Welcome to Madi's recommendations! Check out what Madi has been reading below.
Waco is recent enough history that many remember it, yet memory can be such a fickle thing. Luckily, Jeff Guinn has tackled the subject in his new book, simply titled Waco, that recounts the history of the Branch Davidians and the infamous Mount Carmel raid in Waco, Texas. For a topic so polarizing, Guinn manages to tell a narrative that does not imply personal bias, but provides as many facts as possible so the truest story can be told. His in-depth research uncovered information even true crime connoisseurs will be surprised to learn about the history of the Branch Davidians and David Koresh, including reflections on the long-lasting impact of the raid on Waco and its contribution to today's radicalization of right-wing groups. A true page turner, Waco is a fantastic read, dare I say likely to be the best book on Waco to be published in time for its 30th anniversary.
How far would you go to see a loved one that had passed? Ghost Eaters imagines a world in which it’s possible but at a very steep price. After the overdose death of her ex-boyfriend and best friend Silas, Erin and her friends have to navigate their grief while trying to establish their post-college adult lives. When one of the friends reveals he and Silas found a magic mushroom that allows the living to speak to the dead, the friends try to find Silas, but encounter much more of the spirit world than intended. Though supernatural, Chapman uses this horror story to explore how people cope with mourning and addiction, especially in an already difficult transitory time for these early twenty-something characters. His exploration of an abusive relationship beyond the dead is creepy but gripping. Ghost Eaters explores how history is never truly in the past, and the impact the dead still have on the living.
Cryptid Club is a collection of web comics by Sarah Anderson that are the cutest cryptids you will ever see, and not just because they're impossible to photograph. You don't have to be a believer to enjoy the trials and tribulations of the likes of Mothman, Slenderman, and the Loch Ness Monster, among other creepy creatures. Anderson takes the horror out of the horrific and makes them a very lovable bunch with very human problems, like dating and the struggles of high-waisted pants. Cryptid Club will make you want to believe.
Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World's Most Notorious Diaries (Hardcover)
Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson is a debunking of the infamous “real life” diaries that began with Go Ask Alice and the woman that was responsible for their creation. While the title alludes to the more recognizable Alice journal, Emerson spends more attention on its successor, Jay's Journal, that was one of the largest powder kegs to set off the Satanic Panic. After a Utah teen commits suicide, his mother turned to Alice author Beatrice Sparks to spread awareness of teen suicide and the need to focus on mental health, but instead, she created a false diary which became a smear campaign that destroyed the teen's family. This is the true story behind a relentless fraudster who was desperate for recognition and used falsehoods and fear to get it. Unmask Alice is the perfect read for the casual true crime reader that prefers to avoid the gory details. Just remember to check your sources.
I first picked up Tacky by Rax King because I have a tattoo of a green olive on my ankle, and it matched the cover so well it seemed kismet. Then I started reading through each nostalgia-rich essay, and it was like I time traveled back to the ‘00s in all of their cringing glory. King is unapologetically open about her connection and enjoyment about the things that even in their prime were considered "tacky." Her use of culture that we now recall with groans like Jersey Shore and places as Hot Topic are jumping off points for deeply personal stories about how such sneered-at things had a lasting impact in shaping her life. King's snaking journey to discovering and embracing her sexuality and past mistakes is courageous and admirable. A feminist, sex positive, at times philosophical collection of essays, Tacky lets readers reclaim those interests that are brushed aside as guilty pleasures and embrace them in all their gaudy delight.
Acne is Chinn's story of growing up with divorced Scientologist parents, practically raising herself while heavily smoking and drinking her way through her late adolescence and teens. Through the divorce, relocating to Clearwater, Florida where she struggled with her biracial identity, understanding her class standing, a near-mute alcoholic step father, and her older brother's brain cancer, Chinn has one concern above all else: her cystic acne. There is so much going on in this memoir that Chinn's obsession over her skin condition seems to be one of the only things grounding her in the swirling chaos of the rest of her life. Chinn's writing is witty, smart, and heartbreaking, and will especially resonate with those who know the agony that comes with chronic acne.
We are living in an unprecedented time of conspiracy theories. For the average American, those knee-deep in these fringe theories like flat earth are unstable people to be avoided. However, Off the Edge brings back humanity to the conspiratorially minded. Weill starts at the beginning, with the first instance of flat earth theory in the nineteenth century and how it was handled by both believers and the scientific community of the time, then goes through today's flat earthers and how they intersect with other alternate beliefs. Weill's hands-on journalism, from going to flat earth conventions to maintaining friendships with some of the less extreme believers, makes the book not a condescending work, but a more realistic approach to those with different opinions. From the casual flat earther to those involved in more dangerous, violence-prone conspiracies, Weill offers a glimpse into a world most people would have to see to believe.
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Several People Are Typing is the kind of book you get someone else read with you just so you have a person to text "WHAT JUST HAPPENED" after every chapter. I am a bit leery when it comes to AI, and this nightmarish set up had me giggling and gasping at every hilarious twist. Perhaps it is from familiarity with Slack and mundane office work, but for a novel about a man trapped in a professional instant messaging program and told through the very same media, I myself was ensnared. Read this as a commentary on capitalism and the toxic praise that comes from not taking a break and working yourself into oblivion (in this case, literally), or just enjoy it as a humorous science fiction mix up - either way, it is an enjoyable foray into a very weird book.
