipes are all extremely easy to follow as well.



You might recognize Richa Hingle from her blog Vegan Richawhere she posts recipes and photographs of her delicious vegan meals. Hingle’s love for food and crafting recipes is clear on her blog, and that has translated well into her two cookbooks. Her first was Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchenand in this, her follow-up, Hingle branches out to include meals from across the globe: Thai, Ethiopian, Pizza, Burgers, Casseroles. They’re all here, and more.



This monster of a vegan cookbook has so many recipes in it that I swear I find a new one every time I open it up. What’s more, Moskowitz and Romero recently released a 10th anniversary version with 25 additional recipes, meaning this book now has a total of 250 delicious vegan recipes. I wouldn’t call the majority of these recipes quick or easy, but they’re definitely manageable and have always been tasty.



I don’t know why, but something about eating food out of a bowl makes it taste so much better. This is why Lukas Volger’s vegetarian cookbook Bowl appeals to me. Volger includes recipes for one-bowl meals from various cultures, starting with the Japanese ramen bowl and branching out all the way to burrito bowls. If it’s delicious and it fits in a bowl, it fits in this cookbook. In addition, Volger includes many tips and techniques for broth, handmade noodles, garnishes, sauces, and much more. So when you start feeling really bold, you can begin work on your own bowl creations.



I really, really love Indian food, and Mira Manek’s vegetarian Indian cookbook is one of my absolute favorites. This vegetarian cookbook is full of delicious recipes that are easy to follow. What’s more, Manek focuses on a healthier, lighter take on traditional Indian cuisine without sacrificing flavor.



South Korean native Shin Kim offers up 30 delicious Korean recipes in this vegetarian cookbook. More importantly, in this quick and easy cookbook, Kim provides her culinary expertise from years of experience in Seoul and New York City. With Kim’s instructions, readers will learn to mix and match different seasonings and ingredients to create their own Korean dishes.



With its creamy sauces and decadent desserts, Italian food doesn’t have much of a reputation for being vegan-friendly. But popular vegan chef and winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars Chloe Coscarelli says it’s time to rethink Italian food with a vegan twist. In this cookbook, Coscarelli rethinks traditional Italian fare, making everything healthy, totally vegan, and even more delicious than the originals. And if you need gluten free options, she has you covered there too.



If you’re looking for the mother of all quick, easy, healthy vegetarian cookbooks, you have found the one! All of the recipes included in this book are accessible for cooking newbies and are perfect for weekday nights when you need to throw a meal together in a hurry. Even better, Frenkiel and Vindhal offer a few recipe short cuts for nights when you’re really low on time.



If you’re new to veganism or just want to dabble a little bit before fully committing, Why Vegan is the New Black is the perfect introductory vegan cookbook to try out. Deborrah Cooper features simple, classic American and soul food recipes that the entire family will enjoy, whether they’re vegan or not.



Sonja and Alex Overhiser are the husband-and-wife blogging and podcasting power couple behind A Couple Cooks. And now, they’ve put all of their vibrant personality and joy for cooking delicious vegetarian meals into this cookbook. The focus here is just what the title says it is: pretty simple cooking. Recipes are arranged from quickest to most time-consuming, so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you start.



If you’ve never heard of an Ayurvedic diet before, it’s an eating plan that emphasizes mindful eating and whole unprocessed foods. Even if you’re not fully committed to an Ayurvedic diet, the healthful practices involved in such a diet translate to a thoughtful and healthy vegetarian cookbook with recipes that are accessible, easy to follow, and, most importantly, delicious.



These last few books are from some of my favorite vegetarian restaurants, starting with Cafe Sunflower in Atlanta, Georgia. Let’s just say I fed some of this food to my angry anti-vegetarian grandfather, and he loved everything (I never told him there wasn’t meat in any of it). Lin Sun’s recipes are diverse and delicious, and this book is a real treat. The recipes are easy to follow too!



Hands down, The Grit Cookbook is my most-used, most-loved, most-favorite vegetarian cookbook in all the land. And The Grit in Athens, Georgia, is one of my favorite places in all the world. At this point, my copy of this book is pretty much covered in vegan yeast gravy, and I should probably invest in a new one soon. Many of the recipes in this book have become staples at my family gatherings, which is good because all of these recipes make A TON of food. Like, invite a bunch of people over to help you eat this stuff or expect leftovers for days. If you’re looking for delicious vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) comfort food recipes that will make your tummy extremely happy, get this book.



