June 21: Bookish Wishes (List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you.)
But I’m on a book buying ban until I read some of what’s on my shelves (I’m not, however, on a book borrowing ban, so the library is fair game…) and I don’t really feel comfortable with this. So I decided to tweak it a little and make it the 10 books I hope to read next (time, life and work permitting) A lot of these are books I have, I just have to get to…
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – I read this years ago, but my book club is doing it next month, so I’m going to try to give it a reread at some point soon.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I’ve had this on my TBR for years. When I was trying to think of things for my Future Classics list I did a bit of googling to get ideas, and I saw a number of lists with this on it, so I think it’s time for me to tackle it.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now. I’ve heard it’s best when you’re in the mood for something very atmospheric though, which I haven’t bee lately but hope to be soon.
A Spell of Rowans by Byrd Nash – I’ve been meaning to read more by indie authors, but as usual, so many books, so little time! I do hope to get to this soon though, because I’ve heard good things.
The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier– This was a long ago gift from my Aussie book buddy. Actually she got it for me last year, and got the sequel for me this year, but I still haven’t read this one (*hangs head in shame*) I love Marillier but I keep getting sidetracked!
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – This is one of a few long (700+ pages) books that are taking up shelf space. I used to dive right into hefty tomes, but in my old age I’ve gotten more hesitant. I’ll reach for one and then think: “I’ll get to that later, this other book looks like something I’ll finish in a day or two…”
Rather than adding new books to my (already too long) TBR, I’m just sharing the next 10 books I plan to read. The order might change depending on my mood:
The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson– My book club does one week each month where we select genres and all read our choice of book from them. Next month we’re doing Middle Grade books, and I’ve had this book by one of my faves, sitting on my shelf for quite a while.
Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth– This was a gift from my Aussie book buddy. It’s by Kate Forsyth who is one of my favorite authors of fairy tale influenced fiction. This is an older work of hers. It’s a bit different from her retellings (I think the fairy tale is more of an influence here), but I’m looking forward to it.
Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf, and it feels like something I’m sort of in the mood for. It looks like a sort of “dark side of suburbia, everyone has secrets” kind of read.
The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp – Another one that’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. I keep saying to myself “I’ll read this next,” and then picking up something else. I really do what to read it though!
The Herd by Andrea Bartz– My book club had a book swap over the summer and I picked this one up. I’ve heard good things about it recently, so I’ll give it a try.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides- This has lived on my shelf for a looong time. I never seem to get to it. But I will. I will! One of my resolutions this year was to finally read some of those books that have been sitting there gathering dust.
February 15: Books Too Good to Review Properly (I have no words!) (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)
But I don’t know if I can think of any books that fit that description, so I’m doing books that were pleasant surprises. Often I read a book because I’ve heard good things about it, or because I like the author. But in these cases they were just good books that I happened to find.
Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor– I’d never read anything by Taylor before, but I came across this brief, poignant novel about grief and guilt in the library one day. It made me check out some of her other books as soon as I could.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors– This was a library find that’s probably not for everyone. Plot wise, not much happens. It’s more of a character study of Sonja, a single 40 something living in Copenhagen. Maybe one reason I liked it so much was my total lack of expectations, or maybe it was because something about the character’s experiences and anxieties rang true for me.
Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty- I’m often amazed at how books find us exactly when we need them. I found this one while browsing at the library and picked it up because love Jaclyn Moriarty’s work as a children’s and YA author. But 50 pages in to this book, I was ready to put it down. I read some great reviews of it online though that encouraged me to stick with it and I’m glad I did.
The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins -Yet another library find. This psychological thriller starts off in a way that seems slow but the stakes escalate to the point where it’s hard to put down.
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski – This is a novel I came across in a used bookshop. I actually bought it thinking it looked like nonfiction, and then discovered it was a novel when I started reading it. For one thing the author names the main character after himself. For another, he creates a fictional tribe and gets so deep into the details of their lives that it feels almost like a study at times! But it’s not boring at all. It makes for a very compelling mystery, with an interesting setting and some meta elements.
The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons – I’d read some of this author’s previous work, and had mixed results with it. I’ve liked some a lot and others not much at all. My expectations for this were lower because it got a lot of bad reviews from the author’s fans. So imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying it a lot!
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – I’d read one of Lisa Jewell’s earlier books years ago, and found it just so-so. I never really paid much attention to her after that. That was my mistake: in the intervening years she switched genres and apparently found her stride with mystery/thrillers.
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson– I came across this one day last year when I was home sick for a few days. I was feeling pretty lousy and was browsing through my library’s ebook offerings, when I came across this one. I went for it, figuring it looked silly and diverting. It was just what the doctor ordered.
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz– One of the advantages of apartment living is that every so often someone has a clear out and leaves old books up for grabs in the stairwell. That’s how I found this one. It’s a fun meta-murder mystery that sets up a series.
I’m posting it a bit late today, but here is The Official List:
1. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl-This is a book that requires a bit of explanation. Beatrice’s boyfriend died, just before their high school graduation. The death was a presumed suicide. A year later, she reunites with her high school friends, and they spend an evening out. On their way home they have a car accident. They soon learn that they are in “Neverworld Wake” following the accident; a kind of limbo in which they will relive the day of the accident again and again. Only one of them will survive the accident and they must have a unanimous vote on who that will be. It soon becomes clear that in order to make this decision, they must learn the truth about Beatrice’s boyfriend’s death the year before. They began to investigate from inside “the wake.” But they quickly realize that they’re all hiding something about the night he died… This book combines Sci-fi/Fantasy with an Agatha Christie-eque murder mystery. It’s a mash up that works surprisingly well.
2. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She’s solar powered and therefore sees the sun as a deity. She watches from her place in the store as customers come in to browse. Eventually she’s chosen an moves to her new home. She movies in with teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, and suffers from a mysterious illness. It’s hard to explain this book, since it’s sort of a fable. It’s about humanity and friendship and faith.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I’m actually not sure how to explain this one, because I think it’s the kind of book that’s better the less you know going in to it. Suffice it to say that it’s a fun hybrid of genres including adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Also, it’s about Doors (yes, I used a capital “D” on purpose.)
4. The Betsy -Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace I’d heard these discussed and cited as being very important to people’s childhood reading, but somehow I’d missed them as a child. I got a treasury of the first four books at a used bookstore and was utterly charmed. It follows the childhood of Betsy Ray and her friends in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century. I found these books to be very comforting and reassuring. Yes, things are sometimes hard for Betsy and her friends, but we know with a child’s innocence, that they’ll make it through their struggles. Is it totally realistic? No. But I think just reading about happiness can be very reassuring.
5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – This was another book that I’d heard of as being a very important childhood read for a lot of people. So when I saw a copy I grabbed it. It’s a slow strange story about a boy named Tom who is shipped off to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother gets sick. He’s sure he’ll have a terrible summer. But one night he hears the clock chime an unexpected thirteen times. He’s transported to a garden where he meets a girl named Hattie. He returns to the garden every night, but as the summer ends and he has to return home, he starts to look for a way to his secret place.
6. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I came to this somewhat knowledgeable about what to expect thanks to having already seen the film and the miniseries. But in spite of prior knowledge about the content, I still found this book compelling. It’s a slim and rather slow moving novel about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher on a St. Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 Australia. It creates a strong sense of atmosphere that manages to be gothic in spite of the sun drenched setting.
7. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I’d had this on my TBR for a while. The author is one I’ve liked in the past and often pay attention too, but I’m about 50/50 on her books. This one had some not so great reviews, but it exceeded my expectations, which was nice. It’s about Julian, a handsome young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Josephine. But when he learns that she’s not what she seems, she vanishes from his life forever. Desperate to get her back, Julian takes a leap into the unknown… It’s the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest in 2022.
