What are your favorite genres to read? Readers love this question, and I got to talk about it recently as part of a reader’s panel during the South Arkansas Literary Festival.
Of course I had plenty to say. But afterwards I realized that I had left something out: time-travel. It’s one of my favorite literary escapes. That got me thinking about things common to most time-travel books. How do the characters go back in time? There are many options, but with all of them, the maneuver must be taken with a very large grain of salt by the reader.
Want to change the course of history? Don’t even think about it. Disaster will follow, like the one in “Departure” by A.G. Riddle. Planes take off every day full of passengers. But this one landed in a different time or world that no one recognized. Why do only a handful of passengers know certain clues about the crash? As the passengers struggle to survive, conflicts grow and so do the conspiracy theories.
“Into the Dim” starts with another accident, this one happening to a reclusive teenager’s mother. The result is a young girl named Hope’s learning a stunning secret about a team of intrepid time-jumpers known as the Viators. Arkansas author Janet B. Taylor’s book is the first of a teen-young adult series.
And you haven’t read time-travel unless you read Connie Willis. She’s one of the best in sci-fi and proves it in “Blackout” and the sequel “All Clear.” The year: 2060. The place is the Oxford time-travel lab, which is about to send a historian to the horrors of London’s Blitz in World War II. Other time-traveling scholars are heading for VE Day, Pearl Harbor and other hotspots to do research. Author Connie Willis doesn’t miss a detail, and you’ll want to pay close attention to her award-winning books.
If you want to read classic time-travel, look no further than Jack Finney’s “Time and Again.” It’s been around since 1970, but I’ve read it only recently. Imagine being recruited by the government to travel back in time to New York City of—just temporarily. But once Si Morley goes back, he discovers a mystery he has to solve, and a woman who he can’t leave.
An even older classic is “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain. It may have been one of the first time-travel novels. It’s definitely one of the funniest, and holds up even after many years. This satiric classic begins when Hank, a regular guy from the 19th Century, gets hit on the head and wakes up in the courtly era of the Knights of the Round Table. Although he’s dealing with a lot of culture shock, Hank does his best to enlighten the backward medieval folks, feeling superior to them about all kinds of knowledge. It turns out he has some things to learn from his experience as well.
One of the best things about being alive in our time is having a library—and we hope that you come in and visit the SouthArk Library. It takes only a few minutes to get a library card, and then you can spend all the time that you want browsing or reading through our collection. It’s a great investment of your time!
Lauri Wilson is the cataloging and digital content librarian at South Arkansas Community College.