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
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.
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 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 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.)
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.
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.
Top image courtesy of Nick Fewings/Unsplash.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
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.
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.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
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.
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.
Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.