7 Topsy-Turvy Books About Time Going All Wonky, Because It's Groundhog Day
For those of you who tend to forget your third-tier holidays — like Flag Day (June 14), Parents’ Day (July 26), and Leif Erikson Day (October 9) — don’t fret: I’m here to remind you to get your galoshes ready, because Monday is Groundhog Day!
Monday, we set our sights on Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and place our shivering trust in a glorified rat. By this point, my Seasonal Affective Disorder is really kicking in, so I’m praying to the gods of rodents and Vitamin C alike that Punxsutawney Phil laughs in the face of his shadow and stands boldly in the freezing winds of a dwindling winter.
But when most of us hear “Groundhog Day,” we actually think of Bill Murray punching Ned Ryerson in the face, binge-eating a tableful of pastries, and getting slapped by a very offended, super-perm’d Andie MacDowell — all of it repeatedly, and repeatedly, and repeatedly — in the classic 1993 movie.
So to lessen the sting of our soon-to-be-dashed hopes for an imminent spring, let’s focus on this delightful comedy, shall we? Like Phil the weatherman caught in an eternal time loop, these seven books explore what happens when time goes awry. From canonical sci-fi favorites to YA fantasy-romance mashups, you'll find something here to get you through this particularly sucky stretch of time.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Natalie Babbitt’s beloved children’s novel is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and its significant observations about the cycle of life, plus its simple, lyrical beauty, resonate just as strongly today as it did back in ’75. When I read Tuck as an introspective 10-year-old, the Tuck family’s irrevocable immortality struck me as a horribly claustrophobic curse, which set me on one of my very first existential crises. And for that, I will always be grateful for (and maybe a little bitter about) Babbitt’s meditative folktale.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The fact that this is my second mention of Diana Gabaldon’s time-traveling romance should clue you into the fact that I am an unabashed proponent of tasteful smut — especially if there are kilts involved. But seriously, Gabaldon knows how to spin a quality yarn: you will be helplessly thrilled to join Claire Randall as she’s mystically transported from the 1940s to 18th century Scotland. And you will be similarly helpless in resisting Jacobite warrior James Fraser’s rugged chivalry. Don’t fight it, Sassenach. Just give in.
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles will fall for Kerstin Gier’s fantasy romance trilogy, in which 21st century Londoner Gwendolyn Shepherd keeps falling, literally and unexpectedly, into the 18th century. Although the time-hopping gene runs in Gwendolyn’s family, she was never supposed to inherit that ability — now, she has to learn to wield her gift/curse responsibly, which naturally entails the help of a dreamy male counterpart.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
The second installment of Adams’ classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series is predictably unpredictable: Restaurant kicks off where Hitchhiker left off, but now, Arthur Dent and his motley crew of time-and-space travelers are desperate for a place to eat. Be prepared to engage in some serious philosophical angst as you contemplate the infamous Total Perspective Vortex, a diabolical torture device that shows you the infinite mass of the universe and the infinitely infinitesimal speck of space you inhabit therein.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
If you prefer a retro time-travel experience, you’re going to need a reliable time machine. In the absence of a TARDIS, I’d suggest H.G. Wells’ classic model, a steampunk stalwart favored by intrepid dandies. That this high science fiction tale was first published in 1895 is pretty incredible — although the prose is, admittedly, densely Victorian, the sophisticated plot (in which the aforementioned dandy travels to the future and encounters warring alien races) would make for an especially thrilling episode of your favorite sci-fi show (can you guess what mine is?).
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Leave it to Madeline L’Engle to make math fun. In her 1962 novel, young Meg Murry & Co. travel through time and space via a “tesseract,” the titular universal fold that allows for fifth-dimensional activity. Wrinkle was a breakthrough achievement not only in YA and science fiction genres, but in literature in general, as it exhibits the only suitable usage of the line “It was a dark and stormy night” ever written.
A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s profoundly beautiful dystopian tale introduced the Butterfly Effect concept into the mainstream lexicon, and, in proper Bradbury fashion, examines the potentially horrifying effects of advanced technology. I first read this short story in sixth grade, and the image of a prehistoric butterfly crushed beneath a heavy futuristic boot has haunted me ever since. This imagined future, in which time travel is a common pastime for the super-rich, takes place a mere 40 years from now. Scary.