Riveting Mystery Books That Will Still Allow You to Sleep at Night

Recently I’ve picked up a few popular psychological thrillers to read. I kept seeing them advertised everywhere, so I started making a list of the one’s I thought looked interesting. I’ve made it through two in the past couple weeks, but I stopped reading my most recent find only a few chapters in. I got the feeling it was going to be a bit too gory, so, long story short (too late), I read some reviews and found out real fast that finishing that book was not going to happen.

Classic mystery stories are a big part of what got me hooked on literature in the first place. I’ve always loved a good mystery. So what happened to those good ole fashioned ghost stories and mystery tales? I don’t know, honestly. But I wish someone would bring them back.

In the meantime, here’s a list of a few mysterious but not-too-scary books. Happy haunting!

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)

A group of ten people arrive on Indian Island, though their host remains unknown. After dinner the first night of the guests’ arrival, a gramophone message announces the guests to be accused of murder – and they will pay. One by one, guests begin to disappear. This is a mystery story of intrigue and secrets.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (first appearance made in 1887-1927)

Sherlock Holmes is a detective whose stories are narrated by his friend and counterpart, Dr. Watson. The duo have become quite a popular pair over the years. The complete works total four novels and fifty-six short stories. Holmes cares not for cleanliness; it is his cleverness that has allured readers for over a century.

“The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

This short story is narrated by one of Poe’s famous unreliable narrators. The unnamed teller of the tale recounts having murdered an older man who apparently never wronged him. Thus the motive for the murder remains masked. However, the details which lead to the actual murder are described quite vividly. All the while, the narrator insists that he is sane. You be the judge.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

We have this book to thank for all the vampire novels we are still reading (and shows we’re watching) today. I love that these stories are still with us! In the 1897 version of Dracula, the vampire attempts to move to England from his home in Transylvania because he basically wants to spread vampirism. He gets into quite a tiff with Van Helsing along the way, and wah-lah: you have an epic vampire tale.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Captain Robert Walton writes to his sister the story of Victor Frankenstein. While in college, Frankenstein became rather obsessed with life and immortality and excelled in his studies of chemistry. The combination of his desire to generate life and his knowledge of science make for a deadly combination, so to speak, when he creates his Creature. This Creature turns evil (to no one’s surprise) and seeks revenge on Frankenstein.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde are quite opposites, but interesting enough, it’s discovered early in the novel that Dr. Jekyll has made Edward Hyde his beneficiary. Hyde has some secrets to hide, while Jekyll is well-liked and respected in society. The link between the two becomes blurred, but as it turns out, Jekyll drinks a serum in order to become Hyde. The struggle between the two personas becomes one of riveting plight.

The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606)

You’re probably not going to pick this one up for a quick read, but it is actually Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy. Macbeth believes himself to be destined to become king, and he decided, at the urging of his wife, to do whatever it takes to become king. Shakespeare shows us what can happen to those who seek power for selfish ambition. Macbeth is a story of witches, murder, and unveiled mystery.

Fear Street by R.L. Stine

Goosebumps and Fear Street are two of the series that got me hooked on reading. (Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series is one of my now favorites.) I can’t help but give them a shout out since having been introduced to these books led me to my love of literature.
Let me know any mysteries you like, too!

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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It’s never too late to be wise.
Robinson Crusoe


Robinson Crusoe
was published in 1719. Written by Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe is the tale of a man who dreams of becoming a sailor and has adventure far beyond those dreams.

The first few pages open with an explanation from Crusoe about his desire to have a life at sea and his father’s wish for him to find a different desire. Crusoe’s father has a serious conversation with him about the casualties and discomforts of such a life. He explains all the benefits living a middle class lifestyle provides, telling Crusoe that many people would be elated to have the opportunity to live a life in “the middle station.” His effort (and tearful plea) to persuade Crusoe against going to sea moves Crusoe – but only for a year’s time. Desire ultimately gets the better of him, so he leaves on a whim without a word to his parents.

Crusoe’s first voyage includes two storms, the first of which scares Crusoe terribly. He prays to God to save him, promising he will return home once upon land. Yet he forgets that promise once the storm passes, but when the next one approaches, he immediately regrets abandoning his prior conviction. But again, this storm passes, Crusoe reaches dry land, and, even after being warned by the master of the ship that misfortune at sea seems to follow him (Crusoe), he presses on to another voyage.

From there, Crusoe sets sail, is captured, becomes enslaved, strategically escapes, and surprisingly enough, lands himself in “the Brazils.” He becomes a plantation owner and lives there for about four years before volunteering to sail to Guinea. Yet it is on this voyage, great calamity strikes: Crusoe is shipwrecked on a deserted island as the lone survivor.

Amazingly, Crusoe doesn’t only focus on the fact that he is all alone on an island. Instead, he makes a home for himself there, establishing first his very basic needs, such as finding food, building shelter, and, later, constructing amenities such as a table and chair. A year into Crusoe’s journey, he becomes very ill with fever, which he later discovers is due in large part to not having calculated and planned for the rainy season on the island. As he’s recovering, Crusoe has a dream of warning. Though this dream is similar to that of John’s on the island of Patmos, Crusoe’s dream is one that prompts the true beginning of his spiritual journey. When he wakes, he begins reading the Bible, praying to God, and ultimately growing spiritually. Dangerous currents, terrifying storms, feasting cannibals, and the fear of the unknown make for a serious adventure story.

Several genres influenced the creation of Robinson Crusoe, such as travel books and conversion narratives. Crusoe describes in great detail his labor, his daily comings and goings, and his life on the island. Since travel books were popular during this time, Crusoe’s story of life abroad would certainly have been one of great interest to the general public. It’s clear from the beginning of the novel that Crusoe is telling his story from a future perspective, as he is able to look back on certain situations as he retells them and mention times when he didn’t listen to reason – or to God. (There are echoes of Biblical stories in his tale, such as the Prodigal Son and Job.)

The text reads as though it were written in the early 1700s, so before you pick a copy, do be aware of that. However, even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of eighteenth-century prose, my guess is that you’ll appreciate the adventure part of the story regardless. There are times you’ll want to knock some sense into Crusoe, as the saying goes, and others where you’ll be relieved of his decisions, but I’d say the fact that you’re bound to feel this way only goes to show Defoe’s craftiness in creating the character of Robinson Crusoe.

Feel free to message me with questions or let me know your thoughts as well! Happy reading!

Practical Lessons from Romeo and Juliet

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Hand-lettering // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I teach ninth grade English, and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is in the English I curriculum. I honestly love teaching this play. Most of the time, before it’s all over, my ninth graders don’t hate it too much either. 

I’ve taught this play several times now, and every time I do, I think about all the many things that people in today’s world can still learn from it. I’m convinced one of the main reasons we are still reading certain older texts is because people are still dealing with the same issues today. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, so let’s learn from them what not to do to avoid tragedy in our own lives.

Don’t act rash.

Character flaws lead tragic heroes to their downfalls, and acting too hastily is Romeo’s big time flaw.  Romeo meets Juliet, marries her the following afternoon, kills her cousin three hours after the ceremony, visits Juliet that night, flees to a nearby town the next day, receives word that Juliet is dead, and promptly takes his own life that night. What Romeo does not know is that Juliet is merely feigning death. He acts just minutes before that message is delivered. See how this whole play could have had several different outcomes had Romeo just taken a minute to think about his decisions? Take a cue from Romeo’s impulsive nature and take time in making your decisions, whether big or little. Now that you’ve had a quick reminder of the play, let’s move right along.

Pay attention to your instincts (and those red flags waving around).

At the beginning of the play, Romeo and his friends decide to crash the Capulet’s party, but before arriving, Romeo mentions that he has a premonition of his own death. Yes, Romeo’s feeling is extreme, but Juliet has a very similar one later in Act III. (Shakespeare’s foreshadowing at it’s best.) Their instincts were sending them a message, but they chose not to listen. We all have little pulls one way or the other that warn us against danger. Our conscience works in our favor! If you have an unsettled feeling or a sense that something just isn’t quite right, pay attention to your instincts. They’re there for a reason.

Stop being disobedient, so to speak.

The family who is throwing this shindig hates Romeo’s family (and that feeling is mutual), but, it’s a masquerade so Romeo is covered – literally. But should he be? Romeo’s not supposed to be anywhere near this party, per his parents, the hosts, and basically everyone, as the feud is public knowledge. This is only the start of his disobedience. He and Juliet ramp this up several notches when they decide to marry secretly less than 2 hours after meeting each other. Juliet even plans to run away with Romeo after faking her own death. Can you imagine?! Are they doing any of this out of spite? Of course not. But are they considering anyone else? Nope. Regardless of the reason for the feud (in case you’re wondering, it’s never specified), Romeo and Juliet blatantly disregard everyone else’s feelings. But why? They fail to consider that their friends and family (and even servants) love them and only want good for them. Similarly, remember that the people who love you always have your best interest at heart. They want what’s best for you.

Don’t hide things.

Romeo and Juliet don’t tell their parents nor their friends of their love because they fear that their parents will, of course, forbid their marriage. You may not be hiding your entire relationship because you’re afraid of forbiddance, but you may be hiding pieces of your life from your friends and family because you know they’ll disapprove. Or perhaps you aren’t seeking advice because you’re embarrassed about whatever you want to ask about – but that’s telling in and of itself. If you’re hiding things, this alone is a red flag. (See above.) Assuming your advice-giver is of sound mind, if you think the response you might get is going to be one of warning or disapproval, you likely already know the advice they’ll give.

Have no fear, this doesn’t end here. We’ve got half the play (and half the lessons) left to discuss. So, in the words of DJ Casper, stick around for part II.