9 Book Characters You Would Want to Take a Road Trip With

by Hayley, September 29, 2017, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

Some of the most unforgettable fictional characters are fine right where they are—in fiction. After all, being fun to read about and being fun to hang out with are two very different things. (Do you want to spend the day with Gollum? Do you really?)

But then there are those characters who already feel like friends, like kindred spirits. With them, we’d endure the ultimate test in any friendship: a vacation. We asked on Facebook and Twitter: What book character would you want to go on a road trip with? Check out some of the top responses below!

from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

“She travels light, packs the essentials, and would research the heck out of a place before going there.” –Stephanie



from the Sherlock Holmes books by Arthur Conan Doyle

“Look, man, whether you’re going with the book Sherlock, Robert Downey Jr., or Benedict Cumberbatch, I’m going to be there.” –Anaya



from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams

“I know this great restaurant at the end of the universe….” –JB



from the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly

“He knows stuff, has great taste in music, I would be protected, and he doesn’t talk too much.” –Sherri



from the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“We’d have great adventures solving crimes, eating all the time, playing sports, and riding in Nancy’s dreamy convertible!” –Diane



from Title by Louisa May Alcott

“It would be a bookish, museum-filled, intense tour with her—and we’re very much alike.” –Emma



from The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

“Because he’ll have some insane stories to tell.” –Muhammad



from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

“Life is sure to be interesting as that man attracts trouble.” –Tracey



from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

“Oh shoot. How could I forget the Luggage? Of course that’s the right answer.” –Maria


Topping the Charts: The 15 Best Music Books to Read Now


Photo © Shutterstock

When I was ten years old, I picked up my first musical instrument – the clarinet. And (excuse me while I boast) I was really, really good. From there, I learned to play all variations of woodwind, from the saxophone (alto, tenor, and bari) to bass clarinet and the oboe. I’ll never forget what it felt like to play for the very first time, or the epiphanous moment when I realized I can read notes on a page and translate them into a song. I played in marching band, jazz band, classical band, pits for musicals – you name it, I’ve done it. (I was the epitome of a band geek growing up.) And when I stopped hiding behind a music stand and started to sing, it was the most freeing thing in the entire world.

If you’ve performed before, you know that there’s nothing quite like being in front of an audience. But even those that don’t play can do something powerful: listen. Listen and appreciate the magical melodies and harmonies, and let them mean something to you. Interpretation is what music is all about.

Music is a universal language, and one that is simultaneously beautiful and extraordinary. It transcends boundaries, breaks down walls, and stops time in its tracks, if only for a few minutes. It may not solve problems, but it certainly helps bring people together. The list of books below are a mix of fiction and nonfiction, showcasing musicians and their experiences around the world, the instruments that make it possible, and the emotion that binds it all together.

The cover of the book Swing Time

Swing Time

Zadie Smith

New York Times bestseller, this compelling story captures the essence of a faded childhood friendship between two girls, Tracey and Aimee, who dream of being dancers. Tracey has real talent while Aimee has ideas, and as a result, the two friends diverge on their paths as they enter adulthood. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life. Aimee travels the world as an assistant to a famous singer, eventually moving to Africa with charitable aspirations. Zadie Smith’s Swing Time takes readers on an unforgettable journey from London to West Africa, where inequality and injustice soar high, and music is a saving grace to all.

The cover of the book Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations

Mike Love with James S. Hirsch

Ever wonder what it was like to be a Beach Boy? In this memoir, Mike Love – founder of The Beach Boys, and the group’s lead singer and lyricist – shares it all. Known as one of the most popular bands in American history, The Beach Boys have a story that needs to be told. From their California roots to their international fame in the 1960s, the band has defied time and continues to be well-known throughout the world by many generations. Love shares his experiences with his readers, holding nothing back as he divulges both the diabolical and the divine aspects of being a Beach Boy.

The cover of the book Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet

Phil Collins

Phil Collins, known for being the drummer and frontman of Genesis prior to a thriving solo career, has sold millions of records over the course of decades, making him a huge icon in the music industry. In this memoir, he documents the highs and lows of his musical journey, from the songs and shows, the hits and the misses, his dynamic love life, reaching the top of the charts, and retiring in 2007. Not Dead Yet is an inside look at Phil Collins – the man many know and love, and also the man not many know at all.

The cover of the book What Is It All but Luminous

What Is It All but Luminous

Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, one half of the extremely famous Simon and Garfunkel, writes about his life before, during, and after topping the pop charts. In What Is It All But Luminous, we travel through his life with him as he recalls his early childhood, meeting Paul Simon in school, beginning the band, and traveling on the road for countless tours. He treks through the highs and lows of his career, and touches on personal life events that aren’t known to most of the public. Garfunkel paints a very real portrait of his lifelong friendship with Simon, shedding new light on the relationship that became one of the most successful music groups of all time.

