Books to binge
February is National Library Lovers Month, so instead of binging your favorite Netflix shows, put the remote down and pick up a binge-worthy book at Zach S. Henderson Library. To help you out, University faculty have recommended some of their favorite books that will rival even your favorite series.
“Ah, Netflix. It’s like having a passive-aggressive loved one right there on the screen: ‘Are you…still…watching ‘Futurama?” Who doesn’t need a snarky artificially intelligent media spy in their living room?” said Dustin Anderson, Ph.D. “I love Netflix. I really do. The thing I love most about it is seeing something familiar, and then suddenly realizing that I recognize the characters, plots, themes or motifs from one of my favorite books. The shows I fill my list up with are great in themselves, but become so much more engaging and thought-provoking when you can see where they draw their ideas from. Binge watching is fun — and we’re all guilty of it at some point — but take a break and dig into the books that form the traditions of some of Netflix’s top shows.”
Hover over your favorite shows to see which books our faculty suggest are “must reads!” If the book plot summaries and faculty recommendations pique your interest, scroll down to discover Georgia Southern courses that correlate to each genre.
Nicholas Newell, M.F.A.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts
Book Recommendations: “The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings,” “Brave New World,” “The Master and Margarita”
If you enjoyed “Vikings,” you’ll like “The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings” by Lars Brownworth.
In AD 793, Norse warriors struck the English isle of Lindisfarne and laid waste to it. Wave after wave of Norse ‘sea-wolves’ followed in search of plunder, land or a glorious death in battle. In ‘The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings,’ Lars Brownworth brings to life this extraordinary Norse world of epic poets, heroes and travelers through the stories of the great Viking figures.
“This highly entertaining nonfiction book is the real history of many of the characters you meet in ‘Vikings,’” said Newell.
If you enjoyed “Westworld,” you’ll like “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.
Hundreds of years in the future, the World Controllers have created an ideal civilization. Its members, shaped by genetic engineering and behavioral conditioning, are productive and content in roles they have been assigned at conception. Government-sanctioned drugs and recreational sex ensure that everyone is a happy, unquestioning consumer; messy emotions have been anesthetized and private attachments are considered obscene. Only Bernard Marx is discontented, developing an unnatural desire for solitude and a distaste for compulsory promiscuity. When he brings back a young man from one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old unenlightened ways still continue, he unleashes a dramatic clash of cultures that will force him to consider whether freedom, dignity and individuality are worth suffering for.
“One of the best dystopias ever written, ‘Brave New World’s’ hell of pleasure is clearly a big influence on ‘Westworld’s’ themes and designs,” said Newell.
If you enjoyed “The Magicians,” you’ll like “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov.
When the devil arrives in 1930s Moscow, consorting with a retinue of odd associates — including a talking black cat, an assassin and a beautiful naked witch — his antics wreak havoc among the literary elite of the world capital of atheism. Meanwhile, the Master, author of an unpublished novel about Jesus and Pontius Pilate, languishes in despair in a psychiatric hospital, while his devoted lover, Margarita, decides to sell her soul to save him.
“’The Master and Margarita’ pre-dates the genre of magical realism by decades, and it can be argued that it invented the genre,” said Newell. “Every story of magical discovery has its roots in this book (even ‘Harry Potter’).”
If you have a flare for the dramatics, check out Newell’s War in Theatre and Film course or his theatre appreciation course.
Dustin Anderson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Philosophy
Genre: Action and Adventure
Book Recommendations: “American Gods,” “Lord of the Flies”
If you enjoyed “Supernatural,” you’ll like “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman.
Shadow—released from prison just days after his wife and best friend are killed in an accident—gets recruited to be bodyguard, driver and errand boy for the enigmatic trickster, Mr. Wednesday. So begins Shadow’s dark and strange road trip, one that introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.
“Supernatural is kind of hard to pin-down,” said Anderson. “Technically, it’s a fantasy-horror show, but it’s also a buddy-cop, road-trip, darkly-humorous, family-drama ghost story/mystery. The non-stop ghosts, legends, tall-tales and demigods that Sam and Dean run into fall right in line with the displaced gods of the Old World hiding out in the the hallmark tourist traps of present day Americana in Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel American Gods. The intertwining of ancient myth into modern mystery isn’t anything new for Gaiman (check out his comic The Sandman), but the convergence of vigilante justice and ghost hunting could easily find Sam & Dean and Shadow Moon at the same midwestern truck-stops. If you like this book, you might also check-out Gaiman’s collaboration with Terry Pratchet, Good Omens, for some end-of-the-world hilarity, or Christopher Moore’s Practical Demonkeeping or Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story for some unorthodox takes on the supernatural popping into the everyday world.”
If you enjoyed “Lost,” you’ll like “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding.
At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.
“Most of my generation had to read William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ in middle school,” said Anderson. “While I think most of us felt the impact of the Golding’s message as Ralph, Simon, Jack and others watch their humanity devolve almost as soon as they hit the island, I don’t think we realized how thoroughly Golding’s story influenced what we would later watch. Two of Netflix’s top-rated shows–LOST and the 100–seem to leap almost directly out of Golding’s novel. The struggle for primacy, power, and control among a group of (space)ship-wrecked teenagers in the 100 directly mirrors the power struggle and factionalization that the young Brits undergo after their plane crashes. The allegory of social conflict and social contracts that Golding’s story develops through the tension between impulse and control is stunningly portrayed on the screen in the ongoing battle of wills between Jack Shepard and John Locke on their own island post-plane-crash. If you like the purgatorial allegory once the characters in LOST find the hatch, check out Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. This absurdist Irish novel was written in 1939, but not published until 1967; give this a read through, and you’ll quickly see how the underground world of the Fox, the third policeman, forms the basis of LOST’s own underground world.”
Anderson shared his enthusiasm for adventure in his Hemingway in Paris upper-division course and Irish drama and film course last summer.
Dustin Anderson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Philosophy
Book Recommendations: “Catch-22,” “Next,” “The Ginger Man”
If you enjoyed “The Office,” you’ll like “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.
Yossarian is a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
“One of my all time favorite shows is the American adaptation of ‘The Office,'” said Anderson. “The sheer absurdity of what should be a mundane and repetitive world that Jim and Pam live in calls back to Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22.’ Although it is a ‘war novel,’ Heller’s protagonist, John Yossarian, finds himself beset by absurd characters who become progressively more ridiculous in light of the Armed Forces bureaucracy. While Yossarian doesn’t mug for the camera like Jim does, his commanding officers (Colonel Cathcart, Major Major and General Peckem) look strikingly like Jim’s coworkers around the office (Andy, Michael and Dwight).”
If you enjoyed “Master of None,” you’ll like “Next” by James Hynes.
Kevin Quinn is a standard-variety American male: middle-aged, liberal-leaning, self-centered, emotionally damaged and generally determined to avoid both pain and responsibility. As his relationship with his girlfriend approaches a turning point, and his career seems increasingly pointless, he decides to secretly fly to a job interview in Austin, Texas. After landing safely, his next eight hours make up this novel, a tour-de-force of mordant humor, brilliant observation and page-turning storytelling.
“‘Louie’ and ‘Master of None’ might be two of the deeply sad (or, really, true-to-life) ‘comedies’ airing today,” said Anderson. “Both of these shows feature their main characters pushing age watersheds (Louie, 50; Dev, 30) attempting to make their way on a day-to-day basis in New York. The complicated and damaged relationships with their family and romantic interests call back to James Hynes’ novel ‘Next.’ Kevin Quinn finds himself on the same downward slope at 50. His existential angst over the course of a single day is as real, raw, gripping and funny as the situations that Louie and Dev find themselves in.”
If you enjoyed “Shameless,” you’ll like “The Ginger Man” by J. P. Donleavy.
Set in Ireland just after World War II, “The Ginger Man” is J. P. Donleavy’s wildly funny, picaresque classic novel of the misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American ne’er-do-well studying at Trinity College in Dublin. He barely has time for his studies and avoids bill collectors, makes love to almost anything in a skirt and tries to survive without having to descend into the bottomless pit of steady work. Dangerfield’s appetite for women, liquor and general roguishness is insatiable―and he satisfies it with endless charm.
“While the book is set in 1940s Dublin, the racy, crude and satirical wanderings of Sebastian Dangerfield will have you simultaneously laughing and cringing as quickly as anything that Frank, Fi, Jimmy or Lip do on the screen,” said Anderson. “The inclination to misrepresent themselves, scheme and steal, while in reality just looking for someone who can understand who they really are, ties these characters closely together. ‘The Ginger Man’ was published in 1955, but reads like it could have happened yesterday, and ‘Shameless’ is clearly connected through the Irish-American stereotypes.”
If you have a sense of humor and an appreciation of wordplay, courses like Anderson’s Senior Seminar course British Black Comedy- Byron, Browning and Beckett would be a great fit for you.
Chad Posick, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology
Book Recommendations: “Just Mercy”
If you enjoyed “13th,” you’ll like ‘Just Mercy’ by Bryan Stevenson.
Based on one of Stevenson’s own cases when he was a lawyer that drew him into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever—’Just Mercy’ is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
“The title is in reference to the 13th amendment which prohibits slavery except for as punishment for a crime. We see that prison is much more likely for blacks than whites, and the sheer numbers under criminal justice supervision far surpass that at the height of slavery.” said Posick. “This is a serious social problem that needs to be addressed.”
Posick’s Criminal Behavior and Inside-Out special topics courses are great electives for those students looking to enhance their analytic skills.
LeighAnn Williams, M.A.
Lecturer in the Department of Writing and Linguistics
Book Recommendations: “The Joy Luck Club,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude”
If you enjoyed “Gilmore Girls,” you’ll like “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan.
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s ‘saying’ the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money.
“Both the book and the show illuminate the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship,” said Williams. “In both, this relationship is the guiding, central focus, and both works have been praised for their focus on the intricacies of this relationship. While the women of ‘Gilmore Girls’ often stress over life’s small details, characters in ‘The Joy Luck Club’ tackle big issues such as their struggle to retain their Chinese heritage while assimilating into American culture. However, both the show and the book celebrate the love between mothers and daughters in beautiful, heartfelt, poignant ways.”
If you enjoyed “Jane the Virgin,” you’ll like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez.
One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.
“‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ centers on Latin American culture, showing a multi-generational family’s heritage, traditions and tragedies,” said Williams. “Both the show and the book highlight the importance of family. In the show, Jane’s family is deeply important to her, while the book chronicles the history of a family throughout many generations. Themes of love and family are emphasized in both works.”
Put your story-telling skills to the test with creative nonfiction and narratives courses taught in Williams’ department, the Department of Writing and Linguistics.
All of the faculty recommendations can be found on OverDrive or at the Zach S. Henderson library in written, electronic or audio formats. To reserve your next favorite read, visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu/library.
Netflix and television series selections were chosen from the “Top Rated” Netflix series for the most popular genres. Faculty selected the most fitting series from the listings for their book recommendations. Book plot summaries were adapted from Amazon.com.