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When Book Covers Came of Age

We take beautiful book covers for granted these days. Subtly or blatantly, they tell us so much about books’ content and mood. It’s hard to imagine browsing without them! But as Martin Salisbury explains in the introduction to his own beautiful book, The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920 to 1970, just published by Thames & Hudson, book covers were once simply protective wrappings, designed to be discarded.

Salisbury says, “It was not really until the 1920s that the jacket as we know it today became a familiar sight in bookshops and the art of book jacket design became an important branch of the applied arts and an area of opportunity for artists.” And what artists they were, from the Bloomsbury painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant to Milton Glaser, N.C. WyethRockwell Kent, Tomi Ungerer, and Edward Gorey.

We hope you’ll enjoy the following excerpt from The Illustrated Dust Jacket.

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

Introduction, by Martin Salisbury

In 1949, the then editor of Graphis, Charles Rosner, curated the first international exhibition of book jacket design at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Of around 8,000 jackets in the museum’s collection, 460 were selected that were “deemed to be worthy of hanging on the walls of a national museum.”  Presumably, such a statement addressed the possibility of the illustrated dust jacket’s aspirations to the status of art. The jacketed books in question were selected for the outstanding quality of the artwork that adorned them and the extent to which each one fulfilled its function in exciting interest in the book itself. The word “illustrated” of course embraces the use of a variety of forms of imagery, including photographic, hand drawn or painted. This book is particularly concerned with the last of these – the work of artists whose hand-rendered pictorial illustrations were reproduced on book jackets over a period of fifty years, from a time when publishers were beginning to see the possibilities of high-quality artwork in this context around 1920, to one when photography increasingly began to usurp the traditional artist’s skills at the end of the 1960s. The purely typographic tradition, exemplified by the work of Berthold Wolpe at Faber and Faber in these years, is also outside this book’s remit.

In Rosner’s later publication, The Growth of the Book Jacket (1949), he quotes from a deliciously pompous comment on the exhibition in the Observer newspaper by the essayist, caricaturist and general wit Sir Max Beerbohm. Writing from his home in Italy, Beerbohm pronounces:

I gather that to many other arts has now been added the art of the book-jacket, and that there is an exhibition of it in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I doubt whether, if I were in England, I would visit this, for I have in recent years seen many such exhibitions. To stand by any book-stall or to enter any book-shop is to witness a terrific sense of internecine warfare between the innumerable latest volumes, almost all of them violently vying with one another for one’s attention, fiercely striving to outdo the rest in crudity of design and color. It is rather like visiting the parrot-house in the Zoological Gardens, save that there one can at least stop one’s ears with one’s fingers, whereas here one merely wants to shut one’s eyes.

Beerbohm, by then in his late seventies, was of a generation that had seen the book jacket grow from its humble origins as a purely functional plain protective bookseller’s wrapping in the nineteenth century, to something closer to the illustrated jacket with which we are familiar today. Beerbohm was not alone in being somewhat underwhelmed by the virtues of this emerging area of the graphic arts. In his Dent Memorial Lecture in 1936, Richard de la Mare, a member of the board of Faber and Faber, commented that:

The history of the book jacket is a strange one. The wretched thing started as a piece of plain paper, wrapped round the book to protect it during its sojourn in the bookseller’s shop; but it has become this important, elaborate, not to say costly and embarrassing affair, that we know today, and of which we sometimes deplore the very existence. How much better might this mint of money, that is emptied on these ephemeral wrappers—little works of art though some of them may be—be spent upon improving the quality of the materials that are used in the making of the book itself!

Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent

Such skepticism about this nascent field of creative endeavor was clearly not uncommon despite the contribution of a number of outstanding artists, who were beginning to apply their talents in this direction. Among those doing so in the UK were Edward Bawden, John Piper, Barnett Freedman and Edward Ardizzone, while in the USA, jackets designed by N. C. Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, Arthur Hawkins, Jr. and Cleonike Damianakes were adorning some of the great works of literature. In fact, far from working to the “fallacious doctrine that the loudest shout brings in the most customers,” these and other artists were contributing to the development of a new art form that the Book Jacket Designers Guild defined in terms of “successful integration of concept with graphic means, taste in design and idea, and expression of the spirit of the book.” The Guild had been formed in New York in 1947 by a group of graphic artists who were applying their talent to this field. They were keen to raise its profile and to gain wider recognition for designers and illustrators who were creating something a little more subtle than a squawking parrot.