The cover of the book Otis Redding

Otis Redding

Jonathan Gould

Jonathan Gould’s biography maps out Otis Redding’s life and explores his unparalleled musicianship through groundbreaking research, as never seen before. The portrait of the singer’s background, his upbringing, and his professional career are outlined in this beautiful book with the help of the Redding family. Otis Redding continues to have a strong influence on music today, despite his life being tragically cut short. This book is great for all music lovers out there who want to understand what The King of Soul was really like.

The cover of the book Gone


Min Kym

In her moving memoir, Gone, Min Kym explores each stage of her life with great speculation and transparency. We trek through Min’s life with her as she relives the highs and lows in her story of love, loss, and, of course, music. As a child prodigy, Min’s adolescent experiences strayed far from the norm, and in her writing, she speaks truthfully about what it was like to grow up feeling isolated, with crushing expectations. As an adult, Min found her soulmate: a 1696 Stradivarius. She felt that every painful experience from her past was worth it because she had found her life’s meaning in the sound and feel of this beautiful instrument – and then it was taken from her, and everything changed.

The cover of the book Testimony


Robbie Robertson

This New York Times bestseller tells the story of The Band, a group that changed music history with songs like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up on Cripple Creek.” Robbie Robertson, the guitarist and principal songwriter in The Band, recalls the journey that led him to becoming a rock legend. Robertson writes about being a musician during the the 1960s and early ’70s, a pivotal time for the music world, when rock and roll was on the rise and talent was around every corner, set against the backdrop of a national celebration of love and freedom.

The cover of the book The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald, author of A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, takes a look at the finest albums in jazz and pop history in this timeless book. The album was the primary format of music from the 1940s until the very recent decline of the CD, and because of that, albums will always be a treasured part of music history. Renowned musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, along with many others, are captured forever on vinyl, as a piece of musical history frozen in time for everyone to appreciate.

The cover of the book Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers

Joe Hagan

Sticky Fingers is the first and only biography of Jann Wenner, the founder of the popular Rolling Stone magazine. Wenner’s story is one of love, devotion, and a passion for rock and roll music that led him to create an iconic magazine that became a powerful influence in the music industry. Through documents, letters, and interviews, Joe Hagan successfully captures the complex life of Jann from the late twentieth century to the digital age, and demonstrates how he reinvented youth culture with Rolling Stone.

The cover of the book Maestros and Their Music

Maestros and Their Music

John Mauceri

A band is nothing without fluidity and togetherness, so how exactly does a group of musicians go about finding cohesion in spite of so many moving parts? In the case of classical music, with a conductor. In Maestros and Their Music, John Mauceri – a celebrated conductor with a longstanding international career – provides a beautifully illustrated look inside the art and craft of conducting. Mauceri explains that conducting is a composition of interpretation and intent, and is a vital part of communicating the emotions of a piece of music to the audience.

The cover of the book Play It Loud

Play It Loud

Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna; Foreword by Carlos Santana

Not many people think about a time before electric guitars, given how crucial they are to music today. But they weren’t always around, and the history of the electric guitar is a story worth telling. In Play It Loud, music journalists Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna bring the history of this iconic instrument to life by using twelve guitars as milestones to illustrate the conflict and passion the instruments have inspired. Tolinkski and Perna feature Leo Fender, the man who transformed the guitar into what it is today, along with other key players and builders that made the musical revolution possible with the electric guitar.

The cover of the book Schubert's Winter Journey

Schubert’s Winter Journey

Ian Bostridge

Completed in the last months of young Schubert’s life, Winterreise (Winter Journey) has come to be considered the single greatest piece of music in the history of Lieder (traditional German songs for voice and piano). Schubert’s Winter Journey is composed of twenty-four short songs that tell an emotional story unparalleled by any composition of its kind. Ian Bostridge explores the world’s most famous and challenging song cycle by a looking at the main themes – literary, historical, psychological – that weave through the twenty-four songs that make up this legendary masterpiece.

The cover of the book Absolutely on Music

Absolutely on Music

Haruki Murakami with Seiji Ozawa

International bestselling writer Haruki Murakami joins forces with Seiji Ozawa, revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything about music, and examine some of their favorite performances while Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world. This book is a thoughtful reflection on the nature of both music and writing, and how they connect to create the most wonderful, moving works of art.

The cover of the book The Music Shop

The Music Shop

Rachel Joyce

It’s 1988. In a run-down suburb stands a music shop that is jam-packed with records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has been known to always give his customers exactly the piece of music they need. One day, Ilse Brauchmann walks into the music shop and asks Frank to teach her everything he knows. Frank, used to a life of seclusion, is thrown off by this request and wants to say no – but reluctantly agrees. As the two spend more and more time together, old wounds threaten to reopen as the past resurfaces. This novel showcases two people that must tune in to their inner selves to let go of their emotional baggage, and find healing in music and love.

The cover of the book Good Things Happen Slowly

Good Things Happen Slowly

Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch worked for many years as a prodigious pianist for musical icons in the twentieth century, including Art Farmer and Joe Henderson, and in the 1980s he broke tradition with his transformative compositions that defied boundaries, combining classical, pop, and folk music to create a completely new type of jazz. Good Things Happen Slowly is Fred’s story of being a groundbreaking pianist and being the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz player. Fred takes us through every step of his journey, and tells readers about his two-month-long coma in 2007 that led to the most compelling music of his career.

First—And Foremost | Debut Novels

by , OCTOBER 2, 2017, first appearing in Library Journal

Some debut novels are much anticipated, such as National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree Thomas Pierce’s The Afterlives, Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, and A.J. Finn’s Frankfurt hit, The Woman in the Window. Others seem to come out of nowhere. Who knew Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beautieswould be that good, and how did C. Morgan Babst make us feel Hurricane Katrina’s lasting terror in The Floating World? Either way, debut novels are always a surprise, and therein lies their power.


The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

Opening in 1980 New York with 16-year-old Angel feeling trapped in her boy body, then weaving together the stories of various trans outsiders whom Angel collects into a family, this exceptional debut was inspired by the House of Xtravaganza, as seen in the documentary Paris Is Burning. “Erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog.”

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

A Nigerian-born Igbo and Tamil writer and artist now living in Brooklyn and Trinidad, Emezi won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Here, she grounds madness, as manifested in main character Ada, in an ancient cosmology that sees god-born selves creeping into human being when the gates between this world and the beyond aren’t properly closed. Readers agree: like nothing you have ever read.

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen

Chief blogger for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Graham-Felsen investigates ongoing inequality by fictionalizing his experiences as a white boy in a mostly black middle school in Boston. At the same time, he examines the complexities of friendship across a racial and cultural divide. This LJ Editors’ Fall Pick “poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.”

The First Day by Phil Harrison

In this blazing first novel by filmmaker Harrison, Belfast preacher Samuel Orr cannot resist the sins of the flesh, and son Philip’s resentment of half-brother Sam leads to a violent act with long-lasting repercussions. “Harrison’s absorbing debut will surprise readers with its ingenious plot twists and nuanced characters.”

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

In 1880s Australia, adolescent siblings whose parents have been slaughtered and sister left for dead, presumably by a resentful Aboriginal stockman recently let go, join with an unscrupulous landowner in a violent search for revenge. This visceral yet elegantly written work is the publisher’s “Lead Read” for the season.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

With London sunk beneath the flood­waters, a woman escapes north with her baby in this fable-like, delicately told dystopic tale. “The story may seem familiar…but debut novelist Hunter’s spare prose and luminous writing give it a fresh immediacy.” A big hit at the London Book Fair and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection.

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Spun from an award-winning short story that originally appeared in the Missouri Review, this debut features two Chinese American sisters, steady Miranda and the volatile Lucia, who starts hearing voices after their mother dies and loses all direction despite Miranda’s best efforts to help. “A visceral portrayal of sister love and its limits.”

Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li

In Ireland on a weekend break from her London job, Taiwanese American Vivian is enjoying a solitary walk when she is attacked and raped by an emotionally damaged Irish boy. “What is striking about this acclaimed first novel…is that not only is it based on an incident in the author’s life, but the facility with which Li is able to intertwine the life stories of Vivian and Johnny, giving each substance and depth.”

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

In a moving coming-of-age story set during World War II, a Dutch boy and his family face impossible choices. Do they cooperate with the invading Germans? Or engage in risky sabotage? And what happens when the Allies bomb the local factory because it supplies the German army? This Discover Great New Writers Pick is “an effectively detailed, morally complex book that will appeal to all readers of historical fiction.”

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree who won high praise for his debut story collection, Hall of Small Mammals, Pierce tells the story of a man who dies briefly of a heart attack at age 30 and, after reviving, worries that he saw no hint of an afterlife. That sends him and his wife on a journey both thoughtfully and absorbingly written.


The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst

When older daughter Cora refuses to abandon New Orleans as Hurricane ­Katrina sweeps in, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave, and his white, upper-crust wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, must leave without her. “A richly written, soak-in-it kind of book; now you’ll know what it was like to have survived Katrina.”

This Is How It Begins by Joan Dempsey

Still tough at 85, art professor and ­Holocaust survivor Ludka Zeilonka wrestles with a new problem: her grandson Tommy has been fired, along with other gay high school teachers, after being accused of silencing Christian students. “Current events have only made this gripping story more relevant.”

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

Associate director of the Hispanic Institute at Columbia University, Diaz challenges the conventions of writing fiction about the American West. In the 1840s, young Swedish immigrant Håkan Söderström boards the wrong ship in New York, ends up in San Francisco, and must travel east to find his brother. “Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel.”

