Category Archives: Reading Lists

Books for Gifts and Enjoyment!

goldfamecitrusBooks for enjoyment, gifts, and more!

Suggestions from the Mill Valley Public Library Staff – November 2015

Picture books to give as gifts:

Gift books for the 8-12 year-old crowd:

IllGiveYoutheSunbyJandyNelsonGift books for teens:

Gift books for the artist or crafter:

Gift books for cooks and foodies:  hartwood

notonfirebutburning New books for adults:

  • Beatlebone by Kevin Barry (author of City of Bohane) – Ireland, 1978. John Lennon travels countryside and encouters, among others, a shape-shifting taxi driver.
  • **Speed Kings: the 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull – (Non-fiction) Speed, danger, bobsledding!
  • **The Three-Year Swim Club: the Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway – (Non-fiction) Maui, HI, 1937. Children of sugar plantation workers learn to swim in the irrigation ditches with the hopes of going to the Olympics.
  • **The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (author of Edinburgh) –19th century Parisian opera singer on the cusp of greatness. Secrets and betrayal. (FEB 2016)
  • **Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt – (Fiction) Darkly humorous, off-beat fairytale by the author of the Sisters Brothers.
  • The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (author of Two Girls Fat and Thin) – An 11-year-old Dominican-American girl meets a couple, and their feisty horse, Fiery Girl.
  • **Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay – (Non-fiction) NY Times sports columnist’s hilarious and touching anecdotes on life.
  • **City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg – (Fiction) 1970s New York City, 2 estranged heirs to one of the city’s biggest fortunes, their lovers, two Long Island teenage punks, an obsessive magazine reporter, and a detective are all connected to a mysterious shooting.
  • **Not on Fire, But Burning by Greg Hrbek – (Fiction) Future SF; nuclear terrorist attack has fractured the country into territories, with Muslims being rounded up and forced onto Indian Reservations. The story follows a family who adopt a young Muslim boy and the chain of events that follow.
  • **Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan (debut from a highly-respected Indonesian author) A powerful, elegant story of Indonesia’s history.
  • The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi) – Three intersecting stories dating from 1600s through present. (FEB 2016)
  • Felicity by Mary Oliver – (Poetry) Thoughtful and insightful poems on the natural world and the lessons it offers.
  • **A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk – (Fiction) A tale of life in Istanbul over the last 60 years and a love letter to Pamuk’s native city.
  • Dear Mr. Youa memoir by the loveable actress, Mary Louise Parker.
  • The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson (author of Gilead and Housekeeping) – Essays on Christian life in our current world.
  • **The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild – (Fiction) A painting passes through hands of emperors, popes, kings, a Jewish family sent to Auschwitz, and finally a young chef who stumbles upon the paining in a London junk shop.
  • **The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino (Non-fiction) NY Times bureau chief describes a her time living in a special neighborhood in Paris and the colorful cast of characters she meets.
  • The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russian novelist and social activist) – Three friends living in the USSR during the 1950s.
  • **Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins – (Fiction) California drought has become so dire that it’s forced a mass exodus from the state, while a few hardy survivors attempt to stick it out.

Gift Graphic Novels: sleeperandspindle

  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: A collection of five hauntingly beautiful graphic stories, evocative of Tim Burton, Edward Goring and Neil Gaiman.
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell: This almost-graphic novel is a gothic retelling of Sleeping Beauty full of twists and turns.
  • You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld: This one’s a few years old, but it’s great. Full of dark humor and Gauld’s distinctive style.
  • The Story of my Tits by Jennifer Hayden: Great for women and anyone who has experienced and triumphed over loss.
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore: Okay, this one is not a graphic novel, but it’s a history of the most popular female comic book superhero and her enigmatic creator. For all those interested in Wonder Woman, female superheroes, feminism and women’s rights.
  • The March: Book One by John Lewis: powerful account of the civil rights movement.
  • The Sculptor by Scott McCloud: A modern Faustian tale about a struggling sculptor who literally gives his life for his art.
  • Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa: This is a visual journey of self-discovery that introduces the reader to nine metaphysical lessons with dreamlike instructions. For those who like inspiration and interesting artwork.
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan: Stunning illustrations about immigrant experience. Proof that words aren’t always necessary to tell a powerful tale.
  • Ms. Marvel: V.1. No Normal by Willow Wilson: Marvel Comics presents an all-new Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan is a geeky teenager navigating her Muslim identity and parents’ expectations when she gains bizarre and inexplicable powers and takes the Marvel Universe by storm.