Dirt Candy in New York City is truly a unique dining experience, and fittingly, this book is a unique vegetarian cookbook experience. I mean, why has no one else thought of a graphic novel cookbook before? My favorite thing about this cookbook, though, is that Cohen’s love for vegetables really shines through. Not only does she provide delicious recipes, but she also gives a lot of background information about different styles of cooking and types of foods. The recipes are a little more complex than most of the other cookbooks on this list, but Cohen breaks everything down so that I felt confident I could do anything.

I don’t know about you, but now I’m very hungry. For even more vegetarian cookbook suggestions, check out this post on Vegan Cookbooks, or this one about Vegetarian Cookbooks for Meat Eaters.

By , January 


Lounge on the Book Heaven floor in Oodi, Helsinki’s stunning new library

Like a wave sweeping between the buildings of what is known as Citizens’ Square, Oodi (pronounced ‘awdi) is a veritable ode to Helsinki. The new central library breaks the boundaries of silence and invites children, tourists, contemplatives, rock bands, the whole world, in fact, to partake in its multi-faceted facilities and what’s more, it’s all for free!

Oodi Helsinki Central Library. Image by: ALA Architects

In a country with the highest literacy rate in the world according to the UN in 2016, libraries are used by the 5.5 million locals at a rate of 68 million books per year. It is hardly surprising that the people of Finlandand residents of Helsinki, in particular, are delighted at the prospect of this communal space created by ALA Architects. Believe it or not, there will be 100,000 books for borrowing on the Book Heaven floor where you can lounge around on a sofa musing about your next read.

Hobby enthusiasts can practice their party numbers in the soundproof studios and even record them, sew a dress, recycle would-be throwaways, try out 3D printing or have a meeting. The cinema occupies space on the first floor where the large lobby area will be used for exhibitions and pop-up events. As is the case in so many public places, the Finns are never far from their coffee with this national need being catered for by the restaurant and café. The Citizen’s Balcony will be a hang-out for city view photographers and meet-ups in the summer months.

Oodi – Finland’s 100th birthday gift to its citizens. Image by: ALA Architects

While the emphasis will always be on books, the diversity of this space will lend itself to social encounters, sharing of resources and ultimately the galvanising of community spirit. Oodi swings wide its doors at 8am on 5 December, the day before Independence Day, with a knock-out programme incorporating a 207-participant dance, a composition by Kimmo Pohjonen spanning more than one building, and plenty more.

By Violetta Teetor, NOVEMBER 21, 2018, first appearing on Lonely Planet

9 Best Characters in Literature Inspired by Real People

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (2009) © Warner Bros.

These fictional characters are some of the best, and they’re all based on real people.

Sometimes it can be difficult to pin down where inspiration comes from. While it’s no secret that authors glean inspiration for their literary endeavors from a number of sources, such as research, personal experience, and pure imagination, it is not at all uncommon to discover that some of our favorite characters take their cues from real-life figures. It can be something as simple as a few character traits or the whole-sale xeroxing of a actual person to the page. Regardless, it’s fascinating to find out that beloved characters are based on people who actually existed. On a few rare occasions, it turns out that the real world inspiration is more unbelievable than their literary counterpart. Here are some of the best fictional characters in literature inspired by very real people.

The cover of the book Becoming BelleBecoming Belle
by Nuala O’Connor
Isabel Bilton

Nuala O’Connor’s latest novel draws on a sensational 19thcentury court case, a tangled romance, and more than a little bohemian night-life. O’Connor makes the most of her larger-than-life setting to tell the story of the actual Bilton Sisters, Belle and Flo, and Belle’s increasingly torrid and complex love life.


The cover of the book Sherlock HolmesSherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is, without a doubt, the most famous literary detective ever conceived (apologies to Mrs. Poirot and Spade, as well as the inimitable Miss Marple). The inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant, mercurial, misanthropic detective is less so: Dr. Joseph Bell. Conan Doyle met Bell in 1877 at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and was immediately amazed by Bell’s hyper observant nature and deductive abilities. The rest, my dear Watson, was elementary.


