The Books You Cannot Put Down

Elizabeth Bluemle -- October 4th, 2012

We booksellers read a LOT, wildly skewing the national reading average. Anyone reading ShelfTalker is very likely a member of that same club. We are all so happily accustomed to reading really good books, well written and well told. With standards that are high to begin with, it is a rare treat to come across books that surprise us with their freshness or unusual point of view, or that are told so compellingly that we just don’t want to put them down. Don’t you just love those books?!

I felt that way about Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky. A companion book to the Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, this one absolutely can stand on its own, although the experience is richer if you’ve read both.

Here, a runaway boy has stowed himself in a wine vendor’s cart, only to be discovered, hauled out, and left behind in a tiny village called Clear Sky, where an innkeeper agrees to take him on as a worker. Rendi, the boy, is unhappy with this arrangement, but until some other form of transportation arrives, he’s stuck; Clear Sky is in the middle of nowhere, with only a giant flat rock stretching into the dry land as far as the eye can see.

The magic in this story lies in its light touch, its humor, the sweet quirkiness of the characters, the marvelous Chinese myths and legends woven throughout, and most of all, in the river of goodness that radiates from it. Lin is a kind writer, not afraid to address sorrow and anger and grief, but always in a way that ultimately brings out the light and compassion in her characters.

I found I didn’t want to put this book down. It was such a fresh drink, full of strangeness and delight.

Is there a book this year you’ve felt that way about, the kind of book you always know the location of in your house or car or store, the kind your fingers itch unconsciously to pick back up when you’ve had to put it down?



12 thoughts on “The Books You Cannot Put Down

  1. Cara

    “Deep Creek” by Dana Hand is a fantastic novel: a skillful, page-turning mashup of Western, romance, quest, story of conscience, touching family story, race-relations study, plus touches of the Chinese and Native American supernatural. I’d love to see it as a movie–

  2. Carol Chittenden

    Fourmile, by Watt Key. I’m a slow, sleepy, and distracted reader, but this one wouldn’t let me do anything else for 2 days.

  3. Maya

    I heard Grace Lin in New York last week and I can’t wait to read Starry River; the illustrations are gorgeous!

    I recently read Libba Bray’s The Diviners and by a third of the way through I was lugging it around everywhere despite the weighty 578-page count.

  4. Tim tocher

    Tony Early’s JIM THE BOY is the one I return to. The uncles have an unadorned sincerity and innate goodness that renew one’s faith in mankind.

    Timothy Tocher, author of LONG SHOT

  5. Carin S

    I stayed up until 1:30 AM to finish Speak by Anderson. I know, I’m late to discover this gem, but it was a treat to read a book that got me to stay up past my bedtime. I love those books, but it is best (for my sleep) that I don’t encounter them too often.

  6. Connie

    For sheer headlong, page-turning momentum, the latest book to grab me is The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost. Coming-of-age fantasy, it’s a bit of a cross between “A Separate Peace” and “Men in Black.” Some humor, but lots of real threat too, in the form of prep school bullies as well as otherworldly monsters. First of a trilogy.

  7. Nicki

    The League of Delphi by Chris Everheart. When I finally did put it down so I could get some sleep, I found myself dreaming about it. Good thing it isn’t terribly long!

  8. Ellie Miller

    Jo Walton’s “Among Others” walked off with the Hugo this year and stole my heart long before either that award or others which it’s received to date were ever announced. A fabulous crossover read for every lonely teen or adult who can remember the solace that good books bring to make the world a kinder, easier place to be when things seem tough and hard. Part fantasy/part coming-of-age novel…ALL parts sheer brilliance! Nothing I’ve read recently…and, yes, I read a LOT (just over 200 books so far this year)…has impacted me quite as deeply as this literally spell-binding novel.

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