Some of our favorite authors to follow on Twitter

We live in a golden age — not only do we get to read masterful books from some truly groundbreaking authors, but we also get to follow them on social media and see what they’re having for lunch and their musings on the latest Taylor Swift album. I’ve been on bookstagram for a while, but recently started getting more into Book Twitter, and while it is a wild and lawless place, it’s also full of hilarious, thoughtful writers. It makes sense that great writing would translate to wonderful social media accounts — check out some of our favorites!

  1. C.L. Polk, author of The Kingston Cycle novels and The Midnight Bargain. Her tweets are somehow relatable and hilarious.
  2. Christina Lauren, author duo who has written 25+ romance books together. They will remind you that being a romance writer isn’t all champagne and flowers.
  3. Kwame Mbalia, author of the middle-grade Tristan Strong series and Last Gate of the Emperor. He is the creator of Gum Baby, Tristan Strong’s snarky sidekick, who is the best thing about the internet.
  4. Saeed Jones, poet and author of How We Fight For Our Lives and Prelude to A Bruise. I follow him for unapologetic takes on the news, politics, writing, and everything else. And for the judgemental cuteness of his dog.
  5. Susan Orlean, writer for The New Yorker, and author of multiple books. Over the summer, a drunken tweetstorm provided some much-needed laughter.
  6. Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, The Queen of the Night, and Edinburgh. He’s a professor of creative writing at Dartmouth, and his tweets make you realize that the truly great writers see things a little bit differently.
  7. Jasmine Guillory, author of five romance novels. She’s been open and honest about the difficulties of keeping on during the pandemic, which has provided me with some much-needed realism. Her newsletter is also wonderful — I’ve gotten some great recipes from it!
  8. Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life and the upcoming Filthy Animals. My favorite things are his hot takes on centuries-old pieces of art. 
  9. R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War trilogy. Readers are constantly tweeting sentiments like “WHY!?” at her as they make their way through her books and terrible things happen to their favorite characters — she seems to take great delight in this, and it’s hilarious to watch.
  10. Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know, editor of Catapult. She recently started a parenting column, and I’ve found it enlightening and inspiring. Also her Peggy the puppy tweets are a pure endorphin rush.
  11. Roxane Gay, author of several books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Honestly, there are so many reasons to follow her, but I think her pinned tweet sums it up: “I will say it again. My tweets are not meant to be universal. They will not nor cannot account for every reality. If something I say doesn’t include or apply to you that doesn’t invalidate your truth.”
  12. Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things and the upcoming With Teeth. The randomness of her thoughts regularly makes me snort with laughter.
  13. Dahlia Adler, author of several novels and book blogger. She regularly champions other authors’ books with boundless enthusiasm and joy, which is truly delightful.
  14. Leah Johnson, author of You Should See Me in A Crown and the upcoming Rise to the Sun. Her small obsessions always make me smile — when she talked about Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson, it ended up making me start the series.
  15. R.O. Kwon, coeditor of Kink, author of The Incendiaries and contributor to multiple outlets. She can tweet back to back tweets about writing panic, political disgust and needing a haircut without breaking a sweat.
  16. Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys and the upcoming Lost in the Never Woods. He has so much enthusiasm for the things that he loves that it will leap through the screen.
  17. Sabaa Tahir author of An Ember in the Ashes series. Another writer who seems to take pleasure from the pain she causes her readers by putting the characters in her books through pain and suffering.
  18. Alisha Rai, romance author most recently of First Comes Like. She creates excellent TikTok videos and posts them on Twitter for everyone’s enjoyment.
  19. Samantha Irby, blogger and author of several books. No one’s books have ever made me laugh like hers, and this translates well to her Twitter feed. 
  20. Sarah Gailey, author of several novellas and books, most recently The Echo Wife. Their tweets take on the most random of things, and they always stands up for the disabled community.

And special shout out to Mike Lasagna — he’s not an author, but champions them relentlessly in a way that will make you buy way too many books.

Books Forward authors most anticipated books of 2021

There are a lot of things to look forward to in 2021, and new books are at the top of our list! When our authors aren’t writing, lots of them are reading, and we asked them what books they’re excited to read next year.

“Halli Gomez’s List of Ten is a contemporary YA debut about a teen living with Tourette syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who is considering suicide. I read an early draft of this #ownvoices novel and it handles these challenging issues in a thoughtful and inspiring way.

Nicole Lesperance’s The Nightmare Thief, a MG fantasy about a girl who works in her family’s dream shop, where they can craft any dream you want — including nightmares. Lesperance is a beautiful writer and I’m a sucker for MG fantasy, so I can’t wait for this one!

Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes tackles the issue of consent for the picture book set. Beautifully illustrated by Jess Engle, it creates a forum for discussion of bodily autonomy in an engaging and informative way.”

Katharine Manning, author of The Empathetic Workplace

“I couldn’t stick with just one so indulge me, people, but there are four books from the world of crime fiction I’m excited about. In no particular order, P.J. Vernon’s Bath Haus is already garnering a lot of accolades and is poised to be his breakout novel. I’ve been a fan of Laura McHugh’s work for a while, and What’s Done in Darkness looks spectacular. I first read Hannah Mary McKinnon this year, which was a mistake since I should have read her much earlier – she’s now on my “read as soon as it’s out” list, and You Will Remember Me sounds fantastic. And Mia P. Manansala’s debut, Arsenic and Adobo, is long-awaited (Mia’s racked up “emerging writer” awards on her way to publication) and the promising start of a wonderful career.”

