20 books Rhi should read. (Okay, 25.)

I can’t believe in less than a month my baby sister will be here! One of the many, many (many) lists I’m making is one of books she must read while she’s here (or at least gather for when she goes home). My sisters and I are big readers and compiling lists of must-reads is a thing we do. Since I’m getting a bucket of books back from Rhi (this latest round of Care Package o’ Books included Gone Girl, The Fault in our Stars and Your Voice in my Head), the least I can do is replenish.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. I just finished this powerful memoir by a Boston-area native. Imagine being raised (and I use that term extremely loosely) by even more dysfunctional, emotionally abusive, crack-addled YaYas.

2) A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. A story set in eastern Russia about love and loss and the ties (and stories) that bind us all. I borrowed the ebook from the library the Tuesday it came out, and had finished it by Thursday.  And then immediately went out and bought a hardcover with my Mother’s Day money. It was that good.

3) The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. Rhi and I have a thing for good YA fiction. Dystopias a plus, but not required. This one didn’t translate as well for a grown-up audience, but it was still good enough to make me read all three books so I could find out the why of it all.

4) The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne. A fictionalized novel about Justin Bieber. Except not. Except it is! In all the best ways! It was voyeuristically wonderful. This book definitely lived up to the hype.

5) White Horse by Alex Adams. A really fun, smart The World Is Ending Because We Released A Flu Virus! book. Borders on YA dystopia, but it’s definitely smart enough for adult crossover appeal.

6) HHhH by Laurent Binet. It calls itself (somewhat tongue in cheek) as fictionalized non-fiction. Or non-fiction with blurry edges, which not only told the story of the successful assassination of the man who designed Hitler’s concentrations camps, but examines the art of non-fiction on a much grander scale. This is so right up Rhi’s alley.

7) Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The first rule about Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule about Fight Club is that you make everyone you know read it. Because. BECAUSE.

8) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Because I need to have one sister I can make read hysterically sad love stories so I can talk about them with someone. Rhi is the perfect combo of a trooper and a sucker for loooooove. Mikey will eat it. Er. I mean…

9) Sharp Objects and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Rhi hasn’t technically read Gone Girl yet since finals got in the way. But once she does, she will want to hoover up Flynn’s backlist just like I did. Betcha.

10) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Although I bet she’s seen the movie.

11) The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Because Rhi loves dogs more than anyone in the world, and because not only is the very best dog narrator I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, he beats out most human narrators, too.

12) Dare Me by Megan Abbott. Oh, this was delicious YA high school drama. THE perfect summer read.

13) Wild by Cheryl Strayed. An amazing memoir about Cheryl finding herself again as she walked the Pacific Coast Trail. I can see this book being for women in their 20s what Eat, Pray, Love was for women in their 30s going through horrible divorces. Ahem.

14) Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. A book about a teenaged girl loses her uncle, the only person who understood her, to a terrible new disease called AIDS. I loved reading about Junie and her uncle’s relationship; the narrator’s voice was just perfect. In fact, I think I read this book in a single sitting.

15) It by Stephen King. Because she has to start sometime. Somewhere. And this is where I started. (Okay, not really – I started with Insomnia. But then my SK mentor handed me It, so this is almost where I started.)

16) Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. She will LOVE Flavia de Luce! One of my reading mentors described Flavia as her favorite child narrator of all time. And I might have to agree.

17) A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Housseini. I liked this one better than The Kite Runner, and I think Rhi will, too. It’s a much more cohesive, sympathetic story. I already have the new Housseini pre-ordered, and this book is the reason why.

18) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson. Rhi might have already read these; I can’t remember. But if she hasn’t, she’ll want to. Smart, independent, kickass woman character. Rhi says yes, please.

19) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I don’t know if this will be Rhi’s thing or not. I think she’ll like Oscar. And Junior. But I don’t know if she will like the book as a whole. It’s a little rambley if you’re not in love with it.

20) Hope: A Tragedy. Anne Frank as a real character. A real…um…different character than the one you’re thinking. I guarantee. History. Irreverence. Yep, Rhi will love this. And laugh til she cries.

21) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Because she loved Fault in their Stars and she likes David Levithan. And because this book is on my top books of all time list.

22) The White Mary by Kira Salak. Kim put this on my last list of recommendations from her. It was on the list of her favorite books of all time. I hadn’t even finished it before it made it onto my same list. And now it’s Rhi’s turn.

23) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. When I grow up, I want to have an imagination like Erin Morgenstern’s. And be able to write like her, too, although I’d be happy with just one of the two.

24) White Oleander by Janet Finch. A book about strong women and dysfunctional families (and how to escape from them). I don’t know if Rhi will love it the way Kim and I do, but I am very, very interested in having long convos with her about it.

25) The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy. Because it’s a twisted fairy tale in the very best sense and it’s all about the history! World War II! And I will never get Kim to read it and I want to talk about it. So there.


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