What to Read When: You Need a Good Cry

When you need a good cry, these are the books you should turn to. | NewberyandBeyond.com

Sometimes you just need a good cry. Here are my go-to books for when I need to get the tears flowing.

Code Name Verity. Female friendship during WWII makes for a fascinating story with strong voices. And it will definitely leave you in tears.

Hattie Big Sky. This Newbery book about a high-spirited teenage girl who leaves her home to become a homesteader is full of sweet characters and funny events, but it packs a serious emotional punch in the middle. (You can see my review of the much inferior sequel here, but really, you should just get this book.)

Walk Two Moons. My love for Sharon Creech is well documented, and this book is probably my favorite of hers. I thought that maybe this book wouldn’t get to me anymore (since I’m now an adult and I’ve read this book several times), but I was wrong.

Mockingjay. Total *spoiler alert* if you’re one of the seven people who haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy, but the part where Katniss’s sister is killed gets me every time. It hits too close to home to think about losing my own little sister!

Blackout and All Clear. Not only are these fantastic books on my favorites of all time list, but they are surprisingly touching. When several time travelers get stuck in WWII-era England with no way of getting home, they must suffer the same heartaches, joys, and losses as the rest of England at her finest hour. It’s a lot of pages to work through, but I can practically guarantee that you’ll tear up at the end.

The Book Thief. You can really see the World War II theme going on here, right? Yes, it may be cliche, but The Book Thief is yet another book set during this time period that will make you emotional. This one’s a YA classic narrated by Death (and if that doesn’t capture your interest, I don’t know what will!).

Although I haven’t read these books, I have it on good authority that they will make you teary, if not straight up bawl: The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Room.

What books do you turn to when you need a good cry?

What to Read When: You Want to Be Outraged

Want to be outraged, or read all about injustice? These books will do it for you. | A series by NewberyandBeyond.com

It sounds stupid, but sometimes, you just want to get angry. If you’re in the mood to get riled up about injustice, here are some books to get you started.

  • The Witness Wore Red is a fantastic read about a woman who escaped a cult-like branch of the Mormons. The treatment of young girls and women is particularly horrifying.
  • The Shame of the NationThis book is for you if you are an educator of any kind. The de facto racial segregation of our schools, and the truly awful state of many of the schools that serve mostly minorities, will either shock you or cause you to nod along grimly. Either way, it’s a fascinating read.
  • Not For Sale is like an introduction to human trafficking around the world. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it shares stories of terrible wrongs around the world along with stories of people who are working to make things right.
  • Catch-22. If you want to be cynical about war and government, I can’t think of a better book than this classic. It made me angry, even though my experience with military life has been minimal.
  • The Restaurant Critic’s Wife might only make me outraged, to be honest. The way the main character’s husband forced her to give up a career and a city she loved in sacrifice to his own career made my blood boil.
  • Overwhelmed/Unfinished Business. In a similar vein, both of these books talk about the roles of women at work and in the home, as well as focusing on the unfair policies that cause both men and women to feel overwhelmed and unsatisfied. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s really possible to have a work/life balance, these books will be of interest.
  • The Color Purple is another classic that will leave you angry. This one focuses on, among other things, the disenfranchisement of being a black woman in the 1930s.


What books have left you outraged? Let me know in the comments below!

What to Read When: You’re Stressed Out

Stressed out? Check out these books to read when you're anxious. | NewberyandBeyond.com

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty stressed out lately. I struggle with anxiety on the best of days, and the last few months have been filled with illness, financial strain, and the struggles of friends. Of course, when I start to feel stressed, I usually turn to books (or, let’s be honest, Netflix). In this week’s What to Read When, I’m going to give you a few of my favorite de-stressing books, and I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments!

Sharon Creech. Do I need to say anything more? I just love her work, and it’s the perfect antidote for any stressful times.

The Happiness Project. I’m obsessed with projects, and I love reading about Gretchen Rubin’s attempts to make herself happier, healthier, and better at the things she loves most. (I also really enjoyed her book Better Than Before.) Reading about someone else putting their life in order makes me feel a little bit like my life is being put in order, which is something I always want when I’m stressed out. The Power of Habit is another book that gives me the same feeling.

Something juicy. Now’s the time to pick up that YA high school drama that’s been staring you in the face. No need to feel guilty–reading the juicy details of a fictional character’s life can sometimes make you forget, or at least feel better about, the things that are making you anxious in your own life.

A funny memoir. Yep, this is another thing that I’m totally obsessed with, but you should never underestimate the power of a funny memoir. You can read about the struggles and triumphs of someone else’s life–this time, a real person–from a humorous perspective, which will hopefully inspire you to take a similar perspective on your life. Some of my favorites include Bossypants, #GIRLBOSS, and Hyperbole and a Half.

Don’t forget to leave your favorite de-stressing books in the comments!

What to Read When: It’s Raining


Rainy days are some of my favorite days, and in Florida, we sure have a lot of them. When it’s raining, I want a book to curl up with–the longer, the better. In particular, I love books that are a little dark or sweeping or even (gasp!) atmospheric. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite go-to rainy day books.

Jane Eyre. This classic has to top the list. Jane Eyre is a Gothic classic, full of romance and drama and darkly supernatural events. Plus, it’s thick enough to get you through a few days of stormy weather.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane. If you want to go even darker, almost into scary territory, Neil Gaiman is for you. The Ocean offers up a magical, frightening world that will continually make you question what is real and what is imagined.

The Phantom Tollbooth. This is a favorite childhood book of mine, and its tales of magical lands and a young boy’s adventures there will capture your attention on any cloudy day.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I love this fun mystery series with its irascible young protagonist, Flavia. If you really get into it, there’s a whole series that will keep you occupied as long as the rain keeps up.

The Children’s Book. I actually didn’t enjoy this book very much when I read it; it’s a little too sweeping and dramatic. Still, it’s long and atmospheric and perfect for a rainy day.

The Magician’s Elephant. This book is so sweet, and the illustrations it’s filled with are beautiful. It’s a strange but cozy story for you or your kids.

Blackout and All Clear. I don’t think I need to say anything more than I said in my first review. These books clock in at over a thousand pages, and I only wish they could have been longer. They are sweet and sad and beautiful.

The Westing Game and Mr. Penumbra. I originally reviewed these books as a book pairing, and it’s still so fitting. They’re both a bit dark, a bit mysterious, and a ton of fun. You’ll want to take a whole afternoon to read them in one sitting.

The Story of Land and Sea. This book is the kind of atmospheric I can get behind. It’s beautifully written, and if you’re interested in dissecting themes and metaphors, this is rich territory for you.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. This book is beautiful, dark, and magical. It’s perfect for a rainy afternoon curled up on the couch.

What books do you reach for on a rainy day? Let me know in the comments!

What to Read When: You Can’t Sleep

Can't sleep? Check out these books that will calm you down and get you ready for bed. | NewberyandBeyond.com

Ever have one of those nights when, for whatever reason, you can’t get to sleep? Maybe you’re worried about something, maybe you’re sick, or maybe something woke you up in the middle of the night. No matter what’s keeping you up, I’ve got a list of my go-to books and tips that will help you get ready for a good night of sleep.

Go for something familiar. 2 am is not the time to pull out that brand-new doorstopper that’s been staring you in the face all week. Pick something that you already know the plot of and you won’t be kept awake by wondering what happens next.

On a related note, avoid thrillers. Don’t pick up anything that’s described as “the next Gone Girl.” I’ve been there before, and believe me, it never ends well.

Choose a biography or memoir. Real life is fascinating, but it isn’t typically compulsive reading. I’d suggest something by Russell Freedman if you’re into historical biographies, or maybe Pretty Good Number One if you want something modern (review to come soon!)

Along the same lines, read something nonfiction. It will engage your mind without enthralling you (a good thing when you’re trying to fall asleep). I recommend something by Gretchen Rubin or The Power of Habit.

Avoid graphic novels and comics. It’s so easy with their quick chapters to convince yourself that “just one more” won’t hurt. If you actually want to get to sleep, save those pretty illustrations for later.

Go back to your children’s books. They are such a comfort, as I said in my “what to read when you’re sick” post. Pick up one of Hilary McKay’s wonderful books, or check out my girl Sharon Creech.

I hope this gives you some inspiration for ending your next sleepless night happily! What do you read when you can’t get to sleep?

What to Read When: You’re Sick

The first post in the new series, What to Read When, covers the best books to read when you're sick--and what to avoid. | NewberyandBeyond.com

Recently, I was sick for two weeks straight (basically from Christmas Eve past New Year’s Day). Although I still had a fair amount of energy, I didn’t really want to read anything too hefty, and I got really selective about the books I picked up. It started me thinking about the best books to read when you’re sick, so here’s what I’ve come up with.

Audiobooks are an easy way to keep yourself entertained when you’re sick. Sometimes when you have a headache or your eyes are too tired to scan the page, this is the best kind of reading you can do. I’m still working my way through season 3 of Veronica Mars, but once I finish, I can’t wait to read the new Veronica Mars books this way–I’ve heard that Kristen Bell herself is the audiobook narrator. I would also recommend memoirs (one of my favorite easy read genres), especially those narrated by the authors themselves. Bossypants is a fun read, and I bet it would be even better if you listened to Tina Fey read it herself.

Cozy mysteries. I love me some cozy mysteries. They’re usually short, don’t contain a lot of violence or gore, and never get too stressful. Some of the most fun, relaxing cozies I’ve read lately include the Hannah Swensen series (I read at least three of these while I was sick over Christmas), Gone But Knot Forgotten, and A Scone to Die For (review coming soon!).

Children’s books. You just know when we’re talking about children’s books or MG books, I’m going to bring up Sharon Creech. Her books are like comfort food for me. They’re easy to get into, quick but engrossing reads, which is perfect for a sick day. Let me also advocate for Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. This Newbery book is a fantastic read. It will make you cry a bit, but it will leave your heart warmed at the end.

Magazines. I admit it! I don’t usually read magazines, and I have several issues with them in general (the way they teach women that they’re not good enough is the main one). But when I’m sick, the short and simple articles are easy for my brain to digest. I keep a stack of Bon Appetit, Seventeen, and Rachael Ray Every Day under my bed for just such an occasion.

Here’s what I avoid:

Short stories. You might think they would be perfect for a shortened attention span and lessened energy because of their length, but for the most part, short stories are written to pack a punch. They’re supposed to make you think, make you uncomfortable, and when I’m sick I definitely don’t need to feel more uncomfortable than I already do.

Literary fiction. I already struggle with books that are considered “classics” or “atmospheric,” and they will definitely not hold my attention when I’m sick.

Anything scary. Okay, I kind of avoid that most of the time. But my main goal for sick day reading is comfort and ease, not anything that will make my brain hurt or my heart beat faster.

What do you read when you’re sick? I’d love to add some titles for my next sick day.

P.S. This post is the first in a new series I’m starting here on the blog–it’s called What to Read When. If you have any ideas for a future post in this series, I’d love to hear them! Just leave me a comment and let me know.

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