summer reads

Summer Reads 2015

MOST OF THE CONTENT I SHARE on this blog relates to writing and the creative process. But today, when I stumbled upon this month’s #SixteensBlogAbout* topic, I discovered that I have drastically underemphasized one of the most important parts of my writing life: READING. This month’s topic is “Summer Reading,” but I’m going to address my reading life on a larger scale. (It’s almost summer, so I figure the “summer” part takes care of itself, right? Go with me on this.) I’ll start with what I’ve read, move on to what I’m reading, and end with what I intend to read this summer. So. Here we go.

I was molded by the following literary forces, in chronological order:


The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum: My parents read these to me as a child, forever skewing my book preference toward fantasy. I haven’t read them since, but they stick with me—fourteen books written over twenty years between 1900 and 1920. Talk about inspiring!

Encyclopedia Brown (Series) by Donald J. Sobol: Tales of a ten-year-old detective in which you, the reader, had to pick up clues and solve the crime yourself. I rarely solved them without looking at the answers in the back of the book—but my sister had them figured early on. I loved them anyway. Sobol published twenty-nine books starting in 1963 and ending in 2012. I probably read ten of them.

CYOAChoose Your Own Adventure (Series): created by Edward Packard: An amazing MG/YA series written in the second person, and in which you, the reader, got to make the choices that guided the story. Mostly I remember having three fingers stuck in the book, holding various places so that I could go back and make a different choice if my character was brutally killed off as a result of a wrong choice. 185 books were published in this series between 1979 and 1998. Wow.

Be An Interplanetary Spy (Series): a sci-fi spinoff of CYOA. I loved these. Bantam published twelve between 1983 and 1986. The ISBN number on the back was called the “Interplanetary Spy Binary Number,” and was always used as a clue in the books. I was totally amazed to discover that other books bore these secret numbers, too. I was convinced ISBN numbers were part of a vast government conspiracy. (I still am, sort of.)

As we move into the teen years, it is worth noting that, as a ten-year-old, I stumbled across Stephen King’s The Shining. (More about that in this post.) I was terrified, and wouldn’t return to Mr. King’s work for about 20 years—but when I did return, I discovered a deep love for his work.




The Dragonlance Chronicles and The Dragonlance Legends by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman:. I have played Dungeons & Dragons since I was twelve, and these books satisfied my thirst for dragons, swords, and spell-casting in a way Tolkien didn’t until Peter Jackson brought his books to the big screen. Based on character classes from D&D, the characters Weis & Hickman created have become fantasy archetypes.

Any Damn Thing Ever Written by Robert Heinlein: After Dragonlance, I jumped straight to Heinlein, devouring my father’s yellowing paperbacks at a frightening pace. It’s worth noting that these were probably not age-appropriate, but I think my parents were just happy I was reading something. And it’s not like we had tumblr back in those days. So.

High School Stuff: I enjoyed much of what I read in high school English, but my favorites by far were The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Go figure, I liked depressed misfits fighting for acceptance and/or their lives. Huh. I should, like, write about that, or something.

College Slump: Since I studied film in college, I mostly watched movies and read screenplays—though I do remember receiving Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses, which opened my head to the fact that books didn’t have to be 30+ years old to be considered literature.

Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling: And then Harry Potter happened. I could spend an entire post talking about Harry Potter, but I’ll leave it at this: not since Star Wars had I been so touched, moved, and inspired by a story. J.K. Rowling is the reason I became re-engrossed in the Hero’s Journey, and is largely responsible for my return to writing as an adult. Speaking of adult:


Hornet's_nestI read and reread the HP books over and over. My sister gave me the incredible audiobook editions (narrated by the incomparable Jim Dale), and I listen to the entire series almost every year, starting in September and finishing usually just before Christmas.

That segues nicely into my obsession with audiobooks. At any given moment, I am usually reading two books concurrently: one physical or e-book, and one audiobook. I cherish my Audible subscription and consider it my most important tool in keeping myself constantly inside the world of books. I usually listen to a new audiobook each month, finishing well before my next credit is delivered, and so I’ll re-listen to an old favorite.  Currently, I’m re-listening to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, book three in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. He is a master of suspense and intrigue, and his Swedish characters drink even more coffee than I do.




Since I write fiction, I primarily read fiction; although, occasionally, a non-fiction title will bash its way through and end up on my list. Recent notables include: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

My overall strategy consists of three guidelines:

  1. Stay semi-current on YA titles
  2. Read one book per month Just ‘Cuz I Wanna
  3. Mix in a few classics each year for educational/aspirational purposes


In keeping with the strategy outlined above, here is my current summer reading list:

theloudnessJust Cuz I Wanna

  • The Loudness by Nick Courage
  • Sin & Honey by Taryn Scarlett
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  • The Martian by Andy Weir

Classics & Non-fiction

  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross

YA/Current Lit

  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Please follow me on Goodreads and feel free to send me recommendations. I also pay close attention to the reviews at Bookthump, and I encourage you to follow and read Dan’s recommendations as well.

*#SixteensBlogAbout is a monthly series written by the members of The Sweet Sixteens–a group of Young Adult and Middle Grade Authors debuting in 2016. For more about my amazing co-members, visit The Sweet Sixteens Blog.

books, reading, SixteensBlogAbout, ya

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

Comments (5)

  • Thanks for the plug, Jeff! Is that a photo of your personal copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight?! That book has clearly spent much of its life being shoved into and out of school backpacks. Your mention of Choose Your Own Adventure took me way back. Did you ever get into Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf saga? They were CYOA style but also had some Dungeons & Dragons-ness to them in that you’d have to resolve combat with monsters using your character stats and items. Each book had a character sheet on which you’d pencil in your health points, treasure, etc. I was obsessed with those during junior high.

    • My pleasure. I enjoy your reviews! No, My copy of DOAT was even more battered. I’ve re-bought the Chronicles at least twice, but I snagged that photo off the inter webs. I never read Lone Wolf…why did you not tell me about this during junior high?!

  • Jonathan St. Amant

    Great post, Jeff. It’s great that you are so aware of your influences. Very inspiring. I just might need to try to track down my own influences to share with others. Also, good reading strategy.

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