Hi everyone, here are our recommended reads for the week.
Format Note: Under each book title you’ll find a list of all the different formats that specific title is available in; including: Print Books, Large Print Books, CD Audiobooks, eBooks & Downloadable Audiobooks from the Digital Catalog (OverDrive & Libby apps) and Hoopla eBooks & Hoopla Downloadable Audiobooks (Hoopla App).
*More information on the three catalogs is found at the end of the list of recommended reads*
Weekly Suggested Reading postings are published on Tuesdays.
And as I’m taking a couple of vacation days next week, the next Suggested Reading posting will be published in two weeks on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.
And this week, we have a theme! All the books on this list can be classified as futuristic or dystopian!
American War: A Novel by Omar El Akkad
(Available Formats: Print Book, eBook & CD Audiobook)
Award-winning journalist Akkad’s gripping and frightening debut novel takes off from current American political and environmental issues to imagine a bleak and savage not-too-distant future. During a long second American civil war, the Chestnut family, consisting of a mother, son, and twin daughters, are moved to a refugee camp in what’s left of a region of Mississippi in the year 2081. There, one of the daughters, Sarat, grows into a strong and independent soul who is recruited by a shadowy operative to conduct missions against the northern borders. She assassinates a high-ranking leader of the North’s military, leading to reprisals and her eventual capture. She is tortured by the North, then finally released and moves back south with her injured brother and his family. Later, she’s offered the chance to perform one final deadly mission in order to sabotage the peace talks that are finally taking place between the two bitter enemy regions. VERDICT Well written, inventive, and engaging, this relentlessly dark tale introduces a fascinating character in Sarat. Highly recommended. Starred Library Journal Review
The Book of The Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
(Available Formats: Print Book)
Elison’s gripping and grim first novel, which won the Philip K. Dick Award in its previous, small press publication, tells the story of an unnamed woman who survives a plague that wipes out most of humankind in just weeks, leaving 10 male survivors for every woman. Years after the initial wave of the terrible disease, all pregnancies still end in the death of the baby, and most also kill the mother. Told by turns through the diary of the protagonist, the diaries of other survivors, and third-person narration, the tale covers her several years of wandering, dressed as a man, from San Francisco, where she had worked as a nurse and midwife, through the dangerous, near-empty western U.S., where marauding groups of men try to enslave any woman they meet or are occasionally recruited into polyamorous “hives” dominated by one alpha woman. Eventually, she finds a stable, caring community where the inhabitants allow their members to find their own appropriate gender roles; at last she can live without fear, be the person she wants to be, and practice her trade for the betterment of everyone.
The story is beautifully written in a stripped down, understated way, though frequently gruesome in its depiction of rapes, murders, and stillbirths. The protagonist, who sometimes calls herself Karen, or Dusty, or Jane, is beautifully realized as a middle-aged, bisexual woman with considerable skills, an indomitable will, and great adaptability, though she suffers considerably and is far from a superwoman. A prologue and an epilogue set long after the events of the main narrative (and reminiscent of the concluding chapter of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale) hint at a positive future, leaving the reader with a glimmer of optimism in the midst of despair. This fine tale should particularly appeal to readers of earlier feminist dystopias such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Suzy McKee Charnas’s Walk to the Edge of the World series, and P.D. James’s The Children of Men. Many questions are left unanswered at the book’s end, but a sequel is forthcoming. Starred Publishers Weekly Review
The Road To Nowhere Series:
1. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (2014)
2. The Book of Etta (2017)
3. The Book of Flora (2019)
By The Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet
(Available Formats: Print Book & free online)
By The Waters of Babylon is a neat tale of a young man going on quest; at first it seems the tale is set in the past but as the story unfolds the reader realizes it is instead set in the future. I’ll say no more about the plot – except to say I first read this short story in middle school and loved it.
For those who prefer paper, the story is included in volume 2 of the print collection The Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benet which our library owns.
