Books of Fiction and Nonfiction That Bring the Civil Rights Movement Alive

The Civil Rights Movement spanned decades, and resulted in some of the most society-defining legislature of the past century. Because of the work that activists, lawmakers, and citizens alike put into the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. made great strides in becoming a more equal, fair place to live, for people of all races. In 2018, it’s important to remember the work that’s been done as we evaluate the work we have left to do. On the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which provided equal housing opportunities to all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or national origin, we asked author Elaine Neil Orr to recommend a few books that bring the Civil Rights Movement alive for readers via both fiction and nonfiction. Read on for the books she recommends, and leave us further recommended reading in the comments.


The cover of the book Why We Can't WaitWhy We Can’t Wait

Martin Luther King

The seed of this book is King’s essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which King famously observed that members of the KKK aren’t the greatest threat to the Negro’s call for justice but moderate white Americans, who urge “the Negro” to bide his time.

To the question: how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others, King responds: “The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’”

This book and the essay that inspired it are a cornerstone to my sense of justice and to my theology (I grew up the daughter of missionaries in West Africa). Working for justice means mending broken relationships and this is the work of Divine Love.


The cover of the book The Autobiography of Malcolm XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X; Alex Haley

I first read this book in paperback almost forty years ago and I still own it. I remember feeling that the narrative was both astonishing and completely understandable. The story of Malcolm’s early life (father’s death, mother’s commitment to a psychiatric hospital) gripped me.  I was still relatively new to the U.S., having grown up a white American in Nigeria. So Malcolm X’s critique of the U.S., his passion, and his spiritual conversion to Islam all rang true for me even though I knew next to nothing about Islam. Somehow I identified with his pilgrimage to Mecca and North Africa, perhaps because I had just been required to leave that continent. I came away from the book admiring Malcolm X as a Black nationalist and as a Pilgrim or Seeker, who was still evolving when he was assassinated.


The cover of the book Song Of SolomonSong Of Solomon

Toni Morrison

For me, Morrison’s third novel is a Civil Rights novel though it only refers to Malcolm X glancingly and to Emmett Till briefly. But the novel is an extended metaphor for the struggle. On the one hand, we have the black, middle-class character of Milkman, who fails entirely to understand “the urgency of now” (King), and on the other hand, we have his friend, Guitar, who will use “any means necessary” to right the wrongs of white America.  The evolution of their friendship is a conversation about Black identity, Civil Rights, and justice, but the conversation is playing out not in politics or the pulpit but in their everyday lives. Pilate, the matriarch of Milkman’s family, is the deep mystery at the heart of the novel. “Without leaving the ground, she could fly.” Her character points to the essential relation between self-acceptance and loving the “other.”


The cover of the book Hughes: PoemsHughes: Poems

Langston Hughes

While Hughes is connected with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s, his poems cover the twentieth century and have shaped my sense of “the urgency of now.” In a few lines, these poems imprint our minds with Black realities. Essential poems include “Mother to Son,” “Cross,” “Words Like Freedom,” “Jim Crow Car,” “The Negro Dreams of Rivers, and “Always the Same”—which is a rousing critique of race-based exploitation and a call for global justice.  Also, “Tell Me”—which asks the question, “why should it be my dream/ deferred/overlong?”


The cover of the book The Blood of Emmett TillThe Blood of Emmett Till

Timothy B. Tyson

The story of Emmett Till and his mother ignited the Civil Rights movement and is the heart of the movement for me. Perhaps because I’m a mother, the terror of that event, the courage of the mother, the mutilated body, carry a weight of Biblical proportion, like a crucifixion.  The story had to go into my current novel. Tyson wrote this book of political history after Carolyn Burns, the white woman in whose name Emmett Till was killed, asked to talk with him. She doesn’t come off very well. What “comes off” is how the white imagination was bent by the history of race in Mississippi, how Chicago and Mississippi were not that far apart. This book is imperative for anyone who wants to know why the movement could not wait.


