So I stripped it down to just the text here.
(Well… and then I wrote a shell script which prompts the user for some input, and then uses it to search the Kindle store on Amazon.com, and returns the proper URL, and, optionally, the Title too, as Markdown, but I’ve been wanting to do that for awhile anyway.)
Anyway, here’s the list, in a much-easier-to-refer-to-later format.
(Disclaimer: this isn’t my list, it’s from someone called Arianna Rebolini)
1. If you loved The Giver, you should read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
Both novels tell of sheltered future societies gone wrong: the “Sameness” paradise of The Giver and the isolated boarding school of Never Let Me Go, Hailsham. But each of these supposed utopias harbor secrets, and the significance of Hailsham’s own “sameness” is the darkest of all. What happens when the residents grow up and figure it out?
2. If you loved Redwall, you should read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Rich, generation-spanning histories. Magic and mythology. Epic warfare. Feuding families. Badass ladies. So many feasts. Both series are chock-full of all of it. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire just happens to be inhabited by humans, not mice.
3. If you loved Sideways Stories From Wayside School, you should read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
The brilliant and hilarious Catch-22, which follows Captain John Yossarian as he fights in the U.S. Air Force, is all about the absurdities of bureaucracy. And while the themes of the war novel are understandably darker, the shenanigans are similarly inane — from a bomber pilot holding rubber balls in his hands as a way to distract from the crabapples in his cheeks, to the Wayside School student who can’t count in the correct order but always lands at the right number.
4. If you loved the Harry Potter series, you should read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.
Brooklyn teenager Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians likely grew up reading about Harry Potter. It’s the reason he spends his days wishing magic were real, and the reason he’s so excited when his fantasy is seemingly fulfilled by acceptance into the Brakebills Academy for magicians. But the magic world of The Magicians is a bit more tempered by reality — the studies are tedious, the practice is mired in bureaucracy — and even when Quentin discovers how far-reaching this magic is, he’s still not immune to some standard post-grad disillusionment.
5. If you loved Anne of Green Gables, you should read Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls Trilogy.
Kate and Baba of The Country Girls are like bosom friends Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, but if Anne and Diana eventually made their way out of the country and into the city. In this controversial trilogy, the girls — romantic, adventurous, and rule-breaking — leave their idyllic hometown for Dublin, where they pursue their passions side by side.
6. If you loved Ramona Quimby, Age 8, you should read Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake.
We all loved Ramona Quimby because she was relatable, a little strange, and always hilarious. Same goes for Sloane Crosley, whose sharp, endearing, and laugh-out-loud personal essays tell stories of angry bosses, misadventures at the Museum of Natural History, baking mishaps, and more.
7. If you loved Holes, you should read Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Both Holes and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao read as modern mythology, featuring two curse-afflicted protagonists who can’t catch a break. They’re tales of misfits and survival, and the cruelty that Oscar faces as an overweight Dominican-American teen obsessed with sci-fi is just as harsh and alienating as that of Stanley Yelnats’ prison camp.
8. If you loved Bridge to Terabithia, you should read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.
At its core, Bridge to Terabithia is about friendship, especially the kind that is strengthened by shared creativity and imagination. In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer explores that bond — focusing on six teens who meet at a summer camp for the arts — and looks at what happens when it extends into adulthood.
9. If you loved Ender’s Game, you should read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
If you were drawn into the apocalyptic cyberpunk future depicted in Ender’s Game, you’ll eat Neuromancer up. Ender is at times a reluctant hero, and Gibson’s has-been hacker Case is similarly unlikely — but when a dangerous artificial intelligence threatens Earth, it’s Case (working with a dead man and a street fighter) who has the power to save the world.
10. If you loved The Devil’s Arithmetic, you should read Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred.
Both novels use time travel to illuminate horrific moments of history — The Devil’s Arithmetic sending its protagonist to the Holocaust and Kindred sending Dana to the slave quarters of antebellum South. The 26-year-old Dana travels back and forth, though, jumping between her happy life in California and life-threatening experiences as a slave until she figures out what she’s being sent back to do.
11. If you loved Walk Two Moons, you should read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Walk Two Moons is a story within a story, told by a girl longing for her missing mother. The tale she weaves is fantastical, tinged with spirituality, mysticism, grief, a bit of romance, and rich descriptions of the land. Marquez’s epic masterpiece widens the scope of each of those themes. In a long and entrancing history of the mythical town of Macondo, he writes about love, revolution, prosperity, loss, and the tragic rise and fall of a family.