Here is the link to the PDF of the short story; found on the Broome Tioga BOCES site:
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
(Available Formats: Print Book, eBook & Hoopla instant checkout eBook)
Newman’s latest depicts a dystopian future in which America has been decimated by “Posies,” a powerful plague that leaves few living beyond 20 years of age. Ice Cream Star, the novel’s 15-year-old narrator, is a member of the Sengles tribe of the Massa Woods, which was once Massachusetts. Ice Cream’s brother, Driver, the 18-year-old leader of the Sengles, has just begun coughing—the first telltale sign of the plague. During a standard raid of an abandoned neighborhood for left-behind supplies, Ice Cream and her fellow raiders capture Pasha, a stranger to Massa, who is a shocking 30 years old and knows a rumor about a Posies cure. Ice Cream begins her harrowing adventure to find it and save her brother—and maybe the rest of the country in the process. Written entirely in the broken English of these short-lived children, now generations removed from the plague’s onset, Newman’s novel is ambitious, taking on race, sex, class, religion, politics, and war all at once. What sets the work apart is its unapologetic narrator, whose fantastically unbridled, wholly teenage point of view renders each page a pleasure to read. Starred Publishers Weekly Review
The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
(Available Formats: Print Book & Large Print)
A century and a half after a deadly pandemic and nuclear exchange, what remains of St. Louis has become Sanctuary, a walled city surrounded by the desert known as the Dead Lands. The government is growing more oppressive as conditions worsen, and then a strange, black-eyed young woman rides out of the west claiming there is a green land where the rain falls and everything grows. The rulers of Sanctuary can’t afford to allow hope into the metropolis, but a small group, including museum curator Lewis Meriwether and city guard Mina Clark, break out and head up the Missouri River to find this land of Oregon. Pursued by hunters from the city and surrounded by deadly dangers, both human and not, this small band of explorers must keep heading west until they discover just what is waiting for them on the shores of the Pacific. VERDICT Percy’s sophomore outing (after the acclaimed Red Moon) is not only a compelling postapocalyptic adventure populated by fascinating characters but a clever riff on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Fans of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven will embrace this literary vision of humanity’s first steps back up the ladder of civilization after near-extinction disasters. Library Journal Review
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print & CD Audiobook)
Outdoor life has been the focus of Heller’s award-winning nonfiction. In his gripping first novel, his gift for action and appreciation for prowess and courage fuel a harrowing yet charming postapocalyptic tale. The book’s complex spell is cast by its tough yet sensitive can-do narrator, Hig. Happiest while trout fishing, he’s a skilled hunter, daring pilot, and poet turned outdoorsy writer. Hig misses his wife, who died in the nation-crushing pandemic, dearly loves his dog, and is both leery of and grateful for Bangley, an older guy of few words but immense tenacity, military know-how, and firepower. They are holed up in a small Colorado airport, fighting off intermittent assaults by bands of murderous survivors. Richly evocative yet streamlined journal entries propel the high-stakes plot while simultaneously illuminating Hig’s nuanced states of mind as isolation and constant vigilance exact their toll, along with his sorrow for the dying world as global warming worsens. Hig takes long, risky, meditative walks; tends the garden; and stubbornly takes to the air in a 1956 Cessna, searching for some remnant of civilization. Heller’s surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance. Starred Booklist Review
Gather The Daughters: A Novel by Jennie Melamed
(Available Formats: Print Book)
