Meet Emma June Wood, a high school student with a focus on the medical field and an intense interest in all things reading. Her favorite authors include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neal Hurston, Leigh Bardugo and plenty more you’ll see on this page. She loves every genre, and can typically be found near a stack of books…with snacks.
Memoir & Biography
Monsoon Mansion was written by South Carolina local Cinelle Barnes on her experience growing up in the Philippines. It details every event in her life as an adolescent into her early teenage years with a dream-like quality and frank attitude. Whether it be dealing with her mother’s abusive new husband, a chicken fighting ring, attending a prestigious private school or just general coming of age life experiences, Barnes has found a way to recount her story as a bold new voice in local literature.
Published posthumously, Bill Cunningham wrote a fascinating memoir about his life and time in fashion. For anyone interested in understanding the designers behind the prominent fashion houses of the mid to late 19th century, this is a good starting point. While intertwining his narrative with tidbits of style genius, the reader learns of his entire career as a milliner and eventual success as one of New York’s most iconic fashion writers. This memoir is coated with anecdotes of rich, extravagant nights in New York and words of wisdom to those aspiring to succeed in the industry.
Carmen Maria Machado has outdone herself with this choose-your-own-adventure/essay/poetry collection/memoir. For a generalized description, this is her recounting her experience of domestic abuse by a female partner, and how she was able to heal afterward. That sentence is just a small sliver of the entirety of this work, though. She writes on how domestic violence within the LGBT community remains either a taboo or a trope, analyzing the perception of abuse being performed by women and referencing the almost absent studies done on this topic. She writes from her heart and from her gut, changing from third person to second to first, masterfully sculpting a memoir that is bound to be used as a reference for the aid of abuse victims for years to come.
Combining interviews, various other publications, and one film, Kate Moore has created almost an encyclopedia-like novel of everything surrounding the radium girls and their fight for justice beginning in the 1920s and beyond. Delving into the lives of these young women, this is an excellent nonfiction read with some thriller aspects laced throughout. Fantastic medical descriptions alongside real photos taken during the entire event make this novel compelling even for those who do not regularly enjoy nonfiction.
Whether you’re a newbie to the horror genre, a seasoned reader of what lurks in the dark, or an uninhibited fear fanatic, this collection of influential female authors of horror is a great one to pick up. Including biographies of themselves accompanied by a list of their books and others similar if you’d be so inclined, this is a great reference guide to appreciating our queens of darkness! With chapters detailing mysterious events surrounding some of the novels’ publishing, and even an unknown author herself, curious minds with an appetite for the macabre will finish this in no time.
For coffee-table book lovers who dislike the largeness of books used for display (and their ensuing price tag), this one is for you. Art For Book Lovers is a beautiful compilation of different paintings and their incorporation of books in the images. With the artists inside ranging from Salvadore Dalí, Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh and more, there is a multitude of styles for viewing. Many of the paintings include a small paragraph of text giving a bit of background to the artwork.
Macfarlane’s entire intent with this next rec is to make everyone more comfortable with what goes on down below. Discussing a variety of topics that take place below the soil, from tree roots and how they form bonds to the study of dark matter, this novel is a great snack for the curious mind. While studying the more scientific elements of the ground, Macfarlane continuously ponders at our connection with religion and how it treats what rests beneath us. It is broken up between three different chambers taking place in three different parts of the world; Britain, Europe, and countries in the north such as Finland, Norway, etc. By investigating all of the ways that we interpret the underground, Macfarlane studies the various attachments that our society has attributed to what lies below our feet. I’m not sure such an in-depth novel of the below has been published in recent history before this fascinating arrival.
Dr. Dilan Ellegala needed me time. Working towards the goal of being a doctor for decades is tiring, even more so when you choose to follow one of the longest journies in medicine: the path of becoming a neurosurgeon. Planning on taking a break before diving back into his budding career, he had no premeditated plan of changing the entirety of the health system in Tanzania. He simply noticed that all of the foreign doctors sat in the front, the locals bent towards the back, and the staggering difference between the country’s population compared to its medical professionals. This is a robust account of how one man with the help of those around him set out to correct the tradition of medical tourism in Tanzania while implementing a sustainable policy of training forward.