E.A. Aymar, author of They’re Gone (written as E.A. Barres)

“There are so many 2021 releases that I’m looking forward to adding to my bookshelves, but the one I’m probably the MOST excited about is Blackout. Not only does this book feature stories written by six AMAZING Black female YA writers (Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woolfolk, and Nicola Yoon), but these short stories are all focused on Black love. 2020 was a tough year for everyone, but especially Black and Brown folks — so seeing more Black joy stories couldn’t have come at a better time!”

Pamela Harris, author of When You Look Like Us

“I recommend Trial By Fire, by Scott James. Through interview-based reporting, James investigates the 2003 nightclub fire at The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, which happened during a Great White concert. James spoke with concertgoers and local media who survived the fire, as well as others close to the investigation with their own stories and information to share. A true story that reads like a thriller novel.”

Katie Burke, author of Urban Playground

“The books I anticipate reading early in the new year are mainly ones I have, but have not yet gotten to this year.

A novel by Philip Duke called The Village, a story about the German invasion of Crete in WWII, a rich history and a well-paced thriller that explores several points of view, including not only the Cretan guerrillas and the people of the eponymous village, but the opposing figures of a British soldier who gets caught up in it and a German paratrooper. True I have already begun to read it, and we may know how the story ends in history but I’m eager to see how it turns out for the characters.

Most of my reading is research, and most of my research these days is either concerned with the immediate future of our species, particularly related to climate issues. To that end, I also read about the deep past. Here is a sampling:

Humankind, by Rutger Bregman, a more optimistic look at us that I hold and hopefully an antidote to my current pessimism. He wrote Utopia for Realists.

The Rules of Contagion by Adam Kucharski, appropriate for the time of pandemic, but an ongoing issue for the world, and appropriate for my current project, third in my Lisa Emmer series of thrillers. Not only contagions, but toxic memes and disinformation all follow the rules.

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes. My recent book, Mixed Harvest: Stories from the Human Past, touches on encounters between modern humans and Neanderthals in the Paleolithic era. Research in this area remains intense since it overturned everything we thought we knew about our cousins. Many of us carry Neanderthal genes, which should not only give us more respect, but again in the history of science knock us down another peg on the Great Chain of Being.

Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind by Peter Godfrey-Smith. I picked this book because of Other Minds, his wonderful book about cephalopods, particular octopuses, and how consciousness emerges, and how very different it can develop even on our own planet. They are the real aliens, except from Earth.”

Rob Swigart, author of Mixed Harvest: Stories From the Human Past

Bookstagrammers to follow for National Science Fiction Day

Science fiction gives us an avenue of escape and a view of a possible future. I think sometimes people can be intimidated by the genre or think it’s nerdy, but there’s a sci fi book out there for everyone! I added my own recommendation at the end, because these are some of my favorite books to read and I will take any opportunity to push Becky Chambers on people.

  1. Becky (@basiclandcave) says: “One of my go-to recommendations for science fiction fans is Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s the first in an extraordinary queer space opera trilogy filled with high stakes intrigue, creative magical technologies, and the best characters. It takes some investment to get started with this uncommon novel, but the payoff is more than worthwhile.”
  2. Erin (@erins_library) recommends The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. “I recommend this book for many reasons, but would ask you to read it for the twists alone. There’s a special place in my heart for books about the multiverse and interdimensional travel. And this book serves as a great platform to discuss and explore classicism, segregation, racism, exploitation and poverty.”
  3. Bezi (@beingabookwyrm) says: “My pick is Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden — the worldbuilding of space beasts in which human societies now live is entirely unique, and I was so intrigued by the depiction of this society’s space matriarchy that centers Black women. It’s a bit gory at times, but I definitely recommend this epic space opera of class politics and star-crossed friends-to-lovers.”
  4. Katy (@theshriekingstack) says: “These days I’m a science fiction and fantasy enthusiast, but before I experienced N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy (starting with The Fifth Season), I wasn’t interested in SFF at all. Jemisin tackles racial, social, and environmental politics on a continent ravaged by climate disaster. She takes a nuanced route to dealing with issues that parallel our own world in a way that takes into account the complexities of human conditioning, inequality, and oppression. Realizing that SFF offered such gems as these and could not only include but focus on characters from marginalized backgrounds changed the entire way I looked at the genre. The Broken Earth is a stunning feat of imagination with unparalleled worldbuilding and mythology and a multi-faceted exploration of finding yourself in a world that doesn’t see you as human.”
  5. Erin (@roostercalls) recommends The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. “If you like your time travel stories historically contextualized, socially aware, and a little bit punk rock, Annalee Newitz has got a magical wish-granting piece of fiction for you.   In addition to being straight-up fantastic writing, The Future of Another Timeline is also fiercely feminist, and was the galvanizing reminder I needed in 2020 that resistance matters — that a better world is worth fighting for and can be won.”
  6. Kim (@runoutofpages) recommends Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes. “There’s nothing I love more than a good space opera. Chilling Effect (and the sequel Prime Deceptions) has a strong heroine, a sexy love interest, a fantastic crew, lots of action, too many geeky easter eggs to name, and plenty of laughs.”
  7. Casey (@caseythereader) recommends Octavia E. Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy. “A crew of humans wake up to find themselves on an alien ship, where the aliens are planning to save humanity and expand their alien empire by integrating themselves – mating – with the humans. This series is an extended examination of what it means to be human, both on the literal genetic level and on a cultural and emotional level. It’s engrossing and terrifying and thought-provoking; a true classic of the genre.”
  8. Cristina Marie (@2bookornot2book) recommends Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez. “It’s a beautiful, sweeping science fiction debut that centers around the love people have for each other, whether that is romantic, friendly or familial. It’s a story about the importance of music and the magic of space and science, and the deeply important value of chosen found family. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, period, no qualifiers.”
  9. Gagan (@afantasysky) recommends The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. “I loved The Space Between Worlds for so many reasons but mainly for the fascinating take on parallel worlds, complex characters and amazing twists. It’s dark, layered and full of surprises.”
  10. Angie (@angiesreading) says: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon takes the horrors and injustices of the antebellum South into space aboard the HSS Matilda. The mystery behind our protagonist, Aster, and her mother’s death, along with an incredible cast of characters made this one of my favorite reads of the year. 

