6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers in 2019

Image of girl reading book outside: 13 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

If you love character-driven fiction as much as we do, this is a great time for new releases! Here are some of our favorite new books in 2019.

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Cover of The Swallows: 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

The Swallows, by Lisa Lutz, takes place at an elite academy, where in between college apps, varsity sports and SAT prep, the prep school boys keep a secret list, ranking their female classmates sexually.

The secret list and the Dulcinea Award for the girl with the best, uh, special skills, has been going on for years, but at long last, the girls begin to seek their revenge. This story of teachers, staff, and students at the prep school is raw and vicious by turns.

(Without revealing the ending, I’ll admit to gasping aloud when I discovered one of the masterminds behind the Dulcinea Award!)

 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Abstract Cover for The Farm: 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers
In Joanne Ramos’ new novel, The Farm, dozens of beautiful, healthy, young women are
surrogates for women who want to be mothers. The pregnant surrogates are well-paid, provided with meals, housing, and top-class medical care, but forbidden from leaving the Golden Oaks medical retreat (known as The Farm to residents).

The surrogacy payments are life-changing for  the girls, who are willing to sign over their most basic privacy rights for them. Meanwhile, the mothers have paid top dollar for their new babies, because they’re unable or unwilling to carry their own children.

What makes this story compelling, readable fiction? The topics explored include race, class, and the meaning of motherhood, without ever losing touch with the characters or storyline.

 

Mistress of The Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Image of Book Cover: Woman Standing in Front of the Eiffel Tower - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers
Mistress of The Ritz is about sticking it to the Nazis, while wearing gorgeous clothes and drinking cocktails. Blanche Auzello, American wife of the French director of the Ritz hotel, finds herself hosting Nazi officers at the famous hotel.

While she and her husband pretend to perform the Ritz’ famous hospitality, Blanche finds that being so close to the Nazi higher-ups, with access to their conversations and knowledge of their daily habits, gives her a unique advantage for the French Resistance.

The result is a thrilling novel, full of suspense and intrigue. But be prepared for tragedy as well, because this is based on historical events.

 

American Princess by Stephanie Marie

Image of Book Cover: Car Rides off with a Scarf Trailing - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

Another recent historical novel, American Princess, tells the story of the outrageous First Daughter Alice Roosevelt. Novelist Stephanie Marie Thornton describes Alice’s adventures and romances in this page-turning novel.

Although some of Alice’s antics, like driving a car or going out unchaperoned, may seem tame now, there’s a wonderful contrast between Alice and the Washingtonian establishment around her. Readers can’t help but be drawn in by the force of her rebellious, hedonistic personality, and root for her when she’s down. (I particularly enjoyed Alice’s remarks on her dowdy do-gooder cousin Eleanor.)

 

Park Avenue Summer by Helen Gurley Brown

Image of Book Cover: Woman in New York City -6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

In Park Avenue Summer, Midwestern transplant Alice lands an assistant job at Cosmo, under the famous author and editor Helen Gurley Brown. Helen is trying to revamp the magazine, despite all the obstacles thrown in her path, and Alice is caught in office conflicts, between the forceful personality of her new boss and the forces that want the female editor-in-chief to fail disastrously.

Alice’s goals in photography and independence make her a compelling protagonist, even when her Midwestern naivety seems a bit much at times.

 

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

Image of Book Cover: Close of Woman Wearing Hat - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

If history is your thing, get ready for this one. A brand new story with intense and developed characters will be out next year. Karin Tanabe’s upcoming novel, A Hundred Suns, reveals secrets upon secrets among expats and citizens in French Indochina, into the 1930s.

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults

Girl Reading Book: 5 Must-Read Fiction Series

If you’re a dedicated reader, you already know the pain of finishing a great novel.

And when you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to your favorite characters or leave your favorite world, a series might ease the pain. Want to dive deep into an epic series of novels?

Keep reading on to find out our must-read fiction book series (for adults).

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: A Game of Thrones Set

If you haven’t read the Game of Thrones novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, you’re missing out!

If you’re already a fan of the show, keep in mind the books have diverged from the show. (Or has the show diverged from the books?) So it’s not the same story in every way.

