TIME: 4 Books on a Big Topic

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Ilana Masad

Staff Writer

Israeli American, queer, chronically ill, and forever reading, Ilana Masad is a book critic and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, Tin House, McSweeney's, Joyland Magazine, and more. She is the founder and host of The Other Stories, a podcast that features new, emerging, and established fiction writers. Twitter: @ilanaslightly Blog: Slightly Ignorant

In this month’s installment of my extremely (moderately) popular column, I give you: Time. It heals all wounds and flies like an arrow. Tennessee Williams said that “Time is the longest distance between two places,” and William Faulkner said that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Albert Einstein called time an illusion, Riff Raff sings that it’s fleeting.

Whatever time is, there’s been a lot written about it, both in the fictional and nonfictional realms. The choices this month are super hard, because there are too many books I know and love that deserve to be on this list. So let’s get to it!


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I really wanted a cover with Oprah on it but they don’t seem to have released those yet. But regardless of how awesome the film looks like it’s going to be, the book is amazing. In this novel, Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and a high schooler named Calvin all get whisked off through time and space. They do so with the use of a tesseract, which three beings named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which explain is a device that helps transport people through time and space. This classic of children’s literature is well worth your…well, you know how that sentence ends.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is one of the coolest sci-fi writers out there, and in this book, the theme of time is never far away. Ti-Jeanne is a single mom with seemingly no prospects, living in a city that’s been abandoned by the rich who’ve been able to get out and live better lives. Those left in this future Toronto must reach back to past skills long lost to us. Whether this how to grow food, how to live without a government infrastructure, or how to barter, Ti-Jeanne has to learn it, fast. So she does what anyone would do: she learns about magic.


Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

I honestly didn’t think that I’d be really interested in this book when I picked it up. I was at a comic book store waiting for a date, and when I picked this up, I thought I’d be there for a couple minutes. But 15 minutes later, I was still reading and my date startled me. By which I mean, this is a really really engaging book. It’s also exactly what it sounds like: a history of the concept of time travel. Which, did you know, is as recent as the late 19th century?

Dear Benjamin Banneker by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Among other really cool things Benjamin Benneker did, he invented the clock that strikes every hour. Oh, yeah, and he did that at age 22. What are we doing with our lives, amirite? But no, seriously, this lovely little book tells about the life and times of Mr. Benneker, a self-taught genius mathematician and farmer. Farm work, surveying, and clock making are all time-related endeavors. Plus, they’re more based in the real world than the wonderful time-traveling that the above books deal with.

What books about time do you recommend?