Be Not Proud: 10 Books To Help Us Face Mortality

Dietmar Rabich, via Wikimedia Commons: “Braunton (Devon, UK), St Brannock’s Church – 2013 – 9”/CC BY-SA 4.0

Here in the United States, we have a death problem. By this I do not mean a sudden uptick of American fatalities — rather, the combination of scientific breakthroughs and de-emphasis of religion has translated into an odd denial of the existence of death.

Doctors are trained to preserve life rather than well-being, and many of us act as if death is a problem we can circumvent with a vegan diet and enough hours at the gym. Thankfully, there also exists a movement toward accepting death’s place in our life cycle; here are some wonderful books to help us do so.

The cover of the book When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Before he died at age 37, Kalinthi was an up-and-coming neurosurgeon who also enjoyed wresting with literary and philosophical precepts. Upon his diagnosis with the lung cancer that would take his life in less than two years, he began writing this open-hearted, clear-eyed memoir about how to live when you know you’re going to die. It remains a stunning legacy.

 

The cover of the book How We DieHow We Die

Sherwin B. Nuland

A surgeon who struggled with serious illness in his youth, the late Dr. Nuland harbored no illusions regarding “good deaths.” To him, the end of life was messy, difficult, and dehumanizing, and he resented any effort to disabuse us of this notion. Here, he carefully details the biological and chemical processes of what is inevitably to come for each of us. As dour as it sounds, the clarity of this tome is not just bracing but oddly comforting.

 

The cover of the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

Like poet William Carlos Williams or The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat author Oliver Sacks, Gawande is that rare soul who is as talented a writer as he is a doctor. In this call for a reevaluation of end-of-life care, he meditates on how to navigate age-related frailty and mortal illness so that not just the living, but the dying, can be comfortable.

 

The cover of the book MortalityMortality

Christopher Hitchens

The late political journalist and author Hitchens was a controversial figure throughout his life, and he proved no less controversial upon receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. True to form, he fully documented his waning health, fears, and unflagging atheism with a dogged, cheerful boldness.

 

193755The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby

At age 44, French Vogue editor Bauby seemingly had it all. Then he suffered a massive stroke that left him almost entirely paralyzed. In his last few months on Earth, he used his left eyelid to convey this stunning memoir of his revelations upon being caught in between life and death.

 

The cover of the book Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Roz Chast

Who says death and dying can’t be funny? Leave it to Roz Chast, best known as the beloved New Yorker cartoonist, to craft a graphic memoir that finds the gallows humor (and haunting melancholy) in her parents’ last days.

 

The cover of the book Talk Before SleepTalk Before Sleep

Elizabeth Berg

The one novel on this list, it perfectly encapsulates the pain of losing a close friend to cancer while you’re both still in middle age — the conversations, the solidarity, and the terrible sense of moving into two separate worlds.

 

The cover of the book Let's Take the Long Way HomeLet’s Take the Long Way Home

Gail Caldwell

A remembrance of the author’s final days spent with memoirist Carolynn Knapp, who died in 2003 at age 42, this offers haunting insight into communing and dying with grace.

 

 

The cover of the book On Death & DyingOn Death & Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Ten years after her 2004 death, this new edition of Dr. Kübler-Ross’s definitive work was released, and it’s chock-ablock with her original insights about the psychological processes of dying as well as new resources for the ailing and their loved ones.

 

The cover of the book The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

The strength of this memoir written in the year after Didion’s husband’s sudden death lies in its deconstruction of dissociation. Through the repetition of words and a documentation of her obsessive behaviors, she fumbles into accepting her loss by tasting phrases with the numb wonderment of a weeping child tasting her own tears. An extraordinary, elegant achievement.

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So You Want to Read Paleo Fiction: Here’s Where to Start

Image courtesy of the Bradshaw Foundation ©

What really happened in the Stone Age? With only a skeletal remains, stone tools, and cave paintings to go by, scientists can only offer an educated guess. While that kind of ambiguity is the bane of researchers, it is a boon for novelists, an invitation for the imagination to run wild.

The books selected for this list had to meet three criteria: the novel had to be currently in print, entirely set on Earth during the Stone Age, and could not involve time travel, aliens, sorcery, alternative planes of reality, and other fantastical plot devices. This excluded a number of science-fiction novels that involve prehistoric peoples, and we will revisit them in a future guide.

