Gems of 2020

January 2020 feels like it took place more than a year ago, but by the calendar of ordinary time, it’s just been twelve months. And thus it’s time to choose my “Gems of 2020,” which will be my last list of favorites here at the Emerald City Book Review. For my reading and blogging plans for next year, join me on January 1 over at Entering the Enchanted Castle.

In reading terms, I did not manage to read as many books as usual, but many of them were excellent. I was thrilled that Susanna Clarke finally released another book and that it was one of my favorites of the year. I journeyed through Maya Angelou’s seven memoirs, sharing in her life of pain and joy, and through other people’s lives including a brilliant, disturbing memoir of postpartum psychosis, and a fictionalized account of the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

I learned from scientists about neurological differences and the world of bacteria, unseen and misunderstood realms that lie all around us in plain sight. I also learned from the voices of people with so-called disabilities; I was humbled by their persistence and courage, and motivated to use my own senses more fully.

There were lighter reads marketed for younger readers that also brought important moral and spiritual issues to ponder, and romantic comedies that lifted my mood and reminded me that life and love are still worth striving for.

These books, and many others, kept me going through this dark and disturbing year. What have been your own favorites? What do you recommend?




2020 Releases
Fiction: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Nonfiction: Inferno by Catherine Cho

More favorites I read in 2020:

Historical Fiction: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Memoir Series: Maya Angelou’s memoirs
Book Everyone Should Read: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Science: I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
Suspsense: The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier
Romance: Jill the Reckless by P.G. Wodehouse
Spirituality: The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Sensory Differences: An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks; The World I Live In by Helen Keller; Eavesdropping by Stephen Kuusisto
Reread (and read-along): The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Series Finish: Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Around the World: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Classics: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Linked in the Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the prompt is Books on my Fall 2020 TBR. And it turns out that THREE of my favorite fantasy authors (two of whom release their books at excruciatingly long intervals) have new titles out this fall, so I had to join in! Plus, there are some other backlist books that I want to read before too many more months have passed.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

These are the three. After so many years of silence following Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu, I cannot tell you how excited I am for a new book from Clarke. And MWT’s books in the Thief series are always worth waiting for. Naomi Novik is more prolific, but I’m interested to see that she seems to be trying something quite different with this new one.

Anyone else excited for these?


The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

Here is a new name in fantasy who is already coming out with her second book. I did not read Harrow’s blockbuster The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but this one — combining witches with the suffragist movement — sounds even more intriguing. I’m putting it on my list and hoping I discover a new favorite.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

I liked the books by Isabel Allende I read earlier this year, so I was pleased when her latest was a book club pick for October. I hope it’s good for discussion.

Germania by Simon Winder

I’ve been reading Danubia, which is the second volume in this “personal history” of Germanic Europe — and it’s interesting enough that I want to go back to the first one. The author’s extremely chatty, slangy style is not for everyone, but I find it quite refreshing. I wouldn’t use it as a history text, but for personal enjoyment, why not?

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I’m not sure why, except that I’ve never read anything by Asimov and not much SF in general, but I picked this as a title I wanted to read for the Genre Classic category of Back to the Classics. And Emma of Words and Peace said she would read it with me, so we have it slated for October. If anyone wants to join us, let me know.

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I heard about this on a French language learning podcast I listen to. And I thought it would be good to know more about, well, how we learn, so I bought a copy. Which has sat on my shelf ever since. But when my brain is up to being expanded, I shall have a go at it.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

This just sounds so amazing and would be part of my Reading All Around the World project.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

I loved the two Sacks books I’ve read so far (Awakenings and An Anthropologist on Mars) so I was pumped to find a copy of this in the thrift store. I brought it home but I haven’t been in the mood to read it yet. Soon, I hope!



What’s on your fall TBR? Feel free to link your TTT in the comments!

Fourteen books about freedom

This is a list I came up with during the first two weeks of semi-quarantine, posting a book a day on my personal Facebook page. I found it an uplifting exercise, and I hope you enjoy it as well!

