Do Good: 12 Literary Nonprofits to Support This Holiday

Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Established in 1991, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop is a national not-for-profit arts organization devoted to creating, publishing, and developing creative writing by Asian Americans. Since 2010, the group has committed to giving away more than $100,000 to emerging Asian American writers. Its online magazine, The Margins, has attracted more than half a million visitors. The AAWW also hosts events featuring hundreds of writers a year, with Maxine Hong Kingston and Chang-rae Lee among the luminaries.

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Barbershop Books

Barbershop Books is a community-based literacy program that creates friendly reading spaces in barbershops for boys. The nonprofit’s mission is to help black boys between the ages of four and eight become readers by bringing books into barbershops—and involving the men who work there to help foster a love of reading. Every dollar invested in a reading space results in 27 minutes of reading in a barbershop. Find out more about the program’s impact as well as how you can get involved.

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Books Through Bars

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the volunteer-run nonprofit organization Books Through Bars distributes free books to incarcerated people in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. Each week, the organization receives hundreds of letters from prisoners requesting books. And every year Books Through Bars sends more than 8,000 packages of books.

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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

In 1995, country singer Dolly Parton started the nonprofit Imagination Library to promote reading in her home state of Tennessee. Today the group has donated millions of books to children in need throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Every month the Imagination Library mails more than 1 million books to children’s homes, and in February the nonprofit sent its 100 millionth book. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partners with local communities; if your community would like to get involved, learn more here.

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Girls Write Now

Celebrating its 20th year, the nonprofit Girls Write Now is a community of women writers from ages 13 to 83. The group matches girls with professional women writers to work on portfolios and readings as well as provides writing workshops and college preparation. The New York City-based organization accepts donations and is seeking mentorsmentees, and people to join its team. “We take girls seriously for who they are as well as who they will become,” the group says. “The relationships we foster tear down stereotypes, building a community of women writers of all ages who work to inspire and support one another with every pair session, every reading, and every workshop.”

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International Literacy Association

The International Literacy Association is a global nonprofit organization of more than 300,000 educators, researchers, and experts across 78 countries. Its mission is to make literacy accessible for all. ILA collaborates with its partners to develop, gather, and disseminate high-quality resources, best practices, and cutting-edge research to empower educators, inspire students, and inform policymakers.

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Lambda Literary

The nonprofit Lambda Literary believes “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and read.” The group traces its beginnings back to 1987, when L. Page Maccubbin, owner of Lambda Rising Bookstore in Washington, D.C., published the first Lambda Book Report. The Lambda Literary Awards, or “Lammys,” followed in 1989. Then in 2007, the group founded its Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, a residency designed to offer intensive and sophisticated instruction to select writers over a one-week period. Lambda Literary accepts donations to sustain all of its programs.

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Learning Ally

The nonprofit Learning Ally uses educational technology to assist struggling readers who have learning differences and visual disabilities. Its cloud-based library of narrated audio textbooks and popular literature—all voiced by volunteers—gives these students access to grade-level content so they can become successful, engaged learners alongside their peers. Working with schools across the U.S., Learning Ally provides teachers with tools, training, and support to help students.

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Little Free Library

Painted red and shaped like a miniature one-room schoolhouse in honor of his schoolteacher mother, the first Little Free Library—built by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009—launched what would become a worldwide movement. Just nine years later, more than 75,000 such “Little Free Libraries” dot the globe in all 50 U.S. states and in 88 countries. Often custom painted by local artists, these tiny book collections are outfitted with the cheerful motto “Take a book, return a book!” Believing that no one should have to live in a book desert, the nonprofit Little Free Library needs donations to keep the movement going. Find out how you can help place a Little Free Library in your hometown and in cities across the globe. You can also get involved by becoming the “steward” of your own library by ordering one ready-made or designing your own!

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National Novel Writing Month

Each November means something special in the writing community: It’s time for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). The basic challenge is to write 50,000 words of a rough draft in the month of November, but NaNoWriMo is so much more than that. The organization provides the structure, community, and guidance necessary to help people find their voices and develop the tools and discipline necessary to build writing mastery. Its programs extend beyond November and go year-round to help people get from the first draft to the last draft and provide opportunities for all ages to participate in a literary community on local and global levels.