The cover of the book The Clan of the Cave BearThe Clan of the Cave Bear

JEAN M. AUEL

Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear is the best-known example of paleo fiction. It is the story of a young girl who is adopted by a clan of Neanderthals after she is separated from her tribe. They know her as one of the Others — the mysterious new people who are pushing them out of their lands — but cannot lead her to starve. The girl finds a place in the clan, but not everyone welcomes her presence. Some consider her different ways of thinking to be a threat.

 

The cover of the book The InheritorsThe Inheritors

WILLIAM GOLDING

No one knows exactly what happened to the long lost hominid species known as the Neanderthals. We know that there was a certain amount of interbreeding — services like 23andme can tell you how much Neanderthal DNA still lurks in your genes — but that’s only a small part of the story. Did anatomically modern human beings outcompete them for limited resources? Did we murder them en masse? William Golding’s The Inheritors is the story of a dwindling Neanderthal tribe’s first encounter with the beings who would bring their doom: us.

 

The cover of the book ShamanShaman

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman is the story of Loo: a young apprentice shaman learning his trade at the feet of his master, Thorn. Loo and Thorn’s time, 30,000 years removed from our own, is one of warriors, spirits, and unrelenting cold. As the next shaman, Loo will inherit a powerful position in his tribe, but only if he survives the dangers of an unforgiving world.

 

The cover of the book Dance of the Tiger: A Novel of the Ice AgeDance of the Tiger: A Novel of the Ice Age

BJÖRN KURTÉN

Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén was in a better position than most of us when it comes to imagining what life in Stone Age Europe might have been like. As an expert on stone age life, Kurtén’s primary work was in scientific research, but he also wrote  in a genre that he dubbed “paleofiction”. Dance of the Tiger is the story of a clash between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. Written with an eye for scientific accuracy, the novel is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

 

The cover of the book People of the Wolf: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten PastPeople of the Wolf: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten Past

KATHLEEN O’NEAL GEAR AND W. MICHAEL GEAR

Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear’s novel People of the Wolf is the story of North America’s first inhabitants: people who arrived on the content by way of the Bering Land Bridge. Set in what is now known as Alaska, People of the Wolf follows these brave first Americans as they settle a wild, unknown land.

“Lets call him… Ishmael.”

“What kind of a name is Ishmael? No, we’ll name him something cool… like Herman!”*

Image result for herman melvilleImage result for moby dickHappy birthday, Mr. Melville!

Celebrate the author of one of the most famous, most adapted, most parodied stories of all time, Moby Dick. While not his first or only creations, the monstrous white whale and obsessed captain hunting it have become cultural icons and have greatly surpassed contemporary expectations.

The book was initially a bit of a flop and didn’t sell well until after Herman Melville’s death. So, pick up a copy of the book, or a graphic novel or film adaptation, or at least the Cliffs Notes version today, and show your support and appreciation. I bet the Moline Library could help you find something.

*While I doubt that Herman Melville’s parents had this conversation while looking upon their baby boy for the first time, isn’t it fun to pretend?

9 Stephen King Stories That Should Be Adapted Into Film

I know. It’s hard to imagine that there are any left that haven’t been.

Stephen King/Photo © DDay Gen Adult 2017

With the record-shattering adaptation of It – not to mention critically-acclaimed takes on Gerald’s Game, Mr. Mercedes, and 1922 – we are currently experiencing a Stephen King cinematic renaissance. Given all of the recent success, odds are that Hollywood will dig deeper into the master storyteller’s massive catalog.

Stephen King is nothing if not an incredibly productive writer, and there is plenty of adaptation fodder waiting in the ranks of all of those bestsellers. Here are a few of our favorite stories, primed for the move to screens large and small. Some have remained untouched by the hands of Hollywood, while others have been languished in the pits of developmental hell, but all of them are ready to make their cinematic debut.

The cover of the book The Long WalkThe Long Walk

Stephen King

The Long Walk is probably the best known of Stephen King’s “Bachman” books – books he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It’s a dystopian thriller set in an alternate timeline where the Germans appear to have won World War II. In the novel, teenage boys are forced to participate in a grueling walking marathon where the winner is the last person left alive and standing. It’s a taut and emotional thriller that would require a deft touch, but one that we’d still love to see adapted.

 

The cover of the book The Man in the Black SuitThe Man in the Black Suit

Stephen King

This O. Henry award-winner originally appeared in the New Yorker before being included in Everything’s Eventual. King cited Nathaniel Hawthorne as an inspiration for the story, which centers on an elderly man recalling an encounter he had as a boy with an enigmatic figure, who may have been the devil. It’s a slow-burn, haunting story with plenty of room to be expanded upon on the screen.

