Another end of the year book list!
First thing's first, I don't read a huge amount of books in a year. I'm very selective about the books I start, I'm not the fastest reader, and I don't have a huge amount of time. But I LOVE to read, and cherish the books that I do get the chance to get through. This list is highly subjective. It is my favorite books that I read this year. They are not necessarily the best ones that were published this year (go google and find a million other blog posts for consensus on that, good luck!), a lot of the books on this list were NOT published this year. Remember, this is all about me.
Secondly, many of the books are kidlit titles, from Picture book to Young Adult. I love kid's books, and I'm not sorry. If you want a list of books for super serious people who only read above a certain word count, this is not the place.
So, if you care about my recommendations, here are some good books to try out, and once you read them please message me so we can chat!
Booked, by Kwame Alexander
This year I discovered the joy of books in verse. Kwame Alexander is a powerful voice in this genre. This charming story is accessible, funny, and poignant. It's a middle grade title (ages 10-12) so it's a great introduction to modern poetry, in a story that kids will relate to. The book does a great job of putting you in the shoes of the main character through all of the trails of growing up, some familiar, and some unique.
Hidden, by Helen Frost
This is the book that opened my eyes to the magical world of books in verse. I was seriously swept off my feet by this book. Helen Frost is a master at form. The story is told from two alternating view points, and the two voices each have their own poetry form (one that Frost made up herself!) It is literally a book that you can go back and read again and find something new. It has emotional depth, and an engaging story. It's a young adult title, so the poetry is a little more sophisticated, but it is still incredibly accessible, even gripping.
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
I loved this book SO much. I was drawn to it for the music theme, and also because of the high praise and awards it received. This book is a journey through history, with a dash of magical realism and fantasy. More than anything, the characters are so well drawn. I was so invested in each one of their stories I literally could not put it down. I also bawled my whole way through Part 2. Get your tissues ready. I won't spoil the ending, except to say that it is a satisfying conclusion. There is a lot of hardship, but also a lot of redemption and hope.
Middle grade, but really I think anyone will enjoy! (I did!)
Free Verse, by Sarah Dooley
This is another "box of tissues" book. I was drawn to this for the concept, a girl deals with her grief through poetry. It's really beautiful and well done. The emotion is really raw, and there are some harrowing moments. It was an emotional roller coaster ride, but the poetry, much like how it affects Sasha, the main character, becomes an anchor and an access point for healing. Sarah Dooley is on my list of new favorite writers.
Middle Grade to Young Adult (The main character is 12, but I think the subject matter would also appeal to older readers)
Wheels of Change, by Darlene Beck Jacobson
Disclaimer: I know the author, Darlene, and she is a joy!
This book reminded me of my beloved American Girl books or Little House on the Prairie. This is historical fiction at its best, it transports you to that time and place. It was an interesting story, and I loved how the character's personal struggles intersected with the many social changes of that time period (1908). The book is also based on the author's real grandmother! A fun read with a strong female lead.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
I actually listened to the audio version of this book. Somehow I find self-help titles and non-fiction easier to get through that way. I especially love it when the author reads their own story. This book made me cry a lot too, but for different reasons than the others. It's all about being a creative person in a world that doesn't always value it. It's about our own fears and what holds us back, but it's also very hopeful and encouraging. Elizabeth Gilbert is warm and vulnerable but also forceful. She's the coach you want rooting for you on your creative journey. Very inspiring read, and recommend it especially for any creative.
The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer
This was another audio book listen. I especially liked the audio book version of this because it had clips of her music throughout. I was really drawn in by Amanda Palmer's achingly vulnerable storytelling. She is never one to be coy, and definitely leaves it all out on the page. This book will make you think outside of the box. It will restore some of your faith in humanity, and if you are an artist, it will certainly make you feel less alone.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban
What is there to say about Malala, that hasn't already been said? This girl is amazing. If you haven't read her book, do it now! There is a young readers version, too that includes pictures and is edited for younger readers. Malala is a defining voice of our time, but she's also a regular girl, which is what makes her such a role model for young and old alike.
If you want to hear more about what I thought about this book, you can check out the video of my song, "Phoenix" that was inspired by reading this book.
Middle Grade- Adult
School's First Day of School, by Adam Rex, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
At the beginning of this year, my youngest was having a hard time adjusting to kindergarten. In my panic to try to make everything better, I gathered a large collection of picture books about separation anxiety and leaving for school. I have some great ones (and if you are in need I will happily lend you some copies or give you recommendations, hang in here!) but this was by far my favorite. My son refused to read some of the other books because he knew what I was up to, but this book puts a new spin on the theme. He was really drawn into the story. Save it for next September!
Picture Book (4-6)
Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers
This book has been out for awhile, but we just discovered it early this year. Oliver Jeffers is one of my favorite author/illustrators because his books are always funny and a little outside the box. I am not kidding when I tell you that we probably read this book every single night for a month. The book is one long running gag, and yet it doesn't get old, it holds up for all those multiple readings. My kids laugh out loud every time, and say, "Oh, Floyd!" (great character name, by the way)
Blink, by Malcom Gladwell
This one squeaked in at the end of 2016. I literally just finished it yesterday. I had never read any of Gladwell's books before, but I picked it up at a yard sale and it sat on my shelf for a few months. It was a really interesting mix of science, psychology, and story telling. It raises some important questions that seem even more relevant today than maybe when it was first published. Insightful on the personal as well as societal level. I look forward to checking out some of his other books.