Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in July 2020

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Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in June 2020 and are subject to change.

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang (July 1)

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (July 7)

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Little Bookshop of Murder (Beach Reads Mystery #1) by Maggie Blackburn (July 7)

Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered? The police insist there’s not enough evidence to launch a murder investigation. Instead, Summer and her Aunt Agatha screw their courage to the sticking place and start sleuthing, with the help of Hildy’s beloved book club. But there are more suspects on Brigid’s Island than are dreamt of in the Bard’s darkest philosophizing.

Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper (July 7)

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything.

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team.

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life.

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams (July 14)

Odessa, 1931. Marrying the handsome, wealthy Edward Gordon, Daria—born Dvora Kaganovitch—has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. But a woman’s plans are no match for the crushing power of Stalin’s repressive Soviet state. To survive, Daria is forced to rely on the kindness of a man who takes pride in his own coarseness.

Odessa, 1970. Brilliant young Natasha Crystal is determined to study mathematics. But the Soviets do not allow Jewish students—even those as brilliant as Natasha—to attend an institute as prestigious as Odessa University. With her hopes for the future dashed, Natasha must find a new purpose—one that leads her into the path of a dangerous young man.

Brighton Beach, 2019. Zoe Venakovsky, known to her family as Zoya, has worked hard to leave the suffocating streets and small minds of Brighton Beach behind her—only to find that what she’s tried to outrun might just hold her true happiness.

Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz (July 14)

The year was 1973, and the vice president in question was Spiro T. Agnew, Richard Nixon’s second-in-command. Long on firebrand rhetoric and short on political experience, Agnew had carried out a bribery and extortion ring in office for years, when–at the height of Watergate–three young federal prosecutors discovered his crimes and launched a mission to take him down before it was too late. Before Nixon’s downfall made way for Agnew to ascend to the presidency himself. Agnew did everything he could to bury their investigation: dismissing it as a “witch hunt,” riling up his partisan base, making the press the enemy, and, with a crumbling circle of loyalists, scheming to obstruct justice.

Spindle City by Jotham Burrello (July 21)

On June 23, 1911-a summer day so magnificent it seems as if God himself has smiled on the town-Fall River, Massachusetts, is reveling in its success. The Cotton Centennial is in full swing as Joseph Bartlett takes his place among the local elite in the parade grandstand. The meticulously planned carnival has brought the thriving textile town to an unprecedented halt; rich and poor alike crowd the streets, welcoming President Taft to America’s “Spindle City.”

Yet as he perches in the grandstand nursing a nagging toothache, Joseph Bartlett straddles the divide between Yankee mill owners and the union bosses who fight them. Bartlett, a renegade owner, fears the town cannot long survive against the union-free South. He frets over the ever-present threat of strikes and factory fires, knowing his own fortune was changed by the drop of a kerosene lantern. When the Cleveland Mill burned, good men died, and immigrant’s son Joseph Bartlett gained a life of privilege he never wanted.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (July 21)

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (July 21)

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, illustrated by Victoria Ying (July 28)

Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.

They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

Con Quest! by Sam Maggs

Con Quest! by Sam Maggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cat is determined that this is the year she and her twin brother – Team DoubleTrouble – are going to win the Quest, giving her talented artist brother a shot at a mentorship, and giving her a whole week spending time with her favorite celebrity doing charity work. The Quest is the world’s biggest scavenger hunt. Its list of nearly impossible tasks is posted just before GeekiCon, which most definitely does not endorse the event. All they have to do is complete the most tasks without getting stopped by their parents (who are late to the panel on their own famous comic series), their older sister Fiona (who would rather be just about anywhere else), or Con staff (who take a dim view of this whole scavenger hunt business). Easy, right?

Alex would like the opportunity to be mentored by a professional artist, but the GeekiCon scene is overwhelming. He is much more interested in playing a video game to calm his anxiety about being in such a huge crowd. He’s generally let Cat lead the way, but he’s starting to feel like maybe he should stand up for himself a little more. Cat seems ready to do anything to win this year, but is victory worth the cost?

Fiona is going to watch her twin siblings all day while her parents are busy doing professional stuff at GeekiCon, in hopes that she will prove herself responsible enough for them to allow her to go on a camping trip with other teens. Spending the day cooped up inside a convention center full of obsessive fans is the opposite of her idea of a good time; she’d much rather be outdoors, playing soccer or spending time with Ethan and “the rest of the cool people in tenth grade”. When the twins give her the slip, she joins forces with an unlikely ally to track them down, and she might even have some fun.