 

The cover of the book InsomniaInsomnia

Stephen King

Insomnia is about as close any King novel can be to a cult classic among the author’s fans. The novel is an unsettling mix of sci-fi and horror, and features an elderly suffering from insomnia who begins to see otherworldy phenomena. At just shy of 800 pages, it could be tough to adapt to the big screen, but a mini-series would give the characters and the story plenty of room to breathe.

 

The cover of the book The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Stephen King

This is one of Stephen King’s better psychological thrillers. The story is built around nine-year-old Trisha McFarland who wanders away from her family during a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Lost, subjected to the elements, and fearful of a monster that could be real or imagined, Trisha turns to her admiration of Red Sox relief pitcher Tom Gordon for comfort.

 

The cover of the book 'Salem's Lot‘Salem’s Lot

Stephen King

While it’s true that Salem’s Lot has already been adapted twice – a well-regarded 1979 TV film and a forgettable 2004 version – the success of “It” 2017 proved there’s always room for another look at King’s works. This is one book that could really benefit from a mini-series adaptation. Despite its scant (at least for Stephen King) page count, the novel spends a fair amount of time fleshing out the town and occupants of Jerusalem’s Lot.

 

The cover of the book Night ShiftNight Shift

Stephen King

This Stephen King deep cut was originally published in Cavalier magazine – home to quite a few King stories – before eventually appearing in Night Shift, Stephen King’s first short story collection. The Boogeyman centers on a family falling prey to a titular sinister creature. While certainly on the shorter end in terms of length, there’s quite a bit of content that a skillful writer or director could flesh out on the screen. In the right hands, The Boogeyman has the potential to be a truly terrifying exercise in suspense and horror.

 

The cover of the book Rose MadderRose Madder

Stephen King

Domestic violence is a fairly common theme in much of Stephen King’s work. But in Rose Madder, King gives his writing a fascinating symbolic and mythological twist. The novel centers on a woman who escapes an abusive relationship and eventually finds herself caught in a bizarre fantasy world after purchasing a painting. With the right director at the helm, it could be a visual treat on the screen.

 

The cover of the book Just After SunsetJust After Sunset

Stephen King

Stephen King’s short stories are some of his best work. The Gingerbread Girl is of my personal favorites, which appears in Just After Sunset. It begins with a fairly normal pedestrian woman dealing with the aftermath of a trauma, but when Stephen King throws a dangerous serial killer into the mix, it becomes a tightly written cat-and-mouse survival story.

 

The cover of the book Duma KeyDuma Key

Stephen King

Duma Key is one of the better novels to come out of the latter part of King’s career. The 2008 novel is an intricately plotted exploration of grief, secrets, and obsession. Like a lot of Stephen King novels, there is a touch of the autobiographical as the story’s protagonist is an artist recuperating from a near-fatal accident. Thankfully, Stephen King tends to be at his best when he injects a little of himself into the narrative.

By KEITH RICE, December 15, 2017, first appearing on Signature Reads

These 13 YA Books Should Be on Every Adult’s Reading List

Who says Young Adult novels are just for kids? Reading YA offers adults a world they don’t often find in more grown-up novels. Characters can feel more innocent, the settings can be more fantastical, and the emotions can feel downright nostalgic. Whatever your reason for diving in, here are some YA reads that can easily be appreciated by an older audience.

If You Want Something Relatable:

The cover of the book Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down

John Green

In reality, this entire list could be dedicated to John Green books. From An Abundance of Katherines to Looking for Alaska, Green writes in a way that is completely delightful to read as an adult, and his latest piece is no different. The story of a sixteen-year-old who gets swept up in her own investigation of a mysterious billionaire fugitive, Turtles All the Way Down explores how we balance our own pursuits and tendency to get sucked into our own thoughts, while still trying to be decent to everyone around us.

 

The cover of the book What to Say NextWhat to Say Next

Julie Buxbaum

High school is a harsh place. Perhaps more than any other social sphere, it’s all about playing the game, and being “in” with the right people. So when popular gal Kit and relative unknown David make a connection over his bluntness about her father’s recent death, everyone is more than a little surprised. When tragedy strikes, the way you see the world can shift, and sometimes that’s the best way to find new people to get you through. Not just your average “teen rom-com” read, this book deals with a number of darker themes that raise it above others in its genre.

 

The cover of the book The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter exists in two worlds: the wealthy neighborhood where she attends private school, and the poor neighborhood where she lives. Starr silently accepts the imbalance in opportunity, appreciation, and privilege that she witnesses on a daily basis, but when her best friend from home is shot and killed by a police officer, she struggles to stay quiet, even though speaking up could come with a high price – her well-being and possibly, her life.

