Teen and Adult Fiction
- Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver—I found this totally enthralling in a really quiet kind of way.
- Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore—speaking of enthralling… Possibly my favorite book of the year.
- Withering Tights, by Louise Rennison—not quite as fantastic as Georgia, but similar, and still great.
- Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman—my favorite medieval novel so far.
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker—absolutely stunning. If you haven’t read this yet, you’re missing out. Prepare yourselves, because it’s rough, but it is so worth it. One of my all-time favorites now.
- The Awakening, by Kate Chopin—a feminist classic. Just don’t read the Goodreads reviews.
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien—finally read it! Easier to read than LOTR, but just as much fun.
- The Marrowbone Marble Company, by Glenn Taylor—you should really read the whole review.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami—will probably blow your mind. Not my favorite of his novels, but definitely representative of his craft.
- The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy—fantastic coming of age story of two girls making friends, finding new lives, and writing their stories in the 70s in California.
- The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan—the one that started it all, essentially. Second-wave feminism began here.
- Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, by Gloria Steinem—a collection of excellent essays, including the famous expose of Playboy after she took a job as a Bunny.
- The Book of Mormon Girl, by Joanna Brooks—at this point, a necessary read for anyone.
- From Housewife to Heretic, by Sonia Johnson—as the ERA still has not been passed, and this is still an issue, I’d recommend the reading.
- How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran—funniest feminism I’ve ever read.
- Harry Potter Page to Screen, by Bob McCabe—if you liked the books or the movies, you’ll love it.
- Same Difference, by Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers—basically a source book for all the research that explains how the “science” behind gender essentialist theories is really not sound.
- Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott—a memoir about faith. Messy, beautiful, thought-provoking.
- Her Story, by Charlotte Waisman and Jill Tietjen, and these books by Catherine Gourley—about women in American history.
- The Influencing Machine, by Brooke Gladstone—graphic nonfiction about the history of media. It is very cool and full of fascinating information.
- Zen Shorts, and also everything else, by Jon Muth—these books have the most gorgeous watercolor, Zen-inspired illustrations, plus thoughtful text and good messages.
- The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch—the first princess book to show me that princess books don’t have to be stupid.
- Long Night Moon, by Cynthia Rylant—beautiful charcoal illustrations of each month’s full moon.
- Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith—the lovely story of a man’s life, told by his great-grandson as the boy walks through his grandfather’s topiary garden.
- A Zeal of Zebras—alphabet books have a lot of potential to be fabulous or boring. This one’s the first.
- This is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen—if you’re looking for a picture book that you can enjoy as much as the child will, this is it. Great illustrations, subtle humor. Very fun.
- Meet Me at the Moon, by Gianna Morino—I just loved the setting and illustrations, the huge moon and sun, the sweeping landscape views.
- Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett—such a lovely story, with beautiful illustrations (by Jon Klassen, whose name you should recognize from this list).
- Ella’s Big Chance: A Jazz-Age Cinderella, by Shirley Hughes—if the title doesn’t tell you all you need to know about this book… Well, it should.
- The Lady and the Lion, by Jacqueline Ogburn—a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that is much more interesting than most of the ones you already know.
- Remember: The Journey to School Integration, by Toni Morrison—a photographic history of the last days of segregation. Just amazing.
- Starry Messenger, by Peter Sís—the book that introduced me to the quality and variety of modern children’s nonfiction, especially biographies. (Peter Sís has done several, and they’re all fantastic.)
- Red Sings from Treetops, by Joyce Sidman—if you’re like me, and not really that into poetry, this is the poetry book to check out.
- A World of Faith, by Peggy Fletcher Stack—essentially a dictionary of several world religions, including excellent descriptions of each faith. Put together by the Inter-faith Roundtable of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee 2002 Winter Games.
- Creation, by Gerald McDermott—a beautiful, inclusive creation story that everyone can appreciate, regardless of their beliefs about the creation of the universe.
- And Picasso Painted Guernica, by Alain Serres—Picasso’s life story, told alongside his artwork and what was happening in the world at the time.
- Saint Francis, by Brian Wildsmith—another one of the first biographies I read at the library, with stunning illustrations.
- A Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy, by Jeremy Weate—a brilliant book that I think should be part of a good elementary school curriculum. Works equally as well for the adult who’s never studied philosophy.
- Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau, by Jennifer Berne—fascinating and colorful.
- Metropolis, by Albert Lorenz—a very cool book with practically endless layers of interaction.
- Hey! Wake Up!, by Sandra Boynton—can’t have a list of board books without Sandra Boynton on it.
- Seven Blind Mice, by Ed Young—gorgeous colors and a great message about needing to see the whole picture before thinking you know.
- Orange Pear Apple Bear, by Emily Gavett—just a lot of fun, and would be for slightly older children as well as babies.
- Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer, by Jennifer Adams—by far, the best new series of board books. Adams has also done Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, and I’m desperately hoping to see dozens more of these in the future. (P.S. She’s local.)
- ABCs, by Charley Harper—if you know Charley Harper’s modernist artwork, you’ll know why this is fantastic. If not, check it out asap.
- Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling?, by Tad Hills—Duck and Goose are some of my favorite board book characters.
- Hippopposites, by Janik Coat—interesting and unique.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae—every time someone asked for a recommendation to donate to the Barnes and Noble book drive, this was the one I’d suggest. I’m excited that a lot of kids in Utah County will have gotten it for Christmas, because it’s fun with a wonderful message.
- The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson—interesting, different illustrations.
- It’s a Little Book, by Lane Smith—both the board book and the full-size picture book versions are fantastic, funny, and well-illustrated (as all Lane Smith’s books are).
Holiday Picture Books
- Olivia Helps with Christmas, by Ian Falconer—if you haven’t read Olivia, you must now.
- The Christmas Story, by Gennady Spirin—King James Bible text with amazing classical illustrations.
- The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, by Janice Cohn—the best part is that it’s true.
- The Christmas Giant, by Steve Light—sweet, unique, and one of my new favorite Christmas books.
- Through the Animals’ Eyes, by Christopher Wormell—this was the book that introduced me to the genius of Wormell’s illustrations.
- Hanukkah Moon, by Deborah Da Costa—bet you’ve never thought about Mexican Hanukkah before! An unusual and lovely story.
- The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park—the Christmas story from a very different angle.
- Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley—I laughed out loud.
- Melrose and Croc: A Christmas to Remember, by Emma Chichester Clark—so sweet.
- The Gift of a Traveler, by Wendy Matthews—I can only say that I really loved it.
- Three French Hens, by Margie Palatini—my mother-in-law brought this home to read to the grandkids and I couldn’t resist. So clever and original.
- Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, by Donna L. Washington—excellent introduction to what Kwanzaa is about.
- The Year Without a Santa Claus, by Phyllis McGinley—I don’t know how I’ve never read this story before, but I loved it and was surprised to find out how old it is (first published in 1956).
- The Nutcracker, by Alison Jay—I just love her illustrations, even though I kind of don’t like her style. (Don’t ask me, I know it’s crazy.)
- Auntie Claus, by Elise Primavera—good story, great character. I love that it’s about Santa’s sister.
Middle Grade Fiction
- Black Radishes, by Susan Lynn Meyer—read with All the Broken Pieces, by Ann E. Burg, two amazing books about two terrible wars.
- Wildwood, by Colin Meloy—great new fantasy novel by the lead singer of the Decemberists.
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick—amazing, unique, and a surprisingly fast read.
- The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine—a really good adventure story with princesses, dragons, sorcerers, fairies, and not a single damsel in distress.
- Chasing Redbird, by Sharon Creech—actually kind of weird, but a lovely story about a young girl dealing with grief and finding something she can call her own.
- Nicholas, by Rene Goscinny—a hilarious collection of stories about Nicholas and his friends.
- The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit, by Sylvia Plath—one of my more surprising shelf reading finds. A sweet story about the littlest boy in the family, the only one without a suit of his own.
- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger—do I even have to explain this one?
- The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley—another princess story, with even more unique a premise than the last.
- The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, by Trenton Lee Stewart—prequel to the Mysterious Benedict books, and every bit as fantastic as the rest of the series.
- (Honorable Mention: the prequels of the Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)
This has been an amazing year for movies for me, both new releases and new discoveries.