What’s On Your Bucket List?

by Marlene Kupsch 

A few years ago The Fault in Our Stars made a big hit when it came out in theaters. However,  I am the type of person who prefers to read the book first and then the movie is a disappointment. BUT the novel and the film were both well done! I think John Green did a terrific job telling you the story of Hazel, a young girl with a terminal illness, who finds Gus in a cancer support group and together they go on a journey to meet the reclusive author of a beloved book. I would love to meet and have a conversation with my favorite author!!

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods is a five star for me. The name of the novel has changed  to How to Be Happy, when it was reprinted in paperback. (I like the original name and cover, but no one asked my permission, haha!) I picked this book up off the new book shelf not long into when the cooler weather started at the end of last year. I remember thinking, a few cozy nights on the couch, with the dog and this book were definitely in my future. Boy, was I wrong! The very first night, I read half the book! I would have read well into the night if it wasn’t for the thought of waking up for work the next morning really tired. So I finished it the next night. I was completely enamored with Polly! I wanted her to come and help me change  the things in my life that I did not have the guts to change. Polly and Annie embark on a 100-day journey together so Annie can move on with her life from the slump she is in, and Polly can make her lasting days on earth mean something. I laughed, I cried and I loved it from cover to cover!

Jenifer Estess was in her prime when ALS came to get her! She just started checking things off her Bucket List when it hit. She had another big one to get though: She wanted a husband and kids. Tales From the Bed: On Living, Dying, and Having It All: A Memoir, she tells you how she co founded an organization called Project ALS that raised more than 17 million dollars, and with the help of her family and friends lived the rest of her life trying to attain all her goals.

To lighten the mood now… Who doesn’t love Morgan Freeman? In the film Bucket List, Morgan and Jack Nicholson, who are dying of cancer, escape their hospital rooms to conquer all the things that they have ever wanted to do. Jack is a billionaire, so money is no problem, and together they run a humorous journey around the world doing all the things they can before they “kick the bucket”.

Not everyone makes a bucket list after they are told they are dying. Some of us are dreamers and make one early on in life. I have a few things on mine. None of them are A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail or anything that requires me to walk for days and weeks through the woods, but Bill Bryson thought it was a novel idea! This book was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford. He tries to get everyone he knows to come with him, and only one person, Nick Nolte’s character, agrees to accompany him, who by the way is the complete opposite of Redford. They both learn different things about themselves and each other. Along the way there are a few arguments, a few laughs, and new people to meet on this trail.  Well worth the read or watch!

When I first moved to Tennessee,  I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and marveled over other people’s accomplishments and imagined how hard they would have had to work to achieve the fame they have. I do not want to be in the limelight and have entire exhibits dedicated to me, but I do want to know that I have made a difference somewhere, for someone. I planned to make a list of all things big and small that I could do. In the gift shop, I found a vinyl record covered little journal that had one of my favorite country songs on it. (“I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson.) My grandmother used to sing this song every chance she got, and being she was the sounding board of all my hopes and dreams when I was young, this was the perfect place to write all my new ones down in. I have since checked off 2 things on my bucket list and have acquired a few more!

Make a Bucket List Today! Write down one thing right now, get it done tomorrow! Live like today might be your last day, and check those dreams off!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dewey Decimal System

by James Rucker 

Thus far, we haven’t focused on non-fiction in our blog. So, broad though it may be, our topic today is the Dewey Decimal System (DDS). As the subtitle of this entry suggests, I spent some time griping about it. I actually still do, for a variety of reasons. The DDS reinforces the unhelpful belief that practical skills and projects (600s) are fundamentally separate from artistic (700s) or scientific (500s) endeavours. (For example, vegetable gardening is 635, while decorative gardening is 712, and botany is the 580s.) It gives overwhelming space to Christianity (220-289.x) when compared to the space given to every other religion in all of human existence (290-299.x). It gives a lot more space to the United states (973-979.x) when compared to Mexico (972.x), Canada (971.x), or the various indigenous groups of North America (some fraction of 970.x).

However, such problems are relatively minor compared to our topic for today: the DDS does not know where to classify history books.