Black Rock White City A.S. Patric

A Sarajevo-based Serb who fled unimaginable horrors with wife Suzana, Jovan now works as a janitor in a Melbourne hospital, where he’s forced to wash away increasingly disturbing graffiti that seems directed at him; he’s obliterating and cleansing terms like obliteration and ethnic cleansing. A Miles Franklin Literary Award winner; “Patric’s images will remain indelibly and affectingly in readers’ minds.”

A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe

In 1990 Australia, Ru’s increasingly disturbed Vietnam vet father disappears, and more troubles cascade down as her mother languishes in the past and her wild sister seeks escape. This debut from an Elizabeth Jolley Prize winner is “one of the smarter, most lyrically written stories you’ll read about a fracturing family.”


Ember by Brock Adams

In this postapocalyptic thriller, winner of the South Carolina First Novel Prize, the sun is cooling, people desperate to survive clump in little enclaves, and armed militant rebels look to take over what’s left of the government. For those “who enjoy dystopian worlds, quick pacing, sympathetic if flawed protagonists, and compelling prose.”

The Blind by A.F. Brady

Routinely assigned the toughest cases at her elite psychiatric institution in Manhattan, psychologist Sam James is the only staff member willing to deal with seemingly normal new patient Richard. Working with him sends Sam down her own dark path. “A fast-paced, riveting psychological chiller; brilliant character study and superior writing make this an outstanding debut.”

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland

Counterintelligence analyst Vivian Miller has a talent for discovering the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States, but a secret dossier of deep-cover agents brings her whole life crashing down. “This suspenseful espionage tale is a rousing Act 2 to the excitement of TV’s The Americans and the novels of Chris ­Pavone.”

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

A big Frankfurt title, buzzing even before BookExpo last spring, sold to 35 countries, and in development as a Fox film, this white-knuckler is one of the most talked-about debuts of the season. Finn’s woman at the window peers out of her New York apartment and sees something she shouldn’t, and the result “lives up to its hype, stand[ing] out in a crowded genre.” An LJ Editors’ Fall Pick.

White Bodies by Jane Robins

Callie may be unusually obsessive about glimmering, popular twin sister Tilda, but she has good reason to worry about Tilda’s new boyfriend Felix. “After a slow beginning, this debut by a British journalist…offers a suspenseful and twisty foray into the world of obsessive love that suspense junkies should not miss.”


The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Bad move, Sherlock, turning down the case of that needy young woman. Now Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson’s wife, Mary, have joined forces to help her and have ended up with a fun new mystery short-listed for the 2016 CWA Dagger Awards. This work “captures the atmosphere and feeling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories while shining a spotlight on his overlooked female characters.”

Heaven’s Crooked Finger by Hank Early

Earl Marcus wants to forget a childhood riven by the excesses of his father’s fundamentalist church, but not so fast. He’s just received a photo of his father, presumably long dead but looking hale and hearty. “This gritty and riveting debut combines elements of a classic Southern gothic tale, enhanced by distinct pacing, a redolent sense of place, and striking characters.”

Dark Traces by Martin Steyn

A member of Cape Town’s Violent Crimes Unit, South African Police Warrant Officer Jan Magson goes after a nasty serial killer while mourning his wife’s death. “A damaged but determined detective is matched against a bold and intelligent killer in this captivating debut thriller.”

Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas

Having worked hard at her family’s travel agency, Cyd Redondo is thrilled to win a trip to Tanzania, but things don’t go as planned—and lost luggage, jailed clients, and animal smugglers aren’t even the half of it. Now she’s the main suspect in a murder. “Thomas makes a rollicking debut.”


The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann

After World War I, rabbi’s son Moshe Goldenhirsch runs away from home and becomes a magician, performing as the Great Zabbatini. How his story connects with that of 11-year-old Max Cohn, trying to avert his parents’ divorce in 21st-century California, is “a magic trick of its own. Bergmann’s ability to create appealing, well-drawn characters and tell a gripping story is impressive.” An LJ Editors’ Fall Pick.

The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover

In a tumble-down farmhouse on one of Scotland’s far-flung islands, George Orwell battles illness to pen his masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four. “This engrossing, timely, and finely detailed first novel about the creation of a 20th-century literary masterpiece is a must-read for lovers of history, literature, or politics.”

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Having escaped a crumbling marriage, librarian Hanna Casey is home on Ireland’s southwestern coast, driving a book­mobile and leading the fight against developers who want to consolidate services and close the local library. “An appealing novel…. There are plenty of good discussion points about the nature of community for book clubs and thoughtful readers.”

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Luckily for the Birch family, they’re getting to spend Christmas together for the first time in years. Unluckily for them, they’re forced together for seven days, quarantined because daughter Olivia is back from volunteering in Liberia. This “satisfyingly alternative holiday read” is an LJ Editors’ Fall Pick and the No. 1 ­LibraryReads pick for October.

