'The Paradox Hotel' Author Rob Hart Recommends Books with a Strong Sense of Place

'The Paradox Hotel' Author Rob Hart Recommends Books with a Strong Sense of Place

Tuesday, 22 February, 2022

Our favorite books are the ones that whisk us away, whether it’s to an actual destination somewhere on the globe or an imagined place in the as-yet-lived future. If the narrative tackles the fate of humanity and blows our minds along the way, all the better.

Author Rob Hart’s books take on wide-ranging subjects — crime-riddled restaurants, the dark corners of a PI’s heart, the too-close-for-comfort future of mega-retail, the perils and seduction of time travel.

But despite the surface differences, his stories pivot around complex characters wrestling with ghosts of some kind: lost love, dashed dreams, fear, doubt — you know, the little stuff. All told with enough humor to balance the dread and played out against vivid settings that shape the action.

His new book, The Paradox Hotel, is a dizzying ride with fantastic world-building, a heroine to root for, lots of humor, and genuine gut-punch feelings. It’s an exploration of the things that haunt us and a cautionary tale about where our collective hubris might take us.

We got curious about the books that Rob reads to fuel his imagination, and he shared the recommendations below. — Melissa


Your novel The Paradox Hotel is set in a posh hotel where the super-rich wait for their turn to time travel. Do you have any favorite books set in hotels? And what about other time travel stories with a strong sense of place?

The Shining by Stephen King is always a sure bet, and The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye is a fantastic book. Though, it’s funny: I haven’t read many hotel books. I drew a little more on movies for this, specifically The Grand Budapest Hotel. In terms of time travel novels: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorites. Kindred by Octavia Butler is up there, too.

You’ve written some badass women into your stories. Zinnia in The Warehouse and January in The Paradox Hotel possess both mental and physical fortitude. Do you have recommendations for other books with strong heroines?

I love the Roxane Weary books by Kristen Lepionka. They’re so good. Roxane is such a great protagonist — she’s a PI and the daughter of a cop who was killed in the line of duty. The first book in the series is The Last Place You Look.

I follow you on Twitter, and I know you did a lot of reading to prepare for The Paradox Hotel. Any must-reads you want to share?

I would strongly recommend Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer. In my head, there’s a solid spiritual connection there, even though it’s a literary novel, and there’s no time travel. But everyone should be reading Tom. He’s amazing. I also really loved Time Travel: A History by James Gleik.

I loved your story collection Take-Out: And Other Tales of Culinary Crime. Food is elevated to a character, along with the people. Do you have any favorite food-centric books?

I was always a sucker for the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. The way they luxuriated in food was a lot of fun. Too Many Cooks is a good place to start. (Pssst… here’s our recipe for Hainanese Chicken, inspired by Rob’s story colletion.)

Your characters detective Ash McKenna and January in The Paradox Hotel are both haunted by their memories and past trauma. What are some other great books with haunting at their core?

Anything by Paul Tremblay — A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, The Cabin at the End of the World — or Riley Sager — Final Girls, Lock Every Door,Home Before Dark. They write the kinds of books that I have to read during the day. They’re too scary for me to read at night.

In The Paradox Hotel, the super-privileged can travel to any time and place for unique experiences. Some travelers even dress up in costumes and throw lavish parties to prepare. If you could jump into your book and visit another era, where and when you would go, what would you be wearing, what book and/or music would you take with you for entertainment?

That’s a good question, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot in this context. I think it would be incredible to visit the Library of Alexandria, to see what kind of knowledge was available there. I’d probably then show up and not be able to read any of it — presumably, none of it was in English — and then I’d feel dumb. So maybe I’d bring a travel dictionary for entertainment. As for what I’d wear… I’d leave that up to the costumers at the Paradox.


Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the author of The Paradox Hotel. He also wrote ‘The Warehouse,’ which has been sold in more than 20 countries and been optioned for film by Ron Howard, as well as the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection ‘Take-Out,’ and ‘Scott Free’ with James Patterson. His short stories have been published widely, including ‘Due on Batuu,’ set in the Star Wars universe, which appeared in ‘From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back.’ He is the former publisher at MysteriousPress.com and the current class director at LitReactor. He lives in New York City.
Rob Hart

Top image courtesy of Nick Fewings/Unsplash.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

Anne Bogel has excellent taste in books, and her podcast 'What Should I Read Next?' is a must-listen around our house. She took on our challenge and recommended six genre-spanning books for armchair travelers.
Buckle up for armchair travel that delivers plenty of suspense. These books will take you from Vancouver, Canada to the world of pro wrestling, sunny (and sinister) Los Angeles, NYC, East Texas, and more.
London calling! From Brixton market to the Crystal Palace in South London, the iconic House of Parliament, pastel Primrose Hill, and a gritty council estate in Neasden, these novels capture the personality of the British capital.
Tina Hartas founded TripFiction because she knows, as we do, that reading books set in far-flung locales is a lovely way to armchair travel and prep for real-world adventure. Here are her top picks for great books.
Ed Needham is the writer and editor behind the amazing book-review magazine Strong Words. Each issue of the magazine blows up our TBR lists, so when Ed took on our challenge, we knew we were going to get the good stuff.
Writer Elizabeth Held has great taste in books. Her newsletter 'What To Read If' is a welcome arrival in our email each week. In this post, she recommends novels that combine boarding school with creepy happenings.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.