Take a Literary Tour of the U.S. with These 50 State-Set Books

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

We live in a particularly diverse and fascinating country. It can be easy to forget that, especially in the current divisive political climate. The United States, however, is home to an extraordinary literary tradition – one as expansive and diverse as the country itself. Thus, a literary tour of the U.S. seems in order.

From classics to memoirs to thrillers, a literary masterpiece can be found lingering in every state –  a book that gives us a view into another part of the country is always a worthwhile exercise. The books below represent some of the best and most iconic reads from each of the fifty states, and are both fiction and nonfiction. Don’t worry if your particular favorite didn’t make the cut – we’d love to hear about it in the comments. And you can always dive a little deeper with these curated book lists for each of the fifty states.

Alabama

The cover of the book To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

This Pulitzer Prize winner from Harper Lee is one of the great American novels. Fifty years after its publication, its ruminations on race, injustice, and morality remain as relevant as ever, and crusading attorney Atticus Finch is one of literature’s finest characters.

 

Alaska

The cover of the book The Call of the Wild and Selected StoriesThe Call of the Wild and Selected Stories

Jack London

The Call of the Wild, originally serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, made Jack London a household name. This tale of adventure, survival and companionship in the wilds of Alaska is as gripping today as on its original publication in 1903.

 

Arizona

The cover of the book Blood MeridianBlood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy

Few writers have Cormac McCarthy’s gift for haunting, terse, and elegiac prose. Blood Meridian is among McCarthy’s finest work, and also his most brutal. It follows the story of a young man caught up with a gang of ruthless outlaws in along the U.S./Mexico border – it is a challenging and pitiless read. It is also modern mythmaking at its very best.

 

Arkansas

The cover of the book I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was one of the most inspiring voices of her generation. Her debut memoir became an instant classic and recounts a life that is, at turns, joyous and painful. Filled with Angelou’s frank and powerful ruminations on sexuality, race, and love, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains among the author’s best.

 

California

The cover of the book East of EdenEast of Eden

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck is a towering figure in American literature, and with good reason. Steinbeck considered East of Eden his magnum opus. This sprawling examination of two families living in California’s Salinas Valley is built around allusions to the Book of Genesis, as well as Steinbeck’s extraordinary descriptions of the region that makes up the novel’s setting.

 

Colorado

The cover of the book The ShiningThe Shining

Stephen King

Stephen King’s first bestseller is still one of the prolific author’s greatest. The novel established King as a household name. It’s chilling (literally) tale of a man slowly losing his mind while serving as an off-season caretaker at a remote resort hotel in the Colorado Rockies is haunting.

 

Connecticut

The cover of the book Revolutionary RoadRevolutionary Road

Richard Yates

This searing deconstruction of the ideal of American suburbia in the 1950’s is a devastating view into the disintegrating lives of a young couple struggling to conform to life in a Connecticut suburb. Yates writes with a startling clarity that exposes the inner machinations of a generation.

 

Delaware

The cover of the book The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henríquez

Told from multiple points of view, The Book of Unknown Americans chronicles the lives and interwoven stories of a group of recent immigrants – and first generation Americans – living in a neighborhood in Western Delaware. It is a book that feels particularly relevant today.

 

Florida

The cover of the book The Orchid ThiefThe Orchid Thief

Susan Orlean

In this beguiling, strange, and wickedly funny book, Susan Orlean takes the reader deep inside the eccentric world of orchid enthusiasts. It’s a bizarre and too-strange-for-fiction account of a truly fascinating subculture that is equal parts vivid and hilarious.

 

Georgia

The cover of the book The Color PurpleThe Color Purple

Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer winner is a powerful examination of race, misogyny, and class. The Color Purple recounts the harrowing life of Celie, who endures decades of abuse and rape first at the hands of her father, and then her husband, before ultimately building a life of her own with devastating power.

 

Hawaii

The cover of the book HawaiiHawaii

James A. Michener

James A. Michener’s expansive and meticulously researched recounting of the history of Hawaii is a stunning piece of historical fiction. Hawaii is a fascinating and thrilling chronicle of the birth of modern Hawaii and the people who populate it.

 

Idaho

The cover of the book HousekeepingHousekeeping

Marilynne Robinson

With Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson creates a poetic portrait of two orphaned girls coming of age in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, and is a haunting tale of familial strife and redemption.

 

Illinois

The cover of the book The JungleThe Jungle

Upton Sinclair

This quintessential work of muckraking fiction is built around Upton Sinclair’s own investigations into the meatpacking industry in early 20th century Chicago. The novel follows a Lithuanian immigrant forced into backbreaking menial labor in the Chicago stockyards. Sinclair intended to turn America’s attention to the plight of impoverished working class, but instead shed a harsh light on disturbingly unsanitary practices of the meatpacking industry.

 

Indiana

The cover of the book The Magnificent AmbersonsThe Magnificent Ambersons

Booth Tarkington

The Magnificent Ambersons is a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic that focuses on the changing fortunes of three generations of a once-powerful American family. It is a study of the economic turmoil that resulted from the swift industrial expansion that took place in the U.S following the Civil War.

 

Iowa

The cover of the book A Thousand AcresA Thousand Acres

Jane Smiley

This tale of an Iowa farmer seeking to divide his one thousand acre plot of land between his three daughters reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. The objections of the youngest daughter open the flood gates on startling series of suppressed emotions and long-held family secrets.

 

Kansas

The cover of the book In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood

Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s classic more or less created the true crime genre. His account of the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 is a meticulously researched, atmospheric masterpiece and represents Capote at the zenith of his narrative skill.