Melamed’s haunting and powerful debut blazes a fresh path in the tradition of classic dystopian works. In her searing portrayal of a utopian society gone wrong, four girls share their stories of life on a sheltered island where they are ostensibly safe from the war- and disease-torn wastelands that their ancestors had escaped generations earlier. The darker truths behind their heavily patriarchal society—in which girls must submit first to their fathers, then to their husbands—emerge over the course of a year marked by a devastating plague and a quietly assembled rebellion. Led by 17-year-old Janey Solomon, who is holding her body’s development at bay to retain any lingering shreds of adolescent freedom, the island’s daughters begin to ask forbidden questions: Why do so many women mysteriously bleed out in childbirth after defying the island’s traditions? Is there habitable land beyond their shores? Can any of them choose to stray from their assigned fate? It’s a chilling tale of an insular culture grounded in “the art of closing off the world to those who seek it.” Melamed’s prose is taut and precise. Her nuanced characters and honest examination of the crueler sides of human nature establish her as a formidable author in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln: A Novel by Stephen L. Carter
(Available Formats: Print Book & CD Audiobook)
What if Abraham Lincoln had not been killed by John Wilkes Booth? What if he survived the assassination attempt and lived on to face the vociferous criticism of Republican Radicals and others in the aftermath of the Civil War? What if the criticism reached the level of a call for impeachment, charging Lincoln with planning to impose martial law on the nation’s capital? Into such tumult steps Abigail Canner, a young, educated black woman challenging the conventions of the period, who goes to work as a clerk for the law firm defending Lincoln against impeachment. Among her compatriots are a taciturn partner unsure he wants to be involved in the impeachment, a rising young attorney engaged to marry into a prominent political family, and a peg-legged investigator who has been been acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover. Their defense hinges on the mysterious disappearance of a list of conspirators against Lincoln. This novel has all the juicy stew of post Civil War Washington, with the complexities of race, class, and sex mixed in. Carter draws on historical documents and a vivid imagination to render a fascinating mix of murder mystery, political thriller, and courtroom drama. Starred Library Journal Review
Island In The Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook, eBook, Downloadable Audiobook & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)
A cosmic disturbance transports the island of Nantucket and its inhabitants over three thousand years back in time to the shores of a Stone Age America. In addition to coping with the day-to-day problems of survival and the trauma of losing all connection with the modern world, the residents of the time-stranded island find their lives complicated by the presence of native tribes across the water. Stirling’s imaginative foray into time travel should also please fans of alternate history. Library Journal Review
Librarian Note: I’ve read this one and loved it! The long running series the author wrote about, that compliments this one, and tells the story of what happened to the people of the 20th Century that were left behind in the 20th Century, when the slice of Nanutket, and its surrounding water, were transported 3,000 years in the past is called the Change series; and it gets more attention – and that is a good series too – but this one is, by far, my favorite of the two. LR
The Nantucket Trilogy
1. Island In The Sea of Time
2. Against The Tide of Years
3. On The Oceans of Eternity
One Second After by William R. Forstchen
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook & Downloadable Audiobook)
In this entertaining apocalyptic thriller from Forstchen, a high-altitude nuclear bomb of uncertain origin explodes, unleashing a deadly electromagnetic pulse that instantly disables almost every electrical device in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Airplanes, most cars, cellphones, refrigerators—all are fried as the country plunges into literal and metaphoric darkness. History professor John Matherson, who lives with his two daughters in a small North Carolina town, soon figures out what has happened. Aided by local officials, Matherson begins to deal with such long-term effects of the disaster as starvation, disease and roving gangs of barbarians. While the material sometimes threatens to veer into jingoism, and heartstrings are tugged a little too vigorously, fans of such classics as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach will have a good time as Forstchen tackles the obvious and some not-so-obvious questions the apocalypse tends to raise.