 

The cover of the book Dear MartinDear Martin

Nic Stone

This timely and compelling debut tackles the issue of race relations in  the U.S. with heart-stopping accuracy – it’s no wonder it became an instant New York Times bestseller. The main character, Justyce McAllister, is a top-performing student that left a rough neighborhood in hopes of pursuing his dream of attending an Ivy League. Everything comes crashing down when Justyce and his best friend, Manny, experience the wrath of a white off-duty cop. Why? Because they were playing their music too loud. Shots are fired, and when the smoke clears, it’s Justyce who faces hate from the media.

 

The cover of the book FangirlFangirl

Rainbow Rowell

It can be hard to find a YA novel set in the first year of college, because so many books focus on the high school years, and the assumption is college-aged students have moved into older fiction. What’s wonderful about Rowell’s Fangirl is its youthful tone, which feels genuinely appropriate to an 18-year-old girl just starting out at being away from home. Not quite as emotional as Eleanor and Park (another Rowell book you should definitely have on your list), Fangirl explores the topic of a young woman discovering her own talents and learning to embrace her own identity. The book includes a fun fan-fiction series, which you can fully embrace afterwards with Rowell’s novel about the same characters, Carry On.

 

If You Want to Feel the Power of Art:

The cover of the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie

Inspired by Alexie’s own story, Absolutely True Diary is about Junior, a young Native American boy who leaves his school on the reservation to start at a wealthy, all-white high school. Junior uses art to help himself deal with the issues present in his life (from racial prejudice and bullying, to economic difficulties and parental alcoholism.) Alexie tells the story with such humor and heart that the book will stay with you long after you close it.

 

The cover of the book SpeakSpeak

Laurie Halse Anderson

Fighting the culture of victim ostracizing has always been important, and Anderson’s 1999 novel continues to feel significant – if not even more so given today’s social climate – now. High school student Melinda finds no one is interested in hearing her out during the school year after she breaks up a summer party, and her only outlet is art class where she can slowly reveal what actually happened to her that night. The voice of Anderson’s character is so well developed and real, it is all the more poignant that it is being silenced with the pages of the story.

 

If You Want to Start a New Series:

The cover of the book The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1)The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1)

Philip Pullman

The author of the Golden Compass series has done it again. Set in a spin-off world from Compass, Pullman has created a new series so immersive you may start to imagine demons around you when you look up from the page. If you’ve been hoping for a way to go back to Lyra’s story, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

 

The cover of the book An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir

Y.A. novels may be “easier” reads, but that doesn’t mean they don’t explore very difficult topics. Tahir’s series is an exploration of freedom and humanity – big things Tahir deals with by creating her own world inspired by the Roman empire. You’ll find correlations with real history and mythology while turning these pages, and the changing perspectives from chapter to chapter will allow you to really invest in and connect to the brave and inspired lead characters.

 

If You Want to Think Outside the Box:

The cover of the book Tiger LilyTiger Lily

Jodi Lynn Anderson

Be forewarned, this is an emotional read. If you grew up loving Peter Pan in any form, Anderson’s new interpretation of usually relatively underdeveloped character Tiger Lily’s backstory is awe-inspiring. Touching on subjects like insecurity, abuse and what it feels like to have the love of your life stolen away, this book is a beautiful must-read.

 

The cover of the book Jane, UnlimitedJane, Unlimited

Kristin Cashore

When Jane loses her beloved aunt, she feels like she’s lost herself as well; until a visit to a mysterious mansion offers her a number of possibilities, each one with its own consequences. Feeling directionless is a common theme for young people, especially in novels written for them, but Cashore takes it one step further by incorporating what can only be described as a type of “choose your own adventure” style into her novel. A mesmerizing read, you’ll be just as taken in by each option as Jane.

 

The cover of the book The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

A short book from the late ‘90s, a lot of today’s YA readers may not have even realized this book existed until it was made into a film starring Emma Watson. A story about the quiet underdog, Perks also lives a little on the fringes, as the novel most “outsiders” picked up and related to before the film made it more available and well-known. Told through the letters of high-schooler Charlie, author Chbosky takes his readers through a world of music, new friends, and the honest struggle of trying to engage with your own life, especially when a darker secret is holding you back.

 

The cover of the book OtherworldOtherworld

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Author Kirsten Miller and the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ actor/author Jason Segel have teamed up again, this time to write a work of sci-fi. Otherworld is the first book in their new series set in a world entirely immersed in technology that you don’t only see and hear, but can also taste, smell, and touch. But it’s not a game—it’s the future. This book is the perfect YA read for adult sci-fi lovers.

