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The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf: 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14

Aug 5, 2013

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As we enter the last stretch of summer before school starts again, we present our big annual book list — and this year, we're focusing on great reads for kids.

Back in June, NPR's Backseat Book Club — our book club for young readers — asked you, the NPR audience, to nominate your favorite books for kids age 9-14. More than 2,000 of you replied, giving us hundreds and hundreds of titles to consider. So we turned to our expert panel (read more about them — and their Newbery honors! — here), who combined audience favorites with their own choices to come up with a curated list of 100 must-reads.

The final 100 has a little bit of everything: tales of trying to fit in, escaping to magical lands, facing prejudice, coming of age and fighting to survive. There are animal stories, pioneer sagas, science-fiction adventures and, of course, beloved classics.

So if you're looking for a new book for the young readers in your life — or you want to relive that age yourself — please stick around and browse our bookshelf. (Here's a printable version of the list, too.) And if your favorite book is missing, please tell us about it — nicely! — in the comments. Happy reading!

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Meet The Panel

Soman Chainani wrote his graduate thesis on why evil women make irresistible fairy-tale villains. His first novel, The School for Good and Evil, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List and is currently being adapted into a film by Universal Pictures. Travis Jonker is the elementary school librarian for Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Mich. He reviews children's books for School Library Journal and writes about all things children's literature on his blog, 100 Scope Notes. Gussie Lewis is an independent bookseller focusing on childrens' and YA titles. She has worked for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and currently serves as the chair of the Children and YA Author Recruitment Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, Md. Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and two books in "The 39 Clues" series. Her most recent novel is the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Margi Preus writes books for young people, including the novels Shadow on the Mountain and Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor book and featured by NPR's Backseat Book Club. Margi also writes plays, hikes, skis, paddles, or sits quietly with a book in her lap. Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning writer of books for young readers, and is known for her realistic portrayal of teens of color. Her books include Jumped, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, and One Crazy Summer, which won the Coretta Scott King award in 2011. Produced by Justine Kenin, Petra Mayer, Michele Norris, Beth Novey, Annalisa Quinn and Matthew Weddig

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Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

Aug 11, 2011

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More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR's pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan's thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts' take, and have the chance to share your own.

A quick word about what's here, and what's not: Our panel of experts reviewed hundreds of the most popular nominations and tossed out those that didn't fit the survey's criteria (after — we assure you — much passionate, thoughtful, gleefully nerdy discussion). You'll notice there are no young adult or horror books on this list, but sit tight, dear reader, we're saving those genres for summers yet to come.

So, at last, here are your favorite science-fiction and fantasy novels. (And a printable version, to take with you to the bookstore.)

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Meet The Panel

Soman Chainani wrote his graduate thesis on why evil women make irresistible fairy-tale villains. His first novel, The School for Good and Evil, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List and is currently being adapted into a film by Universal Pictures. Travis Jonker is the elementary school librarian for Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Mich. He reviews children's books for School Library Journal and writes about all things children's literature on his blog, 100 Scope Notes. Gussie Lewis is an independent bookseller focusing on childrens' and YA titles. She has worked for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and currently serves as the chair of the Children and YA Author Recruitment Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, Md. Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and two books in "The 39 Clues" series. Her most recent novel is the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Margi Preus writes books for young people, including the novels Shadow on the Mountain and Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor book and featured by NPR's Backseat Book Club. Margi also writes plays, hikes, skis, paddles, or sits quietly with a book in her lap. Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning writer of books for young readers, and is known for her realistic portrayal of teens of color. Her books include Jumped, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, and One Crazy Summer, which won the Coretta Scott King award in 2011. Produced by Justine Kenin, Petra Mayer, Michele Norris, Beth Novey, Annalisa Quinn and Matthew Weddig

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3 Grown-Up Books For The Hogwarts Grad

by Annie Ropeik
Jul 13, 2011

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The Magicians Ender's Game The Secret History

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The Harry Potter franchise has its last hurrah on Friday, and fans like me are facing a forcible graduation from the protection of a fictional universe we've always known. I was 7 when Harry began, but I'm 21 now, and it's time to broaden my horizons beyond Hogwarts.

