This week’s stack of books is taller than a small giraffe—hoof to ear—while standing on one of those six-inch thick Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionaries. Initially we thought we’d write this week’s newsletter all Shakespearean style to celebrate the release of Ian Doescher’s The Force Doth Awaken (Star Wars Part the Seventh), but that would make this edition of the newsletter more like Hamlet than MacBeth, if you tally our meaning. 

Though, gather ye about, my gentle dears
For this, a ribald telling, is to commence.
A tale, tattered and nattered, as if by bears, 
Unfolds before you with much impertinence.
O, such frivolous lines are these 
That they feign folly and hide their girth, 
And though we cry “Blindness! Madness! Disease!”
We have no recompense, no claim to these words’ worth. 

So, yeah, The Force Doth Awaken is out this week. 

Also out this week is David Wong’s What The Hell Did I Just Read, which is a follow-up to John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders. If you are familiar with the other two books in the series, then you’ll understand the flap copy; if you aren’t, well, there’s no point trying to explain it. Not here. It’s better told while standing at a wooden bar in sub-zero temperatures with your feet stuffed into oversized galoshes that are filled with eels. While doing Jell-O shots. In a word: gonzo. But good, if you like freezing your nipples off while slurping alcohol that jiggles sort of good.

And speaking of needing Jell-O shots before reading, the new Dan Brown opus is out today. This one is called Origin, and dear dutiful and perpetually harried professor of symbology, Robert Langdon is once again called upon to demonstrate an obsessively exacting recollection of art, architecture, and religious iconography in order to unravel a world-wide crisis. It all circles around two questions that you can tease out of the flap copy, if the light is just right . . . 

And speaking of suspending disbelief, The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives also landed this week. Thirteen (naturally) stories of psychic sleuthing and supernatural suspense. You won’t find Sherlock Holmes in here! As clever as he was, he wasn’t inclined to cross the line into the world of the paranormal. No, you’ll have to call upon Moris Klaw or Thomas Carnacki or Dr. John Silence for help. Only those who can see the other side can find their way to the “true” solution. 

[As an aside, we’ll point out that a modern take on occult detecting can be found in The Fissure King, Rachel Pollack’s new book that collects the Jack Shade stories into a single volume. It’s officially out next week, but, as you know, we get special dispensation from time to time on some titles.]

And continuing the trend of spooky books in time for October, Libba Bray is back this week with Before the Devil Breaks You, the latest book in the Diviners series. As the Diviners attempt to recover from the excitement of the last book, a creature known as the King of Crows is gathering the lost and forgotten to him. The Diviners are going to have to fight him if the Jazz Age has any hope of surviving, but the King of Crows is a madcap fiend, and he knows all their secrets . . .

And speaking of ghosts, Colin Dickey’s marvelous Ghostland is out in paperback this week. Dickey dives deep into the dark and loamy history of some of the most haunted places in the US, and what he finds is illuminating and insightful about the how and why and then-what of our cultural and physical history. 

And speaking of the dead, one of Dickey’s cohorts in the Order of the Good Death (seriously; it’s a real order), Caitlin Doughty is back this week with From Here to Eternity. The Order of the Good Death is devoted to providing us (the living) with a better understanding of the end moment (that’d be death), and From Here to Eternity chronicles Doughty’s journey around the world to understand how other cultures view and appreciate death. She and Dickey both aren’t afraid to look under the skirts of the Grim Reaper and report back. They do it out of love, naturally, because there’s no point of spending our lives in fear, is there? Just because it’s all dark out there doesn’t mean we should fret about it now (or ever, really). 

Let’s turn to something a bit more lively, shall we? How about the newly illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Yes, it’s that time of the year, when we get the next volume of Jim Kay’s lovingly and lavishly illustrated editions of that persistently perennial classic Harry Potter series. Oh, so many pictures of monsters. 

And speaking of monsters, this week’s debut is K. Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter, which warns us that “even gods can be slain.” Set in a fantastic not-Japan, not-Mongolia, not-China, it tells the story of Barsalyya Shefali (she who rides the horses and faces the demons head-on) and O-Shizuka (she who gets stuck with being Emperor and misses out on some of the horse-riding and demon-facing) as they attempt to save the world. Like you do in books like this . . . 

And speaking of saving the world, Magnus Chase is back! And so is Loki, apparently. That wily trickster is loading up the Ship of the Dead with a rag-tag assortment of zombies, giants, and giant zombies, and it’s up to Magnus and his equally rag-tag band of buddies to stop the Norse god from bringing on Ragnarok. The story races across Midgard, Jotunheim, and even Niflheim as Magnus and Co. desperately struggle to stop Loki from launching the dread dead ship Naglfar. 

