Halloween decorations have started appearing around the Scribd office, to the delight of some and the consternation of others. At the lunch table, people are talking about their all-time favorite scary movies, while others are nervously or excitedly discussing the upcoming election. Maybe unsurprisingly, both poltergeists and politicians found their way into our reading this week.
Ashley: Going into Lisa Schroeder’s I Heart You, You Haunt Me, I expected a romance- and drama-focused story about a teenage love so great, it managed to overcome death (at least until the protagonists realized that a relationship between a ghost and a living human wouldn’t work out and is in fact pretty creepy). Thankfully, this has not been the case.
Written in verse, I Heart You, You Haunt Me moves swiftly but powerfully through the stages of grief caused by the loss of a loved one. “How can we recover from a tragedy we had a role in causing?” and “How can we stop being haunted (in this case, literally) by a past we cannot change?” are just some of the questions this book grapples with. The twist to the ghost aspect of the story is surprisingly sweet and original.
Alex P: It’s the cover that initially drew me to Mario Alberto Zambrano’s lovely debut novel. The wash of color and simple, yet emotive illustration transported me back to summers spent in Ensenada as a kid; whenever my Spanish teacher and I needed a break from my dismal attempts at mastering the language, she’d break out her Lotería deck, and we’d while away a half hour or so playing with the beautiful cards.
Perceptions of childhood are very much at the forefront of Lotería, though with a far darker haze than my own halcyon memories. Beautiful and quietly devastating, the novel tells the story of 11-year-old Luz through the cards, revealing her world—and the mysterious tragedy that tears it apart—in a series of poignant vignettes. There’s a powerful plot twist, but I think my favorite surprise has been finding various Lotería cards in gorgeous, full-page illustrations scattered throughout the novel.
Justin: When an election is close, I tend to reach for political histories. I don’t just want to know the series of events that brought us to our current, seemingly uniquely fraught moment: I want to know about the people and the forces that made those events possible. Nixonland, the second volume of Rick Perlstein’s monumental history of modern conservatism, is one of those books, chronicling not just the story of our most ignominious president, but also the social, cultural, and political winds that made his rise possible and just maybe inevitable with verve and intelligence. Perlstein is a storyteller of the first class, weaving together huge historical set pieces (Watts, Kent State, the riots at the DNC) with lesser known but equally revealing moments (a cruise ship full of Republican governors awkwardly jockeying for the ’68 nomination). Nixon is the thread that ties these events together, an American Faust undone by the same atmosphere of anxiety, paranoia, and fear that he rode all the way to the presidency.
Regina: I’ve got a weakness for beautiful covers and long, intriguing titles—a weakness that’s sometimes led me astray. To my great delight, the story on the pages of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe lives up to the elegance of its cover and mouthful of a title.
Aristotle (Ari) and Dante meet when they are 15 years old at the local swimming pool. Despite being complete opposites, they strike up an instant friendship. As the story unfolds, Ari and Dante confront the challenges of family, culture, and sexuality. They experiment with drugs and alcohol, get their first jobs, and wind up in the hospital. Reading this book has been a visceral reminder of how formative and raw our teenage years are, and the life-altering effects that happen when you meet that one person—your first love.
Alex K: As a useless knowledge buff and a Wikipedia fiend, I’ve been enthralled by A.J. Jacobs’s quest to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z (or as he puts it, “from a-ak to zywiec”). The Know-It-All is hilarious—a legitimately laugh-out-loud funny book. That might seem odd for a book that is literally just about reading the Encyclopedia. But Jacobs has a real gift for delving deep into the craziest and most obscure parts of human history and bringing them to light with humor and insight. Thankfully, the book is more than a random grab bag of trivia (although that’s all great). It’s also a look into the nature of intelligence, and what happens to one man when he has too much knowledge for his own good.