Actually, I should say that the DDS doesn’t know how to categorize any books at all. History books simply show the problem in sharp relief. Of course, this isn’t just a problem with the DDS. No categorization system is ever going to be perfect, or even objective; they will always require subjective judgement for one simple reason: books can be about more than one thing at once, and this problem will persist for as long as books continue to insist on containing more than one word.

For the uninitiated, the DDS is a set of 1000 digits, each associated with a different topic. (They continue to divide past the decimal place, but we’ll get into that later.) It is first divided into ten different areas, with 100 points each:

dewey 1

“Now wait a minute!” my esteemed readers all shout at once. They then proceed to object, somewhat hyperbolically, “Are you mad? Or are you simply oblivious? You said it didn’t know where to categorize History books, yet right there, as plain as day, it says ‘900-999: History and geography’. How could you have missed something so obvious?”

I did notice, actually, but the word Geography should really be first, because, as you’ll see below, the ten sets of 10 are assigned (mostly) to more specific geographical regions. (Make a mental note that the 920s, for the most part, have fallen into disuse.):

dewey 2

To emphasize my point, we should look at how the 940s divide:

dewey 3

How would one categorize history that crosses borders? Where do we put the history of the Atlantic slave trade for example? *Searches RCLSTN catalog for “slavery” and “atlantic slave trade”* Apparently, 306 (mostly). Not in the 900s at all! What about history of art, history of science, history of sports? For a clue, let’s look at the 90x.x region:

dewey 4

Note how 901 is “philosophy and theory of history” while philosophy in general, as we saw earlier, is the 100s. Could it be? Does philosophy have this problem too? (Spoiler warning: Yes, it does.) The important clue is that they are both making use of the digit 1. On further investigation, you’ll find out 501 is philosophy of science and 701 is philosophy of art. In fact, 301 is philosophy of sociology, 401 is philosophy of language, 801 is philosophy of literature… yeah, and 101 is philosophy of philosophy (because that’s an actual thing, believe it or not). Well,  909 is world history… Which, in a way, is the history of all history. This pattern holds for other subjects: history of philosophy is 109, history of science is 509, history of art is 709, and so on.

This is because Melvil Dewey gave his system a recursive structure, where the patterns of classification echo into one another. In other words, if you take one classification number and attach it at the end of another, you might (just maybe) have a working classification that somehow combines the two topics in some way. History is the most obvious example of this. If you look under a subject’s call number, and you see either “9” or “09” tacked on the end, you are probably looking at the history of that subject. For example, 629.4  is space engineering, and Deborah Cadbury’s 2006 book, Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space, is shelved at Linebaugh under 629.409.

Biographies receive a similar treatment. As I pointed out above, the 920s used to be where biographies were categorized (actually, at Linebaugh, we still have a fair number of older biographies there). But if the 920s are generally unused, where did the books go? Well… in a way, they went everywhere. If you know what such-and-such a person is known for you’ll frequently (though not always) find biographies of that person under that topic with either “92” or “092” tacked on the end. For example, 520 is Astronomy, and so David Wootton’s 2010 book, Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, is shelved under 520.92. Similarly, 780 is music, so 780.922 is where you’d find The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg.

You can use the same method for Geographical locations:

These examples have mostly been art history, but as Galileo’s biography shows, it applies to other disciplines as well. Initially, I found this quite frustrating. After all, this speaks to an ideological assumption that I’ll revisit in future posts concerning what counts as historical and what does not. From the Dewey Decimal System, one would conclude that history is all about nations, geographical regions, borders, and the wars fought to change them. And if you look at the history of the U.S. in the DDS, you’ll see that it is organized according to presidential terms. Are we then to conclude that presidents are the only important Americans? Are the only important dates those when power changed between them? I’d like to exclaim, “Of course not! History isn’t just names and dates!” But that is exactly what many people assume it is.

The causes for this popular opinion are themselves historical. When academic history began in the 1800s, nations, borders, names, dates, and (last but not least) wars were the only topics historians tended to emphasize. Mainstream historians didn’t begin exploring other areas of life in much depth until after World War II. Melvil Dewey first published the DDS in 1876 and so his system reflects the assumptions of his time. The non-academic press still lives under this assumption, and the popularly-consumed history books they publish reflect this. In addition, the political interests who dictate school curricula carry this attitude as well, and high school history classes reflect this. The general view that history is mostly the memorization of names and dates is the unfortunate result. My hope is that my blog entries, in time, will convince some hearts and minds otherwise.

