New Books to Read to End the Summer

Whether you read on a tablet, Kindle, or still prefer the smell of a freshly cracked paperback, finding your next book is never easy. You could never read all the new novels, biographies, or nonfiction tomes released each week, so we’re here to help. These are a handful of the new or upcoming books we think deserve a space on your eReader or nightstand.

The Half-Drowned King

Linnea Hartsuyker

Available Now

Maybe it’s because we just started streaming Vikings on Amazon and American Gods did so well for Starz, but we think the Norse are an underutilized group when it comes to storytelling. Let’s get some more Scandinavian raiding and pillaging in our cultural consumption. The Half-Drowned King seems like a pretty good place to start. It pulls from Norse history and mythology to tell an excellent story that, even though it’s labeled historical fiction, might as well have happened. Plus the books full of names like Ragnvald Eysteinsson, Svanhild, and Linnea Hartsuyker (she’s the author), and they’re all ridiculously fun to try and say out loud. $19

After On

Rob Reid

Available Now

Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others, have been very vocal about the dangers AI poses for mankind, so it should come as no surprise that artists are hard at work realizing Musk and Hawking’s fears. After On envisions an that runs social media as well as national security, a situation that doesn’t feel far from what the technology would actually be used for. The book focuses on the relationship between mankind and AI in a way not many have done. That is, it recognizes that each influences the other, so the Armageddons so many other works have portrayed aren’t guarantees so much as possibilities. $20

When the English Fall

David Williams

Available Now

There’s plenty of post-apocalyptic pop culture, but none of them ever stop to consider what the Amish would do in the event of nuclear war or zombies or a pandemic or meteor or any of the other thousand scenarios people have come up with. It’s a shame, because the Amish are the ones best suited to deal with an apocalypse and are an objectively more interesting demographic than destitute, lonely teens. When the English Fall finally addresses the Amish role in a post-civilization world and gives modern people an outside look at our own motivations and abilities, as well as a closer look at the Amish than we’re accustomed to. $17

The Locals

Jonathan Dee

Available Now

Admittedly the premise is a little contrived, as The Locals is about a rural, working class New England town that elects a paranoid New York City millionaire as its mayor. But once you get past the semi-forced initiation, the book quickly becomes about how to handle the reconciliation of urban and rural class boundaries. It’s best absorbed as a product of 21st century America and it’ll be interesting to see if the book ages well. But for now, it’s a telling exploration of our national situation, even if it is fictional. $17

Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers

Andrew Rea

October 3

“Binging with Babish” has reminded us more than once that just because something’s on the big screen doesn’t mean it’s fake food and following along with the videos has given us more than one memorable meal. But now, we don’t have to bring our laptops into the kitchen with us anymore. Andrew Rea, creator of the series, is releasing a cookbook to follow up on his channel’s success. It’s good this book is coming out in the beginnings of sweater weather too, because cooking our way through this is going to definitely undo all that work we did for summer. $23

What the Hell Did I Just Read

David Wong

October 3

John Dies at the End was one of those books/movies that came out of nowhere (unless you’re a Cracked reader, that is). It was an original, creative, entertaining work by an guy who mostly writes Internet comedy articles, its release was quiet, and the series kept its quality through the second installment. Now, in the third, we expect the same black humor that’s come to define the series. If it delivers, expect people a decade from now to write articles about it, talking about how it’s amazing such a solid series had a small initial audience. Don’t we recognize quality when it’s skulking in the back of the bookstore? $17

The Harry Potter Universe Keeps Expanding with Two New Books

Great news, Harry Potter fans: The wizarding world will expand in October with the release of two new books, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Book of Exhibition and Harry Potter, A Journey Through a History of Magic, according to publisher Bloomsbury’s quarterly trading update (via Business Insider).

The new books will allow fans to further immerse themselves in the history and stories behind the spells, wizards and other magical elements of the beloved previous books. They come 20 years after the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and will accompany a Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library. They won’t be adding new characters or stories to the already-developed series, so don’t worry about your favorite trio getting into any canon-warping shenanigans.

Though the Harry Potter films have wrapped, the franchise has still been making its mark on pop culture, specifically with the English play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the Fantastic Beasts film series.

The exact dates of the new books’ releases are unknown as of this writing, but if we had to guess, we’d say they’ll probably be out just in time to get you in the Halloween spirit.

Reading Electronically Might Actually Be Better for Your Kids

Read a toddler a print version of The Cat in the Hat, then read them an E-book version. Which one is better? According to a recent study, young children are more engaged by electronic books.

In the studt, researchers Gabrielle Strouse and Patricia Ganea—from the University of South Dakota and the University of Toronto respectively—compared toddler reading habits in a random trial. Parents were instructed to read their toddlers two books about farm and wild animals, either in a print or electronic format. Observations showed the children who read e-books were more involved in the reading process, more engaged in discussing the book and paid closer attention while reading than children who read print books.

