9 Food-Based Fantasy Books to Feast On

Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Food is, quite simply, magical. If you’ve ever eaten a spoonful of a wonderfully decadent chocolate mousse, sunk your teeth into a ripe, juicy plum, or taken a bite of [enter your favorite food here], you know what I’m talking about. Food has the ability to inspire emotion, recall memories, and please the senses. Even the process of preparing it is magical: transforming separate objects into something completely new. The books below, however, take the magic of food to a whole new level.

The cover of the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
AIMEE BENDER
Rose Edelstein receives a gift on her ninth birthday, but as is the case with so many magical gifts, this one turns out to be a terrible curse. You see, she can taste the feelings of the people who have prepared the food she eats. While this might not sound so bad at first, this “gift” lets her in on all sorts of devastating knowledge — from her cheerful mother’s internal despair, to her father’s feelings of detachment. This bittersweet book of magical realism will have you longing for lemon cake and secrets of your own.

 

The cover of the book A Spoonful of MagicA Spoonful of Magic
IRENE RADFORD
This is the first book in a new urban fantasy series from established fantasy writer Irene Radford, and is just as delightful as it looks. Baker and barista Daffy Deschants’ life is thrown into chaos when she discovers that her perfect husband is not all that he seems — he is sheriff of the International Guild of Wizards, and she has a knack for magic herself. When someone from her husband’s past returns to threaten their future, this kitchen witch has to whip up some serious power, and fast.

 

The cover of the book Like Water for ChocolateLike Water for Chocolate
LAURA ESQUIVEL
This sumptuous tale of magical realism infuses food with the power of repressed emotions. Tita, born among spices and flour, falls desperately in love with a man named Pedro but is unable to to act on those feelings due to a family tradition. Her emotions make their way into the world through the food that she cooks, manifesting in illness, lust, and more. Peppered throughout the novel are recipes from Tita, but be careful when you make them at home — you never know what magic lingers on.

 

The cover of the book Pies and PrejudicePies and Prejudice
ELLERY ADAMS
Ella Mae LaFaye moves back to Georgia after a messy separation from her husband, returning to her love of baking. She soon discovers, however, that the pies she bakes are enchanted. Her emotions are transferred to the people who eat them, inspiring some interesting reactions. When her childhood nemesis’ fiancé turns up dead with Ella’s fingerprints on the rolling pin murder weapon, she has to pull out all the stops to clear her name and keep her Charmed Pie Shoppe open for business.

 

The cover of the book The Mistress of SpicesThe Mistress of Spices
CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI
Trained as a mistress of spices, Tilo is now trapped in an elderly woman’s body, immortal but bound to a small spice shop in Oakland, California. She fills her days by helping those who come to her shop with their ailments, but a chance encounter with handsome stranger may change her fate, for better or worse.

 

 

 

The cover of the book ChocolatChocolat
JOANNE HARRIS
Light on magic but heavy on decadence, Chocolat is the story of a chocolatier named Vianne Rocher, who may or may not be a witch. Her magic comes in the form of her uncanny insight into the lives of her customers. Not everyone is thrilled about her arrival in the small village of Lansquenet, however — Vianne’s chocolate shop is at odds with the village priest Reynaud’s beliefs in Lenten self-denial, and he will work hard to keep his parishioners from her hedonistic pursuits.

 

The cover of the book Brownies and BroomsticksBrownies and Broomsticks
BAILEY CATES
Another sweet story of baked goods and mystery, this series revolves around Katie Lightfoot, whose aunt and uncle own a bakery that serves magically-enhanced baked goods. When a customer is murdered just outside the bakery, Katie’s uncle becomes the prime suspect, and it’s up to her and her witchy Aunt Lucy to clear his name.

 

 

The cover of the book Garden SpellsGarden Spells
SARAH ADDISON ALLEN
The Waverley’s garden provides the family with more than just nourishment; the fruits and flowers are imbued with magical properties. The apples aid in prophecy, nasturtiums help keep secrets, and snapdragons discourage amorous attentions. It has been so for as long the Waverley’s remember, and they have tended to its soil for generations. Only three Waverley sisters remain, however, and when one of them returns home after years away with a daughter of her own, their carefully tended lives are thrown into chaos.

