Monday, August 15, 2016

Ramblings from the Stacks - My Back to School Reading List

Ramblings from the Stacks is a monthly feature here at the library where on every 3rd Monday I talk about the bookish things that bounce around in my head.  At some point I will have a link here so you can go check out my previous Ramblings but today is not that day!

I love making lists and I have really been wanting some kind of reading list this year.  I lowered my Goodreads goal mostly because I wanted to challenge myself more on the WHAT I was reading and not worry so much about the amount I was reading.  I have done some more out of my comfort zone reading but I still feel like I want to make more of an effort to be more mindful of my out of comfort zone reading.  But whenever I thought about it I felt like was just spinning my wheels and couldn't get an idea to really stick.  The other day while listening to one of my favorite bookish podcasts, The Readers, I finally had my eureka moment.  Someone had written in wanting a reading list for summer - the kind of list that they had gotten back in school.  Now I'm not planning to do a summer reading list because the second school lets out and it gets above 90 my brain turns to mush and reading anything but romantic suspense and cozy mysteries just isn't going to happen.

So instead I'm doing a Back To School list!  But, I realized that one of the reasons I tend to stick in my comfort zone is because I really don't know where to start in genres I'm not as familiar with.  So I'm borrowing some inspiration from the Tell Me What to Read series and I hope you'll help me make some choices!

I've divided the list into categories that I know I want to tackle and have listed a few of the books I've thought of reading for each one.  I'm also open to suggestions!


One of the primary reasons I lowered my Goodreads Challenge number was because I wanted to take the risk with some longer titles and these 2 come to mind.  I'm considering a chunkster to be a book over 600 pages.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (904 pages according to Goodreads) - I read the Mill on the Floss in high school and loved it.  I always meant to go back and read more Eliot but never did.


The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (656 pages according to Goodreads) - I've never read Henry James but I've wanted too and I've heard that this is wonderful.

Middle Grade:

Matilda by Roald Dahl - I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last year and enjoyed it but felt like my enjoyment was tempered by my familiarity with the very vivid movies.  Since I've never seen this one I think this book might be even better.  Plus, it's bookish!


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - I heard a really interesting podcast on Baum and how his career got started and I've always wanted to read this.  I know it's very different from the movie so it might be fun to do a comparison.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - This is one I feel like I should read because it was EVERYWHERE and people who didn't even particularly like Green liked this one.


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - This one has been on my radar for YEARS but somehow I've never actually taken the initiative to pick up a copy.  

Science Fiction:

1984 by George Orwell - Can you believe I never read this one?  It was on the reading lists in high school but always under the choose 2 column and I always ended up going with other choices.


Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne- This is one of those books that I had heard of before I really even knew it was a book and I just feel it's time I should read it.  Plus, I found a really pretty copy at Barnes and Noble the other day.


This is probably the genre I need the most help in.  I'm not 100% sure that I really know the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy when I'm just reading through lists of books.  These are 2 authors that I've been wanting to try but I'm more than willing to go a different direction if there is another book or author that I really need to read!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - I know nothing about this book other than it's the first in a series and I've heard some good buzz about Rothfuss' books.


The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey - I know Lackey is one of Lark over at the Bookwyrm's Hoard's favorites and I love fairy tale connected stories so this one sounds really fun.

So what do you think?  Any suggestions?  Books I simply must read?  Do you plan on making any changes to your reading this year?


  1. What a fun idea and I like how you did the categories! I am a big fan of TFIOS (like a lot of people). It is the only book I have reread actually. I would go with Matilda for MG - Good luck and happy reading :)

  2. I vote for reading matilda! I've read The Wizard of Oz and it's good. but Matilda is AMAZING! I have been meaning to read I Capture the Castle for years too! I really want to read it. Did you know that Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmatians? Isn't that interesting.

  3. The Fairy Godmother and The Name of the Wind are both so good! The problem is they are so different that while they are fantasy, it is hard to say which one is better?

  4. I love this idea! I am a maker and lover of lists anyway. Let's see if I can help... I've only read Silas Marner by Eliot and Daisy Miller by James, so I can't help you there, though I've heard some people struggled to get through Middlemarch in places.

    I saw the cute movie of Matilda by Dahl with my kids years ago and that will probably be a good choice. Also James and the Giant Peach (saw the play with them).

    Yes, I've also heard the Baum books are different and more detailed than the movie so you might enjoy that. I read all the Orwell books for high school Lit class. I haven't read any Jules Verne, though my husband has read a couple by him and they interested him. I don't read much YA but I have both of these on my radar to read some day, and I think you would like both.

    Fantasy has many different subgenres: high fantasy, dark, epic or quest, urban, sword & sorcery, fairytale, etc... there's even more ) The Rothfuss books are daunting and detailed (though lovers of this series would disagree, I only got a few chapters in and put aside for later). I guess I suggest the Lackey book for you, but haven't read it, if I had to pick.

    I like this idea of a Back to School list for parents :) Have fun with it!

  5. I didn't know we can lower our Goodreads challenge? I need to go figure that out as I know I won't reach that 101.

  6. I've always kinda wanted to read The Count of Monte Cristo but boy is that a chunkster! The size of that one has led me to put it off. I remember loving Roald Dahl books as a kid but remember almost nothing about them.

    I hope you enjoy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea if you read it. I was bored by it a little, which sounds awful, but still glad I read it. I knew it would read differently, not sure what my problem was lol, but I had to power through it. Still, it's a classic. There are so many amazing versions out there.

    I tried Name of the wind and didn't get very far, so I set it aside like Rita did. I have heard so many good things I was surprised, but that was just me. I have read a book or two by Mercedes Lackey and she's pretty good, it's not epic fantasy like Rothfuss but the stuff I've read was solid and they won't take a year to read. :) Another good writer is Robin Hobb, she's best known for her Assassin Apprentice series and I've enjoyed her books, but she puts her characters through a LOT. Or at least in that series she does.

  7. This is a great idea, Katherine! I hope you are able to get to some of these. I've been wanting to read Name of the Wind. My husband loved it--and usually if he enjoys it, I do too. I enjoy Mercedes Lackey's novels, but have yet to read The Fairy Godmother. It's on my to read list. I read 1984 so long ago . . . I remember liking it, but, again, it was a long time ago. LOL Fault in Our Stars was really good. It's an emotional read but pretty quick.

  8. What a cool idea. I haven't read any of these. I have read a few Lackey books and found them a tad on the dry side. I haven't read Fairy Godmother, though, so maybe it's better.

  9. I love Rothfuss Katherine. I would recommend The Invisible Library, The Drowning Game and Red Rising. Ooo and Written in Red!!

  10. I think this is a great idea, Katherine - but as Rita has mentioned, there is a huge range of fantasy covering lot of sub-genres. I noticed you enjoy watching crime on TV - have you considered reading some of the urban fantasy murder mysteries? There's the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, starting with Fool Moon or if you want a Brit twist, I'd suggest Charles Stross' The Laundry series, which starts with The Atrocity Archive. If you want something quirkier and funnier, than why not consider Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels? A great starting point would be Equal Rites. As for science fiction - the Jules Verne is great for classical reading, but I'd suggest something more contemporary. The Martian by Andy Weir is a great read - with more than a nod to Robinson Crusoe, it's funny and moving with lots of techie detail as well.

  11. I go through moods, romance moods, horror moods, etc. Right now I am more in a mystery and horror mood so that is what I have been reading. Next year it could be something totally different that is why I can't make a list cause I never stick to

  12. I love lists!
    Chunksters to try: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is wonderful. Pillars of the Earth is a great historical fiction about building cathedrals
    Middle grade: Holes by Louis Sachar or Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
    Young Adult: Can't go wrong with John Green. Have you read any Markus Zuzak? I Am the Messenger or The Book Thief are fab.

    All your choices look great!

  13. I love _Middlemarch_. Why not get a flavor of James by reading "Washington Square" or "Daisy Miller" or "The Aspern Papers". And "Turn of the Screw?" That deserves a place on any list! Good luck!

  14. If what you want to do is extend your reading out then it can only be a positive. All the best with it. I think cutting back on quantity is a great idea and going in search of variety has got to work. For myself I'd just do one or two a year!! And be very impressed with myself doing it. I picked up a review book that I think might be an extension for me, we shall see. All the best with the list!

  15. Pretty much everything on this list is either on my to-read list, or is one I read and enjoyed. Well, with the exception of 1984 (haven't read it and probably won't) and the two chunksters, which are both on my classics-I-might-read-someday list rather than my must-read list. :-)

    The Fairy Godmother is a lot of fun, but The Name of the Wind is AMAZING. Here's my review. Try listening to the audiobook. And then check out the re-read commentary on, because there are all sorts of clues and things you'll miss. (I know I did.) And have fun!

  16. I love Henry James! I recommend everything by him, but The Turn Of the Screw is my favorite, and it is only novella length and a good place to start. 1984 is much better than Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea!

  17. Oh, this is brilliant!

    My two cents on your categories and choices:
    --Personally, I'd go with Eliot over James any day. Just my preference.
    --There are some excellent graphic novel adaptations of the first few Oz books out--very true to the original. Matilda, obviously, is written in more modern language and style.
    --I Capture the Castle. TFIOS is great, but I Capture the Castle is on a different level altogether.
    --I liked both of these books when I read them long ago. 1984 is more culturally relevant. My absolute favorite Sci Fi novel is Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.
    --I love fantasy, but am not interested in either of those options. Graceling and Girl of Fire and Thorns are two YA series starters I loved. I second the Terry Pratchett recommendation, although my favorites of his are the Night Watch stories, starting with "Guards, Guards!"

    Now I want to do some similar thinking and advice seeking! If I do, I'll credit you and let you know. Happy reading!