 

Kentucky

The cover of the book The Sport of KingsThe Sport of Kings

C.E. Morgan

The Sport of Kings, a sweeping novel on race in America, is the best horse racing novel in recent memory, and is told through the lens of multi-generational epic. It is a story steeped in dark and complex history, and serves as a reminder of our darker impulses and our better angels.

 

Louisiana

The cover of the book A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is an absurd, picaresque novel centering on an eccentric, delusional, and slovenly man stumbling through a series of increasingly bizarre misadventures in a brilliantly drawn New Orleans. It also earned John Kennedy Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

 

Maine

The cover of the book Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge is told through a series of interwoven narratives all taking place in Crosby, Maine. It centers around the cynical and abrasive titular character. Tinged with joy, pain, and ruthless honesty, Olive Kitteridge is Elizabeth Strout’s best work.

 

Maryland

The cover of the book Dinner at the Homesick RestaurantDinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Anne Tyler

This Baltimore based novel centers on three siblings grappling with the impending death of their perfectionist mother. It’s an emotionally wrought examination of recollection and the complexities of family that is equal parts poignant and humorous.

 

Massachusetts

The cover of the book WaldenWalden

Henry David Thoreau

Walden is an undisputed classic in American literature. Working in a small cottage in 1845 on Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau laid down a series of startling ruminations on life, nature, and contentment.

 

Michigan

The cover of the book MiddlesexMiddlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides’ controversial examination of an intersex Greek man named Cal Stephanides is a thought provoking exploration of gender identity, sexuality, race relations, and the immigrant experience. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002.

 

Minnesota

The cover of the book Main StreetMain Street

Sinclair Lewis

Main Street tells the story of Carol Milford, who moves to the small community of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota after college. Her efforts to bring culture and reform to the town are met with disdain and bigotry. Published in 1920, Lewis’s novel shattered the literary myth of happy small-town life with satirical precision.

 

Mississippi

The cover of the book The Sound and the FuryThe Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner

In The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner chronicles the decline of the American South through the lens of the Compson family. The Compsons were once Southern aristocracy, but fell to financial ruin throughout the 1920’s. It is arguably Faulkner’s finest novel.

 

Missouri

The cover of the book BettyvilleBettyville

George Hodgman

This remarkable memoir from George Hodgman reads like the most absurd fiction. Hodgman leaves his life in Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri to care for the ailing mother who has never fully accepted his sexuality. It is disarmingly honest, moving, and laugh-out-loud funny.

 

Montana

The cover of the book A River Runs Through ItA River Runs Through It

Norman Maclean

This semi-autobiographical collection of short stories explores Norman Maclean’s childhood in Montana. It is a coming-of-age tale set against the beautiful landscape of Montana, and centers on a father’s reverence for fly-fishing.

 

Nebraska

The cover of the book Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel was an instant classic tale of star-crossed misfit teens. Set over the course of a school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is a knowing look at the power and pitfalls of first love in all its painful glory.

 

Nevada

The cover of the book Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson

There really is nothing quite like Hunter S. Thompson’s drug soaked, surreal, and chaotic chronicle of a long-weekend roadtrip to Vegas. It’s incredibly bizarre and incredibly fun. Thompson’s inimitable prose is just icing on the cake.

 

New Hampshire

The cover of the book The Hotel New HampshireThe Hotel New Hampshire

John Irving

The Hotel New Hampshire is, in many ways, quintessential John Irving – quirky, evocative, and thought-provoking. It centers on the Berry family and the various ordeals they stumble into while opening a series of hotels.

 

New Jersey

The cover of the book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Díaz

Diaz’s stunning debut novel became an instant literary classic. Another Pulitzer Prize winner, the novel pulls together pop culture references, a coming-of-age tale, and bits of magical realism to tell the story of Oscar – a chubby Dominican adolescent who may be victim of a curse that has plagued his family for generations.

 

New Mexico

The cover of the book Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop

Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s novel unfolds with a kind of mythic intensity. The narrative centers on Father Jean Marie Latour, a devout priest sent to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico in 1851.  The novel unfolds over the course of forty years, and charts Latour’s life against the unforgiving landscape and his own loneliness.

 

New York

The cover of the book UP IN THE OLD HOTELUP IN THE OLD HOTEL

Joseph Mitchell

Few works capture the allure of New York City like this collection of Joseph Mitchell’s iconic reporting for The New Yorker. His precise observations and his humor chronicle the bizarre lives of street preachers, freaks, saloon-keepers, and gypsies – it’s a cross-section of New York unlike any other.

 

North Carolina

The cover of the book Cold MountainCold Mountain

Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier’s debut novel is a stirring historical epic. The narrative centers on W.P. Inman, a wounded Confederate deserter who makes the arduous journey back to his home in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, and to the love of his life.

 

North Dakota

The cover of the book The Round HouseThe Round House

Louise Erdrich

This coming-of-age tale centers on a thirteen year old Native American boy seeking revenge after the brutal rape of his mother.  The story is set on an unnamed fictional Ojibwe Indian reservation in North Dakota and is a haunting examination of the effects of oppression, isolation, and violence on a community.

 

Ohio

The cover of the book Winesburg, OhioWinesburg, Ohio

Sherwood Anderson

Winesburg, Ohio was ahead of its time. It presents a series of interconnected narratives of life in a small Ohio town. At the time of its publication, it was startling for its frank and, at times, shocking depictions of everyday life in all its complexities. Writers like Faulkner and Fitzgerald owe a debt to Anderson’s work here.

 

Oklahoma

The cover of the book ParadiseParadise

Toni Morrison

In her inimitable style, Toni Morrison chronicles the tensions and tragedies of a rural, all-black town in Oklahoma. The novel opens with a scene of shocking violence and then unfolds with the sort of grandeur and portent that makes Morrison’s writing so compelling.

