Reading List: Fun Books For Light Reading

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We get asked a lot about “fun” and “light” books to read. Maybe they have a playful plot, a beautiful setting, or a funny protagonist. These are the kinds of books that are perfect for a study break! We’ve compiled a list below of some fun books that will put a smile on your face (and give your brain a break, too). Click the links to see where each book is located in the library.

 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

It’s the story of Cinderella, but with a twist: Ella is actually under a curse that she’s trying to break. Ella Enchanted is funny, romantic, and smart.

 

Wildwood by Colin Melloy

When her baby brother is kidnapped by crows, seventh-grader Prue McKeel ventures into the forbidden Impassable Wilderness (a dangerous and magical forest at the edge of Portland, Oregon) and soon finds herself involved in a war among the various inhabitants.

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes is an entertaining read about a boy who is sent to a correctional camp with a mysterious history. If you liked the movie, then you’ll love the book- it has the same sense of humor and mischief!

 

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

You can’t go wrong with the classic story of the practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins. Pair the short novel with the original movie and the reboot: we have them all here at the library!

 

Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

Learn all about the inspiring story of Olympic athlete David Boudia in his book Greater Than Gold. Boudia talks about how his faith in God changed his life.

 

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you enjoy romantic comedies, then you should pick up To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This Young Adult book details the mishaps of teenager Lara Jean, whose secret love letters somehow get mailed to all of her crushes from throughout the years.

 

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a samurai, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.

 

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

One of my all-time favorite middle-grade books, Bunnicula is the story of a rabbit that just might be a vampire and the other pets of the family who are trying to solve this mystery. Oh, and it’s absolutely hilarious.

 

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Author Jonah Lehrer believes that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few- it’s something that everyone can use and develop. There’s a lot to learn from this creative nonfiction book!

 

How To Be A Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

A naturalist and adventurer discusses the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals who have profoundly affected her, exploring themes of learning to become empathetic, creating families, coping with loss, and the otherness and sameness of people and animals.

 

Book Review: “Serious Moonlight” by Jenn Bennett

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After I finished reading The Exorcist, I wanted to pick up something lighter- much lighter- to read. So I chose Jen Bennett’s Serious Moonlight, one of the library’s newer Young Adult novels. It has a very cozy cover, so it seemed like it would be a good read for a fall or winter afternoon. Literally, a patron that I helped at the Circulation Desk saw the book and commented: “That cover just looks like Christmas.”

Here’s a spoiler-free description of Serious Moonlight from the publisher: “Eighteen-year-old, mystery-loving Birdie’s new job at a historic Seattle hotel leads her and her co-worker, Daniel, to a real mystery about a reclusive writer who resides there.” I would say this book is more about restarting and repairing the relationship between Birdie and Daniel, though.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Serious Moonlight does right: It’s cute. Birdie’s love interest, Daniel, is a sweetheart who loves David Bowie- which is a big qualification for a good literary romance. And even though Birdie pushes him away due to her fear of relationships, he still sticks around (which is okay rather than intrusive in this book, since they’re both nice and safe people). It’s a classic trope, but it’s one that works in this story.

Birdie and Daniel quote old noir/detective movies to each other. It’s weird and I don’t know of any teenagers who would do this, but again, it’s part of the book’s charm, just like the setting- Serious Moonlight makes Seattle seem smaller and more local than it really is.

Still, not everything is easy between Birdie and Daniel. Birdie worries that Daniel’s not telling her something (he’s not), and there’s a fair amount of natural miscommunications and missed signals between them. I appreciated these moments of realism (even as I wanted them to figure things out and end up together).

One last thing- if you’re into the Enneagram, this is a relationship between a 6 and a 7. It’s pretty entertaining how the two characters interact.

 

What Serious Moonlight gets wrong: Right off the bat I found out this was not going to be the completely innocent book I thought it would be. Let’s just say that Birdie has a surprise encounter in chapter one that I did not see coming based on her description of herself as “shy” and “sometimes cowardly.”  Later she has some more “encounters”-this book does earn the “Young Adult” sticker that we gave it.

There are also a few typos. This will bother some readers. And the plot’s kind of thin- this book is more focused on character growth than action.

 

Who should read Serious Moonlight: Readers who want a cute romance and a little bit of mystery. This would be a great book for an older teen or a young adult reader.

 

Who shouldn’t read Serious Moonlight: Readers who aren’t interested in romance/drama or would prefer a more chaste romance to read about.

 

Serious Moonlight is available in the library’s Family room.

*Content note: several suggestive scenes, language.

How To Make Time For Reading As A Busy College Student

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I’ve worked in the library for several years, and one thing I hear a lot from students is “I wish I could read that book, but I don’t have time!”

Now, I’m not here to give you a lecture on time management, or to tell you to stop doing homework so that you can read for fun! That’s definitely not what you should be doing as a student. However, I do think many students would like to find the time to read in their busy lives, so here are a few tips on how to squeeze in some reading time.

 

Read on-the-go.

Did you know that you can download eBooks from our library website? Once they’re downloaded on your Kindle, phone, or laptop, you can read the eBook even if you’re online. This is a great option for time spent waiting in line at Barefoots or sitting at the doctor’s office- those few extra minutes could be reading time!

 

Read on breaks.

From Christmas break to summer break, there’s usually a few hours to spare for leisurely reading. When I look at my Goodreads statistics, I can see that I typically read the most during J-Term, when I have a few days off of work and a less hectic schedule.

 

Read during meals.

Meal breaks are a great time to read a quick chapter or a few poems, especially if you find yourself in Cobo at a time when none of your friends are available for lunch.

 

Read before bed.

If you tend to reach for your phone before you turn out the lights, maybe you could reach for your book instead! If it’s a physical book, then its pages won’t emit sleep-disrupting light like screens do.

 

 

But what to read?

Book Review: “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

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*This post contains mild spoilers for Atonement

First things first: Atonement is a controversial book, but there can be no doubt that it is well-written. Ian McEwan gets inside the minds of his characters with a precision that is almost uncanny- how can an adult man so accurately capture the motivations of a dreamy (and judgemental) thirteen-year-old girl? Yet the story unravels in flowing prose that compels you to read more, and you believe the characters, as dysfunctional as they are.

To summarize without spoiling, Atonement is mostly about the connection between a  young man and woman and how it is dangerously misunderstood by a thirteen-year-old girl. This leads to a great injustice, tearing apart the family at the story’s center. McEwan also throws in a lot about WWII in the second half of the story and how simply trying to survive can alter one’s reality.

What Atonement gets right: the writing. To me, Ian McEwan’s style is like a mixture of F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern) and Jane Austen (Regency era). That’s hard to pull off, but Ian McEwan succeeds. His story is all about the characters and their inner workings, so the plot revolves around their reactions and decisions. Thus, the different events in Atonement make sense to the reader because we know what’s really going on with the characters (even if they don’t), giving us the satisfaction of being “in on it.”

What Atonement gets wrong: In the #MeToo era, it’s hard to read about a rape that essentially goes unpunished. The main witness to the crime (who is not credible at all) takes control of the situation, which leads to the actual victim essentially not even having to give a testimony. This is an obstruction of justice, and McEwan’s attitude toward the young girls involved is detached at best and coldhearted at worst. In fact, most of the adults in the book are extremely neglectful of the children they are supposed to be taking care of, and McEwan writes as if this is normal and expected (instead of, you know, wrong).

Who should read Atonement: I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys books about fictional crime, in-depth character analyses, WWII, nursing, literature in general, and very complicated romances.

Who shouldn’t read Atonement: People who like books where they can escape and be happy in that escape. This book isn’t light or positive.

 

Ian McEwan’s new science fiction book, Machines Like Me, is due out this year. You can find two of McEwan’s books, including Atonement, here at the library. 

 

What Should I Read Next? (Summer Edition)

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It can be overwhelming trying to find new books to read. There are new stories released daily, and, if you already have a teetering to-be-read pile, adding yet another book can be intimidating. Still, there’s something exhilarating about finding your new favorite read! In this blog series, the library staff will recommend books to you based on your genre preferences. We do a lot of reading when we’re off work, and we enjoy testing out the new books that we get for the library! If you would like to get a personalized recommendation from us, please use the library chat function on our website.

