Laura's Antarctic research station suddenly loses all radio contact with the world. The only other employees leave to find out what happened, but they don't return. She waits until the generator breaks down and then sets out on foot to cross the ice and find help.
People frequently appear and disappear in The City, a nebulous afterworld. Their tenuous existence lasts only as long as someone alive on Earth still remembers them. City dwellers wink out of existence when the last person with a memory of them dies.
Why I picked it up: Seattle Librarian and Book Lust author Nancy Pearl talked about this book on NPR and made me consider how long my "essence" will live on after me.
Why I finished it: There is a dreamy feel to this book. The skillful weaving of the two stories and the characters that inhabit the City set this book apart. Laura's physical journey across the ice brings more than mortal peril because of the City residents she remembers. If she dies, they'll disappear.
I'd give it to: Annika, who struggled with life and death questions at an early age, as well as philosophers and contemplative, religious types.
Andrew Zansky is the 2nd fattest at his school. At over 300 pounds, he constantly worries about things like fitting in the seats. He meticulously plans his days to avoid embarrassment, and takes special care to avoid a sadistic bully. He is not popular in the least. But when he's recruited to replace an injured football player, he gets instant social cred at school. Popularity is not what he had hoped for.
Why I picked it up: The snappy, sarcastic title.
Why I finished it: Andy has a bitterly honest internal voice. As things change, he does not find salvation in becoming what everyone else wants him to be. Other characters have the chutzpah to be themselves, which made this an inspiring book. The author, Zadoff, weighed 360 pounds at one point in his life, so he was looking to share his journey through this book.
I'd give it to: My former student Greg, whose rich inner life belied the teasing he endured at school. C.B., whose physical fitness might make her susceptible to judging characters like Andy. And both my twins because they enjoy model U.N.
In sixth grade, Raina knocked out her front teeth when she fell while racing to her porch. Her dentist tried to put them back, but they were too high in her gums. She has to make a mold for her retainer with two fake teeth on it and then get braces. Her first friends got a little mean and she made new, nicer friends in high school.
Why I picked it up: There was a smile with braces on it on the cover.
Why I finished it: Her birthday party where friends dressed her up in crazy clothes for Sean, the boy she liked.
I'd give it to: Colette because she likes books that take place in school like The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Jess because she liked the Babysitter's Club graphic novels that Raina Telgemeier also illustrated.
This full-color graphic novel adaptation of Twain's classic tells the story through dialogue and action.
Why I picked it up: The colors. Sechrist's art serves the story he tells by walking the line between realistic and cartoony, and man is it beautiful. But colors are the best part. His palette is so varied it's fearless, and the high quality paper really brings the colors out.
Why I finished it: I was afraid this would be another lifeless, description-filled graphic novel classic published for the library market. I was wrong. It is a fantastic adaptation of the original. It doesn't try to be the original by including huge amounts of the original text, but every part of the story that I know about is here. (Full disclosure: I've never read the original. But I did watch The New Adventures of Huck Finn on the Banana Splits .
I'd give it to: Mischievous kids like Evan, well-behaved kids like Beatrice, and anyone who wants to share their love of the original with a kid in a way that will entertain the kid, too.
Agents of The Concern flit between realities, inhabiting the bodies of those who don't know of the multiverse. Through small kindnesses and violence they can change the course of any of the infinity of histories they access.
Why I picked it up: I read Consider Phlebas in Nepal years ago. It's my favorite space opera. Now I'd pay hardcover prices for a restaurant menu if Banks wrote one.
Why I finished it: My understanding of the setting and its rules unfolded naturally from the opportunity to see the world from various points of view: The Concern's most skilled assassin, one of its power-hungry leaders, a former teacher turned rebel, and a sedated patient in a hospital ward, feigning madness.
I'd give it to: Fans of Mieville's The City & The City, The Authority (but only the books written by Warren Ellis or Mark Millar), or Planetary (Warren Ellis again), and anyone who reads subtle science fiction for setting as much as for character and language.
Henry Hill grew up around mobsters. He started bringing them sandwiches, then running errands, and finally graduated to full-blown crimes. This is his true story, which Martin Scorsese adapted into the movie Goodfellas.
Why I picked it up: Loved the movie.
Why I finished it: It's like watching a car crash in slow motion. Long before The Sopranos this book detailed the bizarre juxtaposition of boring middle-class moments and brutally violent true crime that is the mob.
I'd give it to: Anyone interested in the minutiae and rhythm of mob life. But if you're looking for The Godfather you will miss its epic scope, because real mobsters are just as petty and dysfunctional as everyone else.