Throughout the 1900s, academic historians expanded their interest from the study of politicians, generals, and diplomats to the study of industry, agriculture and trade, topics that customarily are shelved under the 300s and 600s. In other words, they helped bring historians’ attention to the doings of regular people in their practical lives. Others later broadened history’s scope further to consider the effects and changes in language and culture. It has become clear that, in a very real sense, everything humans do is historical, and therefore everything we do has a history of how we did it. Not just art and science, but gardening, beer,  and religious practice. But all these other topics are shelved apart from what the DDS considers “real history,” and that used to sadden me.

So how did I learn to stop worrying and love the Dewey Decimal System? Because of times like when I was walking through the stacks today, trying to find the books I mentioned above. In my search, I stumbled upon this:

dewey 5.png

It was a whole row of books in the 385s, which is where we shelve our books on trains, and I noticed most of them were under 385.09 and its subordinate points. Sure enough, I had discovered a little island of history books. 385.0957 was a history of Siberian railroads. 385.097, 385.0971 and 385.0973 were histories of railroads in North America, Canada, and the U.S. respectively. It was a magical moment. Despite supporting a narrower view of history on its surface, beneath that, the Dewey Decimal System contains the truth that all human endeavours are historical.

What’s the upside? If you’re ever in your little corner of the Dewey Decimal System, let’s say 641.5 (cooking), and you find a section with books under 641.5944 (French food), 641.5952 (Japanese food), or 641.5973 (“American” food), you’ll know you’ve found a little island where you’ll find the history books written just for you.

Diverse Worlds: Authors of Color in Sci-Fi & Fantasy

by Jude Romines
In the first installment of Diverse Worlds, a series highlighting genre fiction that centers marginalized peoples and perspectives, Brittney made several fabulous recommendations for books with protagonists of color. Of the authors mentioned, she wrote “these writers are keeping the genre relevant and vibrant by ensuring that more and more people can see themselves in the pages of the novels that they read.” This sentiment is vital, and it’s one I’d like to address today—albeit from a different angle.
Just as readers benefit from seeing themselves represented in books, I would suggest writers benefit from seeing themselves represented within a diverse publishing industry. So today, I’ll be going over several inspiring authors of color whose contributions to science fiction and fantasy have helped carve a space for marginalized creators in genre fiction! Below each mini-bio will be some recommendations from our shelves for you to check out!
J.Y. Yang
jy yang
J.Y. Yang is a non-binary Chinese-Singaporean writer of science fiction and fantasy. Their pronouns are they/them, and they have a background in molecular biology and journalism. A self-described “postcolonial intersectional feminist,” Yang takes a multidisciplinary, cross-cultural approach to writing fiction. The Black Tides of Heaven, part of their Tensorate series, was nominated for Best Novella in the 2017 Nebula Awards.
Recommended from our shelves:
The Black Tides of Heaven
The Black Tides of Heaven follows two siblings, Mokoya and Akeha, as they grow up in a “silkpunk” society (silkpunk is a sister to steampunk; it’s a genre which incorporates retro-futuristic machines and inventions with East Asian cultures from antiquity). With a mesh of ancestral magic and future-facing biotechnology, The Black Tides of Heaven offers a world of fascinating contrast and possibility.
Bonus representation points for characters with transgender and non-binary identities! (For more LGBT book recommendations, see our last post!)

Nnedi Okorafor

nnedi okorafor

A self-described “Naijamerican” writer of science fiction and fantasy, Nnedi Okorafor is an expert on living “in-between” cultures. An American-born child of Nigerian immigrants, she shuns the hyphenated title of Nigerian-American, remarking that, in contrast, “‘Naijamerican’ is one word, implying a hybridized new individual whose parts cannot be separated.” And her writing, which frequently centralizes bicultural protagonists and themes, no doubt reflects this holistic mentality! For more on Okorafor, take a gander at her fascinating Ted Talk on the power of sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa.