The cover of the book Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

This story in poems about a young girl’s experience of her brownness can be read by young and old readers alike. It includes the girl’s awareness of sit-ins and protests. More than that, it extends the movement into our present. Part of what I love about this book is that the girl loves her early life in South Carolina, where she is surrounded by family and pine trees and porch wings: “In South Carolina, we become The Grandchildren/ Gunnar’s Three Little Ones/ Sister Irby’s Grands/ MaryAnn’s Babies.” I also love her discovery of a composition notebook that she carries around for days before writing in it as if it’s a sacred object (which it is). What is so powerful about this book is that we are seeing in the here and now how brownness shapes a life now: the beauties of brownness and the imperative, still, for justice. We still can’t wait.



The cover of the bookElaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature and creative writing. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of A Different Sun, two scholarly books, the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and Swimming Between Worlds, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria.


5 Famous Books Saved from the Dumpster

by Hayley, January 30, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

The road to publication is paved with headaches, heartaches, and crumpled up balls of paper. No one knows this more than the following authors. Their work went on to achieve worldwide acclaim, but in the beginning, it took an unlikely—and often unsung—literary hero to save their manuscripts from obscurity.

Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the big books that barely made it to the shelf.

Stephen King’s Carrie

Bad Beginnings: In 1973, King and his wife Tabitha lived in a trailer. Struggling to make ends meet, he began writing a story about a teen outcast named Carrie White. The process, however, was not an easy one; compounded by the fact that King was modeling his main character on two girls he knew in high school who had both died at an early age. Eventually, he gave up. “I couldn’t see wasting two weeks, maybe even a month, creating a novella I didn’t like and wouldn’t be able to sell. So I threw it away,” King wrote in his memoir, On Writing.

To the Rescue… Tabitha! She fished the pages out of the trash and set them right back in front of her husband. “You’ve got something there,” she told him—and she was right. Carrie sold over a million copies in its first year. Since then it’s been adapted for film, television, and Broadway.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

Bad Beginnings: Almost a decade after the publication of his classic and controversial novel, Nabokov admitted Lolita was a “difficult book” to write. Perhaps this was an understatement. At one point during the novel’s creation, Nabokov set a fire in his backyard and fed his entire draft to the flames.

To the Rescue… Vera, Nabokov’s wife! A Cornell student witnessed her running out of the house to pluck as many pages as she could out of the fire. Was Nabokov suitably grateful for this act of literary heroism? We’ll let a snippet from one of his love letters to Vera answer that question: “How can I explain to you, my happiness, my golden wonderful happiness, how much I am all yours—with all my memories, poems, outbursts, inner whirlwinds? Or explain that I cannot write a word without hearing how you will pronounce it?”

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl

Bad Beginnings: Anne wrote her diary while she was hiding in an annex from the Nazis during World War II. The sweet, hopeful, and haunting account was abandoned when, on August 4, 1944, she and her family were apprehended and transported to concentration camps.

To the Rescue… Miep Gies. The Dutch woman, a loyal friend of Anne’s family, snatched the diary out of the ransacked annex and kept it safe in her desk drawer. She returned the diary to Anne’s father, the family’s only known survivor, who submitted it for publication in 1946.

John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

Bad Beginnings: Toole took the numerous rejections of A Confederacy of Dunces hard. He toiled on re-working it for years, writing to his editor, “Something of my soul is in the thing. I can’t let it rot without trying.” After eventually giving up on the novel ever getting published, Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969. He was 31 years old.

To the Rescue… Toole’s mother, Thelma. Two years after her son’s death, she found a smeared carbon copy of the manuscript in Toole’s old room. The novel would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Bad Beginnings: It’s hard to imagine Lee’s beloved novel absent from our bookshelves—and Scout and Atticus and Boo Radley absent from our hearts—but in the late 1950s, publication did not seem likely. The author later admitted to readers she found the writing process so frustrating that at one point she lost hope and threw the entire manuscript out the window and into a pile of snow.

To the Rescue… Lee’s agent! He reportedly demanded she retrieve and finish the manuscript. The tough love worked. To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. It became an instant sensation and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year.

8 New Spy Books to Add to Your Reading List This Year

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

The spy novel has come a long way since the heyday of Ian Fleming. John LeCarre’s literary legacy has been the morally complex person who must negotiate a world in which the terms “bad guys and good guys” has lost all meaning. The newest spy novels not only incorporate the bells and whistles of the latest technology, but they also feature complicated human beings who don’t always know if they’re doing the right thing in service to their country.

