Welcome to Kay's Recommendations! Bookselling is Kay’s fourth career but it might have been her first and only career if she roughly followed grade-school aptitude testing that said she should become a librarian. An avid reader, Kay’s go-to is science fiction, but she often dips into off-beat (i.e. dark) fiction, and both fiction and non-fiction about nature, the environment, art, gardening, adventure and unusual minds. Her favorite book changes about every five years; most recently it would have to be the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood.
Check out what Kay has been reading below!
Emmett joins nine other teens on a nearly year long ride to an inhabited alien world much like earth; riches await their return to earth after time on the planet. Once on the spaceship, Babel, the mammoth company running the program, ruthlessly changes the rules: there is to be a rigorous competition between the teens, with only 8 of 10 winning the adventure on the alien planet; the other two return home with a token payment. Coming from all over the world, the contestants have only one thing in common: they come from poor families. The story focuses on the relationships between the unique, fully developed individuals involved in the competition. Emmett narrates the suspenseful battles, unfair rules and frequently changing circumstances. A wild ride! I can’t wait for the sequel.
Brilliant. Haunting. Insidious. Anxiety-inducing. Wonderful!!
Delphine has just finished signing her latest book for a seemingly endless line of fans. She is exhausted. A latecomer asks for her signature and she summarily refuses. Chatting with a new acquaintance later that night, Delphine uncharacteristically confesses feeling awful about turning away the latecomer. Before long the acquaintance, L. has become her new best friend. While Delphine preps for her next book, she gets a few pieces of disturbing hate mail about her last book, and her new friend L. starts expressing increasingly strong opinions about the subject of Delphine’s next book. Soon Delphine can’t open a Word document, can’t answer her mail, can’t even jot a quick note to herself; she has become completely unsure of herself, depressed, and entirely dependent on L. to get through the day. The story takes a couple surprising turns that can’t be revealed without giving away delicious shocks that await the reader. This is a formidable, unforgettable piece of writing.
This novel powerfully portrays the psychological aftermath of a childhood damaged by a cruel and manipulative older brother and by a horrible murder. The story alternates between events in Dustin’s dark childhood and his current life as a psychologist being manipulated once again, this time by an unusual client obsessed with a theory about a long-running serial killer in the area. Dustin’s beliefs about his childhood and his current life are challenged by the release of his brother from prison, by his growing estrangement from his sons, and by the client who insinuates himself into Dustin’s daily life. Suspenseful, creepy and hard to put down, the story is ultimately sewn together in a surprising but oddly satisfying way.
An astonishingly quiet novel that whispers gut-punching truths about love as we live it versus love as we finally understand it when it has escaped our grasp.
Paha Sapa is a young Sioux warrior standing near Custer when he dies. Custer’s ghost enters Paha Sapa. Paha Sapa’s visions of both the past and the future mix with Custer’s ranting voice to tell a poignant story of American Indians through a time of great change. A beautifully told tale of a charming, lovable character.
The story begins with a man running naked down one of LA’s congested freeways. A lawyer stuck in the traffic jam turns off his car and follows him. Jump backwards to the stories of two drifters, a desert farm run by a healer and staffed by runaways, a young man just released from eight years in juvenile prison, and the two runners. The book moves forward in time until their disparate and mostly painful stories mash together in a climax that elicits some genuine smiles. The book is beautifully pieced together and the characters evolve in surprising ways.
Boyle gives the failed self-sustaining, closed system dome in Arizona a second chance. The story alternates between the voices of two of the eight Terranauts hand-selected to live inside the dome for two years, and one rejected and bitter Terranaut who is assigned to support those living inside the dome. The complexities of the closed system itself and the increasingly erratic behavior of the eight Terranauts inside that very limited environment move the story along with a sense of urgency.
Eggers recounts the true story of one man’s efforts to save his family and a handful of others during Hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun has serious run-ins with government-hired contractors who set out to round up survivors in whatever manner it takes. The book exposes a side of Katrina that may very well shock you.
Neal Stephenson’s thriller wouldn’t leave my hands after 50 pages or so. Set in Washington State, British Columbia and Southeast Asia, the story flies by as a on-line gaming entrepreneur and his family collide with Russian strongmen and Chinese hackers. The characters are solidly drawn, ranging from despicable to funny to downright lovable. One of my favorite books from the past few of years.
Girls suddenly develop the power to send electrical charges through their fingers. As the power grows worldwide and girls teach older women how to develop it themselves, several women gain key political and religious positions and political unrest heightens to critical levels. The ending is thrilling, shocking, and thoroughly unsettling, and will challenge your beliefs about the roles of men and women in society. Brilliant!
What can a first winter in remote Alaska do to an unstable family with one particularly volatile member? Hannah brings to life the hardships--both physical and psychological--of living off the grid in the wilds of 1970s Alaska, one of the harshest places on earth. I gulped it down in two days.
Set in the not-too-distant future, nearly all of earth’s inhabitants are hooked up to the Feed. People communicate by essentially inhabiting each other’s minds; they know exactly what other people are thinking and feeling. Everyone has access to all available information worldwide including news, history, scientific ideas, etc. One day the Feed crashes. Chaos ensues and it isn’t long before most people are dead. Kate, Tom and their daughter Bea survive and live cooperatively, if somewhat uneasily, with several other people until one day Bea is stolen by a raiding party. Kate and Tom get separated and go on their own journeys through what is left of the world to find Bea. Questions of how people deal with the loss of their addiction to constant chatter, what now defines an individual, and how relationships rebuild after individuals are no longer emotionally naked are fascinating. This book will appeal to lovers of both dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.
Buzzati’s short (and very short) stories are dark little gems that stab, nag, itch, twitch and otherwise make the reader squirm in their chair. The back cover perfectly nails the Italian author’s deliciously disturbing stories with this description: ‘with hints of Kafka and Edgar Allen Poe.’ Bingo. If you like these authors, you’ll love these stories.
Psychedelics’ adoption by the counterculture in the 1960s led quite rapidly to complete stoppage and then virtual erasure of what had been a promising field of research in the 1950s-60s on therapeutic uses of psychedelics. Research quietly regained some acceptance in the 1990s, and today there is a surprisingly large field of research on psychedelics in progress, some of which is well along the multi-staged process that precedes FDA testing. Psychedelics are being tested to treat addiction, depression, patients facing death, and other medical issues. It is thrilling to read how psychedelics can change a person’s perception of the world so radically that, for example, they no longer fear death. This is an exceptionally well-written history and thought-provoking review of issues surrounding the resurgence of psychedelics as a potentially valuable medical therapy.