Con Quest! is a love-letter to fandom. It is easy to identify the real world media franchises playfully presented as Star Worlds, Paranormal, and Adventure of Zenia. (My personal favorite is Whom, M.D.) Chapter narration rotates from Cat to Alex to Fiona, giving their individual takes on the action around them and each other. They all have their own flaws and strengths, as well as lessons to learn.

This is a fun romp with a big heart. Love and family are central themes, in all the glorious variety of ways human beings form families and show love. Be drawn into the story by the action, but don’t be surprised if you fall a little bit in love along the way.

Source: e-ARC courtesy of NetGalley.

Challenges: None

View all my reviews

Down the TBR Hole #23

One of these weeks, I’ll post something other than Down the TBR Hole. This is not that week.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most
Published: February 4, 2014
On TBR Since: January 11, 2014

Still interested in this slice of history

Stay or Go: Stay

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Published: January 28, 2014
On TBR Since: January 11, 2014

I should probably read Middlemarch first, and that’s not likely to happen for a while.

Stay or Go: Go

Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm by Barbara Parry
Published: November 12, 2013
On TBR Since: November 24, 2013

Did someone say yarn?

Stay or Go: Stay

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
Published: February 11, 2014
On TBR Since: December 20, 2013

Meh.

Stay or Go: Go

The Case of the Baker Street Irregular by Robert Newman
Published: 1978
On TBR Since: January 6, 2014

Sherlock Holmes for kids. I’ll get my hands on a copy eventually.

Stay or Go: Stay

Muppet Sherlock Holmes by Patrick Storck, Amy Mebberson
Published: March 1, 2011
On TBR Since: January 6, 2014

Wait a second. I read this! But I never marked it as read. And I want to read it again, anyway.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel
Published: October 15, 2013
On TBR Since: January 8, 2014

There’s definitely a theme this week.

Stay or Go: Stay

Fan Phenomena: Sherlock Holmes edited by Tom Ue, Jonathan L. Cranfield
Published: July 15, 2014
On TBR Since: January 23, 2014

And continuing the theme….

Stay or Go: Stay

Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: The Life of the World’s First Consulting Detective by William S. Baring-Gould
Published: 1962
On TBR Since: January 26, 2014

I actually started reading this last year, but set it aside so long that I just bumped it back to TBR.

Stay or Go: Stay

Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart M. Brown Jr., Christopher Vaughan
Published: March 5, 2009
On TBR Since: May 3, 2014

There are a couple more recent books that look more at how this ties to children’s librarianship.

Stay or Go: Go

Seven staying, three going. And one of those staying will be a re-read.

Down the TBR Hole #22

Posting two weeks in a row! Go me.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year by Kjerstin Gruys
Published: May 2, 2013
On TBR Since: May 29, 2013

As much as I enjoy a “Do A Thing For A Year” memoir, I’m not feeling this one anymore.

Stay or Go: Go

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” by Alan Light
Published: December 4, 2012
On TBR Since: July 23, 2013

“Hallelujah” is one of two songs I’ve learned a fingerpicking pattern for on ukulele. And I still want to read this.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Case For Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World by Susan Linn
Published: April 1, 2008
On TBR Since: August 14, 2013

This was under Professional Reading, but there are other, newer, more library-focused titles.

Stay or Go: Go

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman
Published: October 8, 2013
On TBR Since: August 21, 2013

I want to want to read it, but I just don’t.

Stay or Go: Go

Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnoisis, Hormones, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging by Lauren Kessler
Published: June 4, 2013
On TBR Since: August 21, 2013

This one still looks like fun.

Stay or Go: Stay

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Published: January 28, 2014
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

Speaking of “fun”. And still interesting

Stay or Go: Stay

Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival by Tim Jarvis
Published: January 7, 2014
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

This is not even up for questioning. Next.

Stay or Go: Stay

A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America by Evan Mandery
Published: August 19, 2013
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

I have feelings about capital punishment. I would like to have better-informed feelings.

Stay or Go: Stay

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George
Published: August 6, 2013
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

The reviews suggest this is more “stunt memoir” than “investigative journalism”, and I’m good with that.

