39 Books to Place Beneath the Tree

Books make great gifts! Photo by NastyaSensei on Pexels.com

Whether you are looking for a book to read between now and then end of the year or a book to give as a gift, here are 39 books I highly recommend. I’ve culled these titles from the list of 185 books that I’ve read this year. They aren’t all new but many are.

Because much of my writing is for young readers, I’ve split the list into Books for Young Readers and Books for Adult Readers. That said, adults will enjoy many of the books on the first part of the list. I know I did.

The young readers list is further divided by age (picture book to young adult). The adult readers list is divided by genre.

Books for Young Readers

Picture Books:

Dandy by Ame Dyckman

Bruce’s Big Storm by Ryan Higgins

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins

Drawn Together by Minh Le

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Pies from Nowhere by Dee Romito

Leave It to Abigail by Barb Rosenstock

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

When Jackie Saved Grand Central by Natasha Wing

Middle Grade:

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Young Adult:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Books for Adult Readers


Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Echo in Onyx by Sharon Shinn

Echo in Emerald by Sharon Shinn

Echo in Amethyst by Sharon Shinn


The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

Horror/Thriller (a lot more atmosphere than gore):

The Chill by Scott Carson

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

The Institute by Stephen King

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Violet by Scott Thomas

The Other People by C.J. Tudor


Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

Hollywood Park by Mikell Jollett

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

The Splendid and the Vile by Eric Larson

The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair


Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Cafe by Kris Bock

Kittens and Kisses at the Cat Cafe by Kris Bock

If any of you have a book that you would like to recommend, be sure to add it in the comments below!


Book Reviews and Recommendations

A novel I recommend.

I am a ridiculously avid reader.  What do I mean by ridiculously avid?  At any time I am reading:

  • One magazine that stays in the car.
  • One magazine that stays in the bedroom.
  • A book that is on my nightstand.
  • An audiobook for when I am crafting or washing dishes.
  • An ebook (Kindle/treadmill or RB Digital/rowing) for exercise.

You might think that reading this many things would slow me down considerably.  Granted, I also count the picture books I read, but I finished book #90 yesterday.  I don’t bother to keep track of the magazines.

Perhaps because I am such an avid reader, I want other people to love reading too.  This means that when I post about a book on Twitter or Bookshelf, my book review blog, I am recommending the books.  I don’t post about a book just so that I can complain about the ending or the research.  And if there have been highly critical reviews, I don’t agree with them.

So what do I post?

Obviously, what I post on Twitter is going to be short, sweet and to the point.  “I just read XYZ, a great picture book for . . . this novel is a great choice for writers who are studying plot or pacing.”

A picture book I recommend.

When I review a book, I start with a summary of the book.  In fiction, this includes the main character and the story problem.  In nonfiction, this includes the topic and breadth of treatment. Then I go on to discuss who would like the book.  Is it a good book for reading aloud?  A great choice for reluctant readers?  Is it a mystery that fantasy fans would enjoy?  Then I include this information.

If people online have been critical about the book, I might address it.  Maybe.

I have to admit that I don’t tend to read critical reviews.  Often the people who complain about a book and give it only one star don’t seem to have been clear on what the book was about in the first place.  Simply reading the jacket copy would have made it clear that this book would touch on evolution, politics or some other equally terrifying topic.  Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if these same people freaked out each and every morning when the toast pops up out the toaster.  After all, who could have possibly seen that coming?!

Do I love every book I read?  Um, no.  But I am not going to pan a book in public.  There is only so much time in the day.  I’d rather recommend a book I loved.


What to Read Before You Start Writing

One of the things that Emma Dryden and I discussed when she critiqued my manuscript was the fact that I should read middle grade novels with 11 year-old protagonists.  I knew that, but then she asked me who I would read.




The only author that I could think of was Bruce Coville.   His magic shop books feature 12 year-old protagonists who are new to using magic so they’re pretty on the mark but I really needed to read more than one author.

Fortunately, I’m on a list for children’s writers so I sent out an e-mail.  I also posted on Facebook.  These generous souls responded and I soon had a list to take to my local library.

Before you start a new project, especially if it is a kind of writing you’ve never done before or don’t do often, read.  Read new books for the same audience.  And if you can’t come up with enough examples on your own, ask librarians.  Ask teachers.  Ask other writers.  Fellow book lovers will point you in the right direction.

Here is the list my friends helped me put together:

Adam Gidwitz’ :
A Tale Dark and Grimm
In a Glass Grimly

Gary Schmidt:
What Came from the Stars

Joni Sensel:
The Farwalker’s Quest
The Time Keeper’s Moon
Skeleton’s Knife

Anne Ursu:

Melissa Wiley:
The Prairie Thief

Patricia Wrede:
(Enchanted Chronicles series)
Dealing with Dragons
Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking with Dragons

(Frontier Magic Series)
The Thirteenth Child
Across the Great Barrier
The Far West