10 Fascinating Stories Behind Stephen King's Most Famous Books

10 Fascinating Stories Behind Stephen King's Most Famous Books

Stephen King is one of the greatest novelists of all-time. Hear that? Of all-time. You can't deride a man who has written not one, or two, or ten great novels, but countless works of literary brilliance spanning multiple decades - and he's still putting out all the stops.

There are those who are quick to write off Stephen King as "non-literary," but those people are just snobs (many of whom haven't actually sat down to read a Stephen King novel). Truth is, Stephen King is popular for a reason - his power to grip and mesmerise and shock the reader renders him as a something akin to a modern day Charles Dickens. His novels are bold, dense and outright unparalleled in their sheer readability.

Still, one question that often occupies the mind of a Stephen King fan - given their sheer audacity or outright weirdness - is: "Where does he get his ideas?"

Whilst - as most writers will tell you - an idea for a novel can just spring up out of nowhere with no real context involved, many of Stephen King's works have emerged as a result of specific incidents or events that happened to the author in person. Incidents and events that, in turn, lead to him writing some of his most famous books

10. Cujo Was Inspired By A St. Bernard That Went For King

Warner Bros.

Stephen King's Cujo tells the story of a once-friendly neighbourhood dog who disappears down a hole one day and comes back wrong. Cujo, the St. Bernard of the title, is made rabid from a bat bite, and winds up on a mission to kill an innocent pair who find themselves trapped in a car as the terrifying beast lingers outside, waiting to strike.

How did King end up writing a story like this, then? What inspired the tale of Cujo?

Essentially, it was King's own experience with an unfriendly pooch back in 1977. King took his motorcycle out to the sticks in Bridgton, Maine, in order for it to be fixed. As he approached the barn, a St. Bernard emerged from the barn and proceeded to square u to the nervous author. The dog was then followed by the bike mechanic - who - in King's own words - looked "almost like one of those guys out of Deliverance." Creepy, right?

The guy informed King that the dog wouldn't bite him, so King tried to be amicable and stroke the mutt - who proceeded to growl at him. "Gonzo never done that before," commented the the confused hillbilly mechanic. "I guess he don't like your face."

Out of this scenario, Cujo was born; the incident inspired King to write about a blood-thirsty dog in what he perceived to be the ultimate ABC "movie of the week," but as a novel.

9. Pet Sematary Was Inspired By A Real Pet Sematary Near Stephen King's House

Paramount Pictures

Pet Sematary tells the haunting, macabre story about a man named Louis Creed who uses the power of an ancient burial ground to revive his deceased son, Gage, after he's run over and killed by a truck. Gage comes back to life, but something about him has changed... for the worst. In the book, of course, the burial ground has long been used as the "Pet Sematary" of the novel's title - a place where children bury their pets after they've died.

It's a dark and complex novel with a gripping plot - one that Stephen King was inspired to write when he found himself in a situation similar to that of the book's premise.

Which is to say, the scenario is reminiscent of a period in the author's life in which he was living in Orrington, Maine as a university teacher - and next to a busy road that would often claim the lives of the neighbourhood pets. As a result (and just like in the book), the local kids built a Pet Sematary of their own in a field close to where King's house was located.

Here's where the parallels with the book grow really strong. King's daughter's cat, Smucky, was killed on the road, and she buried it in the Pet Sematary thereafter. This incident is echoed in the novel when Gage's cat, Church, is killed in the same way and later buried in the Pet Sematary. Then there's the big event that influence King - his son Owen was nearly killed running towards the busy road, which later influenced the idea of Gage's death.

Essentially, Pet Sematary was King framing incidents in his own life as a horror novel, but it's amazing to see how much of the book happened (or almost happened) in real life.

8. Misery Came To King In A Doze After He Read A Short Story About Charles Dickens By Evelyn Waugh

Columbia Pictures

Charles Dickens. Evelyn Waugh. Stephen King.

It took three generations of writers to bring one of Stephen King's most acclaimed novels to the page - one that sees famous author Paul Sheldon rescued from a car crash and kidnapped by the terrifying Annie Wilkes, his self-declared "Number One Fan." When Paul announces to Annie that he's decided to put his acclaimed "Misery Chastain" series to bed, she holds him hostage and violently forces him to write another Misery novel.

Stephen King fever was at its height in 1987, so you could be forgiven for thinking that King pulled the story out of his own experiences with crazy fans.

But you'd be wrong: Misery was actually inspired by the short story "The Man Who Loved Dickens" by Evelyn Waugh. King read the story on a transatlantic flight to London, and it came to him in the form of a half-dream. "Waugh's story was about a man in South America held prisoner by a chief who falls in love with the stories of Charles Dickens and makes the man read them to him," he said. "I wondered what it would be like if Dickens himself was held captive." This proved to be the germ of an idea that ultimately led to all that is Misery.

7. A Broken Down Car & An Old Wooden Bridge Inspired King To Write It


It is often thought to be one of King's definitive works - a great, epic novel made up of countless characters and spanning decades. Who'd have thought that such a major novel could have been inspired by a broken down car and a walk at dusk over a rickety bridge?

If you've read It, you'll know that it tells the story of seven friends whose lives are influenced by a strange, shape-shifting monster that has plagued them ever since childhood; a horrific manifestation of evil that lurks in the sewers beneath their small town with the ability to transform itself into their worst fears - mostly famously a clown named Pennywise.

The story came to King in a pretty strange and unexpected way. After his car broke down one night in the summer of 1978, three days later the author decided to walk to the motor dealership to pick up his vehicle, opting at the last minute not to take a cab. The walk was three miles and the destination was on the outskirts of the town where King lived at the time in Boulder, Colorado. As he walked through empty fields, dusk set in, and the author became very aware - and somewhat creeped out - by just how alone he was.

Then he crossed an old wooden bridge, and a thought struck him. "I thought of the fairy tale called The Three Billy-Goats Gruff and wondered what I would do if a troll called out from beneath me," King said of the experience. "'Who is trip-trapping upon my bridge?'"

He didn't act on this thought instantly, but subconsciously retained the idea. Two years later, King once again recalled the troll under the bridge incident, and began to run with it. He wanted to write about Bangor, Maine, and its canals, and decided that the bridge of that experience could represent the city, and the sewers below could serve as the troll's home.

More time passed, but King continued to think on the premise - Bangor as the bridge; the sewers as the place where the troll might lurk. Eventually, the idea - combined with King's wish to write something about his experiences as a child living in Connecticut - connected and It was born.

6. Thinner Was Inspired By A Doctor Telling King He Was Entering "Heart Attack Country"

Paramount Pictures

Originally published under Stephen King's "Richard Bachman" namesake, Thinner tells the terrifying story of an overweight man named Billy Halleck who - through an unfortunate incident - winds up being cursed by a gypsy. The curse? Halleck won't stop losing weight until the spell has been lifted - and time is running out, as he grows thinner and thinner...

Thinner sounds like a bit of a joke on paper, but in King's capable hands (or Richard Bachman's capable hands, perhaps?), the novella is a truly harrowing experience.

It's not surprising that the book came about after the author himself was instructed by a doctor to lose weight and quite smoking - something that King found incredibly difficult to do, likening it to losing part of himself. "I used to weigh 236 pounds, and I smoked heavily." King tells it. "I went to see the doctor and he told me: 'Listen, man, your triglycerides are really high. In case you haven't noticed it, you've entered heart attack country.'"

An angry King obeyed the doctor's orders, but the process of becoming "thinner" made him inherently uncomfortable. He began to ponder what would happen if a person started to lose weight and just couldn't stop - if they got thinner and thinner no matter what. This run-in with the doctor might have unnerved King, but it resulted in an undeniably chilling book.

5. A Drive Through A Desolate Nevada Town Inspired King To Write Desperation

Touchstone Television

Writing about where his ideas come from, Stephen King once explained: "Stories come at different times and places for me - in the car, in the shower, while walking, even while standing around at parties." True to his word, here's a book that came to him in the car.

Desperation tells the strange and twisted story of a town named Desperation, Nevada, which is located - approximately - "out in the middle of nowhere." After a mining incident goes array, a scary creature known only as "Tak" infiltrates the community by way of an inter-dimensional portal and uses its special ability to take the forms of its residents.

Stephen King was inspired to write the novel when he took a drive through Nevada in his daughter's car. As he passed through a backwater town called "Ruth," it appeared to King as though it had been abandoned. Suddenly, his imagination kicked into gear, inspired by the perceived desolation. "They're all dead," he thought, followed by: "Who killed them?"

For no clear reason, a voice in Stephen King's head replied: "The sheriff killed them all."

The sheriff being the murderer plays into the opening of King's book, of course, in which a deranged law enforcer named Collie Entragian - possessed by Tak - abducts all visitors. This story is made more interesting because it shows King's mind at work; thinking up a novel isn't always a neat process, but one that comes in strange, unexpected bursts.

4. The Shining Was Inspired By King's Stay In A Creepy Old Hotel (And A Nightmare About His Son)

Warner Bros.

The Shining is probably Stephen King's most famous novel - the one that everybody thinks about whenever the author's name is mentioned, presumably because it is one of his most outstanding literary achievements and as a result of the wildly popular film adaptation courtesy of the legendary Stanley Kubrick (a film that King himself admits to hating).

The Shining essentially tells the story of a writer named Jack Torrance, who accepts a job as the caretaker of a remote, mountain-based hotel for the winter (the ominous Overlook) so that he can concentrate on his next book. He brings his wife, Wendy, and his son, Danny, but soon enough strange things start to happen. The hotel - haunted by evil spirits - tries to take hold of Jack and sends him mad; as a result, he tries to murder his family.

How did King think up the plot of The Shining, then? Well, sometimes it's just a matter of staying in a creepy old hotel, which is exactly what happened to the author.

In 1974, King and his wife Tabby spent a night at a "grand old hotel" in Estes Park called The Stanley, and given that the winter was approaching they were the only guests there. The strange emptiness of the place - and the barren corridors - led King to believe that the hotel was the perfect location for a horror story. That night, he had a nightmare that his son was being attacked by a fire-hose and awoke in a cold sweat, almost falling out of bed.

3. Stephen King Wrote Lisey's Story After Imagining What Would Happen If He Died


Lisey's Story feels like one of Stephen King's most personal novels... which makes a lot of sense when you consider that he wrote the thing as a way of probing his own mortality.

