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Book Recommendations from Taystee Jefferson

Photo by Michelle Oude Maatman on Unsplash

Season six of Orange is the New Black is about to drop on Netflix and we’re itching to see what books they feature this season. (Last season really threw us for a loop, though. We’ll count ourselves lucky if we see a single person reading at Litchfield this season.) To celebrate the return of this roller coaster of emotions, we’ve solicited some help from our favorite fictional librarian: Taystee Jefferson.

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

The 10 Best New Books to Read in a Hammock

Photo by Joseph Ruwa from Pexels

Summer (hopefully!) means lazy days in the sunshine, relaxing with nothing to do but enjoying yourself…and getting sucked into some really great reading. While some may be lucky enough to do their summer reading on a beach, we’re big fans of opening a book in a hammock. Not only is this somewhere that you can really get into the lazy summer spirit, but you don’t have to get to a coastline (or deal with getting sand everywhere). Instead, all you have to do is lie back, relax…and immerse yourself into one of these incredible new offerings.

Posted by Rose Moore

Books for Reality TV

Hollywood executives constantly seem to be looking for the next amazing bestseller to turn into a massive blockbuster movie (this last year has seen success in everything from comic books like Deadpool and Marvel’s Civil War, to popular thrillers like Gone Girl.)  Yet when it comes to reality TV, the background of carefully composed reality shows have provided plenty of narratives for novel plotlines – The Hunger Games was famously influenced by Survivor, while The Bachelor provides a wry backbone for Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible.  Yet interestingly, it has been a bit of a one-way relationship – so in the interest of balance, here are some books which could provide fodder to inspire interesting, and thoughtful, reality shows.


Agatha Christie’s mystery novels

The idea of the quirky detective solving mysteries using his or her special skills (math, writing, understanding of human nature) is a well-known trope of fictional television procedurals.  But two of the original quirky detectives were Agatha Christie’s best known sleuths: Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot, who used his little grey cells to ponder human nature, and Miss Marple, who used her in-depth knowledge of her village life in England’s rural St. Mary Mead to draw parallels with those she met on her various adventures.  Both of these super sleuths solve mysteries not through examining of physical evidence (they’re the anti-CSI), but through their understanding of personality types and character.   

What better way to prove their sleuthing ability than to send Poirot and Marple out to solve real crimes?  Both love to travel, so there would be no shortage of interesting cases; if their claims to be able to solve mysteries simply by talking to people and learning about their character is true, this reality show could include them simply interviewing suspects – and of course, the dénouement when all interested parties are gathered to hear the solution.  Agatha Christie novels are famous for having endings which are impossible to predict – if audiences are stymied by plot twists in Serial or The Jinx, they’ll love endlessly debating the identity of the killers online, pitting their own brains against the masters, and trying to figure out “whodunit.”


Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s coming of age tale focuses on one of the most famous and popular lawyers of all time, Atticus Finch. Finch, a single father living in small-town Alabama, is appointed to defend local resident Tom Robinson from criminal charges with racist undertones, while helping his two children, Jem and Scout, adjust to adulthood and define their own sense of right and wrong.  Atticus has long been admired as the height of principled criminal defence and legal protection of civil rights; these are subjects which have sparked debate and discussion in the era of #BlackLivesMatter.  How would such a weighty novel, which provides social commentary, be able to provide fodder for reality television?  Atticus Finch, superstar attorney, would be able to defend those unjustly accused of various crimes – while providing a complete perspective of his family life with two opinionated teenaged children.  For anyone who felt devastated to leave the world of Maycomb after the trial (and novel) ended, this is a reality TV series which would be like revisiting a childhood friend.


Stephen King’s The Shining

King’s most popular novel is famed not only for its volatile lead character, alcoholic hotel caretaker Jack Torrance, but the sense of menace in the remote, near-deserted Overlook Hotel, where Jack and his family are staying for the winter.  And as Jack’s young son Danny soon realises, the hotel itself has a distinct personality – and its own secrets.  Plenty of the novel’s ghosts come from the Overlook’s history and while The Shining uses these characters in service of a wrenching thematic exploration of addiction and family life, the idea of an abandoned winter hotel is certainly an interesting and chilling idea for a real life exploration.

Hotels, by their nature, encompass a narrow slice of so many lives – and many famous hotels claim their own ghosts and hauntings.  The feeling of The Shining, of isolation in a gaping structure, would certainly provide a fascinating atmosphere for a reality TV show.  Imagine a small, deserted, haunted hotel attempting to rebuild their business while dealing with a legacy of resident ghosts.  Obviously the staff would have to include a psychic (although hopefully they wouldn’t communicate with any young twin girls) – producing a show attracting those fascinated by the lovely hotel properties and exotic travel, but also interested in King’s heavy, foreboding atmosphere translated to a real locale.


