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Adult Literacy Book Picks to Inspire Reading

January 19, 2024
Adult Literacy Book picks to inspire reading.

The New Year often evokes a sense of adventure, inspiring people to venture out, be bold, and explore new horizons. In that spirit, here are some book recommendations from the Adult Literacy team that aim to ignite a passion for reading in 2024. These titles push the boundaries of our world, and our existence, and challenge our perceptions of self and others.

Hello, Universe

This Newbery Award-winning novel is like if the 1985 film The Breakfast Club took place in middle school while blending elements from Dante's epic poem within the Divine Comedy: Inferno. This adventure takes place in one day. Follow Virgil, as he comes to have feelings for the first time for his friend Valencia. He goes out with Valencia, her friend Kaori Tanka, a self-proclaimed psychic, and Kaori's little sister Gen.

However, just as the adventure starts, Virgil is thrust underground by a neighborhood prankster, Chet. This prank sends Virgil to the bottom of a well as he chases after his pet guinea pig. None of these kids are friends, but that all begins to change as they search for Virgil while Virgil goes on his quest for self-discovery. Little did everyone know: they were searching for their true selves and the things that made life worth living. Through this wild search, friendships bloomed like wildflowers, and everything changed. This is a captivating story of self-discovery and friendship for readers of any age.

Life on Mars

Imagine being lost in space, boundless and infinite. Now imagine being stuck on a planet, closest to your home, but still so far away that you may never see home again during your lifetime. After being struck with a bit of debris during what seems to be an apocalyptic dust storm on Mars, Mark Watney becomes the first Martian when his crew is forced to leave him behind on the desolate planet to survive the storm. Presumed dead, the crew makes their return back to Earth. Little do they know that the debris only knocks him out. Upon waking after the storm, he makes his way back to the safety of the astronaut's habitat, cleans his wounds, and begins to take inventory of what supplies he has. After some calculations, he realizes there are not enough rations to make it until the next proposed NASA Mars excursion lands, but luckily for Mark Watley, he is not only an amazing astronaut, but also one of Earth's leading botanists. Finding a unique way to grow potatoes on Mars, he then becomes the first official person to colonize Mars. This riveting work by Andy Weir is brought to life in the 2015 film adaptation with Matt Damon delivering a captivating performance as Mark Watney. 

Gif of clip from the film "The Martian"
Matt Damon as Mark Watney in the 2015 film "The Martian".

Forever Friends

Meet Pax, a young fox. Peter had saved Pax when he was just a kit, but now the two are tragically apart. This unique story of love and loss follows Pax on his journey through the wilderness. The young fox is left alone in the wild after Peter must move in with his grandfather because his father got drafted into the war. Peter's grandfather doesn't allow pets, and Peter is forced to leave Pax behind. 

Pax on his own by the side of the road. Illustration by John Klassen in Pax by Sara Pennypacker.
Pax on his own by the side of the road. Illustration by John Klassen in Pax by Sara Pennypacker. 

As Pax navigates the untamed wilderness with his new pack, marveling at the wonders of his newfound home, Peter summons the courage to venture beyond the safety of his grandfather's home, embarking on a journey to reunite with his beloved Pax. This is a story for anyone who has ever had to leave their home behind and discover the world for themselves. There is also an underlying theme of new beginnings, as both Pax and Peter grow to learn how to stand on their own while searching for each other. This story is so drenched in philosophy and nostalgia, it is as if author Sarah Pennypecker blends Henery David Thoreau's Walden with the Disney film Fox and the Hound by exploring the freedom found in the wilderness and found in a friend you can count on forever. 

For Curious Readers

Many of us may already be familiar with the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but may not be aware that it is based on the short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1922. Though this story is more than 100 years old now, it also still a unique and captivating tale by Fitzgerald (sorry Gatsby). Here we have a character with a completely different life experience than anyone else around him as he suffers from a medical condition forcing him to age in reverse. 

Benjamin Button as a young man
Benjamin Button as a teen. Played by Brad Pitt, directed by David Fincher, 2008.

This is a very philosophical character trait for Fitzgerald to supply to his main character, as many of us spend our entire lives taking youth for granted and crave it more and more as we age. This is also a story about differences and being an outsider, a theme that extends beyond Benjamin's personal experiences. Not only is he unable to physically conform to societal norms, but he also strives to carve out a place for himself in the same society ignoring him. Many of us will be able to relate to this, as non-conformance with societal norms often results in differential treatment. 

Discover more adventures and other Adult Literacy curated titles within the Fresh Reads Collection

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Cassandra Taylor received her Bachelor’s in English (Writing Concentration) and Master of Library Science from Middle Tennessee State University. She has worked in public libraries and higher education for the past five years and also taught General English for college. Cassandra is the Program Specialist for Adult Literacy at Nashville Public Library where her goal is to provide equal access and educate library patrons about the diverse resources available at NPL.