The story concerns one Lisey Landon, who - two years after the death of her husband, famous novelist Scott Landon - decides to clean out his office. Soon enough, Lisey finds herself caught in a dangerous situation when a mysterious stranger contacts her and demands that she gives over all of Scott's papers and files... or there will be trouble.

The seeds of Lisey's Story actually came about in a really interesting - and incredibly sombre - way. After King spent a period of time in hospital with pneumonia, his home study was cleared out so that it could be redecorated in his absence. When he came back to his house, he saw that many of his possessions were still packed into boxes, and a thought struck him: this is what this room would like if I had died.

This rather sad thought set the premise for the book, in which a famous author - somebody with the weight of Stephen King's legacy - dies and his wife is left to go through his stuff. It's a clever idea, and one that obviously resonated with King on a fiercely personal level, given that he often claims that his favourite of all his books is, in fact, Lisey's Story.


2. The Mist Was Inspired By A Freak Thunderstorm & A Visit To The Supermarket

Dimension Films

The Mist has earned a reputation for being one of the many great Stephen King film adaptations, made more famous for the horribly bleak ending poised at the end of Frank Darabont's movie. The book is an awesome work in its own right, though, and one that came to King as he experienced some of the events of the story in real life. Really.

The premise of The Mist hinges on a freak thunderstorm that unleashes a strange mist over a small-town in Bridgton, Maine, which offers up zero visibility for all its inhabitants. As a result, a ragtag group - two of which are father and son David and Billy Drayton - find themselves cut off in a supermarket, unable to leave, only to discover that the mist contains a number of grotesque monsters hellbent on murdering them.

So what happened to King to inspire such a plot? Well, pretty much everything except for the part with the monsters, really. One night, King found himself astonished by a particularly aggressive thunderstorm that felt apocalyptic in its magnitude. The next day, King visited the supermarket with his son and had a vision of what he called a "big prehistoric flying reptile" flying around the story, which inspired the monster aspects behind The Mist.

No clue why King was thinking about prehistoric flying reptiles, but who are we to argue?

1. CBS Footage Of Test Mice Convulsing & Dying Inspired King To Write The Stand


Tell a fan that you're only ever going to read one Stephen King novel, and The Stand is the book that they'd mostly likely tell you to take up. It's arguably King's magnus opus; in scope, only The Dark Tower comes close to matching its sheer ambition and magnitude. Not only that, but it is definitively King in every way; the all-American characters caught up in a situation they can't control, the desolate landscapes, the vague, shape-shifting villain...

The plot sees a devastated United States in which 99% percent of the population have been wiped out by a deadly virus known as "Captain Tripps." The survivors, immune to the virus, must band together to make their final stand as they set out across the barren country towards an inevitable confrontation with a terrifying embodiment of evil.

So where did King get the idea for The Stand, with its premise that begins with a virus escaping a secret lab and dooming society? Well, from an episode of CBS's 60 Minutes.

That's right: sitting down one evening to the TV, King watched a special on chemical warfare and it sparked his imagination. "I never forgot the gruesome footage of the test mice shuddering, convulsing, and dying, all in twenty seconds or less," he said. That got me remembering a chemical spill in Utah that killed a bunch of sheep. These were canisters on their way to some burial ground; they fell off the truck and ruptured."

The Stand was also written to be an epic in line with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, albeit set in the modern world with Las Vegas standing in for the land of Mordor. You gotta hand it to King; the man really knows how to combine influences like a total pro.

10 Book Predictions That Really Came True

10 Book Predictions That Really Came True -


All through history, there have been startling accounts of people foreseeing the future, accounts that unnervingly hit or miss the mark. From Nostradamus predicting the Great Fire of London in 1666 (totally happened, according to some) to the Mayans prophesizing the Earth’s end in 2012 (er, not so much), history isn’t exactly lacking in the premonition department.

These premonitions are actually more common than you might think. And it’s not just doom-filled calendars and ancient textbooks from the middle ages; there are plenty of contemporary premonitions that have been published, funnily enough, in works of fiction. Most literary forecasts that pop up in books are often brushed off as purely coincidental or chalked up to being educated guesses, but some of them are almost too unsettling for words. Let’s take a look.


10 Super Sad True Love Story By Gary Shteyngart

The novel Super Sad True Love Story, published in 2010, follows the romantic entanglement of Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park in a near-future dystopian New York, where life is dominated by technology and bad debt. Credit rating is broadcasted to the world through “apparats,” which bear a striking resemblance to the iPhone 4.

In the novel, economic chaos reigns. The US is hopelessly in debt to China, the dollar is devalued, America has defaulted on its debt, and China scolds the country publicly. This exact event was mirrored in real life across international news channels when China stated that Washington must “cure its addiction to debt” less than a year later.[1]

Shteyngart also managed to predict the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011. And though his predictions are parodic for sure, most of them have come true, proving, perhaps, that we live in a world where reality takes its cues from fiction.

2001: A Space Odyssey By Arthur C. Clarke

Although many consider 2001: A Space Odyssey a film and solely that, there was, in fact, a book that was written concurrently alongside the screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke, based on his short story, “The Sentinel.”

It roughly follows a similar plotline but is based more on the revised version of the script and not the deviation the film eventually took. However, in both versions, we get a glimpse of the “newspad,” a device that features instant access to periodicals and other information all across the world. It looks like an iPad and works like one.

The book was published in 1968, and the iPad was introduced in 2010, 42 years after the film and movie came out, so it’s no wonder that Kubrick is regarded as the sci-fi seer of his time.[2]

Then again, perhaps it wasn’t Kubrick who saw the future but Steve Jobs who copied Kubrick?


Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift

In the world-famous Gulliver’s Travels, Swift takes us on several fantastical adventures across the hidden corners of the globe, where Lemuel Gulliver meets the Lilliputians in a far-off country, encounters the giants in Brobdingnag, and then goes on to visit the flying land of Laputa, where Swift’s premonitions rapidly come into play.

It turns out that Laputa’s astronomers have discovered that Mars has two moons, 150 years before they were observed by Asaph Hall in 1877. The fact that his prediction was based on mere conjecture is far more impressive than someone who makes an educated and informed guess, as even their proximity and orbit are fairly accurate.[3]

Hall named the moons Phobos and Deimos. In a nod to Gulliver’s Travels, a crater on Deimos was named Swift after the writer himself, a tribute as remarkable as the premonition that inspired it.

Looking Backward: 2000–1887 By Edward Bellamy

Living in a time of social and economic turmoil in the late 19th century, Edward Bellamy grew embittered by the slow creation of labor unions, the violence surrounding the working-class majority, and hostility toward the privileged minority. The American writer therefore outlined his opinions and advice for the future in his novel, Looking Backward: 2000–1887.

In it, protagonist Julian West falls into a hypnotized deep sleep and wakes up a century later, in the year 2000. The world has become a socialist utopia, where all of America’s goods are distributed equally to its citizens. It was Bellamy who first introduced the concept of credit cards to the world before they were ever invented, when his character is taken to a store and given one that works like a debit card.[4]

They acquire all the products and services necessary to lead a comfortable life, depending on the buyer’s situation. Although not exactly the same as the present day, it’s still with remarkable foresight that Bellamy created this concept—now adopted by banks all over the world. And to think that far ahead in the late 1880s was something only a very forward-thinking individual could conceive. That, or a time traveler.

Stand On Zanzibar By John Brunner

Photo credit: Pete Souza

Predicting the presidency of specific people is no easy feat. Yet John Brunner, in his novel Stand on Zanzibar, did just that. The book was science fiction, a novel set years in the future which follows two roommates: One is an executive at a powerful global company, and the other is a spy.

Brunner also predicted outbreaks of violence in schools and acts of terrorism becoming a massive threat to the United States. Although he wrote his book in the 1960s, Brunner successfully predicts young adults’ hookup culture, drugs to improve sexual performance, electric cars, inflation prices, and even how homosexual relationships go mainstream.[5]

It’s a future that’s not far off from our current reality, and the truly bizarre coincidence comes in the shape of a major world leader, a man called President Obomi, a mirror version of Obama. And it’s not just the weirdly similar names and the fact that he’s the US president; he even looks like Obama.

Never mind our floozy hookup culture; that’s just plain remarkable, given that it was published in 1968 and set in 2010, not long after Obama’s actual election.


From The Earth To The Moon By Jules Verne

Photo credit: NASA/Neil A. Armstrong

It’s not that out there for science fiction to feature on this list because the genre is, by default, so very ahead of its time—or any time for that matter. Futuristic cities, societies, technology, and transportation methods all form part of sci-fi’s integral allure, and the forward-thinking individuals who come up with these tales can’t help occasionally visualizing events that come true.

But to predict something a whole century before it actually happened, and in 1865 no less, a time when plumbing wasn’t even a regular fixture in most residences? That’s a feat that can only be credited back to revolutionary author Jules Verne, the father of modern science fiction. In his book From the Earth to the Moon, Verne predicted the Moon landing, sparking interest in space travel across the world. Aside from the sheer improbability of such a prediction so early on in human technology, there are some parallels that are simply disturbing.

Verne’s main character believes he can shoot a cannon all the way to the Moon and, despite skepticism, raises enough funds to have the rocket built. Amazingly, the result looks a lot like the real-life Apollo capsule, even containing enough space to hold three people—just like the real one built over 100 years into the future. In the book, this launch cannon was named Columbiad by the main character, and as you’ll know, the real-life command module was later dubbed the Columbia—a probable nod to Verne’s literary work.

Another of Verne’s astounding premonitions is that of location. As if dictating real life, Texas and Florida fight over who gets to launch the cannon, eventually settling on Florida as the launch site, while Texas gets the command center.[6]

Debt Of Honor By Tom Clancy

Photo credit: Michael Foran

When Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser for the Bush administration, claimed after 9/11 that no one could have predicted an attack involving aircraft, it was very much a proverbial foot-in-the-mouth scenario because long before the 9/11 attacks happened, Tom Clancy predicted a similar act of terrorism in his 1994 thriller novel Debt of Honor.

In it, a terrorist hijacks a jetliner and crashes it into Washington’s Capitol Building to take out the whole government and an entire chain of command. This is, of course, reminiscent of the actual September 11th attacks, only in the book, the events lead up to radical governmental change.