 

Oregon

The cover of the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an American classic. Randall Patrick McMurphy is one of modern literature’s most boisterous and enduring characters. It is a ribald and insightful commentary, a parable of good and evil unfolding in the confines of a psychiatric ward, and is as powerful today as on its original publication.

 

Pennsylvania

The cover of the book Rabbit, RunRabbit, Run

John Updike

John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom cycle is among the author’s most celebrated works. Rabbit, Run, the first in the series, follows Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a one-time high school basketball star crushed under the weight of his middle class life, flailing for some deeper purpose.

 

Rhode Island

The cover of the book My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper

Jodi Picoult

Told with Picoult’s trademark flair for emotional turmoil, My Sister’s Keeper is a coming-of-age saga centering on a thirteen year old girl who sues her parents for medical emancipation after her parents attempt to force her to donate a kidney to her dying sister. It is an emotionally complex and thought-provoking read.

 

South Carolina

The cover of the book Bastard out of CarolinaBastard out of Carolina

Dorothy Allison

The publication of Dorothy Alison’s Bastard out of Carolina drew comparisons to Harper Lee and launched Alison into the literary spotlight. This now-classic of rural southern literature centers on Ruth Anne Boatwright, known as Bone, who finds herself on a collision course with her increasingly violent and abusive stepfather.

 

South Dakota

The cover of the book The Personal History of Rachel DuPreeThe Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Ann Weisgarber

Ann Weisgarber’s debut novel offers an insightful and harrowing view into the harsh life of homesteaders at the turn of the century. The novel follows Rachel and Isaac, an African-American couple, struggling to make a life for themselves after claiming a parcel of land in the South Dakota Badlands.

 

Tennessee

The cover of the book A Death in the FamilyA Death in the Family

James Agee

A Death in the Family is a nearly flawless narrative, and possibly James Agee’s finest work. It is an autobiographical novel centering on the tragic death that threatens to consume an entire family. A Death in the Family is among the most powerful examinations of grief in American literature.

 

Texas

The cover of the book Lonesome DoveLonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove is a true Western epic and cemented McMurtry’s literary legacy. The first published novel in the Lonesome Dove series earned a Pulitzer and focuses largely on a group of retired Texas Rangers driving a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.

 

Utah

The cover of the book The Executioner's SongThe Executioner’s Song

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer won a Pulitzer Prize for this sprawling depiction of the events surrounding the execution of Gary Gilmore by the state of Utah. Based almost entirely on interviews with family and friends of both Gilmore and his victims, The Executioner’s Song is an exhaustive examination of the case and its fallout, all told with Mailer’s clear-eyed prose.

 

Vermont

The cover of the book The Secret HistoryThe Secret History

Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s debut novel focuses on a group of classics students at fictional Hampden College in Vermont. Under the sway of a charismatic professor, the students begin to push the boundaries of morality – until tragedy strikes and their lives change forever.

 

Virginia

The cover of the book The Known WorldThe Known World

Edward P. Jones

Set in Virginia during the Antebellum era, The Known World is a potent examination of race and legacy. It tells the story of a young slave who becomes a slave owner, but dies young, leaving his wife to come to terms with the aftermath. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

 

Washington

The cover of the book Snow Falling on CedarsSnow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars is a compelling read – one part whodunit and one part courtroom thriller. It follows the mysterious death of a fisherman on San Piedro Island in Washington. A Japanese American man is charged with the murder, and the ensuing trial unearths both the man’s own haunted past as well as the past sins of the entire community on San Piedro.

 

West Virginia

The cover of the book The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls

This beloved memoir from Jeannette Walls recounts her tumultuous childhood – a large part of which was spent in Welch, WV. Born to an alcoholic, hopelessly optimistic father and an erratic mother, Walls childhood was one of disappointment, tragedy, and joy in near equal measure.

 

Wisconsin

The cover of the book The Deep End Of The OceanThe Deep End Of The Ocean

Jacquelyn Mitchard

Mitchard’s debut novel imagines an ordinary family ripped apart when their youngest son is kidnapped, only to mysteriously return nine years later. The novel charts the mother’s struggles against her own grief and the lengths she goes to hold her tattered family together.

 

Wyoming

The cover of the book Close Range: Wyoming StoriesClose Range: Wyoming Stories

Annie Proulx

This collection of short stories is best known for Prouix’s Brokeback Mountain, but each of the tales – all set against a desolate Wyoming backdrop – are as well drawn and emotionally resonant.

Literary Primer to Intersectionality: 11 Essential Texts for Every Feminist

Intersectionality might be a new concept to some, but for most, it’s an essential feminist tenet. Defined as “what happens when forms of discrimination combine, overlap, and intersect,” the term was coined by civil rights activist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Since then, the concept of intersectionality and the discourse behind it has become pivotal in centering the experiences of underrepresented women within the feminist movement. It’s become a corrective lens to the limited  scope of mainstream feminism and a way to dispel the shadow of the second wave.

Often spotted on Twitter feeds, t-shirts, and yes, even tote bags, intersectionality hasn’t just become a widely celebrated concept, but a buzzword. In attempts to keep the term from being misinterpreted or misused, we’ve crafted a primer of feminist texts that best illustrate what intersectionality means, whose lives it impacts most, and the reason why you should think twice before using the term flippantly.

The cover of the book How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River CollectiveHow We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, celebrates the pioneering voices of the women whose coalition in the 60s and 70s paved the way for Black feminism and women’s liberation today. Comprised of compelling interviews with Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, Alicia Garza, and Barbara Ransby, How We Get Free opens with the Combahee River Collective statement which perfectly sets the historical and ideological context of the collective’s goals and legacy for its audience. Each of the women featured in this book are feminists whose work continues to move the voices of Black women and women of color from the margins. A crucial addition to any feminist’s library, How We Get Free is a testament to why we persist.