As a true crime reader, I can be hesitant to read a book about an unsolved case. Naturally you wonder - how will this end? There is no need for such hesitation in We Keep the Dead Close. Becky Cooper takes a case that has turned into Harvard myth and brought the investigation the victim deserved to fruition. Cooper, a Harvard alumna herself, details her time at the Ivy League school and her personal growth following graduation as it evolves into the study of Jane Britton’s murder in 1969. Her reexamination brings attention to Britton’s life, not just as a victim but as a woman with personality and accomplishments. This deep dive into a cold case reads as a slow burn, but I really enjoyed how Cooper handled her investigation with grace and dignity while still being incredibly thorough. We Keep the Dead Close is an extremely worthwhile read.
Whisper Down the Lane is a love letter to the horror classics of the 70s and 80s. An alternating story of six-year-old Sean and his single mother together against the world as they try to establish themselves in a new town and a new school in 1983, and Richard, an elementary school art teacher newly married with a stepson with which he is trying to establish a father-son relationship in 2013. Sean tries to keep his mother happy and ends up embroiled in a school wide scandal about a satanic cult, while thirty years in the future Richard is starting the school year trying to make sense of what seems to be a series of escalating grotesque pranks. A psychological horror with just enough gore, Chapman crafts the story with twists and turns that keep you gripped. This book perfectly shows how dangerous groupthink can be and shows the similarities between the mindset that allowed the Satanic Panic to flourish, and the dangerous conspiracy theories that lead to real harm today.
Emma Cline’s Daddy is a beautiful short story collection that showcases what a talented writer she is. Each story is unique but tied together by the way they are written: you, the reader, are dropped in the middle of each person’s story during a particularly low point of their lives. Cline allows the narrators to describe as much or as little as they want about how things were, but always details the consequences of their actions with which they now must live. This collection rings with nostalgia for the way things were, but clearly reminds that life only moves forward. Cline’s ability to capture a variety of voices shows how different people at different points in their lives handle their current surroundings. This multitude of perspectives show just how similar we really are, and for that, this book deserves to be read.
The anxiety is REAL. This book started out feeling like a phone-crazed Black Mirror episode but quickly turned into a mother-daughter relationship evaluation in the midst of a personal crisis. Jenny’s in her mid-thirties and wants desperately to actually live the life she presents on social media, but instead is spiraling into a mind-numbing, constant anxiety that sinks further when her extroverted, dare I say ridiculous, “psychic” mother decides to live with her. I was worried this book would be just another “the younger generation and those phones!” where our protagonist learns some kind of unplugging lesson, but it is so much deeper. Jenny deals with real problems women face, including the struggles of both motherhood and infertility, largely through her frantic yet comedic e-mails, social media posts, and inner monologues. I especially appreciated how it deals with infertility, as reproduction is so often considered a woman-defining ability, making it a silent struggle not often discussed. I cannot stress enough how well this book handles the stigmas and struggles that women face, including female relationships that are much more than catty bickering. Grown Ups makes you want to hug your best friends and call your mother.
The Last Book On The Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History's Most Notorious Serial Killers (Hardcover)
To no fan's surprise, the boys of Last Podcast on the Left have created something awesome. With nine chapters on the most notorious serial killers in true crime history, this book is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither is the podcast. For fans of the show, like myself, this book is a wonderful reevaluation of the killers, but told completely fresh - all the content was written originally for this book, both the facts and the jokes. While it is a gruesome topic, the humor and commentary intercut in the narrative (thankfully) provide some comic relief. It's a truly unique true crime book, including the cartoon illustrations throughout. Whether you are just getting into true crime, want to read a fresh take on these killers, or are just a fan of Last Podcast, this book is a must-have.
Cameron Esposito's Save Yourself is the perfect bundle of female empowerment, gay pride, and comedy wrapped in one. Though she has spoken of her childhood in her stand up, I was not prepared for the depth of this memoir or the complicated issues addressed, from struggles within Catholicism to eating disorders to coming to terms as well as coming out with her own sexuality. This memoir is wonderfully written, emotional, and hilarious. It is an essential reminder that women and LGBTQ+ people can and will carve out their own space to thrive among a society that too often tries to ignore, or worse, silence them.
Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America's Most Dangerous Amusement Park (Paperback)
There never has and never will be another place like Action Park. In his memoir, Andy Mulvihill, son of Gene Mulvihill, founder and operator of Action Park, recounts the inception, operation, and eventual closure of the park that shaped not only his adolescence but his adulthood as well. This book hilariously details how the infamous New Jersey park was his father's way of allowing people to be as dangerous as they might want, which, apparently, was extremely. The first-hand account of the home-grown, family run park brought some humanism to a place frequently labeled as a ticketed death trap, though the risk for injury and even death was very real. As a person mildly obsessed with amusement parks, I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who loves non-commercial parks; my hometown park even got a shout out (hey, Kennywood!). While it's a family narrative at its core, the stories in this book are sometimes terrifying but usually hilarious. There really is nothing in the world like Action Park.
In a tumultuous time of xenophobia and class division within the Western world, How to Pronounce Knife exposes the reality of immigrant families’ struggles. Each story in this collection has its own way of making class division painfully apparent as Laotian working class immigrants take jobs barely capable of sustaining a family while trying to integrate into Western culture without completely eradicating their Laotian culture and heritage. This collection is emotionally raw, with many told from a child’s perspective that left me feeling vulnerable yet hopeful. It’s a beautiful collection that I’d highly recommend everyone read, if only to gain some insight of those often belittled or flat out ignored in Western society.