I had to read a lot this time because my year end goal was coming up and I was a little behind. I read a TON of really good books this quarter! Now that it’s a new year, I hope you’ll join me in setting a reading goal for this year and keeping track of which books you read. I would love to get your recommendations as well!
My 5 Star Recommendations:
Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (368 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Realistic Fiction. Incredible characterization and use of voice in a novel. If you can read this book and not fall in love with Doug Swieteck, you may not have a soul. Loved this book and recommend it without reservation.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (384 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. Great historical fiction about the Grimke sisters who were a great force in the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (240 pages), Adult, Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Funny, sweet, sad graphic novel about the author’s experiences with her aging parents and their deaths.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (304 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Realistic Fiction. Rebecca Stead is kind of a genius when it comes to this age. Endearing characters, great story, important subject matter. I think this would be great to read with older children/students (middle school or higher) to discuss dangers of cell phones.
The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. One of my favorite parenting books so far. A great resource for parents in teaching children about finances.
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (288 pages), Middle/Upper Elementary, Half Memoir/Half Historical Fiction, Verse. If you think you don’t enjoy books of poetry or stories told in verse, pick this book up. This story is incredible! Inspired by the author’s early childhood experiences of moving from Vietnam and settling in Alabama. Highly recommend this book to everyone.
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle, Adapted by Hope Larsen for Graphic Novel Format (416 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Fantasy, Graphic Novel. Since tutoring some middle grade boys, I’ve been getting more into the graphic novel format. I keep trying to find books that I think would appeal to them but also have some real literary substance. The past few years have seen several wonderful graphic novels and we are starting to see more like this–adaptations of works of literature. I loved this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the novel, the graphic novel format, or for somebody looking for something for their children or students who enjoy comic books or books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. I recommend this book to everyone because it will ultimately affect every single person. Gawande writes about end of life care in such a sensitive, yet direct way.
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (352 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. I thought Benjamin really hit it out of the park with her first novel. This book deals with death of a friend, grieving, and bullying. Tough issues handled very well.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (440 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. Devastating. Beautiful. WWII.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (128 pages), Middle Elementary-Upper, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction. Nathan Hale is a genius. If I was an elementary/middle school librarian, I would be recommending these books like nobody’s business. He has several of these graphic novels and they are such a great way to get kids into history.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bag Ironclad! by Nathan Hale (128 pages), Middle Elementary-Upper, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction. Same as above. Civil War. Epic Ironclad Fight.
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (400 pages), Middle Grades-High School/Anybody, Historical Fiction. Do you like Anne of Green Gables? Little Women? You will love this. You’re welcome.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (320 pages), Middle Grade, Historical Fiction. This book deserves all the Newbery buzz it’s getting and I hope either this one or The Hired Girl take the Newbery. Great WWII novel. Definitely not your typical WWII as it focuses on Ada–a girl with a handicap and severe emotional and physical abuse (from her mom) and how she grows and heals. Set in London–London Blitz & Evacuation of Children also covered.
My 4 Star Recommendations:
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles (208 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Sara Bareilles’ memoir. I love her music and loved hearing about her writing process and her life experiences and musical journey so far.
Red Joan by Jennie Rooney (390 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. WWII, atomic bombs, Russian spies = good.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (320 pages), Adult, Fiction. Emotional read for me. A marriage is falling apart, but through some weird phone time machine, the main character is able to talk to her husband of the past. Beautiful story. Would have given it a 5 but there is heavy language.
One For the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt (256 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. A little girl enters foster care because of physical abuse. I think it shows her inner conflict and struggles very well.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (288 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. This was simultaneously better and worse than I thought it was going to be. This was a hard read for me, but it was worth it in the end. Some of the book was a bit confusing and some parts I wish hadn’t happened–but I think the ideas in it are important–we are all human and imperfect; eventually you have to carve your own conscience; and it is important to have a variety of people and mindsets in each community.
My 3 Star Recommendations:
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (336 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. An enjoyable read about what makes parenting difficult and how parenting affects parents in general. There are very few actionable items, but interesting nonetheless. My biggest takeaway was probably the overscheduling of modern children and how to avoid it.
The Lincoln Hypothesis by Timothy Ballard (240 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Really enjoyed the ideas and the connections between Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the Book of Mormon. The writing style bothered me sometimes–overly repetitious.
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (176 pages), Upper Elementary, Fiction/Satire. A satire of several 19th and 20th century children’s stories. Semi-fun read, but missing something for me. Sometimes I thought the satire was emphasizing itself too much–they said “old-fashioned” about 30 times a chapter.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (480 pages), YA/Adult, Fantasy. I put this down several times and it took me awhile to pick it back up (never a good sign for me), but then when I finally got into it, I found it interesting and engaging. I disliked the main character sometimes.
The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin & Hannah Salwen (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. I read this book because it was mentioned in “The Opposite of Spoiled.” I was debating between a 2 and a 3 rating. I actually enjoyed the premise of the book–giving up half of some significant part of your life to give more to others–through this you can connect more deeply as a family. Many people have pointed out that it obviously wasn’t a significant sacrifice for them because they couldn’t even sell their home for 2 years and their only consequence for the 800k donation was dipping in college savings funds. I agree, but I do think that parents pointed this out–they weren’t saying they were saints or sacrificing everything–just half of one significant thing to them. I also felt like I learned a lot of new things about what type of service and charity work is most beneficial. What was needed in this book was a lot of editing–some of the scenes just felt completely unnecessary and way too detailed. There is a ton of name dropping and brand name dropping (?Surprising for an anti-consumerism book). I felt like the father also told tons of weird anecdotes in which he tells a joke and his family all laugh or something weird. He just told family anecdotes that felt like maybe they would be interesting or funny to just their immediate family and nobody else.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (176 pages), Middle-Upper Elementary, Historical Fiction. Impressed that such a young children’s book is taking on Communist Soviet Russia. Loved the period, the author’s connection, and the age it was targeted to. A lot of the things that I had issues with would probably be fine for his target age. I didn’t love how quickly the story moved and how the plot bounced around–not a lot of character development.
The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life by Jeff Olson and John David Mann (280 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Self-Help. This one is strange for me–I’m super glad I read it, but it was also really annoying. The message is spot on, but the writing is hard to swallow sometimes.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (272 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir (kind of). Really enjoyed the first part of this book about Hsieh’s early life and his entrepreneurial drive. The second and third part dragged and definitely needed some editing. Probably a good read for people really into business and business culture (because he says the word culture about every 3 words).
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (592 pages), Middle Grade, Historical Fiction/Fantasy. I don’t think this should win the Newbery this year, as many others do, but I think it’s good. I can see how elementary students and middle schoolers would love it and how it would help them get into WWII era. I liked how it explored different aspects of WWII (Germany, America, Japanese Internment, etc.), but it was a little too over the top for me.
Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt (288 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. I was expecting a lot because I’d heard such good things (and to be honest, because I really liked the cover..haha). It was good. I liked the overall story line and the characters. I thought some bits were a bit over dramatic for my taste.
My 2 Star Recommendations:
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (192 pages), Upper Elementary, Historical Fiction. Didn’t live up to the hype for me. at. all. It was about a young girl stranded on an island–but not exciting or interesting like Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain. I found it dragged and was really boring.
When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, (400 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Random compilation of their blog posts. Not a fan at all. Thinking about this, I really should have given this a 1 star.
Total: 31 books. Total Pages: 9, 478 pages. Average: 305 pages. 11 children’s books, 5 YA books, 15 adult books. 18 Fiction, 10 Non-Fiction, 3 In betweens (Kind of historical fiction/kind of non-fiction).