Paula Hawkins’ Girl on a Train

One of the most-lauded examples of the revival of psychological thrillers, Girl on a Train concerns commuter Rachel.  Every day, she takes the same trains into London city centre in the morning and out again in the evening, stopping at the same places, seeing the same view.  Then, one day, when into her favourite home overlooking the train tracks, Rachel witnesses a murder.  To explain the murder itself and its connection to Rachel would be an unfair spoiler, but the book is aware of fundamental truth: everyone loves to sneak a peek into other people’s homes and lives.

The reality TV version of Girl on a Train would be a contrast between the lives of those who lives near the train tracks and their imagined lives.  Commuters would be asked to describe the imagined lives of those living near the bus, train and driving routes and then audiences could meet the actual residents – and glance into their real lives.  It seems unlikely that any of these residents would have as dramatic lives as those Rachel glimpses, but this reality series could explore the gaps between the idyllic lives that we often envision our friends and family to lead versus the realities of their experiences.  In the era of a Pinterest-perfect social media life, the gap between appearance and reality is a fascinating reality to explore.


Posted by Nick Beard

Beach Vaca Essentials Inspired by Samwise Gamgee

Samwise Gamgee is a man of many desirable traits. He’s courageous, resourceful, logical, and not to mention a loyal friend. But when he isn’t out helping Frodo save the world, you may find that Sam is a man of simplicity. And we have a feeling that Sam would know how to vacation in style. If you’re looking to kick back on vacation like Sam, rent a little bungalow. Trust us, Sam would totally stay in a quiet little one-story house by the shore, and he’d make sure to take a few essentials with him. Use these tips inspired by our favorite hobbit for your best vacation yet.


Potatoes and homegrown herbs and spices

Po-tay-toes. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. When stocking your beach bungalow, make sure you pick up a decent selection of potatoes. For real, what can’t they do? What can’t they be? The beauty of a quiet beach house is that you can stay in and cook your own meals if you wish to do so, and potatoes provide an endless amount of possibilities! As a gardener, Sam would also have a whole slew of homegrown herbs and spices, and so should you.


Frying pan

Keeping in line with food related items, the frying pan is crucial to your vacation needs, especially if your rented space isn’t already stocked with one. We think Sam would bring his own, anyway. It’s a comfort of home. To a foodie, the cooking utensil is every bit as important as the actual food. Plus, if all hell breaks loose, you can use your frying pan as a weapon like Sam did in Balin’s Tomb.


Pipe and pipe weed

Picture it. Hairy feet in the sand, book in lap, smoking a pipe, the waves whooshing back at low tide. Nothing else. This is your entire world, if only for a short while. Don’t worry if you aren’t a pipe smoker. Use it as decoration on a shelf in the main room of your bungalow. It adds a touch of elegance, if you will.


Bug repellent

Bug bites can wreck an otherwise perfect vacation. Being itchy is the worst. And if you’re anything like Sam, bugs are the ultimate foe, and spiders are the greatest evil of all. They might be even worse than Sauron. Avoid the bites by simply spraying yourself with repellent before heading outside. Douse yourself in it if necessary, and then keep it close by just in case. Be gone, spiders and bugs! You are not welcome here.


Access to a nearby buffet

Although Sam would probably stay in a good portion of the time, access to an all-day buffet would make his vacation absolutely perfect. Make sure your vacation spot is located close to a buffet so you can have breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. Can’t miss those. Actually, do 24-hour buffets exist? Are those a thing? If so, plan your vacation location around that.


Your best friend

If you’re half as kind and loyal as Sam, you have a best friend who would love to come stay with you in your little bungalow by the shore. You can cook and read together, swim in the ocean, and have long talks at night while drinking tea and watching the stars. Friends like these are hard to come by, but once you find that person, your vacation is their vacation. Only they will say, “I can’t carry it for you…but I can carry you.” A friend is the greatest essential of all.



Posted by Christina Schillaci

The Best Summer Solstice Reads

The longest day of the year is almost upon us. While most people may take advantage of the extra daylight with drinks on the patio, a lazy afternoon on the beach, or a barbecue dinner with friends on a warm, summer evening, to us bookworms the summer solstice provides a different opportunity…more light to read by! Whether you use the extra daylight to stretch out your reading time outside, or just enjoy reading at home without turning on the lamp, the longest day of the year is the perfect opportunity to curl up with a book.

But the solstice is about a lot more than just extra reading hours. For centuries, the summer solstice has been celebrated by those who like to mark the passing of the seasons. Often associated with celebrations of strength, light, and the sun, it’s a magical day to enjoy the outdoors (even with a book in your hand). In honor of June 20th/21st, we’ve rounded up some of the best books that make the solstice a feature – comment and share with us your favorite midsummer read!


Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)

With a hugely popular live-action adaptation on Starz and a series of companion novels, this is the perfect time to dive into Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The series begins in Scotland during the 1940s, as nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank reconnect after the war. On Beltane, Claire wanders into a stone circle by accident, and is magically transported back in time 200 years. It’s the start of an incredible journey that takes her through time and around the world. The solstices are vitally important to the story, as Claire quickly discovers that the solstices and associated days on the wheel of the year, are key to time travel. Although the core of the story lies in her adventures with the dashing Highlander Jamie Fraser, the solstices appear just enough to make this the perfect read on the longest day of the year. With eight books in the series and more on the way, this could take you to June 2017!)


The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

This classic fantasy series explores the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but from the perspective of the women involved. Starting with Igraine, wife of Uther, and following the women of Avalon as well as the courts, The Mists of Avalon presents a totally new side to this classic tale. Magic and witchcraft are at the heart of the story, as the women attempt to prevent the Christians from taking over their land. With a very pagan approach to magic, the solstice celebrations appear throughout the book (and the rest of the series). The starting point for another quite huge series, The Mists of Avalon is a perfect read for lovers of female-fronted fantasy.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)

Ok, it may be a play, rather than a novel – but what kind of solstice reading recommendation could leave out this classic by the Bard himself? Taking place on the night of Midsummer, this romantic tale brings together a group of young, star-crossed Athenian lovers, a troupe of actors, and the King and Queen of the fairies. Pranks are played (by the mischievous fairy Puck) and everyone begins to pine for the wrong person (and of course, the unfortunate Bottom is transformed into a literal ass…)! One of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, this selection is perfect for those who want a more romantic kind of midsummer magic.


The Summer Solstice: Enchanted (K. K. Allen)

One for fans of YA fantasy, Enchanted is the first in a new series – and the only one currently published, so be on the lookout for the rest in the future! The story follows Kat Summer, a young girl whose mother dies in a tragic accident, and ends up living with her grandmother. As her birthday approaches, Kat begins to have visions and dreams and learns that her family is descended from the Greek gods. The book is filled with magic and myth, along with the usual teen romance that exists in most YA novels. The solstice, as well as being baked right into the title, is the date of Kat’s birthday, and has special significance to the plot… but we won’t spoil it for you!


The Mayfair Witches (Anne Rice)

It’s common for novels that center on witchcraft to include mentions of the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters, and Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches trilogy is no exception. The trilogy explores intertwining stories of a family of witches, the sprit who haunts them, the Talamasca (a secret society who follow the paranormal), and the Taltos. While much of this classic, romantic-horror focuses on the complex familial relationships of the Mayfair witches and their interactions with the spirit world, the solstices are featured as an important part of the books. Notably, in the final novel, Taltos, the picts, celts, and the old pagan religions of Britain are brought up, along with the celebrations of these important dates on the wheel of the year. A perfect read for anyone who knows that horror isn’t just for Halloween!


Posted by Rose Moore

Reality Shows Inspired by Book Titles

It seems like everything has been made into a reality TV show these days. Worried that there isn’t anything left to binge watch on your lazy Sunday? Think again! Here are casting calls for four imagined reality shows we’d love to watch, inspired by the titles of four awesome books. Paging reality show writers:

Year of Yes

Casting News:

Do you feel like your life has stalled? Or maybe you just never had a chance to hop on the right path towards your dream job? Dream life? We want to help! If you’re selected you’ll spend one year, all expenses paid, chasing after your dreams. All you have to do is say YES! to any opportunity that comes your way—Starting with filling out the application and creating a 5-minute video showing us how enthusiastic you are about the chance to be on the Year of Yes.


Everything I Never Told You

Casting News:

There’s a million dollars on the table and all you have to do is tell the person you are closet to (whether that be your partner, parent, or best friend) the list of the worst things you’ve done in your life. How do you get the million bucks? You have to come completely clean on all of the details AND this person has to completely forgive you. Trust us we’ll know…

If you think you can handle it email us one of your secrets to I’[email protected]


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

*Secret interoffice memo draft

To: Reality Development Department

From: Your alien overload. (Ha, jk it’s Raquel.)

Okay team, this will only work if we’re the first so we need applications and production proposals ready for as soon as space travel is open to the public. Titled The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, think Real World in space: “This is the true story of seven strangers picked to travel in space and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when gravity stops existing and people start?? (finish sentence and check with legal if Real World will sue)


The Regional Office is Under Attack!

*Drunk email sent to self

From: Taylor

To: Taylor

Subject: READ before morning meeting

Remember to pitch The Regional Office is Under Attack!–every month a business is selected and a team of trained assassins (paintball enthusiasts) will have one week to plan their attack. Their goal is to find a flag, hidden somewhere in the office, and get back to the parking lot with it. The other office may be surprised by the attack, but paintball guns will be hidden on location for them to find and use to defend themselves. If they succeed in defending their office, they get a bonus. If the attackers succeed, they get sponsor money. CHA-CHING! Don’t forget to reference Michael Scott (OOH check to see if his cutout is still in closet—wait, did we draw on his forehead?)



Posted by Jamie Canaves