RA book list 2017

Soon I’ll begin teaching my Readers’ Advisory Services course again. For you non-librarians, Readers’ Advisory (RA) is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so I help students figure out how to answer the question, “Can you recommend a good book for me?”

That’s a pretty simplistic definition of RA, because it does include more than just recommending books. However, 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 read a variety of books in my course, 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.

If none of these books appeal to you, don’t worry, I don’t like all of them either. Each of them represents the genre/category in a certain way so students learn about the variety in each group. If you don’t like cozy mysteries you’re not going to like the one under Mystery / Thriller (Mission Impawsible).

Literary Fiction / Short Stories

Wintering by Peter Geye
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Mystery / Thriller

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

Historical Fiction

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Science Fiction

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Romance / Women’s Fiction

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
If I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang

Graphic / Comic

Saga, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden
Patience by Daniel Clowes
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Young Adult Crossover

Naked ’76 by Kevin Brooks
The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

If you want other book recommendations, let me know.

Happy reading!

RA book lists 2014 & 2015

Tomorrow my Readers’ Advisory course begins, making this the third time I will teach this course at St. Kate’s. What librarian could say no to teaching a fun course all about books and reading?

Because I try to pick pretty current books, people always ask me for my book lists, the many books my students will read in the course. Here are my lists for last year’s class and this year’s. (Students read two books in each category.)

2014 Book ListShiningGirls

Literary Fiction
Perfect by Rachel Joyce

The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg – mystery
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – suspense
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – mystery/detective
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mystery
Cell by Robin Cook – thriller

Historical Fiction
The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye – late 19th century/early 20th century MN
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – saga/U.S. 19th century
I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe – romantic historical/U.S. Civil War
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany/ParisNearToYou
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – historical thriller/19th century Paris

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey – mystery
Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor – short stories
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
Vicious by V. E. Schwab – superhero

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – alternate history
Red Rising by Pierce Brown – dystopian
Influx by Daniel Suarez – techno thriller
Defenders by Will McIntosh – aliens

Graphic Novel
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2 books) – historical/fantasyHellfighters
Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges – memoir
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Fornay – memoir
Attack on Titan 1 by Hajime Isayama – manga
Attack on Titan 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks – historical
Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi – historical
Hinterkind, Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton – fantasy
Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan – fantasy
Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin by Geoff Johns – superhero
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak – superhero

Romance/Women’s Fiction
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan – contemporary romance
Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – contemporary romance
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle – women’s fiction/issue-driven
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/family fictionHitler

YA Crossover
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – contemporary
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – fantasy
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley – historical fiction
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Gardner Berry – mystery

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber – narrative nonfiction
Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower – history/WWII
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
Gulp by Mary Roach – microhistory/science
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull – business

2015 Book List

Rose Gold by Walter Mosley – mystery/private investigator
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mysteryGirlTrain
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – thriller
The Stranger by Harlan Coben – suspense

Literary Fiction
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Historical Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany & France
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman – early 20th century New York
The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman – late 18th century England
West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan – 1930s Hollywood

Romance/Women’s Fiction
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – contemporary romanceBollywood
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes – women’s fiction/historical
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman – women’s fiction/short stories/historical
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/issue-driven

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab – alternate/parallel worlds
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – mystery/urban

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – post-apocalypticBunker
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – time travel-ish
Lock In by John Scalzi – mystery

Young Adult Crossover
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – contemporary
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – historical fiction
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks – psychological thriller
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – fantasy

Dead Wake by Erik Larson – narrative nonfiction
Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization by Andrew Lawler – microhistory
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe – science/humorMarch

Graphic Novel
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – memoir
Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson – superhero
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder – superhero
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen – fantasy
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – fantasy
March: Book One AND March: Book Two by John Robert Lewis – historical/biographical
Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 AND Vol. 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga

Happy reading!

RA book list 2013

I recently finished teaching the course Readers’ Advisory Services to library science graduate students at St. Catherine University. I have no idea if I’ll teach the course again, but it was such a good opportunity and I loved interacting with future librarians. I really had a blast planning for the class and teaching it, even if it added a lot to my work load. And what librarian doesn’t love talking about books?

For you non-librarians, readers’ advisory is what we librarians do when we suggest fiction and nonfiction titles to you. We listen to the types of things you like and suggest readalikes you may enjoy. Readers’ advisory also includes promoting books and reading through indirect means, like book displays, book lists, book clubs, promotion on social media, author events, other book-related events, etc.

In the course, we looked at many different genres of books, we read a lot of books, and we did some fun things to showcase indirect readers’ advisory. I had an author speaker come in and we did some other events in the classroom, like a murder mystery and Ready Player One Jeopardy.

But since a big part of the course was students reading books in all different genres to further expand what they know about those genres, my friends have been asking me for my reading list for a long time now. You’ll find the list below, but please know:

  • Your favorite book may not be on the list and you may think it should’ve been. I know this. I’ve heard it. Your book is probably fabulous, but I read a lot of books trying to find the ones I thought might be best for the class, and I went back and forth for months before the list was finalized. I wanted books that represented the genre in certain ways, that were semi-popular (sometimes really popular) or had popular authors, that represented both male and female authors, that were diverse so we weren’t just reading a bunch of white authors/characters, and that were fairly recent (except with graphic novels).
  • I do not love every book on this list. I certainly love a bunch of them, but I also included books that I loathed but that represented good things about the genre. So that’s why you’ll see Code Name Verity on the list which I’ve been very vocal about hating. (I’m also well aware that I am in the minority on that. I don’t understand why you loved it just as much as you don’t understand why I hated it.)

With those caveats being said, here ya go. (And no, the students didn’t have to read ALL these books. I wouldn’t have made it out alive if I made them do that.)

Literary Fiction

  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Historical Fiction

  • The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman
  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
  • Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • A Good American by Alex George
  • The Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
  • The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
  • Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  • Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
  • Blackout by Connie Willis


  • Trickster’s Point by William Kent Krueger
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  • Stay Close by Harlan Coben
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Kill Shot by Vince Flynn
  • Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Romance/Women’s Lives/Gentle Reads

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larson
  • Ada’s Rules: A Sexy, Skinny Novel by Alice Randall
  • The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
  • Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Young Adult / Adult Crossover

  • I Am J by Cris Beam
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Graphic Novel

  • The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • American Vampire Volume 1 by Scott Snyder & Stephen King


  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
  • Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang

The students gave reports and read books in other genres that we didn’t cover as a whole class, so the class did hear about more genres than just what is listed here.

Happy reading!