The end of college experience, at least as seminal as the end of high school, has gotten short shrift in my opinion. Ben Masters’ The Noughties helps rectify this with a fictitious look at Eliot Lamb’s last hurrah before adulthood.

Ahead of its time, Lois Lowry’s The Giver (published in 1993) focused on a dystopian/utopian society and a boy who wants something different. With Son, a much-appreciated sequel, the author follows up with an indelible character and lets the rest of us in on where he ends up.

Epic and sweeping, The Orchardist follows a singular man, verging on isolationist, confronted with the very real prospect of two, needy pregnant teenaged girls. The sometimes violent and surprisingly sweet way that Amanda Coplin weaves the tapestry of these three lives is unique and unforgettable.

Walking the line between faith and family (familiar to many who stray from their parents’ religion) Hanna Pylvainen’s We Sinners resonates in all the right places. Told from multiple perspectives within this family of 11 makes the story cohere into an indelible portrait of the struggle for identity and acceptance.

I loved every minute I spent with Maryanne O’Hara’s deftly drawn character, Desdemona Hart Spaulding in Cascade. The setting of ‘30s Massachusetts provides a rich backdrop for this tale of someone striving to make her way in a world that offered fewer options for women.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy offers a delicious glimpse into the life of a single girl in the late 1950’s. Sally Jay Gorce’s adventures as an American in Paris both romantic and otherwise are frothy and entertaining.

With everyone always griping about Los Angeles, it’s a relief to find Maria Semple complaining about a different city in Where’d You Go, Bernadette. This comic tale, set in Seattle, serves up plenty of relatable, cringe-worthy moments that also manage to be laugh-out-loud funny.

I like to think we live in a world where bravery gets rewarded and a J.K. Rowling stab into adult fiction certainly qualifies. Choosing to follow the popular Harry Potter with the very different, The Casual Vacancy shows grit and courage. I very much liked the small-town setting of this election-centric read.


With an estimate of 60,000-200,000 Californians being homeschooled, now is the perfect time to read a letter from the frontlines. Quinn Cummings’ The Year of Learning Dangerously, tells of her own experiences teaching her daughter - the good, bad and ugly.

Bursting with innovative ideas, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, delves into the new research into education. With the changes inherent in the new global economy and the alarming illiteracy rate in this country, the timing could not be better to rethink how kids are taught and how they learn.


Growing up in a bar doesn’t seem like the best route in becoming a writer, but on the other hand, what could be better? J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar, makes excellent use of his myriad and outrageous childhood experiences and folds them into one terrific tale.


The chances of a family producing three successful, literary sisters (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) in the first half of the nineteenth century are slim to almost none. Juliet Barker’s The Brontes thoroughly explores the origins of the family’s inspiration, genius and dysfunction.


There are so many people in your life who will love This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music – the broken-hearted, the Eeyores, the generally desolate and those with a dark sense of humor. Adam Brent Houghtaling’s compilation of the 100 saddest songs might make you cry so much that you find yourself completely wrung out.

Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn’t Know About the History of Mankind by Paul Bahn and Bill Tidy delves into shameful acts from the past. The original format of this book, which blends cartoons, facts and anecdotes, provokes shock, humor and disgust at the state of humanity.

A unique hybrid of graphic novel and biography, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky, chronicles the extraordinary story of an American classic. This first family of country music broke so much new ground it makes your head spin.