8. Weather by Jenny Offill – This is a perfect read for those days when it feels like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. The main character, Lizzie, is a librarian who takes on a side gig answering letters that come in to a doom-laden podcast called “Hell and High Water.” She tries to inject a note of hope into her answers, but it’s hard, especially when she spends her days answering people who write into the podcast, who tend to be rather pessimistic, to say the least. I saw this book as being subtly, and unexpectedly, optimistic. It has a wry sense of humor about itself. I also really like the title, the more I think about it. “Weather” can be a meteorological event or condition, but it can also be a verb that means both “to wear away by long exposure” and “to endure and come through safely.” I think it’s up to the reader to decide which definition is the most relevant to the book. It’s a quick read, but I found it an unexpected surprise.
9. Killers of the Flowers Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann– I’m not usually a true crime buff, but my book club read it this year and I found myself unexpectedly drawn into it. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. The Osage Nation was extremely wealthy due to oil found on their land. Then they start to be killed off. People who investigated the murders were also killed. As the death toll rose, J Edgar Hoover hired a former Texas rancher to solve the mystery. The story that emerges has “stranger than fiction” qualities, but is still utterly believable.
1 – The Lost Princess – A book/series you lost interest in halfway through.
The Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices/Dark Artifices series is probably the first one that comes to mind. I read the original trilogy and enjoyed it. But then the author kept coming out with more and more trilogies set in the same world. That’s fine if the setting warrants 12 books, but I was just alright with it just being a trilogy. It felt like something was being drawn out that didn’t need to be.
2 – The Knight in Shining Armour – A hyped book/series you were swept up by.
I wanted to avoid the usual answers for this one, so I decided to go with the Obernewtyn series. While it’s relatively unknown in the US, it’s very hyped elsewhere. My Aussie bookish BFF recommended it to me years ago and I was surprised to learn it has such a devoted fanbase elsewhere in the world, since I hadn’t heard of it. But there is a lot of hype surrounding it in other countries, so I’m counting it!
3 – The Wise Old Wizard – An author who amazes you with his/her writing.
Juliet Marillier. I think I could read and enjoy her grocery list! She tells a great story, beautifully, every time.
4 – The Maiden in Distress – An undervalued character you wished had a bigger storyline.
I’m going to say Ashton in The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons. But this is the first book in a trilogy, so Ashton may get more of a storyline as things progress, but in the first book he’s sort of on the sidelines. In the book, the main character, Julian does several not-very-smart things. But in spite of that Ashton is 100% loyal, even willing to turn his own life upside down. He goes above and beyond the call of duty as far as friendship goes. There are some hints as to the reasons, and hopefully in later books we’ll learn a bit more.
5 – The Magical Sword – A magical item/ability you wish authors used less.
This might not be exactly what is meant here but in general, I could do with fewer vague prophecies in fantasy. How about some actual helpful information in the dream/vision/trance/whatever? I’m not saying I haven’t liked books that have used this. It can be done well. But sometimes it feels like an author throws a prophecy in to muddy things up for the characters rather than to serve an actual narrative purpose,
6 – The Mindless Villain – A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at
Often different phrases in different books. The one that jumps to mind is the “constellation of freckles” in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I think her freckles were compared to a constellation at least once a chapter.
7 – The Untamed Dragon – A magical creature you wish you had as a pet.
I actually don’t think I’d want a magic creature as a pet. I can’t think of one that wouldn’t be very challenging to care for! I mean, a phoenix might start fires. How does a dragon do his business? Do you take him for walks? Get dragon litter?
8 – The Chosen One – A book/series you will always root for.
I loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series. It was a trilogy for a while but she recently added a fourth book that I haven’t read yet (hopefully it won’t fall into my “unnecessary extension of a series” category)
I’m not tagging anyone but if you want to do this one, go for it!
September 28: Freebie (Come up with your own topic or do a past TTT topic that you missed or would like to do again.)
I decided to do recent books I’ve read that made me want more this week. These might be books that made me want to seek out more by the author, or other books in the genre, or learn more about a topic.
1. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons – I’ve mentioned this one before. I think it stands out for me because it was such a pleasant surprise. I’ve been about 50/50 on this author’s past work, and this didn’t have great reviews, so I wasn’t expecting much. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
2. March Sisters: On Life, Death and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado and Jane Smiley – Each of the four essays in this book are written by a different contemporary author, and each focuses on a different March sister in Little Women. I don’t know what I was expecting from it really, but it made me think about some things in the book differently, and it definitely made me want to reread it soon.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – This is another one that had been on my TBR for a while, but my expectations weren’t high. When I started reading it, the first chapter was beautiful, and I didn’t know if the rest of the book would live up to its promise. For the most part, it did. I’m looking forward to reading Once and Future Witches next. Harrow also has a series based on fairy tales that looks very tempting.
4. Masterpiece: America’s 50 Year Old Love Affair with British Television Drama by Nancy West – I feel kind of silly putting a book about a TV show on this list, but I’m a big fan British TV so I’ve always liked PBS’ Masterpiece! This book looks at the program’s 50 year history through major successes like “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey,” to adaptations (both faithful and unfaithful) of literary classics, to historical dramas, and the many detectives who have solved crimes on British TV. It also addresses criticism that the program has faced for celebrating oppressive social, racial and cultural structures. I added at least twenty shows to my watchlist while I was reading it so it counts for this list.
5. Weather by Jenny Offill – I picked this up because I saw it in the library and I remembered that some people I follow on Goodreads gave this book good reviews. I think it was just what I was in the mood for when I read it. I immediately went back to the library and picked up a copy of Offill’s Dept of Speculation, and enjoyed that too. Last Things is next on my list.
6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley- This was just a book I read in about two sittings. Nothing about it was unique or special really, but it was a fast moving mystery. The chapters were short, and most of them ended on a cliffhanger, so I was constantly thinking “just one more chapter…” Foley’s other books are now on my TBR. It also made me seek out other “locked room” mysteries.
7. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell – I read this because I really liked The Durrells In Corfu, a series (on Masterpiece!) about the author and his family moving to Greece in the 1930’s. The show was based on Durrell’s Corfu trilogy of which this was the first. It was delightful and the other two are now on my TBR.
8. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire- The October Daye series has been on my TBR for a long time. I finally got a chance to read the first one last year, and I’m looking forward to having fourteen more books to read in this series. Hopefully I’ll get to them soon!
9. Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss – This one reminded me of Theodora Goss, an author who hasn’t been on the forefront of my mind. I really liked this collection of poems and stories though, and it made me remember that I’d started Goss’ Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy and never finished it. So I definitely want to finish that one and check out some of her other work soon.
But I thought instead of making another TBR I’d revisit some old ones again and share what I’ve read. I did this a few times before (here and here) and I’m trying not to repeat books I’ve already updated on other lists:
2. Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow from Backlist TBR– I’d heard some good things about this revolutionary war set novel. Some people compared it to Gone With the Wind (I suppose because it featured a southern heiress and some romance) but the heroine of this isn’t likeable and we don’t really root for her in spite of it, like we do with Scarlett O’Hara. As a result the book fell flat for me.
3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman from Backlist TBR – I read this before watching the Netflix film. I’d heard really great things about it, so maybe my expectations were too high. I was underwhelmed by the movie too, though the books was better (as it usually is)
4. The Group by Mary McCarthy from Most Recent Additions to My TBR (Jan 2019) This was an interesting read. It was originally written in 1963 and was considered groundbreaking at the time for it’s look at women’s lives, social issues, and sexuality. What may have been shocking sixty years ago is less so now, but it’s amazing that some of the expectations of women, and the prevalence of double standards, haven’t changed. There’s also a film version, which I still haven’t seen, but it’s on my list.
5. Normal People by Sally Rooney from Most Recent Additions to My TBR (Jan 2019) I still haven’t seen the hulu series (I know, I know, I’m getting to it!) but I really enjoyed the book, with one small caveat: quotation marks. I know that writers have reasons for not including them some times, but there are also reasons that they exist in the first place! It makes for a much smoother reading experience if I don’t have to constantly figure out if something is or isn’t dialogue. But I don’t want to make it seems like I didn’t like the book, because I did!