 

The cover of the book Last Call at the Nightshade LoungeLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge
PAUL KRUEGER
Magical drinks, not food, fill the pages of this book, but you’ll need something to wash down all those bewitching bites. At the Nightshade Lounge, the bartenders hold all the power — literally. Demons stalk the city by night, but these bartenders concoct magical cocktails to help them fight back. Each spirit has a property of its own: vodka for super-strength, rum for fire-blasting capabilities, whiskey for telekinesis. It’s up to this group to defend the city against the forces of darkness.

 

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7 Fantasy Book Adaptations We’d Love to Binge-Watch

Photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash

The recent announcement that Amazon has acquired rights to create streaming series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works has the internet buzzing – not just with speculation on what Amazon might have in the works, but also whether it’s too soon after Peter Jackson’s live-action trilogy to work on another adaptation.

Fantasy TV series are having an absolute heyday right now, from the ongoing popularity of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead to the relative newcomer Stranger Things, so it’s understandable why Amazon’s looking for the next streaming hit – but for studios looking to create a new hit rather than just riding along on an existing franchise’s steam, here are a few fantasy novels to pick up that would make excellent series.

The cover of the book Rebel of the SandsRebel of the Sands
ALWYN HAMILTON
Those who checked out the Dark Tower adaptation this summer and didn’t quite satisfy their desire for genre-blending gunslinger action would love an adaptation of Alwyn Hamilton’s young adult Rebel of the Sands, which follows a teenager escaping her abusive family and dead-end town. Like Dark Tower, Rebel is set in a magical universe with a gun-slinging protagonist, and Amani’s journey takes her to dangerous new places beyond her wildest dreams.

Currently, there aren’t any fantasy series that combine the Western genre with speculative elements, and Rebel is a great candidate to change that. The trilogy was optioned by Willow Smith’s production company, MSFTS Production, earlier this year, though no further announcements have been made about the adaptation so far.

 

The cover of the book The Fifth SeasonThe Fifth Season
N. K. JEMISIN
There are no zombies, but there are plenty of reasons that fans of The Walking Dead would also be into a TV version of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy: an apocalyptic setting, human treachery, and a protagonist’s struggle to survive in a world that wants them dead. Because in the world Jemisin has crafted, humanity’s greatest crisis is that the earth itself is trying to kill them.

The Broken Earth trilogy begins with the award-winning The Fifth Season and concludes with The Stone Sky, released earlier this year. Like Rebel of the Sands, the Broken Earth trilogy has already been optioned: the series is currently in early development at TNT.

 

The cover of the book The City of BrassThe City of Brass
S. A. CHAKRABORTY
This gorgeous debut novel that begins in eighteenth century Cairo before taking its protagonist into a magical realm is a great title to adapt for fans of the historical fantasy series Outlander. Nahri is a con artist who doesn’t believe in the supernatural – until she accidentally summons a djinn who brings her into the world of magic. Chakraborty’s worldbuilding is gorgeous, and Nahri – an aspiring physician – is the sort of clever and skeptical protagonist that makes for fun storytelling.

The most recently-published title on this list, The City of Brass is the first in a planned trilogy, though the first novel is rich with potential source material for a gorgeous historical series.

 

The cover of the book MonstressMonstress
MARJORIE LIU & SANA TAKEDA
While series adapted from comics tend to be restricted to DC and Marvel’s sprawling franchises, there are notable exceptions (like The Walking Dead, as mentioned above). Another fantasy comic that would make an excellent limited series adaptation is Monstress, an atmospheric ongoing series published by Image.

A battle against tyrannical forces, a lavish art deco-inspired style, and a protagonist wrestling with a literal inner demon – what more could viewers want?

Monstress has quite a bit more gore than other series on this list, which may be plus or minus points depending on the studio and the viewer. But this comic is visually unlike anything currently airing – and it would make for an incredible streaming series.

 

The cover of the book UpdraftUpdraft
FRAN WILDE
TV shows and movies about rebellion are timely for a lot of audiences, which makes Fran Wilde’s Updraft ripe for adaptation. Updraft‘s rebellion takes place in a city of bone spires where the term “upper class” is extremely literal: the wealthy and powerful live in the more comfortable higher strata of the spires, while the poor scratch out lives in the increasingly crowded lower strata.

This series hasn’t yet been optioned for film (so if you’re in charge of that sort of thing, feel free to get on it), but the Bone Universe series is complete after the publication of Horizon earlier this year.