And speaking of exotic locales and trips that don’t go as planned, Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun takes us to the terribly gothic world of the Fae, where dear Catherine Helstone has ventured in search of her ideologically inquisitive brother, Laon, who was off missionarying to the Fae. Yes, you read that right. This one is about bringing religion to the mythological. And it just gets stranger from there . . . 


And finally, Rupi Kaur’s new book of poetry is out this week. the sun and her flowers is a much brighter book than her last one, and we think it’s a fine way to end this week’s otherwise gothic and gloomy newsletter. So, go read a poem to some daisies, laugh at the clouds as they loom, and don’t forget to enjoy the words you read. Especially the good ones. 

An Important Message From Management »»

We interrupt the usual fictional mischief that runs in this space to bring to your attention a matter of utmost importance. We, your loyal booksellers, are having a contest. A contest which you—our dedicated and delightful readers—are in charge of deciding. 

Now most bookstores offer recommendations for books. They put together shelves where “Tim” can put all of his favorite cats riding skateboards books, and “Sally” can list her favorite gothic novels (in a very, very specific order). These shelves are there to help readers find new books. If you liked Al Baxtrom and the Gyrating Gila Monster, you might like Sheriff Dobbie Meets the Wild Lepuses of Albino Ridge. That sort of thing. 

Well, as you can imagine, we’re doing it different. Currently, we have two recommendations. One from Evelyn, and one from Mark. What we need from you—our fabulously friendly and devoted readers—is your attention and your votes. Which of these two books is better? 

There are two stacks in the store. A winner will be declared when one stack is gone. It’s that simple. Now here are the books and some colorful commentary from Mark and Evelyn about why you should read their book and not the other one. 


EVELYN: Oh my god! What is this [redacted]? It’s got guns and—ew! Someone exploded!

MARK: It’s a classic of the genre. Badasses in space. Tough guys getting their personalities zapped across light years because no matter where you are, a hard-ass noir detective makes everything better. 

EVELYN: It takes place in San Francisco. They’re not even in space. 

MARK: They were! Oh, but they were. It’s the whole Quellist uprising that haunts Kovacs. That’s what gives him that edge. That relentless drive to make sure that the little guy doesn’t gets squashed by the evil corporations. Listen to this: “Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching—“

EVELYN: “Bla-dee bla-dee bladeedy bla.” 

MARK: You’re just—


MARK: You can’t—

EVELYN: Bla-dee bla—

MARK: That’s not—


MARK: . . . 

EVELYN: I win! 


MARK: Oh, fine. Let’s look at your book. “Razor sharp . . . powerful punch . . . should be a smash,” says the Sunday Mirror. Good lord, woman. Yours is more violent than mine!

EVELYN: It is not. You’re skipping a bunch of words in that summary. 

MARK: I’m skipping a bunch of words everywhere because they’re “bittersweet,” and “poignant,” and “exquisitely crafted.” That’s all reviewer code for “overwritten pablum that seems profound until you try to parse the [redacted] run-on sentences.” 

EVELYN: It is sweet. 

MARK: It’s about a hundred and four year old woman. It’s going to take a hundred and four pages for anything to happen. Do you know how many people get shot in the first hundred and four pages of my book? 

EVELYN: No, and—

MARK: A lot! And you do you know why? 

EVELYN: I’m not sure—

MARK: “Pure high-octane science fiction.” That’s why. If you left this book out in the sun, it would explode. Yours? It’ll slowly turn brown and the pages will curl. In about eighteen weeks. Snore. 

EVELYN: Mine has heart. 

MARK: Mine had a heart before . . . but then “the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.” 

EVELYN: “The story of your life never starts at the beginning.” That’s what Ona says. Right at the start. Before the boy disappears. 

MARK: And here mine says “ceaseless, off-balance sprint—“ Wait. What? 

EVELYN: The boy disappears. 

MARK: Which boy? 

EVEYLN: The one who helps Ona feed the birds. 

MARK: And he’s missing?

EVELYN: He doesn’t show up. 

MARK: So . . . uh, what does Ona do? 

EVELYN: I don’t know. You’ll have to read it. 

MARK: Oh, haha! I see what you tried there. I’m not going to fall for that! I’ve got Altered Carbon. It’s all—phew! phew! Blam! Kaboomidty! Zap! Zap!

EVELYN: [eye roll and exit]


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