I do a lot of reading. As you might have guessed by my book about how to read a lot. So it seems fair to share some of my favorites. I couldn’t possibly rank them, but a simple list seems worthwhile.

(this page is under construction as I play with the best way to do this)

My Reading

My Top Reading Lists From Each Year

(These are my favorites from each year of reading, so books I read that year, not books published that year. I also don’t stand by the ranking—my opinions often change over time)



Top 15 of 2012

My Full Reading Lists:

(every book I read that year)

2017, 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001.

Random Lists

This is where I collect recommended books in various categories. These aren’t be-all, end-all lists. But they are books I’ve read that I’d recommend and I could categorize in some way. It definitely leans toward YA and middle-grade books, since that categorization seems more helpful.

My Super-Awesome Books to Read Aloud to My Kids List:

  • Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
  • The Boy at the End of the World by Greg Van Eekhout
  • Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Fiction About Writers:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrille Zevins

Books for Writers:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson
  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Just Write: Here’s How by Walter Dean Myers

Self Help/Productivity/Get It Done:

  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  • Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe
  • Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn

Social Issues

Non-Fiction Exploring Racism:

  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon for White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (poetry)

Fiction Exploring Racism:

  • The Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel)
  • How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (YA)
  • All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brian Kiely
  • Grant Park by Leonard Pitts Jr.
  • Your Face in Mine by Jess Row (racial reassignment surgery)
  • Hush by Jacqueline Woodson (YA)

Stories Related to Slavery

  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper (YA)
  • Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • The Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith
  • 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (MG)
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing 1 & 2 by M.T. Anderson (YA)

Young Adult/Middle-Grade Fiction About Homelessness:

  • How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor (MG)
  • Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick (YA)
  • Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes (MG)
  • Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (MG)
  • 8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (MG)
  • Tyrell by Coe Booth (YA)
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (MG)
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (MG)

Fiction About Adoption/Foster Care:

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (MG)
  • Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata (MG)
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (MG)
  • When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright (YA)
  • The Last Chance Texaco by Brent Hartinger (YA)
  • The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes (MG)
  • Locomotion & Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (MG/YA?)
  • The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods (YA)
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds (MG)
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (MG)
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (MG)
  • How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (YA)
  • Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Giff Reilly (MG)
  • Orphan Train by Christina Kline Baker
  • Bird by Crystal Chan (YA) (a secondary character is adopted, but how it’s addressed and his struggles make it unique)

Young Adult/Middle Grade/Picture Books About International Adoption:

  • Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata (MG)
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (MG) (character is adopted, focus of the story is not adoption)
  • Yafi’s Family: An Ethiopian Boy’s Journey of Love, Loss & Adoption by Linda Pettitt, Sharon Darrow and Jan Spivey Gilchrist (PB)

Young Adult/Middle-Grade Fiction About Disabilities:

  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (older MG) (cerebral palsy)
  • Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (YA) (cerebral palsy & OCD)
  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (YA) (epilepsy)
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (YA) (Tourrettes)
  • Follow My Leader by James Garfield (MG) (blindness)
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (MG) (unspecified birth defect, small & leg braces)
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio (MG) (facial deformity)
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (YA) (OCD)

Cancer Fiction:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene (YA)
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (YA)

Suicide/Depression Fiction:

  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (YA)
  • 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (YA)
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Mathew Quick (YA)
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (YA)
  • Paper Towns by John Green (YA)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA)
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (YA)
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (YA)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA) (rape)

Transgender Stories:

  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills (YA)
  • Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (MG)
  • Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill (Memoir)
  • Every Day by David Levithan (YA)

Indigenous People Fiction:

  • Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past by Diane Wilson
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (MG)
  • My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson (YA)
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Edrich (MG)
  • Brothers of the Buffalo by Joseph Bruchac (YA)
  • Starfish by James Crowley (MG)
  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (MG)
  • In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III (MG)
  • Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (YA)
  • March Toward Thunder by Joseph Bruchac (MG)

Love Story Fiction:

  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche (YA)
  • Elanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
  • Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (YA)
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Every Day by David Levithan (YA)
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (YA)
  • If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (YA)

Science Fiction

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories.

Near-Term, Nuclear Apocalypse:

  • The Last Ship by William Brinkley
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  • Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien (YA)
  • Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein
  • Warday by Whitley Strieber

Near-Term, Plague Apocalypse:

  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  • Earth Abides by George Stewart
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Plague Year/Plague War/Plague Zone by Jeff Carlson (nanobot plague)
  • The Loners by Thomas Lex (YA)

Near-Term, Unspecified Apocalypse:

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

Near-Term, EMP Apocalypse:

  • One Second After by William Forstchen
  • Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling (unexplained magic/alien EMP)
  • Directive 51 by John Barnes

Near-Term, Ecological Apocalypse:

  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (alien/mutant plants)
  • Ashfall by Mike Mullin (YA) (super volcano)
  • The Death of Grass by John Christopher (plant plague)
  • Slow Apocalypse by John Varley (oil fires?)
  • After the Snow by S.D. Crocket (YA) (ice age)
  • Not a Drop to Drink / A Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis (YA) (water)
  • Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (YA) (electric storm?)

Near-Term, Economic/Combination Apocalypse:

  • World Made By Hand/The Witch of Hebron/A History of the Future by James Howard Kunstler
  • Patriots by James Wesley Rawles
  • A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren
  • Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
  • Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
  • Orleans by Sherri Smith (YA)

Near-Term, Other Apocalypse:

  • Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson (robot uprising)
  • Without Warning/After America/Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham (giant dome?)
  • More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA) (just weird)
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (giant mutant insects)
  • American War by Omar El Akkad (war/terrorism/plague)
  • Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler (alien microbe)

Long-Term Post-Apocalyptic:

  • Wool by Hugh Howey
  • The Postman by David Brin
  • The City of Ember by Jean DuPrau (MG)
  • Wool/Shift/Dust by Hugh Howey
  • Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt
  • Enclave/Outpost/Horde by Ann Aguire
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young (YA)
  • The Boy at the End of the World by Greg Van Eekhout (MG)
  • Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (YA)
  • River Rats by Caroline Stevermer (MG)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  • Snowfall by Mitchell Smith
  • The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
  • Patternmaster by Octavia Butler

Vampire Fiction:

  • Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  • The Passage/The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • V-Wars by John Maberry
  • Fat Vampire by Johnny Truant
  • The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks (YA)

Zombie Fiction:

  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • The Girl With All The Gifts / The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
  • Zone One by Colson Whitehead
  • Feed/Deadline/Blackout by Mira Grant
  • Ashes by Ilsa Bick (YA)
  • The First Days by Rhiannon Frater
  • The Remaining by D.J. Molles
  • Domino Falls/Devils Wake by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
  • Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
  • Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black (selected short stories)
  • Undead by Kirsty McKay (YA)

Other Sci-Fi

Time Travel Fiction:

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler (unexplained time travel by modern black woman to slavery times)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audry Niffenegger (time travel as genetic disorder)
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King (time travel to stop JFK assassination)
  • All Our Wrong Todays be Elan Mastai (alternate world time travel origin story)
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (technically this is alternate realities)
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell (talking with the past via phone call)
  • The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman (time machine only goes forward, exponentially farther w/ each trip)
  • Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt (trying to stay one step ahead of death)
  • Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (far-future time travel to salvage resources from the past)
  • Weapons of Choice/Designated Target/Final Impact by John Birmingham (21st Century U.S. fleet is transported back to WWII)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
  • Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau (time travel to watch indie rock concerts)
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney (time travel via thinking hard enough)
  • Guardians of Time by Poul Anderson (collection of loosely related short stories about the cops of time travel)
  • Blackout by Connie Willis (time travel is reserved for historical study [though I thought it was way too long])
  • A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott (YA) (modern black teen transported back to slavery times)
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (serial killer time traveler)

Alternate History:

  • Weapons of Choice/Designated Target/Final Impact by John Birmingham
  • The Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter
  • Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

Best Space Stories:

  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorofor
  • Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers


  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (GN)

Still Other Sci Fi:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • For the Win by Cory Doctorow


Historical Events Fiction:

  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (YA) (Cambodian genocide)
  • When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (MG) (Japanese occupation of Korea)
  • Flygirl by Sherri Smith (YA/MG) (black female pilot passing during WWII)
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (MG) (slave in Revolutionary War)
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (YA) (homesteading Montana)
  • One Crazy Summer / P.S., Be Eleven / Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia (black power late 60s early 70s)
  • The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan (MG) (Pablo Neruda)
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (MG) (migrant workers in California)
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (MG) (Holocaust)
  • Bud Not Buddy / The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (MG) (Great Depression)
  • Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins (YA) (Burma child soliders/refugees)
  • Boxers / Saints by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel) (Boxer Rebellion)
  • The Bomb by Theodore Taylor (MG) (nuclear testing on Pacific islands)
  • Invasion by Walter Dean Meyers (YA) (World War II)
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhaa Lai (YA) (Vietnamese refugees)
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (YA/MG) (female pilot/spy in WWII)
  • Starfish by James Crowley (MG) (forced education of native children)
  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (MG) (settling the west)
  • The Return by Sonia Levitin (MG) (exodus of Ethiopian Jews)
  • The Storyteller’s Beads by Jane Kurtz (MG) (exodus of Ethiopian Jews)
  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper (YA) (slavery)
  • Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (MG) (1930s Germany/Depression era U.S./WW II U.S.)
  • Brothers of the Buffalo by Joseph Bruchac (YA) (Red River War)
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (MG) (Japanese family in the 1960s South)
  • I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (MG)(Pinochet’s coup in Chile)
  • Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past by Diane Wilson (Dakota war and aftermath in Minnesota)
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (LGBT issues, 1945-present, specificallyIrish non-acceptance and AIDS crisis in 1980s)
  • Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (YA) (World War II)
  • March Toward Thunder by Joseph Bruchac (MG) (Civil War)

Civil Rights Movement Fiction:

  • March by John Lewis (graphic novel) (civil rights movement)
  • 1963: The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis (MG) (Sunday School bombing)
  • Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (MG) (Freedom Summer in Mississippi)
  • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vanda Michaux Nelson (YA) (Lewis Michaux)

Books on Sudan:

  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney (MG)
  • The Good Braider by Terry Farish (YA)
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (MG)
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers
  • Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (MG)
  • Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s From the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong

Faith & Spirituality

Faith Fiction:

  • Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruegger
  • Boxers / Saints by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel) (Boxer Rebellion)
  • Silence by Shusako Endo
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu (YA)

Jesus Fiction:

  • Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge (YA)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

Spiritual Memoir:

  • When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Staring Over by Addie Zierman
  • Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
  • Jesus Sound Explosion by Mark Curtis Anderson
  • Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
  • Take This Bread by Sarah Miles
  • Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark by Addie Zierman
  • Leaving Church: A Memoir on Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

Christian Practice:

  • Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson
  • The Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittister

Books About Christian “Re-Education” Camps/Schools:

  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (YA)
  • Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (Memoir)

Racism in the Church:

  • One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs
  • Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G. I. Hart
  • Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland
  • Church Diversity: The Most Segregated Day of the Week by Scott Williams

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.