…and reading again
Here is a list of some of the books that I have read and LOVED (or really liked and learned something from). Many of them are worth reading again. I have included a very subjective rating system, but I’ve organized them in Middle Grade and Young Adult/Adult categories.
(Although, readers of all ages will love these books.)
Anything! And I mean anything by Jerry Spinelli. Loser, Wringer, Eggs, Maniac Magee, and Love, Stargirl. All of these stories keep the reader hooked and convey a sweet story of acceptance. Read these with your kids or your class.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Edwards, a toy rabbit, finds himself in very precarious situations on his way to great adventures and discovers true love. I love that each chapter is a mini story!
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This Newberry Award winner tells the story of an adorable little mouse who takes a risk and talks to a real person – a princess no less. As with many of DiCamillo’s books, there are beautiful illustrations and a little darkness…a little sadness. My kids and I love the emotional ride these books take us on.
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. Schmidt sets this novel in the 1960s and the tension of the Vietnam War. It tells the story of Holling Hoodhood’s hilarious attempts of surviving junior high.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. This story, set in the 1960s, is funny, sad, and lovely! Fourteen-year-old, Doug Swieteck is the main character who readers are introduced to in Wednesday Wars. There are elements of child abuse and parental alcoholism so it’s best for upper middle grades.
Knuckleheads by John Scieszka. In this autobiography, Scieszka tells hilarious stories of growing up with five brothers. The Stinky CheeseMan and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs are two other wonderful books by Scieszka.
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. (okay, I really like her books!) This is the story of ten-year-old Opal who befriends a dog and some very interesting characters in a small town. This book has some sadness, some adventure, and a lot of laughter. Winner of a Newberry Honor.
Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift by Harvey Araton, rated PG for some strong language. This is a great book for fathers, older folks, and baseball fans - especially Yankee fans. It’s a story of a sweet friendship and a chronicle of the Yankees’ finest years.
Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, rated PG. This is a wonderfully written memoir, alternately told by this famous father and son pair. They tell the story of how they help each other “grow up.”
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe, rated PG 17 for strong language. A really good memoir by an actor who lived and survived an interesting career and life; he tells of his roles in The Outsiders to The West Wing; you can catch him now on Parks and Recreation; who didn’t love Rob Lowe growing up? He also talks about his struggle to overcome alcohol - he is one celebrity who got some use out of rehab; and tells of his love for his wife and sons.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett, rated G (the movie is also very good)
One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudoria Welty, rated G. Agreat memoir written by one of the South’s best writers.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, rated PG16. A great true story of overcoming incredible odds; you will laugh and cry at the same time.
Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, rated G. Read this before The Glass Castle.
The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, rated PG13. Another memoir – I’m a sucker for them!
Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall & Denver Moore, rated G. A moving true story of a beautiful friendship. Have some tissue handy.
Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo, rated G. A sweet story of hope and especially good for people who work with kids.
The Tender Bar by J.R.Moehringer, rated PG18. Read this before or after watching the movie, Resurrecting the Champ.
On Writing by Stephen King, rated PG13. I’m not a huge Stephen King fan, but I really liked this book. It’s part memoir, part his take on writing.
Frank McCourt’s Trilogy: Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, Teacher Man, rated PG18. Read them in this sequence. McCourt tells the story of his life in these 3 books.
Lit by Mary Karr, rated PG18. A memoir written about her married life and struggle with alcohol.
Anatomy of a Face, by Lucy Grealy. This is a painful book about a girl who, as a result of cancer, developed a very distorted face. You may also like Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett. Patchett wrote this book about her friendship with Lucy. Both rated PG18
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda, rated PG. An interesting and humorous memoir.
All God’s Children by Fox Butterfield, rated PG. A very interesting historical perspective on violence.
Methland: The Death and Life of the American Small Town by Nick Reding, rated PG. An interesting explanation of how meth took over many small towns and destroyed thousands of lives.
Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life by Lauretta Hannon, rated PG13. A very funny story of a woman’s difficult growing up - Lauretta is a native Georgian!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Nell Harper Lee (of course!) Also read Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields. I love the quote he says Lee once said - It’s just as hard to write a bad book as a good one. (That explains a lot!) This book belongs in both Middle Grade and YA/Adult categories.