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.
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.
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.
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.
As book lovers, we’ve all likely experienced that excruciating moment of discovery after reading a novel you absolutely loved: The writer penned only that singular work. To be fair, it is a rare situation, but a bittersweet one nonetheless, made more so when it’s a particularly brilliant piece of fiction. Harper Lee, at one time, was perhaps the most notorious one-off author of the twentieth century with To Kill a Mockingbird (J.D. Salinger slid in at a close second, although we’ll concede that he did pepper us with a few fantastic short stories). Of course, and in spite of some controversy, Go Set a Watchman pushed Lee from this roundup. There are still several classic novels that have proved themselves beloved one-offs. Here are a few of our favorites.
Emily Bronte died just a year after her first and only novel was published. The novel she left us with is an unquestionable classic — a tortured and deeply emotional tale of torment, obsession, and the dangers of unfettered passion.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published after Mary Ann Shaffer’s death in 2008. An epistolary novel set in 1946, it follows the travails of an extraordinary and eccentric cast of characters on a small British island occupied by the Germans during WWII.
First published in 1957, Boris Pasternak’s only novel earned him an Nobel Prize in Literature. It is an extraordinary example of 20th century Russian literature and chronicles the turmoil of the Russian Revolution through the lens of a poet/physician struggling to survive against the chaotic tumult of the period.
The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
This now-classic tale, one synonymous with teenage angst and alienation, was J.D. Salinger’s only novel. The story centers on Holden Caulfield, a student at a prestigious prep school in the early 1950’s. Holden’s disdain for his peers and the apparent “phoniness” of those around him proved to be a touchstone for generations of seemingly disaffected teenagers.
Gone with the Wind
This Pulitzer Prize winner was Margaret Mitchell’s only novel. It quickly became a cultural touchstone and the basis for the revered 1939 adaptation. It’s said that Mitchell was unsettled and uncomfortable by the attention garnered by the sprawling Civil War-era epic and decided not to pen a second novel or a follow-up.
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath committed suicide less than a month after the publication of of her semi-autobiographical classic. Given Plath’s tragic end, her powerful and devastating chronicle of the mental breakdown of a brilliant young woman gained an entirely new and crushing dimension.
While Carl Sandburg is best known for his poetry, he wrote a single novel. This massive, sprawling tale is Sandburg’s prose chronicle of the American experience. Spanning 300 years of history and myriad characters, it is the definition of epic.
While best known as a screenwriter and essayist, Nora Ephron did turn her extraordinary wit and insight to the world of fiction with this semi-autobiographical novel. It is an emotional and oft-hilarious examination of a crumbling marriage – based in part on Ephron’s second marriage – as only Nora Ephron could write.
New Year’s resolutions are still in flux. Now is the time to start thinking about who you want to be in 2019 and beyond. Whether you’re looking to eat healthier, break a habit, see the world differently, or just want an amazing read, take a look at these books that will change your life.
HOW TO BREATHE UNDERWATER BY JULIE ORRINGER
Orringer is bound to wrap you up in the lives of her characters. This award-winning collection of short stories follows young women dealing with love, family, self-esteem, awkwardness, and everything in between. These nine mesmerizing stories are full of the hopes and failures and all the complexities that comes with youth.
EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER
Chances are you already heard about this current New York Times bestseller, but there was no way I could leave it out of this list. If you’re looking for a book about perseverance, Educated is it. Westover was raised in the mountains of Idaho by parents who were stockpiling canned goods in preparation for the end of the world.
Lacking in a proper education, Westover educated herself and first step foot in a classroom at 17. This memoir is a tale of education and self-motivation and guaranteed to inspire.
REAL AMERICAN BY JULIE LYTHCOTT-HAIMS
In her memoir, Lythcott-Harris writes about the personal battle people of color know all too well. As a biracial black women in America, Lythcott-Harris deals with racism, microaggressions, and self-esteem issues because of it. Real American is a journey of self-acceptance, and the power of the black community.
YOU ARE A BADASS BY JEN SINCERO
Sincero is a brash, funny, and extremely honest in You Are a Badass. In this book, she tells readers exactly what it takes to start living your awesome life.
CAN’T HURT ME BY DAVID GROGGINS
As a survivor of abuse, prejudice, and poverty, David Groggins is all too familiar with dark days. Still, he pushed through all the obstacles in his life and became a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Can’t Hurt Me is about Groggins’s journey out of the darkness and how readers can tap into their inner power to persevere.