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We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots nonprofit program that is run by children’s book lovers and aims to increase the diversity of books available to young readers. The group works to promote literature featuring children’s book characters who are from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, indigenous, LGBTQ, and other minority communities. We Need Diverse Books was spearheaded by author Ellen Oh and 21 other children’s book writers and industry professionals. The group was founded on the belief that more diversity in children’s books better reflects the world and teaches kids about our differences as well as our shared feelings and aspirations.

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Words Without Borders

Founded in 2003, Words Without Borders is an organization that promotes cultural understanding through the translation and publication of contemporary international literature. Every month the group publishes 8 to 12 new works by international writers, including Nobel Prize laureates and new writers. To date, Words Without Borders has published more than 2,400 pieces from 132 countries and 112 languages. In 2014, it also began an education program that provides educators with resources to incorporate contemporary international literature into their classes.

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By Cybil, December 02, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog


The voting is done, and Goodreads has announced the winners of their 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards. If you’re not familiar (and didn’t get to vote!), Goodreads releases nominees for the best books of the year in genres like fiction, nonfiction, poetry, romance, sci-fi, YA, and several others. Readers vote, or write-in new nominees, and a second found of finalists is released. Voting continues, and a third round of finalists is released before the big announcement comes in early December. And today is that day!

The Hate U GiveI’ve included the full list of winners below, but I want to pause and talk about a new category that Goodreads included this year. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Goodreads Choice Awards, they introduced the Best of the Best category, where readers were asked to vote on the ultimate best book from the 170 past winners in the competition. The winner is Angie Thomas’s The Hate U GiveShe took the top spot at an 8K+ lead over the runner up (All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr). THUG has been a Book Riot favorite, and we’re psyched to see her book chosen from such a large pool of titles.

A couple of other noteworthy wins:  Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone won in the Debut Author category. You might remember that Adeyemi’s book was the inaugural pick for Jimmy Fallon’s book club on The Tonight Show. She claimed the top spot at a whopping 35K lead over the runner up. So, she didn’t just win, she really won.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen HoangIf no one has told you about The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang yet, do yourself a favor, call out of work, and read it today. Hoang’s book won for Romance in a category that boasted a diverse and exciting group of finalists. Lots of buzzy books from this year.

Speaking of diversity, Goodreads showed a bit of improvement in that category. Winners in the 2017 Awards showed 20% books by authors of color (with Angie Thomas’s THUGtaking two of those spots). This year’s awards round out to 29% books by authors of color.

See the complete list of winners below, and then get your book shopping on!



Still Me by JoJo Moyes


The Outsider by Stephen King


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


Circe by Madeline Miller


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang


Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Elevation by Stephen King


The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark:  One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara


Educated by Tara Westover


The Good Neighbor:  The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King


The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs:  A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte


Cravings:  Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen


Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen


The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi


Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli


Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas


The Trials of Apollo:  Book Three, The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan


I Am Enough by Grace Byers

By , December 

Trend Alert: Popular ‘Up-Lit’ Books to Improve Your Mood

Tired of fictional murderers lurking around every page? Fed up with unwelcome apocalypses, unending wars, and miseries that somehow get worse as the chapters fly by? You’re not alone. We love stories, but they can sometimes be dreary things.

Enter “up-lit,” a book trend with modest intentions: It wants to make you feel better.

Of course, books have always improved readers’ lives, but “up-lit” [uplifting literature] seeks to do this by focusing on empathy and optimism. The characters in this wave of literature are everyday heroes dealing with everyday problems, championing human connection over romance, fulfillment over traditional success.

“These feel-good books tap into mental health and loneliness and anxiety and trauma,” editor Sam Eades told The Guardian about the growing trend. “By the end of the book the characters will have formed friendships, and been swept into a community.”

Want to check it out for yourself? We rounded up some of the most popular “up-lit” titles Goodreads members have been shelving below.

