Book List: My Favourite Public Library Finds

While I was writing this love letter to public libraries, I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of the books I’ve borrowed from public libraries over the last two years – in print, ebook and audiobook format – which I’ve absolutely loved. Honestly though, browsing the shelves of the library – either in-person or virtually on their app – is one of the highlights of my week. It’s like visiting a bookshop – I find books which I’ve heard such good things about and have been meaning to read for ages or I stumble upon books I’ve never heard of but which sound like they’d be right up my street. And unlike visiting a bookshop, I can read those books for free (much appreciated by a broke PhD student who’s trying to get her book-buying addiction under control). What a rush!

book haul

So here’s a list of my favourite finds in the library treasure troves.


ada twist scientistAda Twist, Scientist – I loved this book just as much as I did its predecessor Rosie Revere, Engineer. The art is stunning, the characters are great and the story does a stellar job of promoting scientific enquiry – which in this case means embarking on a quest to discover the source of the world’s most awful smell.






the wee free men]The Wee Free Men – I love the DiscWorld books and so, it seems, do the public libraries. I’ve read a few Terry Pratchett books courtesy the library’s generous collection, but I read this one the first time I was in Scotland and it just filled my heart with delight.









the ministry of strange unusual impossible thingsThe Ministry of Strange, Unusual, Impossible Things – I’d never heard of this book until I spotted it on a library shelf and I’m so glad I picked it up because it was fantastical and funny and utterly bonkers. I definitely need to keep an eye out for the other two books in this series.







five children on the western frontFive Children On The Western Front – I adore Edith Nesbit’s writing – especially Five Children And It and the other two books in the trilogy. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of a new writer taking over a beloved series but meeting the familiar characters in a poignant new setting just made my heart both very happy and very sad (in a good way; it was a good book).






one crazy summerOne Crazy Summer – This complex, engaging, funny book full of complex, engaging, funny characters looks at serious, grownup, complicated issues with the unblinking gaze directed at them by eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. I love sassy, hilarious, wonderful not-even-a-teenager-yet Delphine, who – with her no-nonsense approach to life in general and her sisters in particular – is much more of an adult than I could ever hope to be.





good night stories for rebel girlsGood Night Stories For Rebel Girls – I kept resisting the temptation to buy this while I was visiting bookshops even though I was dying to read it because I didn’t want to lug it back to India. So I was super excited to spot this on a library display and picked it up, which caused a librarian to be super excited because she’d put it up earlier that day hoping to entice someone into borrowing it.






the hero's guide to storming the castleThe Hero’s Guide To Storming The Castle – I love retellings of fairy tales and this series is hilarious. I own the first book – The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom – and was so happy that I found the second one waiting for me to borrow. It was just as funny, action-packed and full of great characters and hijinks.






bookedBooked – I was quite wary about trying books in verse (how do they work? Will I ever like any? Will I ever understand any?!) before I read so many great ones. Now it’s a format I really enjoy because it’s always full of such innovations and great ideas using such few words. This book about a football loving boy who falls in love with words is one of my favourites in the genre.






how to build a girlHow To Build A Girl – I wanted to hug this book. I felt hugged by this book. It was hilarious. But it also broke my heart. (And FYI, Caitlin Moran is all kinds of excellent. I am similarly in love with her nonfiction).







uprootedUprooted – This was a book I’d heard a lot about online but never particularly felt drawn to until one fateful day in the library when I picked it up on a whim and loved the writing, the characters, the setting and the story. I now have a firm eye on her latest book – Spinning Silver – which is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.






through the woodsThrough The Woods – I tend not to love all the graphic novels I read. I mean they’re fine, but they usually don’t dazzle my brain like many other kinds of books do (I’m obviously severely under-read in the graphic novels department because I’m sure there are some fantastic ones out there; I just have to go on a quest to find them). But this one was an exception to my usual experience (the other exception is Nimona). It’s scary short stories that are well written and excellently illustrated and really managed to creep me out even in the bright light of day (I wasn’t brave enough to read this at night).




the diary of a booksellerThe Diary of a Bookseller – Even otherwise this is a lovely, funny book. But I think I may have loved this book extra hard because I actually visited this wonderful secondhand bookshop featured in this book. It was on a road trip to Wigtown, Scotland’s official book town, and both the place and the trip brings back the best memories.






