Treat Yo’ Shelf: Books We’re Reading This February
If you’re anything like us, then your BTR (Books To Read) stack is probably reaching dangerous heights. We’re nothing if not wicked enablers, so here’s what the staff of Dear Darkling has their bookmarks in this month. Here’s hoping you find your new favorite page-turner.
Not In Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America
by Christine Wicker
“National bestselling author and award-winning religion reporter Christine Wicker leaves no talisman unturned in her hunt to find what’s authentic and what’s not in America’s burgeoning magical reality. Her investigation leads her from the voodoo temples of New Orleans to the witches’ covens of Salem to a graveyard in north Florida as she probes the secrets of an underground society and learns lessons she never dreamed could be taught.
Her new teachers are an odd crew: Myrna the Death Puppet, Tracy, Queen of the Vampires, and Siva, a tenderhearted satanist, along with people who truly believe they are fairies, werewolves, and dragons. The reporter in Wicker listens harder than she ever has, and she doesn’t let herself roll her eyes — not even once. What she learns repels her, challenges her, and then changes her in ways she never could have imagined.
And if you let it, it might change you, too.” (Amazon)
With chapters titled “The Waitress Wears a Pentacle,” “The Vegetarian Vampire and the Wooden-Headed Death Puppet Have Something to Say,” and “Follow the Weird-Looking People,” this book has our name written all over it.
His Bloody Project
by Graeme Macrae Burnet
“The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country’s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.” (Amazon)
Clever yet gripping, His Bloody Project is a great choice for a darkling looking for a new thriller to keep them up all night.
Street Culture: 50 Years of Subculture Style
by Gavin Baddeley
“While the eye-catching attire and headline-grabbing antics of these subcultures are familiar to many, few outsiders understand the rhyme and reason that hold them together. Widely acclaimed for his work on the underbelly of contemporary culture, author Gavin Baddeley details the origins, ethos and aspirations of each group, offering valuable insight into what attracts the devotees who are willing to risk harassment and ridicule in order to stay true to themselves.” (Amazon)
Originally chosen for its fantastic photos (and they are great), this book turned out to be an unexpectedly fascinating history of subcultures and how they’ve interacted with and affected one another.
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
by Lindsey Fitzharris
We might be willing to bitch about our medical system, but most folks will still agree that, hey, at least we’re not still using Victorian operating theaters with no anesthesia, right? The Butchering Art lays bare the history of the moment when, luckily for all of us, surgeons started considering that maybe germs were to blame for high mortality rates.
“At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history.
Fitzharris dramatically recounts Lister’s discoveries in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection―and could be countered by antiseptics. Focusing on the tumultuous period from 1850 to 1875, she introduces us to Lister and his contemporaries―some of them brilliant, some outright criminal―and takes us through the grimy medical schools and dreary hospitals where they learned their art, the deadhouses where they studied anatomy, and the graveyards they occasionally ransacked for cadavers.” (Amazon)
Winner of the 2018 PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, and chosen as one of the best history/science books of 2017, this tome is a perfect fit for those darklings who like reading about the darker side of history. Goes great with a beaker of absinthe.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
by Meg Elison
“In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.” (Amazon)
Potentially triggering for some, this award-winning novel follows a middle-aged bisexual woman as she works to save women in a post-apocalyptic, massively male-dominated world. Worth a read, and if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.
Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society)
by Karen McCarthy Brown
“Drawing on a 35 year long friendship with Mama Lola, a Vodou priestess, Karen McCarthy Brown tells tales spanning five generations of Vodou healers in Mama Lola’s family, beginning with an African ancestor and ending with Claudine Michel’s account of working with Mama Lola after the Haitian earthquake. Out of these stories, in which dream and vision flavor everyday experience and the Vodou spirits guide decision making, Vodou emerges as a religion focused on healing brought about by mending broken relationships between the living, the dead, and the Vodou spirits.” (Amazon)
An interesting look at Vodou through the lens of a particular practitioner, Mama Lola gives insight into this often-misunderstood worldview within the context of present day.
Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present
by Alison Matthews David
“Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women’s, men’s and children’s dress, in myth and reality. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths of Oscar Wilde’s half-sisters and dancer Isadora Duncan’s accidental strangulation by entangled scarf; the book explores how garments have tormented those who made and wore them, and harmed animals and the environment in the process. Vividly chronicling evidence from Greek mythology to the present day, Matthews David puts everyday apparel under the microscope and unpicks the dark side of fashion.” (Amazon)
A must for a darkling with a macabre interest in historical fashions. Read up on this, and then consider what we wear these days that could just be our downfall (personally, we’re betting on push-up bras).
Feature image via Zhen-Yang.