Recommended from our shelves:
Binti (mentioned in our first installment of Diverse Worlds!)

Akata Witch
I once pitched Akata Witch to one of my friends as a “Nigerian Harry Potter,” and while this might be a convenient comparison, I have to admit Akata Witch is wholly original and wholly saturated with its own inimitable culture. The story is about twelve-year-old Sunny, an American-born Nigerian with albino skin, who feels utterly displaced among her native, darker-skinned classmates. Homesick for America and unable to connect with her peers, Sunny is dejected until she discovers within herself a link to the world around her—magical powers reminiscent of the Leopard People of West African folklore! What follows is an exploration of heritage, belonging, and juju.

Lagoon (Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. exclusive)Picture it: aliens invading Lagos, Nigera. What more can I say? Okorafor masterfully blends traditional African cosmologies with modern technology while shifting the locus of conventionally Eurocentric science fiction to Nigeria. The story is quick, action-packed, and incredibly compelling.


Zen Cho

zen cho

Zen Cho is a Malaysian author of fantasy with a background in politics and law. Based in London, she is the recipient of the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer as well as the Crawford Fantasy Award.

Recommended from our shelves:
Sorcerer to the Crown
Sorcerer to the Crown is the first installment of the Sorcerer Royal series, which features freed slave and newly elected Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe, as he navigates the bewildering politics of the Unnatural Philosophers of Britain, a guild of England’s most distinguished magic users. A devoted reformist, Zacharias is bent on using his newfound position to solve Britain’s most pressing crisis—a shortage in the magic that supports daily living throughout the country. Along the way, he hopes to advance initiatives for equitable access to magic and magical education among Regency London’s most marginalized populations. Full of political intrigue and even a locked-room murder-mystery, Sorcerer to the Crown is an unassumingly clever, endearingly whimsical read.

Jewelle L. Gómez

jewelle gomez

Jewelle Gómez is an author, essayist, poet, playwright, and activist whose work centralizes the experiences of LGBT women of color. Driven by an African-American and indigenous Ioway heritage, her work has appeared in many anthologies featuring postcolonial and black feminist criticism. A founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and a two-time winner of the Lambda Award for Best Novel, Gómez is a truly intersectional, truly trailblazing advocate for diverse representation.

Recommended from our shelves:
The Gilda Stories
A two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Speculative Fiction, The Gilda Stories takes place in 1850s Louisiana and follows an escaped slave as she is inducted into a society of vampires. Later assuming the name Gilda, Gómez’s black bisexual protagonist attempts to make a family for herself within the coven. In her search for belonging, GIlda embarks on a complex existential voyage, exploring and complicating even the most established conventions of vampire literature.

Bonus representation points for characters with lesbian and bisexual identities!

C.B. Lee

cb lee

C.B. Lee is a Chinese-Vietnamese American writer of science fiction and fantasy. Her novel Not Your Sidekick was a finalist in the 2017 Lambda Literary Awards as well as the 2017 Bisexual Book Awards. Lee herself is bisexual and has been a fervent advocate for LGBT and PoC representation in YA books. She has been featured on panels such as Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience and DragonCon’s “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More.”

Recommended from our shelves:
Not Your Sidekick (Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. exclusive)
Jessica Tran is a high schooler living in a world where superpowers are actually super common. The chance of getting them is even more probable when both your parents are celebrated superheroes—which just makes Jessica’s inexplicable lack of powers even more of a letdown. Resigned to a life of normalcy, she figures she’ll have to succeed the old fashioned way—by beefing up her college resume. So, when Jessica gets a call back for a paid internship, she’s over the moon! Until she realizes she’ll be working as a lab assistant for a super villain. Add to the mix Jessica’s bewildering attraction to a fellow intern, and you’ve got one conflicted protagonist. And one fascinating new angle on the superhero genre!

Bonus representation points for characters with bisexual and transgender identities!

Hitting the Books: A Memory

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It will probably surprise no one to learn that I was an incorrigible nerd in school. I mean, I went on to become a librarian, and while our experiences vary, a common thread tends to be that we are incorrigible nerds. And as such, when I look back on my education, I feel a great deal of fondness for assigned reading. This was not always the case.

