Month: September 2012

Unsettling Chapters

You’ve likely noticed some changes to the header. Well, it’s October, and we’re in a Halloween state of mind. For this month, we’ve become Unsettling Chapters, and in addition to our regular book blogs, each day we’ll be posting something new in celebration of the season.

Or as we’re calling it: 31 Days of Dread.

The Unsettling Chapters series will feature recommendations and discussions of books and stories guaranteed to keep you up at night. Some of the authors we’ll feature include Joyce Carol Oates, Irvine Welsh, Stephen King, some names you’ve never heard of and others that might surprise you.

The series kicks off tomorrow with, who else, Edgar Allan Poe.

As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully we can help add a bit more darkness to your Halloween festivities.

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Life After Death, Damien Echols

At the height of the ’80s Satanic Panic, I was a prototypical blasphemer. I played Dungeons & Dragons, blasted Shout at the Devil at maximum volume, plastered Metallica posters on my wall, read the Necronomicon, gorged myself on horror cinema and wore a daily uniform of ripped denim and black T-shirts.

According to Al Gore’s wife, I was a bloodthirsty soldier for Satan. Oh yes, me and my virginal D&D pals—who could perform about 15 push-ups combined—were dangerous, alright.

But the tragic nadir of the Satanic Panic was the case of the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers wrongfully convicted of child-murder in rural Arkansas.

The case first attracted media attention for its lurid qualities—abduction, mutilation and supposed Satanic Ritual Abuse. It later attracted attention for the hillbilly witch hunt that resulted in the trial of the West Memphis Three. Two of the boys received life sentences while Damien Echols, the alleged leader of the trio, was sentenced to death.

After two decades of public outcry, numerous books and feature films, the three men were finally released in 2011.

On Sept. 18, Echols recounts his experiences in Life After Death, available in hardcover and e-book. Echols has previously published his poetry, nonfiction and the 2005 memoir Almost Home. I’m excited to read what he has to say about the years since then.

Much has been written on the horrors of the Satanic Panic, but the definitive account should rightfully come from Echols, one of its biggest victims—a man who was nearly put to death on account of mass hysteria.

The saving grace for our justice system is that it’s not a posthumous release.

Check back for info on more upcoming releases throughout the week.

Ensuing Chapters 9.8.12

Stop a moment. Breathe. Deeper now. Sure, it’s still north of 90 in Colorado, but as the days die quicker, a liminal chill fills the soul. For my money, you can keep summer and winter. But autumn…

The overdone cliché in book reviewing is the summer reading list. I’m not sure who started it, or who all these people are reading at the beach, but I’m certainly as guilty as the rest. But truly, the best time to indulge in the written word is autumn, with its cooler climes, longer nights and olfactory-fueled melancholia.

And aren’t books always better when paired with a hot mug of tea?

Some of my favorite September/October memories are of spending Friday nights among the stacks at the Boulder Book Store. As a youth, my friend and I would drive a half hour from our book-deprived hometown in Pennsylvania to Twice-Loved Books in Youngstown, Ohio. And some of the best autumn reading I’ve acquired at Denver’s Tattered Cover, or the Poudre Library District in Fort Collins.

As an avid reader of horror, I often find my favorite books marginalized on the shelves—except during the fall. For two months, the storefront displays boast the books that make my year-round reading list.

You will find plenty of horror previewed here at Ensuing Chapters, but there’s a wealth of diverse autumn gold coming your way in the following weeks.

Sept. 3

Last year, we lost one of the great journalists of our time, and one of my personal heroes, Christopher Hitchens. This champion of reason was known for his bold reporting on war and religion, and was equally brave in the face of cancer. Published on Sept. 4, Mortality will appeal to Hitch’s loyal readers, but is also of interest to anyone who’s lost someone to cancer (e.g. nearly everyone).

Few writers have captured the depth and beauty of the natural world like transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau. His new book—yes, new book—October, or Autumnal Tints, is a lecture he gave near the end of his life. He envisioned it one day being released in print with accompanying illustrations.

That day was Sept. 3.

His tribute to the greatest of all months, penned in the autumn of his own life, reframes the changing colors and dying leaves as symbols of maturity rather than decay. Reading Thoreau is always a treat. Reading his musings on autumn in autumn seems like paradise.

In the song “Little Too Clean,” Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner croons, “Don’t you know dirt will find you/ and dirt reminds you/ that dirt will always be there.” It’s the song that keeps looping in my head while reading the jacket of Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s new book, An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases.

Exploring one of the big issues of our time, science writer Velasquez-Manoff uncovers a shocking rise in food allergies and autoimmune disorders, such as Celiac and type-1 diabetes, and equally shocking treatments that rely on parasites rather than pharmaceuticals. One of the unexpected contributors to our sickness, he finds, is that sanitation and antibiotics have altered our inner ecologies to the point that we lack the organisms that keep us in check.

We have become a little too clean—or maybe even a lot too clean.

Sept. 10

What do we know about Lee Child’s compelling protagonist, Jack Reacher? He likes travel, he’s a sharpshooter with a wicked double-tap, and no matter where he roams, he always ends up in the same place: trouble.

Celebrating the 17th installment of the Jack Reacher series, plus related short stories (personal fave: “James Penney’s New Identity” from Thriller), Child has climbed from the crime writing underground to the top of the best-seller list. He is likely to summit once again with the release of A Wanted Man on Sept. 11.

I am an avid reader of Child’s books. I love the Jack Reacher franchise. But when the peripatetic maverick hits the big screen, I hate that it will be Tom Cruise (boo, hiss) portraying Reacher.

Who’s really writing this book blurb? I thought it was me, but one might want to reconsider after reading Michael S. Gazzaniga’s Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. Gazzaniga surveys the science, psychology and ethics at work in our thoughts and behaviors.

Who’s in Charge? is a work of great importance as breakthroughs in neuroscience have revealed greater complexities than ever imagined at work in the brain. And launched the next great frontier of philosophical inquiry.

Published last year, the paperback reprint hits shelves Sept. 11.

Legendary journalist Bob Woodward goes from Deep Throat to Deep Gridlock in The Price of Politics, his 17th book. In this detailed account, Woodward chronicles Washington’s attempts to rescue the economy these past few years.

Talk about the ideal primer to the madness of election season. For the more devout political readers (and I know a few of you), Woodward’s new book is political porn to get you in the mood as we steamroll toward November.

We’ll preview other September releases in the coming weeks. Please follow Ensuing Chapters to receive our weekly previews, reviews and interviews.