Sometimes I'll mention in a comment or during a recommendation that "this book is definitely in my personal top 10 list."
I was thinking the other day, past me, is that even true?? Do you even have a top 10 list??
The real answer is irrelevant because, reader, I HAVE ONE NOW!
The list will change (probably as soon as I read more things). Requirements are fast and loose. Is it one of my favorite books that's better than all except maybe 9 of the others? Then it's on the list.
Additionally, these are the books that have made such an impact that they've become part of me. I carry them around (figuratively), and they weigh more to me than other books.
So in the name of vindicating my past self, and for your interest, I present the top 10 books of my life.
1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barberry
2. Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong
3. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
4. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
5. The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso
6. Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar
7. French Exit, by Patrick deWitt
8. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything, by Colonel Chris Hadfield
9. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
10. The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay
Now, what I really want to know is WHAT'S ON YOUR LIST?!
Thank all the gods in the sky and the cosmos that fall is on it's way (even if it is still too close to triple digits for real comfort). I am a true fan of the Autumn season; give me Halloween, all the pumpkin treats, a chill in the air, leaves to crunch and a logical reason to use seven blankets at a time (maybe a slight exaggeration) and I'm living my best life in a sweater and some gloves. Love it.
Here's what people around the internet are reading this month!
Reese Witherspoon - The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie Selection - Save Me A Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, and the Veteran Selection - Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux
Belletrist (Emma Roberts) - What Red Was, by Rosie Price
Read With Jenna (Jenna Bush Hager) - The Dearly Beloved, by Cara Wall
Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson) - for September and October - Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Girl's Night In - Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino
Book Club for Introverts (you can find us on Goodreads here - I help moderate the group and it's a lot of fun) - The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri
My IRL Book Club - Hispanic and Latino Authors is our theme for September. You can see this post for suggestions.
Happy reading, friends!
For the month of September my IRL book club's theme is to read books written by Hispanic authors. This is another great chance to enhance the diversity in your reading life. Publishing tends to heavily publish books by white authors, and when you're more intentional about what you read, you gain a better reading experience, and a better empathy for a larger portion of the people who live on this planet along side us all. Basically, we should read widely and diversely and this is a good way to do it or at least take a look at your reading and make an effort to be more intentional about reading things by people who don't like like you every once in a while or more often than usual.
In my own research for this theme, I noticed there's a lot more to choose from for Hispanic authors than there was to pick from for Indigenous authors, but it's still not a very large group. Hello, publishing? Let's go! We need more books by these groups of people. We need their stories. Vote with your dollars if you can, even using the library to get these books helps. Go read them! Anyway.
Here's a few places to start. Please leave me your suggestions in the comments at the end of the post:
The Book of Unknown Americans, by Christina Henriquez - this book is one that is on my Be A Better Person syllabus (not actually a real thing - yet), and was really crucial in opening my world view. It tells the heart wrenching story of a family who has a daughter in need of specific medical care and the lengths they go to in order to find help for her. It forces you to think about what you wouldn't do for your family, your loved ones, your children. It presents a reality that is lived by many people in our nation today. It made me cry, made me necessarily uncomfortable, and my heart grew three sizes when I finished reading it. It's worth every page and will make you think more critically about how policies impact real people.
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - one of my favorite books of all time and one that I need to re-read ASAP. This book blew my mind so much, to realize the whimsy and delight that stories carry across languages, decades, and continents was magic to me when I read it in high school. I resonated with it's weirdness and I was so not expecting to. I'm excited to read it again.
Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan - such a beautiful middle grade book that weaves time so well. Ryan writes with a musical tone in this book that actual deals quite a lot with a harmonica. I devoured it as an adult and have heard great things about the audiobook. It's touching and exquisitely written.
On My List:
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan (middle grade)
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Merci Suárez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina (winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal)
A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano (middle grade)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
Something I recently learned, that I should've already known, is the difference between the words Hispanic and Latino. Often these terms are used interchangeably, and I've definitely made the mistake and assumption that they could be used to mean the same thing. They actually mean two very different things. Hispanic refers to people to are from Spanish-speaking populations and/or speak Spanish themselves, and Latino refers to people who are from or descend from people who are from Latin America. I apologize for not learning this sooner!
August is here!
And so is the list of new selections from some of the most popular book clubs around the internet:
Reese Witherspoon - The Last House Guest, by Megan Miranda
Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie pick: Nation, by Terry Pratchett and the Veteran pick: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
Belletrist - Marilou is Everywhere, by Sarah Elaine Smith AND Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser
Our Shared Shelf - for July and August - Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Young Refugees from Central America, by Steven Mayers (Ed.) and Jonathan Freedman (Ed.), and Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph, by Yusra Mardini
Girls Night In - Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky
Jenna Bush Hager's book club - Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
BuzzFeed book club - Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
Book Club for Introverts - Recursion, by Blake Crouch
As usual, let me know if I've missed anything or if there are any book clubs you're interested in that you think I should feature! Happy Reading!
Our topic for August is Indigenous authors. I thought by 2019 that these would be easier to find, but to be honest, the lists that came up when I googled were much the same group of authors and titles. Still, it's a good place for me to start, but I really hope we get to see more Indigenous authors published soon.
Here are my top picks:
On every list was the work of Louise Erdrich. She wrote The Birchbark House series, The Round House, LaRose, Future Home of the Living God, and others, and I haven't read any of them. I own The Round House and think I'll give that a try first.
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimerer - I've heard about this in lots of places, and it sounds like a really lovely meditation on nature, science, and how our lives connect (for those of you local to the Stanislaus county library, they have an e-book, audio, and print copy of this title available).
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse - This book was a Hugo Award Finalist and Nebula Award Finalist, which is a pretty solid pair of accolades.
More resources to explore:
A list of children's and teens books from the Seattle Public Library
A list of 8 of the best books by Indigenous authors selected by the people at Kobo
A list of female Indigenous authors picked by The Strand to put on your list
From LitHub, 10 recommended reads by Indigenous authors
A long list from Goodreads of Native American female authors
20 Native American authors to read (you should know - this list includes Sherman Alexie who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women)
25 books by Indigenous authors you should be reading
Book Riot has a great list of 6 novels by Indigenous authors that is relatively recent
Another list from Goodreads with children's books by First Nations/Indigenous authors
Do you have any recommendations to share? I would love to have them. Happy reading!
June was such a busy month! We had some great adventures and spent a nice chunk of time outside which is always wonderful. Fortunately our summer heat hasn't been as extreme yet as it was last year. I both love and loathe summer but it is so much easier to love it when it stays below 100 degrees.
Here's what I read in June:
Glitch, by Sarah Graley - I follow Sarah on Instagram and enjoy her comics so I was excited to try this middle grade graphic novel. It's about a girl who gets sucked into a video game and has to figure out what to do next. Also, she has a bff who she's promised to play this game with and has to deal with that fallout from not waiting to play the new game with her. My kids both enjoyed this one also.
Just Jamie, by Terri Libenson - This is another middle grade graphic novel that discusses some middle school friendship conflicts. It is well illustrated and covers those very real feelings and situations that make middle school so treacherous. It made me a little anxious but might be just the thing a middle schooler in your life is needing to read to understand how to navigate the trickier subtleties of relationships in that age range.
Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis - I read Hollis's other book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and feel like there's a very particular subgroup of ladies that devour this type of literature and pep. For me it can be a little hit or miss but also depends on what mood I'm in. This book differs from Girl, Wash Your Face in that it's a direct plan of action and pep talk combo, designed to help you achieve your goals. Some of the info in here was really helpful and uplifting and some still feels a little entitled and recycled. It's a bit of that duality between the "i've done this all by myself" and "be authentic and show all the help you get" which can get a little frustrating to see so often. I still think there is great advice in this book, but it's worth approaching with critical thinking in mind.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb - I loved this look behind the curtain of therapy. Gottlieb's journey towards becoming a therapist was fascinating and interesting to read, and her honesty is so refreshing and helpful from both a patient and a professional viewpoint. I hope more people will read this, it seems criminally under-hyped to me. Therapy is so helpful!
