237 books directly related to Washington D.C. 📚

All 237 Washington D.C. books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of King Lear

King Lear

By William Shakespeare

Why this book?

When I first sat down to write a novel about three sisters, step one was to reread King Lear which is about exactly that. The three sisters in Lear are quite different from mine. Among other things, they like each other much less. But for that delicate sisterly balance between so-glad-I-have-you-to-share-the-burdens-of-an-aging-parent and I-might-actually-have-to-kill-you, nothing beats King Lear.
From the list:

The best books on how sisters are great but also a pain in your ass

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Book cover of Louisa May Alcott: A Biography

Louisa May Alcott: A Biography

By Madeleine B. Stern

Why this book?

This is a well-researched, detailed biography of Louisa’s works and life. I appreciated the author covering the many different stories Louisa wrote throughout her life and how they reflected her experiences. I also loved the information on why Louisa used a pen name in the earlier part of her career. Very insightful and informative!

From the list:

The best books about Louisa May Alcott and her life

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Book cover of Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City

Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City

By Mark Adams

Why this book?

Mark Adams is simply a delightful writer. In this book, he dares to ask the age-old question: did Atlantis actually exist? He sifts through the facts and the fiction, taking the reader with him in his traipse across the globe to find answers. Like his other books, Meet Me in Atlantis is a fun read, where you’ll learn a lot and have some laughs along way.

From the list:

The best books on Atlantis if you love adventure

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Book cover of This Is NPR: The First Forty Years

This Is NPR: The First Forty Years

By Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, David Folkenflik, Susan Stamberg, Cokie Roberts

Why this book?

NPR turns fifty this year, but this book offers a survey of its first forty years. Though it was produced by the network itself, it's relatively devoid of unbridled boosterism, and offers a fair and fun look behind the scenes of what has become a beloved and respected network heard each day by millions.

From the list:

The best books about National Public Radio and how it all works

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Book cover of Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

By Edo McCullough

Why this book?

First published in 1957 (and re-issued with a welcome epilogue by historian Michael P. Onorato), the book vividly portrays the storied seaside’s heyday. McCullough was Coney Island royalty: His grandfather was one of its earliest settlers, his uncle was among its greatest showmen, and his dad owned a dozen amusement-park shooting galleries. The family’s love of the place seeps through these pages (a sub-sub title reads “the most rambunctious, scandalous, rapscallion, splendiferous, pugnacious, spectacular, illustrious, prodigious, frolicsome island on earth”—which about sums it up).  Particularly moving is the heartbreaking fate of the show animals on the night of a tragic…

From the list:

The best books about historic Coney Island

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Book cover of March

March

By Geraldine Brooks

Why this book?

This book is not as well known, but the author, Geraldine Brooks, did an amazing job in describing the war. She took an interesting spin by writing a side story to the famous novel, Little Women. Interestingly, Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott, who served as a Union nurse during the Civil War.

From the list:

The best novels to gain perspective about the American Civil War

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Book cover of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter

By Greg Toppo

Why this book?

Of the small subgenre books that deal with the way games aid education, Toppo's shows how games can make a difference in the way students learn by looking at first at a Washington, D.C. school's success with improving math scores through game playing. From there, he visits professors and visionaries, all of whom have helped kids learn through games. One thing becomes clear: if there were a games class in every school, especially in underserved communities, student grades would go up.

From the list:

The best video game narrative histories and a couple of others

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Book cover of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America

By Adam Winkler

Why this book?

Heller v. District of Columbia may have been brought by one Washington police officer challenging a local law that prohibited him from keeping a working handgun in his home. But as Gunfight demonstrates, the outcome before the Supreme Court was one “the gun rights movement long hoped for.” Winkler shows how a 1977 coup within the National Rifle Association transformed a group founded by Civil War veterans to teach marksmanship and gun safety into a civil-liberties organization dedicated to an absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. By the time Heller reached the Supreme Court in 2008, what would have once…
From the list:

The best books about Supreme Court cases (and the stories behind them)

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Book cover of The Sportswriter: Bascombe Trilogy (1)

The Sportswriter: Bascombe Trilogy (1)

By Richard Ford

Why this book?

I’m not a sports fan. My good friend, Ryan Harty (author of one of my favorite short story compilations: “Bring me your saddest Arizona”) recommended this book to me many years ago. I’m not a sports fan but he assured me it had very little if anything to do with sports. He was right about that! I gave it a shot and was immediately transported into the narrative. It’s still in my top 5 all-time favorite book list. Ford’s ability to communicate existential crises in deeper but simple ways is so, so good. Frank Bascombe, the protagonist is detached in…

From the list:

The best fiction books that are secretly philosophy books

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Book cover of The Clewiston Test

The Clewiston Test

By Kate Wilhelm

Why this book?

Brilliant young scientist develops a miraculous new pain-killer. A goldmine for the pharmaceutical company! But is the serum really safe? Ann Clewiston Symonds, the scientist at the heart of this story, comes up against Big Pharma’s disdain for ethical issues, and then a car crash dumps her on the customer’s side of the counter. What follows is riveting, chilling, and still horribly relevant today. Kate Wilhelm was extremely good at telling the hard truths about sci-fi material, that sci-fi usually avoids, and this is her best.
From the list:

The best classic lab-science sci-fi thrillers books

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Book cover of The Boy Most Likely to

The Boy Most Likely to

By Huntley Fitzpatrick

Why this book?

Bad boy, Tim, has struggled with drinking and now is a member of AA and is trying to start his life over. He and my character, Christopher, could attend AA meetings together and I am always happy to find a young adult character who is a reformed bad boy and trying to stay sober with AA and this story does not disappoint. 

From the list:

The best books with YA romance bad boys

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Book cover of Harry the Poisonous Centipede

Harry the Poisonous Centipede

By Lynne Reid Banks

Why this book?

I love bugs, and there just aren’t enough books out there about them. Harry the Poisonous Centipede is one my kids asked for over and over when they were little, and that I happily read them again and again. 

When Harry and his best friend George go up the Up Pipe, they find themselves in the dangerous world of the hoo-mans. My kids loved seeing the world through a centipede’s eyes, not to mention their unique centipedish way of speaking, and the scrapes Harry and George get themselves into (and out of) are incredibly entertaining. 

From the list:

The best middle grade books about unlikely friendships

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Book cover of The Silent Coup: A History of India's Deep State

The Silent Coup: A History of India's Deep State

By Josy Joseph

Why this book?

Although elections are dependent on how people choose to cast their ballot in the voting booth, politics is much larger than just elections. Political power isn’t just retained by convincing citizens to vote for you, it is sometimes also retained by crushing opposition voices and concocting fake narratives. This book shows how political parties in India have used organs of the state, including the police, investigative bodies, and intelligence agencies to consolidate power. It was a heartbreaking read, but it offered key insights into understanding how political power is actually wielded in the world’s largest democracy. 

From the list:

The best books to understand Indian politics

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Book cover of Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans

Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans

By Sylvia Earle

Why this book?

“Her Deepness” Sylvia Earle is an authority on ocean explorations, so this is another must-read for all ocean lovers. Sea Change recounts Earle’s decades dedicated to the discovery of the sea. With contagious enthusiasm and vivid prose, this internationally renowned author and scientist narrates her many underwater adventures while urging readers to respect the oceans and their creatures.

From the list:

The best books about the ocean and its inhabitants

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Book cover of Weather

Weather

By Jenny Offill

Why this book?

If you don’t have much time to read, this is the one for you. Offill is known for her brevity - her 2014 novel Dept. Of Speculation (equally worth your time) is similarly short, and similarly shot through with humor - and for the punch she can pack into a limited space. In Weather, she brings together the mundane grind of daily life with the larger existential terror many of us experience when we think about climate change, and bridges that gap, forcing her characters to confront how their daily lives are in fact not separate from these bigger…

From the list:

The best books that capture the grief of living with climate change

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Book cover of The Undomestic Goddess

The Undomestic Goddess

By Sophie Kinsella

Why this book?

The story follows corporate lawyer Samantha Sweeting, who has no personal life outside her career. One day, an epic mistake turns her life upside down, and due to various mix-ups she ends up masquerading as a housekeeper to a wealthy family in a British village. There is just one problem: she can’t cook, or clean, or iron, or do anything that is expected of a housekeeper.

I love this book because it has a bit of everything: romance, plenty of humor, drama, even a bit of mystery, all wrapped up in a playful yet insightful journey on life and self-discovery.…

From the list:

The best romance, chick-lit, and women’s fiction books

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Book cover of Seven Tears Into the Sea

Seven Tears Into the Sea

By Terri Farley

Why this book?

A beautiful tale of first love, summer by the sea, and sexy supernatural boyfriends, Seven Tears Into the Sea is one of my favorite books of all time. Like Gwen, I’ve always felt called to the sea, though sadly, I’ve never been rescued by a beautiful selkie boy. Nor has one ever beckoned for me to return to him. But thanks to Seven Tears Into the Sea, I at least know what it would be like if one ever did. 

From the list:

The best supernatural books to read all year long

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Book cover of The Cat and the Mouse and the Runaway Train

The Cat and the Mouse and the Runaway Train

By Peter Bently

Why this book?

Okay, so this book isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s a wonderful read-aloud. I’m usually not a fan of rhyming picture books, but this book is definitely an exception because of its exuberant and perfect poetry. The cat in this book is pretty sweet—with utterly adorable eyebrows!—and it’s nice to see a good-natured cat making friends with a mouse.

From the list:

The best funny picture books about cats

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Book cover of The Night Watchman

The Night Watchman

By Louise Erdrich

Why this book?

The Night Watchman is another feat of world-building and story, based on the life and community of the author’s extraordinary Chippewa-Cree grandfather, (called Thomas Wazhushk in the book), who led the fight against genocidal government legislation that would have destroyed his tribe. The motley cast of characters–not least Thomas’ young niece Patrice–will both steal and break your heart, with each one living and breathing their powerful heritage in a unique, yet unified way.
From the list:

The best historical fiction by diverse women

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Book cover of War Beyond Words: Languages of Remembrance from the Great War to the Present

War Beyond Words: Languages of Remembrance from the Great War to the Present

By Jay Winter

Why this book?

Some may disagree with me, but I think this is Winter’s masterpiece. It is a book that charts the ways our remembrance of the war dead changed from the violence of the First World War to the Holocaust to the present. He looks at film, photographs, literature, and war memorials to show how our memories have become less vertical and more horizontal over time and how we have focused less and less on the faces of the dead and more and more on the names of the masses, such as one finds on Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington,…

From the list:

The best history books on the memory of the war dead

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Book cover of Little Bear's Spring

Little Bear's Spring

By Elli Woollard, Briony May Smith

Why this book?

Little Bear's Spring is an inspired picture book about friendship that emerges from the unlikeliest of things. When Little Bear wakes up from his long winter sleep he discovers everywhere is covered by a blanket of snow and is eerily quiet. He feels alone and afraid. You can’t help but go Ahhhh when Little Bear picks up a small pebble which he thinks is just as alone as he is. He clutches it tightly in his paw and sets off on this heart-warming adventure in search of friends.

You can really identify with Little Bear as he wonders at the…

From the list:

The best brilliant books to introduce young children to spring and the seasons

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Book cover of The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners

The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners

By Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite children’s books until today. It’s wonderfully illustrated and it teaches good manners in a fun way. I like how Brother Bear and Sister Bear pretended to observe good manners in compliance with Mama Bear’s Politeness Plan but as time passed, they eventually ended up practicing good manners out of habit. I also like that the book showed that not even the grown-ups (such as Papa Bear) are exempted from the house rules.

From the list:

The best animal children’s books that teaches good morals and values

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Book cover of Killer Transaction

Killer Transaction

By Catherine Bruns

Why this book?

Catherine Bruns’ first book in her new series features a refreshingly new kind of sleuth. Cindy York is an ordinary woman in her 40s with a supportive husband, twin sons, and a typical teenage daughter. There are several wonderful laugh-aloud moments. The violence is off-page, the plot is well done with the reason for murder revealed at the right time. I loved the animals in the story.

From the list:

The best feel good mystery books

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Book cover of The Woman Before Me

The Woman Before Me

By Ruth Dugdall

Why this book?

This one is a bit of a cheat as It doesn’t fall into the category of memory and forgetting as easily but I think it is definitely about past trauma, trying to reinvent yourself, ignoring parts of your true nature, which for me, is a form of forgetting. In this tense novel, three women must uncover the truth about a tragic incident, one of whom is a probation officer trying to decide if a prisoner should be released on parole. It’s told from dual perspectives and it keeps twisting throughout. The last twist really threw me and I wanted to…

From the list:

The best books about memory and forgetting

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Book cover of The Key to Happily Ever After

The Key to Happily Ever After

By Tif Marcelo

Why this book?

