RA Booklist 2018

My Readers’ Advisory (RA) course begins again soon. For you non-librarians, RA is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so one big part of the course is analyzing genres/categories of books so students are more knowledgeable and can feel confident recommending a variety of books.

To learn more about genres/categories of books, they’ll read about 20 books this summer, and people always ask me for my booklist, so you’ll find it below. But just know, I don’t make students read every book on this list. They read a couple in each genre/category.

Literary Fiction / Short Stories
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Mystery / Thriller
Darkness, Sing Me a Song by David Housewright
Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay
The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

Historical Fiction
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Science Fiction
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Romance / Women’s Fiction
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif
The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond by Michio Kaku

Graphic / Comic
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris
Saga Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
Black Hammer Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Jeff Lemire
Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges

Young Adult
Warcross by Marie Lu
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Happy reading!


My life in books

ALA recently announced the winners of children’s and YA book awards, and it got me thinking about all the books I loved as a kid.

monsterendGrowing up with three older sisters, who were much older than me (seven, eleven, and twelve years older), books were read to me since the day I came home from the hospital. My sister Tammy is probably the best book reader, especially when she read The Monster at the End of this Book. She has Grover’s voice down and the more scared he got with the prospect of a monster at the end of the book, the more scared she sounded.

FrogandtoadBut it wasn’t just Grover. We had an overflowing bookshelf of books that I grew up with, as my dad said about me, “You were always up in your room reading.” I re-read books until the pages fell apart. Frog and Toad were my good friends. I had tea with Frances. And all the Sweet Pickles animals taught me things, though I probably should’ve read Yakety Yak Yak Yak a few more times.

bfgBy the time I got to 2nd grade, one of my favorite books was The BFG. I don’t remember the name of my 2nd grade teacher (Mrs. Dixon, maybe?), but she read The BFG to us in class, and I was so proud that I had already read it and that I had my own copy of the book I could bring to class and read along with her. The story of Sophie and bone-crunching giants and snozzcumbers fascinated me, but I just really wanted the BFG to come blow dreams into my bedroom window at night.

ramonaI read a lot of other chapter books when I was young, too, like the Encyclopedia Brown books, a ton of different Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I loved Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, but if I had to pick chapter books that I read again and again and again, there are just two authors you need to know – Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.

I wanted to be Ramona Quimby. She was ballsy, up for anything, and she’d get in trouble, but she always had the best of intentions. Well, almost always.

And who didn’t love Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Blubber? And what girl didn’t whisper to other girls about Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? or Forever? Judy Blume told us about bullying and made us sympathize. Judy Blume told us things adults shied away from telling us and she didn’t make them scary.

I still read quite a few young adult books, and some middle grade books, too, because there are still great stories being published. And now, it’s time for me to dive into one. I hope Dumplin’ holds up to all the praise.

2016 books

The Readers’ Advisory course I’ve taught for the last three years is moving to every other year, so the course won’t be offered this year but will be back in 2017. While I love teaching this course, by not teaching it this year do you know what that means? I can read whatever the hell I want this year.

I read a lot of what I want even when I do teach the course, but I always have to read more in genres that aren’t my favorite. See ya later romance and detective mysteries.

So with me diving into books I’m excited about, these are the ones coming out in 2016 that I’ve got my eye on.


cityofmirrosThe City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

This is the final book in The Passage trilogy that I have loved. I wrote about book one and book two in the past and I’ve been patiently awaiting this book for four years. I’m really looking forward to this one, even though I’m kind of hazy on the previous two. I’ll have to find a good synopsis to catch me up again. Damn those series.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. SchwabA Gathering of Shadows Final

This is the second book in V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series. I never wrote about A Darker Shade of Magic, but it’s a fabulous book involving four different Londons and magical people who can move between all four worlds. There’s fun magic in the book, great power struggles between worlds, and some serious attitude. I can’t wait to see what happens in this one.

laststarThe Last Star by Rick Yancey

Another series finale I’m really looking forward to is the last in the 5th Wave series. I liked the first book, but I loved the second book. I never wrote about the second book but it was way better than the first, probably because it didn’t follow Cassie as much in the second. Secondary characters became more pronounced and they were way more intriguing. I have no idea where this one will end.

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malleystiletto

This is the second book in The Checquy Files and I loved the first book. I described the first book as if Mulder and Scully had a baby with Jason Bourne and the X-Men. Myfawny Thomas is the main character who woke up not knowing who she is but soon finding out she works in a secret society that tracks down supernatural creatures in the UK. It was just so much fun and I’m thrilled we’ll be able to visit this world again.

morningstarMorning Star by Pierce Brown

This is the final book in the Red Rising trilogy. I really liked the first two books, and I’m in awe of the fabulous world building, so what I’m most looking forward to is to find out what this war will do to this world and who will come out on top. I have my fingers crossed for Darrow, our bottom dweller Red who’s sticking it to the Golds.


And now, for books that I know nothing about but that sound super good.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvelsleepinggiants

This is an epistolary book, the first in a series, and I’m totally intrigued. Just check out this from the description:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code.

