|KaliO's Book Lists|
|Katniss' Allies (8 titles)
Of course you’ve seen the The Hunger Games movie. The Hunger Games is your favorite book; you’ve read it a dozen times. You’ve read Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Hell, you’ve read The Hunger Games Companion, The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors On Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, and even The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. But it’s not enough! What will you do without gritty, futuristic worlds stricken by environmental disasters and world wars? What will you without a revolution to bring down a sly Big Brother-like government? What will you do without a stubborn, sarcastic, tough-as-nails but secretly tenderhearted heroine to root for? Don’t worry! You’re in luck! There’s a whole new generation of rebel girls (and a few rebel boys) on the bookshelves, and they’re not going down without a fight.
|The New Zombies (7 titles)
For the last few years, it’s been sparkly, sullen vampires who’ve ruled page and screen. But slowly, steadily creeping up on the bloodsuckers, is a new version of an old favorite: the zombie. Films like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, plus Max Brooks’ and Seth Graham-Smith’s tongue-in-cheek books The Zombie Survival Guide and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, lead the charge with a sarcastic, wholly unique 21st century brand of humor. Other novelists have contributed a new intensity and complexity that comment on modern society and politics—or make some very intriguing changes to the traditional zombie genre. Zombie books are hitting the bestseller lists hard, and readers cannot wait to devour them.
|100th Anniversary of the Voyage of the Titanic (8 titles)
In the late hours of April 14th, 1912, the steamship RMS Titanic hit an iceberg. At 2:20am on the morning of the 15th, the ship sank into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. It was the ship’s first and final voyage. Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world. Some of the wealthiest and most famous people of the day were passengers. The ship was said to be “unsinkable;” over 1,500 souls went down with her that night. The disaster made headlines all around the world. One hundred years later, we’re still talking about it.
|Video Game Books (7 titles)
Video games: They began as dinky pixelated images where the goal was to eat fruit and run from ghosts (poor old Pac Man). Now they’re complex, visually stunning stories in which you can fight wars, search for treasure, and build cities. Books that incorporate this changing, challenging technology toy with reality, critique modern society—and afford readers a chance to really, truly, geek-out like crazy.
|Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Grows Up (6 titles)
Remember reading those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories when you were a kid? With opening sentences like “You are a deep sea explorer searching for the famed lost city of Atlantis” or “You stand on the deck of the RMS Titanic, the brand new White Star ocean liner,” you knew immediately that there was adventure in store. And then there’s the added thrill of getting to decide what happens next: “If you choose to return to the island, go to page 12. If you decide to follow Jenny into the abyss, go to page 38.” The adventures were straightforward, the choices were good or bad—ah, how simple life was. But now that you’re an adult, choosing your own storybook adventure is more complex, sassier, sexier, gorier, and helluva lot more interesting.
|The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (6 titles)
It’s been 146 years since John Wilkes Booth walked into a theater and Abraham Lincoln in the head. But our collective interest in that event has not dimmed. Consider a few details from that fateful night—Booth had only a few hours to plan the assassination; Lincoln had recurring dreams and premonitions about his death; Booth knew the play so well that he could anticipate the crowds’ laughter to cover the sound of the shot. And then there’s the remarkable cast of supporting characters—Mary Surratt (the first woman in American history to be executed by the federal government), Secretary of State William Seward (who survived a near-fatal assault by another assassin at the exact moment Booth was killing Lincoln), and Robert Lincoln (Abe’s son who would be at hand to witness two more presidential shootings). It’s no wonder we’re still fascinated by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
|Advanced Readers Copies @ ALA (6 titles)
There’s nothing like a half-mile long convention center exhibit hall full of publishers throwing books at you to get you back in the mood for book-blogging. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference was in New Orleans last month, and the exhibit hall was a librarian’s heaven on earth. You’d walk past a table and a book would appear in your hands—an ARC, or Advanced Reading Copy. Many of those ARCs were new graphic novels and illustrated books that represent an especially exciting trend in publishing right now. Here are some new and up-coming titles, fresh from the forty-pound bag of books that this librarian lugged across that exhibit hall, through the convention center, and down the streets of New Orleans.
|Why We Love Jane (6 titles)
Jane Austen (1775-1817) is more popular today than she ever was in her all-too brief life. Arguably the best-known female writer in literary history, Jane wrote only six books—Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion—before she died at the age of forty-two. Some think of her as the ultimate romantic, the founding mother of the chick lit genre. Some admire her keen wit and observant eye, seeing in Jane an uncanny ability to critique society. Not merely content to read Jane’s books, we’ve created an entire industry around her legacy—sequels, prequels, spin-offs, modern adaptations, and a unique body of work that analyzes why exactly we’re so fond of dear old Jane.
|Whales and Their Friends (7 titles)
We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean’s depths, but we have figured out that there’s some remarkable creatures swimming around down there—whales not the least of them (because whales are really, really big). From the near-mythical giant squid to the quirky little seahorse, the creatures of the deep are extraordinary and they’re about to become your new best friends.
|I Now Pronounce You Husband and Sleuth (6 titles)
Every great Sherlock has a Watson, a partner who tags along, occasionally finding a clue or two, but existing mainly so the genius detective can show off his astounding deductions and observations. That sort of relationship gets old pretty quick, so mystery writers spice things up by teaming husbands and wives together to solve crime. These duos often star in series; they meet in the first book, fall in love and tie the knot, and then spend the next dozen or so mysteries working together—collaborating, cooperating, and occasionally bickering like the old married couples they’ve become. Being the third wheel to these cunning couples is every bit as much fun as catching the crook.
