Pop Culture Matchmaker: 9 Books to Match Your Latest Summer TV BingePhoto: Courtesey of Hulu, FX Networks and AMC Networks Books Lists Book Recs
It is officially the doldrums of summer. Too hot to spend the day in the garden. Too hot to go out for patio drinks with friends. Too hot, really, to spend your weekend afternoons doing anything but A) bingeing the latest Summer TV hit or B) settling in with a good book.
Lucky for you, Paste contributors are nothing if not mired in the very best (and, occasionally, weirdest) pop culture has to offer. That means that not only are we ready to bring you weekly recommendations for the hottest television currently on air, but we’re also ready to play matchmaker for the books you should read to keep you in the mood when you hit that inevitable post-binge wall.
To that end, please enjoy this first installment in Pop Culture Matchmaker, which rounds up nine(ish) books that pair perfectly with nine(ish) of the summer’s biggest television hits. Whether you’ve been digging gritty mysteries, tense kitchen dramas, hippie science fiction, or even fluffy dating reality shows, we’ve got a match for you.
Fans of Only Murders in the Building, try Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb
Much like the peppy, aesthetically sharp Only Murders in the Building, Margo Rabb’s standalone YA mystery, Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize, looks light and breezy from the outside, but once you dive in, you’ll find yourself immersed in a riveting, emotionally dark mystery. What’s more, both mysteries center around a storied Manhattan apartment complex, and feature a young girl teaming up with pensioners to solve them.
Where the Hulu series stars Selena Gomez as an artsy twentysomething outsider who teams up with two old men, though, Rabb’s novel finds Lucy Clark, a goofball teenage outsider, teaming up with a pair of old women—both of whom are gardeners, and one of whom, the eccentric Edith Fox, is convinced she’s being stalked by someone intent on murdering her.
How Lucy—who starts the book isolated and bullied at a grim, Matilda-sque Texas boarding school her parents never bother to visit her at—eventually makes her way to Edith’s Manhattan apartment is an important part of the story, so I won’t spoil it here. But suffice it to say, if you dig OMITB’s quirky intergenerational friendships and Manhattan mystery aesthetics, you’ll love Lucy Clark WIll Not Apologize.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Tara Sands, runs 9 hours and 15 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Roswell, New Mexico, try Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
It might feel like Roswell, New Mexico just premiered, but the CW’s ambitious alien-meets-deser(-meets-shitty-ICE-era-xenophobia) drama is actually in the middle of its fourth and final season. Whether you’ve been watching all along and are starting to get anxious about where you’ll put all your angsty desert alien feelings come the end of August, or you’re just now realizing you’ve got to catch up and are looking for a book that might help ease you back in to the hot (and generationally traumatized) desert alien mindset, Rachel Vasquez Gilliland’s Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything is where you should start.
One part family drama, one part treatise on the fallout of current American (anti-)Mexican immigration policy, one part folklore meditation, one part YA alien romantic adventure, Sia Martinez isn’t just perfect for fans of Roswell, New Mexico, but just a solid summer read all around.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Inés del Castillo, runs 8 hours and 9 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Dark Winds and Reservation Dogs, try Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
With FX’s Reservation Dogs and SyFy’s Resident Alien returning just as AMC’s Dark Winds is putting a bow on its inaugural season (which itself debuted the same week the second season of Rutherford Falls dropped on Peacock), there’s arguably never been a better time to catch such a rich variety of Native American stories and performances on the small screen. But while all four series have plenty to recommend them, it is the specific combination of Reservation Dogs’ focus on disaffected Native youth and Dark Winds’s focus on a murder mystery in contested tribal/federal jurisdiction that I’m most interested in for the purposes of this list. Why? Because that’s the exact intersection at which Ojibwe writer Angeline Boulley has situated her stunner of a YA debut, Firekeeper’s Daughter.
Gorgeously written and expertly plotted, Firekeeper’s Daughter brings together half a dozen of the most compelling elements from both the FX comedy and the AMC thriller—up to and including a young Native FBI Agent who was raised away from his culture and is anxious to use his assignment to regain a meaningful connection to his roots.
Firekeeper’s Daughter would be well worth your time regardless of any other factor, but with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground set to adapt it, too, for Netflix, you don’t wait to get your name added to this library holds list. Go now!
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Isabella Star LaBlanc, runs 14 hours and 13 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of The Bear, try Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
Easily the breakout smash of Summer 2022, The Bear is all kitchen heat and stress and deep sense of (Midwestern) place. Probably the best book to recommend to follow it would be literally anything written by Anthony Bourdain, but I don’t think I need to patronize Paste’s readers by suggesting you couldn’t think of that yourself. So sure! Read Bourdain!
But once you’re done with that, go out and pick up a copy of Amy Thielen’s sharp (pun intended) memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, which shares The Bear’s fancy New York kitchen background and wholly consuming sense of avocation, but replaces Carmy’s Chicago with Amy’s northern Minnesota. It won’t make the second season of The Bear hit your screen any faster, but it will make the wait a whole lot richer.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by the author, runs 10 hours and 9 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Ms. Marvel, try The City of Brass series by S.A. Chakraborty, or The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah
Ms. Marvel was such a kinetic, beating open heart of a Marvel show that just always knew what it was about, that it almost goes without saying that fans will be looking for every possible way to stay in the Kamala Khan headspace as they wait for The Marvels to hit theaters next summer. For those people I have two recommendations: S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass, and Chelsea Abdullah’s The Stardust Thief, both of which take as their subject djinn mythology, and both of which feature young Muslim women whose actions are superheroic in everything but their lack of comic book origin.