A recent spate of nonfictional accounts and fiction about spies reveal that “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine recognized that service to one’s country during difficult times tested all who were called. In these accounts, the notion that spying is service to one’s country will be questioned by more than one person. In 2018, writing fiction that surpasses the current nonfiction blockbuster at play in Washington, D.C. is a daunting challenge, and yet, the writers here have found ways to meet it. And, in the nonfiction accounts, the real people who became spies are stories of adventure and heartbreak.

Here are some of our recent favorites.

The cover of the book Who is Vera Kelly?Who is Vera Kelly?

Rosalie Knecht

One thing Vera Kelly is not is a standard-issue spy. During the Cold War, both the United States and the U.S.S.R. expended enormous amounts of money and personnel in search of information that would provide one or the other with an advantage. They also fought for influence among non-aligned groups, which is how Vera Kelly, a former “troubled teen” who is working dead-end jobs in Greenwich Village ends up as a spy in Buenos Aires. She has been sent there to infiltrate a leftist student group and monitor the members’ contact with the Soviets. But when a coup d’etat creates chaos on Argentinian streets and cuts her off from her C.I.A. handlers, Vera must improvise to survive.

Knecht has written a hybrid novel that is both literary in its attention to character and language, and a thriller where Vera’s status as a spy makes her a hunted woman who will have to find a way to survive. This intelligent novel about the quest for secret intelligence is a real treat.


The cover of the book Liar's CandleLiar’s Candle

August Thomas

Penny Kessler lands a dream internship working at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. On July 4th, she is part of the happy crowd at the Embassy’s Independence Day celebration. But someone lets off a bomb, killing and injuring many in the crowd. Many of the newspapers covering the story publish an affecting photo of the the after-effects of the bomb, one in which the injured Penny becomes the focus for the world’s rage and sorrow.

The trouble is that the photo makes Penny a target for those who want to use the injured woman as propaganda and those looking for a scapegoat. Even before she has regained consciousness, Penny’s life is taken over by those who want to make her a symbol of American resilience. But as many past heroes have discovered, the celebrated survivor may soon find themselves as the prime suspect, and it’s not long before she has to fight for her life against those who claim that Penny is a terrorist and a spy.


The cover of the book The Woman Who Fought an EmpireThe Woman Who Fought an Empire

Gregory J. Wallance

Even today, to speak of what happened in Armenia in 1915 as “genocide” is to provoke the fury of the Turkish government, which has always insisted that the slaughter of 1 million Armenian men, women, and children were military losses, not the result of an ethnic cleansing. But, as Gregory J. Wallance writes in his history, what Sarah Aaronsohn witnessed as a Jew living in the Ottoman Empire convinced her that after the Armenians had been erased, the Ottoman Empire would turn its attention to Jewish settlers in Palestine, also part of the imperial territory.

In order to prevent further Turkish atrocities, Aaronsohn and her Nili ring of spies began offering the British, who were fighting the Turks in battles in Egypt, information from behind Ottoman lines. Wallance paints a portrait of a complex woman who performed heroic work during difficult times. For those looking for a book about espionage that has real human lives at stake, this little-known story is a tremendous read.


The cover of the book The DeceiversThe Deceivers

Alex Berenson

Pity the spy novelist writing a thriller set in 2018 America. When the current American administration is under investigation for having allowed Russian actors to influence the latest election and a former KGB agent is now the head of the Russian government, how can fiction top real-life shenanigans? Enter John Wells, the fictional creation of Alex Berenson. Wells is former C.I.A. who is now following the trail that begins with a drug bust in Texas and ends with a plot to take over the White House.

Berenson writes in a style perhaps best described as “hard-boiled.” He uses few adverbs and does not provide long literary descriptions. What he does is to immerse readers in story before they leave the first page, which makes The Deceivers a tough book to put down, especially when the plot that John Wells uncovers will add layers of anxiety to any anxiety readers are already feeling about the current occupants of the White House.


