A colleague recently suggested I read a memoir by a female astrophysicist. I hesitated. Biographies fall into my "twilight zone" of reading choices as they push me past my literary comfort place. To be fair, I skimmed the first page of The Smallest Lights in the Universe. I immediately fell under the spell cast by author Sara Seager's description of rogue planets in search of a solar system to call home. This 2020 title opened a galactic-sized hole of thrilling information about the current state of deep space research. By the last page I could hear whispers of Albert Einstein's famous quote, "God does not play dice with the universe."
Fortunately, I am not alone in the sea of readers who wander into books outside their comfort zones. MI staff members continue to be voracious readers. Three of my colleagues recently shared their literary "twilight zone" experiences -- that place where you didn't expect insight but came away forever changed.
MI Staff member #1:
"Most romance novels defeat me. Any book, story, or movie where the main focus is romantic love bores me. Then, on a friend's recommendation, I picked Georgette Heyer's regency romance, Cousin Kate, started reading, and could not put it down. Maybe it's because it upended the usual gothic plot of a young woman falling in love with the moody, handsome heir of an estate. The novel does not assume that women are obligated to reclaim monsters, even very beautiful monsters."
MI staff member #2::
"I just read a book that rocked my world, Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail. This is the pulp Western by Borden Chase that was the basis for the film Red River, starring John Wayne and a young, chiseled Montgomery Clift. I am not a fan of the genre, but the cover grabbed my attention and the first paragraph was stunning. With terse yet vivid prose, I was instantly transported to the wide seat of a Conestoga wagon as it "lurched along the flatlands" of the Texas frontier. Blazing Guns is about a cattle drive, about love, and what it means to be a man in the post-Civil War frontier. The emotions portrayed in the story are tautly concealed but sharp enough to drive the story [and the cattle] home."
MI staff member #3:
"One book that comes readily to mind is The Poisonwood Bible. A friend highly recommended it. After the first 10 pages, I was ready to give up as I just couldn't understand from whose viewpoint the story unfolded. But I kept at it and finally it began to make sense. Once I figured out who was who and whose voice was telling the story, I was completely engaged and could hardly wait to finish it."
If you're looking for your next great read, visit Mechanics' Institute's Book Chat discussion group on Goodreads. You'll find staff recommendations galore and more.