Everyone wishes they had more time, whether to pursue their dream career or travel across the world. Imagine if you could extend your life and set out to accomplish everything you’d ever wanted. Imagine being able to maintain your youth for decades. What would you do if you had more time? Would you make the most of it? These questions form the basis of Rachel Heng’s Suicide Club, a novel that combines technology with the prospect of living forever. But there’s a dark side to immortality and Heng takes the reader on a journey through themes of loss, parenthood and what it means to be alive.
The Witcher is one of the most popular fantasy series of all time. The games have introduced the books to a new generation of readers, and the most recent novel has been translated into English. Season Of Storms sees Andrzej Sapkowski return to his most popular character. Set between the short story collection The Last Wish, the book involves Geralt of Rivia going on a new journey. Along the way, Geralt must contend with political intrigue and monsters of all shapes and forms if he hopes to survive.
Knowing where you come from is important. Heritage provides a connection between the past a present, a way to appreciate your family members and inform where you’d like to be in future. Living in the UK, I’ve grown up around my English relatives, but I didn’t know a lot about the Polish side of the family. Recently, I took a trip to Warsaw to get in touch with my Polish heritage, and that would have never happened if I hadn’t discovered The Witcher. What started out as an appreciation for a series turned into a pilgrimage of learning about my family’s history.
“Nine years ago, when I began working with the dead, I heard other practitioners speak about holding the space for the dying person and their family. With my secular bias, ‘holding the space’ sounded like saccharine hippie lingo. This judgement was wrong. Holding the space is crucial, and exactly what we are missing. To hold the space is to create a ring of safety around the family and friends of the dead, providing a place where they can grieve openly and honestly, without fear of being judged.”
Addressing death is difficult for many people, even though it’s a natural part of life. Whether it’s having to confront the notion that a loved one is gone, or attending a funeral, death isn’t an easy subject. But death can take on a whole new meaning in other cultures. Mortician Caitlin Doughty went around the world to write From Here To Eternity, a book about funeral rituals from various cultures. Death isn’t presented as something to fear, but as rather something that can heal, that connects family members together. Doughty takes the reader on a journey that features wish-granting skulls, open-air pyres and mummies.
Reading books allows you to discover a variety of characters who might reflect an experience you’ve been through. Fantasy stories are full of interesting characters that offer an insight into who we are as people. Fantasy is my favourite genre and it’s introduced me to a range of complex heroes, villains and everything in between. There’s so much to appreciate about fantasy, which is why I’m listing four complex characters that are worth reading about.
The Prohibition era is one of the most interesting parts of the 20th century. Gangsters like Al Capone were able to create an empire out of smuggling alcohol and earn a place in pop culture legend. Chicago became a haven for criminals of all kinds and the city is at the centre of Ray Celestin’s novel Dead Man’s Blues. Taking place during the 1920s, the book focuses on a brutal crime that involves the poisoning of several Chicago politicians. Jazz, murder and industrial innovation mingle together to create a story that pops with intrigue and excitement.
Reading comics is a good way of exposing people to new ideas and exploring real life issues. More importantly, they can be an educational tool for children, which is a message that the Pop Culture Classroom (PCC) is keen to promote. Focused in Colorado, PCC was created in 2012 to educate young people through the medium of comics and sequential art. I became aware of the initiative when a member of the team, Rob Keosheyan reached out to inform me about the programme and I was happy to write about it.