IF YOU LEAVE ME BY CRYSTAL HANNA KIM
I cannot say enough good things about Crystal Hanna Kim’s debut novel. If You Leave Me is set through the perspective of multiple characters dealing with the effects of the Korean War. Sixteen-year-old refugee Haemi-Lee is met with a choice that affects her widowed mother, ill brother, and the love of her life that spans over decades. This novel is so tragically beautiful. You’ll want to grab your issues for this one.
UNFU*K YOURSELF: GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO YOUR LIFE BY GARY JOHN BISHOP
According to Gary Bishop, the largest barrier we face when it comes to a greater life is ourselves.This manifesto is filled with information on how to unleash the greatness that already lies within you.
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: ADVICE ON LOVE AND LIFE FROM DEAR SUGAR BY CHERYL STRAYED
What started as an anonymous online column on The Rumpus transformed into Tiny Beautiful Things. In Tiny Beautiful Things, the Wild author offers advice on everything from love and sex and everything else life throws at you.
JUST MERCY: A STORY OF JUSTICE AND REDEMPTION BY BRYAN STEVENSON
As a young lawyer, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative a practice designed to defend those who need it the most: the poor, women, and those who are wrongfully accused. The first case Stevenson covers is the case of Walter McMillian, a man who was sentenced to death for a murder he swears he did not commit. Just Mercy is a coming-of-age story as much as it is a story of the pursuit of justice.
YEAR OF YES BY SHONDA RHIMES
For years, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away with Murder creator Shonda Rhimes had a hard time saying yes. With three hit TV shows and three kids, saying “no” was way easier. However, something her younger sister says makes her rethink her life and she starts saying “yes.” Shonda Rhimes’s hilarious and heartfelt account talks about how her life changed when she started to say yes and how you can too.
THE ANATOMY OF HOPE: HOW PEOPLE PREVAIL IN THE FACE OF ILLNESS BY JEROME GROOPMAN
Since Ancient Greece, hope has been an essential part of human life. Harvard medical professor Jerome Groopman explains how hope can change the course of an illness. This book offers a new way of thinking about hope and how it is critical to life.
THE ART OF ASKING: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LET PEOPLE HELP BY AMANDA PALMER
Asking for help is, for many, easier said than done. This part-manifesto, part-revelation talks about how musician Amanda Palmer starting asking the people around her for help. This book will inspire readers to challenge their ideas about asking and how it can help them.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT: SECRET DIARIES OF A JUNIOR DOCTOR BY ADAM KAY
From 2004 to 2010, Adam Kay kept a journal documenting his experience as a junior doctor. As a result, This is Going to Hurt tells Kay’s story about his firsthand experience and all the joy and pain that came with it.
BORED AND BRILLIANT: HOW SPACING OUT CAN UNLOCK YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE AND CREATIVE SELF BY MANOUSH ZOMORODI
Ever wonder how you could turn your daydreams into new projects? Bored and Brilliant connects boredom with original and creative ideas. The book is written in a series of challenges for readers that helps them rethink the way people see their devices and the the digital world.
BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR BY ELIZABETH GILBERT
This Eat, Pray, Love author digs deep into her creative process and offers a unique perspective about inspiration. Gilbert offers advice on empathy, fear, and everything else that generates inspiration.
THE POWER OF NOW: A GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT BY ECKHART TOLLE
In today’s fast-paced world, a lot of people have trouble staying in the present. The Power of Now helps readers focus on who they are right now and what it means to be in the present.
MASTERY BY ROBERT GREENE
Becoming a “master” isn’t done over night. Greene analyzes the traits of Charles Darwin, Henry Ford, Mozart, and more, and discusses what made them successful and how you can be successful too.
YOU CAN’T TOUCH MY HAIR BY PHOEBE ROBINSON
People have called Phoebe Robinson’s taste in music “white,” she’s been followed by security officers in grocery stores, and, of course, people have asked to touch her hair. In You Can’t Touch My Hair, Robinson explains her experience with everyday micro-aggressions.
THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY BY RYAN HOLIDAY
Holiday compiles a list of true stories about the how successful people have overcome obstacles. From Amelia Earhart to LL Cool J, Holiday talks about how these national names have made it past the seemingly impossible.
