Have you ever done that thing where you start reading a book at about 9 PM, read for twenty minutes or so, and look up at the clock to find it’s almost dawn? Come on, raise your hands. Don’t be shy. We’ve all done it, too. In fact, here is a list from all of us in the circulation department showing all the books that kept us up all night. Ready, go!
1) We Live In Water, by Jess Walter
A new question every story! Jess Walter’s most sensational work is the colorfully covered, breathtaking novel called Beautiful Ruins, but if you escape the New York Times Bestseller List, you’ll find that it’s not the only thing Walter has written recently. His latest collection of short stories, entitled We Live In Water, is quite possibly his greatest as well. In “Virgo,” a vindictive newspaper editor wreaks havoc on his superstitious ex-girlfriend’s life by making (dis)tasteful changes to her daily horoscope. “Statistical Abstract for My Home of Spokane, Washington” begins as a numbered, innocuous collection of information about Spokane, but by line item number four, it’s clear that this is no ordinary list of facts. In the story called “Don’t Eat Cat”… well, I’ll just let you read that one and find out. Midnight would be the best time!
Where is the dividing line between “driven” and “sociopathic?” This book is not, in fact, a test to discover whether or not you are a psychopath- it is a strange, fascinating, and occasionally disturbing journey through the mental health industry and the treatment (or lack thereof) our nation’s “psychopaths” receive, from the government and from ordinary people. There are many people interviewed in this book who are clearly insane, who are far beyond the boundary of sanity and deep into the ocean of madness. On the other hand, there are also a few folks who seem to live in a bit of a grey area – normal except for this one thing, or just a victim of circumstance, and they are the ones who will keep you up all night wondering.
3) Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
How far would YOU go to avoid a family trip to Antarctica? This novel revolves around the mysterious disappearance of Bernadette Fox, a powerful, charismatic character whose debilitating agoraphobia finally gets the better of her. Told from her fifteen year old daughter’s point of view, it relates the story of Bernadette’s disappearance after a series of conflicts with horrible neighbors, difficulties in the social strata, and a promise gone horribly, horribly wrong. Told through email correspondence, doctor’s notes, and other creative framing, the book’s central mystery and compelling characters provide both an enjoyable reading experience and a brilliantly scathing satire of upper-crust Seattle and the Microsoft techie crowd.
4) The Search, by Iris Johansen
A sexy search-and-rescue worker and her faithful Golden Retriever- HOW CAN YOU GO WRONG? This is the third book in the Eve Duncan series of novels by Iris Johansen, although Eve herself only makes a small appearance. Sarah Patrick and her rescue dog Monty are the stars of the novel this time around, taking a job from a powerful billionaire to find a kidnapped scientist in Colombia and quickly discovering that she’s gotten in way over her head. Combining action, romance, conspiracy and suspense all into one tidy package, The Search feels like a spinoff novel of the Eve Duncan series, but one that has been written with enough care and craft that it does the series justice.
5) Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
A hostage crisis lasts months on end and takes its toll on everyone involved! Set somewhere in South America, this novel spans the months of confinement and continuous danger following the terrorist takeover of an important government official’s home. It examines the characters – both terrorist and hostage – in great detail, showing the friendships and tensions that rise and fall over the weeks they all spend trapped together.
6) Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
Okay, THIS time, she’ll get it right. She’s got to! Life After Life is the story – all the stories – of Ursula Todd, who was born in a blizzard in 1910 but dies before she can draw her first breath. Except Ursula Todd also is born in 1910, and survives to live a fantastical life. As you read through the pages, learning about the failed branches of Ursula’s life and the destiny she continues to barrel toward, despite failing after failing, it feels like the best possible incarnation of a Choose Your Own Adventure book for adults – we might reach an ending too soon, but the book won’t stop there. This novel is an existential treat, drawing from infinite universe theories and the mystical ideas of fate and destiny with equal pull, and the ending is to die for.
Any other suggestions for books that keep you up all night? Let us know in the comments. Happy reading! -Eric