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben

Famed environmental activist ­McKibben steps into fiction with a work starring 72-year-old Vern Barclay, who broadcasts a subversive message via Radio Free Vermont: Vermont should secede from the United States and operate under a free local economy. “McKibben’s…spirited and thought-provoking modern fable will have readers grappling with the ethical questions of how and when resistance is necessary.”

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

After a gunman ranged through their school, killing 19 people, six-year-old Zach retreats into his own special hideaway and uses his imagination to heal. One of the publisher’s biggest books of the spring—the voice immediately distinctive and riveting.

Virtually Perfect by Paige Roberts

Her cooking show, monthly magazine column, and cookbook deal all out the window, Lizzie Glass becomes personal chef to the über-wealthy Silvesters at their summer home on the Jersey Shore. “Roberts’s spot-on debut novel delves into the virtually perfect façade of an internally imperfect family.”

Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

In the world of Manhattan’s one percent, a husband and wife frantically compete for their daughter’s attention even as a threatening young man steps in view. Weiner, the driving force behind Mad Men, delivers “a razor-sharp, fast-paced dark look at the class divide.”

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Wolfson’s autobiographical debut features Willow, a child of divorce caught between her rigid father and a mother named Rosie who’s warm and loving and suddenly dangerously crazy. From a star on the San Francisco storytelling circuit; a big hit at BookExpo and a Publishers Lunch Buzz Book.

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

Of Korean heritage, Bracht boldly faces the ugly truth of the Japanese military’s forcing 200,000 Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II. Big buzz.

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

Darznik follows The Good Daughter, her New York Times best-selling memoir, with a portrait of poet Forugh ­Farrokzhad, sometimes called Iran’s ­Sylvia Plath.

On the Horizon

Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallet

Winner of Samuel Johnson and Costa Biography honors, Hughes-Hallett got rave UK reviews for this novel, which chronicles a great house named ­Wychwood from the 17th century ­onward.

Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur

Following the PEN New England Book Award–winning story collection Half Wild, this soberingly relevant work features a young woman looking for her estranged mother after Tropical Storm Irene devastates ­Vermont.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

Quatro’s story collection, I Want To Show You More, won multiple honors; this full-length fiction features Maggie, married with children, who is drawn as if mesmerized to a wild affair with poet James.

The Invention of Ana by Mikkel Rosengard

In this Danish award winner, an aspiring writer fresh from Copenhagen meets a performance artist in Brooklyn who claims that she can time travel.

The Last Wolf by Maria Vale

Runty Silver Nilsdottir determines to make a place for herself with the Great North Pack by fighting for a wounded man who seeks the pack’s protection. The publisher wants a trilogy.


The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

In 1700s Cairo, street hustler Nahri cons people with her tricks but rejects the idea that magic really exists until she manages to summon up a dark and wily djinn warrior who takes her to the magnificent City of Brass. An LJ Fantasy Debut Pick. “With a swiftly moving plot, richly drawn characters, and a beautifully constructed world…this lyrical historical fantasy…brings to vivid life the ancient mythological traditions of an Islamic world unfamiliar to most American ­readers.”

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Solomon’s dystopian fantasy stars quietly rebellious Aster, whose family has lived for generations in the hold of the creaky HSS Matilda, putatively carrying the last of humanity to a Promised Land. “Harrowing and beautiful, this is sf at its best…. The fully rounded characters bring ­nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut.”

The Black Tides of Heaven & The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang

In this debut novel doubleheader, the Protector has sent her six-year-old twins ­Mokoya and Akeha to the Grand Monastery to satisfy a debt, but when ­Mokoya develops prophetic tendencies, she’s essentially recalled, and the twins spin down different paths. “While published simultaneously, each volume can be read separately…together, they make an impressive, fresh debut steeped in Chinese culture.”

Why We Read: The Case for Books as a Means to Many Ends

Why We Read

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

If hell exists, I know that for me, it’s a place without books. Even when I am just out running errands, I always carry a book in my bag with me. You never know when you might have to wait for something, and for me, those stretches of time – brief as they may be – are another opportunity to immerse myself in a world far away from a waiting room.

I am a bibliophile, a lover of books. When I was choosing which graduate school to attend, I admit: I made my choice based on the school’s library. The university rare book room possessed a treasure trove of materials dating back to before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and plenty of early printed books from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One of the most remarkable experiences I had while conducting research was with a book printed in the 1550s. While just being able to work with such a book thrilled me, what made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience was that the original owner of the book had written notes in the margins. Their marginalia, written in a sixteenth-century hand, made me feel as if we were reading the book together. Even five centuries apart, I noted his reactions to the passage I was reading, and found myself in conversation with the past.

Decades of reading later, I still find it amazing that I can read a book that was originally written in another language and thousands of years ago. I read my favorite Greek play, Antigone by Sophocles, and while the story it tells is about an ancient battlefield, its human emotions and the desire to oppose tyranny speaks to me still. And I can pick up such a book anytime – I have to go to a museum to interact with any other piece of art from that time period.

