Happy National Book Lovers Day to all my book loving bibliophiles out there! I have loved reading for as long as I can remember! In fact, I still recall the first novel I read that really made me fall in love with reading – E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Fast forward nearly two decades, and here I am – a girl who still still loves to get lost in the pages of a good book.
Background before Book Recommendations
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of books, but it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I started to figure out what categories of books I really loved. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing in December of 2015 loving Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, and sports literature. When I entered East Tennessee State University again in the fall of 2016 for my Master of Arts in English, I had no idea just how much I’d read over the coming years. Depending on the semester, I read between 50 to 100 pages a night, roughly three books a week. For some people, that sounds like torture, but for me, it was heaven. I got to read new books, discover new authors, write on topics that interested me, and converse on the literature daily with faculty and peers. It was nice, and I graduated in May with a new love for poetry, the Bible as a work of literature, and works from the Appalachian region.
Since then, I’ve been reading a mix of everything including romantic fiction, the classics, poetry, self-help books, non-fiction biographies, educational leadership texts, and popular fiction. Because I do identify as a book lover AND since it’s National Book Lovers Day, I thought I’d share some book recommendations with y’all. DON’T WORRY! There are no spoilers, and I’ve divided my recommendations into categories, so if reading the classics isn’t your thing, you can check out another section of recommendations!
The Final Days of Summer
- Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You. I rarely watch movies before I read the books they’re based on, but in this case, I saw the Me Before You movie way before reading the book. I hated the ending of the movie so much, it halted me from reading the book; however, after hearing so many wonderful reviews on the trilogy, I decided to give the book a chance. A romance novel, young Lou Clark becomes a caregiver for the paralyzed wealthy young man Will Traynor. Over time, their bond deepens, and they change each other’s outlooks on life. Thank goodness I gave this book a chance! I can’t wait to finish reading the entire trilogy.
- Mary Kay Andrews Beach Town. A struggling movie location scout, Greer Hennessy has been give one last chance to find the perfect beach town for a big budge film. She discovers the perfect little sleepy bay town, but there’s just one problem: mayor Mr. Eben. Set in the beach town, this is a perfect summer read full of romance and personal discovery.
Appalachian Born and Bred
- Ron Rash’s Serena. While most people know this as a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, it was actually a book first, and let me just tell you, the book is a million times better! Set in the early 1900s, Rash’s novel depicts one wealthy couples manipulation of the Appalachian landscape through logging. Personally, I love anything Ron Rash writes, so if you’re not into reading an entire novel, check out his poems or one of his short stories from the collection Something Rich and Strange or Burning Bright.
- Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home. This past spring I had the pleasure of meeting Wiley Cash and hearing him read an excerpt from his newest novel, The Last Ballad. While I personally prefer The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind Than Home has been called a modern masterwork of Southern Fiction. and it is a popular read among English and Appalachian professors, scholars, and writers in the area. Set in a small North Carolina town, this debut novel revolves around the bond between two brothers and the community evils they face.
So You’re a Romantic…
- Shannon Hale’s Austenland. For all my Jane Austen lovers out there, this contemporary romance is for you! New Yorker Jane travels to Pembrook Park, a resort that lets people dress in Regency period clothes and flirt, to find her own Mr. Darcy!
- Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. A popular novel made into a movie a couple years back, Water for Elephants is all about the love between veterinary student Jacob Jankowski and circus performer Marlena. The two bond over the elephant Rosie and eventually fall in love despite Marlena’s cruel husband’s attempts to stop them. Ever since reading this novel, I’ve been wanting to run away and travel the circus circuit!
To Be a Kid Again
- S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. A coming-of-age novel published just over 50 years ago, I was required to read The Outsiders in seventh grade. At the time, I really connected with the young characters even if they were mostly men. That said, reading this book as an adult is a completely different experience! The dialogue among the young male characters takes on new meaning. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1965, this book details the conflicts between two rival gangs – the greasers and the socs – divided by socioeconomic status. If you like the hit television show Riverdale, I’m just about certain you’ll like this novel.
- Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. One of my favorite childhood books, Because of Winn-Dixie is one of those “kids” books that I’ll re-read every year just because I love the storyline and characters so much! A young girl named Opal and her father – the preacher – move to Naomi, Florida, and one day when Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket she comes out with a dog! Forgiveness, acceptance, and love are just a few of the themes in this funny, heartfelt young adult novel.
Contemporary Classics Worth Reading… or Re-Reading
- Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. For all my southern readers, this novel probably sounds very familiar. It’s actually a favorite of many local students, teachers, and adults in my hometown. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird contains one of my favorite protagonists ever – Scout Finch! Adult Scout reflects on the events of her childhood surrounding the mysterious Boo Radley and her father Atticus Finch who defends an innocent black man accused of rape. I’ve read this novel around a dozen times, and with each read, I learn something new either about myself or the writing process. Side Note: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the only movies I like in black and white! I watch it every time I catch it on television.
- Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I first read this book for an MA class, and it is one of my top three favorite novels! This novel follows the lives of young lovers Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner. I don’t want to give away too much, because if you’ve never read this novel or seen the movie, you will be shocked! For all my Gossip Girl viewers out there, it’s like discovering who Gossip Girl is but 10x more shocking! In fact, right after I finished the novel, I reread it again since I had a whole different understanding of the events. Recommendation: Even though Atonement was made into a move and is available on Netflix, read the book before you watch the movie or it will ruin your reading experience!
An End to This Book
Above are just a few of the many book recommendations I could give! I’m constantly reading multiple books at the same time, so naturally, my recommendations evolve as my reading does. As it is National Book Lovers Day, I encourage you to grab a book, curl up under a blanket with a cup of coffee, and read until you fall asleep. Remember, book lovers never go to bed alone!
Until next time my darlin’,