A Bookish Lineup For Spooky Season

BBE’s October Sneak Peek

October is finally here, and with it, the start of spooky season! Bring on the pumpkins, the apple cider, the black cats, and copious amounts of candy. Here at BBE, we have tried our very best to reflect the scary and supernatural in our book picks for this month. This is all with the caveat that Jennifer literally *cannot* handle any kind of horror or even suspense, so you won’t be seeing The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby down below – though there is one exception. What you can expect is some true crime, serial killers, haunted houses that draw the reader into their own madness, and finally, some mind-bending sci-fi thrill. Hold on to your butts!

This month, Jennifer is bringing in the big guns, one of her favorite books of all time: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. A beautifully written historical account about the building of the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago, this story is also intertwined with that of one of the most sinister serial killers of them all.

Our exception to the tame scary books requirement, Paige’s pick for this month is Mark Z. Danielewski’s horrifying House of Leaves. Look any list of all-time scariest books, guarantee this one will make the cut. Hopefully our mere discussion won’t give Jennifer nightmares.

Finally, our bonus Movie Magic episode for this month will be on Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, recently turned blockbuster film starring Natalie Portman among others. One part sci-fi, one part thriller, one part mystery, one part horror, this book really does it all. Tune in to find out which one wins: book or movie.

And that is a wrap for our October Sneak Peek. To keep up with BBE this month, be sure to follow us on social media (linked above). If you are enjoying the podcast so far, we would dearly appreciate a review or you can send us an email. And finally, if you’d like to support the podcast, you can check out our Bookshop store, or our Patreon to get access to our full bonus episodes. Stay nerdy, bookish peeps!

Ghost of Sexual Harassers Past: Balancing Quality and Morality in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation

Show Notes for Episode 1.17

Check out the episode below!

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Quick Links from the Episode

Foundation, Isaac Asimov (1951)
  • The big three of science fiction (i.e. the folks considered to be the founding members of the modern genre): Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke.
  • Jennifer began her Asimov reading journey years ago, when she read Fantastic Voyage.
  • You can check out the Wikipedia article to learn more about Asimov, or this fan-run site.
  • If you do your due diligence on Asimov, however, you uncover a very disturbing past. Asimov amassed quite a notorious reputation among fans and in the field for his borderline predatory behavior.

Check out the trailer for Apple TV’s new show based on Isaac Asimov’s hit series:

If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!

Proto-Feminism in Science Fiction: The Left Hand of Darkness

Show Notes for Episode 2.5

Quick Links from the Episode

This amazing cover comes from the Ace paperbacks boxed set included the first four books from Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle series. The Left Hand of Darkness is #4.
  • Folio Facts: What is the oldest bookstore in the world? The answer is Livraria Bertrand, or Bertrand bookstore, in Lisbon, Portugal. First founded in 1732 by Pedro Faure, Bertrand has survived nearly three centuries of continuous operation. To learn more about this store, as well as other super old bookstores, check out this article. You can also read the Wikipedia article.
  • BBE Bookstore: Jennifer recently finished up reading Layla F. Saad’s Me & White Supremacy. A truly thought-provoking journaling guide, Jennifer has been finding a lot of value working through Saad’s 28-day program. Further investigation on the author revealed some interesting critiques of her expertise from within the activist community, though Jennifer still recommends checking this one out.
    • *Note: you won’t find this book in our Bookshop store as it felt wrong to profit off of sales of this book. However, you can find this book on Saad’s personal site, linked above.
  • Creatives’ Corner: Paige talks (Un)Well* on Netflix, a new series about the various strange faces of the giant that is the wellness industry. Everything from drinking breast milk, bee stings for Lyme disease, and essential oils are explored in each episode. A fascinating and science-backed approach to a lot of trends that have become hugely popular.
    • *Paige refers to the show on Netflix as “Wellness”. Oops!

Check out the Episode Below!

To learn what questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.

Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Coming up next time, we’re diving into academia with Caroline Walker Bynum’s Holy Feast and Holy Fast. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can buy any of the books mentioned in this episode from our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!

Clever Girl: The Devastating Hubris in Jurassic Park

Show Notes for Episode 2.4

Quick Links from the Episode

Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton 1993
  • Folio Facts: You may have heard of the Library of Alexandria, tragically lost in a fire. But have you heard of the sacking of the Library of Baghdad? Called Bayt al-Hikma, or the House of Wisdom, this enormous repository was the hub of caliph-sponsored scholarship in the Abbasid caliphate. Unfortunately this treasure was lost when the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258.
  • Dragon Teeth is the posthumous Michael Crichton book about fossil hunters and rival paleontologists Jennifer was referring to in the episode.
  • BBE Bookstore: This episode, Paige rants and raves over Tamsyn Muir’s hit debut novel, Gideon the Ninth and its sequel, Harrow the Ninth. Paige devoured these in a few short days, so you could say that she recommends them. Beware, strong language and bone necromancy lie ahead.
    • *links are affiliate links, we receive a small percentage of the sale*
  • Jennifer can confirm that Dr. Sattler stopped to help Harding treat a sick stegosaurus in the book, rather than the triceratops we see in the film.
  • Jennifer mentioned horseshoe crab blood but couldn’t remember why it is important to medical research. Hint: it is very important. The Atlantic has a great article on its historic use and attempts to transition towards synthetic versions, and horseshoe crab blood has become especially relevant in the current coronavirus pandemic. If and when a vaccine is developed, we will likely have these ancient creatures to thank for it.
  • Creatives’ Corner: This episode, Jennifer presents Samosas & Sirens, an awesome bookish Instagram account that has convinced Jennifer to read many of the non-podcast related reads she has completed this year. S & S was one of the first accounts we followed and they continue to create amazing content.