|Rose are Red, Graphic Novels are Blue: Graphic Novel Love Stories (6 titles)
Everyone loves a love story. The romance, the heartbreak, the lovers overcoming the odds to be together, and a gloriously happy ever after. The only thing better than a love story, in fact, is a love story told in rich, romantic colors and dramatic blacks and whites. Graphic novels retell classic romances and begin fresh with boy meets girl. When it comes to professing true love, a picture is worth a thousand words.
|Early Detectives and First Forensics (6 titles)
Crime scene investigation has come a long way. Modern technology means that a microscopic bit of trace evidence is enough to catch a criminal. But way back when, before ballistics, before fingerprints, even before mug shots, detective work was an entirely different matter. Early forensic techniques were untried controversial theories, not proof—not yet. Luckily, history can supply plenty of examples of murderers and the men and women who tracked them down. Whether authors are recreating fact or spinning historical fiction, solving crime has never been more fascinating.
|Real People Make the Best Book Detectives (9 titles)
Imaging the private lives of historical figures is good fun. No matter how detailed the record of someone’s life is, there’s still room to pretend. Turning real-life royals, artists, and especially authors into book detectives seems to be a particularly favorite pastime of mystery writers. In addition to their busy fact-based lives and the demands of their time (which range from the 15th century to the 1930s), these characters now have a wealth of crimes and clues to sort through. If you can’t get enough of a favorite old-fashioned celeb, all you have to do is turn these pages and play Watson to their Sherlock.
|Going Underground (8 titles)
There’s something irresistible about underground. Tunnels become mazes with adventures around every bend. Caves are home to strange, wild creatures. Archeological tombs hold the treasures of the ages. Even a basement or cellar can contain mysteries and surprises that can thrill us to the bone or set our hair on end. There’s no knowing what lurks in the deep dark underground, but finding out is sure to be an adventure.
|Book-a-Saurus Rex (7 titles)
Brontosaurus. Triceratops. Tyrannosaurus Rex. We all had a dinosaur obsession in childhood, way back when words like bothriospondylus and thecodontosaurus simply rolled off our tongues. We’re expected to outgrow the dino phase, but no one ever really stops being completely fascinated by the extinct giants, as the myriad of museum exhibits, dinosaur encyclopedias, and nature channel TV specials well attest to. And when it comes to books about prehistoric reptiles, the sky’s the limit. Far and away beyond mere encyclopedic entries, the dinosaur books included here are true to their subject: wild, wonderful, and larger than life.
|Clever Girls (10 titles)
It was hard being a lady back in the days of long skirts and horse-drawn carriages. You were expected to be modest and sweet and to blush delicately when in the company of men. It was unladylike to work or study or ask too many questions or show your ankles. So when an author places a heroine of keen intellect and rebellious spirit in the rigid societies of the 18th, 19th, or early 20th centuries, readers can be sure of one thing—this clever, classy lass is going to break all the rules. Bright and brainy even when weighed down by layers of petticoats and the conventions of their time, these young ladies are sure to save the day (whether the adventure be magical or mysterious) and still be home in time for tea.
|Oh Look, A Parellel Universe (9 titles)
Alice stepped in a rabbit hole and fell into Wonderland. A twister whisked Dorothy away to Oz. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy opened a wardrobe door and found the land of Narnia. Even Harry Potter discovered a magical world lurking just beyond the edges of the everyday. The parallel worlds that exist in fiction are by turns fantastic, quirky, dark, and dangerous. The books in this list prove that there’s magic right and left and in our very own backyards—if we know where to look.
|Be My Private Eye (9 titles)
Gumshoes, flatfoots, shamans, private eyes, P.I.s. Call them what you will, but there is no detective like the private investigator. These sleuths are not copper-on-the-beat policemen or armchair amateurs with the luxury to solve crimes in their spare time. The private eye is a tough-as-nails consummate professional, and you’ll be more than willing and able to pay for these expert crime-solving services.
|Read Like an Egyptian (8 titles)
The Great Pyramids, the winding Nile, archeological treasures from ancient civilizations—the lure of Egypt is irresistible. Whether it is recreating the lives of the ancient pharaohs, solving mysteries with mummies, mixing the modern world with ancient mythologies, or exploring the nuances of the country’s long political history, stories that revolve around Egypt are destined for drama and adventure.
|Orphans, Half-Orphans, Near-Orphans, and Other Curious Kids (10 titles)
Babies left on doorsteps, dangerous distant relatives, gloomy manor houses inhabited by left-behind children: These are just a few of the hallmarks of the good old-fashioned orphan story. Sometimes the children are half-orphans with just one parent; sometimes they might just as well be orphans for all the attention their self-absorbed parents give them. Whatever the case, a few exceptionally bright and brainy youngsters have to fend for themselves against all manner of evils perpetrated by the dimwitted adults in their lives. Despite the grim premise, these stories are quirky, clever, cute, and crafty. Their authors and illustrators revel in the outlandish wiles of their villains, embrace the absurd, employ a deliciously snarky tone, and generally have a ball letting their infant heroes save the day. Mischief-makers young and old will delight in these oddball tales of childish know-how.
|A Blitz of Books (6 titles)
The first German bombs hit London on September 7, 1940, around 4:00pm. They didn’t let up until May 11, 1941. World War II is a time rich in history for stories fictional and true, but the Blitz—that seemingly-endless winter of air raids on England’s biggest city—is a period that is packed with tales of drama and derring-do. The goal of the Blitz was to demoralize Britain to the point of surrender. But Londoners were determined to keep their upper lips stiff and defy Hitler by staying put and living their lives, taking cover when the sirens wailed in basements, backyard shelters, and underground railway stations. A story set against the blacked-out ruins of London’s Blitzed streets is bound to be chock-a-block full of bravery, glory, adventure, tragedy, and triumph.