But the central conflict, strong characters, and shifting allegiances are still there. If you love the backstabbing and reversals of Sunday night GoT, you need to check out the novels. There are five books out now and two more in the works—although George R R Martin has pushed back the release date a few times already—but his series will keep you busy for awhile.

 

The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: The Lady in the River book cover

Do you enjoy geeking out on fantasy novels or historical fiction? This series is for you.

Phillippa Gregory’s historical novels about royal women begin with The Lady of the Rivers, where we meet young Jacquetta of Bedford. They live in the time of the War of the Roses.

(Fantasy fans take note: Parts of the story of the Starks and Lannisters were inspired by a historical rivalry between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the Rose.)

Jacquetta will eventually become the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, and the grandmother to the king of England. Gregory’s series of novels continues through Henry VIII, with novels about his wives, and finally Elizabeth I. She always focuses on women near the throne and the constant struggle for power.

This is a particularly solid series. How so? Because each one can be read as a standalone novel, but reading them in historical order adds tons of depth to the characters and shows how closely related these political rivals were.

 

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults

We’re currently two books into the Impossible Times trilogy by Mark Lawrence… and anxiously waiting for the third book to be released!

These compelling sci-fi stories focus on the friendships in a tabletop gaming party. Not only that, Laurence throws in a dash of time travel and pairs it with the realization that our small choices could affect the entire universe.

Also, there’s a teen romance that won’t make you cringe! Impossible Times is a trilogy, not a long series, so the upcoming third book should resolve everything left unfinished.

 

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series: A Lady's Guide to Etiquette book cover

Dianne Freeman’s new series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, blends a manners novel with a mystery.

Frances, the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, is one of the dollar princesses. She’s an American heiress married to an impoverished British title—a bit like Lady Jennie Jerome Churchill, or Lady Cora on Downton Abbey.

Frances’ first mystery to solve is getting her own resources back from greedy in-laws, but that soon gives way to a more dramatic mystery. The blend of formalized manners and dangerous investigation makes a great series.

The second one, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, develops the secondary characters, and sets up a strong possibility of recurring mysteries for Frances and her friends to solve.

 

Ovid (Marcus Corvinus Book 1) by David Wishart

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: Ovid Novel Cover

David Wishart’s Marcus Corvinus series of Roman historical mysteries leads us through some of the dramatic historical events of the early Empire. Beginning with Ovid, accidental detective Marcus Corvinus finds himself doing a small favor that turns into a huge investigation.

You’ll notice this pattern repeats in the following novels, until Marcus gives up and just accepts that he’s a criminal investigator now. The Julio-Claudians and other historical figures appear as minor characters, but it’s the slacker/detective Marcus Corvinus himself who really pulls you in.

The author shows Roman social classes by having the Roman patricians speak like they attended Eton, while the plebs all sound like they’re from council flats in the East End. The author has also written another novel set in ancient Rome, called I,Virgil.

This isn’t a mystery and doesn’t star Marcus Corvinus, but offers the same well-researched historical setting as the mystery series.

Now it’s your turn. What series are you reading? What books are you anxiously awaiting?

8 Funny Books That Are Guaranteed to Make You Smile

Of course, we have room for sweeping epics and heart-wrenching dramas. But we also love books that just make us smile. Need a laugh? Keep reading to discover some of our favorite funny books:

1. Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Books to Make You Smile: Yellow Cover of Dear Mrs. Bird with a Retro Lady Walking

In A J Pearce’s novel, Dear Mrs. Bird, the plot gets rolling with a goofy misunderstanding. Young Emmy Lake tries to become a war correspondent in WWII London, but ends up getting a job assisting on an advice column.

Assisting Mrs. Bird means opening her mail, and throwing away anything with “inappropriate” content. This ensues that only the blandest, mildest queries are read by Mrs. Bird and publicly answered in the women’s magazine. As Emmy starts to read–and secretly answer some of the rejected letters–warm laughs will follow.

 

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC Yee

Book to Make You Smile: Blue Cover of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

In the Chinese-American YA adventure, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, author FC Yee blends college prep, teen angst, overbearing relatives, and mythological battles for a rollicking adventure.

High-school student Genie and her annoying new classmate Quentin find themselves with surprising alternate identities. Suddenly, they’re battling ancient supernatural enemies. The blend of myth and high school makes for a funny, entertaining read.

 

A Short History of Drunkenness by Mark Forsyth

Book to Make You Smile: A Short History of Drunkenness book cover

Want a non-fiction laugh? This one’s for you. A Short History of Drunkenness will take readers through alcohol enjoyment, use, and overuse in different civilizations throughout the world.

Not only will you connect with drinkers from all walks of life… you’ll get a kick out of the history behind many drinking customs in this readable, hilarious drunken history.

 

My Not-So-Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Books to Make You Smile: Green Cover of My Not-so-Perfect Life

For likeable heroines falling into and out of ridiculous situations, try a Sophie Kinsella novel. Everyone knows the Shopaholic series, but have you tried My Not-So-Perfect Life?

In this novel, our protagonist Emily’s main hobby is cleverly faking Instagram photos to seem more successful and stylish online. And in Twenties Girl, our heroine finds herself hearing from the spirit of her great-aunt, who gives fashion advice and makes ghostly demands.

Surprise Me, a newer novel about a long-married couple trying to inject more passion and spontaneity into their lives, has plenty of silly situations. Sure, the road to the neat happily-ever-afters can feel a bit predictable, but sometimes an uplifting ending can be another reason to smile.

 

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman’s ensemble novel Other People’s Houses tells the story of four interconnected neighboring families. Blending big and small secrets with daily family life, the story gets moving when an affair (and the accidental, ridiculous discovery of that affair) causes ripples through the neighborhood.

With laugh-inducing interior monologues, silly situations, and messy relationships–there are plenty of giggles. But there are also moving moments of friendship and family.

 

Evergreen Tidings From The Baumgarnters by Gretchen Anthony

It may be a bit early for the Christmas themes in Evergreen Tidings From The Baumgarnters, but there are some real laughs in this family drama about keeping up appearances in a decidedly imperfect family.

Self-important, appearance-obsessed, well-meaning meddler Violet Baumgartner is a hilarious character, and at times it’s hard to tell if we’re laughing at or laughing with her.

What about you? What books always make you laugh? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

7 Best Summer Beach Reads to Take on Your Next Vacation

Man reading a book in water: 6 Best Summer Beach Reads to Take on Your Next Vacation

It’s time for a break, right?

Summer is finally here. Whether you’re headed to the beach, relaxing by the poolside, or hanging out in your background—nothing beats relaxing with a captivating beach read.

Stay tuned to find your next beach read, as we share our favorite summer fiction novels of 2019!

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

A wild adventure or engrossing family saga is just what we want in a summer read, isn’t it? Alan Brennert’s Honolulu blends both with the story of Korean picture-bride Jin’s life in Hawaii.

The ups and down of her years in Hawaii—combined with the lush setting of old Honolulu—make this novel perfect escapism for your summer reading list. Plus, if your summer vacation is more kiddie pool than tropical island? You’ll enjoy the scenes of Hawaiian life.

 

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah’s absorbing tales of female friendship are perfect for relaxing summer days. Firefly Lane spans years of friendship between Tully and Kate, and shows how their friendship evolves as they take very different paths.

Between Sisters is another engrossing, character driven story from this author. Both novels invite readers to meet realistic and complex characters.

And the best part?

They deliver satisfying conclusions to make them solid beach reads.

 

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Mrs. Everything, introduces two very different sisters and develops both of them as full, complex characters.

The story follows Bethie and Jo from when they’re teenagers in Detroit in the fifties through grandchildren today. It’s almost a family saga, with scenes showing the sisters’ mom and grandmother, and setting the girls on their paths.

But it’s also a slice-of-life novel, covering decades. Experience another time with these vibrant, multi-faceted characters.

 

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

The girls in Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls make plans to land rich, foreign husbands, before they’re on the shelf by their late twenties.

Narrator Jazeline will pull you in with her Singlish banter as she describes nights out, friendships, and schemes… but she also reveals the a darker side of life for Singaporean women.

This novel is great fun, with a distant, lively setting and an unforgettable heroine, but also points to dark systems of privilege and entitlement. You’ll think about Jazzy and her friends long after finishing the book!

 

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Another memorable heroine for your summer reading list is Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams.

When we first meet her, Jamaican-British Queenie is facing a breakup, work stress, an overbearing (but well meaning) family. Not to mention, the depressing gentrification of the old neighborhood.

The novel pops with clever—but realistic—dialogue, including some scenes of group texts (which usually feel like lazy writing, but work so well here to develop relationships and advance the storyline).

Carty-Williams brings readers to care for Queenie even when she does self-destructive things, and we can’t help but cheer her on.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Sometimes a chilling suspense novel pairs well with summer sun. So, try Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game. In this novel, old school friends revisit decades-old secrets, with layers of lies, half-truths and suspicions.

We know The Woman In Cabin 10 is getting more spotlight, but personally thought The Lying Game had the same brilliant suspense. Not only that, The Lying Game had more developed characters, fuller interpersonal relationships, and an even twistier story.

5 Captivating Historical Mystery Books That Will Thrill You

5 Captivating Historical Mystery Books That Will Thrill You

Don’t you love reading a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat?

A well-executed historical mystery blends a colorful, distant setting with page-turning suspense for some of the ultimate escapist reads. Here are some of our favorite historical mysteries.

The Cadfael Chronicles

A Morbid Taste for Bones - Book Cover with a Cross

The Cadfael Chronicles, by Ellis Peters, tells the story of medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, at Shrewsbury Abbey, in Wales.

The first novel, A Morbid Taste for Bones, shows Brother Cadfael leaving his herb garden and apothecary to solve a complicated mystery. In each story, the monk’s attention to detail, knowledge of herbs, and understanding of human nature lead him to the correct solutions.

To be honest, there’s a bit of gore in these novels. But the accounts of saints’ relics and wound examination were so interesting that I didn’t much mind it. Peters, a pen name of Edith Pargeter, wrote twenty novels about Brother Cadfael in all.

(And if you like seeing a book come to life on-screen, there’s a charming British TV series based on the books that stars Derek Jacobi!)

 

Murder At The Fitzwilliam

Murder at the Fitzwilliam - Book Cover - Man Standing on Stairs

Murder At The Fitzwilliam by Jim Eldridge begins when former inspector Daniel Wilson is summoned to investigate a corpse found in an ancient Egyptian coffin. A recent corpse, that is.

And when a second one appears soon after, also in the Egyptian wing, supernatural theories abound. The descriptions of academic rivalries, the Egyptian craze, and Cambridge geography were perfect (even if a minor romantic subplot is a bit underwhelming).

Right now, this is a standalone mystery… but stay tuned. The sequel is due out this year.

SQQR  I: The Kings Gambit

SQPR Book Cover - The King's Gambit

In John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR series, Roman sleuth Decius Metellus finds himself caught up in murder mysteries no matter where he goes. Trouble always finds him. Whether he’s being summoned to the Palatine by the ruling Julio-Claudians… or hiding out in exile after getting mixed up in an unsavory mystery.

The intricacies of Roman customs and politics make up the background of these stories. They’re set in some of the most dramatic years of Roman history.

Not to mention, the thirteen novels in this series span Decius Metellus’ life. So there’s time for a lot of character development in these novels — you’ll enjoy meeting minor characters again in later novels.

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Sure, Murder on the Orient Express wasn’t written as historical fiction, but the accounts of international travel on an overnight train are sure to pull you back in time.

This classic novel plays with some of the conventions of the locked-door mystery, making it even more fun for mystery fans. As always, Poirot uses his careful powers of observation and deductive reasoning to see through lies and misdirection.

Also, this novel has some of the most memorable characters in an Agatha Christie mystery.

 

The Chef’s Secret

The Chef's Secret Book Cover with Plate of Produce

In The Chef’s Secret, by Crystal King, a chef’s apprentice is left with his Uncle Bartolomeo’s recipes and his diary. Including the instructions that he burn the diary unread.

Naturally, nephew Giovanni does no such thing. I mean, would you?

Giovanni starts to investigate his uncle’s past and his secret love, unlocking a story of murder, vendetta, secret babies, theft, revenge, and more murder. It’s not a typical whodunit, with one murder to wrap up.

