Jackie’s Must-Read Books

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
These are classics!  I seriously cannot get enough of them– I read them over and over and over and love them every single time.  I am just finishing up the series for the first time this year, and– no joke– after book 7 is over, I will start again on book 1.
Must-read: everyone, all ages

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This book is seriously one of the best-written young adult books I have ever read.  In my life.  Period.  I love so many things about this book: the language, the characters, the structure, the humor.  It gets a 10 out of 10 from me.
Must-read: anyone who loves YA or a clever, quirky romance

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Printz honor book narrated by Death himself, this is “just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.”  I love books that are about the joy of words– and it’s even better when you mix in unforgettable characters and gorgeous writing full of incredible imagery.
Must-read: YA lovers, people who love words, anyone interested in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

4. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The brilliance of this story is in the masterful writing.  Every single page will leave you in awe, plus the story is so real and deep, and it makes you think about things like miracles and family and loyalty and guilt.
Must-read: lovers of literary fiction, adults who want a great story, parents

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This book is richer than chocolate.  It has magic and competition and romance– and it avoids all cliches.  It is a sensory extravaganza.
Must-read: people who love Harry Potter and are ready for magic from a grown-up perspective, anyone who values great imagery

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TIME’s 2012 book of the year!  This YA book will make you laugh and cry and think.  It’s a cancer book– but not one of those cancer books.
Must-read: people who love YA, philosophy, and incredible characters

I’ll leave you with those six for now.  As I think through this list, I feel full.  They are that good.

reading girl

Do spoilers really spoil the story?

I was intrigued to discover that researchers at the University of California–San Diego had studied this idea from a scientific/psychological perspective.  Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt ran experiments with twelve classic short stories, including mystery, ironic-twist, and literary stories.  The stories were presented in three ways: as-is (without a spoiler), prefaced with a spoiler paragraph, or with that same paragraph incorporated directly into the story.  “Subjects significantly preferred the spoiled versions” (Kiderra, “Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by ‘Spoilers’”), although when the spoilers were incorporated into the story, they weren’t received as well as the stories prefaced by the spoilers. 

Although “the researchers are careful to note that they do not have a new recipe for writers to follow” (Kiderra, “Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by ‘Spoilers’”), I think there is much to be learned from this study.  Christenfeld boldly states, “Plots are just excuses for great writing.  What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant.  The pleasure is in the writing” (Kiderra, “Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by ‘Spoilers’”).  Another further article regarding this study states:

Perhaps, [Christenfeld] said, people enjoy a good story as much as a good twist at the end. Even if they know how it comes out, they’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

“Writers use their artistry to make stories interesting, to engage readers, and to surprise them,” Leavitt and Christenfeld said in their paper, to be published in the journal Psychological Science (Potter, “Spoiler Alert: Stories Not Ruined If Ending Revealed”).

Leavitt and Christenfeld, though not writers themselves, are onto something, and Death, the narrator of The Book Thief,  explains this very well:

Of course, I’m being rude.  I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it.  I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery.  Mystery bores me.  It chores me.  I know what happens and so do you.  It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me.

There are many things to think of.

There is much story (243).

And this, I believe, is the crux of the matter.  Readers—voracious readers who truly love story itself—want to know those “machinations that wheel us there.”  Readers want the details.  Death/Zusak is right.  There are many things to think of.  There is much story.

book thief2

Works Cited

Kiderra, Inga. “Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by ‘Spoilers.'” UCSanDiego News Center, 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

Potter, Ned. “Spoiler Alert: Stories Not Ruined If Ending Revealed.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.


how to offend a book lover

Books matter to me.  So, so much.

So when my friend, who is halfway through The Book Thief, asked, “Now, who is Rudy again?” I about died.

Now, I deeply love this friend; she is brilliant and fun and cares so much about people and justice and mercy.  But come on.  Who is RUDY?  WHO IS RUDY STEINER??!  Why are you reading this book if you can’t remember one of the MAIN CHARACTERS?!!!  Where is the RESPECT?

Okay, done ranting.  I think.

I am not this way with all books– but there are certain, choice stories where I am quite literally offended if a friend doesn’t like them, almost as if I were the author.  When my friend Jessica read Narnia for the first time, I was upfront with her: “Please tell me you liked them.  I will actually be offended if you didn’t.”  She did.  Phew.

When my roommate told me that The Fault in Our Stars was “good, but not great,” I didn’t want to throw her off a cliff or anything.  When my sister couldn’t get into The Sky is Everywhere, I didn’t want to disown her.  I don’t have to worry about what I’d do to someone who didn’t like Stargirl because I have never met such a fool.

But The Chronicles of Narnia, The Book Thief, Peace Like a River … do not disrespect these stories.

Or else feel my wrath. 🙂