The cover of the book The Kremlin's CandidateThe Kremlin’s Candidate

Jason Matthews

Film adaptations do not always do justice to complex literary characters and plots. Movie goers who saw Red Sparrow without reading the book upon which it was based missed out on Jason Matthews’ detailed descriptions of how a spy shakes someone who is tailing them, or the labyrinthine structure of Russian security bureaucracy, or the complicated woman that Dominika Egorova is underneath her performed role as spy.

Matthews was in the C.I.A for years, and his knowledge of the myriad little maneuvers and counter-maneuvers that go into an operation is fascinating to readers who may have wondered how the system really works. In this, the third novel in his trilogy, readers once again follow Dominika as she seeks to frustrate President Putin in his plans to assassinate an essential member of America’s intel community.


The cover of the book Need to KnowNeed to Know

Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before writing a novel so Need to Know is full of the kinds of verisimilitude that readers of spy thrillers hunger for. With rare exception, other spy novels portray spies as the survivors of busted marriages or for whom the constant exposure to human depravity has made private life near impossible. But Vivian Miller, a counterintelligence analyst, has a perfect home life, one in which she has been successful at dividing her life at work from her husband and four children.

All that changes while she is searching for sleeper agents, those Russian agents who have blended into the American population and are thus able to perform all of their espionage duties without triggering any warning signs. Miller has developed a new computer program that uses data to hone in on these sleeper agents. But one morning, her program reveals that one of these spies sleeps next to her every night in her marital bed. What happens when you come into possession of knowledge that you really didn’t want to know?


The cover of the book How to Catch a Russian SpyHow to Catch a Russian Spy

Naveed Jamali and Ellis Henican

Walter Mitty was James Thurber’s invention: a man who imagined himself to be other versions of himself in a vivid fantasy life. When Naveed Jamali was growing up, he imagined himself as the sort of spy whose exploits he watched in television shows.

After college, however, Jamali became what he had imagined. His spy story reads like the best of fictional capers with money deals transacted in Hooters restaurants and other everyday places in American cities. Jamali wasn’t just a spy, however, he became a successful double agent, working with Americans to convince Jamali’s Russian contacts to give up valuable information. Jamali’s true story is a delicious read.


The cover of the book A Spy in CanaanA Spy in Canaan

Marc Perrusquia

Many spy stories present romanticized images of the person who is willing to do heroic work for their own country by uncovering information about another country before harm can be done to our own. But a spy among one’s own people is regarded as the worst kind of betrayer: someone who trades secret knowledge to someone else knowing that the information can do harm to us.

But, as Marc Perrusquia shows, some spies can be forced into their actions either through extortion—the threatening of family members, for example—or because they believe that their actions are meant to protect the group they love from people the spy regards as bad actors.

So, what then, to make of the case of photographer Ernest Withers? Withers captured some of the most iconic moments of the Civil Rights movement, photographs that convinced America that the situation had to change in order to be on the moral side of history. And yet, the evidence also suggests that Withers was an informant for the F.B.I, an agency that treated people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. as enemies of the people. What would have convinced Withers that spying on King and his cohorts was the right thing to do? This fascinating book elucidates one of the darkest chapters of American history, when Americans spied on other Americans as they worked for justice.

Nature’s Revenge: Ten Tales of Eco-Horror for Earth Day

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

For all of horror’s various niches and subgenres, ecological horror is one that feels more and more timely with each passing year. With bizarre and volatile weather events occurring at a distressing pace, wildfires decimating large swaths of land, and the ever-more alarming threat of rising sea levels, it’s not difficult to see why. It sometimes feels as if our changing climate has us on a rolling wave of ecological catastrophe, and the terrors once explored in the confines of the novel are now entirely too plausible. Writers have long swapped common supernatural threats like ghosts and deadly monsters for the uniquely human terror of ecological collapse and a hostile nature reclaiming the world around us. These are a few of our favorites.


The cover of the book Occultation and Other StoriesOccultation and Other Stories

Laird Barron

Occultation, Laird Barron’s second collection of short stories (and winner of a 2010 Shirley Jackson Award), features a cadre of stories pitting men and women against a chaotic and deadly universe seemingly hellbent on their destruction. His story “-30-” was recently adapted into the film “They Remain” and follows two scientists investigating an unspeakable tragedy at an isolated former cult encampment. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned.


