A selection of books, comics, and zines, new and old, about secrets and other scary stuff.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Agatha Christie
1926, William Collins & Sons; published today by HarperCollins

Maybe you think Agatha Christie is for old ladies, or for 12-year-olds, and she might be. But Agatha Christie is also a genius. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was the first book I ever read with an unreliable narrator, and the effect was like having someone rip the book out of my hands and turn the pages into a thousand origami cranes, all of which suddenly came to life and began flying around the room—I was amazed. The book is a mystery, of course, but the real secret is that it subverts your expectations of what a mystery should be. Make yourself a cup of tea, get under the covers (preferably with a cat snoring nearby), and devour the whole thing in one sitting. —Emma S.

Marjane Satrapi
2000, Pantheon

Persepolis is Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in Iran under the Islamic Revolution. She takes us through her childhood in beautifully imaginative black-and-white comic-strip images—recounting how, as a child, she secretly believed herself to be the last prophet and decreed to her grandmother that no old person should ever suffer (“it will simply be forbidden”); how her Marxist parents demonstrated on the streets every day and how a young, eager Marjane begged them to take her along; how she finally meets her uncle Anoosh after he’s released from prison, only to experience heartbreak when he’s arrested and executed for being a political dissenter; how she stands up to her fundamentalist teachers and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Satrapi shows us that the tiny minutiae of everyday life—parties, boys, friends, music, makeup, clothes—are just as important and meaningful as the big stuff—war, revolution, political repression—and in fact, all these things are inextricably entwined. Like when Marjane explains that exposing even one single strand of hair from her veil can be an act of rebellion. Or the black curtains her parents install in the living room to hide their secret parties from the neighbors and police. Or when her parents go on vacation to Turkey and smuggle strictly forbidden Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde posters into Iran for Marjane by sewing them into the lining of her father’s coat, and suddenly, it becomes obvious that love, the hugest of all emotions, can often be found in the smallest of gestures. —Jenny

Jeri Smith-Ready
2010, Simon Pulse

Sixteen year-old Aura’s world is a lot like ours…except for a mysterious event called the Shift. Anyone born after this point, including Aura, can see and communicate with ghosts—people who have either died suddenly or with unresolved business. Aura’s ghostly experiences have always been annoying, so she’d love to figure out what caused the Shift and reverse it—but then her rock-star boyfriend, Logan, dies and her gift becomes her only link to him. Add to the mix Aura’s new friend, Zachary, who has a gorgeous Scottish accent and a lot of secrets about the Shift, and you’ve got an incredibly tense blend of paranormal mystery, masterful world-building, romance, rock and roll, and a very honest depiction of grief that will keep you turning pages and running out to get Shift, the next book in the trilogy. —Stephanie

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
1999, MTV Books

happy 2 b sad
Natalya Lobanova and friends

The Ouija Interviews
Sarah Becan

You can buy happy 2 b sad at happy2bsad.tumblr.com, and The Ouija Interviews at Shortpants Press. (You can buy The Perks of Being a Wallflower pretty much anywhere.)

The Shock Doctrine
Naomi Klein
2007, Metropolitan; 2008, Picador

I’m not gonna lie—this 700-page paperback is no walk in the park, but most rewarding things in life aren’t (except walks in the park). It’s really readable for a book that’s about one of the most confusing topics known to humankind: the world economy. Backed by meticulous research, Klein explains how America has imposed “free market” policies in countries around the world, and the results? Multinational corporations and politicians make out like bandits, and the rest of us have to deal with shittier wages, shittier jobs, shittier costs of living, shittier benefits (healthcare isn’t a right, right?)—basically shittier everything. The Shock Doctrine claims that these policies are implemented after countries have been “shocked” by a major upheaval, like say war, or a terror attack, or a natural disaster. Once these countries are disoriented and vulnerable, corporations and politicians swoop in and pass radical capitalist economic reforms. An example: Remember the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004? When the waves receded, guess which international investor or foreign lender wanted to rebuild the fishing villages that had been destroyed by the tsunami? None! Instead the land was auctioned off to corporations, who swiftly built hideous beachfront resorts for tourists. And the money that these hotels make—how much of it do you think goes to the Sri Lankan people, to the fishermen who were forced out of their homes and their jobs? You probably already know the answer, but there are still more questions to be asked, and Naomi Klein is seriously asking all of them. (P.S. It’s only 589 pages if you ignore the endnotes! I did!) —Jenny

Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma
2011, Dutton Juvenile

I’ve always wanted a big sister, particularly one like Chloe’s half-sister, Ruby, who is beautiful and brave and seems to have the entire world—or at least Olive, her small New York town—wrapped around her finger. Ruby, who practically raised Chloe because of their mother’s drinking problem, has always made Chloe feel safe and capable of doing anything—like diving deep into a town reservoir for a souvenir. Instead she finds the dead body of a classmate. A classmate who then comes back to life. What unfolds is a story of sisterhood and secrecy set in a nightmarish New England version of Weetzie Bat’s Los Angeles, full of delicious food, gorgeous imagery, and a very blurry line between reality and magic. —Stephanie

David B.
2005, Pantheon

Not to throw the word around lightly, but this graphic novel is GENIUS. Brilliantly translated from the French, David B.’s memoir opens in 1964, when he was a five-year-old boy named Pierre-François Beauchard living in a small town in France, and his older brother, Jean-Christophe, was first diagnosed with epilepsy. We follow his family as they search for a miracle cure for Jean-Christophe’s seizures. They try alternative medicine, macrobiotic communes, magnetic therapy, acupuncture. They encounter charlatans posing as mystics, losers pretending to be divine prophets, and divine poseurs who perform useless exorcisms, but nothing works and Jean-Christophe’s condition only worsens. David B.’s inner world is claustrophobic, obsessive, and magical. He visualizes his brother’s seizures as a dragon-like alligator (or an alligator-like dragon?) that wraps its infinitely long body around Jean-Christophe like a parasite. An ineffective macrobiotic guru is drawn as a striped cat. His own loneliness takes the form of twisted ghosts who follow him into the forest behind his house. This book is brave for laying bare the ugly emotions that we are all capable of feeling—like the moments of pure hatred we can summon for the people we love the most, or when loneliness takes up occupancy inside you for so long that it turns you callous, and eventually you wonder if you’ll ever let anyone in again? —Jenny