12. If you loved The Phantom Tollbooth, you should read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.
It’s the playfulness of The Phantom Tollbooth that wins over its readers (and, really, it’s one of the children’s books that warrants revisiting), and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust captures that same sense expertly. When Tristan Thorn embarks on a quest to find a fallen star, he encounters witches, elf-lords, a captain of a flying ship, and all manners of eccentrics that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.
13. If you loved The Hobbit, you should read Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road.
So it doesn’t have any hobbits or wizards, but what Gentlemen of the Road lacks in fantasy it more than makes up for in action, adventure, and enthralling characters. Zelikman and Amram, physican and ex-soldier respectively, make their way through the Caucasus Mountains in the year 950, fighting and stealing and somehow getting in the middle of a full-scale revolution.
14. If you loved Harriet the Spy, you should read Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
Harriet M. Welsch is easily one of the most lovable heroines of YA fiction, for her passion, independence, and fearlessness. Twelve-year-old Paloma of The Elegance of the Hedgehog is cut of the same cloth — a talented, precocious, and curious wunderkind who befriends similar eccentrics in her Parisian apartment building, and who’s mysteriously decided her life will end by her 13th birthday.
15. If you loved A Wrinkle In Time, you should read Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!.
Twelve-year-old Ava of Swamplandia! doesn’t travel through space and time, but she does travel through the Floridian swamps all on her own and, like Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, her bravery is for the sake of her family. As Ava sets off to save their alligator-wrestling dynasty, she travels deep into a beautifully surreal and somewhat mystical landscape, encountering dangerous strangers and creatures alike.
16. If you loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, you should read Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.
The troubles that Margaret Simon experiences in the Judy Blume classic — romantic anxiety, body confusion, the awkwardness of fitting in with new friends — are especially potent in the preteen years but by no means limited to them. Melissa Bank proves this as she follows protagonist Jane Rosenal from age 14 to her mid-twenties in a series of hilarious and heartbreaking stories of navigating love, work, and life.
17. If you loved James and the Giant Peach, you should read Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.
Roald Dahl was the master of bringing the surreal to life, peopling his world with talking bugs, cartoonishly evil adults, and a peach large enough to live in. Murakami is similar in his ability to fill his readers with metaphysical wonder, and he is most successful in Kafka on the Shore. Teenager Kafka Tamura sets off on a search for his mother and sister, with the elderly Nakata as his unlikely partner. Together the two encounter a slightly altered reality, full of riddles, talking cats, a rainstorm of fish, and a mysterious murder.
18. If you loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, you should read Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.
In The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson tells a tale that could very well be described as a series of unfortunate events, and in a similar vein as Lemony Snicket’s series. It follows the young and motherless Pak Jun Do as he makes his way in North Korea, coming up against harsh demands and arbitrary violence in a thrilling and at times harrowing tale of lost innocence.
19. If you loved Hatchet, you should read Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon A River.
Brian has his hatchet and Margo has her rifle, and both are fending for themselves in these stories of survival. Their isolations are different though; where Brian is alone in the wilderness after surviving a plane crash, 16-year-old Margo is traveling along the Stark River in rural and sparsely populated Michigan in search of her long-lost mother. The dangers she encounters are real and and often disturbing, but her perseverance is legendary.
20. If you loved When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune, you should read Toni Morrison’s Sula.
Both When Kambia Elaine Flew in From Neptune and Sula have at their cores stories of children who are forced to grow up too fast. They tell of violence in the household, the effects of poverty, experiences of racism, and above all the way that two friends can carry each other along. Toni Morrison’s classic Sula begins in childhood, and follows young Sula and Nel as they survive life in the Bottom (which shares a name with Kambia Elaine’s hometown, though the former is in Ohio and the latter is in Texas) and test their friendship as they go separate ways in adulthood.
21. If you loved The Westing Game, you should read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
What was great about The Westing Game wasn’t necessarily the mystery, but the characters involved in it. It was suspenseful, for sure, but it was fun and at times even funny. Robin Sloan captures that feeling in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fast-paced and heady mystery that follows a former web designer who suspects there’s something more to the bookstore he’s taking shifts at. As he delves into analysis with his eclectic friends, he uncovers a world of secret societies, mysterious literati, and a web of technological riddles.
22. If you loved the Goosebumps series, you should read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Harbor.
John Ajvide Lindqvist is the master of old-school horror, and his eery ghost story Harbor will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks. Set in the icy desolation of a fictional Scandinavian island, Lindqvist creates a world of mysterious disappearances, dark magic, stalking phantoms, and an angry and insatiable sea.
So I’ve got thousands of books, a quiet house, and a puppy at my disposal. Sounds like a perfect vacation to me.
1) Are you familiar with the “magic catalog” for Project Gutenberg? Lots of free, public domain books you can download directly to your Kindle from the built-in web browser?
(And, of course, you can read them not just on a Kindle, but pretty much any tablet-y device.)
The Kindle browser is terrible, so I made my own short URL for it so I didn’t have to remember the long one or use Google:
(You don’t have to capitalize those two letters either, http://luo.ma/magiccatalog will work just as well.)
2) As you discovered, many libraries now have ebooks (and audio books!) that you can download. Your local library will have information, or you can try checking out:
(again, capitalization optional)
The Boy and I had some time together today, so I took him to some of my favorite old places. The first was The Spare Time Shop which used to be the comic book store around. I don’t mean “the” as in “it was the best one” I mean “the” as in it was “the only one” back in the days before comics were cool. (Shut up.) If you were looking for comic books, or role playing games, or anything else that had to do with being a teenaged boy (99.9% of the time) with limited prospects of every getting laid, The Spare Time Shop was your place. Think of it like Cheers for nerds.
I’m amazed that it is still in business. Just about everything else in the same strip mall has changed from what it was “back then” except for the liquor store and The Spare Time Shop. I’ve driven past there for years, but it seemed like a good time to take The Boy, who is now 8. Maybe he’d find a comic book that he wanted to buy. Maybe it would become a “thing” for us to do together. At the very least we could try.
I opened the door and my heart sank. The Spare Time Shop is essentially dead, and in its place is a store devoted almost entirely to building models. Model planes, model cars, model whatevers. I built some models as a kid, but it was never something that really excited me.
I walked around the entire store and there was literally nothing that interested me. I let The Boy wander around on his own but he soon called for me, and said that he had looked at some cards (there was a small display of some kind of cards near the front door), but “there was nothing good.” He then added, “This place sure is dusty.”
True enough, son. True enough.
sigh Lose some.
Since we still had some time, I took him to Annie’s Book Stop, a place that I used to frequent when I was a kid. For those who aren’t familiar (e.g. “most people”), Annie’s is a used bookstore. They are centered in New England but have many locations. Personally it’s something I associate with my Dad, who used to be able to walk there — and did, on a regular basis.
Dad loved to read. He was always reading at least one book, sometimes two, and I don’t think he ever missed a day of reading the newspaper. But, unlike most people I know, he didn’t keep books. When he was done reading a book, he’d put it into a brown paper bag from the grocery store, and when the bag started the fill up, he’d carry it to Annie’s. They would buy them — well, sort of; for your used books you’d received store credit towards the purchase of other used books. (Some of the stores are — or used to be — called “Annie’s Book Swap" to indicate this practice. Store credit was fine with Dad. He’d fill the same paper bag to carry home another batch of books, destined to be returned to Annie’s once they were read. He used it sort of like a library where he paid to keep the books for as long as he wanted.
In contrast, I’ve kept most books I’ve owned, and have trouble even thinking of getting rid of them. I know I probably won’t read or refer to most of them… so why am I keeping them? I’m not sure. They seem like little parts of me.
We pulled into Annie’s parking lot and I hoped that it wouldn’t disappoint. I opened the front door and the woman behind the cash register looked up from the book she was reading, smiled, and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. I said we were just looking, and she mentioned that kids books were in the back corner.
You could probably fit this Annie’s in the basement of most houses in the area. It’s small, but neat and clean. As I looked on the shelves I realized that the loose system of organization hadn’t changed much. “Look… Star Trek!” The Boy said, and I knew just which shelf to look at.
The Boy didn’t find anything there. I, of course, did.
Click image below to embiggen.
(aside: please don’t tell Tony or Sniffy that I’ve never read any Vonnegut before now.)
Whereas last week I sat in Borders using their Wi-Fi to check Amazon.com for better prices, I didn’t even hesitate to buy these. Granted even the new ones (yes, it’s a used bookstore, but they sell some new books as well) were 15% off, but more importantly I want there to be places like Annie’s Book Shop around. The Boy may never frequent there, but maybe some other kid will. Maybe some twenty years younger me will find his way to Annie’s and find a way to connect with his Dad over books, even if they don’t always seem to have a lot to talk about.
