Science-fiction is far from my favorite genre. In fact, for years, I didn’t bother picking it up. I love science but I’ve never been interested in stories about it. Nothing wrong with it, but my favorite books are about people—stories that deal with human vulnerability and the human condition, rather than technology or alien warfare.
But a few years ago I kept hearing about a new book that had come out that was blowing everybody away. It was listed as sci-fi, but I had heard so much about it that I gave it a shot anyway. To my surprise, it didn’t fit into the more traditional sci-fi genre, and was instead a meditation on how people handle cataclysmic events. Yes, it was technically sci-fi, but the author approached it in a different way, focusing far less on the science of the situation and more on the reactions of the people involved in them.
I’m still not interested in typical science-fiction, but reading different books in the genre has shown me that many of them sort of break the confines of the category and are more invested in the humanity of the stories than they are the technology. Ultimately, these books are asking bigger questions about our world and about humanity, with science-fiction as a frame. You won’t find yourself reading about the inside of an alien spaceship in any of these stories, but you will find books about survival, art, humanity, and hard questions.
Station Eleven is the book that first convinced me that just because a book is labelled science-fiction doesn’t mean it can’t also be about human stories. This book weaves narratives together to create a portrait of the world after a flu-like disease spreads and kills huge amounts of the human population. But that descriptor doesn’t even come close to the breadth and depth of this novel. Rather than focusing on the disease and the specifics of the medicine behind it, the author tells the stories of the people before, during, and after, and how humans will push for more than survival even in the darkest of times.
Billed as a mystery alien story, Emily Henry’s latest young adult novel is really more a story of grief, with a touch of magical realism. A group of teenage friends spend their summer nights filming videos for their YouTube channel when one night a mysterious incident makes them question their memories, and what they know of the world. From there, the story takes off and reveals that sometimes people are not who we expect them to be, and that grief makes us react in ways that we might not anticipate.
This book is probably the book on this list that feels least like science-fiction to me, and reads more like literary fiction with a science slant. People in a college town are falling asleep and then staying asleep, entrenched in dreams that are incredibly vivid, and nobody knows why. Worse, nobody knows how to wake them up. What sounds like a book that could veer heavily into medical discussions on what this means for our biology is instead a book that occasionally discusses the medical ramifications, but relies mostly on the experiences of both the people who are dreaming, and those who are awake. Karen Thompson Walker delves into the questions asked by the people left behind, trying to piece together the puzzle of why this is happening, how, and what to do about it; and into the minds of the dreamers who don’t know what is real and fake.
Blake Crouch’s thriller novel is by far the hardest read on this list. It follows a complicated story about a man who is kidnapped by a stranger in a mask before waking up on a gurney surrounded by people he doesn’t recognize, but who know him. The life he wakes up to is not his. He no longer has a wife or a son, and his career trajectory is vastly different. Although the story of “Dark Matter” is closer to a classic science-fiction novel than anything else on this list, at its root it is not about the complex science of the situation, but the harrowing philosophical questions that it raises—how do we know the life we’re living is real at all?
Chances are, you’ve heard of Marie Kondo and the KonMari method by now. If not, you’re probably still buried under a mountain of possessions like most of America. With her 2014 bestseller, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, Marie Kondo single-handedly started a revolution of decluttering and organizing. More recently, she has come out with a Netflix series called TIDYING UP WITH MARIE KONDO that has reached a whole new audience and flooded the world with decluttering fever once again. Now that you’ve read the book (and the sequel, SPARK JOY), and watched the Netflix series, you may be wondering where else you can get inspiration for your spring cleaning. The following are some great books on organization and living with less that you may find interesting.
Perhaps you have KonMari-ed down to just the items that “spark joy” and are looking for a new frontier to battle. Cal Newport suggests diving into your digital clutter. The same way that an overabundance of physical clutter can overwhelm you at home, an overabundance of digital clutter can overwhelm you everywhere you go. If non-essential notifications and the pressure to capture the perfect picture for social media can distract you from real-life moments, perhaps this book is for you.
