The best books I want to be when I grow up

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Author Of Saint Death's Daughter: Volume 1
By Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney

The Books I Picked & Why

Cordelia's Honor

By Lois McMaster Bujold

Book cover of Cordelia's Honor

Why this book?

I used to say there were certain characters I wanted to be when I grew up, but that isn’t exactly true. It’s more like I want to be the book as a whole: its wisdom, humor, intricacy, plot, its ability to transport me utterly, to inhabit my mind with new, lifelong friends (or enemies), and to teach me—not only a single lesson upon the first reading, but many different lessons through the years. Cordelia’s Honor (sometimes sold separately as Shards of Honor and Barrayar) is one of those books. It’s the first book of the mighty Vorkosigan Saga by Bujold, which I have read. But if I’d never read the rest, this book alone would still gleam in my mind as something necessary, generous, and strangely infinite. 

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I Shall Wear Midnight

By Terry Pratchett

Book cover of I Shall Wear Midnight

Why this book?

Terry Pratchett’s character Tiffany Aching grows, over the series of books she stars in, into the sort of person I long to be (culminating, for me in I Shall Wear Midnight). It’s not so much that I want to be a teenaged witch in a made-up land. No, it’s Terry Pratchett’s best thoughts that I want to occupy and absorb, the grace and rage and clarity he gives his main character to “open her eyes, and then open them again.” All of Pratchett’s wise and wily witches contribute their gifts to Tiffany until she has the best of each of them: bawdy humor, strict necessity, duty, dancing, power, and humanity.

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Here If You Need Me: A True Story

By Kate Braestrup

Book cover of Here If You Need Me: A True Story

Why this book?

Here If You Need Me is a non-fiction memoir I read years ago on a whim. It still sticks with me. A woman with four children is happily married to a State trooper training to be a minister. When he dies suddenly, she goes on to become a minister herself, working with search and rescue missions in the Maine woods while raising her children. Her intimate knowledge of grief, her vulnerability, and compassion, coupled with a life of service and family, moved me so deeply that I often call upon the memory of this book in my life to metaphorically “get down on the floor with those who weep, and give them tea if they want it.”

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The Goblin Emperor

By Katherine Addison

Book cover of The Goblin Emperor

Why this book?

My editor wrote to me a few years ago (mostly all-caps and !!!s) about a book called The Goblin Emperor, and had I read it, and didn’t she think I’d adore it? She was so convincing that I ordered a copy from my favorite indie bookstore right away and read it in a sitting. I almost cried when I realized Addison had written only one other book at that point—until a friend told me she was also the author Sarah Monette. I spent the next month reading everything in her oeuvre. But none I adored with my whole body being like I did The Goblin Emperor: its deep kindness, its gentleness, its world-building and warmth, its high stakes and heightened language, its arc of grace and growth. 

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The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry

By C. M. Waggoner

Book cover of The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry

Why this book?

Ah, The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry delighted me and made me laugh from the first page. It’s radically funny and inexorably inventive. Best of all, it follows a protagonist who doesn’t know how great she is—who thinks she’s kind of terrible, really—and it takes a newfound community of friends and fellow wizard ladies to reflect back to her a new opinion of herself. The language is Dickensian (only better!) in its wit and flexibility. It abounds in amazing female characters. And while there’s a fun romance, it’s the friendships that get me in my sticking place. I just wanted to hug this book when I finished. I wanted to have written it. I’m glad Waggoner did instead.

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