Instead, readers are pulled along as Giovanni unravels a lifetime of secrets. This is also a wonderful foodie tour of renaissance Italy, as both uncle and nephew are skilled chefs.

Do you have a favorite historical mystery? Let us know!

Netflix Novels: 7 Books That Inspired TV Shows We Love

Netflix Novels: 7 Books Based on Popular TV Shows

Prefer reading to watching TV?

Or maybe you love them both, but you need something to tide you over while you wait for the next season of your favorite show.

Stories continue to inspire Hollywood on the big screen, but they’re also the source of many famous TV programs. Note that not all of these shows on currently running on Netflix, but it’s become the biggest library of TV series.

For more, check out these books that inspired popular TV shows:

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Netflix Novels: Game of Thrones book cover with sword

Everyone knows that the hit TV show Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels. There are five fantasy novels out, and Martin is currently at work on the sixth, The Winds of Winter.

The books cover the battle for control of Westeros, and even readers who don’t think they like fantasy have fallen into this dramatic saga.  But the TV show diverges from the novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, in some pretty major ways. (Without spoiling either one, let’s just say certain characters are alive in one, and dead in the other.)

 

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Netflix Novels: Call the Midwife cover image of four children walking down the street in the 1950s

The BBC hit Call the Midwife was inspired by Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of working as a midwife in London’s East End in the fifties. The first season is directly inspired by the challenges of her job, with familiar characters from her memoirs.

By the current season, the TV show has long passed Worth’s memoirs and is now an independent story about the mothers, midwives, nuns, and newborns of Poplar.  If you can’t wait for season 8 to make it to the US, check out Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End.

The real-life nurse Jenny eventually left midwifery for end-of-life care, and wrote the fourth memoir, In The Midst of Life, about this stage of her career. Her fourth book has the same no-nonsense style and sharp observations, but with far fewer adorable babies.

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Netflix Novels: Big Little Lies abstract book cover

Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies is full of snark and secrets. If you enjoy the way one small event at school drop-off sets so many others into motion — and you like the dark secrets simmering in a quiet, suburban town, you’ll also like The Husband’s Secret by the same author.

There’s a second of the TV show in the works, but it’ll need to depart pretty significantly from the book since the first season ended at the conclusion of the novel.

 

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Netflix Novels: Cover image from Pretty Little Liars of 4 stylish female dolls

For more page-turning revelations, Pretty Little Liars, now an entire series by Sara Shepard, begins with the mysterious A, who seems to know everyone’s darkest secrets.

The books take readers through endless lies, blackmail, twists, and reversals. Pretty much everyone in Rosewood has something to hide. Because the high-school friends (or frenemies…) at the heart of the story are developed, readers will easily find a favorite character and be pulled into the drama.

 

Stephen King and J.J. Abrams

Promotional image for Castle Rock from Hulu: Castle in Dark Clouds

Castle Rock, on Hulu, is inspired by the work of horror novelist Stephen King. The TV show isn’t directly based on one novel, although there are elements found in his work. Dedicated King readers may find the TV show feels more than a pastiche than an addition to the King library.

That’s because it retreads King’s familiar themes of secrets in a silent Maine town, isolation, the moral ambiguity of prison guards, and dark supernatural others. (Conversely, if you enjoyed Castle Rock, you’ll like pretty much any Stephen King novel.)

 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Netflix Novels: Sweetbitter cover with a broken wine glass

Stephanie Danler’s coming-of-age novel Sweetbitter is about young Tess’ first year in New York. Tess grabs restaurant life with both hands, discovering gourmet tastes, fine wines, emotional encounters with her coworkers, and drama with customers.

There’s a romantic entanglement with unique complications, but it’s the scenes of backwater and kitchen life that really sparkle. The book inspired a Starz TV show, with the same name.

 

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

Netflix Novels: Gossip Girl #1 Cover Images of 3 teenage girls gossiping

Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl novels inspired the TV series, and it may be a rare time when the TV version is even better than the books. Yeah, the books have Manhattan snobbery, high fashion, backstabbing…

And of course, the secretive Gossip Girl blog, creating a frothy, gossipy read, but the TV show has a bit more character development. In the show, Blaire and Serena have a complicated friendship, while in the books, I had no idea why B and S even spoke to each other.

