The best books about reading

4 authors have picked their favorite books about reading and why they recommend each book.

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Art Matters

By Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell,

Book cover of Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World

Gaiman is always wonderfully positive on the subjects of experimentation, failure, and persistence, and with advice such as “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” This inspiring book is made even better by the accompanying four-color artwork from his longtime illustrator, Chris Riddell.

Who am I?

Dinty W. Moore is the author of the writing guides The Story Cure, Crafting the Personal Essay, and The Mindful Writer, among many other books. He has published essays and stories in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Southern Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere, and has taught master classes and workshops across the United States as well as in Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Mexico.

I wrote...

The Mindful Writer

By Dinty W. Moore,

Book cover of The Mindful Writer

What is my book about?

This isn't your typical “how to write” book. Author Dinty W. Moore, a well-respected writing coach, and teacher, thoughtfully illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits and grow as a person, and what it means to live a life dedicated to writing.

The Mindful Writer features bite-sized essays that will delight and inform not only writers, but also other artists, mediators, and mindfulness practitioners. Built around heartening quotes from famous writers and thinkers, it is a resource that readers will turn to again and again for guidance and encouragement.

Girl Reading

By Katie Ward,

Book cover of Girl Reading

Girl Reading is a highly creative and imaginative book. Superbly written, it takes the reader on a journey through time, and the vehicle for that journey is art. There are seven scenes from seven different time periods, each depicting an artist and a portrait of a girl or woman reading. It is such an original concept and it’s thoroughly absorbing. Given my fascination with history and art, I absolutely devoured it. Girl Reading went on to play an important role in my own writing life. I was so impressed with it that when it came to sending my own book out to agents, I sent my manuscript to Katie Ward’s agent, who is now my own.   

Who am I?

I’m a British writer but I have lived in Norway for over twenty years. My yearning for history goes back as long as I can remember and I often feel trapped in the wrong time. Writing historical fiction is my way of delving into the past and bringing it back to life. I’ve always been creative and enjoyed arts and crafts and, as well as being a writer, I am also a creativity coach and have my own podcast, The Creatively You Show, which helps writers and artists deal with the emotional challenges of the creative process. My book choices reflect these interests and the broader themes of history and art.  

I wrote...

The Strawberry Girl

By Lisa Stromme,

Book cover of The Strawberry Girl

What is my book about?

Summer 1893. Johanne Lien is a strawberry picker in the Norwegian town of Åsgårdstrand. Attracted to the artists that flock to Åsgårdstrand every summer, Johanne is especially drawn to the recluse Edvard Munch, rumoured to be a madman and a drunk. When Johanne becomes a maid for the wealthy Ihlen family, their wayward daughter Tullik recruits her as a go-between in her pursuit of the controversial painter. A secret romance develops, one that Johanne must help to conceal.

But Munch is a complex man who has a disturbing influence on Tullik and what begins as a flirtatious summer romance gradually descends into a darker struggle between two tortured souls, culminating in the agonising cry of The Scream, a painting that would change the world forever.

Thank You, Mr. Falker

By Patricia Polacco,

Book cover of Thank You, Mr. Falker

This is one of the few books that no matter how many times I read, I still get choked up. A family has a tradition they keep whenever the children are going to learn to read. They do it for their little girl when she’s headed to kindergarten, but she doesn’t learn to read there. She doesn’t learn in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade either. In 5th grade, Trisha still can’t read, and she feels “dumb” and “different.” One teacher finally realizes Trisha’s problem and through hard work and creative methods teaches her to read. This is based on the true story of the author, Patricia Polacco, who overcame her reading struggles so well that she became an author! This book beautifully teaches that one can overcome difficulties to achieve greatness.

Who am I?

When I was little, I knew I would work with books in some way, and I did, for many years working for one of the major children’s book publishers. But it wasn’t rewarding in the way I had hoped. Some kids know they want to be a teacher when they grow up. I definitely did not, yet I became one. I love finding ways to make learning fun. In my teaching days I found ways to get the most reluctant students to find something they could enjoy about learning. And now as an author, I find myself doing the same, and as a parent, seeking out books like the ones I recommend here that teach without teaching.

I wrote...