 

The cover of the book The Young ElitesThe Young Elites
MARIE LU
Anyone looking for something like Game of Thrones with less torture should pick up Marie Lu’s sophomore trilogy. The Young Elites tells the story of a group of young people marked by disease and gifted with strange abilities who’re fighting to be treated as regular citizens – and of Adelina, whose power puts her on a path to becoming the greatest villain her world has seen.

Told across a multitude of lands and featuring characters from a broad variety of backgrounds, The Young Elitesdefinitely shares some of the visual appeals of Game of Thrones while omitting some of the aspects that can make Game of Thrones gut-wrenching to watch.

 

The cover of the book Meddling KidsMeddling Kids
EDGAR CANTERO
This standalone fantasy-horror novel has nearly all the elements that viewers love about Stranger Things: a group of plucky youths (though they’ve grown into their 20s as the story begins), a sense of nostalgia for decades past, and creepy tentacle monsters.

(Does the creature in Stranger Things count as a creepy tentacle monster?) [Editor’s note: absolutely.]

Meddling Kids is a delightful marriage of spunky child detective mysteries (see its referential title) and eldritch horrors far worse than whatever a kid might imagine lurks in their closet or under their bed. Adapting the novel for a streaming series would make for a great Halloween weekend binge – and possibly reignite your childhood love of mystery-solving gangs.

A Better Brain: 16 Best Books to Understand How the Brain Works

The human mind is truly astonishing. It’s the center of the nervous system – the headquarters of our body – and it’s responsible for pretty much everything. It’s important to know how your lifestyle impacts your brain, and what positive changes you can make to promote a healthier future.

These books will help you to understand the way your mind works, how to gain control of your thoughts and actions, and how to combat diseases and disorders that affect your brain.

The cover of the book Calm ClarityCalm Clarity
Due Quach
Most people don’t realize how much control we actually have over our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s easy to feel like it’s out of our jurisdiction, but in reality, fluctuations in our mood depend on the neural networks firing in our brains, so we have the power to consciously break hardwired thought patterns. In Calm Clarity, Due Quach, author of the viral Medium piece “Poor and Traumatized at Harvard,”  shares her easy-to-follow program to show readers how to deal with toxic stress and adversity.

 

The cover of the book The Performance CortexThe Performance Cortex
Zach Schonbrun
In this book, journalist and sports writer Zach Schonbrun set out on a mission to discover what actually drives human movement. He interviews neuroscientists and other experts on motor control to understand how the brain’s motor control system works in extraordinary talented athletes like Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, and Lionel Messi. The Performance Cortex offers us a new way of thinking about athleticism, and is a must-read for the cerebral sports fan.

 

The cover of the book The Leading BrainThe Leading Brain
Friederike Fabritius, MS, and Hans W. Hagemann, PhD
This revolutionary guide uses the most up-to-date research in brain science to reveal how our thoughts affect our career performance. Neuropsychologist Friederike Fabritius and leadership expert Dr. Hans W. Hagemann present easy-to-follow tips for sharpening focus, increasing retention, improving decision-making, and ultimately, thriving as a leader in the workplace. This book is ideal for anyone who feels stagnant in their career and wants to make simple changes that will provide extraordinary, life-changing results.

 

The cover of the book Brain FoodBrain Food
Lisa Mosconi PhD
We’ve all heard it many times before: You are what you eat. Well, what if you could eat food that boosted your brain power and health? Dr. Lisa Mosconi, an expert in neuroscience and nutrition, knows that our brains have very specific food requirements. Her innovative plan to improving brain health will help to improve memory, eliminate cognitive decline, and even help with depression. Including lists of what to eat and what to avoid, a quiz that determines your brain health, and 24 delicious recipes, Brain Food is the ultimate guide to a happy, healthy brain.

 

The cover of the book The Better Brain SolutionThe Better Brain Solution
Steven Masley, M.D.
Dr. Steven Masley’s The Better Brain Solution is the first book to explain how the brain can become insulin resistant overtime, leading to cognitive decline and memory loss. Masley’s research shows that diet and lifestyle are the main contributing factors to this insulin resistance, and in this book, he shares a program he’s developed to prevent and reverse this potentially devastating condition.

 

The cover of the book The Brain Warrior's WayThe Brain Warrior’s Way
Daniel G. Amen, M.D. and Tana Amen
New York Times bestselling authors Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen join forces to bring attention to the harmful, addictive practices that are destroying our bodies and our minds. Abuse of food and technology has driven much of the American population to lead unhealthy lives, riddled with disease. The Brain Warrior’s Way is the key to taking control of your health and taking back your life.