Throughout elementary and high school, I had a sometimes contentious relationship with assigned reading. Bookish I was, but I also had a rebellious streak and interests that often conflicted with curricula. I knew my own tastes and my own reading level, so why (went my childhood and adolescent logic) would I want to waste my time reading what someone else told me to so I could pass a test? (There were notable exceptions, and I could often be enticed to love a book about which I was initially skeptical: The Outsiders, Fahrenheit 451, Night, The Scarlet Letter.)

That attitude changed somewhat when I entered college and had conferred upon me the heady power of choice. Sure, I had a list of prerequisites and major requirements, but within that list was so much freedom. I could flip through my course catalog and read through the listings for upper-division English and order as though from a menu, each course unique in flavor and theme.

My favorite day of the semester was always the first. I like beginnings, I always have, and I place much stock in making sure that they are auspicious. In college I would pick my outfit to set the tone I wanted, pack up my new notebooks and pens that smelled of potential, and head off to the Humanities building eager to get started.

I loved the well-worn format of the first day, each professor going through the syllabus and revealing their personalities in how they chose to communicate their expectations, in tones either nurturing or apocalyptic. And I loved getting my list of assigned reading. I would have already ordered the books, having the lists in advance, but there was the structure of the order of the assignments, and of course, some surprises. The Norton Anthology is huge; there’s no way to cover it all in a semester, so being told which selections to read for the next class was like being handed a map to guide me through a vast, unfamiliar wild.

It didn’t matter that I was, despite being an ambitious A student, an inveterate procrastinator. It didn’t matter that I would invariably dislike some of my assignments or get overwhelmed by the volume of reading that comes with taking 20 credit hours of literature classes. By November I might be staring wanly into my copy of Julius Caesar wondering how I was ever to discuss it in an original and substantial manner for 10 pages and considering escape plans, but on the first day of the semester, all was new. Hope tinged everything with a rose-gold glow that had yet to fade into the harsh, dark reality of essays finished at 2:00 AM (and prayers that the printer works, oh please, please don’t jam, please let me have added enough money to my printing account, please…).

I miss those days now. Because they were frustrating, and there are some assignments that I detested and still do to this day. (Those authors will retain their dignity in anonymity.) But along with the stress there were moments of transcendence, when I discovered authors I had never read before and who left me changed. Back then, every word had meaning and weight, and even the most confusing poem would be unraveled in class to reveal a core of diamond at its center, clear and pure and precious.

We’ve reached the conclusion. If I were older, I might adjust the lapels of my tweed coat and bite my briar pipe thoughtfully and admonish the students trooping reluctantly back to class, reminding them of the passage of time and encouraging them to drink in everything their education has to offer. But I don’t have a pipe, or the years of perspective. So I’ll just say to those students: I envy you.

To be young and unsuspecting and arrogant, not knowing how a book that you don’t even want to read can reach right between your ribs and touch a heart still soft enough to feel things sharp and deep. What a misery and what a joy.

Have a great school year, everyone.


Taboo: Death and Grief

by Marlene Kupsch 

I find that when faced with the words death or dying people often tend to shy away or run as fast as they can. Death is not something that can be undone; yes, we all understand that, but it should not take over your life. We must find a way to move forward. Not forget, by any means, but live our lives as best we can. Your loved one would not want you to grieve for the rest of your life.

For me, the best way to get through a difficult situation like this and carry on is to talk about it. With anyone! Always seek professional help if the feelings become too powerful for you to talk through them with your family or friends. There are times were a book is exactly what is needed. That is when the library and the endless supply of reading material becomes a great lifeline. The more we can learn, the less scared we will be! My picks:death 1

Dying to Know… About Death, Funeral Customs, and Final Resting Places by Lila Perl
If you want to know the history on why certain customs or rituals have come to be, Perl is your woman! Why did the custom of putting a headstone on top of the grave start? Did Queen Victoria start the fashion of mourning in black when her husband passed away? When did we start the practice of embalming and why?

death 2One of the newest books that I have had the great fortune of finding is Grief Works by Julia Samuel. The author is a grief psychotherapist, who has written about some of the people she has counseled overthe years and the steps she helped them take to try to move forward with their lives. She has a lot of helpful information throughout the book.