A Conspiracy in Belgravia, and The Hollow of Fear, by Sherry Thomas - These are the second and third installments in the Lady Sherlock series and they're all such fun. It's a delight to spend time with these characters and the plots are compelling and original. It's wonderful to read, and being in the mind and capable words of Thomas is such a fun joy to me, it's like how you can fall totally asleep when someone you really trust is driving. Weird example? Probably. I often worry about continuing a series that the rest of the books won't be any good, especially if I loved the first one. These just get better and better and I can't wait for the fourth one to come out later this year. *Excellent on audio if that's a format you enjoy*
Unicorn Bowling, by Dana Simson - This is one of my children's favorite graphic novel/comics series. Phoebe and her unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, get up to all sorts of adventures and mischief and have another round of those wonderful things in this collection of comics. It's clever and charming, funny and creative, and perfect if you're in the mood for something different. I like reading these in between bigger books with heavier subjects or just as a brain cleanser. They're silly and sometimes I need more silly in my reading life, and in my brain!
Fix Her Up, by Tessa Bailey - This is a contemporary romance about a charming woman who has never been taken seriously, maybe because she's the youngest in her family and is a professional birthday clown. She has bigger plans than people expect and is quite a sassy lady. When a baseball phenom self-implodes and returns home who was also her childhood crush they strike up a deal in which she pretends to be his wholesome girlfriend to help land a job, and he in turn will get people to take her more seriously. This is a really fast read that is quite steamy on the page, so it will definitely make you blush. A LOT. But you're an adult (I'm assuming) and can turn the pages however and whenever you like. *For your consideration: some people give the side-eye to romance novels and romance readers. I sure used to. Here's what changed my mind and got me to give them a try - I would much rather read about a consensual relationship that I know is going to end happily - as they do in romance novels - than read about harmful and trauma inducing sexual assaults that are often described in more "high brow" literature. *
Follow me on Goodreads to keep up with what I'm reading now!
**Heads up friends! There's a $5 off book purchases of $15 or more on Amazon Prime right now with code "PRIMEBOOK19" and if you were to apply that to one of the books linked at the end of this post that would be just a little over $10 for a new hardcover which is a great deal!**
I went camping with family at the end of last week and am a little behind in my reading. It was a great time. We floated down a lazy river, got lots of bug bites, and didn't keep much of a schedule - in the best way - so I'm fine with it.
In light of that, and while I catch up with my books, I wanted to try something different for the start of this week.
In my notes app I have a very long list of articles I want to read but have to save for later so my browser doesn't crash under the load of all the tabs I have open. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you!
Even if you just skim these, it's interesting and might spark a new idea. I've found that these types of reads always make me think about things differently, even if I only get through 3 paragraphs.
Here's some for today:
News of the new James Bond has me very excited. I really enjoy this franchise now that I'm a grown person. Daniel Craig's movies have been a lot of ridiculous fun to watch and I'm really excited to see how they use this new actor to change things up. I think it could be a really great way to broaden and update the entire category these Bond films rule over. I hope with all my fingers crossed that this announcement is legit.
A great roundup of books to look forward to for the second half of the year. I love these types of lists and enjoy filling out the library holds with them when they get into the system. As it is already halfway through July and - as my daughter pointed out today - Halloween is only 3.5 months away, it's about to become the season for the "best of" lists to appear. I enjoy lists of this type a bit more though, because the anticipation of things to come is great. I'm looking forward to this one, this one, and this one.
This list is just fun to file away the next time you are adding a new furry companion to your home. I've also found that naming one's automobile or method of transport is quite fun, and this would be a great list of ideas to consider. Do you name your car? Right now ours is named Jarvis.
