HPL Recommends

cover of aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universePicked by Michelle N.

It’s 1987 and 15-year-old Aristotle Mendoza has a whole summer ahead of him, with all the freedom and potential for adventure and boredom that that implies. He needs to get away from the house one fateful, stifling day, so he heads for the public swimming pool. He doesn’t know how to swim, but he can still splash around and cool off. As it turns out, there’s another bored 15-year-old there—his name is Dante, and he offers to teach Ari to swim. Ari’s not sure why he takes Dante up on this odd offer, but he does.

Aside from bonding over their similarly odd names, the two couldn’t be more different. Ari is a working-class kid, the youngest of four, though his oldest brother went to prison when Ari was only 4 years old and both of his sisters grew up and left the house years ago. His Vietnam-veteran dad is withdrawn and uncommunicative, and his mom pushes him to succeed. In response to all this, Ari has developed an uncaring, tough-guy exterior and is completely out of touch with his own tremendous store of pent-up anger and sadness.

Dante, on the other hand, wears his enthusiasms and admittedly odd thoughts and points of view on his sleeve. The only child of affectionate, well-to-do parents, he’s somewhere between happy-go-lucky and neurotic. He’s also as close to openly gay as a teenager can be in El Paso, Texas in 1987.

The two accept and even enjoy each other’s differences, and they make each other laugh. Soon they develop a friendship that can survive anything… even Ari saving Dante’s life. But sooner or later Ari is going to have to figure out who he is and who he wants to be, and what that means for him and Dante.

If you can possibly get your hands on a copy of the audiobook version of this, do (pro tip: you can download it from us for free). Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lively and nuanced reading makes an already-fantastic story spring to life.


Picked by Michelle N.

This graphic novel, based on the life of the author/illustrator, is very personal and vividly-told story about first love. I could really feel it… also, the zap that such an intensely religious upbringing put on those kids’ heads. It's so beautifully drawn: spare and dreamy, like a gently-rolling snowbound landscape.

It feels strange to me that I don’t have more to say about this book than I do. It’s very absorbing. But it’s also a quiet book. I felt quiet when reading it, and I feel quiet now, thinking about it. Snow. Blankets. Thoughts.

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Picked by Ari N.

When "Death Cast" appears on your caller ID, you know that today is the day you will die.

On September 5th, Mateo and Rufus both get the call from Death Cast, the company that predicts deaths with 100% accuracy.  Total strangers, Mateo and Rufus meet each other through an app called Last Friend, where people who've received Death Cast calls can meet friends to spend their last day with. Mateo and Rufus couldn't be more different: Mateo is anxious, cautious, and shy, while Rufus is loud, confident, and angry. But on their last day, Rufus and Mateo find solace in their shared trauma and loneliness. Together, they go on a final adventure, and try to squeeze in a lifetime of experiences into one day.

"They Both Die At the End" is a stunning, heartbreaking story of friendship, love, and loss. Rufus and Mateo are unique, compelling characters that readers will fall in love with. As Rufus and Mateo's last day unfolds, their stories are revealed and we learn how they got to this day. The novel is also interspersed with chapters focusing on other people, adding another dimension to the story with snippets of other characters' final days. Be warned that this is a tear-jerker, but it is certaintly not melodramatic. Silvera evokes true emotions and makes you fall in love with Rufus and Mateo.

Those who've enjoyed Silvera's previous novels will love this new addition, but it's also a great starting point for readers new to his work (and will certainly hook them on his writing). Silvera is a master at crafting loveable, authentically diverse characters of color and LGBTQIA+ characters. This is a young adult (YA) novel that is perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon's "The Sun is Also a Star"  or Jessica Brody’s “The Chaos of Standing Still” but can easily be enjoyed by adult readers or those unfamiliar with YA.  "They Both Die At the End" will warm your heart and break it at the same time.

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cover of the grouchy ladybugPicked by Emily O.

Suggested ages: Preschool through grade 2

Published in the 90s by the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and From Head to Toe, Eric Carle, this is the tale of a ladybug with absolutely no manners, and the opposite of a winning way. She won't share the delicious aphids that are no doubt gobbling up a leaf (that's why ladybugs are considered to be beneficial bugs), so she flies off in a huff. 

Basically a bully with no common sense, and a cowardly habit of flying off when she's faced with a bigger meaner animal or insect, she meets a series of increasingly larger creatures, every hour on the hour. (Yes, you get to tell time as you go.) Although all the animals are not all what you'd commonly meet in a deciduous forest of the temperate climes, they are accurately depicted, with their salient characteristics and defensive or aggressive postures, from boas to gorillas, to the largest sea mammal ever. 

Eventually, this grouchy ladybug learns her 'pleases' and 'thank yous' and all is peaceable in the animal kingdom again. I enjoyed the colorful collage technique and a unique book design with pages that you are just dying to peak around to see the next creature. Every page features a tiny ladybug in the scene that will be fun for kids to spot. 

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Book Cover of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

With the new series set to premier this month, I had to read Good Omens. 

I’d avoided it for all these years because, honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s. (Yes, go ahead and pelt me with raw carrots or something.) I just didn’t love Neil Gaiman enough to read this collaboration—and I love Neil Gaiman a lot. But the on-screen version of American Gods was so good, I decided I had to have the necessary background to properly appreciate this adaptation.

And it turns out to have been an excellent idea. Good Omens is terrifically funny, in a style reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ best work: somehow ludicrous and dry at the same time. Basically two angels, one fallen (Crowley) and one not so fallen (Aziraphale), are friends who have “gone native” here on Earth and are living happily among us. But then it turns out that the End Times are about to happen—and neither of them wants that.

Also in the mix: the Antichrist, age 11; Anathema Device, a witch and a descendant of the eponymous Agnes Nutter; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; and a couple of misguided but very devoted witch hunters. Hijinks ensue.

There are tons of scenes that stick in my head in a very visual way—but if I told you about them, I'd be like that preview of that really hilarious movie that shows all the funniest pratfalls and sight gags and one-liners to get you all excited, and then when you go to see the actual movie, you realize you've already seen all the best bits. So I'm not gonna do that.

I will tell you that it's about free will, more or less. Free will, and the absurdity of the human condition, and yes, it's also a buddy comedy, sort of. It's got elements of the Hitchhiker's Guide and of American Gods, which you would expect. But it's also got elements of The Screwtape Letters (but less preachy), Lucifer (the TV show) (but smarter), The Good Place, and The Preacher.

Verdict: definitely read it. Especially if you plan to watch the show. If you like this sort of thing, this is definitely a great example of it. If you have no idea what sort of thing this is, this is a good place to start. If you don't like this sort of thing... I still think you should give it a try, because this might very well change your mind. If it doesn't, I'll still shake your hand and wish you well.

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Picked by Michelle N.


Helen Macdonald is a gifted writer. I enjoyed listening to the audio book version, read beautifully by the author. Her images of natural surroundings and hawk behavior and her adventures in falconry were riveting and magnificent, and her personal journey was very moving.

I had no idea that she alternates her story with that of T.H White (I was a fan as a child, of his Once and Future King). I'd like to read The Goshawk. I'd also like to read a biography of T.H. White. Her musings on the disappearing vitality and diversity of the English countryside made a great impression on me, as well. Hunting with a hawk makes you into an acute observer of the ecology as you learn to notice everything the hawk sees. 

Anyone who has suffered a sudden bereavement, anyone who comes to a point in their life where they are questioning everything, or who have realized that setting themselves a fierce challenge might be just the ticket to get over a serious bump in their life, would really appreciate this memoir.

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Picked by Emily O.