Book Bytes

Marylaine Block

Books Too Good To Put Down
[annotated reading lists]

Columns I've Written about Books

How To Find Out-of-Print Books

Book Dealers

Book Recommendations

Visit My Other Sites

Ex Libris: a Weekly E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies

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My Word's Worth

my column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

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Observing Us

The column about the oddities of American life that I wrote for Fox News Online

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My personal page

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My resume

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A complete list of my published writings

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment or ask questions? Contact me at: marylaine at

Who I Am and Why I Run This Page

Volumes have secrets. Take them on holidays.
[The Church]

I'm a book person. I've spent a lot of my life reading and thinking about books. As a mom, I spent years reading aloud to my kid, teaching him to love words and books. As someone who's always trying to make sense of the world, I use books to find out stuff and to think about and organize what I know. I became a librarian because I loved to put people together with the perfect books for them. As a librarian, I got to choose books for our collection (what fun to spend someone else's money on books!), and show people the books that will help them.

As a writer, I hope someday my columns will be collected in a book or two. I love the immediacy of writing columns on the net, because so many people click on the mailto button and tell me how they responded to what I wrote. But for me, unless ink and dead trees are involved, it still doesn't quite seem like REAL writing.

I always told my son that while I didn't make a whole lot of money, I made enough to keep us in the three basics of life--food, shelter, and books. I have joked from time to time that I tithe to my favorite bookstore, but, as my son has grown up and the phenomenon of "disposable income" has entered my life, I think this isn't actually a joke anymore.

As a regular reviewer for Library Journal since 1980, I have to put quick little labels on books--this is terrific, this is drecchh, buy this, don't buy this, all in 125 words or less, which is nowhere near enough space to tell people about really wonderful books. So here are some columns I've written about books I know and love, books that have entertained me, delighted me, scared me, made me think, and shown me how, in an ideal world people, treat each other. I have also put in some annotated reading lists I created originally for a class of reluctant readers, on books too good to put down, as well as links to really good book sites on the web.

Since so many people wrote to ask me how they could get their hands on some of the books I recommended which have gone out of print, I added a page of strategies for finding the books that died too young. Welcome to my world, fellow book-lovers.

Columns I've Written about Books

  • 1998: My Year in Books
  • 1999: a Good Year for Books
  • Achieving Frivolity: reflecting on two books about vacations and parks in America.
  • America in Nine Innings: You can learn a lot about America by reading baseball novels.
  • Becoming a Book--my answers to the question, "What books would you commit to memory to save from the bookburners, if you lived in the nightmare world of Fahrenheit 451?"
  • Becoming a Book, Part Two--the answers to that question from my friends and readers.
  • The Cat in the Book--what is this strange affinity between book-lovers and cats?
  • Changing Our Thinking One Book at a Time -- My answers to the question, what book(s) do you think everybody should read, and why?"
  • Computer Shy--What do all those sci/fi stories and horror novels and thrillers and murder mysteries centering around computers tell us about our deepest fears about our new technology?
  • A Death in the Family--on the sad loss of another independent bookstore.
  • the Dilbertizing of America--what The Dilbert Principle, Michael Moore's Downsize This! and David Gordon's Fat and Mean tell us about the state of America.
  • Favorite Books of 2000
  • Fitter To Print--in which I ask how newspapers would be different if they were written by actual writers instead of journalists.
  • Getting to Solla Sollew--why, in my Almost Perfect State, all parents will read Dr. Seuss to their children.
  • Hammock Reading--some books to read on those hot lazy July days.
  • How I Became a Fairy Godmother--what happened after I started BookBytes.
  • Let's Assume--speculative fiction shows us what some of our gut level assumptions about the world are, by showing us worlds in which those assumptions are no longer operative.
  • Lighting Out for the Territory--on two books that talk back to each other on the subject of men who walk away from their lives.
  • Like a Message in a Bottle--on the odd things we leave in books to mark our place.
  • Making Monsters--the book Our Guys tells us a lot about our failures in teaching kids decent behavior.
  • Me and a Book--personal reflections on how books changed my life; and thoughts on how books restore the soul, alter the mind, and create thought.
  • Meddling with Wizards--why is it that storytellers use child heroes to battle ultimate evil?
  • Mindchangers--My year-end review of some of the books I read in 1995 that changed my ways of thinking about the world.
  • Must Be 50 Ways To Fix Our Country--reflecting on the George Magazine book, 250 Ways To Make America Better
  • My Year in Books--the books I read in 1997 that mattered to me.
  • Naming of Books--Some really funny books I read because they had wonderful, wacky titles.
  • a Sharing of Books--for National Library Week, I invited my readers to send me a paragraph about a book they loved. This polyglot collection is the result.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes--why literary critics should not turn up their noses at Stephen King.
  • That Was the Year That Was--my year-end review of the books I read in 1996 that affected me.
  • They've All Come To Look for America -- if immigrants came to you asking what books they should read to understand America, what would you tell them?
  • Transitional Lives: thoughts on a book about women of my generation, raised to be June Cleaver just as June's world vanished forever.
  • What Does a Woman Want--in which I suggest that if you truly want to understand women, you should read the books we read.
  • Without Skin--a tribute to one of my favorite writers and columnists, Anne Lamott.
  • Words To Be Wise--how reading makes our minds stretch and develop.
  • Changing Our Thinking One Book at a Time -- my answers to the question "What book do you think everyone should read, and why?"

