Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw Reads

Posted November 27, 2018 by Madalyn || 9 Comments

Hi, everyone! As I’m sure you all have noticed, the holiday season is upon us. I always try to do some sort of bookish holiday gift guide on the blog, and for this year’s, I decided to recommend books to each Hogwarts House that I feel fit the characteristics of that House. I’ve wanted to do a series of book recommendations based on Hogwarts Houses for a while, and what better time than now, when you can add these to your holiday wishlist? (This was partially inspired by Rachel @ Rec-It Rachel’s holiday gift guide this year, which I’ve been loving.)

Today, we’re kicking things off with my recommendations for people in my House: Ravenclaw! (Well, I *think* it’s my House. I am always having a Hogwarts House identity crisis, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Without further ado, let’s discuss my recommendations for the house where those of wit and learning will always find their kind.

recommendations for ravenclaws

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsWe Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published by One World on October 3, 2017
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 367
GoodreadsBook Depository

"We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period--and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation's old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective--the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates's iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

Nonfiction seems like a natural genre for Ravenclaws, with our love for knowledge and learning, to gravitate toward. I also find that Ravenclaws tend to have strong convictions and ideas about right and wrong, and we back up our morals with facts. Enter We Were Eight Years in Power. This essay collection contains eight essays written by Ta-Nehisi Coates during the Obama administration, one for each year. The essays themselves are poignant and excellently written, but my favorite part of this was the short chapters Coates inserted prior to each essay discussing how his thoughts have changed, if at all, since he wrote it. Coates’s prose is, as always, excellent. Anyone who thinks nonfiction can’t be beautifully written clearly hasn’t read any of his work. It’s not always the most accessible, it certainly doesn’t always paint the Obama years in a rosy glow, and it could stand to acknowledge more intersections of race with other parts of identity, but I think any Ravenclaw will find this well worth the read nonetheless.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsEcho After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta
Published by Candlewick Press on October 10, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 432

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Sure, we love facts and learning, but we Ravenclaws also understand the magic of words and the thrill of getting lost in beautiful prose. The writing in Echo After Echo is beautifully lyrical, the f/f romance is lovely, and I mean, it’s a murder mystery set in a Broadway theater. What’s not to love? I think Ravenclaws will also appreciate the way the events in the main character’s life sometimes mirror the events in the Greek tragedy she’s playing the leading role in during the book.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsMy Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, #1) by Emil Ferris
Published by Fantagraphics on February 14, 2017
Genres: Graphic Novel, Historical
Pages: 414

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge. Full-color illustrations throughout.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is one of the smartest books I’ve ever read. There is so much to digest in this gigantic graphic novel– from the stunning art, to the 1960’s Chicago setting, to the mystery unfolding, to the discussion of identity, to the main character, Karen drawing all of the people she loves as monsters. It might not be told in a traditional narrative style, but all of the threads and elements in this story come together beautifully to create a true GEM.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsCirce by Madeline Miller
on April 10, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 393

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

I read Circe this fall and cannot seem to stop gushing about it, but it truly is a remarkable novel. Ravenclaws will appreciate its roots in Greek mythology, but will also love the modern, feminist spin on the classics. It’s fantastical and sweeping and epic in scope, but Miller manages to keep it feeling very intimate and character-driven. Basically, Circe is stunning and I think everyone needs to read it.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsA Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) by Brittany Cavallaro
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 1, 2016
Pages: 321

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte appears on a lot of Ravenclaw recommendations lists, and I can understand why. The boarding school setting, the mystery, and ESPECIALLY Holmes’s dry, methodical nature will definitely appear to Ravenclaws.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw ReadsChemistry by Weike Wang
Published by Vintage on May 23, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 224

Named a Notable Work of Fiction in 2017 by The Washington Post and one of PBS NewsHour's 5 Books from 2017

An NPR Best Book of 2017

National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree

Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize

A luminous coming-of-age novel about a young female scientist who must recalibrate her life when her academic career goes off track; perfect for readers of Lab Girl and Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You.

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She's tormented by her failed research--and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there's another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can't make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she's confronted with a question she won't find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry--one in which the reactions can't be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

Chemistry is another recent read of mine that immediately came to mind when I was formulating this post! Sure, it’s appealing to Ravenclaws on a surface level, since it follows an unnamed narrator working toward her PhD in chemistry, but that’s really not what this book is about at all. I think the dry, choppy, matter-of-fact writing is perfect for Ravenclaw readers. It also focuses heavily on mental health and the way it’s viewed by non-Western societies, and the dissonance of growing up in a Western culture but with non-Western parents. This was such a unique book; I loved the way this story was told. It’s not always easy to read, but it’s important and eye-opening.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What books would you recommend to Ravenclaws?

About Brittany Cavallaro

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, THE LAST OF AUGUST, and THE CASE FOR JAMIE (forthcoming in March 2018). She’s also the author of the poetry collection GIRL-KING (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Michigan with her husband, cat, dog, and collection of deerstalker caps.

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9 responses to “Holiday Gift Guide: Ravenclaw Reads

  1. I LOVE this post and the idea of a gift guide for certain Hogwarts house! I’ve only read Echo After Echo on this list, but the others are already on my tbr! I have a copy of Circe, I just haven’t gotten to it yet (oops), but hopefully soon! I can’t wait to see what you recommend for the other houses!

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