Stay or Go: Stay

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
Published: August 1, 2013
On TBR Since: October 29, 2013

I generally enjoy Bryson’s writing, but I can’t quite get excited about this one.

Stay or Go: Go

Six staying, four going. Again. I wonder what was happening in June of 2013 – I seem to have abandoned GoodReads that month.

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in May 2020

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month.

1. Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History by Jaipreet Virdi (May 1)

Through lyrical history and personal memoir, Hearing Happiness raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. Taking us from the 1860s up to the present, Virdi combs archives and museums in order to understand the long history of curious cures: hearing trumpets, violet-ray apparatuses, pneumomassages, electrotherapy machines, airplane diving, bloodletting, skull hammering, and many more. Hundreds of procedures and products have promised grand miracles but always failed to deliver—a legacy that is still present in contemporary biomedicine.

2. Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos (May 5)

Since the release of her first, career-defining solo album Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been one of the music industry’s most enduring and ingenious artists. From her unnerving depiction of sexual assault in “Me and a Gun” to her post-9/11 album Scarlet’s Walk to her latest album Native Invader, her work has never shied away from intermingling the personal with the political.

3. Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup (May 5)

Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up?

4. Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea by Sarah Besky (May 12)

What is the role of quality in contemporary capitalism? How is a product as ordinary as a bag of tea judged for its quality? In her innovative study, Sarah Besky addresses these questions by going inside an Indian auction house where experts taste and appraise mass-market black tea, one of the world’s most recognized commodities. Pairing rich historical data with ethnographic research among agronomists, professional tea tasters and traders, and tea plantation workers, Besky shows how the meaning of quality has been subjected to nearly constant experimentation and debate throughout the history of the tea industry.

5. The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch by Miles Harvey (May 12)

In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. In the wake of the murder of the sect’s leader, Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor, and persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to an island in Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.

6. Sunny Days: Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and the Children’s Television Revolution by David Kamp (May 12)

In 1970, on a soundstage on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a group of men, women, and Muppets of various ages and colors worked doggedly to finish the first season of a children’s TV program that was not yet assured a second season: Sesame Street. They were conducting an experiment to see if television could be used to better prepare disadvantaged preschoolers for kindergarten. What they didn’t know then was that they were starting a cultural revolution that would affect all American kids.

7. We Had No Rules by Corrine Manning (May 12)

A young teenager runs from her family’s conservative home to her sister’s NY apartment to learn a very different set of rules. A woman grieves the loss of a sister, a “gay divorce,” and the pain of unacknowledged abuse with the help of a lone wallaby on a farm in Washington State. A professor of women’s and gender studies revels in academic and sexual power but risks losing custody of the family dog.

8. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (May 12)

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms–and our relationships with them–are changing our understanding of how life works.

9. The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World’s Favorite Insect by Wendy Williams (May 12)

Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year from Canada to Mexico. Other species have learned how to fool ants into taking care of them. Butterflies’ scales are inspiring researchers to create new life-saving medical technology. Williams takes readers to butterfly habitats across the globe and introduces us to not only various species, but to the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying them.

10. The Equivalents: The Untold Story of the Five Friends Who Started a Personal, Political, and Artistic Revolution by Maggie Doherty (May 19)

In 1960, at the height of an era that expected women to focus solely on raising families, Radcliffe College announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, offering fellowships to women with a Ph.D. or “the equivalent” in artistic success. Acclaimed writer and Harvard lecturer Maggie Doherty introduces us to five brilliant friends–poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Marianna Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen–who came together at the Institute and would go on to make history. Drawing from their notebooks, letters, lecture recordings, journals, and finished works, Doherty weaves from these women’s own voices a moving narrative of friendship, ambition, activism, and art.

Down the TBR Hole #21

I started drafting this post in January. Good gracious.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser
Published: May 12, 2011
On TBR Since: April 20, 2013

This topic has definitely stayed relevant. Sadly.

Stay or Go: Stay

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live by Marlene Zuk
Published: March 11, 2013
On TBR Since: May 1, 2013

Still want to read this one.

Stay or Go: Stay

Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for Lgbtq Librarians edited by Tracy Nectoux
Published: 2010
On TBR Since: May 6, 2013

I’ll get to it. Eventually.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox
Published: May 14, 2013
On TBR Since: May 6, 2013

“In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel”… how am I supposed to resist that?

