Listening is a great way to experience a story.
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You can find books in any of the following groups:
And click below for some recommendations from some authors we trust.
A timeless story of outcasts versus the privileged. Exciting and heartbreaking — Hinton should be applauded for understanding the mind of a guy so well.
Lex Luthor finally finds a way to kill Superman and the Big Blue Boy Scout prepares for his death with a shocking ending no one could have seen.
A ship full of children from an all boys' school crashes on the beach of a deserted island. Unfortunately, it isn't long before the kids stop working together and break up into tribes with dark and deadly results.
Most people have seen the movie but few have read the book and that’s a shame. Pinocchio is a walking nightmare and hilarious.
An adaptation of the Jungle Book but instead of a boy being raised by wolves, he's reared by ghosts in an abandoned cemetery. It's chilling and dark, yet a powerful lesson on how a boy becomes a man.
Adam Selzer was born in Des Moines and now lives in Chicago, where he writes humorous books by day and researches history, ghost stories and naughty playground rhymes by night. After eleven published books, including the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to American History and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, not to mention How To Get Suspended and Influence People (which people try to ban now and then), he is just famous enough to have a page on wikipedia. He has been described as "subversive, but in a fun way....like the offspring of Bob Dylan and some Muppet." (taken from the author's website, adamselzer.com)
A story of two kids who sneak out to go to late night double feature picture shows and end up fighting aliens with wrestlers and detectives. I pretty much based my life on Pinkwater's teachings, and this one, in particular. It's set in a thinly-veiled version of Chicago, and the fact that I live near some of the locations now is not entirely a coincidence. It's available in a really good collection called "5 Novels" which also has a couple of other masterpieces in it.
A book about a guy who finds out that his father is a grave robber. I love grave robbing so much that my neighbors are reluctant to come to my barbecues.
How Nick Romano went from being an altar boy at 12 to dying in the electric chair at 21. A really tough, gritty novel about life on the streets in the 40s, this book is also the origin of the phrase "live fast, die young, have a good looking corpse." I found this in a bin at a thrift store in high school and bought it because I knew Jim Morrison had liked it; a week later it was my favorite novel ever. The writing just pounds you in the face.
The easiest Dickens to start with is A Christmas Carol (you already know the plot, and it's short), and the best ones are probably Great Expectations and Bleak House (which has a guy who spontaneously combusts in it). But sometimes I feel like I have a duty to tell people that Martin Chuzzlewit is under-rated; it comes right in between his early, zanier books and his later, more serious ones so you get the best of both worlds. Dickens books can take weeks to read, but they're worth it. You lose yourself in a larger-than-life world full of kooks and crooks with lots of droopy taverns and winding alleys. Even the most serious ones are funny as hell.
A collection of Ebert's worst reviews - just about everything you need to know about writing is mixed into these. Reading Ebert's best and worst reviews will tell you more than 100 "writing craft" books. He was really funny when he was ripping into a movie - he says one of them should be chopped up and made into free ukulele picks for the poor. And the notes he had for that movie where Shaq plays a genie are some of the best writing advice you can get.
Spinelli's first book, re-reading it in college is what made me realize that YA books could be just as "literary" as anything else on the shelves.
Roth's latest and apparently last book, a story about a gym teacher in a Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey during World War 2 who questions his faith when a couple of kids die of polio. He seems to have no idea what's going on in Europe. But the reader does.
A nonfiction book about controversies among Shakespeare scholars (like, does Juliet talk about having an orgasm? Did Shakespeare revise his work? How much of Macbeth is missing from the script we have?) Academia is weird world full of cliques and drama, Rosenbaum succeeds in making it look as though professors throw folding chairs at each other during conferences. He also speaks as well as anyone about how Shakespeare can just cast this spell over you that you may never recover from if it hits you just right (while freely admitting that most Shakespeare productions, and most essays about him, are boring as all get out).
Look, writing middle grade humor is really, really hard. Way harder than YA humor. I re-read this one lately and couldn't believe how funny it was. Barbara Park made it look so easy.
Bill Bryson drives across the country, makes fun of things, and muses about how America has changed over the decades. One of those books where you can just open to any page and read a bit.
BONUS REC OF OBSCURIA:
The Sears Catalog and Consumer's Guide, Fall 1900
They reprinted an abridged version of this in the 1970s; you can find it online for a couple of bucks. It's the best bathroom reading in the world. The 1927 one is neat, too.
is a Senior Librarian at the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis, MN. This is what he says:
The Great Eight: great books (kind of) for guys. Also: Magazines. Anytime I’m asked for booklist, I ask, “What about magazines, don’t they count?” Well, it’s my list so they count. Read a magazine every month or week.
A trickster tale about a coyote, a blanket, and a rock. Hot times in the desert.
Or anything by Stine. The man's a genius. Don't believe me: this is about twin teen girls vampires one hot summer. Do the math.
This has it all: humor, adventure, smart mouth teen boys, stupid rules to rebel against, and fire.
When you don’t have time for chapters or even paragraphs, choose bullets. Bullet points that is.
Nothing wrong with the first two volumes, but this is "just delicious!" Don't read this during lunch or before or after.
A 10-year-old gets a chance to play with the big boys. Read this and you'll feel the sweat fly off the pages.
By the Rolling Stone editors. An earlier edition of this book was my Bible at age 17. Everything you need to know.
Jeffrey Brown lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons. As a kid, he loved comics and dreamed of making them. With a long line of publications and art shows behind and in front of him, we'd say he's certainly living that dream. He's definitely a case of if you can dream it, with a lot of hard work, you can do it. Most lately he's the author of the New York Times bestselling Jedi Academy series.
photo credit: Jill Liebhaber
Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
I only knew the Disney version of Winnie-The-Pooh until I had a son, and discovered I'd really been missing out. I was familiar with Shepard's excellent drawings, but had no idea just how funny and smart the original Pooh stories are.
There have been some notable Dahl adaptations - the original Willy Wonka film, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox - but Dahl's books are more than just great source material for movies. They're endlessly entertaining, often laugh-out-loud funny, and great to read at any age, alone or with someone else also of any age.
Going in reverse, here's a novelization of film I loved, and read a ton all the way to my teenage years. Recently reprinted in a nice edition that includes some of Brian Froud's goblin sketches, it's a fairy tale informed by the imagination of Jim Henson and the humor of Monty Python's Terry Jones.
Fans of Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien should be sure to check out this fantasy series. The tone is earnest and sincere, and the adventure is full of wonder and mystery.
Michael Northrop is a writer living in New York City, author of three YA novels: Gentlemen, one of the American Library Association/YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults; Trapped, an ALA/YALSA Readers' Choice List selection, an Indie Next List pick, and a Barnes & Noble Must-Read for Teens; and Rotten. His first middle grade novel, Plunked, was named one of the best children's books of the year by the New York Public Library. His writing has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Kids, McSweeney's, Weird Tales, and many other places. His latest YA novel is Surrounded by Sharks. You can find him on the internet here.
"Fantastic World War II nonfiction: a high-stakes British spy thriller that just happens to be true."
"Hilarious, endearing, and includes a polar bear - what more do you want? This book made me wish I could draw (or at least doodle really well)."
"Lovecraft's stories are profoundly weird, insanely good, and they changed horror writing forever, and for the better (which is to say, weirder)."
"A short, tough book that hits hard and leaves a mark. Not as famous as The Outsiders, but it had just as big of an impact on me. It was the first novel I reread when I decided to write YA."
"Darn near perfect: a little masterpiece that quietly tackles the big questions."