 

The cover of the book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorThis Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa

One of the most quintessential feminist anthologies to date, This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, showcases the voices and stories of women of color with an unflinching boldness. A seminal contribution to the birth of the third wave, This Bridge Called My Back uplifts the narratives of those previously excluded by mainstream feminism. Through poetry, first person accounts, critical essays, and illustrations, writers like Donna Kate Rushin, Mitsuye Yamada, Cheryl Clarke, and Genny Lim share their truths seamlessly. Each of their voices ring out with unwavering strength. This is the sort of book you’ll return to again and again, and each time it will give you hope to continue fighting for justice.

 

The cover of the book Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New MillenniumSisterhood Is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for a New Millennium

Robin Morgan

Like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Feminism is for Everybody, Robin Morgan’s trailblazing anthology Sisterhood is Powerful was an essential contribution to feminism’s second wave. In Sisterhood Is Forever, Robin expands on the countless conversations her 1970 anthology fostered while celebrating solidarity’s capacity to transform communities and foster change. Sisterhood Is Forever, as Morgan writes in her introduction, “gleams with the vision of a New World,” a more just world, a world where equal rights isn’t merely a dream, but a reality. This anthology affirms that “feminism is the politics of the twenty-first century.”

 

The cover of the book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of FreedomTeaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

bell hooks

In her essay “Holding My Sister’s Hand: Feminist Solidarity,” the legendary bell hooks articulates why solidarity is vital with the following illuminating words: “We need to examine why we suddenly lose the capacity to exercise skill and care when we confront one another across race and class issues.” Within this essay and throughout her collection, hooks gives readers the vocabulary and praxis required to subvert the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and move towards freedom. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom is the perfect companion text to Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and is a necessary touchstone for activists of all stripes. Its pages push us to “collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries” and to above all “transgress.”

 

The cover of the book Women, Culture, & PoliticsWomen, Culture, & Politics

Angela Y. Davis

In the introduction to Women, Culture & Politics, the iconic Angela Y. Davis writes, “My… work over the last two decades will have been wonderfully worthwhile if it has indeed insisted in some small measure to awaken and encourage… new activism.” This 1990 collection of essays and speeches—much like the rest of her bibliography—will awaken the activist within every reader and sustain them for years to come. As always, her words shake us from our complacency and force us to examine the way our national and personal politics impede progress. Her insights ring as true today as they did decades ago. She confronts us to reckon with the movement’s failures as a way to ensure its future. She reminds us that “the women’s movement cannot afford to repeat its mistakes of the last century or even of the last decade.”

 

The cover of the book Sister OutsiderSister Outsider

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is a required text for all readers. Originally published in ’84, Lorde’s collection of essays and speeches examine the ramifications of patriarchal oppression while challenging the violence of systemic issues like homophobia, classism, and racism. Lorde unapologetically asserts her identity and the way who she is—a Black lesbian mother warrior poet—impacts the way she is treated by others. What makes Sister Outsider such a life-altering read is Lorde’s anger, wisdom, and vulnerability throughout the collection. Her words aren’t fenced in, sanitized, or palatable. There’s no hesitation in the way she shares her experiences. Each sentence is truth in the purest sense of the word. If you’ve already read Sister Outsider, make sure to gift a copy of it to a friend.

 

The cover of the book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual RevolutionHeadscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution

Mona Eltahawy

Social justice activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution doesn’t just reveal the dire need for feminism in the Middle East, it reveals the dire need for feminism everywhere. With fiercely impassioned prose, Eltahawy condemns the patriarchy’s detrimental impact on Middle Eastern politics, religion, and culture. She wields her pen like a warrior swinging a double edged sword, cutting through centuries of silence and misogyny to exalt the stories of women like Huda Shaarawi and Doria Shafik alongside the story of her own feminist awakening. As the Gloria E. Anzaldúa epigraph to her book suggests, Eltahawy is a truthsayer. Her words will spark revolution.

 

The cover of the book Women Who Run with the WolvesWomen Who Run with the Wolves

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD

To say that Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype is an essential read is an understatement. This widely celebrated text is a riveting meditation on the folklore, myths, and fairy tales that reveal the intuitive power that women possess. Whether it be the role of healer or divinator, Estés’ examination of the female psyche honors the Wild Woman‘s, and all women’s, need to be free. With the discernment of a seer and the wisdom of a sage,  Estés’ bestseller is a liberating and life affirming feminist tome.

 

The cover of the book Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist StudiesCritically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

Joanne Barker

Edited by Joanne Barker, Critically Sovereign Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies unearths the impact of colonialism and Western imperialism and feminism’s potential to subvert the patriarchy’s detrimental treatment of Indigenous communities. Each essay uncovers the capacity of feminist ideologies to confront, deconstruct, and heal historic wounds inflicted by the aftermath of colonization. Through a collective of brilliant voices, the essays in this book grapple with the significance of gender, sexuality, and politics with searing wisdom. Critically Sovereign gives readers a reason to hope for a decolonized tomorrow.

 

The cover of the book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much MoreRedefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More

Janet Mock

The debut memoir by New York Times bestseller and award-winning activist Janet Mock recounts her journey towards adulthood and the many lessons she learned while growing up as a trans person of color. With heart wrenching honesty and unflinching courage, Mock recounts the ups and downs that go hand in hand with finding oneself and the moments that taught her how powerful owning the vulnerability of sharing your personal truth can be. She urges readers to ask themselves the same question she reflects upon in the introduction to Redefining Realness: “How do I tell my story authentically without discounting the facets and identities that make me?” Each page offers her audience the answer.

 

The cover of the book Unruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with DisabilitiesUnruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with Disabilities

Susannah B. Mintz

In Susannah B. Mintz’s groundbreaking book, the narratives of women with disabilities take center stage. Far too often overlooked within feminist discourse, Unruly Bodies looks at the lives of writers like Eli Clare, Nancy Mairs, Georgina Kleege, and May Sarton in order to reveal why it is important for the truths of all bodies to be not just celebrated, but documented on the written page. Unruly Bodies proves the importance of “texts [that] ‘talk back’ to dominant cultural paradigms” and the power that can be found in their ability to “work to validate unrecognized categories of identity and experience.” If you consider yourself a feminist, this book should be on your shelf.

10 Horror Books That Prove War is Hell

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Writing horror fiction that revolves around war can be a difficult task. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story centered around warfare itself, situated on its edges, or examining its aftermath: when you’re dealing with real events that have taken countless lives and affected even more, finding the right way to show awareness of the human cost of these events is crucial.

When done well, the addition of horrific elements into stories of warfare can accentuate certain themes, and can magnify the most chilling aspects of war. Here’s a look at ten works of fiction that add a dose of the supernatural into real-life horrors, creating something that blends the visceral power of history with the terror of the uncanny.

The cover of the book Frankenstein in BaghdadFrankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

As its title suggests, Ahmed Saadawi’s novel is set in the city of Baghdad. The year is 2005: American troops occupy the city, suicide bombings punctuate the landscape, and the abuses of the Baathist regime still haunt the memories of many. Into this landscape steps an ominous figure: a man created from the bodies of the dead, who seeks revenge on those who murdered the people whose limbs and organs now comprise him. As he replaces bits of himself, though, his quest for revenge grows murkier, leading the narrative into a complex and haunting place.

 

The cover of the book Blood CrimeBlood Crime

Sebastia Alzamora

The Spanish Civil War has been the backdrop for many tales of the supernatural: Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” both come to mind. Sebastià Alzamora’s novel Blood Crime sets up a morally tense situation from the outset, with different factions circling one another in a besieged town. The presence of a vampire lurking in the shadows ups the tension further, as the narrative moves from the surrealism of war to something akin to a nightmare.

 

The cover of the book She Said DestroyShe Said Destroy

Nadia Bulkin

The aftereffects of war and political unrest abound in the stories contained in Nadia Bulkin’s collection She Said Destroy. Key among them is “Intertropical Convergence Zone,” which draws its inspiration from the thirty-plus years when Hajji Suharto was President of Indonesia. The political crackdowns and repression that characterized his regime are, in this story, turned into something more surreal and ominous — and yet the weight of history gives it an increased power as well.

 

The cover of the book KokoKoko

Peter Straub

Some of Peter Straub’s most unnerving fiction takes readers far into the uncanny; others focus on a more human variety of monster. In Koko, the aftermath of the Vietnam War provides the backdrop for a harrowing story of memory and murder. Its central characters are a group of American veterans, reunited by the horrific actions taken by someone with whom they served. What emerges is a winding tale of shifting identities and secret histories, an unsettling novel with a sprawling scope.

 

The cover of the book The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous GeographiesThe Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

John Langan

The title story of this collection from John Langan blends a host of elements: a story of several friends being stalked by a sinister supernatural figure, with a science-fictional spin on a familiar figure from horror literature thrown in. The fact that this story centers around a group of veterans with PTSD, and that it thematically lines up with its larger themes of perception and violence, gives it an even greater weight.

 

The cover of the book DeathlessDeathless

Catherynne M. Valenti

There’s no shortage of conflict when looking at the history of Russia in the 20th century. In her novel Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente gives this history a supernatural spin, incorporating elements of Russian folklore that accentuate the sinister aspects of totalitarianism under Stalin. Think omnipresent ever-watching beings, immortal entities making sinister bargains, and the moral bargains ordinary people make in order to survive. Here, the presence of the otherworldly is far from escapist.

 

The cover of the book Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red BaronAnno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman

The Bloody Red Baron is one of several novels by Kim Newman set in an alternate timeline blending history from the 19th century onward with characters from the literature of the period. (The title of the first of these, Anno Dracula, might give you a sense of who’s at the center of this.) The Bloody Red Baron reimagines the First World War, leaving the very human horrors in place but adding in a layer of disquieting supernatural menace.

 

The cover of the book Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel

Josh Malerman

The middle of the 20th century found the United States military involved in a number of actions overseas, from combat to covert operations. The novel Black Mad Wheel involves a small group of musicians summoned by the military to investigate a strange sound in the desert. What ensues is an unsettling story about the nature of time and the unanticipated perils of conflict.

 

The cover of the book When the World WoundsWhen the World Wounds

Kiini Ibura Salaam

Conflicts abound in the stories found within Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds, from tales of aliens clashing with the rules of their society to a surreal account of post-Katrina New Orleans. Among the most gripping works in the collection is “Hemmie’s Calenture,” about a woman who escapes from slavery only to find herself caught up in a long-running supernatural conflict set against the backdrop of the War of 1812. Here, questions of power and the human cost of warfare remain in the forefront of the narrative.

 

The cover of the book The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Laird Barron

Laird Barron’s forays into horror rarely shy away from the phantasmagorical or the ominous, but he simultaneously never loses sight of the human scale at which these works play out. That blend of psychological veracity and imaginative terrors makes for deeply compelling reading. The protagonist of the story “The Men From Porlock” has seen unspeakable things in Europe during the First World War; after returning back to the United States, he finds himself witnessing uncanny echoes of that time and glimpses of the impossible.