Stay or Go: Stay

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet by Finn Brunton
Published: March 29, 2013
On TBR Since: May 9, 2013

Not only do I still want to read this, but I’ve just put in a request for my library to get the ebook.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Cool Impossible: The Coach from “Born to Run” Shows How to Get the Most from Your Miles—and from Yourself by Eric Orton
Published: April 2, 2013
On TBR Since: May 11, 2013

Just not happening.

Stay or Go: Go

Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World by R. David Lankes
Published: January 12, 2012
On TBR Since: May 17, 2013

I probably should have read this when it came out. But I’m just not going to get to it.

Stay or Go: Go

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
Published: January 1, 2009
On TBR Since: May 26, 2013

How have I not read this yet? Right, off to download it now.

Stay or Go: Stay

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
Published: January 15, 2010
On TBR Since: May 26, 2013

The moment has passed.

Stay or Go: Go

Children’s Play: The Roots of Reading by Edward F. Zigler
Published: March 22, 2004
On TBR Since: May 28, 2013

The topic is good, but there are newer books on my list.

Stay or Go: Go

Six staying, four going. We’re not going to talk about how many books I’ve added to the TBR this week.

Classics Club Spin #23

I’m joining in on the Classics Club Spin for the first time. The lucky number is 6, which on my list is:

Paradise Lost by John Milton

I’ve been looking forward to reading this one. Well, reading it again. I read it probably 15 years or so ago, but I don’t remember much from it.

Do you suppose “Paradise” would count as a place name for Back to the Classics Challenge purposes?

Classics Club Spin

The Classics Club have issued their latest challenge for another Classics Club Spin!

The idea is for members to select 20 books from their list of 50 classics which they have challenged themselves to read within five years, then read the selected book before 1 June 2020.

My Spin list:

  1. Iliad by Homer, translated by Caroline Alexander
  2. Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
  3. Aenid by Virgil, translated by Sarah Ruden
  4. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
  5. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy Sayers
  6. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  7. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  8. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
  9. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johnn D. Wyss
  10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  11. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  12. Devil’s Pool by George Sand
  13. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  15. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  16. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  17. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  18. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
  19. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  20. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated.

Chapter 1: Introduction

So begins Wells’s classic “scientific romance”, published serially in The New Review in 1895 (and in revised novella editions after that). Over drinks with some gentlemen friends, including the narrator, the unnamed adventurer shares his theories on the nature of time as a fourth dimension in which one can travel. His friends are skeptical, even after seeing a demonstration using a model he has constructed.

For my own part, I was particularly preoccupied with the trick of the model. That I remember discussing with the Medical Man, whom I met on Friday at the Linnaean. He said he had seen a similar thing at Tübingen, and laid considerable stress on the blowing-out of the candle. But how he trick was done he could not explain.

Chapter 3: The Time Traveller Returns

A week later, the narrator is again at the Time Traveller’s home for another dinner party. The Time Traveller appears after his guests have arrived, and the details of his adventure form the main narrative. He has gone hundreds of thousands of years into the future, where he encountered the Eloi and the Morlocks, apparently the two strains of humanity left at that time.

The Eloi are small, delicate, and child-like. They spend their days playing in the sunshine, picking flowers, and eating fruit. They do no work, the genders appear nearly identical, and there is little difference between the children and the adults. They sleep in groups in large structures. They seem to be unafraid, in the way of those who have never encountered anything of which to be afraid.

“Seem to be unafraid,” because the Time Traveller eventually learns that the Eloi are scared of the dark. They stay away from shadows and refuse to venture out at night. After nightfall, the Morlocks – pale, large-eyed, and ape-like – come out their underground tunnels, and they are on the hunt.

Now, indeed, I seemed in a worse case than before. Hitherto, except during my night’s anguish at the loss of the Time Machine, I had felt a sustaining hope of ultimate escape, but that hope was staggered by these new discoveries. Hitherto I had merely thought myself impeded by the childish simplicity of the little people, and by some unknown forces which I had only to understand to overcome; but there was an altogether new element in the sickening quality of the Morlocks — a something inhuman and malign. Instinctively I loathed them.

Chapter 10: When the Night Came

My first encounter with The Time Machine was with a Moby Classics illustrated abridged edition when I was in elementary school. I mostly remember the Morlocks being very, very creepy and scary. Having read the full text, I still think the Morlocks are very, very creepy, but also very sad. As a child, the life of the Eloi was appealing: play all day and eat lots of fruit. Aside from, you know, the terror of what might happen at night, it looked ideal. As an adult reader, I was struck by the horror of the exact circumstances under which the Time Traveller meets Weena. (No details, because I’m still glad it came as a surprise to me.)