 

The cover of the book Faster Than NormalFaster Than Normal
Peter Shankman
Peter Shankman’s groundbreaking guide to ADHD showcases the positive side of having a fast-paced mind, and contains helpful advice for harnessing that extra energy. Shankman’s experience with ADHD is first-hand – his hyperforcus has allowed him to run several successful businesses, travel the world, explore his hobbies, and keep his family afloat. He’s here to help others like him learn how to eliminate distractions, complete goals, and finally see their differences in a positive light.

 

The cover of the book The Hacking of the American MindThe 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 Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games:Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games
Ian Bogost
Let’s face it – life can get really boring sometimes. Most of our daily activities rarely ever involve anything fun, and as a result, we dread doing them. But what if we redefined fun? In Play Anything, inventive game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost explains how we can transform our lives by changing our perspective on what’s “boring,” making everything more extraordinary.

 

The cover of the book Smarter Faster BetterSmarter Faster Better
Charles Duhigg
As an expert on the science of productivity, Charles knows the secrets to speeding up innovation and creativity. As he discusses in this New York Times bestseller, Charles believes that productivity relies heavily on decision-making and managing how you think. One of the biggest faults in creative people is getting stuck on having the most original idea instead of focusing on new ways to combine ideas that already exist.

 

The cover of the book The Confidence GameThe Confidence Game
Maria Konnikova
In this captivating book, Maria Konnikova takes an in-depth look at the minds of con artists, and the people who fall for their tricks again and again. What do con artists have in common? How do they do what they do, and why are they successful? From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to answer these puzzling questions.

 

The cover of the book Wired to CreateWired to Create
Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire
Creativity can be a powerful gift, if it’s used properly. Wired to Create unravels the creative mind by investigating the daily habits of creative people. Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire explore the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, and provide examples of artists and innovators throughout history, to explain the best ways for people to harness their creativity.

 

 

The cover of the book The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to OurselvesThe Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves
Charles Fernyhough
We all have voices in our head. (No, you’re not crazy.) We’ve all, at some point or another, asked ourselves a question, and also provided ourselves with an answer. We’ve imagined scenarios in our head, debated a decision to ourselves, and read books in different voices. These voices are unique and sometimes unpredictable – they can appear in different accents, and BE LOUD or soft. Charles Fernyhough argues in The Voices Within that these inner voices are crucial to human thought and must be embraced.

 

The cover of the book The End of Alzheimer'sThe End of Alzheimer’s
Dale E. Bredesen, MD
This instant New York Times and Wall Street Journalbestseller is changing how we understand cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s Disease takes every single one of its victims – there are no survivors. Dale Bredesen, MD, offers a potential solution to this huge problem by outlining 36 metabolic factors (micronutrients, hormone levels, sleep) that can trigger “downsizing” in the brain. Bredesen argues that by balancing these factors, one could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

 

The cover of the book The Cyber EffectThe Cyber Effect
Mary Aiken, PhD
Mary Aiken, the world’s leading expert in forensic cyberpsychology, embarks on a journey to explore how the internet is shaping how we think and behave. It’s no secret that society’s values have changed drastically due to the constant presence of the internet in our daily lives. Aiken covers the impact of technology on children, teens, and our privacy, and explains how addictive behaviors can form online.

 

The cover of the book MicromasteryMicromastery
Robert Twigger
This illuminating book combines positive psychology, neuroscience, self-help to explain why we believe that at a certain age, we’re too old to learn new things. Robert Twigger offers a solution to this problem: think small. If you tackle small goals, you’ll be more likely to achieve success. Small, doable tasks offer a big payoff, and motivate us to keep learning and growing, with payoffs that include a boost in optimism, confidence, memory, cognitive skills, and more.

Page to Screen – September Edition

Cyrano de Bergerac by Ermond Rostand

15638Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.pngMovie: Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
When it comes out: September 7
What the book is about: This is Edmond Rostand’s immortal play in which chivalry and wit, bravery and love are forever captured in the timeless spirit of romance. Set in Louis XIII’s reign, it is the moving and exciting drama of one of the finest swordsmen in France, gallant soldier, brilliant wit, tragic poet-lover with the face of a clown. Rostand’s extraordinary lyric powers gave birth to a universal hero–Cyrano de Bergerac–and ensured his own reputation as author of one of the best-loved plays in the literature of the stage.