Books are an opportunity for me to gain some understandings about other Americans’ experiences, even as I recognize that I cannot live them. I didn’t grow up as a black man, and yet I can read James Baldwin or Ta-Nehisi Coates and learn from them.

When I have been through periods of tremendous loss, I have turned to books in order to have those who have been through it show me the way. Max Porter’s novel, Grief Is the Thing with Feathersand Elizabeth Alexander’s luminous memoir, The Light of the Worldboth held a light for me when I felt trapped in darkness. Alexander, so vulnerable in the telling of the loss of her husband, lit a path for me as I mourned.

And reading has also allowed me the opportunity to be a better global citizen. Gil Courtemanche took me to Rwanda, and his novel, A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali, allowed me to eavesdrop on those who took shelter in a Kigali hotel while, out in the streets, chaos reigned. Rebecca West gave me an enormous background in Yugoslavia, so that when I read S. by Slavenka Drakulic it shattered me when I saw what became of Bosnian women during the war. And Sara Novic’s Girl at War gave to me hope that other women in the former Yugoslavia had found ways to resist.

My daughters are also readers. All three of us are huge fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her Americanah allowed us the chance to understand one immigrant’s experience in the United States, while We Should All Be Feminists gave us the manifesto that expressed our multi-generational feminism.

The greatest gift that books have given to me, however, is relief from fear and stress. Recently, being able to escape into books allowed me to endure some frightening days. I live in a part of Florida from which I had to evacuate for Hurricane Irma. We were fortunate enough to go stay at a relative’s winter home in Orlando. The track of the hurricane switched back and forth several times. By the time it hit central Florida, we were under curfew in Orlando and couldn’t move, even when Irma hit the house where I was staying.

The winds began to pick up in the late afternoon on Sunday, September 10. By nine o’clock PM, six hours before the main part of the hurricane was due to go through the area, the wind ceaselessly howled. When I opened the front door to look outside, I was drenched by rain blowing sideways into the house.

I couldn’t sleep at all.

Outside, the wind surrounded the house like banshees, each of them keening and wailing as they bashed against the windows and doors. For twelve hours, the wind was relentless. As the sun lit up the world outside the house, the last blasts banged along the roof. It sounded like giants stomping around, and I wondered how much of the roof would be intact when we dared venture outside.

I had a copy of Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire. It’s the third book in Follett’s medieval series, and I was delighted to open the book to see that it began in 1558: the year that Elizabeth Tudor ascended the throne and became Elizabeth I. All during the approach of Irma on Friday and Saturday, I read it. On Saturday night, while the hurricane raged outside our doors, banging at the windows, I continued reading. Follett took me to France, the Netherlands, Hispaniola, and Scotland and England. I immersed myself in reading, focusing on the world that Follett had constructed for me. When the storm passed mid-morning Monday, I was just closing the book on 900-plus pages of my companion.

When I wasn’t reading Follett, I read poetry. Elizabeth Alexander’s edited collection of poems, How Lovely the Ruins, was packed with poems “for difficult times.”

Barn’s burnt down-


I can see the moon.

wrote Masahide, and the poem comforted me in my fear of what would be waiting for us at our house by the beach. But no matter. I focused on the idea that regardless of what was left behind would be okay.

Books eased all that was restless and afraid.

Even now, back at home we are still without power, internet, phone service – the modern conveniences we have told ourselves we cannot live without. But I have a bag of books with me in exile, which comforts me while I wait to go home.

The 10 Best Books to Understand Modern War and Technology


Photo © Shutterstock

Where do you see the world in ten years? Twenty? Fifty?

With change around every corner, it’s hard to gauge what will happen. The everlasting development of new technology has altered the nature of the way we live. Our advancements in military technology have made it possible to wipe out entire groups of people with one hasty decision, and our obsession with the internet only continues to grow. With nuclear weapons, crazed leaders, corporate control, and an undying hunger for power, who knows where we’ll land in the coming decades? The future is laced with fear, and everything could dwindle away in dust and ashes if we move in the wrong direction.

With the world around us constantly evolving, we need to be educated and prepared for what comes next. The best way to brace yourself for where we’re to go is to know where we are, and the list of books below can help you do just that. Spanning all topics, from artificial intelligence to nuclear bombs and cyberculture, you’ll be sure to walk away from these reads with more knowledge and understanding than you ever thought possible.

The cover of the book Shooting Ghosts

Shooting Ghosts

Thomas J. Brennan & Finbarr O’Reilly

War takes an emotional toll on those who fight it, and soldiers suffer injuries that go well beyond physical afflictions. This joint memoir, written by a U.S. Marine and a conflict photographer, demonstrates that psychological wounds run deep and can’t be ignored. Readers of Shooting Ghosts will witness an important relationship develop between these two men as they help each other to make peace with their haunting pasts. This book makes known the reverberations that last long after combatants and civilians have returned home, a particularly poignant point as we approach the fifteenth year of continuous battle in the Middle East.

