aStart your summer off right and start reading some of the most exciting books on the market right now. Vow to dedicate some time lounging by the pool, in your hammock, on a couch, or wherever it is you like to go when you read and dive into this reading list. Guaranteed to have a little something for everybody, you won’t be disappointed if you challenge yourself to read at least one of the books from the list that fits your age group.

Go to the library, make friends, start a book club and just have fun reading this summer!


Summer Reading List for Ages 17 and Under:

Picture Books:

  • Amos and Boris, by William Steig
  • Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems
  • The Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen


New Readers:

  • Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
  • Daisy Dawson at the Beach, by Steve Voake
  • Sammy the Seal, Syd Hoff


Classics & Award Winners:

  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • The Seashore Book, by Charlotte Zolotow
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien



  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • will grayson, will grayson, by John Green


Summer Reading for Ages 18 and Up:

  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
  • The Bohemian Flats, by Mary Relindes Ellis
  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
  • Lean In For Graduates, by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis

Books make for an adventure all their own. Treat yourself to a thrilling read this summer and you just might be surprised and what you’ve been missing. Sitting down with a good book is a great way to learn, make yourself think, and can even serve as fodder for interesting conversation later on. What are you waiting for? Hit up your local library or favorite book store today!




I love reading magazines like The Kenyon Review, Dogwood, The Indiana Review, and other well established literary journals just as much as any lit journal aficionado does. Magazines like that are well established for a reason: they have a proven track record of printing some of the best literary fiction, non fiction, and poetry our reading eyes ever have the opportunity to skim over. But, I also like branching out and trying new things. I’ve discovered several up and coming lit journals over the last few months that just keep me coming back for more and are well on their way to establishing themselves as magazine giants. These three magazines are some of my recent favorites. Enjoy!

Better MagazineI stumbled across Better Magazine’s website when a friend I follow on Twitter shared a link to a poem by Janelle Adsit titled “Turn This Map Into Sky,” published in Issue #3, which you can read here. This is hands down my favorite poem of the year so far that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Better is a an online quarterly that publishes some of the most creative and experimental writing available on the web. They’re only a year old but they are quickly establishing themselves as a premier journal with some of the finest work I have ever seen.

elsewhere— Having only released their second issue in March of 2014, elsewhere is already making a scene in the lit journal community. They offer a unique publishing schedule releasing a new issue online every two months that features three poets and three fiction writers. So far (though we’re only two issues in to what appears to be a promising run) elsewhere tends to focus on flash fiction and prose poetry–all of which will either leave you breathless or force you to read and re-read the work again. One of my favorite flash pieces that they’ve published so far is Steve Almond’s “Courtroom Drama,” which you can read here. I partly enjoyed the piece because it takes place in the Southeast, given I have roots there, and I enjoyed the rest of Almond’s writing because of all the emotion he managed to convey in five short paragraphs. His writing is exceptional.

Mojave River Review–Mojave River Press & Review has already released two books so far in 2014: Leesa Cross-Smith’s short story collection “Every Kiss a War,” and Daniel Romo’s prose poetry collection “When Kerosene is Involved.” Both writer’s are exceptionally talented and big reason why Mojave River Review is so hot right now. But, the ambitious editors didn’t stop there. Mojave released the first issue of their ejournal in February 2014 with work that lit up the web with over 5,000 reader views for the inaugural issue. These folks know what they’re doing. Some of my favorite pieces from the debut issue (and boy was it hard to narrow it down to two) include Diana Lockward’s “How I Dumped You,” and Angela Cardinal Bartlett’s “The Big A.” You can read these fine works and others in the 200+ page debut issue here. I can’t wait to see what Mojave River Review has planned for the summer issue.

If you’ve got some free time this weekend and don’t currently have a book to stuff your nose into I highly recommend getting your  creative writing fix from the previously mentioned magazines. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be hooked for life. As readers, I  think it’s important not to limit ourselves to only reading books. Read magazines, journals, note cards, the backs of cereal boxes,  etc. and expand your horizons. You never know where some awe-inspiring, life changing poem or short story is waiting for you, so                                   you have to go and find it.

It should be pretty obvious from the title of this blog that I believe reading is an essential part of life. However, I am aware that not everyone else thinks this way. And that’s okay. I’m merely here to offer a suggestion. If you never read anything else in your entire life, you should at least read the eight novels featured on this list; and I’m going to tell you why.


  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee– To Kill a Mockingbird is a rare American novel that can be discovered over and over again without fear of the story getting old. Written in 1960, Harper Lee’s book is still whispering secrets about race, tolerance, justice, family, loyalty, innocence, ethics and values. These issues ring out as sharply to us today as they did to Harper in 1960. Love it or hate, you’ll respond to it. You will be challenged and changed by To Kill a Mockingbird like no other book you will ever read.
  • On the Road, by Jack Kerouac– On the Road chronicles Kerouac’s years traveling across North America. His love of America, compassion, and sense of language make this novel and its quest for self-knowledge and experience an inspirational work of lasting importance. This classic novel of longing and freedom will inspire anyone who reads it to seek a remedy for their wanderlust and quit wasting their life with what-ifs. If you’ve never had the guts to go for it, whatever it may be, you will after reading On the Road.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll– This book inaugurated a new era of (children’s) literature in English: books that didn’t have to be moralistic or didactic or teach a lesson. Books that created imaginative worlds that let the mind run free. But, you may be asking, why should I care? If you’ve ever felt misplaced, as though you didn’t  belong, or as if there are rules in the world but not everyone follows the same set, or have ever been thankful that not every book you read has a moral at the end, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is for you.  A healthy imagination is essential to a happy life.
  • If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino– At it’s core, If on a winter’s night a traveler is a book about the pleasure of reading. By working your way through the story (which is told in the second person) you become much more aware of that part of you that likes to read–or not read–and why. This is a story that is weird; it’s literary experimentation, but it’s genius. It’s difficult to read at times but this text is full of masterful examples regarding how to write and read. Essentially, it’s a story about you.
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger– This is the coming of age story of all coming of age stories. The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most controversial works of fiction ever published. That right there is exactly why you should read it. Personally, it’s one of my favorites but nothing I say here can help you form your own opinion of Salinger’s novel. That’s something you have to figure out for yourself. However, I can promise you that you will regret it if you never read it.
  • The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald– The strangest thing about The Great Gatsby is that it’s a book almost without a protagonist. Sure, Nick tells the story, but he isn’t much more than that–a storyteller. It isn’t made any lesser for apparent flaws such as these, or the flimsiness of the plot. In fact, the genius of the this novel is the tension between Nick’s storytelling and Gatsby’s myths. Fitzgerald’s novel is a cautionary tale of the American dream that every American must read.
  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad– Conrad’s novella is an intense and suspenseful journey into the disturbed psyches of an ivory trader in the Congo and a British ship captain. Conrad exposes the racist, greedy nature of imperialism. This is a powerful work full of psychological reflection and it is dense with symbolism and complex themes. Conrad believed that evil lies in every man and constant, unsparing efforts have to be made to keep it from taking over control. It seems difficult to interpret this context of evil. But on my part, I want to believe that we are more likely to fall victim to our own follies. The last words of the book send a chill down the spine and make one wonder how helpless a man can become in the trap of his own vice. The only way to evade this cage is to keep guard of one’s thoughts and to cling to the values of good. 
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway– A war story without heroes or villains, full of hollow victories and rage against the bureaucracy of war and what people under pressure can be forced to do, filled with some very good meditations on killing and war and love, and the importance of acting beyond personal gain, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a must-read. Nothing is black and white and Hemingway teaches this important less in a way that only he can. 

If you never read anything else in your life, you’ll be a better person for reading the eight novels on this list. Who knows, you might learn something new or breathe life into a dormant passion for reading.


from: Google Images

from: Google Images

Poetry is essential to good human living. For centuries, people have relied on poetry to help them understand the world around them, convey emotions, and mold the world into shape. Writing poetry allows you to put language to use by sketching your life onto the page using metaphor, imagery, and symbolic language. It teaches us how to speak and listen carefully, and it builds resilience; a well-crafted phrase or two in a poem can help us see the world in an entirely new light.

Poetry is filled with rhythm, sounds, and beats. It is the most kinesthetic of all literature. Poetry is physical and full-bodied; it activates your heart and soul. It’s no wonder that the entire month of April has been annually dedicated to poetry since the Academy of American Poets created National Poetry Month in 1996.

According to the goals of National Poetry Month are to:

  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
  • Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
  • Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
  • Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry

Most bloggers participate in National Poetry Month through some form of writing challenge. However, I’m running a book review blog here so you should expect a little something different. I’m a poet myself and I will be participating in National Poetry Month by writing a poem a day (April 1st to April 30th) but I would also like to issue a new set of challenges for readers to choose from.

“…When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.” –Jeanette Winterson

This month I would like to challenge you to read more poetry and tell me about your experiences through comments on this post. I have compiled a list of several fun challenges to get you better acquainted with poetry (if you’re unfamiliar) and open up your mind to a brand new world.

National Poetry Month Challenges:

  • Read one poem per day—Reading one poem per day is a super easy place to start if you have never read poetry before, feel that it’s boring, or feel that you have difficulty understanding it. You can go online to one of the literal thousands of literary journals available on the internet and check out their poetry submissions; PANK, Birdfeast, and ILK are some of my personal favorites. Or you could purchase a chapbook (a book of poetry usually containing 15-40 poems) and read one poem per day from the chapbook. Thrush Press, Redbird Chapbooks, and Black Lawrence Press are some great places to find breathtaking poetry chapbooks. The chapbook I reviewed this week, All The Heat We Could Carry is a fantastic read.
  • Read 1-2 books of poetry during the month of April—I would recommend Mountain Redemption  by Nick McRae or The Principle Agent by Sarah Suzor as these are some of my more recent favorites.
  • Read and write one poem per day—I had a professor in college tell me that if I ever wanted to do something great with my poetry I had to read poetry that was not mine and write poetry that is.

Now, those aren’t so hard are they? Pick one and get started!

When you bring poetry into your life, don’t analyze it. Don’t try to make some grand meaning of it either. Just read it. Look for poems that wake you up and assault your emotions. Find the poems that communicate with the deepest part of your and forget the rest. The rest will come later.

Happy reading!


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