The cover of the book The Ghost WriterThe Ghost Writer
by Philip Roth
Nathan Zuckerman

Philip Roth was somewhat notorious for using various thinly veiled versions of himself as protagonists for his fiction, which, admittedly, is not an uncommon tact for great fiction writers. In Roth’s case, none came closer to the mark of the actual man than Nathan Zuckerman. Over the course of the four acclaimed novels, Roth used Zuckerman to grapple with his literary success, creative process, and the tensions between literature and life.


The cover of the book To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Dill Harris

Harper Lee was famously a childhood friend and lifelong confidant of Truman Capote, even accompanying Capote and assisting in interviews and research for In Cold Blood. Lee actually based the character of Dill Harris on Capote. Given Dill’s eccentricities, extraordinary eloquence, and penchant for storytelling, spotting the inspiration isn’t particularly difficult.


The cover of the book The Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hester Prynne

While this one is not quite as clear cut as some of the others, there are plenty of indications that Nathaniel Hawthorne drew inspiration for Hester Prynne and The Scarlet Letter from real-life events. Prynne, in fact, was likely inspired in part by a real person named Elizabeth Pain. Pain had a child out of wedlock – a child she was later accused of murdering. Despite being found not guilty of the murder, the accusation followed her. Her tombstone in Boston is virtually identical to the one described as Hester Prynne’s at the end of the novel.


The cover of the book On the RoadOn the Road
by Jack Kerouac
Dean Moriarty

It’s no secret that Jack Kerouac based the character of Dean Moriarty on Neal Cassady, an real-life counter-culture icon who actually appears in a few other books including Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. In an early draft of On the Road, the character was actually named Neal Cassady. Cassady was a larger-than-life character who met a tragic end – he died from exposure after passing out outdoors.


The cover of the book BelovedBeloved
by Toni Morrison

Beloved is a shattering and horrifying novel lifted by Toni Morrison’s incredible storytelling ability. The entire novel centers on the revelation of Sethe’s devastating backstory(SPOILER ALERT: major spoilers for Beloved follow). Sethe was an escaped slave who murdered her two-year old daughter because she believed it was better than her being taken back to the plantation. Morrison based this brutal moment on an actual event – A runaway slave named Margaret Garner, while surrounded by slave-catchers, was caught in the act of killing her own children to spare them a life of slavery.


The cover of the book Alice's Adventures in WonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a surreal children’s classic and Lewis Carroll based the character of Alice on an actual girl: Alice Liddell. Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was close with Liddell’s family and wrote the original version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the girl.


The cover of the book Primary ColorsPrimary Colors
by Anonymous
Jack Stanton

Jack Stanton is one of the more thinly disguised literary stand-ins in recent memory. As a charismatic Southern governor running a presidential campaign that is nearly derailed when word of his extra-marital affairs comes to light, it didn’t take any particular insider knowledge to realize Stanton was a caricatured version of Bill Clinton. While certainly a satirical farce, Primary Colors nonetheless proved a fascinating, over-the-top view behind the curtain of a presidential campaign.

Universal, but Personal: Hometown Settings in Thrillers

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

One of the most important elements of great literature is that it can be simultaneously personal and universal. It’s why each of us can pick up a book, no matter how different we may be, and understand precisely how a certain character feels. And when speaking specifically about great thrillers, they must also thrill us. The stakes must be high, the potential for loss higher. We must see our protagonist racing against a ticking clock, and each page must present her with new challenges, show her suffering failures and maybe rejoicing in a victory or two. New characters will arrive as the pages mount, others will be killed off. Plot points will roll past. But every page will include the setting. It’s the backdrop for everything that will happen, and as such, the decisions we make surrounding our setting can act to strengthen our plots by creating additional obstacles and challenges or be a wasted opportunity.

One example of a universal and yet personal storyline is the character who returns home after a long absence. We each have a hometown. We have memories of it—some good, some bad—and so we can understand the fear and apprehension built into such a homecoming. It’s why readers never tire of these stories. But our novel doesn’t only tell a story that is universal and personal, it’s also a thriller. The choices we make must ignite our settings with opportunities and challenges, because such obstacles set our protagonist in motion, make clear what she is working toward and firmly establish that she faces certain death if she isn’t shrewd enough, cunning enough and fast enough to overcome them.

