Book Recommendations (Vol. 08)

We’re almost at the end of 2018, which has simultaneously seemed like the longest year in existence (remember that the Olympics were THIS YEAR?) and also like I don’t know where the last few months have gone. I’ve done less reading than the past couple years, a combination of grad school and just being busier life-wise, but still an amount that I am happy with.

I’m currently curled up with my cat sleeping adorably next to me on the couch and Niall Horan’s album on my record player, and I’m ready to tell you about my top 5 books for the end of this year, AND the top five books for 2018 overall!


My total at this point in the year is 59 books (with probably one or two more getting finished before the 31st ends), which puts me at 13 for this quarter.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

April May is heading home from work late at night (early in the morning?) when she stumbles across a giant….statue? She makes a video of Carl (the statue) and posts it on youtube, for kicks. When she wakes up in the morning, she realizes that she’s gone viral – because there are DOZENS of Carls, across the globe, and they all just appeared there. No one knows what is happening. And then everyone starts having the same dream – a dream you can control – a dream that is an escape room like puzzle. What.

If you’ve read my previous book posts, you know I am a huge John Green fan. I’m also a fan of Hank’s other work like all of the video series he produces on YouTube. I was very nervous when he announced he was publishing a book because, well, his brother is the author. But this book is a DELIGHT. It’s hilarious, and such an incredibly timely commentary on internet fame. April May is one of the realest characters I’ve read in awhile, in a not entirely likable but incredibly relatable way. The mystery and suspense of figuring out what’s going on with the Carls is so gripping and the ending is INTENSE. I cannot wait for the sequel to this, have already forced another teacher in my building and my mother to read it, and haven’t stopped thinking about it. And listening to Queen and Carly Rae Jepson (relevant to the book, I promise).

Chaotic Good – Whitney Gardner

Cameron’s cosplay is starting to get attention. Not all positive attention. Guys seem to be upset that she might be a “fake fan”. And then the guy at the comic book shop by her new house (her family just moved, and right before senior year) tries to direct her to the “girl section”. She borrows her twin brother’s clothes and is treated entirely differently when she walks into the shop as a boy. In fact, another employee invites her to play Dungeons and Dragons with them. But can she handle making a portfolio of original costumes for a huge opportunity AND pretending to be a boy playing D&D, especially when feelings get involved?

This book was truly just a delight. It captured the sexism of nerd culture very well and the girl character was well rounded – more than just a “not like the other girls” girl. I thought her twin brother was a really interesting juxtaposition to her character and the story definitely blossomed with the interactions between them. The Dungeons and Dragons storyline is perfect for little reveals about each of the characters by using the characters they play in the game, and there are incredible cartoon panels interspersed throughout the book that depict the D&D story. It’s definitely a take on a fandom culture book like ones I’ve read before, but it wasn’t tired and definitely brought new and inventive ideas to the table.

If You Come Softly – Jacqueline Woodson

Ellie and Miah run into each other (literally) on their first day at Percy Academy. Miah is struggling to fit in with his new basketball team, and Ellie is struggling to fit in with…anyone. They find each other, and despite all of their differences, fall in love.

Speaking of John Green, he’s started a book club called Life’s Library. This is the first book for the book club and I am so, so glad it was chosen. This book is absolutely TIMELESS. It was written over 20 years ago but feels like it could have come out in 2018. I absolutely sobbed reading the ending. As soon as you start reading it just feels like you’re reading a classic. Love, love, love.

The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

Leni’s dad changed in the war. It’s 1974, and he can’t stay in one place for long. He gets fired, packs them up, and they move. This time to the middle of nowhere in Alaska. They’re going to live off the land – even though they don’t have any clue how to do that. Leni just wants to fit in, and for her dad to be happy again – and stop hitting her mom. Can they survive Alaska – and her dad? Will they find a place to be themselves?

My sister recommended this to me and it is not one I normally would have picked up, but again I found myself sobbing my way through several parts of it. Alaska is truly a character in this, majestic and terrifying and isolating. The characters themselves are all incredible and strong, from Leni to her mom Cora to Matthew and Large Marge and everyone else. It’s a story of resilience and friendship, and of what family means. It will break your heart, and break it again, and break it some more, and then give you some hope and shatter it. Definitely a trigger warning on this one for domestic abuse – very hard to read at times even as someone who does not have any trauma related to that.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

Shirin is living in a post 9/11 America as a hijab wearing teen. Her parents move her and her brother around a lot, and she’s learned to put up protective walls and shut all the atrocious comments out. That doesn’t mean they don’t hurt, but she shuts them out – shuts people out. Then she meets Ocean. Annoying at first, he just keeps asking questions. Apologizing when he gets something wrong. But he just won’t give up, and she doesn’t know how to let him in without him getting hurt, too.

This is a fascinating insight into how we as Americans treat those who are different. Throw into that a look into the glorification of high school sports and some breakdancing and this book is truly, truly unique. Mafi writes the high school experience extremely realistically and the romance seems realistic as well. Beautifully written and with some fun callbacks to 2002 culture (dial up internet, anyone?)

**2018 top 5**

If You Come Softly – Jacqueline Woodson

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely

A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake


Author: missmastalio

Math teacher at an alternative high school. Living the best life.

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