18 Essential Classics to Read Before You Die

Remember all those books that you were supposed to read in your high school English classes and college lit courses, but never really got around to? It turns out, they really are worth a second look with the fresh eyes of adulthood. After all, there’s a reason certain works become influential classics and serve as the narrative DNA for so many of the novels currently sitting on the bestseller lists and your to-be-read pile. While it may feel daunting, working your way through a classic or two is a particularly rewarding experience. And, let’s be honest, adding a little intellectual vigor to 2018 certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

The cover of the book Little Black Classics Box SetLittle Black Classics Box Set

Various

If one-stop shopping for the classics appeals to you, look no further than this box set. It features eighty books celebrating a wide range of classic literature from drama to poetry, and fiction to history, and includes works from Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad and many others.

 

The cover of the book The OdysseyThe Odyssey

Homer

Sometimes regarded as the first true novel and one of the all-time greatest adventures, this book is one of those classics you were supposed to read in high school, and is well worth revisiting. The Odyssey is a classic saga centering on a man’s fantastical and perilous journey to return to his wife and son.

 

 

The cover of the book Jane Austen: The Complete WorksJane Austen: The Complete Works

Jane Austen

Another piece of one-stop shopping, Jane Austen: The Complete Works is a perfect way to revisit one of the most engaging writers of the eighteenth century – one whose influence is still felt today. Austen was an incisive social critic with truly remarkable, razor-sharp wit and a core of feminism that was well ahead of her time.

 

The cover of the book Madame BovaryMadame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert

As a landmark of realist fiction, Madame Bovary long ago secured a spot as a literary masterpiece. Its portrayal of a housewife growing increasingly desperate to escape the day-to-day tedium of her life spoke deeply to many women of the era when first published in 1857. It is perhaps still far more relevant than it should be.

 

 

The cover of the book War and PeaceWar and Peace

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s epic and sprawling piece of historical fiction is undoubtedly – and infamously – a tremendous undertaking, but it is absolutely a journey worth taking. It is Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus – it features some of the writer’s best work, along with literature’s most deeply human characters. There may also be a few lessons to be gleaned for the tumultuous times we find ourselves in today.

 

The cover of the book The Penguin Book of the UndeadThe Penguin Book of the Undead

Edited by Scott G. Bruce

Suspense and horror seem to be hardwired into our both our collective consciousness and our literary framework. What we think of as the modern ghost story did not really develop until the gothic period of the nineteenth century, but there were forerunners lurking in texts that spanned the Roman Empire, medieval Europe, and the Renaissance. This collection is a perfect introduction to those stories.

 

The cover of the book Les MiserablesLes Miserables

Victor Hugo; Translated with Notes by Christine Donougher

As the basis for perhaps the best musical in history, Les Miserables has long held a prominent footing in popular conception. The novel that underlies it also happens to be Victor Hugo’s best and one of the finest novels of the nineteenth century. Its decades-spanning narrative contemplates deep questions of morality, race, justice, and religion. It also made Jean Valjean one of the most beloved characters in literature.

 

The cover of the book The Complete FablesThe Complete Fables

Aesop

With his oft-witty and sometimes biting vignettes, Aesop created an extraordinary compendium of moral philosophy in a remarkably plain-spoken package. When one considers that characters like the tortoise and the hare have endured since the sixth century, Aesop’s literary achievement becomes all the more astonishing.

 

 

The cover of the book East of EdenEast of Eden

John Steinbeck

While Steinbeck is understandably best known for The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden may be his crowning literary achievement. Written in Steinbeck’s later years, it is a work of Biblical scope and echoes with a sort of timeless mythic power. It centers on two families whose intertwining destinies outline a story of love, loss, betrayal, and brutality.

 

 

The cover of the book The Penguin Book of French PoetryThe Penguin Book of French Poetry

Various

Covering the period of 1820 to 1950, The Penguin Book of French Poetry highlights an era of remarkable transition and evolution. Featuring works by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Breton, and a multitude of others, this collection charts a period of intense innovation and the converging and conflicting styles that underpinned such movements as Romanticism, Surrealism, and Cubism.

 

The cover of the book Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights

Emily Bronte

Published merely a year before Emily Bronte’s untimely death, Wuthering Heights is a classic doomed love story. It is an amalgamation of many genres, although it arguably fits most neatly in the Gothic category. The tormented tale of bitter love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw – and its brutal consequences – is a haunting masterpiece.

 

The cover of the book Little WomenLittle Women

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women has been captivating readers for over a hundred years and stands as a landmark piece of children’s literature – one that transcends that designation and holds appeal for all ages. This tale of the lives of the March sisters and their triumphs and tragedies presented young readers with the world as it was, and as a result, spoke to them in a way few novels do.

 

The cover of the book 19841984

George Orwell

With apologies to Margaret Atwood, 1984 is perhaps the greatest piece of dystopian fiction ever written. Its relentlessly bleak narrative has proven alarmingly prescient since its publication in 1949 – is it really shock that it found itself once again atop the bestseller lists in January of 2017?  Regardless, Orwell’s tale of Newspeak, Big Brother, and Thought Police is a powerful, devastating, and seemingly ever-relevant read.

 

 

The cover of the book The Last of the MohicansThe Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans is one of literature’s great adventure stories. Told from the view of Hawkeye, a frontier scout and Native American, The Last of the Mohicans details the birth, intertwining, and eventual tragedy of Native American and colonial cultures.

 

 

 

6788719The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle

Perhaps the best known and most emulated literary sleuth of all time, Sherlock Holmes is truly in a class of his own. There’s nothing quite like reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original short stories and novels. This collection begins with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was Holmes first appearance following his presumed death in The Final Problem, and features a host of other favorites.

 

The cover of the book The Scarlet PimpernelThe Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the most influential adventures of the early twentieth century and a landmark of young adult literature. It set the standard for a host of “masked avenger” stories that would come after it, including the likes of Zorro, The Green Hornet, and Batman, with its tales of an English fop who dons a mask and becomes a swashbuckling hero by night.

 

The cover of the book Where the Red Fern GrowsWhere the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

If you haven’t had a good cry in a while, it might be time to revisit Where the Red Fern Grows. This powerful children’s novel charts the relationship between a boy and his hounds. However, it’s the precise observation and emotional nuance that sets Where the Red Fern Grows apart from other books.

 

 

The cover of the book Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies

William Golding

What begins as a classic tale of boyhood adventure quickly devolves into a searing examination of cruelty and man’s inherent savagery. Whether viewed as a parable, satire, or political allegory, the power of William Golding’s story of a group of stranded boys struggling to survive and ultimately devolving to their baser instincts is as powerful today as it was on its initial publication, and may offer some unsettling insights into the rampant tribalism so prevalent in today’s political landscape.

9 Mystery and Thriller Books to Get You Hooked on the Rest of the Series

While there’s a lot to be said for digging into the intricacies of a good series – the overlapping storylines, the ongoing plot threads, the multi-arc character development – it can sometimes be difficult to find a good jumping-on point. This is particularly true for long-running series. Fortunately, there are several series structured to give you the opportunity to dive in wherever you’d like, and as a matter of fact, we have a few in mind. The novels below are all part of often much larger series, but nonetheless stand up well on their own. And while they can certainly be read as one-offs, there’s a pretty good chance one (or several) might become your new literary obsession.

The cover of the book Double TakeDouble Take

Catherine Coulter

Part of Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thrillers series, Double Take sees husband-and-wife FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock caught up in a pair of seemingly disparate cases: One involving the attempted murder of a dead psychic’s wife and the other the missing wife of a Virginia sheriff. These cases, and the threads that connect them, pull Savich and Sherlock deep into a world of psychic visions, communications with the dead, and dangerous connections.

 

The cover of the book The Cold DishThe Cold Dish

Craig Johnson

With “Longmire” heading into its sixth and final season on Netflix, now is as good a time as any to dig into the source material. The Cold Dish introduces fans to Walt Longmire, a widower and dedicated sheriff investigating the murder of a young man who two years prior had been involved in the rape of a local Cheyenne girl.

 

The cover of the book Royal FlushRoyal Flush

Rhys Bowen

The third entry in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mystery series is an excellent spot to dive into the world of Lady Georgiana, a clever amateur sleuth and member of the British Royal Family. Royal Flush sees the aristocratic detective working at the behest of the Queen Mary to save the Prince of Wales from two particularly determined, if very different, hunters.

 

The cover of the book MysteriesMysteries

Knut Hamsun

While not technically part of a series, Mysteries is, in many ways, a perfect introduction and distillation of the complex themes – man’s relationship to the natural world, biblical allegories, etc. – that served as a common thread throughout the celebrated works of Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun. Mysteries centers on Christ-like stranger who suddenly appears in a small Norwegian town, but is perhaps more sinister than he initially seems.

 

The cover of the book MysteryMystery

Peter Straub

Part of Peter Straub’s loosely connected Blue Rose Trilogy, Mystery nonetheless stands well on its own. The novel follows Toma Pasmore, a young boy who survives a near fatal accident, and an elderly man named Lamont von Heilitz, a once-celebrated detective. The two are drawn together to investigate an unsolved murder with implications far darker than either could anticipate.

 

The cover of the book Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Set amid the air-raid sirens and constant threat of bombings of 1940’s London, Maggie Hope, despite graduating at the top of her class, finds herself as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Fortunately, her remarkable gift for code-breaking and unparalleled intellect will place her front and center of a murderous plot aimed at newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

 

The cover of the book The Queen's AccompliceThe Queen’s Accomplice

Susan Elia MacNeal

Yes, we’ve got two Maggie Hope mysteries on this list; that’s just how much we love her. You can begin the Maggie Hope series with the above, or jump right into the thick of it with this one. The Queen’s Accomplice sees resourceful code-breaker and spy Maggie Hope dueling with a serial killer in the Blitz-weary London of 1942. A killer has been systematically attacking the women serving as spies and saboteurs of MI-5 in eerie recreations of the crimes of Jack The Ripper. At first assigned to find the murderer, Maggie soon finds herself squarely in the killer’s sights.

 

The cover of the book Murder in the Secret GardenMurder in the Secret Garden

Ellery Adams

In this third title in the A Book Retreat Mystery series, hotel manager and amateur detective Jane Steward is drawn into a murder mystery at her book-themed resort, Storyton Hall. When a member of an herbalist society is found dead in Storyton’s Secret Garden-themed garden, it’s up to Steward to figure out which of the society’s members committed the murder.

 

The cover of the book The Doll's HouseThe Doll’s House

M. J. Arlidge

With The Doll’s House, troubled detective Helen Grace finds herself on the trail of a calculating and very deadly serial killer. The body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach. The kicker? The woman has been dead for years but no one even so much reported her missing. After all, the woman continues to send text messages to her family. With that, Grace is drawn into an intricate world of a deadly criminal mastermind and time is running short for the killer’s next victim.

Broaden Your Horizons: 11 Best Books on Theology to Read Now

Photo by Jasper Boer on Unsplash

Faith has changed the world. That is undeniable.

The impact of faith, however, is up for debate. Organized religion has had many positive effects on society, and also many negative ones. It’s hard to know how to feel about something that has caused devastation, while also spreading messages of love and peace. Widespread corruption, misconception, and discrimination have tainted the sanctity of religion for many around the world, making it easy to forget the virtue of having faith.

It’s interesting to see how faith has deeply affected so many lives, and how it continues to shape the world we share. Whatever your beliefs may be, check out the books on theology below to expand your knowledge and broaden your horizons – they’re positive and enlightening, regardless of your personal opinion on the matter.