The cover of the book The Salt LineThe Salt Line

Holly Goddard Jones

In a dystopic near-future, the border of American civilization has receded behind an area known as the Salt Line, a ring of scorched earth meant to keep out hordes of deadly disease-carrying ticks. For most, life continues, if in a limited capacity. But there are those who venture outside to experience what’s left of nature, and one such group of thrill-seekers discovers that there are things more dangerous and deadly than the ticks lurking in the outer zone.


The cover of the book AnnihilationAnnihilation

Jeff Vandermeer

The first in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation introduces readers to the bizarre, surreal, and horrifying landscape of Area X. It’s been cut off from both man and civilization for decades, and nature (or something more) has fully reclaimed it. When the most recent of several ill-fated expeditions returns, each member stricken with fatal cancer, a twelfth expedition is organized to finally map the now-alien terrain. What they find is beyond anything they could have imagined.


The cover of the book The RuinsThe Ruins

Scott Smith

For Eric and Stacy and their friends Amy and Jeff, a Mexican vacation seemed like just what they needed. When they hit it off with another group of friendly tourists? All the better. Unfortunately, what begins as a day trip into the jungle quickly spirals into a hellish nightmare when the group stumbles onto an ancient and overgrown ruin. Something is lurking within the vines and undergrowth – something that doesn’t want them to leave.


The cover of the book The Day of the TriffidsThe Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham

This 1951 classic imagines a post-apocalyptic world where the majority of humanity loses their sight in a meteor shower. As the world descends into chaos, the same meteor shower seems to have also animated the triffids – a tall, venomous plant now capable of uprooting themselves and attacking the surviving humans. Though the premise is a little bizarre, Wyndham’s narrative skill turns the tale into a true classic of speculative fiction, one that feels far more plausible than it has any right to.


The cover of the book The Nature of BalanceThe Nature of Balance

Tim Lebbon

With The Nature of Balance, Tim Lebbon imagines a world where one day the majority of the world’s population simply doesn’t wake up. For the survivors, the new world quickly evolves into a horrifying place in ways no one could have anticipated. Mankind is no longer the world’s dominant species – nature is reclaiming the earth and man is simply a cancer to be rooted out and removed.


The cover of the book ZooZoo

James Patterson

Try to imagine what would happen if one day animals suddenly turned on humans en masse. Thanks to James Patterson, you don’t have to try that hard. In Zoo, biologist Jackson Oz has been largely ostracized from the professional community for his seemingly crackpot theory on the increasing prevalence of animal attacks on humans. When these attacks grow to a startling scale and level of coordination, entire cities are crippled and Oz races to discover a means to stem the tide.


The cover of the book SeedersSeeders

A.J. Colucci

When a reclusive plant biologist living on a remote island passes away, he leaves the island to his daughter Isabella and his close friend and fellow researcher Jules. When the pair arrive, they quickly discover that Isabella’s father made a monumental advancement – communication between plants and animals. When a fierce storm isolates them on the island, they find that this breakthrough has far darker and more sinister implications than anyone could have imagined.


The cover of the book Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird StoriesAncient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories

Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Blackwood’s work served as something of precursor both modern horror and weird fiction. His darkly supernatural tales, intricately woven and deeply foreboding, were a major influence on H.P. Lovecraft and several others. Ancient Sorceries is one of Blackwood’s finest collections, with the novella “The Willows” standing as perhaps the author’s best. It centers on two friends and their canoe trip on a stretch of the Danube crowded by willows on both banks. Before long, the trip is beset by dread and tragedy as nature itself begins to turn on them.


The cover of the book The SwarmThe Swarm

Frank Schatzing

Nearly three quarters of our planet is covered in water. If, for whatever reason, the ocean’s ecology ever turned on mankind, there would be virtually no place to hide, and that’s the basic premise of The Swarm. Whales begin coordinated attacks, sinking ships. Toxic crabs poison Long Island’s water supply. The North Sea Shelf suddenly collapses. Virtually all at once, the fragile ecosystem of the earth is thrown violently out of balance, and there may be no way to set it right.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Infinity Stones Before The New Avengers Movie

Ya Got The Stones For This? Thanos (Josh Brolin) blithely ignores Coco Chanel’s advice on accessorizing — so you knowhe’s evil — in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios

by Glen Weldon, April 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They’re the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They’re what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

They’ve been seeded throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011, and now, with the release of Avengers: Infinity War on April 27, all the logistical heavy lifting of seven years’ worth of films — chasing the Stones, finding them, wielding them, handing them off to shady minor characters for safekeeping — comes to a head.