The book might seem uncannily prophetic, though not many people seemed eager to point out the similarities, and even Clancy himself was quick to dismiss the claims of his being a modern seer. Predictive power or not, Clancy said the similarities arose as a result of his ability to observe facts from his research and understand human nature.[7]


The Plot Against America By Philip Roth

Photo credit: White House

The late Philip Roth’s 2004 masterpiece The Plot Against America doesn’t stand out just because of its literary prowess, although that would be a solid enough reason in itself. What makes this novel remarkable are the startling similarities between the protagonist’s presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s actual election, which took place 12 years after the book was published.

In his alternate universe, Roth reveals how a demagogic celebrity could launch a presidential campaign—perceived as a joke by the other party—and still win.[8]Although he wasn’t called Trump, Charles Lindbergh (also a real person), an aviator stunt sensation, beat Roosevelt in the 1940 election by gaining the votes of thousands of Republicans and right-wing supporters.

Just like Trump’s own campaign, which was sustained by promoting the inadequacy of the other party and not through an advocacy of his intended objectives, Lindbergh’s appalling campaign wins by a landslide, and it’s considered the “end” of democracy. This was believed to be an impossible feat, as both Lindbergh and Trump went up against people who were better-funded, qualified, and educated; this puts in question the very nature of politics.

Both the fictional and real-life presidents’ morals are twisted: Lindbergh supports Hitler’s doctrine of thinking and openly blames the Jewish community on their “natural” propensity for war and disaster, something that mirrors Trump’s scapegoating of Muslims and Mexicans. Whatever the case may be about Roth and his foreshadowing today’s presidency, there are definite echoes of Lindbergh in Trump’s fearmongering speeches on foreign threats.

The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket By Edgar Allen Poe

The story of Richard Parker is next up on our list. There was a time when Edgar Allen Poe wasn’t half as well-known as he is today, a time when his name didn’t inspire horror or illicit awe in those who came across his (back then nonexistent) stories. In essence, it didn’t generate much of anything to anyone except those privileged few who were acquainted with him. Yet his first (and only) full-length novel was published in 1838, elevating his status from unknown writer to unknown author (not that this title stuck, as you very well know).

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was an odd tale, unlike Poe’s more famous short stories, as it didn’t feature any ghosts, vengeful or otherwise, and not one single raven. Instead, the plot followed the maritime misadventures of Arthur Pym, who went from mutineer to murderer in a few short (illicit) boat trips across the Atlantic.

No story that involves cannibalism is going to have a happy ending, so it should come as no surprise that the Grampus floods and leaves its crew lost at sea without food or water. Desperate, the crew members draw lots to identify the poor sucker who will sacrifice himself—and his flesh—to the starving crew. It was 17-year-old Richard Parker, one of the ship’s mutineers, who lost.

Forty-six years later, Britain’s last trial for cannibalism at sea caused a stir in English courts, the details of the morbid events inspiring horror in all those who heard it.[9]

Edgar Allen Poe’s story came alive when the Mignonette, a small yacht which had set sail to Australia from England, sank at sea, leaving the four-man crew to fight for their lives aboard a small wooden dinghy. Weakened and on the brink of death, the captain and mate killed a young lad who’d caved and overdosed on saltwater, using him as sustenance to survive. The unfortunate lad’s name? Richard Parker.

Two days later, the straggling survivors were rescued by a passing German ship.

Twisted irony? Check. Perverse coincidence? Check.

If Poe was indeed gifted with a touch of clairvoyance, it was never openly or publicly spoken about. In fact, after his short stories started gaining momentum in literary circles, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket faded into obscurity. Perhaps reality is a little harder to take than fictional ravens . . .

The Wreck Of The Titan: Or, Futility By Morgan Robertson

Photo credit: Willy Stower

The sinking of the Titanic is undeniably one of the most written-about events in human history. And that’s not even taking into account the scores of news features, documentaries, films, and, of course, chart-topping ballads that were inspired by the passenger liner’s tragic demise. There is one particular Titanic tale, however, that stands out. That’s because it was written before the Titanicsank.

That’s right; 14 years before the famous ship struck an iceberg one chilly night in April 1912, Morgan Robertson sat down and penned a story so unnervingly similar to its real-life counterpart that one can’t help but wonder if he was, in fact, a clairvoyant, rather than a writer with an overactive imagination.[10]

In 1898, The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility hit bookstores across the United States and Europe, regaling readers with a chilling story of a terrible maritime disaster, of which there were only a few survivors. Morgensen tells the story of John Rowland, a down-on-his-luck deckhand working aboard the Titan, the largest cruise ship ever built, a ship that was declared unsinkable by experts and the public.

Ring any bells yet?

The boat’s name itself should be enough to make you do a double take, but there’s more. In the book, the Titan was described as a modern marvel—the largest ship ever built, ahead of its time, even. When it comes to the boat’s physical features, that’s where things get really odd. Where the Titan was measured at 244 meters (800 ft) long, the Titanic was only 25 meters (82 ft) longer. Where the Titanic carried 20 lifeboats, the Titan carried 24. These are physical resemblances so striking it’s almost as if the White Star Line used Morgensen’s creation as a blueprint for the Titanic’s design. Yet the resemblances don’t end there. Both the Titan and the Titanic struck an iceberg on the starboard side of the deck in the North Atlantic.

In April.

Morgensen denied the ability to predict the future, attributing the coincidence instead to his being an experienced seaman. Although this could account for the Titan’s similar size and insufficient number of lifeboats, the fact that the Titanwas struck in practically the same spot in the North Atlantic—in the same month—is still one hell of a coincidence.



10 Authors You Read In School Who Were Secretly Terrible People

10 Authors You Read In School Who Were Secretly Terrible People

Grade school takes all the spice out of history and makes it seem like everyone in the past sat around drinking tea to the sounds of harpsichord music. English teachers, for example, usually don’t talk about the dark and dirty secrets of our favorite writers, but their lives are full of them. For some reason, there just seems to be something about writers that makes them dive right into every form of vice and debauchery imaginable.

Whether your teacher will tell you or not, most of the authors on your summer reading list led lives that would make Hugh Hefner blush. And those were the nice ones. A few of your teacher’s favorite writers were qualifiably horrible people.

10 George Orwell Sold His Friends Out To The Secret Service

The man who warned us about a grim future in which spies and secret police drag people away for having dangerous thoughts wasn’t exactly as staunch of a freedom-lover as he might seem. In real life, he was more of a part of Big Brother than he was against it.

Orwell kept a secret list of people he’d met who he thought were secret communist sympathizers. Anyone he met who seemed a little too favorable to the idea of social welfare got their name jotted down on Orwell’s blacklist.[1] And when he had enough names, he sent to the British Secret Service with a little note telling them: Never trust these people.

Orson Welles, Katherine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, and dozens of other major names showed up on Orwell’s list. As it turns out, Orwell might not have liked communism, but he wasn’t above a little thought-policing.

9 William Golding Tried To Rape A 14-Year-Old Girl

Photo credit: Wikimedia

There was a reason the author of Lord of the Flies was so deeply acquainted with the darkness at the heart of young boys: His heart was about as dark as they come. Before he died, William Golding started writing a memoir that, if anything, might have been too honest. For one thing, he openly confessed to attempted rape.

When he was 18 years old, Golding was obsessed with a 14-year-old girl named Dora. He was so obsessed, in fact, that he lured her out into a field and tried to violently, physically force himself upon her. Young Dora had to beat him with her fists to get him to let her go. The second he loosened his grip, she ran for her life, while Goldin chased after her yelling, “I’m not going to hurt you!”

He wasn’t exactly repentant. Even as an old man writing his memoirs, Golding still slipped in all kinds of creepy language designed to justify what he’d done. She was just a child, he admitted, but she was “already sexy as an ape.”[2] He called her “depraved by nature” and said he knew that she “wanted heavy sex”—which is a pretty insane thing to believe about a young girl who ran away from you screaming.

8 David Foster Wallace Was An Abusive Stalker

Photo credit: Steve Rhodes

The author of Infinite Jest wasn’t exactly the world’s greatest boyfriend. He may have been able to write a good book, but he when put down his pen, he did some absolutely horrible things to women.

Mary Karr got the worst of it. She was the object of Wallace’s affections throughout the 1990s, a woman he fell madly in love with from the first moment he met her. When that kind of affection comes from a man like Wallace, though, it’s not a good thing.

Karr was married with children when they met, but Wallace tried to get her in bed anyway. When she didn’t immediately leave her husband for him, he went crazy. First, he went around telling people they were a couple, even though they weren’t. Then, he got a tattoo of her name on a heart and showed it to her husband. Finally, when none of that worked, he just yelled obscenities at her and punched his fist through her car window. At one point, he even tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband.[3]

It’s the behavior of a madman—but Karr must have had some issues, too, because instead of filing a restraining order, she ended up having an affair with the crazy guy stalking her.

Things didn’t get any better, though. Even when they were together, Wallace was insanely violent. He yelled at her and threw things at her. She still stayed with him, too, until, finally, after he smashed a coffee table by trying to throw it at her head, Karr decided it was time to look for a better boyfriend.

7 Mary Shelley Lost Her Virginity On Her Mother’s Grave

Photo credit: Richard Rothwell

The life of Mary Shelley is a far creepier story than Frankenstein. It’s not something people often talk about, but Shelley was a bit of a strange bird. And by “strange,” we mean the “carried her dead husband’s heart around in a jar for 30 years” type of strange.

That’s weird—but the things she did while he was still alive were even weirder. Mary and Percy Shelley’s relationship started with them making love on top of her dead mother’s grave.

Apparently, the young Mary Shelley couldn’t think of any better place to lose her virginity than on top of the final resting place of the mother, who died giving birth to her. It’s a bit strange, though in her defense, her mother’s grave had already been the setting for a weirdly large amount of her formative moments. Her father taught her to read by having her trace the letters on her mother’s tombstone.[4]So if Shelley was a bit weird, it was in her family.

6 Victor Hugo Was Addicted To Prostitutes

Photo credit: Étienne Carjat

Today, when we think about the author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, sex isn’t exactly what comes to mind. People who knew him personally, though, knew that sex was pretty much his whole life.