Geography is perhaps the broadest choice we will make with our setting, and in making it, we get the benefit of some built-in obstacles. Is our hometown in the mountains or the desert? Each presents obvious obstacles. Is our protagonist’s hometown small? Will gossip plague her? Does everyone in town know every mistake she has ever made? Or does she return home to the big city? Will she remember being a lonely child upon her return? Will she remember suffering among the endless crowds and yet having no one to talk to? These are primarily examples of internal obstacles we’ve created with our choice of setting. Other decisions can add to the more external and tangible suspense we want to generate.  Will the river that runs alongside our protagonist’s hometown be raging and lead readers to fear she will be swept away at some point? Or will it be a lazy river, shrinking from lack of rain, which leads our readers to fear what or who might emerge as the water level continues to fall?

Not only is the part of the country or world in which we set our thriller important, but the time of the year in which we set it presents another opportunity to create suspense. There is no right choice, but once made, we must work to exploit the resulting details. If we choose spring, the rains should make our river rise and become a threat to our protagonist. If instead we choose winter, the snow that falls should make the main road into town hazardous and we should place our protagonist on it in the dark of night. The era, too, in which we set our novel is significant. Here again, our choices, if managed properly, will present us with opportunities to challenge our characters and thereby create internal and external strife. As writers, do we want to exploit the access to information that the present allows? Will our protagonist use a cell phone to find her missing daughter, or bank records to track down a cheating husband? Or do we want the physical challenges of life in the distant past for our characters? Our choice of era also gives rise to cultural conflicts and conflicts between the sexes. How, if at all, will those conflicts and obstacles differ if the novel is set in the present as opposed to the past?

Lastly, the history we weave into our setting does more than perhaps any other choice to define our protagonist, establish her wants and needs and generate conflict and suspense. In the case of our hometown setting, what our character chooses to remember of her home and its history tells us much about who she is and what she values. It will give us insight into the unique knowledge she might have that could aide her as she struggles toward whatever ultimate goal we have given her. The history we choose to include will establish what frightens our protagonist, what drives her and ultimately, what kept her away from home for so many years.

The setting, perhaps more than any other element, permeates every page of a novel. It’s the world our characters live in and the one thing they can never escape. It will always be present to challenge them and they will forever be struggling to overcome it or accept it. There is no right choice when it comes to settings, but it is a matter of understanding the opportunities that come with each choice as well as the pitfalls.


Lori Roy is the author of Bent Road, winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Until She Comes Home, finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel; and Let Me Die in His Footsteps, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her family.

32 Fantastical Books for the Savvy Pop Culture Fan

You know winter is coming. You don’t blink around statues. You’re a true believer.

When it comes to escapism, you’re an expert. To help you discover your next out-of-this-world read, we rounded up books based off the biggest movie and television adaptations featured at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, the annual comics-turned-everything convention where fans collide with artists, actors, authors, and more.

From the stories to read before they hit the screen to the backstories of your favorite heroes and villains, these are the books to keep you entertained and in the know.

That’s Not How It Happened in the Book…
Impress (or irritate) your friends and family with details about what Hollywood changed from each of these beloved stories.

Good Omens Deadly Class It Nightflyers
The Expanse The Jungle Book A Discovery of Witches The Man in the High Castle

Between a Castle Rock and a Hard Place
Unleash the horrors of Castle Rock, a fictional town where Stephen King set many of his most chilling tales, before the adaptation premieres on Hulu.

The Dead Zone Cujo Needful Things Different Seasons

Over My Walking Dead Body
Too far gone? Return to better days of the apocalypse with the original comics and the prequel novels about notorious villain The Governor.

The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor The Road to Woodbury The Fall of the Governor

Just What the Doctor Who Ordered
Before the 13th Doctor steps into her T.A.R.D.I.S., travel all of space and time with these Time Lord novels, including one from iconic sci-fi legend Douglas Adams.

Shada Only Human The Stone Rose Touched by an Angel

The Nature of the Fantastic Beasts
Ready to meet young Dumbledore? Prepare yourself for The Crimes of Grindelwald by replacing your Muggle books with a magical tale or two.

Fantastic Beasts Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s…
Have no fear—all the superheroes are here. Save the world again and again with these genetically enhanced (or just really athletic) humans and aliens.

Aquaman Wonder Woman Venom Shazam
Supergirl Spider-Man Cloak and Dagger Iron Fist
By Hayley, July 18, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog