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Turn The Clock Back (Or Forward) With Time-Traveling Tales

Who needs destinations? This summer, we're focusing on the journey. All these books — some old, some new — will transport you: by train,plane, car, bike, boat, foot, city transit, horse, balloon, rocket ship, time machine and even the odd giant peach. Bon voyage! (Taxes and fees not included).

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Book Your Trip: Time

Time And Again

by Jack Finney

Forget plane tickets. To reach the past (the one destination that everybody, at some time or other, yearns to visit) you simply have to think — very, very hard. Where the mind goes, the body will follow. That's the fantasy Jack Finney makes totally plausible in his 1970 classic, Time and Again — the novel that gets my vote for the most evocative time travel tale of them all. A secret government agency recruits an advertising artist named Si Morley to master time travel. Si succeeds and begins visiting the New York City of 1882. On a nighttime ride on the city's elevated railroad system, Si looks out the window and sees: "lights, thousands of them, but of no brightness: ... they were gaslights. ... This was a Manhattan in which we looked out over the rooftops, its tallest structures the dozen of church spires silhouetted against ... the Hudson River." Finney's rich descriptions of the first department stores and horse-drawn sleighs in a snowy Central Park will have readers who love New York squeezing their eyes shut and willing themselves back. The next best thing to being there is reading Time and Again.

-- Maureen Corrigan, book critic, Fresh Air

A Wrinkle In Time

by Madeleine L'Engle

If you haven't traveled by tesseract yet (more unsettling than Doctor Who's TARDIS, and not nearly as comfortable), it's long past time. A tesseract is a sort of fifth dimension, a wrinkle in time, which proves that the shortest distance between two points isn't a straight line. More to the point, it's the vehicle that allows angry and alienated Meg Murry, her new friend Calvin and her uncanny and brilliant little brother, Charles Wallace, to visit other galaxies, explore new worlds, rescue Meg's long-missing father and, just possibly, save the universe. First published over 50 years ago, this sci-fi classic broke rules and changed children's literature forever. Ignore the liverwurst and cream cheese sandwiches (because, ewww!), and settle down for a wild ride in which love really does conquer all. (For ages 10 to 14)

-- Mara Alpert, children's librarian, Los Angeles Public Library

To Say Nothing Of The Dog

by Connie Willis

Far into the 21st century, the indomitable Lady Schrapnell decrees that an absolutely accurate replica of Coventry Cathedral be built in Oxford, to honor an ancestor whose life was changed by an unlikely piece of ornamental Victorian sculpture found there. To do so she recruits an army of time-travelling historians, and sends them on trip after trip into the past for research. Enter Ned Henry, a much-belabored historian suffering from advanced time-lag — characterized, among other things, by Difficulty Distinguishing Sounds and Maudlin Sentimentality. Attempting to escape Lady Schrapnell's demands and find some bedrest, Ned absconds to 1880s Oxford — where his arrival triggers a sequence of events as hilarious as they are inventive. This beautiful comedy of manners includes a charming homage to Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, as Ned bumbles his way through boating, dogs, romance, eccentric Oxford dons and dreadful contemporary taste in a desperate search for the fantastical bishop's bird stump.

-- Amal El-Mohtar, critic and author of The Honey Month

Archer's Quest

by Linda Sue Park

Kevin hates Mondays: The weekend is far away, his parents work late, and even his best friend is busy with guitar lessons. Monday afternoon stretches ahead of him endlessly until, suddenly, an arrow pins his baseball cap to the wall, shot by a strange man in his bedroom who had not been there a moment before. Chu-mong Koh, a ruler of ancient Korea and the best archer in the world, is equally baffled by his sudden appearance in Kevin's bedroom. Together they must solve the mystery of how Chu-mong fell off the back of a tiger in Korea in 35 B.C. and traveled through time to Dorchester, N.Y. This book's superb balance between comedy and action makes it easy to love, especially when you add its refreshingly unfamiliar system of magic and myth and the charm of encountering a legendary ancient king who isn't named Arthur. (For ages 8 to 12)

-- Margaret H. Willison, book critic


by Octavia E. Butler

This shattering, first-person slave narrative is the story of Dana, a young African-American woman who finds herself mysteriously yanked back in time from 1976 to antebellum Maryland. She soon discovers she's been summoned by a distant ancestor, Rufus, the white son of a slaveholding plantation owner: Every time Rufus' life is in danger (which is often), he calls unconsciously across the centuries to Dana, who arrives to turn aside the peril, and in doing so preserve her own future. But once she has saved Rufus from fire, or drowning, or drinking himself to death, she must confront the realities of life on the plantation and the compromises that become necessary to survive. "I never realized," she says, "how easily people could be trained to accept slavery." At the same time, Butler turns traditional stereotypes inside out and gives us heroic, complicated, enduring women. This — fair warning — should not be the last book you read in bed at night. But it should be a book you read.

-- Petra Mayer, editor, NPR Books.

The Stars My Destination

by Alfred Bester

Of all the possible superpowers, teleportation — the ability to get from here to there in an instant — has always been the most attractive to me. In this classic of the golden age of science fiction, Gulliver Foyle — a 25th century brute and misfit — lives in a world where personal teleportation, or "jaunting," has led to an unraveling of the social fabric and to war. Abandoned by the megacorporation he works for after a battle in space, he survives and swears revenge. This is a story of Everyman driven to extraordinary tasks by an act of betrayal. And all along the way is the dazzling specter of citizens jaunting their way to New Year's Eve parties across multiple time zones. It seems Bester did not hold out much faith that humanity would make good use of such a gift. And then, Gulliver unlocks the key to jaunting beyond the bounds of space ...

-- Ellah Allfrey, book critic and editor