The John Matherson Triology:
1. One Second After (2009)
2. One Year After (2015)
3. The Final Day (2017)
The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)
Jones’ latest is a dystopian tale set in the near future when the world is overrun by horrific miner ticks that kill all whom they bite. The Salt Line refers to a chemical border that demarcates zones protected from the ticks. Life in these zones is much like that in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (2010), a manufactured world where all interactions are controlled through ubiquitous social-media apps. The story is told from the perspectives of Edie, Marta, and Wes, who are part of a group on a very expensive excursion to the dangerous world outside of the zones. After they are all mysteriously kidnapped, the narrative twists and turns as the reasons for their capture unfold. This mystery-like structure keeps the reader guessing as Jones switches seamlessly from evocative pastoral descriptions of North Carolina and Tennessee to action-packed scenes of violence. Along the way, she explores themes of environmental degradation, technological dependence, and corporate greed. At once dark, disturbing, and highly enjoyable, this is a timely novel bursting with ideas. Booklist Review
The Years of Rice and Salt: A Novel by Kim Stanley Robinson
(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)
Having revolutionized the novel of planetary exploration with his Nebula- and Hugo-winning Mars trilogy (Red Mars, etc.), Robinson is attempting to do the same to another genre with this highly realistic and credible alternate history. It’s the 14th century, and the Black Death has swept through Europe, killing not 30% or 40% of the population but 99%. With Europeans now no more than a historical curiosity, the empires of China and Islam spread rapidly across the world. India, caught between superpowers, struggles to maintain its independence until, fueled by a scientific renaissance, its forces besiege and conquer the great city that in our world would be called Constantinople. The New World is discovered by the Chinese, who rapidly settle the west coast, while an Islamic fleet lands at the mouth of the Mississippi. Eventually, the enlightened Indian nation of Travancore comes to the aid of the beleaguered native people of the New World. New technologies appear as the centuries go by and, as often as not, are applied to military ends. Adding a mystical balance and a human note to this counterfactual history is a small cast of recurring characters who live through each episode of the book as soldiers, slaves, philosophers and kings. Dying, they spend time in the afterlife, only to be reborn into the next era, generally with no knowledge of their past lives. Robinson, who has previously demonstrated his mastery of alternate history in the classic short story “The Lucky Strike” and his Three Californias sequence, has created a novel of ideas of the best sort, filled to overflowing with philosophy, theology and scientific theory. Starred Publishers Weekly Review
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)
Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!
An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa.
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” in an ancient language.
It doesn’t take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu—a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.
Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
(Available Formats: Print Book & CD Audiobook)
While the revolution will not be televised, the apocalypse and what comes after, at least according to Whitehead (Sag Harbor), will have sponsors. It will even have an anthem, the brilliantly self-referential “Stop! Can You Hear the Eagle Roar?” (theme from Reconstruction). As we follow New Yorker and perpetual B-student “Mark Spitz” over three harrowing days, Whitehead dumpster dives genre tropes, using what he wants and leaving the rest to rot, turning what could have been another zombie-pocalypse gore-fest into the kind of smart, funny, pop cultureâfilled tale that would make George Romero proud. While many stories in this genre are set in a devastated nowheresville, Whitehead plants his narrative firmly in New York City, penning a love letter to a Manhattan still recognizable after the event referred to only as “Last Night.” Far from the solemn affair so often imagined, the apocalypse in Whitehead’s hands is filled with the kind of dark humor one imagines actual survivors adopting in order to stave off madness. The author sometimes lets the set pieces he’s so good at run long, but otherwise succeeds brilliantly with a fresh take on survival, grief, 9/11, AIDS, global warming, nuclear holocaust, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, Missouri tornadoes, and the many other disasters both natural and not that keep a stranglehold on our fears and dream. Starred Publishers Weekly Review
Also check out some of these classic dystopian novels
1984 by George Orwell (Originally published in 1949)
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook, DVD, eBook, Downloadable Audiobook, Hoopla instant checkout eBook, audiobook & movie)
A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick
With extraordinary relevance and renewed popularity, George Orwell’s 1984 takes on new life in this edition.
“Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.”—The New Yorker
In 1984, London is a grim city in the totalitarian state of Oceania where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston Smith is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.