7. Roar by Cecilia Ahern from Most Recent Additions to My TBR– This one was a disappointment. I like most of Ahern’s novels, but this collection of short fiction didn’t really work for me. I like a couple of stories, but that’s it. Apparently my opinion is the minority though, it got great reviews and it’s going to be made into an Apple+ series.
8. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons from Spring 2019 TBR – Simons is another author with whom I’ve had mixed experiences. This book got mixed reviews, so my expectations were low, which may be why I enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s the beginning of a trilogy, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
9. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald from Spring 2019 TBR – I felt like I should have liked this historical fiction with touches of fantasy. But the story didn’t really go anywhere, so this was a book where it was sort of important to like one of the two main characters. I didn’t like either of them very much.
But I feel like I did a list like this pretty recently (OK so it was 2 years ago, but how creative can you get with the topic really?). So I decided to do a Tag Tuesday instead. This tag was created by @jamishelves and I first discovered it on @zeezeewithbooks. I decided on this one because my home is slowly being taken over by books I want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. Everything here has been living on my shelves for a long, long time…
A BOOK YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ BECAUSE EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT IT
Actually I don’t think I have anything on mu TBR shelf that I feel like I have to read for that reason. I cheated and used my kindle for this one. I’m going with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I keep meaning to read it, but putting it aside and reading something else instead, for one reason or another. I really, really want to read this one though, because I’ve heard great things about it.
A BOOK THAT’S REALLY LONG
I have a few really long ones on the shelf (they tend to be put off for the longest because I know they’re a big investment in terms of time) I think the longest book on my unread shelf is Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (1007 pages). I enjoyed its predecessor, The Name of the Wind, but it’s hard to dive into a book this long. Plus who knows if/when book three will come out. I’d hate to get invested more in the series and then just be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…
A BOOK YOU OWN/HAD ON YOUR TBR FOR TOO LONG
I picked up Kristin Lavransdatter Part I: The Bridal Wreath about ten years ago at a library sale, because I’d heard that this three part novel was a great read. But before I started reading, I learned that the translation that I had wasn’t the preferred one (the consensus seems to be that the Penguin Classics edition is the best), and I wasn’t sure if I should give the one I had a shot or go straight for the preferred translation. So I put it off until I decided. And now it’s been a decade.
A BOOK THAT WAS “REQUIRED” READING (E.G., SCHOOL TEXT, REALLY POPULAR CLASSIC — SOMETHING YOU FEEL OBLIGATED TO READ)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a book I got for two reasons. One is that it was on some list I saw, somewhere, of books every writer should read (or something along those lines). Two is that I want to appreciate nature more. I feel like I’m very caught up in the human world, and I like the idea of slowing down, meditating and philosophizing on the natural world. But while that idea appeals to me, it seems like it might be a slog to read through.
A BOOK THAT INTIMIDATES YOU
The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett is the third book in the Lymond Chronicles. I enjoyed the first two but with an enigmatic hero who speaks in multilingual riddles and obscure references, it can be tough going. I actually want to buy this guide before I do read it.
A BOOK THAT YOU THINK MIGHT BE SLOW
The Overstory by Richard Powers won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It got rave reviews. But it’s about trees. How exciting can that be?
A BOOK YOU NEED TO BE IN THE RIGHT MOOD FOR
I read Paullina Simons’ The Tiger Catcher in the right mood and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. Now I’m waiting for the right mood to read the second in the trilogy, A Beggar’s Kingdom.
A BOOK YOU’RE UNSURE YOU WILL LIKE
I suppose I’m a little bit nervous about The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I love academic settings in books, and I love books dealing with the marriage plot in general (think Austen, Eliot) but I’ve had mixed reactions to some of the author’s past work.
June 22: Bookish Wishes (My birthday is today, so celebrate with me by granting the wishes of your friends! This is a popular thing to do on Twitter, but today we’re blog hopping. List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to a wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. Don’t feel obligated to send anything!)
I feel a little uncomfortable linking to my wish list, but here are the next ten books I want/plan to buy:
The Dorothy Dunnett Companion by Elsbeth Morrison– I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series a few years ago. I enjoyed the first two books, but they’re slow going because the main character speaks several languages and makes references to things that the reader may or may not be able to understand. That can make them hard to follow. But many fans recommend this companion as a helpful guide to the series.
2. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I keep meaning to get this one, and something always takes priority. I won the second book in Simons’ End of Forever saga in a goodreads giveaway last year. But it seems like the kind of trilogy that you really have to read in order. I keep meaning to get the first book for that reason. I can only hope that after I read the first one, I’ll still want to read the second, since it’s been sitting on my shelf forever.
3. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I’m a fan of the film adaptation of this book, but I still haven’t read the book itself. I also recently saw the miniseries that came out in 2018 (also based on the book). It wasn’t as haunting as the film, but now I’m interested in how both of these adaptations relate to the source material.
4. Lace by Shirley Conran– I was recently with a group of older women who were talking about how this book was such a guilty pleasure in the early 80’s. I looked it up, and discovered this article, and now I’m sort of on a mission to read all of the books that it discusses!
5. The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski– This has been on my wish list for a while along with a number of other Persephone titles, but I recently read a really interesting blog post about (that I’d love link, but I can’t find it!) and that shot it to the top of my list.
6. Sung in Shadow by Tanith Lee- This is another book that I learned about in a rather oblique way. I was looking up information about Lee’s SILVER trilogy, which went unfinished due to Lee’s death in 2015. In 2009 she wrote an essay about her intentions for the books, In that, she mentions this one, another book that she’s written, not in the SILVER series. Since I enjoyed the SILVER books I’d like to get to this at some point.
9. Fallen Angel by Kim Wilkins– I think I heard about this one from author Kate Forsyth‘s social media. I’m a fan of Forsyth, and when an author I admire recommends a book, I pay attention. This one sounds really good, but it’s not easy to find!
10. Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson– This is the first in series. It was recommended to be a while ago, and I haven’t gotten to it yet (same old story…) I do want to make it a priority though, because it looks like the kind of thing I’ve been in the mood for lately.
June 1: Freebie (choose any past topic, or come up with you own)
Lately I’ve been really into what I’d call “dark academia” as a literary subgenre. I love academic settings. I love gloomy gothic trappings. I love weirdness. So it’s really no surprise that I’d love literary mashups of all of that!
1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt-This is sort of a definitive cornerstone of the genre. It follows Richard, a student at a New England college. He wants to study Greek, and Julian, the enigmatic professor eventually allows Richard into his selective tutorial of only six students. Richard is slowly drawn into the world of the other students. But it’s a world that goes beyond the boundaries of morality and even legality. As Richard finds himself privy to the group’s secrets, he also learns that some members of the group will stop at nothing, including murder. I read this in my senior year of high school, and it just so happened that we were reading Crime and Punishment at the same time in one of my classes. I’m glad that was the case, because I think that it allowed me to get more out of The Secret History, since Dostoyevsky’s work is clearly a strong influence. I’m actually sort of surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tackled this book yet. But I think it would be a hard book to translate to film in a way that worked.
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This has all the elements of dark academic setting with a bit of a sci-fi twist. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are all students at Hailsham, an isolated boarding school in the English countryside. The atmosphere of the school is very cliquey and the teachers always remind the students how “special” they are. Years later, with the knowledge and understanding of how and why they were “special,” Ruth reflects on her time and Hailsham, and the friendships she formed there. There’s a film version of the book, and while it’s a pretty good adaptation, it tells the viewer what makes the students at Haimsham special in the first ten minutes or so. In the book it’s sort of a gradual, growing realization for the reader. As I started to understand, I was sort of hoping I was wrong. I think that experience is a part of what makes this book special, and it’s definitely why I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the film.
3. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman– Actually a lot of Goodman’s work, including the Fairwick trilogy (a romantic fantasy series that she initially wrote under the name “Juliet Black,”) and her YA fantasy Blythewood series, qualifies for this list. I chose this book to feature mostly because it doesn’t incorporate as many other genres. A week before her high school graduation, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School For Girls after three of her classmates committed suicide. Jane was the only one who knew the truth about their fates, and she carried that knowledge with her for the next twenty years, When she returns to the school as a Latin teacher, troubled students once again begin to die, and the memories that Jane repressed for so long, begin to surface.
4. Villette by Charlotte Bronte– Jane Eyre comes to mind first of course, and there is a notably dark school setting early in that book, but the setting also changes very early in the book. This book, on the other hand, has all of the gothic-ness that we expect from Bronte, and it’s set almost entirely in a boarding school in Belgium. The heroine, Lucy Snow, travels there to teach after a family disaster, and becomes involved in romance, intrigue and adventure. I do think Jane Eyre is a “easier read,” and it also features a dark aesthetic with academic plot points, so I’d recommend readers unfamiliar with Bronte start there. But Villette is an enjoyable next step in the Bronte journey through dark academia.
5. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James– Idlewild Hall is a Vermont boarding school for girls that’s reputed to be haunted. In the 1950’s four students at the school became good friends, until one of them disappears. More than 60 years later, journalist, Fiona Sheridan’s sister’s body is found near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Her boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but Fiona has her doubts. When she learns that the school is being restored by a mysterious benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But what she learns involves a horrifying secret that connects her sisters murder to the disappearance so long ago.
6. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The whole Gemma Doyle trilogy is a lovely mix of Victorian Gothic and fantasy with a boarding school setting. Gemma Doyle is sent from the life she knew in India, in 1895, to Spence, an English boarding school, following the death of her mother. Gemma is initially lonely. She’s haunted by her mother’s death and visions that have a tendency to come true. But things get really crazy when Gemma is drawn into a clique of girls who are dipping their toes into the world of spirits. What they learn will change them forever.
7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– I was a bit iffy about whether to include this one, because it’s not set in a “traditional” academic setting. Silvie and her family live in modern England, but they live as if they’re ancient Britons, with the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. One summer, Silvie’s father takes the family to join an anthropology course that is reenacting life in the Iron Age. But mixing with these students gives Sylvie a chance to see the prospect of a life away from her father’s obsession with the ancient Britons. As the group gets closer to the lifestyle of their subjects, things take a darker turn. The push and pull between the modern life that intrigues Sylvie, and the ancient life that obsesses her father, becomes a tug of war. Even though it’s not set in a school, the fact that it’s set amongst students in a practical exercise gives it that “academic” feeling.
8. Red Leaves by Paullina Simons– Kristina, Jim, Conni and Albert are all students at Dartmouth College. They have a close friendship, and one Thanksgiving weekend they all decide to stay on campus. When Kristina’s body is found in a snowbank shortly after, detective, Spencer O’Malley is on the case. As he learns about the groups dynamics, questions arise. Why did Kristina’s friends fail to report her missing? Their answers to his questions reveal a web of jealousy, secrets, deceptions, and possibly murder.
9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan- A ghost story set in a mysterious gothic boarding school. Pretty much made for this list! Actually Duncan’s Daughters of Eve also fits it pretty well, but I’ll go with this, since it’s the first one I thought of. Kit Gordy is sent to Blackwood Academy when her mother remarries. She’s not happy about it. She’s even more disturbed when she learns that she’s one of only four students accepted this term. When Blackwood’s students begin to show amazing talents in the arts and sciences, Kit can’t help but notice that it’s taking a toll on their health. She often wakes up with sore arms and fingers. The headmistress is quick to explain everything away, until Kit learns something that puts her and her classmates in terrible danger. I devoured this book when I was eleven or twelve. I don’t know how well it holds up, but I did recently see the film adaptation which wasn’t bad.
10. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman who takes a teaching job on a remote Greek island. There he meets Conchis,the reclusive millionaire who owns the island. Conchis offers Nicholas what seems to be friendship. But he is drawn into a twisted game of betrayal, violence, and psychological traps. Soon Nicholas is unable to tell past from present and fantasy from reality. He finds himself fighting to maintain his sanity and stay alive. Even though this is set at a school on an island, most of the action takes place outside the school. But I’m counting this because I’d call the relationship that Conchis has with Nicolas to be very academic (at least to start off). There’s also a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen it yet.