Well. To a hand, anyway.

Thanos’ hand, to be specific. Thanos’ gauntlet, if you want to get technical.

Thanos is the MCU’s biggest Big Bad, first glimpsed in a post-credit scene in 2012’s The Avengers. He is a hulking, purplish-reddish-bluish (seems to depend on the movie’s color balance) space warlord determined to reduce the population of the universe by half. If he collects all of the Infinity Stones and affixes them to a metal glove-thingy called the Infinity Gauntlet, he will be able to go about his deadly halving business, according to his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in the trailer, “with a snap of his fingers.”

(Leave aside, for the moment, how difficult it would be to snap one’s fingers in a metal gauntlet.)

(I mean it would be less of a snap and more a rasp, right?)

(Or maybe a clang? Like he was striking some terrible Xylophone of Pan-Galactic Death? Or a Wind Chime of Cosmic Annihilation?)

Anyway. That’s Thanos pictured at the top of this post. He is played in the movie by Josh Brolin and a superfluity of CGI chin dimples. And that thing he has on his left hand (so literally sinister!) is the Infinity Gauntlet.

As you can see, he is already well on his way to collecting ’em all — not quite at full, “Billie Jean”-era sparkle-glove status, but close.

Let’s review where the various Infinity Stones were the last time we saw them — and what they do.


Space Stone

AKA: The Tesseract

What It Looks Like: When first glimpsed in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), a glowing blue cube. (The cube is just a housing that allows the glowy blue stone inside to be handled by us lowly humans.)

What It Does: Opens wormholes in space, making possible instantaneous travel between any two points in the universe. Also has undetermined (read: hazily defined) power to develop weaponry.

Transporting is what the eeeevil Red Skull did with it in Captain America: The First Avenger. It was later recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., which lost it when Loki absconded with it in The Avengers (2012) and used it to open a wormhole above Manhattan through which an alien army attacked Earth.

Where It Is Now: It spent some time in Asgard’s armory, but at the end of Thor: Ragnarok (2017), it was stolen by Loki. (At the very end of Thor: Ragnarok, the spaceship Thor and Loki were flying was intercepted by what was very likely Thanos’ ship. So if you’re taking bets, the Space Stone is likely one of the first Infinity Stones we’ll see Thanos add to his collection.)


Mind Stone

AKA: The Scepter

What It Looks Like: At first, in The Avengers, a scepter housing a glowy blue gem. Nowadays, a yellow gem (long story) embedded in the forehead of Vision.

What It Does: Oh, a lot of stuff. In its Scepter mode, it granted Loki zappy powers and the ability to manipulate minds, and its mere presence made the Avengers more snippy than baseline. In its current mode (as of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, it grants Vision the ability to … do lots of stuff, including phase through matter, fly, zap others with energy beams and, you know … live.)

Where It Is Now: Doing time on Vision’s forehead. But the trailers suggest this will not be a permanent condition. Look for Vision to get blurry.


Reality Stone

AKA: The Aether

What It Looks Like: Not like a stone, for one thing. Instead, it’s a thick, red liquid that sends out tendrils that undulate in a cinematically creepy way.

What It Does: Look, it’s OK. You didn’t see Thor: The Dark World (2013). A lot of people didn’t. So you didn’t see the Reality Stone (in the form of the Aether) take over the body of Thor’s girlfriend, Jane Foster, allowing her to send out shock waves and … whatnot. As its name suggests, the Reality Stone alters reality, by converting matter to dark matter. Don’t bother asking why that’s a thing. Doesn’t matter. Lots of people didn’t see Thor: The Dark World.

Where It Is Now: For safekeeping, it was given to an ancient being who collects lots of stuff. His name, appropriately enough, is the Collector. (He is played by Benicio del Toro in Thor: The Dark World, and his character is the brother of Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok.)