There’s also a Korean-style graphic novel version of the Gossip Girl storyline (with all-new outfits to enjoy).

 

The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons

Netflix Novels: The Deceiver Cover of 3 Young Women

It’s not a TV show yet, but Kristin Simmons’ YA pageturner The Deceivers has all the makings of a television version. Double-crossings and surprises abound in this story about a secret academy for teens with talents for theft and deception.

What else are you reading that would be perfect for TV? 

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Young Lady Standing in Front of a Bookshelf

Black History Month honors the diversity and history of African-American culture. This selection of books is a mix of historical fiction, literary fiction, and biographies to kick off a month of celebration and legacy. Let’s dive into the titles.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month

If you haven’t had a chance to read this bestselling YA novel yet, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy. This novel is packed with heartbreaking references that feel thoughtful and strangely familiar. In fact, The Hate U Give was just made into a movie that was released in October 2018 to critical acclaim.

The Hate U Give is a fiction story — but it’s a timely one and the book feels like was based on real events. The story follows a 16-year-old named Starr Carter, who becomes a young activist after witnessing a cop murder her childhood friend, Kahlil.

 

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Roots by Alex Haley Cover

Roots was first published in the 1970s, and the wildly successful novel soon transformed into a very famous television miniseries in 1977. Beyond that, the final episode of the miniseries still holds the record for the third-highest-rated episode in TV history.

Why did it become such a phenomenon? Well, Roots was not only popular, but it was a monumental story.

Alex Haley grew up in Tennessee, where his grandmother told him stories about his family. In this case, her stories went back generations, all the way to Colonial America when Haley’s family was captured and forced over here from West Africa on a slave ship.

So Haley decided to embark on a decade-long detective search to trace the origin of his heritage, and this is the haunting story of his family.

 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America by Ibi Zoboi

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Cover of Black Enough

This anthology is a collection of short stories about black teenagers growing up in the US, but everyone can gain something out of reading it. These incredible stories share events that were shaped by many different upbringings and experiences growing up black.

You’ll find tales from the perspective of being biracial, gay, wealthy, and creative. There are struggles with mental health. Some are difficult to read because of the subject matter, while other stories are heartwarming. All of them are important.

 

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Hidden Figures Cover

I saw the movie before I read the book, but I was eager to read this one and learn more about the untold stories of these women. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Hidden Figures is the true story of four black female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Space Race and WWII.

These women did their calculations by hand as they were segregated from their white coworkers. And their contributions were largely ignored for over fifty years, until the release of this book.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Born a Crime Cover

Are you a fan of Trevor Noah from The Daily Show? This New York Times bestseller is a collection of eighteen personal essays that share his upbringing in apartheid South Africa to how he landed his role on The Daily Show today.

Born to a white father and a black mother in the midst of apartheid, Trevor Noah was considered a criminal act in South Africa. And his powerful memoir is a story you just can’t put down. It’s funny, moving, and surprising. There are moments that will horrify you… and moments that will touch your heart.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover

This haunting fiction novel takes place in the soul of Mississippi, where 13-year-old Jojo and his little sister have been raised by their grandparents.

Their mother, Leonie, weaves in and out of their lives due to her drug addiction. She’s haunted by the ghost of her brother who was murdered 15 years earlier — he appears when she uses. You get a glimpse into both of their minds, as the book shifts back and forth between the perspective of both Leonie and Jojo during a particular road trip.

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today

What makes a book a classic? Who decides what books become essential reading? To me, a classic novel is a story that stands the test of time.

I’ve read many of the iconic classics in my lifetime (though it wasn’t always by choice). While I was an avid reader even as a young child, my mom wanted me to explore books outside The Rugrat Files or Twitches. So, she started picking up some of the classics for me.

Some I fell in love with. Some bored me, and I only pretended to read them. Many of them took a little time to really get into. But nonetheless, I’m grateful that my mom and our English teachers still encourage us to read these pieces of literature.

There’s a reason these stories last (even if the style of language can be hard to follow a few novels that go way back).

Here are a few of my favorites and why I think they’re still important today:

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: To Kill a Mockingbird Book Cover

We’ve come a long way since the 1960’s when it comes to race, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to inclusion. Whatever progress we’ve made doesn’t change the fact that we are still a divided world.

 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kensey

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Book Cover

Written in 1962, this novel was turned into a popular movie in the 1970’s. The reason it resonated with people is a topic that still applies more than 50 years later. This novel is told from the view of living in a psychiatric ward and, to many, represented the struggle of resisting against ineffective authority.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 is another classic set in a hedonistic future. But this time, the plot is focused on the idea of toxic censorship. Books are banned and burned. The people living in this world don’t read–they spend their free time on pure entertainment. It’s not hard to see how this future feels eerily close to today’s world.

 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I read this coming-of-age story about growing up in the inner city when I was 10, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I re-read a few years later. It doesn’t feel like a novel that written over 100 years ago. It’s about struggling in poverty and how that experience compares to living in privilege. I think it applies to modern life and how we compare ourselves to each other on social media.

 

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: Of Mice and Men Book Cover

This one was assigned reading in my sophomore English class, but it was a book I couldn’t put down after starting to read it. Written during the Great Depression era, it tells the gut-wrenching story of two men who are struggling to reach their dream of someday owning a piece of land. (Note: This book is controversial due to offensive language and slurs)

 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: Brave New World Book Cover

Set in the future (more than 500 years from now), a Brave New World takes place in a dystopian society where technology is used to control society. As technology changes faster than ever, this classic has never been more important than it is today.

 

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

7 Classic Books That Are Still Relevant Today: The Lovely Bones

Based on the true story of a young teen who was murdered in the 1970’s, this story is a fictional tale of grief, the afterlife, and the experiences that make us human. Death is something every human on earth faces. The perspective of life on earth shown in the book is touching and gives you a lot to think about.

 

What are some of your favorite classic books? How do you think they relate to us today?

6 Fascinating YA Novels You Might Have Missed

6 Fascinating YA Novels You Might Have Missed

From the high school romances to coming-of-age discoveries to teenagers surviving sci-fi futures, there’s something about a good YA novel that gets us every time.

If you’re a YA fan, you’ve probably already read popular titles like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. In this blog post, we’re sharing some amazing young adult novels you might have missed.

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults (That You Might Have Missed)

 

American Panda by Gloria Chao

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults (That You Might Have Missed)

American Panda by Gloria Chao is about Taiwanese-American MIT freshman, Mei, as she navigates her two cultures and the beginning of her independence. Many parents would be thrilled to have their child at MIT, but Mei’s parents want more.

They’ve planned a nice, stable medical career for her. Regardless of whether she’s interested in medicine or even able to stomach any of the work. Between secretly dancing and secretly dating a Japanese-American classmate, though, Mei might be setting her own path.

You don’t actually need a tiger mom to relate to this story of family expectations, first love, and identity.

 

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults (That You Might Have Missed) - One of Us Is Lying

In One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus, five disparate students find themselves in detention. One of them is brutally murdered before their eyes. This is where the Breakfast Club similarities end and a page-turning murder mystery begins.

Perspective shifting, although popular in a lot of recent YA novels, isn’t usually my favorite narrative style. But it works here. The other four students in detention take turns telling their truths (and let readers get closer to what actually happened that day).

Everyone in this story has something to hide. Fans of Pretty Little Liars will love the twists as the truth gets closer.

 

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults - The Truth About Alice

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu covers high school gossip, sexuality, and reputation in small-town Texas. While nasty rumors fly about slutty Alice Franklin, the reactions of her classmates reveal more about themselves than about Alice.

Many YA novels lean on the unsympathetic parents as stock characters, but this novel showed layered, complex relationships between teens and parents. This is a sympathetic story of peer pressure, teenage relationships, and finally independence in a small town.

 

Perennials by Mandy Berman

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults - Perennials

Is Perennials sophisticated young adult fiction…or is it adult fiction about teenage characters?

It turns out, it doesn’t matter. This summer camp story has maturing friendships, teen romance and realizations for the YA fan, as well as more adult themes of social class and consent.

As little girls returning to camp go from crafts and ponies to beer and boys, they discover more about themselves and their families. Recommended for your friend who needs a little nudge to fall deeply in love with YA fiction.

 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults - Only Ever Yours

Fans of The Hunger Games trilogy or even The Handmaid’s Tale shouldn’t miss Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours.

Although the characters are all teenage girls, this is dystopian sci-fi with a hint of feminist satire.

In the future, girls are born, raised, and modified to be pretty and compliant male playthings. Then they’re sent into a competition with each other to attract the best mate. However, the voluntary suicides at the ancient age of thirty aren’t even the most disturbing thing in this novel.

(Were you annoyed by the Very Special Heroine tropes of Divergent and similar novels? Rest assured. When the dystopian world Only Ever Yours has a rule, it’s not broken for our heroine.)

 

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

6 Interesting Books for Young Adults (That You Might Have Missed) - I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo is a sweet YA novel, especially for fans of Korean dramas. Clumsy overachiever Desi sets out a plan to attract the handsome new student. She decides to use all the tactics from her father’s beloved K-dramas to draw him in.

While the romance is central to the story, Desi’s two closest friends and her relationship with her Appa are also intriguing. You get all the fun, funny, and awkward beats of a K-drama story set in an American high school.

What are your favorite undiscovered YA gems? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us!

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life

5 Books that Change Your Perspective on Life - Girl Reading in a Library

What makes a great book, anyway?

Think back to the most memorable books you’ve read. They’re gripping. You experience intense reactions as you read them.

And most of all? They change you.

Here are 5 books that will change your perspective on life. If you’re looking for a fresh read that’s motivated and uplifting, check these books out.

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life - Man's Search for Meaning

Have you ever felt like your life lacked meaning? You don’t necessarily feel hopeless, but some days it feels like you’re unsure whether or not your life counts for something.

We all seek fulfillment in the world, whether it’s unconsciously or not. This memoir by Viktor B. Frankl shares that perspective from inside a Nazi concentration camp — and it’s considered to be one of the most influential books in the world.

The idea that a book on the Holocaust leaves you feeling positive and inspired seems counterintuitive, but a Man’s Search for Meaning does exactly that.

The author was a former psychiatrist imprisoned in a concentration camp. He describes the terrifying experiences they endured to share how his fellow prisoners adapted their mindset to cope with the awfulness.

 

Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life - Switch

Change is tough. Even when we seek out a change in the future, it’s scary.

Think about your first day of college. You could be counting down the days until move-in, but when the day finally comes? You get pretty nervous.

So why is change such a nerve-wracking experience? That’s the question the Heath brothers seek to answer in the book Switch. Their vision is simple: In order to motivate change in your life, you have to understand both sides of your brain.

We have a logical type of brain and an emotional type. Using a simple metaphor, the authors of the book explain how you actually change your behavior.

 

Congratulations, By the Way by George Saunders

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life - Congratulations, By the Way

Think back to your graduation. Do you remember the speakers?

Commencement speeches can be hit or miss, but the really great ones leave you feeling encouraged. They move you.

This book is an extended version of George Saunders speech at Syracuse University in 2013 — it’s perfect for recent college graduates or anyone in need of a pick-me-up. It’s an easy, short read. His main point might sound a little corny but it’s an excellent reminder of what’s really important in life.

 

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life - Leave Your Mark

What’s your dream job?

Aliza Licht is a top publicist in the fashion industry and a career mentor for young graduates just getting started in their industry. Her book spills the insider secrets of her experience in PR and offers a straightforward guide for getting ahead in today’s professional world.

But it goes a lot deeper than the fashion industry. Her lessons apply to every industry — and it’s not just for women.

Aliza fully embraces social media. She shares advice on building your personal brand, how to communicate, and the social etiquette inside the corporate world.

 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

5 Books That Change Your Perspective on Life

You might have already seen the movie and that’s okay. I still believe the book is worth reading at least once.

If you don’t know the premise yet, here’s a little backstory. Hazel is a 16-year-old girl battling thyroid cancer when she meets Augustus in a cancer support group. Augustus is currently in remission after years of facing bone cancer.

I won’t give away the ending, but this novel deals with oodles of tough topics like death, cancer, love, and the afterlife. Sounds kinda depressing, right? However, The Fault in Our Stars is equally heartwarming and inspiring too.