Top Books for October
Leading up to the spookiest night of the year, grab a blanket and cozy up with: Ransom Riggs’ companion novel to the delightfully creepy Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a history of humanity’s never-ending war with rust from journalist Jonathan Waldman, and Yaa Gyasi’s sweeping debut novel.
Tales of the Peculiar
Niree: Just where did the peculiars in Ransom Riggs’ bestselling Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children come from? This compendium of ten creepy fairytales serves as a historical preface to the upcoming Tim Burton film, featuring law-abiding cannibals, girls who talk to ghosts, and the secret history of time loops. While the cast of misfit characters all struggle with their certain oddities, through love, generosity, and a little bit of magic, they grow to learn to accept and embrace their uniqueness. Though the intricate illustrations don't appear in the audiobook, readers Simon Callow, Bruce Mann, and Garrick Hagon bring the oral tradition alive with their deep, sonorous voices, made even spookier with well-placed cackles and elegant British accents.
Standout stories include: The Splendid Cannibals, for conveying the time-old concept of not judging a book by its cover through the lens of selfless and charitable “monsters,” and The Fork-Tongued Princess, which illustrates with a strong central female character that both true love and happily ever after can mean many different things. With wit and whimsy, Riggs brings to life his particular peculiar world, and though the introduction warns the tales are for peculiar ears only, the stories are so universal that it seems Riggs is saying: there's a bit of peculiar in each and every one of us.
Rust: The Longest War
Ashley: Journalist Jonathan Waldman’s writing is anything but rusty as he chronicles humanity’s battle with corrosion throughout the ages. Though the subtitle is “The Longest War,” Waldman doesn’t dilly-dally through history, relating all the big scientific advancements in anti-rust technology with flare and in less time than it would take for some Coca-Cola to corrode a can lacking internal plastic coating. (As Waldman relates, “Without [the] epoxy lining, only microns thick, a can of Coke would corrode in three days.”)
The story of rust isn’t all fascinatingly frightening tidbits about how corrosion wants to slowly gnaw away at our boats and bridges and buildings. At heart, Rust captures the spirit of human ingenuity in the face of seemingly impossible odds in a duel with Mother Nature. The book begins by chronicling the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in the 1980s, and focuses on how government, big business, and everyday individuals almost all supported this project, financially or otherwise. Waldman’s work is a testament to how rust can’t corrode human genius and perseverance. (Psst—this title is available in October’s Scribd Selects!)
Also available in audio.
Alex: I’ve been seeing Homegoing everywhere since this summer — on the train, in cafes, on Instagram — so it was only a matter of time before I picked it up for myself.
An ambitious and engrossing debut novel, Homegoing tells the story of two half-sisters, born in 18th Century Ghana, and their descendants through the present day. The sisters live parallel lives: While one remains in Africa, and her descendants war, marry, and trade with other tribes and colonists, the other is captured and sold into slavery in the American South. Her descendants live through major historical touchstones, from plantation life through emancipation, Jim Crow through the Harlem Renaissance. With alternating chapters showcasing a segment from each successive generation’s life, there are hints of Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, though Gyasi’s novel is more realistic and more expansive. Well written and compulsively readable, Homegoing is also illuminating; the novel makes clear that as far as our country has come, the roots of racism that built it go deeper still.
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