BOOKS & BESTIES: A GALENTINES’ DAY TREAT

galentines day

While I had crushes often as a teen – actors, boy bands, cute boys in my class – my first true love was my middle school best friend, Robin. She showed up at the start of 5th grade with huge, round glasses and a white satin Members Only jacket with a rainbow parrot on the back, and I knew I’d found my ride or die. We were both smart, weird kids with too much imagination (and maybe too little supervision) and we each recognized our soul mate immediately. Now, when I read YA books with a strong female friendship at the center, something hums deep in my chest – a joyful glimpse of my long-lost childhood friend – and I hold that story – the never-forgotten fierceness of that bond – dearer to my heart.

Literarily, Robin and I fell somewhere between Anne and Diana from the Green Gables books and Elaine and Cordelia from Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye; only someone you love that much can make you that insane, after all. But when I polled some of my adulthood friends at OverDrive and asked what book included their representation of a female friendship, their responses filled my soul AND my TBR list!

LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP

longer letter later galentinesFor me, it all started with P.S. Longer Letter Later by Paula Danziger and Anna M. Martin. I believe I was 12 years old when I first checked it out from my library and it warmed my awkward little heart. Elizabeth and Tara* Starr were so different from one another and that’s what worked in their transcontinental friendship. They were experiencing the same prepubescent horrors I was: boys, changing bodies, their parents’ imperfections, and their own growing awareness that Life. Is. Hard. Despite all that angst and hardship, they always had each other. It’s so important to show young girls the importance of female friendships. I think there is a common trope in literature where it’s “girl against the world.” But, that’s not how life works. You can have your great love, your great challenge, your great whatever, but no girl is ever far from that one friend who’d drop everything to help them weather whatever storm may come. — Christina Samek, Outreach Specialist

SISTER FRIENDS

pride and prejudice galentinesI must mention Jane and Elizabeth Bennett’s relationship in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Despite having three younger sisters, Jane and Elizabeth are the closest of Bennett girls. I think it’s because their unique traits complement each other so well. Elizabeth is headstrong to the point of prejudice and Jane is fair-minded to the point of naivete. Where Jane reserves her feelings, Elizabeth states them plainly. These two could hate each other for their differences, but instead they appreciate them and wish nothing but happiness for one another. — Briana Johnson-Sims, Training Specialist

FRIENDS STAY ON THE SAME PAGE

dumplin galentinesWillowdean and Ellen’s relationship in Julie Murphy’s Dumplin is the female friendship I love the most. These two know each other inside and out and are endlessly supportive of one another. I consider these two characters to be family, not friends. But, high school is a time where insecurities are at an all-time high. Jealously and uncertainties pop up daily and frustrations are taken out on those you are closest with. This storyline is extremely relatable for all kinds of relationships. Change is inevitable, but even through the ups and the downs, it ultimately always comes back to Willowdean and Ellen’s strong, loving, “on the same page,” friendship. — Lauren Bogatay, Collection Development Specialist

FAST AND FOREVER FRIENDS

white rabbit galentinesThe first pair of besties that popped into my mind was Ali Bell and Kat Parker from Gena Showalter’s White Rabbit Chronicles. Kat is a supporting character to Ali’s main, but they have an amazingly strong bond. Kat is apologetically Kat – that’s the best way to describe her. She’s fun and exciting, living for the moment and always speaking her mind. Ali is stubborn, determined, and fiercely loyal. Kat befriends Ali immediately and over the course of the series, their friendship remains true and constant. While the series itself is without a doubt one of my favorites (a white-hot romance, amazing characters, gripping plots, and jaw-dropping twists), the friendship between Ali and Kat is one its shining aspects. — Andrea Sieracki, Launch Specialist

 

Want more GALentines favorites? Check out our entire list.

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Literacy Builds Life Skills as Well as Language Skills

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Schoolchildren who read and write at home with their parents may build not only their academic literacy skills, but also other important life and learning skills, a recent study found.

The project, a study by researchers at the University of Washington, followed children for five years, either grades one through five or three through seven. It looked at their reading and writing activities at home, their school progress and their skills, both according to their parents’ reports and according to annual assessments.

In the study, published in May in the Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation by Nicole Alston-Abel and Virginia W. Berninger, parents were asked to rate their children’s ability to pay attention, set goals, control impulses and regulate their level of activity. Dr. Berninger, who is professor emerita of educational psychology at the University of Washington, said, “It’s not just the skills the parents teach at home, it’s also how they help their children’s self-regulation, sometimes called executive function.” Writing, she said, was just as important as reading, and the children in the study tended to struggle harder with writing, and to get more help with those assignments from their parents.

Well over 20 years ago, when we started using books at pediatric checkups, we called it literacy promotion. Then for a while, “school readiness” was the buzzword and the byword, so, not unreasonably, we talked about school readiness. And as more and more attention was drawn to early brain development, it seemed clear, as we talked about getting books into children’s hands and children’s homes, that what we were really trying to do was help foster the language-rich parent-child interactions that build children’s brains.

I still serve as national medical director of Reach Out and Read, a national program that works through pediatric primary care to encourage parents to read with their young children. We now reach 4.8 million children every year through more than 5,800 clinics and practices. We counsel parents about developmentally appropriate techniques for enjoying books with infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and we give out books at checkups through 5 years of age.

When we discuss our program and our evidence, we talk about trying to support positive and responsive parenting, since young children learn best from back and forth. We also talk about “serve and return” interactions (child-adult-child-adult) and “dialogic reading” (asking questions, letting the child help tell the story), and we try to make it clear that reading with a 1-year-old or a 2-year-old is less about reciting all the words of a story and more about pointing and naming, question and answer, and of course, about the affection and the sense of security that will leave a child with positive associations with books and reading.

(But as parents who had to read “Goodnight Moon four or five times at bedtime will know, sometimes reading is in fact about satisfying a 2-year-old’s developmentally appropriate craving for exact repetition.)

The more we understand about the developing brain, the clearer it becomes that children need interaction; they are constantly learning, but they need adults and voices and interactions for that learning to take place. So the crucial advantage of a picture book may be that a baby or a toddler or a preschooler needs an adult to make that book “work,” to tell the story, produce the animal noises, make the pictures talk. The child is using the adult to make the book talk and, at the same time, using the book to make the adult talk, that is, using the book to elicit the most desirable kind of attention, the kind that happens on a lap, with pictures and familiar stories.

It’s wrong to think about literacy as just one restricted developmental zone, one arbitrary hurdle. In fact, literacy is about so much more than decoding print.

When we talk about those early literacy skills, from vocabulary to book handling to dialogic reading, we are talking about critical brain development, about so much learning that can happen when all the pieces are in place before children get to school: a caring adult who is not laid low by other problems, not too distracted to pay attention, a household sufficiently organized to allow for routines, a “print-rich” environment in which there are appealing books available, suited to the child’s age, and a pattern established early of reading together for pleasure. And all of this continues to matter as children go to school and learn to read, and continue reading and writing activities in the home with parents.

Reach Out and Read held focus groups, some years ago, for Spanish-speaking parents. We asked them to help us develop Spanish-language advice about the importance of reading aloud. The favorite messages were about love and affection: “el amor por los libros empieza en los brazos de los padres,” (the love of books begins in the parents’ arms). Read to your baby: “Es una muestra de amor!” (It’s a sign of love).

The love of reading does begin in the parents’ arms, and it is a sign of love to read to your baby. And because it’s a sign of love, because it links books and written language to the parental affection and attention that babies are built to crave, and to elicit, it does help children acquire a range of early literacy skills. And continued attention by parents to reading and writing activities as children grow up and go to school seems to help them learn how to study and learn.

For school-age children, Dr. Berninger said, “My advice to parents is foremost, enjoy your child and monitor whether your child is enjoying the literacy experience.” If a child is frustrated with — or just not interested in — the reading and writing activities at school, she suggested, reach out to the teacher, without suggesting that the teacher is to blame, and ask for some suggestions for joint activities. “Playing with language helps: riddles, jokes, word games like Scrabble,” she said.

When we speak of literacy and literacy promotion, we need to acknowledge how much literacy encompasses. Yes, it’s a key to success in school, with all that implies about life trajectory, earning power and socioeconomic status. It’s also a key to citizenship and enfranchisement in society, to your ability to understand and take part in all the discourse that shapes your community and your country and your world. It’s the product of a whole range of brain circuits from vocabulary and vision and visual processing to memory and meaning.

Literacy involves all aspects of language, Dr. Berninger said, “our oral language, what we hear and say, and our written language, what we read and write.” She called it “language by ear, mouth, eye and hand.”

And when you take a very young child on your lap and point to the pictures and ask questions, when you make the animal sounds or recite “goodnight bears, goodnight chairs” one more time, you are making the kinds of direct connections that build young children’s brains and condition their minds and memories.

 

Glitz, Glamour, Drama: 14 Books on High Society to Read Right Now

“The Great Gatsby” (2013)/Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture © 2013 Bazmark Film III Pty Limited

Ever wonder what it would be like to have such an enormous amount of wealth that there would be no need to worry about, well, anything? Have you thought about what you would do with your spare time if you had a fortune off of which you could live, or what you would spend your money on? We’ve all imagined it, as unrealistic as it may be. Though being a part of high society is impossible for most of us, we can live vicariously through the characters in the stories that we read, whether they’re true or not.

So get lost in a life that isn’t yours – a life beyond your wildest dreams. These fourteen books will transport you to a different world, full of outrageous parties, glamour, scandal, and an overabundance of just about everything – especially drama.

The cover of the book The Edwardians

The Edwardians

Vita Sackville-West

Belonging to such a powerful, wealthy family comes with a price: You can’t choose your own life; it’s chosen for you. Tradition is of the utmost importance to the Edwardians, and must be upheld by future generations. Sebastian – the young, handsome, and temperamental heir – wants to veer from the path that his family has trod for years on end, but believes it to be impossible. When he meets Leonard Anquetil and Lady Roehampton, everything changes, including Sebastian’s perspective on his future. Sebastian’s sister Violet finds a way out of high society, and both siblings make the bold leap into a whole new world, leaving everything they know behind.

The cover of the book The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic read, and though it was published in 1890, it still resonates with readers today. The story centers around Dorian, who is an extremely wealthy and good-looking young man living in London. Dorian has a portrait of himself done by the great artist Basil and becomes obsessed with his own handsome, youthful appearance – so much so that he sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. The book was originally attacked for exposing the dark side of Victorian society, and for evoking ideas of homosexuality.

The cover of the book Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero

Bret Easton Ellis

Clay’s break from college means going back home to Los Angeles and resuming a life of privilege, money, and recklessness. Everyone Clay knows has fallen into a vicious cycle of destructive behavior, always wanting a high that’s even better than the last, and Clay follows suit. This book showcases the less than glamorous side of the young elite in L.A., with more parties, drugs, and sex than you might ever imagine.

The cover of the book The Golden House

The Golden House

Salman Rushdie

When billionaire real estate tycoon Nero Golden moves to Manhattan from foreign shores, he and his three sons assume new identities and move into a grand mansion downtown. New York City natives are immediately intrigued by the bizarre newcomer and his family and the mystery that surrounds their arrival. The Golden’s neighbor, René – an ambitious young filmmaker, and narrator of the story – is especially curious, and finds the family to be the perfect subject for his work. The Golden House is a story of politics, pop culture, and identity, and serves as a force of light in current troubling times.

The cover of the book 740 Park

740 Park

Michael Gross

The apartment building at 740 Park has been Manhattan’s richest residence for seventy-five years now, and it’s certainly received a lot of attention. One apartment has thirty-seven rooms, fourteen bathrooms, forty-three closets, eleven working fireplaces, a private elevator, and his-and-hers saunas. It’s the kind of luxury of which most of us can only dream. The book begins with the story of the massive building’s construction in 1920s Manhattan, and explores how it attracted the richest, oldest families in the country. 740 Park gives readers a glimpse of the hidden lives of the wealthy residents as well as access to wealth, privilege, and all that entails. The social history of the American rich is laid out for all to see, uncensored and unprecedented.

The cover of the book The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece centers on the young, mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story who moves next door to Gatsby’s lavish mansion. There are extravagant parties, love affairs, heartbreak, and a grand amount of dishonesty. The Great Gatsby explores themes of excessive nature, indulgence, idealism, and resistance to change. Creating a portrait of the Jazz Age and the Roaring ’20s, this wildly popular book is a literary classic and has inspired many adaptations throughout the decades.

The cover of the book Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is easily one of the most well-known novels in the United States and around the world. With the most compelling of stories and the most memorable characters, it has remained unparalleled for two hundred years. Readers will find themselves immersed in the Bennet family, comprised of a quiet father, a dutiful mother, and five beautiful daughters. Mrs. Bennet works to find eligible suitors for her five daughters to marry, but when Mr. Darcy, a handsome young man, and his equally charming and wealthy companion take residence nearby, everything changes. Grand country estates, beautiful young men and women, and unwavering courtship all comprise this endearing story of heartache and romance.

The cover of the book Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

Amor Towles

On New Year’s Eve of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent finds herself second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, an extremely handsome banker, sits down next to her. They begin to mingle, and though she doesn’t know it at the time, Katey’s encounter with Grey will lead her into the upper class of New York society. To fit in with the elite, Katey will have to rely on her wittiness and her keen eye. Amor Towles’s lively depiction of New York’s social strata, along with his enchanting characters, make Rules of Civility a must-read for everyone.

The cover of the book The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe

The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1987 satirical novel centered on Sherman McCoy, a New York City bond trader with a wife and young daughter, who is rapidly losing his wealth. McCoy turns to his mistress, Maria Ruskin, for solace. One night, on a drive with Maria, Sherman accidentally enters the Bronx. He and Maria exit the car to determine where to go next, and are approached by two black men whom they perceive – uncertainly, in Sherman’s case – as predators. They quickly get back into the car and race away, striking one of the two boys. This compelling story focuses on racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City, and captures what it truly means to have privilege.

The cover of the book The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

Dr. Faraday, a country physician who built a decent life for himself, is called to attend to a patient at the Hundreds Hall, which has been home to the Ayres family for over two hundred years. The Georgian house, once impeccable, is now falling apart – and so are the Ayres. They are struggling to keep up with the changes in society, while also dealing with the strange happenings taking place in their home. Dr. Faraday finds much more than he ever expected in Hundreds Hall, and attempts to make sense of the ghostly events that unfold. The brilliant combination of the supernatural and high society in The Little Stranger reflects the evil and the social upheaval of the class system in postwar Britain.

The cover of the book Time's a Thief

Time’s a Thief

B. G. Firmani

Francesca “Chess” Varani experiences the gritty ins-and-outs of college life at Barnard in mid-eighties New York in B. G. Firmani’s novel Time’s a Thief. She grows up quickly as she encounters everything from toxic friendships, damaging love affairs, and difficult decisions that change her future. As more and more time passes, she finds herself caught up in the choices she’s made, and perhaps more importantly, the ones she didn’t. Chess is always looking back, always wanting something more than she has. When she accepts a job at the Marr-Löwenstein house in the wealthy West Village, she finds more than she ever expected, and discovers what happens when two very different worlds collide.

The cover of the book Empty Mansions

Empty Mansions

Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Empty Mansions reveals the ins and outs of the mysterious life of Huguette Clark, the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark. Huguette grew up in the largest house in New York City, with a remarkable fortune. But instead of keeping the money to herself, she devoted her life to sharing her wealth with friends and strangers. Readers will be introduced to her distinct family, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the greedy relatives who wanted nothing more than to get their hands on Huguette’s fortune. Filled with beautiful illustrations and photographs, Empty Mansions is a captivating story of a misfit in the highest order – an extraordinary member of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms, despite the judgment of others.

The cover of the book The Custom of the Country

The Custom of the Country

Edith Wharton

This fascinating story follows heroine Undine Spragg – a vain, spoiled, selfish, but irresistible Midwestern girl who attempts to ascend through the ranks of New York City society. Wharton takes readers on a journey from New York to Europe, detailing Undine’s many marriages, affairs, and schemes. Undine doesn’t learn any lessons as she moves through life, and doesn’t go through any profound changes. She continues to care only about her own wealth and power, and finds pleasure in creating chaos. Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country is a clever, satirical, and detailed examination of the exploits and foolishness of the modern upper class.

The cover of the book Love in a Cold Climate

Love in a Cold Climate

Nancy Mitford

This romantic comedy depicts what aristocratic life was like in England between the wars. It follows the life of Polly Hampton, a beautiful, young noblewoman who has been set up with the perfect marriage by her mother. She is expected to do her duty without question, and be a proper lady. But Polly finds England to be quite boring, especially after experiencing life in India, where her father served as Viceroy. When she reveals a long-kept secret, she shatters her mother’s dreams and loses her inheritance. With her newfound independence, Polly is free to do as she pleases, and her parents seek to find a new heir. Everyone eventually gets a happy ending – even if it’s not what they expected.

20 Favorite Pick-Me-Up Books

by Hayley, October 12, 2017, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

The right book can chase away even the gloomiest moods. In the company of cheerful characters and playful prose, worries slip away and anxiety fades. Everyone should have at least one pick-me-up book. We asked on Facebook and on Twitter: “What’s yours?”

Today we’ve got some of your top answers, from laugh-out-loud capers to heartwarming stories of friendship and romance. If your favorite didn’t make the list, share it with us in the comments!

Quick, before they’re all made into movies and TV shows!

Still Dreaming: A Guide to the Essential Philip K. Dick Books

Philip K. Dick/Photo © Nicole Olivieri Panter

The visually striking “Blade Runner 2049” plunges audiences back down a futuristic rabbit hole mingling noir sensibilities with artificial beings living among people who want to eliminate them. But this sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner” goes way beyond cat-and-mouse suspense to explore what makes us human.

Author Philip K. Dick loved to ponder alternative universes and question reality over his forty-four novels and roughly 120 short stories, merging science fiction with philosophy. Since his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which inspired the original “Blade Runner,” Hollywood has mined his works for ideas, often expanding just nuggets into films.

Dick can be a dense read or a head trip, but this member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame has thoughts on world building that are as relevant today as they were in 1978. “[W]e live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups,” he said in a speech that year. “So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people …. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

The cover of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

The film adaptation of this Nebula Award nominee introduced mainstream audiences to the terms blade runner (a type of bounty hunter) and replicant (an artificial person). Fans of Blade Runner might love to compare how it veers from the book, with sequences such as protagonist Rick Deckard being arrested by a police precinct of androids. Deckard’s empathy remains intact: “The electrical things have their lives too, paltry as those lives are,” he notes.

The cover of the book Time Out of Joint

Time Out of Joint

Philip K. Dick

Dick references Hamlet in the title of this 1959 novel, which might remind readers of the film “The Truman Show.” A man who thinks he lives in a quiet community finds reward in being a crossword puzzle champion. This mild brain teaser, however, turns out to be a ruse for a greater task only he can do – something that would devastate him if he knew the truth. This read offers a good taste of Dick’s favorite themes and frequent setup of an ordinary person watching his life unravel.

The cover of the book The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick

Amazon adapted Dick’s 1962 Hugo Award-winning novel into an acclaimed TV series, now entering its third season. It imagines the Axis powers – chiefly Nazi Germany and Japan – won World War II and have established totalitarian rule in the United States.

 

The cover of the book Clans of the Alphane Moon

Clans of the Alphane Moon

Philip K. Dick

Based on Dick’s short story “Shell Game,” this acerbically comic novel establishes a caste-like society on a distant moon comprised of people with various mental illnesses playing to their strengths. (The paranoiacs are the statesmen and secret police. Those with mania are warriors. The schizophrenics are poets or religious visionaries, and so on.) Dick, who during his life wrote and spoke about his own hallucinations, also includes characters such as a telepathic slime mold.

The cover of the book Ubik

Ubik

Philip K. Dick

Chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 greatest novels since 1923, this “existential horror story” written in 1966 and published in 1969 envisions a future where psychic phenomena are common, to the point that a privacy company employs those who can block telepathic intrusions. Some of those come from the dead, who exist in a suspended state that allows them to communicate.

The cover of the book Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Philip K. Dick

Winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this 1974 novel follows a popular TV star who wakes up one morning to learn that he’s never existed, and that the United States is now a police state following a second Civil War. The title alludes to a musical work by sixteenth-century composer John Dowland, and the plot mixes the espionage of forged identities and a life on the run with reality-warping drugs and parallel universes.

The cover of the book A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick

Director Richard Linklater adapted this 1977 novel into a well-received animated film starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. Based partly on Dick’s experiences using amphetamines and living with addicts, the book focuses on an undercover cop who loses his identity as he becomes involved with a new psychoactive drug.

The cover of the book The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick (Edited by Lawrence Sutin)

This 1996 collection presents Dick’s worldview through an impressive mix of autobiography, speculative essays, and critiques. It includes his speech “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (from which the quote above was taken) and gems such as the beginnings of his VALIS trilogy and two chapters of a proposed sequel to The Man in the High Castle.

On the Train Again: Great Books for Every Kind of Commute

Photo by Ana Martin on Unsplash

The biggest advantage to commuting on public transportation is the opportunity to catch up on your reading. But finding the right, relevant-to-you book can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some suggestions for every kind of commuter’s daily ride.

Break It Down

For the commuter who may only have time for one chapter at a time, but wants to feel satisfied each time they close the book.

The cover of the book Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox

Helen Oyeyemi

The risk of reading Mr. Fox on the train is you may try to lean over to a fellow passenger and read aloud. Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is so captivating it’s hard to not share, and her imaginative storytelling mixed with her carefully selected language makes Mr. Fox somehow both a simple and not simple book at once. A writer, Mr. Fox, is having trouble with his fictional heroine, a problem made more complicated when his fictitious muse, tired of seeing herself killed off again and again, appears to him in-person. Fantastical and completely original, each chapter reads as its own story, while moving the larger narrative forward in the most unique way.

The cover of the book World War Z

World War Z

Max Brooks

An apocalyptic zombie book even non-horror fans can enjoy, author Max Brooks has created a creative fake history about humanity’s battle against a plague that develops into full-fledged zombies. The advantage of World War Z is it’s told as a collection of stories from different people across the globe, and the varying perspectives and narratives allow each chapter to be its own story within the story.

Additionally, if you find yourself needing a read for a long car ride, the award-winning audiobook of World War Z features incredible vocal talent from the likes of Mark Hamill, Simon Pegg, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Molina, John Turturro and Alan Alda.

The cover of the book Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is a collection of nine short stories that will knock your socks off. Sometimes shorts can feel devoid of emotional connection – after all, you only get so many pages to find your way into the situation and sync up with the character. And oftentimes shorts don’t end with the same finality a longer novel would. But Munro’s talent prevails in that every story and character is charged with feeling – frequently lying just under their surface – allowing for every bit to satiate your reading appetite.

Let’s Get Critical

Looking for nonfiction light enough for the morning ride? Look no further than these essay collections.

The cover of the book Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor DungPsychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

Lester Bangs (Edited by Greil Marcus)

Lester Bangs was a music journalist, originally known for his work for Creem Magazine. If the name is familiar but you can’t quite place him, you may recognize it from Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Bangs as both a rock ‘n’ roll lover and mentor in “Almost Famous.” Bangs’s writing is electric and outrageous and covers Iggy Pop, the Clash, John Lennon, and more. This is not safe criticism; this is passion on the page, so even if you don’t agree with all of Bangs’s ravings, it will definitely wake you up.

The cover of the book I Lost It At the Movies

I Lost It At the Movies

Pauline Kael

Back before the Internet, and when one well-written film criticism could really make or break a picture, Pauline Kael was practically a goddess. This collection, her first, is a good place to start. While some of the writing may get a little overly film-intellectual, it’s fascinating to read Kael’s unabashed perspectives opposing some of today’s most-loved classics and loving movies that have disappeared into relative obscurity.

The cover of the book Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things

Cheryl Strayed

This is not a collection of critical essays; it’s in this category because it’s nonfiction, column-based writing. Cheryl Strayed, as Rumpus columnist Sugar, answers profoundly personal questions with even more intimate examples from her own life, and each correspondence (one letter to “Sugar,” one back) is a bite-sized piece of advice great for starting your day. No reason to read it in order; pick the topic that pulls you in most, and marvel at this fine example of trust, honesty, and the power of the written word.

Size Does Matter

Small bag? These even smaller books will be the perfect fit.

The cover of the book The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett’s tiny novellas, The Uncommon Reader andSmut, are a perfect combination of fine writing with light storytelling. Bennett, perhaps best known for his award-winning play The History Boys, touches on the idea of personal experiences versus the persona put out into the world. Uncommon Reader imagines the Queen suddenly discovering a mobile library, while Smut features two different stories about middle-aged women who discover it’s never too late to surprise yourself.

The cover of the book The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice

James M. Cain

Crime fiction is great for a commute because it pulls you in and keeps you there. What’s wonderful about James M. Cain’s novels, particularly the thin Postman, is the stories are short enough that their intense pull still won’t make you miss your stop. A classic originally published in 1934, Postman features what has come to be known as the femme fatale, and is a hard-boiled, gripping tale of lust and murder.

Laugh Out Loud

These memoirs are easy, humorous, and will make any tedious trip a little less of a burden.

The cover of the book The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Issa Rae

It’s right on the cover: Issa Rae is awkward, but in the most relatable way possible. Her internal struggle with being both an introvert and a comedian is put on the page in a way that’s enjoyable and charming as hell. None of the topics she touches are particularly original – it’s the usual workplace, love-life, friendship touchstones – but her voice is one hundred percent unique to her and that’s what will have you in stitches.

The cover of the book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling’s brand of humor is always teetering on the edge of “oh no” and she doesn’t hold back in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Starting with her upbringing, and making her way through to her success as a television writer, Kaling’s book offers a reading experience not dissimilar to sitting with your friend on the train and chatting about all of the “most important” things. It’s quirky, fun, and best of all, hilarious.

A Soundtrack Without the Sound

Looking for inspiration for a new playlist? Read these first.

The cover of the book Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park

Rainbow Rowell

A love story born on public transportation, Eleanor and Park are two sixteen-year-olds who find a connection through music and comics on the school bus. It’s a touching story, and more grown up than you might perceive from its frequent young adult positioning. It will make you nostalgic for a time when sharing headphones was one of the most romantic things you could do with a person, and you’ll be craving The Smiths with every page turn.

The cover of the book High Fidelity

High Fidelity

Nick Hornby

Any Nick Hornby novel is great for a train ride, really, because his writing is frequently sharp, funny, and usually about passionate people, whose compulsions are intense but entertaining. High Fidelity’s Rob is a record store owner with a penchant for list-making and a serious love for mixtapes, and you may find yourself seeking out his favorite music when you’re finished, if only to hold onto the story a little longer.

The Soonish Science Nerds’ Favorite Pop Sci Books

by Cybil, October 03, 2017, first appearing in Goodreads Blog


Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything is an in-depth investigation into a huge range of technologies that might change the future, including DNA-altering medicine, elevators that reach space, programmable matter, 3-D-printed organs, and more.

The book is peppered with humor, comic strips, weird facts, and stories the husband-and-wife team of Kelly and Zach Weinersmith uncovered while researching their book. Really weird. Like did you know humans will usually obey a killer robot that claims to have cookies?

“We are giant science nerds, and Goodreads asked us to recommend five of our favorite pop sci books. We managed to narrow it down to ten. All of these books were so good that they changed the way we think. The first five are pop science. The next five are, let’s say, not exactly light reading. But they are all well worth the journey,” says Zach Weinersmith.