The Keeper of Lost Things A Man Called Ove The Lido Three Things About Elsie
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry The Story of Arthur Truluv
The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry


By Hayley, November 08, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

13 Terrifyingly True Tales

Goodreads Horror Week 2018

Even nonfiction can hold the stuff of nightmares. Whether it’s natural disasters, outbreaks of plague, or serial killers hidden in plain sight, there’s no question that reality has its dark moments. Fortunately, there is a silver lining.

This roundup of highly rated true stories shows that there are just as many real-life heroes as there are real-life monsters. Which of these books will you be adding to your to-read list? Share your favorites with us in the comments.

The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown

This story follows the journey of Sarah Graves, a young bride who joined the pioneers of the ill-fated Donner Party as they did the unspeakable to survive.


The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
When an incurable and deadly virus suddenly appeared in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., all that stood in its way was a secret SWAT team of soldiers and scientists.


Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
What drove Charles Manson and his followers to carry out the Tate-LaBianca slayings? Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi gives an inside look at one of the most infamous investigations of the 1960s.


Death’s Acre by William M. Bass and Jon Jefferson
Master scientist Dr. Bill Bass takes readers behind locked doors of “The Body Farm”—a forensic lab unlike any other—to revisit his most chilling cases, including the Lindbergh kidnapping.


Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
This Nobel Prize-winning novel captures the tragic personal accounts of the victims of Chernobyl—the 1986 nuclear disaster that contaminated as much as three-quarters of Europe.


The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
True-crime writer Ann Rule spent months hunting down a brutal mass murderer, only to realize that he was her close friend and colleague, Ted Bundy, all along.


Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
For years, large chemical companies have been using Toms River as their personal dumping ground, causing unfathomable harm and culminating in a decades-long battle for reparations.


The Road Out of Hell by Anthony Flacco and Jerry Clark
Forced by his uncle to take part in the Wineville killing spree, a young boy named Sanford Clark testified against his murderous relative to bring justice to their victims’ families.


The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden
This thoroughly researched and richly comprehensive account pieces together the history and legend behind London’s most notorious East End killer.


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The 1996 Mount Everest disaster claimed five lives and left countless others in disarray, including journalist/mountaineer Jon Krakauer, who stood on the summit as the storm bore down.


The Woman with a Worm in Her Head by Pamela Nagami
Dr. Pamela Nagami reveals the sobering facts of some of the world’s most horrific diseases, and how it feels to make medical decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
This acclaimed 1966 classic recounts the gruesome murders of the Clutter family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of their killers.


Under a Flaming Sky by Daniel James Brown
In 1894, more than 400 people in Hinckley, Minnesota, perished in the wake of a forest fire so devastating, it created hurricane-strength winds and virtually no means of escape.

By Marie, October 01, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

28 Books That Got You Hooked on a New Genre

We all think there are genres that are just not for us. There mere presence of an aloof alien, grumpy private investigator, or lovelorn vampire in a book description will turn some of us away. But once in awhile, a story can come along and change our minds.

We asked on Facebook and Twitter: What book got you hooked on a new genre? We rounded up the top picks and organized them by genre. If you’re feeling adventurous, expand your reading horizons and add a few to your to read pile.

Mystery and Thriller

And Then There Were None The Secret of the Old Clock A Time to Kill Gone Girl


The Hobbit A Game of Thrones Redwall The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Historical Fiction

The Pillars of the Earth Outlander Wolf Hall All the Light We Cannot See

Science Fiction

Foundation Stranger in a Strange Land Ender's Game Dune

Young Adult

Fangirl Hunger Games The Selection Looking for Alaska


Fantasy Lover Maybe Someday Bared to You Pride and Prejudice


Something Wicked This Way Comes The Silence of the Lambs Dracula Carrie
By Hayley, March 22, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

To Quit Or Not Quit a Book? Our Readers Weigh In…

Reading is a bit like dating. Sometimes a book ignites a spark, and other times it fizzles. So we asked our followers on Twitter and Facebook: Do you stick with it or do you move on? Check out some of the most popular comments below and let us know which camp you fall into.

