The Books I Read - December 2021
These are the 18(!!) books I completed in December. If you want a little more on my thoughts for each of the books, check out my bookstagram page - @minihaysreads. I think next month/year (which is actually this month because I am still trying to get caught up) I will just post links to each of the books instead of the descriptions for each. Then if there are any you are interested in, you can go and read a blurb about them.
Here is a link for each of the books and summaries for each. I hope you find something that looks interesting to you.
- Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi
The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, because of a biased system he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated. Then, one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think
will be my life
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth in a system designed to strip him of both.
- Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.
- Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World by Ashley Herring Blake
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the courage to follow her true feelings?
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls–and children’s literature at large.
- The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
So, I’ve written a book.
Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.
This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.
- Live Your Life: My Story Of Loving And Losing Nick Cordero by Amanda Kloots with Anna Kloots
Amanda Kloots bravely reflects on love, loss, and life with her husband, Broadway star, and Tony Award nominee Nick Cordero, whose public battle with COVID-19 and tragic death made headlines around the world.
In March 2020, Broadway star and Tony Award nominee Nick Cordero was hospitalized for what he and his wife, Amanda Kloots, believed to be a severe case of pneumonia. Entering the hospital, they had every reason to believe that Nick—a young father and otherwise healthy man—would return home. After an eventual diagnosis of COVID-19 that led to Nick’s being placed on a ventilator, Amanda took to documenting their journey on social media, showing the dangers COVID-19 posed to everyone, regardless of age. Her updates quickly captivated millions, inspiring people around the globe to dance each day to Nick’s song “Live Your Life” and offer positive thoughts and prayer. When he passed away after ninety-five grueling days in the ICU, the world grieved for Amanda, her infant son, Elvis, and the future COVID-19 had snatched away from them.
Live Your Life is the story of Nick and Amanda’s life together—of their beautiful relationship, of Nick’s dramatic fight for survival, of those sudden tragic months that permanently changed her world and ours—and of their interrupted future as a family. From the confusing early days of his illness to searching for signs of hope in every update from the doctors to the healing sound of Elvis’s laughter, Amanda details how she approached even the most devastating moments with the personal optimism and faith that have shaped her life. Written with her sister Anna Kloots, who was with her every step of this journey, Live Your Life explores how Amanda’s willingness to accept help from an entire community of people—friends, family, and even total strangers—played a vital role in enduring this hardship. In the process, she offers a touching meditation on how even the worst times have silver linings that deepen our connections to the world around us and to the people who matter most.
What emerges is an inspiring and unexpectedly uplifting message for life in the time of COVID, a vision of courage for anyone coping with overwhelming loss or the collective trauma of what the pandemic has taken from us. A poignant reflection on love, hope, motherhood, and the transformational power of music, Live Your Life is a love letter to Nick and a reminder that, sometimes, celebrating life today is the only path through tomorrow’s darkness.
- Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
- Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
When Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, he’s determined to be there! But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!
Don’t miss bonus content in the back of the book—extra puzzles, an author Q&A, and more! And look for the puzzle-packed sequels—Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics and Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race!
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
- Before The Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel-in-verse explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed and the cost of professional sports on Black bodies.
For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that–but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?
- Home Is Not A Country by Safia Elhillo
From the acclaimed poet featured on Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list, this powerful novel-in-verse captures one girl, caught between cultures, on an unexpected journey to face the ephemeral girl she might have been. Woven through with moments of lyrical beauty, this is a tender meditation on family, belonging, and home.
my mother meant to name me
for her favorite flower
for pretty girls
i imagine her
bright & alive
& i ache to have been born her
Nima wishes she were someone else. She doesn’t feel understood by her mother, who grew up in a different land. She doesn’t feel accepted in her suburban town; yet somehow, she isn’t different enough to belong elsewhere. Her best friend, Haitham, is the only person with whom she can truly be herself. Until she can’t, and suddenly her only refuge is gone.
As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen—the name her parents meant to give her at birth—Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might be more real than Nima knows. And the life Nima wishes were someone else’s. . . is one she will need to fight for with a fierceness she never knew she possessed.
- Save Me A Seat by Sara Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Save Me a Seat joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common – but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
- The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods
The Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author tells the moving story of the friendship between a young white boy and a Black WWII veteran who has recently returned to the unwelcoming Jim Crow South.
On Gabriel’s twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike–and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad’s auto shop. Gabriel’s dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.
Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army’s all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there’s no guarantee that the police will help–and Gabriel doesn’t know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands.
- The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
- The Clothing Of Books by Jhump Lahiri
How do you clothe a book?
In this deeply personal reflection, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri explores the art of the book jacket from the perspectives of both reader and writer. Probing the complex relationships between text and image, author and designer, and art and commerce, Lahiri delves into the role of the uniform; explains what book jackets and design have come to mean to her; and how, sometimes, “the covers become a part of me.”
- Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift in a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.
Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.
Vivid and heart-wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
- Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes
In this Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, Children’s Literature Legacy Award-winner Nikki Grimes explores though her celebrated poetry how a supportive teacher can be the key to unlocking a dreamer’s imaginative power through creative writing.
Gabby’s world is filled with daydreams. However, what began as an escape from her parents’ arguments has now taken over her life. But with the help of a new teacher, ‘Gabby the dreamer’ might just become ‘Gabby the writer’ and the words that once carried her away might allow her to soar. Written in vivid, accessible poems, this remarkable verse novel is a celebration of imagination, of friendship, of one girl’s indomitable spirit, and of a teacher’s ability to reach out and change a life.
- The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting–things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.
- The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
Perfect for the holidays! A brand-new heartwarming Christmas novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas at the Island Hotel.
Laid off from her department store job, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. The prospect of spending Christmas with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered yuppie life does not appeal.
Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want her prickly sister Carmen there either. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs help revitalizing his shabby old bookshop. So Carmen moves in and takes the job.
Thrown rather suddenly into the inner workings of Mr. McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the picturesque streets of historic Edinburgh, Carmen is intrigued despite herself. The store is dusty and disorganized but undeniably charming. Can she breathe some new life into it in time for Christmas shopping? What will happen when a famous and charismatic author takes a sudden interest in the bookshop—and Carmen? And will the Christmas spirit be enough to help heal her fractured family?
- Have you read any of these books?
- Are there any new-to-you books on this list you might be interested in?
- Which of these books sounds the most interesting to you?