And from me, I recommend The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This is one of my all-time favorite books — it manages to be a fun space voyage across the universe with buddies while also making you stop to think about the world around you. The rest of the Wayfarers series is just as good, and her standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate, is also outstanding. 

Books for winter that aren’t holiday reads

Now that Christmas is past, it might seem like seasonal reading is over, but there are lots of great books set in cold climates or during the winter months that don’t have to do with the holidays. Cozy up with a blanket and candle and dive into one of these great reads to embrace the chill.

  1. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
    Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
  2. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
    In Oslo, the first snow hit. Jonas gets up in the morning and finds out his mother’s gone. There’s only one clue left – the pink scarf he gave her for Christmas. He’s got a snowman on his neck. The previous night, he unexpectedly appeared in the backyard, and his black eyes stared straight into the house. The case is being handled by Inspector Harry Hole, who recently received a mysterious letter with the signature Snowman. The situation gets even more tangled when Harry discovers that this model is repeating itself – eleven women have been lost in the last ten years, always on the very day the first snow hit. The investigation is all the more difficult for Harry to relate to his new colleague, but also to his beloved Rachel. The Snowman case brings him to the brink of madness. Brilliantly plotted characters and graduating suspense guarantee a thrilling story that only the master of contemporary thrillers Jo Nesbo can write.
  3. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
    Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
  4. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
    Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder. No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
  5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
    At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
  6. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
    People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
  7. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Gutterrson
    Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric—a masterpiece of suspense San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man’s guilt. For on San Pedro, memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo’s wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.
  8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.
  9. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
    She thinks more highly of snow and ice than she does of love.  She lives in a world of numbers, science and memories–a dark, exotic stranger in a strange land.  And now Smilla Jaspersen is convinced she has uncovered a shattering crime… It happened in the Copenhagen snow.  A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building.  While the boy’s body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident.  But Smilla knows her young neighbor didn’t fall from the roof on his own.  Soon she is following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow.  For her dead neighbor, and for herself, she must embark on a harrowing journey of lies, revelation and violence that will take her back to the world of ice and snow from which she comes, where an explosive secret waits beneath the ice….
  10. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
    With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow. The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.
  11. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
    Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.
  12. Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
    Once in a great while, we encounter a novel in our voluminous reading that begs to be read aloud. Leif Enger’s debut, Peace Like a River, is one such work. His richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben’s unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah—a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles—and Reuben’s little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.
  13. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  by C.S. Lewis
    Narnia…the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free. Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.
  14. In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
    In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia. Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
  15. The Terror by Dan Simmons
    The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in. When the expedition’s leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape.
  16. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
    Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
  17. The Shining by Stephen King
    Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
    A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose – and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.
  19. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
    Swedish Lapland, 1717. Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow. While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbors’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice. As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.
  20. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
    With these mysterious words, Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavor is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding; Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined.

Is TikTok the next Bookstagram?

You’ve seen it in the headlines, heard about it incessantly from your teenage niece, or (perhaps) you’ve even downloaded it yourself. Let’s talk about TikTok. 

TikTok is a very popular app that promotes the creation of short-form video content and slideshows of no more than 1 minute in length. The app is designed so that videos have a much greater chance of going viral than, say, content on Instagram or even YouTube. 

As of the time of writing this blog, TikTok has approximately 800 million monthly users, ranking just behind Instagram (1 billion monthly users). However the app is only two years old, so its growth rate is substantial. It also received a huge download boost during March-July 2020 due to Covid-19 lockdown. 50% of users in the US are under the age of 35, with the majority of users being 16-24

Like Bookstagram, TikTok has a healthy book community. YA is the most popular genre on TikTok due to its demographic, with YA Fantasy and YA Romance/Rom-Com being among the top most popular subgenres

Just like Bookstagrammers, BookTokers are influencers who review books, offer recommendations, and flex the extensiveness of their shelves (such as @zacharyjamesoffical, @treofpaperbacks, and @amysbooknook. Authors are beginning to find very influential platforms on TikTok as well, and since the app is still relatively new, it’s not inundated/saturated with authors just yet. TikTok viewers (who are often young, aspirational writers themselves), love connecting with authors writing in their favorite genres, or engage with videos of fellow writers explaining their successes, tips, and struggles. 

There is a niche on TikTok for EVERYTHING. So what makes a video become popular or go viral? Here’s the thing: Nobody knows. TikTok’s algorithm is notoriously “uncrackable” (as far as users are concerned, at least) meaning that even frequent users don’t really know why some content becomes popular and others, well, doesn’t. The pro is that technically anything can go viral; the con is that “trying to go viral” is a mystifying and frustrating endeavor. But there are a few indicators of success. 

When you publish a TikTok video, the video will not be visible to 800 million users — instead, it will be introduced to a pool of a few dozen (based on what content those users have engaged with previously). If your video is watched from start to finish, liked, and shared by that small pool of users, TikTok will then “show” it to a pool of a few hundred, and then if engagement is still high, they’ll “show” it to a few thousand, and so on and so on.

Videos with high engagement get exposed to more viewers. Engagement is measured by likes, shares, comments, duets, and view time (watching the video from start to finish is best). Videos tend to get highest viewership (aka most exposure to viewers/higher engagement) within the first three hours of posting, but not always — every person who engages with your video can give it a little “boost” in the algorithm (meaning suddenly more people see it), so videos can go viral “later,” like 3-5 days after posting. This is the exception though, not the norm.

Again: No one knows the exact formula for making something go viral. Success can feel very arbitrary. However, popular TikTok content is pretty much always entertaining, authentic, and relatable. Seriously, leave your sales pitches at the door — no one is interested. But if you entertain, are authentic, or are relatable (or best, a combination of all three), the influence/following you’ll gain is extensive and unlimited. Telling people to “buy my book!” on TikTok is content-death — but authentically demonstrating your passion for your work and then asking people to check out your book / showing why it’s appealing can have a huge effect. Viewers on TikTok want to support creators; demonstrate why they should support you. 

Books Forward holiday gift guide

Still on the hunt for the perfect gift for the special people in your life? We have a few suggestions…

For your mom, who is working to diversify her reading life:
We love our families and we love our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and aunties, but not every family looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, and not every woman is a 1950’s homemaker. Nor should they be! Seema Yasmin’s Muslim Women Are Everything is a beautifully illustrated book with inspiring stories of successful Muslim women from around the world.

For your BFF who thinks they’re totally a detective after binging too many true crime docs:
We all have that friend who is obsessed with true crime documentaries and can’t get enough of suspenseful TV dramas. Let them get lost in the pages of The Second Mother, the newest psychological thriller by USA Today bestselling author Jenny Milchman. This twisting story follows a schoolteacher who attempts to outrun her past by accepting a job on a remote Maine island — only to discover that its residents may be more dangerous than the isolation itself.

For the aspiring hip hop artist in your life:
Big Freedia is the irrepressible force behind bounce rap music going mainstream and a collaborator with Beyonce, Lizzo, Drake and Kesha. And although this year’s tour with Kesha was canceled due to the pandemic, this iconic voice for LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter activism is celebrating the paperback release of her memoir, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva, just in time for the holiday shopping season. From growing up as an overweight gay choir boy in New Orleans’ worst neighborhood, to surviving Hurricane Katrina by living on her roof for two days, to bursting underground bounce music into the mainstream, Freedia’s signature creativity and resilience continues to set her apart. Grab a copy of this book and pair it with Big Freedia’s new holiday album, “Smokin’ Santa Christmas,” available on Dec. 11.

For your armchair psychologist sister:
Did your sister take an intro psychology class in college and now she wants to diagnose everyone in the family? Losing the Atmosphere: A Baffling Disorder, a Search for Help, and the Therapist Who Understood is the perfect book for her. In this stunning new memoir, Vivian Conan takes a deep dive into her struggles with unsettling symptoms and her mental health journey.

For your activist cousin who’s not afraid to discuss race and politics at the dinner table:
Your family has a carefully curated list of topics to NOT talk about at the table — and your cousin can be relied on to confront them all during the course of the holiday. It’s a breath of fresh air after too many prim discussions about the weather and the consistency of the mashed potatoes; these dialogues are important, even if they challenge some of your relatives. Gift your cousin Wings of Ebony by J. Elle. This explosive YA debut is about a Black girl from a poor inner-city neighborhood who is desperate to return to her community after she discovers she has magic powers and is swept away to the secret land of Ghizon, only to discover that the evil infiltrating the land may also be threatening her hood. Described as The Hate U Give meets Wonder Woman in a Black Panther world, this novel tackles racism, privilege, and allyship with clear parallels to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

For your favorite crazy cat lady:
We know them, we love them, and we (usually) support their feline fandom. So instead of turning to a typical T-shirt or overdone wall art, this year, gift your cat-obsessed friend with a book from a cozy mystery series featuring lovable Siamese RahRah and his amateur sleuth owner, Sarah. Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair Mystery Series are witty and charming whodunits that include easy recipes for the cooking-averse — and of course, lots of cat content!

For the theater nerd in your life:
Got that one friend who breaks out into song when things are a bit too quiet? Or maybe you are that friend. Either way, embrace that performance prowess by pre-ordering your friend — or yourself — a copy of Odd Woman Out by actress Melanie Chartoff (aka Didi Pickles from Rugrats). From breaking into the biz to the devotion that led her to put career over love and family, Melanie’s stories are equal parts heartwarming, entertaining and oh, so funny in this memoir.

For your siblings who swear like sailors:
None of us can deny 2020 has been a mess. But instead of shushing your brother’s creative cursing or stifling your sister’s impulsive swears, psychologist Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt would rather embrace it, as she details in her self-help guide Move On Motherf*cker: Live, Laugh, and Let Sh*t Go. Whether it’s journaling exercises or practical steps individuals can incorporate into their daily lives, this is a book your family members will be ******* glad to receive under the Christmas tree this year.

For your film-obsessed friend:
I bet you’re thinking, “We all love movies, right?” or “I’ve been watching 10+ hours of Netflix per day since March, surely that counts, right?” Well, nice try. But when we say obsessed, we mean like, knows-Cary-Grant’s-birthday-and-celebrates-it-annually obsessed. Or, someone who actually knows what French New Wave Cinema is, someone who’s not only subscribed to Netflix and Hulu but also the Criterion Channel. You get the idea. Well, if you’re into getting the perfect gift, look no further than Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock by Christina Lane. Considering that this is the first-ever biography on writer-producer Joan Harrison, it’s sure to have even the most extreme film fanatic saying, “Huh, I actually never knew that!”

For your techie cousin:
If your cousin is always coding or streaming on Twitch, then getting them a book may not seem like the obvious choice – but we’re not talking about a slow-burn here, we’re talking about a fast-paced, action-packed, furious page-turning type of book. The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland is set in the United States in 2047, a time when technology is implanted in human brains and extensive surveillance is used to reduce crime rates. After a techie dad decides to help his daughter cover up for a crime, things get dangerous, pitting them against powerful forces in the government.

For your younger brother, who has taken to wearing all black and talking about death a lot:
This year has brought out the nihilism in a lot of people, but we suggest directing them to a book that will fit their darkness but leave them uplifted. E.A. Barres’ thriller They’re Gone is gritty with great character work. It starts off with two murdered men and only gets more intriguing from there.

For your uncle who misses the glory days of rock ‘n roll:
Jon Zazula, who is known in the music world as Johnny Z, gives a look behind the scenes in his book, Heavy Tales. After he and his wife founded Megaforce Records in the early ’80s, he had a hand in the early successes of bands like Metallica, and has stories to share.

Need even more book recommendations? Check out our previous blog posts or email me at ellen@booksforward.com.

Our favorite books we’ve received as holiday gifts

When you’re a kid, seeing a book-shaped present under the Christmas tree can be a letdown — many would rather have a toy or cool game to play with. But as we’ve grown up, we’ve grown to appreciate the thought and care that goes into receiving a book as a gift. Whether it’s a new-to-you book that you can look forward to reading, or an old favorite in a new edition, we’re choosing to unwrap books first this holiday season!

The Books Forward team got together to reminisce on some of our favorites books we’ve been given during the holiday season:

“My father read To Kill A Mockingbird to my sisters and me when I was under 10 years old. He read us all of the classics. When I started JKS Communications for book publicity, he and my mother gave me a first-edition copy. I treasure it.”

Julie Schoerke Gallagher, founder

When I was a kid, my dad bought me a copy of Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It’s a classic that I’ve revisited multiple times, reading it from cover to cover!” 

Angelle Barbazon, lead publicist

“Years ago, my dad got me a copy of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo for Christmas — usually I like to read a series from the beginning, but this book worked really well as a standalone. After reading it, I immediately dove into the rest of the series and got really into other Nordic noir books as a result!”

Ellen Whitfield, senior publicist

“I actually don’t buy a lot of books for myself anymore, even ones that become some of my favorites. So when I couldn’t stop raving about A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, a friend (*cough* Books Forward publicist Ellen *cough*) bought it for me for Christmas 2019. Now, I have it on my shelf and can pick it up and reread anytime I want to feel all those feels again.”

Jennifer Vance, publicist

“When I was a teenager, my grandma gave me Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier for Christmas. I love watching my grandma’s favorite classic movies with her, and after reading Rebecca, I was swept into reading every book turned into an adaptation I could get my hands on. My grandma and I still discuss which books were better than the movies, and love cozying up on the couch together to rewatch all of them.”

Corrine Pritchett, publicist

“A decade ago, my good friend introduced me to Bill Bryson with his book The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America. Bryson had me at the first line: ‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.’ It was the first time I ever laughed aloud, unashamed, in public while reading a book, and this continued as I read the rest of Bryson’s works. Most people start with and favor A Walk in the Woods (also hilarious) but The Lost Continent remains my favorite (because it has to be somebody’s favorite).”

Chris Gorman, special projects 

Tell us which books you’ve received as gifts (or that you’re hoping to receive this year) on Instagram (@booksforwardpr) or on Facebook

Christmas Movie Matchup: All your Christmas movie favorites paired with festive books to read


by Angela (@angelareadsbooks)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Time for all the festive Christmas movies and books! If you are anything like me, you have Christmas movies going and a Christmas book in hand, with a cup of hot cocoa and some cozy socks! I have my list of must watch Christmas movies, and I’m sure you do too. If you are looking for read-alikes for all your favorite movies, look no further. I have you covered with a list of 10 Christmas movies and 12 books similar to those favorites. With plenty of time to spend at home, this will keep you busy all season!

The Family Stone (2005) + In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren
For many of us, our favorite part of the holiday season is the time spent with family. And all the quirks and traditions that it brings. The Stones in The Family Stone might be one of my all time favorite movie families. And one of the things truly special about this movie, for me, is their home. I always think of the Stone family home as being its own character in this movie. If you are looking for the same antics and warmness of The Family Stone, with a sweet love story try In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren. Family friends gather together in a Utah cabin each year for the holidays. You will fall in love with these families and the cabin they share together!

The Holiday (2006) + New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews
Wishing you could travel over the holidays? Get swept away to Evergreen Lodge in Vermont with sisters Tess and Lauren. New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews, though a YA romance, reminds me of The Holiday because this time of year is the perfect time to make a change and get out of our comfort zones. And these characters do just that! And who doesn’t love a story that ends with a New Year’s Kiss??

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) + Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd
The Grinch, but make it romance! I’m a Grinch purist and only recognize the 1966 television special, a true classic. In Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd, Olivia is an intern for Asher McGowan, resident grinch of the office. Through a series of events she decides they must enter a fake relationship so he can prove to his ex how happy he is now. And Asher is definitely the grinch to Olivia’s holiday cheer! Will his heart grow 3 sizes this Christmas??

Elf (2003) + A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
Who doesn’t love a fish-out-of-water romance set in New York City? Princess Marie of Eldovia might not be an elf or from the North Pole, but she’s lost in New York and needs taxi driver Leo’s assistance! She needs a personal driver, and he of course is willing to show her around town. A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday is a modern fairy tale about a tough New Yorker from the other side of the tracks who falls for a princess from the other side of the world.This sweet, sexy romance will have you laughing!

Die Hard (1988) + An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow
There is a lot of debate whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. (I’m team #NotAChristmasMovie). If you are looking for a book light on Christmas with a little bit of action and suspense, try An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow. Set in Alaska, this book has a little bit of Christmas and a lot of steam. Workaholic Erika takes a vacation in Alaska and ends up partnering with Reed’s search and rescue team. Your heart will be racing in more ways than one with this book, and there’s plenty of snow for all the snow-lovers!

You’ve Got Mail (1998) + Her Christmas Cowboy by Jessica Clare and Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman
So if we are counting Die Hard as a Christmas movie, I’m adding my all time favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail to the list. I chose two books for this matchup, as they each highlight different elements of this classic movie. If you are looking for a Christmas love story with rival businesses, try Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman. Sparks fly between Sari from the coffee shop and the new baker next door, Gabriel. A fun adversaries-turned-lovers Christmas romp! And if you love the secret admirer and letter writing elements of You’ve Got Mail, Her Christmas Cowboy by Jessica Clare is just what you’re looking for. Cowboy Caleb has always had feelings for school-teacher Amy. This Christmas, Caleb volunteers to be Santa to Amy’s Mrs. Claus. He’s also been leaving Amy secret admirer Christmas gifts. When she discovers who her secret admirer is, will she be swept off her feet?

Serendipity (2001) + Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes
Every holiday season needs a little serendipity. While Emma is selling back a bracelet from her now ex-boyfriend at a local pawn shop, she comes across the watch she gave to her college boyfriend Fletcher many years earlier. There is no such thing as coincidences, and this sends Emma on a journey to rekindle the romance with her college sweetheart. Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes is brimming with holiday cheer and is perfect for fans of Serendipity.

Love Actually (2003) + A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan and Home For the Holidays Sara Richardson
Love Actually is the quintessential ensemble cast. If you are looking for similar books, I have two recommendations. A Winter in December by Sarah Morgan centers around the White family gathering in Colorado for Rosie’s wedding. With a beautiful cast of characters, this book is the perfect combination of Christmas, a family drama, and romance. Home for the Holidays by Sara Richardson is the story of the three Buchanan sisters coming home for the holidays to Aunt Sassy’s house. This Christmas each sister will discover what they truly want and need. These two books will put you in the Christmas spirit and have you cheering “love for everyone!”

The Family Man (2000) + A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale
Working too much got you down this Christmas? Have no fear, you can refind Christmas magic this year. The Family Man and A Christmas to Remember both center upon workaholic men that need to refind Christmas joy, and LOVE! A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale is a beautiful story about the magic of childhood Christmas memories, the strength of family and falling in love when you least expect it.

While You Were Sleeping (1995) + Why I Held Your Hand by Augusta Reilly
Looking for a Christmas love triangle? Look no further than Why I Held You Hand by Augusta Reilly. The mountain town of North Powell hopes to become a tourist destination, so Laura Delaney hires a marketing team to assist her. Not only does she begin a relationship with David, she also falls for his nemesis Spencer, too. With two men in Laura’s life, which one will she choose?

Hope your holiday season is filled to the brim with festive books and movies. Come and chat with me on bookstagram about your favorite book and movie matchups so I can add to my ever growing stack. You can find me at @angelareasbooks!

Teachers: the ultimate book influencers

a stack of books recommended by teachers on instagram
Teachers and educators choose their favorite books to recommend to their students.

One thing we are especially thankful for this month: teachers and educators, who are working harder than ever in unprecedented circumstances to make sure kids are learning and happy. These bookstagrammers not only have great taste in books, but they also happen to be influencing the readers of tomorrow! 

  1. Jeanell (@jeanellnicolereads) recommends The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. “The illustrated middle-grade novel ties themes of science and nature, family and friendship, and adventure and home in such a tender way. I’ve read it multiple times and it’s still just as sweet.”
  2. Katlyn (@mrsbennettreads) says: “Everyone who works with kids in grades 3-8 should read and share Front Desk by Kelly Yang. It is a semi-autobiographical middle grade novel about Mia Tang, a Chinese immigrant in the 1990’s. Mia lives in the hotel her parents manage, and the book has all kinds of important themes about social justice, racism, being an English language learner, and friendship. Most importantly, when I read it aloud to my sixth graders, even the rowdiest class was engaged. Kids LOVE this book, and the sequel, Three Keys, just came out this fall!” 
  3. Christine (@ayearinbooksblog) recommends Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. “Last week I had a student, a reluctant reader, come to class and say, ‘This is the best book ever! I had no idea it would be so good!’ I just love novels in verse, and I love how it engages students in a quick and powerful read. Solo is one of my favorites!”
  4. Layne (@jlm.bookstagram) says: “I would like to recommend Disability Visibility which is a collection of own voice essays written by people with disabilities and edited by Alice Wong. The reason I want to recommend this book is because disability awareness is something that needs to be at the forefront of educational practice. People with disabilities have shown society time and time again that they are innovative and creative, because they have to be. We live in such an ableist society that tries to force people with disabilities to conform to ableist standards. If we apply a disability inclusion lease to everything we do in education (and in general but especially education) then we will serve a wider range of students and therefore achieve greater academic success across the board. Disability Visibility pushed my thinking so much as a SPED educator and I think everyone needs to read it.”
  5. Nicole (@gluttonousshelf) says: “I always recommend Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison! First of all it’s a great text to use as a teacher because it’s an amazing example of an extended metaphor and figurative language in general. But I also recommend it because of the way it illustrates race and people of color are seen by society.”
  6. Crystal (@melanatedreader) says: “My recommendation for this week would be This Is My America by Kim Johnson. Although Johnson is a new author, she is one to watch for and her book gives you the same energy as Angie Thomas and Nic Stone. It is eye opening, suspenseful, educational,engaging, and relevant to the times we currently live in.”
  7. Cat (@_basicbookworm) says: “A book I love to share with my students is Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. I love this book because of the message that all names should be celebrated. Working at a diverse school I use this book to start an activity where we, as a class, learn how to correctly say each other’s names. This book is great for all ages and shows kids the importance and beauty of names from all cultures. It’s a book that I think should be in every elementary educator’s classroom library.”
  8. Leslie (@coffee.books.convo) recommends Internment by Samira Ahmed: “Internment is described as a book that takes place ‘15 minutes into America’s future.’ Ahmed captures how quickly nationalism can turn into something hateful and ugly amongst a nation. She shows how powerful children and teens can be when united against injustice. As they once were during the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. This book is a must read, and I can’t wait to share it with my students. To show them that no matter how young they are, together they can make a difference in this world.”
  9. Katelyn (@heykatelyn_) recommends Scythe by Neal Shusterman. “I read Scythe a few weeks ago and then got to visit my eighth graders’ English classes to do an example book talk about it for their upcoming project. SO MANY of them were excited about it and wanted to check it out from the library. It was such a fun experience and I loved getting to share the book with them!”
  10. Andrea (@book.savor) says: “I love to teach Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat to my 11th graders. It never fails to wholly capture them with the beautifully worded story of an immigrant experience in the U.S. and a daughter’s reckoning with her maternal lineage. Students find so much to connect and identify with; it’s a heartening and fulfilling teaching experience!”
  11. Kristen (@bookcish) recommends Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. “I teach Critical Reading, which is an intervention class for students who are reading well below grade level. Across the board, my students are more melanated and have a lower socioeconomic status than the average student at the high school. They view my class as a punishment and worry that they will be treated like a “little kid” and be given “baby” books and lessons. I had the privilege of getting an e-ARC for Dear Justyce over the summer. It’s officially a companion/sequel to Dear Martin, but it can stand alone. It has a lower reading level, but it is still high interest because (yet again) Nic Stone has given a voice and face to an all-too-common narrative that so many choose to ignore. These two factors put it in the sweet spot for my students. The writing is accessible, yet the content is young adult and relatable. Furthermore, PRH has a classroom unit guide that offers a lot of insights, prompts, and resources. I’m so glad this book is finally released, and I can’t wait to read it with my students.”
  12. Marinna (@booksinsix) recommends Scythe by Neal Shusterman. “This is one of my go-to books to press into students’ hands! It is fast-paced with complex ideas, which hooks kids quickly.”
  13. Andrea (@andreabeatrizarango) says: “A book I love is Efrén Divided by Esnesto Cisneros. As a Latinx teacher, one of my biggest passions is championing #OwnVoices diverse reads that allow my students to see themselves represented within the pages. And while I’ve read many books about the immigrant experience, Efrén Divided was the first middle grade book I read that showcased the reality of many of my ESOL students — kids born in the States, but living in fear for their undocumented parents. The author paints a reality all too common and relevant in our public schools, making this book a must-add for any classroom, regardless of demographics.” 
  14. Kate (@thesaltybookworm) says: “As a kindergarten teacher, one of my favorite read alouds, which was also my favorite as a child, is Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Keats created Peter, a young Black boy, because he felt, at the time in which this was written, children of color were missing from children’s books. He was adamant that all children deserve books about them and characters that mirror themselves. And you thought the book was just about a snow day! Additionally, as a previous middle school teacher, my go-to recommendation would have to be The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  The main character, Ponyboy is raised by his two older brothers and his gang of friends. This is a story that sparks a love of reading, even in the most apprehensive of readers. I find it difficult to find anyone who didn’t enjoy some aspect of reading this incredible novel. I always tell my students that Hinton published this story when she was 16!  You can be a writer at any age!”  
  15. Jami (@mysharedstacks) recommends Guts by Raina Telgemeir. “Guts is a graphic novel from the Smile series by Telgemeir and it is such an amazing, forward-thinking read for middle/high schoolers. It centers around anxiety and how it presents itself in terms of physical symptoms and how those feelings are not “wrong” or “abnormal”. Young, anxious eyes will find this incredibly comforting, relatable, and hopeful as the main character learns to feel strong and in control about her mental health.”
  16. Heather (@bookdigits) recommends Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. “I am currently reading it with my 5th grade class and it has brought up some great discussion topics. The kids are excited to guess what will happen next, and are learning about civil rights issues — both historical and present day. And most importantly, they can see themselves in the main character — one of their first impressions of the book is that the boy in the cover looks like one of their classmates! Also, I highly recommend the author’s IG live series on decolonizing the classroom!”
  17. Victoria (@floury_words) says: “I teach mythology, so obviously I gravitate toward stories based on myths. I’d recommend The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. The whole point of storytelling and oral tradition is to teach a lesson or illustrate a point— So in a myth, what happens when you do the wrong thing or step out of line? In the case of this book the Elk Woman will come back to haunt you and she’s going to seek revenge. Combined with the themes of intergenerational trauma, the pain of being separated from your kids and leaving your home to start over, you’ve got a beautifully heart wrenching story about four Blackfeet friends who have to pay the price because they were entitled teenagers.”
  18. Corinne (@bookpiphany) says: “We Want to Do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love is an absolutely essential read for anyone who is seeking to eradicate injustice and oppression in education or otherwise. Love calls for the complete abolition of all interconnected systems of oppression, as reforms only create new opportunities for white rage to react and regrow its limbs: we must envision a radical, sustainable new future. If you have been feeling disheartened, this book will reinvigorate you and put you back on the path to fight for abolition.”
  19. Maddy (@mads_lit) says: “I am obsessed with anything Jason Reynolds writes. I recently read his book Ghost with my students, and they loved it! He makes literature fun and approachable for them, and they are also able to recognize themselves in his work, which they are unable to do with many books included in school curriculums nowadays.”
  20. Emma (@onegirlreading) says: “My fourth graders always enjoy Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. It is a story about a young, privileged Mexican girl fleeing to California during the Great Depression and settling into farming life. Not only is it an inspirational story of hardship and hope, but also covers immigration, racism, and classism, providing a great discussion of migrant farming life and the workers’ rights movement in California.” 

How to write an author bio that stands out

Nothing can strike fear into an author’s heart quite like the author bio. Sure, you may have just finished off the final touches of the next great American novel. But the task of condensing an entire career into a couple short paragraphs is a lot trickier than it may seem. Plus in today’s age of digital media, your author bio may follow you from one corner of the internet to another for years. You’ve suddenly got quite a potential challenge on your hands. Luckily, you can follow a few tips to ensure that your author’s bio is positioned to paint as complete (and efficient) a portrait of you as possible for years to come.

Don’t date yourself!

To be clear, I’m not talking about ’80s references here. One of the biggest mistakes authors tend to make when writing an author bio is churning out long lists of previous publications, awards, and “forthcoming” works. This makes a lot of sense in a professional CV, but not so much in an author’s bio. Anticipate that any bio you’re going to write will be repopulated around the web for the rest of time. It’s not going to look fresh in 2020 if you’re talking about that “forthcoming” Writer’s Digest piece from fall 2007.

Rather than getting too specific, it’s best to simply list publications and awards in the past tense with as few specific dates as possible and only where they make the most sense. See, for example, Books Forward author Tori Eldridge:

Tori Eldridge is the Anthony and Lefty Awards-nominated author of The Ninja Daughter, which was named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, and her screenplay ‘The Gift’ earned a semifinalist spot in the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

This paragraph tells us a lot about Tori. We know that she’s published in several anthologies and been nominated for several awards, but we don’t need to know all of the specifics. Only in one case is the date necessary — the 2019 Thriller Books of the Year award — and it’s used here to maximum effect. If you can help from bogging your reader down with specifics, the achievements you do choose to highlight become a lot more interesting!

Slipping in the goods

We’re all interesting people, and we all have exciting things to share about ourselves. But for authors, it’s crucial that your author bio only shares information that’s most pertinent to your brand and the kind of promotion you’re trying to do. For instance, if your book is about running an effective workplace, you might not want to fill your author bio with information about how much you love raising ferrets or decorative pinecone collecting.

The information listed in your author bio is likely to come up repeatedly in author interviews and media coverage, so it’s best to include information that you’re comfortable talking about that will help drive interest to your book.

Here again, we can look to author Tori Eldridge for a good example:

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection.

Here it’s clear from Tori’s bio that she would be an interesting media interview, she’s comfortable in front of a camera or behind a microphone, she has interesting stories to tell about growing up in Hawaii, and that she has expertise in one of the main subjects of her book, The Ninja’s Blade, and can speak further on the topic of self-defense.

If you find you have less colorful facts to include in your author bio, don’t force it! Maybe you can take one or two important facts about yourself and interestingly frame them. Perhaps you can focus on mentioning one or two achievements or self-defining experiences. Try to include a couple of pertinent facts to your book or make good interview questions. Don’t be afraid to sound boring; less is more!

All roads lead to social media

Finally, another key to a good author bio includes links to personal websites and social media accounts. In fact, think of the author’s bio as more of a prologue to the information that interested readers will find by visiting your personal website and social media pages. The key here is that you want to just give readers enough to paint a broad picture of who you are and what you’re bringing to the table as an author. That’s why it’s best to keep the bio short, sweet, and always pointing tantalizingly toward these personal accounts for more information.