Tag Archives: reading

Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

award shows for books

Behind the scenes (and often right out the front too!) we at Segullah love books, and will often discuss and recommend them left right and everywhere.  Just before Christmas there was a discussion around what book recommendations we all had for certain types of readers.  Each dot point is a staff member’s suggestion, with stars after a title indicating how many additional staffers recommended it as well. Note that some areas overlap, with books only listed once.

Hopefully the list here will provide you with some suggestions if you’re looking for great reads and/or to use that Audible, book voucher or discretionary funding!

1) loves history, biographies, and literary fiction

  • I found Swimming to Antarctica to be a little known gem that has stayed with me for a long time. It’s a memoir from Lynn Cox, an American long distance swimmer who set the world record for the English Channel twice-once when she was 15, and the she went back to reclaim her title when she was 16. Her crowning achievement was swimming from the U.S. to Russia (there are apparently 2 islands a mile apart in the Bering Sea, one is American, the other is Russian– who knew) during the Cold War. It’s a pretty cool book for somebody who likes autobiographies.
  • I also thoroughly enjoyed Katherine Graham’s autobiography about her life as the editor of the Washington Post, but I don’t know if somebody without ties to DC would enjoy it as much.
  • Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross) is a cool historical fiction based on a legend of a pope who gave birth during a processional. Meticulously researched, it’s got very nice prose.
  • At the end of last year there was also an annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder called PIONEER GIRL published by the South Dakota Historical Society that would also be a great gift book.
  • ROSEMARY (Kate Clifford Lawson) was a fascinating look at the life of Rosemary Kennedy. H IS FOR HAWK (Helen Macdonald) was a beautifully written memoir, albeit a little slow and ruminative in places, but would be good for a more cerebral reader interested in single female British college professors who turn to falconry to help deal with grief (as well as the life story of T.H. White, author of “The Sword in the Stone,” who was also a falconer.)
  • THE BOOK THIEF (Markus Zusak), or THE CURSE OF CHALION* (Lois McMaster Bujold), but most of all I recommend OLD MAN’S WAR (John Scalzi). I recommend Old Man’s War for lots of people, especially guys. Yes, it’s usually found in the sci-fi section, but it’s clever, witty and deals in humanity.

2) literary fiction or beautifully written creative nonfiction Continue reading Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

Reading Resolutions

When I started using my personal blog to keep track of my reading back in 2007, my motivations were mostly personal. I read a lot of books and wanted to remember what I had read and how I felt about it. A monthly post with short reviews about each of the books I read has turned out to be the most enduring feature of my mostly neglected blog, and keeping track of my personal trends in reading has produced some interesting insights into my habits. Continue reading Reading Resolutions

How to Gift Graduates: A Book List

Well guys, it’s another book list.  Can we ever have too many?  I figured it’s that time of year.  May is the new December, and there are recitals, class parties, and ….graduations!  As I sat in my classroom and signed yearbook after yearbook of graduating seniors, I held a sharpie in one hand, students’ yearbooks in the other and thought, how can I summarize in a few words how great they are, far they’ve come, or how hard they worked?  I almost resorted to scrawling H.A.G.S. a time or two, but refrained, as that would totally be an English teacher yearbook travesty of some sort.  So instead, I wrote a book recommendation for them at the end of my short note.

Here are a lot of the ones I suggested. Some are old standbys, some are hot off the press, but they are golden books to be read many times for people of any age.  I know it’s been done – the “let’s give the grad a book” present (I think I got 4 copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go when I graduated), but you know what, words really do hold answers, wisdom, humor, so here they are…

should must

#1 The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna

I cannot speak highly enough about this author, artist and book.  It all started with one of her articles that went viral, and a year to the day,  her speech was published! It is not only full of inspiration and wisdom, but gorgeous art as well.  Do yourself a favor and pick up two.  One for a grad, and one for yourself!


#2 What Would Jane Do? A Jane Austen Devotional by Potter Style Publishing

Ok, so this one is arguable just for girls (but more power to any guy who wants to read Austen), but it’s a great size with wit and wisdom from the one and only, Jane Austen.


#3 The Second Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is (still) Wrong by John Lloyd

This is part two to the first General Ignorance book.  Hilarious, humbling, and actually instructive.  A great way to say, “look, just because you graduated, doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of things about this world you still don’t know”.


#4 The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Austen to Wilder by Erin Blakemore

Life stories of Harper Lee, Louisa May Alcott, Zora Neale Hurston, and others intertwine with their novel plots in author Erin Blakemore’s book. She writes vignettes about these women and how their subsequent novel(s) are related to the lives the lead.  I could not put this one down.


#5 The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by John Klassen

What is any book list without one children’s book?!  This Blue Ribbon Picture Book Award winner is classic Lemony Snicket.  Simple language with a powerful punch.  A realistic reminder that darkness is in our lives, but how to not be afraid.


#6 Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

You had me at Rowling.  That’s all I needed to know when I picked this book up.  Then, I soon realized it was adapted from her powerful commencement speech at Harvard (I made my students watch this years ago and it’s been a favorite ever since).  It is a must read book and perfect small token to take in our purses or to college.


#7 A Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This classic is stunning.  If you love the ocean, Anne’s lyrical thoughts on life, love, and youth will hit your heart and resonate.  It’s simply beautiful.

Happy reading!

Surprise: I like Fantasy Novels

I first heard about the Whitney Awards four years ago, but that year I did not read all the finalists like I have done in the years since then. I particularly avoided the Speculative category because it would have required reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and I just could not imagine myself reading a thousand-page-long high fantasy novel. Then, this year, the follow-up to that novel, Words of Radiance was picked as a finalist for both a Whitney Award and the Association for Mormon Letters novel award. After years of avoiding Sanderson’s work, I decided it was finally time to dive in.  A few weeks ago I went to the library, grabbed a copy of Words of Radiance, and furtively checked it out—even though it’s hard to be sneaky when you are carrying around a book that has a thousand pages and weighs several pounds. I brought the book home and stared at it for about a week before reluctantly cracking the cover. Although I’ve long been an avid reader, I’ve also secretly looked down a bit on people who read epic fantasy. I worried that my decision to start reading Sanderson would be the first step on a slippery slope that would end with me making my own chain mail. Thankfully, I have been proven wrong and I now repent of my previous snobbishness. Continue reading Surprise: I like Fantasy Novels

What’s In A Review(er)?

For the most part I’m a discerning devourer of books, though to be fair if a story is promoted as having: a. aliens; b. space ships; c. sarcasm; d. guns; e. dogs; f. baking and/or g. magical realism, chances are 95% and rising that I’ll be checking out a sample chapter.

Though it’s the FINDING these works of bliss that has tended to be problematic, especially with the dross and magic flooding Amazon (self-published for the most case) demanding attention and often 99 cents. I’m also put off Amazon reviews when “This book arrived 10 days after I ordered it, which is why I’m giving it one star but the story was good.” Thankfully, the internet has given me a pool of reviewers whom I have come to rely on for recommending books I’d like – it has taken time (years) but right now I have seven tabs open with my favourite review sites/blogs, and I very rarely go to any others.

But what makes you want to read a book that has been reviewed? Is it the style of the review: strictly factual, Harvard referencing and no advertising anywhere? Chatty, casually mentioning three other similar books and flooding enthusiasm? Genre specific? A literary dissection, discussing the thematic elements, symbolism and political motivations? Or is it the website of someone you know (or know only online) who you’ve worked out likes and dislikes the same sort of books you do?

One of my favourite books this year – Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos – found its way onto my phone simply because of the review from one of my favourite writers, Larry Correia:

I really enjoyed this one. Marko was in the German army, then emigrated to America. The thing that I enjoyed about ToE was that it was this really cool mil-sf, from the grunt’s perspective. Personally, my favorite parts where in the main character’s backstory, about his crappy upbringing, his enlistment, and the basic training. The character has a good evolution, and then we’ve got war, and space aliens. So what’s not to love?  Check it out.

Short blurb, summative, war and aliens = WIN! Add to that the fact that Marko wrote a very clever, engaging and downright fascinating story and I’m now more likely to have a look at other books Corriea recommends.

One of my sons’ (and my) favourite picture books came from a review column of an online science-fiction magazine, which has featured many columnists and genres. Of the original post, this is the section which intrigued me:

Before I go, I want to mention one more book that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Every so often, a picture book crosses my desk that makes me want to email the author and gush and gush about it. (Adam Rex is still wiping off my gush overFrankenstein Makes a Sandwich.) I’ve just pulled up Amanda Noll’s website (www.amandanoll.com) and am about to do the same. Howard McWilliam is next. This is their first book. You’re going to want to own it.

Here’s the story: Ethan goes to bed one night and finds (*gasp*) that his regular monster has gone fishing (Gabe left him a note). Oh, no! What is Ethan to do? How will he sleep without a monster under his bed? So Ethan does what any intelligent boy with a purpose would do: he begins the process of interviewing prospective monsters for the position that Gabe has left vacant.

I’m a member of Goodreads, and while I’m rather lackadaisical about updating my status, I always read the reviews of my Goodread friends. Two friends specifically review books on their blogs (both of whom read widely and use star ratings, though Shelah’s also rates them for content, and Tracey’s often has author interviews too), and I’m constantly adding titles to my lists thanks to their reading and winnowing efforts.

Reviews also come as a result of a competition win. Through another review blog I follow (by a mother and son, which adds fun variety and opinions) I recently won a review copy of a Deseret Book title and while I was delighted to have an e-version on my phone, I was a little hesitant about how to review it. Mostly because most reviews I’ve read on Deseret Books read less as reviews and more as testimonials or missionary fireside proclamations. In the end I wrote an honest (and I think definitely un-DB style) review of the book, because if I read a review I want honesty, not nice-so-I-don’t-hurt-anybody’s-feelings pandering.

I was a little concerned when I read the blurb that this would be so sweetly pious it would make my teeth hurt (and my spirit grow dejected in comparison), but I really should have known better.

(The rest of the review is here, and includes peanut butter cravings, a prophet and happiness.)

Overall, I want a review to pique my interest, give me just enough details to work out if I want to hunt the book down, and also entertain me. Just like a book, really, only shorter (and with zero spoilers!)

So how do you choose your next read? Word of mouth? Trusted friends? Oprah? Eeney-meeney-miney-moe? Specific websites or publishing emails? Genre specific sites? What does a review(er) cover or omit to help you decide what to read? Read any good reviews lately?