Ahh, May. It’s a great time of year when the flowers are in bloom (or have already died off) and the summer heat is just around the corner. Here at The Arcanist, like the rest of the world, we’re also excited for summer movies to drop, such as Endgame and Godzilla. It’s a great time to zonk out with some action flicks (plus the ending of Game of Thrones). But when we’re not paying way too much for popcorn or taking walks outside, we’re still huddled around some great books.
Let’s jump right in with what we’ve been reading.
Does anyone else have a hard time staying motivated when the weather warms up? Once the sun comes out I start taking long hikes, drinking tea outside, and baking. Everything except reading. However, I’ve had to fight the beautiful weather and stay focused because Josh discovered audio books and is trying to beat me.
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Amazon description for Silver Sparrow reads:
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families — the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered.
Who wouldn’t want to read that? It’s a soapy premise, but Jones transforms the novel into something more. Both daughters, Dana and Chaurisse, take a turn narrating and winning the reader over.
Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This was a really fun, sci-fi twist on a classic murder mystery. Aiden Bishop has eight days and eight hosts in order to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. If he can name the killer, he will be freed. If not, his memories will be wiped and he’ll be forced to start the loop again. It’s a very cool premise. The repetition allows the reader to see scenes and characters from all angles. (The effect kind of reminded me of Russia Doll.) And there are several twists that I didn’t see coming.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Ada is born with “one foot on the other side.” The influence of the spirits within her cause her to grow into a troubled child. When she goes to University and is far from home, she is assaulted and her other selves seize control. It’s an unsettling and dark story and the writing is beautifully done.
For me, there’s no simple connection between the books I’ve been reading this month. I’m kind of all over the place from trying to understand how a butler may have wasted his life in the UK to trying to figure out just what the hell happened to a Korean woman when she became a vegetarian (nothing good, that’s for sure).
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This might be the most aggressively British book ever written. For those of you that haven’t read it yet, it follows the story of a butler who is coming to terms with the fact that butlering is on its way out and that the household he has given his life to may not have been what he thought. Now, later in life, he must address the shortcomings of his life.
Ishiguro is a master of this type of story. He can take memories and make them feel real again, tinged with nostalgia when there shouldn’t be any at all. If you’re in a contemplative mood and are okay with potentially having an existential crisis, this is the book for you.
The Vegetarian by Han King
In short, this book is bat shit insane, unsettling, and told in a way that adds more mystery than it solves. The Vegetarian is about a Korean woman who decides to (guess what) stop eating meat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. Not at all. When she announces this decision, her family turns against her, her husband leaves her, and she slowly starts to lose her grip on reality in an attempt to become a plant herself.
The story is told in three parts that are all from different characters’ POV (her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister). Every chapter is dark, ominous, unnerving, and cerebral. At less than 200 pages, this is a book that you’ll pick up, spend a few hours with, and put down. But it will sit in your brain for a week afterward.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Because I’m not a glutton for punishment, I also decided to read a great mystery novel. And Then There Were None was a fantastically complex little novel that, in typical Christie fashion, revolves around a murder at a house. Only this murder is based around a poem called Ten Little Indians (yes, it is an offensive little poem, but what can you do?).
Christie manages to make a murder unfold in a way that doesn’t really allow you to figure out the true perpetrator until the epilogue. Then, like most of her stories, it all makes sense. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a good whodunit to start off your summer reading.
May is shaping up to be a busy month at The Arcanist. We’ve got several rather big projects in the pipeline (keep an ear out for those), the weather will be shaping up a bit, meaning more pictures out of doors from our Instagram profile (thearcanistmag), and we’re still working out just when in hell’s bells we’ll have time to see Avengers: Endgame.
That said, the pace of our reading hasn’t slowed down, so if you’re in need of some springtime page-turners, give these titles a try.
The Outsider by Stephen King
The master of horror is at it again with The Outsider. When a small town in the southwest plays host to an unspeakable crime, Detective Ralph Anderson is charged with finding the perpetrator. All of the evidence, including eye-witness accounts, fingerprints, and DNA, point to one man, Terry Maitland. However, Terry Maitland has an iron-clad alibi, corroborated by three others, as well as indisputable video footage. Thus, King’s novel poses the question: how could a killer be in two places at once? The elusive answer will have you reading well into the early morning.
Old Man Logan by Mark Millar, illustrated by Steve McNiven
Hailed as one of the most important storylines of the 21st century, the team behind the landmark Civil War arc focuses on a legend in his twilight with Old Man Logan.
Fifty years have passed since the end of ‘superheroes.’ All that remain are villains, gangs, and those trying to protect their families in the hope of seeing another day. One of whom is named Logan. In a previous life, he was called ‘The best there is.’ But when an old ally calls in a favor, his past comes flooding back, forcing him to see if his claws still slice. Brilliant worldbuilding, timeless characters, and damned good storytelling await in this dystopian Marvel epic.
Reading your own brilliant books? Consider writing your brilliant thoughts in essay form to be published by The Arcanist.