Between the two, I’d leave Abdullah’s The Stardust Thief for last, but that’s only because, having just debuted earlier this year, it’s part of a trilogy that won’t be complete until long after The Marvels is streaming on Disney+. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass, meanwhile, is the first in an already-complete trilogy, meaning you can settle in for the long haul without having to worry about forgetting characters and bits of mythology waiting for the next installment to come out. Still, The Stardust Thief is a fun enough read, you may relish the time to read it more than once while awaiting the next two installments. Honestly, like Kamala with her new (now under-control) powers, you really can’t go wrong.
And for my fellow audiophiles, The City of Brass series is narrated by Soneela Nankani, runs an average of 20-28 hours long, and can be found on Libro.fm here. The Stardust Thief is narrated by Nikki Massoud, Sean Rohani, and Rasha Zamamiri , and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Love Island USA or The Bachelorettes, try The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Neither reality shows nor romance are really my thing, on the printed page or on TV, so for this match I’ve turned to one of my dearest friends, who assures me that Alison Cochrun’s The Charm Offensive is the kind of romance where, years later, you may not remember the plot, but you’ll definitely remember the feeling. So, basically like a reality dating show!
Following the slow build-up of feelings between the emotionally distant and extremely awkward Charlie Winshaw, a popular reality dating show’s latest eligible bachelor, and Dev Deshpande, said dating show’s unlucky-in-love producer, The Charm Offensive is more Bachelor than Love Island, but for that hit of fizzy, “could only happen on reality TV” romance that both franchises so gleefully deal in, it’s hard to imagine you could do much better for your next read. [Interview with Love Island narrator Iain Stirling here.]
That said, if what you want is more of a pulpy, genre-defying send-up than a direct match, Samantha Allen’s new queer reality dating show-meets-cryptid horror fest mash-up, Patricia Wants to Cuddle might go down a treat…
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook (a 2022 Audie Award finalist!) is narrated by Vikas Adam, Graham Halstead, and Cassandra Campbell, runs 10 hours and 51 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Moonhaven, try Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel or The Moonday Letters by Emmi Itäranta
AMC+’s Moonhaven, hailing from creator Peter Ocko (Lodge 49) and EP Deb Spera (Reaper), is, for my money, the best and most cohesive of the trio of “what even is this??” sci-fi mysteries to have come out in the last few months. (Sorry/not sorry, Outer Range and Night Sky.) Set primarily in a domed utopian colony on the Moon that’s been running as a massive-scale “save Earth” experiment for nearly two hundred years, the dreamy, genre-defying series starts out with an unlikely murder, and unravels in dozens of unexpected directions from there. [Full review here
In short, to say that there’s nothing like it on television would be an understatement. And yet, between Emily St. John Mandel’s century-spanning novella, Sea of Tranquility, and Emmi Itäranta’s recently released epistolary collage novel The Moonday Letters—both of which feature utopian Moon colonies that aren’t entirely what they same, and both of which are as dreamy and mysterious and nearly impossible to pin down as Moonhaven remains through its own short first season—a game reader could actually get remarkably close!
And for my fellow audiophiles, Sea of Tranquility is narrated by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter, runs 5 hours and 46 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here, while The Moonday Letters is narrated by Xe Sands, runs 10 hours and 29 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Fans of Motherland: Fort Salem, try Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem is one of those shows that you either don’t really get, or either truly, deeply love. Witches! As a centuries-old legacy of patriotic American soldiers!! What a concept.
Still, while there’s nothing else like Motherland: Fort Salem on television, YA is vast enough to contain no end of witchy, alternate-history offerings, including Justina Ireland’s alt-Civil War zombie thriller, Dread Nation. You’ve got something supernatural weaving through early American history. You’ve got badass women (especially those from the margins of society, like a Black girl in Civil War-era Baltimore) ready to fight the good fight. You’ve got a combat school to train them. The only thing that would make this trilogy a better match for fans of Motherland: Fort Salem, honestly, would be for the supernatural something shifting American history to be not zombies, but witchcraft.
Which, as luck would have it, is more or less what the deal is with Ireland’s upcoming alt-history fantasy, Rust in the Root, which is set in a magic-filled 1937, features a magic-working teen girl who gets entangled with a governmental agency charged with the management of magic, and should be on shelves in late September. Witches! As Depression-era bureaucrats confronting racism while trying to make American industrialism a going magical concern! What a concept.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Bahni Turpin, runs 11 hours and 56 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here. The audio of Rust in the Root, narrated by Jordan Cobb, will be published on September 20, 2022, and can be pre-ordered here.
Fans of Players, try Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
I waxed poetic enough about Gabrielle Zevin’s newest offering, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, in my full review elsewhere in Paste’s digital pages, so suffice it for to here to say that, if Sadie and Sam were real people, and Ichigo a real global gaming phenomenon, Sam would absolutely have found a way by now to make that IP a going esports concern. Now, whether or not the athletes of Players’s Fugitive Gaming would have trained to compete in it? That’s for greater minds than mine to determine. But if you find you’ve burned through Players and you’re still hungry for a documentary investigation of how gaming both shapes and tears down friendships, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the first book you should be looking to pick up.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi, runs 13 hours and 51 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
Finally, if Stranger Things is your jam, Natalie Zutter’s got you covered with not just one but seven books to keep you in that supernatural 80s mood.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.