What Ali Is Reading
“Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.” -- Toni Morrison
I read this absolute freight train of a book in a single day. This graphic, raw, and messy book is part memoir, part love letter to a mother who did her best. With lyrical poetic language, Jones details his own coming of age story, including his sexual assault and depression, to create a brutal reminder what its like to be a black, gay man today. Pick this one up at your own risk, you definitely wont regret it.
Holy crap, I haven't read a book that sharp and unputdownable in a long, long time! Reid doesn't pull any punches as she highlights the many different and often subtle ways racism is present in everyday life. She also conveys perfectly what it's like to be a young person, on the brink of a career in today's world. This one's going to be HUGE so do yourself a favor, pick it up and join the conversation.
What would you do if the power suddenly went out, your dad was gone, and it was up to keep your brother alive while you walk 96 miles through the Nevada desert in 3 days? Grab this book and find out what John does in that exact situation in this heart-pounding, page-turning debut novel that's great for fans of outdoor survival books like The Trail and My Side of the Mountain. Just make sure you have a big glass of ice water next to you, because Esplin's writing is so clear that you feel like you're right there in the desert with John and Stew with cracked lips, sunburned skin, and a dry throat.
Scoob gets whisked onto an impromptu road trip through the American South with his G-ma, armed with her maps and his G-pop's copy of the Traveler's Green Book. He learns about his own complex family history and how it fits into the context of the complicated and often tragic history of black people in the US. With genuine characters, a little bit of mystery, and a lot of heart Nic Stone discusses current and past race relations in a refreshing and relatable way. Pick this book up and go for a ride!
I love, love, loved this book! The Hate U Give meets To All the Boys I've loved Before in this beautiful coming of age rom-com. Filled to the brim with heart, humor, and romance, Frankly in Love is a tender portrait of growing up as a first generation Korean-American in today's world. Pick this one up if you want to curl up with a great romance that has a lot to say.
I could talk about Cottom's word-choice, her well-reasoned positions, how Thick pried my eyes open and punched me in the gut. But that's not why you should read this book. It is provocative, big, ugly, and definitely takes up space. It demands to be read. So read it.
Charlie Thorne is many things: a 12-year-old genius with an IQ just 10 points below Einstein himself, an extreme snowboarder who can jump 60-foot cliffs with ease, and even an expert criminal hacker. Because of her unique skills, Charlie gets recruited by the CIA on an epic globe-spanning adventure to track down Einstein’s last equation, Pandora, before it falls into the hands of an extremist terrorist group. Follow Charlie on a heart-thumping, Jack Reacher-type spy thriller that I couldn’t put down! Fans of Spy School and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library will love it too!
Lane is stuck in her grandmother's huge, lonely mansion in Sabal Palms, Florida for the summer while her parents get divorced. To overcome the boredom, she leaves her favorite mystery books in the library bathroom, hoping to find new friends who understand the message; wanted: someone to run away to the museum. And so the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders is formed. With four totally unique characters, Perez brings us yet another excellent story that has it all: deep friendships, mystery, bird facts, as well as big ideas like privilege, race relations, and the necessity of standing up for what you believe in. Strange Birds is absolutely my new favorite book; don't miss this one!
This book is like a deep breath of fresh air, slowing everything down and filling you up to the brim. With clear, poetic language Gay meditates on the little things in his everyday life that bring him joy, and calls us to do the same. Like the admiring looks one gets when carrying a tomato seedling onto a plane, and the nostalgia of Botan rice candy. Read this book if you want to be reminded how to look at the world up close, and if like Gay, you want to delight in what it means to be alive.
Hannah is an Elemental witch living in Salem, Massachusetts who is just trying to finish her training and make it through the summer without running into her ex, Veronica. But, when someone starts threatening their coven with dark magic, Hannah must team up with Veronica in order to protect herself and her family. Filled with magic, manipulative exes, and new crushes, These Witches Don't Burn is a magical queering of Sabrina the Teenage Witch - a must read for Pride month!
Millie, a huge geology nerd, enrolls in a prestigious Scottish boarding school in order to finally experience the Scottish Highlands she's been obsessing over. Not to mention, it gives her a chance to escape heartbreak when her best friend/something more gets back together with her boyfriend. At Gregorstun Millie takes classes alongside, and even lives with, Scottish royalty. Her Royal Highness is a queer twist on the princess and the pauper trope; exactly what I'd want a queer Hallmark movie to be!
After Mickey -the star catcher- and her best friend, Carolina -the star pitcher- get in a huge car accident, both are prescribed opioids for pain management. However, only one of them gets addicted. Heroine is a razor-sharp and raw fictionalization of the opioid crisis through the eyes of a high school softball player. I think this book is so important in today's world because it illustrates the fact that when presented with prescription opioids, anyone can get addicted, but not everyone will.
