One of the formative reading experiences of my adult life came the summer before my 21st birthday. I was working days canvassing door-to-door for an environmental group, then rushing home in the evenings to curl up with Salman Rushdie’s tour-de-force 1981 novel Midnight’s Children. I’d never read anything quite like it: a vast scope (it covers the momentous partition of India and its aftermath, hopscotching between Bombay, Lahore, Kashmir and elsewhere), a story rich in memorable characters (beginning with narrator Saleem Sinai, he of the large nose) and wild elements of magical realism (telepathic powers, for example), all conveyed in Rushdie’s bravura prose. (Kirkus, in a starred review, called it “a big striped balloon of a book, often dizzying with talent.”) As tired as I was after a long, sometimes discouraging day pounding the pavement, I would stay up every night reading until 1 or 2 a.m., transfixed by this electrifying novel.
I still long to get lost in a book the way I did in Midnight’s Children. And that spirit infuses the Up All Night issue of Kirkus Reviews, out Aug. 1, where we celebrate the books that keep us up past our bedtimes. For many of us, those are mysteries and thrillers, novels where suspense keeps us turning the pages and reluctant to put the book down and turn out the light. In this issue we talk with authors Ruth Ware, Alafair Burke and Adrian McKinty, all of whom have new novels out that fit the bill.
For other readers, true crime is stranger and more compelling than fiction; our interview with Casey Cep illuminates her new book, Furious Hours, about the Alabama murder mystery that obsessed To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee in the 1970s—though all her research and reporting never led to the book she hoped to write, her own version of In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had worked on with Truman Capote more than a decade earlier.
Even young adult readers—especially young adult readers?—delight in burning the midnight oil with their own, age-appropriate thrillers and mysteries. In this issue we talk with Derek Milman, whose Swipe Right for Murder involves a chilling case of mistaken identity that occurs on, you guessed it, a dating app. And Michelle Knudsen tells us about The Curse of the Evil Librarian, a comic horror novel that finds her high school protagonists doing battle with literal demons led by the librarian of the title.
Of course, mysteries, thrillers and true-crime don’t have a lock on the Up All Night market. Whatever book captures your imagination—historical fiction, biography, memoir, fantasy— is the one that will keep you reading night and day, whenever you can carve out the time. As for me, my Up All Night reading experiences are mostly a thing of the past. For one thing, I don’t read in bed anymore—bad for sleep habits, the experts tell us—and I’m not much of a night owl in middle age. But if a book is really, really good, you can be sure I’ll be up at the crack of dawn with a cup of coffee, ready to dive back in.
Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter at @TomBeerBooks.