Ten of the Best Books and Why You Should Read Them
The Children’s Book Review | January 17, 2016
Natalie C. Anderson is an American writer and international development professional living in Geneva, Switzerland. She has spent the last decade working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014–2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer-in-Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints & Thieves. Here are her top 10 favorite middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction books …
Top 10 Favorite Reads & Why
Written by Rebecca Stead
This is such a perfect MG book. Stead’s writing is so clear but captivating, and I love that it’s a complex, time-traveling mystery, but is still accessible to young readers. It has such heart, too, without being sappy. It’s really one of those books that all ages can appreciate on different levels.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Yearling | 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0375850868
Written by Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams Garcia manages to look at a tumultuous time in American history through a child’s eyes without it seeming gimmicky or overly sentimental. I love Delphine’s voice, and how she tries to understand her less-than-motherly (but still sympathetic) mother. So well-written, such a layered story of family and politics. Essential reading!
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Amistad | 2011 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0060760908
Written by J.K. Rowling
Yes, I’m one of those unapologetic fans. I love this series so much because it’s just got everything – great characters, a major conflict between good and evil, fantastic humor, a setting you want to live in. But I think the main thing about the series that gets overlooked sometimes is that it’s just plotted so perfectly! Each book is a compelling mystery. Each builds surprisingly but inevitably on what’s come before. This series is one I read over and over and never get tired of. On a personal level, these books really saved me – helped restore my faith in humanity – when I was doing refugee work and hearing horrible, unimaginable stories every day. So thanks, JK.
Ages 10 and up | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Written by Patrick Ness
I loved this series from the very first line: “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything. “Need a Poo, Todd.” “Shut up, Manchee.” “Poo. Poo, Todd.” ” And beyond being devilishly clever, it’s such a fascinating premise: what if everyone could hear your thoughts, all the time. And all the women are mysteriously gone from your settler planet in deep space? Add to that phenomenal writing, nuanced characters and a great conflict.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Candlewick
Written by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo is such a master storyteller. She builds incredible worlds, populates them with characters you really care about, and makes their battles seem so much larger than life. Her other books are just as good, but this series is the one I will always think of as the one that made me fall in love with her writing.
Ages 12-18 | Publisher: Square Fish
Written by Junot Diaz
Stop what you’re doing and read this book right now. NOW. Nerdy, love-sick American-born kid in a very Dominican family who references both real-life brutal dictatorships and Lord of the Rings in one breath? It’s like everything I love in one book. It’s epic, charging through secrets, generations, comic-book and fantasy references, banana republic histories – making it all into a breathtaking, life-soaked mish-mash. And the writing is stunning.
Adult Fiction* | Publisher: Riverhead Books | 2008 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1594483295
Written by Michael Ondaatje
Every single line in this book is pure poetry. I read it as a teenager and it’s been one of my favorites ever since. And the movie is actually just as good. I love both in equal measure. While the plot doesn’t wrap up as nicely as I usually like,it’s so tragic and real, and reading it still leaves me breathless.
Adult Fiction* | Publisher: Vintage Books | 1993 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1594483295
Written by Toni Morrison
I feel like this is required reading for Americans. Toni Morrison is obviously a genius at writing, but I think this book is her heart being split wide open. It’s so vulnerable, so richly nuanced, such an intimate but respectful portrayal of the effects of someone being forced to withstand the impossible (slavery, sexual violence). It isn’t judgy or preachy. It’s just devastating and life-altering.
Adult Fiction* | Publisher: Vintage Books | 2004 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1400033416
Written by Cormac McCarthy
I’m starting to realize I don’t have a lot of lighthearted comedies on this list… hmm… here comes another one to make you fall into a pit of devastation. McCarthy’s a word-smithing whiz – I’m pretty sure he keeps a thesaurus of archaic and maybe-only-used-once-ever words beside his computer. Sometimes that’s a pain, but it’s always poetry. (The Crossing is an amazing book too.) This Road is a little more accessible, and that coupled with my fascination with post-apocalyptic worlds, it hits my sweet spot. It also has one of the most heartbreakingly touching parent-child relationship stories I know of.
Adult Fiction* | Publisher: Vintage Books | 2006 | ISBN-13: 978-0307387899
Written by Jeffrey Eugenides
Oh this book, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: epic multigenerational immigrant story: check. Narrator you fall helplessly in love with who is grappling with being intersex: check. Multi-layered coming of age, sex-positive relationships: check. Hilarity and dramatic gut punches in equal measure: check. Amazing writing: check. Need I say more?
Adult Fiction* | Publisher: Picador | 2002 | ISBN-13: 978-0312427733
*all adult fiction above can and should be read by teens!
Written by Natalie C. Anderson
Publisher’s Synopsis: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
Ages 14+| Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | January 24, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399547584
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Follow Along on the Blog Tour
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1/17 – Children’s Book Review – Guest Post
1/18 – YA Wednesdays – Favorite Quotes
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