Ask me about my favorite book, food or color, and I’m likely to freeze. A lot of it has to do with what’s going on in my life. My favorite food? Something I’m craving now. Color often depends on recent yarn purchases. My favorite book? It changes as I read more great books. Still, here are my recommendations from 2015.
The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. Adult narrative nonfiction, this book tells about the creation of forensic science — ferreting out who was murdered vs who died by accident and what poison was used to do the criminal deed. Teens would love it and it is a good exercise in “exciting ways to use what you are learning in school.”
Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. This is nonfiction as it’s finest. Even if I wasn’t interested in graphic design, I’d love this for Kidd’s cheeky delivery. He informs without talking down to the reader. Instead he treats them as irreverant equals.
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers. A lot of the fiction that I love is really complex. This book is no exception. It isn’t post-pocolyptic but walks right up to total disaster. The C-8, eight mega-businesses, control everything from food to health care. The white and wealthy live in suburban gated communities. The poor struggle in crime infested neighborhoods and no longer attend school. This book speaks to teens who will nod in agreement at the parallels in our own society.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. Another amazing complex story. This one features a cast of five teen characters. This is a contemporary fantasy with a main plot (finding the burial of a Celtic king), but also numerous subplots that deal with the characters’ personal lives and families. Throughout this series, the characters grow and change. It isn’t as complicated as the world of Harry Potter but the characters are much deeper and the story is intense. Again (did you see this coming) I wish I had written it.
The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito. It doesn’t take long to figure out that I have a thing for sf/f but this one is historic fiction. As with all the books I love, the characters are well-drawn and three-dimensional, but that’s now why this one is on the list. This is a book about World War II and the Jewish experience which means it could easily be “ho hum, that again?” But it is fresh and knew and feels like nothing I’ve read before. I want to write a book like this one day.
Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt. Don’t preach. Teach your lesson through story. That’s one of those bits of advice that we hear but know it is hard to do. Watt does this in a book all about the stages of grief. The story could easily be ho-hum as we follow a character through grieving for a loved one. Instead Watts shakes things up by giving us a character grieving his loss of freedom. Loss of a loved one is a subplot with another character told only through the illustrations. Wow.
And what do all of these books have in common? I wish that I’d written them. What are your favorites from 2015?