BROKEN OPEN: HOW DIFFICULT TIMES CAN HELP US GROW BY ELIZABETH LESSER
Sometimes we find ourselves at rock bottom and have trouble climbing back up. Broken Open discusses how we can manage grief and turn it into happiness.
BETTER THAN BEFORE BY GRETCHEN RUBIN
Want to quit sugar? Want to start eating healthier? Quit procrastinating? Better Than Before is here to help. This book is designed to help readers through their everyday challenges.
ATOMIC HABIT BY JAMES CLEAR
Are you struggling with a habit you just can’t seem to break? Habit formation expert James Clear offers practical strategies on how to break your bad habits and create good ones.
BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD BY TREVOR NOAH
Comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah was literally born out of a crime. Noah comes from a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother during a time when such a union was illegal. As a result, Noah spent the majority of his early years indoors with his mother hiding him from the government. Born a Crime is perfect for people who are searching for their place in the world.
A SUCKY LOVE STORY: OVERCOMING UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER BY BRITTANI LOUISE TAYLOR
Internet star Brittani Louise Taylor tried every online dating site before she finally met Milos. For Milos, it was love at first site, but something inside Taylor was telling her to run.
“This isn’t a love story,” Taylor writes. “It’s my story about survival.”
THE WITCH’S BOOK OF SELF-CARE BY ARIN MURPHY-HISCOCK
Take care of yourself the witchy way. The Witch’s Book of Self-Careoffers spells, medications, and mantras on ways to release stress, sadness, and strength.
Nothing goes together quite as nicely as music and crime. Any bloody scene begs for a soundtrack. And while all books line up perfectly with some playlist, there are some a little more tailor-made than others. So if you prefer your literary murders with operatic accompaniment, here are 7 indie horror, mystery, and crime novels for the music lovers among us.
WE SOLD OUR SOULS
This Grady Hendrix horror novel from Quirk Books is the story of Kris Pulaski. Although a current manager of a Best Western, she served as former guitarist for the ’90s band Dürt Würk. Kris discovers that lead singer Terry didn’t just break up the promising band for a solo career. He sold all of their souls. Literally. What follows is a heavy metal power ballad of a road novel with equal parts horror and rock. Hendrix is an indie horror legend, and We Sold Our Soulsis one of his best.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW: 17 HORROR STORIES – ONE LEGENDARY VENUE
Although The Shantyman, the stories’ unifying San Francisco music venue, is fictional, the horror is real enough. On the book’s back cover, Crystal Lake Publishing warns us: “We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable.” Detailing the strange and wonderful history of The Shantyman, Welcome to the Show’s musical references range from jazz club to rock club, with plenty in between. You’ll especially want to check out offerings from Kelli Owen (“Open Mic Night”), Matt Serafini (“Beat On the Past”), and the closer from Mary SanGiovanni (“We Sang in Darkness”).
GETHSEMANE BROWN MYSTERY SERIES
From Henery Press, Alexia Gordon’s mystery series, beginning with Murder in G Major, centers around African American classical musician Gethsemane Brown. Gethsemane, in addition to being an expert violinist, is Sherlock smart and funny as hell. The cozy mysteries satisfy lovers of BBC-style whodunits as well as classical music lovers. My personal favorite has been Killing in C Sharp, where Gethsemane has to fight off a vengeful ghost. Did I mention there are supernatural elements? Yeah. These books have a lot to offer.
THE VINYL DETECTIVE MYSTERIES
Beginning with Written in Dead Wax, Andrew Cartmel’s series from Titan books follows a record collector with knack for tracking down rare vinyl. Luckily for the readers, he also has a way of stumbling into some fast-paced murder mysteries. Cartmel brings his experience writing for Midsomer Murders to the page, and it shows. The music is spilling off the page along with the blood and the coffee. There are cats. So many reasons to pick up this series. My favorite: The Run-Out Groove.
THE PLOT AGAINST HIP HOP
From Akashic Books, hip hop expert Nelson George presents his parallel history of hip hop within a gritty AF Noir York City. Along the way he name drops Kanye and Jay-Z and Russell Simmons and others. The story is one of D Hunter’s search for the person who stabbed a well-respected music critic. Like good hip hop, there is social commentary and a blurring of the lines between great storytelling and all-to-real happenings. The Plot Against Hip Hop reads almost like Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but in the world of rap music. Brilliant prose, vast conspiracy, (at times) borderline trippy narrative. If you love crime fiction and you love hip hop, this book is a must read.
DIRTY BOULEVARD: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF LOU REED
Edited by David James Keaton, this Down & Out Books anthology lives at the intersection of rock music and crime fiction. It features some of the heaviest hitters in the game: Reed Farrel Coleman, Gabino Iglesias, Cate Holahan, Alison Gaylin, and J. David Osborne. On the dirty, drunken streets of this book, there is all the gender-bending, rule-breaking, hard-rocking poetic pain that was Lou Reed. For me, Cate Holahan’s “Pale Blue Eyes” takes what I can only assume would be, in this case, a grimy booze-soaked blue ribbon dotted with blood.
TRAGEDY QUEENS: STORIES INSPIRED BY LANA DEL REY & SYLVIA PLATH
Leza Cantoral, expert anthology editor (who also did the fantastic Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired By True Detective), curated this collection from Clash Books. Although these stories are not all exclusively crime fiction, there is more than enough to be found. Although there are some male writers involved (Gabino Iglesias shows up again), this anthology is all about female empowerment. Laura Diaz de Arce, Ashley Inguanta, Tiffany Scandal, and Monique Quintana all bring A game to this haunting volume of raw emotion.
Although the United States is a fairly young country, we have our share of secrets. Here’s five of the nation’s weirdest mysteries and novels that reference them.
Scotland has the Loch Ness monster, Mexico has the chupacabra, and we in the United States have Bigfoot: an ape-like beast thought by some to roam the more isolated corners of the Pacific Northwest. No one has ever found definitive evidence for the creature’s existence, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people from looking.
Professional wizard and magical troubleshooter Harry Dresden has taken several jobs from the sasquatch, or “forest people,” during his career. Jim Butcher’s collection Brief Cases includes three such accounts: “B is for Bigfoot,” “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot,” and “Bigfoot on Campus.”
Journal of a UFO Investigator
In the summer of 1947, townsfolk in Roswell, New Mexicoreported the discovery of what appeared to be the wreckage of some sort of space craft. The government response was confusing, to say the least. Military personnel released a statement to the local press indicating they had recovered a flying disc of some sort. Later, they claimed that what had crashed in Roswell was a perfectly ordinary weather balloon. Needless to say, people have been arguing about what really happened ever since.
David Halperin’s Journey of a UFO Investigator is the story of a troubled teenage boy who constructs an elaborate fantasy life around the UFO craze of the 1960s. As he becomes more strongly enmeshed in his world of Roswell, Men in Black, and Unidentified Flying Saucers, the lines between real and unreal begin to blur.
I Was Amelia Earhart
On June 1, 1937, pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman pilot to fly around the world. She disappeared somewhere over the Pacific. Theories regarding her disappearance have come and gone. Recently discovered forensic evidence suggests that Earhart may have ditched her plane over the ocean and then survived a short while on Nikumaroro Island, but the mystery is far from settled.
Jane Mendelson’s I Was Amelia Earhart explores what might have happened had Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had both survived the crash and started a new life on a nearby tropical island. As they adjust to island life, Earhart looks back on her life and the expedition that might have been her doom.
The Lost Symbol
The Central Intelligence Agency is a pretty mysterious organization, but one of its biggest secrets is hiding in plain sight. Kryptos is a large outdoor sculpture composed of copper, granite, quartz, and wood featuring four encrypted messages. Three of them have been solved, but the fourth has thus so far stumped amateur and professional codebreakers alike.
Kryptos is one of several mysteries referenced in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: a suspense story set in the hidden chambers and tunnels of Washington, DC. While The Lost Symbol is fiction, there really are plenty of mysteries to explore in and around our nation’s capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons, and those guys really enjoyed their symbols and puzzles.
In 1587, a little more than 100 English colonists arrived on Roanoke Island to found a new colony. After the colony was successfully established, its governor, John White, returned to England to fetch more supplies. When he returned three years later, he discovered it deserted. The only clue that might solve the mystery was a single word carved on a tree: “Croatoan.” White had no idea what it meant, and neither does anyone else. One of the more popular theories suggest that the colonists may have abandoned their settlement in favor of moving in with a nearby Native American tribe, the Croatans, and left the engraving to let White know. There are plenty of other possibilities, though, and this one isn’t going to be solved any time soon.
Dean Koontz’s Phantoms features another disappearance that is eerily similar to what happened in Roanoke. Could the two incidents be related? What could possibly be responsible? (Hint: It’s not a friendly neighboring Native American tribe.)
In case you haven’t heard, a climate disaster is looming. The effects of climate change—like rising seas and intensifying weather patterns—are already here. Even though the worst is yet to come, there are still things that we can do to fight for our planet. One thing you can do right now is to educate yourself by reading climate change books.
CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT SCIENCE
HOT, HUNGRY PLANET: THE FIGHT TO STOP A GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE BY LISA PALMER
By the year 2050, Earth’s population will be closing in on 10 billion people. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Journalist Lisa Palmer’s book Hot Hungry Planet digs into the possibilities of famine and food scarcity and the innovations that might save us all from hunger.
THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT
What will the future look like? The past may have a clue. Over the ages of our planet’s history, there have been five mass extinction events, one of which all but wiped out the dinosaurs. In the Anthropocene period, the next casualty may be us. In The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a closer look at the past to tell us more about our future.
CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT HEALTH
FEVERED: WHY A HOTTER PLANET WILL HURT OUR HEALTH—AND HOW WE CAN SAVE OURSELVES BY LINDA MARSA
We’re getting more used seeing images of stranded polar bears and hearing about our dwindling bee population, but most reporting on climate change leaves out what it can do to our own health. Linda Marsa’s Fevered delves into the increasing rate of illnesses associated with global warming, like asthma, allergies, and mosquito-borne diseases, just to name a few.
THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UNTHINKABLE BY AMITAV GHOSH
The past few generations have taken advantage of the planet, polluting the oceans, ravaging the land, and filling our skies with smoke. What were we thinking? In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh argues that we weren’t, we have been deliberately blind to the disasters looming in our future—until now.
CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE
PLASTIC: A TOXIC LOVE STORY BY SUSAN FREINKEL
One of the scariest things about plastic is that it’s kind of immortal. It can churn in the ocean for hundreds of years before it finally breaks down. Humans fell in love with this toxic material in 1950s, and since then, it has managed to work its way into almost everything we touch. Susan Freinkel recounts this love story in Plastic by digging deeper into the ways plastic affects our lives and the life of the planet.
STAYING ALIVE: WOMEN, ECOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BY VANDANA SHIVA
Originally published in 1988, activist Vandana Shiva’s seminal work, Staying Alive, explores the relationship between women and our natural world. In many places, the freedom of the women is directly related to a country’s outlook. More recent research has shown that women’s rights directly impacts sustainability. You could say that Shiva is the mother of that idea.
CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT POLITICS
THE MADHOUSE EFFECT: HOW CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL IS THREATENING OUR PLANET, DESTROYING OUR POLITICS, AND DRIVING US CRAZY BY MICHAEL E. MANN AND TOM TOLES
Research has shown that climate denialists do, in fact, have brains. It’s just that they haven’t been using them. We have been manipulated, and logic has been twisted to distort the truth. In The Madhouse Effect, climate scientist Michael E. Mann comes together with cartoonist Tom Toles to create a funny, sad portrait of the mad world we’re living in.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: CAPITALISM VS. THE CLIMATE BY NAOMI KLEIN
From the author of The Shock Doctrine, this book delves into the war between capitalism and the planet. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein argues something that many of us already know: we have to change our destructive habits that are rooted in capitalism. It may be the only way we can save our environment before it’s too late.
CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT RACISM
DUMPING IN DIXIE: RACE, CLASS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BY ROBERT D. BULLARD
Not everyone will experience climate change equally. The poor and working class are already disproportionately affected by the problems of climate change. In Dumping in Dixie, Robert D. Bullard, a professor and environmental justice activist, asserts that living in a healthy environment is a right for all Americans, regardless of their race, class, or social standing.
TOXIC COMMUNITIES: ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM, INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION, AND RESIDENTIAL MOBILITYBY DORCETA E. TAYLOR
For years, poor and minority communities have found themselves becoming the dumping ground for businesses hoping to get rid of waste on the path of least resistance. Shockingly, entrenched segregation and zoning laws have paved the way to make this possible, making communities of color sick for years—literally.