Madeline Miller’s most recently released novel, titled Circe, takes place during the time of the Greek gods. Focused on a minor side character from Homer’s The Odyssey this gorgeous novel gives us background on the infamous island witch. In the original text, Circe turns all of Odysseus’ men into pigs until she and the king come to an agreement. In this reimagining, the life of Circe begins at her birth and concludes at her death. It is an enriching tale on both womanhood and finding your own power.
Set in Nigeria, this humorous- and murderous- novel follows two sisters at constant ends. Ayoola, the family beauty, has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends. Korede, the eldest, tends to be stuck cleaning up her messes. The cycle continues up until Ayoola catches the eye of the only man Korede feels she may spare her time for. Chaos ensues. This is a darkly hilarious debut that studies the relationships between sisters, and questions if anything, including murder, could break that bond apart.
Perfect for fans of the gritty 70’s music era and taking inspiration from the bands of the time, Daisy Jones and The Six was written to captivate. Daisy, the hardheaded, intimidatingly beautiful, wild child of Hollywood is persuaded to work on an album with the illustrious band The Six. Combining musical genius from the band and haunting vocals by Daisy, the group takes the world by storm. Despite their successes, the company separates after one shocking album, leaving more questions than answers. Taylor Jenkins Reid has managed to write a novel encompassing the dark thrills of California in the ’70s, the struggles of marriage, and if what it takes to become a star is worth the trouble.
What if the roles were reversed? In this alternate reality with a similar strain as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power envisions a world where atrocities committed against women were instead executed against men. When a teenaged girl develops a skein across her collarbones, allowing her to conduct electricity within herself, she quickly awakens the ability within other women. All over the world, women begin to overthrow patriarchal governments and take the reins. It is an extreme shift of power that alters the course of history forever. For readers interested in gender studies or politics, this is definitely one to watch and demonstrates that despite physical differences, men and women aren’t so polar after all.
Looking for southern, gothic, coming of age? Well, you’re looking in the right place! Gradle Bird is a beautifully tragic novel about family ties and the bonds that break them. A shocking cast of characters consisting of a silent grandfather, the ghost of a woman who committed suicide, the owner of a Siamese Fighting Fish ring, a boy preacher with a fear of trains and a very special soon to be real live country music star, Sasser has written a novel built to pull heartstrings. Occurring in the rural south where life travels at a slightly different pace, most southerners will think of their hometown fondly while flipping through its pages. I loved every minute of it.
Going with the theme of southern literature hell-bent on some tears, Where The Crawdads Sing is a tale unlike any other. After the small town’s star football player and future business owner is found murdered out in the marsh, all of the locals set their sights on the mysterious Marsh Girl. Being left alone to fend for herself by the age of ten, Kya Clark has learned the ways of the earth, but not the ways of mankind. She prefers talking to the seagulls on the beach by her home and hunting for shellfish than interacting with other people. That is, until a sweet boy from her childhood comes to see her while bearing the gift of books. Set in the North Carolina marshlands and tracking the life of a very lonely young girl, it is near impossible to not be wrapped into Kya’s world. The nature writing alone is incandescent, so much so that I felt like a fly attracted to soft, creamy porch light. I could almost smell the tangy scent of Kya’s shack and the waters surrounding it. There is something gorgeously impactful hidden in these pages.
Lillian has corresponded with Madison for over a decade. After a brief roommate situation between the two while at boarding school, both women faithfully write one another letters about their two drastically different lives. It is not until Lillian receives a call from her lifelong pen pal that she hears the other woman’s voice for the first time in recent memory. She requests that Lillian comes to stay with her and her wildly successful politician of a husband with the intent of watching over her very estranged stepchildren. Their mother had just died under a very peculiar turn of events, and quite frankly Madison had no time to care for them, running the household of one of the biggest men in the country and all. With a life that has gone completely out of her control, squandered potential, and a terrible skin regimen, what does Lillian have to lose? There was one thing that Madison didn’t disclose, though-these two twins catch on fire. A novel with a specific zest of dry humor that catches you by surprise and writing that is filled to overflowing with character, I always find myself diving back into this one for a pick me up.