Day #1: The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
This is a small book full of big ideas, starting with one that doesn’t seem so fantastic these days: what if the world is a game being played by powerful entities who keep themselves invisible? And how can we free ourselves from this manipulation, and take back reality for ourselves?

The storyteller is Jamie, a boy who chanced on the game-players (known only as Them) and was cursed to “walk the bounds,” moving from world to world through the multiverse without ever entering play. He’s given the hope that he may return home, though, and hope is an anchor … for what, exactly, only comes clear at the end.

Day #2: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
As he was growing up in the final years of apartheid in South Africa, child of a black mother and a white father, Trevor Noah’s existence was literally illegal. His perceptive and funny look back at his experiences provides an incredible education for the reader — in large part due to the mom who insisted he had a right to live. “She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her.”

Day #3: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
My favorite SF novel is this fable about a spartan planet settled by idealistic separatists and the scientist who believes the future lies in reconnection. It’s full of profound thoughts, and some amazing quotes that keep reverberating in my head right now. “You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”

Day #4: Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif
Out of one woman’s simple wish to be able to drive herself in a car comes this powerful account of the human misery and needless suffering created by a misogynistic society. What struck me most of all is how afraid most Saudi men are of women, terrified of their agency and empowerment. And this is a picture of every human’s fear of the vulnerable parts of ourselves, which we repress and imprison lest they take over and drive us into places we don’t want to go. When will we become strong enough, courageous enough, to let go of those fears, and go in a new direction?

Day #5: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
As I said in my recent post about the musical, this is essentially a story about how love and forgiveness are the most powerful forces in the world, and about the emergence of a prisoner into freedom thereby. The book is loaded with extra material (Waterloo, convents, French politics, sewers, etymology, etc.) but that’s the gist of it.

Day #6: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Frankl found freedom in the deadly depths of a concentration camp, through an inner vision of the bond of love that cannot be destroyed. He went on to help others to choose life over death, to find the meaning that can sustain us whatever our outer circumstances.

Day #7: Watership Down by Richard Adams
A group of rabbits undertake a perilous journey to find a new home when their own is destroyed by selfish, greedy humans. Along the way, they must escape and overthrow a totalitarian leader whose ideas about disease control have gotten out of hand. Hmmm….

Day #8: The Philosophy of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner
“Is the human being spiritually free, or subject to the iron necessity of purely natural law?” Or as biographer Gary Lachman puts it, does what we refer to as the human “I” really exist? Using pure, unprejudiced thought and perception, following this question becomes a path toward discovering in what way human beings can indeed become inwardly free and spiritually active — a discovery that has the greatest possible significance for our embattled world today.

Day #9: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Exiled by Queen Mary from her sister Elizabeth’s court, Kate Sutton encounters imprisonment of a darker kind in this YA historical retelling of the Tam Lin legend. The pitting of human moral strength against the lure of unholy power is subtly and effectively portrayed.

Day #10: The Book of Joy
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have known some of the most horrendous experiences human beings can inflict upon one another: exile, oppression, physical aggression, discrimination, and more. They are also two of the most joyful people on the planet. In conversation with author Douglas Abrams they share their wisdom about how to live more joyfully, with clear and practical guidelines that can be applied by anyone in any circumstances.

Day #11: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” It’s a startling statement for a woman to make in Victorian society, which saw female virtue as completely bound up in submission to others. But as she negotiates a world full of lies and hypocrisy, Jane seeks true human connection while maintaining a fierce commitment to her own integrity.

Day #12: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I usually hesitate to say “this is a book everyone should read,” but for Just Mercy I make an exception. It’s a deeply moving account of the staggering travesties of justice that occur in the not-so-United States, and of the humanity that nevertheless struggles to survive within the system. A beautiful work of literature as well as an unforgettable story.