Victor Hugo’s sexual appetite was a thing of legend. It’s said that on the day he got married, he and his wife consummated their marriage nine times in a single night. It was how he lost his virginity, but after he’d tried it once, he refused to stop. In short time, he was having affairs with every woman who would have him.

His favorites seem to have been prostitutes and married women, and Hugo slept with a lot of them. According to his favorite mistress, between 1848 and 1850 alone, Hugo slept with 200 different women.[5]

Even old age didn’t slow him down. In last four months of his life, Hugo’s diary—which he filled with lurid details of his sexual exploits—mentioned eight separate women he’d slept with. And at that point in his life, he was 83 years old.

Every woman of the night in France knew him. They knew him so well, in fact, that on the day Hugo died, the brothels of Paris all shut down so that the prostitutes could pay their respects to their most famous customer.

5 Allen Ginsberg Was A Card-Carrying Member Of NAMBLA

Photo credit: Hans van Dijk/Anefo

Allen Ginsberg already has a place in history. His poem “Howl” challenged the very definition of literature, and his place among the Beat poets has captured the imaginations of generations of thinkers. But we usually try to not to mention his time with NAMBLA.

The North American Man/Boy Love Association is a group that campaigns to give adult men the legal right to have sex with young boys, and Allen Ginsberg was one of their most eager members. He insisted it wasn’t about pedophilia. NAMBLA, he said, was a “forum for reform,” and he joined it “in defense of free speech.”

The “reform” he wanted, though, was more than a little creepy. He wanted to legalize child pornography. He accused the government of an “incompetent linkage of pornography and violence.” He thought we should be more like the ancient Greeks, saying, “Intergenerational love was a social practice praised by philosophers.”

And he didn’t stop there—he also tried to convince people that there is “no universal consensus on ‘consent.’ ”[6] That might sound intellectual, but let’s be honest about what he meant. Coming from a member of NAMBLA, that’s just a fancy way of saying, “How do you know eight-year-olds aren’t asking for it?”

4 Ezra Pound Was A Fascist

Photo credit: Alvin Langdon Coburn

It’s no exaggeration to call Ezra Pound a fascist. We don’t mean that he was a little cranky or wanted things done his way—we mean that he was such an active supporter of the Axis that he ended up getting thrown in jail for treason.

Pound was obsessed with Mussolini.[7] Even though he was American, he was so impressed by the rise of fascism in Italy that he begged Mussolini to meet him in person. Eventually, Mussolini agreed, and Pound lavished him with gifts in appreciation.

When World War II started, Pound went on the radio and ranted about how Americans needed to stay out of the fascists’ way. He openly criticized America for siding against the Third Reich and then went into long rants saying that the Jews were responsible for every war.

He even wrote multiple poems about how great fascism is. His “Italian Cantos” are odes to the fascist fighting spirit, while his “Pisan Cantos” are full of rants criticizing the US Army for joining the war. By that point, though, he was just complaining. The “Pisan Cantos” were written behind bars, after Italian fascism had already fallen and Pound had been locked up for treason.

3 Flannery O’Connor Was Openly Racist

Flannery O’Connor’s short stories are complicated. Stories like “Everything That Rises Must Converge” tackled the changing world of the South during the Civil Rights Movement with such ambiguity that it was hard to tell whose side she was on: the people fighting for equal rights, or the racists?

There was no question about it, though, for the people who knew her. In private, Flannery O’Connor was open about it: She thought the Civil Rights Movement was ridiculous.

“About the Negroes, the kind I don’t like is the philosophizing prophesying pontificating kind,” O’Connor once told a friend. “Very ignorant but never silent.”[8]

O’Connor was full of jokes about Civil Rights. She would complain that the papers were “always yapping about racial justice” or joke about “local Negroes” trying to integrate the library. Once, when a friend left a grasshopper in her home, she joked that it “reminded me so much of the poor colored people in the jails that I let him out and fed him to a duck.”

In all fairness, though, she wasn’t just against Civil Rights. O’Connor just kind of hated everybody. The way she put it was: “I say a plague on everybody’s house as far as the race business goes.”

2 J.D. Salinger Was Obsessed With Teenage Girls

Photo credit: Vogue Italia

J.D. Salinger loved underage girls. That’s what his girlfriend Joyce Maynard said about him, anyway. And she might be a reliable source. When Salinger and Maynard started dating, she was 18 years old—and he was 53.

Maynard isn’t the only person who has come forward as one of Salinger’s teenage lovers. A woman named Jean Miller claims that she started dating J.D. Salinger when she was just 14 years old. Salinger, she says, spotted her reading Wuthering Heights at the pool and said, “Hi, how’s Heathcliff?”

The two ended up staying together for five years. To give Salinger credit, he waited until Miller was of legal age before sleeping with her. As soon as he did, though, he immediately left her life and never spoke to her again.[9]

According to Joyce Maynard, that was how Salinger operated—and not just with them but with other young girls who haven’t come forward, as well. “His was a seduction played out with words and ideas, not lovemaking,” she said. Technically, he wouldn’t actually break any laws, but he would spend years seducing young girls and telling them he loved them.

1 Norman Mailer Stabbed His Wife With A Penknife

Photo credit: Carl Van Vechten

In the 1960s, Norman Mailer ran for mayor in New York City. It was a serious campaign—but any chances he had definitely went out the window when he stabbed his wife in the chest at a fundraiser.

Mailer had thrown a party for his candidacy, but he didn’t get the turnout he’d hoped for. Frustrated, he got drunk out of his mind and started challenging people to fights. He even got into a bare-knuckle fistfight with fellow author George Plimpton.

His wife eventually got fed up enough with Mailer that she started hurling insults at him. “Come on, you little faggot, where’s your cojones?” she yelled at him. “Did your ugly whore of a mistress cut them off, you son of a bitch?” She was just saying it to provoke him, but it worked. Mailer, in response, grabbed a penknife and jammed it into his wife’s chest, just barely missing her heart.

One of the guests tried to help her, but Mailer yelled, “Get away from her. Let the bitch die.” Then he stormed out of the party and left her bleeding on the floor.

In the end, his conscience got the best of him. Mailer went back for his wife and took her to the hospital, where they saved her life, but it didn’t change what he’d done. Still, Mailer got away with everything. He joked later that, after stabbing his wife, people only treated him with “five degrees less warmth than I was accustomed to. Not fifteen­ degrees less—five.”[10]



14 Creepily Accurate Times Dystopian Novels Predicted Real Life Events

14 Creepily Accurate Times Dystopian Novels Predicted Real Life Events -




Inmate Wrote A Hit Book And Now The State Wants To Collect

Inmate Wrote A Hit Book And Now The State Wants To Collect

A Michigan convict who won accolades for his book of short stories may be forced to give up all he earned from his book deal. Curtis Dawkins' debut, The Graybar Hotel, was published in July by Scribner and details life behind bars in ways that have thrilled readers. Michigan's Department of Treasury is less enthused, however, and has filed a court complaint that asks that 90% of the convicted killer's reported $150,000 advance be given to the state as payment for the cost of his imprisonment. Michigan's attorney general reportedly filed the complaint, which states that Dawkins is not entitled to the money or to transfer any of it to his family, not long after his victim's brother complained publicly about the book deal, per the Guardian. Because he cannot afford an attorney, Dawkins is scheduled to defend himself in the case.

Dawkins has in the past expressed remorse for the 2004 botched robbery that led to the murder of Thomas Bowman. The New York Times reports he intends to argue that the same law the attorney general says allows the state to keep the profits also stipulates that courts must consider a convict's obligation to provide for his children or spouse when deciding such cases. Michigan is one of some 40 states with laws on the books that allow the government to force inmates to pay for incarceration. According to the Times, Michigan collected $3.7 million from fewer than 300 of the state's 40,000 inmates. A hearing in Dawkins' case is scheduled for Feb. 26 in Kalamazoo.




Given an author, can you pick a novel or play they wrote whose title consists of ONLY a first and last name?


18 Slightly Offensive Paperbacks That Def Weren't At My School

18 Slightly Offensive Paperbacks That Def Weren't At My School





















“The Big Book of Online Trolling” And 12 Other Books We Wish Were Real

“The Big Book of Online Trolling” And 12 Other Books We Wish Were Real

Graphic designer Sean Tejaratchi has created funny and very true series of fake book covers “The Big Book of Online _____” addressing various aspects of online behavior.

Dystopian Fiction: How Reading Transforms Your Mind


Dystopian Fiction: How Reading Transforms Your Mind

1984 and Brave New World. Together, these novels paint a full picture of how human beings are susceptible to the tactics of totalitarian regimes. They also show how art is a vital protection against any system of control, as it enhances a societies ability to empathize.





Can you select the jobs and occupations missing from each of these book and play titles?



















18 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Were Inspired By Books

18 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Were Inspired By Books


These days, it might seem like TV networks are all about remaking movies for the serial format thanks to the likes of Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist, and Shooter. TV shows also have another favorite source that they’ve been drawing from for decades: books. And no, we’re not just talking comic books and graphic novels.

An adaptation of a good book is hardly a rare thing, but it is a carefully considered venture. The success of some, like The Vampire Diaries or Pretty Little Liars, can outstrip the popularity of the original novels. Others, like Eye Candy or The Finder, can fail to capture an audience and fall flat. There’s no clear-cut formula for just what makes one a success and another a failure, but one thing is for sure: there are plenty of television series you might be surprised came from the page first.

Check out these 18 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Inspired By Books.


Based on: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Netflix’s latest original series, 13 Reasons Why, has taken the young adult set by storm, but it’s also provided their parents with a serious look at just how unhappy teenagers can be. When Hannah Baker reaches her breaking point, she takes her own life, but not before recording 13 reasons why she decided to do it. Following her death, she leaves the tapes to a friend with instructions on just how those 13 people should get to listen to them. For the show, we see one of those people, Clay Jensen, acquire the tapes and get to really understand why she made her decision.

The novel was Jay Asher’s debut, and it took years before he decided to write another YA book. Likewise, the show was in development as a movie for a while before Netflix added it to its original programming slate as a series with Selena Gomez on board as a producer. When Gomez first became attached to the project, there were rumors that she would take on the role of Hannah Baker herself, but after several years in development, that didn’t come to pass.

10 years ago, when the book landed on shelves and best seller lists, social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, so it’s almost nonexistent in the page version of the story, but it plays a huge part in the events of the show. The series also takes a slightly different approach in allowing the secondary characters to become more fleshed out and letting the audience to get to know them as much as they do Hannah and Clay, making the series just as good, if not better, than the novel.


Based on: The novels by Craig Johnson

The first of four law enforcement series to make this list, Longmire is set in a fictional Wyoming town where the title character has to get his life back together with the help of his daughter and a new deputy he’s taken under his wing. The show brought a huge number of viewers to A&E, a network not particularly known for its fictional programming. In fact, the premiere episode had more than 4 million viewers, a record for the network, but over time, executives decided it was more expensive than it was worth, eventually dropping the show.

So far, there are 12 books in the Longmire series (the most recent of which was published in 2016), so the television show would have had plenty of source material if it continued. A&E canceled the series after season three, but Netflix picked it up for an additional three seasons. The sixth and final year will hit Netflix sometime in 2017.

Fans can still participate in Longmire Days, a festival in Buffalo, Wyoming. The city provided the inspiration for the fictional town in the novels, and cast members and Craig Johnson himself have been known to stop by the festivities. The sixth festival is scheduled for this July.


Based on: The novels by Kathy Reichs

Beginning in 2005, television audiences suddenly became fascinated with anthropology and forensics when the two fields were combined in the FOX series Bones. The show starred Emily Deschanel as the awkward Temperance Brennan, the leader of a team of scientists who typically studied ancient cultures through their remains or identified the bodies in mass graves. As the series began, though, she was consulting for the FBI, a relationship that would continue for 12 seasons.

Because author Kathy Reichs is a practicing forensic anthropologist herself, many audience members assumed that the series was based on her own life, and while she did draw from some of her own experiences while penning the novels, the show is all fiction, merely using those same novels for inspiration. Reichs, unlike a lot of writers, was actually afforded quite a bit of creative influence on the show, since she was also an executive producer.

Bones recently aired its series finale on FOX.


Based on: Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson

Plenty of gangster movies are set during the time when Prohibition was at its height, including the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Rather than focusing purely on the gangsters, however, the story takes the approach of highlighting the politicians who were in bed with them. In this case, it’s Nucky Thompson, who also goes on to rule the criminal underground after his mentor gets caught. All of the characters in the show and Johnson’s book are inspired by real-life people.

When Johnson penned the book, he had plenty of personal experience and interest in Atlantic City. After working in law for 30 years, he was also active in Atlantic City politics and lived in New Jersey. He conducted extensive interviews to get his facts right for the book, and the show doesn’t play too loosely with them either. The biggest differences come in how the show treats its timeline, making things that occurred years apart in reality happen in quick succession. A few relationships are changed to make for good drama, but the heart of Johnson’s book remains intact.


Based on: “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard

Justified, which centered on a U.S. Marshal in a small Kentucky town, ran for six seasons on FX and starred Timothy Olyphant. The series boasted FX’s highest audience numbers (4.2 million) ever when it debuted in 2010, though those numbers did drop a little bit over time. Though it had a smaller audience thanks to airing on a cable network, Justified was a critical darling. It garnered several award show nominations, including Emmy wins for stars Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies.

The series was initially inspired by the short story “Fire in the Hole,” which featured the main character Raylan Givens, the character Olyphant would go on to play. That same short story spawned a series of novels for the television show to draw from. Many of Leonard’s other works have also been adapted for the screen, including 3:10 to Yuma, Out of Sight, and Get Shorty, though the writer praised Justified as the best adaptation of his writing.


Based on: The series by James S. A. Corey

Some have called the Expanse novels a mashup of Star Wars and Game of Thrones, and that lethal sci-fi/fantasy combo designation is actually pretty accurate. Set hundreds of years in a future where human beings have colonized areas of space, the novels follow a group of space travelers on a rescue mission, kicking off story events as they watch their own ship get blown up. What they uncover following that act is a conspiracy.

The Expanse, by and large, follows the themes and broad strokes of the novels. Producers even made an effort to keep their casting choices as close to the appearances described in the novels as possible, to ensure that fans got the full experience. The show, which touches on politics and conspiracies in a world of science fiction, is just as engaging for those who haven’t read the novels, written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under a shared pen name.


Based on: Mind Hunter: Inside FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Special Agent John E. Douglas wrote about his time catching serial offenders for the FBI in a nonfiction book that captured some of his most challenging cases. Douglas didn’t just work field cases for the bureau, either. He also studied some of the most notorious serial killers to help the FBI learn more about how their minds work, hence the nickname “Mind Hunter,” which formed the basis for the title of the book and upcoming Netflix series.

Jonathan Groff will star in the Netflix series, which is produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron. Fincher and Theron actually took the concept for the series to HBO eight years ago, but after being stuck in development for years, the project ended up at Netflix. Interestingly, Douglas provided the basis for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs. and the studies performed by the FBI previously gave inspiration for shows like Criminal Minds, but with David Fincher behind the scenes, Mindhunter promises to be a very different series.

Mindhunter lands on Netflix in October.

11. M*A*S*H

Based on: Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker and WC Heinz

A comedic take on the lives of the staff of an Army hospital was a unique idea in the ’70s when M*A*S*H came to broadcast television, and it still is today. Its success has been hard to replicate. Debuting on the small screen in 1972, the series ran for 11 years (following a movie adaptation, no less), and it still airs in syndication around the world. The show followed one group of medical officers during their work in the Korean War. Never mind that the actual Korean War only lasted about three years, and that it is often referred to as “the forgotten war” by historians — audiences couldn’t get enough of the fictional version.

The show drew inspiration from the original novel Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The book actually launched a series of its own, and while not everything in the books made its way to television, specific scenes did. The book does provide more exposition to what amounted to short clips on the screen, but there is just as much love out there for the novel, and those that followed, as there is for the screen ventures.


Based on: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream by Buzz Bissinger

Most of the audience who tuned in regularly to watch the small town of Dillon, Texas head to Friday night football games was aware that there was a movie before there was a show. What many didn’t realize though was that the movie and the series were both inspired by a book first. The novel happens to be one of the most well-known titles out there amongst sports fans, but Hollywood’s glitz and glamour tends to get the attention first, which is funny since Friday Night Lights, in all of its incarnations, is the furthest thing from glitzy or glamorous.

The book followed one small town Texas team during a particularly dramatic high school football season. If you know anything about Texas, it’s that football isn’t just a way for high school kids to pass the time — it’s a way of life. The movie adapted that single-year story as well, but with multiple seasons, the show had to go a bit further, fleshing out what life in a small town was like over the course of several years, with football serving as the uniting factor. You didn’t just get the story of the young quarterback who had to step in when the town golden boy was seriously injured, but also of his best friend, who never thought he’d get to play either. The show tackled racial tension in its later seasons as the school zones changed and another group of students were introduced. It became just as much about small town politics as it did about football, family, and growing up.


Based on: Fresh Off The Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

In the ’90s, the Taiwanese Huang family moved to Orlando, Florida and were in for a bit of culture shock. The patriarch wanted to fit in, the matriarch longed for Taiwan, and the kids just tried to find a happy middle ground. The ABC show is, of course, a comedy, but the comedy isn’t born from just how different the Huang’s are, but how strange of a place America really is from an outsider’s perspective.

The sitcom is based on a memoir written by chef Eddie Huang. In the show, Huang is 12 and recounting his experiences as a pre-teen who sees both sides of Asian-American culture. In real life, Huang had some regrets when ABC bought his book and filmed a pilot. He was afraid the series would dilute his unapologetic look at his childhood to standard TV fare, and he wanted it to be more subversive. He even wrote about his fears for Vulture, though he also recognized just how much compromise was necessary in the initial stages of getting the show on the air.

Fresh Off The Boat has become one of the most talked about comedies on TV, thanks in part to Huang continuing to fight for his story — and not the watered down version of it — to be told. It helps that Constance Wu, an outspoken advocate for Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry, plays his mother in the series. Between the two of them, audiences have become more aware of just what the Asian experience in America is really like.

Fresh Off the Boat airs on Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC.


Based on: Cheer: Inside The Secret World of College Cheerleaders by Kate Torgovnick

Ashley Tisdale and Alyson Michalka were best known as Disney stars before they joined the cast of The CW’s Hellcats. The show didn’t last long, but it certainly made an impression as it followed cheerleaders attending a university instead of high school. For a network that usually started its main characters out at 16, that was a big jump. Hellcats still followed the usual pretty-people-encountering-big-drama format of The CW’s series, but it earned a pretty fervent fanbase fairly quickly thanks to great chemistry amongst its cast members and impeccable delivery of some not so great dialogue.

Author Kate Torgovnick was not a cheerleader, and she wasn’t even someone who was interested in the sport growing up. As a writer, though, she spent time reporting on the rise in cheerleading injuries during one particularly gruesome season, and it piqued her curiosity enough that she decided to follow three of the top collegiate teams in the United States during a competition season to see what cheerleading was really like. The results were reflected in her novel, but not so much in the television show it inspired. Her book focused on the dark side of the sport and the pressures it created, while the show tended to focus on the relationships amongst teammates instead.


Based on: About A Boy by Nick Hornby

Most audience members remembered that About A Boy, the 2014 TV series, had a movie that came before it. In 2002, Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult brought the main characters to life on the big screen. Thanks to Grant and his string of romantic comedies, the movie gets remembered more often than the novel on which it’s actually based.

The television series took the novel out of England, transplanting the story to sunny California, where a man found himself accidentally befriending a pre-teen boy when he and his single mom moved in next door. He helped the young man become a little less awkward, introduced him to barbecue ribs, and he also learned to embrace the weirdness of his next door neighbor even when he didn’t understand just where the little boy was coming from. While the events on the series might be different from both the movie and the novel, the spirit is still the same, as Will, played in the series by David Walton, learned just as much about himself as he does about the little boy next door.


Based on: The Last Ship by William Brinkley

The Last Ship refers to the Nathan James, a navy vessel that’s away at sea on a research expedition when the world sees an epidemic sweep through humanity. The series, told from the point of view of the vessel’s crew, sees the naval officers on board first searching for a cure as they protect the scientist on board, and then, for a way to save what was left of the United States. The television series plays more like a sci-fi/political thriller hybrid, though the novel on which it is based is a bit different.

The novel is more strictly a tale of survival of the people on board the navy destroyer than it is their effort to get back to the outside world. In fact, the book sees less of the scientific research going into a cure than it does old school repopulating of the Earth, relying on the female naval officers more as breeding stock to repopulate the planet than as characters with depth. A rare case, the series actually expands on the ideas presented in the 1988 novel and spins a more interesting tale.

Season four of The Last Ship debuts on TNT in June.


Based on: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

For 96 episodes, audiences got to know Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) as a forensic scientist and a serial killer. In television, serial killers are the unequivocal bad guys. Procedurals catch them and lock them up like they’re on every street corner. Before Dexter, television hadn’t placed a serial killer in the spot of the protagonist and asked the question of just how they manage to fit in with the world around them. An audience isn’t supposed to root for the killer to get away with murder, but when the murderer is offing other bad guys, it makes for a compelling storyline.

When Showtime picked up Dexter to series, Jeff Lindsay had only published the first two novels in what would become an eight-book-series about the title character. As a result, the books and the novels do diverge in much of their storytelling after the first season, though Darkly Dreaming Dexter provided much of the narrative backbone for the TV series when it first began. Lindsay even got a cameo in the third season and a deal to create a comic book series based on his creation for Marvel Comics.

4. THE 100

Based on: The Kass Morgan series of novels

The CW series is currently in its fourth season with a fifth on the way, but you’ll be hard pressed to find clues as to how this post-apocalyptic story will end in the source material. That’s because The 100 is a special case compared to the other shows on this list. Much like the WB’s Roswell in the late ’90s, The 100 was developed for television based on an outline that the writer was penning for the first novel — at the same time. As a result, the books and the series are like two alternate versions of the same reality.

Characters like Finn, who made a huge impact on the events of the show, never appeared in the books. Morgan’s novels are also told from rotating points of view before and after the initial group of 100 is sent to Earth, providing for a little more backstory aboard the Ark than what audiences get in the first season of the show. On the TV front, however, the writers are able to go more in depth with intricate plotlines that don’t make much of a mark in the books, while the books are able to flesh out different characters who don’t get as much screen time, creating two different experiences for fans.

The 100 currently airs Wednesdays at 9PM on the CW.


Based on: The Lev Grossman series of novels

Premiering in 2015 on Syfy, The Magicians is what you get when you age Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia up a bit and throw in more sexual situations and substance use than Hogwarts ever would have allowed. Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and most of his close friends are students at Brakebills University where they study magic in theory and practice, but they also end up having to fight a magic-user known as The Beast and help restore the kingdom of Q’s favorite novels to its glory days.

Grossman’s novels take less of the fantasy and fairy tale approach to magic than the likes of Potter and Narnia do, making the world gritty and part of our own instead of adjacent to it — and the show follows suit. Though the series pushes a lot of the plot of the novels into the first season of the show, it’s a wise choice, because it allows the TV series to explore other plot lines the books didn’t and introduce Julia (Stella Maeve) and her character arc much earlier.

The Magicians currently airs Wednesdays at 9PM on SyFy. It was recently renewed for a third season.


Based on: Emily’s Reasons Why Not by Carrie Gerlach

Not on this list because it was a huge hit, Emily’s Reasons Why Not has a very different spot in TV history. Instead, it’s one of the few television shows that only had a single episode broadcast before it was yanked from the air. After ABC aired the pilot episode starring Heather Graham, reception and audience numbers were so bad that they pulled the plug immediately. They did, eventually, release all seven produced episodes on DVD for those who wanted to purchase it, though. It’s hard to imagine that those sales numbers were all that impressive.

The series followed the same basic premise of the Gerlach novel on which it was based: Emily, tired of dating all the wrong guys and feeling her biological clock ticking away, decided to start actively figuring out the reasons why she shouldn’t date men who weren’t Mr. Right. Readers either loved or hated the book, which was full of sessions with Emily’s therapist and a string of dates that went nowhere as Emily listed exactly why the guys weren’t marriage material. The story probably would have worked better as a standalone movie instead of a serial.


Based on: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

When the first season of Orange is the New Black landed on Netflix in 2013, it was something of an instant success. Streaming audiences loved that they got a new take on the story of prison life. With so many shows focusing on men behind bars — or trying to break out from behind them — spotlighting women dealing with the conflicts of an incarcerated life was something a lot of audiences hadn’t seen before. The story of Piper (Taylor Schilling) and the women she met during her stint in the big house was actually inspired by a real experience.

Piper Kerman penned a memoir about her own conviction for a charge that resulted from a crime she committed a decade before she was incarcerated. While her story is a fascinating tale of what it’s like to be a woman on the inside, it’s very different from what ultimately became the Netflix show. There was more of a focus on the generosity and kindness she experienced from other inmates than on romantic relationships, though the representation offered to the LGBT community through the show has been huge for the series. (Another major difference: she was never incarcerated with the ex-girlfriend she committed the crime for, though that relationship has been a driving force on the show.)

Kerman’s memoir also highlights her bond with “Pop,” the inspiration for the character Red, which was nowhere near as conflict-filled as the series. In fact, the book itself is dedicated to Pop.

The next season of Orange is the New Black drops on Netflix in June.

Cosby's New Infamy: Kids' Books Among 'Most Challenged'

Cosby's New Infamy: Kids' Books Among 'Most Challenged'

A celebrity once beloved among young people now finds himself on a list of books parents and other community members most wish to see removed from libraries: Bill Cosby. Cosby's "Little Bill Books" series is among those making the American Library Association's annual top 10 "challenged books," per the AP. The reason is unique for the list, which the ALA announced Monday: not the books themselves, but the multiple accusations of sexual assault against the actor-comedian. The Cosby series was launched in 1997, and the first three releases, The Meanest Thing to Say, The Treasure Hunt, and The Best Way to Play were selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

Here is the ALA list, with the summary of complaints by people in parenthesis:

  1. This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki (includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity, and was considered sexually explicit with mature themes)
  2. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier (includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint)
  3. George, by Alex Gino (includes a transgender child, and the "sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels")
  4. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings (portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints)
  5. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan (cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content)
  6. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to "sexual experimentation")
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction (considered sexually explicit)
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, by Chuck Palahniuk (challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being "disgusting and all around offensive")
  9. Little Bill (series), by Bill Cosby (challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author)
  10. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (challenged for offensive language)

Game of Thrones: 15 Book Moments We’re Glad Weren’t In The Show

Game of Thrones: 15 Book Moments We’re Glad Weren’t In The Show


In the beginning — of HBO’s Game of Thrones, that is — there were the book readers and the non-book readers. The non-book readers were a joyous lot of people who eagerly awaited the arrival of each new episode so that they could revel in the next chapter in one of television’s greatest adventures. The book readers were well aware of what those chapters contained, for they had read the sacred tomes that preceded the arrival of Game of Thrones known as the Song of Ice and Fire series. While both groups enjoyed HBO’s Game of Thrones, they would also clash over the supposedly superior knowledge of the book readers and their ability to see into the future.

It wasn’t long into Game of Thrones’ run, however, before the book readers realized that the show as not a word for word retelling of the novels. This fact became more obvious as the show wore on and major deviations from the books became commonplace. Because of this, a hardcore contingent of book readers began to lament that certain elements of the books didn’t make the show. While some of these characters, moments, and stories are missed, others were rightfully left behind.


Some have called George R.R. Martin the best worst writer in fantasy history. It’s a strange qualification that speaks to Martin’s undeniable brilliance as a crafter of compelling overall narratives as well as his struggles to create equally great moment to moment sequences. Martin has a tendency to rely on almost childish descriptions and techniques to get his point across. This is particularly true of his infamous sex scenes.

One of the most questionable instances of this particular style comes towards the end of A Dance with Dragons, when Daenerys escapes Meereen on the back of Drogon. This moment was just as spectacular in the books as it was in the show, but the book hung a dark cloud over the proceedings by detailing how the Mother of Dragons proceeded to violently defecate herself shortly after landing. It’s strange enough that such a thing would happen, but the unnecessary level of detail used to describe her bowel movement makes us glad the show decided to overlook this plot point.


One of Game of Thrones season two’s most memorable moments occurred when Melisandre gave birth to a shadow child that went on to kill Renly Baratheon. Aside from the shocking death of Renly, this moment is significant because it’s the first time we really get to see the potential of the Red Woman’s powers. In fact, as some have pointed out, it seems strange that Stannis wouldn’t just use this power to kill all his enemies and save himself some trouble.

Both the book and show try to explain that Stannis wouldn’t do such a thing because people would say Melisandre won the battle and not him. There would be no honor in that victory. The book dilutes this idea somewhat, though, by featuring a scene in which Melisandre gives birth to a second shadow assassin used to take Storm’s End. Seeing this technique used twice in a row makes the explanation behind its sudden disappearance feel hollow. We’re glad the show treated the moment like a submission to the allure of evil magic that shouldn’t be used lightly.


Remember an entry ago when we mentioned the shadow assassin used to retake Storm’s End? Well, one of the reasons that it was birthed was because the men protecting Storm’s End refused to yield it to Stannis, out of fear of what would happen to the bastard child of Robert Baratheon that lived there, Edric Storm. Robert’s bastards get more attention in general in the books, but Edric is certainly the most significant bastard child cut from the show. In fact, it was Edric and not Gendry who was taken to Dragonstone to be sacrificed, according to the books.

The problem with Edric is twofold. First off, it’s pretty clear at this point that the Baratheon bastards’ storyline has run its course. As such, Storm’s subplot is ultimately kind of pointless. More importantly, it would have been very difficult for the showrunners to introduce another Baratheon child so late in the game and then immediately ship him off never to be seen again. Having Gendry take Storm’s place was the logical solution.


Here’s a book-to-show change that is admittedly a bit debatable. In Game of Thrones season five, Jorah catches the dreaded greyscale disease while trying to escort Tyrion to Daenerys. While greyscale can theoretically be cured — as evidenced by Shireen Baratheon — it’s heavily implied that the disease is a slow kiss of death for any person that catches it. The situation plays out differently in the books. There, Jorah never kidnaps Tyrion and never catches greyscale. Instead, it’s the hyper-popular Tyrion that catches the disease.

