My Summer Reading of 2020

As summer draws to a close I, being the nerd I am, chose to spend it with my nose in a book as per usual. Haunting my local libraries, comic shops, and independent bookstores (break the chain and shop local) I had no shortage of reading material, both old books and new releases, to keep me occupied. Across a number of styles and genres here are the books of my summer reading.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: I once again delved into my annual summer tradition of cracking open the legendary Ray Bradbury’s ode to the Summer of 1928. With a magic nostalgia, brothers Doug and Tom Spaulding take us through their Midwest town during this season when anything is possible. Along the way we read tales of; magic shoes, a serial killer, a witch, a green machine, a happiness machine, and even a time machine. For Doug this summer is filled with both joy and heartbreak as nothing will be the same after it ends.

I: The Creation of a Serial Killer by Jack Olsen: Through the 80’s and 90’s Keith Hunter Jesperson AKA the Happy Face Killer, left a trail of bodies along his trucking route.  Now veteran crime writer Jack Olsen gives us as readers a firsthand account at what drove an awkward young man to becoming a serial killer. This is a book that is truly not for the faint of heart, as Jesperson holds nothing back about his past or his crimes. While it may be disturbing for many readers, this glimpse into what goes on in the head of a sociopath is darkly fascinating.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky: I finally got my hands on one of last years most acclaimed horror novels from the author of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Trying to start over after an abusive relationship, Katie Reese and her son Christopher move to a new town outside of Pittsburgh. A few days later Christopher goes missing in the vast woods in the area. When he is found, the young boy things for the family begin to move in an unbelievably positive direction. However, Christopher now has a passionate desire to build an elaborate tree house deep in the forest. Soon he learns that this tree house is tied to a supernatural battle for the soul of the very town. While the book may begin as a straightforward spooky story by the end it becomes a trippy blast to read.

Black Lightning by Tony Isabella & Trevor Von Eeden: I have always been a fan of the character Black Lightning, so this summer seemed like a good time to go back to his beginning. The trade paperback Black Lightning collects the first 11 issues of the hero’s series from 1977. Despite it being 40 years since these stories remain just as relevant today. Being a black superhero Black Lightning not only has to contend with villains but also the institutionalized racism of: the media, the police, and even other superheroes. But this does not bother the stone, cold, cool Jefferson Pierce as he embarks on his crusade.

Thunder Along the Mississippi by Jack D. Coombe: During the American Civil War, a strategic point to control was bound to be the Mighty Mississippi River. For the south this major waterway and it’s offshoot rivers was vital to moving resources and trading overseas. But if the United States could control it they could cut their enemy in half and isolate them. Coombe covers how a nation which virtually had no navy built and innovated their way to victory. While the writing style may not be the most snazzy, it is incredibly detailed as the readers get to see the weapons and strategies utilized during this important stage of the war.

Be Free of Die by Cate Lineberry: While in college I learned a little bit about the life of Robert Smalls a slave turned war hero. I thought it was cool then, but once I read this biography from Lineberry I discovered just how incredible Small’s life was. Being a slave in the Confederate hotbed of Charleston who happened to steal the local general’s prized ship was merely the beginning of his story. Once the ship was commandeered by the Union, Smalls was allowed to serve as its pilot and later promoted to captain, being the first African American to attain such a rank. Robert Smalls went on to be a civil rights leader, a successful businessman, and politician. He even achieved so much success that he bought the home of the man who was once his master. Smalls lived a compelling life and should be a bigger name in history.

The Toll by Cherie Priest: I love a great southern gothic horror tale and Cherie Priest delivered a good one with this book. While on his way to his honeymoon, Titus crosses a bridge in the depths of the Okefenokee Swamp of South Georgia. Suddenly he wakes up on the bridge and his wife is gone. Lost and confused, Titus ends up in a strange town where people are disappearing and there is a lingering secret about an ancient evil in the swamps. Along the way he meets colorful characters like a teen being raised by two strange old ladies and a local tavern owner who actually survived an encounter with the creature in the swamps. While the book ends with a dud rather than a bang, I truly enjoyed the journey the Toll took me on.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix: Grady Hendrix is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors around and this 2016 offering from the horror writer is pure brilliance. Ever since elementary school Abby and Gretchen have been best friends. But after a skinny dipping accident Gretchen is acting strangely and it is not long before the strangeness become malicious. As she begins a path of destroying the lives of everyone around her, Abby discovers her best friend is possessed by a demon. With the help of a dumb jock exorcist the teen has to find a way to save her. But is their friendship strong enough to survive the wrath of Hell? Hendrix expertly blends supernatural horror with an 80’s teen story loaded with genuine heart.