So, what should you read next?

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  • If you like mysterious origin stories, North Carolina, and interesting character development: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Many of the librarians have given rave reviews to this bestselling book, which was released in August 2018, and all of them have different opinions about the ending!

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  • For fans of intense real-life experiences, teaching and teachers, and survival techniques: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Library director Melissa Moore said that she couldn’t put this book down and highly recommends it.

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  • If you’re looking a lesser-known classic novella and a unique vampire tale: Carmilla by J.S. Le Fanu. This short, easy read has a gothic setting, mysterious illnesses, and a young female antagonist. Carmilla is also widely considered to be one of the first recorded vampire stories.

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Harry Potter: Expectations and Isolation

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In this blog post, student assistant Donny Turner recounts his experience of reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time!

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Spoilers

When I was growing up, parents were skeptical about the Harry Potter fad. Like many Christian kids, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books until I was 13. As I grew up, the series became something of an urban myth to me- the taboo of something I felt like I was not supposed to have. In my head, the stories became something of a legend, and I kept building up how amazing the books were going to be once I turned 13. By the time I turned 13, my expectations towards the books became something that no book, no matter how good it may be, could match. So, when I ended up starting to read the first book, I was admittedly underwhelmed. The book was great, but when I found out that Harry Potter was an adventure story about a group of friends trying to save the world and it just happened to include magic, I was almost disappointed. I never even finished the first book, and for years I had no desire to read the other Harry Potter books. Throughout all of this I felt extremely out of touch and alone with a lot of my friends who had been obsessed with and read every single Harry Potter book.

Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the entire Harry Potter series in a used book store. I was able to purchase the collection for less than $50, and I was really excited about getting all of the books. I decided to attempt to read the series again, and for a while, it worked. I read through the first 3 books in less than a month, but then I stalled about 200 pages into the 4th book. For whatever reason, I just could not get past the Quidditch World Cup. I would read the first 200 pages, get busy and it would get set aside for a few months, and I would have to reread those pages again. Another few years would pass before I was able to get past those first 200 pages. Eventually, I began to read less in general; it just never took a precedence in my life.

When I first began college, I once again experienced a feeling of isolation again. I was at a new school full of new people that I had to meet. Often times I felt like an outsider at school; I had a very difficult time finding my niche. For the most part, I felt isolated and outside of the whole community. I remember thinking back to how I felt when my friends were talking about the Harry Potter books. Everyone had these shared ideas, and I couldn’t latch on to them. I felt detached from others. Eventually, I did find my groove, but those first few months of school were difficult.

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In my junior year of college, during the month of January, I found myself having to drive 4-10 hours a week and listening to music in the car was getting old; I needed something new. I realized I was able to check out the 4th Harry Potter book from the library (here), and I decided to listen to it on my long drives. While on the road, I was able to get about 400 pages into the book, and then I decided I had to start reading it in print. I flew through the last 400 pages in less than a month, and I immediately picked up the 5th book.

The 5th book is quite a bit darker than all the others. The tone is more somber and there is an edge to everything that is going on. Voldemort, the main antagonist, is on the rise, and it seems like something bad could happen at any moment. Throughout all of this Harry beings to feel more and more isolated. None of the awful things that are happening seem to be happening to anyone else. Harry begins to feel more depressed and more alone as time goes by. To top it all off there is a new professor at the school that is the literal worst. She specifically targets Harry, and she actively attempts to make Harry’s life worse. Harry feels utterly alone. The story focuses around this idea of loneliness and builds more and more that Harry has to learn to rely on his close friends. He must realize that he is not, nor was he ever, alone in any of what is happening to him. At the end of this book, the closest thing Harry has to a father figure, Sirius, dies. Once again, Harry experiences those feelings of expectations being destroyed and a great feeling of isolation. Once again I was able to relate very strongly to the character.

The 6th book of the story has some lighter tones, but ultimately ends on a very dark note. Harry is growing older, and Voldemort continues to gain more and more power. He is learning more about the history of who Voldemort is, and through these lessons, Harry learns of some of the humanity of Voldemort. The main antagonist is still extremely evil, but through multiple backstories, we are able to better understand Voldemort as a character. He is revealed to be more human, although definitely a very sociopathic human. Harry’s expectations of him change as a whole. He understands that he has love while Voldemort never will. Also, Harry’s expectations shift slightly towards the end of the story towards Draco Malfoy. Throughout the entirety of the series, Draco has been considered the antithesis of Harry Potter, and Harry absolutely suspects him of malicious intent at different times throughout the story. As the story is nearing its ending, Draco, ordered by Voldemort, matches up against a very weak Dumbledore and is poised to kill him. Yet, he cannot do it. There is a flicker of humanity in Draco, and he is unable to murder his headmaster. Harry, watching silently in the room notices this. Harry’s perception of Draco has changed in this moment, if only slightly. Where previously Harry had not seen any humanity there was some.

At this point, I was totally hooked on the books. Much of my free time was spent reading on and talking about the books. I can now say with certainty that the 6th book is my favorite, and I would tell anyone who would listen about it. Unfortunately for me, the fad of Harry Potter, while still quite prevalent, has definitely faded. I was dealing with isolation once again. Most people don’t want to listen to someone talk about how much they adore Harry Potter. Nevertheless, I persisted on towards the 7th book.

If you’ve ever read the 7th Harry Potter book, you know how different this book is compared to the rest of the series. The protagonists are no longer at Hogwarts, everything around them seems to be falling apart, and many of the main characters that you have grown to love end up being killed off. The book is gut-wrenching, and it seems like every chapter has a new main character dying. With each death, I felt more and more sadness and isolation. Throughout this book, the main characters become more and more removed from everyone as they are trying to find and destroy the horcuxes, the items that contain Voldemorts soul and ensure his survival.  At one point, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, leaving them even more alone than they already were. Without Dumbledore, and with wicked stories of what Dumbledore has done, the main characters feel utterly alone.

As the story nears the end, however, the main characters learn of all the different people that are still on their side, supporting them. They are encouraged, and they are able to find and destroy almost every single horcrux. It is only when Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of the story that he realizes he must sacrifice himself to save everyone. This singular moment, the moment he realizes that he must die in order for everyone to live, is a pivotal moment. This is when he reaches his most isolated, but he stays brave and dives deep into the darkness. He sacrifices himself, and through his sacrifice he is able to destroy the last bit of Voldemort that exists. Through his sacrifice, he is given the option to live again. In the moments proceeding his death, he is given a choice. He can decide to stay dead, and go on to the afterlife or whatever happens to witches and wizards after they die, or he can come back to a life that has caused him suffering and pain. He has to choose to make another sacrifice, and once again he makes the choice to come back and fight one last time to save his closest friends.

Despite his isolation and fear, Harry Potter is able to be strong and courageous when he needs to be. Sure, he absolutely makes a lot of really dumb decisions throughout the books that would have saved everyone a lot of time and pain, but I think that is what makes these books so special. Many of the characters are flawed, and even some of the main characters that seem downright evil throughout the entire series have redemption arcs. The Malfoys end up regretting their actions, and, most famously, we get to see and understand why Snape made the decisions that he did. We get to understand his love for Harry’s mother and how isolated and alone he has been throughout most of his life. Finally, the reader is able to understand why Snape acts how he does, and that he was actually acting out of love this entire time. He clings to one aspect of his life that will keep him from being completely isolated, and as a result, dies for an extremely heroic cause.

Every single Harry Potter book has some themes of isolation, and dealing with feeling misplaced or alone in the world. Reading these in the first years of college or whenever you are in a new place in your life can be especially helpful because often people feel out of place and alone at times of change. These books can help give one perspective about isolation, and they can show how one can emerge from that isolation and be a much stronger and better human being.

Plus, the books themselves are fantastic stories, with deep characters. These books are probably the most famous series of the 21st century. They personally have helped me get through a challenging time in my life. Harry Potter is absolutely incredible and 100% lives up to the hype, and if you have not read them yet, there is no time like the present.

 

*written by Donny Turner