In theory, there is nothing really wrong with that plot twist. Tyrion is a beloved character, and bad things happen to beloved characters all the time. However, Tyrion’s storyline in the books is much different than it is in the show, and his bout with greyscale helps influence his decision making later in A Dance With Dragons. His story in the show doesn’t benefit nearly as much from the fallout of the infection. Besides, Tyrion is interesting enough without it. It was Jorah who really needed a new plotline to work with.


A Feast for Crows remains the most controversial book in the Song of Ice and Fire saga. Fans of the fourth book tend to defend it on the basis of Martin’s experimentations with more detailed world-building and slow burn character analysis. Those who hate the book just find it to be a tedious read highlighted by very few significant moments. One thing that both sides tend to agree on, however, is that the Brienne and Podrick storyline featured in the book was a huge miss.

It’s clear that George R.R. Martin tried to turn Brienne and Podrick’s storyline into a Westerosi version of The Odyssey. It’s an interesting idea that is dragged down by a lack of entertainment. Imagine the Brienne and Podrick storyline of the show, minus the scenes and events where they actually discover the Stark children, but with more scenes featuring them riding around the woods. Worst of all, Brienne almost never gets to be the great warrior in the books that she regularly gets to be in the show.


In season two of Game of Thrones, Theon decides to turn against the Starks by rejoining the Ironborn and capturing Winterfell. Things are going pretty well for Theon until word gets around that Winterfell has fallen, and the Boltons send an army to take it back from Theon’s skeleton crew. The young Greyjoy is captured by that army, taken to the Dreadfort, and infamously tortured by Ramsay Snow. It’s a pretty straightforward sequence of events.

That same situation plays out differently in the books. On the page, Theon manages to speak to Ramsay Snow and convinces him to betray the other northern soldiers trying to take back Winterfell. Ramsay decides to betray the other northern soldiers, but then kidnaps Theon anyway when he opens the gates of Winterfell to him. The idea here is that the Boltons were traitors and that they used this opportunity to kill Stark supporters and trick Theon. However, it’s not established at this point that the Boltons had turned, and the whole betrayal thing just plays out like a cheap double-twist that just isn’t needed.


Generally speaking, the character of Barristan Selmy is portrayed better in the books than he is in the show. Granted, that’s an opinionated argument, but the nature of book storytelling allows Martin to explore the character in greater depth. Also, there is the tiny matter of Selmy still being alive in the book and involved in a major storyline to consider when weighing in on that argument. However, not everything that happens to Selmy in the books would have worked for the show. That’s especially true of the storyline involving his alter-ego, Arstan Whitebeard.

In the books, Daenerys meets an old man named Arstan Whitebeard who saves her from an assassination attempt. Eventually, it is revealed that Whitebeard is actually Barristan Selmy. In the show, Selmy reveals his identity right away. Even though it seems obvious to say this, it would have been absolutely painful to watch the showrunners try to hide Selmy’s true appearance behind a layer of makeup and a wig. The Whitebeard story could have only worked in the books.


For the most part, Game of Thrones is wonderfully devoid of convenient plot devices. While the occasional “Oh, come on!” moment does rear its ugly head, most Game of Thrones episodes don’t play out like your average Law and Order episode, where the loose hair found in the empty Sunny Delight bottle leads to the arrest of a serial killer. For the most part, that’s a quality the show shares with the novels, but the books do feature a few more eyebrow-raising moments spread across its hundreds of pages.

None of those moments are more confounding than the reveals of the Horn of Winter and the Horn of Dragons. The Horn of Winter is a horn that the wildlings possessed which could allegedly bring down The Wall with a single blow. Eventually, it’s suggested that the horn is a fake, but then there is still the matter of the Dragon Horn. The Dragon Horn is currently possessed by the Greyjoys, and can apparently be used to gain control of Daenerys’ dragons. It’s not entirely clear whether or not this horn is the real deal, but the mere presence of these magical horns is just absurd.


Whenever an epic series of books are being adapted for film or television, it’s generally accepted that there are going to be some characters that don’t survive the transition. Fans of the Song of Ice and Fire books were especially aware that not every book character was going to make the show. There are just too many folks in the books for that to be possible. While some cut characters are rightfully missed (we’ll always love you, Strong Belwas) others just wouldn’t have really been worth the effort required to incorporate them.

Patchface is a great example of the latter. Patchface is a fool in service of Stannis Baratheon who lost much of his mind when he almost drowned at a young age. It’s implied that this event granted him some kind of foresight, but mostly, Patchface just sings confusing rhymes and dances about. It’s also suggested at one point that he is the real father of Shireen Baratheon. That unfortunate possibility aside, Patchface is basically the Tom Bombadil of the books.


For the most part, the infamous Battle of the Blackwater plays out roughly the same in the books and in the show. Stannis and his forces invade King’s Landing, they’re driven back by the castle’s defenders, and the Lannisters reign supreme. There are a few differences here and there, but the biggest change between the book’s version of the battle and the show’s version involves the giant chain that Tyrion had crafted prior to the battle as it is portrayed in A Clash of Kings. The chain was designed to prevent the Baratheon forces from retreating and, along with the wildfire explosions, is one of the most significant moments of the fight as it was originally written.

This is just one of those things that works better in the books than in the show. In the show, the sight of wildfire spreading across the bay remains one of the great visuals in television history. It achieved that status without the addition of the chain. The chain would have required the production team to craft an additional CGI effect that isn’t nearly as impressive as the wildfire, and it would have required the writers to fit in extra scenes explaining how the chain came to be. This is one change that no one can really complain about.


The sex scenes in the Song of Ice and Fire books are, by and large, one of the worst aspects of the novels. George R.R. Martin likes to talk about sex a lot, but when he does so, he has a tendency to use phrases like “manhood” and “pink mast” a bit too often. It’s almost like the most sexually awkward person you know is writing a dime store romance novel.

While the show has the natural benefit of being able to show these scenes rather than describe them, the series’ writers also made the wise decision of cutting out some of the superfluous sexual encounters from the book. While the relationship between Cersei and her “bedmate” Taena Merryweather isn’t entirely sexual, it is an unnecessary plot development that seems to have been typed with one hand and with little thought. It’s essentially fan fiction that contributes nothing but sex for the sake of sex, and there is enough of that in the show already.


Part of the reason why HBO’s Game of Thrones was able to achieve so much early success despite being a sword-and-sorcery fantasy title is because the show was wonderfully grounded in real world elements like politics and relationships. As the series developed, the writers carefully began to incorporate more and more magical elements into the plot. The situation is a little different in the books, where magic is far more commonplace and generally accepted as part of the world now.

The difference between the two mediums’ treatment of magic is why we’re glad the show didn’t feature the fake death of Mance Rayder. In the books, Rayder wasn’t actually burned alive. Instead, Melisandre made a wildling named Rattleshirt look just like Rayder and burned him instead. Similar to the shadow child situation, the problem here is that introducing this element to the show doesn’t really gel with the specific world the series is trying to create. Besides, it would have been really difficult to squeeze Rayder’s subsequent adventures into the framework of the show’s narrative.


You know, when you really look back on it, George R.R. Martin really loves to use imposters or people in disguise as a plot element. This particular technique isn’t nearly as prevalent in the show, but it happens quite often in the books. One of the most notable uses of this plot device which didn’t make the show involves a character named Jeyne Poole. While Poole makes a brief appearance in season one of Game of Thrones, she’s largely a throwaway character.

Her situation is quite different in the books. There, Poole is disguised as Arya Stark and married to Ramsay Bolton. Essentially, her storyline is the same one that Sansa was forced to endure in the show, but Poole had it even worse than Sansa did. She was used as little more than a plaything for Ramsay, and she had to endure some of the most disgusting moments featured in the book. Truth be told, that story just doesn’t work for the show. Audiences would have had no emotional investment in the Poole character, meaning that the torture porn-esque sequences involving Ramsay which already drew controversy would have seemed even more baseless.


Tyrion Lannister is hands-down one of the greatest characters in all of entertainment. Part of the reason why Tyrion is so great is because he is so magnetic, intelligent, and compelling as a character that you tend to forget he is a dwarf unless someone — usually him — points it out. He’s a brilliant example of how physical features are but a shell that covers who we truly are, and that you should assign value to those features at your own risk.

Penny is the exact opposite. During Tyrion’s far different book adventures, he encounters a dwarf slave named Penny, who he participates in mock jousts against as part of a comedy show. It feels like Penny’s purpose in the story is to serve as a kind of contrast to who Tyrion is. The problem is that she’s fairly poorly written and, as a result, often comes off like a whiny one-note creation whose poor attempts at comedy land flat.


The fundamental appeal of the Song of Ice and Fire stories is that you never know what’s going to happen next. Characters can die in an instant, situations are constantly changing, and plot developments can appear out of nowhere and completely change the game. At best, these shocking occurrences take the form of moments like the Red Wedding or the execution of Ned Stark, which have become cultural touchstones. At worst, we get things like the appearance of Aegon Targaryen.

Late into A Dance With Dragons, it’s revealed that the Targaryen child everyone thought was killed by The Mountain is actually alive and well — or so he claims (it’s pretty likely that he’s not who he believes himself to be). Even better (or worse), he’s a capable warrior and leader who is ready to claim the Iron Throne. The problem with this character is…well, everything about him. He’s generic, his appearance requires you to overlook a number of plot holes, and he really removes a lot of the intrigue from the Daenerys storyline. The fact that — for the time being, at least — he was removed from the show entirely seems to be a strong indicator that “Young Griff” is nothing more than another red herring for book readers, one that the TV adaptation was wise to sidestep.

Every Book Lover Should Be Able To Pass This Literature Quiz!

Every Book Lover Should Be Able To Pass This Literature Quiz!


To Read, or Not to Read?

Woman Filmed Tearing Up Quran And Then Urinating On It

Woman Filmed Tearing Up Quran And Then Urinating On It


A woman has been filmed urinating on and setting fire to a Quran, sparking huge controversy.

In the video, the woman is seen in front of a Slovak national flag while she declares war on Muslim "parasites."

Video: Activiton User

The footage, believed to have been shot in rural Finland, shows the woman ripping out pages of Islam's holy book before urinating on them.

Pulling her trousers back up, the woman then pours lighter fluid on the text and sets it alight.

Image: Activiton user

"I do not care about the criminal complaints," she says to the camera. "It will not stop me. I have a message for everybody, including the police - nobody will stop me."

She adds that she will hunt down Muslims "step by step".

Image: Activiton user

The video has been passed on to police in Slovakia, Blesk.cz reports.

Defiling or defacing a Quran is punishable by imprisonment in certain countries and is known to be punishable by death in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Pakistan.

In February 2012, improper disposals of Qurans across Afghanistan by the US military Bagram Air Base led to violent protests which killed 30 and injured hundreds more.

One of the more infamous examples of Quran burning came in 2005, when allegations of desecration in front of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were made. It was later confirmed that two US personnel has "unintentionally" desecrated the holy book while another two had done so deliberately.

10 Dystopian Books You Need To Read To Understand Today’s America

10 Dystopian Books You Need To Read To Understand Today’s America

All too often, life can feel like a dystopian novel. Endless wars engulfing the Middle East, a semi-zombified population glued to their Twitter feeds, a creeping state surveillance . . . you know the drill.

But it’s one thing to say that life feels like a generic dystopia, and another entirely to buy a specific book and find the horrors of our modern world described perfectly by someone who has been dead for 20 years.

Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, below you’ll find 10 novels from 10 authors which, taken together, explain all you need to know about the malaise afflicting modern America. The books are ranked from the merely good (#10) to the jaw-droppingly prescient (#1).


Karin Boye

Imagine a world where your words counted more than your actions. Where it no longer mattered what you did, but whether you said and thought the “correct” thing. A world where having “incorrect” ideas could see you publicly ruined. Sound familiar? Written in 1940, Kallocain predicts modern political correctness with horrifying precision.

The work of Swedish writer Karin Boye, Kallocain is a dystopia where scientists have created a truth serum that will make you admit secrets even you didn’t know you had. The leaders of this world administer it to everyone. If anyone admits to having even a single “incorrect” thought, they are punished. Rather than actions, it’s your language, your subconscious bias, and your private ideas that will decide your right to exist.

Kallocain was written at a time when a Nazi invasion was terrifyingly possible, so its dystopian government is more fascism on steroids than angry campus activists. But as a rallying cry for freedom of thought, no matter how unapproved or incorrect those thoughts may be, it remains extremely relevant.

9.Player Piano
Kurt Vonnegut

Player Piano is terrifying not because it describes modern-day America, but because it describes a future America for which we may be past the point of no return. In the novel’s super-mechanized world, there are no meaningful jobs left for anyone to do.

Machines take care of everything. All that’s left is a tiny, rapidly shrinking, super wealthy elite and a vast, depressed mass of humanity with no purpose, no money, and no hope.

Yep, that sounds a lot like a possible America in 2020 to us, too. And the parallels don’t stop there. The world of Player Piano is propelled by flat-out innovation that doesn’t take into account ethics, morality, or the possible consequences of new tech on the rest of us.

Just like we’re hurtling toward developing AI despite the fact that guys like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk think it might kill us all, Player Piano is set in a world without brakes. Kurt Vonnegut would write better-known novels after this one, but he’d never again write one so eerily relevant to 2017.


Yevgeny Zamyatin

If you’ve ever read a dystopian novel, you’ve glimpsed a shadow of We. Published in 1924, We was ripped off by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Kurt Vonnegut. Its ideas are echoed by everyone from Ray Bradbury to Ayn Rand. But We is more than just a kind of Ur-dystopia. It’s one of the most shockingly prescient books ever written.

In the 26th century, human drone D-503 lives on a planet where everyone watches everyone and equality is king. Beautiful people are surgically mutilated to remove the natural advantages their looks bring. Art is heretical because it is individual.

Everyone is forced to live in glass apartments, constantly under surveillance, while machines and math run everything. For modern readers, it has uncanny similarities to everything from big data and algorithms running our lives to being trapped at the mercy of an all-seeing NSA.

Zamyatin was a Russian socialist who’d been persecuted by the Soviet Union. Although he intended to satirize life under Stalin, he wound up accidentally glimpsing the 21st century.

7.The War With The Newts
Karel Capek

Czech writer Karel Capek was the guy who invented the word “robot.” That’s some impressive sci-fi chops right there, but his 1936 book, War with the Newts, really cements his greatness.

In the near future, humanity discovers and enslaves a species of intelligent newts. Humans exploit them, look down on them, legally restrict them . . . until the newts finally snap. The newts overrun the planet, and soon, humanity is the endangered class.

Capek’s book is deliberately wacky, but it’s also totally serious. The idea of an exploited underclass that turns on its rich, self-satisfied masters can be read in ways that give the book an urgency today.

What else were the Brexit and Trump votes but an exploited blue-collar class declaring “war” on a tiny, moneyed elite? Or, on the other side of the political spectrum, you could see the newts as America’s minorities, still forced to deal with the legacies of slavery and colonialism.

Capek wrote his novel as an urgent warning about the oppressed Weimar Germans launching a continent-wide war. Thanks to his genius, we can still interpret the book in new ways today.

6.Amusing Ourselves To Death
Neil Postman

First things first: This book is an essay, not a novel. But it’s an essay that we’re pretty sure our readers will find freakishly familiar.

Written in 1985, it looks toward a near future where the need to be entertained trumps everything else. Where politics, religion, education, and daily life are all simplified and filtered through an endless array of screens to be liked or disliked by a placid populace. A world where a celebrity could use his knowledge of showbiz to become the most powerful person on Earth.

Basically, reading Postman’s book is like reading a hot take from 2017 that cheerfully concludes “we’re all doomed.” He predicts a world where context will disappear, clickbait headlines will manipulate us on a gut level, and complex decisions will be formed based on how entertaining or easy to understand each option is.

We repeat, this was written over 30 years ago. That it still has a lot to say about modern life is all kinds of terrifying.


5.The Atrocity Exhibition
J.G. Ballard

British writer J.G. Ballard was so pessimistic about the future that you could show him a headline from 2025 saying “All Disease Cured!” and he’d write a book about why that was a terrible thing. He wrote climate apocalypse dystopias, consumerist dystopias, and dystopias where architecture sends people on killing sprees. He also wrote a loopy experimental novel that could almost be about modern America. He called it The Atrocity Exhibition

Actually reading The Atrocity Exhibition is like reading a collection of short stories that Frank Zappa would dismiss as “too far-out,” but the central idea is still relevant. The main character (whose name keeps changing) lives in a world where violence is reported nonstop by the media. All this exposure to endless atrocities sends him into madness, leading him to recreate the most extreme violence himself in real life.

Like a school shooter or ISIS jihadist inspired to start killing by the bile and horror pouring from the Internet, Ballard’s antihero is a guy brutalized by the violent culture being constantly drip-fed to him. We don’t want to say this is the world we’re living in, but this is the world we’re living in.

4.Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

It’s a world where they burn books. That’s all that most of us know about Fahrenheit 451. The main character is a fireman, and, in Bradbury’s world, a fireman is someone who burns books.

While that is indeed the basic plot, there’s so much more to the novel than that. Aside from being a rallying cry for free thought and a way of raging against censorship, it’s also a book that hates TV and pop culture so much that it’ll make you want to smash your tablet.

Bradbury’s novel has something for everyone. If you’re worried by the religious right or the politically correct left censoring voices and stifling free speech, the book’s anti-censorship vibe will appeal to you. If you’re worried that brainless entertainment and political memes are numbing us to complex arguments, you’ll respond to its attacks on the sedative power of television.

Taken altogether, Fahrenheit 451 portrays a world where fear of giving offense has crept into outright censorship, while consumerism and mass media have made the population so compliant that they don’t even care enough to fight back. In many ways, such apathy is more worrisome than the cruelest totalitarian government.

3.The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood

Published one year after the time in which George Orwell’s dystopia was set, The Handmaid’s Tale takes the idea of a nightmarish future and does something even scarier with it. The story imagines a world where things are utterly awful for half the population but almost utopian for the other half.

Where women have had all their rights stripped away and become nothing but property, but men have benefited by becoming the dominant class. Not only are America’s women essentially enslaved, they get almost no sympathy from their male counterparts.

That’s all sorts of spooky, but the truly creepy part about The Handmaid’s Tale is its rooting in history. Nothing that happens to the women in the novel hasn’t been sanctioned in some human culture or another in the past, from women being the property of men to being forced to carry their owner’s babies in place of the men’s wives.

As the medieval horrors unfolding in Syria show, when something has happened once, it can happen again. The Handmaid’s Tale fears for a future in which the antiwomen movement goes down a very dark path indeed.

2.Brave New World
Aldous Huxley

We mentioned just now that a dystopia where the population is apathetic is even worse than one that’s a living nightmare. Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel Brave New World goes even further. It imagines a horrible future filled with perversion, totalitarian control, and genetic engineering. But this world makes its citizens so happy that they do not want things to change. In fact, the people actively like things as they are.

This is largely due to a drug called Soma, which is pushed on the citizens at every opportunity. Plenty of modern critics have noted the similarities between Soma and the sort of drugs that Big Pharma shovels down our throats, but there are other modern parallels, too.

Brave New World is a culture where thinking has been discarded in favor of trash entertainment and numbing your mind with new products or new experiences. A culture where people care more about what’s happening in the movie serials than how the government is controlling and exploiting their lives.

1.Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell

It’s a future where facts mean nothing. Where history is altered depending on what the ruling classes want it to say. Where your every move is watched by an unaccountable government that’s forever engaging in pointless, never-ending wars half a world away. Facts are lies, censorship is freedom, and surveillance is privacy. Welcome to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Nineteen Eighty-Four has once again become a best seller, with many citing the administration’s approach to “alternative facts” as Orwellian. But, reading Orwell’s novel, it’s remarkable just how long the parallels have been evident.

What were the constant Middle East conflicts of George W. Bush and Barack Obama if not a fulfillment of the Party’s slogan “War is Peace”? What was the Obama-era revelation that the NSA was spying on all of us if not the discovery of America’s very own Big Brother? It’s even possible to look at Guantanamo Bay and see the creation of America’s very own Room 101.

The parallels aren’t perfect. Orwell was imagining a Britain under the boot of Communism, with a dictatorship as brutal as that of the USSR. But anyone who has been watching the news during the past couple of decades will find many of the author’s ideas scarily familiar. We can only hope that we learn the lessons of these dystopias before it’s too late.