Given that not a lot of people saw Thor: The Dark World, I’d wager we won’t get a big protracted scene of Thanos hunting down and claiming the Reality Stone, and Infinity War will simply cut to the (end of the) chase.


Power Stone

AKA: The Orb

What It Looks Like: When we first see it, at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), it’s encased in a silver spherical rock-thing. Later, the Orb is split open and the stone inside is grafted onto a bad guy’s space-hammer and given the awesomely ridiculous name of Cosmi-Rod. Once the bad guy is defeated through the power of dance, the Stone is returned to another Orb-casing.

What It Does: Grants … power? Look, I know, the specific abilities of the various stones seem kind of frustratingly all over the place, but this one’s legit. It makes its wielder more powerful — better, stronger, more zappy. You know: energy blasts and energy tornadoes and energy waves and energy bars. (No, OK, not that last one.)

Where It Is Now: Benicio del Toro’s Collector character nearly added it to his collection, but it sent out a massive energy blast, as is its zappy wont, that destroyed most of his menagerie. It ended up in hands of the Nova Corps — basically the Marvel Universe’s resident space-cops, run by Glenn Close in a complicated wig — and there it will stay, until it won’t.


Time Stone

AKA: The Eye of Agamotto

What It Looks Like: First (and only) seen in Doctor Strange (2016), it’s a glowy green gem housed inside an amulet embossed with an eye.

What It Does: Finally, some specificity! Some truth in advertising! The Time Stone allows its wielder to control time — to speed it up, slow it down, reverse it or create time loops. See, there, Marvel? Simple. Precise. Clean.

Where It Is Now: Hanging around Doctor Stephen Strange’s neck, right under his dumb goatee.


Soul Stone

AKA: ?

What It Looks Like: Again, ? It has yet to turn up in a Marvel movie, at least by that name. It’s most likely an orange gem, the largest of them all, which fits on the back of the gauntlet — not, as the others do, on the fingers.

What It Does: In the comics, it grants its owner the ability to do lots of mystical things — trap souls in an artificial existence, see into a person’s soul, etc. It’s not known how closely the film will adhere to this.

But given the fact that so much of the Infinity War trailer is set in and around Wakanda — and the fact that the “heart-shaped flower” seen in Black Panther grants the ability to commune with the dead — many have speculated that the Soul Stone will turn out to have something to do with vibranium.

Where It Is Now: Your guess is as good as any. Unless you guess, “in Wakanda,” in which case it’s slightly better than most, probably.


Sharon Stone

AKA: Catherine Tramell, Ginger McKenna, Iris Burton

What It Looks Like: A human woman.

What It Does: Wears the Gap to the Oscars, famously. And nowadays? Rocks the hell out of a Disaster Artist cameo and gives a great interview in a sweater to which attention must be paid.

Where It Is Now: Not getting the work it deserves, HOLLYWOOD.


Slyandthefamily Stone

AKA: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Greg Errico, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham.

What It Looks Like: Deeply groovy.

What It Does: Effortlessly fuse rock, soul, funk and psychedelia into chart-topping, socially conscious pop anthems.

Where It Is Now: On the set list of every wedding DJ at or slightly after 10:30 p.m.


Coldcreamery Stone

AKA: “That place your Aunt Janice likes? With the slab? What’s it called?”

What It Looks Like: An ice cream store, duh.

What It Does: Grants its wielder one unusually muscular forearm.

Where It Is Now: 1,100 locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Notable Returns, from Harry Potter to J.R.R. Tolkien

BY , APRIL 11, 2018, FIRST APPEARING IN Library Journal

Brian Selznick has created the 20th anniversary covers for the Harry Potter books. They are available starting June 26. USA Today reports “When placed side-by-side chronologically, the seven books create a single image that tells Harry’s story, from his arrival at No. 4 Privet Drive to the final Battle of Hogwarts.” A box set of all the books will issue in September.


A new book by J.R.R. Tolkien will publish in late August. Entertainment Weekly reports that The Fall of Gondolin, previously unpublished, furthers the stories of Middle Earth. It is edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee. It is currently soaring on Amazon.