By Bronwyn Rivera
T’is the season of Saint Valentine’s Day. In place of chocolates and roses, Signum University offers you the key to our collective literary heart through the Shelves of Signum. In this brand-new series, we invite you to wander an ever-expanding library stuffed with titles recommended by our faculty members. Whether you seek a pinch of magical realism to spice up the seasonal doldrums, want to immerse yourself in the vibrant voices of authors of color, or wish to walk alongside a former monk on the path to better focus, we hope these suggested reads will keep you company long after February 14th.
From the shelves of Laurel Stevens:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:
“This book may have been out since 2011, but I don’t think I will stop recommending it anytime soon. Atmospheric to the extreme this is a book that immediately comes to mind when anyone says they enjoy fairytales. The book follows the Night Circus as it tours the world, and reveals aspects of the magical duel that serves as the backdrop for the circus’s existence as the reader proceeds. Descriptive (pay attention to the dates at the start of each chapter) and with shifting narrative styles The Night Circus may not be for everyone, but I find it to be enchanting and reread it yearly. It also has one of my favorite opening lines: “The circus arrives without warning.”
A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland:
“This book surprised me when I first read it because I thought it was an adventure tale. No, it is a book about stories, some of which are adventure tales, and most of the stories in this book are told from behind bars as the main narrator, Chant, is imprisoned on charges of witchcraft. Keeping a story going while the main character is stuck in a cell is impressive and fleshing out characters outside of the cell with those limited interactions even more so. Politics play a major role here, so this may not be one for you if you lose track of details easily but the grouchy, morally gray main character may keep you intrigued regardless.
Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree Renee Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight:
“This an anthology that feels like it has a bit of everything in it. If I know someone who is into speculative fiction and short stories this is one of the more recent books I would be happy to shove their way. This anthology covers science fiction, fantasy, and horror to a beautiful degree. There are rain goddesses, libraries that stalk patrons, future technologies that enable meet-cute scenarios, and so much more. A warning with this collection though – it doesn’t skimp on the horror aspects for some of the short stories so squeamish readers will want to cherry-pick stories to read.
From the shelves of Keli Fancher:
Daemons of the Shadow Realm (Yomi no Tsugai) by Hiromu Arakawa:
“Hiromu Arakawa is an exceptionally talented manga artist with work spanning multiple genres. From her international hit Fullmetal Alchemist to the slice-of-life Silver Spoon, I have loved it all. Because of this, I was delighted to hear that the first volume of her new series Daemons of the Shadow Realm will be getting an English release this April. The story centers around the twins Yuru and Asa, born into a world with supernatural Daemons and humans who can control them. Separated at a young age and unaware of the significance of their birth the twins go on a journey to reunite with one another and understand their birthright.”
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson:
“Last year Brandon Sanderson took his fandom, Kickstarter, and the publishing industry as a whole by storm when he announced that he had been working on four novels in secret. All are to be released in 2023. Well, 2023 is here, and the first of his secret novels Tress of the Emerald Sea is out. I immediately jumped in. Tress is a bit different from other Cosmere novels. Both in scope and tone, but it is still a pure delight. Sanderson’s masterful worldbuilding, while still present, is not the main draw. Instead, it’s the ever-present whimsy and wonder. And of a fairy-tale being turned on its head in a way that can only be told by everyone’s favorite Worldhopper.”
The Power of Unwavering Focus by Dandapani
“A self-help book on focus is not the usual fare for a “Signum Reads” list, but it is something that is becoming increasingly important in our world. Whether or not we’re aware of it, modern technology and society have trained us to be worse at focusing. Improving my ability to focus is something that I’ve been actively working on, so when I stumbled upon an interview with Dandapani I knew I had to order this book. In The Power of Unwavering Focus, Dandapani shares what he has learned over the years as a Hindu priest on the power of concentration and how we can improve our ability to focus. It’s not an instant fix though. While his prose is very approachable and the actionable items are easy to understand they’re definitely not easy to do. There are no shortcuts to improving your focus, but Dandapani can certainly make the journey more enjoyable.”
Below, Pangur Ban, our most recent superstar in the Cats of Signum lineup, keeps a close eye on his staff person as she prepares to write a paean in his honor.