Posts About Books About Books

It’s Read Across America Day, so it feels very appropriate to see this post by Kate Goodman at GoodLife Eats, Etc., in which she talks about books about books. Book-ception!

She focuses on picture books, most of which I haven’t read but sound fantastic. I definitely want to check out That Book Woman by Heather Henson.

On the novel side, I’d suggest Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Any other ideas?

Friday Fifteen

You’ve been waiting all week for the Friday Fifteen (haha) and now it’s here! The latest in fifteen word-or-less reviews:

1. Bunnicula by Deborah Howe and James Howe
What evil lurks within the hearts of bunnies? Harold knows!

2. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
Every undergrad in a fiction workshop should read this.

3. Disgrace by J.M. Cotzee
It felt like there was an interesting story that kept getting blocked by the protagonist.

4. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Eerie account of a teen struggling with anorexia, avoids being an “issue novel.”

5. Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
A beloved stuffed animal is left behind, with a sweet and surprising ending.

6. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
I’ve only attempted once recipe so far, but I love flipping through this one.

7. Karen’s Cartwheel (Baby-Sitters Little Sister #29) by Ann M. Martin
Karen was annoying. but this was about gymnastics and dolls. Of course I read it.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Everyone has nine names. Levin and Kitty were may more interesting than Anna.

9. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
Probably would like this more now, but as a 9th grader I was suspicious of Feynman.

10. Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry ed. Billy Collins
A lovely collection of poetry, especially good for reluctant readers.

11. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003, ed. Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith
“A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease” by Foer is great. Can’t remember others.

12. Peanut Butter and Jelly: A Play Rhyme by Nadine Bernard Westcott
My sandwiches are peanut butter-only but I loved this lyrical book as a kid.

13. The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle
Read this before I knew about the Austins. The non-Austin characters were my favorites.

14. Night by Elie Wiesel
First book that made me cry. Arresting account of the Holocaust, a must-read for humanity.

15. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare or grindhouse? Your call!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Friday Fifteen

Another Friday, another Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less.

1. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath, Karen V. Kukil (Editor)
It became immediately apparently that Plath was way smarter at 18 than I’ll ever be.

2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Love the vignette style, fantastic voice. Even jock senior boys in English class liked it.

3. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Feels forced in parts, but moving overall. Foer’s best novel so far.

4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Made me very nervous as a child. People shouldn’t mess up your house!

5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Hated it initially, then got pulled in by Gilbert’s voice. Some nice local history, too.

6. The Witch’s Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
First in a series; read these obsessively in fifth grade. My limit on horror reading.

7. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poetical and historical bedtime reading in my household. Fun for New England kids!

8. Happy Birthday Samantha!: A Springtime Story (American Girls: Samantha #4) by Valerie Tripp
The first AG book I read, sparking enthusiasm for the series and the Victorian period.

9. Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers by Walter Hoving
Christmas gift that I kept glancing through. Surprisingly useful stuff for an eleven-year-old

10. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Some classic Dickensian style, but the ending fell flat for me.

11. Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
The title story is exquisitely eerie, others follow the same unsettling tone.

12. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
A recent favorite. Love a heroine who’s not afraid to be clever, bold, and ambitious.

13. Knights of the Kitchen Table (The Time Warp Trio) by Jon Scieszka
I’m holding it in pictures from first day of first grade, so probably liked it.

14. The Emperors Embrace Reflections On Animal Families And Fatherhood by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Summer reading for Bio, ended up enjoying it. Found out why beavers are so awesome.

15. Holidays and Birthdays (Childcraft: the How and Why Library #9) by World Book-Childcraft International
What’s your birthstone? When’s Yom Kippur? My source of all calendar knowledge as a child.

Happy weekend reading!

The Top 100 Countdown

Scholastic has put together a list of the 100 Greatest Books for Kids. Obviously lots of favorites are included, and it’s impossible to list all of the children’s books that have meaning for readers. The top ten:

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jacks Keats
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  7. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  8. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  9. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  10. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

No major surprises here, I’d say, although I’m surprised to see Frog and Toad in the top ten. I liked their stories growing up, but I wasn’t emotionally touched by them. And The Giver is only at #25, even though it’s one of the best books ever. That said, I am glad to see Tuck Everlasting so high at  #16; I feel like usually it gets shuffled further down.

What are your thoughts on the list? Does it reflect the best of children’s lit?

Friday Fifteen

Another week, another Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less. Here we go!

1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
One of my favorites. Gorgeous writing about human connections. Read it in Regent’s Park.

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Accidentally spoiled the ending for my husband. Worst moment ever. Works well as penultimate novel.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Beautiful art, excellently written picture book. And it’s science!

4. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Made me forever paranoid that my parents aren’t my parents.

5. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
What it feels like when friends stab you in the back. Love Mark Antony’s speech.

6. Teacher’s Pet (Sweet Valley Twins #2) by Francine Pascal
The younger version of SVH. Twins still obnoxious and size 6. They did ballet briefly.

7. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lenox
The kind of book Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey would have read.

8. Babylon Revisited and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Title story is great; others are good. None as good as Gatsby.

9. Heidi (Great Illustrated Classics) by Johanna Spyri
The easy reader Heidi, with lots of pictures. Didn’t need to read the real thing.