1.“99% of the time I will finish the book. I feel I owe it to the author,” says Todd.

2. “I usually stick it out. There’s been many times that I’ve ended up loving something that wasn’t initially drawing me in,” says Andrew.

3.“Move on. Reading should be a pleasure. If it’s not the book for you, it’s not the book for you,” says Barbara.

4.“I give it the 100 page limit. If I am still not into the book by that page, I put it down and get another book to read. Life is too short to suffer through a book you are not enjoying,” says Luci.

5. “I used to stick with it, but I have decided that I only have so many years in my life and it is not worth it! There are so many good books out there to discover,” says Tamara.

6. “I always finish them off. I sometimes put them down and pick another book but always come back,” says Carola.

7. “It depends on the level of not pulling me in. If I’m not loving it, but still want to know how it ends, I’ll stick with it. But if reading it feels like a chore, I’ll stop reading it,” says Chelsey.

8. “If it’s a book I really want to read, I try the audio before giving up completely,” says Dana.

9. “Put it away and try much later on. Tastes and style change over the years,” says Brad.

10.“Depends on why I’m reading it. For review? For my private students? For research? For pleasure? For the first 3, I stick to it. For the last, I move on,” says Elizabeth.

11. “If it’s unrecommended I’ll give it 2-3 chapters. If it’s an author I like or has come with a respected recommendation I’ll give it more time,” says Danielle.

12. “I always try to stick with it. I feel like there is something to learn in the struggle of getting through a book. I’ve only put down a couple of books, but that was because I developed a strong dislike for the material,” says Kira.

13. “I usually move on. For every page I force myself to read that I’m not enjoying, that’s time I could be reading pages that I love,” says Nicole.

14. “Some books take more time than others to learn the flow of the prose, but more often than not it pays to keep reading until you get there,” says Carole.

15. “I leave it alone for a couple days and if the desire to read it doesn’t come back then I just don’t bother,” says Teresa.

16.“So much of my reading is for book clubs that I pretty much always stick with it—at least I’ll have people to complain to!” says Megan.

By Marie, February 23, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

Why Fiction is Suddenly Swimming with Mermaids

Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut novel The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is an enchanting tale about a merchant, a prostitute, and mythical creatures set in Georgian London. Her novel is among a new trend of mermaid novels, so we asked Gowar to examine why readers are suddenly hearing the siren call of these half-human protagonists.

One summer when I was eight or nine, my parents took me to a castle in Antibes, the Chateau Grimaldi. It sat high above the sea, sheer walls giving way to sheer cliffs. I leant over the battlements staring down at the roiling sea, and felt a vertiginous longing; a terrible fear of the muscular, pulverising waves below combined with an intense desire to leap into them. I understood that this was not the kind of thought I should have, but it revisited me every time I was by the sea (brown crags off the east coast of England, usually, on drizzly days with rattling pebbles rolling underfoot). I became interested in mermaids not as candy-colored waifs, but as agents of vastness, power, destruction.

I was excited by the idea of girls who could withstand the chill and the salt and the stone-crushing belligerence of the ocean; that the longing and terror I felt came not from the water but from the women within it.

This year has seen an extraordinary glut of mermaid novels by women writers, no two the same. We, the Splash generation, shared our bathtubs with red-haired Ariel dolls: Mermaids were presented to us early, and perhaps we spent our growing years disassembling them, and remodeling them as more faithful reflections of femaleness as we found it.

When we write about mermaids, we write about women: As we peel back the veneer of prettiness, dig through the strata of storytelling, we find a thousand shards of ourselves to reject or reclaim. Mermaids, being between states, have many states, which is sometimes dangerous— as Louise O’Neill points out in The Surface Breaks, her blistering take on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, a woman out of place must be put back in it— but also presents a freedom to question convention, and to be frank about feelings we might otherwise suppress. To write about mermaids is also to write about escape.