While similar in the aim to declutter, Swedish Death Cleaning and the KonMari method are a bit different. Have you ever had a relative die and, during the grieving process, had to sort through their collection of stuff only to find junk and items you felt guilt-tripped into keeping? Swedish Death Cleaning aims to remove this burden from your relatives by taking care of it throughout your life. Rather than just asking if items "spark joy” for you, you also ask if they will be useful to your posterity. Margareta Magnusson does a beautiful job of outlining this process as she goes through her own things, with some humor thrown in along the way.
Written by Joshua Becker, popular editor of the Becoming Minimalist website (https://www.becomingminimalist.com/), The Minimalist Home guides readers through the process of decluttering their home by room rather than by type. If Marie Kondo inspired you but her style of decluttering didn’t work for you, Becker’s might. Also, note that minimalism to Becker doesn’t mean getting down to the bare bones – it means to get rid of the excess, whatever that means for your life.
If minimalism isn’t for you, and you’re looking for another gentle organizing technique that doesn’t suggest getting rid of everything you own, Amanda Sullivan may be the next author you need to read. Her tips on organization are a bit more realistic for the everyday person. Read this book if Marie Kondo’s technique was a little too much for you and you want to try another method of organization – one that doesn’t involve an intense folding process.
After being diagnosed with MS, Courtney Carver took on the excess in her life so that she could focus on what mattered most: her daughter. She describes her diagnosis as a “wake-up call,” but hopefully the rest of us don’t need an incurable disease to get us on the path we want in life. Jonathan Fields said it best, “Marie Kondo taught us how to declutter our homes; now it’s time to let Courtney Carver take us to a deeper place.” If tidying up with Marie Kondo brought you joy, but you still feel that there is something missing (or rather, excessive) in your life, this might be the next book for you.
It’s October, which means Halloween is getting close! Many people find macabre and unsettling stories to be extra fun to read at this time of year. The following is a list of books that detail true stories of female criminals. Murderers are usually thought of as men, but these women have proven that they can be just as devastatingly and unspeakably evil.
At least six people in the U.S. are murdered every day by a spouse/intimate partner. This book features the psychological profiles of infamous killer spouses – many of them women!
This book is divided into sections that revolve around a particular theme, like murder for money, murder for love, etc. What drives a woman to kill? What brings her to that point of no return?
Is there such a thing as a female serial killer? This book argues that there definitely is and gives fourteen fascinatingly disturbing examples as proof.
In 1989, Jo Ann Parks survived a house fire that killed her three children. In 1993, she was arrested and convicted of setting that fire. Did she kill her children?
This fascinating book is different than the others on this list – the criminal, Sabella Nitti, was not a criminal at all. Readers won’t be able to put down this heartbreaking and true story of the first woman to be sentenced to death in Chicago.
Warm up with your favorite pumpkin-spice beverage before getting a chill up your spine from these grisly graphic novels.
Though true crime is usually a little too real for my horror tastes, this comic focuses on both Jeffrey Dahmer and the people who grew up with him. Written by one of the boys who went to high school with Dahmer, the book manages to show the human side of a serial killer, while not shying away from the sadistic qualities that would make him a murder.
In this comic, exorcism goes a little differently than in The Exorcist. Best known for his work on the Walking Dead comics, Robert Kirkman writes the chilling tale of a man’s battle against the demonic possessions that plague those anyone he comes in contact with. While supernatural, the comic also manages to explore the effects of real issues like childhood trauma and abuse. The comic was also adapted into a short-lived, but well-received tv series.
An award-winning manga from Japan, this series takes place in a world where the general populace lives in fear of “ajins”: beings who look and act like normal humans. Just like normal people — except for the fact that they cannot die. One of the most visceral scenes is when, Kei, a normal high-schooler, finds out he is an ajin in the worst way possible — by getting run over by a truck.
While the colors are vibrant, the stories are dark. Each tale in this spooky anthology reads like a dark fairy tale and is illustrated beautifully by the author, Emily Carroll. I have to put down that this is my personal favorite and a comic that I recommend to just about every person I meet.