12 Chilling Reads for Hot Summer Days

The United States in the grips of a heat wave, and now is as good a time as any to stay in and read one of these great summertime horror and suspense titles.

The cover of the book JawsJaws

PETER BENCHLEY

Let’s go ahead and kick off our list with summer’s ultimate anti-beach read: Jaws. A big city cop accepts a job in a sleepy coastal town, only to arrive in time for an unprecedented string of shark attacks. The book and movie are different in a number of different ways. There’s an organized crime subplot, a little adultery, an unexpected death or two … It’s a great, pulpy read. Trust me: You won’t want to get into the water after you finish this thing.

 

The cover of the book The GirlsThe Girls

EMMA CLINE

Summer is a great time to get together with the family for a little fun — so long as that family is Charlie Manson’s. California teenager Evie Boyd joins what she thinks is a group of fun-loving hippies that turn out to be the acolytes of a charismatic criminal mastermind.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

How about a not-so-nice trip into the countryside? During the sweltering summer of 1948, a doctor is summoned for a house call at Hundreds Hall: a rambling Georgian mansion slipping into disrepair. The home’s occupants have a dark and tragic history — one hinted at by what might be a restless spirit roaming its halls.

 

The cover of the book Dark TalesDark Tales

SHIRLEY JACKSON

Summer vacation can be nice — just watch out for the locals. In Shirley Jackson’s story “The Summer People,” a couple vacationing at a lakeside cottage learns that lesson the hard way when they try to extend their stay past Labor Day. Nobody has ever lingered that long, and the locals are determined to see that it never happens.

 

The cover of the book The RuinsThe Ruins

SCOTT SMITH

A group of college kids partying away their summer in Mexico take a trip into the countryside to see some authentic Mesoamerican ruins. Their visit awakens an ancient menace — a very hungry one. Talk about a tourist trap!

 

The cover of the book ShadowlandShadowland

PETER STRAUB

Summers can be magical, but that’s not always a good thing. Two boys eager to learn magic decide to spend their summer with a relative who is a master of the art. Unbeknownst to them, he is a master of authentic black magic, and only one of them will live to see summer’s end.

 

The cover of the book Meddling KidsMeddling Kids

EDGAR CANTERO

Summer is for sleuthing, or at least it was until this group of mystery-loving teens had a run-in with real supernatural evil. Decades later, they’re still scarred by the experience, and the last thing they want to do is return to where it all started. Unfortunately, they’ve got no choice.

 

The cover of the book In the Dark of the NightIn the Dark of the Night

JOHN SAUL

It’s always nice to have a place to get away — as long as you have a way to get out. A Chicago family buying what they think is a nice summer home learns that they’re not the only occupants. Something evil lurks within its walls, and it has been waiting for them.

 

The cover of the book We Were LiarsWe Were Liars

E. LOCKHART

Who wouldn’t want their own private island: a place where you can enjoy your summer without worrying about what other people think … or whether they can see all the horrible things you’re  doing to the people who love and trust you? Shhhh!

 

The cover of the book Summer of Night Summer of Night

DAN SIMMONS

Good news: School is out, and it’s time for summer vacation. Bad news: Monsters are out there, and they want you dead. A group of school boys on the trail of a mystery learn that it leads to the doorstep of a supernatural horror in Summer of Night.

 

The cover of the book Summer, Fireworks, and My CorpseSummer, Fireworks, and My Corpse

OTSUICHI

This could be a summer to die for, if you’re not careful. Otsuichi’s “Summer” is the story of a young girl’s murder and her killers’ attempts to hide the body, as told from the perspective of the corpse. Nice and cheerful, right? Read it and two other tales of terror in this single volume.

 

The cover of the book Disappearance at Devil’s RockDisappearance at Devil’s Rock

PAUL TREMBLAY

Three boys having a summer sleepover slip out for a nighttime trip into a nearby national park. Only two of them return. Ghostly visions and frightening folklore add a hint of the supernatural to this already gripping tale of suspense.

16 of the Hottest Romance Books of Summer

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the bookstore. This season’s crop of highly anticipated books has something for every reader with love and lust on the mind.

Are you ready for it? Here are the buzziest romances of the season.

All Your Perfects Dr. Strangebeard Between You & Me Dirty Sexy Player
Stygian The Governess Game Matchmaking for Beginners Even Money
The Kiss Quotient The Naked Truth Losing the Field Julien
Tight Quarters Cooper's Charm Blind Kiss Getting Schooled
By Hayley, June 19, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog