The fall semester has already started, and you find yourself bored of reading that dull ENGL 405 textbook your professor assigned you. To spice up your reading list, take a look a look at these interesting yet compelling books that will keep you intrigued and open your mind. You might just learn something.

Gay & Lesbian Studies

With gay families more and more ubiquitous, it’s fascinating to read about an era that got the ball rolling. Alysia Abbott’s memoir, Fairyland, delves into life with her single, bi-sexual father in '70s San Francisco, where history is being made, alongside the quotidian details of normal family life.


Everyone’s looking for the next Hunger Games, and Joelle Charbonneau may have finally struck the bullseye with The Testing. This trilogy follows Malencia Vale as she fights for a spot at the university, in a dystopian future where not getting in means certain death.

Young adults in peril in a brave new world are all the rage, and Susan Beth Pfeffer capitalizes brilliantly in her Life As We Knew It series. The latest, The Shade of the Moon, keeps the tension going as Jon Evans fights to balance his own needs and those of his family.


“Lad Lit” takes a turn for the better in Benjamin Svetkey’s Leading Man. Shades of Nick Hornby echo throughout this tale of a 26-year-old looking for love, understanding and retribution in Manhattan.

Marriage plus murder equals The Silent Wife. A.S.A. Harrison’s debut novel brings to mind Gone Girl, bursting with suspense, twisted psychology and frightening insights into a marriage adrift.

Children’s Literature

Everybody loves a good adventure story, and there’re few books in the genre more memorable than Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons, newly reissued in a beautiful hardcover edition reproducing the author’s original illustrations. It tells the enchanting tale of a group of kids summering on an island, left mostly to themselves, dreaming up pirate battles and shipwrecks. - Michael Sebastian

State History

Fall is a great time to travel, and Lonely Planet’s California’s Best Trips is the perfect guide for adventurous and budget wanderers alike. Great itineraries, from Alice Waters’ Culinary Tour to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway of Lassen Peak will inspire you to hit the road.


Truly one of the world’s best photographers, Sebastião Salgado hits his stride with Genesis. This “love letter” to the planet is a perfect gift for someone you cherish.


With government surveillance on the rise, it’s interesting to remember a time when people fought for their 4th Amendment rights. The Subversives, by Seth Rosenfeld, investigates the FBI’s excessive privacy invasions in the '60s.


Southern California has a reputation for flakiness, and Paul A. Offit, M.D. works hard to disprove the goobledygook in Do You Believe in Magic? This fascinating looks into the often confounding world of alternative medicine and will have you thinking twice before taking your next supplement.


A big, messy story of a big, messy family, the writing in & Sons is impossible to resist. David Gilbert captures the disparate voices in a family drifting apart, yet hungering for connection, with clarity and conviction.

A new voice from across the pond, Jenni Fagan gets down and dirty with The Panopticon. This story of a young girl unmoored in the foster system, yet determined to find secure footing, will grab your heart and shake it.

A behemoth spanning time and space, Babayaga by Tony Barlow comes fully formed. Combining magic, mayhem, Paris and the CIA, what’s not to like?

Brief Encounters with the Enemy, a collection of short stories by Said Sayrafiezadeh is a fresh and compelling debut. Set in a faceless American city, these tales speak of dislocation, ennui and struggle in a manner both specific and universal.

European History

Bring it on Scandinavia! With The Killing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Bridge all hailing from the Great North, you have to wonder: what’s in the snow? Norway’s Jo Nesbø continues the thrills with his crime novels about Inspector Harry Hole. The series is addictive and suspenseful, perfect to read through 24-hours of daylight.

Home Economics

Gender roles have come a long way over the last century. Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman, brings together a collection of female crime writers from the '40s-'70s that “took a scalpel to contemporary society.”

Take one terrific writer, Kate Christensen, add musings on life and food, and you get the wonderful Blue Plate Special. This memoir uses gastronomic memories to tell the larger story of a life.

Latin American Studies

America’s intriguing neighbor to the south often gets short shrift in our limited attention field. Alfredo Corchado’s Midnight in Mexico goes a long way toward fixing this deficit, chronicling a country that often seems to vacillate between corruption and hope and back again.


The glamour and mystery surrounding the all-girl group, The Runaways, permeates the pages of Queen of Noise. Evelyn McDonnell explores the rise and fall of a truly original group that emerged -- teenagers, yet fully formed and ready to rock.

Talk About a Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen delves into the mind and work of an American icon. Christopher Phillips and Louis P. Masur gather more than 30 in-depth interviews from the last 40 years, illuminating the man behind the lyrics.

African-American Studies

Recently voted the best Los Angeles-centric novel ever by the L.A. Weekly, If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes, is a must-read. Racism, class and despair combine to beautiful effect as Bob Jones finds himself wound tighter and tighter by a society that does not respect him or even assign him the least value. Devastating.