** Denotes books we’re particularly excited about and which have garnered great reviews with independent book stores and book blogs across the country.

The Horror! Eerie and Haunting Tales for October


Alden Bell – The Angels Are the Reapers (Fic Bell) A 15-year-old girl is born into a world of darkness and zombies, where even other humans can’t be trusted.

Lauren Beukes – Broken Monsters (Mystery Beukes) – A detective finds a dead body: half-human, half-deer. And that’s just the start.

Brett Easton Ellis – American Psycho (Fic Ellis) – Think Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov with less of a conscience, a stronger sadistic streak, and a highly contemptuous attitude. Strong stomach recommended.

Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box (Fic Hill) – A collector of macabre things keeps a ghost locked away in a heart shaped box. But once the box is opened, there’s only one thing our ghost wants: revenge.

Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House (Fic Jackson) – One of the best modern ghost stories.

Stephen King – It, The Stand (Fic King) If you’re not familiar with King’s work, a dark, cold, and lonely night may not be the best time to introduce yourself…

H.P. Lovecraft – Tales of H.P. Lovecraft (Fic Lovecraft) One of the horror genre greats: his most famous story is The Call of Cthulu.

C. B. McKenzie – Bad Country (Mystery McKenzie) A Pasqua Yaqui Indian turned bounty hunter comes home to discover a dead body with jumbled piles of cinder blocks on either side of him. Soon after, our hero is pulled into one of the strangest cases of his life.

Edgar Allan Poe – The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Fic Poe) – The grandmaster of horror.  Now, what’s that sound emanating from the wall?

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (Fic Shelley) – Still one of the greatest psychological examinations of what makes us monsters vs humans.

Peter Straub – Ghost Story (Fic Straub) – A seedy hotel. A young man holds a little girl captive. He is anxious. She is not.

Carsten Stroud – Niceville (Fic Stroud) – A town called Niceville. A disappearance. A Robbery. Something’s not so nice about Niceville afterall…

Paul Tremblay – A Head Full of Ghosts (New Fic Tremblay) Is 14-year-old Marjorie Bennett schizophrenic, cunningly manipulative, or demonically possessed?

Intelligent and Provoking Short Story Collections


Some of our All-Time Favorites!

Well-worn and well-loved, with tattered covers, dog-eared pages, or spines broken from being passed by hand to friends and family, these are the books that have stayed with us over the years.

Donna (reference librarian, outreach):

Ali (reference librarian, volunteer coordinator, readers’ advisory):

Mary (publicity, posters, calendar):

Shannon (head of circulation)

Shane (circulation, missing items)

Danni (publicity, posters, brochures)

Cara (head of reference, Naked Truth curator)

Sarah Beth (reference librarian, children’s librarian)

Natasha (circulation, audio/visual management)

Jenny (reference, children’s)

Michael (circulation, paging)

Katie (Young Adult Librarian, Reference Librarian)

Franklin (circulation, computer lab)

Else (circulation, paging, audio/visual repair)

Kathy (head of technical services)

What we’re reading – September 2015

taking_power_back_taylorAli (reference librarian): The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor. Incredibly perceptive and well-written, Taylor’s examination of the forces currently dictating the direction and “openness” of the internet is important and brilliant. If you’re concerned about media coverage, open access, the opportunities for and abuses of independent artists and creators on the web, and much, much more, you need to read this.

fans_impossible_lifeKatie (young adult and reference librarian): Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa. Surprisingly funny and sweet. Fans of John Green would probably love this sarcastic yet sweet, contemporary coming of age-ness about it.


sequence_knittingKathy (head of technical services):  Sequence Knitting: Simple Methods for Creating Complex Reversible Fabrics by Ceclia Campochiaro. Very popular right now! Campochiaro’s book presents a different way of looking at knitting. She shows you how to chart or knitting by pattern to create your own design.  Campochiaro does an excellent job of taking something simple and modernizing it.

Vanessa-and-Her-SisterDonna (reference librarian): Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar. An intriguing fictional look at the life of Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa. Just started–looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds!


centennial_michenerShane (circulation): Centennial by James Michener (fic). It’s historical and pre-historical fiction which traces the history of Colorado from its primordial origins on to modern times. Recommended for anyone interested in sweeping epics, history, or inter-generational family fiction.

80 Years of the Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards

Photo from

Photo from

What do Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Nicole Krauss’ The Great House, Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel all have in common? In addition to be wonderfully written, thought-provoking, and critically acclaimed, all five have been past recipients of the prestigious Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards.

Started in 1935 by poet Edith Ainsfield Wolf, the awards honor books dealing with diversity and racism. The Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards website states, “Past winners have presented the extraordinary art and culture of peoples around the world, explored human-rights violations, exposed the effects of racism on children, reflected on growing up biracial, and illuminated the dignity of people as they search for justice.”

It’s no coincidence that a literary award focused on addressing two serious and often contentious topics which tend to make a number of people uncomfortable has yet to receive the same amount of publicity and prestige as other mainstream literary awards such as the Man Booker Award or the National Book Award. It’s a shame; the importance of not only addressing subjects that are real and complex, but in artfully encouraging the discussion and exploration of the various nuances and impacts of diversity and racism on human lives is huge. We read literature for the experience of it; many of us read literature as a way of gaining whatever small bit of insight we can into lives so very different from our own. Many of us read literature in order to read about people like ourselves (which is, let’s face it, much easier to do if you’re heterosexual and white than, say, of mixed-race or Filipino or transgendered.) Both of these desires– to learn about others and to reflect on our own nature– are inexplicably intertwined with race and diversity.

Identity and literature go hand in hand. To honor books which challenge mainstream notions of race, or call attention to the blatant avoidance of diversity, is to give voice to that which is often silenced, denied, or ignored. #blacklivesmatter and We Need Diverse Books are powerful examples of this voice, and also potent reminders that there are a number of people out there who want and demand that issues of race and diversity be taken seriously because it matters.

So congratulations to the 2015 Ainsfield-Wolf Book Award Winners, and all of the past winners, too.

~Ali B.

Eisner Awards 2015


Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Artwork by Fiona Staples.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then graphic novels sure pack a punch! Graphic novels are more than comic strips and superheroes (although these are awesome too!); they encompass anything that tells a story with words and pictures. While the origins of the graphic novel art form are debatable, human beings have a long tradition of telling stories with pictures, from cave paintings, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and stained glass windows. Graphic novels have the unique ability to approach topics that would be difficult, problematic or just plain impossible in other formats. Some of the artwork and subject matter are truly brilliant! Graphic novels are also an excellent way to improve and expand literacy.

This year’s winners of the Eisner Awards were recently announced during the 2015 Comic-Con International in San Diego. The Eisner Awards, named after pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, give over two dozen awards to recognize achievement in graphic novels. While some forms of graphic novels and comics are outside the scope of the Library’s collection, we do have an excellent and diverse collection of full-length graphic novels, graphic albums, series, manga, anthologies, collections and comics-related non-fiction.

 Here are some of the 2015 Eisner Award winners:

Best Continuing Series: Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Best Limited Series: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, by Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez (ON ORDER)

Best New Series: Lumberjanes, by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, & Brooke A. Allen

Best Humor Publication: The Complete Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson

Best Anthology: Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, edited by Josh O’Neill, Andrew Carl, & Chris Stevens

Best Reality-Based Work: Hip Hop Family Tree, vol. 2, by Ed Piskor (ON ORDER)

Best Graphic Album—New: This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Best Graphic Album—Reprint: Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

Best U.S. Edition of International Material: Blacksad: Amarillo, by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido (ON ORDER)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia: Showa 1939–1944 and Showa 1944–1953: A History of Japan, by Shigeru Mizuki (ON ORDER)

See the complete list of winners, nominees and information about the Eisner Awards.

-Natasha L.



Awards: Lambda Literary Awards

lambda_awardThe Lambda Literary Awards are given each year to a books which celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writing of the year and “affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.” Since 2007, the awards have been given in multiple categories–many more than are briefly listed here.

 Winners of the Lambda Literary Awards:

Great American Road Trip: Books by State

great-american-logo(Books are organized alphabetically by author.)

In conjunction with our 2015 Adult Summer Reading Program theme, The Great American Road Trip, we’ve come up with a list of books set in or about various states throughout the country. This list is just a sampling of some of the many different talents, styles, and stories connected to our country. Feel free to define your own literary American Road Trip! Also, just for kicks, check out some pre-established Literary Maps: SF Chronicle’s Literary Map of the SF Bay Area, the Literary Gift Company’s USA Literary Map, Brooklyn Magazine’s Literary United States,’s most popular books by state, and Business Insider’s map of famous books from each state.


  • Cotton Tenants: Three Families by James Agee (cotton farmer, social conditions)
  • Fried Green Tomatoes by Frannie Flagg (fiction)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (fiction)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (fiction)
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter (civil rights movement)
  • The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (memoir)
  • Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy (historical fiction)
  • Anthill by E. O. Wilson (fiction)


  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  • Last Light Breaking: Living Among Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimos by Nick Jans (Eskimo culture)
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (true adventure)
  • Coming Into the Country by John McPhee (Alaska description and travel)
  • Caribou Island by David Vann (fiction)
  • Two Old Women: an Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis (folklore)


  • Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis (memoir)
  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (historical fiction)
  • The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry (historical fiction)
  • Epitaph: a Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell (historical fiction)
  • The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant (fiction)
  • Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls (fiction)


  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (memoir)
  • Warriors Don’t Cry: the Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Patillo Beals (memoir)
  • A Painted House by John Grisham (fiction)
  • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser (nuclear weapons)
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (fiction)


  • San Miguel by T.C. Boyle (historical fiction)
  • Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (mystery)
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (essays)
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman (medicine, Hmong culture)
  • The Flowers by Dagoberto Glib (fiction)
  • The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande (memoir)
  • Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (memoir)
  • Tales of the City by Amistead Maupin (fiction)
  • I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (fiction)
  • Pomona Queen by Kem Nunn (fiction)
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck (fiction)
  • Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, Jr (fiction)
  • The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow (mystery)


  • Columbine by Dave Cullen (true crime)
  • Benediction by Kent Haruf (fiction)
  • The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings (fiction)
  • Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen (environmental pollution)
  • The Shining by Stephen King (mystery)
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (fiction)
  • Centennial by James Michener (fiction)
  • Nothing Daunted: the Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden (biography)


  • The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison (fiction)
  • Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman (memoir)
  • We Are Water by Wally Lamb (fiction)
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin (fiction)
  • The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko (fiction)
  • Sins of the Flesh by Colleen McCullough (mystery)
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (fiction)


  • The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani (fiction)
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez (fiction)
  • Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton (fiction)
  • New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick (fiction)
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palaniuk (fiction)


  • To Have and to Have Not by Ernest Hemmingway (fiction)
  • Paper Towns by John Green (fiction)
  • Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen (fiction)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (fiction)
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings (fiction)
  • Swamplandia by Karen Russell (fiction)