During the worst of the COVID pandemic, I found myself, like many people around the globe, in need of comfort reads. This delightful rom-com delivers. It explores the push-pull and power of sisterhood. It’s about three sisters who are in the wedding-planning business together. While they deal with wedding fiascos and Bridezillas, the de la Rosa sisters must each define her role in the family business and the family itself. They squabble and butt heads, but when disaster strikes, they have each other’s backs. Growing up, my sisters and I were forever teasing and tormenting each other, but we always…

From the list:

The best books about sisters that make you want to call your sister

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Book cover of The Story of an Hour

The Story of an Hour

By Kate Chopin

Why this book?

I love The Story of An Hour: Short Story by Kate Chopin because this tale has a delicious plot twist and portrays irony at its finest. I resonate with the feminist message — the oppression and the realization of what the heart truly desires and the heartbreak of that being ripped away. Very emotive. I felt what the main character was feeling and didn’t see the ending coming. This is my favorite type of story and the kind I love to write.

From the list:

The best books with plot twists

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Book cover of Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.

Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.

By Diane Carlson Evans, Bob Welch

Why this book?

Evans was the power behind the creation of the Vietnam Women's Memorial located at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Twenty-some years ago, she called me—we didn’t know each other—and asked to meet. She was looking for help in writing about her experiences as a combat nurse in Vietnam, and how that led to her spending ten years to create the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial. We spent a long lunch at a beachfront bistro in Venice, CA talking, and finally agreed that she should have the catharsis from writing her book, when she was ready. This…

From the list:

The best books to safely satisfy your lust for action and mystery

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Book cover of Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

By Charlton D. McIlwain

Why this book?

Black software, McIlwain writes, “refers to the programs we desire and design computers to run. It refers to who designs the program, for what purposes, and what or who becomes its object and data.” The book is a much needed examination of the role that Black entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, and users contributed in building the internet.

From the list:

The best books on the origins of the tech industry

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Book cover of The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America

The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America

By Daniel J. Sharfstein

Why this book?

This book features a trio of true-life stories from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries about families whose ancestors were enslaved but who, by a variety of stratagems, managed to cross the color line and become “white” in the eyes of others – and eventually in the eyes of their own descendants. These stories illustrated for me the actual permeability of racial categories, hinging largely on one’s physical appearance and possessions.  In other words, the lighter your skin and the larger your bank account, the greater the possibility that others will allow you to be…

From the list:

The best books on Melungeons and their history

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Book cover of Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

By Claire Dederer

Why this book?

Dederer’s book explores her sudden, mid-life yearning for carnal pleasure and compares them to her promiscuous youth. We see her sleeping with enough people in college to earn a recommendation on a park bench (“for a good time call Clare Dederer"), and also as a married mother and artist who longs for something more, but she’s not sure what it is. Punctuated with hilarious entries from her childhood journal, this book delivers on every level.
From the list:

The best books if you want to read the messy, brutal, glorious truth of women’s bodies and their lives

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Book cover of Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

By Nicola Davies, Emily Sutton

Why this book?

I met Nicola Davies in 2015 when we accepted our Green Earth Book Awards in Washington, D.C. She writes about nature in a way that helps even young readers understand and think a little harder about their connections to it. In Tiny Creatures, Nicola tackles microbes—where they live, and how they help or hurt us. This focus on the unseen world will then help kids understand the importance of the unseen fungi internet in Can You Hear the Trees Talking and the importance of tiny phytoplankton in Planet Ocean.

Perfect for kids ages 5-8.

From the list:

The best nature books to WOW! kids and teens

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Book cover of The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers

The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers

By Tonya M. Stremlau

Why this book?

This has poetry, essays, short stories, and a play, all by internationally acclaimed deaf writers.  These give you a starting point. From there, you need to take a sign language course and start watching videos of deaf poems, stories, and jokes. What a grand world of wonder awaits you!

From the list:

The best books about deaf culture

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Book cover of Drunk Before Noon: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of the Washington Press Corps

Drunk Before Noon: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of the Washington Press Corps

By Kendall K. Hoyt, Frances Spatz Leighton

Why this book?

From the country’s capital, the city’s journalists translated political power and social news – as well as a thriving social scene. They covered stories that were shared across the country. A mix of men and women, big names and freelancers, these journalists reveals behind-the-scenes reporting and relationships. The stories reveal how and why news is made. These watchdogs of government were often intertwined with politicians professionally and sometimes personally. This book offers a helpful understanding of Washington, D.C. journalism – and is highly entertaining.

From the list:

The best books about women, politics and journalism in the post-World War II years

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Book cover of Washington

Washington

By Meg Greenfield

Why this book?

The book Washington chronicles the significant career of Meg Greenfield, an editorial page editor of The Washington Post. Greenfield, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, wrote the book during the last two years of her life. Greenfield’s boss and close friend Katharine Graham contributed the foreword which provides context. Greenfield came to Washington in 1961 and was hired by the Post a few years later. Her editorials at the Post and her columns in Newsweek were witty and smart. Her stories provide a political picture of Washington, D.C. at the end of the American century. She was…

From the list:

The best books about women, politics and journalism in the post-World War II years

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Book cover of Tiger

Tiger

By Nick Butterworth

Why this book?

Tiger isn’t a tiger. He’s a kitten. But he likes to pretend he’s a real tiger. This is such a delightful story and Tiger is the cutest and most adorable character. it’s impossible not to love him and smile at his efforts to feel all grown-up.
From the list:

The best tiger picture books

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Book cover of Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates

Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates

By Erving Goffman

Why this book?

This classic account by a renowned sociologist is critical reading for those interested in the anti-psychiatry movement, a crusade that viewed psychiatry as more coercive than therapeutic and, in some cases, questioned the reality of mental illness itself. For one year, Goffman embedded himself in St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital in Washington, DC, where he ultimately concluded that the defining features of the asylum – similar to those of prisons and other “total institutions” – did more to shape the patient’s behavior than the supposed illness for which the patient had been admitted in the first place. Goffman’s observations left a…

From the list:

The best books for rethinking the line between sanity and madness

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Book cover of My Friends

My Friends

By Taro Gomi

Why this book?

All the books I’m drawn to have striking and beautiful illustrations and this one is no exception. I love the joyful and varied way that friendship is expressed in this board book. I purchased the book when my daughter was still in preschool (she’s in high school now), and the message of finding camaraderie in as many places as possible still resonates deeply.

From the list:

The best children’s books about and from Japan

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Book cover of The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

By Ashley Herring Blake

Why this book?

Sunny is a 12-year-old with a new heart and new plans for the summer—have amazing experiences, find a new best friend, and kiss a boy. Sunny takes readers on one heart-racing adventure after another as she navigates difficult family situations, goes on a first-kiss quest, and learns to surf. When she makes a new best friend, she discovers that maybe it’s not a boy she wants to kiss after all. Three words to describe this book: humor, heart, and hope.

From the list:

The best LGBTQ+ books for children and young adults

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Book cover of Gutter Child

Gutter Child

By Jael Richardson

Why this book?

This book pick is a dystopic novel about a young woman in a world that separates between those who are from the Gutter and those who are not. I love the intensity of this coming-of-age story, and the compelling writing and voice, for sure. But most of all I love the main character Elimina. She is smart and passionate, fierce and loving, and I defy any reader not to fall a bit in love with her. The world she’s born into pushes her down, and yet she rises above stigma and subverts society to become a beacon for those around…

From the list:

The best books to explore brilliant writing from Canada

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Book cover of I Really Want the Cake

I Really Want the Cake

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti

Why this book?

When our heroine and her little dog spy a spectacular cake just sitting alone on the kitchen table, it's on! The note attached from Mom says "You must not eat the cake." But what's a kid to do? She tries lots of activities to help her forget about cake but will temptation win out? This book is fun, funny, and well written. I love the drama of the situation and the art (by Lucia Gaggioti) is spot on. Fun to read dramatically aloud to both kids and adults. (Pair it with a reading of Green Eggs and Ham!)

From the list:

The best picture books that are even better read aloud

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Book cover of Umbrella

Umbrella

By Taro Yashima

Why this book?

This book is what I read again and again when I first started writing a picture book. Momo got her umbrella for her birthday gift and she can’t wait to use it. The little girl’s impatience, anticipation are plainly described and it brings me to the childhood days when every day is anew, novel, and splendid.

From the list:

The best children’s books about rainy day

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Book cover of And Then It's Spring

And Then It's Spring

By Julie Fogliano, Erin E. Stead

Why this book?

Told in one long sentence, this is the story of a child and their dog who plant seeds after winter and wait and wait and wait for the brown ground to–finally–become green. The ongoing sentence resonates with waiting for hopeful signs that spring is on the way. 

From the list:

The best books about growing things

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Book cover of Our House

Our House

By Louise Candlish

Why this book?

Gone Girl started the domestic suspense trend and showed us that suspense can be driven by family/household dynamics. Louise Candlish takes this to another level in Our House when the main character comes home to find another family moving into her house. She soon discovers that her husband has sold the house from under her feet and disappeared. This is a fantastic, slow-burn literary thriller with a great ending.

From the list:

The best books for fans of Gone Girl

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Book cover of The Love Letter

The Love Letter

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Lucy Ruth Cummins

Why this book?

A misunderstanding about the intended recipient of a love letter first brings Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel great joy, but then threatens their friendship. In the end, Mouse helps them remember why they love each other. The final illustration even suggests that Mouse is joining their circle, since after all, love is unlimited. The Love Letter struck me first as a writer, because I recognized a unique story premise; and then I realized how much tenderness underlies both the text and the illustration.

From the list:

The best children’s picture books about navigating friendship

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Book cover of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

By Josh Allen, Sarah J. Coleman

Why this book?

Writing a really good spooky short story is hard. Writing 13 of them is near-impossible. Yet Allen has put together an anthology of sheer terror, with each story hinging on something simple and mundane. Basically, Allen makes you afraid of everything, and does it with a smile.

From the list:

The best spooky middle grade books

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Book cover of Violets Are Blue

Violets Are Blue

By Barbara Dee

Why this book?

Violets are Blue is told from the heart of twelve-year-old Wren. It explores the confusion and heartache that comes from an unexpected divorce, shifting friendships, and a mom’s alarming and erratic behavior. It is an emotional story that uniquely shares life’s messy feelings while gently and thoughtfully introducing the difficult topic of opioid addiction. It also introduces readers to the world of special effects make-up. Violets are Blue is beautiful, complex, and full of heart. Wren’s journey will spark challenging conversations and promote empathy.

From the list:

The best children's books around courage, friendship, and social anxiety

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Book cover of Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course That Has Revolutionized the Art of Success

Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course That Has Revolutionized the Art of Success

By Michael Ray, Rochelle Myers

Why this book?

Creativity in Business was the book that started it all for me in terms of creativity in business. I had just graduated from The Wharton School with my MBA, and I had no idea that business creativity was even a thing. Or even a possibility. I thought they were entirely different worlds, and never the twain shall meet. In this book, authors Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers made me want to go take their course at Stanford. As soon as they started talking about business as art and silencing the “voice of judgment,” I was hooked.

From the list:

The best books on creative thinking

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Book cover of The Big Man

The Big Man

By William McIlvanney

Why this book?

Set in a Scottish town blighted by an economic downturn, Dan Scoular, desperate for money to support his family, is persuaded to engage in an illegal, bare-knuckle fight. Though the fight lies at the core of the story, the novel is about the importance of family and community as well as the threat posed by outside criminal elements fomenting a betting opportunity. As I recall, the novel has an affecting, hopeful ending as the community quietly responds to Scoular’s plight.

From the list:

The best books to experience The Quiet Man Effect

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Book cover of Drama City

Drama City

By George P. Pelecanos

Why this book?

Washington, D.C. is the author’s turf and he knows the district with GPS certainty. Lorenzo Brown, an African-American ex-con with a moral code, is redeemed by his love for animals. His post-release job is with an animal rescue organization. The novel’s conflict is basic as Brown is faced with environmental forces that attempt to lure him back to the criminal life, even as he struggles to resist them. Adding superbly to the flow of the story is Pelecanos’s mastery of street argot, his love of music and cars serving as a backdrop.

From the list:

The best books to experience The Quiet Man Effect

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Book cover of The United States of Cocktails: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia)

The United States of Cocktails: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia)

By Brian Bartels

Why this book?

Longtime New York City bartender Brian Bartels makes for an erudite and humorous guide to American cocktails as he surveys the country state by state. Chock full of quotes and quips, plus offering a stunning array of obscure drinking facts along with local lore, the book is not just an amble but a true tour de force. The United States of Cocktails makes for the perfect drinking companion to simply pop open and browse for a drink to make tonight, or to read cover to cover. Educational and transportive, Bartels’ charm keeps readers returning to this impressively researched tome.  

From the list:

The best cocktail books for armchair travelers

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Book cover of Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

By Time Out

Why this book?

Yes, this is a guidebook. Why do I love it so much? It’s the next best thing to actually riding a train. My bucket list of dream train rides is very long, and with two young kids, a couple of jobs, and currently an ongoing global pandemic, it’ll probably take me a while to get to all of them. Until then, I can immerse myself in the photos and descriptions in this book. 

From the list:

The best books about trains

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Book cover of Ladder of Years

Ladder of Years

By Anne Tyler

Why this book?

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. I am always drawn to her portraits of family dynamics through the lens of her quirky characters. She presents them in a way that moves beyond their quirks and negative qualities; we see them with their contradictions and failings amid the texture of their daily lives. We follow her characters through their difficulties and hard-won unexpected discoveries about themselves.

In this novel, a woman simply walks away from her family, leaving them on a beach in Delaware. We follow her life as she chooses a new identity and an independent life —…

From the list:

The best novels that reveal the interior thoughts of its characters as they navigate the fragility of life and relationships

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Book cover of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

By Mitch Albom

Why this book?

This is a tale of the 5 people you meet in heaven and the effect they had on your life or vice versa.  It follows the death of Eddie, a fairground worker, who meets the 5 people who affected his life the most, some of whom he never even met. It prompts the conversations about who you would meet and why, giving pause to think about the effect of your life on others.

From the list:

The best books that make you think ‘what if…’

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Book cover of Safe and Sound

Safe and Sound

By Lindy Zart

Why this book?

When I first started reading I stumbled into this story about loss, love, and longing. I was amazed how the characters were able to survive through their ordeals and yet come out stronger with love and happiness on the other side. The emotion is real, and the imagery of a broken, yet strong heroin is phenomenal. I read this story more than five years ago but it’s one of the first I recommend to anyone looking for an exceptional storyline. Lola and Jack met under the most unfortunate circumstances, but together they manage to get through everything thrown against them.

From the list:

The best books to guide you from past abuse to new love

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Book cover of Flawed

Flawed

By Kate Avelynn

Why this book?

This book hit different than the rest of them. It was a storyline that had heartbreak and suffering happening from so many different angles. It was the first time I realized as an author and as a reader that there could be more to a plotline than just the straight and narrow. I remember going through all the emotions and being hooked in from the first page all the way until the last. The cover drew me in immediately but the story tucked inside has me coming back years later. 

From the list:

The best books to guide you from past abuse to new love

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Book cover of The Camel Club

The Camel Club

By David Baldacci

Why this book?

The Camel Club took me away from the massive technical details that Clancy wrote to a more intimate spy character…and his cadre of retired spies. Whereas Clancy's writings were broader in scope, Baldacci narrowed the field and presented characterization at a closer level, one the reader can readily relate to. As I discovered David Baldacci's books, I fell in love with his style of writing. His novels have probably had the greatest influence on my writings above any other author.

From the list:

The best spy thriller books

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Book cover of A Good Night Walk

A Good Night Walk

By Elisha Cooper

Why this book?

A good goodnight book slows things down, quiets down the room and the people in it. This book does just that. When nap-time and bedtime were frequent and important in our home we really loved this book. You go for a walk and when you are back home you are ready for bed. Decrescendo. 

From the list:

The best bedtime books for young children

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Book cover of Hazel Green

Hazel Green

By Odo Hirsch

Why this book?

A blast from the past. I feel this book never got the attention it truly deserved. From a sassy, headstrong lead, to a fashionable neighbour akin to Moira Rose, this immersive story is about friendship, determination, and a mystery here and there. I adored this character who was ahead of her time and always wished we had a little more Hazel Green in our lives! 

From the list:

The best middle grade books adults and kids can laugh at

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Book cover of The Dandelion Seed

The Dandelion Seed

By Joseph Anthony, Cris Arbo

Why this book?

Through this book we get to follow the quiet adventures of a single dandelion seed as floats along the world. I love the variety of the settings in this book, and the subtle pace of rhythm in the text. Because of its calming text and illustrations, it’s a great book before bedtime.

From the list:

The best books for young nature lovers

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Book cover of Not Another Bad Date

Not Another Bad Date

By Rachel Gibson

Why this book?

A romance novel by one of the funniest writers I’ve encountered in a long time. Her stories are racy, but the humor is outstanding leaving me to laugh out loud on any number of occasions. I’ve recently discovered Rachel Gibson and I highly recommend her books if you’re looking for humor in love and life. 

From the list:

The best books to read – over and over again

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Book cover of Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

By Peg Kehret

Why this book?

Peg Kehret brings humor and a genuine can-do attitude to her memoir about being struck by polio when she was twelve years old, leaving her paralyzed in both her arms and legs. The story of her fight to recover and to walk again is enriched by her friendship with fellow patients, the generous love of her family, and the care of a determined nurse. Peg is neither saint nor grouch—just someone you like as much as you admire. This is a feel-good book about a feel-bad topic. 

From the list:

The best books where illness touches a young person's life

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Book cover of When You Know What I Know

When You Know What I Know

By Sonja K. Solter

Why this book?

This lyrical novel-in-verse tells the story of fifth-grader, Tori, whose uncle does something bad to her on the couch in the basement of her house. The story begins immediately after the incident, which is described very obliquely, and beautifully captures Tori’s shock, shame, anger, and profound sense of brokenness. Adults who should listen to her and help her don’t always come through, and Tori’s shame also causes her to pull away from her closest friends. But slowly, with the help of her mom, her little sister, and her teacher, Tori begins to speak up. I thought Sonja Solter beautifully captured…

From the list:

The best #MeToo novels for middle grade readers

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Book cover of Good to a Fault

Good to a Fault

By Marina Endicott

Why this book?

This book by Canadian writer Marina Endicott is quirky in all the best ways—smart, tender, heart-wrenching, and quietly hopeful. It is about a lonely, divorced accountant who takes in a homeless family after crashing into their car. The book is gorgeous on the sentence level and the way Endicott writes about the connections and lack of connections between the characters in the book is full of wisdom and pathos. Though the premise is quite simple, the book is full of surprises. 

From the list:

The best books about looking for and finding refuge

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Book cover of A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Jim Kay

Why this book?

A Monster Calls is a true masterpiece of writing and illustration, and a must-have for any home or school library. We follow Conor as he begins to process and understand his mother's illness. While the story uses the foil of a mythical tree monster come to life, this is the story of how we can move through emotions and come out the other side changed. The monster challenges Conor, and challenges us the reader, to be honest, to be fully in touch with our feelings. He tells us that there is a path through hard times and difficult emotions, with…
From the list:

The best children's books about grief and death

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Book cover of Lost in the City

Lost in the City

By Edward P. Jones

Why this book?

This book changed the way I think about setting. Although it might be considered more of a story cycle than a novel, what makes Lost in the City a novel in my mind is the presence of the city where it is set: Washington, D.C. By depicting the joy and pain of its residents, Jones paints a portrait of the city where he was born and raised. My own novel is largely set in the beguiling, complex location of modern-day Jerusalem. I was inspired by Jones—who himself was inspired by Joyce’s Dubliners—to think about the force of place when…

From the list:

The best novels told in interconnected short stories

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Book cover of Death on Demand (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 1)

Death on Demand (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 1)

By Carolyn G. Hart

Why this book?

Carolyn Hart is the master of cozy feel-good mysteries. Her writing pulls you into the story. I love how she uses both big names from the mystery world and rising stars in her sleuth’s bookstore. The two main characters, Annie and Max, are an endearing pair of sleuths.

From the list:

The best feel good mystery books

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Book cover of A Slipping-Down Life

A Slipping-Down Life

By Anne Tyler

Why this book?

This book has one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. Evie Decker is an introverted and slightly eccentric teen living in small-town America whose ordinary life takes a completely different turn when she hears a young musician, Drumsticks Casey, being interviewed on the radio. Anne Tyler can be depended on to create fascinatingly quirky characters – I’ve long been a big fan of her writing – but I think she outdid herself with Evie. The story is unexpected and moving and funny and sad – really, it provides all the feels. The evolving relationship between…

From the list:

The best books on the messiness of life and love

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Book cover of Violet Black

Violet Black

By Eileen Merriman

Why this book?

Violet Black is the first book in a trilogy set in the near future. Violet Black and Ethan Wright are both in a coma after contracting the lethal M-fever. They have never met:

I couldn’t speak, but I was trying so hard to communicate and then... then... I pushed. And something, someone, pushed back. Her name is Violet. Violet, but she is sunshine-yellow, and I need to find her because I think she might be just like me.

But there is a far more serious reason for Ethan to find Violet: the sinister Foundation is trying to hunt them down.…

From the list:

The best books with young people trapped by draconian rules

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Book cover of The Gem Thief

The Gem Thief

By Sian Ann Bessey

Why this book?

Having worked for a jewelry designer in the Washington, DC area, The Gem Thief caught my eye. The story took me back to my days in the shop (good memories!), and the author has obviously done her research, because her accuracy is impeccable. I liked all of the characters, but I bonded with one of the secondary characters so much that I felt we could be friends in “real life.” I’ve been to New York City often, so I also enjoyed revisiting the city. The book was both comfortable because of all the associations to “past lives,” and exciting as…

From the list:

The best historical novels with female protagonists in unusual jobs

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Book cover of The Family Book

The Family Book

By Todd Parr

Why this book?

I love all of Todd Parr’s work, as he takes hard topics and makes them easy. The Family Book is no different. This book celebrates families of all types, regardless of composition. Parr normalizes difference by beautifully illustrating that no one family is the same and all families are special. You can’t help but feel like you’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket when you read Parr’s books.  

From the list:

The best children’s books about LGBTQ+ families

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Book cover of Reno Now and Then

Reno Now and Then

By Neal Cobb, Jerry Fenwick

Why this book?

Besides knowing everything about Reno history, Neal Cobb and Jerry Fenwick have carefully photographed and juxtaposed the “now and the then” images of Reno sites and captioned the images in detail. The books (there are two volumes) beckon a walking trip through various neighborhoods, books in hand, comparing the past with the present.

From the list:

The best books on the Reno divorce ranch era (when Reno was the divorce capital of the world)

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Book cover of Women of the Civil War (Women Who Dare)

Women of the Civil War (Women Who Dare)

By Michelle A Krowl

Why this book?

This book provides outstanding biographies of the female luminaries of the Civil War, such as Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Mary Walker, while also introducing readers to lesser-known women who made an impact during the great sectional conflict.  Beautifully written and full of rare photographs, Women of the Civil War is captivating.

From the list:

The best books on women in the Civil War

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Book cover of D.V.

D.V.

By Diana Vreeland

Why this book?

Vreeland begins by telling readers: “The first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.” And that declaration sets the tone for this delightful, witty monologue, as told to Paris Review editor George Plimpton and originally published in 1984. D.V. makes you laugh out loud, and long for Paris, beauty, and really, really good lingerie.

From the list:

The best books about fashion in Paris

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Book cover of The Man From the Cave

The Man From the Cave

By Colin Fletcher

Why this book?

Mysteries also are a part of historical true crime, including people who were (or still are) missing and/or those who lived under changed identities. In the Nevada desert in 1968, Fletcher literally bumped into a trunk filled with decades-old possessions. Whose were they? Fletcher then documented his own investigation as he managed to find newspaper articles and National Archive records to piece together an old prospector's life. Armchair sleuths and others who are proficient in searching the internet today will find this book is a real eye-opener, as it shows what it was like to reconstruct a person's hidden life,…

From the list:

The best historical true crime & mystery books

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Book cover of Day of Trinity

Day of Trinity

By Lansing Lamont

Why this book?

Published in 1965 and written by then Washington and foreign correspondent of Time Magazine Lamont, this book remains for me an exceptionally compelling narrative history. The lens here is focused tightly on the events leading up to the first-ever test of an atomic bomb, which was codenamed “Trinity.” Obsessively researched, yes, but it’s Lamont’s writing that makes readers feel as though they are there, in the vastness of the desert, witnessing a happening that changed the world forever.

From the list:

The best books on the Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb

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Book cover of Chuck Berry: The Autobiography

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography

By Chuck Berry

Why this book?