“What would be the point of a mermaid who looked like any other girl?” asks Pearl, a professional mermaid performer with a screen-printed tail and a collection of wigs “the color of childhood” in Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming. Not for her punters a “sinister, shifting fish-girl”: They want escapism. The mundane tricks of the trade—the effort, the discomfort—are, like all beauty regimes, hidden away. “No amount of sequins or pink hair will help you” if you haven’t the strength to swim in a heavy tail, or to maintain the air in your lungs until you reach a discreet breathing tube. The Surface Breaks makes horrifyingly explicit the suffering a mermaid on land must undergo. Her hard-won legs “end in two open wounds, stringy flesh falling off exposed bone”; she starves herself to please first the Sea King, then her human paramour. Encountering a beautiful fat woman, she is shocked: “I did not know that such a body was even allowed to exist.”

Illusion, obfuscation, artifice are every mermaid’s stock-in-trade. Researching my own novel, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, I was struck by the cognitive dissonance of eighteenth-century collectors. Their “mermaid” specimens—grotesque mummified creatures, often made from monkeys’ torsos stitched to salmon tails—looked nothing like those in their imagination, and yet one served as evidence that the other might just exist. The high-class brothel where Hancock’s mermaid is displayed is decked in gorgeous pearls and corals—so are the prostitutes—and it’s a collective triumph of will to ignore the fact that the specimen at the centre of this masquerade is repellent. In the “amphibious” society of 1780s London, country girls hope to transform themselves into duchesses, and merchants to make their fortune in novelties. When my main character, Angelica Neal, swims naked in a fountain singing a sea-shanty, she is a purveyor of erotic wish-fulfillment, no more presenting a real mermaid than she is her real self.

These contemporary novels share a suspicion of mermaids’ fabled beauty, which rarely exists for their own benefit. The great deceit of the mermaid myth—and the woman myth—is that they owe their power to mere sexual allure: Whether the mermaid is real or fake, her looks are a skimming over of her physical or psychic strength.

Even Heinrich Heine’s Lorelei, from his 1824 poem, is “the fairest of maidens,” although it’s her voice that’s dangerous. The boatman lured to his death is not inflamed by passion but “seized with a savage woe.” It isn’t sex that hooks you; it’s sadness.

In The Surface Breaks there is another race of mermaid, the Rusalkas: “the jilted, the victims, the orphans, and the abused,” drowning and devouring men as retribution for their crimes. They are embodiments of every dreadful wrong women swallow, and therefore shunned by their gorgeous cousins until late in the book when their rage becomes a positive force.

This is the deepest escape of all. Sylvia Plath’s poem, also Lorelei, is a seduction to death or oblivion: Her mermaids “sing/ Of a world more full and clear /Than can be”—the ache of the sea’s vastness is a sensation that must be dulled and suppressed and forgotten: the void is sharp as a diamond, painful in its purity; it is indifferent to us, and we are drawn to it because we long to be lost.

Near the beginning of Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, its main character Lucy is “scared of [the ocean’s] wild ambivalence, so powerful and amorphous, like the depression itself. It didn’t give a fuck about me.” Running from life’s disappointments (a break-up; pulled PhD funding; fading youth), Lucy is torn between feeling nothing, and losing herself in feeling. The death sirens offer seems, “the greatest love…to die intoxicated by love and lust,” and as it turns out Theo, the merman she meets on the beach, is a creature of sexual fantasy not so different from his traditional female counterparts.

On land, he is physically dependent on Lucy. Hiding from the rest of the world, his eye cannot wander; he offers her mindblowing sex and a relationship that is in effect her personal sandbox in which to work out how deeply she wishes to touch the void, and how devotedly she can bear to love and be loved. Men treat women this way all the time, but some mer-magic is required to subvert the roles.

A mermaid is a prism, which scatters a million visions of womanhood to pick and close from. When we write about mermaids, we have options. How many layers of artifice are there between ourselves and our feelings? What bonds would we like to slip, if we could?

We can choose vengefulness, sexual autonomy, beauty, delicacy, pounding grief. The gorgeous swirling-haired mermaid of fairytale is available to us, but so is the siren calling the exhausted to oblivion. There are many ways to be, and many ways to escape.

Cybil, September 05, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog