10 Traveler’s Tales of Magic, Terror, and Adventure

Will you be taking a vacation this summer? No? Well, we’ve got the next best thing. Enjoy these ten traveler’s tales of magic, terror, and adventure.

The cover of the book Moontide and Magic RiseMoontide and Magic Rise

SEAN RUSSELL

Magic is very nearly a thing of the past, and what is left of it is being rapidly replaced by science. Tristram Flattery is a naturalist, a practitioner of this new and modern discipline. When the ailing king summons Flattery to his court to nurse a dying plant to health — a plant with what appears to be magical properties — Flattery sets out on a grand voyage of discovery: one that will usher him into a conflict that will determine the course of civilization.

 

The cover of the book The Grand EllipseThe Grand Ellipse

PAULA VOLSKY

The republic of Vonahr is locked into a bitter battle to the death with a fanatical invading army, and their only hope of survival lies with Sentient Fire: a fire that follows the commands of its wielder. Unfortunately, the invention is in the hands of the king of Low Hetz: an eccentric leader intent on keeping his nation out of the conflict. Desperate, Vonahr sends an agent to change his mind. First she’ll have to gain an audience with him, though, and the only way to do that will be to win the Grand Ellipse: a grand journey that will test her strength, endurance, and ability to think on her feet.

 

The cover of the book The OdysseyThe Odyssey

HOMER

The story of a warrior’s long journey home, The Odyssey is the world’s greatest tale of travel and adventure. Follow Odysseus as he bests witches, gods, and magical monsters alike on an epic quest to find his way home and into the arms of the wife he left behind.

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

CORMAC MCCARTHY

The Earth is dying, burned to cinders and plunged into perpetual winter by an unknown catastrophic event. With nothing but a pistol and a little food, a father and son set out on a journey to the coast. Cannibals and thieves, choking ash, and aching cold stand in their way, but the light of civilization must be maintained.

 

The cover of the book Invisible CitiesInvisible Cities

ITALO CALVINO

Marco Polo regales the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with the tale of his travels to the great cities of the Khan’s empire. These are more than simple urban centers, though: The cities of Polo’s stories are tied inextricably to life’s greatest mysteries: death, desire, memory, and more.

 

The cover of the book A Natural History of DragonsA Natural History of Dragons

MARIE BRENNAN

Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon scholar, set out on an epic journey to the mountains of Vystrana to learn all she could about these magnificent creatures. This is her journal. Follow Isabella as she risks life and limb on a journey into dangerous dragon territory.

 

The cover of the book The Land AcrossThe Land Across

GENE WOLFE

A visit to a small Eastern European country turns into an absurdist nightmare for an American travel writer named Grafton. His passport confiscated, Grafton becomes a prisoner of bureaucratic, corrupt, and possibly supernatural forces. Is Grafton simply an innocent victim of a Kafkaesque conspiracy, or is there a very good reason for his detainment?

 

The cover of the book Move Under GroundMove Under Ground

NICK MAMATAS

Jack Kerouac is at the very tail-end of his career, washed-up and drunk in Big Sur when he learns that the city of R’lyeh is rising from the sea, and with it the ancient god Cthulhu. Shaken, Kerouac and his crew of writers and poets set out on a cross-country trip to stave off the Old Ones and save humanity — at least for a little while.

 

The cover of the book InfernoInferno

LARRY NIVEN AND JERRY POURNELLE

Newly deceased science fiction author Allen Carpentier has been sentenced to Hell, but he’s determined not to stay there. With the help of a mysterious guide named Bennie, Carpentier sets out on a journey into the underworld to meet Satan himself. Along the way, they’ll meet some of history’s greatest sinners and witness the tortures devised for them. If he’s lucky, Carpentier won’t join their ranks.

 

The cover of the book American GodsAmerican Gods

NEIL GAIMAN

A newly released con named Shadow accepts a job with a mysterious trickster named Mr. Wednesday. Now his bodyguard and driver, Shadow learns that a war is underway between the old gods of myth and the new ones of the modern era.