A moving debut novel about what it means to be Native American in the modern-day USA. It follows a mix of different characters who are all tied to one another in some way or the next and chronicles the independent journeys that lead them to the same fateful powwow. This is a real look at how the indigenous communities of North America have survived despite all of the violence enacted against them, and what is left for their descendants to pick up the pieces. It follows the story of a young mixed man who has just introduced himself to his biological father via Facebook, a child trying to grapple with the reality of a home torn apart by generational trauma, a young man who learns how to create weapons with his 3D printer, and more. For anyone looking to broaden their horizons of understanding the “American” way of life, this book is for you.
There is nothing more fitting for the turn of the new 2020 decade than Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Introspective with clean writing, this is the kind of novel you read in school and truly enjoy. Our three main characters consist of Nick, the observer and narrator, Jay Gatsby, the obsessor and protagonist, and finally Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s desire. The novel follows Nick’s experience with Gatsby, failing to uncover who he truly is beneath all of the glamour. Studied in college classrooms and coveted as one of the greatest American novels, the gilded cage of Daisy and Gatsby’s life has engaged society for almost a century. It reads as both an unnerving thriller and a bewitching look into the minds of complex figures…who we may resemble more than we would prefer to admit.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a brilliantly poignant, earnest novel tracking a black woman’s life in 1930’s America. Spanning three husbands and a constant reiteration for the acceptance of change, Janie Crawford’s life is one of both beauty and distress. This style of writing is unlike much of what is published today, rhythmic and soothing. If you’re a tourist stopping in, this is one southern classic that is impossible to put down.
One of the greatest authors of all time, Flannery O’Connor’s works have been used to instruct students on the value of southern gothic literature for years. Her short stories (over thirty of them!) all excite, thrill, or spook. She was a master at her craft during an era of peak American turmoil and found a way to hone the irony of the times in writing. Regardless of when her work was originally published, though, it still resonates with literary fiction fiends all across the planet. If you’re on the search for a light peppering of the ghastly and a pinch of uncanny, O’Connor never disappoints.
Sethe is haunted by the ghost of her dead daughter, both in memory and in a physical spirit. Her home shakes at various intervals, the sounds of small feet that no longer exist climb up the stairs, pots slam against the walls, pools of red light flare to indicate her entrance. Her living daughter Denver is considerably more polite. Despite the amplifying rage of the ghost-child, Sethe doesn’t mind. Her life in both slavery and in freedom has dealt her worse than her own kin’s malice. It is not until the arrival of Paul D, a man who she spent all of those early, impossible years with, does the haunting come to a swift end. Matters take a turn when the trio arrives home one night to discover a young woman sleeping on their porch steps, calling herself the word “Beloved“. A chronicling on the horrors of slavery and its impact on the generations before, during, and after, this is a novel we all must read.
After witnessing his entire family murdered by a mysterious man, a very evasive toddler finds himself escaping into a nearby graveyard. Realizing the child no longer has a family to care for him, and could be in danger if he leaves, the resident ghosts decide that it is up to them to raise him, living or not. This heart-wrenching novel tracks the growing up of a boy who was nurtured to adulthood by all of the things that go bump in the night. With sleek, polished writing, there leaves little doubt that readers will fall in love with the curious and charming group of Nobody’s caregivers.
The Hate U Give is an emotionally charged novel about what a teenage girl should do after she witnesses her childhood friend gunned down by police. Starr Carter has gotten good at balancing the two halves of her life: the preppy, majority-white private school she attends and the low-income neighborhood she comes from. As she is going home from a party with her friend Khalil, the two are pulled over and what should have been a simple traffic stop ends with him dead. It is now up to Starr whether she wants to risk her own life speaking out about what truly happened that night, or stay silent and let Khalil’s death go unspoken. Author Angie Thomas explained her inspiration for the book originated after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by police in 2012, and then Tamir Rice in 2014. Both boys were under the age of 18, Rice being 12 and Martin only 17. Both were also unarmed. Though this novel is fiction, its focus on a topic that has plagued America for years along with Thomas’ gift for beautiful writing, it is sure to become a classic.