But what to pick up first? To me, the perfect post-Potter book isn't an imitator, but rather something entirely different (darker, perhaps, or less padded with childhood optimism) that's laced with threads of familiar territory. Through striking and unexpected lenses, these three books give new life to my favorite foundations of Harry's literary magic.


The Magicians

By Lev Grossman, Paperback, 416 pages, Viking Adult, list price: $16.

Cry derivative all you want — Lev Grossman's novel, hailed as Harry Potter for adults, is all that and more. Combine Narnia, Potter and your sullen, booze-fueled college existentialist phase, and you'll have the world of Quentin Coldwater, a high school senior from Brooklyn who finds himself enrolled at Brakebills College, where he studies to be a magician. It's everything you'd want from a freewheeling postgrad wizardry experience, and the magic itself is wonderfully scientific — messy, sprawling, while technical in a way that Potter forgoes. But it's in the self-reflective thread of Quentin's journey, which culminates in a true-to-genre magical quest undercut by a vein of harsh realism, that The Magicians shines. The endgame is a heartrending, cathartic examination of the nature of magic and our relationship to the stories we wanted to live in as kids — required reading for anyone trying to recover from a lifelong love affair with a fictional world.


Ender's Game

By Orson Scott Card, Paperback, 352 pages, Top Science Fiction, List Price $6.99.

The first installment in Orson Scott Card's classic science-fiction series offers a gripping study of how to make a soldier, told through the eyes of child prodigy Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. Set at a futuristic school where kids learn the art of war through battle simulators, Ender's Game shows the vicious toll that thankless expectation exerts on young people, while Ender's own journey has an uneasy sort of "chosen one" edge to it. Card expertly twists your emotions as you watch the boy genius molded — not entirely with his own permission — into the perfect leader, with his capacity for love and hurt compartmentalized behind ruthless cunning. Ender's voice is a mesmerizing mix of childlike wonder and calculating cynicism, and it's stunningly easy to get lost in his war games. This exemplary piece of sci-fi is a chilling and heartbreaking take on what happens when children inherit war.


The Secret History

By Donna Tartt, Paperback, 576 pages, Vintage, list price: $16.

Donna Tartt's acclaimed novel centers on a group of classics majors at a small college in New England whose aspirations toward antiquity careen terrifyingly out of control. But folded into the thrilling story, which is tinged with a crisp, dizzied academic appeal, are dark ruminations on the gifts and curses of the ancients. These ubiquitous archetypes, models and moral codes make up every story we know to some degree — whether it's a reluctant hero's quest, a battle between good and evil or simply a journey through a life. In The Secret History, Tartt offers a fascinating perspective on the influence of the classics on our lives, with a stunningly written moral narrative that warps and coils in on itself to reveal truths about good and evil that most would be afraid to discover.


These books aren't the fantastical J.K. Rowling adventures of my childhood, and they're certainly far less cheerful than a certain epilogue. But they embody what I'll always love about Harry Potter — meditations on magic, morality and growing up, shot through with the understanding that while real life isn't always just like storybooks, there's learning in that, too.

Annie Ropeik is an intern at NPR's All Things Considered and lives in Silver Spring, Md.

Three Books... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman and Lacey Mason.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Meet The Panel

Soman Chainani wrote his graduate thesis on why evil women make irresistible fairy-tale villains. His first novel, The School for Good and Evil, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List and is currently being adapted into a film by Universal Pictures. Travis Jonker is the elementary school librarian for Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Mich. He reviews children's books for School Library Journal and writes about all things children's literature on his blog, 100 Scope Notes. Gussie Lewis is an independent bookseller focusing on childrens' and YA titles. She has worked for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and currently serves as the chair of the Children and YA Author Recruitment Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, Md. Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and two books in "The 39 Clues" series. Her most recent novel is the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Margi Preus writes books for young people, including the novels Shadow on the Mountain and Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor book and featured by NPR's Backseat Book Club. Margi also writes plays, hikes, skis, paddles, or sits quietly with a book in her lap. Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning writer of books for young readers, and is known for her realistic portrayal of teens of color. Her books include Jumped, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, and One Crazy Summer, which won the Coretta Scott King award in 2011. Produced by Justine Kenin, Petra Mayer, Michele Norris, Beth Novey, Annalisa Quinn and Matthew Weddig

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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