So You Want to Read Literary Horror: Here’s Where to Start

Horror, as a genre, has a tendency to get a bit of a bad rap outside of its rather ardent fan base, despite the fact that more than a few literary icons made their bones on the backs of some truly spine-tingling tales (Ray Bradbury, anyone?). There has long been a strong relationship between literary fiction and the horror genre – the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde can attest to that. While violence and gore and things that more traditionally go bump in the night certainly have their place, so too do well-crafted sentences and deeper philosophical underpinnings. Over the last decade or so, there has somewhat quietly been a resurgence in literary horror as immensely talented writers pick up the genre trappings of horror, tear them apart and fuse them back together into wholly original and truly unsettling creations. Writers like China Mieville, Brian Evenson, and Jeff VanderMeer are following the footsteps of Bradbury, Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson and creating some stunningly imaginative and extraordinarily unsettling prose. Here are a few of our (relatively) recent favorites.

The cover of the book House of LeavesHouse of Leaves

MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

If you haven’t read House of Leaves, go grab a copy now. We’re happy to wait, it’s just that good. I’m pretty confident saying this literary head-spinner is unlike any other novel you’ve read. Part epistolary novel, part haunted house thriller, with a bit of weird fiction thrown in for good measure – House of Leaves is a difficult book to pin down or describe. It’s a narrative as twisting (literally) and expansive as the house it chronicles.

 

The cover of the book White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching

HELEN OYEYEMI

The fairy tale form is built on a dark undercurrent that, in many ways, is the perfect foundation for horror. That’s something that Helen Oyeyemi illustrates with terrifying brilliance in White is for Witching. The story centers on the Silver family, specifically the four generations of Silver women who have lived in the family home. When her mother passes, Lily, the latest in the family line, begins experiencing strange ailments and soon the Silver house itself begins to manifest malevolent intent. It is at once a dread-inducing mystery and powerful examination of race and family legacy.

 

The cover of the book The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char

SCOTT HAWKINS

Literary horror is at its best when writers play with readers’ expectations to create something that is at once familiar enough but also wildly original. Scott Hawkins draws from a wide range of influences for The Library at Mount Char – there are hints of Gaiman, a bit of Lovecraft, a little King. Hawkins takes inspiration before proceeding to tear it all to shreds and glue the pieces back together into something truly original, grotesque, and oddly beautiful.

 

The cover of the book A Head Full of GhostsA Head Full of Ghosts

PAUL TREMBLAY

A Head Full of Ghosts owes a nod to The Haunting of Hill House and The Exorcist for its slow-burn, constantly-shifting narrative. The novel centers on a suburban New England family coming to grips with a fourteen year old daughter who’s suddenly showing signs of schizophrenia – or so they hope. What follows is a novel that riffs on unreliable narration, reality TV, and familial tragedies in ways that are both unexpected and truly unsettling.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

With The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters reinvigorated Gothic fiction in a way that would’ve made Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe proud. Part haunted house horror, part unreliable narration, and part social critique, The Little Stranger is a deeply unsettling descent into madness and dread within the walls of a crumbling Georgian Mansion where a malevolent presence may or may not be lurking.

 

The cover of the book Mr. ShiversMr. Shivers

ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

Mr. Shivers reads like the literary love child of China Mieville and John Steinbeck. It’s The Grapes of Wrath by way of Lovecraft. Bennett’s tale of a father on the trail of the possibly otherworldly killer who murdered his daughter is a slow-burn piece of dread-fueled Americana. Robert Jackson Bennett has quietly positioned himself as one of the more talented voices in the New Weird genre, and Mr. Shivers remains among his best work.