The entire vision of the future of humanity presented here is disturbing. There is the vacuous beauty left above ground and the terrifying existence below. No wonder the Time Traveller was delighted to find himself back at his own table. And yet, he clearly still has questions. He clearly still wants to explore. So, maybe, he even still has hope.

The narrator asks us to deny the implications of the narrative he has just recorded. It is a striking way of ending this little puzzle of a book, an appeal that seems to throw into doubt everything that we have just read. What a perverse start to a literary career!

Roger Luckhurst, Introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition

For this reading, I borrowed the Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Time Machine from the library. The supporting material is excellent. The “Chronology of H. G. Wells” includes significant personal events and world events, as well as noting the publication of various influential works, giving context on multiple levels. The expanded version of the chapter “The Further Vision” is included as an appendix, as are two scientific essays published by Wells in 1891 and 1893.

Roger Luckhurst’s introduction expands on some of the ideas Wells engages with in the novel. Evolutionary theory – both biological and social – was very much in the public consciousness. Would people and society forever march toward perfection, or would both reach a zenith and then inevitably deteriorate? The utopian fiction of Bellamy and Morris get satirical jabs in the Time Traveller’s description of the future. Luckhurst provides pointers to further reading on all of these and more. I appreciated the very helpful and engaging explanatory notes, as well as the fact that the introduction begins with a note that there will be spoilers, so newcomers might want to read it as an afterword, instead.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges: Back to the Classics (6: Genre Classic); Classics Club; Read Harder 2020 (#17: A Sci-fi/fantasy novella); Victorian Reading Challenge (January: Journeys & Travels),

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Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in February

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month.

1. Chirp by Kate Messner (February 4)

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

2. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (February 4)

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

3. American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson (February 11)

Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities–beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books–sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the “American Sherlock Holmes,” Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America’s greatest–and first–forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural.

4. The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer (February 11)

The Falcon Thief whisks readers from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It’s a story that’s part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure—and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.

5. In the Land of Men by Adrienne Miller (February 11)

A naive and idealistic twenty-two-year-old from the Midwest, Adrienne Miller got her lucky break when she was hired as an editorial assistant at GQ magazine in the mid-nineties. Even if its sensibilities were manifestly mid-century—the martinis, powerful male egos, and unquestioned authority of kings—GQ still seemed the red-hot center of the literary world. It was there that Miller began learning how to survive in a man’s world. Three years later, she forged her own path, becoming the first woman to take on the role of literary editor of Esquire, home to the male writers who had defined manhood itself— Hemingway, Mailer, and Carver. Up against this old world, she would soon discover that it wanted nothing to do with a “mere girl.” 

6. Ink in the Blood (Ink in The Blood, #1) by Kim Smejkal (February 11)

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

7. And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks (February 11)

At once humorous and unapologetically fierce, these stories shine an interrogating light on the adage that “history likes to lie about women”— as the subjects of “A Short and Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife” and “You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women” (it’s true, you won’t) will attest. Blending fairy tales and myths with apocalyptic technologies, all tethered intricately by shades of rage, And I Do Not Forgive You offers a mosaic of an all-too-real world that fails to listen to its silenced goddesses

8. The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall (February 12)

Haunted by the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna cloisters herself in a Northeastern village where the snow never stops. When she discovers the body of a young woman at the edge of the forest, she’s plunged into the mystery of a centuries-old letter regarding one of the most famous stories of Arctic exploration—the Franklin expedition, which disappeared into the ice in 1845.

10. Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight by Amy Shira Teitel (February 18)

When the space age dawned in the late 1950s, Jackie Cochran held more propeller and jet flying records than any pilot of the twentieth century-man or woman. She had led the Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots during the Second World War, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company, and counted multiple presidents among her personal friends. She was more qualified than any woman in the world to make the leap from atmosphere to orbit. Yet it was Jerrie Cobb, twenty-five years Jackie’s junior and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who finagled her way into taking the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts. The prospect of flying in space quickly became her obsession.

10. Lurking: How a Person Became a User by Joanne McNeil (February 25)

In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of—even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate—but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been.