I’d Like To Wake Up Now, Please? TPM’s Dystopian Reading Recs

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We are all slowly but surely coming around to our new reality.

During a recent conversation with my dad, we discussed the year thus far and how no matter how hard you try, we seem only capable of talking about the coronavirus, as if there weren’t once enjoyable things that existed — like books.

I was in the process of packing to return to my apartment in New York after quarantining with my family in New Jersey for several months and we spoke about how unprepared I was when I first came home in March, operating under the assumption that this would be over in a month — max. We’d work from home for a bit, get to sleep in, eat dinner at a decent hour, etc. Silver linings and all.

I compared it to a snow day when you were a kid, the prospect of staying home for a day was so exciting. Then you get hit with a monster blizzard and you’re home for a week and the house starts to feel too small — your younger brother gets on your nerves and all of a sudden school is the only place you want to be. Today’s August 6th. I’ve only been back in Manhattan for two weeks, but my apartment walls are already narrowing and I would happily trade a good amount of my earthly possessions to be working out of the TPM offices again.

Books remain a necessary means of escape. Our theme this month is a bit on the nose — dystopian novels, because that’s how life feels. Why not trade the dystopian form of our current existence, for a slightly easier-to-digest, fictitious story? The last dystopian novel I read was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in college and we spent our class discussion delving into how society screwed the environment in that version of reality — a created world that doesn’t feel too far off from today’s norm.

Be sure to check out the list below and comment with some of your favorite dystopian novels. If you like what you see here you can always purchase any of the books below by visiting our TPM Bookshop profile page. Be sure to check back again next month for some new staff recommendations, and if you’ve missed any, you can find all of our reading lists here. Happy reading!

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

“Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, Brave New World, anticipated huge advances in science and the ways in which they could be used not to better society but to pacify and neuter broad swaths of the population to the advantage of those in power. As Silicon Valley eats more of the world and the pharmaceutical industry grows, the cautionary tale feels more relevant and urgent by the day.”

Christine Frapech, Senior Designer

“Because real life is a bit bizarre these days I decided to re-read 1984. The last time I read it was in high school so it was interesting to compare how crazy the plot seemed then, to how not-so-crazy it seems now.”

Tierney Sneed, Investigations Desk

“It’s incredible how canny this book — about a virus that starts in China cripples the U.S. and the rest of world — was in foreseeing our current circumstances. But “Severance” is about more than just our worst coronavirus nightmares coming true. It’s about the relationship millennials have with their work lives in this current era of Capitalism, the power of nostalgia and generational differences within immigrant families.”

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

“In 23rd century Thailand, global warming has caused ocean levels to rise and has left Bangkok well below sea level. With much of the rest of the world uninhabitable, Thailand has closed its borders and is dominated by biotech (calorie) companies which control all food production and distribution. There are plagues, bioterrorism, secret government agencies, genetically engineered humans, and all manner of steampunk contraptions — which is to say, it’s good fun! While the plot can get convoluted at times, the writing style and world creation are both unique enough to keep you turning the pages. It won both the Hugo and Nebula award in 2010.”

Kate Riga, Reporter

“Some images from this story are particularly resonant, not least the seeds of a new civilization taking root in what was the epitome of antiseptic transience in the last one: an airport.”

David Kurtz, Executive Editor

“This isn’t my genre so I’m reaching way back to a classic written in the ’50s that I read in the ’80s. Mad Men meets Hitchhiker’s Guide. Please read it and tell me how it’s aged.”

Nicole Lafond, Special Projects Editor

“The pandemic has forced many to tackle self-reflection more intentionally than we might otherwise have when life was filled with the typical distractions and challenges that make up the tenor of what was once normalcy. Quarantine has wiped much of that from day-to-day operations, and I recently found myself re-reading this YA novel, primarily because I remember being particularly moved by it as a child. As an adult, the re-read did not disappoint. From the clear feminist undertones to the spiritual awakening to the characters’ veiled grappling with good and evil, it was a refreshing read with a positive finale — a concept largely missing from most of the darkly hued content I’ve been devouring the last five months.”

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

“It’s been a few years since I last read this novel, but McCarthy’s prose tends to stick with you well beyond when you finish the book. The father-son dynamic is stirring and the ending leaves you gutted.”

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

“I honestly did not like The Man in the High Castle very much, but it’s extremely well regarded and loved, so it makes me think I missed something and should read it again. At any rate, counterfactual historical narratives always suck me in and entertain.”

Kate Riga, Reporter

“In these two stories, Bradbury so skillfully imbues what’s supposed to be a safe haven from the rest of the world — home — with dread and malice.”



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