The All-Stars Shelf

The best of the best (or, just the ones that I want to hug)

I normally reorganize my bookshelf maybe every couple months, but I’ve kept it the way it is for almost a year now. The key element is my all-stars shelf. These are all my favorite books, regardless of category, all on one shelf. Well, except for my stack of Agatha Christie novels that have to fit elsewhere, but…the rest of them! Here’s a look:

I’m going to go through one by one and tell you about each book, and why they are an all-star. Buckle up, we’ve got thirty-four books to chat about!

“But my cookies contain the anxious deliciousness earned through an afternoon spent in turmoil, soothed by separating my troubles into warm crispy pieces.”

Lucy Knisley, french milk
  1. Flying Couch by Amy Kurzweil

Graphic novel, Jewishness, intergenerational relationships, Jewish grandmas, what more could you want? The art is as incredible as the story and every time I read it I discover new things hidden in the pages.

2. Will & Whit and Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Two books grouped for this one, staying with the graphic novel theme for a bit. I was obsessed with these stories and read them many, many times. Will & Whit: mourning, found family, self-discovery, art, and being scared. Page by Paige: art, friendship, growth, again, the art.

3. Marbles by Ellen Forney

Subtitle is, “Mania, Depression, Michaelangelo, and Me”. Awesome autobiographical graphic novel, deals with mental health in a personal and sometimes even humorus fashion. Forney is an amazing artist and does lots of cool stuff!

4. Cheeky by Ariella Elovic

Memoir, bodies, fun art, makes you feel better about yourself. Follow the author on Instagram for great comics!

5. Relish and French Milk by Lucy Knisley

My favorite graphic-novelist of all time. Relish is a memoir through food…need I say any more? French Milk is a travel diary that’s super sweet. I love all of Knisley’s books, these are just my all-stars.

“the loser of the war: has the best memory. / the winner: gets to forget.”

melissa lozada-oliva, peluda

6. Intimations by Zadie Smith

Moving on to essays and poetry, this collection by Smith was written in spring of 2020. She dives into many topics, but threads through all of them love and curiousity that is delightful and probing to read. I could spend an almost infinite amount of time disecting these pieces.

7. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate

Slate is behind Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. That should be enough for you to read this, but if you are unfamiliar I reccomend that you go look that up in a new tab and come back here once you’ve watched. These essays share little with Marcel the Shell, but the same wonderment and frankness about the world carries. Slate get’s weird, but she gets sweet and emotional, too, and that’s a combination I didn’t know would impact me so much.

8. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Gay is an amazing poet and I’m hoping to put his poetry on this shelf soon, but for now I have this outstanding book of essays. He spends a year writing the things he delights in and the result is touching, funny, and serious all at the same time. If you want to delight in life a bit more, read this.

9. Peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Lozada-Oliva is one of my favorite poets. She replied to a slightly embarrasing Instagram message I sent to her about hair and I feel connected to her even more now ;). But besides that, her poetry is amazing. This chapbook is a favorite of mine, though I reccomend pulling up videos of her reading live as she is great that way too. Frank, subtle, familial, I can’t wait to see what else she publishes.

10. Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls by various authors

Great poetry collection dealing with all sorts of topics “girl”. Brought many great poets into this collection.

“Not living your life is just like killing yourself, only it takes longer.” 


11. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Switch, Dig., Still Life with Tornado, and Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

So…you might be able to tell who my favorite author is? Every books I’ve read of King’s is an all-star and I’m guessing that won’t stop happening as I read more of her books. These books have impacted me in specific and broad ways. I love all of these for different reasons, so I’m just going to give some key words that I think describe King’s writing; surreal, hard, complex, personal, philosophical, loving, comforting.

12. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I haven’t been doing content warning for these books so far because many I read years ago and don’t remember all the details, but for this book I can give a clear warning for de@th and s*icide. This is a recently published book that’s gotten a lot of buzz and for me it was worth the buzz. Dealt with de@th in a really understandable and tender way. I thought this book was beautiful and ultimately uplifting.

13. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

This was I think my first foray into surreal, myterious books. I honestly don’t remember a ton about the details of this book (even how it ends), but at the time it hit me hard and I’m excited to pick it up again. Playing cards, secret “admirer”, found family, an old dog.

14. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I loved this book so much. It’s historical fiction, but it takes place almost exclusively in a hotel. Took a bit of time to get going, but it was so worth it. Loveable characters, lovable relationships (non-romantic! though there are some steamy sections), great descriptive language, and a mystery that slowly unfolds.

15. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire

It’s got Baba Yaga in it. And a heartbreaking story, interweaving lives and plotlines, magic, and historical setting. But also, Baba Yaga.

“But, you know, that feeling? When you wake up in the morning and you have somebody to think about? Somewhere for hope to go? It’s good. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.”

casey mcquiston, one last stop

16. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Romanceeee! McQuiston’s books are so well done and so genuinely heartwarming (not like, “oh that man helped an old lady cross the street” kind of heartwarming, though that’s valid too). Her other book Red, White & Royal Blue is quite popular and I think One Last Stop deserves that attention and more. Found family, queer love, NYC, and magical realism, it doesn’t get much better than this.

17. Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

This book is so much. Murder and love story and theatre all at the same time and it’s one of my favorites ever. I finshed this book in the middle of my lit class and had to hug it because I wanted to hold the story close even though my attention was needed elsewhere. This book means a lot to me in term of relating to it as well, and it’s eternally on my re-read list.

18. The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

Same author as Echo After Echo, I just wanted to give Echo After Echo it’s own spot. This book is filled with witchcraft, queer love, queer friendship, and nature. It’s an ode to the magic of the forest, and the magic that bubbles in young people, threatening to spill over.

19. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book totally threw me for a loop the first time I read it. It’s a collection of alternate storylines for the same main charcter and takes you on journies varying from love story to burglary to reunion and family. I want a book each for all of the storylines, but a taste of them will have to do.

20. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Oseman is totally a writing inspiration for me. She started writing novels as a tennager and published her first book before she was twenty. The catch is that there’s no catch, she’s actually an awesome author. Radio Silence is a thoughtful exploration of freindship, community, and the everlasting question of what one is to do with their life.

21. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

I’ve almost gotten rid of this book about ten different times, but I’ve finally accepted that it’s here to stay. The reason for this is not that it’s a bad book, on the contrary, I love this book. But, it’s also a ya romance with a swirly cover and I honestly keep doubting that it’s “deep” enough to warrent an all-star title. I think it is, though. This book is a love story, yes, but it’s also a story of grief, of family, of friendship, and of a bookstore that sets the stage for it all. I want to go to that bookstore, and I’m pretty sure now that I want to keep this book around for a long time.

22. Meet Cute by various authors

This is a collection of “meet cute” love stories by a bunch of great authors. This book was the perfect before-bed read and honestly for any moment when you need a little sweetness to touch your day. Subtitle, “Some People are Destined to Meet”.

“If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then?” 

julie berry, lovely war

23. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

We’ll close out this list on a somber note(s). This is my historical fiction section, mostly set in WWII. Hesse’s novel is haunting, mysterious, and emotional.

24. Lovely War by Julie Berry

This book is so cool. It weaves historical fiction plotlines into an alternate story with the greek gods who are sitting in a hotel in the 40s. Love, danger, bravery, and time. Truely lovely, and decidedly a war.

25. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Second Zusak book on this list. This one is set in WWII and makes me cry very, very hard. Please read.

26. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Doerr is a strong storyteller. This book squeezes at your emotions and plays with your mind. Set in WWII and follows a blin French girl and a German soldier boy in alternating storylines. Will their paths intersect? And how will it touch them if they do?

27. Dairy of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This is perhaps the most famous book on the list, but if you haven’t read it I definitely encourage you to do so. A window into a tragic story but a vitally beautiful life.

 and there are millions of leaves collecting against the curbs, and they’re the most delicate shade of gold   

we’ve ever seen and must favor the transparent wings of the angels you’re swimming with, little angel. 

                                 - Ross Gay, "Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be 

And I’ll leave you with that. Have a good day. -B

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