10 Books for Women’s History Month

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As you might know, March is Women’s History Month which is all about “commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.” The majority of the books I read are by and about women. That hasn’t been a conscious choice; I’m just naturally drawn to stories about female empowerment and experiences. With that in mind, today I want to share ten books I’d recommend if you want more women in your reading life.



American Jezebel book cover

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante

I first heard about Anne Hutchinson in one of my college history courses. My professor talked about her with great respect, so when I saw this biography on the library shelf, I knew I had to read it. Hutchinson was a woman who stood up to men who wanted her silenced. She vocalized her religious and political opinions in a time when women’s voices were not welcome in the public sphere. Hutchinson’s story would be an inspiring one if it happened today, but her life is made even more amazing considering the time in which she lived.

Homegoing book cover

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

In the 1700s, half-sisters Effia and Esi are born in Ghana. Their lives take different paths, and Homegoing is the story of them and their descendants until the modern day. This novel reaffirms the horror of slavery, explores the pain of mothers who have lost their children, and shows how racism still runs rampant even in modern America. Despite the dense subject matter, Homegoing contains sweet, tender, and joyous moments, too. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s stunning.

Me, My Hair, and I book cover

Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession edited by Elizabeth Benedict

This book is a collection of essays about hair. That might sound weird or boring, but I assure you it’s neither. Most of the women I know (myself included) genuinely care about their hair. It’s easy to assume that’s because of vanity, but a lot of times there are broader issues at play, including cultural expectations, hair loss due to illness, attachment to hair that feels like a shield, or messy feelings about self-worth. There’s no denying that women are expected to look a certain way, and this book does a good job exploring that pressure.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This novel focuses on two women, Elena and Mia. Elena Richardson is a longtime resident of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a wealthy, nearly perfect town where she and her husband raise their four children. Elena rents out an apartment to mysterious Mia and her daughter Pearl. Mia is an artist who never tends to stay in the same place for long. She’s raising Mia on her own and trying to make ends meet. As the novel progresses, Elena and Mia end up in the middle of a custody battle. Elena’s friend (who’s white, of course) is trying to adopt a Chinese-American baby, but Mia questions to whom the child truly belongs. A lot is happening in this book, yet Ng’s pacing and storytelling never falter. Little Fires Everywhere is an outstanding novel that digs deep into what it means to be a mother, sister, and friend.

Educated book cover

Educated by Tara Westover

I can’t stop talking about this book. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Educated is Tara Westover’s story of being raised off the grid by a fundamentalist Mormon family. Her survivalist father didn’t believe in doctors and certainly didn’t believe in public education. She grew up isolated from the world and was forced to educate herself, eventually ending up at Harvard and Cambridge. Westover beautifully depicts resilience and how far education can take a person in their quest for a different life.

All Grown Up book cover

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Andrea Bern is living an ordinary life. She’s in her late 30s, unmarried, childless, and is working a dead-end job for which she has no passion. Andrea’s not yearning for a husband or baby, though. She treats herself to quality things. Life is progressing normally until her world is shaken up when her niece becomes ill. Andrea sees the cracks in her brother and sister-in-law’s marriage for the first time and watches her mother grow fully obsessed with the baby’s needs. Like all of us, Andrea is complicated. I love this novel because it dares to have a complex woman at its center who is both occasionally unlikable (gasp!) and entirely relatable. All Grown Up is an utter delight.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This brief book is an essay adapted from Adichie’s TED talk. This is an excellent primer for anyone interested in feminism who might be wondering what it means and what it looks like in the modern world.

What Happened book cover

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Whether you love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Hillary Clinton is one of the most important political figures in modern American history. In What Happened, she talks about the 2016 election and addresses what it was like running against Trump, how her campaign stumbled, and what life is like after a massive defeat. If you feel as if you’ve never honestly gotten to know Clinton, this book is worth your time.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood book cover

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans

Like the title suggests, Rachel Held Evans decided to spend one year following the Bible’s words about women as literally as she could. This premise could have easily turned into a joke, but Evans’ work is based on her deep love and respect for Scripture. There’s certainly a lot of humor in this book, but Evans is extremely intelligent and she uses her knowledge of the Bible to discuss some of its most difficult passages. Whether you’re a believer or not, I think you’ll find this book eye-opening and entertaining.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
by Nora Ephron

Most of the books on this list are addressing serious topics, so here’s a book that’s hilarious and fun. I adore Nora Ephron and think her wit shines in this essay collection about aging and navigating womanhood in life’s later years.


I thought long and hard about this list. There are so many other titles that could have appeared here, but these are the ten I feel most strongly about right at this moment. Have you read any of these? What books would make your list?


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Reading Recap | February 2019

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February was another good reading month for me. I read five books and liked all of them. I own three of the books I read, so I’m thrilled my owned books outranked my library books this time around. Yay for reading goal progress!

Spoken from the heart book cover

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Spoken from the Heart is a memoir by the former first lady about her childhood in Texas, her early career as a teacher and librarian, her husband’s early political aspirations, and the eight years she spent in the White House.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Last month I read and loved Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and what I liked so much about that book is here, too. All of the political stuff is wonderfully interesting, but I also enjoyed learning about Bush’s life growing up. I certainly relate to her passion for literature and libraries and admire her journey from someone who was promised she’d never have to give a speech to someone speaking out on the world stage on behalf of women and girls around the world.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People who are interested in politics will be the best audience for this book.

The Dreamers book cover

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

A freshman girl falls asleep in her bed and doesn’t wake up. And then it happens to another girl in her dorm. And then it happens to another one. Soon there’s an epidemic and doctors can’t figure it out. The patients aren’t dead; they’re breathing and dreaming, but nothing can wake them up. Chaos and panic soon run amok in the small, idyllic Southern California town where sleep is to be feared.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

The Dreamers is a page-turner. The plot is fascinating, the characters are well-developed, and I never knew what was going to happen next. In addition to all that, the writing is quite lovely.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

I’d recommend this to literary fiction fans who appreciate unique tales.

The Fire This Time book cover

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race
edited by Jesmyn Ward
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The Fire This Time is a nod to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, a classic examination of race. Using that as inspiration, Ward has put together a collection of essays and poems about what life is like for people of color in modern America.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Ward recruited some wonderful writers for this collection, such as Claudia Rankine, Natasha Tretheway, and Kiese Laymon. As with most essay collections, some pieces are better than others. That’s true with this book, but the good essays easily outnumber ones I thought were mediocre.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People interested in race and social justice will be inspired by this book.

The Lost Man book cover

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Nathan is the oldest of three brothers. Right before Christmas, his middle brother Cameron is found dead. Like Nathan, Cam had spent his entire life in the Australian outback, so he knew the risks and how to survive the oppressive heat. The family questions the circumstances of his death and eventually face a disturbing rumor about Cam’s past. Meanwhile, Nathan is forced to confront his grieving mother, the widowed sister-in-law he always avoids, and the terrible memory of his abusive father.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Jane Harper might be the queen of settings. When I read her work, I feel like I’m actually in the outback, thirsty and covered in dust. Her descriptions of the landscape pull you even further into her expertly crafted mystery and family drama.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of Harper’s first two books (The Dry and Force of Nature) will love The Lost Man. Mystery and suspense fans will undoubtedly be satisfied with Harper’s first standalone novel.

The Hunting Party book cover

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

A group of friends from Oxford always spend New Year’s Eve together, and 2018 is no exception. This year, Emma, the newest member of the group, has planned a getaway to a remote lodge and cabins nestled into the snowy woods. Thanks to a snowstorm, there’s no way in and no way out, so when a member of the group is found murdered, everyone knows the killer is in their midst.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

The Hunting Party has a delightfully creepy atmosphere and setting. The pacing is fantastic, and the twists are a fun surprise. This book is a highly enjoyable murder mystery.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Mystery fans who want a perfect winter read will enjoy this one.


What did you read in February? Leave a comment below and share!


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Brief Thoughts on Marginalia, God, and Mary Oliver

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A few years ago, I bought a used book from my favorite local bookstore. The book sat on my shelf for quite a while before I got around to opening it. (The story of my life.) When I finally did, I saw a note scrawled inside the faded blue front cover. One of my favorite things about buying used books isn’t only their prices, but their histories. I love to see what previous owners have underlined or what words they’ve written in the margins. It makes me feel connected to people I’ve never met and probably never will. Inside this particular book, a woman named Lois wrote a note to her nephew Mark. The book was a gift for him. She told him, “Enter in, struggle, and know you are loved.”

Those eight words captivated me. I read them over and over again. Even though this note was written to someone else quite a few years ago, it was as if the words were meant for me. Whoever Aunt Lois is, her advice here is excellent and important.


As a person who loves control, I hate that I can only control a small portion of what goes on around me. There’s a line in Anne Lamott’s novel Bird by Bird in which the narrator is talking to God:  “I’ll be responsible for everything on this side of my palm. You be in charge of the outcome of everything else.” I’m learning, though, that God isn’t just interested in the outcome of the everything else, whatever that might be; He wants my palm and the fist it turns into, grasping the hopes and fears and plans I am holding onto for dear life. Sometimes all life is for me is control, comfort, and safety. But even in my weakest moments, I know those three things feel incredibly good, but are not ingredients to a life lived with hope, risk, and courage.

When this truth frustrates me or makes me feel even wearier than I already am, I remember Mark’s Aunt Lois and the words she wrote: “Enter in, struggle, and know you are loved.” It’s one thing to exist, but another to truly live. And to truly live, I believe we must enter in. We must enter in, not as adults who have it all together, but as children who are full of wonder and not the least bit daunted by mystery. Lois knew that entering in would lead to struggle, and I know this too. It isn’t always easy to try, to see meaning in uncertainty or challenges. But what helps is the final part of her advice: know you are loved. Entering in and struggling are so much easier when I am certain of this last bit. Knowing I am loved helps me be a little braver, a little more vulnerable, a little more alive. And for me, that’s the goal: being a little more alive. I don’t want to merely exist; I want to live. As Mary Oliver famously wrote:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

I write this as a reminder to the Type A, control-freak part of myself who loves sticky notes, planners, and calendars a little more than she probably should. I write this a challenge to myself to take the advice of a random woman named Lois, the advice I received in a book on sale for $2.99. Sometimes we find the truth we so desperately need to hear in places we weren’t even looking. That truth is one of the most beautiful truths I know and it leads to the best part of uncertainty: pleasant surprises along the way that change us for the better.


Have you ever found a great note written inside an old book?


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6 Essentials for a Cozy Reading Day

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At the beginning of February, I thought, “I’m fortunate. This winter has been so mild. There’s hardly been any snow at all.” And then it proceeded to snow a foot in a couple of days. I had a day off from work thanks to a snow day, and I spent most of it curled up in my sweats with a blanket and book. Nothing makes me want to stay indoors as much as snow does, so I thought it would be fun to share my essentials for a cozy reading day so that you too might be inspired to hunker down in your home while remaining motionless for several hours. I highly recommend it.

Girl in sweater reading

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Essential #1: Comfortable clothes

Some people stay in their regular clothes until bedtime. I do not understand these people. Who can genuinely lounge around the house in jeans? Who can be entirely comfortable in a skirt or button-down shirt? The first essential item for any cozy reading day is comfortable clothes. Put on those sweats and be proud. Throw on those leggings and relax. So what if your favorite college t-shirt has a few holes? Whatever you wear, make it soft and comfortable.

Vintage chair, ottoman, and piano in the background

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Essential #2: A comfortable reading location

Now that you’re wearing your most stylish comfortable clothes, you need even more comfort in the form of a good reading location. My favorite reading spot is my navy blue wingback chair and brightly-printed ottoman. Couches work just fine, too. If you’re genuinely embracing the lazy part of a lazy day, stay in bed.

A woman holding three folded blankets

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Essential #3: A warm blanket

I am a productive adult, and I have a blankie. In fact, I have several blankies. And yes, I call them blankies because I’m young at heart and I can. You too need a blankie. (Unless you live in Miami or somewhere comparably toasty.) My blankie is essential because no matter how comfortable my clothes and location might be, they’re enhanced by the blankie. Not only does the blankie offer extra warmth but it also provides another layer of softness. Who doesn’t want that?

An iced coffee in a glass

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Essential #4: A beverage

The entire planet could be glazed over in a layer of ice, and I’d still reach for an iced coffee. I saw a meme the other day that referred to iced coffee as the most important meal of the day, and it spoke truth to my spirit. You don’t have to drink an iced coffee, but you do need a beverage. One of the goals of a cozy reading day is to avoid movement as much as possible, so being sure you’ve got your drink prepared before you assume your position underneath your blankie is vital. Hydration is essential, and so are taste buds.

A red book with glasses sitting on the top placed on white bedsheets

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Essential #5: Silence

When I want the coziest of cozy reading days, silence is a must. I don’t want TV on in the background, and there can be no music. If I hear anyone making commotion outside, I find myself wondering why they don’t care about me and my needs. Is this high maintenance of me? Yes. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine wants silence.

Open book pages

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Essential #6: The right book

Perhaps the most vital aspect of a cozy reading day is the reading part. For that, you need the right book. The right book is not the book you’re forcing yourself to read for book club. It’s not the book you got for Christmas five years ago and feel guilty about not having read yet. The right book for a cozy reading day is one you’re excited about and can’t put down. For me, that’s a mystery, thriller, or engaging literary fiction. Find the right book for you and get to work. And by that I mean don’t work at all.


So what are your essentials for a cozy reading day? I’d love to hear them!


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Reading Recap | January 2019

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Hi there! I’m glad to be back. I’ve been sick with pneumonia and an unpleasant ear infection these past two weeks, so blogging was not at the top of my priority list. Taking my antibiotics and rewatching Parks and Recreation for the twelfth time held that distinction. Anyway, I’m finally feeling better, and I’m happy to be posting again.

Today I’m sharing what I read in January. I read nine books, so I’ll be brief with my thoughts on each one so it doesn’t take you thirteen hours to read this post. Let’s get started!

Garlic and sapphires book cover

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Ruth Reichl is the well-known food critic who once worked for the New York Times. This book is about when she moved to New York to start her new gig and the complications that ensued. Restaurants around the city knew who Reichl was and had her picture taped up in their kitchens. She knew she’d never be able to get fair service if the staff knew her, so she thought up several elaborate disguises in order to dine anonymously.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

This book is so much fun to read. Reichl’s passion for great food is evident on every page. I’d prefer a cheeseburger to most of the food Reichl describes in this book, but her excitement and joy when eating is contagious.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People who love spending time in the kitchen will definitely enjoy this.

Becoming book cover

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Becoming chronicles Mrs. Obama’s life from her childhood in Chicago to the end of her husband’s administration.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

I love reading books about politics and presidents, so I knew I’d like that aspect of Becoming, but what I ended up loving most was the story of Obama’s early years. Learning how a black girl from Chicago’s south side ended up as First Lady was fascinating. I also appreciate that Obama repeatedly cites education as the key to her success.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of the Obamas will love this, but readers of any political background should pick this up. Themes like family, love, and education should be universally appealing.

If beale st. could talk book cover

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Tish and Fonny are young and in love. They’re about to have a baby and start their own family when Fonny is charged and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Baldwin explores their relationship, their families, and how injustice tests everyone involved in this powerful story.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The range of emotions I felt while reading this book is noteworthy considering its short length. Baldwin captures the sweetness between Tish and Fonny so well, which makes the idea of them torn apart deeply upsetting.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you’ve meant to read Baldwin or already love him, don’t miss this one.