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

29938376A Simple Favor.pngMovie: A Simple Favor
When it comes out: September 14
What the book is about: It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time. But then Emily doesn’t come back.

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

8664353Unbroken path to redemption.jpgMovie: Unbroken: Path to Redemption
When it comes out: September 14
What the book is about: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

 

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

18170126The Land of Steady Habits.jpgMovie: The Land of Steady Habits
When it comes out: September 14
What the book is about: Anders Hill, entering his early sixties and seemingly ensconced in the “land of steady habits” — a nickname for the affluent, morally strict hamlets of Connecticut that dot his commuter rail line — abandons his career and family for a new condo and a new life. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, Anders turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife’s friends and is surprised to find that the very world he rejected may be the one he needs.

 

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

21965107The Children Act.jpgMovie: The Children Act
When it comes out: 
September 14
What the book is about: 
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona’s professional success belies domestic strife. Throwing herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses, her attempts to resolve the issues of her personal and professional life may strain her to the breaking point.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

5826Bel Canto poster.jpegMovie: Bel Canto
When it comes out: September 14
What the book is about: In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

 

The House with a Clock in the Walls by John Bellairs

295801The House with a Clock in Its Walls (film).pngMovie: The House with a Clock in the Walls
When it comes out: September 21
What the book is about: Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan and quickly learns that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan’s house. Can the three of them save the world from certain destruction?

 

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

9850443The Sisters Brothers.pngMovie: The Sisters Brothers
When it comes out: September 21
What the book is about: Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living – and whom he does it for.

 

Nappily Ever After by Trisha R. Thomas

495348Nappily Ever After.pngMovie: Nappily Ever After
When it comes out: September 21
What the book is about: Venus Johnston has a great job, a beautiful home, and a loving live-in boyfriend named Clint, who happens to be a drop-dead gorgeous doctor. She also has a weekly beauty-parlor date with Tina, who keeps Venus’s long, processed hair slick and straight. But when Clint–who’s been reluctant to commit over the past four years–brings home a puppy instead of an engagement ring, Venus decides to give it all up. She trades in her long hair for a dramatically short, natural cut and sends Clint packing.

 

Colette by … Okay, it’s not actually a book but a biographical drama about a French novelist

SidonieGabrielleColette.jpgColette (2018 movie poster).pngMovie: Colette
When it comes out: September 21
What the book it is about: Colette was a French novelist whose writing career spanned from the end of WWI through the mid-1950s. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Her best known work, the novella Gigi (1944), was the basis for the film and Lerner and Loewe stage production of the same name. She was also a mime, an actress, and a journalist.

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

1934Little Women 2018 poster.jpgMovie: Little Women
When it comes out: September 28
What the book is about: Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

Genre Friday – Gothic Fiction

Is it Gothic Fiction?

Is it dark (in tone or in luminous intensity)?

Usually.

Is it creepy in an undeniable, but sometimes indefinite, way?

Most of the time.

Is death featured heavily, either as an event or preoccupation?

Absolutely.

Does it leave you with a deep distrust of old, palatial manners, moldering estates, dilapidated plantation homes and crumbly castles?

It would have if I weren’t already freaked out by those places.  

Is it focused on an individual (or small group or family) and their thoughts and feelings as they try to deal with everything listed above without going completely insane?

Yup.

That’s Gothic Fiction alright. This genre looked at the rugged individualism, intense emotions, introspection and focus on nature and the past (in particular the medieval period) of Romanticism and said, ‘Yeah, but where is all the deep, existential and psychological terror and death?’ It’s not necessarily terrifying in the way traditional Horror is but it will almost certainly get your skin crawling at some point. Or at least make you look over your shoulder as you walk down dark and deserted hallways, should you have occasion to do so.

Now that we have that established the real question is, where is it set? For Gothic Fiction, setting is what determines subgenre – American (or, more specifically, Southern), English or Space (you read that right, space).

American Gothic

As you would assume, we’re dealing with American settings here — the frontier or wild west, the deep south, sometimes even suburbia. The stories often explore the darker parts of American culture and history; slavery, war, genocide and the exploitation of the nation’s natural resources and wilderness come up fairly regularly. Horror is there in some form or another, but it isn’t always supernatural (as people are more than capable of being horrifying on there own), and when it is, it might be implied rather than clearly identified. This brings in the unreliable narrator and mental illness, which is another common theme in American Gothic stories. Set it in the sweltering southern heat, and liberally sprinkle in racial tension, degradation, and poverty left over from the Reconstruction era and you have Southern Gothic.