Academically, The Boy reads very well. He excels at it for his age and seems to enjoy it, but it doesn’t seem to be a habit. I’d like it to be one, but I’m trying to figure out how to make it something he enjoys rather than something I want him to enjoy. He asked me today if I liked to read. That made me sad, because my answer to him was that I love to read, but he obviously doesn’t see it. Of course these days I do most of my reading on the computer screen, not with a book-in-hand. I’ve listened to more audiobooks than read actual paper books in the past 5 years, and most of the “actual books” were for school. Telling him I love to read isn’t enough, I know. I need him to see me enjoying to read. Towards that end, I bought Where the Sidewalk Ends and told him that I thought we could read it together.
While we were there, The Boy saw a Fitness For Dummies book. He said “I bet Lula—” (a character from several of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, which he and The Wife have listened to in the car) “—could use that book!” He said with a laugh. Lula is The Boy’s favorite character in all the world. She’s full-figu— no, she’s fat. And she wears too-small clothes. And she swears a lot. And he laughs and laughs. “I don’t know why, but every time Lula says a bad word it just cracks me up,” he recently told The Wife. He loves stories already, even if he’s used to them being delivered to him instead of having to work for them.
"Dad, why do you have one of those ‘Dummies’ books if you’re not a dummy?" he said, without a hint of either sarcasm or insincerity. And I love him for his sweetness and innocence. "Well, they use the word ‘dummies’ to mean ‘someone who doesn’t know a lot about a particular thing’… you can know a lot about some things but not know about other things and want to learn about them, and so people might buy one of those books… but I agree with you that I don’t like the name very much either.”
We had planned to meet my mom for lunch, and so we paid for the books and drove towards the restaurant, about 10 minutes away. As we approached, opposing traffic was stopped at a red light. I needed to turn left into a parking lot. The stopped cars had blocked my path. Since the road is only two lanes, this meant I was blocking everyone behind me.
After I was stopped for about 10 seconds, a woman next to me in the other lane saw that I was trying to get through. She pulled ahead so I might have enough room to slip through. It was going to be a tight fit and a sharp angle to get into the driveway, but there was just about enough room if I —
At which point the woman behind her pulled up right behind her, blocking the opening that had been created. She then proceeded to try to pretend she didn’t see me. I looked back over my shoulder to verify that the light was still red. It was. She had pulled ahead to block me from crossing in front of her, so she could sit in a line of traffic at a red light. She looked straight ahead, still acting as if I wasn’t there, now 30 seconds after being stopped next to me.
So I turned the car towards her, stopping when my bumper was about an inch from the side of her car, and my window was less than a foot from hers. “SERIOUSLY?” I yelled. “REALLY? YOU’RE GOING TO PRETEND YOU DON’T SEE ME HERE? YOU’RE JUST GOING TO SIT THERE AND BLOCK TRAFFIC AND PRETEND THAT EVERYONE HERE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT A —” and then I realized that I didn’t really want to finish that sentence with an 8 year old sitting behind me, so I changed it to “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? REALLY?”
She didn’t turn, she didn’t look, she gripped the wheel and stared straight ahead.
"THANK YOU VERY MUCH," I said as the light changed. The man behind her waved me through and put his hands up as if to say "Whadya gonna do?" I repeated the gesture as if to say "Can you believe that?" and then gave him a thank-you wave.
Mom arrived about 10 minutes later, and I recounted the story to her.
"With your son in the car?" she said.
"I didn’t use any inappropriate words," I replied.
"Was it scary?" she asked The Boy.
"Nah," he said.
"See!?" I said.
"Besides," he continued, both nonchalantly and completely unnecessarily, "I’m used to it…"
"You might have quit while I was ahead," I said. I pulled his head and neck towards me at a 45º angle, kissed him on the head, and then pushed his head away so he could sit up again. He looked at me and grinned. I rolled my eyes and made an exaggerated "What am I going to do with you?" sigh.
It’s 3 a.m. as I write these words, which won’t be published until 12:15 p.m. in the hopes that someone might read it, even though it’s “tl;dr” territory. I’m leaving the iPad plugged in tonight, and although I probably won’t be awake for too much longer, I’m taking a book with me to bed.
This is part of a series of posts. Here is a full list.
Followed by about 100 other posts about how much I loved seeing him loving to read.