10. Something Upstairs by Avi
Inspired me to write a lot of bad, historical ghost story knock-offs.

11. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Chilling look at real-life violence in rural America. Capote’s best.

12. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Engaging premise (lesbian grows up English and Pentecostal) and vivid writing.

13. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Didn’t love it as much as I hoped. Is it wrong to love the musical?

14. Witch Week (Chrestomanci #3) by Diana Wynne Jones
Only one I’ve read in the series. Fun, non-HP book about boarding school and witches.

15. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Green’s weakest, in my opinion. Fun, but doesn’t carry the emotional weight of his others.

Happy reading/reviewing!

Friday Fifteen

Welcome to another edition of the Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less!

1. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Inspired take on a lesser known fairy tale. First in a series.

2. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Mom got this for me thinking it was YA. Scandal! Still prefer the Blume YA/MG.

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
So good I wrote about it on the AP English exam. Not embarrassed.

4. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Got it without knowing anything about it and was initially confused. Still loved it though.

5. Go Away, Bad Dreams by Susan Hill
I had nightmares a lot as a kid. This book helped.

6. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
Really enjoyed it when I read it, but can’t remember much about it now.

7. Baby-sitters’ Summer Vacation (Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #2) by Ann M. Martin
The BCS goes to summer camp, encounters poison ivy, romance, and racism. Typical camp experience?

8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters. Love Elinor and Marianne.

9. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Touching novel, with only one or two missteps. Ashima and Ashoke shine.

10. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Didn’t have a good professor, probably I could have gotten more out of it.

11. Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America’s Illegal Aliens by Ted Conover
Fascinating look at immigration as Conover lives and works with people crossing over.

12. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Makes me glad I had Buffy in middle school.

13. Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders
The title story is excellent. Others are good, some don’t hold up as well.

14. Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon
Hilarious and heartfelt look at growing up in pre-WWII New York.

15. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
Amy has the best party games for kids.

Happy reading/reviewing, everyone!

Love-ly Reading

The Horn Book has some fantastic suggestions for YA novels to get you in the Valentine’s Day mood. They’re not “romance” novels, but they all deal with love or heartbreak. A few suggestions of my own:

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
When I was in high school, Weetzie Bat had one of my favorite descriptions of a kiss: “A kiss about apple pie a la mode with the vanilla creaminess melting in the pie heat. A kiss about chocolate, when you haven’t eaten chocolate in a year. A kiss about palm trees speeding by, trailing pink clouds when you drive down the Strip sizzling with champagne. A kiss about spotlights fanning the sky and the swollen sea spilling like tears all over your legs.” Swoon! The whole series is fantastic, too, especially in how it looks at love.

Searching for Dragons by Patricia Wrede
The whole Enchanted Forest Chronicles series is fantastic, but this one is a compelling take on the Prince (ahem, King) meets Princess (ahem, (Chief Cook and Librarian to the King of the Dragons) story.

Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Mostly a book about friendships, but Moriarty also handles budding romance and heartbreak really well. Elizabeth Clarry gets letters from imaginary organizations like the Young Romance Association telling her she needs to stop being such an embarrassment and get a boyfriend already. Probably one of the most hilarious and relatable novels for teens without a lot of relationship experience.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Technically not a YA novel, but it’s about teens at a kind of boarding school, so I think it counts. A great example of a love triangle, with a creepy dystopian backdrop and gorgeous writing.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Also technically not a YA novel, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to put it on a teen reading list. It’s got a dashing pirate, a beautiful princess, a giant, a fencing expert, miracles, an evil prince, an evil-er count, and Rodents of Unusual Size. What more could you want than true love and high adventure?

What are your favorite novels about love?

To Infinity, and Beyond

At the Hub, Jessica Miller has a fantastic post about the growing number of YA science fiction books. Right now, there are some great options for middle readers (A Wrinkle in Time, anyone?) but there aren’t a lot for slightly older teens. Even though I hadn’t thought about this before, I felt the same way. I loved L’Engle’s books and others like it, but there’s a fairly large shift between that and adult sci-fi or fantasy. When I read Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End in seventh grade, I thought it was interesting, but I certainly was hooked enough to pick up his other books, even though he’s an excellent writer. I needed that bridge. As a result, whenever my husband tries to convince me that I actually do like sci-fi, I try to argue–even though I usually enjoy whatever I read or watch.

I think the shift might be inspired by the recent popularity of YA dystopian society novels. There’s obviously a huge market for YA sci-fi, and I’m glad there will be more books for these readers to enjoy. I also think this will be very helpful for female YA readers, who might have been intimidated by the current masculine vibe in the sci-fi section of the bookstore. (I know I was.)

In her post, Miller shares a list of YA sci-fi books. I know I’ll be picking up at least a few of these. Maybe this will finally help me admit that I am a fan of science fiction; I just needed that bridge.

Traveling Light

Seeing John and Hank Green on their current tour got me thinking about literary life on the road. So it was fun to see this packing list from Joan Didion. If I ever get on the book tour circuit, I’ll need to take major notes from Didion. I consider myself a good packer, but she has it down to a science. Only two pairs of shoes? I’d need at least three. (Of course, I could also leave out the cigarettes. That takes up the same amount of space, right?)

What’s on your current/future book tour packing list?