  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (true crime)
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow (historical fiction)
  • Untamed: the Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island by Will Harlan (biography, naturalist)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (fiction)
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (historical fiction)
  • Home by Toni Morrison (fiction)
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker (fiction)
  • A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (fiction)


  • House of Many Gods by Kiana Davenport (fiction)
  • The Descendants by Kaui Heart Hemmings (fiction)
  • Hawaii by James Michener (fiction)
  • Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julia Siler (Hawaii history)
  • Blu’s Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka (fiction)


  • A Country Called Home by Kim Barnes (fiction)
  • Five Skies by Ron Carlson (fiction)
  • Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild by Novella Carpenter (memoir)
  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan (US History)
  • Train Dreams by Dennis Johnson (historical fiction)
  • The Animals by Christian Kiefer (fiction)
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (fiction)


  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (fiction)
  • I Sailed With Magellan: Stories by Stewart Dybek (fiction)
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (true crime, World’s Fair of 1893)
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (science fiction)
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (fiction)
  • Native Son by Richard Wright (fiction)


  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (fiction)
  • Snapper by Brian Kimberling (fiction)
  • A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (memoir)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (historical fiction)
  • God Bless you Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (fiction)


  • Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy (fiction)
  • Hunts in Dreams by Tom Drury (fiction)
  • After the Workshop: a Memoir by Jack Hercules Sheahan—a Novel by John McNally (fiction)
  • We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop by Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer (memoir)
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (fiction)
  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (fiction)
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (memoir)


  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum (fiction)
  • The Worst Hard Time: the Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (US history)
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (true crime)
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (mystery)
  • Gabriel’s Story by David Anthony Durham (fiction)


  • Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (fiction)
  • The Sisters by Nancy Jensen (fiction)
  • Calling Me Home by Kibler (historical fiction)
  • Raylan by Elmore Leonard (fiction)
  • The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Chris Scotton (fiction)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (historical fiction)
  • Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend (fiction)


  • Gumbo Ya Ya: Folk Tales from Louisiana
  • Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terrence Blow (memoir)
  • The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke (mystery)
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (fiction)
  • Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (fiction)
  • Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice (fiction)
  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (fiction)
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (fiction)


  • Winter at the Door by Sarah Graces (mystery)
  • The Bird Skinner by Alice Greenway (fiction)
  • Carrie by Stephen King (fiction)
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (fiction)
  • Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan (fiction)
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo (fiction)
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (fiction)


  • Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker (memoir)
  • Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing (fiction)
  • Song Yet Sung  by James McBride (historical fiction)
  • The Other Wes Moore: the Story of One Name and Two Fates by Wes Moore (memoir)
  • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (fiction)


  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (memoir)
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (historical fiction)
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (fiction)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (fiction)
  • Mayflower: a Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick (Massachusettes history)
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (fiction)
  • Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (memoir)


  • The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron (fiction)
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (fiction)
  • Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison (fiction)
  • Detroit: an American Autopsy by Charles LeDuff (Detroit social conditions, history)
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (fiction)


  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (fiction)
  • Last Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke (fiction)
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (fiction)
  • Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien (fiction)
  • Giants of the Earth by Ole Rolvang (historical fiction)


  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (fiction)
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (fiction)
  • Ford County: Stories by John Grisham (fiction)
  • The Quiet Game by Greg Iles (mystery)
  • Mississippi by Hillary Jordan (fiction)
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (fiction)
  • Men We Reaped by Jessamyn Ward (memoir)
  • Freedom Summer: the Savage Season that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson (civil rights movement)


  • The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton (fiction)
  • Finn by Jon Clinch (fiction)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (mystery)
  • Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice (fiction)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (fiction)
  • Stoner by John Williams (historical fiction)
  • The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (drama)
  • The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell (fiction)


  • The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (fiction)
  • Canada by Richard Ford (fiction)
  • Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison (fiction)
  • Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (fiction)
  • A River Runs Through It by Norman McLean (fiction)
  • The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick (US history)
  • Fools Crow by James Welch (fiction)


  • O Pioneers by Willa Cather (historical fiction)
  • You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon (fiction)
  • To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal (fiction)
  • Ceremony in Lone Tree by Wright Morris (fiction)
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (fiction)
  • The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (fiction)


  • The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (fiction)
  • About a Mountain by John D’Agata (Nevada history)
  • Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman (fiction)
  • The Days of Anna Madrigal by Amistead Maupin (fiction)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (fiction)
  • In Nevada: the Land, the People, God, and Chance by David Thomson (Nevada history)
  • Battleborn: Stories by Claire Vaye Watkins (fiction)

 New Hampshire:

  • The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian (fiction)
  • Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (fiction)
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles (fiction)
  • Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss (fiction)
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard (fiction)
  • Sea Glass by Anita Shreve (historical fiction)
  • The Last Policeman by Ben Winters (mystery)

New Jersey:

  • Drown by Junot Diaz (fiction)
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (fiction)
  • Washington’s Crossing by Douglas Hackett (US History)
  • The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates (fiction)
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth (fiction)

 New Mexico:

  • Bless Me Ultima by Rudolpho Anaya (fiction)
  • Red Sky At Morning by Richard Bradford (fiction)
  • House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest by Craig Childs (Chaco culture)
  • House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday (fiction)
  • The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit (fiction)
  • Blood and Thunder: an Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides (US history)
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (fiction)
  • Cities of the Plane by Cormac McCarthy (fiction)

 New York:

  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (fiction)
  • The New York Trilogy (starts with City of Glass) by Paul Auster (fiction)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (fiction)
  • Open City by Teju Cole (fiction)
  • Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier (ethnography of street vendors)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (fiction)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (fiction)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (fiction)
  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche (fiction)
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma (fiction)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (fiction)

 North Carolina

  • First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (fiction)
  • Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt (fiction)
  • Nightwoods by Charles Frazier (fiction)
  • The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith (historical fiction)
  • A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (fiction)
  • Blood Done Sign My Name: a True Story by Timothy Tyson (memoir)
  • Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe (fiction)

 North Dakota:

  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich (fiction)
  • Encounters at the Heart of the World: a History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth Fenn (Mandan Indians, history)
  • Dakota by Gwen Florio (mystery)
  • Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman (fiction)
  • Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (fiction)
  • Dakota: a Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris (non-fiction)


  • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (fiction)
  • Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo (mystery)
  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
  • Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel (fiction)
  • Sula by Toni Morrison (fiction)
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (fiction)
  • Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock (fiction)
  • The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace (fiction)


  • Kind of Kin by Rilla Askew (fiction)
  • Cimarron by Edna Faber (historical fiction)
  • Ghost At Work by Carolyn Hart (mystery)
  • The Outsiders by SE Hinton (fiction)
  • Paradise by Toni Morrison (fiction)
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (fiction)


  • Heartsick by Chelsea Cain (mystery)
  • Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter (fiction)
  • Mink River by Brian Doyle (fiction)
  • Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (fiction)
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (sci-fi)
  • My Abandonment by Peter Rock (fiction)
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (memoir)


  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (fiction)
  • The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough (US History)
  • Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (fiction)
  • Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (fiction)
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (mystery)
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (historical fiction)

 Rhode Island:

  • Spartina by John Casey (fiction)
  • Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (mystery)
  • The Marriage Plot Jeffrey Eugenides (fiction)
  • The Exiles by Allison Lynn (fiction)
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult (fiction)
  • The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (fiction)

 South Carolina:

  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy (fiction)
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (fiction)
  • Minnow by James McTeer II (fiction)
  • The Disappointment Room by Dee Phelps (historical fiction)
  • Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo by Nitozake Shange (fiction)
  • The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (fiction)

 South Dakota:

  • A Long Way from Home by Tom Brokaw (memoir)
  • Welcome to Hard Times by E L Doctorow (fiction)
  • Black Elk Speaks by Black Elk (memoir)
  • Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges (U.S. social conditions, crime)
  • Twisted Tree by Kent Meyers (fiction)
  • Dakota: a Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris (non-fiction)


  • A Death in the Family by James Agee (fiction)
  • Provinces of Night by William Gay (fiction)
  • The Client by John Grisham (fiction)
  • The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (U.S. history)
  • The Smoke at Dawn: a Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Shaara (historical fiction)
  • A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor (fiction)


  • Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H G Bissinger (football)
  • Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke (historical fiction)
  • Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros (fiction)
  • Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (mystery)
  • The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez (memoir)
  • No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (fiction)
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (western)


  • The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (fiction)
  • The World’s Strongest Librarian: a Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Joshua Hanagarne (memoir)
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aaron Ralston (true adventure)
  • A Deadly Wandering: a Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel (accidents, technology)
  • Recapitulation by Wallace Stegner (fiction)
  • Refuge: an Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams (memoir)
  • Under the Banner of Heaven: a Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer (Mormonism)
  • The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer (fiction)


  • Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian (fiction)
  • Go With Me by Castle Freeman, Jr.(fiction)
  • The Skeleton’s Knee by Archer Mayor (mystery)
  • On Kingdom Mountain by Howard Frank Mosher (fiction)
  • Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Potter (fiction)


  • Postmortem by Patricia Cornwall (mystery)
  • Heading out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick (fiction)
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones (historical fiction)
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
  • The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (fiction)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (fiction)
  • Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron (fiction)


  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (fiction)
  • Black Hole by Charles Burns (graphic novel)
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (historical fiction)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (fiction)
  • Rebel Yell: the Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S. C. Gwynne (US history)
  • People of the Whale by Linda Hogan (fiction)
  • Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (fiction)
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (sci-fi)
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (fiction)

 Washington DC:

  • Echo House by Ward Just (fiction)
  • The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (fiction)
  • The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (mystery)
  • Paw and Order: a Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn (mystery)

 West Virginia:

  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (fiction)
  • Shiloh by Phillis Reynolds Naylor (fiction)
  • Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake (fiction)
  • Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips (fiction)
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (Memoir)
  • Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (memoir)


  • A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton (fiction)
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (fiction)
  • Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (natural history)
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson (graphic novel)
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (fiction)
  • Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (fiction)


  • Open Season by C.J. Box (mystery)
  • The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (mystery)
  • The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman (drama)
  • The Journey of Crazy Horse: a Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshal III (biography)
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx (fiction)
  • Shane by Jack Schaefer (western)
  • Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg (memoir)

Resources Consulted:

Strong Female Protagonists

Wild Seed. Photo courtesy of

Anyanwu. Photo courtesy of

  • Ifemelu from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Intelligent, outspoken, Nigerian expat Ifemelu observes and records the struggles of racism and identity in her perceptive and searingly honest blog.
  • Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia from How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez –  4 spirited, teenage sisters from the Dominican Republic must navigate growing up in a new and foreign culture.
  • The Narrator/”Offred” from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – A sharp and observant woman attempts to define herself against a dystopian society which only values women for their reproductive capabilities.
  • Flavia de Luce from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley – Precocious and brilliant 11-year-old Flavia de Luce has a penchant for poison, chemistry, and trouble.
  • Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – A woman of great moral fiber and backbone: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
  • Hannah Heath from People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – Heath is a young Australian book conservator who appraises ancient manuscripts.
  • Anyanwu from Wild Seed by Octavia Butler – A powerful woman who can regnerate, stop bullets, heal and harm, caught up in a time-traveling struggle.
  • Dolly from The Grass Harp by Truman Capote – Sixty-year-old Dolly develops a secret remedy for dropsy and lives in a tree house.
  • Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa is “gifted” with the talent of killing, and by the time she is 18, she’s working unhappily as the King’s henchmen when she decides to strike out on a different path. Beautiful, deadly, cunning, and compassionate, Katsa is a complex heroine.
  • Little Bee from Little Bee by Chris Cleeve – Little Bee is a cautious, keen observer of others, a civil war survivor, and a Nigerian refugee who has fled to London.
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Colins – Forced to fight to the death against other sixteen-year-olds in a dystopian society, Katniss–with her hunting skills, her powerful sense of justice, and her fierce love of and loyalty to her friends and family–is a force to be reckoned with.
  • Dinah from The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Dinah was a minor character in the Book of Genesis, but in Diamant’s book, she takes center stage as a young woman who comes into her own.
  • Victoria Jones from The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – On her 18th birthday, Victoria Jones ages out of the foster care system.  Unable to express herself with words, she relies on the Victorian language of flowers to communicate: dahlias for “dignity”; rhododendron for “beware.”
  • Marie Laure from All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr – When she is six, Marie Laure goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane.
  • Syrenka from Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – Syrenka is a mermaid who abandons her underwater life for a chance at love on land.
  • Lucy Honeychurch from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster – Beautiful and kind Lucy Honeychurch is constrained by society and customary politeness until she travels to Italy and discovers her own feisty and passionate spirit.
  • Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in our Stars by John Green – At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is a resilient, witty, three-year stage IV-cancer survivor who is (understandably) clinically depressed. 
  • Raquel “Rocky” Rivera from The Gangster of Love by Jessica Hagedorn – A young, spirited Filipino woman who pursues her career as a rock musician while struggling to assimilate into American culture.
  • Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – An orphaned daughter of two witches, Diana Bishop is herself a witch, in addition to being an intelligent historian.
  • Kerewin Holmes from The Bone People by Keri Hulme – Half Maori (native New Zealander) Kerewin Holmes is a brilliant, strong, independent and artistic recluse who lives alone in a tower by the ocean.
  • Ayesha from She by H. Rider Haggard – Ayesha is a mysterious and powerful Egyptian Queen who discovers the secret of immortality.
  • Jenny Fields from The World According to Garp by John Irving – Jenny is a strong-willed and compassionate nurse who raises Garp as a single mother.
  • Devorah from Like No Other by Una LaMarche – Devorah is an intelligent, compassionate Hasidic Jew, and her life is full of loving family, constant ritual, and avoiding outsiders. 
  • Frankie Landau Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart – Frankie is a smart, tough, and curious sophomore who learns about a secret boys-only society at her boarding school and hatches up a cunning plan to turn it on its head.
  • Elphaba from Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – Elphaba subverts every idea of the evil witch, and enchants as an endearing, green-skinned outcast.
  • Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I from The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell. A fascinating fictional portrayal of two of Britain’s strongest, most intelligent and famous royal women.
  • Mma “Precious” Ramotswe from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – An intelligent, warm, and intuitive woman, Precious is Botswana’s only female detective, and her methods are anything but conventional.
  • Aerin in The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – A strong and complex young woman, Aerin is an outsider princess who must fight the forces of evil to save her kingdom.
  • Florence Gordon from Florence Gordon by Brian Morton – Florence Gordon is a blunt, brilliant, extremeley critical 76-year old feminist icon.
  • Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – A young, smart, sensitive and determined female writer.
  • Sally Lockhart from The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman – Sally Lockhart is a sixteen-year-old orphan who must dodge death in her quest to uncover the secret  behind a mysterious ruby.
  • Olive Kitteridge from Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – A gloriously abrasive, cantankerous, opinionated, and determined woman.
  • Hama and Matron from Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Because, in the words of our Librarian Cara B., “these are not the lead characters, but they are two of my favorite (and most kick-a**) women characters ever.”
  • Celie from The Color Purple by Alice Walker – a woman of letters, Celie perceptively and honestly documents her harrowing life and her developing strength and resilience against powerful odds.
  • Maggie and Queenie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Queenie is a British spy who is caught and interrogated by the Nazis for secret codes; her close friend Maddie is a skilled and daring British pilot

And, if you’re interested, there’s a fun book titled How to Be a Heroine; or What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis.