Ask Adam Anything: Book Recommendations, Advice and More

Welcome to the first edition of Ask Adam Anything, a new column where I — Adam Morgan, founder of the Chicago Review of Books, the Chicago Literary Archive, and the Southern Review of Books, freelance culture critic by night and corporate content strategist by day — answer any questions you might have about books (including reading recommendations) as well as writing and editing careers (whether you’re pursuing freelance opportunities or full-time roles).

This week, I got more questions than I could possibly answer in a single column, but I’ll answer more first-round questions next time. If you have questions, you can either send me a tweet or email me at if you’d like to stay anonymous. I’d love to hear from you!

My favorite work of Southern horror over the last decade is undoubtedly Nathan Ballingrud’s debut short story collection North American Lake Monsters (Small Beer Press). It’s a really clever series of literary creature features set along the Gulf Coast and around the Carolinas. A Hulu adaptation called Monsterland is forthcoming later this year, and his second collection, Wounds (Saga Press), is just as spectacular. For a taste, try “Sunbleached” online.

Julia Elliott’s The Wilds (Tin House Books) is another favorite of mine, Ghost Summer (Prime Books) is a great introduction to Tananarive Due, and even though it was widely celebrated in “literary” circles, I don’t think Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Anchor) got enough attention from genre readers as a work of speculative horror, set an alternate version of the South.

My most recent answer is Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (Quirk Books), a ridiculously fun horror mystery set in Charleston, South Carolina.

So many! All of Ron Rash’s novels except Serena are less than 300 pages, and they’re all fantastic. My favorite is actually his first, One Foot in Eden (Picador), a Gothic mystery set in the South Carolina upcountry.

More recently, I adored Julia Franks’s Over the Plain Houses (Hub City Press), which I’ve previously oversimplified as “Ron Rash meets The Witch.” I also really enjoyed Leesa Cross-Smith’s Whiskey & Ribbons, Mark Barr’s Watershed and Jessica Handler’s The Magnetic Girl from Hub City, though I’d only consider the latter to be “offbeat”.

It’s always okay to put down a book you aren’t enjoying! As a reader, you have zero obligations to anyone but yourself and your own pursuit of pleasure (unless, I suppose, you’re a book critic).

The most recent mystery I really enjoyed, if we’re abiding by relatively traditional genre labels, was Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party (William Morrow), about a group of old Oxford friends trapped on a remote estate by a freak snowstorm. She’s got a new one out in June, The Guest List (William Morrow), that I’m really excited for.

I also devoured Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House (Flatiron), an Ivy League mystery/thriller with a dash of fantasy, as well as Charlotte author Megan Miranda’s The Last House Guest (Simon & Schuster), set in Maine. To stretch the genre label a bit, I really enjoyed a bizarre little science fiction novel with a mystery at its center last month, Eddie Robson’s Hearts of Oak (

If you’d like to be featured in a future edition of Ask Adam Anything, send me a tweet or email me at