Nothing good can come from this book cover

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

This book is a collection of essays about Kristi Coulter’s life as a sober woman. She acknowledges the seriousness of her addiction, but her writing is funny and full of wit.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Coulter is frank about the toll addiction took on her life, yet writes about her journey with constant vulnerability infused with humor.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Goodreads says fans of David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, and Cheryl Strayed will like this, and I agree completely.

Looker book cover

Looker by Laura Sims
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The unnamed narrator of this book is facing the loss of her marriage and is grieving over the fact she can’t conceive a child. She becomes obsessed with the actress, a famous woman who lives with her family on the same block. As the narrator’s life spirals more out of control, her obsession with the actress grows even more intense.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The premise of this book intrigued me as soon as I heard about it, and it delivers on the tension. I wish the book had contained more depth, but it’s a fast-paced story with a satisfying ending.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you like suspense books with unreliable narrators, you’ll enjoy Looker.

For better and for worse book cover

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Will and Natalie meet during law school. They eventually marry and have a son named Charlie. Their lives have grown a little dull until the principal of their son’s school—who’s a friend—is seen taken away by police due to some terrible accusations. Once they realize their son is involved, they set off a chain of events they could never have imagined.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

For Better and Worse is definitely a page-turner. Natalie is a fascinating character who keeps you guessing until the very last page.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Anyone who shares my love of thrillers and stories about complicated marriages will like this book.

Sadie book cover

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

When Sadie is 19, her little sister Mattie is killed. She thinks she knows who’s responsible and without notice, she sets out to find the killer since the police haven’t. Meanwhile, a podcaster named West hears about the murder and Sadie’s disappearance. He puts it in the back of his mind until he gets a phone call from the woman who’s a stand-in grandma to Sadie and Mattie. She asks him to pursue the story and get some answers, so he develops a new podcast series called the Girls.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Sadie is written in the form of the podcast and Sadie’s first-person thoughts. This style makes for a unique and effective structure that perfectly suits this suspenseful, brutal story.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Readers who don’t mind dark stories and enjoy unique narrative structures shouldn’t miss this novel.

No exit book cover

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 2/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Darby is a college student who just found out her mom has cancer. She heads out to see her a couple of days before Christmas and gets stuck in a blizzard. She’s forced to stop at a rest stop with four strangers until the weather clears up. While walking around outside trying to get a cell signal, Darby sees something horrifying in a van parked out front: a little girl locked in a cage. Darby knows she has to save the child but doesn’t know how or who she can trust.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

No Exit offers a lot of exciting twists and turns. The bad news is that they don’t make much sense sometimes.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of thrillers who don’t overthink every chapter will be most satisfied with this one.

Sugar run book cover

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

After serving almost two decades of her prison sentence, Jodi gets a surprise release. (Readers learn about Jodi’s crime through flashbacks.) Jodi’s plan is to go live in the house she inherited from her grandmother, but first, she stops to check in on the brother of the woman she used to love. During her journey, she meets Miranda, a mother of three who’s addicted to pills. Jodi and Miranda have an instant connection, and the two set out to build new lives together.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

What I like most about Sugar Run is the setting, which is West Virginia. I don’t recall reading anything else set there, so I enjoyed the glimpse of life in Appalachia.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

I’d recommend this book only to readers who don’t mind incredibly bleak stories. This is a tough read that grapples with things such as addiction, poverty, and violence.


I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately. What was the best book you read in January?


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The 10 Nonfiction Books I Wish My Patrons Would Read Before They Graduate High School

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For nearly eight years now, I’ve been working with teenagers in public high school libraries. I’ve interacted with students who love to read, who like to read but don’t know what books to choose, and students who would rather die alone in a terrible freak accident than read a book. (Or so it seems sometimes.) It’s not up to me to assign books, yet I have titles floating around in my head that I’d love students to read before they graduate. I want to share ten of those titles and what I think kids can learn from them. I’m focusing on nonfiction. If I could assign books, these are the ones I’d hand to those 17-year-olds who are on the cusp of new and exciting things.