 

The cover of the book The HikeThe Hike

DREW MAGARY

Weird fiction and literary horror have long been comfortable bedfellows, and novels don’t get much weirder than Drew Magary’s The Hike. In this tale of a hike in rural Pennsylvania gone terribly wrong, Magary manages to infuse his pop culture references and classic folklore tropes with a nearly suffocating sense of existential dread.

 

The cover of the book DarkansasDarkansas

JARRET MIDDLETON

Jarret Middleton’s Darkansas is a novel that begins as an examination of familial strife and quickly progresses to one of preternatural dangers lurking just beyond the page and a century-old curse at its center. The story centers on itinerant musician who is his family’s black sheep. Unfortunately, any hope of reconciliation may have been doomed decades before he was born. It’s a dark, twisting page-turner with hints of Southern gothic lurking around the corners of its horror tinged sense of dread and juxtaposes its gritty reality against a mounting sense of surrealistic terror.

 

The cover of the book ThreatsThreats

AMELIA GRAY

“CURL UP ON MY LAP. LET ME BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH MY FINGERS. I AM SINGING YOU A LULLABY. I AM TESTING FOR STRUCTURAL WEAKNESS IN YOUR SKULL.” Imagine you’ve just lost your spouse and you suddenly begin finding messages like those above hidden throughout your home: that’s the disturbing premise for Amelia Gray’s wholly unnerving examination of death, grief, and memory. The novel follows David, a man attempting to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death against his increasingly unreliable recollections and a world that no longer makes sense.

 

The cover of the book A Collapse of HorsesA Collapse of Horses

BRIAN EVENSON

Brian Evenson is the sort of writer who simply knows how to get under a reader’s skin. A Collapse of Horses is a short story collection that grapples with some big existential questions on reality and perception while simultaneously veering into the sort of grotesquerie that will leave you haunted long after you finish the last tale.

The Best Science Books of Spring 2018

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

It’s spring, and the East Coast is finally emerging from the deep freeze that was this extended winter. But spring also means a new quarter and a new batch of science books that are waiting to be read. It was hard to narrow it down for April, May, and June because there are a lot of great books coming out. This quarter’s picks range from memoir to investigations to a hunt across the world to save rare plants from the hands of humans.

The cover of the book Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal FlatulenceDoes It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence

DANI RABAIOTTI AND NICK CARUSO

Arrived April 3

If you’ve ever looked at an animal and thought to yourself, “I wonder whether those fart,” then this is a book you need. This is a fully illustrated guide to which animals fart (and which don’t) that is sure to delight readers of all ages. You’ll be pleased to know that sea cucumbers do not, in fact, fart, but the Lomamyia latipennis species of beaded lacewing do. And theirs are a doozy: Not only do they fart, but they actually use their flatulence to stun and kill prey.

 

The cover of the book Rocket MenRocket Men

ROBERT KURSON

Arrived April 3

The story of Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon, is certainly an exciting tale. But it was neither our first crewed mission to our natural satellite, nor was it the riskiest mission of the Apollo program. Both of those honors go to Apollo 8, the daring flight that took three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — around the Moon on the just the second Apollo mission to lift off. It’s an incredible story, and it’s nice that it’s coming back into public consciousness for a younger generation, as this year is the 50th anniversary of the incredible feat.

 

The cover of the book The Plant MessiahThe Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species

CARLOS MAGDALENA

Arrived April 10

This isn’t just a book about a man’s search for the most unique plants; it’s a tale of saving them. Carlos Magdalena travels the world to find the rarest species of plants and protects them. He works against the interests of wealthy collectors who hire people to track down rare plants for their private collections and works to save these plants from ecological destruction. It’s as much a memoir of traveling to fantastical places to do daring work as it is a science book, and it sounds incredibly exciting.

 

The cover of the book The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free WillThe Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will

KENNETH R. MILLER

Arrived April 17

Where did our reason and free will come from? What about our human consciousness? That’s what Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, seeks to tackle in this book. Some theories of evolution make it seem as though these incredibly special traits are mere byproducts of evolution. But that’s not Miller’s take; he thinks we are special beings, not like any other in the universe. It’s certainly an interesting, optimistic view, but one that’s welcome in the difficult times that we live in.