And if you're looking for more long form articles, here is an excellent roundup of 25 of some of the greatest that I'm working my way through. A spectacular list.
Finally, here's what I've been reading lately:
Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, by Mario Giordano - this was a sheer delight of a story, the second in the Auntie Poldi adventures. Translated from Italian, these almost cozy mysteries follow Auntie Poldi as she gets involved in one thing after the other. I love this character and the writing is phenomenal and funny. It's a wonderful summer book that's just as great as I'd hoped, but I'm in a bit of a slump right now because I just want more Poldi!
Recursion, by Blake Crouch - I read this right before Auntie Poldi and it was so good! No wonder I'm in a bit of a rut with two of my most anticipated books of the year being so great back to back! Ugh. I can't handle how much fun Blake Crouch's writing is. This book is worth the hype. I wrote an entire post here about what to read after you finish Recursion, except it doesn't help me much since I wrote it and read everything I recommended already!
How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper - This was much more charming in the darkly humorous way I enjoy than I was initially expecting. Dealing with a character who has invented himself a family and is clearly trying to ignore some heavy feelings. For work, he has to go to the homes of people who have died alone, go through their things to see if they have any belongings of value or relations to notify, and then he arranges for their funerals if there is no family to notify. It's a sweet story that I enjoyed a lot.
Have you read anything interesting lately?
A monthly roundup of the new picks for the celebrity led book clubs and a few others that might be of interest.
Hello Sunshine (Reese Witherspoon) - The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker
Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie - The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer - Veteran - Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
Belletrist - Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson) - Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Young Refugees from Central America, by Steven Mayers (Ed.) and Jonathan Freedman (Ed.), and Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph, by Yusra Mardini
Girls Night In - The Confessions of Frannie Lanton, by Sara Collins
Well Read Black Girl - More Than Enough, by Elaine Welteroth
Read with Jenna - Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes
PBS News Hour - The House of Broken Angels, by Luis Alberta Urrea
Book Club for Introverts (the bookclub I help moderate on Goodreads) - The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Attwood
For more details about some of the book clubs mentioned here, you can access my Book Club Database in the navigation menu or by following the link here.
I vividly remember my first experience reading Blake Crouch. I was living in Idaho at the time and my children were still very young. We didn't have a dishwasher so I spent lots of time listening to audiobooks and washing dishes by hand. I had used my audible credits to get the Wayward Pines series, which begins with a man showing up in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, and noticing the town is not what it seems. He can't quite figure out what is wrong, but has the impenetrable sense of off-ness in the residents he talks to trying to find a phone. From there, the story takes off and totally exploded my brain with what I thought it would be.
I devoured that series and have loved his books ever since. Dark Matter, and his most recent, Recursion, just as much, maybe more so. He is a talented writer that manages to be compelling, surprising, unbelievable, totally imaginative and realistic, all while balancing character development with excellent dialogue.
Anyway, only a few things have come close for me to the experience of reading a Blake Crouch novel and i was thrilled to see that one of the authors who did come close is actually one of Crouch's friends. He's mentioned in the acknowledgements of Recursion as being the namesake of one of the villainous characters. For anyone else who's looking for more of the experience Crouch delivers, this list is for you.
Until we get to devour his next book, may you enjoy these in the meantime:
The Brilliance Trilogy, by Marcus Sakey - the same type of sudden shift in what you thought reality was, and a similar blend of technological advancements with almost unfathomable consequences. The basic premise is that there are a handful of humans born with exceptional abilities, one character perceives time in a way where they can be invisible, and they're called the Brilliants. Sakey fully imagines how this would impact the nation, and I loved the cause and effect part of the plot. You follow one character as he navigates this new landscape and tries to manage the multiplying crises that show up as a result. I loved this series and it's great in audio also.
The Bobiverse series, by Dennis E. Taylor - This has the immersive adventure that I love from Crouch, but sets things in space with infinite possibilities, charming and clever characters that you get to know really well over the three books worth of story. I've shared this rec with a lot of people and so far all of them seem to love it. It's an audible series that is really worth the price of the credits, the narrator is phenomenal and helps transport you to space. I don't want to give anything away, just go read it. It's so much fun and one that I've re-read several times, and I'm not a big re-reader at all.
All of Riley Sager's books - These are straight thrillers without the technological/sci-fi additions that Sakey, Taylor, and Crouch add to their stories. Sager has sucked me into the plots of all his works in a compelling way similar to what Crouch accomplishes. Plots thick with twists and a totally immersive reading experience, all of Sager's books were read eagerly in two sittings or less, so far. They're great if you're looking for something spooky.
The Last Policeman series, by Ben H. Winters - These are such wonderful books!! The story explores what a policeman does in the wake of an imminent and unavoidable apocalypse when he finds that someone's been murdered. To me, these blend the plot and characters of Crouch, with the immersive contemplation of Peter Heller's writing - most similarly to Heller's recent novel, The River, in creating an atmosphere that you could swear was tangible. A wonderful trilogy that opened up to me what an apocalyptic story could be (hint: more than a fluffy plot device). The final scene in this series made me cry like a damn baby and I loved every word of it.
The Seven and A Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton - This book is like a jigsaw puzzle thrown across the room, then reassembled. This tells the story of a murder to be solved, possibly prevented, with threat of terrible consequences. The narrator we follow spends time in each characters point of view, like an immersive game of clue where you are every single player and maybe more also, but have to keep a handle on your own self at the same time. I love it for it's lofty goal and for how well he pulled this off. A masterful and incredible thriller that, like Crouch's most recent book, manages to keep you in the story while accomplishing a dizzying time table with the plot. Fantastic.
What I enjoy most about these books I've mentioned, and probably about Crouch's writing as a whole, is how much FUN it is to read. It's clear he is like a kid on a playground with exceptional knowledge of the monkey bars who's leading his friends and followers to an exceptional and beautiful victory in a game of lava monster.
I am always inspired by his bravery of plot cleverness, his success in what he sets out to do with characters and narrative, and emboldened to even try to write more outside what I fall to as "possible" by experiencing his writing the seemingly impossible. His books explore all the experiences of humanity with an undercurrent of entertainment that he manages to create with the staying and lasting impression that I usually don't get from thrillers and exciting novels.
I don't know how he manages to do that, but I will eat up everything he writes and hope to find more like it.
p.s. I noticed this list is all male - not ideal. I would love to have a more diverse list of comps for an author I love so much, which leads me to two things. First - If you have a book in you, go write it and be bold (this message is for myself as much as for you, dear reader, if it also applies)! Second - If you have a recommendation for what you think is similar to Crouch's style that I don't have on this list, PLEASE tell me what it is.
A little later than promised, but here is part 2 of my summer reading guide.
Non-Fiction and some books for the youngsters in your life. I don't have teens yet, so that section of this resource is a little sparse. An aim I have for next time is to read more YA so I can recommend in that genre - it's probably the most overlooked in my reading and I should do something to fix that.
Let's jump in!
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, by Kirk Wallace Johnson - This is a fascinating true crime that will open your eyes to an entire world most of us don't know even exists. The world of fly tying and exotic bird feathers. Wait, it's much more compelling than that sounds. Trust me. This is also one of those rare instances that its exquisite cover is just as interesting as the book inside. I listened to this on audio and it was wonderful. Great narration and one of the most interesting things I've ever heard.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb - This is a great book, I wish more people were talking about it (and to be fair, loads of people already are!). Therapy has gotten a bad reputation for a long time and it seems like only recently is society starting to look at it as the healthy and productive tool that it is. I've seen therapists in my life and have always learned something about myself. This memoir adjacent book is about Lori's own experience becoming a therapist, and her interactions with her own therapist who helps her navigate a particularly difficult time in her life. It's a fascinating comparison for anyone to read, but especially interesting if you've been to therapy and wondered what your therapist really thinks of you, how much they know about stuff, and what they had to do to get the job. I loved it. Therapy is so good!! It needs to be more accessible, and hopefully this book will help it become more normalized. Definitely worth a read.
The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay - You guys know this is probably in my top 5 of all time by now, right? I just can't stop talking about it. The power of gratitude, intentional thinking, and looking for joy is a real thing that can change your life and your attitude even in the face of crappy circumstances. I love this book for the beautiful prose, the obscure tiny moments Gay examines, and for the project it is to write over 100 little essays of delight.
The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live, by Heather B. Armstrong - This is absolutely one of those books about a medical procedure that will have you second guessing reality, but it's true. Absolutely true. I listened to this book through Audible and Heather narrates it herself, in one of the most impacting and emotionally resonant performances I've ever heard. She describes in articulate detail the recent time in her life when she was so incredibly depressed she didn't want to live anymore, could barely function, and her situation outside of that compounded her problems. She was barely functional and felt nothing. She qualified for a medical trial for treatment of severe depression in which the brain is just about turned off in an induced coma-like state for 30 minutes or so, for 10 sessions. Like the physical equivelant of turning your brain "off and on again"
Calypso, by David Sedaris - David Sedaris is one of my favorite essayists and non-fiction writers. He writes unapologetically and with incredible humorous honesty about life and what it means to be a living person. This is my favorite of his collections and is also his most recent. I laughed so hard, cried a lot, and felt connection that reminds me why I enjoy writing, and why I enjoy reading, and what is best and weirdest about life itself. An exceptional talent, but also an unflinching one. This short book is perfect to take with you on a family vacation, to read at the beach or the pool, or just slowly enjoy during the summer mornings.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, by Caitlin Doughty - If you're looking to get a glimpse of other cultures without having to actually go anywhere, I highly recommend this one for you. Especially if you are interested by what other cultures do with their deceased. It's also related to the worldwide views of family, how those traditions are both unique and universal in caring for those we love after they die. It's informative, enlightening, and incredibly tender. Might be odd to recommend a book about death for summer reading, but it's great. Trust me.
For the Kids:
Knights vs. Dinosaurs, by Matt Phelan - Oh, this was a really fun and quick story. Remember the knights of the round table, stories of Merlin and those guys? Well, in this story they're up to no good and being generally lazy because there aren't enough dragons to go around. So, what does Merlin do, but decide to send them back in time to the age of the dinosaurs! Chaos, and team bonding, ensues. Such a fun book and deeper than I expected.
Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat, by Johnny Marciano - I picked this up for my daughter's birthday and enjoyed reading it along with her. Klawde is indeed an alien warlord and comes to Earth and has to encounter all the things that are normal to humans. In the meantime, there's a summer camp with a nefarious plot happening, and his own intergalactic plans to work on. Great fun, not very long, and entertaining. There's a second book in the series too, if your kid wants to continue (and book three is due to arrive in October).
Cleopatra in Space series, by Mike Maihack - One of our families favorite graphic novels. It is what it sounds like, but Cleopatra is a tween (maybe 13?) and has to deal with a lot of things. She's impulsive and clever, skilled and smart, and more than a little reckless. This series is wonderful for adventure and friendship with delightful characters and compelling illustrations. Loved it.
The Princess in Black series, by Shannon Hale - Whenever there's a new one in the series we buy it. Shannon Hale is a great author and this series is fun. It's at that stage where it's definitely a chapter book, but not too much of a challenge to read, and still has phenomenal illustrations. The princess in question is also a crime fighting ninja determined to protect her kingdom. It's great for empowerment, strong female characters, great friendships, and figuring out how to be yourself when people think you should only be something particular, like a princess.
The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell- audiobook is good - We listened to this on a few family road trips recently and it's a wonderful audiobook narrated by David Tennant. It's about a part of a fantastic world where the specialties and powers of magic and warriors clash and combine. The characters we follow are from each sides of the contention and as you can imagine, chaos ensues. This is the same author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, and her wit and cleverness is illuminated with Tennant's skillful narration. A really fun series, we are planning to listen to book 2 soon.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster – audiobook narrated by Rainn Wilson is good - Both my kids and I have read the paperback version and then listened to the audiobook and loved them both. It is a fun story that you should read if you haven't yet. Juster wrote it as a diversion for himself while he was supposed to be writing a book about something like city planning. It details the story of Milo who can't be bothered with anything, always wants to be somewhere else, and is generally just not interested in anything. Suddenly, a tollbooth arrives that he puts together and uses to travel to a strange place with tons of wordplay and lessons that are not at all what you expect and even more fun. I was preparing for this to be an overused and cliché filled story, but it was charming and unique and filled with wordplay that made us all chuckle and think. Delightful for everyone in your family.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo - this is a fun story about a girl, FLora, and a squirrel, Ulysses, and what happens when the squirrel in question is sucked up into a vacuum. Something happens that connects the two of them that becomes a bit of a superhero journey of discovery. This story is a great adventure, has wonderful humorous and unexpected plot twists, and deals frankly with parents who aren't the best examples. I appreciated this story for it's adventure, and it's honesty in some of the more difficult ideas that people you're related to aren't always the best humans, and I was impressed with DiCamillo's ability to deal with some difficult things. It was really great. There are also some parts of the story told in comic form, and my kids really enjoyed reading those parts of the story that are illustrated.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series, by Dana Simpson - One of my go-to recommendations for kids these days, this is a really fun comic series about a girl and her unicorn and their adventures together. I hesitate only a little to compare it to Calvin & Hobbes, but it is just as great in the "kid and maybe not real best friend discuss life and meander the woods together" way. It's funny, insightful, silly, and great if you have a reluctant but smart reader who needs something to get lost in for a while. It's really fun and fast to read.
The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan - My ten year old says all his friends have read this series and talk about it. He read the first one really fast, it prompted some trips to the library to research Greek mythology, and now he has pressed it into my hands and is reading the second book. It's on my list to get to soon, and I'll let you know how that goes.
How to Train Your Dragon Series, by Cressida Cowell - Probably my son's favorite series, he and his dad have read all 13 (?) or so books at least twice. I'm sure you've seen the movies or at least know about them, this is the source material and from what I've heard it is just as delightful, clever, exciting, and compelling as they films. From what I've read by Cowell, I've been impressed at her ability to create immersive worlds that you never question, and her wonderfully real characters who make difficult decisions and are fun to spend time with. If you are in need of a series to try with or for your kids, or kids you know, this would be one to give a try for sure.
For Teens/Older Kids:
The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer - I read this series a few years ago and still remember being delightfully surprised by it. A retelling of fairy tales is either a lot of fun or no fun at all so I was nervous giving it a try. But, when you tell me the story starts with a cyborg Cinderella, I am into it. Fortunately, this exceeded my expectations and I had so much fun listening to it on audio. The characters and their interwoven storylines are wonderful and easy to fall into. Great adventures, compelling plots, and just a lot of fun.
The Lady Janies series, by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton - These are so funny!! I'm 31 and adored them. Charming, clever retellings of ladies named Jane in history and literature. One deals with Lady Jane Grey, the other in the series deals with Jane Eyre. Both are so funny and well written. I just loved them and wish there were more written already. If you have a teen that enjoys historical fiction, or is a little sarcastic but also funny, give them these this summer.
Next up is a list of 6 books I'm looking forward to reading this summer from my own TBR list! As always, contact me with any questions or any need for a specific title. I'd love to help you find what you're looking for.
You can check out part 1 of the reading guide here, which deals with fiction of many types.
Happy reading, friends!
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