Day #13: Momo by Michael Ende
This was the subject of the eighth grade play that we got to see just before school closed. It’s a fantasy about sinister grey men who live off of the time they steal from people by persuading them to focus on delusory goals like fame, money, and glamour. The child Momo, who always has time to listen to her friends and knows what is really important, must defeat the grey men through the power of the heart.

Day #14: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
In her own words, blind and deaf Helen Keller tells of her dramatic transition from helpless anger and frustration into peace, joy, and love through the gift of the word. It is a powerful example of how freedom does not reside in physical liberty, but in our connection to the world of meaning, the Logos.

During this period of physical restriction I’ve enjoyed thinking about of some of my favorite books. It’s made me realize to what extent they have been lights in the darkness for me. I would love to know what you think of any of them and what would be your own choices.

Gems of 2019 and a blog break

It is nearly the end of 2019, and thus time for my yearly list of books that I loved best during the year.

Usually, if a book is good enough to be on this list, I try to review it. But this year I just did not have time to do all the reviews I would have liked to. That makes me sad because it cements my own experience of a book when I review it (as I discussed in How do you remember what you read?), but it’s just the way things are right now. We’ll see how it goes next year.

Speaking of 2020, I’ll be taking a break for a few weeks over the holidays, and plan to be back in early January. But first I want to thank everyone once more for following me on this reading journey. I appreciate you all very much! And I look forward to reading your own year-end favorite lists. Please feel free to link up in the comments.

2019 releases:
Fiction – Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Nonfiction – Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Other books read in 2019:
Historical Fiction – Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
Quasi-Historical Fantasy – Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Fantasy – Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Series starter- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Romance – Vittoria Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
Horror – Kindred by Octavia Butler
Children’s – Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Biography – Helen Keller by Dorothy Herrmann
Memoir – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Graphic narrative – Ce n’est pas toi que j’attendais by Fabien Toulmé
Spirituality – My Religion by Helen Keller
Rereads – Watership Down by Richard Adams
New to me author – Oliver Sacks
Revisited author – Robertson Davies
Book everyone should read – Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
Preview of a 2020 release – Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Gems of 2018 and Year End Survey

Well, this has been a year. Due to the emotional roller-coaster of my personal life (now thankfully settled down), I did not get as much reading done as usual. But when I was able to muster up the time and energy to open them books were always there for me, with their messages of wisdom, meaning, and hope, widening my perspective, helping me learn and grow. I’m so grateful for them and for all of  you in the book blogging community, who reminded me of a greater world connected to the things I care most about.

Here are the books that stood out for me this year. Below, I answered some questions from the year-end survey hosted at The Perpetual Page Turner. (I omitted many of them — the full list is a quite extensive!) Please feel free to join in and link up with TPPT here, or share some of your own responses in the comments.

Also linked in Top Ten Tuesday at That Artsy Reader Girl

2018 Releases –
Fiction: Circe
Nonfiction:  A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry

Other books read in 2018 –

Historical Fiction: The Blood of the Martyrs
Multiple Time Periods: The Maze at Windermere
Books everyone should read: I Don’t Want to Talk About It
Science and Nature: Animals in Translation
Reread: The Earthsea books
Fantasy (among other genres): Jane, Unlimited
Fiction in Translation: Les Miserables
Children’s: It’s Like This, Cat, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe
Activism: The Art of Waging Peace
Spirituality: The Kingdom Within
Book Design: Uncle Silas
Classics: Invisible Man



Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

The Left Hand of Darkness – I was surprised at the lack of feminine experience in this “feminist” novel (shows how different things were back in 1969)

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Circe – at least a lot of people have said they want to read it!

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Populist Explosion

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Uncle Silas – it got silly at the end but still kept me compulsively reading.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?

I Don’t Want To Talk About It

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? 

The Left Hand of Darkness

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?

Shortest – Octavio’s Journey, 95 pages

Longest – Les Miserables, 1330 pages

Book That Shocked You The Most

Invisible Man

Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

The Art of Waging Peace – based on a Facebook comment

Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Nero’s Rome in The Blood of the Martyrs

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Good Omens

New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2018?

