Hello, Everyone! Now that the new year is upon us, what’s better than curling up on those cold winter nights with a great read? If your reading list isn’t already a mile long (like mine), this English teacher wants to share with you 16 of my top novels to delve into, when you need to take a well-needed break from the real world…
All novels are broken up by genre…Enjoy!
Young Adult Fiction (even in my 30’s, I’m a sucker for teen drama!):
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han (2014, 368 pgs.)
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
2. P.S. I still Love You, by Jenny Han (2015, 362 pgs.)
In the sequel to the novel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?
3. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (2013, 336 pgs.)
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under
4. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart (2014, 240 pgs.)…and next on my list!!!
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
5. All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven (2015, 400 pgs.)
**Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink
6. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen (2015, 432 pgs.)
Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.
Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
7. The Fault In I ur Stars, by John Green (2014, 336 pgs.)…because what’s a book recommendation list without at least one of his works??
**Also made into a motion picture in 2014
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
8. Looking For Alaska, by John Green (2006, 221 pgs.)…if you loved The Fault In Our Stars, then you’re going to fall even harder for this one!
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.
9. 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher (2007, 288 pgs.)…I was actually recommended this read by a former student a few years back, and decided to use it as my class text for summer school-I swear, this novel turned these reluctant readers into life-long believers of literature…
**P.S. This SHOULD be a motion picture!
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returnscommitted suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
10. The Longest Ride, Nicholas Sparks (2013, 568 pgs.)…he is by far, my favorite when it comes to being a sucker for romance, and although I would recommend any of his titles (yes, I’ve read them ALL!), I went with the most current two-thank me later…
**Now a motion picture
Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward — even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans — a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.
11. See Me, Nicholas Sparks (2015, 486 pgs.)
Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he’s determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.
Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success. With a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her hometown and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.
A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria’s lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface.
As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria’s life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they’ve begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?
12. The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey (2013, 497 pgs.)
**In theaters, January 21, 2016
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
13. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (2015, 336 pgs.)
**Now a major motion picture
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
14. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn (2007 254 pgs.)…if you still want more after reading Gone Girl…this psychological thriller actually came first…
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
15. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee (2015, 278 pgs.)…After teaching To Kill A Mockingbird a number of times over the years, I always introduced the novel by sharing with my students, that this was the number one read book of all times, second to the bible…and no, it’s not about literally “killing” mockingbirds…
Whether you end up enjoying this sequel or not, you have to read this first piece Harper Lee created, but never published until it was recently rediscovered…
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—”Scout”—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.
16. #Girl Boss, Sophia Amoruso (2014, 256 pgs.) I’m going to be honest here…this woman was the one who set the fire under my you-know-what, giving me the motivation to wake up and go after a dream I left on the back burner for far too long…my #WCW every day!
Sophia Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—
a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.
Flash forward ten years to today, and she’s the founder and executive chairman of Nasty Gal, a $250-million-plus fashion retailer with more than four hundred employees. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.
#GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college
or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.
All of these books should be located in your local library, but if you’re like me and have a “book-hoarding” issue, instead of OVER-paying for these reads at your local bookstore, try stopping by these places. These are my go-to’s when I want to spare a dime for my newest paperback (now I just need to invest in a larger bookcase to continue storing all of them!):
- Your local library-and no, I am not talking about borrowing, I actually mean purchasing them there! As an English teacher (and avid reader), I shop around my local libraries and find many of my reads (for either my own pleasure, or for my classroom) usually for around 50 cents-$1. And to prove that they aren’t just old copies from the “Canon”, I actually purchased a brand new hardcover of The Fault In Our Stars for $1
- Half.com (an affiliate of ebay):When I was a poor college student paying my way through school, the last thing I wanted to do was spend a ridiculous amount of money on my books, so this was my saving grace!
- Amazon: you can always find a great read for just a few bucks. Even when I purchase them in “good” condition, they’re still in great shape
- Thriftbooks.com-buy new and used books at a fraction of the bookstore price!
- Your local thrift store: Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, etc…you name it. Not always will you find the most current top picks, but I love an oldie…Valley of the Dolls, anyone?
Hopefully this list helped to jump-start some of this year’s reading choices! What are some of your current favorites, or works that you plan on exploring? Tag me on Instagram: @daniellepiel, on Facebook: Danielle Piel, or you can contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Photo Credits and Book Synopsis Credits: Amazon