Coming Soon!

We decided to continue the Book Buzz Book Discussions for at least three more months, and we’re going to expand into parts of the city we haven’t touched before.  I’ll be posting more detailed information soon, but just in case you come to our website before I get around to it, here are our future dates, places and titles:

October: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

October 15, 2012, 7pm, Tazza D’Oro – Highland Park

October 16, 2012, 6pm, Brew on Broadway – Beechview

November: Wide Awake by David Levithan

November 19, 2012, 7pm, Eclilpse – Lawrenceville

November 20, 2012, 7pm, Shiloh Grill – Mt. Washington

December: Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

December 17, 2012, 7pm, Penn Brewery – Troy Hill

December 18, 2012, 7pm, Cafe Retro – Allentown


Zombies: Here, there and everywhere!

There are few things I like better about my job than suggesting books to people.  The best? Suggesting ZOMBIE books to people.  I love zombie books. I love finding read-alikes. And I REALLY love writing a read-alike list that I don’t even have to think about. So, without any further ado, have a list of books to read if you want to read more about zombies (and a few without zombies that you might like anyway, just because).

A “*” indicates a book that I haven’t read yet, but is WAY at the top of my to-read list.

The Year of the Flood / Margaret Atwood

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life–has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible. Have others survived?

Note: No zombies in this one, but if you liked the before/after nature of World War Z, you might enjoy this book.

Devil’s Wake / Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

What happens when an unprecedented infection sweeps the world, leaving the earth on the brink of the Apocalypse? But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of . . . more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly. Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears

*The Reapers are the Angels / Alden Bell

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free. For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

The Zombie Survival Guide / Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

The Passage / Justin Cronin

The Passage is the story of Amy–abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape–but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

Note: no zombies, but something almost as good. Trust me.

Feed / Mira Grant

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

Note: If you read no other books on this list, read this one. Please.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor / Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

In the Walking Dead universe, there is no greater villain than The Governor. The despot who runs the walled-off town of Woodbury, he has his own sick sense of justice: whether it’s forcing prisoners to battle zombies in an arena for the townspeople’s amusement, or chopping off the appendages of those who cross him.

*Dead of Night / Jonathan Maberry

A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in the grave. But all drugs have unforeseen side-effects. Before he could be buried, the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang – but a bite.

Zone One / Colson Whitehead

The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street–aka Zone One–but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety–the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.


World War Z’s Pittsburgh Roots

For the few summers that I was interested in riding horses, my mom would occasionally arrange for us to borrow a pony or two and go for a trail ride starting at our friends’ stable in Renfrew, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh near Evans City.  I remember those rides being nice, lazy trips through the woods, crossing back over a creek several times, and passing through a Girl Scout camp.  On one of these rides, my mom mentioned in passing that a cheesy old horror movie had been filmed close to where we were riding.  I recall thinking that was mildly interesting, and that’s about it.

That’s me on the right.

Sitting in an Intro to Film class at Pitt a decade or so later, I realized that the “cheesy old horror movie,” Night of the Living Dead, was actually a thoughtful social commentary.  My mind was blown!  It turns out that the horror genre is about much more than cheap thrills. Take the zombie subgenre: in the decades since Night of the Living Dead, zombies have been a metaphorical stand-in for racism, consumerism, and unease surrounding immigration; they’ve evolved the ability to run and think; and they’ve staggered their way into respectability in cinema and literature.

The East End connection (Romero and collaborator Tom Savini have both called Bloomfield home) makes a zombie title a natural fit for our third Book Buzz selection, and we’ve chosen Max Brooks’ World War Z, a thoroughly modern take on the genre and one of the best works of zombie fiction that we’ve seen in a decade.

Brooks is a man who takes zombies seriously.  His first book, The Zombie Survival Guide, was a straight-faced parody of the “Worst Case Scenario” books that were popular in gift shops in the middle of the ‘aughts.  In World War Z, Brooks pushes the “fiction posing as non-fiction” theme to its logical extreme by presenting a world-spanning oral history some years after the Zombie Wars, a worldwide outbreak of zombism that pushed humanity to brink of extinction.

The book is made up of dozens of “interviews” with survivors of the zombie apocalypse, both civilians and military personnel, covering the whole planet.  Through the eyes of these witnesses, we see humanity struggling to survive a catastrophe that seems to have come from nowhere.  As the AV Club’s Keith Phipps observes the zombie outbreak in the book

serv(es) as a stand-in for pandemic scares, Katrina, tsunamis, terrorism—basically any of the recent catastrophes that have reminded us how fragile civilization is beneath the surface.

As I mentioned above, the zombie-as-world-disaster trope is nothing new, but what makes World War Z so memorable is that, as in all great speculative fiction, Brooks creates a whole world for his zombies to live in.  The level of detail is impressive, as Gilbert Cruz noted in his Entertainment Weekly Review:

With his surprisingly realistic takes on government inadequacy, disaster preparedness, and public panic, Brooks subconsciously references worldwide crises from 9/11 to tribal civil wars to Hurricane Katrina, producing a debut that will grab you as tightly as a dead man’s fist.

With the world coming to an end, what else can you do pull up a stool and have a drink with some interesting fellow readers.  So please join us at Remedy Restaurant and Lounge at 5121 Butler Street in Lawrenceville at 7pm on September 17 for great conversation and BRAINS, er, food and drink.


P.S. I have a friend of a friend who hung out with Tom Savini at a party once.  I’m sure everyone who lives in Bloomfield has such a friend of a friend.  Anyhow, I’ll pay your tab if you get Savini to come.  I’ll pay his tab, too.