Yes, please!

fellsideFellside by M. R. Carey

I loved Carey’s 2014 debut The Girl with All the Gifts, so no matter what this story is about I’m in. Although it sounds good, too:

Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

What’s the message?! We’ll have to wait for April to find out.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Andersallthebirds

From the editor-in-chief of io9 comes an apocalyptic tale that includes magic of some sort? There is a time machine at some point, then later there is the global climate crisis and magicians who want to help solve it? I don’t fully understand the description, but I do love a good apocalyptic story.

everyheartEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This description also is a little vague, but it involves an underground world that sucks up children, magic, and a girl who comes back from the world and wants to go back, but there’s trouble all around her. It’s something like that. I don’t know a lot about it, but I’ve heard a lot of buzz, so I want to check it out.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelthex

I ran across this book on a Barnes & Noble list of 2016 releases, and I laughed when I read that a 17th century witch holds a town hostage. That’s pretty much all I had read to know I wanted to check it out, but it also didn’t hurt to know that this was a bestseller in the Netherlands and is finally being translated for us. I’m interested to see if I agree with the Dutch.

So, yes, that’s a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, with a little bit of horror, but I said I wanted to read 76 books this year for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, so there will be plenty of other books, too. I really need to catch up on a lot of things I missed in the last few years, but these are the ones I won’t miss in 2016.

Happy reading!

I needed Eleanor & Park

eleanorIn the past I’ve written of my love for the book Eleanor & Park. Other people love it, too, as seen in some awesome Eleanor & Park fan art. But there are some people who don’t love it so much.

This isn’t new news. Over a month ago the world was made aware that two parents in the Anoka-Hennepin school district started a crusade against Eleanor & Park. They were able to stop a visit by author Rainbow Rowell in the schools and in the Anoka County Libraries. For more information on how this came about, read the Rainbow Rowell interview at The Toast.

I’ve been stewing over this since I read that interview, and this article, and this one, and this one. It’s all over the news. But what is the most telling is reading the full report by the Parents Action League, the organization these parents use to strong arm county officials. You can find their full report and argument against this book on their website.

Besides the fact that they document how many swear words are in the book, making charts showing that the word “fuck” is used 35 times and “God” is used 67 times, what I found most interesting about their report is the information at the beginning. They give background on how they came to be aware that this book was used for a voluntary summer book club. Their 15-year-old brought it to their attention and they investigated. They state:

After being assaulted by 8 instances of “fuck” or “fucking”, 5 “shit”, 1 “dicklick” and 1 “bastard” in the first three pages of the book it was apparent that someone in the school district had a significant lapse in judgment by allowing this book to be put into the hands of our minor children.

This prompted us to spend roughly 10 hours reading the entire book cover to cover and documenting our findings regarding the content which we have included below. The amount of vile profanity used throughout this publication was absolutely astounding! Never in our 43 years have either of us ever read anything more profane.

Grammar mistakes aside, this is the most telling about the two people who brought this challenge forward. They are clearly not readers.

I say they are not readers because it’s hilarious that they think this is the most profane piece of literature. This book is so incredibly tame.

I like to read young adult literature. At least half the books I read are young adult, if not more. I love a good coming-of-age story where teens are faced with tough challenges and come out of them better and stronger than when they entered. I love a good piece of dystopian YA where teens take on the man because they aren’t yet jaded into thinking that they can’t fix injustices. Hell, I just love a good story, and I don’t care if that story involves teens or adults.

So as a person who reads a lot of YA, I can tell these parents that if their idea of profane is some silly swear words, they’re barking up the wrong tree. Swear words are extremely common in YA lit, and you know why? Because teens swear. I know it may shock these parents, but it’s true. On the school bus to and from school, students will hear more swear words in one day than they will read in this entire book.

I could easily name twenty YA books off the top of my head that are riddled with swear words. These books are probably in the Anoka-Hennepin school libraries, because they should be. Teens want to read stories about themselves. They want to see realistic portrayals of teenage life. And whether or not these parents want to admit it, teens swear.

They also fall in love, which seems to be another irritation for the Parents Action League. In Eleanor & Park, the two teens fall in love and kiss. And touch. But decide not to have sex.

Yes, that’s right, these teens decide not to have sex.

Here, again, is where this book challenge is ridiculous, because many teens do have sex, both in real life and in YA literature. I’ve read a book where a teen boy searches for girls to hook up with but not date. Where teens lose their virginity at summer camp. Where teens find solace in each other when everything else around them is crumbling. Yet the book where the teens decide they do not want to have sex should be called vulgar?

What makes me the most mad is that the teens in this book are so real and the Parents Action League wants to take that away from teens like me who needed a book like this.

I was Eleanor in high school, a chubby, insecure girl who bought into what I was sold about body image and beauty. Beauty was thin and thin is what you needed to be to be loved. There were very few people like me in literature and on television, so it was easy to buy into this construct. If we were in literature or on television we were the ones made fun of because we were disgusting. We were not worthy of love, at least not until we lost weight.

