I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Among Ellison’s more famous stories, two consistently noted as his very best ever are the Hugo Award–winning, postapocalyptic title story of this collection of seven shorts and the volume’s concluding story, “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes.” Since Ellison himself strongly resists categorization of his work, we will not call them science fiction, or SF, or speculative fiction or horror or anything else except compelling reading experiences that are utterly unique. They could only have been written by the great Harlan Ellison, and they are incomparably original.

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katharine McMahon

Raised by her father in near isolation in the English countryside, Emilie Selden is trained as a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter embark upon their most daring alchemical experiment to date—attempting to breathe life into dead matter. But when Emilie—against her father’s wishes—experiences the passion of first love, she is banished to London, where she soon discovers she knows nothing about human nature—or her own family’s complicated past. So begins her shocking journey to enlightenment.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for six hundred years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he’ll retrieve that star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

What to Do When You Meet Cthulhu [A guide to surviving the Cthulhu Mythos] by Rachel Gray

Providing insight into the famed Cthulhu mythos of H. P. Lovecraft as well as the countless mythical threats that creep among Earth’s population, this comprehensive handbook explores the transdimensional beings, subterranean creatures, and fantastical beasts that lurk in the corners of time. From encounters with Barnabas Marsh and Wilbur Whateley to dangerous seaside communities, this witty exploration covers the multitude of imaginary dangers, escape options, and chances of survival when confronting these horrors. Shoggoths, Nightgaunts, ghouls, and Cthulhu all have ventured into popular culture in the form of cuddly toys, but as this entertaining overview proves, these monsters are not so warm and fuzzy when met face-to-face, face-to-muzzle, or face-to-tentacles. Authoritative and hilarious, this “survival guide” sheds light on the mysterious and often unimaginable world of Cthulhu.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion.

Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki

“Many say I was the best geisha of my generation,” writes Mineko Iwasaki. “And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave.” Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other “women of art” in Kyoto’s Gion Kobu district and practice the ancient customs of Japanese entertainment. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geishas in Japan’s history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.