This school year I read 44 books (in addition to the literature that I normally teach). However, I’m not going to list them all here because, you know, some of them are just okay, and some I just don’t recommend. Here are the books I’ll own up to reading and that I would actually tell you to go read:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This book had been recommended to me for a while before I finally read it. It’s compelling and suspenseful and a pretty quick read. I can’t say much about it without giving quite a bit away, but I will say that I saw a huge influence from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
This is actually the third book in a set of related stories by Robinson, the first two of which are Gilead and Home. I hadn’t read either of those books, although I am about halfway through Gilead now. The books don’t really have to be read in a particular order. Lila is about a young woman with an incredibly harsh and impoverished childhood in the American Midwest. Lila wanders into the town of Gilead, Iowa one day, where she eventually finds love and grace through the gentle preacher of the town.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
This book is the third in the Raven Boys Series. I find this series difficult to explain, and I found the first book in the series a bit difficult to get into. If you have that trouble, I recommend the audio book version–the voice actor is fantastic. The series stems from a combination of magic, psychics, Welsh mythology, Virginia, social class issues, and more than one ominous prophecy.
Vietnamerica by G.B. Tran
This graphic novel tells the story of a young Vietnamese-American man who knows very little of his family’s past, especially of their life before immigrating to America during the Vietnam conflict. He travels to Vietnam with his parents, where he meets relatives he’s never known and hears stories that have a profound impact on his own identity.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is just such a great book. Don Tillman is one of the best protagonists and narrative voices I’ve read in a really long time. Don is looking for a wife, but he doesn’t do anything in a typical way. As a brilliant professor of genetics, he naturally approaches his search in a cerebral, scientific way. Don develops an extremely specific questionnaire for each woman he believes might have potential. When he meets Rosie, a graduate student who needs his help to find her biological father (and who would fail his questionnaire) his systematic world is upended. The cover of the book seems to indicate that this is a romance novel, but don’t let that fool you. The romance provides the impetus for the plot, but it’s not necessarily the end game.
The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman
I think that this is probably the best YA dystopian series that I’ve read, but for some reason it hasn’t really received the publicity that it should. In this futuristic society, parents can decide to “unwind” problem children when they turn 15, which essentially means that parents can turn over their children to government facilities that will harvest every part of their bodies and send the parts to any person needing a transplant, a replacement body part, or even just aesthetic enhancement. At times a truly frightening vision of the future and a story with deep and incisive social critique.
Next up: nonfiction from this school year. What have you been reading?