by Danielle Schapaugh
Because this time of year is extra stressful (plus the weather is getting bleaker and the days ever shorter), it’s the perfect time to escape into a can’t-put-it-down fantastic story. The books below will whisk you away to other worlds and great adventures, some are gritty and others uplifting, and each one is worth a try.
Pierce Brown’s debut novel, “Red Rising,” will grab you from the first page and take you on a daring, action-packed journey into the future and across planets. The best part is, it’s also full of heart. The story begins deep in the mines of Mars with Darrow, the youngest drill specialist or “helldiver” in recent memory. After a torturous betrayal, his need for vengeance drives him to become a revolutionary with the hope of changing the entire caste system of his society. Driven to seek social justice by his indestructible love of family, he transforms himself and becomes more than he ever thought he could be. Like Rocky Balboa, he possesses an inhuman ability to endure, and you will love Darrow soon after the first line, “I would have lived in peace but my enemies brought me war.”
Book two in the Red Rising series, “Golden Son,” does not suffer from the typical sophomore book slump. I was grateful to be able to pick it up immediately after finishing the first book and am now anxiously awaiting the third installment, “Morning Star,” which is due to be released on January 12. I recommend Brown’s books to everyone I meet, including my dental hygienist, mail carrier, and all of my coworkers. Universal Pictures purchased the screen rights for seven figures, so it looks like a new blockbuster is in the works.
Next, for an adventurous tale that is both gritty and poetic, try “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doer. This is the story of two young people on opposing sides of WWII in occupied France. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a young blind woman left alone in a house that is crumbling around her. As the bombs drop, you follow her journey while she hides, drinks the dusty water from a bathtub, and discovers a last can of food that is miraculously filled with peaches. Your heart may forget to beat as you turn the pages.
Marie-Laure’s counterpart, Werner Pfennig, is a German orphan who loves fixing things. When an officer discovers Werner’s uncanny ability to repair radios, he finds himself recruited by the Nazis and plugged into the war machine. You will long for the war to end but for the book to continue forever.
Finally, in “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” you will find yourself becoming strangely fascinated with the study of moss. The journey in this book is largely internal, but oh, what an immense and powerful journey it is. Plain-faced Alma Whittaker moves from infancy to old age and discovers truths about herself which only time can reveal. The visceral details of 19th century life, the struggles between identity and expectations, and the passion with which Alma approaches her scientific study of mosses will have you immersed in another world and begging for more.
Accepting someone’s book suggestion requires a certain amount of trust. You wouldn’t trust the opinion of someone you don’t know, but I would like you to think of your local librarians as your “book fortune tellers.” Librarians are trained to identify the “appeal factors” of a book in order to recommend the right book for the right person. So, if ever you find yourself in need of a reliable suggestion, a librarian will help assess your preferences and give you a list of books you are sure to love. The next time you’re here, ask a librarian about getting a personalized reading list. You can also call the library at (785) 477-2735, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.