 

The cover of the book Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting NorthBrave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North

MARK C. SERREZE

Arrived April 17

We know the Arctic is melting and that it will have consequences that scientists are just now beginning to understand (and others that we can’t even predict). But how did we make this shocking discovery? That’s what Mark Serreze, the Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, recounts in this book. Framed as a science adventure story, it tells the story of this new era of Arctic exploration, one in which the landscape is disappearing altogether.

 

The cover of the book The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost WorldThe Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World

STEVE BRUSATTE

Arrived April 24

Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Given the success of the Jurassic Park franchise, it’s clear that our fascination with these weird feathered reptile birds of old hasn’t diminished. Now, paleontologist Stephen Brusatte presents a narrative history of these giant creatures that spans over 200 million years, telling the full story of how dinosaurs lived — and how they died. He traces their full evolution, starting at these creatures came to be, and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through scientific history.

 

The cover of the book Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to PlutoChasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

ALAN STERN AND DAVID GRINSPOON

Arrived May 1

Pluto, our friendly neighborhood dwarf planet, may have been discovered back in 1930, but it’s only in the last few years we’ve sent a spacecraft to this distant, icy world. New Horizons arrived at the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. It was just a quick flyby, but it taught us amazing things about Pluto in the short time it was there. Now, New Horizons is continuing its journey beyond Pluto, and this new book tells the story of how this amazing mission came to be.

 

The cover of the book Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and WhyHappy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

DEAN BURNETT

Arrived May 29

It seems like a simple question: Where does happiness come from? The answer, though, is infinitely complex. What does happiness even mean? And how might a neuroscientist approach it from a science perspective? In this book, Dean Burnett explores the origins of happiness and how they affect the brain. It’s certainly an interesting exploration of something so intangible, that can seem so easy yet so elusive at the same time.

 

The cover of the book She Has Her Mother's LaughShe Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

CARL ZIMMER

Arrived May 29

What do we pass on to our children? What did we inherit from our parents? This book tries to answer those questions and look at heredity in an entirely new way. What we take from our genes is certainly important, but New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer argues there are other things we should consider as well. He proposes a larger view of the concept of heredity, discussing the latest scientific research but also his own experiences with his two daughters.

 

The cover of the book What the Eyes Don't SeeWhat the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

MONA HANNA-ATTISHA

Arriving June 19

It may seem strange that a book about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, would make a list of science books, but if you think about it, it makes sense. So much of science can seem abstract (even when it’s not), but this is a case where the science of the matter directly affects human lives. It’s the story of how one doctor and her dedicated team uncovered the crisis, proving that the water in Flint had lead in it, and detailing how the government failed the people of this Michigan city.

 

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Loved A Quiet Place? Here’s What To Read Next

Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place (2018). Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer © 2017 Paramount Pictures

Being alone in the dark, unable to make a sound, unseen creatures waiting to attack – these are some of humanity’s most primal fears, fears that lurk deep within us all. These sorts of fears, and the anxieties they pry from us, have long been fertile ground for horror and thrillers across all mediums. “A Quiet Place” is set to arrive in theaters on April 6th, telling the story of a family surviving in total silence out of fear of unseen creatures who hunt purely by sound, so naturally these sorts of deep-down fears are firmly on our minds. While there’s undoubtedly something special in catching a great horror film on the big screen in a dark theater, nothing quite compares to the chill that comes from curling up with a terrifying read. Fortunately, there are an abundance of frightening and unnerving reads to scratch this particular itch – silently, of course.

 

The cover of the book Bird BoxBird Box

Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman’s debut novel is an unrelenting excursion into suspense and tension. Set in apocalyptic near-future, Malerman imagines a world beset by mysterious creatures who drive anyone who catches even a glimpse of them into a volatile and deadly mania. Malorie and her young children, who were born after the creatures appeared and have been trained to navigate the world under blindfolds, set off on journey downriver to what they hope is a safe haven. But something is stalking their every move.

And if this sounds like your cup of tea, good news – a Netflix adaptation of Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock is due out later this year.

 

The cover of the book BlindnessBlindness

José Saramago

Blindness is among José Saramago’s finest novels and was cited by the Nobel Committee when Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. The novel follow seven strangers stuck in an epidemic of blindness. As the city around them descends into chaos and becomes more and more dangerous, a woman who has miraculously retained her sight attempts to lead the group to safety and keep them alive. It is a haunting parable of loss and man’s capacity for violence and degradation.

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

Cormac Mccarthy

Cormac McCarthy took home a Pulitzer Prize for The Road, which centers on an unnamed father and son making their way across a an America devastated by an unexplained apocalyptic event. Their bleak and harrowing journey is both shockingly violent and unexpectedly hopeful. It is an unflinching meditation on man’s capacity for brutality as well powerful love between a parent and child.

 

The cover of the book The SilenceThe Silence

Tim Lebbon

They are blind and hunt purely by sound, twisted creatures that emerge from an underground cave system to feed, tracking their prey by the slightest sound. A young girl and her family watch the news in horror as the creatures lay waste to mainland Europe. When the creatures begin to appear in the UK, the girl – who has been deaf for most of her life – set out for a safe haven, hoping silence will shield them from the terrifying creatures.

 

The cover of the book The FiremanThe Fireman

Joe Hill

Beginning in the early days of a devastating global pandemic, The Fireman centers around the journey of a nurse named Harper Grayson. A deadly spore causes its victims to break out in beautiful gold markings and eventually spontaneously combust. When Harper spots the gold markings on her arms, her only goal is to survive long enough to give birth to her child, but as she struggles for survival she soon discovers there is far more to the outbreak than she ever could have imagined – and that perhaps it isn’t the death sentence she thought it was.

 

The cover of the book The TroopThe Troop

Nick Cutter

It’s Lord of the Flies meets an apocalyptic contagion! I’m not really sure I need to say more than that, but here goes: Nick Cutter’s novel centers on a scout troop’s annual weekend camping trip to an island in the Canadian wilderness. What begins as a reliably fun experience quickly deteriorates into an exercise in survival and terror when an emaciated, pale, and disturbingly hungry stranger wanders into the group’s camp.

 

The cover of the book HexHex

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Black Spring is a seemingly picturesque community harboring one unsettling secret – the streets are haunted by seventeenth century woman whose eyes and month are sewn shut. Known as the Black Spring Witch, she enters homes at will and menaces townsfolk as they sleep in their beds. The town elders have kept the town effectively quarantined to keep their secret and keep the curse from spreading, but when a group of teenagers break the long-established traditions, the town descends into chaos and darkness.

 

The cover of the book The Beast of BarcroftThe Beast of Barcroft

Bill Schweigart

Barcroft is like any other well-to-do commuter suburb, except for one major difference – a ferocious creature is stalking the community. Ben McKelvie bought a house in Barcroft with his fiancée before everything fell apart. Now he’s square in the sights of the otherworldly creature, and he needs help. Now.

 

The cover of the book Wytches Vol. 1Wytches Vol. 1

Scott Snyder & Jock

The Rooks moved to the remote community of Litchfield, NH, hoping to find relief and a safe haven from their family’s recent traumas. Unfortunately, Litchfield harbors a dark secret stretching back generations. An ancient and hungry power lurks in the forest just beyond the town, and it’s watching the Rooks.

 

The cover of the book WatchersWatchers

Dean Koontz

On a hike through the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Travis Cornell runs across a disheveled golden retriever. Soon he and the remarkably intelligent dog are on a run for their lives from an unseen and terrifying creature intent on destroying the dog and anyone who gets in its way.