Category Archive:Reader’s Advisory

I’ve been listening to the podcast, What Should I Read Next? with Ann Bogel, author of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. On each podcast, Ms. Bogel interviews a reading guest, asking a few specific questions about the guest’s taste in books, and then recommends three books or authors for the guest’s consideration. I thought I’d try to answer Ms. Bogel’s questions, not because she’s asked me to be a guest on her podcast, but just because it might be an interesting exercise. If any of my readers want to recommend books to me based on my answers to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s questions, or if any of you want to answer the questions, have at it. Spring seems like a fine time for a lively book discussion.

First question: What are three of your favorite books (books that indicate your preferences in books)?

This question is a bit tricky. If I were to name my three favorite books of all time, you would get a wrong impression about the breadth of my reading tastes. My three favorite books of all time are Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. From that list, you would get the impression that I only read huge, weighty tomes about a character’s journey from youth to manhood and from innocence to maturity. Actually, there is some truth in the idea that I like characters that develop over time, grow and mature, and learn important lessons from the other people they meet along the way—and also rich and classic family sagas or books about an entire community. However, I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s detective novels, not much character development there, and I can enjoy a good suspense novel or some narrative nonfiction, too. So, three favorites that indicate different things about my reading preferences are The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain (narrative history), The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Christian theological fantasy), and Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (time travel science fiction). Make of that what you will.

Second question: What is one book that you hated?

Only one? This question, were I to answer truthfully, would immediately disqualify me from ever being a guest on Ms. Bogel’s podcast. Her first three guests ALL named Me Before You by Jojo Moyes as one of their three favorite books. I hated that book with a purple passion. If you want to know why I hated it, you can read about it, but (warning!) there are spoilers in my rant on the many ways in which I hated Me Before You. And now I will, instead of naming that book as The One that I hated, break the rules all to pieces and choose two other titles that I also disliked—so much so that I failed to finish either one. And to make the heresy even more egregious, these two are books I have seen many, many other readers designate as favorites, even classics. I pretty much hated Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Third question: what are you reading now?

This one leaves less room for controversy, so I’ll just answer it straight. The last two books I read were Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie and Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria. All I can say about these books is that the first was a good reminder of things I already know but tend to forget, and the biography of Joy Davidman Lewis was thorough and readable, but I opine that the author, Ms. Santamaria, didn’t grow to like her subject very much over the course of her research for the book.

Fourth question: is there anything you would like to change about your reading life? Switch genres? Read more of this or less of that? Change the way you read or the amount?

Honestly, I would like to go back to reading more slowly and carefully—and still read lots and lots of books. I think the internet has changed my reading. I have always read fairly quickly, mostly by skimming through descriptive passages. However, my skimming and my shorter attention span in the past few years have negatively impacted my enjoyment of the books I do read. I would like to read more carefully and more delight-fully. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t really think that any particular reading recommendations can fix this problem. I just need to do it.

So, given those questions and those answers, what book(s) would you recommend that I read next? What do you think Mrs. Darcy/Bogel would recommend? Or would she recoil in horror at my lack of respect for Jojo Moyes?

I still loved listening to the podcast, Ms. Bogel.

What books do you recommend to fans of James Herriot’s wonderful animal stories about a veterinarian in Yorkshire? I’m not much of an animal lover or an animal story reader, although I do like the Herriot books, so I had only a very short list in my head of books that might appeal to animal-loving readers. Now, I can add Lad, a Dog to that short list.

The stories in Lad, and they are, like those in the Herriot books, separate stories tied together by continuing characters, are about a collie dog owned by a gentleman farmer in New Jersey. Lad, a sort of composite of all of the collies owned by Terhune over the years, lives on The Place and follows The Law of obedience and loyalty to The Master and Mistress. When he’s not being brave and clever, Lad likes to chase squirrels and lord it over the other collies on The Place. The stories in the book are sometimes a little repetitious, about the evils of dog shows and the intelligence and doggy excellence of Lad the collie, but each story showcases a little bit of a different aspect of Lad’s character and of the joys of owning a superlative dog like Lad.

Mr. Terhune wrote in the early part of the twentieth century. Lad was first published in 1919, and it’s set during World War I. But the stories are timeless, appealing to dog lovers and even to animal-averse people like me. (I like my pets safely penned inside books where they can’t poop or pee in my house. Unfortunately, my children have foisted upon me two cats and a dog who all reside in my domicile.)

My favorite animal stories (other than James Herriot’s books, which are the best ever) are:
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Branford. (two dogs and a cat)
Born Free by Joy Adamson. (a lioness)
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. (dog story)
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. (horse racing)
Rascal by Sterling North. (a raccoon)
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. (horse)
Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. (falcon and other woodland creatures)
Rain Reign by Ann Martin. (dog)
That’s nine, plus one I think I want to read: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.
No talking animals or fantasy animals included, and I prefer books in which the dog doesn’t die, although some of the above break that rule.

What true or true-to-life dog stories or animal stories would you recommend for children or adults?

I’ve been having fun recommending books to people who ask for specific recommendations in the Read Aloud Revival Facebook group and the Ambleside Online Facebook group as well as on my Facebook feed. I thought I’d share some of the requests and recommendations here, just for fun.

Request: Favorite living books about seeds, trees and/or early botany for children ages 7, 5 and 2.

Suggestions:
More Potatoes by Millicent Selsam.
A Tree Is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla.
Mighty Tree by Dick Gackenbach.
Seeds and More Seeds by Millicent Selsam.
How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan.
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.
The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller.
Plants That Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller.
A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry.
The Plant Sitter by Gene Zion.
A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Aston.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins.
The Poppy Seeds by Clyde Robert Bulla.

Request: LONG picture books or beginning chapter books for a three year old who will sit and listen for an hour at a time.