After their fathers start dating, Avery and Bett find themselves at the same summer camp. At first, the girls want nothing to do with each other, and work to break their fathers up. But then they start to develop a real friendship and have to work together in a Parent-Trap-like scheme to get their fathers back together. This book, told entirely through text messages and emails, is filled to the brim with humor and heart; its a great summer read for fans of the Parent Trap and Lumberjanes.
You can ask anyone, I am a huge Murakami fan. I love his characters, pacing, and attention to detail -- his memoir is no different. In it, he philosophically describes the parallels between his writing and long-distance running careers. Now that I've read this book, I not only know one of my favorite authors better, but I am also inspired to write, and who knows, maybe even take up running someday. I loved this book and recommend it obviously for other Murakami fans, but also for anyone who loves to run or write.
As a lifelong soccer player, I grew up alongside the Women's national soccer program through players like Mia Hamm, Heather O'Reilly, and Brandi Chastain. I cried, laughed, and cheered, as I recognized myself in Murray's account of this team; "The women of the national team were the sort of athletes America hadn't seen before. Young girls had role models just like them for the first time." Do yourself a favor, if you're a woman, a parent, an athlete, or sports fan, read this book before the eighth world cup in June 2019; and then read it again whenever you need to feel inspired.
In the wake of her mother's and sisters' deaths, Coyote and her dad Rodeo move into a school bus and drive around the country, following every D.E.A.D. (drop everything and drive) dream for the country's best fish tacos and pork chop sandwiches. Coyote learns there are plans to destroy her hometown park, and has to hoodwink her reluctant dad into taking her back to save the time capsule she, her mother, and her sisters buried there. Along the way they pick up new perspectives, new friends, and even a cat named Ivan. This is, by far, my favorite middle grade novel I've read, definitely one I'm going to read again and again.
There are honestly no words to describe how much I love this book. It is a deeply beautiful meditation on the intersection of cultural and sexual identities that broke my heart and put it back together again. When Rukhsana's Bengali-Muslim parents catch her kissing her girlfriend, they take her to Bangladesh to force her into an arranged marriage. But through her relationship with her grandmother, Rukhsana learns how and why we need to fight for what we love. I think this book is so important and so well done; its easily one of my favorites that I've read this year.
Norris, a Haitian Black Canadian, moves to Austin in the middle of junior year. In order to survive he creates a field guide/burn book of his fellow classmates, sorting them into categories based on 90's teen movies. However, through his new friendships Norris realizes that his categorizations were too harsh; maybe Maddie "the beta cheerleader" isn't as ditsy and submissive as he originally thought and Patrick "Hairy Armpits" isn't just a thick-headed jock. Filled with sarcasm, Field Guide is both hilarious and heartwarming; great for fans of John Green and Mean Girls.
One day in her science class Iris, the only deaf student in her class, learns about Blue 55, a whale who can't communicate with other whales. She uses the skills she's gained from fixing radios to make a song for Blue 55 and travels all the way to Alaska to let him know hes not alone. Song for a Whale is about the journey one girl takes in order to connect with a whale who has no one else; I absolutely loved it! Its great for fans of Insignificant events in the Life of a Cactus and Katherine Applegate.
"No one was awake to see it happen." Only Rickman the cat who was sneaking around looking for something to eat. The ink from Ethan's dad's sketchbook lifted off the page and came to life! Inkling helps Ethan with his school graphic novel project and devours book after book along the way. This book is funny and mischievous; great for fans of graphic novels and people just getting started on chapter books!
Giovanni "Van" Markson is a collector; he is always noticing forgotten things like toy soldiers and marbles. One day he notices a girl with mossy penny eyes and a silver squirrel diving for pennies in a fountain, and he is thrown into the secret underground world of the Collectors. Van learns that wishes really can come true, but even the smallest wish can be dangerous; which is why the Collectors are always keeping watch. This book is a heart-thumping fantasy-filled adventure story that I couldn't put down; I can't wait for the sequel!
Seven-year-old Chula lives in a gated community in Bogota, Colombia during the dangerous reign of Pablo Escobar. She is drawn to the family's thirteen-year-old maid, Petrona, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Told from the two girls alternating perspectives, this debut novel, which is based on events from the authors life, is a refreshing perspective on the atrocities that occurred in Colombia during the 1990s. Contreras' style is lyrical, atmospheric, and reminiscent of the great Latin American writers, like Allende and Marquez. I absolutely loved this story and I cant wait to see what she does next.