Strouse and Ganea qualified their results, saying, “One important caveat to our findings is that increased engagement does not always translate into increased learning.”

The two researchers credit the additional features of e-books with increasing childrens’ engagement levels. Animations, background sounds, narration and additional activities provide toddlers with more activity, and also more chances to take part in the learning process.

With this information in mind, it’s possible these books may not differ in terms of actual learning, but rather just by how interested a toddler is to interact with them.

These findings encourage parents to engage their children through e-books, and reverse the current print book trend 2016, E-book sales plummeted by 17 percent in the UK and 18.7 percent in the US. Meanwhile, the number of print children’s books rose by 16 percent.

Facebook Celebrates 20 Years of ‘Harry Potter’ With a Secret Easter Egg

It’s been 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published, and to celebrate Facebook has added a magical Hogwarts-themed “easter egg” to its status updates and comments.

If you type in any of the Hogwarts houses, the names appear in the houses’ colors — red for Gryffindor, green for Slytherin, blue for Ravenclaw and yellow for Hufflepuff. Once posted, if you click on any of the names a magic wand appears and casts a spell.

Harry Potter’s name also gets a colorful update, appearing in Gryffindor colors of course, but other key characters have been overlooked.

Movie Theaters To Screen 1984 In Protest Of Trump

More than one hundred movie theaters across the U.S. will screen George Orwell’s “1984” on April 4 in protest of the Trump administration. The organizers chose this date because Winston Smith, the main character in the book — which is officially entitled “Nineteen Eight-Four” — starts writing a forbidden diary, which is viewed in the novel as a significant act of resistance.

“The goal is that cinemas can initiate a much-needed community conversation at a time when the existence of facts, and basic human rights are under attack,” The United State of Cinema, the event’s sponsors, wrote in a statement. “These screenings are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society.”

Theaters in 79 U.S. cities and 34 states, including three in Canada, will screen the film, including New York’s IFC Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and Arizona’s Alamo Drafthouse.

The protest is also intended as a show of support for the National Endowment for the Arts, which is included in President Donald Trump’s list of targets for funding cuts to curb domestic spending. “Any attempt to scuttle that program as an attack on free speech and creative expression through entertainment,” the organizers said.  

Orwell’s dystopian classic from 1949 about resisting an oppressive government regained popularity after Trump became president for its parallels with the current administration. Sales of the book surged again after presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway’s statement about “alternative facts,” a term that is echoed in the book’s concept of “newspeak” where political thought is eliminated, and “double speak”, the ability to hold two truths at once.

In January, the book rose to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list which prompted the publisher Penguin to issue a reprint of 75,000 copies.

Here’s Why George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is Currently The Bestselling Book On Amazon

When novelists write dystopian literature, their sentences both hint at and exaggerate a state of their current reality. In some cases, they are a what if? played out, extending trends these writers fear might spell doom. But what happens when those fictional nightmares seemingly become current reality?

Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Donald Trump, reflected that possibility after offering the distinction of “alternative facts.” Conway uttered this phrase when questioned regarding Trump’s record attendance numbers at his inauguration.

The idea of “alternative facts,” it seems, reminds many of George Orwell’s classic 1984, which has sits atop Amazon’s bestseller list following Trump’s inauguration and Conway’s phrasing. 1984 features “newspeak,” a type of propaganda that clouds facts and distorts any sense of foundational truth through mixed messaging and overwhelming surveillance.

Via CNN Money:

We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week. That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for 1984,” a Penguin spokesman told CNNMoney Tuesday evening.

[…]

According to Nielsen BookScan, which measures most but not all book sales in the United States, “1984” sold 47,000 copies in print since Election Day in November. That is up from 36,000 copies over the same period the prior year.

Two other editions of 1984 are in the bestseller list, though Orwell is not the only author whose work has seen a recent resurgence. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, another dystopic society where truth is obscured, and Upton Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here, which involves the election of an authoritarian president, have entered the top 100 of Amazon’s bestseller list.

Other novels to jump into the bestseller list since Trump’s inauguration: Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Thirsty Thursday: Where Bartenders Drink Is The New Bible On Bars

There’s a lot of bars out there, Phaidon’s latest guide joins “Where Chefs Eat” and “Where to Eat Pizza” with a must-have guide on the best bars in the world:

“Where Bartenders Drink is THE insider’s guide. The best 300 expert drink-makers share their secrets – 750 spots spread across 60 countries – revealing where they go for a drink throughout the world when they’re off-duty. Venues range from late-night establishments and legendary hotel bars to cosy neighborhood ‘locals’ – and in some surprising locales. The 750 expert recommendations come with insightful reviews, key information, specially commissioned maps, and an easy-to-navigate geographical organization. It’s the only guide you need to ensure that you get the best drinks in the most memorable global locations.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Is Full of Crazy Predictions For 2017

To help farmers plan out a successful harvest, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has some handy guidelines on the best time to prune the crops. According to the American publication that’s been delivering pseudo-scientific weather predictions and strange cultural projections since 1792, it’s best to tend to the plants during the year’s time periods that fall under the Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius astrological signs. And don’t dare do it when the moon is waning — that’s one sure way to stunt growth.