furiously happyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – I very vaguely knew of Jenny Lawson and her blog The Bloggess but I hadn’t encountered her before I spotted this mad cover on an innocuous bookshelf. I’m so glad I know her now because this book of essays is filled with both hilarious and tragic life experiences.






hyperbole and a halfHyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – I loved Allie Brosh’s (now defunct) blog when I first discovered it years ago (it made me laugh to tears several times) and I’m so happy this book exists. Like the one above, this is also a book in the hilarious and tragic categorybut with more MS Paint pictures.






godGod: A Human History – Reza Aslan is a treasure; an extremely smart, great researcher and stellar writer kind of treasure. I loved Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth for exactly the same reasons I loved this book – he offers a fascinating history of humans and all the ways in which they engage with each other and the world through the framework of religion. I would honestly read anything he writes.

Rhyme and Reason: December 4, 2013

Horrid Henry looked out of the window. AAARRRGGGHHH! It was a lovely day. The sun was shining. The birds were tweeting. The breeze was blowing. Little fluffy clouds floated by in a bright blue sky.


Why couldn’t it be raining? Or hailing? Or sleeting?

Any minute, any second, it would happen … the words he’d been dreading, the words he’d give anything not to hear, the words –

‘Henry! Peter! Time to go for a walk,’ called Mum.

‘Yippee!’ said Perfect Peter. ‘I can wear my new yellow wellies!’

‘NO!’ screamed Horrid Henry.

Go for a walk! Go for a walk! Didn’t he walk enough already? He walked to school. He walked home from school. He walked to the TV. He walked to the computer. He walked to the sweet jar and all the way back to the comfy black chair.

Horrid Henry walked plenty. Ugghh. The last thing he needed was more walking. More chocolate, yes. More crisps, yes. More walking? No way! Why oh why couldn’t his parents ever say, ‘Henry! Time to play on the computer.’ Or ‘Henry, stop doing your homework this minute! Time to turn on the TV.’

But no. For some reason his mean, horrible parents thought he spent too much time sitting indoors. They’d been threatening for weeks to make him go on a family walk. Now the dreadful moment had come. His precious weekend was ruined.

Francesca Simon, Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine

Book Review: Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine by Francesca Simon

horrid henryHorrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine

Francesca Simon

Pages: 90

Price: INR 199

Publisher: Dolphin Paperbacks

Rating: 5/5

I had seen stacks of Horrid Henry books in the children’s sections of most bookstores I visited before I finally decided to pick up a couple of titles at a secondhand book sale. And I’m glad I did!

Horrid Henry, as his name suggests, is a nightmarish brat. To offset his horribleness is his younger goody two-shoes brother Perfect Peter who always listens to their parents, enjoys eating vegetables, loves doing his homework and has a favourite magazine called Best Boy. Yawn!

I have so much more fun reading about the terrors. And Henry really does make life difficult for everyone else. I’d hate to deal with a kid like him but reading about him is endlessly entertaining. He bullies his brother, harasses his parents and declares war on all the girls in his class. What’s not to like?

The book contains four short stories – Horrid Henry’s Hike, Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine, Perfect Peter’s Revenge and Horrid Henry Dines at Restaurant Le Posh – each of which are hilarious. I’ve always been a relatively well-behaved child which is why I get such a vicarious thrill reading about Henry’s exploits. He whines and grumbles, refuses to do what he is told and is a champion tantrum-thrower.

The stories demonstrate a perfect child’s eye view, complete with their joys, trials and tribulations. Grown-ups only make a cursory appearance in this largely self-contained childhood world. Reading it made me reminiscent of Rugrats, one of my favourite cartoons while I was growing up. Kids armed with bucketloads of imagination and minimal parental supervision (the mega-mean time machine emerges from the cardboard box their washing machine came in, which reminded me of my cardboard box my television came in and which ended up providing me with countless hours of entertainment). Henry’s parents do make an appearance now and then where they are either supremely unconcerned by his tantrums or so weary of his antics that they aren’t averse to bribery.

I can just imagine so many parents having a major problem with Henry’s horrid nature and his parents’ coping mechanisms. Maybe that’s why I loved the book so much.