You are positively medieval. You don’t have a cellphone, cable TV or even electricity. In fact, your house probably has a dirt floor, and you think the earth is flat. All the details of your life, and your culture, are explained in “Positively Medieval: Life and Society in the Middle Ages” by Wooster medievalist C. Dale Brittain.

The Middle Ages covered a long period of time, as much as a thousand years from 500 to 1500 AD, but some things take awhile to change. Brittain covers every aspect of medieval society, from what people ate and wore, how they traveled and entertained themselves, kept (relatively) clean, worshiped, slept and told time.

In a conversational style, Brittain talks about castles and who lived in them, the difference between serfs and peasants, how a boy became a knight or a monk, the delicate subject of what we might call going to the bathroom, medicine and sports.

There is a special chapter about the 14th century, generally considered by historians as the worst ever. There was a great famine followed by a plague epidemic, and when gunpowder began to be imported from China, the Hundred Years’ War and peasant revolts killed off even more. Thank goodness for the Renaissance.

“Positively Medieval” (386 pages, softcover) costs $16.95 from online retailers. C. Dale Brittain is a pseudonym; the author is a retired professor of medieval history. Her other books include the Royal Wizard of Yurt fantasy series; “Midnight Raven,” a fun fantasy for middle readers to young adults; and “Ashes of Heaven,” a retelling of the classic romance of Tristan and Isolde.

 

Dystopian series

“The world’s temporarily over,” says Cricket Hastings, the main character in Ravenna author Fred Tribuzzo’s American Blackout series. In the first book, “Pulse of the Goddess,” there has been a solar storm followed by a nuclear explosion over Kansas, and an electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all modern technology.

Cricket is living with her father, her nonagenarian veteran Uncle Tommy, beloved nun Sister Marie and their dog in their Ohio home. Their resources are a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, a Cub aircraft, a small arsenal and Tommy’s war experience when he remembers it. Food is running short and gangs are roving the country in search of provisions, gas and drugs.

Cricket and her group evacuate for a state park southeast of Cleveland, maybe in Portage County. She is forced to kill several people along the way and relies on Sister Marie to remind her of her humanity. Cricket must make quick judgments about whom to trust as the little band meets up with scattered travelers. They hear about a Cleveland woman who calls herself the “Brazilian” who is setting up a new world order, with a new religion.

The Brazilian is a debauched drug baroness who controls her subjects with sex and drugs, and it becomes Cricket’s mission to defeat her.

In Book Two, “Slaves Beneath the Stars,” Cricket and her de facto family are living on a farm near Marietta, where there has been a series of kidnappings. The villain in this one is an enigmatic Mexican drug lord named Ajax who uses slaves to produce his product. The third book, “Gangster Town,” finds Cricket and her group downriver in Cincinnati, where the mayor is a tyrant, and she finds the battle against Ajax must take place on several levels.

“Pulse of the Goddess” (371 pages), “Slaves Beneath the Stars” (356 pages) and “Gangster Town” (314 pages) cost $14.99 each in softcover from online retailers. According to Tribuzzo, there will be two more books in the series.

Fred Tribuzzo also is the author of “American Sky: Good Landings and Other Flying Adventures,” a memoir of his life as a professional pilot for a private jet company; he is the former bass player for the popular Kent-based Numbers Band.

 

Reading ahead

Cuyahoga County Public Library has announced the impressive “Beyond the Book Jacket” series, some of which are paid events that include a copy of the author’s most recent book and all of which require reservations.

The authors include former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (“From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America,” Feb. 27); poet Claudia Rankine (“Citizen: An American Lyric,” Jan. 23, with Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas); Paula McLain (“Love and Ruin,” Feb. 7); podcaster Gretchen Rubin (“The Four Tendencies," "Better Than Before,” March 7); Edgar Award-winning Ian Rankin (the John Rebus detective novel series, Feb. 9); South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg (“Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future, Feb. 7); and thriller writer Lisa Gardner (“Never Tell,” in the D.D. Warren detective series, Feb. 22). See the dates and reserve your seat at cuyahogalibrary.org.

Other big names coming include mother-and-son mystery team Charles Todd (Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries, Feb. 26); Stewart O’Nan (“Henry, Himself,” April 18); and Alafair Burke (“The Better Sister,” April 22.)

The Hudson Library and Historical Society also has several upcoming author visits requiring reservations: David Baron, author of “American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World,” will appear Jan. 21; Robin Hutton, author of “War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II,” Jan. 22; and Steven Pinker, author of “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” Jan. 23. Call 330-653-6658.

 

Events

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood branch, 25501 Shaker Blvd.): Philip Skerry talks about his children’s book “That Pesky S,” 7 to 8 p.m. Monday. Register at 216-831-6868.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive): Laura DeMarco talks about her superb illustrated history “Cleveland Then and Now,” 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 440-238-5530.

Medina County Public Library (210 S. Broadway St., Medina): Vivien Chien, Cleveland-born author of the Noodle Shop mystery series, leads the Writers’ Series presentation of “Surviving the First Year as a Published Author,” 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Register at 330-725-0588.

 

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.