Art by: Lily Cohen ('20)
Every year, some people make New Year’s resolutions. If you are not one of those people, don’t worry, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution for you!
All I need you to do this year is to read one really good book: one heart-wrenching book or life-changing book or world-upending book or faith-renewing book. One book that makes you sit back, take a deep breath, and think. (Or smile. Or cry. Or shout. Again, I’m flexible.)
I hope these books will resonate with you. They might not, unfortunately. But they might. And that’s really all I can promise.
It’s a new year. Make it a good one.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevive Valentine
During the daytime, Jo and her eleven sisters are locked away at the top of their father’s mansion. But at night, the girls dress in catalogue dresses and dancing shoes and sneak out to dance at underground bars called speakeasies. By taking the German fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and setting it in the 1920s, Valentine weaves together a world that is as charming and glittering as it is unforgettable.
(I’ll admit that it took all of my self-restraint to only put one book set in the 1920s on this list.)
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
What happens when a convict, a sharpshooter, a runaway, a spy, a magician and a thief try to pull off a heist? It may sound like the start of a bad joke, but the execution is phenomenal. (There are few stories archetypes better than a good heist. Especially if the heist is paired with a stellar magic system and a cast of unforgettable characters.) In Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo paints a vivid yet gritty picture of politics and intrigue all set in a complex high fantasy world.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
When the witch in the wood accidentally feeds an infant moonlight, she decides to keep and raise the “enmagicked” girl. A fairy tale coming-of-age story ensues. This fantasy novel feels like a Studio Ghibli movie (with just a pinch of The Giver by Lois Lowry).
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
In some of my favorite world-building ever, They Both Die at the End takes place in a world where people get a phone call on the day they are going to die. The book opens on two strangers, Mateo and Rufus, getting their calls. Both teenagers decide to use the app, Last Friend, to have an adventure during their last day. This book is tug-on-your-heartstrings and hopeful and happy and sad all rolled up into one. (And look, I usually hate it when characters die. But if characters have to die, I hope their deaths have the same amount of respect and emotional impact as in They Both Die at the End.)
I will also say that though this book is technically speculative fiction, what with the “phone call on the day they are going to die” part, it definitely lands more in the contemporary genre. So don’t let my mention of “world-building” scare you off if you’re not interested in fantasy or science fiction.
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
The Day the World Came to Town chronicles the days immediately after 9/11, when the U.S. airspace closed and planes were diverted all around the world. Dozens of these planes landed in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Though the number of plane people almost equalled those who lived in Gander, the people of Gander came together to help the “come from aways.” (And yes, this is one of the books that inspired the musical Come From Away.) This book is perfect for the new year. It’s a reminder that humanity can be good and kind and compassionate even in trying times.