Like pairing a beverage with your meal, or matching your shoes to your belt, trying to find the perfect back-to-back read can be difficult and obtuse. Especially if you’re trying to mix things up and get out of your reading comfort zone. For me, that usually means reading anything that isn’t fantasy or science fiction. One portion of my reading diet that needs some boosting, in particular, is non-fiction. So, in the spirit of switching things up and developing a well-paired tbr, I bring you my favorite pairs of fiction and non-fiction books to read back to back!
Fierce by Aly Raisman and Throw Like A Girl by Sarah Henning
Fierce follows Aly Raisman’s road to success as two-time US Gymnastics team captain and Olympic gold medalist, from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows. Through the success and victories came many hardships, which Aly’s supportive family, friends, and teammates, and her inner strength, helped her weather. This inspiring memoir pairs nicely with Throw Like a Girl, where we follow softball star Liv Rodinsky. After throwing a very well-deserved punch during the most important game of the year, Liv loses her scholarship to her private school. Meaning she has to transfer to the rival public school and convince their coach she deserves a spot on the team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched. But the injured quarterback has a plan to save his own spot on the football team and help Liv earn her spot on the softball team… If Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll put in a good word with the softball coach.
Both of these inspiring sports stories show the power of perseverance and how the support of strong families and friends can help you find your inner strength.
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlyn Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch and The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
The story of pen-pals Caitlin and Martin, I Will Always Write Back is about how one letter changed two lives. Everyone in Caitlin’s class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. Meanwhile, Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters and forty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one. Their correspondence would span six years and changed both of their lives forever.
The Geography of You and Me is also about a chance encounter that would change two people forever. Lucy lives on the twenty-fourth floor. Owen lives in the basement. They meet in the middle, stuck in an elevator during a New York City blackout. When they’re rescued, they spend the night wandering the darkened streets of Manhattan – until the lights, and reality, come back on. While their lives take them in separate directions, Lucy moves abroad and Owen heads out west with his father, they stay in touch through postcards, e-mails, and occasional phone calls. But can they ever find a way to reunite? These two are both stories about unlikely connections and the way those connections can shape the future.
We are Displaced By Malala Yousafzai and The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney And Illustrated By Shane W. Evans
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement – first as an internally displaced person in Pakistan, then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except the home she loved. In We Are Displaced, Malala not only shares her story, but the stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her various journeys. This book pairs perfectly with The Red Pencil, a middle-grade book told in verse about a young girl’s journey to a refugee camp. Amira is twelve, and she wants to learn to read and write. But girls like Amira don’t go to school. When the Janjaweed militia storms her small village, they shatter the life she knows, and she must begin the long journey to a refugee camp. It takes the gift of a red pencil to open her mind and all kinds of possibilities. Both of these books are moving portraits of displacement that will encourage you to reconsider the stories behind the statistics we see every day.
Spies By Marc Favreau and An Assassin’s Guide to Love & Treason by Virginia Boecker
The true and thrilling account of Cold War spies and spycraft, Spies explores the turbulence of an era in which mutually assured nuclear destruction loomed and men and women waged war behind closed doors and in code. Pair this with An Assassin’s Guide to Love & Treason, set in Elizabethan England where rebellion simmers. When Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers he was also involved in a plot to murder reigning Queen Elizabeth I. Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father’s mission and kill the Queen herself during Shakespeare’s newest play, to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But the play is no less than a plot to destroy the rebellion once and for all devised by Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play’s leads, they’ll find that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.
These two spy stories, one real the other imagined but based upon history, are a fantastic pairing for a back-to-back, espionage filled read-a-thon.
The Eagle Huntress by Aisholpan Nurgaiv with Liz Welch and We Rule The Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett
The Ölgii eagle festival is celebrated every year and is where Kazakh eagle hunters celebrate their heritage and compete with specially trained golden eagles. Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv was the first girl to compete in this competition. She was also the first girl to win. Eagle hunting is a male-dominated tradition, but Aisholpan was determined to follow in the footsteps of her family, who have been eagle hunters for seven generations.
We Rule the Night pairs well with The Eagle Huntress as a story of girls beating the boys at their own game. When seventeen-year-old Revna is caught using illegal magic, and Linne is discovered to have disguised herself as a boy to join the army, both girls are offered a reprieve from their punishments: Use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit to undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of night.