A Legit Reading List

Whether it’s 1,000 books to read before you die, the 18 best books of 2018, the 10 best beach reads, or Americans’ 100 favorite books, it’s clear that readers love lists…and debating those lists! That’s why I was surprised to come across a list that I (almost) completely agree with!

20 Books All Students Should Read Before They Turn 18

By Lindsey Murray for Good Housekeeping.com Posted Aug 20, 2018

  1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  4. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  11. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  13. Night by Elie Wiesel
  14. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  
  15. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  16. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  17. 1984 by George Orwell
  18. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  19. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison  
  20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle  

This is a pretty well-rounded list. There’s a good mix of classics and contemporary novels. There are challenging, intellectual reads, as well as binge-worthy, fun reads. There is some diversity. There is historical fiction, science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. And there is a mix of male and female writers.

If I could tweak the list, I would make just a few changes. There are six books on the list, which I’ve marked with the asterisk (*) below, that I haven’t read. I can’t vouch for them – though most of them I’ve heard about. The bold titles are the ones I would remove from the list and replace with a different title. Some of these are books that I didn’t particularly enjoy, and some are tough reads that would be best enjoyed by older young adults, or by teens only if they were reading them along with a teacher who could help explain the book/symbolism/significance.   

    1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
    3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
    4. *Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
    5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky → replace
    7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding → replace
    11. *Looking for Alaska by John Green  → replace
    12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    13. Night by Elie Wiesel
    14. *The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  → replace
    15. *The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
    16. *The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath → replace
    17. 1984 by George Orwell
    18. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    19. *Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison  → replace
    20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle  

What would I replace the six bold titles with? Hmm…probably the same books that I keep recommending over and over and over again!

  1. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  2. March by John Lewis
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  4. Every Day by David Levithan
  5. The Giver by Lowis Lowry
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  7. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

What did you think of the “20 Books All Students Should Read Before They Turn 18” list? Would you make any changes?

These Are a Few of My Favorite Links

We have moved on to May already (how can that be?! This year feels like it’s just flying by), but there were so many great bookish things in the news in April. Here were some of my favorite articles and links.

  • 8 Reasons the American Girl Books are More Relevant Now Than Ever
    • If you were a girl growing up in the ’90s like me, you definitely read (and probably still own) a bunch of these books (and had a doll…and clothes for yourself…and had a subscription to the American Girl magazine…and whatever else American Girl wanted to sell you!) I love Bustle’s take on why the stories continue to be powerful. I can’t wait to read these with my daughter some day.
  • Tahereh Mafi Returns to the Shatter Me Series with Three New Books
    • I read each of the three Shatter Me books in a matter of days. They were exciting and had great characters. Shatter Me is a YA dystopian story about a girl named Juliette who has the strange power to kill with just a single touch. The final book in the series definitely left a lot of room for the author to pick up and tell us what happens next in Juliette’s world. Mafi re-read the series when working on a related project and realized that, “At the end of Ignite Me, Juliette’s story had only just begun. I saw very clearly then what the next steps in her journey had to be, and I was suddenly anxious to bring the world back to life.” I will be reading the new books to see where Mafi takes our beloved characters.
  • 10 Books to Read if You Liked the HBO series, Girls
    • I’m way behind on this show because it’s not appropriate to watch with a two-year-old around, but it’s a guilty pleasure, for sure. I’m definitely going to add a few of these books about young women navigating life and jobs and relationships to my TBR list.
  • Pioneering Author of Novels for Gay Teens Wins Tribune Literary Award
    • It’s always nice to see authors you love earning the recognition they deserve. Author David Levithan won the 2017 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award. He wrote one of my most favorite books: Every Day. In the article link, be sure to scroll down past the ads to find his brief interview. While he (and other authors) have brought more LGBTQ characters to literature, he feels, “There are so many more voices that need to be a part of our literature. We’re getting there, one book at a time. I am profoundly happy to live in a time where The Hate U Give is the No. 1 YA book in America for over a month. I wish we were in a place where a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary — but as long as it is, give us the Angie Thomases to be our truth-tellers. We need as much truth-telling as we can get these days.”

What bookish news has caught your eye lately?

Of Monsters and Marc Brown

marcbrownmonstersWhat do the Arthur and Goosebumps books have in common? Not a whole lot – besides the fact that they are beloved series for children and teens. When I heard about Marc Brown and R.L. Stine collaborating on a book, I was immediately interested to find out more.

It turns out that the authors have been friends since 2003, when they littleshopofmonstersrepresented America at the first Russian Children’s Book Festival, but it wasn’t until 2012 when Brown brought up the idea of working together. Out of this collaboration came the book The Little Shop of Monsters, a story about a pet store where one can buy monsters. Stine recalls, “I was shocked when Marc suggested we work together…Then when he began painting monster after hilarious monster for our book, I realized they had been waiting inside him all this time. We definitely belong together in a picture book.”

I really enjoyed learning about how their process worked. This article from Publishers Weekly details how the two authors met with an editor to brainstorm ideas. Then, Stine had to work on a manuscript for children – something he found very different from his usual reading audience. Finally, when the words were completed, Brown got to work on illustrations. It was important to the authors that this wasn’t a “sweet” monster book.

As a fan of the Arthur books and television show (my sister and I watched the TV show long after we were the intended audience, and yes, I know all the words to the theme song!), I am looking forward to reading this book to my daughter. I wonder if our local library has a copy…

Who are some authors you’d like to see collaborate?

Prescribing Books


I read a fascinating article from the New Yorker a while back, but I couldn’t figure out quite what I wanted to say about it. NaBloPoMo gives me the perfect opportunity to go back and share this find with you. You can check out the article here.

My first reaction to the title of the article “Can Reading Make You Happier?” was, duh, of course it can! Why else would I spend so much time reading? But once you read the article, you’ll realize that the title is rather misleading. The article discusses a lesser known form of therapy called bibliotherapy.

According to the article, “Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect.” The practice of using books to cure ails has been around for centuries, but the term bibliotherapy seems to have been coined in 1916. Today, bibliotherapists can recommend books for ailments like “being stuck in a rut in your career, feeling depressed in your relationship, or suffering bereavement”…or “help adjusting to becoming a parent.”

A bibliotherapist sounds like an awesome job. I mean, recommending books to help people? Where was that career option ten years ago? I’m intrigued by this idea of using books to help people achieve happiness. I know books are just the sort of medicine I need.

What did you think of this article? Was bibliotherapy a new concept for you?

(Far, Far into the) Future Reads


Have you ever stumbled across some of your own writing from the past? Perhaps a funny story you wrote in elementary school, or a sappy poem from your pre-teen years, or even a forgotten story beginning from your more recent past? Could you remember why you wrote it or the frame of mind you were in? Was it worth sharing with anyone else? Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone come across your writing 100 years from now?

If we look back 100 years to 1914, Charlie Chaplin is a big movie star, Woodrow Wilson is the President of the United States, Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, Babe Ruth plays with the Boston Red Sox, the Panama Canal is inaugurated, Harry Houdini is a famous escape-artist, and authors James Joyce, L. Frank Baum, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound are all being published. So while 100 years ago seems like a long time, these events and names are all known to us. We may have even read something from this group of authors.

I think that’s why a fascinating article on The Guardian titled “Margaret Atwood’s new work will remain unseen for a century” sparked my interest this afternoon. Scottish artist Katie Paterson, founder of The Future Library project has created an unusual literary artwork focusing on the passage of time. The Future Library project asks authors to write a manuscript that will be locked away for 100 years. The authors are not allowed to share their work with anyone. In 2114, the works will be published. In addition, a forest of trees planted near Oslo, Norway, will provide the paper on which the texts will be printed. There will also be a printing press stored with the manuscripts to make sure that the technology will exist for the books to be printed. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, is the first author to join the project. She said she’s “finding it very delicious,” to not have to tell anyone what she’s writing—or to find out what people think of her work. She has, however, “bought some special archival paper, which will not decay in its sealed box over 100 years.”

If you scroll down to read the comments below the article on The Guardian’s website, you’ll find a lot of pessimistic attitudes. “Gimmick” declares one reader. “Egotistical” declares another. “Pretentious twaddle. The only value in a book is it being read, and who knows if a hundred years from now literacy will even exist, or English be a living language or whatever. Horribly gimicky ideas devalue art and devalue humanism” writes yet another reader. To me, these readers have missed the point. How could people be upset about a time capsule of literature? They’ve taken a unique project and blasted it for being creative. I think it’s rather exciting to imagine what life will be like 100 years from now—will we still be bothering with printed books or will everything be digital by then? Will future readers care about this project at all, or will they be unimpressed that a new Atwood novel has been released?

How about you? Are you intrigued by The Future Library project or do you see it as “pretentious twaddle”?

Literary (Temporary) Tattoos


A love of book quotes? Check.

A fear of needles? Check.

Tattoos? Absolutely not!

Here’s a great idea for those of us who are petrified of inking up and regretting it: temporary tattoos! A Kickstarter campaign called “Litograph Tattoos: Wearable Tributes to Iconic Books” gives you the opportunity to cover yourself with quotes from 15 classic works—without the pain and permanency of a real tattoo.

The person behind this particular Kickstarter campaign, Danny Fein, already has literary love in his veins. He is the CEO of Litographs—the company that prints entire texts of classic novels on T-shirts and posters. (I even shared the Litographs website with you in a post about gifts for readers.) Check out this article on Bustle to see images of the tattoos, hear more about the campaign, and to watch a short video about the project. Or, you can click here to visit the Kickstarter campaign page and pledge your support. The campaign already has over 5,600 backers and has surpassed their initial goal by almost $29,000! Clearly, Litographs has a great idea here!

Will I be pledging my support? I’m obviously tempted. My only hold-up is the fact that the quotes are all from classic novels. As you’ve probably noticed from my blog, I’m not particularly drawn to the classics. They’re something you’re required to read for school, but not something I’d select for myself at the library. I’d prefer quotes from something more current, like maybe something from YA literature?

How about you? Would you get some ink (permanent or temporary) of a classic literary quote?

Books Inspiring…Shoes?

books_&_shoesThe only thing I like more than books is shoes (and ice cream!). So when I heard about a collection of shoes based on books, I was excited to check them out.

Starting in July, the shoe company New Balance will be launching a collection of sneakers based on American authors and their stories. As the article on Pastemagazine.com notes, the shoes won’t have actual quotes or images from the novels. Instead, they will use earth tones and leather fabrics to give a “library-like look.” The shoes will sell for about $300.

When looking at images of the actual sneakers from the collection, I was sorely disappointed. There is nothing about the shoes that lend themselves to authors or books—and certainly not something as specific as classic American authors. Even a quote would have gone a long way to make the inspiration more obvious. If I were going to spend $300 on a pair of sneakers that were inspired by an author or book (which I would never, ever do! Seriously, who can justify spending that kind of money on a single pair of shoes?), I would want people to know what author or book the shoe was inspired by.

That’s why I’ve designed a few pairs of my own that I think New Balance should take a look at! I think these sneakers make it much more obvious that they were inspired by great American novels.


What do you think of New Balance’s attempt at literary inspiration? Would you spend $300 on a pair of these sneakers?

The Nostalgia of Dare Wright


While looking around on the web for inspiration for this week’s post, I happened to come across this article in which the author shares a story of walking into a bookstore just to use the restroom, but instead, walks out with three classic books from her childhood and an appreciation for a Denver bookstore.

What caught the eye of the author and made her pause? The pink gingham cover of Dare Wright’s The Lonely Doll. I, too, would have paused at the sight of the book. I would have smiled nostalgically and reached for the book to flip through the pages. This book had long been displayed on the bookshelves in my bedroom at my parent’s house. Just like the author in this article, I was surprised to find out that there were more books following Edith and Mr. Bear’s adventures. According to darewright.com, there are ten books in the Lonely Doll series. Each book contains Dare’s beautiful black and white photographs from the late 1950s. The website also shares Dare’s other works, as well as photographs and background information about her life. The_lonely_doll

Dare Wright was a model, performer, artist, author, and photographer. Early in life, her parents divorced. Dare grew up with her mother, while her brother grew up with her father. Sister and brother didn’t reunite until they were in their twenties. Dare and her mother, artist Edith Stevenson Wright, were very close, and Dare often felt she had to compete with her mother’s talent. The doll featured in the Lonely Doll series was named Edith, but was styled after Dare, herself. The loneliness felt by the doll Edith seems autobiographical of Dare’s life.

I didn’t know anything about Dare Wright until recently; I just know that I always loved looking at the pictures in The Lonely Doll. Even though they were in black and white, I spent a long time looking at each page—especially the pages in which Edith plays dress up in the boudoir. I hope I get the opportunity to find and read more of Dare Wright’s stories.

Have you read The Lonely Doll? What other children’s books are you nostalgic about?

Admitting the Truth


In an article posted on Huffingtonpost.com earlier this month, author Gabrielle Zevin questions why we lie about our favorite books. Instead of admitting that we love mysteries, romance, a book from our childhood, or Twilight, most people would rather state that their favorite book is something that makes them sound intelligent and thoughtful—like a New York Times Bestseller that we read about in a review once. There’s a sense of pride when we pick out the book at the bookstore and place it on our coffee table or bookshelf, while there is something embarrassing about revealing our true favorites. Zevin notes, “I have often wondered if a book like Fifty Shades of Grey would have done as well in a world without e-readers. What if all readers had had to go into an actual bookstore to purchase a copy?”

Sometimes we try to get out of answering the question about naming our favorite book by saying something like, “Oh, there’s too many! How could I ever choose just one?” I used to ramble off a bunch of titles or authors when asked the question, but now I feel more confident revealing that The China Garden is my favorite book. I don’t mind that hardly anyone else has ever read it. I don’t mind that it’s a young adult mystery/romance from the 1990s. I’ve read and re-read the book on multiple occasions and no longer feel guilty that it isn’t a classic or a Best Seller.

In all, Zevin states that she doesn’t “mind when people ‘lie’ about what they read. I think the lie itself is revealing and the more I consider the matter, I’m not even sure it’s a lie. On some level, I think we want our reading self to represent our best self…We buy books aspirationally.”

Aspirationally or not, I’m just glad that people are still buying books and talking about them!

How about you? Do you find yourself lying about your favorite books?

Another Reason to Love Chipotle


  1. The friendly welcome when you walk in the door.
  2. The best guacamole (besides my husband’s, of course).
  3. Fresh ingredients and a focus on sustainable foods.

Now Chipotle has given us another reason to love this fast-food chain: reading material.

That’s right! An essay from a famous author, journalist, or comedian will be printed on Chipotle’s cups and bags starting this week. This means you can read while you enjoy your delicious food. According to the article posted on The Verge, the essays will be written by Jonathan Safran, George Saunders, Malcolm Gladwell, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, Sheri Fink, Toni Morrison, Steve Pinker, and Bill Hader. The two-minute reads are designed to provide literature, writing, and quiet reflection in the middle of a patron’s busy day.

What do you think of Chipotle’s plan? Will you visit Chipotle to check out the essays?