How to Pick a Good Book in 5 Minutes, Plus Some Recommendations

My best advice? Decide what you are going to read before you get to the book store or library. Have a list. Get acquainted with your library’s online system. My library even allows you to reserve a book online, so when you show up with your gaggle of children and the overstuffed canvas bag spilling out Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and the entire Dr. Seuss collection, you have one less thing to think about.

Need some inspiration? Check out these books at your nearest library:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: What a fun read! This book weaves narrative through a series of letters from Juliet Ashton, an author in Post-World War II England. Early in the novel, Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Intrigued, Ashton responds to the letter, sparking a kinship with an extraordinary reading society, learning of their lives during the German occupation of the Channel Islands. I love the main narrator. I love her friends who send her letters. I love how the novel deals with the severities of German occupation without losing the optimism and strength of the characters. Overall, the book honors literature as a way to cope with the harsh realities of life – even German occupied life.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children: This young adult novel offers a new twist to a typical coming-of-age hero by incorporating fascinating photographs throughout the novel, which tie in to the narrative. Not unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Wolverine, Jacob leads a relatively normal life and childhood, admiring his spirited and sometimes frightening grandpa and dreaming of becoming an adventurer. He finds his teenage years to be disheartening and mundane when he gets a panicked call from his grandfather – monsters are after him and he can’t get to his guns. This message sends Jacob on a quest to find the answers about his grandfather’s past, many of those answers awaiting him at an orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. What was actually truth and what was myth? Parts of the novel seem underdeveloped, especially at the end, but overall, I like the world the author creates, especially with the fascinating photographs. He also sets up a the novel for an exciting series. Check out my friend Lauren’s post here for a more in-depth review (some spoilers).

Half Broke Horses: A novel of sorts by Jeannette Walls, which offers some back story to her first work, The Glass Castle – one of my favorite memoirs ever. Half Broke Horses recounts the life of Walls’s maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, in a first person narrative. We meet the fiery and resilient grandmother at the age of ten, as she saves her younger brother and sister from drowning in a sweeping flash flood off of the Pecos River in West Texas. Each chapter brings to life the American West and the life of a true pioneer (think Laura Ingalls meets Annie Oakley meets Amelia Earhart). Walls recounts her grandmother’s life as she traveled hundreds of miles alone on horseback (starting at the age of fifteen!) throughout Arizona to teach in one-room schools, eventually marrying and starting a family with her husband, a rancher.

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  1. #1 by Lauren@THCW on April 25, 2012 - 12:19 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of putting books on hold at the library. I put everything on hold, even if it’s a book the library has a dozen copies of and they’re all in stock.

    And great recommendation with Miss Peregrine (of course, you know I like it. I haven’t read the other two, but they’ll go on my list!

    Have you read The Hiding Place? Your description of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society reminded me of it, just as an optimistic tale in a very harsh and troublesome time. Great book, if you’ve never read it!

  2. #2 by kellywiggains on April 25, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    Hey Lauren,

    I added a link to your post about Miss Peregrine within the text. I meant to do that earlier.

    I read the Hiding Place back in high school, but I need to read it again. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. #3 by Lauren@THCW on April 25, 2012 - 2:19 pm

    Thanks for the link!

  4. #4 by Lauren on April 26, 2012 - 1:01 am

    Kelly! Love your blog! I just joined a book club and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was my first book to read for the club. I loved it! I am glad to know you liked Miss Peregrine’s…I saw it at the store the other day and thought it looked intriguing, but Scott said it looked too creepy. I may have to check it out!

    I just got onto Goodreads as well, and really like having a way to keep track of all those books I’ve been meaning to read for forever. It’s vey useful. Thanks for the tips!

  5. #5 by kellywiggains on April 26, 2012 - 1:06 am

    Lauren,

    Thanks so much. You need to check out Miss Peregrine’s. The cover deters too many people because it looks like a book about floating children who murder people or something. It’s not. It’s more like X-Men or Harry Potter. The photographs are actually really cool.

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