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography is a primary clue to the Inner Chuck, if not the Facts of Chuck, an indisputable masterpiece, witty, elegant, and revealing, and (or perhaps but) ultimately elusive. Unlike so many music (and other) autobiographies, every word of this one was written by its author in a web of elegant, intricate connections that are both coded and transparent. Very much like the songs.
From the list:

The best biographical reading from a biographer

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Book cover of Up the Duff: The Real Guide to Pregnancy

Up the Duff: The Real Guide to Pregnancy

By Kaz Cooke

Why this book?

Every woman needs at least one practical book to read along with their pregnancy. There are several good options, but Up the Duff has the advantage of being highly entertaining and easy to read. It always made me giggle. It is a great book to have by the side of your bed all pregnancy through.

From the list:

The best books for new and expectant mothers

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Book cover of Manhattan, When I Was Young

Manhattan, When I Was Young

By Mary Cantwell

Why this book?

This is an elegant, finely written memoir by a former writer and editor at Vogue, Mademoiselle and the New York Times that offers an interesting hook: her story is set in five different apartments in Manhattan as her life progresses from single working girl to professional and personal success and hardships including motherhood and divorce. If you’ve ever dreamed of working at a magazine in New York City - particularly during this golden period, then this is the book for you.
From the list:

The best books if you’re delusional and want to pretend you live in 1940s Manhattan

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Book cover of The Endless Skies

The Endless Skies

By Shannon Price

Why this book?

Winged! Lion! Shifters! What more could you want? Maybe a simmering romance? A warrior society reminiscent of Sparta? A floating kingdom? This book has all that and more. Set against the backdrop of a harrowing race against time, this book is perfect for fans of Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young and Wonder Woman, with core themes of friendship, family, and loyalty.

This book is all the magic, action, and romance you could want from a YA fantasy.

From the list:

The best YA books with magical animals

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Book cover of Found

Found

By Salina Yoon

Why this book?

It’s a tender story about the length a friend will go to make sure that their new found friend is taken care of and loved. It’s a book that celebrates love and friendship and it’s one of those books you’ll return to and want to read again and again. It’s a perfect storytime or bedtime book!

From the list:

The best picture books about bears, buddies, and writing. Oh my!

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Book cover of You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

By Sherman Alexie

Why this book?

Sherman Alexie gives it everything he’s got in this sprawling, messy, brilliant memoir. Using his mother’s funeral as a jumping-off point, he investigates her chaotic life in an effort to understand the enigma of her personality and the nature of his complicated relationship with her. The contradictions he uncovers, the bits and pieces of information he’s able to glean, and the incongruities in the stories he discovers are stitched together in a narrative he likens to a patchwork quilt: disparate parts brought together that somehow make a whole.

I love the rawness of this memoir, the humor, the mixed genres,…

From the list:

The best books on the power of family secrets

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Book cover of Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth

By Zoje Stage

Why this book?

Stage’s wonderfully sinister novel documents the early years of a child who seems to have been born bad. The thrill in this one is the ever-escalating war between a precocious and seemingly sweet child and her anguished mother, who knows she’s being manipulated by her daughter, while the father remains oblivious to the horror. It’s unusual, and fun, to read a book in which we get to see things from the child’s perspective as she tries to drive her mother insane.

From the list:

The best horror books to make you reconsider having kids

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Book cover of The Diary of Laura's Twin

The Diary of Laura's Twin

By Kathy Kacer

Why this book?

This story effectively unites the present with the past. Two girls anticipate their Bat Mitzvah in very different circumstances. Laura learns to appreciate the freedoms she has to make her own choices through the past life of a girl the same age as her but facing severe limitations. It is a thought-provoking book for young teens.

From the list:

The best books about youth during the Holocaust

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Book cover of The Longest Storm

The Longest Storm

By Dan Yaccarino

Why this book?

This book is the newest of my pick, and it’s about the storm but also it reminds me of the lockdown we had last year. How tiny our place become, and how annoying our family members can be when we’re stuck all together in the small apartment. But then how lucky we are to have someone we love with us all the time.

From the list:

The best children’s books about rainy day

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Book cover of Wings

Wings

By Christopher Myers

Why this book?

I don’t think I will ever have the words to truly express my admiration for Christopher Myers. I have had the immense good luck to get to know and work with him, but even if that weren’t the case his books would hold a powerful place in my heart. His books often take on complex emotional subjects, but do so with a sense of humor, magic, and above all hope. Wings speaks to its readers about the importance of courage and allyship and centers around a message of embracing the things that make us unique -- even in the face…

From the list:

The best picture books for tackling complicated subjects

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Book cover of The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison

Why this book?

This is another book about Wilma Rudolph, but this one focuses on how Wilma inspired two young girls in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma’s birthplace. Alta is The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, but worries about Charmaine, the new girl with brand-new, “stripes down the sides” shoes. The author’s writing is fast-paced with a rhythm to it, perfect for a running book about winning, losing, and friendship. Yes, friendship, as when Wilma Rudolph arrives for a parade to celebrate her Olympic wins, the girls finally agree to carry Alta's big banner to the parade in a relay race like Wilma won at…
From the list:

The best children’s books about running

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Book cover of It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You

By Susan May Warren

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Christiansen family series, but in my opinion, is one of the best. Why? It’s about a hockey player (hello!), and the over-committed sister of one of his teammates. This book explores things such as family obligations and unspoken expectations, discovering God’s purpose for your life, and learning to accept God’s grace. The use of Scripture is powerful and inspiring yet used so naturally that I’m sure readers will be encouraged as I was, and as for the romance – prepare for some swoon-worthy kisses!
From the list:

The best books for romance-loving Christians

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Book cover of Courting Mr. Lincoln

Courting Mr. Lincoln

By Louis Bayard

Why this book?

The other books in this list are all retellings of well-known fairy tales and myths, and though Courting Mr. Lincoln is a fictionalized version of a real man’s life, I would argue that Abraham Lincoln has achieved a sort of mythic status. Louis Bayard has created a gorgeous story about Lincoln told from the perspectives of two people who loved him: his wife, Mary—rendered here with tightly-drawn nuance—and his roommate, Joshua Speed.

Previously, I’d mostly seen Mary Todd Lincoln portrayed as a mother consumed by her grief. Bayard’s Mary is sharply intelligent, independent, and imperfect—she can be as cruel as…

From the list:

The best books for all ages that retell well-known stories and feature complex female characters

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Book cover of Slow Burn: Zero Day

Slow Burn: Zero Day

By Bobby Adair, Alex Saskalidis

Why this book?

This is my favorite zombie series of all time. Adair is an incredible writer, and his Slow Burn series gives us plenty of Romero-style zombies that we love, but it also gives us more. In this series, some of the infected don’t turn into regular zombies. Zed is one of these. I don’t want to give any spoilers but trust me on this. If you like a good zombie tale, read Slow Burn, and I guarantee you’ll continue on to book 2 and every other book in this series about zombies with a twist.  

From the list:

The best zombie books that take things in new directions

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Book cover of Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814

Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814

By Robert Malcomson

Why this book?

This award-winning work is the best account of naval rivalry and warfare on the most important of the Great Lakes. Malcomson clearly explains the details of the various vessels employed and the wider context of the naval contest. He shows how the mobility that naval forces provided to each side significantly affected all aspects of land warfare.
From the list:

The best books to answer your questions about the War of 1812

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Book cover of Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

By Tom Brown Jr.

Why this book?

Survival books these days tend to be more flash and gimmicks than qualify information, just selling an author’s image rather than providing practical, valuable tools that can be immediately put to use by any inquisitive and motivated reader. Brown not only eschews such silliness, but he also provides the information in a tone and with an attitude sadly unusual in the genre and at large, inspiring curiosity, awe, and respect for the world around us rather than a clumsy attempt to dominate it.

From the list:

The best books on self-reliance for achieving success and fulfillment

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Book cover of Faro's Daughter (Regency Romances, 5)

Faro's Daughter (Regency Romances, 5)

By Georgette Heyer

Why this book?

Georgette Heyer is the queen of Regency romance. My mother gave me my first Heyer when I was about eight and I’ve loved her work ever since. Witty, beautifully written, romantic, glamorous, her books were the perfect introduction to historical romance. I’m currently in the middle of my fifth re-read of all her books and this time 'round, I think my favorite is Faro’s Daughter. This pairs the very rude and unromantic (but irresistible!) Max Ravenscar with clever, independent Deborah Grantham, a well-bred lady brought low by financial trouble who now runs her aunt’s gambling house. When Max sets out…

From the list:

The best classic historical romance novels

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Book cover of An Egg Is Quiet

An Egg Is Quiet

By Dianna Hutts Aston, Sylvia Long

Why this book?

It’s amazing to think about a bird’s egg, so fragile, often defying gravity from great heights in a nest, as the life force necessary for a bird’s survival. Stopping to note the little and magnificent things in the natural world truly inspires a sense of curiosity and wonder, and that is what the picture book, An Egg is Quiet, brings to readers.  There’s no better way to get to know a bird’s egg  - really know the genius of nature – as shared by Dianna Aston’s poetic words and Sylvia Long’s detailed and stunning illustrations.

From the list:

The best picture books for budding young birders

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Book cover of Hold Back the Night: A Detective McDaniel Thriller

Hold Back the Night: A Detective McDaniel Thriller

By Axel Blackwell

Why this book?

The author’s work with Dawn Lee McKenna might be more fighting for this list (check out The Stillwaters Suspense Series) but I absolutely love this series because the main characters are fun to follow along with. They are so multi-dimensional, and the dialogue is outstanding. I could read chapter after chapter of them chatting about nothing, and still enjoy it. The action is well-written and not hokey, which I love. The twists and turns will leave you wanting more, and I cannot wait to read more from Axel in the future. You should, too! 

From the list:

The best tropical author thriller books

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Book cover of The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children

By Gertrude Chandler Warner, L. Kate Deal

Why this book?

In The Boxcar Children, four siblings run away from an abusive home and live by their wits and skills in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. As a young reader, I loved this book because the kids seemed magic to me. How did they know how to sew and cook and get jobs and build things? As a parent, I loved this book because it modeled great values (honesty, hard work, loyalty) for my kids. I say to my sons now as we teach them to make bread or sew on a button or catch a fish: you never…

From the list:

The best kids’ books about girls with the skills to survive

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Book cover of Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride

By Pam Muñoz Ryan, Brian Selznick

Why this book?

This heart-warming picture book celebrates the real-life friendship of two great women, reminding us that greatness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And their adventure, while unprecedented in history, feels very relatable since it’s essentially a sleepover. At the White House! (With the bonus of the freedom of flying and driving.) The illustrations, while reflecting the time in history, also feel timeless.

From the list:

The best picture books about women who shaped history

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Book cover of The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist

By Anne Tyler

Why this book?

Anne Tyler’s books are all filled with a deep understanding every life, no matter how small it may appear, has value and meaning. Ms. Tyler has great compassion for all her characters. I have several favorites among her many novels, but chose this one to recommend here because it is a story of love found amid the wreckage circumstances sometimes create for us, and is thus a story of hope.

From the list:

The best uplifting contemporary novels

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Book cover of The Hard Way: A Jack Reacher Novel

The Hard Way: A Jack Reacher Novel

By Lee Child

Why this book?

I met Lee Child within a few weeks of this book being released. I had never read anything by Child and honestly, hadn't even heard of him prior to that meeting. I bought his book, got it autographed, and read it. His style was different from any other author I had read to that point. I liked his rogue character, Jack Reacher, and the way Child put that character into more and more peril as the story progressed. Having said all that, I had a character in my writing that, in many ways, resembled Reacher. Lee child's writing had a…

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The best spy thriller books

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Book cover of Take Back the Block

Take Back the Block

By Chrystal D. Giles

Why this book?

Giles does a wonderful job with a current hot topic that might come up a lot for kids: gentrification. Take Back the Block made me want to leap into action, and that’s a pretty magical thing to be able to say about a book! Not only did I want to read more about these characters, but I wanted to get involved in my own city to preserve homes and mitigate gentrification. Change is constant, and kids will love this book for talking about the changes we can control and those we cannot, and how to see the difference. Parents will…

From the list:

The best middle grade books for parents to read with kids for family discussions

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Book cover of The Ship We Built

The Ship We Built

By Lexie Bean

Why this book?

This heartbreaking and powerful novel tells the story of fifth-grader Rowan, who isn’t a girl even though everyone thinks he is, but also isn’t the “right kind” of boy. At night, his dad comes into his room and does things Rowan can’t talk about with anyone. Silenced or ignored by everyone around him, Rowan writes letters expressing his thoughts, feelings, and dreams; he attaches them to balloons and sends them out into the universe. When he befriends a classmate who is as much of an outsider as he is, Rowan slowly begins to open his heart, and to speak up.…

From the list:

The best #MeToo novels for middle grade readers

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Book cover of The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

By David A Vise

Why this book?

This is a solemn, unflinching portal into the creepy, complicated life of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who picked his nation’s pockets of secrets from 1979 to 2001 and sold them to the KGB and SVR in Washington, D.C. 

Vise’s book achieves a novelistic feel because he has a brilliant eye for the telling detail. For example, he could have just written that Hanssen’s wife Bonnie worried that he failed to make it home for Sunday supper on February 18, 2001 (the day of his arrest). But Vise builds dramatic tension, noting that Hanssen was always on time, that Bonnie…

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The best nonfiction books about turncoat American spies

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Book cover of Metanoia (The Fifth Yanai Book 1)

Metanoia (The Fifth Yanai Book 1)

By Juniper Lake Fitzgerald

Why this book?

Metanoia is the first dark fantasy story that I can say I tremendously enjoyed. The world-building is phenomenal and the characters really grab you from the start and don't let go, even after you've reached the last page. And of course, we're treated to some lovely queer rep in the form of a scholarly lesbian couple and two best friends who clearly feel more than just friendship towards one another. 

From the list:

The best fantasy books with LGBT+ rep

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Book cover of Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter

By Gary D. Schmidt

Why this book?

This young adult novel is a love song from a teenage father to the child he’s never met. He yearns toward her. He wrestles with the consequences of his past decisions. He wants a future that he can never have. I can’t tell you how much I saw myself, a middle-aged mom, in delinquent protagonist Jack. This book is real and visceral and doesn’t pull any punches, but the most important thing it does is remind us that the twin of grief is love. 

From the list:

The best books for when you’re grieving and need more than platitudes

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Book cover of Zoom

Zoom

By Istvan Banyai

Why this book?

It’s an accomplishment to change a reader’s perspective once in a book, if not twice. Yet this book manages to do so with every page turn. Just when you think the author has run out of room (to zoom!), another visual twist is added to the cunning and wordless sequence. A friend gave me this book as a gift years ago; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I seek out that same friend’s advice when looking for second opinions.

From the list:

The best children’s books about seeing things differently

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Book cover of The Hatching, 1

The Hatching, 1

By Ezekiel Boone

Why this book?

Maybe the oddball on this list compared to the other mainstream properties. This story has a little technology, biology, and geology mixed together to craft up a creature lurking beneath the surface that is accidentally unleashed by a combination of greed and ignorance.

The other thing I love about The Hatching is the pace. It's breakneck. Ezekiel Boone shuttles you around setting up well-written characters before unleashing sheer chaos and terror on them with a plot that is far more real than the litany of the zombie apocalyptic novels out there.

From the list:

The best books with plots so mind-bending they are scary

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Book cover of What Happened That Night

What Happened That Night

By Deanna Cameron

Why this book?

This is a dual-timeline murder mystery from a unique perspective. Without giving away too many spoilers, this story follows Clara, whose sister has been accused of murdering Griffin Tomlin—the “golden boy” who Clara once had a crush on.

There is a lot to unpack here, and the dual-timeline makes it a fascinating read; piece-by-piece, we slowly learn Clara’s past with Griffin leading up to the events of him being allegedly murdered by her sister. Why would Clara’s sister do such a thing? And was Griffin Tomlin really the “golden boy” he seemed to be? This story gets dark, and as…

From the list:

The best small town YA mysteries to keep you up all night

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Book cover of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

By Selina Alko, Sean Qualls

Why this book?

First of all, isn't that an awesome title? This narrative is a child-appropriate and compelling description of Mildred and Richard Loving and their path to the Supreme Court. The two got married in D.C. in 1958, when interracial marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia. Returning home after the wedding, they were arrested, jailed, and told to leave the state. They took their case to court arguing that Virginia's ban on interracial marriage violated the Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. As described in the back matter, the creators of this book themselves have an interracial marriage.…

From the list:

The best children's picture books about how the U.S. Supreme Court works

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Book cover of U and I: A True Story

U and I: A True Story

By Nicholson Baker

Why this book?

In U and I: A True Story, the death of Donald Barthelme inspires Nicholson Baker to write a book about his obsession with John Updike while his muse is still alive. Coining the term “memory criticism,” which he defines as “a form of commentary that relies entirely on what has survived in a reader’s mind from a particular writer over at least ten years of spotty perusal,” Baker embarks upon a wildly entertaining meditation that reveals as much about the writing process as it does about Updike (and Baker) himself.

From the list:

The best books about books (and the authors who write them)

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Book cover of Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign

Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign

By Peter Cozzens

Why this book?

I discovered this book a few years ago while writing my biography of Jackson. The subject is probably the single most dazzling bit of tactical warfare in American history. Its relatively short duration—March through June, 1882—means that Cozzens can go deep, and go deep he does.

From the list:

The best books to start with on the American Civil War

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Book cover of Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a Forgotten War: The American Experience in World War I

Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a Forgotten War: The American Experience in World War I

By Henry Berry

Why this book?

Numerous fascinating first-hand accounts of American “Doughboys” who saw front-line service in World War I. Many of the stories are poignant and personal.

From the list:

The best books on America's crusade in the Great War 1917-1918

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Book cover of The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men

The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men

By William Longgood

Why this book?

There are scores of beekeeping memoirs in print, many of them very engaging. But if I had to choose only one, there is something to be said for this little classic. The biological information is good, but the book rises above the average in the way Longwood conveys it - with charm, wit, and an obvious fondness for his chosen subjects. Paired with a modern how-to manual, this volume could convince just about anyone to try their hand with hive, suit, and smoker.

From the list:

The best books about the world of bees (for adults)

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Book cover of Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

By Gordon Corrigan

Why this book?

The shout line on the jacket is “This will overturn everything you thought you knew about…The First World War”, and it certainly delivers. No other conflict has been so misrepresented, and for most people, their idea of it comes straight from Blackadder Goes Forth. But men did not spend months at a time in the trenches; a whole generation did not die; the generals were not cowardly, incompetent fools.

When I first began to write about WW1 for my Morland Dynasty series, I knew as little as anyone, and what I thought I knew was all wrong! By the time…

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The most readable books on World War 1

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Book cover of Great Hostesses

Great Hostesses

By Brian Masters

Why this book?

Who are the great hosts and hostesses of our day? We don’t know; nobody ever talks about them. Celebrities and socialites, instead, have stolen the spotlight. But, great hostesses of the past were not only prominent, but powerfully influential, subtly steering the fate of society this way and that. Masters provides portraits here of some of the most celebrated hostesses of days gone by, including Emerald Cunard and Mrs. Vanderbilt. A book to inspire a new generation of “inviters.”

From the list:

The best books about making and running a welcoming home

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Book cover of Joe McCarthy And The Press

Joe McCarthy And The Press

By Edwin R. Bayley

Why this book?

Bayley, a political reporter for the Milwaukee Journal during McCarthy’s rise and reign, offers riveting details about how the press enabled the Red Scare in a book that is at the same time dispassionate and telling for today.

From the list:

The best books on red scares in the USA

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Book cover of Leningradsky Photo Underground

Leningradsky Photo Underground

By Valery Valran

Why this book?

It’s hard these days to get a sense of what Leningrad looked like back in the 1960s and 1970s, and these photographs are also a tribute to the alternative art of that era: grainy black-and-white-images of stray dogs on rubbish tips, drunks in backyards, dilapidated façades stretching along the eerie silver of canals. The photographers included (such as Boris Smelov, Lev Zviagin, Slava Mikhailov, Boris Kudryakov and Olga Korsunova) aren’t nearly as well-known as they should be, and are as interesting in their way as the ubiquitous Boris Mikhailov. For a comparable figure who isn’t included in Val’ran’s book because…

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The best books about modern St Petersburg

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Book cover of Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Sweet Treats to the Next Level

Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Sweet Treats to the Next Level

By Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Why this book?

Martha Stewart's recipes always work. I always have success with them! I recommend getting your kitchen decorated as you try recipes from each of these chapters: All Dressed Up, Classics with a Twist, Some Assembly Required, Giant Cookies, Tools of the Trade, Cookies by Any Other Name, Celebration Cookies.

From the list:

The best books for people who love baking cookies

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Book cover of Talk: NPR's Susan Stamberg Considers All Things

Talk: NPR's Susan Stamberg Considers All Things

By Susan Stamberg

Why this book?

Stamberg is a pioneer broadcaster, whom Mitchell appointed to host a nightly newscast and as someone who worked in public radio back when it was called "educational broadcasting." Read this book of annotated transcripts of some of her best interviews and see why she got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for putting public radio on the proverbial map. Bonus: Linda Wertheimer's Listening to America, derived from her years as host of ATC, and long-time Morning Edition host Bob Edwards’ memoir, A Life in the Box.

From the list:

The best books about National Public Radio and how it all works

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Book cover of Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison

Why this book?

This book was probably my first exposure to the magical realism genre when I was in High School. Toni Morrison, a friend of my English teacher while they were both at nearby Rutgers, donated a class set to my classroom. It was one of the few times I remembered having an actual fresh new book that wasn’t scribbled in or torn up from school. The book opens with a man attempting to fly by jumping off a roof as a community watches. It is written in this fluid, poetic way that just blew my high schooler mind. I wasn’t even…

From the list:

The best books for young adults who love a touch of magic

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Book cover of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

By Edmund Morris

Why this book?

A landmark of political biography, Morris’s trilogy is epic in scope and length. Among its many strengths is Morris’s ability to match wits with Roosevelt, clearly and compellingly explaining his forays into everything from ranching to antitrust policy to international diplomacy. There is a touch of hagiography here, though not wholly unwarranted.

From the list:

The best books on the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt

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Book cover of In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War

In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War

By Tobias Wolff

Why this book?

Tobias Wolff is a short-story writer I admire very much, and I enjoyed his first memoir This Boy's Life, so I was very excited to read what he had to say about his experience in the Army and his tour of duty in Vietnam in the late 1960s. This book captures much of the confusing stew of boyish patriotism, confusion, disillusionment, and disgust that I heard expressed by many others in those days.

From the list:

The best books on the Vietnam war and what it all meant

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Book cover of The Promised Land

The Promised Land

By Mary Antin

Why this book?

When we think of the memoirs, especially immigrant memoirs, contemporary literature pops out —Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior.  But long before their families came to America, more than a hundred years ago, another immigrant family, this one Jewish, landed in Boston. In 1912, at the age of thirty, Mary Antin told their story. Her tale of flight from the land of oppression to the land of freedom has remained in print for over a century, the quintessential memoir of the world opened to a young child who thirsted to learn and to live.

From the list:

The best memoirs through the voices of women

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Book cover of Behind Putin's Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia

Behind Putin's Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia

By Stephan Orth

Why this book?

Stephan Orth has a lot of nerve. The author of Couchsurfing in Iran, he decides to take his talents to Russia, stopping in places no tourist would dare to go and getting to know actual Russian people. And then he writes a funny, insightful, mind-bendingly entertaining book about them. Who does this guy think he is? Do yourself a favor: Read his book and find out. Stephan is a fabulous tour guide of the real Russia and its people.

From the list:

The best books about the Russian people

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Book cover of Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You

Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You

By Suneel Gupta, Carlye Adler

Why this book?

This is a compelling and fast-paced read about how you can develop a compelling pitch that will convince people to back you. Whether you are looking for investors, customers, business partners, or employees, knowing how to pitch your ideas in a compelling way is absolutely essential. This book dives deep into that challenge with tons of ideas and advice.

From the list:

The best books for part-time entrepreneurs

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Book cover of The Work / Parent Switch: How to Parent Smarter Not Harder

The Work / Parent Switch: How to Parent Smarter Not Harder

By Anita Cleare

Why this book?

‘I can’t just flick a switch’. It’s something that I hear in my therapy office all the time but what if you could transition better from work to parenting – because they each require a different part of you. Anita Cleare was a great guest on my podcast: The Meaningful Life with Andrew G Marshall. She is good at explaining the different stages and challenges of child development and how stressed our parents often end up fighting with each other. Parenting as a team, rather than bickering with each other, is often one of the breakthrough moments for improving my…

From the list:

The best books about raising emotionally rounded children without exhausting your marriage

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Book cover of The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse

The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse

By Staci Haines

Why this book?

The myth is that childhood sexual abuse is so horrific that survivors are scarred for life and can never enjoy fulfilling lovemaking. Actually, with information and therapy, survivors can enjoy deeply pleasurable and satisfying sex lives. This book points the way. 

From the list:

The best books on sex and sexuality

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Book cover of Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory

Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory

By Edward G. Lengel

Why this book?

If there’s a common trait of Republican and Democratic politicians, it’s that George Washington is always fair game to hijack. We’re told that Washington was devoutly religious or that he was a deist; that he was a true democrat or a slave-holding aristocrat; that he single-handedly smote the British; that he believed in states’ rights or supported a strong federal government. Washington is anything you want him to be. Lengel, who helped edit the Washington papers, begs to differ. His short book tackles many of the Washington myths with an easy writing style for general readers and endnotes for those…

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The most well written political biographies

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Book cover of On Writers And Writing

On Writers And Writing

By Margaret Atwood

Why this book?

Atwood’s reputation speaks for itself, but what I love about this book is that it’s derived from a series of six lectures that she gave at Cambridge University in 2000. And because lectures are delivered in person it’s like having a conversation (albeit one-way) with their writer. This is a witty, occasionally self-deprecating, erudite but also pragmatic and accessible book, and all in her inimitable voice. You discover about the process of Atwood’s own writing but also that of other writers, so while it’s quite personal, it’s also wide-ranging and inclusive.

From the list:

The best books by writers on writing

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Book cover of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

By Joshua Becker

Why this book?

This is the book for people who want to truly embrace minimalism. Becker offers a spiritual approach to living with less, and really knows how to motivate his readers to slow down, live deliberately, be grateful, and donate generously. Even tips on staying out of debt. It will affect many aspects of your life, not just organizing. You simply feel like a better person after reading his book!
From the list:

The best home organization books

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Book cover of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever

By Karen Kingston

Why this book?

Probably the grandmother of all decluttering books, this book, like all great books, is so deep and yet so simple. She has some great practical tips for de-cluttering, such as using a ‘transit’ box for things that go in other rooms so you don’t have to keep getting up and end up getting distracted; as well as some expansive interpretations of de-cluttering, like clear out old relationships. As an organizer, I realize that almost everything a person needs to know about de-cluttering Kingston put down on paper in 1998. 

From the list:

The best books for people who want to reimagine their relationship to stuff

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Book cover of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines

By Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, Mai'a Williams

Why this book?

This book powerfully expands our definition of mothers and the role of mothering and presents it as a path to transformation. You will leave this book with a radical new perspective of what mothering does for everyone in our society. It is anti-imperialist, inclusive, and as the title suggests - revolutionary. If everyone read this, we would all live in a better world!

From the list:

The best books on Black motherhood

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Book cover of Awaken the Giant Within

Awaken the Giant Within

By Tony Robbins

Why this book?

The book will help you better understand yourself and everyone around you; It provides you with the necessary tools required to take full control over all aspects of your life. It has shown me how to take personal responsibility for my words and actions and how mindset and the course of one's destiny can be immediately altered through the simple act of questioning and decision.

From the list:

The best books to become a better version of yourself

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Book cover of French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France

French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France

By Polly Platt

Why this book?

Polly Platt was the first author to write about the frustrating features of French in a way that would help foreigners deal with them. In this classic, first published in 1994, she delves into their intense relationship to food, explains how to handle rudeness in stores, how to deal with the French bureaucracy, how their idea of time can drive foreigners crazy and much more. Platt’s observations were eye-opening for me when I first moved to France and are still relevant 25 years later. 

From the list:

The best books for understanding the French

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Book cover of A Bill of Rites, A Bill of Wrongs, A Bill of Goods

A Bill of Rites, A Bill of Wrongs, A Bill of Goods

By Wright Morris

Why this book?

Perhaps you’re already aware of all of these books. Well, allow me to introduce Nebraska-born author Wright Morris—a perpetually ignored force of nature. Morris mainly wrote award-winning fiction, but this collection of essays was a refreshing and straightforward way of looking at, to take one offbeat example, hippies: “Hippies share some knowledge of where they have been, but no demonstrable insight into where they are going…What they share is a condition, not a direction.” Morris even temporarily torpedoes his own genre to make his point. “Who needs fiction? What could be stranger than the news on the hour?” In 1968…

From the list:

The best books on America in 1968

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Book cover of The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington

The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington

By Martha Saxton

Why this book?

Until Martha Saxton came along, Mary Ball Washington was much maligned by historians--but she’s no Mary Washington apologist. Saxton wrote the first comprehensive book on the first President’s mother with her eyes wide open and no one, not mother or son, gets away with anything.

From the list:

The best books about or around George Washington

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Book cover of Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

By Kim Chaffee, Ellen Rooney

Why this book?

Running was magic to Kathrine Switzer. But she grew up in a time when most people thought women were too fragile to run a race, especially a 26.2-mile marathon. The illustrations are vibrant and the text well-written, with a “Pat, Pat, Pat” refrain which expands as Kathrine runs faster and faster. The story revolves around how Kathrine entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 when it was a race for men only. She was almost stopped during the race by an angry Race Director, who also believed women should not run a marathon. Kathrine persevered and finished! Since 2008, more than…

From the list:

The best children’s books about running

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Book cover of Yesterday I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving

Yesterday I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving

By Iyanla Vanzant

Why this book?

A powerful book where the author describes her journey from extreme hardship through hope and into renewal, wisdom and healing. This book will teach you that the pain of your past doesn’t have to be your reality today and how to rise above.
From the list:

The best books for reclaiming wellness

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Book cover of Jimi: An Intimate Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi: An Intimate Biography of Jimi Hendrix

By Curtis Knight

Why this book?

I mentioned that David Henderson’s book was the first SERIOUS biography on Jimi Hendrix. It was not to take a dig at this book, which was the first biography written on Jimi Hendrix (1974). It was written by his friend and early musical collaborator, Curtis Knight, who was really the first person to let Jimi spread his wings musically. Jimi was his bandleader and shared the spotlight with Curtis. Since this bio was written so early, you can’t really say that Curtis was trying to cash in on the Hendrix craze that exists now. At that time, there was no…

From the list:

The best books that start to reveal the genius of Jimi Hendrix

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Book cover of What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

By Oprah Winfrey, Bruce D. Perry

Why this book?

What Happened to You? is both profound and easy to understand. Bruce Perry, one of the leading experts on early childhood trauma, has been a frequent guest of Oprah Winfrey, who has spoken many times about the trauma she experienced and the impact it had on her life. In this “conversation”, they explore what constitutes trauma, the effect it has on a person’s life, and how to find healing. Simply put, we need to change the question we ask of anyone who is struggling (especially a child) from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you?” If…

From the list:

The best books about trauma in early childhood and what to do to raise a healthy, happy child

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Book cover of Chronicles: Volume One

Chronicles: Volume One

By Bob Dylan

Why this book?

An essential read for anyone interested in the life and art of Bob Dylan. The long-awaited autobiography is scarcely the typical celebrity volume. While little more than a taster, providing selected parts of the artist’s story in his own words and in his uniquely engaging voice, the areas covered appear in surprisingly revelatory detail and with extraordinary candor. It is the biggest selling Dylan book, by far, with an initial print run of 250,000, eclipsing all other such titles, its appearance 18 years ago was a major publishing event. Sub-titled Volume One, it begs the question, will we ever see…
From the list:

The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

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Book cover of Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

By Robert Shelton

Why this book?

Among the 1,000 plus books about Bob Dylan this is the closest we have to a full authorised biography. Robert Shelton was with the artist from the beginning in 1961, witnessing all the controversial concerts. No Direction Home is the definitive biography, written with Dylan’s blessing and co-operation and with favoured access to original sources. This beautifully illustrated 2011 edition, edited By Elizabeth Thomson and Patrick Humphries, is an update of the original 1986 standard.
From the list:

The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

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Book cover of Jokerman: Reading the Lyrics of Bob Dylan

Jokerman: Reading the Lyrics of Bob Dylan

By Aidan Day

Why this book?

Not the best-known Dylan book but Jokerman is unusually productive in its scholarly analysis of many of the Nobel Laurette’s revered lyrics. Investigating the writer’s use of ‘Identity’ in his work happens to coincide with 20 of his best known and most loved songs. At one level this might be seen as a book for anoraks, but it is much more and likely to be of interest to anyone inclined to seek answers to questions raised in the apparent opacity of these Dylan classics.
From the list:

The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

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Book cover of Lewis Carroll: Photographer

Lewis Carroll: Photographer

By Helmut Gernsheim

Why this book?

Mention the name ‘Lewis Carroll’ and most people will immediately think of the two Alice books. Very few would equate the name to Charles Dodgson, the photographer. This, however, is the aspect of the multi-talented Oxford don which Gernsheim, a professional photographer himself, appraised in his 1949 first edition for the very first time, concluding that Dodgson was ‘the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century. Many of the black and white plates substantiate this claim, but equally, Dodgson’s mastery of this new invention enabled him to meet and photograph (sometimes uniquely) numerous famous writers and artists, as…
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The best books about Lewis Carroll and Alice

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Book cover of The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

By Ambrose Bierce

Why this book?

Unlike so many writers, Bierce had actual Civil War experience, as a Union soldier who saw action in a number of key battles. His stories are characterized by a rigorous attention to detail. But Bierce enjoyed serving up verisimilitude with a twist. A strong sense of the macabre, rivaling Poe, is present in some of Bierce’s finest stories such as “Chickamauga,” “One of the Missing,” and “Parker Adderson, Philosopher.” His timeless “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” features one of the most mind-bending twists in all of fiction.
From the list:

The best fiction books for experiencing the vivid reality of the Civil War

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Book cover of Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn

By Jacqueline Woodson

Why this book?

Woodson’s narrative comprises a mix of genres (poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) to capture the real and imagined memories of her childhood in Brooklyn and the fictional town of Sweet Grove, Tennessee. This book encompasses so much of what is fascinating about nostalgic memory. While nostalgia generates feelings of happiness and hope, these memories often emerge in times of sadness, loss, and uncertainty. Woodson’s exploration into the lives of four black girls as they navigate friendship, the joys, and perils of youth, and the possibilities and broken promises of the future is a rare and compelling take on how nostalgic memories…
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The best books to inspire good feelings

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Book cover of It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

By Bill Heavey

Why this book?

This book cracked me up. Bill Heavey met with people all over the United States and went on crazy foodie adventures with them in order to better understand pockets of unique eats and subsistence. This is not a restaurant visits book. This is a go fishing, backwoods, hunt-or-be-hunted book.

I have two favorite stories in this book. The first is of a woman who forages along the Potomac for Paw Paw fruit. Her attitude toward finding wild food is hilarious and matter-of-fact. The second is of a man who fishes the Bayous of the south and takes Heavey for a…

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The best books of incredible real life stories

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Book cover of Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order

Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order

By John F. Marszalek

Why this book?

This book is the single best biography of Sherman – the good, the bad, the ugly – by one of the foremost scholars of the Civil War. Marszalek’s portrait of Sherman as a man who sought order in all aspects of his life provides valuable insight into Sherman’s military genius and his personal failings. This biography gives the most comprehensive portrait of the intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically complex man whose legacy continues to be debated today. This is the one-stop-shop for those who want to get to know the man I believe to be the most interesting personality of the…

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The best books on William Tecumseh Sherman

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Book cover of Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

By Ken Mandelbaum

Why this book?

Musical theatre fans delight in reading about the famous and not-so-famous disasters in the genre. Mandelbaum covers nearly 200 of these musical flops that opened (and often quickly closed) on Broadway between 1950 and 1990. It is a lively read, well researched, and has plenty of "what were they thinking?" attitude. Not much copy is given to one musical (except the title musical Carrie) but the coverage is comprehensive. A favorite among musical theatre fans, Not Since Carrie was the inspiration for Mark Robinson and myself when we continued Mandelbaum's chronicle with our own Musical Misfires.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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Book cover of Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

By Les Standiford

Why this book?

Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford's fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler's dream fulfilled, the Key West Railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for more than twenty-two years, heralded as "the Eighth Wonder of the World." Standiford brings the full force and fury of 1935's deadly Storm of the Century and its sweeping destruction of "the railroad that crossed an ocean"…

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The best books on modern Florida

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Book cover of Wee Bees and The Bee Attitudes

Wee Bees and The Bee Attitudes

By Marcia Papa

Why this book?

An adorable book for younger children to learn proper values that help to spread kindness to all including themselves. Teaching kids to be nice, caring, and considerate will help them identify ways of being kind to their family, friends, and those around them.
From the list:

The best children’s books where kindness wins every time

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Book cover of The Cost of Silence

The Cost of Silence

By John Nixon

Why this book?

The Cost of Silence begins with the murder of a genealogist. Have they been silenced before they could uncover something inconvenient? Twenty-three years later, can genealogist Madeline Porter retrace the research of the dead genealogist and uncover a motive for his murder? More to the point, will she put herself in danger if she does?

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The best genealogical mystery novels

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Book cover of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

By Cal Newport

Why this book?

This book advocates a way of life I took to a couple of years ago – and have tried to stick to, ever since. Across the world, we professionals find it a big problem to focus on something and get it done. Distraction — especially the online kind — has become the bane of our life, making it almost impossible to go deep into any one activity or project. This book comes as a welcome departure from the current norm and tells us how we can avoid flitting from one thing to another or being pulled in different directions by…

From the list:

The best books on the essentials of entrepreneurship

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Book cover of Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!: A Sister's Guide to Getting Along

Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!: A Sister's Guide to Getting Along

By Brooks Whitney, Laura Cornell

Why this book?

Pitched to 9-11-year-old girls, Oh Brother…Oh Sister! is a practical guide kids can read on their own or together with a younger sibling (of either gender). There are activities for siblings to do with one another, and plenty of humor to keep kids laughing as they absorb important lessons about getting along. A surprising number of children are motivated to sign the Sibling Constitution at the back of the book, and to honor the agreements they’ve made. The only downside is that the book is clearly written for girls. It’s a pity, boys could use a book like this, too.
From the list:

The best books for siblings who squabble

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Book cover of Etchings of a Whaling Cruise

Etchings of a Whaling Cruise

By J. Ross Browne

Why this book?

J. Ross Browne experienced first-hand whaling in the early-to-mid 1800s, serving as a crewman on a Yankee whaler. His vivid account of life on board, and the gruesome business of whaling, is beautifully written, enlightening, and dramatic. In his review of the book, Melville said, “It is a book of unvarnished facts … [which] unquestionably presents a faithful picture of the life led by the twenty thousand seamen employed in the seven hundred vessels which now pursue their game under the American flag.” So impressed was Melville that he used Browne’s book as one of his primary sources while writing…

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The best books on whaling history

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Book cover of Miffy's Birthday

Miffy's Birthday

By Dick Bruna

Why this book?

As a Dutch co-author, I highly recommend the books of Miffy, the very known rabbit in the Netherlands and worldwide, who shares his experiences in colourful, child friendly and short books. This copy is about celebrating birthdays. I love the good colorful illustrations and the imagination of Miffy. For children, this is the perfect combination, as a child loves birthdays, presents and especially from grandparents.
From the list:

The best children's books to stimulate development

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Book cover of The Bossier Baby

The Bossier Baby

By Marla Frazee

Why this book?

Boss Baby is used to being in charge but when his baby sister arrives, it is clear that there is a new CEO in town, and he is not happy about the perks she is getting that he never got. Boss baby feels replaced and ignored until an unexpected move from the new CEO shows that perhaps there is room for two CEOs after all. With a loud fun voice and adorable artwork, this is a hilarious and heart-squeezing read.

From the list:

The best picture books for expanding families

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Book cover of Protectors - Book one of Beyond These Walls: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller

Protectors - Book one of Beyond These Walls: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller

By Michael Robertson

Why this book?

This is my favourite series by Michael Robertson; its world-building is so real that it’s scary because this dystopian world could really exist. The world has its defined structure and the characters within it are believable, even if not all likable. It’s a complex series and yet is simple in its reading; compelling at the very least.
From the list:

The best books of independent authors building worlds

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Book cover of Big Dog and Little Dog

Big Dog and Little Dog

By Dav Pilkey

Why this book?

This very easy early reader is a good choice for launching a child into reading. It follows Big Dog and Little Dog through their day as they eat, play, and – finally – sleep cuddled up together at night. This oh-so-simple story with its oh-so-simple illustrations provides a charming plot and a sense of reading mastery for the oh-so-very early young reader.

From the list:

The best easy reader children's books featuring dogs

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Book cover of The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s

The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s

By Maggie Doherty

Why this book?

Maggie Doherty tells the story of five women artists—Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Barbara Swan, Tillie Olsen, and Marianna Pineda—who were among the first fellows at Radcliffe’s new Institute for Independent Study. The fellowship was originally designed for women who needed a room (and a paycheck) of their own to resume work interrupted by marriage and motherhood. Doherty weaves a history of Radcliffe’s pioneering venture with moving stories of the first fellows, whose friendships strengthened their resolve to pursue art in the face of male skepticism.

From the list:

The best books for group biographies of women

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Book cover of Just Like Home: Como en Mi Tierra

Just Like Home: Como en Mi Tierra

By Elizabeth I. Miller, Mira Reisberg, Teresa Mlawer

Why this book?

I like this book because the protagonist compares her food, traditions, and weather of her native country and her new country. In both English and Spanish, a young girl shares the story of how she and her family arrived in the United States. She describes her experiences as being "just like home" or "not like home".

From the list:

The best children’s books about the Latino immigrant experience

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Book cover of Harpo Speaks!

Harpo Speaks!

By Harpo Marx, Rowland Barber

Why this book?

Okay, I am totally cheating here. Harpo Speaks! is not specifically a kid’s book at all (although it would be wonderful to read with and to upper primary and older), but it is my favourite book of all time, and I couldn’t not include it here. Harpo Speaks! is the autobiography of Harpo Marx. I have read it at least ten times, and every time I learn something new. 

The Marx Brothers show how life can and should be fun, but that the fun comes after and while you are working incredibly hard towards a dream. And of all of…

From the list:

The best kid’s books on living a great life

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Book cover of The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000

The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000

By Aleksandra Mizielinska, Daniel Mizielinski

Why this book?

Welcome to the future in the city of Mamoko! A list of questions launches readers to discover a story about each seek-and-find character. What is strange about Otto Flash’s new jumper? Why is Amelia squeal so excited?  Inventive, cross-sectioned interiors and exteriors, a top-notch, delicious color palette. This book sparks future-curious imaginations. Also in this series: Welcome to Mamoko and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.

From the list:

The best picture books for kids who delight in details

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Book cover of The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

By Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet

Why this book?

Kudos to Jen Bryant for choosing such an original topic—Peter Roget of thesaurus fame—and pulling it off so perfectly. And Melissa Sweet takes her excellent book and transforms it into a playful work of art, a veritable feast for the eyes, with everything from elaborate collages to comic strip sections with word balloons. Synonyms abound, as in a street scene where people say things like, “My fish is cheap, a bargain, reasonable,” or “Do you need your chimney cleaned, swept, swabbed?”

The Right Word invites you to stop and study the details on every page and rewards you with endlessly…

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The best picture book biographies

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Book cover of The Carrot Seed

The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson

Why this book?

This book has been continuously in print since 1945. That date is not a typo! The fact is that this book speaks across genders, races, and generations with the message of belief in oneself—even when everyone else tells you that you’re wrong. Children accustomed to the brightly colored illustrations in contemporary books may take a while to warm up to this gem, but this classic exploration of patience and the power of positive thinking deserves a shout-out. The garden theme works well for spring reading.

From the list:

The best books for kids who celebrate being, and believing in, themselves

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Book cover of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

By Mo Willems

Why this book?

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is more than the story of a child’s missing beloved object. It is about the everyday things that a father and daughter do together. It is about the lengths a dad will go to fix a problem he was slow in figuring out. It is about the love between father and daughter. This story is so relatable, you can’t help but falling in love, and reading over and over with your kids. Or by yourself. Just because.

From the list:

The best picture books about fathers

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Book cover of Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

By Zach Helm

Why this book?

Though not a book, the film starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson borrowed heavily from "Niebla" by Miguel de Unamuno, a Spanish novel about a character who becomes aware he is being narrated by a writer and goes to visit the writer. This film lives rent-free in my heart because the style of self-awareness that Ferrell’s character experiences in this film is close to the way I conceived of the meta-awareness of the characters Forsyth and Kintyre in The Untold Tale. I love the idea of someone learning they are being puppeteered and breaking free of the expected, the prescribed,…

From the list:

The best meta-fiction books about books

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Book cover of Rain!

Rain!

By Linda Ashman, Christian Robinson

Why this book?

This book shows a grumpy man and a cheerful little kid’s morning on rainy day, of course a grumpy old man grumbles about rainy day and a little guy enjoys the rainy day. Same rainy day outing, two totally different attitude! And we all get to know it’s the positive attitude make everything brighter and more fun! Christian’s simple, colorful illustrations caught my eyes first, the contrast between the grumpy man and a kid’s world is just perfect!

From the list:

The best children’s books about rainy day

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Book cover of Langston's Train Ride

Langston's Train Ride

By Robert Burleigh, Leonard Jenkins

Why this book?

If you doubt poetry’s power to sweep you up and bring you to tears, you must read Burleigh’s deep dive into Langston Hughes’ inspiration for his famous poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. You’ll take this story to heart and keep it there. I got the chills from the author’s note, which explains that Burleigh’s goal was to explore “the moment when Langston Hughes came to believe in himself as a writer” – and have that moment inspire others. In vibrant, poetic prose perfect for reading aloud, Burleigh begins with Hughes celebrating his first book.

In a flashback, Hughes, on…

From the list:

The best picture book biographies to inspire young poets

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Book cover of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

By Mariana Zapata

Why this book?

Aiden and Vanessa’s story is another slow burn, but it does not feel slow at all. Zapata has a way of building a sensual story that makes you want more without feeling as if you are missing something. I did not think I would like slow-burn romances until I came across Zapata. I fell in love with these characters as they were becoming friends and ultimately as they fell in love with one another. I found myself smiling a lot watching the interactions between these two. It’s magic. I still think of Aiden often and wish he were my boyfriend!…

From the list:

The best romance novels that stay with you long after you finish them

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Book cover of To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold

By Patricia Gaffney

Why this book?

I personally love this book because I can identify with the characters, who are both flawed and genuine. All too often I’ve started reading a romance only to discover that both characters are gorgeous, billionaires, and have IQs over 180. I find such perfection uninteresting.

The two leads in To Have And To Hold, Sebastian and Rachel, are both train wrecks, although it is initially easier to see Rachel’s problems as she is currently a convict who is being released from prison. Sebastian’s behavior steps over the line. Way over the line. And the tension in most of the…

From the list:

The best historical romance novels that are off the beaten path

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Book cover of The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

By Gene Barretta, Frank Morrison

Why this book?

The first chapter book I checked out from the school library when I was in third grade (in 1980) was a biography of George Washington Carver. I have always remembered how inspiring I found his story. This new picture-book biography is a beautiful addition to what is now a very large number of children’s book tributes to Carver’s legacy. Morrison’s use of light and color results in stunning images to illustrate Carver’s motto and the book’s central theme, “Regard nature. Revere Nature. Respect nature.”

The story follows Carver from childhood, when he first learned to experiment by gardening in a…

From the list:

The best books on inspirational scientists for children

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Book cover of William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life

William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life

By S. Schoenbaum

Why this book?

Schoenbaum’s massive compilation of documents from the life of William Shakespeare is the “go-to” book for anyone who wants the facts about the Bard. A large, folio-size edition, the book contains facsimiles of over 200 contemporary documents that record important moments and events in the life and career of Shakespeare. Arranged chronologically, Schoenbaum’s quite readable narrative explains the significance of each image and creates a living person from the documents that define Shakespeare, the man.

For anyone who asks the question, “Who Was Shakespeare,” Schoenbaum provides the answer. I love “just the facts.”

From the list:

The best biography books that tell the truth

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Book cover of The Night Hunter

The Night Hunter

By Caro Ramsay

Why this book?

In this book, the author uses a new character Elvira (her character reappears in subsequent books) who leads the reader forward in the first person, a breakaway from the usual (close) third person in the other books in the series. Her voice is so clear, you can’t help but fall in love with her strange quirks. She is a medical student and trained in body combat. Elvira’s sister has been missing for 59 days and she can’t get the police interested enough to take her seriously. Her sister was an adult after all and left with a packed bag. Anderson…

From the list:

The best British books of suspense that will keep you up reading all night

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Book cover of The Explorers

The Explorers

By C.M. Kornbluth

Why this book?

I first read The Explorers when I was a child. I delighted in it then and still do. Its style got to me first. A real literary style. Some of the stories are hard-boiled, Raymond Chandler in space. Some poetic. But so much better than most clunky SF. And also, so unconventional This is not Azimov. Rather than space opera, we get a scientist drunk, bemoaning his “contributions” to space flight. Instead of wondrous inventions, we get cheesy computer art. Brainless generals celebrate nuclear war. Well-written, unusual, simultaneously funny and sad, The Explorers is a masterpiece of 50s SF.

From the list:

The best short story/short novel collections

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Book cover of The Everywhere Bear

The Everywhere Bear

By Julia Donaldson, Rebecca Cobb

Why this book?

The combination of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb is fantastic. I love the playful illustrations (just look at the children’s hair!), and the rhymes make the story sing. The book tells the story about the Bear from Class One who accidentally gets lost and thus begins his big adventure throughout the city showing us places that can sometimes be hidden from our everyday lives.  

From the list:

The best picture books about cities

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Book cover of Men's Health The Book of Muscle: The World's Most Authoritative Guide to Building Your Body

Men's Health The Book of Muscle: The World's Most Authoritative Guide to Building Your Body

By Ian King, Lou Schuler

Why this book?

If you've never bought a workout book, this should be your first. And if you've tried all the others, this is the one that finally delivers everything you have ever wanted to know but couldn't find in one place. My book was the inspiration from The Book Of Muscle. This book I really enjoyed with the way everything was presented to me, and I wanted to present my information in a similar way.

From the list:

The best books in the physiotherapy for your recovery

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Book cover of The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us

By Greer Hendricks

Why this book?

There are many psychological thrillers out there about husbands and wives. If you search for the word ‘wife’ on Goodreads there must be hundreds of titles. But The Wife Between Us is one of my favourites. It’s clever, twisted, and plays on your expectations. From the first page, you’ll believe the book to be going one way, but then it twists in another direction altogether.

From the list:

The best books for fans of Gone Girl

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Book cover of The Eye of Love

The Eye of Love

By Margery Sharp

Why this book?

Okay, this is really three novels, but they’re all linked, and all fascinating. Martha, the orphan, is offbeat, often unlikeable, and yet one of the most compelling characters you’re likely to find in fiction. Though Sharp is best known for The Rescuers and its sequels, this series is in a whole different universe, and definitely not for young readers. (By the way, they’re also very funny.)

From the list:

The best books about orphans not written by Horatio Alger

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Book cover of What Mary Jo Shared

What Mary Jo Shared

By Janice May Udry, Eleanor Mill

Why this book?

I discovered a tattered book in my mom’s basement that had the sweetest illustrations—little did I know there were 3 books by the same author/illustrator pair. Since finding the book in the basement, I have found all three books: What Mary Jo Wanted is all about Mary Jo’s obsession with dogs and her campaign to convince her parents she should get a dog. The illustrations of this sweet child with the baby-doll dresses are wonderful; What Mary Jo Shared is about a girl determined to find just the right thing to show at show-and-tell. It was reprinted with new artwork…

From the list:

The best picture books that feature shy, confident, or sneaky children of color

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Book cover of How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

By Julian Woolford

Why this book?

Woolford describes his book as a prenatal guide for musicals and it is indeed just that. He breaks down the process from idea to opening night for a thorough examination of what goes into each part of writing a musical. From the tickle of inspiration—and everything that went into its construction after that point, including the steps back and sideways, trying to find the right formula for success—there isn’t much left out. Warning: You might be inspired to try your hand at writing once you finish this book! 

I felt as if I’d taken a college-level theatre course at the…

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The best books for next level Broadway fans

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Book cover of The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand

By Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper, Nancy M. Leak

Why this book?

Penn’s poignant tale, with its captivating illustrations and powerful message about facing anxious moments, never gets old. Chester the raccoon is worried about leaving his mother and starting school. His mother gently encourages Chester to face his worry by saying, “Sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do. Even if they seem strange and scary at first.”

Chester’s mom helps him further cope by sharing an old, wonderful secret called the Kissing Hand that she learned from her mother. This special Kissing Hand gesture reminds Chester of his mother’s love and bolsters him with strength and…

From the list:

The best children's books on showing anxiety who’s boss

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Book cover of Old Age Comes at a Bad Time: Wit and Wisdom for the Young at Heart

Old Age Comes at a Bad Time: Wit and Wisdom for the Young at Heart

By Eliakim Katz

Why this book?

It’s a little book of quotes, the sort of book you could keep in the guest loo (if you don’t mind losing your guests for half an hour), but it is stuffed full of oomph and I’ve carted it with me through three migrations because it has been giving me quotes, when I needed something pithy and to the point, for thirty years. I really hope it is still in print because nobody’s getting their hands on my copy. Relevance to my theme? Picked at random – “the first forty years of life gives us the text, the next thirty…

From the list:

The best books about getting older with style and panache

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Book cover of Dave Barry Turns 50

Dave Barry Turns 50

By Dave Barry

Why this book?

We’ve outgrown vaulting over five-barred gates, running up mountains, drinking all night, and springing bright-eyed from our beds, and so what? For anyone in denial, or clinging stubbornly to youth, Dave is the Baby Boomer to point out the stark realities. He’s funny but he’s ruthless. Fifty’s not the new thirty. It’s fifty. The reason I recommend it is that it can be hard to let go and you’ll waste precious autumn if you don’t accept the inevitable, and move on with a spring in your step into what I have found to be the best period of all. Laughing…

From the list:

The best books about getting older with style and panache

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Book cover of Frayed: A Small Town Sports Romance

Frayed: A Small Town Sports Romance

By Laura Pavlov

Why this book?

Frayed is the first book in the standalone series, Willow Springs. It’s such a heartwarming story, as is every book in the series. It’s about young love, breaking away from people trying to hold you back, and will have you teary one minute and laughing the next. If you love romance and shows like Friday Night Lights, you’ll enjoy this book!

From the list:

The best books to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night

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Book cover of Raising Your Spirited Child

Raising Your Spirited Child

By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Why this book?

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has been working with parents of difficult children for decades now, except she doesn’t think of the kids that way. Instead of ‘difficult,’ she says, we should learn to think of these kids as ‘spirited.’ When we want to describe our kids as irritable, negative, demanding, and strong-willed, she recommends that we admire their sensitivity, insight, confidence, and insistence on getting what they need. This book is packed with practical ideas for creating a peaceful and loving home environment, and for helping parents learn to soothe their own reactions to behavior that might otherwise be experienced as…

From the list:

The best books for loving and raising challenging kids

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Book cover of Nine Stories

Nine Stories

By J.D. Salinger

Why this book?

I enjoyed "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period," but the real gem here in Salinger's Nine Stories is "Teddy." "Teddy" is one of the most bizarre (yet thought-provoking) stories I have ever read. I loved reading and exploring all of the possible themes in this short compilation of tales. It seems like Salinger was truly able to portray mental struggles with his characters. 

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The best books with intelligent, demented characters

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Book cover of 99 Red Balloons

99 Red Balloons

By Elisabeth Carpenter

Why this book?

A beautifully written, cleverly constructed dual-narrative story that follows the abduction of a child and the aftermath experienced by the family, interwoven with the story of a widow whose grandchild also went missing. It’s packed with family secrets and lies and I found it enjoyable trying to untangle it all! This book is emotive and suspenseful and the killer twist at the end is just brilliant.

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The best psychological thriller books with a jaw-dropping twist

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Book cover of The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting

The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting

By Teena Lyons

Why this book?

This book is a direct competitor to my own title, but Teena Lyons is a hugely experienced ghostwriter and I have to admit that she has done a very thorough job of explaining how the business works. She interviewed a number of other ghostwriters in the course of writing the book, (myself included). The result is highly readable and a useful introduction to the business.

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The best books about ghostwriting and ghostwriters

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Book cover of A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

By Brigid Kemmerer

Why this book?

I absolutely love a good Beauty and the Beast retelling and this one is probably my favorite. 

Harper is brought into a fantasy world for the purpose of breaking Prince Rhen's spell. While there she leads us on an exploration of loyalty and duty. Back home her mother is dying and Harper desperately wants to return to her but she can equally see how badly Rhen's people need her too. 

She isn't exactly what Rhen hoped for in the woman to break his curse. She is willful, disobedient, and has some physical limitations due to cerebral palsy. Yet she is…

From the list:

The best books featuring a disabled character as a love interest

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Book cover of Guard Your Daughters

Guard Your Daughters

By Diana Tutton

Why this book?

The true identity of Diana Tutton remains uncertain. She published three idiosyncratic novels in England in the 1950s, all of which have now fallen into obscurity. Of those, Guard Your Daughters is the best: it describes a loving family dedicated to protecting the children’s mother, whose poor health has led to an insular, overly sheltered lifestyle for her many daughters. Each of the girls is distinct and vividly drawn by Tutton, who has a keen eye for the traditions, tensions, and excitement of siblings in their teenage years. Over the course of the novel, the sisters gradually forge more connections…

From the list:

The best novels about families from the mid-twentieth century

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Book cover of Ain't She Sweet?

Ain't She Sweet?

By Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Why this book?

I love books in which the two main characters hate each other's guts almost at first sight. It's absolutely hilarious, although the story has a surprising depth at the same time. Another thing that I love about this book is that it is a nod to other of my romance weaknesses: the regency period romance and, especially to Georgette Heyer, one of the greatest authors of all times in that literary genre. A fresh story perfect for all of you who, for some hours, want to leave the world behind. 

From the list:

The best love/hate romance books with a happy ending

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Book cover of Where You Lead

Where You Lead

By Wahl Leslea

Why this book?

This is an incredibly fun mystery with a great combination of action, adventure, and growing tension. The main characters are well-developed, likable, and positive role models. Eve is romantic, talkative, and doesn’t try to be like everyone else. Nick is level-headed, resourceful, and charming. Plus, he comes from a big and very interesting family.

As a history lover, I enjoyed the tidbits about the Civil War and the “virtual tour” of Washington D.C., visiting museums, monuments, cemeteries, and other historical places with the characters as they tried to solve this unique mystery. Several wonderful messages are weaved through this story,…

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The best Catholic novels to spark faith in teens

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Book cover of The Writing Life

The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard

Why this book?

Read this and tell me if you think it’s funny: “Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” If you just burst out laughing, you may be a writer. This book is full of gems like that, and I laughed out loud in the way one might while driving off a cliff. You know,…

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The best non-songwriting books for songwriters

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Book cover of Big Black Bear

Big Black Bear

By Wong Herbert Yee

Why this book?

This tale is one long, rousty chant. “Big Black Bear came out of the woods. Stuck his nose in the air and smelled something good!” Just keep that chanting going as Big Black Bear threatens Little Girl and creates havoc in her house, then is caught by Momma Bear and made to apologize. “I’m very sorry, please excuse me. I’m a little black bear, who just turned three.”  

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The best singing picture books

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Book cover of The Collected Prose

The Collected Prose

By Elizabeth Bishop

Why this book?

Because of the way she writes about the past and the way she writes about the present. Because she is at once straightforward and lyrical. Because she writes about places and people with the same acuity and insight. Because she writes with certainty about ambiguity.

From the list:

The best books of essays by poets

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Book cover of Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

By Sarah Warren, Robert Casilla

Why this book?

I have long been a fan of stories about courageous women and I love it when I discover a book for young readers that brings to life an inspiring story of someone they may not know well (or at all). That’s exactly what Warren does in this book about Delores Huerta. The text works well for even the youngest readers. It promotes empathy by describing the poor living conditions of migrant children and their parents. Its themes are as relevant today as they were in Delores’ time. We need to care, we need to stand up for others, we need…

From the list:

The best children’s books about brave and extraordinary women

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Book cover of The Magical Imperfect

The Magical Imperfect

By Chris Baron

Why this book?

The main character in The Magical Imperfect has selective mutism. This is a clever idea for a main character written in verse because, typically, there’s little dialogue in the form. What really stood out to me, though, is the climax of the story that takes place during an earthquake. Baron cleverly uses time stamps and white space in a striking way to help create story tension and layer meaning during this exciting and scary twenty-page multi-poem scene.

From the list:

The best middle grade verse novels published in 2021

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Book cover of I Killed Adolf Hitler

I Killed Adolf Hitler

By Jason

Why this book?

This delightful graphic novel puts a new spin on the age-old question: If you could travel back in time and kill Hitler, would you? Well, duh! The question is old and the answer is obvious, so our intrepid hero heads to the past to bump off Adolf in 1939. But things go awry — Hitler overpowers his would-be assassin and steals the time machine. Now the assassin has no choice but to live out the decades in order to catch up with the present and complete the mission of killing a now-contemporary Hitler. And if you think you know where…

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The best time travel novels about escaping to the past

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Book cover of Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat

By Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan

Why this book?

Most of the books I’ve read by collaborators have fairly somber tones, but not Save Me A Seat. This book is laugh-out-loud funny. Joe has lived in the same town all his life. Ravi’s family recently moved from India. The boys seem to have nothing in common until they team up against the biggest bully in their class.

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The best middle grade books written by collaborators

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