Best YA and Middle Grade
- The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
A brilliant novel about a German girl during World War II. Interesting fact: It’s narrated by Death. The second of Zusak’s books I’ve read and loved.
- Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea
One of the best books, YA or otherwise, I’ve read in a long time. About a fifth-grade class that goes through some pretty big changes when there’s a tragedy in their class.
- Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
Sequel to The Wednesday Wars, though it isn’t necessary to have read the first. Both so, so wonderful.
- I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
A surprisingly unique plot. Audiobooks usually take me a long time because I only listen while I’m driving, but I was so into this one that I kept finding times to listen until I finished, less than a day after I started.
- For the Win, by Cory Doctorow
Par for the Cory Doctorow course: thrilling story, cast of technological teen prodigies, rebellion against the corrupt establishment, terrifying semi-futuristic plotlines that don’t sound all that futuristic, and the occasional surprisingly-understandable explanation of concepts that are otherwise really hard for me.
- The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd
The story of an evangelical Christian woman’s transition from patriarchal religion to embracing feminine divinity. Really, really resonated with me.
- A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, by Howard Zinn
A significantly more historical history of America than the one I learned in school.
- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
I think this is one of the most important books an American can read.
- The Rights of the People, by David K. Shipler
An excellent, if at times slightly pedantic, look into how Americans’ desperation for security causes them to give up their freedoms without realizing it.
- Bossypants, by Tina Fey
What else would you expect from Tina Fey but hilarity and insight all wrapped up together? Listen to the audiobook if you can; she narrates it herself.
- Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, by Peggy Orenstein
This is a short, easy introduction to the world that questions the culture of Pink (not the color, but the marketing tool/gender stereotype). Fascinating.
Best Adult Fiction
- Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See
Amazing sequel to Shanghai Girls; takes place in newly-Communist China.
- Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami
My favorite Haruki Murakami so far. Beautiful writing, beautiful characters. One of my very favorite books.
- Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
The book on which the movie was based. I love them both deeply.
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
Not my usual fare, and therefore all the more wonderful because of the surprise. About a boy born mute (but not deaf) into a family that breeds a very special kind of dog. Based on a certain play by Shakespeare.
- Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
Good old Brandon Sanderson; you really can’t go wrong with him if you’re even the tiniest bit interested in the fantasy genre.
- Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
I seem to have had a stronger reaction to this book than most of the other people I know who’ve read it, but I don’t know why. It’s a gorgeous book based on the Lima Crisis of 1996-7; a really fascinating story.