What’s Nonfiction

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?

Seeing an event I created (Witch Week) get taken up by two other wonderful bloggers

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Do you re-read? (56 comments)

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Walking with Our Children

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2019?

Born a Crime

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2019?

The Winter of the Witch (Sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower)

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far

It’s been a while since I did Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. But seeing others’ posts about their top reading of the first half of the year made me want to join in. Here are my picks:

  • The Sixth Extinction explored our environmental disaster-in-process, scary but strangely heartening in that it reminded me of our human power for good as well as evil.
  • The Art of Waging Peace gave some useful tools for activating the good part.
  • The Ghost of Thomas Kempe was a beautifully written, deceptively simple child’s-eye meditation on time, memory, loss, and growing up.
  • Journey to the River Sea was another lovely children’s book, an adventure story set in the Amazon region.
  • The Maze at Windermere was a brilliant time-switching novel from one of my favorite college professors.
  • City of Gold took Old Testament stories and brought them to life by vividly imagining their narrators and time periods.
  • Animals in Translation gave fascinating insights into the brains of animals and humans, from the viewpoint of an autistic person.
  • The Shuttle was a fun romantic tale with an empowering message.
  • Invisible Man presented a powerful picture of racial injustice, brought to mythical proportions.
  • The Kingdom Within brought together a survey of Jesus’s teachings on “the kingdom” with the insights of depth psychology.


What have you loved so far this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2017 (so far)

I haven’t been keeping up with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but when I saw some lists on other blogs I could not resist this topic!

Here are some of my outstanding reads so far this year:

What’s on your list?

Gems of 2016

It’s always interesting to look back over the last twelve months and think about which books have really stayed with me. Here are some of my favorite reads from this year, to which I’ve awarded the Emerald City Book Review Gem. Check out Top Ten Tuesday for many more lists (I couldn’t stick to just ten, but they don’t mind).


2016 releases:
Adult fictionThe Summer Guest
Children’s fictionThe Evil Wizard Smallbone
NonfictionThe House by the Lake

Books everyone should read: Just Mercy; Being Mortal
Children’s/YA: Johnny Tremain; The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
Fantasy: Wyrd Sisters
Memoir: My Family and Other Animals; Unearthed; Carry On
Historical: A Man of Genius
Classics: The Makioka Sisters
Graphics: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
New-to-me author: Frances Hardinge
Rediscovered author: Betty MacDonald
Small Press: Hidden View (Green Writers Press)

Top ten gift books from The Folio Society

Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday encourages us to make a holiday gift list — and if you’re looking for a really special gift for the booklovers in your life, The Folio Society has much to offer. In case you haven’t yet encountered this amazing repository of beautifully designed, illustrated, and bound books, have a look at their complete catalog here.

One of the things I like best about Folio is that it stands for quality, but not snobbery; it can turn out an appropriately dressed edition of Terry Pratchett or Stephen King with the same aplomb as it does St. Augustine or Homer. Some may be aghast at these books rubbing shoulders with one another, but I think it’s terrific; there’s excellence of many kinds to be found in an eclectic reading list.

Here are some of my favorite recent releases:


Poetry of Emily Dickinson
This lovely, small volume is wrapped in a translucent dust jacket and illustrated with sensitive woodcuts by Jane Lydbury — perfect for poetry lovers.


The Nursery Rhyme Book
I grew up with Andrew Lang’s “rainbow” fairy tale books, which Folio recently produced most gorgeously, but had never heard of this companion collection. Folio has wisely retained the golden-age illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke, and added new color plates by Debra McFarlane. It would be a splendid gift for a new baby or christening.


