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20 May 2022

The Reading Doctor: Visionaries

Kia ora and welcome to the Reading Doctor! Each week, literary critic and devoted reader Dr Louise recommends books to us on a particular theme, or responds to reader questions. Send us your questions for her by emailing:

This week, she recommends novels that feature those who can see and know the future.


Psychics, seers and prophets are characters who are often on the edges of their society. Feared, revered or misunderstood, they are lonely figures, isolated by their gifts and knowledge, and can be peculiarly disempowered, holding powerful foreknowledge which must be kept hidden, may be neither believed nor understood, or is useless in changing the ordained course of events.

- Tess, the title character in the gothic novel by Kirsten McDougall, is a troubled teen with supernatural insights who hitches a ride with a troubled man.

- Her dreams swirling with the many possibilities for the future, fearing the worst and hoping for the best for Arthur and his reign, Elaine of Shallot is Half Sick of Shadows in the novel by Laura Sebastian.

- Awakening from the coma he’s been in for five years, Johnny finds himself experiencing precognitive visions, in Stephen King’s thriller The Dead Zone, which are enlisted in the hunt for a serial killer in the small town of Castle Rock.

- Charlie Hall is a thief for hire, with particular expertise in stealing magical books for wizards, but it’s her sister, Poesy, a nocturnal online Tarot card reader, who yearns for the powers of shadow magic herself, in Holly Black’s The Book of Night.

- Cassandra’s certain knowledge of the bloody future does nothing to help avert it, in Pat Barker’s female-centric retelling of Homer’s classic, Women of Troy.

- Amidst the headline-grabbing predictions of an impending natural disaster, one sister embraces her psychic abilities while the other denies them, in Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.

- In a feudal galactic society, a young lord is sent to rule over a desert planet where his psychic abilities manifest and he becomes accepted as the prophesied messiah, in Dune by Frank Herbert.

- A special unit of the FBI recruits those with extraordinary psychic abilities to combat crime in The First Prophet, the first book in a series by Kay Hooper.

- Set in Salem, Massachusetts, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry tells the story of three generations of Whitney women who are able to see images of the future in the Ipswich lace which is the family craft.