The cover of the book Future War

Future War

Robert H. Latiff

Robert H. Latiff devoted his life to researching and developing new combat technologies, making him a leading expert on the place of technology in war and intelligence. He has also calculated the cost of our innovation, weighing the benefits against the consequences. In Future War, Latiff explains the ways in which war has changed, and discusses the new weapons we will use to fight and how the skills of a soldier will continue to adapt. What are the new rules of war? Latiff addresses exactly that.

The cover of the book Almighty


Dan Zak

In his book Almighty, Washington Post reporter Dan Zak examines America’s complex relationship with the nuclear bomb. He takes a look at the arms race and World War II, when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Zak’s book is of particular importance now, as our current world sees nations like Iran and North Korea experimenting with deadly missiles. Zak’s reporting showcases a diverse set of beliefs on the issue of nuclear bombs, featuring points of view from the biophysicist who first exposed atomic energy to the world, the prophet who predicted the creation of Oak Ridge, generations of activists, and Washington bureaucrats and diplomats.

The cover of the book Life 3.0

Life 3.0

Max Tegmark

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change everything about life as we know it, more so than any other technology. The rise of AI can affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and, perhaps most importantly, our sense of humanity. Many books and movies have been centered on the development of AI gone wrong, making the topic all the more frightening. Max Tegmark – an MIT professor who’s helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial – takes an unbiased approach in his book by exposing a variety of viewpoints on the matter, and examines the meaning of life as it is now, and how it’ll change in the future.

The cover of the book The Hacking of the American Mind

The Hacking of the American Mind

Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL

It turns out the American mind isn’t such a happy place. Robert Lustig believes that our culture has been ravaged by addiction and depression, suffering irreparable damage. Neuromarketing has enabled corporate America to brainwash consumers (all of us consumers), creating an endless cycle of desire and consumption. In The Hacking of the American Mind, Lustig reveals why we enter this state of consciousness, and calls to the conversation the big-name corporations that helped create this mess and the members of government who allowed it to happen. But don’t worry too much – Lustig also offers solutions we can all use in our daily lives to pursue happiness.

The cover of the book World Without Mind

World Without Mind

Franklin Foer

World Without Mind traces the history of computer science and exposes the corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. In the book, author Franklin Foer argues that these four companies are a huge threat to our identities and decision-making abilities, with a great impact on intellectual property and privacy. To effectively save our individuality and change the course of the future, we must reclaim our private authority and alter the way that we engage with the corporate world.

The cover of the book The Friendly Orange Glow

The Friendly Orange Glow

Brian Dear

The Friendly Orange Glow documents the astounding, untold story of PLATO: the 1960s computer program that marked the beginning of cyberculture. PLATO engineers made notable hardware breakthroughs with plasma displays and touch screens, and are responsible for countless software innovations including chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, screen savers, multiplayer games, online newspapers, interactive fiction, and emoticons – all things that we couldn’t imagine living without today.

The cover of the book The Four

The Four

Scott Galloway

Surely you’ll recognize the logos hiding on this book cover. They represent the four largest and most powerful corporations in the world today: Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. Almost all of us use services provided by “the Four” on a regular basis, and will continue to do so without question. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself: How did they infiltrate our lives so completely that they’re almost impossible to avoid? How many smaller companies have they crushed to get where they are today? And what will the future bring? Galloway, one of the world’s most celebrated business professors, analyzes the strategies of the Four, and demonstrates how they manipulate us every single day.

The cover of the book Soonish


Kelly and Zach Weinersmith

Renowned cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and well-known researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith join forces in Soonish to give readers a comic glimpse of the future, and the technologies that’ll likely transform our lives – robot swarms, space elevators, and nuclear fusion powered-toasters, to name a few. The Weinersmiths combined their own research with that of the scientists to investigate why these cool technologies are needed, how they would work, and how we can achieve them in the nearish future.

The cover of the book Wired for War

Wired for War

P. W. Singer

Military expert P.W. Singer reveals how science fiction is becoming reality on the battlefield, quickly and constantly modifying how wars are being fought. He looks at the way politics, economics, law, and ethics have changed in conjunction with technological advancements, and combines historical evidence with first-person accounts to prove that when technologies multiply, life on the front lines and at home are altered. We are continuously replacing men with machines, and though taking humans off the battlefield makes wars easier to start, it leads to more complications than ever before.

The Latest and Greatest in Crime Fiction

Pablo Amargo

To the East Texas natives in Attica Locke’s BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD, Highway 59 is the lifeline that both links their towns and provides an escape route from them. Darren Mathews, a righteous Texas Ranger who comes from a deep-rooted family of black professional men, “men of stature and purpose,” knows every truck-stop hamlet from Laredo to Texarkana. But he is currently on suspension, and “without the badge, he was just a black man traveling the highway alone.”