Dinosaur eats man…Woman inherits the Earth.

Ellie Sattler, Jurassic Park

Main Points from the Episode

  • According to Ian Malcolm, discovery is the rape of the natural world. Do you agree? Discussion was a mixed bag. Paige and Jennifer agree that many forms of scientific discovery have unintended and disastrous consequences on the natural world. We also agree that often scientific research can be competitive and motivated by greed, or a desire for fame, rather than purely altruistic desires. However, the statement Malcolm makes in the book is extremely black and white and we can’t quite get behind it.
  • Have we learned the lessons from Jurassic Park? Namely that humankind does not exercise enough caution in scientific discovery? First, it was impossible to not talk about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in this question, where examples of careless research abound. While scientific progress is important, Paige and Jennifer agreed that humans tend to underestimate the possible consequences of scientific research. One big example from our past would be atomic power, which was immediately used to create weapons. But on the other hand you have particle accelerators. People argued CERN shouldn’t be built because it might create a black hole, but would we rather have not built the CERN accelerator due to that astronomically small chance?
  • Aaaaand even though this isn’t a bonus Movie Magic episode…let’s talk about the movie! Basically we fangirl over Ellie Sattler, complain about how annoying Lex’s character is, and talk about great quotes from the movie. We also chat about the evolution of the relationship between Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler from book to early production to final cut. Some of the scenes we discuss are below!
The iconic scene where the characters (and the audience) get the first look at some dinosaurs!
This T-Rex scene still does not fail to terrify us, 20 years later.
Ellie Sattler, even more of a badass in the book than in the movie!

Coming up next time, Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can buy any of the books mentioned in this episode from our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!

August Sneak Peek

This August we are excited to bring back another round of Books We Love and Movie Magic. Listeners are extra lucky this month because there are three Mondays in August rather than two, which means four total episodes! We are bringing in some serious literary fire-power with these picks, so keep scrolling to check it out:

Apparently we really can’t get enough of giant classics, because after our Count of Monte Cristo episode, Paige is following up this month with Anna Karenina.

A true staple of Jennifer’s childhood (and beyond) obsession with dinosaurs, when it comes to sci-fi it doesn’t get much better than Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

Another oddity of this August, our bonus Movie Magic episode will drop before our last regular episode! We are ready for the drama.

Finishing out the month with another [sci-fi] classic, Paige will be raving about Ursula K. Le Guin’s groundbreaking The Left Hand of Darkness.

And that is a wrap for our August Sneak Peek. To keep up with BBE this season, be sure to follow us on social media. If you are enjoying the podcast so far, we would dearly appreciate a review or you can send us an email. And finally, if you’d like to support the podcast, you can check out our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon to get access to our full bonus episodes (link below). Stay nerdy, bookish peeps!

The Gold Star of Writing: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

Show Notes for Episode 2.1

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (2015)

BBE is back for Season 2! We are so excited to present our very first episode on Books We Love. We put our listeners to the test at the end of last season to see which themes we should use for Season 2 and Books We Love won for our regular season episodes, while Movie Magic was the fan favorite for our bonus episodes. Shockingly, we are ecstatic to talk about books we are actually interested in and picked ourselves! Imagine that! But all jokes aside, we hope to have a great season ranting and raving over some of our absolute favs and screaming at producers who have butchered some quality novels. For our very first episode, Paige picked a real doozy: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Read on for the links and resources mentioned in the episode and a summary of our discussion.

Quick Links from the Episode

  • Here is an article on Bill Gates’ purchase of the Codex Leicester, which also gives more details on the journal as well as some beautiful photographs. Even though Gates paid a pretty penny for this Da Vinci masterpiece, he does let it out of his sight about once a year for it to go on display at various museums. Maybe you can catch it at a museum near you in the future…if covid ever let’s us out of the house again?
  • As Jennifer mentioned in the episode, the Codex Leicester is written in Da Vinci’s unique mirror writing style. Here is an article detailing that a bit more, as well as theories as to why Da Vinci wrote this way.
  • Da Vinci was one of the prime examples of the concept of the Renaissance man, which referred to the Renaissance belief that man could pursue knowledge in its entirety. Once you’ve looked over the concept of the Renaissance man, why not just look into Renaissance humanism? The Wikipedia article has an excellent list of further readings as well.
  • If you want to know more about N.K. Jemisin and her books, visit her website.
  • Aaaand here is some fun trivia about The Broken Earth series.
  • We are also excited to announce that we are an affiliate for Bookshop.org. Jennifer is really not sure what link she said in the actual episode, but she’s pretty sure she got it wrong. If you’d like to check out our store to order books we are reviewing in Season 2, click here.
  • Finally, in our Creatives’ Corner segment, Paige mentioned her new favorite podcast, Our Fake History, a must for any history buff.
For those unfamiliar with the three main body types, see the diagram above. The Sanzed beauty standard in The Fifth Season preferred the mesomorph and endomorph body types. Jennifer was going to link to an actual article about body types, but all she could find were articles about weight loss, which is pretty garbage-y.
Here is a magnificent photo of Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985). This is the image Jemisin drew inspiration from for her Sanzed beauty ideal, particularly the “ash blown” hair.

Main Points from the Episode

  • Who is N.K. Jemisin? N.K. Jemisin is basically a total badass. She has a background in psychology, but has been hugely successful as an author as well. She was not only the first black author to win a Hugo award, but she won three in a row (!!!), making her debut trilogy record-breaking as well.
  • We spent quite a lot of time on summary during this episode, because the worldbuilding for this fantasy was so intricate, and the story was complex besides. Essentially, the narrative centers around three main characters: Essun, Damaya, and Syenite. They are orogens, the magic users of a world called the Stillness, which is ironic given its completely chaotic nature. We’re talking The Day After Tomorrow kind of stuff. Orogens harness these natural forces, which makes them powerful, but also dangerous in the eyes of the dominant ruling culture, the Sanzed. The Fifth Season follows Essun, Damaya, and Syenite as they navigate this tumultuous and violent world.
  • One of the main questions this book prompted was what makes good worldbuilding? For Jennifer, good worldbuilding is texturally rich and follows an internal logic. Some good examples of this are Tolkien (duh), Erica Lindquist in the Reforged trilogy, Katherine Arden in the Winternight trilogy, and Tomi Adeyemi in the Legacy of Orisha series. Jennifer also argued that authors have to be careful how they present worldbuilding, they can’t reveal too much or too little, and it has to feel natural. This can be a difficult balance to find. For Paige, good worldbuilding is in the small details. For example, in this week’s book, the swear words are based around the word “rust”, which makes sense in a culture that is revolves around ‘stone lore’ and where metal is actually seen as a less stable material due to the environment.
  • Paige was also curious about Jennifer’s thoughts on the constant emphasis on the Sanzed beauty ideal throughout the book. Jemisin creates a unique beauty standard that the Sanzed are literally obsessed with. This includes being over six feet tall, having “ash-blown” hair a la Tina Turner, and the body types mentioned above. Nearly every character is measured against this standard in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously. The only thing that even came close that Jennifer could think of was Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. While it stuck out to Paige as being strange, Jennifer agreed with her that this was most likely because as white and white passing individuals they aren’t often reminded that they don’t fit into the Western ideal of beauty – which includes white or light skin. By creating a beauty standard that most (all?) readers do not identify with, N.K. Jemisin has been able to recreate to some degree an experience that her white readers often have the privilege of avoiding or being unaware of in real life. So a very thought-provoking inclusion all around.
  • Paige gave The Fifth Season 6 out of 5 stars, and let’s be honest, that is probably going to be every book this regular season.

Coming up next: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to Bookshop.org/shop/bigbookenergy, or visit our Patreon (linked below). Until next time!

May Sneak Peek

Well book nerds and book ninjas, we have entered the final month of Season 1! It seems like only yesterday we published our very first episode way back in January, and were subsequently shocked that people actually listened to it. Thanks to everyone that has tuned in all season, we can’t wait to come back better than ever for Season 2, starting July 2020.

Scroll on for a Sneak Peek of the picks we are covering in May:

The first pick for Books We Hate this month, Paige selected another grimdark fantasy, Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades.

Jennifer’s final Thrift Store Find pick is a sci-fi classic, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Jennifer typically dislikes sci-fi, so we will see how this goes? There may be some crossover with Books We Hate this week.

Jennifer has tried to read through Jane Eyre several times…and failed every time. Will Paige make it through? Will she become another adoring fan of this Bronte classic?

Written by a Mayan Elder and priest, The Book of Destiny is Paige’s final Thrift Store Find of the season. Apparently this book will help BBE unlock their destinies and fulfill their true potential. Quite a finale for the regular season!

This month’s bonus episode is our last Deep Dive episode into the world of Tolkien. Posthumously published, The Silmarillion is Jennifer’s favorite Tolkien work and she can’t wait to hear what Paige thinks. Full episode available only through Patreon.

And that is a wrap for our May Sneak Peek! Follow the links below to keep up with BBE on social media during our break. If you would like to support the podcast, you can head on over to our Patreon (also linked below). Stay nerdy, bookish peeps!