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    Books Too Good To Put Down:

    NOTE TO PUBLISHERS: This is NOT a book review site. Books included here are ones I have already read that I, and students I've worked with, have found "unputdownable." The only actual book reviews I do are in my e-zine, Exlibris, where I review books on libraries, information, searching, and the Internet.

    Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you go to bed in the middle of a good book and you took a flashlight under the covers and kept right on reading (and she pretended to be fooled)? That's the real test of a book: would you read it with a flashlight if you had to? Here are some books like that. Try these on kids (or grownups) who say they're bored, and hate reading.

    This began as a set of annotated reading lists I prepared for a class of reluctant readers to get them to books that so enthralled them that instead of reading from word to painful word, they were gulping down paragraphs and entire chapters, breathless to find out what happened next. Once students have read such a book, they're hooked -- their first question is, "Can you find me more books like that?" Because such books lead to greater fluency in reading and a sense that it can be pleasurable, they make it easier for kids to go on to more challenging material. FOR THAT REASON, I HAVE LEFT OUT MANY BOOKS that are wonderful in their own ways and yet eminently put-downable. They have to have met the flashlight test, not only for me but for the students I've tried them out on.

    1. Books Young Adults Should Like--though not necessarily written specifically for teens. Updated September, 2004

    2. Cat Books -- fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, humor and art books about cats. Updated, September, 2004.

    3. Essays, Columns and Creative NonFiction. Updated August, 2006.

    4. Fantasy and Science Fiction -- Updated August, 2006.

    5. Horror Novels

    6. Humor

    7. Miscellaneous Fiction: good junk reading, including a selection of "women's novels." Updated August, 2006.

    8. Mysteries -- Updated August, 2006.

    9. Nonfiction--a BIG file, in three installments, about American politics and history, animals, columns and essays, gender issues, journalism, language, medicine, popular culture, social issues, sports, teaching, technology, and travel. Updated September, 2004

    10. Read Alouds: books that you need a child on your lap to fully appreciate.

    11. Romance and Romantic Suspense: only likeable heroines with a sense of humor, and heroes with the brains to appreciate them, need apply. Updated August, 2006.

    12. Serious Fiction. Updated August, 2006.

    13. Sports Fiction: Updated August, 2006.

    14. Thrillers and Disaster Novels: Updated August, 2006.

    Book Dealers

    NOTE: also see the list of out-of-print search services and used book dealers on my How To Find Out of Print Books page.

  • Amazon.Com -- an amazingly complete online bookstore (which also allows you to make micropayments to help support your favorite web sites, like this one (see the link below).
  • Barnes and Noble--which hopes to take back from its claim to be the world's largest bookstore. They offer substantial discounts and fast service.
  • Powell's Books, Used, New and Out of Print -- one of the great independent bookstores

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    Book Recommendations and Reference

  • Banned Books Online
  • Book Browser
  • Book World, from the Washington Post
  • Midwest Book Review
  • MGPL Webrary Booklist Index - Repository of the Fiction-L booklists, arranged by subject, by genre, by time and place, by type of character, by author, etc.
  • New York Times Book Review
  • Readers' Robot: a Readers Advisory Service -- an automated personalized recommendation system
  • Waterboro Lib Blog -- links to book reviews, author interviews, reading lists, forthcoming books, etc.

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  • Last updated March 3, 2014