Lionel Trilling said of Orwell’s masterpiece, “1984 is a profound, terrifying, and wholly fascinating book. It is a fantasy of the political future, and like any such fantasy, serves its author as a magnifying device for an examination of the present.” Though the year 1984 now exists in the past, Orwell’s novel remains an urgent call for the individual willing to speak truth to power.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Originally published in 1932)
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook, Downloadable Audiobook, Hoopla instant checkout eBook & audiobook)
Originally published in 1932, this outstanding work of literature is more crucial and relevant today than ever before. Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media—has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? With a storyteller’s genius, he weaves these ethical controversies in a compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 AF (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.
A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, Brave New World is both a warning to be heeded and thought-provoking yet satisfying entertainment.
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard (Originally published in 1962)
(Available Formats: Print Book)
The Drowned World imagines a terrifying world in which global warming has melted the ice caps and primordial jungles have overrun a tropical London. Set during the year 2145, this novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kearns and his team of scientists as they confront a cityscape in which nature is on the rampage and giant lizards, dragonflies, and insects fiercely compete for domination. Both an unmatched biological mystery and a brilliant retelling of Heart of Darkness—complete with a mad white hunter and his hordes of native soldiers—this “powerful and beautifully clear” (Brian Aldiss) work becomes a thrilling adventure with “an oppressive power reminiscent of Conrad” (Kingsley Amis).
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Originally published in 1953)
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook, Audio Playaway, Downloadable Audiobook, Hoopla instant checkout audiobook & DVD)
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Originally published in 1985)
(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD Audiobook, eBook, Downloadable Audiobook & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)
Before The Testaments, there was The Handmaid’s Tale: an instant classic and eerily prescient cultural phenomenon, from “the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction” (New York Times).
The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.
The Stand by Stephen King (Originally published in 1978)
(Available Formats: Print Book, CD Audiobook, eBook, Downloadable Audiobook & DVD)
The tie-in edition of the nine-part CBS All Access series starring Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgard, and James Marsden.
When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks.
The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
100 Great Works Of Dystopian Fiction Tales about a world gone wrong. (n.d.). Vulture. Retrieved August 31, 2021, from https://www.vulture.com/article/best-dystopian-books.html
Beckett, L. (2020, March 16). A dystopian reading list: books to enjoy while in quarantine. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/15/books-to-read-while-quarantined-coronavirus
Dystopian, Apocalyptic, and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction. (n.d.). Madison Public Library. Retrieved August 31, 2021, from https://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/reading-and-viewing/book-lists/dystopian-apocalyptic-and-post-apocalyptic-fiction
Katwala, A. (2019, August 31). 11 of the best dystopian novels everyone should read. Wired. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/best-dystopian-novels-books
Quimbly, C. (2020, November 19). 38 Best Dystopian Novels Everyone Should Read. Oprah. https://www.oprahdaily.com/entertainment/books/g29549145/best-dystopian-novels/
Have a great week & holiday weekend!
*Information on the Three Catalogs*
Digital Catalog: https://stls.overdrive.com/
The Digital Catalog, a catalog containing eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, Digital Magazines and a handful of streaming videos, has two companion apps, Libby & OverDrive. Libby is the app for newer devices and the OverDrive app should be used for older devices and Amazon tablets.
All card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can check out items from the Digital Catalog.
Hoopla Catalog: https://www.hoopladigital.com/
The Hoopla Catalog features instant checkouts of eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, comic books, albums, movies and TV series. Patron check out limit is 6 items per month.
Hoopla is a Southeast Steuben County Library service available to all Southeast Steuben County Library card holders.
The Hoopla App is available for Android or Apple devices and most smart TVs & media streaming players.
StarCat: The catalog of physical/traditional library materials: https://starcat.stls.org
Card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can access StarCat to search for and request materials available at libraries through out the Southern Tier Library System.
The StarCat app is called Bookmyne and is available for Apple and Android devices.
Note: Book summaries are from the respective publishers unless otherwise specified.
Have questions or want to request a book?
Feel free to call the library! Our telephone number is 607-936-3713.
Tech Talk is a Southeast Steuben County Library blog.