Hello again, Readventurers! Flannery asked if I could contribute some recommendations – and if there is one thing I like giving, it is unsolicited advice! For real, you tell me a story about your life and I will throw down advice like nobody’s business. However, advice about books to read is certainly less touchy (and more appreciated!) than life advice. So here are some new favorites, some all-time classics, and some generally lesser known books that I think more people should read!
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If you like good old-fashioned fairy tales, with an excellent HEA, and stories about not-so-typical heroines – then you should read The Ordinary Princess
, by MM Kaye. This story is cleverly told with great humor, and Princess Amy is seriously one of my all time favorite main characters – mostly because she is NOT the typical tall, blonde, and beautifully perfect princess. This was my favorite book growing up, and it never loses its charm. If you can find a version with the illustrations, it is an extra treat – MM Kaye did them herself and they are so
Sticking with the YA theme of books for kids that even adults can love, if you like stories about wilderness survival and ever thought that Thoreau wrote Walden
just for you (clearly this is me!), then you should read My Side of the Mountain
, by Jean Craighead George. This is the story of young Sam Gribley from New York City, who is fed up with his crowded life in the city and decides to run away to the Catskill Mountains to live on his own. This book totally fostered my love of the outdoors and camping and adventuring, and it is perfect for a little environmentalist in the making. If you aren’t into the wilderness, or hearing about how a kid can find food, make clothes, and live inside of a tree (still one of the most awesome things I can imagine!), than this book isn’t for you. But it should be, because everyone should like those things! (see, I'm pushy with my opinions, right?? #sorryimnotsorry).
Shifting gears, if you like books that restore your faith in humanity, that remind you there are really still good people in the world, and that talk about service work for young adults, then you should read Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
, by Eboo Patel. Patel tells the story of how he struggled with understanding his religious identity, and how through that experience he came to understand the universality of this struggle for young adults to know themselves. He ended up starting a nonprofit that brings young people from diverse religious backgrounds together to spend a year doing service work. Through this year of service, they come to understand and respect each others’ cultures. I am sure Flannery would agree with me, that any type of story about young adults spending time doing long-term service work is probably awesome (since we are both alums of AmeriCorps)!
If you are riding that high on happiness and humanitarianism, and like books about global health and like Arcade Fire, then you should read Mountains Beyond Mountains
, by Tracy Kidder. Kidder tells the story of Paul Farmer – a medical doctor and anthropologist who was educated at Harvard and ends up starting a clinic in Haiti and founding Partners in Health (which is the pet project
of the band, Arcade Fire). Farmer is tenacious and almost crazy in his commitment and dedication to improving the lives and health opportunities for people that live in poverty across the globe. This book made me mad, and inspired, and fired up about advocating for change. It is a great read for anyone involved in or interested in healthcare, social justice, international nonprofits, eradicating poverty, or infectious diseases.
Sticking with memoirs, but definitely changing genres here. If you like pie, happiness and/or Sandra Bullock, then you should read My Life From Scratch
, by Gesine Bullock Prado (Sandra’s sister!). Honestly, this book is adorable. Gesine started off as an entertainment lawyer in Hollywood, running a movie production company with her sister, and hating every minute of her job and life in Hollywood. The only times she was truly happy was when she was baking pies or breads or cakes for friends and family and coworkers. So she quits her job, moves to Vermont and opens a bakery. Craaaaaziness! But awesomeness. Anyway, this is a quick and light read, interspersing some lovely recipes with the story of how she came to love baking as a child to her life as an adult running a bakery. Who doesn’t love a story about someone who follows their dreams? And gets pie at the end?
Finally, if you like Jane Eyre
, The Eyre Affair
[note from Flann: As if anyone doesn't like Clueless!], or 10 Things I Hate About You
, you should read Jane
, by April Linder. Linder writes a modern interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic, about young Jane, who is suddenly left penniless when her parents die and is forced to drop out of her elite college and take a job as a nanny. It roughly follows the plot of the original and I had fun re-imagining some of the characters in their modern selves. It might not have been as great without the original source material behind it, but if you enjoy re-tellings (like the Lizzie Bennett Diaries
– WHICH I AM COMPLETELY OBSESSED WITH!), than this is right up your alley!
Xs and Os, Readventurers! Maureen
I'd like to tack on two more recommendations to Maureen's list: the books her father wrote. If you are thinking of going to med school or becoming a surgeon (specifically of the orthopedic variety), you are the spouse of someone in the first two categories, you like medical memoirs, or you like large families (Maureen has 11 siblings!), you should try Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death, and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
, Michael Collins' memoir of his residency at the Mayo Clinic. It is a quick read filled with humorous anecdotes, thoughts on the profession, and his personal story about raising a family when time and money were scarce. His sophomore work, Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Makings of a Surgeon
, is actually a prequel to Hot Lights, Cold Steel
, in that it follows Dr. Collins from working construction in Chicago through his decision to enter med school and a bit further. I recommend it for people who are contemplating the medical profession, people who grew up in big Irish families, or people who are just confused about where they want to go in their lives. Also, I recommend both of his books for people who are curious where Maureen got 50% of her DNA from.
In terms of Maureen's other recommendations, I went on Goodreads to link up the Jane
cover image and that book is definitely on my list of "The Books My Goodreads Friends Disagree About Most." No question. The reviews run the gamut from 1-5 stars with vehement fans on both sides, though many of my favorite reviewers fall somewhere in the middle. Coincidentally, The Ordinary Princess
is one of those books I pretend I've read
. I've been listening to Maureen go on about its wonderfulness for about a decade now. It is short, so what am I waiting for? Thanks for sharing, Maureen!Do any of these books sound interesting to you? Are there any books you've had to read for college or grad school that were actually really interesting? I'm very curious.