Coupled with beautiful illustrations, this dark and dream-like collection of short stories where animals dwell in the city alongside humans is a reflection on the relationship between the urban environment and the natural one. The last rhino wanders onto the freeway, creating a traffic jam; a mother orca mourns her calf after it is put into the sky; and a bear sues humans for infractions against the bear legal code. Tales from the Inner City is an excellent introduction to short stories and more sophisticated themes such as the effects humans have on the natural world and the effects it has on us.
Marcus Vega is hardly bullied, because at 6 feet tall, he towers over everyone at his school, and even uses his size to protect younger kids from bullies (for a small fee). Marcus is fiercely devoted to his younger brother Charlie, who has Down syndrome, so when a bully calls Charlie the R-word Marcus punches him in the face and gets suspended. In response, Marcus' mom decides that the family needs to go on vacation to reset and regroup. They go to Puerto Rico where Marcus reconnects with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; and hopefully his long-absent father. Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish is a compelling book about family, identity, and culture. Great for fans of Wonder and The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.
I had to read this book for my abnormal psychology class in college, and I'm glad I did. Twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan is an up and coming author for a major New York magazine when she starts to experience hallucinations, violent psychotic episodes, and seizures. Susannah goes through many misdiagnoses and failed treatments before she meets Dr. Najjar who is willing to look at it from a different perspective. Brain on Fire is important, haunting, raw, and will forever change the way you look at mental health.
This book is just beautiful. It wonderfully illustrates the different kinds of relationships we have with each other. Father son relationships. Distant familial relationships. New and instantly important friendships. Simply put, this book is for anyone who has ever felt inadequate, then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than ok.
Allan Karlsson is living in a nursing home and is turning 100. However, instead of attending the party thrown for him, he escapes out the window in his slippers and a hilarious journey ensues, including a suitcase containing 1 million dollars, some unfriendly criminals, and an elephant. This would seem like the adventure of a lifetime, however Allan has not lived a normal life. Fun and utterly outrageous, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is one of my favorite books of all time.
Ishiguro creates an atmospheric and ethereal setting for this beautiful book about friendship, truth-telling, and the morality of technology. At first glance this book doesn't seem like it belongs in the science-fiction category, however there's a secret purpose to the boarding school Hailsham which will shock you, grab you, and never let you go.
There are two storylines in this book: one about high school student Caden Bosch whose schizophrenia is worsening, and the other about a boy who agrees to explore the deepest part of the Marianas Trench with a pirate captain. The two storylines converge in a way that will floor you and break your heart. Challenger Deep is a raw and important first person perspective about what its like to live with a mental disorder.
I honestly picked this book up because of the cover, and the story was just as beautiful. Anderson delivers again with a raw and heart-wrenching story about what its like when a loved one is struggling with PTSD. The Impossible Knife of Memory is poignant, relevant, and a must-read for fans of Anderson and Shusterman.
Melly's on her way to Camp Rockaway with her best friend Olivia, but right before she leaves her parents tell her that they are getting a divorce. While only at camp for 2 short weeks, Melly learns how to channel her feelings about the divorce, and fellow camper Adeline, into her music to become a better drummer. Drum Roll, Please is a beautiful story of self-discovery and standing up for yourself; a great read for musicians and fans of Camp Rock.
Ben and Arthur first meet at the post office in New York City as Arthur is sending a box of his ex-boyfriend's things back to him. They don't get each others phone numbers or names so they both put out missed connections Craigslist ads to find each other again. What follows is an adorable and light-hearted rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo sapiens Agenda and The Summer of Jordi Perez.
I absolutely loved this book! Its set in the near future when we've stopped trying to solve our problems and instead spend all of our time in the OASIS, an immersive online multiplayer game. With plenty of adventure and suspense, and an amusing cast of characters, Ready Player One is a truly great love letter to the 1980's and online gaming cultures alike.
Zach Lightman is a typical high school student who spends most of his time watching sci-fi movies and playing video games. His favorite video game is Armada, a flight simulator where the objective is to protect the earth from alien invaders. Zach is called to duty to protect the world when the alien spaceship from Armada lands in the high school parking lot. This book is a fun and fast-paced alien invasion adventure laden with 80s pop culture, in true Cline fashion. Great for fans of Ready Player One and Ender's Game.
This was one of my favorite books growing up! Eloise is a spunky six-year-old living at the Plaza Hotel in New York City with Nanny, her dog Weenie, and turtle Skipperdee. Beautifully illustrated and playful, Eloise is the perfect book for children of all ages.
This is definitely my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book! It follows the fictional author Kilgore Trout as he discovers that a Midwestern car dealer, Dwayne Hoover, thinks Trouts books are the truth, eventually sending him on a violent rampage. Breakfast of Champions is an original and satirical work of metafiction about free will, mental illness, and social and economic cruelty that everyone should read.