Reading List: Dumbledore’s Army Read-A-Thon

d5e94cd689ccf082cc5853dcd0a6f23f

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I’m not sure if that philosophy is due to my previous failings or some deeply rooted cynicism, but every year is the same: while everyone toasts to the new year and announces their goals, I stay silent. If I say anything at all, it’s more of a hypothetical musing than an actual commitment…and if it’s been a particularly awful year, I look forward to better days.

But if there is one goal I have for 2017, it is to read more books. I fell short of my reading goal this year, and I’ve been re-evaluating what (and when) I choose to read. I have a horrible habit of buying books faster than I read them and adding more and more to my to-read list; even if I lose interest in the story, I become more determined than ever to finish the damn book. Because if I don’t finish it, I’ve just wasted my time! Right?

As you have probably guessed, that stubbornness only results in reading less. And there is so much to read and so much to learn.

e4b71e4fd70f83b69f8b51b34979ae21

Words have power. That is a truth that I have never, ever disputed. Books entertain and comfort and educate, and it’s all part of an incredible magic that constantly amazes me.

To kick off 2017, I am participating in a read-a-thon that focuses on diverse books, appropriately titled Dumbeldore’s Army Read-A-Thon. If stories help us empathize with others, then diverse books are yet another a tool we can use to make our world a little kinder.

There are seven read-a-thon prompts, all based on spells from the Harry Potter world. Take a look at my reading list, and feel free to recommend some of your favorite diverse books in the comments!

dareadathon-id-hufflepuff
Expecto Patronum: Read a diverse book featuring an issue of personal significance to you or a loved one.

For the first prompt, I chose an old favorite: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. While this novel features various issues, the two that are closest to my heart are mental health and LGBTQ rights. Charlie has his own struggle with mental health, and one of his best friends is gay–and it is a story that is still all-too familiar and important.

Expelliarmus: Disarm your own prejudices. Read a diverse book featuring a marginalized group you don’t often read about.

I consider myself fairly well-educated in terms of LGBTQ rights, but I know I still have a lot of work to do. I’ve never read a book about someone who is trans or gender-nonconforming, and so I’ve chosen Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. It’s about a gender fluid teen, and I’m looking forward to learning and reading more about gender fluidity than what I’ve seen on Tumblr.

Protego: Protect those narratives and keep them true. Read an #OwnVoices book for this prompt.

Diverse books are important, but we must also strive to read stories about marginalized groups written by marginalized groups. #OwnVoices is a movement that supports authors and their stories. For this prompt, I’ll also be diving into some fantasy with Serpentine by Cindy Pon.

Reducto: Smash that glass ceiling. Read a book that empowers women from all different walks of life.

ALL THE FEMINISM. There are so many options, but I decided to go with Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I loved reading essays in my gender studies classes in college, and I can’t wait to read about the author’s thoughts on today’s feminist culture.

Impedimenta: Read a diverse book that’s been left unread on your TBR for far too long!

I picked up a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson ages ago, but it’s been sitting on my shelves gathering dust–so it’s the perfect book for this prompt! Woodson tells her childhood story through poetry, and I have a feeling it will become one of my favorites.

Stupefy: Read a diverse book that has stunned the Internet with all its well-deserved hype.

I haven’t been as involved with the book community on Tumblr or Instagram as I have in the past, so this one took a lot of Google searching…but I finally settled on When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. This book has stellar Goodreads reviews and features characters with diverse, intersectional identies. And hey, more magic!

Lumos: Read a diverse book that was recommended by one of your fellow book bloggers.

I turned to Twitter and asked for  recommendations. The lovely ladies at Black Chick Lit suggested two titles, one of which was Another Brookyln by Jacqueline Woodson (yes, another one!). I probably would have never found this book if it weren’t for Black Chick Lit, and I am so grateful for their input.

patronus

Only two days until the #DAReadathon begins! If you’re interested in joining, visit Read at Midnight‘s blog to sign up (and hit me up if you are a fellow Hufflepuff!). Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to an ink-stained 2017 that shines with love and compassion. ❤️

Words, Words, Words

bookshelf_kitty

This year’s election has been one of the most divisive, tumultuous races in recent history. Many of us are still battling shock, fear, or a sinister combination of the two–but we are determined to keep fighting.

While petitions and protests have dominated my Facebook feed, I have also heard the rally cry of my fellow writers: we need books more than ever. 

We need to read diverse books, and we need to support marginalized authors. Reading has been proven to encourage compassion and improve social skills; by reading stories about and by people who are different than us, we are more easily able to empathize with others (check out this list of resources to find diverse authors).

Books clearly have the power to entertain, educate, and inspire, but words are also an inexhaustible form of comfort. As most of you know, I turn to writing when I need to process my feelings…and if that proves unsuccessful, I read.

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

-Roald Dahl

Books often feel more like friends than bits of paper and ink. Books are also meant to be shared, and so I decided write about stories that I hold close to my heart. I also asked several friends via Facebook and Twitter what books have been comforting in times of grief or hardship, and I am happy to say this became a rather varied list. (Suggestions from others are quoted and credited with permission). 

If you are in need of some literary hugs (election-related or not), consider the following titles–and feel free to suggest your own in the comments!

enhanced-buzz-7182-1372110355-13

The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling

The Boy Who Lived has done so much for this generation of readers. At the core of this series is an overwhelming message of love, something we all desperately need. Dumbledore’s Army and The Order of the Phoenix feels especially relevant this year in terms of activism.

A re-reading of this series is long overdue, but I have been listening to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast (thanks, Samantha!). Casper and Vanessa do a remarkable job, and I am always inspired to apply the episode’s theme to my own life.

“Beauty, grace, and charm my foot. It’s a school for sadists with good tea-serving skills.”
― Libba Bray

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray 

This series is set in Victorian England, but don’t be fooled: it is perfect for Nasty Women who need an extra dose of magic. Following her mother’s death, Gemma discovers she is a sorceress who can travel between the spirit realm and our own. Her story is an honest account of female friendship, grief, and finding her place in the world. I purchased the third installment (The Sweet Far Thing) on audiobook, and my morning commutes have been infinitely more enjoyable.

The Book of Lamentations 

Sometimes, I need God to tell me that everything will be okay. And sometimes, I need God to tell me that it’s okay to think everything totally sucks.

Enter Lamentations. The day after the election, I read Lamentations and highlighted every verse that described how I felt. It was incredibly therapeutic, and I was reminded that hope can exist amidst suffering.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer 

“These books found me at a very dark time in my life – a space before I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety, yet was experiencing the full extent of the symptoms & didn’t know how to reach out to friends & family to tell them I was suffering. It was so healing for me to escape into a world so very different from my own, someplace where I didn’t need to be part of this body & this mind that I so desperately despised. The books were lifelines for me. Even if my life was crumbling around me, they were always there to disappear into, to forget everything just for a few hours. While I didn’t realise it at the time, in the second book, New Moon, the main character exhibits symptoms of severe depression that I recognised so deeply in myself – & it was partially her family & friends’ horrified reaction to these symptoms that made me realise that what I was feeling wasn’t normal, & I needed to get help.”   –Topaz

“Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder!! I read it every single winter around February when winter starts to feel unbearable. It puts my life into perspective. Also, I just love Laura.” -Samantha

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

“With regard to the story, it is the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. (With regard to voice, it is pure perfection). This novel inspires within me the noble concept of having the courage of one’s convictions — which does not stop with mere words. It is our actions in life, what we do and how we own the consequences of what we do, what we have, in fact, created. In a nutshell, one cannot “play god” and then walk away from what we have created.” -Marie

 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

“The deceptive simplicity never fails to draw me in and the warm imagery and relationships and the journey are all very comforting to me, especially when I’m feeling lost and alone and so, so, so apathetic towards the world and those around me. This book helps me to rediscover the connection I so wish for, both with myself and those around me.” -Jessica
fb1655ed435476d6815fcac09d07cf0e

A Poem/A Prayer

Due to my overactive imagination, there are some days when I have thousands of ideas for blog entries, article pitches, and stories. In the literary world, this is a blessing–but lately, it doesn’t feel that way. Call it procrastination or laziness if you must, but it doesn’t change the fact that I often feel frustrated and overwhelmed because I have no idea where to start.

When I do write, it’s even harder to tune out my inner editor or keep myself from cringing when I read past publications. As I am sure you can imagine, this strips writing of its joy–the very thing that made me want to write in the first place.

 

This week has been rough. I originally planned to write a post regarding the shootings… but when I sat down to write, I went to poetry instead. It has been so long since I have written a poem–I almost forgot how wonderful and comforting poems can be.

I decided that this is the best home for it. Consider it a prayer for all of us.

 

 

i am

a poet,

or maybe an artist.

      (it doesn’t matter.

       call me whatever you think

       sounds more romantic.)

i am

a dreamer

a starry-eyed wordsmith.

             (i think

              ‘starry-eyed wordsmith’

               sounds more romantic

               than ‘wannabe writer.’)

on a typical day,

i agonize over everything important

and potentially pretentious,

like oxford commas

or blog aesthetics.

             (is that witty enough for twitter?)

 but one extraordinary day,

 the smell of ink will

overpower that of gunpowder.

              (and maybe stories

             will save the world.)

my god,

what an anomaly that will be.

              (no one told me

              that it takes such courage

              to write.)

 

Have a lovely weekend, my friends. ❤ May you always create whatever brings you joy.

Book Tag: Pokémon Go!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am slightly obsessed with the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. Judging from the amount of people I see every day following Lure Modules and traveling to various gyms across town, you might also be a  Pokémon Trainer–and if that’s the case, then this is the post for you, my friend. If not…well, I’ll be listing some of my favorite books, so there’s something for you, too.

giphy

Read at Midnight started an awesome Pokémon Go book tag, which combines–you guessed it– Pokémon and books! Each Pokémon (or Pokémon Go item) corresponds to a similar book (or books). And yes, it’s totally fun and adorable. Let the games begin!

Disclaimer: All graphics belong to Read at Midnight (permission to use them given on the blog). Pokémon belongs to Nintendo. Pokémon Go belongs to Nintendo and Niantec. 

pokemon-tag-01startersEven before I learned how to read, my library was well-stocked with bedtime stories. My parents were excellent at reading out loud, and so my love for books started early. Goodnight Moon was my all-time favorite, but I also loved Where’s Spot? (and the Biscuit stories…or anything with animals, really) and Doctor Dan the Bandage Man. I was also partial to my Sleeping Beauty picture book and its read-along tape. I may have memorized it. NBD.

pokemon-tag02pikachu

The Harry Potter series, forever and always.

The Secret Garden and Where the Red Fern Grows also top my list, because you are never too old for Magic or crying about dogs.

pokemon-tag-03-zubat

Since I work in a bookstore, this answer comes from a very jaded place in my heart. I’ve totally lost interest in The Wait, which I hadn’t even heard of until it flew off the shelves. For a while, it got to the point where I didn’t have to check if we had any copies available. I just knew we were out. And I wish I got paid extra for the amount of customers who asked when we would get more.

pokemon-tag-04-ditto

Where do I begin? Many of my favorite YA books could fit into the Ditto tag–but I’m going to go with Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Teen misfits fall in love. It’s nothing new, but I adore it with my whole heart.

pokemon-tag-05-snorlax

It isn’t often that I am intimated by the length of a book, but after reading monsters like Atlas Shrugged and 1Q84, I’ve been more hesitant to give Les Misérables a try because it will probably take for-ev-er. I’ve also been avoiding re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). With my current schedule, that re-read would probably take years.

pokemon-tag06-gengar

I distinctly remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games series. And then I bawled my eyes out.

pokemon-tag07-nidokingqueen

For my readers who have no idea what this means:

In fandoms such as Harry Potter, you ‘ship’ characters, which means you are rooting for the two to be in a relationship. Think of it as trying to set your best friend up with someone super cute, except shipping usually involves more tears and a lot of fanfiction.

So, an ‘OTP’ is your ‘one true pairing.’ It’s the ship you ship the hardest–and my bookish OTP  is Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (from the Harry Potter series). They honestly cannot get anymore perfect (and if you tell me JK Rowling said that Harry and Hermione should be together instead, I will SCREAM.).

pokemon-tag08-rapidash

There are so many to choose from! I definitely can’t go this entire post without mentioning my girl Meg Cabot, though. Remembrance, the long-awaited installment to the Mediator series, is the perfect amount of ghost-hunting and romance. It made me laugh and gave me the feels, and I was totally addicted.

pokemon-tag09-eevee

Am I too predictable if I choose the Harry Potter series again?

Well. It’s true. Harry Potter. Cursed Child, here I come.

pokemon-tag14-magikarp

Most definitely The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I still haven’t read Winter (don’t kill me–and no spoilers, please!), but after finishing Cress, I started to really appreciate the intricacies of the story. Retelling a fairy tale well is one thing, and to retell it as a sci-fi story? Brilliant.

pokemon-tag12-legendary

The Court of Thorns and Roses series has been getting a lot of attention lately, and I still can’t wait to start it. Faeries mixed with Beauty and the Beast? Uh, yes please.

pokemon-tag15mew-mewtwo

I know you shouldn’t (literally) judge a book by its cover, but let’s be real: some books are just pretty. Really, really pretty. And I want them all. For instance,  I absolutely adore this Song of Ice and Fire boxed set…but I’m waiting until all books are released until I finally buy it (oh, and I’d love to find a set that isn’t made of leather. I don’t eat cows, so I don’t like wearing or reading them, either). The struggle is real.

pokemon-tag10-egg

For this category, I’m going with any books that my writer friends eventually publish. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that!

pokemon-tag11-lure-module

Lately, I’ve been borrowing more books than buying them, but there are a few authors whose books I will always buy–especially if there is a new release. In the past, my list has included J.K Rowling, Meg Cabot, and George R.R Martin, but recently I have been keeping an eye out for Rainbow Rowell, Marissa Meyer, and Patrick Rothfuss.

pokemon-tag13-server-down

When Pokémon Go was first released, the servers were down constantly, and there were times when these technical issues caused some DEEP EMOTIONAL PAIN. Waiting for a book to be released is even more agonizing, if you can imagine such a thing. George R.R Martin is especially good at toying with my emotions. I need Winds of Winter in my life like…right now.

giphy1

A book tag isn’t complete without friends! If you find your name, use the categories above and write your own Pokémon Go/book post! Even if I don’t list your blog, consider yourself tagged. Pokémon and books should always be shared. ❤

I tag my Teacup Trail comrades, Topaz and Christina; my soul mate, Xan (I know your med school schedule is pretty demanding, but it doesn’t feel right to not tag you because I think you’d find this adorable ); and Abby (even though you’re not into Pokémon, you’re into books).

Now let’s go catch ’em all.

Are you obsessed with this game, too? What team did you join? Which Pokémon is your favorite? Which Pokémon are you still waiting to catch? Send me a Tweet or leave a comment–I want to know everything about your adventures! 

The Death of the So-Called ‘Death of Reading’

I have always dreamed of having my own library. You know what I’m talking about: stacks upon stacks of books, with ladders to reach the highest shelves and a cozy spot to curl up and get lost in other worlds.

In other words, the kind of library that the Beast gave to Belle.

belle-library-dream

This scene makes me really emotional, okay?

And so, when e-books entered the literary world, I was determined to avoid them. After all, you can’t have a huge library with electronic books. When my parents asked if I wanted a Kindle, I felt as though I had been personally attacked. “I like holding a physical book,” I protested. I mean, really. What book lover would ever buy one of those stupid things?

Millions, actually.  Eventually, even my own pretentious attitudes toward electronic books disappeared, and I now own a Kobo–thanks to my wonderful parents, who probably always knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of downloadable books. My Kobo has not destroyed my life as a reader, nor has it destroyed my dreams of owning a huge library. I still buy books faster than I can read them. 

 Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.”

― Neil Gaiman

Despite the amount of bookstores that are still standing, many still speculate that the e-reader signifies the end of libraries and traditional bookstores (Borders going out of business didn’t give them much hope). Others worry that we just don’t read anymore.

Millennials probably get blamed for their lack of reading skills more than any other generation, simply because we grew up with the Internet.  But like e-readers, the Internet has only supplemented our bookworm life. Goodreads, for instance, is a website dedicated to talking about books; even social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram have thriving book communities.

My experience as a bookstore employee has also convinced me that books still have a bright future. Customers ask for books by their favorite author, or for my personal recommendations. Children beg their parents to buy several books at a time. People spend hours in the store reading and deciding what to buy. Despite twenty-first century technology, the book business is alive and well.

It is also true that nowadays, we are reading other forms of the written word–e-books, yes, but also blogs, articles, literary journals, fan fiction, and other online novels. As far as I know, these aren’t considered in the studies that allegedly prove that readers are rare…which is actually quite a shame. There are plenty of writers who blog for a living, or choose to write fanfics that are well over a 50,000 word count (the standard word count for novels), and they all need the support of readers. If we are so convinced that the future is destined to be a dystopian hell without libraries or well-read people, we must also learn to embrace stories in all their wonderful forms. It’s much more productive (and less annoying) than claiming that no one reads.

I can safely say that I’ve let go of any cynicism or fear about the future of reading. We may love modern technology, but we also love books. As long as they are writers with stories to tell and the people willing to read them, books will survive.  And perhaps one day, we’ll each get a library that even Belle would envy.

 

Why I Write

Cup with hot tea near computer

At some point or another, all aspiring writers are told that it’s a less than glamorous life, and that we will face countless rejections over the course of their lifetime. We are told it is very difficult to make a living as a writer, and if we do manage to pull it off, there isn’t much money involved– because J.K Rowling is the exception, not the rule.

We create blogs and participate in National Novel Writing Month. We slave over drafts and try our best to silence our inner critic. We research self-publishing and agents and wonder how we will ever be heard when so many people are waiting for the same thing. We take our words and submit and submit and submit until we finally see our name in print.

We keep writing.

And we wait.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Knowing all this, it’s a wonder I still write at all. It would be much, much easier if I had chosen a different path.

But that’s just it, isn’t it?

In many ways, writing chose me.

I love words. I love how I write faster when I get excited about an idea, and how my handwriting becomes more and more unreadable. I love the click-clack of my keyboard and listening to my writing playlist. I love my Scrivener outlines. I love writing so late at night that I’m the only one awake. I love stories, because when you get to the heart of a fairy tale, it’s just another way to tell the truth.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else and still feeling so unbelievably happy.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else when my heart is hurting.

I write because I believe God hears prayers, but He also reads letters.

I write because I don’t want people like me to feel so alone.

I write because it’s fun.

I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because sometimes it’s the only thing that feels effortless, and sometimes I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life.

I write because the world can never have enough books.

I write because I have something to say.

I write because it’s who I am.

I write.

I won’t ever stop.

Summer Reading

Since my last entry, I have clearly fallen short of my blogging goals. What can I say? Life happens. A couple weeks ago, I traveled back to my lovely Missouri to see my cousin graduate college; last weekend, I attended a wedding, got to see some dear friends, and met new ones in the process. This holiday weekend, I’m headed to Florida, so it’ll be quiet around here again–after that, it’s back to our regular scheduled programming!

 

113f29cb7c10aed1adff1657c29cca62

What my friends and I will look like this weekend, probably

Instead of planning important things for this weekend, like my traveling budget, I’ve been totally preoccupied with choosing what books to bring. No trip is quite as perfect for reading as a beach vacation. Right now, I’m finishing The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’ve decided to also bring Remembrance by Meg Cabot  (I’m late, I know) and Down the Rabbit Hole  by Holly Madison (yes, the Holly Madison of the Playboy Mansion–it looked interesting, so I’ll let you all know how that goes). Granted, I’ll only be gone for the holiday weekend, but I think it’s good to be prepared.

 

Maybe it’s because I have spent a lot of previous vacations reading on the beach, but there’s a certain type of book that I believe needs to be read by the ocean. I prefer lighter, funnier books when I’m at the beach. I mean, I don’t want to suddenly cry about a character’s death as I am collecting seashells or something. That sounds horrible.

The only book I’ve read at the beach that didn’t follow this rule was A Storm of Swords by George R.R Martin, and that’s because I had just started it. I was a wreck a few days later when I read the Red Wedding scene on the plane ride home (0/10, would not recommend doing this. Retreat to the safety of your home when you read these books).

Still, summertime reads are some of the best reads, whether or not you have the chance to go to the beach. And since I have perfect taste in everything, I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

Katie’s Obviously Perfect Book Recs: 

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler 

Do I really need to explain why you should read this? Amy Poehler is a goddess. She writes with the perfect amount of humor and wisdom, and despite her aforementioned goddess status, I found myself relating to her in every single chapter.

anything by Meg Cabot

I’v always had a soft spot for Cabot’s novels. As a teenager, I’d sit in my sunny backyard and read my favorites, including The Princess Diaries, the Mediator series, and All-American Girl. I read them so often that my copies of these books are practically falling apart; they’re summer nostalgia at its greatest.

The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling

While I am a staunch supporter of Harry Potter re-reads at any time of the year, there is something especially wonderful about re-reading this series during the summer. It reminds me of childhood, but it also reminds me of all the book releases and movie premieres that happened so often during the summer. Plus, Harry’s birthday is July 31–why not celebrate? And then have a good cry, because the Deathly Hallows never gets less heartbreaking.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

More teenage nostalgia! Told from both Eleanor and Park’s perspectives (hence the name), this is a teen romance that feels more genuine than unrealistic. I love Rowell’s writing style, and this is a very sweet story that I recommend to any YA fan.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Honestly, this is one of my favorite books of all time, and I wish more people knew of it. From the first sentence, I was hooked. This novel is cleverly written and wonderfully imagined, with a sugar-addicted angel, a Norse yard gnome, and a mini-physics lesson.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson 

I actually heard about this book from my mom, who read it while we were spending the day at the beach. She could not stop laughing, and she kept telling me to read certain chapters before I finally read the whole thing. I couldn’t stop laughing, either.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I’m mainly adding this one because it’s a funny story (but if you want to read it, go for it!). One summer, my best friends and I decided to start a book club (lovingly and awesomely named the Fuzzy Toe Socks Book Club) and for some reason, we decided to start with Atlas Shrugged.  Everyone was like, “THAT’S your pick?!” And we were like, “Yeeeah, so?” And then we started reading it and understood why everyone thought we were crazy. It practically took all summer to read. And for the first month or so we were all, “Who the eff is this John Galt dude?!”

And now we have to spend the rest of our lives explaining ourselves, because no one can hear the name ‘Ayn Rand’ without freaking out and assuming we’re horrible people. God forbid we read any authors we disagree with, right?

n8dmrog

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they’re often the first books I think of during the summertime. If I didn’t have to pack, I could probably add a lot more…but we’ll save that for another day. See you next week, loves. I’ll probably be sunburned (and happy).

What books remind you of summer? What books are at the top of your recommendation list?