Examples:

The cover of the book We Have Always Lived in the CastleThe Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

English Gothic

Grappling with mental illness or spiritual angst, while dodging ghosts on the windswept moors or in a crumbling tower? In England? You’re in an English Gothic story. Watch out for untimely death, doomed romance, and villainous depravity – if it hasn’t happened already, it’s only a matter time. And, this probably goes without saying but, try to stay out of neglected graveyards, cobwebbed dungeons and, of course, haunted castles.

Examples:

The cover of the book The Castle of OtrantoThe Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Racliffe

Gothic Space Opera

You know those sci-fi stories where civilization and technology extended so far and so fast that when it eventually and inevitably collapsed the average person was suddenly left stranded in a pseudo-medieval, superstitious and decaying society despite the fact that they live on an alien planet or massive star ship? Well, they’re out there, and they are frequently the starting point for these Gothic Space stories.

In these cases, the rickety star ship serves as haunted mansion/castle analog and the inky, vast blackness of space the misty, eerie moors that surround typically surround them. Authoritarian regimes, oppressive cults and demonic alien forces are common issues, as well as the usual wear and tear of long space travel — time dilation, the assumption of death-like states of suspended animation, and the dementia-inducing isolation of space travel, to name a few examples — on human relationships and sanity are frequent topics.

Examples:

The cover of the book The Burning DarkBlindsight by Peter Watts

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

The Explorer by James Smythe

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Nightflyers by George R. R. Martin

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

 

Matt Bellassai: 10 Books That Make Me Laugh Every Single Time

Matt Bellassai’s name probably rings a bell for many of you; he is the first ever recipient of the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star and host of the hit web series “Whine About It,” where he complains about various and sundry things while swilling wine (of course). When most of us do this, it’s annoying, but Bellassai has made bitching an art form, and Everything Is Awful: And Other Observations elicits some much needed belly laughs. Who does a comedy writer turn to when he needs a good chortle? These are the books that tickle Mr. Bellassai’s funny bone.

 

 

33381433We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

Honestly, Samantha Irby is so funny, it makes me want to kick someone in the face out of visceral jealousy that I will never be as entertaining or as charming or as hilarious as her. If I wasn’t so busy relating to every word she writes, I’d be absolutely furious.

 

 

27170141You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Jessi Klein makes me feel like I wasn’t the only awkward gangly girl in overalls who would grow up to be an awkward gangly woman in adult overalls. Even though, let’s face it, nobody really grows out of their uncomfortable phase. Except for, like, David Beckham. He’s cooler than all of us.

 

9006Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

I could open to any page in any David Rakoff book and laugh endlessly. Like David Sedaris, but with more self-hate and outer rage. Also, he worked as a hotel cabana boy for one of these essays, and if that’s not commitment to the craft, I don’t know what is.

 

 

23492710Intimacy Idiot by Isaac Oliver

I would say this book will make you feel better about your own shitty love life, but honestly, Isaac is out here experiencing the world (Hello! He has sex with a dolphin furry!) and you’re probably at home with your greasy fingers congealing inside of a half-empty Cheetos bag. Get on Isaac’s level.

 

21412229The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

I mean, Issa is a Golden-Globe-nominated Cover Girl now. I’m not saying that this book can help you become a critically-acclaimed beauty representative, but I’m not not saying that either.

 

 

12868761Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Honestly, this book is my bible. I pray to it every night and occasionally Jenny speaks to me through burning bushes. She is the funniest writer to ever exist and the queen of sentences that go on and on forever but you don’t care because they’re amazing and hilarious.

 

 

2195289I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

I’ll defend any book that has cake in the title, and I’ll also defend Sloane Crosley with my own two fists. She makes being hapless feel genuinely delightful.

 

 

31707101This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack

Erin has the unique talent of making her audience both laugh and sob uncontrollably in the very same paragraph. Also for pooping outdoors, avoiding bears, and kicking cancer’s ass. She’s a hero.

 

 

29496435You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

Few people are qualified to tell you how to live your life more than Phoebe Robinson. Mostly because she’s a badass. But also because you’re pathetic.

 

 

8765I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron will always be my queen. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, it’s like she and I are sitting on the sidewalk, with scarves covering most of our flabby neck skin, wondering if we’ll ever feel young again.

 

By Erin Kodicek, November 2018, first appearing on Omnivoracious

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.