Click here for some authors we’ve talked to about their books and their process.

And click below for some recommendations from some authors we trust.

 

Jason Reynolds

JASON REYNOLDS is crazy. About stories. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. When I Was the Greatest is his debut novel. His next, The Boy in the Black Suit, comes out in 2015. He’s also the co-author of (in our opinion) the criminally-overlooked poetry/art hybrid memoir My Name is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way.

From his website: “Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot - A LOT - of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

  • The Young Landlords
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • It’s a brilliantly gritty story about a bunch of kids who get swindled into taking over a slum building. Super creative, yet totally feasible in New York City.

  • Kira-Kira
  • Cynthia Kadohata
  • The story takes place in the sixties in the segregated south. Black people know where they stand. White people know where they stand. But what about a Japanese family?

  • Noggin
  • John Corey Whaley
  • Smart and hilarious story about a young man who is dying and his parents decide to cryogenically freeze his head. A few years later, he’s back from the dead. And he’s still in high school.

  • The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
  • Walter Mosley
  • One of the gems that flew under the radar because Mosely is so prolific. But it’s a sweet, yet biting story about an elder man, Ptolemy Grey, suffering from dementia.

  • Erasure
  • Percival Everett
  • It’s a weird book about a stuffy writer and his hatred for the industry. His frustration with his agent wanting him to write a “sellable” book pushes him to pen “street fiction” just as a middle finger to the corporate publishing structure. Madness ensues, and it’s downright hilarious.

Mike Grosso

Mike Grosso is a middle school teacher, musician, and author of I Am Drums.

 

He truly believes reading lists rock.

 

  • My Near-Death Adventures, (99% True!)
  • Alison DeCamp
  • Stan is the Man. This is one of few books that had me laughing out loud. The writing by itself makes for a fantastic story, but the defaced photographs throughout the book make this something much more special.

  • The 8th Continent
  • Matt London
  • Dude, it's a book series about two kids that take the world's garbage and turn it into an eighth continent. What's not to like? A great book for scientific-minded environmentalists.

  • Hoodoo
  • Ronald L. Smith
  • Take the eeriness of THE LAST APPRENTICE and put it in recession era rural Alabama. Ronald Smith is a master of setting and mood, and not an author to be read in the dark unless you're very brave.

  • One Handed Catch
  • Mary Jane Auch
  • My students get grossed out sometimes when I book talk this one, so I assure them the first chapter is well-handled to insure minimal vomiting. Plus, it's a book that gets kids thinking about what it means to be differently-abled.

  • My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights
  • Brooks Benjamin
  • A lot of boys don't want to dance. That will change after reading Brooks Benjamin's awesome book.

Micol Ostow

Here are some of my favorite spooky novels (in some cases thrillers or otherwise twisty), and in particular books that influenced me while I was working on Amity!

  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • Shirley Jackson
  • "The ne plus ultimate haunted house story, I like to think of Amity's Gwen as sort of a modern spin on Eleanor, a young woman seeing and experiencing ghostly things, whose mind and perceptions can't be trusted."

  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  • Shirley Jackson
  • "A slow-burner filled with atmosphere. Merricat is the platonic ideal of an unreliable narrator."

  • The Shining
  • Stephen King
  • "A suggestible man, prone to violence, isolated in a hotel that exerts evil force over his will... Jack Torrance is to Amity's Connor as Hill House's Eleanor is to Gwen."

  • Tighter
  • Adele Griffin
  • "A modern take on The Turn of the Screw, Griffin draws from chilling source material and makes it her own for today's teen readers."

  • To Die For
  • Joyce Maynard
  • "A dark and twisty thriller (the movie's great, too) that serves up multiple POV's on a platter. I spent a lot of time poring over the many distinct voices of that book."

  • The Maddaddam trilogy
  • Margaret Atwood
  • "Epic and sprawling, boldly visionary, and still she manages to tie all of her narrative threads together by the series' conclusion. To spend ten minutes in that woman's head!"

  • Dangerous Girls
  • Abigail Haas
  • "Pacing, pacing, pacing. Totally un-put-downable."

  • The Amityville Horror
  • Jay Anson
  • "(That one probably goes without saying.)"

  • We Were Liars
  • E.Lockhart
  • "The pages turn and the ending twists!"

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.

Erik P. Kraft