|The Real Lives of The Cat in the Hat, Curious George, and other Childhood Friends (8 titles)
Curious George, the BFG, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. Could anyone ask for better friends than these? Well, sure: their authors. Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss are every bit as well known as their fictional counterparts, and you can bet that their stories are just as interesting. The biography or autobiography of a children’s author is guaranteed to be one of color and creativity, and just as hard to put down as that original book that captured your childish heart all those years ago.
|Fall in Love With the Governess (9 titles)
A dignified manor house. Children peering through the windows of the upstairs nursery. The lord and his lady entertaining the cream of society. Servants scurrying about their duties. And somewhere in between, neither mistress nor maid, is the governess. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was often the only profession available to a genteel woman of impoverished means, and if she conveniently fell in love with the handsome tutor or the even more dashing master of the house, can you blame her? Whatever her role in the household, the presence of a governess means one thing when it comes to fiction: There’s a mystery afoot, and probably lots of swooning romance too. This list of books feature governesses in the prime role; turn the pages and let these clever young ladies teach you a lesson.
|Picture Books for Big People (8 titles)
We tend to think of storybooks, with their big colorful pictures, as books that are meant for little children only. But a simple story can be just as heartfelt, dramatic, and exciting as any book double its size. You’ll be surprised at the wit, elegance, and sophistication that can be packed into a picture book’s brief but stunning pages.
|Past + Future = Steampunk (8 titles)
Steampunk: it’s one of the most entertaining sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy, and its favorite question to ask is “What if?” The past, usually the Victorian era of steam-powered trains, is re-imagined, reinvented, and recreated with all manner of futuristic technologies and fantastic creatures. The well-worn paths of history are in for some surprising twists and turns when artificially-intelligent robots and tea-sipping vampires crash into the prim and proper sitting rooms of yesteryear. The sheer inventiveness of steampunk will knock your socks off. But that’s the point, really—to blend the past and the future into stories so out of this world that they push the boundaries of what readers will believe. To try to believe is, of course, all part of the irresistible fun.
|Historical Figures Doing Strange, Strange things (5 titles)
Famous people are meant to be remembered. The achievements of presidents, rulers, writers, and scientists go down in history, as they should. But sometimes famous people have secrets. And not the secrets you’re thinking of—there’s much more going on than skeletons in the closet and lovers on the sly. Instead, the best-known historical figures cavorted with unsavory members of the underground or snuck out at night to keep our ancestors safe and sound in their beds. Want to know what history class didn’t—or couldn’t—teach you? Read about these famous fellows and their strange secrets and hidden talents.
|To Be Continued: Sequels and Second Books in Series (8 titles)
The only thing more satisfying that finishing a good book is being able to immediately pick up its sequel. It’s often historical fiction and science fiction that come in multiple volumes; the possibilities for elaborating on the events of the past and future are, after all, endless. Whether it’s a stirring sequel or the second in a deliciously lengthy series, book two has a big responsibility—introduce new plot twists and characters while simultaneously maintaining what readers loved about the first book and building on its momentum. The books that come before these have been reviewed in other book lists so you can go back and read them before diving into their worthy second halves.
|How To Like Poetry (9 titles)
Poetry is hard. We know we’re supposed to like poetry and be moved by its verses, but it can be a lot of work to understand. Poetry starts out fun, with the nonsensical delights of Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl. But once we’ve got the basics down, things get serious pretty fast—heavies like Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and even Shakespeare get thrown into the mix, and all those metaphors and rhyming couplets and iambic pentameters get tricky. Still, poetry is among the most creative forms of expression. Rules of rhythm and rhyme are made to be broken and—believe it or not—poetry has always had a wicked sense of humor. From revisiting classic poets to illustrated poetry editions to the newest trend of novels in verse, here are some books that just might convince you to give poetry one more try.
|Number the Books (8 titles)
Reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic. When letters and numbers combine in the form of fiction, strange and interesting things are bound to happen. A number in a book title can indicate so many things: populations of people, distance to travel, codes to break, mysteries to solve. O reading, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
|Good Old Fashioned Ghost Stories (8 titles)
Bumps in the night. Noises on the air. Shivers up and down your spine. Reading under the covers all night long, unable to shut the book—or turn the light off. Whether it’s a dark and stormy night or a bright and sunny summer day, a really good ghost story has the power to thrill and chill and remain stuck in your mind to jump up and spook you again and again. But the best ghost stories, the really scary, creepy, spine-tingling stories are the ones written dozens, even hundreds of years ago. From the monsters you know—Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman—to the monsters you don’t—the vampiress Carmilla, the vile Cthulu—these are the original good old-fashioned ghost stories.
|Arg! Pirates (9 titles)
pi-rate \p?-r?t\ n, 1 : one who commits robbery on the high seas; 2 : a bawdy, rowdy, frightening, fascinating bastard who we’ve been reading about for centuries and just can’t get enough of. Pirates have been a best-selling literary topic since they first started sailing the waters and burying their treasure. In reality pirates were vicious criminals and murderers, but readers love to romanticize them, and why not? It’s about the most exciting life there is—sailing the seven seas on a never-ending quest for pieces of eight, doubloons, and adventure galore. Whether its reality, romance, action, or comedy you’re looking for, you can be sure to find it in the pirate way of life.
|Which Witch? (9 titles)
Good witches, wicked witches, feared witches, real witches. Witches are both the stuff that nightmares and fairy tales are made of and historical figures from the past. From black-clad, pointy hat-wearing, wart-covered caricatures to real, often misunderstood, women who practice the art of witchcraft, witches are a part of our literary tradition and our historical record. They are also, by the way, a lot of fun, drama, and of course, enchantment and magic.
|The Nine Lives of Sherlock Holmes (14 titles)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published his first mystery story featuring detective Sherlock Holmes in 1887. The success and popularity of the character were immediate. A master of disguise and a mean boxer, Holmes’ real appeal lay in his stupendous power of deduction. Cunning and brainy, Holmes has a remarkable ability of observation—he can deduce (never guess) intimate facts of a person’s history, employment, and personality just by looking at them. Holmes is an egomaniac who takes arrogant pleasure in leaving the police out of the loop and deliberately misleading his partner Dr. Watson (and the reader). Holmes is also a drug addict, indulging in cocaine to relieve his restlessness when life is dull between cases. In short, Sherlock Holmes had a richly detailed and complex persona from the very beginning. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes; other characters included Holmes’ faithful colleague Dr. Watson, who shares his rooms at 221B Baker Street and usually narrates the duo’s adventures; Holmes’ even craftier brother Mycroft, who has vague and powerful connections to the government; Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty; and Irene Adler, the only woman to ever impress or outwit Holmes. With such a wealth of appealing characters, mysterious cases, forensic science (which Holmes was an early practitioner of), and sheer personality, it’s little wonder that modern writers have mined the Sherlock Holmes canon over and over to resurrect literature’s best-known detective. His creator eventually got tired him and tried to kill him off (in “The Final Problem,” when Holmes and his enemy Professor Moriarty tumble off Reichenbach Falls), but to no avail—popularity demanded his return and stories appeared with regularity until 1927 when Conan Doyle retired his detective to beekeeping in the Sussex countryside. Conan Doyle may have finally been able to keep Holmes in place, but few others have been unable to resist the temptation to get the game afoot again and again.
|Long Lost Literary Love (10 titles)
Everyone loves a love story. Authors have been mining the pain and passion of long lost, unrequited, and reunited love for as long as literature has been written. Love is gained and love is lost; one lover rejects the other; lovers are separated for days, weeks, years, or even life. Sometimes they come together; sometimes the separation is painfully permanent, leaving lovers to waste away of lovesickness. The heartaches of love stories transcend the dime store romance novel and, in the hands of the right writer, become award-winning and literary masterpieces and classics. This list is a small representation of those fine novels and when you’re through with them, you’ll be yearning to fall in love with these books all over again.
|Advanced ABCs (7 titles)
Easy as 1 2 3, A B C? No way. The alphabet, believe it or not, holds many secrets behind its sing-songsy façade. The alphabet can be tricky (C can take the place of K or S), sneaky (like Y, the sometimes vowel, sometimes consonant), loyal (Q is rarely without U), and strange (how many words really start with X anyway?). And then there’s all the troublesome fun that the alphabet can get into when letters combine: H’s affairs with C, P, S and T; I and E’s constant bickering over who goes first; the gleeful sounds of double Es and the mournful noise of double Os. The English language has many faults and foibles, and the books listed here prove that the alphabet is not just for kids anymore. If you think you know your ABCs, turn the pages of these inventive alphabets and think again.
|If Animals Were Authors (8 titles)
Elephants can remember and dogs are man’s best friend, but there’s a lot more to the animal kingdom than that. When writers take on an animal’s perspective, the thoughts and ideas of entire new species become available for all manner of memoirs, mysteries, romances, and adventures. Cats turn literary; bears have better things to do than hibernate all winter. Wolves and leopards describe life in the wild in their own words; even quiet critters like lambs and bunny rabbits get in on the action. Readers won’t be too surprised to discover that these furry critters share the same problems of their human counterparts: jealousies, triumphs, failures, secrets. This means that animal tales are every bit as powerful, poignant, and page-turning as books about people, and with a decidedly original point of view. If animals could talk, oh the stories they would tell!
|When Your Time Machine Breaks Down (7 titles)
Everyone who’s ever seen the movie Back to the Future knows the theory of time travel is complicated. What if you your past self and your future self meet? How many different versions of a time line can exist at the same time? If you change an event in the past, does it alter the future? If you change an event in the future, does it alter the past? The space-time continuum can be a fun, messy, spontaneous adventure. But as the following books prove, you don’t always need a fancy tricked-out time machine to enjoy it.
|Untold Histories (10 titles)
“In fourteen-hundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” This is one of the first history lessons we learn in school, and while it is factually accurate, there’s a lot of missing information—and much of it is violent, racist, inglorious, and shameful. This is the case for much of the past. Painful chapters in history are skimmed over and the voices of many are lost and forgotten, especially when it comes to war. This inequity is being rectified in history books for young readers. These histories are not dry, stale textbooks—they are vivid accounts of tough, brave choices made by survivors who have been pushed to the side but who have important, relevant stories to tell. This means that even though the audience for these books is children and teenagers, the tales they tell are sophisticated and strong enough to teach adult readers a lesson or two as well. History is written by the winner, but there are two sides to every story. The version you don’t know is often gripping, thrilling, shocking, and inspiring. You’ll close these books amazed at what you didn’t know, and you’ll be a wiser, better reader for it.
|The Classics Never Die (10 titles)
The classics. They’ve been around forever and they’re certainly not going anywhere. They’ve stood the test of time and readers have waded through them in English classes from grade school to grad school. Of course, there’s another way to read—or re-read—the classics. From time immemorial, authors having been borrowing plots from each other. Modern authors have an excellent source for inspiration in literature’s canon, and it’s long been a popular trend to dust off an old classic and rewrite it with a fresh perspective for a modern audience. Whether it’s a sequel, a prequel, another character’s point of view, or a spin-off into a different genre, the classics are thriving dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of years after their originals authors first penned them. The classics don’t die. They just get retold, reinvented, and rejuvenated in all sorts of inventive and creative variations.
|Row, Row, Row Your Book (11 titles)
Boats are the ultimate plot device. The varieties are endless—rowboat, tugboat, eighteenth century schooner, luxury cruise liner. The characters are endless—sailor, stowaway, first class passenger, captain. The dangers are endless too—ocean crossings, mutiny, shipwreck, storms. This means, of course, that the opportunities for excellent books about rowboats, captains, and shipwrecks are endless. Mystery, adventure, historical fiction—boats float it all. Whether you hoist the sail or scrub the deck, a book about a boat makes for a swimmingly good read.
|Adventure and Mystery in the Victorian Age (8 titles)
The Victorian Age is the perfect setting for adventure and mystery book series. It’s far enough in the past to be exotic and familiar enough for readers to relate to. It lasted a long time—Queen Victoria was on the throne from 1837 to 1901 and she brought her nation through a time of peace, progress, and prosperity. The Victorian British Empire had under its thumb Canada, Australia, areas of Africa and South American, and the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Victorian celebrities (fictional and real) include the likes of Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, P.T. Barnum, Sherlock Holmes, Oscar Wilde, Jane Eyre, Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, Buffalo Bill, and Jack the Ripper. The Victorians believed they were at the pinnacle of civilization, yet electricity, automobiles, and antibiotics were things of the future. Still, there was plenty of drama afoot as long-established standards clashed with new-fangled notions. Gas lamps glimmered through the fog of London’s streets. The rich dined well, rode well, and lived well while poor children worked in the streets as bootblacks and chimney sweeps. Society was slavishly devoted to the strict moral codes the governed the division of the classes and the restricted rights of women, but oh, did they ever love a good scandal! In short, book characters can travel the world, meet a wealth of interesting characters, defy conventions, have adventures, and solve mysteries for years and years, all the while securely under the umbrella of the glorious Victorian Age, an era of horse-drawn carriages, gossip over tea, disdain for foreigners, stiff upper lips, parasols, bustles, top hats, thrilling adventures, and chilling mysteries.
|Kids Say the Darndest Things (8 titles)
The novels in this booklist include literary masterpieces, winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Booker Prizes, National Book Awards, classics that have withstood the test of time. They also all feature narrators who are a bit unexpected. These narrators are precocious and mischievous. They have early bedtimes. They hate vegetables. And most importantly, they ask “Why?” That’s because these narrators are children. Children, after all, have decidedly original points of view. They notice more than we give them credit for, they understand more than we think, and they’re still capable of remarkable flights of fancy and imagination. Those qualities make children excellent storytellers, even when an adult author is really pulling the strings behind the pages. Children see the world in a different way, and the results are book with refreshing changes of pace and original points of view. After all, you’re never too young to tell a good story.
|Draw Me Dysfunctional: Graphic Novel Memoirs (7 titles)
Dysfunctional families, dysfunctional childhoods, dysfunctional lives: We’ve all got them. Some more than others, true, but everyone’s got a story. Whether it’s tales of surviving adolescence or illness, stories about parents or siblings, the trials and tribulations of love or war, autobiographies and memoirs have been staples of storytelling for hundreds of years. But times they changing. One of the more recent and innovative ways to share the twisted stories of our pasts is not just to write them, but to draw them as well. Memoirs told in the comic strip/ graphic style format are becoming more popular and more successful as savvy authors and readers explore unconventional ways to write and read books. And in the case of graphic novels, unconventional also means artistic, funny, and wildly creative, and full of color and life.
|Watch A Book: Masterpiece Theatre (8 titles)
The classics can be daunting. Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy: these are big names and they wrote big books a long, long time ago. We were made to read a few of them in school and we’ve avoided them ever since. But still, they must be classics for a reason. There must be a compelling story there somewhere hidden under all that old-fashioned language. And indeed there is—all the drama, comedy, mystery, and romance that you could wish for. One of the surest ways to tap into the classics is to watch the film adaptation. Not the Hollywood version, mind you, which tends to condense and edit until the book and the movie are little more than distant cousins. What you want are the Masterpiece Theatre movie versions. They air on public television as miniseries, hours-long adaptations that are meant to be viewed over several weeks. This means that very little is left out of the original book—nearly every character is on screen and much of the dialogue is taken straight from the book. Viewers have the luxury of becoming as immersed in the world of the film as readers who spend days or weeks with the book versions. Masterpiece Theatre’s classic reinterpretations are dramatic, stirring, suspenseful, passionate, and true to the voice of their original author. Once you watch a book on TV, it becomes that much easier to access the paper and ink classic it’s based on.
|Harry Potter's BFFs (10 titles)
Oh, Harry Potter, the famous orphan who’s also a wizard, a regular kid who becomes part of a fantastic world of magic and mayhem. Through seven suspenseful books and seven wonder-filled years at Hogwarts School, Harry transforms from an overwhelmed, awestruck little boy into a powerful and thoughtful young man. He has to make some extraordinary choices concerning his life, his friends’ lives, and the fate of the world, but he’s guided by an unforgettable cast of characters: schoolmates Ron and Hermione; wise and occasionally wacky Professor Dumbledore; magical friends Hagrid, Hedwig, and Sirius; magical foes Snape, Malfoy, and even Lord Voldemort, who’s a truly worthwhile villain if there ever was one. And then there’s all the pure magical fun of playing Quidditch, shopping in Diagon Alley, or taking a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. We could go on and on with unfulfilled prophecies, invisibility cloaks, clueless Muggles, scars that sense evil, and every little interwoven, imaginative detail that makes the world of Harry Potter so unique and so loved. Author J.K. Rowling is a world-renowned celebrity and the Harry Potter series has changed the history of children’s literature and the publishing industry. That’s a tough act to follow. But there are authors out there who’ve been able to build on the momentum of Harry Potter without merely copying the poor-kid-in-a-fantasy-world plot. These books owe a debt to Harry, but they’ve all struck out in new and original directions. The world doesn’t just need more Harry Potters, after all—just more wildly creative books about young heroes on fantastic and challenging adventures. And now more than ever, children’s authors are ready to deliver.