For children, The Saddest Time by Norma Simon is something death 6worth reading to your little ones. This book gives you three different stories on why death might occur. It talks about the ways you might feel and what you could do to help your loved ones or yourself. It explains death in a way that is not overwhelming or scary.

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman is about a nurse who writes letters for the patients under her care in a hospice facility. She promises to post them once the patient death 3passed, but what if she can give the chance for redemption by breaking that rule? Should she let things in her personal life interfere with a promise she made the patient?death 4

There is a series written by Neal Shusterman that makes you wonder about the future and all the advancements of science and technology. What if all diseases were cured? What if the world conquered death? How would we “thin” out the population? Scythe is a young adult novel that I was not able to put down. I was in this world all night long, cover to cover, wondering if I was given the opportunity to become a Scythe, would I want the power? How would it feel to be the person who was given just a few hours left to live? How would I choose the method of death for me?

death 5Last but not least, for those young’uns, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is a must read! The story starts after the family pet has died. The little boy is understandably heartbroken and struggles to come up with all ten good things about his cat that his mother asks him to say at the funeral. Letting go is never easy. Barney was very much loved.

There are so many books and so little time. I could easily turn this into a 100-book-plus list. The important thing is that you can find at least one book that gave you a smile or gave you that “I’m not alone” feeling. Death is no stranger to me. I have gotten that 3 am phone call that you hope you never get, I have sat by the bedside of family members as they have taken their last breaths, I have lost friends and family, young and old. Death does not discriminate, and it is not usually welcomed. You must grieve for each and every one,and sometimes in all different ways. There is no wrong or right way to grieve, and there is no time limit. From all my experiences, as long as you do not stand still for too long, you are on the right path.

Thank you for giving me your time!!

True Crime Books that Aren’t About Murder

By Brittney Reed-Saltz 

Recently I jumped onto the true crime train, which everyone else has been riding for quite some time. Although interest in true crime is nothing new, recent podcasts like Serial and My Favorite Murder, as well as books like I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the indomitable Michelle McNamara, have brought plenty of new fans to the genre.

But what if you want to explore true crime without reading about grisly murders, kidnappings, and other violent crimes? If you want to avoid this kind of content, are you just out of luck?

As it turns out, no! There are plenty of true crime books about heists, espionage, gambling, deception, and even arson that provide the adventure of complex investigations, real-life mysteries, and heightened danger, with less troubling content than the plethora of serial killer books that flood the market.

American Fire by Monica Hessetrue crime 4
A true crime love story, mixed with arson? The premise automatically sets this book apart from others in its genre. Hesse explores a series of arsons that took place in Accomack County in rural Virginia. Each abandoned building burned bred more suspicion among the county’s residents, tension growing as vigilante groups sprang up, the police force searched for the culprit, and residents worries when the arsonist would strike next. But when the culprit is apprehended, his reason for setting the fires will prove more bizarre than his crimes.

The Snowden Files by Luke Harding
In 2013, former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden became a household name–and a hotly debated one–when he came forward with information about the previously unknown scope of the NSA’s intelligence-gathering practices. Written “like a spy novel,” this is the book for you if you’re looking for an insider look at a case that changed how we think about our data.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo
After 9/11, Tania Head came forward with the remarkable story of how she survived the World Trade Center attacks. She became a champion for other survivors, taking an active role in the World Trade Center Survivors Network, leading tours of Ground Zero, and providing leadership and advocacy. There was just one problem with her story: It wasn’t true. Take a look at the story behind this act of fraud.

true crime 1The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
And now for a story of intelligence and espionage that predates Snowden, and was overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks: the case of Brian Regan. A U.S. government contractor, Regan smuggled sensitive information out of his office, burying it underground in the hopes of selling their locations to foreign governments. Read this book to learn about his crimes, his brilliant cryptography, and how his dyslexia ultimately led to his capture.

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom
Go inside the world of underground gambling with Molly Bloom, who at the age of 26 became the leader of the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the world. Celebrities, financial giants, and politicians all played at Molly’s table, winning and losing millions of dollars and making her privy to exclusive gossip. But Molly’s empire came crashing down around her… Find out why in her memoir.

