What to Read Next if You Liked A Discovery of Witches, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Insurgent, A Game of Thrones, or America

What to read this week

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, offers readers many pleasures, not the least among them a plot-driving quest to discover ancient hidden secrets and historical artifacts that are of great consequence to a modern world that includes witches, vampires, and various and sundry other beasties. If you’re looking for another book about a modern day heroine who takes a deep dive into the past to discover dark secrets lurking, Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni, stars a young historian who learns that the Nephilim, human-angel hybrids of the Old Testament, are real, and have been manipulating all of human history to their own ends. Also, one of them is kinda cute.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, is a singular work, on one hand a deeply personal story of love, friendship, and heartbreak; on the other, an excursion into the arcana of comic book history, an examination of why we’re all still so fascinated by weird guys running around in long underwear and capes. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont, can’t quote match Chabon’s heart (or his prose), but it gets the geeky part right, building an inventive and slightly fantastical mystery story around the true-life involvement of some of history’s most famous pulp sci-fi authors (including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard) in World War II-era weapons research.

Insurgent, the middle volume in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Divergent trilogy, was where I bailed. It wasn’t the book (it was every bit as pulse-poundingly readable as the first book); it was me. After reading about countless post-apocalyptic scenarios that twisted the world in weird ways (and even trying to write one myself), I just needed a break. If you’re feeling similarly, Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey, might be just the palate cleanser you need. It hits some of the same beats while building an entirely new future, one in which a small percentage of all children born in the U.S. begin to develop superpowers, with world-altering results. Call it a dystopia in the making.

Let’s face it, it is going to be a long, long winter or two before George R.R. Martin gets around to releasing the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’ve already digested all 5,000 pages of A Game of Thrones and its sequels, The Dagger and the Coin series, by Daniel Abraham (a protégée and friend of Martin’s), will more than sate you while you wait. It has all the strengths of Martin’s work, from complex characters, to intricate point-of-view plotting, to a richly imagined world, all while lacking its one great weakness: the books are actually coming out on schedule, year-by-year. Start with The Dragon’s Path; book four, The Widow’s House, releases in August.

I realize I am treading on thin ice here. If America: Imagine a World Without Her, by Dinesh D’Souza, and A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, were any more ideologically opposed to one another, they would be magnetically repelled to opposite sections of the bookstore. Yet the former was written almost as a direct response to the latter, with D’Souza lionizing the U.S. for its role the same historical events for which Zinn criticizes it (starting with whether the country itself was “stolen” from Native Americans). Trying to imagine a person who would naturally gravitate toward each of these books independently is too great a cognitive dissonance for my brain, but I think reading both and letting them bounce off one another would be a fascinating experiment.
Are you interested in checking out any of the recommendations above?
  • Miss MSU 2010

    This month I’m reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Fahrenheit 451, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking