Summer Reads for the Discerning Speculative Enthusiast

Looking for a great speculative summer read? The Unbound Writers have you covered. Check out our recommendations below.


CS Peterson recommends I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, webcomic/graphics by Kali Ciesemier.

Elevator Pitch: Heart-thumping debut YA urban cyber thriller from the author of the grownup steampunk Boneshaker. As kids, May and her BFF Libby create the fierce, katana wielding character of Princess X, but then Libby and her mom die in a freak car crash. Now May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window. Princess X.

Where to Read: In a Zodiac inflatable raft while island hopping around Puget Sound.

Good If: You’re nostalgic for Seattle grunge underground squatter cyberculture and fast-paced whodunits.

Not So Good If: You call tech support to help you find the on switch for the printer.

You Might Also Like: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon for heftier graphic/literary novel hybrids.

What to Eat: Pizza, cheetos and dried kale chips.

What to Drink: Coffee, lots of coffee. It’s Seattle.

Thickness Rating: Thin. Perfect for an afternoon read in the backyard hammock.


Ted McCombs is spending some time this summer revisiting a classic: The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

Elevator Pitch: A sharply observed haunted house story for the discerning reader.

Where to Read: In a sunny, open café, with a view of all entrances and a solid brick wall behind you. 

Good If: You wish The Shining were shorter and written more artfully.

Not So Good If: You think horror literature just doesn't get better than The Shining.

You Might Also Like: House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski; Let Me Tell You, a collection of Shirley Jackson's previously unpublished works, coming August 4, 2015.

What to Drink: Brandy.

What to Eat: Soufflé. 

Thickness Rating: Thin as Eleanor Vance's hold on reality.


Amanda Boldenow enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab.

Elevator pitch: A young magician who can travel between three overlapping Londons lands in a pickle when he finds an evil magical object from the forbidden fourth London and realizes there are others willing to kill to prevent him from returning it.

Where to Read: On the London Tube or in Hyde Park, preferably, but if you can't do that then at home with your wizard hat on will suffice.

Good If: You love the idea of hidden magical worlds (you muggle, you) and the threat of a nice dagger to the gullet.

Not So Good If: You have a problem with cross-dressing pirates.

You Might Also Like: The Magicians Trilogy, by Lev Grossman.

What to Drink: Whatever they are serving at the local cross-dimensional pub.

What to Eat: Whatever you pick, make sure it's not poisoned.

Thickness Rating: Thin-to-medium. 


Mark Springer is re-reading Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.

Elevator Pitch: A mad genius destroys the human race and engineers a new species of “perfect” humanoids to replace it, leaving his creations in the care of Snowman (aka Jimmy), who believes he is the last surviving human. 

Where to Read: Perched in a tree near the beach, or preferably, relaxing in the safety of a hermetically sealed biodome. 

Good If: You like to contemplate human flaws and contemporary anxieties through the lens of an imagined future. 

Not So Good If: You’re looking for a light, uplifting beach read in which the human race is not exterminated by a mad genius. 

You Might Also Like: The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, the two books that follow Oryx and Crake in Atwood’s post-apocalyptic MaddAddam trilogy; or Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. 

What to Drink: RejoovenEsence synthetically aged 100-year-equivalent bourbon whiskey—or a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, if you’re lucky enough to find one among the ruins. 

What to Eat: Pulled pork. But don’t let the pigoons get wind of it. 

Thickness Rating: Medium.


Lisa Mahoney likes Sisters of the Revolution, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

Elevator pitch: A feminist short-fiction anthology by great feminist writers of modern times, including Octavia Butler, Ursula K LeGuin, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more.

Where to Read: Stop checking your email while on public transportation and steal time for yourself.

Good If: You want to rejoice in feminist speculative fiction written from the 1960s onward.

Not So Good If: You think science fiction should be by, for, and about manly-men.

You Might Also Like: Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman.

What to Drink: Straight espresso.

What to Eat: Dark chocolate.

Thickness Rating: Medium, but it's broken up into smaller chunks. Stuff it into your big purse and have it on hand.


Gemma Webster's pick, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, by Stephen Graham Jones, has what you need to scare your friends around the campfire.

Elevator Pitch: Collection of short stories by Stephen Graham Jones, both new and previously published, that explore fear and the supernatural. 

Where to Read: Under the covers with a flashlight, or read it aloud around a campfire.

Good If: You like stories about werewolves and ghosts.

Not So Good If: You are already afraid of the dark.

You Might Also Like: The Dead Lands, by Benjamin Percy; Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link; The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson.

What to Drink: Whatever calms your nerves.

What to Eat:  Not recommended.

Thickness Rating: Medium, but since it is a short story collection you’ll get fifteen complete stories to haunt your dreams.


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