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Fact or fiction: These fiction books are totally binge-worthy

The Bookstorian’s Summer Reading List

It's time to get your binge-read on...

The Bookstorian is Wondercade’s mysterious, erudite, hardcover-devouring book correspondent.

May 22, 2024 5:25 pm

Who’s that there? Oh it’s you, Wondercader. I thought it was The Narrator, barging into my library unannounced. It certainly is lively around Wondercade HQ these days, quite a bit livelier than I normally prefer…

While I wasn’t able to convince The Narrator to borrow the first book in Winston Graham’s delightfully diverting Poldark series — which I’ve recently been enjoying here at the open window along with those lilac-scented, late-spring breezes that whisper of summer’s glorious return — that gruff fellow did inspire my book selections for the new season in a quite unconventional way.

As he made his exit, I noticed a daily periodical that had fallen out of his pocket. Seeing that this edition had an entertainment section, I flipped to see what books are being discussed in the press these days. To my utter dismay, there were none — nought! Instead, the modern and much inferior art forms of film and television were exclusive benefactors of this particular paper. But one phrase caught my eye: “binge watch.”

As I learned, people who own TVs — that is to say, not I — are now in the habit of “bingeing” programs in one sitting. I thought to myself, that’s no different than when I delve into a series of books, like these Poldark novels here, and devour them with absolute abandon, sometimes in a single day. So for my literary recommendations this summer, I am co-opting modern parlance for my own ends! Set aside your remotes, turn off your smartphones and pick up one of these “binge reads.”

Below, I’ve selected new works that have arrived on shelves in the last few months which are either the latest in a series, an author’s spiritual successor to previous books, or a continuation of another writer’s musings. That way, once you decide on the title for you, you will also be presented with a cascade of additional stories for your reading pleasure…


As I’ve alluded to in the past, as my loyal readers will remember, I’ve devised my own cataloging system here in my library in Wondercade HQ. Instead of the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) or the LCC (Library of Congress Classification), I use the BPC (The Bookstorian’s Personal Classification), the explanation of which takes up its own encyclopedia-sized tome. It’s relevant today because it includes a section of modern classics, in which sits Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, which is about Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey. (Neil sent me an intra-office memo, via HQ’s pneumatic tube system, to say that there’s a good film of the book, starring an Irish actress of some note with a name of some difficulty of pronunciation.) Brooklyn now has a sequel after 15 years called Long Island, and David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, a Hamlet-tinged tale set in Wisconsin, is getting a prequel 16 years in the making titled Familiaris.

If a two-book read is as ambitious as you can be this season, then please also consider James by Percival Everett, which is a spiritual companion to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Read the original first, then let Everett tell the same story from Jim’s fresh perspective. In a similar vein, Waubgeshig Rice’s thriller Moon of the Turning Leaves, about an Anishinaabe community living in a post-apocalyptic Canada, can be read as a standalone page-turner, but it ideally should be paired with its prequel, Moon of the Crusted Snow. If you have my penchant for finishing an entire novel between sunrise and sunset, then two titles absolutely won’t do. For speed readers, pick up First Frost, the latest Western mystery in Craig Johnson’s Longmire series (there are, if memory serves, at least 19 others to get lost inside). And while a few of these novels are tinged with the otherworldly, for those who want an escape of the supernatural kind, you’d do well to put your trust in Leigh Bardugo’s The Familiar, about a servant with magical powers in 16th-century Spain, and then conjure up her other fantasy tales for adults: Ninth House and Hell Bent.


If you use books as a way to live vicariously through others, then you’ll find endless mirth in The Year of Living Constitutionally, in which A.J. Jacobs (journalist and friend of Wondercade, no less) sets out to live exactly how the Constitution of the United States intended. It’s no less amusing than his The Year of Living Biblically (which needs no further explanation). For those who prefer history lessons that inspire deep musings instead of chuckles and dinner-party anecdotes, may I instead suggest the latest account from Alan Taylor, the two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History: American Civil Wars: A Continental History. Afterwards, learn everything you’ve never learned about this country’s past through his other award-winning work, from American Colonies to American RepublicsRight Thing, Right Now by Ryan Holiday, the third title in his Stoic Virtues series, goes back in time quite a bit further — to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, as well as other figures throughout history — to draw advice from those who lived by an upstanding moral code. If governmental, religious, philosophical and military histories don’t pique your interest, how about animal histories? Our Kindred Creatures, from Monica Murphy and Bill Wasik, traces the arc from when Americans saw animals as mere beasts to be treated (or mistreated) to our liking, to how we think of them now: as something more. Their previous deep dive into fauna focused on a considerably more rabid theme: rabies.

Young Adult

In my limited experience with teenagers, I find that I’m able to best recommend books to this particular cohort when I ask them one simple question: Do you prefer stories based in reality or in fantasy? For those in the former camp, I’d point them to author Yu Pei-Yun, illustrator Zhou Jian-Xin and translator Lin King, whose series The Boy From Clearwater (book two was just released) uses the endlessly enchanting graphic novel form to tell the complex story of Taiwan in the 20th century from the point of view of a young boy. A.D. Rhine’s Horses of Fire, however, takes the female perspective during the events surrounding the Trojan War; Daughters of Bronze, the second in this duology, is out later this year. As for those who prefer to bury their noses in pages full of dragons swooping through far-off lands, both Murtagh by Christopher Paolini and Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani have just such fire-breathing monsters. The former is a spinoff of Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle (highlighted by the massively popular Eragon), which makes it perfect for readers who aren’t on a first-name basis with their librarian; if those talking-dragon tomes are yesterday’s news for the young adult in your life, Khanani’s Sunbolt Chronicles is more of a hidden gem.


I didn’t forget about you, youngest Bookstorians — though I do recognize that it’s your parents I’m most likely speaking to with these missives. As such, let me pose my questions to them. Do your children have a love of felines? What about interstellar adventure? If you answered yes to both, then they’ll thoroughly enjoy The First Cat in Space and the Soup of Doom (in the first installment, the cat eats pizza). Do they tremble at the mention of volcanoes? No? Then Mountain of Fire, Rebecca E.F. Barone’s account of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, will be a gripping real-life saga to share before delving into her other stories of code-breakers and Antarctic explorers. Are they always wanting to read what’s on your nightstand? Johan Rundberg’s The Queen of Thieves, translated from Swedish, is yet another mystery which 12-year-old orphan Mika must solve. For those littlest fledglings, aged 4 to 7, hand them The Elephant and the Sea by Ed Vere. If they can’t get enough of that oceangoing pachyderm, then Mr. Vere has a whole cavalcade of other animals for them to get acquainted with: lions, frogs, birds…the list — as I feel I’ve made abundantly clear in this week’s issue — does indeed go on.

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