Booktalk Week 5

Day 21: December 16th

When you identify the origins of this blog you might assume that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that is correct. One of the things I love about this church is the consistent encouragement to learn and be educated. Church leaders down through the years have valued and actively counseled members to read. In fact scripture counsels in the church’s Doctrine & Covenants 88:118

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
Many times I consider this and ask myself, “Am I reading “the best books?” I have concluded that what is best for me is not always best for someone else. Indeed what is best at one time in my life may not be best at another. A small epiphany from my teen years guides me still. My friends were going to see the movie, West Side Story. I had permission to go but my mother said to me, “Are you sure you want to go? I know you. You will carry this around for weeks.” She did not ask me not to. She was not opposed to the movie. The music played often in our home. But she also knew me. I chose not to see the movie at that point in my life and when I saw it as an adult her wisdom was confirmed. That tiny moment has guided me through so many decisions. She knew me and I need to know myself. I pass this on to you as something to consider as you choose books for yourself and others.
Years ago in a Relief Society Teachers Guide this advice was given:
“. . . good books will elevate our thinking and lift our souls. This does not necessarily mean that our reading will always be positive and leave us with a smile. Some literature may leave us sad or troubled, but if it has motivated us in a positive direction, it has been worthwhile. Anything that degrades us in any way, however, should be avoided; it is not the best.”

I offer here some books that have motivated me in a positive direction. I admit to choosing some that may surprise you.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  -  If you only know the movie you are missing out.
The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
The Fortune Tellers by Lloyd Alexander

What books have influenced your life?

Day 22: December 17th

Book Series dominate Children’s Literature to a fault. I love a good series and have many favorites but I hate books that read like a promotion digging for one more sale. I always feel like I can read the difference between authors that write for the love of a good story and those who write for a living. Do not misunderstand me, I understand that everyone needs a living and there is no fault in that but when an author is motivated by their writing rather than the writing motivated by a need for cash I think the writing is better. When you have a publisher pushing for one more book, I can see how it would be hard to keep the motivation clear. The proliferation of the series has some push back. I hear customers’ telling me that they won’t start a series until it is complete because they hate being left hanging. I just jump in and read and then add to the pressure on an author by telling them, when the opportunity arises that I am eagerly awaiting another book. Things are even worse because I am reading books a season ahead many times to prepare to buy and when a series takes off the publisher no longer needs to print Advance Reading Copies so I often am waiting well over a year for the next book.
Some series that are popular right now are:

- The Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs comes home from nursing at the front in WWI with skills born in suffering.  She establishes a business as a private investigator in London.  The mysteries are captivating, the characters endearing.

- The Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley

A precocious young protagonist annoys her sisters, studies poisons and solves mysteries, charms readers and sparks a terrific laugh.

- The Crosswicks Journals, a memoir series by author, Madeleine L’Engle

I love them all but my favorites are Circle of Quiet and Two Part Invention

To be continued . . .

Day 23: December 18th

- The Matched series by Allie Condie

Not only is Utah author, Ally Condie, a really nice person she was also on the front wave of the dystopian series trend. The series is great fun to read and leads the reader to consider the importance of making your own choices.

- The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

John Flanagan has written a series that has surprisingly wide appeal! I am constantly surprised by the customer asking for this series. I visit with Dad's who are reading aloud to children too young to read on their own. Girls like the books just as well as boys. Customers from third grade boys to 75 year old grandmothers ask for this series.

- The Frankly, Frannie series by A.J. Stern and illustrated by Doreen Mulryan Marts

I was charmed by Frannie from the start and her popularity is still growing. If you want a series for a new reader take a look at this one. It does have more appeal for girls.

- The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems

Mo Willems books are proliferating with no sign of slowing down and parents as well as children seem to like the most recent just as well as the first. Elephant and Piggie are perfect for new readers and just as their predecessors, Dick & Jane, entertain with situations that are day to day for children.

Day 24: December 19th


The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman. A young girl who longs to fly meets a bird who has been transformed into a boy and she has to choose whether to help him return to his natural form when it goes counter to all her wishes.

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward – What happens when the only non-record setting person in a family of world record holders must save the family.

Romeo Blue by Phoebe Stone is the sequel to Romeo and Juliet Code, which gets the reader of to a good start but it is book two, Romeo Blue that tipped me from "this is a nice little book" to "I have to get others to read this!"

Middle Grade Favorites

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur is a sweet story of a little girl being guided and comforted by a father who passed away, not in any supernatural sense but because of his foresight in trying to anticipate her future needs while he was ill.

Icefall by Matthew J Kirby, also a Utah writer. I read this in three digit summer heat and shivered with imagined cold I was so drawn into this suspenseful and exciting tale.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. One of those great stories with quirky characters that create a community of care.

Pie by Sarah Weeks. The book jacket says it best, “It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty C Birney left me appreciating the wonders of daily life.

Day 25: December 20th

Continued Favorites - Young Adult

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It sounds crazy but this Cyborg Cinderella works even for skeptics and is a fun read. The second book, SCARLET gets even better.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. Can you resist the idea of a lending library for magical objects?  – Seven league boots, a table that replenishes itself & the magic mirror from Snow White. I have to admit that I choose hardcover over paper on this one just for the appearance.

Wolves, Boys, & Other Things that Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler is realistic fiction, not werewolves, and Kristen Chandler, a Utah author, does such a good job of capturing teens working things out when adults can’t.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater has spent much time on the Bestseller lists. It is realistic fantasy with a strong family theme. Maggie will be a guest at the Books For Young Readers Symposium in July 2014.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, another Utah author, could be listed with middle grade readers. I keep it in the you adult section because we are a university store and the students here love this book and the sequel, Runaway King.

Young Adult Books that Adults ought to Read

Going Underground by Susan Vaught, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

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