Books Make Me Happy

On My Bookshelf

Above you will see a kinda crappy picture of two shelves of my bookshelf. I used to have HUNDREDS of books in the old house because we had 3 huge bookshelves, about 5 smaller ones, and a WALL FULL OF BUILT-INS. When we started Kon-Marie’ing our stuff, the books were the first to get purged. I knew there was NO WAY we’d downsize to a house with that many built-ins or that much room for books, so I came up with a system of criteria for keeping a book. It had to fit one (or more) of the following:

I still like to read actual books so if I’m pretty sure it’s not going to go on the shelf I’ll just get it at the library (and then sometimes buy it afterwards) but otherwise I buy it, read it, and then donate it to the library if it doesn’t get a spot on my shelf. I feel very strongly about contributing to the book and bookstore economy.

Recently I’ve added a TON of books to that shelf. Probably in that last year or so I’ve doubled my small collection. I thought I’d go through a few of the Young Adults books with you. Here’s a fun fact about me: I trust John Green’s book recommendations above ANYONE ELSE. His non-fiction recommendations are sometimes a little heavy for me, and I don’t read poetry so I don’t even try those, but when he recommends a YA book I can’t buy it fast enough. And this week? SOMEONE COMPILED A LIST OF A BUNCH OF HIS PAST RECOMMENDATIONS. I will be going through it after I make it through the stack I’m currently reading.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson was a beautiful story with a similar through line as The Hate U Give with a young black girl who is going to a white/privileged school far away from where she lives. But this one deals a little more about finding your voice as a youth which I really feel like I relate to as an adult even. My favorite thing about it though is that there are several adult females in this book who are also flawed and learn to grow through the pages as well. I like when YA books remember that adults are not perfect and can sometimes learn to change too. This book is heavy on art and ends with a beautiful poem. I adored it. Very perfect if you’re trying to expand your library to books written by/about people of color.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour centers around a young woman in her first year of college following the death of her Gramps – the many who raised her after her Mom died when she was 3. The book covers – in the “present” timeline – a 3 day visit with her best friend who she was estranged from after his death. But we also get a lot of back story throughout to give us more insight into their relationship and into that with her Gramps. It’s painfully beautiful about grief and loss and the mysteries the dead often leave behind. The grief is palpable, it was almost hard to read at times.

I can’t recommend Refugee by Alan Gratz enough. It follows three different refugee teens from three different time lines. One teen is from present Day Syria, one is a jew during World War Two, and other is from Cuba leaving on a raft in the 90s. It’s amazing with a lot of historically accurate references but with three different stories of fear and escape and hope and loss. I think everyone – no matter what age – should read this one. While it’s written for “young readers” it is still very accurate and doesn’t gloss over the tragedies that occur in the lives of refugees.

I don’t know why it took me so long to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It’s been recommended to me 100 times. I saw it recently though in an article talking about the Stonewall Books award and how it’s a good starting place if you’re looking for books about LGBTQ kids and that book was on that list so I finally gave in. AND OH MY GOD IT WAS AMAZING. It’s my new recommendation when lost parents reach out to me about how to be a good parent to their LGBTQ kids. It’s truly beautiful.

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill was a little atypical from my typical YA fare. It was fantastical in that it’s about a girl who is imbued with magic and there are other magical elements but there’s – like Harry Potter – very strong relatable human struggles and I found it to be completely page-turning. It’s a great “Female Lead” YA book that doesn’t rely on a love story, and it’s actually very age appropriate for the tween/younger reader sect. I really enjoyed it and am trying to get my daughter to read it but she keeps doing homework and not allowing time to read for fun. Ugg. She’s so boring.

I’ve read a few of Maggie Stiefvater’s books but since I put a moratoriuam on series books (until the whole series is done and I can find someone who I trust to tell me to read them) I haven’t read most of her stuff. But – I follow her on Twitter and she seems so interesting and All The Crooked Saints was a stand alone book so I had to check it out. It was VERY unusual and dealt a lot in miracles and spirituality but I really enjoyed it because it also was about the power of defining ourselves by our faults and how that can hold us back and I really want someone else to read it so we can talk about it!

Those are my recent good reads. How about you?

3 thoughts on “On My Bookshelf”

  1. I took children’s literature at Athens State. We were assigned to read 5 YA books . There was a list to choose from. My fave would have to be The Giver. Its about life in a supposedly Utopian society through the eyes of a young boy. I also loved Number the Stars, a historical fiction piece about escaping Nazi Germany. Another I recommend is Dacy’s Song, a fission work about 3 children sent to live with their grandmother in the Carolinas. There is also the often banned Bridge to Teribithia. . Right know my list is a bit dry, but interesting. Two Paths by John Kasich describes his journeys in political life. I reread The Shack before I saw the movie. It was a fascinating as the first I read it. Now I am reading Driven to Distraction, a classic in the ADHD world of which I am a part.. The next book will probably come from your list of Recommendations

  2. Off topic-ish question: Do you have any book series recommendations for kids Wes’s age? I have a voracious young reader (He just finished all 7 HP books in 10 weeks!). And, I want to help him find his next great series. I’d love it if it was a little lighter in content than HP, honestly. He’s only 8. I wasn’t planning to let him finish the series, but he zoomed so fast I couldn’t stop him.

  3. I think we already talked about it, but Hillbilly Elegy was great. Hit a little close to home. Story Factor is a knockout.

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