|Welcome to Dystopia (13 titles)
If a utopia is a perfect and ideal world, then a dystopia is well, the opposite. What’s the world coming to? If a dystopia is set in the not-too-distant future, the population is often under the control of a big powerful Somebody who seems to have the best interests of humanity at heart, but who really just wants to keep everybody under thumb. If the dystopia is of the post-apocalyptic kind, there’s usually the chaos of fleeing refugees or a desolate landscape populated by a few struggling survivors. There’s oppression and fear, often some sort of mind-control device, biohazards and disasters natural or manmade galore, but always—lucky for us—one or two rebels who are determined to uncover the truth. Dystopian fiction has deep roots—Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932; Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953; George Orwell’s classic 1984 dates from 1949; even Lois Lowry’s dystopia for young readers, The Giver, has been around since 1993. Every work of dystopian fiction is unique. There are a myriad number of ways to image the future, but one thing’s for sure: Thinking up the worst is a lot more interesting than thinking up the best.
|How to Read Two Books at Once (7 titles)
The only thing better than reading a book is reading two books. You don’t hold a book in each hand; you read a story-within-a-story, a novel-within-a-novel. It’s a fairly simple literary technique--a character in the book reads or writes or finds or remembers a book of his or her own and you, the reader, read them both--but the result is an intricate web of stories that weave in and out of each other, merging and dividing and running parallel to ultimately compliment each other. And the reader gets two stories for the price of one, the best of both worlds, and some of the most creative and innovative novels ever written.
|Monster Love (13 titles)
Love. It’s a wonderful thing, even when your new guy or gal is a vampire. Or a werewolf. Or even a zombie. Sure, it can be dangerous dating an undead, shape-shifting creature of the night, but that doesn’t mean the romance is gone. As these stories of inter-species and paranormal relationships show, sparks can really fly when a human falls in love with a monster--especially when every kiss might end with your head being bitten off.
|Vend-A-Book (8 titles)
Hungry for a new book? Got a sweet tooth for reading? Well, dig out your spare change, wander over to the nearest vending machine, and make a snack out of these books. Whether it’s the title of the book or the content within the pages, these books relate in some way to the candies, snacks, and soft drinks that we find in vending machines or to the impulses, hunger pains, and pocketfuls of nickels that draw us to vending machines. But these are books are not all candy-coated junk reads. Themes of consumption and consumerism abound. Don’t worry; there’s just as much fun as there is chocolate. Anyone who says reading isn’t fun never took a bite out of these books. (This list was originally a class project. Lizz and Rachel, my classmates, are co-authors of this booklist.)
|Never Mind the Swine Flu: Books About The Plague and Other Diseases (7 titles)
When you cough and sneeze and the hypochondrium sets in, the best cure is to read about a disease you definitely don’t have (or do you?), be it the Black Death or smallpox or cholera or the always-threatening zombie plague. These books go into all the clinical details about symptoms, contagions, and cures (or lack thereof) so you’ll know exactly what you’re up against and how much Tami-Flu you’ll need. You’ll also sniffle (do you have a cold or are you just sad?) as heroes and heroines help and hinder each other on the road to good health. You might not be convinced that it’s just allergies when you’re done reading these books, but you’ll definitely appreciate your health.
|Take Me To Your Leader (7 titles)
When the little green men make contact, we earthlings don’t always know how to respond. Do the spacemen come in war or in peace? Do we greet flying saucers with open arms or armed missiles? Do we conspire with them or do we believe the conspiracy theories? It all depends on what book you’re reading. Sometimes we love our new alien neighbors, sometimes we can’t wait to blow them out of the sky, and sometimes we just don’t know what the hell kind of weirdo space-age creatures we’re looking at. Humans. Aliens. Can’t we all just get along?
|I'd Rather Be Reading (7 titles)
Sometimes you’ll see athletes wearing t-shirts that say something like, “Eat, Sleep, Run.” If you’re a bibliophile, your shirt (or more likely your book bag) says “Eat, Sleep, READ.” You have stacks of books in your home. You never go anywhere without a book. Eating and sleeping are indeed biological requirements that you fulfill solely so that you can read more books. In other words, you love books and you love to read. And you’re not alone. There are millions of bookworms out there, some more obsessed than others, but all with an irresistible urge to buy books, collect books, or read books. And bibliomaniacs will be pleased to know that there is any number of writers who delight in similar book obsessions and write intelligently and lovingly about them. Fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, essays, novels, and scholarly tomes—no genre is untouched by lovers of books. You’ll come away from this list of books about books knowing full well that these rules of reading are true-blue: Everyone reads in different ways for different reasons. Every book has its reader; that reader may or may not be you. You don’t have to finish every book you read. You don’t have to read every book you buy. And never, ever be embarrassed by what you read. If you love it, read it. End of story.
|For the Dorky Boy in All of Us (8 titles)
The stereotypical dork is so ingrained in our social conscience that we have no trouble conjuring up a mental image. High school loser, computer geek, chess club nerd, wimpy know-it-all—what you see is an awkward teenage boy. Whether we’re boys or girls or men or women, there’s a dorky boy inside each and every one of us. But as these books show us, that dork is actually the coolest thing we’ve got going for ourselves. The nerdy low-life shows up the popular jock. The smart guy saves the day. The geek gets the girl. The dorky boy is actually cooler, smarter, and funnier than everyone else and once we admit that we love rooting for him, the dorky boy will triumph time and time again.
|Swashbucklers (10 titles)
A true-blue swashbuckler takes place in the good old days when gentlemen proved their honor at the tips of their swords. All you needed was a steady blade, a fine set of mustachios, and a devastating effect on the ladies to be a genuine swashbuckler. Bravery, romance, justice and revenge were the order of the day. Soldiers, swordsmen, and spies vied for riches, glory, and fame. These are the original adventure stories, action-packed all the way. There’s often a sense of humor to a swashbuckler, a tongue-in-cheek tone combined with a narrative tendency to cheerfully fling heroes into all sorts of messes and scrapes and expect them to emerge ready for more. No one actually swashes a buckle in a these books (the definition of a swashbuckler is “a swaggering or daring soldier or adventurer”), but still, we’re talking about champions rescuing damsels in distress with astonishing acts of derring-do—in other words, real high adventure stuff. Whether the tone is as light the feather in a soldier’s hat or as dark as a sweeping black cape in the night, when it comes to reading about these dashing young men and their thrilling adventures, we just can’t get enough.
|More Jane for the Jane Austen Purist (9 titles)
Jane Austen only wrote six novels. The current trend is sequels to those novels or updated versions where a modern gal meets her own new-age Mr. Darcy. For many Austen fans, that's not good enough. Here's a list of books that came before, during, and after Austen's life for all those readers who are true Jane Austen pursists. Other books that I couldn't access through Hennepin County's Make-A-Book-List function: The Mysteries of Udulpho by Ann Radcliffe. This is a Gothic novel that Jane Austen read and then made fun of in her own novel Northanger Abbey. Evelina by Fanny Burney. Written in 1778, this is the story of young Evelina, who commits many a blunder in Polite Society before she finds romance. Belinda by Maria Egdeworth. Published in 1801, Edgeworth was a contemporary of Austen's who also wrote society romances about young heroines who find true love. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant. This is the story of Lucilla, who is similar to Austen's Emma in her charm, bossiness, and ability to fall in love with the wrong man. It was written in 1866.
|Series with Sass (6 titles)
When we fall in love with a new book, there’s nothing better than knowing that there’s another book—or two books, or five, or ten books—that continues the story, especially when that story stars a smart, flashy, charming leading lad or lady. The following list is titles that are the first in a series of books. These series range from adventure to mystery to fantasy, but all chronicle the adventures of a central character. Sassy, dashing, witty, or wise-ass, sometimes one book about a favorite hero or heroine just isn’t enough.
|Boys and Girls Who Save Their Worlds (8 titles)
Just about every other day, it seems, some villain, curse, disaster or another threatens the destruction of the world as we know it (or a world anyway, since of course there are any number of parallel universes and worlds besides our own). We usually don’t hear of these impending apocalypses because some clever child has gotten there first. With the help of family/ friends/ talking animals/ wizards/ fairies, that kid saves the world. These hero-children don’t always seem especially extraordinary. They’re poor, perhaps even orphans; they have no one to turn to except maybe a couple of rag-tag friends or siblings. If they’re really lucky, they can band together with other seemingly-ordinary-but-actually-heroic kids and form a group of day-saving youngsters. But whether it’s an individual effort or a team of the courageous, whether it’s our own world in jeopardy or a fantastic Other Land, these kids have secret strengths that make them ideal heroes when it comes time to battle the forces of evil (whatever they may be) and save the world. Many of the books on this list are the first in a line of series, because--obviously--the world needs to be saved over and over again. P.S. These books were written for younger audiences, each and every one is captivating enough to catch the interest of adult readers.
|Charming Books That Made Delightful Movies (9 titles)
Film versions of favorite books don’t always live up to our expectations or our imaginations. The casting doesn’t match the character we see in our mind’s eye; the plot is abridged and our favorite scenes are left out or condensed; the author’s subtle sense of humor or mystery is lost. But there are exceptions to this rule. Quaint, old-fashioned, little-known books very often more than make the grade. The characters and stories in these novels are too charming; their essence cannot be distilled. Cinematic attention only brings out the best in the book, and the resulting union of screen and page results in a delightful film. The book and the movie become enchanting and enjoyable companions for movie-goers and book-lovers alike.
|The Haunted Booklist (7 titles)
"It was a dark and stormy night." This is a near-perfect phrase in book lore, and avid readers curl up with delight when they read it, even as chills run up and down their spines. Readers know they’re in for a real page-turner, a can’t-put-it-down, up-all-night-with-the-lights-on kind of book. For bookworms, book lovers, and true bibliophiles, this kind of ghost story is only made better when a book itself is part of the plot twist. On one of those dark and stormy nights, our hero discovers a mysterious, ancient, forbidden book and stumbles upon a terrifying mystery that changes the character, the story, and our own reading experience. We all know that reading can transport us to a different place and time, but sometimes losing yourself in a good book can be more dangerous than you think. This list of literary thrillers will take you to a different world, conjure ghosts and monsters, and make you more than a little afraid of the very book—that seemingly innocent package of bound pages and spine—that you hold clutched in your trembling hands…
|Young Adult Books for Adult Readers (7 titles)
For most adult readers, a “young adult” or “teen” book is a no-go. To be seen reading a teen novel would be embarrassing, like getting caught reading one of those old romance novels with the peek-a-boo Fabio covers. But the young adult label can be very misleading, and adult readers are missing out on some great literature that inspires some passionate discussion. The following list of books proves that the line between adult and young adult is finally blurring and even fading. After all, a good story doesn’t care how old its reader is.
|Epistolary: A Novel in Letters (6 titles)
Epistolary novels tell their stories through letters that the characters write to each other. It's like reading the story by opening other people's mail...
|Sci-Fi Meets the Classics (6 titles)
Strange and wonderful things happen when the antiquated etiquettes, horse-drawn carriages, and time-tested conventions of classic literature meet the aliens, time machines, and alternate worlds of speculative fiction... (One more title that I can't access on Bookspace but that fits the bill perfectly is Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn. It is, plain and simple, the classic story of Jane Eyre--but set in space. It is too good to miss.)
|Uglies : Shay's story |
by Westerfeld, Scott.