Please note: there are mentions of sexual assault.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Hard work and education can take you places you’d never imagine.

I just finished Becoming and enjoyed it just as much as I thought I would. As a lover of presidential history, I went into the book knowing for sure I’d like the discussions of government and politics, but what turned out to be my favorite part of the book was the beginning. Learning about Mrs. Obama’s humble upbringing in Chicago’s South Side was fascinating. I’d heard pieces of that story, but reading about her kind, loving parents and their passion for knowledge was inspiring. Michelle Obama isn’t successful because she married a man who became President of the United States; she got into Princeton and Harvard Law School before she knew he existed. Becoming is a story of perseverance, drive, and demonstrates how education can change everything.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Being rich and famous doesn’t guarantee a perfect life.

Steve Jobs was famous, ridiculously wealthy, and lauded for his contributions to technology. As the force behind Apple, he changed the way the world communicates. Because of this, it makes sense to assume that being Steve Jobs’ daughter would be nothing less than an unbelievable stroke of luck. Lisa Brennan-Jobs corrects that belief with her honest, unputdownable memoir about the turbulent relationship she had with her father. The two loved each other, but their bond was shaky from the very beginning when Jobs questioned whether or not Lisa was even his daughter. It’s easy to envy those in positions of power or who have great wealth, assuming their lives are perfect. The truth is never that tidy, and this book is a reminder of that.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

There are unfair power structures that will hold you back. Keep trying anyway and fight to change those structures.

Whether we’ve read this narrative or not, most of us are familiar with Frederick Douglass and his story. That familiarity might keep someone from reading this book, but it shouldn’t. This was a text I was assigned in college, and I wish I’d read it even earlier. It provides an eye-opening account of slavery, and it’s essential for citizens to fully understand America’s history. Besides that, Douglass’ story shows a man that just won’t give up, even when his humanity has basically been stripped away. Once he was free, Douglass worked and fought to end injustice. Being free gives all of us the opportunity to try to free someone else.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Don’t take your freedom for granted.

As a teenager, it can be difficult to see beyond yourself. Everything feels like a big deal. School can seem unfair. Life can seem overwhelming because of all the choices before you. It’s easy to take something like freedom for granted when you’re told you can do anything, be anyone, and achieve your dreams. Nothing to Envy reveals a world without those promises. Demick forces her readers to confront a country unlike any other in the world today. North Korea is a fascinating place, and this book is a fantastic exploration of it. What amazes me most about North Korea is that it exists at all, especially in 2019. This book is a sobering reminder that freedom is a gift, one that millions around the world don’t have.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

You have to take things as they come.

Lamott’s older brother was panicking over a homework assignment. He had to write a report on birds, and it was due the next day. He hadn’t even started yet. His father tried to calm him down by saying, “Just take it bird by bird.” As Lamott says, this is good advice for writing but also for life in general. Sure, not every student is going to enter into a career that requires them to write all the time. But they’ll have to write emails. They’ll have to write memos. They’ll have to text their coworkers or boss. Writing well is a skill we all need, and this book teaches those skills with a lot of other wisdom thrown in, too.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town 
by Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
by Jon Krakauer

Crimes against woman are often just seen as stories.

Before I opened up this book, I knew rape cases didn’t often result in convictions or much prison time. I knew women weren’t always listened to and taken seriously. Knowing those truths didn’t prepare me for this book. Missoula is an unflinching look at how sexual assault is frequently dismissed. Some people will always care more about the poor football player accused of rape than the girl he assaulted. This is heartbreaking and wrong, yet is information we all need to know. A lot of times, the pressure is put on women to protect themselves, but men need to be reminded they have a role to play in all of this, too. There’s much work to be done, and it involves everyone.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Humor can help you survive anything.