This is the third time that Folio has essayed an edition of Jane Austen, but it’s the first time they’ve selected different illustrators for each volume, which gives a pleasing variety to the series (although some illustrators may appeal more to you than others). My personal favorite is the Balbusso sisters’ Pride and Prejudice, which I wrote about here; some find Deanna Stolfo’s pictures for Persuasion a little too close to caricature, but I still prefer them to those in the other edition I own.


The King Must Die
Mary Renault is a longtime favorite author and a perfect choice for the Folio treatment. The first in her “Theseus” duology of myth-inspired historical fiction is illustrated with striking paintings by Geoff Grandfield.

And some still available from earlier seasons:


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken’s classic adventure is perfectly complemented by slyly humorous illustrations by Bill Bragg. Will Folio dare to take on the entire series (which I wrote about here, here, and here)?


The Little White Horse
Luminous pictures by Debra McFarlane adorn Elizabeth Goudge’s enchanting tale. I have to say that I would have absolutely adored the cover of this book as a young girl, with its shining silver unicorn on a deep purple ground.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It’s been illustrated many times, but Sara Ogilve brings something fresh to the journey of Dorothy and her companions with her lively, whimsical artwork.


Folio’s first venture into Discworld was a smashing success, and there will be more to come (though it’s doubtful they will produce all 40+ volumes).


The Eagle of the Ninth
One of Rosemary Sutcliff’s most popular and acclaimed historical novels is nobly illustrated with detailed drawings by Roman Pisarev.


The Dark Is Rising series (minus one)
It’s too bad that the title volume of Susan Cooper’s fantasy series is out of print, but the other four are available at an amazing bargain price. For more about the complete series, see my earlier post.


The Blue Flower
Penelope Fitzgerald’s beautiful novel about the poet and visionary Novalis is complemented by colorful, expressionistic artwork by James Albon.

As you can see, I tend to gravitate toward the children’s books, but there’s much more to explore, including great works of religion, history, and science, golden age mysteries, and science fiction, as well as many classic and some modern novels.

In case you’re wondering, Folio has now done away with the “membership” model that required a commitment to buy four books in a twelve-month period. You can now buy just one book (though you’ll likely find it hard to stop there), and special offers are available to everyone through the year. Right now, shipping is capped at $10 for your first order, and selected sets are 15% off.

Enough temptation from me — do go and see what strikes your fancy, and let me know your own favorites.

Witch Week Day Two: Top Ten Reasons to Read Shirley Jackson

WITCH WEEK 2016-200

Witch Week is about celebrating all kinds of fantasy literature, which can evoke many different moods and experiences — but because it takes place in the darkening days following Halloween, our reading choices may tend toward the creepier end of the spectrum. And for intelligently creepy entertainment, there is no one quite like Shirley Jackson, an author who has been receiving more and more well-deserved attention and acclaim these days.

Just in case you might need some encouragement to read Shirley Jackson for the first time, or reasons to give to others, I asked Jenny of Reading the End to help us out. I knew she would do a brilliant job — she got me to read The Sundial, after all. So prepare to be enabled, and perhaps a little bit frightened …

For the Witch Week schedule and linkup, see the Master Post.


Top Ten Reasons to Read Shirley Jackson

by Jenny of Reading the End


Seriously, Shirley Jackson’s books are so scary. You’re insufficiently appreciating the scariness of her books. Like all good horror writers, she makes you fear for the characters. But her particular gift is making you fear what the characters will do—not what will be done to them. You can argue forever about whether Jackson is pessimistic or realistic about the state of humanity, but whatever the case may be, nobody writes better than Jackson about the evil that lurks in the hearts of men (and women).

sjlottery“The Lottery”

Let’s face it, your English teacher should have made you read “The Lottery” in eighth grade. Or some grade. (I chose eighth because that’s when I read it, and I assume that my English teacher knew what she was doing, considering she made us all go nuts for Macbeth while at the same time being snotty fourteen-year-olds.) If that didn’t happen, you’re missing out not just on the references people are making to it, but also on one of the greatest short stories mankind has ever known. Get your head right. Read “The Lottery.”(I just reread “The Lottery” right now, to prove my point, and it is still so damn scary.)

Cultural Literacy

Shirley Jackson influenced oodles of writers working today, including Stephen King, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, and Helen Oyeyemi. It’s not that you need Shirley Jackson to understand what those authors are talking about. They’ll stand on their own with no problem. It’s just that their books are houses built on a Shirley Jackson foundation. In fact, possibly no haunted house book written since the 1960s has been able to shake the influence of the mighty and wondrous Shirley Jackson.

Speaking of Houses

sjhillhouseHave you heard the expression “safe as houses”? Because Shirley Jackson makes it meaningless—or maybe just alters its meaning forever. Famously agoraphobic, the houses of Shirley Jackson’s fiction are their characters’ only refuge from the forces of darkness; and at the same time, they are traps and prisons. The outside world promises death, yet only by death can the characters be free of the cages that their houses represent. It’s the best. (Slash, the worst.)

The Sundial

Look, you have already heard plenty about The Haunting of Hill House. (It’s awesome.) We Have Always Lived in the Castle will be a major motion picture™ featuring Sebastian Stan in the handsome opportunist role. But have you read The Sundial? Almost certainly not. Let me help you with that.

The Sundial is about a group of people who live in a big manor house. One of the family members is recently deceased, and there is talk that he was murdered by someone else in the house. Then Aunt Fanny has a vision that the world is going to end, and the only survivors will be the people inside the manor house. They spend the rest of the book hating each other and preparing for the end of the world, and it’s majestic.


See, here’s the problem with Shirley Jackson being so good at creeping you out. Everyone associates her name (rightly) with horror, but then they forget (wrongly) to praise the pitch-black humor that permeates all of her writing. Even at her very most gothic, Jackson still has an eye to the absurdity of human behavior, and she’s perpetually poking fun at our attempts to find reason and normalcy in the utter chaos of this world.

Humor Again!

I KNOW I KNOW this seems redundant, but bear with me. The first humor was that she’s funny even when she’s being scary, and this one’s that she’s funny when she’s mainly just being funny. Though she’s best known for “The Lottery,” and we hope will soon be best known for We Have Always Lived in the Castle once the movie comes out and everyone loves it and the book becomes the spooky bestseller it always deserved to be, Shirley Jackson’s fame in her own time was down to the many essays she wrote for women’s magazines about her life as a wife and mother. Collected in Life among the Savages and Raising Demons, these stories cast a sardonic eye on the work of raising tots in the years of the baby boom.

sjcastleThat One New Biography of Her That Just Came Out

We all like to feel that we’re keeping up with the new releases, don’t we? And this Witch Week, you’re in luck: A brand new, authoritative, New York Times–approved biography of Shirley Jackson has just come onto the market. Ruth Franklin is by all accounts a careful and insightful biographer, providing new insights into Shirley Jackson’s childhood, marriage, and work as a writer of humorous essays, creepy short stories, and literary criticism.

The Shirley Jackson Awards

Once you know that you love Shirley Jackson (and you will love her—that’s not a threat, just a prediction), the world stands ready to tell you what to read next. If there’s one thing for which you can depend on Shirley Jackson fans, it’s book recommendations. For the annual Shirley Jackson Awards, a panel of writers, editors, and academics choose five finalists in six categories of excellence in the realm of literary psychological suspense and horror. As yet there hasn’t been a single year of Shirley Jackson Awards that’s failed to give me terrific recommendations.

sjsundialBonding with Your Fellow Bloggers

Look, the fact is, book bloggers love Shirley Jackson. This has been true as long as I’ve been a book blogger, and I don’t see any prospect of its changing. Read We Have Always Lived in the Castle or The Haunting of Hill House and book bloggers will flock to your doorstep to rave about our girl Shirley Jackson. Please @ me whenever you get a chance to let me know how you feel about Merricat, and be prepared for me to order you sternly to read The Sundial.