Lawful or otherwise, Darren’s help is needed up in Lark, where the bodies of a white woman and a black man were fished out of the muddy waters of the Attoyac Bayou. The town turns out to be a piñata of quirky characters, like the local sheriff, who lives in a replica of Monticello. (His dog lives in a replica of the White House.) Just about everyone in Lark patronizes Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, a cafe that displays treasured objets like “Texas license plates going back 50 years.”

Locke writes in a blues-infused idiom that lends a strain of melancholy and a sense of loss to her lyrical style. Given the characters in her novel, that voice comes naturally. Geneva’s deceased husband, Joe “Petey Pie” Sweet, was a session man and “a devil on the guitar” who played with great bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Bobby “Blue” Bland. And every juice house and icehouse, as bars are known around here, loads up the jukebox with country blues. But there’s also music in the private thoughts of a man like Darren. “He knew what it felt like to stand on the back porch of his family homestead … and feel the breath of his ancestors in the trees.”

As for the murder mystery, it’s tied up with buried feelings and secret betrayals that cross racial lines and go back generations. “There were things you just didn’t do in Lark, Texas,” Locke tells us. “And picking apart bloodlines was one of them.” So enjoy your stay in Lark; but don’t ask anyone “Who’s your daddy?” and expect to get out of town alive.

The great port of London is churning with activity in Anne Perry’s latest Victorian mystery, AN ECHO OF MURDER. On the lookout for trouble, Commander William Monk of the Thames River Police keeps his eyes peeled on the mighty ships passing through. But he isn’t prepared for the gruesome scene of murder that greets him in a dockside warehouse. The horridly mutilated victim is a Hungarian merchant, one of a growing populace of displaced persons fleeing oppression in European cities like Budapest and Vienna, only to stir up antagonism in their new home. “They’re different, that’s all,” says a newspaper dealer who bristles at all the “foreign newspapers.”

Perry fashions a rich, if blood-splattered narrative from this chapter of history. As the murders continue, Monk and his clever wife, Hester, a nurse who saw plenty of savagery in the Crimea, struggle to fathom the new climate of hatred. “I think it’s fear,” Hester says. “It’s fear of ideas, things that aren’t the way you’re used to. Everyone you don’t understand because their language is different, their food, but above all their religion.” How times haven’t changed.

Part police procedural and part travelogue, Cay Rademacher’s MURDEROUS MISTRAL is a perfect getaway mystery. This tightly-plotted whodunit (briskly translated from the German by Peter Millar) uproots Capitaine Roger Blanc from his prestigious office in the Paris gendarmerie to the Midi, “the graveyard of any career,” where he has inherited a run-down 18th-century stone house. Blanc soon finds out that “Parisian ruthlessness didn’t quite work down here.” Nor does Parisian pride, which gets clobbered when he starts interviewing slippery local suspects in the murder of an inept gangster.

The detective-as-outsider convention works really well in humanizing Blanc, whom the elegant women in the district find especially amusing. The backbreaking restoration work earns him sympathy, as does his first exposure to the slashing winds of the region’s infamous mistral. By the time Blanc is presented with his second murder case, he’s ready to admit that his new home in the countryside is more stimulating than he’d thought.

Julia Keller doesn’t pull any punches in FAST FALLS THE NIGHT. In the course of a single day, there are 33 overdoses (three of them fatal) in Aker’s Gap, the Appalachian town in West Virginia where she sets all her regional mysteries. The putative cause of this horrendous business is a batch of tainted heroin — heroin being “as common as stray cats around here.” But Bell Elkins, a county prosecutor and the protagonist in this series, knows that the problem goes deeper, to a “circular logic of despair” created by shuttered coal mines, exacerbated by zero replacement job options, and resulting in the kind of hopelessness from which there’s no recovery. The plot pretty much consists of waiting for the next OD victim to keel over, but Keller does a terrific job of rubbing our faces in the troubles of her hometown — of America’s hometowns.

16 Books to Read After You Binge Watch ‘Stranger Things’


by Hayley, October 27, 2017, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

Grab your Eggo waffles because the second season of Stranger Things available on Netflix. The wildly popular supernatural series, which is equal parts charming and spooky, celebrates the pop culture of the 1980s and features a cast of lovable kid adventurers and otherworldly monsters.

If you abandon your reading to binge the new season, we won’t blame you (because we might be doing the same thing). But when you finish the final episode, your bookshelf will be waiting.

We asked you on Facebook and Twitter to share the books that Stranger Things fans would love. Check out the top answers below.


Meddling Kids
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Welcome to Night Vale
The Girl with All the Gifts
House of Leaves
Paper Girls
My Best Friend's Exorcism
The Door to December
The Hike
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The Talisman