Hot Art by Joshua Knelman
As years pass and the value of art increases, so, too, does the lure of stealing it. Knelman spent five years immersed the world of art thieves, exploring their backgrounds and activities, as well as learning about the rare special investigators who specialize in foiling them. This book is the result of his research. true crime 3

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Before I found this book, I had no idea that there even was such a thing as “America’s strange flower-selling subculture.” Orlean follows eccentric John Laroche on his obsessive quest to clone an incredibly rare orchid. Where does the crime come  in, you might ask? (I did.) Answer: from Laroche’s illegal attempts to poach orchids out of the Florida swamps, which led to his arrest. This story inspired the movie Adaptation. 

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
Another case of unusual theft: When you think of a burglary ring, privileged teenagers might not come to mind. But during the Aughts, a group of Los Angeles teens used social media and TMZ to track the whereabouts of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan–and steal more than $3 million in valuables from them. Their crimes provided the inspiration for the movie of the same name, starring Emma Watson.


True Crime Books I’m Reading After ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’

by Brittney Reed-Saltzi'll be gone in the dark

After waiting on the holds list for weeks–see, it happens to librarians, too!–a copy of Michelle McNamara’s posthumous true crime blockbuster I’ll Be Gone in the Dark came in for me. It was exactly what I needed: I had been in a reading slump, but I tore through the pages. It would be hyperbole to say that I became as engrossed in McNamara’s writing as she did in the Golden State Killer case, because I’ve never seen anyone so doggedly obsessed with a project. But this book haunted me in a way that I haven’t been haunted by my reading in a long time. My tastes are hard-boiled, yet this book gave me nightmares.

The truth is, I’m a true crime newbie: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is only the second true crime title I’ve ever read, along with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I remember flipping through my mom’s beloved true crime paperbacks as a tween, poring over the glossy photo inserts with a mixture of disgust and fascination, but I never got into the genre.

Well, until now.

Here are the true crime books that I’m planning to read next, despite the havoc they will wreak on my sleep schedule.

the fact of a body

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and A Memoir by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich
Marzano-Lesnevich took a summer job working at a law firm in Louisiana when she encountered the case of Ricky Langley. Her reaction was so visceral and so contradictory to her anti-death penalty stance that she felt compelled to investigate more deeply. After I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I’m ready to follow another DIY sleuth down a dark, obsessive rabbit hole, and The Fact of a Body sounds like just that.

midnight in the garden of good and evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
This book has shimmered in my periphery for a long time. It’s an atmospheric examination not just of a murder, but of a unique town and its equally unique inhabitants: Savannah, Georgia, home to criminals, drag queens, society ladies, and voodoo priestesses, to name only a handful. I share McNamara’s opinion that the most interesting part of a crime isn’t the act itself, but the people it impacts, and I think that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil satisfy this interest.

my friend dahmer

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (available through Hoopla)
When someone’s crimes are as lurid as Jeffrey Dahmer’s, it’s easy to conceive of the perpetrator as an inhuman monster. The thought that they were just a human being taxes the mind and inspires terror, because we don’t want to acknowledge that people are capable of such things. This graphic memoir, written by Dahmer’s former classmate and friend, presents the chilling truth: serial killers are people, and you might know one.

green river running red

Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule
The Green River Killer was another serial murderer who, like the Golden State Killer, amassed a large number of victims and eluded capture for decades, which for me is the most bloodcurdling aspect of the GSK case. I have read reviews that attest to Rule’s focus on the victims, which is something I admire about McNamara’s approach, as well. This book also has the added scare factor of proximity to the killer: Gary Ridgway ended up living within a mile of Rule’s house.

helter skelter

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
It’s hard to look into true crime without encountering Helter Skelter. This classic is massive both in terms of its size and the notoriety of the case it documents: the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders committed by the Manson Family. Readers have described Helter Skelter as engaging to the point of dizzying, packed with twists, aliases, and chilling details aplenty about Charles Manson’s hold on his cult members. I feel like my exploration of the genre would be incomplete without giving this one a try.