Category: Book Lists

Seasonal Reading: Fall

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for many reasons: pumpkin bread, cooler weather, re-watching Gilmore Girls, and reading certain books. Do you read seasonally? Fall is really the only time of year I like to read certain books, so I thought I would share a few with you that I’ve read that are perfect for Fall, and a few that I’m looking forward to reading. Whether you’re already wearing boots and sweaters, or you’re like me and cranking up the A/C and pretending it’s chilly outside, hopefully you can find a few here to add to your nightstand!

Cozy Books

These books make me want to curl up under a blanket with some hot chocolate and not leave the couch for hours!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

This one might seem obvious, but I love re-reading Harry Potter when the weather starts to change. At this point, it’s like visiting with an old friend, and feels like going back home. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet . . . what are you waiting for??

Still Life by Louise Penny

I’m a new Louise Penny fan, and I absolutely loved Still Life. (My review is HERE.) Her Inspector Gamache series, set in the Canadian town of Three Pines, is the perfect cozy mystery for cooler days.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is one of my favorite books, and Hannah is one of my favorite authors. This is the story of two sisters living in France during WWII, and the different paths they take to make it through the war. It is loosely based on a true story, and it’s a book I couldn’t put down until I had finished it.

Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier

This was published in July, and I have been looking forward to reading it so much. This tells the story of Captain Hook, starting in his childhood, and how he went from a little boy living with his widowed mother to a famed, much-feared pirate. A fairy tale twisted around so the villain is the star? Yes, please!

Creepy Books

It is October, and if there’s ever a time to read seriously creepy stories, it’s now!

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Y’all, I don’t watch slasher movies and I don’t generally read gruesome books, but I made an exception for Final Girls, and you should too! (My review HERE.) The books tells the story of a “final girl,” that is, a girl who was the only person left after a mass murder. I know. Stick with me. It’s a well-told story, and you will be awake and on your toes through the entire thing. Maybe read it with the lights on, though.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

I chose this from Book of the Month after Prose and Palate recommended it as a guest judge. Liza Cole is an author whose career isn’t doing so great. Her personal life is also struggling, so she disappears into the murder mystery she’s writing. Before long, her real life is mirroring her literary heroine’s life, and Liza has to figure out what’s really going on. I cannot WAIT to read this on a stormy October night.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Really, any Gillian Flynn will do for a creepy read, but Sharp Objects is, in my opinion, her creepiest. Camille Preaker is a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate the murder of two young girls. She also just happens to have recently completed a stay at a psychiatric hospital. So of course, her own psychological issues and past become intertwined with her investigation. This one is seriously creepy, and it will keep you up at night!

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

This book was published posthumously, and I read it years ago. And I’m still thinking about it. Rosamond Vivian, feeling like a prisoner in her grandfather’s house, is whisked away one night (a stormy night, of course) by Philip Tempest to live a life of excitement and passion. However, it’s not all she expected it to be, and Rosamond is soon running away from Philip, who continues to stalk her. This is no Little Women, and I love it!

Mysterious Books

These books aren’t creepy, but they are mysterious. If you want a cozy, intriguing book without feeling like someone is watching you through the window, try one of these!

Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman, queen of magical realism and mystery, has written a prequel to Practical Magic, which is why I’m recommending the two together. Read Practical Magic first (My review HERE.) and then pick up The Rules of Magic on October 10 to get even more of the Owens’ family history. These books have magic, mystery, and family drama, and they are my favorite books to suggest for the Fall.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a surprise favorite for me, and it is one of my absolute favorite books. It’s a dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future. A flu pandemic hits, civilization ends, and a group of arts-loving people travel around what is left of the country performing music and Shakespeare in an effort to not the arts die out. But when they reach one small town, a prophet prone to violence shakes up their group, and they must escape or risk never making it out at all.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

I received a copy of this book from Doubleday, and I’m looking forward to finally reading it this month! If you ever watched Scooby Doo, or enjoyed Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, this is the book for you. It is not about the Scooby Doo characters, but it basically tells the story of what would happen when those characters grow up and must come back together to solve a mystery again. This is a fun book for adults who want to return to that world one more time!

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) by Philip Pullman

I may be on a book-buying ban, but I still pre-ordered this one. This is a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), and if you haven’t read that trilogy and you enjoy mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy all in one, go out and buy them now. Right now. The original trilogy is about a girl named Lyra as she travels through her universe and others trying to figure out . . . well, basically the meaning of life and why everything is the way it is. The Book of Dust is the first in another trilogy, and this one will focus on Lyra as a young child and how she came to be living at Jordan College (where we first see her in The Golden Compass). These books are so, so good, and there is plenty of mystery involved!

Read Banned Books!

It is Banned Books Week 2017! Every year in September, the American Library Association celebrates the freedom to read and freedom of information by highlighting classically-banned books as well as the most frequently challenged books each year. A lot of the books I’m aware of, but some of them surprised me. (James and the Giant Peach? Really?) Every year, people officially request (challenge) to have certain books removed from libraries, and the fact that this still happens kind of shocks me. A lot of the books are children’s books and YA books, in an attempt to block certain subjects (generally race, gender issues, basically anything considered diverse content) from kids. And like a kid, if you tell me not to read a book, I’m definitely going to read it. In my opinion, censorship has no place in libraries, bookstores, or anywhere else that books are available for the general public. Are certain books geared toward older kids or adults? Yes, of course. Waiting until someone is a certain age to read specific books is completely different from wanting books banned from EVERYONE.

It’s important to bring attention to this issue and to read banned books! Why? To promote freedom of choice and the freedom to read anything we want. I’m sure some people have the best intentions when they challenge books, but others are simply trying to push their own agendas onto everyone else. Harry Potter has been challenged so many times because some people (a pretty small group, I’d say, given Potter’s continued popularity) think it promotes witchcraft and corrupt ideas. Those people seem to ignore the fact that Harry’s true power comes from his mother’s love, not magic, and that the entire series advocates for family, friendship, love, being inclusive, and knowledge. Not so scandalous after all!

I’ve listed a few of my favorite banned books below, as well as some of the most popular and regularly-challenged books. Many of them have been challenged because they include diverse content, something we should all be reading MORE of, not less.

Have you read any of these? Which banned books are on your reading list this week and this year? Do any of these titles surprise you?

You can find a complete list of challenged and banned books at the ALA website HERE.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls


How to Fit Reading In During the School Year!

Well, it’s the start of another school year, and with that comes homework, sports, extracurricular clubs, early bedtimes (some nights), and tired kids and parents. It can be difficult to fit in all of the fun, leisurely activities we usually do during the summer. We are definitely having a hard time letting go of playing outside until dark, then coming in and reading way past all of our bedtimes. But reading is so important to my kids and me that we have a few ways we like to make sure we fit reading in during the school year.

How do you make sure to read to or with your kids during the school year? How do they get in alone reading time? Let me know in the comments!

Schedule It!

This seems obvious, but sometimes even I forget to leave enough time in the day for reading. If reading before bed is part of your routine, just make sure you leave enough time in the daily schedule for it. Sometimes that means moving dinner and playing outside up 30 minutes. (And sometimes the kids just need to play outside and skip reading for a night. That’s ok too!!) Even if it’s just ten minutes per kid, we make an effort to leave a little reading time each night.

During Dinner

I know a lot of people will disagree on this one, but sometimes I allow reading during dinner. If the kids have to eat at a different time from my husband and me (like the nights they have soccer practice and they need to eat early), oftentimes I’ll read to them while they eat. I actually really enjoy it, and it’s a nice way to have some calm reading time in between activities. My older son read at the table during lunch quite a bit during the summer, and I generally don’t like that at dinner, but if he’s really into a book . . . haven’t we all been there?

My kids will also sometimes read to themselves at breakfast. None of us are particularly thrilled to be up super early, and aren’t always great conversationalists before 7AM, so this is a good way to ease into the day and get some reading in. (And if everyone is cranky, it curbs any arguments that might pop up!)

In the Car

We almost always have an audiobook playing in the car, and we listen on the way to school (We’re listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets again right now.) and on the way home, on the way to sports, or while we run errands. If we’ve had a late night and weren’t able to read, they like knowing that they’ll at least get to listen to a story on the way to school in the morning.

Spare Time at School

This is one I didn’t think of until my kids insisted on taking books in their already heavy backpacks last year. Turns out, they do have a little time to read to themselves at school! (Schoolwork seems to be more difficult and given in greater quantities than when I was in elementary school, so I really didn’t know if they would be able to read anything other than school-assigned books.) The kids aren’t allowed to talk much in the hallway in the morning, so they can read while they wait to be let into their classrooms. They are also allowed to read in class if they finish their assigned work early, and sometimes during snack time. If it’s a particularly good book, my kids will also read on the bus ride home. So as long as their backpacks aren’t full to bursting, send along a (paperback) book to school! They’ll probably be able to get in a chapter or two.

For Yourself

The school year can be a difficult time to fit reading in for adults as well! Days are busy, afternoons and evenings are often packed with after-school activities, and by the time the sun goes down I’m often too tired to read more than a few pages before I zonk out. (Because I can’t go to sleep without reading at least a few pages of something.) If you plan ahead a little bit (basically, bring a book with you everywhere you go), it’s possible to fit in a good chunk of reading during those busy days. I’m always listening to an audiobook or podcast when I drive without my kids. The pickup line at school is a great place to fit in a little reading, as is during sports practices. (We all enjoy watching our kids play sports, but I think it’s ok to take some of that practice time to read!) And sometimes my boys just want to read to themselves at night, or to each other, and I try to take that opportunity to read my own book at the same time. We’re all getting in reading time and spending some nice quiet time together at the end of the day.

The school year is busy, but if you make reading a priority, there are lots of pockets of time to get it done!

Tell me some of your tricks to getting in more reading time during the school year!


How to Start a Book Club

These are some great book club picks!

A Man Called Ove The Handmaid’s Tale The Great Gatsby Cocoa Beach The Last Days of Night

As a bookish person, it’s surprising to me that I have never been in a book club. The closest I’ve ever come was the way my childhood best friend and I shared our love of books. We talked about books (a lot of Baby-Sitter’s Club, Louise Rennison, and classics such as Bridge to Terebithia), suggested books for each other (I still refuse to read Old Yeller), and viewed each other’s bookshelves as our own personal libraries. Every play date and sleepover ended with trading books, and we still send each other books every once in awhile. (And after her urging me to read it for at least 20 years, I’m finally going to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn this year.)

All that to say: I decided to start a book club in my neighborhood because we didn’t have one, and I missed talking about books in person! I posted about it and our first book choice, A Man Called Ove, on Instagram and received so many positive comments and questions that I wanted to write about a few things I’ve learned so far about starting a book club from scratch. Hopefully some of this will be helpful to you, and if you have any suggestions for me PLEASE send me a message or leave a comment!

(Read my 5-star review of A Man Called Ove HERE.)

Who Do You Want in Your Book Club?

By this question, I don’t mean for anyone to be ultra-exclusive about their book club membership. But it is helpful if you have people in mind: friends, neighbors, strangers? Decide who you want to ask first! (And if it’s strangers, this could be as simple as posting a flier in your local library with your book pick and meeting there!) I chose my neighborhood because I knew there was a lot of interest in starting a book club.

What Kind of Book Club Do You Want?

What do you want out of your book club? Do you want a serious book discussion with pre-planned questions and no chitchat? Do you prefer a more relaxed discussion, with time for book talk and neighborhood gossip? This decision will probably help determine the answer to the next question.

Where Do You Want to Meet?

If you want to stick to a more serious book discussion, I would suggest meeting with your group at a library-the setting is quiet, you won’t be too distracted, and most libraries have conference rooms available to use for things like this. If you want a relaxed book club, you can get away with a few different locations. Having different people host in their homes each month seems to be the most popular choice, and that’s what our book club is doing. We all bring food and drinks, hang out for a bit, then talk about the book. No planned discussion, unless there’s something specific someone wants to talk about. If you want something even easier, you could meet at a restaurant each month, a coffee shop, a dessert bar, really anywhere with enough seating for your group. (Can you tell that food is a must for me at these events?) You should also decide how often you want to meet, and try to pre-plan meeting dates a couple of months in advance.

How to Pick the Books

This can be tricky. We all want everyone to like the book, but that just doesn’t always happen. My favorite way to choose a book each month is to have whoever is hosting that month pick. (If you’re meeting in a public place, just have people volunteer to choose a book each month.) I like this because it’s a great way to be introduced to books you might not usually go for. In our group, several people were afraid that they wouldn’t like Ove, but they ended up loving the book! (Who wouldn’t?!) You could also theme your book club, or change the theme each year. Best sellers, classics, Modern Mrs. Darcy book club or summer reading picks. The sky is really the limit here.

*A few people in my neighborhood book club wanted to host but didn’t want to pick a book, so they asked for suggestions. I made a list of books (some best sellers, some classics, some lesser-known books) and added it to our Facebook group. If someone doesn’t want to choose a book on their own, they can just pick one from the list! And anyone can add books to the list if they see something interesting, so the list of suggestions is always growing.

Serious or Relaxed, Keep It Organized!

I know, I know, organization. So tedious. But it’s really not! I use a simple spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of members, addresses, who’s hosting each month, which books we’ve picked, our list of book suggestions, and who RSVPs each month. Once you get it set up, it’s so quick and easy to update. Would you all be interested in a free download of this? Let me know!

I also created a private Facebook group for our book club, and I keep it updated with book selections, meeting dates, book suggestions, and a thread for extra discussion for each book. It’s a simple way to keep connected in between meetings.

Are you in a book club? Do you want your book club to be different? Let us know how your book club works and what suggestions you have for making book club even more fun!

Extra Note!

If an in-person book club just isn’t an option because of time, location, or any other reason, consider joining the Instagram bookstagram community. (Bookstagram is just a fun name for all the wonderfully bookish accounts there. Mine is @texasgirlreads.) There are so many online book clubs that choose a book each month and discuss on Instagram in the comments. So easy!! (My favorite is @saltwaterreads! We’re reading Cocoa Beach for July’s selection.)


Reluctant Readers: Do I HAVE to read?

The last thing any lifetime reader wants to hear a kid say is, “Do I HAVE to read?” Because no, unless it’s for school, kids don’t technically HAVE to read. But we hope that they all WANT to read. Big difference.

As a reader and a mom, this frustrates me to no end! My kids love books, but even they have moments of reading reluctance. (There are weeks that my 8-year-old refuses to read anything except his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Over and over. My 6-year-old is currently uninterested that anything that isn’t Star Wars-based.) So I went on a book-hunting expedition to try and find interesting, weird, funny, great books that my kids would love and maybe wouldn’t have chosen on their own. I also thought about why some kids love to read and why some just don’t seem interested.

Why are they reluctant? Is reading difficult or have they just not found books of interest? And why is reading for pleasure so important anyway? Why not just let kids do the bare minimum for school and accept that some of them just don’t like to read?

(Sidenote: I am that stubborn person who will never accept that people don’t like to read. They just haven’t found the right books yet!)

As adults, we get to choose what we want to read. Comedy, mystery, suspense, literature with a capital L. We might ask friends for suggestions or read book reviews to get ideas, but ultimately the decision is up to us. Why should it be different for kids? I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I am an offender of trying to push my own literary wants onto my kids. “What do you mean The Boxcar Children isn’t interesting?! Yes it is, try it again.” Now, if it’s an age thing, and happens to be a book that would be better when they’re older, maybe giving it another try would be ok. But the more we push what we think our kids SHOULD read onto them, the less they will WANT to read. Why not give them some options and then let them choose? Or, better yet, let them roam free in the children’s section of the library and pick anything? This one is hard for me, but at the library I usually just sit at a kid’s table with my own book and let them discover books on their own. (I sneak in a few here and there, though. Hey, no one’s perfect.)

We all have reasons for reading. Sometimes it’s for work, sometimes it’s to learn, and sometimes yes, it’s because the teacher says we have to. But reading for fun, in my opinion, is the best reason of all. I think it’s especially important for kids for a variety of reasons. They inevitably end up learning something, even if it’s just how to tell a funny joke. (Thanks, Captain Underpants.) Through books, kids can travel the world, become a guest in another time period, or visit imaginary lands, which will expand their own imaginations. Books also offer a type of friend that can’t always be found in real life, a friend on the pages who a child can relate to, or aspire to be like. And when you find the right book, reading is just fun! It is important to gently encourage kids to take a break from the busy-ness of life and snuggle up with a book.

Here are a few of the many books that might be perfect for your reluctant reader. Leave them lying around, or just start reading aloud from them when your kid is nearby. They might still be a tough sell, but I think at least one of these will capture your little reader’s attention.

Let me know in the comments what books your kids have fallen in love with! I would love to add more to my list!

**I have focused on elementary school-age books here, but I’m planning a future post about middle school and high school reluctant readers as well.

Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Darth Vader and Son
Goodnight Darth Vader
Vader’s Little Princess
Darth Vader and Friends
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates
Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery
Magic Tree House
Star Wars: Jedi Academy
Squish 1: Super Amoeba
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Ada Twist, Scientist
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Iggy Peck, Architect
The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!)
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Came Home
Dragons Love Tacos