More generally, the illustrated dust jacket as an integral aspect of the hardback book has been variable and patchy in its evolution around the world. In many cultures, including China and Japan, the jacket seems to have been something of a rarity. In Japan, the obi, a wraparound paper band much smaller and narrower than a full jacket, is used to give most of the textual information about the book, and folds over the printed boards, or sometimes over a jacket. Within mainland Europe there has been variation too, with some countries tending towards the use of illustrated stiff-card wraps as part of the binding, extended to form flaps that fold in and contain further information. For many years in France, certainly until the mid-1930s, the ubiquitous yellow paper jacket printed with black letterpress type prevailed. In Eastern Europe, the richly inventive graphic traditions were often applied in the form of printed, paper-covered boards rather than the detachable jacket. An exception was during the Weimar Republic. In that period, Germany, and Berlin in particular, was at the epicenter of avant-garde experimentation in book art and design, with richly varied approaches, including photomontage, pictorial typography and painting.

There is thus an inevitable bias in this overview towards the English language book. Though even here there can be found differences between British and American developments, as greater emphasis was placed on formatted series with consistent visual identity in Europe, whereas US publishers tended towards a more individualist approach to commissioning jacket designs. From the illustrators’ perspective, the emergence of the dust jacket opened up a new source of freelance employment. It would be rare, however, for an artist to be seen as specializing in jacket design; most would need to work across many other areas of commercial art. Nonetheless, the critic Steven Heller has observed that jacket design in America in the late 1940s “was still practiced by a small tight-knit group.” He quotes Ben Feder, one of the founding members of the Book Jacket Designers Guild, as recalling that, “There were probably no more than thirty artists working on a regular basis.”

The Otterbury Incident illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

In view of its origins as a plain protection to be discarded on purchase, and the relatively recent acceptance of the detachable jacket as an integral part of the book and its identity, it is ironic that for today’s book collectors the jacket is key—the presence of an original jacket on a sought-after first edition now greatly adds to its value. And if the design of the jacket is by a highly acclaimed artist, then that value will often increase further, at a time when awareness and appreciation of the book as a designed artifact is growing.

Before attempting to trace a brief history of the dust jacket, it might first be advisable to untangle the terminology, which has become confusing. The first “jackets” were generally referred to as “dust wrappers” and were exactly that, plain paper wrappings that protected the booksellers’ wares from the dust and dirt of the city up until the point of purchase. At which time the buyer would immediately discard it in order to enjoy the often ornately decorated leather binding that it had protected. The term “jacket” specifically describes the detachable paper cover that wraps around the hardback book, extending beyond its overall length and folding in at either end.

These “flaps” hold the jacket in place and are usually printed with information relating to what the book is about. The jacket’s role as a protector has diminished over the years as it has become primarily a form of display and promotion, a mini-poster that gives a taste of the contents, catches the eye and, once picked up, leads us to a “blurb” about the author and perhaps advertisements for other titles from that author and/or the publisher. Although bookjacket would seem the more proper term now for this object, dust jacket has clung on tenaciously in everyday language, long after its role in protecting the book from dust and dirt has become redundant. And although opinions vary among scholars, bibliophiles and the general public as to whether the jacket should be seen as part of the book itself or as an entirely separate, ephemeral addition, it would seem clear that the jacket is a historically important indicator of, and contribution to, contemporary graphic style and visual culture.

Although the almost universal early tendency to discard the jacket has hampered later scholarly research, it used to be generally accepted that the first printed dust jacket was forThe Keepsake of 1833 for the publishers Longmans in London. Until 2009, this was considered to be the earliest surviving example of a designed wrapper printed front and back, with a title design on the front (including border and decorative fleurons) and text on the back advertising other titles in print. Then a librarian at Oxford’s Bodleian Library unearthed an example from 1830: a printed wrapper for a book called Friendship’s Offering. However, in general through the 19th century publishers were slow to see the possibilities of the jacket as a promotional tool. The jacket itself became an increasingly common phenomenon as leather bindings were gradually superseded by cloth-covered boards, but most of them continued to be in the form of plain paper. Occasionally, transparent glassine coverings were supplied, which allowed a view of a pictorial binding. Plain jackets were also produced with die-cut “windows,” giving a glimpse of what was underneath.

By the early 20th century jackets were becoming increasingly common but design tended to be limited to the addition of an image taken from the interior of the book or some form of random decoration. It was not really until the 1920s that the jacket as we know it today became a familiar sight in bookshops and the art of book-jacket design became an important branch of the applied arts and an area of opportunity for artists.

Dance of the Quick and the Dead illustrated by Barnet Freedman

The process of arriving at a design for a book’s jacket is and has always been a collaborative one. Those involved include some or all of publisher, designer, illustrator and printer. Once the brief for the work is agreed, accommodating whatever house/series style or other ingredients are required, the design begins. A jacket might be purely typographic or may combine typography and image, photographic or illustrative. As indicated, this book is concerned with the latter and aims to spotlight the high-quality pictorial art and design that adorned the jackets of books through much of the twentieth century and, more particularly, the contribution of the artists and illustrators who created that work. Terminology is again an issue here and, happily, for a considerable portion of the period under discussion, the words “artist” and “illustrator” were not quite as irreconcilable as they are today. Some of the leading gallery artists of the time engaged with the design of book jackets, particularly in the immediate postwar years, notably John Craxton, John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Keith Vaughan. In many instances “artist” and “designer” were one and the same person.

A well-designed jacket requires close synthesis between type and image. Some of the best designs therefore have been by artists who were comfortable working with type themselves, often in the form of hand-rendered lettering, or by artists with an empathy for type and able to consider the overall balance of the design  in relation to the ideas of the typographic designer. As Steven Heller has observed, “successful cover design requires the expertise of an artist, typographer, poster designer and logo maker,” For much of the period surveyed by this book, the artists also needed to have a thorough grasp of the reprographic processes by which their work would be transferred to paper if they were to achieve the best results. Understanding and exploiting the limitations of, for example, letterpress line-block separations or autolithography was a feature of the work of a number of artists who became particularly influential in Great Britain, notably John Minton, John Nash and Barnett Freedman.

The legendary American designer George Salter outlined some of the key skills of the pictorial jacket designer in his article The Book Jacket in 1950:

The question whether a jacket can be designed by one artist and lettered by another may be answered in various ways. As it is possible to use an old print or photograph for a certain function in a jacket it must also be possible to combine the work of two artists in one jacket. Both drawing and lettering are a means to an end: the jacket.

Salter goes on to make it clear that the design process must always come first and that lettering and image must be considered in harmony from the outset. Equally important is the artist’s sensitivity to the text. An ability to absorb fully a book’s meanings and “tone” is essential:

Two elements not necessarily interrelated establish today the basic requirements for the makings of a good book jacket: graphic interpretation of the book’s intrinsic character and the method by which the publisher wishes to promote the title.

And on the importance of reading the full manuscript rather than submitting to publishers’ instructions or designing on the basis of a plot synopsis, he is even more unequivocal:

It seems utterly paradoxical to think that a person who makes it his profession to promote reading should voluntarily claim exemption from it for himself.

Salter was the chairman of the Book Jacket Designers Guild and he and his fellow founders were keen to counter the rise in sensationalist and titillating pulp-fiction design. Salter’s writings in the catalogues of the annual exhibitions have a somewhat evangelical and at times puritanical tone, perhaps reflecting the ongoing battle to gain acceptance of their work as a serious area of creative endeavor. Eventually, however, the importance of maintaining a record for scholars was acknowledged by the Library of Congress in the USA in the form of an archive of almost every published example. In the UK, what is now called the British Library Dust Jacket Collection had been started in the 1920s, initially in the form of a selection of jackets that were chosen on the basis of being of particular artistic interest.

Phocas the Gardener illustrated by Edward Bawden

As in most areas of the commercial arts, the graphic style of dust jackets through the twentieth century generally mirrored the fashions and movements of the times, and some are outlined on the pages that immediately follow. However, in the case of the more pictorial, illustrative jackets featured in this book, an artist’s unique personal visual vocabulary could often transcend fashion and in some instances lead to a long career. Artists such as Boris Artzybasheff, Bawden and Victor Reinganum employed their instantly recognizable talents across many decades without needing to reinvent themselves artistically in order to accommodate changing graphic trends and motifs. But others came and went or cleverly developed multiple visual personalities that brought them commercial reward but perhaps less cultural, critical acclaim.

What was clear as the century wore on was that the pictorial design of dust jackets was becoming an increasingly appealing and prestigious area of employment for the illustrator. Having your name on the dust-jacket flap (or perhaps even a discreet signature on the front of the jacket) could mean considerable exposure for the artist and, on occasion, close association in the public’s mind with great works of literature. Conversely, for some authors it would be seen as a major boost to have the work of certain high-profile artists gracing their covers or jackets. Regrettably, many dust-jacket designs also appeared with no acknowledgment of the artist, with some publishers being more routinely guilty of this crime than others. Of course, ultimately, as the writer Jhumpa Lahiri observes in The Clothing of Books, “What is the perfect book jacket? It doesn’t exist. The great majority of covers, like our clothes, don’t last forever.” Nonetheless, I hope we can extend the lives of a few in this book.

Excerpted from The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970© 2017, by Martin Salisbury 

Reproduced by permission of Thames & Hudson Inc.

By Sarah Harrison Smith, December 7, 2017, first appearing on Amazon Book Blog

9 Stephen King Stories That Should Be Adapted Into Film

I know. It’s hard to imagine that there are any left that haven’t been.

Stephen King/Photo © DDay Gen Adult 2017

With the record-shattering adaptation of It – not to mention critically-acclaimed takes on Gerald’s Game, Mr. Mercedes, and 1922 – we are currently experiencing a Stephen King cinematic renaissance. Given all of the recent success, odds are that Hollywood will dig deeper into the master storyteller’s massive catalog.

Stephen King is nothing if not an incredibly productive writer, and there is plenty of adaptation fodder waiting in the ranks of all of those bestsellers. Here are a few of our favorite stories, primed for the move to screens large and small. Some have remained untouched by the hands of Hollywood, while others have been languished in the pits of developmental hell, but all of them are ready to make their cinematic debut.

The cover of the book The Long WalkThe Long Walk

Stephen King

The Long Walk is probably the best known of Stephen King’s “Bachman” books – books he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It’s a dystopian thriller set in an alternate timeline where the Germans appear to have won World War II. In the novel, teenage boys are forced to participate in a grueling walking marathon where the winner is the last person left alive and standing. It’s a taut and emotional thriller that would require a deft touch, but one that we’d still love to see adapted.

 

The cover of the book The Man in the Black SuitThe Man in the Black Suit

Stephen King

This O. Henry award-winner originally appeared in the New Yorker before being included in Everything’s Eventual. King cited Nathaniel Hawthorne as an inspiration for the story, which centers on an elderly man recalling an encounter he had as a boy with an enigmatic figure, who may have been the devil. It’s a slow-burn, haunting story with plenty of room to be expanded upon on the screen.

 

The cover of the book InsomniaInsomnia

Stephen King

Insomnia is about as close any King novel can be to a cult classic among the author’s fans. The novel is an unsettling mix of sci-fi and horror, and features an elderly suffering from insomnia who begins to see otherworldy phenomena. At just shy of 800 pages, it could be tough to adapt to the big screen, but a mini-series would give the characters and the story plenty of room to breathe.

 

The cover of the book The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Stephen King

This is one of Stephen King’s better psychological thrillers. The story is built around nine-year-old Trisha McFarland who wanders away from her family during a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Lost, subjected to the elements, and fearful of a monster that could be real or imagined, Trisha turns to her admiration of Red Sox relief pitcher Tom Gordon for comfort.

 

The cover of the book 'Salem's Lot‘Salem’s Lot

Stephen King

While it’s true that Salem’s Lot has already been adapted twice – a well-regarded 1979 TV film and a forgettable 2004 version – the success of “It” 2017 proved there’s always room for another look at King’s works. This is one book that could really benefit from a mini-series adaptation. Despite its scant (at least for Stephen King) page count, the novel spends a fair amount of time fleshing out the town and occupants of Jerusalem’s Lot.

 

The cover of the book Night ShiftNight Shift

Stephen King

This Stephen King deep cut was originally published in Cavalier magazine – home to quite a few King stories – before eventually appearing in Night Shift, Stephen King’s first short story collection. The Boogeyman centers on a family falling prey to a titular sinister creature. While certainly on the shorter end in terms of length, there’s quite a bit of content that a skillful writer or director could flesh out on the screen. In the right hands, The Boogeyman has the potential to be a truly terrifying exercise in suspense and horror.

 

The cover of the book Rose MadderRose Madder

Stephen King

Domestic violence is a fairly common theme in much of Stephen King’s work. But in Rose Madder, King gives his writing a fascinating symbolic and mythological twist. The novel centers on a woman who escapes an abusive relationship and eventually finds herself caught in a bizarre fantasy world after purchasing a painting. With the right director at the helm, it could be a visual treat on the screen.

 

The cover of the book Just After SunsetJust After Sunset

Stephen King

Stephen King’s short stories are some of his best work. The Gingerbread Girl is of my personal favorites, which appears in Just After Sunset. It begins with a fairly normal pedestrian woman dealing with the aftermath of a trauma, but when Stephen King throws a dangerous serial killer into the mix, it becomes a tightly written cat-and-mouse survival story.

 

The cover of the book Duma KeyDuma Key

Stephen King

Duma Key is one of the better novels to come out of the latter part of King’s career. The 2008 novel is an intricately plotted exploration of grief, secrets, and obsession. Like a lot of Stephen King novels, there is a touch of the autobiographical as the story’s protagonist is an artist recuperating from a near-fatal accident. Thankfully, Stephen King tends to be at his best when he injects a little of himself into the narrative.

By KEITH RICE, December 15, 2017, first appearing on Signature Reads

Literary holidays to celebrate all year long (and the books to read during them)

Each year, our calendars are loaded with days earmarked for celebrating birthdays, national holidays, and anniversaries. These are all wonderful, of course, but we prefer our holidays to have a bit of a literary twist. There are countless literary holidays you can choose to celebrate at the library but to make this a manageable list, we’re going to highlight our favorites here along with some books and collections you can use to celebrate. Time to set some calendar reminders!

literary holidaysJanuary 18: Winnie the Pooh Day

Everybody’s favorite tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff has been around for ninety years and we celebrate Winnie, Tigger and the whole gang each January 18th, author A.A. Milne’s birthday. Find a collection of stories from the Hundred Acre Wood and a nice tree to read under.

 

February 1: Harry Potter Book Night

The Boy Who Lived is always popular with readers but who doesn’t love a Hogwarts party? If you visit this website from Bloomsbury, you’ll find a downloadable event kit and lots of ideas perfect for decking out your place in the various house colors. Readers old and young alike will love getting lost in the magic of J.K. Rowling’s world.

 

February 3: Take Your Child to the Library Day

Naturally we want you to consider libraries your home away from home. There is so much goodness going on at libraries daily, and Take Your Child to the Library Day is a great time to see all those wonderful programs available.

 

March 2: Read Across America (Dr. Seuss’s Birthday)

Oh, The places you’ll go! We couldn’t make a list of literary holidays and leave out the good doctor. Schools and libraries near and far celebrate the classic books by Dr. Seuss on this day (and all year). You can do the same!

 

April 9-15: National Library Week

This is a week that’s well known in the library world but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t highlight it! This full week of celebrations feature days specifically for discussing the most frequently challenged books of last year (Monday), National Library Workers (Tuesday), and even Bookmobiles (Wednesday)! Pick a book that includes librarians or takes place in the library as a fun/informative read.

 

April 30: El Dia de los Ninos (Children’s Book Day)

El Dia de los Ninos kicks off Children’s Book Week and we can think of no better way than highlighting some of the amazing bilingual works of Pat Mora who has won countless awards for her children’s literature.

 

May 4: Star Wars Day

May the fourth be with you! The Star Wars universe continues to expand and capture the imaginations of fans around the world. Checking out the books is a perfect way to for fans, young and old, to connect with their inner Jedi.

 

June is LGBTQ+ Book Month and Audiobook Appreciation Month

The full month of June offers the opportunity to pick up some of the incredible LGBTQ+ titles out there. Plus, it also happens to be Audiobook Appreciation Month! The choices in June are nearly limitless.

 

June 19: Garfield the Cat Day

Yep, everyone’s favorite lasagna loving cat has his own holiday. Pick up a collection of the comic strip and prevent a case of the Mondays.

 

July 18-23: Hemingway Days

Ernest Hemingway loved Key West and every July, you’ll find a week-long party there in his honor. They host readings, book signings, look-alike contests and much more. You may not be able to make it to Key West, but you can still be a part of the celebration by checking out his books.

 

August 9: Book Lovers day

Technically this is every day for us but still a day worth pointing out.

 

September 18: Read an eBook Day

Join us in celebrating this special day of the year and check OMNI (Online Media of Northern Illinois), one of our largest collections of e-materials, through OverDrive.

 

October 6: Mad Hatter Day

A very mary un-birthday to you! Throw a tea party and indulge in a little nonsense. We may never know why a raven is like a writing desk, but that doesn’t make the riddle any less magical.

 

October: 9-15 Teen Read Week

Young adult novels are loved by readers in their teens and those well beyond. Spend a week celebrating your favorite heroines, trilogies, love triangles and dystopian worlds. Odds are in your favor that you’ll find an old favorite or a new obsession.

 

November: National Novel Writing Month

NANOWRIMO is the time of year when professional and aspiring authors do their best to write a full novel in one month. It’s become a way for writers to bond and test themselves and it has spawned many bestselling novels including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Pick up some of these books or write one of your own!

These are just a few of the great literary holidays we’ll be celebrating. What are some of your favorites?

By Adam Sockel, January 4, 2018, first appearing on OverDrive Blogs

These 13 YA Books Should Be on Every Adult’s Reading List

Who says Young Adult novels are just for kids? Reading YA offers adults a world they don’t often find in more grown-up novels. Characters can feel more innocent, the settings can be more fantastical, and the emotions can feel downright nostalgic. Whatever your reason for diving in, here are some YA reads that can easily be appreciated by an older audience.

If You Want Something Relatable:

The cover of the book Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down

John Green

In reality, this entire list could be dedicated to John Green books. From An Abundance of Katherines to Looking for Alaska, Green writes in a way that is completely delightful to read as an adult, and his latest piece is no different. The story of a sixteen-year-old who gets swept up in her own investigation of a mysterious billionaire fugitive, Turtles All the Way Down explores how we balance our own pursuits and tendency to get sucked into our own thoughts, while still trying to be decent to everyone around us.

 

The cover of the book What to Say NextWhat to Say Next

Julie Buxbaum

High school is a harsh place. Perhaps more than any other social sphere, it’s all about playing the game, and being “in” with the right people. So when popular gal Kit and relative unknown David make a connection over his bluntness about her father’s recent death, everyone is more than a little surprised. When tragedy strikes, the way you see the world can shift, and sometimes that’s the best way to find new people to get you through. Not just your average “teen rom-com” read, this book deals with a number of darker themes that raise it above others in its genre.

 

The cover of the book The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter exists in two worlds: the wealthy neighborhood where she attends private school, and the poor neighborhood where she lives. Starr silently accepts the imbalance in opportunity, appreciation, and privilege that she witnesses on a daily basis, but when her best friend from home is shot and killed by a police officer, she struggles to stay quiet, even though speaking up could come with a high price – her well-being and possibly, her life.

 

The cover of the book Dear MartinDear Martin

Nic Stone

This timely and compelling debut tackles the issue of race relations in  the U.S. with heart-stopping accuracy – it’s no wonder it became an instant New York Times bestseller. The main character, Justyce McAllister, is a top-performing student that left a rough neighborhood in hopes of pursuing his dream of attending an Ivy League. Everything comes crashing down when Justyce and his best friend, Manny, experience the wrath of a white off-duty cop. Why? Because they were playing their music too loud. Shots are fired, and when the smoke clears, it’s Justyce who faces hate from the media.

 

The cover of the book FangirlFangirl

Rainbow Rowell

It can be hard to find a YA novel set in the first year of college, because so many books focus on the high school years, and the assumption is college-aged students have moved into older fiction. What’s wonderful about Rowell’s Fangirl is its youthful tone, which feels genuinely appropriate to an 18-year-old girl just starting out at being away from home. Not quite as emotional as Eleanor and Park (another Rowell book you should definitely have on your list), Fangirl explores the topic of a young woman discovering her own talents and learning to embrace her own identity. The book includes a fun fan-fiction series, which you can fully embrace afterwards with Rowell’s novel about the same characters, Carry On.

 

If You Want to Feel the Power of Art:

The cover of the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie

Inspired by Alexie’s own story, Absolutely True Diary is about Junior, a young Native American boy who leaves his school on the reservation to start at a wealthy, all-white high school. Junior uses art to help himself deal with the issues present in his life (from racial prejudice and bullying, to economic difficulties and parental alcoholism.) Alexie tells the story with such humor and heart that the book will stay with you long after you close it.

 

The cover of the book SpeakSpeak

Laurie Halse Anderson

Fighting the culture of victim ostracizing has always been important, and Anderson’s 1999 novel continues to feel significant – if not even more so given today’s social climate – now. High school student Melinda finds no one is interested in hearing her out during the school year after she breaks up a summer party, and her only outlet is art class where she can slowly reveal what actually happened to her that night. The voice of Anderson’s character is so well developed and real, it is all the more poignant that it is being silenced with the pages of the story.

 

If You Want to Start a New Series:

The cover of the book The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1)The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1)

Philip Pullman

The author of the Golden Compass series has done it again. Set in a spin-off world from Compass, Pullman has created a new series so immersive you may start to imagine demons around you when you look up from the page. If you’ve been hoping for a way to go back to Lyra’s story, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

 

The cover of the book An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir

Y.A. novels may be “easier” reads, but that doesn’t mean they don’t explore very difficult topics. Tahir’s series is an exploration of freedom and humanity – big things Tahir deals with by creating her own world inspired by the Roman empire. You’ll find correlations with real history and mythology while turning these pages, and the changing perspectives from chapter to chapter will allow you to really invest in and connect to the brave and inspired lead characters.

 

If You Want to Think Outside the Box:

The cover of the book Tiger LilyTiger Lily

Jodi Lynn Anderson

Be forewarned, this is an emotional read. If you grew up loving Peter Pan in any form, Anderson’s new interpretation of usually relatively underdeveloped character Tiger Lily’s backstory is awe-inspiring. Touching on subjects like insecurity, abuse and what it feels like to have the love of your life stolen away, this book is a beautiful must-read.

 

The cover of the book Jane, UnlimitedJane, Unlimited

Kristin Cashore

When Jane loses her beloved aunt, she feels like she’s lost herself as well; until a visit to a mysterious mansion offers her a number of possibilities, each one with its own consequences. Feeling directionless is a common theme for young people, especially in novels written for them, but Cashore takes it one step further by incorporating what can only be described as a type of “choose your own adventure” style into her novel. A mesmerizing read, you’ll be just as taken in by each option as Jane.

 

The cover of the book The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

A short book from the late ‘90s, a lot of today’s YA readers may not have even realized this book existed until it was made into a film starring Emma Watson. A story about the quiet underdog, Perks also lives a little on the fringes, as the novel most “outsiders” picked up and related to before the film made it more available and well-known. Told through the letters of high-schooler Charlie, author Chbosky takes his readers through a world of music, new friends, and the honest struggle of trying to engage with your own life, especially when a darker secret is holding you back.

 

The cover of the book OtherworldOtherworld

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Author Kirsten Miller and the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ actor/author Jason Segel have teamed up again, this time to write a work of sci-fi. Otherworld is the first book in their new series set in a world entirely immersed in technology that you don’t only see and hear, but can also taste, smell, and touch. But it’s not a game—it’s the future. This book is the perfect YA read for adult sci-fi lovers.

12 Chilling Reads for Hot Summer Days

The United States in the grips of a heat wave, and now is as good a time as any to stay in and read one of these great summertime horror and suspense titles.

The cover of the book JawsJaws

PETER BENCHLEY

Let’s go ahead and kick off our list with summer’s ultimate anti-beach read: Jaws. A big city cop accepts a job in a sleepy coastal town, only to arrive in time for an unprecedented string of shark attacks. The book and movie are different in a number of different ways. There’s an organized crime subplot, a little adultery, an unexpected death or two … It’s a great, pulpy read. Trust me: You won’t want to get into the water after you finish this thing.

 

The cover of the book The GirlsThe Girls

EMMA CLINE

Summer is a great time to get together with the family for a little fun — so long as that family is Charlie Manson’s. California teenager Evie Boyd joins what she thinks is a group of fun-loving hippies that turn out to be the acolytes of a charismatic criminal mastermind.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

How about a not-so-nice trip into the countryside? During the sweltering summer of 1948, a doctor is summoned for a house call at Hundreds Hall: a rambling Georgian mansion slipping into disrepair. The home’s occupants have a dark and tragic history — one hinted at by what might be a restless spirit roaming its halls.

 

The cover of the book Dark TalesDark Tales

SHIRLEY JACKSON

Summer vacation can be nice — just watch out for the locals. In Shirley Jackson’s story “The Summer People,” a couple vacationing at a lakeside cottage learns that lesson the hard way when they try to extend their stay past Labor Day. Nobody has ever lingered that long, and the locals are determined to see that it never happens.

 

The cover of the book The RuinsThe Ruins

SCOTT SMITH

A group of college kids partying away their summer in Mexico take a trip into the countryside to see some authentic Mesoamerican ruins. Their visit awakens an ancient menace — a very hungry one. Talk about a tourist trap!

 

The cover of the book ShadowlandShadowland

PETER STRAUB

Summers can be magical, but that’s not always a good thing. Two boys eager to learn magic decide to spend their summer with a relative who is a master of the art. Unbeknownst to them, he is a master of authentic black magic, and only one of them will live to see summer’s end.

 

The cover of the book Meddling KidsMeddling Kids

EDGAR CANTERO

Summer is for sleuthing, or at least it was until this group of mystery-loving teens had a run-in with real supernatural evil. Decades later, they’re still scarred by the experience, and the last thing they want to do is return to where it all started. Unfortunately, they’ve got no choice.

 

The cover of the book In the Dark of the NightIn the Dark of the Night

JOHN SAUL

It’s always nice to have a place to get away — as long as you have a way to get out. A Chicago family buying what they think is a nice summer home learns that they’re not the only occupants. Something evil lurks within its walls, and it has been waiting for them.

 

The cover of the book We Were LiarsWe Were Liars

E. LOCKHART

Who wouldn’t want their own private island: a place where you can enjoy your summer without worrying about what other people think … or whether they can see all the horrible things you’re  doing to the people who love and trust you? Shhhh!

 

The cover of the book Summer of Night Summer of Night

DAN SIMMONS

Good news: School is out, and it’s time for summer vacation. Bad news: Monsters are out there, and they want you dead. A group of school boys on the trail of a mystery learn that it leads to the doorstep of a supernatural horror in Summer of Night.

 

The cover of the book Summer, Fireworks, and My CorpseSummer, Fireworks, and My Corpse

OTSUICHI

This could be a summer to die for, if you’re not careful. Otsuichi’s “Summer” is the story of a young girl’s murder and her killers’ attempts to hide the body, as told from the perspective of the corpse. Nice and cheerful, right? Read it and two other tales of terror in this single volume.

 

The cover of the book Disappearance at Devil’s RockDisappearance at Devil’s Rock

PAUL TREMBLAY

Three boys having a summer sleepover slip out for a nighttime trip into a nearby national park. Only two of them return. Ghostly visions and frightening folklore add a hint of the supernatural to this already gripping tale of suspense.