Suggestions:
Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel.
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik.
Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson.
Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite deAngeli.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.
Mother West Wind’s Children by Thornton Burgess.
All of these books, except for the one by de Angeli, have sequels, so if you like the first one there are more.

Request: Books for a five year old girl in first grade, but reading at about a second grade level.

Suggestions:
Amanda Pig books by Jean Van Leeuwen.
Mr. Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant.
Thimbleberry Stories by Cynthia Rylant.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
The Secret of the Rosewood Box and other mysteries by Helen Fuller Orton.
The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith.
26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie de Paola.
In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen (Cobblestone Cousins) by Cynthia Rylant.
Those last three were suggested by Heidi Dunbar Scovel who blogs at Mt. Hope Chronicles, a wonderful resource for good book suggestions.

Request: Good books for young (8 and 9 year old) Harry Potter fans.

Suggestions:
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart.
Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.
The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke.
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearce.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen.

Do you have any reader’s advisory requests, for adults or children? Bring it on. I really enjoy suggesting and pushing books.

SATURDAY December 27th, will be the annual special edition of the Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. You can link to a list of your favorite books read in 2014, a list of all the books you read in 2014, a list of the books you plan to read in 2015, or any other end of the year or beginning of the year list of books. Whatever your list, it’s time for book lists. So come back on Saturday the 27th to link to yours.

Here’s the 2013 edition, with links to 105 lists of bloggers favorite books, planned-to-read books, and other book lists. Be sure to join in as we follow up Christmas and ring the old year out with book lists, my favorite kind of lists.

I tried to do book suggestions/reader’s advisory last year for those who linked to their book lists at the Saturday Review, but things got a little dicey and harried in December 2013. So I didn’t get around to recommending books for everyone who linked. This year I think I will only recommend for those who request a book recommendation in the comments of the Saturday Review next Saturday. So if you want to know what I would recommend to you reading pleasure, leave a request for reading suggestions on Saturday along with you link to your 2014-2015 book list(s).

I just found this site, called Anne Knows Books, which offers personalized book recommendations for a reasonable price ($3.00 a month) based on a book profile that you fill out and update regularly. I also noted this post, Why I’m Not Making a Holiday Gift Guide by Alyssa at Everead, in which Alyssa offers to give you personalized book recommendations for yourself or for those who are on your Christmas shopping list.

Well, I generally give book recommendations at the end of the year to those who add a link to their “best of” reading lists at the Saturday Review of Books on the Saturday just before or after New Year’s Day. (The Saturday Review of Books, Special Edition for Book Lists will be January 3rd this time.) But I’d love to get a head start. If you have some Christmas shopping to do, and you’d like to buy a book for someone special, or if you’d like to have suggestion or two about what you might want to read next, leave me the following information, and I will suggest three or more books for you to choose from for your gift-giving. I need to know the gift recipient’s:

Age and gender
A few interests and hobbies
Two or three favorite books or genres, if you know

You could try Alyssa, too, or Anne Knows Books, and see if we come up with the same ideas. Have fun giving a book or two or three for Christmas. I’ll leave my suggestions in the comments section here, and I might compile them into a post at some time later in the season.


““For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.” ” ~Louis L’Amour

Talk about diversity, the theme at KidLitCon in Sacramento, CA this weekend. I’m not there, but I hope all of those who are there are enjoying the time spent discussing, dissecting, exploring, examining, and encouraging diversity in YA and children’s literature. Real, nourishing literature is as diverse as its authors and readers, and we readers need each other to find the “good stuff”. Link up your reviews here each Saturday so that we can discuss, dissect, explore, examine, and encourage all through the year.

Reading from Flickr via Wylio© 2009 Easa Shamih, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

SatReviewbuttonWelcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

Also, don’t forget that nominations are open through October 15th for the Cybils, the book awards for children’s and young adult literature that are administered, judged, and awarded by kid lit bloggers.Anyone can nominate, so nominate your favorite children’s and YA books from 2013-2014 at the Cybils website.


“The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read.” ~Benjamin Franklin

SatReviewbuttonWelcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.


“‘Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?’ Mo had said when, on Meggie’s last birthday, they were looking at all her dear old books again. ‘As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells . . . and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower. . . both strange and familiar.'” ~Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Today, August 23rd, is Z-baby’s birthday. She’s the one holding up the copy of my book, Picture Book Preschool, in the sidebar picture. I don’t know if she’s finding any of her books “fatter” this birthday, but I do find myself richer for having been her mother for thirteen years now. Happy Birthday, Z-baby!

SatReviewbuttonWelcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.


“The aura of a book I have yet to read, with its promise of rapture, surprise and edification, might be even more powerful than the aura of a book I have read, enjoyed and duly forgotten.” ~Jeff Salamanacters

SatReviewbuttonWelcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

Scroll down to the next post to help with my 50 states nonfiction booklist project. What nonfiction book will inform the reader about your state?

New from Sarah Clarkson at Thoroughly Alive:

Storyformed.com is both a literary online resource, and the home of a new publishing imprint, Storyformed Books.
We’ll be republishing excellent out-of-print classics, releasing new fiction by contemporary authors, and publishing a series of essay collections on reading and imagination. My book, Caught Up in a Story, written largely to explain the Storyformed worldview, is the first to release with the imprint. We’ll follow it soon with Just David, one of the favorite children’s classics of my childhood.

I love book lists. If you have a summer reading list that you’d like to see linked here, leave me a note in the comments. Meanwhile, enjoy the following Summer Lists of Reading before summer runs away from us and inevitably turns to autumn.

Beach Books by Betsy at Redeemed Reader.

Book Tag: Summer Setting, Summer Reading

Summer Reading: 52 Picks for the Hols

Death in Summer: Mysteries for Hot Days