Perfect for those who enjoy the younger end of the YA spectrum, The Babysitter’s Coven is a very sweet take on the idea of young women saving the world. After Esme realizes that she can move things without touching them, she is terrified. It doesn’t help that everything around her seems to be falling apart; her mother still won’t respond to her, she failed her driver’s test in epic proportions, one of her babysitting charges sleepwalked onto the roof, and she somehow managed to garner the attention of the biggest bully in school. Her senior year isn’t quite going as planned. So when a mysterious new girl puts a strange amount of effort into joining her babysitter’s club and shoving herself into Esme’s life, at this point, she’s just along for the ride. With an easy to read writing style and plenty of references to fashion icons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more, this is a great novel for both nostalgia and the start of an epic series of new young women fighting against evil. But also, just look at that cover!
Children’s Fiction & Classics
For those interested in the concept of eternal life, Tuck Everlasting is a stunning place to start. This compact tale of about 140 pages uncovers the depths of greed and the strength of loyalty that is fantastic for a growing bookworm. Written from the perspective of a young girl and her encounter with a timeless family, the lyrical string of writing paired alongside never-ending imagination weaves a classic story perfect for both adults and children alike. It is bittersweet to its core, with the taste of a youthful summer long years gone for those of us old enough to remember them.
When it comes down to kids and young adults of the 90s’, this is a classic thriller. R. L. Stine has been a horror novelist for decades, with 235 novels in his famous children’s series GOOSEBUMPS. Filled to the brim of stories with resurrected mummies, amusement parks vibrating around screams of terror, haunted masks and more, its no wonder he has developed a cult following! Out of all of his work, Night Of The Living Dummy sticks the strongest. His most infamous and popular character, Slappy is a dummy that just won’t quit. By far a favorite among young people and a definite way to start a beginner’s introduction to the macabre. Selling over 2 million copies around the globe its no question that this puppet will entertain for a long, long time.
When Sabrina and her young sister Daphne are sent to live with a grandmother they were previously informed did not exist, they were skeptical. When their grandmother explains that magic is real and that the two of them are its gatekeepers, they think she’s off her rocker! Both of their tunes change, though, when a giant goes on a rampage through their new hometown. Full of characters from the original Brother’s Grimm fairytales, this is a series sure to capture the attention of any and every book lover.
Amelia Bedelia is simply delightful. Made for those just learning how to read, this is a perfect, tiny book that parents and children can both enjoy. The main character Amelia teaches valuable lessons with plenty of laughs along the way. With stories ranging from a quest for the perfect pie, learning how to play ball, journeying through family photo albums and an amusing attempt at becoming mayor, Amelia can do it all. This is a great series complete with incredibly well-done illustrations for both young girls and boys.
For fans of Toni Morrison who want to introduce their little ones to her famed writing, Little Cloud and Lady Wind is a classic tale to begin with. To be frank, Little Cloud does not like interacting with all of the other big storm clouds. She cannot stand making humanity sad! So, determined that is is easier to be alone, she moves away from all of the other clouds in an attempt to make her way on her lonesome. Soon though, she encounters the powerful lady wind and begins to learn that maybe there are some benefits to being with others. Just maybe. Suitable for all ages with beautiful illustrations to boot, Little Cloud has captured the attention of children and their parents alike for almost a decade.
Corduroy sat in the display case of his department store home, constantly anticipating the day he would finally find his person and have a real family. Unfortunately, the little bear was a bit rougher than some of the other toys for sale, with a button missing on his soft green overalls and his fur not quite as shiny. Hoping that if he can replace his missing button he will gain a real friend, he leaves his department store and goes in search of his stray button. This is a sweet tale that will have a lasting impact on young kids with strong themes of friendship, loving others, and our innate need to help those we love.