I grew up with “Married with Children” being a staple in my house. For some reason, my dad found Al Bundy funny, and he controlled the remote so I watched what he watched. Looking back on it, “Married with Children” was not something a 9-year-old should watch, but watch it I did, and whenever a large woman was on screen, Al Bundy made awful, horrible jokes about her, jokes that focused on her weight, because we women should be appealing to men, and being appealing meant we needed to be thin.

I needed more books like Eleanor & Park when I was young because Eleanor is worthy of love, even with her crappy home life, her worn clothes, and her chubby body. All of that doesn’t matter when it comes to finding companionship with someone else. That’s what Eleanor & Park teaches us, that above all the crap going on around them and the messages we are fed about beauty, they found each other and fell in love.

Isn’t that a message that parents would want their children to know? That no matter what we look like we are worthy of someone’s affections, someone that generally likes us for who we are?

I was so insecure as a teen, that I questioned or downright grilled a boy when he was flirting with me. Are you really flirting with me? Stop it, not me. Stop saying nice things to me. You’re joking with me, right? You’re pulling a prank on me? That’s nice, but stop it, because you’re clearly lying. I couldn’t accept that someone would actually find me attractive because I was not what attractive was supposed to be.

The parents who have started the crusade against this book are putting teens in a pretty, little, safe box, a box that doesn’t exist outside the minds of these parents. Every teen hears swear words every day at school. This is just a fact. Not every teen has sex or falls in love, but some do. These are the realities of the world in which we live. We are not the world of the “Brady Bunch,” a world that never existed when it was created and that doesn’t exist now.

Books like Eleanor & Park should and need to be on school library shelves for students like me. I needed Eleanor & Park as a teen. I needed to read it and I needed people around me to read it. Sadly, I know there are still teen girls who tell themselves some of the things I told myself as a teen, and they need to read it, too.

I’m Fred & George!

At some point, I’m sure we’ve all taken the Myers-Briggs personality test. I know I’ve gone through it at least four times, the first being in a class in graduate school. Amongst the other soon-to-be librarians, I was the lone person to get an E.

It’s kind of a known fact that most librarians will get an I for introvert, but anyone who knows me would never question my E. I’m an extrovert all the way.

My full type is ESFP, and while definitions vary describing these types, it’s safe to say that:

  • E – I’m an extrovert who feels motivated being around people;
  • S – I like to take a hands-on approach and learn more by doing than by studying;
  • F – I identify and empathize with others;
  • P – I like to go with the flow and am open and adaptable to change.

Of course there are downsides to each type, but this week, when the internet went crazy over the Myers-Briggs types for Harry Potter characters, I’d say I hit the jackpot.

I’m like Fred & George Weasley!

Fred & George are arguably the best characters in Harry Potter. They are fun, inventive, smart, and everybody wanted to hang out with them. Sure, they gave some people a hard time sometimes, but overall they were pretty sweet guys. Remember, they were the ones who felt bad that Harry couldn’t go to Hogsmeade so they gave him the Marauder’s Map.

So which character are you? This chart was created by a woman named Emily and posted on her Tumblr account. Click the image below to see a larger version of it, and then click it again to make it really large and readable.

harry potter myers briggs
I will admit, one time I got an ENFP when I took the test, so I’m not always like Fred & George, but did you see who ENFP is? It’s Ron Weasley, the best friend ever! Well, except for book four when he was uncharacteristically jealous, but other than that, Ron’s pretty great, too.

So in terms of Harry Potter characters, I think I’m pretty awesome. And I’m so grateful I’m not Draco.

Eleanor & Park fan art

I wish I were an artist. The extent of my skills lie with paint by number and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but if I were a good painter/illustrator, I would totally make some fan art for my favorite books.

I squealed like a teenager when I ran across some awesome Eleanor & Park fan art, like this great one from Andiree on Tumblr:

eleanorPark is so dreamy.

But there are other pieces I ran across. Here they are kissingHere Eleanor is listening to the tapes Park made her. Here they’re in Park’s room. And more kissing.

Man, I loved this book.

My Christmas tree…in April

Yes, I know it’s April, but I was going through the pictures on my phone and was reminded of my Christmas tree from last year.

I don’t have a fake Christmas tree, which is the kind of tree I grew up with, and I have no desire to get a real Christmas tree, so last year I decided to do something different.

I’m a big book nerd. My dad says when I was little I was always in my room reading or outside reading to our dog Bingo. Yes, we had a dog named Bingo and my dad was a farmer. You’re singing the song now, aren’t you?

I don’t have a pet to read to now, but I’m still out on my balcony or in my room reading, so what kind of Christmas tree should a reader have? A book tree, of course.

You may have seen images of book trees before. Libraries around the world have been making book trees for the holidays. Just look at a Google image search for book trees and you’ll see how amazing some of these are, way more amazing than mine.

I’m already thinking about the different things I can do this year, so stay tuned.