The cover of the book Martin LutherMartin Luther

Lyndal Roper

In this stunning biography, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of Martin Luther: the man behind the Ninety-five Theses, which contained ideas that boldly challenged the Catholic Church, and spread like wildfire. Roper looks beneath the surface of Martin Luther’s story to uncover who he really was and paint a full portrait of his complex personality, without shying away from his flaws.

 

The cover of the book Daring to HopeDaring to Hope

Katie Davis Majors; Foreword by Ann Voskamp

When Katie Davis Majors moved to Uganda, she had no idea that she would start a widely successful organization, or become the adoptive mother of thirteen girls. But when she began to invest herself in the new world around her, she fell in love with the people she met, and found herself a family. After an unexpected tragedy, Katie began to question the existence of God. In her doubt, God spoke to her heart and strengthened her belief. This book serves as a reminder that after even the darkest of times, there’s always light.

 

The cover of the book GodGod

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zealot, takes readers on a journey through the history of religion, and explores our understanding of the divine. Aslan argues that since the beginning of time, we have humanized God, and made God the central figure of nearly every religion. Aslan seeks to understand why we have this desire to humanize, with the goal of developing a universal spirituality. Whatever your beliefs may be, God: A Human History will challenge the way you think and help you to examine the role of divinity in our everyday lives.

 

The cover of the book What the Qur'an MeantWhat the Qur’an Meant

Garry Wills

In What the Qur’an Meant, Wills embarks on a journey to understand the meaning of the Qur’an, leading readers through perplexing passages with incredible insight. He compares the Qur’an with other sacred books, like the Old Testament and the New Testament, to demonstrate the similarities between them, and to dispel inaccurate beliefs. What the Qur’an Meant is the start of an important conversation that needs to be had, especially in today’s world.

 

The cover of the book Mother of the Unseen WorldMother of the Unseen World

Mark Matousek

In this moving book, Mark Matousek documents his exploration of spirituality through his encounters with Mother Meera, who is believed by her devotees to be an embodiment of the Divine Mother. Mark was a nonbeliever until he met Mother Meera in 1985, but in her presence, he experienced miraculous events that changed his perspective. Mark seeks to understand who Mother Meera is, and answer the long-asked question: is divine incarnation possible?

 

The cover of the book Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of ReligionEvolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion

E. Fuller Torrey

There has been a long-standing belief that a God, or several gods, created humankind. Atheist, humanist, and materialist critics argue that religion is a human invention, and therefore, was not responsible for the origin of humanity. In this book, E. Fuller Torrey draws on modern neuroscience research to propose a startling theory, arguing that religious belief is a by-product of evolution.

 

The cover of the book WhisperWhisper

Mark Batterson

From the bestselling author of Circle Maker comes a new book that teaches people how to listen to God. Mark Batterson seeks to introduce readers to the seven love languages of God – Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain – and help them to decipher each language. Mark argues that doing this will help you to follow God in everything you do, and help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

 

The cover of the book God's Wisdom for Navigating LifeGod’s Wisdom for Navigating Life

Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller uses the Book of Proverbs – God’s book of wisdom – to teach readers what it really means to lead a Christian life. Timothy offers inspiring lessons for every day of the year, and provides a deeper understanding of morality. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life is a book that readers will be able to turn to every single day for help and encouragement, whenever they need it.

 

The cover of the book The Buddha before BuddhismThe Buddha before Buddhism

Gil Fronsdal

The Aṭṭhakavagga, or “Book of Eights,” is believed by scholars to be among the earliest of written Buddhist texts. It reveals the key aspects of Buddhism, along with the Buddha’s simple teachings, free of corruption or complication. Gil Fronsdal’s translation and commentary reveal the text’s ultimate lesson: Joy comes from recognizing and letting go of the material things that create suffering.

 

The cover of the book Higher Is WaitingHigher Is Waiting

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry – actor, producer, director, philanthropist, and the creator of Madea –  shares his life experiences in Higher is Waiting to inspire readers to climb higher in their own lives through faith. Perry writes about how his faith in God has helped him in hard times, humbled him in times of success, and enriched his life. Perry’s dreams, achievements, and aspirations are all centered on his unrelenting faith, which is something he wants to share with every reader around the world.

 

The cover of the book 7 Lessons from Heaven7 Lessons from Heaven

Mary C. Neal, M.D.

In this New York Times bestseller, Dr. Mary Neal shares never-before-seen stories about her personal encounters with Jesus after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Dr. Mary Neal experienced a fatal kayaking accident in 1999, and what happened next is truly surreal – Dr. Mary Neal says that she went to heaven, and came back. This book explores how the knowledge of heaven has changed Mary’s life, and offers insight on how we can experience God every day.

The Cosmic Perspective: 10 Stirring Quotes By Carl Sagan

Image © Shutterstock

In trying times, it helps to step several feet back — or several light years — and remember the relative size of this stage our entire lives play out on. Carl Sagan was a huge help in this regard, relating 20th century scientific discoveries in a tone both poetic and humorous, unlocking the public’s understanding of the vastness of our cosmos.

Image result for carl saganThough he departed our world back in ’96, Sagan left behind an impressive canon of works exploring science, spirituality, and the mysteries of human existence. If you’re looking for answers, he may have them, and if you’re looking for even bigger questions… well, you’re about to hit the mother lode. The following quotes represent just a tiny slice of Sagan’s wit and wisdom, but still enough to help turn down the volume on all the lamenting and sabre-rattling from fellow Earthlings that constantly threatens to overwhelm us.

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Cosmos, 1980

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

Contact, 1985

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, 1997

“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.”

Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, 1979

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search For Who We Are, 1992

“Nature is unsentimental. Death is built in.”

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God, 2006

“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

“Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate–with the best teachers–the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses. Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.”

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

By