It’s January once again — time for reflection and setting new goals. It’s also time for book challenges! I almost always set a yearly goal of so many books but this year the Columbia Public Library is hosting a year-long program around reading through the 2018 Read Harder Challenge. How could I not participate in that? The very first task on the Read Harder Challenge is a book published posthumously, meaning that it must have been published after the author has died. I have a few that I have read and loved.
If you like classic sci-fi, you might enjoy “For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs” by Robert A. Heinlein or Isaac Asimov’s “Forward the Foundation.” I think I read every book by Heinlein and Asimov WAY back when I was in high school. “For Us, the Living” is Heinlein’s long-lost first novel, written in 1939 but not published until 2003. While this story doesn’t have the mastery that Heinlein later developed, it does have the beginnings of several of his philosophical and character arcs, and it’s a very interesting look at where we have actually come compared to his imaginings. “Forward the Foundation” is the final book of Asimov’s incredible Foundation series and was finished just before he died. In it, an empire is at the brink of apocalyptic collapse as “psychohistory” is developed into a weapon for use by a political demagogue. I think that both books still have a lot to say in relation to current times.
Another of my favorite posthumous publications is Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Larsson was a journalist and editor of the magazine Expo, and the experience of covering stories of corruption and extremism influenced his writing. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has it all — murder, mystery, intrigue, love, abuse, family, humor, personal journey and plenty of tension. Lisbeth Salander is an incredible but deeply flawed heroine. All three books of the trilogy were left unpublished when Larsson died at the age of 50, and all three are fantastic!
For a non-fiction option, I can recommend “The Salmon of Doubt” by Douglas Adams. Adams is the author of the hilarious Hitchhiker’s Guide series. He died much too soon, but after his death, his computers were scoured, and a collection of essays, anecdotes, stories and articles that give a view to the author beyond the Hitchhiker series were compiled into this collection. Adams is just as funny writing about vacationing in Australia as he is about intergalactic travel. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
As for me, I’m considering a few posthumous books new to me. In “Radio Free Albemuth,” Phillip K. Dick has “morphed and recombined themes that had informed his fiction from ‘A Scanner Darkly’ to ‘VALIS’ and produced a wild, impassioned work that reads like a visionary alternate history of the United States,” (from Penguin Random House). Sounds good to me! Another possibility is a non-fiction book by one of my favorite authors, Richard Feynman: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” Feynman is quite the character — always funny, adventurous and inspiring. Or, I might try a posthumous story by Mark Twain: “The Mysterious Stranger.”
Book Riot has written a post about several posthumous books for your consideration. You can find even more books published posthumously on our list here. Whether you read harder or not, happy reading!