Trevor Noah is known as the host of The Daily Show, but long before his fame, he was just a kid in South Africa whose very existence was against the law. He was born to a black mother and a white father, a union prohibited under apartheid. Born a Crime is the story of his life in South Africa, his struggle to belong somewhere, and how embracing humor changed his life. This book talks about racism, abuse, and poverty, yet it’s also incredibly funny. Noah recognizes that humor isn’t a luxury for the privileged, but a necessity for everyone.

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

Education can be your escape from awful circumstances.

Tara Westover was raised off the grid. Born to a survivalist family, she was kept out of school, away from doctors, and insulated from society, yet she ended up studying at Oxford. Educated is the story of how she got there. If this book had been written as a novel, I would have thought it was too over the top. Knowing it’s all true makes it a compelling story about how seeking education can be the key to a new, freer life.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Vulnerability is the key to nearly everything.

If there is one lesson I wish I could have learned sooner, it would be the importance of vulnerability. Vulnerability doesn’t come easily to me, and that was especially true when I was entering adulthood. Around that time, there’s so much about yourself and your life that you’re struggling to understand that being vulnerable just seems like another difficult task. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown presents her groundbreaking research that reveals how people have used vulnerability to achieve success, overcome obstacles, and reinvent their lives.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Heartbreak will not destroy you.

After Cheryl Strayed’s mother died when Strayed was in her early 20s, she felt lost and adrift. Her marriage and family were falling apart. Grief was wrecking her. She needed a change, so she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild is the memoir of that journey and how it changed her life. Not only is this book beautifully written, but it reveals a woman who overcomes so much to build a life in which she can be happy and proud.


I went back and forth on a lot of titles before I decided on these ten. I would love to hear what titles you’d suggest for young adults. Leave your list in a comment below.


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Book Options for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge

Photo by Chimene Gaspar on Unsplash

I love reading, but I don’t love feeling as if I have to read something. I enjoyed many of the books I was assigned in college, yet didn’t always like having to stick to a syllabus. That’s why I’ve never participated in any online reading challenges. I don’t want reading to feel like homework.

One of my favorite book blogs is Modern Mrs. Darcy. I was looking at her 2019 reading challenge and realized this one actually excites me. At only 10 categories, it’s not too long, and there are plenty of options for every requirement so I won’t feel pressured to read specific things.

Today I’m sharing some possible reads for each category. Who knows if I’ll stick to this list, but at least I’ll have a plan. (And I love plans.) Maybe these books will inspire you if you’re doing the challenge, too.

1. A book you’ve been meaning
to read

This list could be ridiculously long since I have so many unread books on my shelves. (One of my 2019 reading goals is to lower that number.) For this task, I’m choosing a book that I’ve owned for at least a year. These are the ones I’m most excited to read right now:

2. A book about a topic that fascinates you

I’m fascinated by a lot of things, but my primary interests right now include:

3. A book in the backlist of a favorite author

Sometimes when I really love an author, I’ll hesitate to read everything they’ve written because I want to know there’s still a book out there by them I haven’t read yet. (Especially when there are many, many years between new releases, DONNA.) Is that weird? Maybe. Probably.

4. A book recommended by someone with great taste

Some friends have recommended:

5. Three books by the same author

I’d love to read more from Baldwin and French, and I haven’t read Ferrante at all.

6. A book you chose for the cover

I’m a sucker for a pretty book cover. These are the most recent ones that have caught my eye:

7. A book by an author who is
new to you

Thanks to some Christmas gift cards, I just bought a few books by authors I’ve yet to read, including:

8. A book in translation

I was happy to see this category on the list since reading more translated books was already one of my reading goals this year. At the top of my list are:

9. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone

This category is going to stretch me more than any of the others because I tend to read a bit narrowly when it comes to fiction. I mostly stick to literary fiction, thrillers, and mysteries. Here are some titles that are definitely outside my comfort zone, but intrigue me nonetheless:

10. A book published before you were born

I’m hoping this category will inspire me to pick up a few of the classics that have been sitting on my shelves for too long, such as:


So those are my ideas so far. If you have any suggestions to add, please let me know. I’m always up for book recommendations.


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