The first book of the Uglies series was published in 2005, three years before The Hunger Games. But a graphic novel version has been released, and the new story packs just as much punch. In the original Uglies, Tally eagerly waits her sixteenth birthday, when, through the miracle of her society’s high-tech plastic surgery, she will become beautiful. As a Pretty, her only goal in life will be the pursuit of a good time. But then Tally’s best friend Shay unexpectedly refuses her makeover, running off instead to the Smoke, an outside colony of Uglies. If Tally doesn’t spy on the Smoke, she won’t be allowed to become Pretty. The graphic novel version tells Shay’s side of the story—her attraction to the prankish Uglies gang calling itself “The Crims,” her growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, her friends’ desertion to Pretty Town, and her persuasive (except to Tally) arguments against becoming Pretty. Shay is a born rebel—much like a certain tribute from District 12—and the story from her point of view becomes something darker, more active, with the consequences of the characters’ actions even more significant. The manga-like artwork provides a light touch to a story that becomes more engrossing with each new image. posted Jun 6, 2012 at 9:33PM
by Roth, Veronica
Beatrice Prior has lived her whole life in Abnegation, where you always put the needs of others before your own. But when Beatrice turns sixteen, she will be tested and have the option to join one of the other factions that her city is divided into—Amity (peace), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (truth), or Dauntless (bravery). The motto of this brave new world is “faction before blood,” and individuals are expected to dedicate their lives to the virtue their faction promotes. So Beatrice is shocked when her scores show that she could belong to more than one faction. She is labeled Divergent, and like Katniss in The Hunger Games, Beatrice must play a dangerous game with the authorities to minimize the danger she’s in. Dauntless seems the best place for Beatrice—now calling herself as Tris to match the punk stylings of her new faction—to find answers. As she and the other Dauntless initiates undergo a series of trials to prove their worth, Tris finds it impossible to forget her life in Abnegation, especially since many Dauntless want to trade courage for cruelty. Throw in a romance with a handsome instructor and growing rivalries between factions, and Divergent becomes the first of a hard-hitting, unpredictable new dystopian trilogy. posted Jun 6, 2012 at 9:33PM
by Lu, Marie, 1984-
June Iparis is the opposite of Katniss Everdeen—while Katniss is a lowly citizen of Panem’s poverty-stricken District Twelve, June is the genius daughter of the Republic, a highly-trained soldier who is dedicated to the cause of putting down the rebellion. It’s the boy Day who most resembles Katniss. He’s the Republic’s most-wanted criminal, a street-wise justice fighter, a thorn in the side of the elite military officials. But when Day is accused of killing June’s brother, she vows revenge. And when the two finally meet, sparks fly—and supposedly known truths begin to crumble. Like Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, June and Day form an unexpected alliance that begins to uncover secrets about the series of plagues that annually infest the poorest neighborhoods, the Trials that all ten-year-old citizens are required to take, and the ongoing war between the Republic and the outlying Colonies. June and Day tell their stories in distinct voices through alternating chapters, and there’s plenty of action, wit, mystery, and intriguing world-building. Star-crossed lovers who take on a totalitarian government? Hunger Games fans are practically guaranteed to be lining up for Legend and its upcoming sequels. posted Jun 6, 2012 at 9:33PM
by Aguirre, Ann
When the world ended, the people left behind moved underground. Now they survive in barricaded enclaves below the streets, focused on three simple things: breeding, building, and hunting. When they turn sixteen, kids cease to be nameless brats and become working members of this desperate society. Deuce becomes a Huntress, specially trained to find food outside the enclave—and to fight the human-like, flesh-eating Freaks who roam the abandoned tunnels and sewers. Partnered with the enigmatic Fade, who came to the enclave as a young boy having survived on his own, Deuce begins to suspect that the Freaks are no longer the mindless monsters they used to be—they’re getting smarter. But the enclave elders dismiss Deuce’s reports, and Deuce is banished to keep her rumors from spreading. Unexpectedly, Fade agrees to go with Deuce. He claims he once lived Topside, and that the world above is not the blighted ruin the elders say it is. So Deuce leaves the only world she’s ever known for a whole new set of dangers in a world where nothing is as it seems. Enclave is the first of a planned trilogy and like The Hunger Games, it’s a page-turner with the first gritty volume hinting at more chaos to come. posted Jun 6, 2012 at 9:31PM
|The watch that ends the night : voices from the Titanic |
by Wolf, Allan.
Everyone knows how the story ends—with a lost ship and a few boatloads of survivors in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. But the stories of the people on the Titanic continue to fascinate and resonate. Author Allen Wolf tells two dozen of those stories in The Watch That Ends the Night, a novel-in-verse featuring the voices of millionaire John Jacob Astor, wireless operator Harold Bride, immigrant Olaus Abelseth, third-class refugee Jamila, the woman who became known as “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” the ship’s baker, the violinist, an onboard rat, and many others—including the iceberg itself. Wolf mixes fact and fiction for a work that is epic in scope, from the musings of doomed Captain Smith to the babblings of near-infant Lolo Navratil. Cementing the story is the occasional report from undertaker John Snow, who helps to harvest the bodies from the sea days after the disaster. Though mournful at times, The Watch That Ends the Night has its fair share of brave deeds and meaningful connections. With over thirty pages of biographies and resources, this is an impressive work that adds a crucial human touch to the facts and statistics that make up the Titanic’s remarkable history. posted Dec 23, 2011 at 11:42AM