Sounds pretty wacky, right? Well that’s because the Old Farmer’s Almanac is rife with absurd tips on how to go about various facets of life. It makes sense considering its dated methodology for formulating these predictions. And as totally wrong it might be, the book serves as a cultural relic people just can’t let go.

Among other novelties, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that people are going to start adopting “his and hers” houses, with “separate entries, bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.” You know, classic separate but equal housing in “cute” hipster form. The Almanac also forecasts people will be moving into “partially submerged floating homes,” whatever that even means.

The Almanac, predictably, has a Twitter page.

It’s not clear what’s happening in that picture. It looks like the turkey is set to take a nice bite out of Little Susie Redcoat’s abdomen. That is, if she doesn’t fall off that pumpkin first. Maybe it’s another prediction. Maybe the Almanac was trying to say that turkeys are going to fight back this year.

But the Almanac’s main selling point, shockingly, isn’t its bold, forward-thinking predictions that people are going to start using chromotherapy bathtubs where the water changes color (admittedly, that does sound kind of cool). No, the Old Farmer’s Almanac was made famous by the long-term weather predictions given each year of its publication. They are designed to make farmers aware of deviations from average weather patterns so they can plan their ahead with their agriculture.

For example, in 2008 the Old Farmer’s Almanac said the planet was about to enter a period of global cooling? If only that hadn’t turned out to be totally batshit, the world would be enjoying much nicer climate right now. And that’s the thing: The Old Farmer’s Almanac is in no way accurate with its weather predictions. Shockingly, it’s patented mix of meteorology, Zodiac signs, and moon phases doesn’t make for quality forecasts.

That’s bad news for farmers, right? Wrong. See, real farmer’s don’t actually use the thing because they know it’s bunk and they can get better, more immediate, and more reliable information elsewhere. Lindsay Lusher Shute, executive director of the National Young Farmer’s Coalition, told Modern Farmer that she “and her husband, Ben, who runs a 70-acre vegetable farm in Clermont, New York, mostly rely on forecasts from the National Weather Service, Weather Underground, and their own personal weather station (when it’s working).” The Almanac is hardly even applicable to farmers like the Shutes. It turns out that the weather forecast for three months from now for an entire region, like the Northeastern United States, isn’t that useful when all you really care about is whether it’s going to rain in Clermont tomorrow.

All of this naturally raises the question: How is this still a thing? The answer, it seems, is cultural significance. Like daylight savings time, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is an institution unto itself. It’s stuck around this long because, well, that’s the way it’s always been. The 2017 issue, the 225th if you’re counting, ran letters from U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, each praising its longevity and cultural impact over the years. But why? It’d be foolish to think that Obama and Trudeau actually curl up with a blanket and read this thing.

That’s the power of tradition. It gives outmoded things an excuse not to die so they can continue to please the ever-shrinking group of people who actually partake in them. The onus, then, is on the rest of us, those who (correctly) think partially submerged floating homes are a terrible idea, to ignore them into extinction.

Scary Stories Are Actually Pretty Beneficial for Kids

In an effort to protect their kids, some parents will keep them away from books, TV shows, and movies that might be too scary. But to a certain extent, scary stories help children learn how to deal with fear in real life.

As Cari Romm at Science of Us explains, scary stories, and even nightmares, are dress rehearsals for real-life fear. And according to sociologist Margee Kerr, scary stories are a helpful tool for developing confidence. Think about it. When you make it through a scary movie, haunted house, or roller coaster ride, you end up feeling accomplished—like you made it through something. This little self-esteem boost carries over and teaches kids that, while things might be scary sometimes, it’s possible to make it through and they’ll be better off for it.

No, you shouldn’t be trying to scare the crap out of your kids, but it’s okay for them to read some ghost stories or get scared of the boogeyman every once in a while. They’ll learn how to cope with fear in a low-stakes setting and be more prepared for the many real obstacles they’ll face in life. Kids develop bravery and confidence, they’re not born with it.

We’re Getting Three New ‘Harry Potter’ Stories from J.K. Rowling This Autumn

In 2007, many Harry Potter fans were prepared for the final book to be “The End,” even with the series’ author, J.K. Rowling, stating the story would conclude with book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Since then we have seen a number of stories on the companion website Pottermore, a real-life version of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, an upcoming Potter-world film trilogy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a new play titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The latter was not written by Rowling herself, but the script turned novel was released this past July.

Announced on Wednesday, fans can now expect three new e-books about Hogwarts to be released this September 6 which will include, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists; Of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies; and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide. However, after the Cursed Child, Rowling states the book will explore characters other than the boy wizard Harry.

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know… so, I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”