Reading in the dark

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Photo: Jonathan Thacker, via Creative Commons

Photo: Jonathan Thacker, via Creative Commons

I’m not sure if it’s a subconscious path I get on from time to time or if it’s pure coincidence, but every so often I find myself reading one dark book after another.

And, because I do most of my reading at night, at least when I’m not on vacation, I’m literally reading dark literature…in the dark.

Already a lifelong insomniac, it’s hard to blame the books for the tossing and turning. In fact, if anything, this category of literature tends to help me go to sleep. Go figure.

Having said that, any good book–dark or light–can keep me up way way later than a working person ought to be.

Okay, you say, what exactly are you talking about when you say, “dark literature?”

Well, it could be anything. Here are two recent examples, both by the way, on my “recommended list” for summer reading. Speaking of which, don’t forget to send me your recommendations for the list we’ll be compiling during our summer reading call in on Tuesday, July 9 from 10 am-noon, with my favorite co-hosts Chris Robinson and John Ernst. You can fast-forward your recommendations by emailing them to me at anytime between now and July 9.

Back to my examples…

cover_dogstarsFirst, I read “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller. This is a post-apocalypse (in this case, pandemic-based apocalypse) tale. Aside from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” I can’t think of a scifi/fantasy/futuristic piece of fiction I’ve read in recent years. But, like “The Road,” this book is so well written and rings so many bells right on key, I enthusiastically recommend it to all–including the teenagers, small plane pilots, gun-users, and homemakers…in other words, everyone. Definitely consider reading it with a night-light on your back porch, or in a tent.




orphanmasterRight now, I’m just finishing Adam Johnson’s “The Orphan Master’s Son,” which won the Pulitzer last year. This is dark. In some ways, much darker than the post-apocalyptic books because it’s about a North Korea that is, essentially, a countrywide prison and slave labor culture. Yeah. Think Alexandr Solzenitzhyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”…times ten. Johnson’s book steps inside the hearts and minds of people surviving, and dying, in a deeply repressive society, but does so in a way that makes us look at and laugh at our own oh-so-much-better world…we think. I fell asleep with this one on my chest last night.

Tonight, I finish it. But then what? Here’s where you step in:

Dark titles from the contemporary list or old classics. Chime in here and help a nocturnal reader fill the wee hours.