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Here are some recommendations from some guys we trust.

Michael Northrop

Michael Northrop is a writer living in New York City, author of three YA novels: Gentlemen, one of the American Library Association/YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults; Trapped, an ALA/YALSA Readers’ Choice List selection, an Indie Next List pick, and a Barnes & Noble Must-Read for Teens; and Rotten. His first middle grade novel, Plunked, was named one of the best children’s books of the year by the New York Public Library. His writing has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Kids, McSweeney’s, Weird Tales, and many other places. His latest YA novel is Surrounded by Sharks. You can find him on the internet here

 

  • Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
  • Ben Macintyre
  • “Fantastic World War II nonfiction: a high-stakes British spy thriller that just happens to be true.”

  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
  • Stephan Pastis
  • “Hilarious, endearing, and includes a polar bear - what more do you want? This book made me wish I could draw (or at least doodle really well).”

  • Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • “Lovecraft’s stories are profoundly weird, insanely good, and they changed horror writing forever, and for the better (which is to say, weirder).”

  • Rumble Fish
  • S.E. Hinton
  • “A short, tough book that hits hard and leaves a mark. Not as famous as The Outsiders, but it had just as big of an impact on me. It was the first novel I reread when I decided to write YA.”

     

  • A Separate Peace
  • John Knowles
  • “Darn near perfect: a little masterpiece that quietly tackles the big questions.”

Dan Gutman

Anything by Robert Benchley, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, Dave Barry, Roald Dahl, Robert Cormier, Jack Gantos, Peg Kehret, Gary Paulsen, Carl Hiassen, Andrew Clements, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Gordon Korman, Roland Smith, Anthony Horowitz, and some guy named Jon Scieszka.

  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Genius. The Sgt. Pepper of children's books.

  • Hatchet
  • Still the best survival story.

  • Ball Four
  • This is the book that turned me on to reading. For the first time, somebody wrote like they were having a conversation with me.

  • Yertle the Turtle
  • Or anything by Dr. Seuss. Can’t beat it.

  • Mad Magazine
  • Without it, all intelligent life on Earth would have ceased to exist.

Daniel Handler

is, most famously, the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  He also plays a mean accordian.

  • The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily
  • This book contains fierce battles, a magic wand, illegal gambling, a sea serpent, many ghosts and a werewolf, although the werewolf in the book doesn't really appear in the book. This has been my favorite book since I was a tiny brat, and now that I am larger I try to make everyone read it.

  • The Headless Cupid
  • This is another lifelong favorite of mine, about a poltergeist, which is either an invisible ghost throwing things around or somebody pretending to be an invisible ghost throwing things around.

  • Danny, the Champion of the World
  • Everybody knows Roald Dahl, but you might not know this book, which is not only a great suspense story but teaches you several methods of hunting pheasant illegally, which your parents have probably not taught you. Another thing you might not know about Roald Dahl is that if you go online you can take a virtual tour of the disgusting hut in which he wrote his books.

  • How I Live Now
  • This starts out as a pleasant summer story about spending time with one’s cousins and then suddenly gets pretty scary.

  • Running Wild
  • This book is even scarier. It might be too scary for you. It is about some nasty, nasty children. I don't really like to think about this book, which is probably why I've read it three times.

  • Halloween Party
  • OK, this book isn't nearly as scary. It's just about a young girl who gets murdered while bobbing for apples. Agatha Christie is fun to read because there's always a mystery, and often there's a list of characters in the front in case you start getting confused.

Eliot Schrefer

Eliot Schrefer is a primate who writes novels about apes.

Eliot Schrefer

  • Homeland
  • R.A. Salvatore
  • "The first fifty pages of the Dark Elf Trilogy have enough swordplay and plot twists to make you gasp."

  • The Tin Woodman of Oz
  • L. Frank Baum
  • "All the Oz books, actually. But I liked the Tin Woodsman the most, so this is the book I'm listing. Let's not psychoanalyze."

  • The Belgariad
  • David Eddings
  • Also, The Mallorean. "When I was the new kid in school, the characters in these books were my buds. Funny, courageous, and there's 1000 pages worth of them."

  • The Princess Bride
  • William Goldman
  • "Funny and clever and full of heart."

  • Dragonlance: Chronicles and Legends
  • by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. "I started with the computer game and then turned to the books. Lots of gods and glowy magic and giant spiders rearing in pain! Awesome."

Adam Selzer

Adam Selzer was born in Des Moines and now lives in Chicago, where he writes humorous books by day and researches history, ghost stories and naughty playground rhymes by night. After eleven published books, including the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to American History and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, not to mention How To Get Suspended and Influence People (which people try to ban now and then), he is just famous enough to have a page on wikipedia. He has been described as "subversive, but in a fun way....like the offspring of Bob Dylan and some Muppet." (taken from the author's website, adamselzer.com)

 

  • The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death
  • Daniel Pinkwater
  • A story of two kids who sneak out to go to late night double feature picture shows and end up fighting aliens with wrestlers and detectives. I pretty much based my life on Pinkwater's teachings, and this one, in particular. It's set in a thinly-veiled version of Chicago, and the fact that I live near some of the locations now is not entirely a coincidence. It's available in a really good collection called "5 Novels" which also has a couple of other masterpieces in it.

  • Rotters
  • Daniel Kraus
  • A book about a guy who finds out that his father is a grave robber. I love grave robbing so much that my neighbors are reluctant to come to my barbecues.

  • Knock On Any Door
  • Willard Motley
  • How Nick Romano went from being an altar boy at 12 to dying in the electric chair at 21. A really tough, gritty novel about life on the streets in the 40s, this book is also the origin of the phrase "live fast, die young, have a good looking corpse." I found this in a bin at a thrift store in high school and bought it because I knew Jim Morrison had liked it; a week later it was my favorite novel ever. The writing just pounds you in the face.

  • Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Charles Dickens
  • The easiest Dickens to start with is A Christmas Carol (you already know the plot, and it's short), and the best ones are probably Great Expectations and Bleak House (which has a guy who spontaneously combusts in it). But sometimes I feel like I have a duty to tell people that Martin Chuzzlewit is under-rated; it comes right in between his early, zanier books and his later, more serious ones so you get the best of both worlds. Dickens books can take weeks to read, but they're worth it. You lose yourself in a larger-than-life world full of kooks and crooks with lots of droopy taverns and winding alleys. Even the most serious ones are funny as hell.

  • I Hated Hated Hated Hated This Movie
  • Roger Ebert
  • A collection of Ebert's worst reviews - just about everything you need to know about writing is mixed into these. Reading Ebert's best and worst reviews will tell you more than 100 "writing craft" books. He was really funny when he was ripping into a movie - he says one of them should be chopped up and made into free ukulele picks for the poor. And the notes he had for that movie where Shaq plays a genie are some of the best writing advice you can get.

  • Space Station Seventh Grade
  • Jerry Spinelli
  • Spinelli's first book, re-reading it in college is what made me realize that YA books could be just as "literary" as anything else on the shelves.

  • Nemesis
  • Phillip Roth
  • Roth's latest and apparently last book, a story about a gym teacher in a Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey during World War 2 who questions his faith when a couple of kids die of polio. He seems to have no idea what's going on in Europe. But the reader does.

  • The Shakespeare Wars
  • Ron Rosenbaum
  • A nonfiction book about controversies among Shakespeare scholars (like, does Juliet talk about having an orgasm? Did Shakespeare revise his work? How much of Macbeth is missing from the script we have?) Academia is weird world full of cliques and drama, Rosenbaum succeeds in making it look as though professors throw folding chairs at each other during conferences. He also speaks as well as anyone about how Shakespeare can just cast this spell over you that you may never recover from if it hits you just right (while freely admitting that most Shakespeare productions, and most essays about him, are boring as all get out).

  • Skinnybones
  • Barbara Park
  • Look, writing middle grade humor is really, really hard. Way harder than YA humor. I re-read this one lately and couldn't believe how funny it was. Barbara Park made it look so easy.

  • The Lost Continent
  • Bill Bryson
  • Bill Bryson drives across the country, makes fun of things, and muses about how America has changed over the decades. One of those books where you can just open to any page and read a bit.

     

    BONUS REC OF OBSCURIA:

    The Sears Catalog and Consumer's Guide, Fall 1900
    They reprinted an abridged version of this in the 1970s; you can find it online for a couple of bucks. It's the best bathroom reading in the world. The 1927 one is neat, too.