This blog post was originally published June 23, 2016. We're recycling it because, well, it's hot again.
Guys, it's hot. I just recently started working downtown and have noticed a trend among my fellow city workers: we have to dress to protect ourselves from the frigid indoor temperatures, so we pile on cardigans (okay maybe that's just the librarians), scarves, sweaters and gloves and we sweat buckets on our way into the office. On any given day, as the pavement sizzles up to my face I know that I can't be the only one imagining a walk through a snowy Norwegian village, if only to distract myself from the pools of sweat quickly collecting in various nooks and crannies.
Words are powerful, and authors who know how to use their craft can truly impact your reality. Today I give you some of my favorite titles to cool you down with the power of atmospheric writing.
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Because, you know, winter is coming. The first book in this epic series is sure to give you a break from the heat. Set in the kingdom of Westeros, Ned Stark and the whole Stark clan quickly suck you into a world full of snow and ice. You'll be able to hear the wind whipping through the branches of the weirwood trees and feel the ice crunch beneath your boots as you patrol the top of the Wall. (Actually, this one also has fire...)
The Deep by Nick Cutter
I like reading about horror and death and dark things that make your bones shiver. Nick Cutter has proven himself to me to be very skilled at being creepy and The Deep, which is set at the very bottom of the Marianas Trench, is no exception. It gets cold at the bottom of the ocean, especially when there is some mysterious substance driving scientists crazy and making you hallucinate all of your childhood nightmares.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
With settings such as the Swiss Alps and the Arctic ice caps, this classic is a sweaty Houstonian's dream come true. The language is so beautiful and Mary Shelley's so good at creating suspense that by chapter four you'll be looking over your shoulder for the monster every two seconds and won't even be thinking about the bead of perspiration that just fell in your eye.
Let Me In (Let the Right One In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Snow and Sweden and vampires, oh my! If you're a fan of Jo Nesbø, Stieg Larsson or Lene Kaaberbøl then you'll probably want to check out Lindqvist, though he is much more of a horror writer than crime fiction. Either way, you're gonna be up all night before, during and after reading this one. Oskar is a seriously maladjusted child who is fascinated with murder and forensics. His life becomes even more interesting/dark/complicated when Eli (a centuries old vampire) moves in next door.
Don't worry; if you happen to love Houston summers and want to experience other steamy environments I've got you covered too.
The Gunslinger by Stephen King
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed." With an opening sentence like that, you know this one is going to be a scorcher. I love this line and I love this book. Experiencing Roland's tireless quest for the Man in Black will exhaust you quickly (in the best way). The Dark Tower series is a beast of a journey, but The Gunslinger works very well as a standalone if you don't want to follow the yellow brick road of Stephen King's weird mind.
Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller
Civilization has ended and the world has become a rugged, arid, thirsty place where water is a preciously rare resource and massive sandstorms will wreck your day. While doing research for this blog post I tried to nail down the timeline of this new reboot as it compared to the original film trilogy featuring Mel Gibson. My conclusion is that you don't need to know how they relate. This graphic novel is awesome and you can feel the heat and desperation screaming off the pages at you.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Where do I begin? Gemma is stolen from an airport one day and taken deep into the Australian outback. The hot, harsh landscape is its own beautifully crafted character in this novel which explores the phenomenon of Stockholm Syndrome. I can't recommend this one enough, especially if you enjoy being immersed in an unforgiving environment while having your mind/emotions toyed with a little bit.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
I haven't read anything by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son!) yet, but the premise of a global plague that causes humans to spontaneously burst into flame sounded so fantastic that I had to include it here. The disease is called Dragonscale, there are rogue citizens called Cremation Squads trying to exterminate the infected and then in strolls The Fireman who has learned to control his illness and uses it to both protect and avenge. Yes please!
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Stay cool, Houston.