Ah, summer. ‘Tis the time of year when the smell of cotton candy and chlorine fills the air. Kids are free from the woes of homework, adults are itching to use vacation days that have been racking up since the holidays and amusement parks await! The possibility of spending an indefinite amount of time in endless lines packed with thrill seekers, nary a seat in sight, is high. You’re gonna need a book for that.
In this edition of Have Books, Will Travel, we’re offering up the best amusement park-themed books to indulge in while you’re waiting to get strapped into a super tiny cart that will proceed to toss you every which way. And we’re pairing them with rollercoasters around the nation that are sure to take you to the brink of nausea and leave you wanting more.
Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
What better way to wait in line for the world’s tallest rollercoaster than to read the book that birthed one of the highest-grossing films worldwide? No better way, we say. At 456 feet, this rollercoaster is not for the faint of heart and, honestly, neither is an amusement park that lets all manner of prehistoric reptiles roam all willy nilly. Published in 1990, Michael Crichton’s sci-fi classic gives readers a thrilling look behind the inner workings of an amusement park located in a biological preserve on a fictional island near Costa Rica.
The park’s owner is a fancy pants billionaire with a fascination for dinosaurs. He flies a few scientists in to stroke his ego behold his genetically recreated species and chaos ensues, as it often does when humans take a pet-like approach to any animal with the ability to devour any living creature in its path. It’s definitely worth the read to familiarize yourself with the suspense you’ll undoubtedly experience just before Kingda Ka’s 418-foot drop. Yeah. No big deal.
Goliath – Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois
Joyland by Stephen King
Nothing makes for a good amusement park visit more than a ghost. When the moon is full and the fast-paced atmosphere is quieted, things get creepy. And when it comes to creepy, Stephen King is the best there is. Joyland is set in (surprise) an amusement park in North Carolina where young Devin Jones is interviewing for a job during his summer break from college. You know, just your regular interview with a fortune teller who predicts that you’ll meet a kid with The Sight during your time at the park.
As Devin works through the summer, he becomes intrigued by a rumor that the ghost of a murdered girl still roams the park. Mere intrigue turns into something more when he learns of a string of unsolved park murders. His curiosity eventually gets the best of him and he sets out on a mission to figure out what happened, much to the dismay of the actual killer. Will he get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths? Could there be a connection between the serial killer and the kid with The Sight? Will you find out before you get strapped in to take on Goliath’s 180-foot drop? One can only hope.
Top Thrill Dragster – Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
If there aren’t any brooding, melodramatic teens sulking in ridiculous costumes, can you honestly even call it an amusement park? Jennifer Dugan’s Hot Dog Girl gives readers all the nostalgia of a classic coming of age tale with a much-needed modern twist. Enter Elouise (Lou) Parker, your regular hum drum teen dressed in a hot dog costume at Magic Castle Playland.
She’s dealing with a lot. Mustard, ketchup and a crush on the park’s resident diving pirate, Nick. Problem is, Nick is already taken…by the literal Princess of the Park. Then there’s her best friend and carousel operator, Seeley, who can’t quite get behind Lou’s scheme to set her up with the “perfect” girl.
Oh, and did we mention that the whole lot of Lou’s crew will be on the hunt for new jobs next summer if they can’t find a way to keep Magic Castle Playland open? My goodness. If that’s not enough to keep you entertained in theme park lines, perhaps the Top Thrill Dragster’s 400ft drop will do the trick.
Superman: Escape from Krypton – Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, California
Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
In our humble opinion, the roar of a rollercoaster going 100 miles per hour in 7 seconds is just the soundtrack one needs to add a skosh of excitement to a sci-fi classic. Dream Park, the first book in an 80s-era series set in the titular futuristic amusement park, follows a group of teens who suit up to participate in one of the park’s live-action role-playing games in the year 2051.
Forget the rusty rides and fried desserts dusted with powdered sugar. Here, the attractions are holographic and visitors participate in an artificial environment that’s been outfitted with the latest in VR technology. The entire creation has been designed with the goal of getting players as close to their desired sense of adventure as humanly possible. What could go wrong? Well, a security guard could get murdered. Valuable research could go missing. The culprit could be a payer inside of the game. Think Hunger Games meets Westworld…but before there was a Hunger Games or a Westworld. Also, think happy thoughts before you’re launched 415 feet into the air on Superman: Escape from Krypton.
And that wraps up our reads for rollercoaster lines, folks! While you’re here, shout out your favorite theme park ride in the comments and let us know where you’re taking your favorite books this summer.