No Place Like Earth

By Lori Fettner, Michael Fettner (illustrator),

Book cover of No Place Like Earth

What is my book about?

A child’s dream takes us on a journey through space. The child looks for a place to land while passing each planet, but some are too hot, some are too cold, and some are just made of liquid and gas. In the end, the child heads home for the night, realizing Planet Earth is just right.

Fun rhyming text introduces children to each planet and interesting facts about it. The text is accompanied by stunning images, courtesy of NASA, as the child passes by each planet in order. This book fills a gap for children interested in space, who are too old for board books, but not yet old enough for longer picture books, and reminds us all why we must take care of this planet we call home. 

The Enchanted Hour

By Meghan Cox Gurdon,

Book cover of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction

This book, a nonfiction book for adults, is a kind of ode to the read-aloud. But it’s not the typical parenting book. Filled with case studies, book recommendations, and poetic language, Gurdon shows how those read-alouds are far more impactful than you might think, in bringing you closer as a family. It’s so easy to think “reading time” for school-aged kids needs to mean them reading alone or to you, but in fact, kids of all ages, and even adults, benefit from being read aloud to. With my ten-year-old daughter, we’ve had fun taking turns reading to each other or to her brother. She’s often proud of how her reading skills help put him to sleep!

Who am I?

As a speech pathologist, as well as a fiction writer and poet, I’ve been fascinated by language ever since I learned how to speak. Once I had kids, I was amazed to listen in on their conversations, which often surprised me in all the ways they were discovering and thinking about the world. I began researching how the adults in their lives could best help them express themselves—and how we can best understand them. Along the way, I realized that having these sorts of conversations can enhance our family lives and let us have more fun. I hope this list starts up some great conversations for you!

I wrote...

The Art of Talking with Children: The Simple Keys to Nurturing Kindness, Creativity, and Confidence in Kids

By Rebecca Rolland,

Book cover of The Art of Talking with Children: The Simple Keys to Nurturing Kindness, Creativity, and Confidence in Kids

What is my book about?

So many of us get so busy taking care of or teaching kids that we forget to focus on one of the most important aspects: how we’re talking with them. Especially if we're harried or stressed, it can feel hard to make room for the conversations that bring us closer or inspire us. We tend to focus on getting from point A to point B. But with a few small shifts, we could do more.

My book brings together stories of my life as a mom and speech pathologist with a review of the latest research to show why having meaningful conversations with kids matters—and how we can do so in ways that are fun for us all.

How Rocket Learned to Read

By Tad Hills,

Book cover of How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read is a charming easy-to-read picture book based on the joys of teaching and learning. In it, a little yellow bird teaches Rocket, the spotted dog, to read. Rocket begins by learning the alphabet. After that, he picks up little words like “Grrrrrr!” and “Whoosh!.” Little bird helps Rocket move on to words like “fall” and “red,” signaling a change in seasons. When winter comes, the little yellow bird must fly south. Although Rocket misses little bird, he keeps up with his schoolwork by practicing writing his “ABCs” in the snow. When the little bird returns in the spring, Rocket is now splashing in a word he can now spell: “mud.” Best of all he can spell the word “wag,” which is what he does with his tail when the little bird happily returns for the next season of school.

Who am I?

I belong to a family of dog lovers – Oscar, the black cocker spaniel; Buddy, the brown-and-white beagle; Riley, the buff cocker spaniel; Buffy, a black boxer mix, Milo and Max, Golden retrievers. In fact, cavorting with Riley at a San Francisco park was my inspiration for Bark Park. I also love children, especially my grandchildren Connor and Kasey. When Kasey, at five years of age, read my book Bark Park aloud for the first time, my heart swelled with joy! It took me back to my own young daughter Laura whose first all-by-herself read-aloud had been: Go, dog, go!  So it’s only natural for me to combine my two great loves – dogs and children – with these book recommendations.

I wrote...

Bark Park!

By Trudy Krisher, Brooke Boynton-Hughes (illustrator),

Book cover of Bark Park!

What is my book about?

Welcome to Bark Park! Come along and play with all of the dogs at Bark Park in this exuberant rhyming picture book that’s a treat for animal lovers of any age. There are dogs running and dogs sunning, dogs riding and dogs sliding, dogs with a buddy and dogs getting muddy—all before returning home to a bubble bath, a cozy dog bed, and sweet dreams of—what else?—being back at the park. The jaunty rhyming award-winning text is perfect for beginning readers.

Bark Park! is a “canine tour de force” guaranteed to captivate early readers who love their dogs!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

By Lisa Papp,

Book cover of Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

My kids and I loved this heartwarming story about a little girl, Madeleine, and Bonnie, the library dog who loves being read to. We were rooting for Madeleine to read to her new kind and patient dog friend! The kids mentioned how much they wanted to meet Bonnie and read to her, and wondered if our local library has events with reading dogs. They also wanted an immediate re-read. (Of course, my family likes books with adorable cuddly dogs in general.)

Who am I?

I've loved books and reading from an early age. My family and I go to the library nearly every week to check out books, do research, or attend library programs like storytime. My interest in libraries led me to read books about libraries and write one of my own. I’m a children’s book author living in North Carolina with my husband and two book-devouring kids. I Want My Book Back is my second book, following my debut, Teach Your Giraffe to Ski. When I’m not reading or writing, I like hanging out with my family, being outdoors, and going on everyday adventures.

I wrote...

I Want My Book Back

By Viviane Elbee, Nicole Miles (illustrator),

Book cover of I Want My Book Back

What is my book about?

Daryl loves one book – it takes him on roaring, stomping dinosaur adventures! So, when someone else puts it on hold and he’s forced to return it to the library, he’ll do anything to get his book back.

The Read-Aloud Family

By Sarah MacKenzie,

Book cover of The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids

I wasn’t sure how an entire book could be written on the topic of reading to my kids. I also thought I knew how to read to my kids. This book took our time together to a new level! The Read-Aloud Family challenged me to make the most of our reading time, equipped me to ask the right questions, and created an incredibly precious space in our days to share together in the delight of stories! Our Read-Aloud time is now my favorite time of the day. This book encouraged me that “Ten minutes matters.” If all I have is ten minutes, it’s worth it to pick up a book and read with my kids. Quickly, that ten minutes turned into one hour a day. This book also includes a very helpful resource guide with lists of suggested reading for each age group.

Who am I?

Life is busy. We all feel it. As my husband and I have built businesses, published books, traveled the country, and homeschooled our four kids, we’ve worried at times that our schedule is too packed and we’re losing sight of what matters. Seven years ago, we took time to write out a “Family Values List,” which has guided our family’s trajectory. We measure every decision and opportunity up against our core values. This provides a depth of intentionality in our parenting, which has led us to read (and write!) resources around how to make the most of the time we have together as a family. “Do life together” is on our values list, and it’s what we aim to do each day.

I wrote...

936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting

By Eryn Lynum,

Book cover of 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting

What is my book about?

"Each of these pennies represents one week you have with your child between birth and eighteen.” He handed us the jar along with this weighty explanation for the 936 copper coins inside. We all know “the days are long, but the years are short.” We feel it acutely as parents. Yet, with this jar, I had a visual for my kids’ childhoods. I can make the most of this time, infusing it with meaning, laughter, purpose, and memories.

At some point, every parent realizes time is moving swiftly, and they ask themselves, How am I investing in my child? Through personal stories and biblical examples, 936 Pennies will help you discover how to capture time and use it to its fullest potential, replacing guilt and regrets with freedom. Meanwhile, your kids will see how simple choices, like putting the cell phone down and going on a family hike, will make all the difference. Together you will “count time and make time count.”

Book Uncle and Me

By Uma Krishnaswami, Julianna Swaney (illustrator),

Book cover of Book Uncle and Me

I’d read this book a few years ago but was recently reminded of it when I interviewed Uma for a CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors Illustrators and Performers) profile. This is a sweet story about friendship, community, activism, and the main character, Yasmin's, love of books which I could totally identify with!

Set in India, nine-year-old Yasmin, an avid reader, loves to borrow a book from Book Uncle’s outdoor lending library. When the city decides to shut down Book Uncle’s stand, Yasmin gets to work. Drawing inspiration from a folktale about birds working together to free themselves from a hunter’s nest, she rouses the local community to help save the stand. An inspiring story about how each little action can contribute towards a larger goal, and that each one of us can make a difference in the world.

Who am I?

I’ve always been an avid reader. At school, during recess, I would find places to hide so the teachers wouldn’t find me and insist on sending me out to play. Exploring other countries also fascinated me but, growing up, we did not have the money to travel the world. Books became my means of travel. I especially love books written by authors who have lived or grown up in that setting. It’s why I find writing stories in an Indian setting easy and satisfying. The highest compliment from my readers is when they feel immersed in my stories and come away feeling like they’ve been to India and now want to eat an Indian meal. 

I wrote...

Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets

By Mahtab Narsimhan,

Book cover of Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets

What is my book about?

When aspiring photographer Dylan Moore is invited to join his best friend Rohit Lal on a family trip to India, he jumps at the chance to embark on an exciting journey like their Lord of the Rings heroes, Frodo and Sam. But each boy has a problem: Rohit is desperate to convince his parents not to leave him behind in Mumbai to finish school, and Dylan is desperate to use his time in India to prove himself as a photographer and to avoid his parents' constant fighting.

Keeping their struggles to themselves threatens to tear the boys apart. But when disaster strikes, Dylan and Rohit realize they have to set aside their differences to navigate India safely, confront their family issues, and salvage their friendship

How We Read Now

By Naomi S. Baron,

Book cover of How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, and Audio

In this book, Baron provides an accessible and comprehensive guide to the latest knowledge on a specific digital activity: reading with screens. Her focused and nuanced perspective on a specific aspect of living with screens is a refreshing approach. I enjoyed reading about research on digital reading from various perspectives and the practical advice for applying this knowledge to my own reading habits. I particularly liked the engaging account of the differences between reading print and digital books and how that is different from audio stories. As someone who has been researching young children’s reading in relation to new media, I found the summary of research on various types of text particularly interesting.

Who am I?

As an avid reader, I have been fascinated by children’s reading development and began researching this topic with a specific interest in the personal motivation of young readers. I examined children’s reading in various digital formats, including e-books made by families and children themselves. Today, I work as Professor in Norway and the UK and enjoy working across academia and industry. I feel very passionate about communicating research in an accessible way to children’s teachers, caregivers, and policy-makers. The books on my list do this exceptionally well, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.

I wrote...

The Future of the Self: Understanding Personalization in Childhood and Beyond

By Natalia Kucirkova,

Book cover of The Future of the Self: Understanding Personalization in Childhood and Beyond

What is my book about?

"Kucirkova provides a much-needed nuanced understanding of the impact of personal data economy on today’s children. She describes the various forms of personalized childhoods, including selfies, avatars, digital personalised books, story apps, or toys. The book critically examines the key changes that have taken place in representations of self in the 21st century and their impact on families and children’s learning. The many ways in which personal data are collected, enhanced, and distributed by technologies are discussed against the backdrop of broader societal trends, such as globalization, technologisation, and personal data economy. The book provides a balanced account of the positives and negatives of personalisation on children’s identity, key learning outcomes, and socio-emotional development."

Fish in a Tree

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt,

Book cover of Fish in a Tree

This book is a great read for parents, teachers, and children. It's breaking down stereotypes in the field of education. It's perfect for book studies or book clubs at any level. I think everyone can get something different from this book.

Who am I?

I’m a teacher with passion for history and writing realistic fiction. I published my two books when I was a teenager, and I currently work as a 6th-grade educator teaching writing. I love teaching and working with kids; it keeps me young. When I’m not teaching writing, I love to read realistic fiction, listen to or watch documentaries or horror podcasts, and write short stories.

I wrote...

What Is Normal?

By Veronica Fuxa,

Book cover of What Is Normal?

What is my book about?

All Brenden wants is to be normal. A normal guy who goes to work, has friends, and maybe even falls in love. The only thing that prevents him from his ideal life is Richard. Because of Richard, Brenden is forced to isolate himself from the world. He tries hard to fight back with the help of his friends, who are a little abnormal themselves. In the end, Brenden knows what he must do in order to get Richard out of his life. Are you normal? What exactly is normal anyway? We look at people and judge them without even knowing anything about them. We expect everyone to be a certain way. Do we truly know and understand anyone? Everyone has a dark secret they hide. What's yours?

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