Staple Reads Recommended by TBF Interns

Hi everyone! My name is Emily Hirsh, and if you know me (which you probably don’t), you’d know that working with a book festival is something plucked straight out of a dream for me. What makes working here even better, though, is being in good company, which is why I’m so excited to introduce the Texas Book Festival’s 2022 interns: Valeria Guerrero, Amelia McConnico, Alex Steele, Yuliana Mireles-Marin, and Noor Iqbal. We’ve put together a list of our top five favorite books or book adaptations – after all, what better way is there to get to know someone than to learn about their favorite reads? 


Top five book-to-film adaptations (they’re also personal favorites):

1) Pride and Prejudice (2005) by Jane Austen

It is no surprise that like the book, this movie is an absolute classic. From the beautiful cinematography to the iconic Mr. Darcy strutting through the meadow at dawn, and the perfect musical score, there is nothing better than watching Pride and Prejudice (aside from reading it). I watch it at least once a month. 

2) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Is there a better book-to-movie adaptation? I don’t think so. James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the perfect mixture of suspense, action, and the slightest pinch of horror that makes the stakes of Thomas and his friends all the more exciting. It’s still a favorite even after reading and watching it for the first time.

3) The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook is a sweet and heartbreaking novel full of beautiful language that reminds me that love can surpass all odds, like class, time apart, and health complications. The movie is surprisingly different from the novel! If you love a good cry, get your tissues ready because both the novel and film are tear-jerkers. This book is a must-read for everyone who loves the movie!

4) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The absolute worst tear-jerker but in the best way possible. I swear I had swollen eyelids and snot running out of my nose from how hard I cried with this book. Beautifully written, Moyes reminds us to “live boldly” and love freely while we still have the time. Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin are incredible on the screen as they bring this touching story to life.

5) The Martian by Andy Weir

I’m a sucker for both space books and films with Matt Damon in them, thankfully this is both. The perfect mix of science fiction and humor wrapped up in film and book that I think is perfect for anyone looking for a good laugh. I remember this being the first book that actually made me laugh out loud. My entire family loves the film, and my grandma doesn’t speak English…it’s that good.

AMELIA MCCONNICO, Development Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

I read this book over the summer while I was a counselor at summer camp. Being at camp is the perfect opportunity to read all the books you have wanted to read, and this one was on my list. The start of the book was slow for me, but once I got into it I could not put it down. The entire book takes place in one day, with flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, but this style of writing was captivating.  

2) The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 

This novel is a murder mystery that kept me on my toes the entire time I read it. Set in the beautiful city of Paris, a sister travels to an apartment owned by a family to find out what happened to her missing brother. The ending shocked me in the best way possible! 

3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

This is a classic that almost everyone in the world has read, but that does not make it any less special to me. Reading this freshman year of high school was truly transformative for me, and I will always remember the valuable lesson of treating everyone equally with the respect that it taught so many other people and me.  

4) Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

This novel was my latest read after hearing all the hype about it over the summer with the movie being released. I will say that I did see the movie first, but I enjoyed the book so much more. This is a captivating story about love and loss and finding your way back to those who treat you with respect. This is a new favorite!  

5) Beach Read by Emily Henry 

I really enjoyed Beach Read because it was an easy read for me. The story flowed well, and the romance that the novel portrayed was beautiful. Although some people may not think of a romance novel as something they need to read, they should read this book. It was funny, thoughtful, and heartwarming.

ALEX STEELE, Event Production & Logistics Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When I told my thesis advisor I was planning on doing another reread of this book she replied “certainly four times is enough.” Margaret Atwood is such a clever author and each time I read this text I walk away understanding something I didn’t before. This book is also on many banned books, so you know it has to be good!

2) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This was the first epistolary novel (a book told through a series of letters), and I was instantly hooked on the style. Lewis reminds readers what it is to be human and that the greatest enemy of humanity is complacency if you’ve already read this one I highly recommend checking out The Oh Hellos album titled Dear Wormwood for further reading/listening.

3) Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire is the third book in a series, so this may be cheating! Keeping it as spoiler free as possible, this installment marks immense growth in the main character and Maas’ writing style. The mental health journey of the heroine changed my life plus you get to experience a rich fantasy world. Pick up the first book, Throne of Glass, to start on this epic journey.

4) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Another story with a unique narrative approach. The Book Thief is well-loved for a good reason. With Death as the narrative guide, experience an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking tale. This instant classic was the first book that made me cry. I dare you to get through it without Kleenex on hand.

5) The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

While this list is in no particular order it just made sense to put this here. The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth trilogy. Jemisin became the first author to win the Hugo award three years in a row and for all three novels in a trilogy with this work. She is a master of world-building and knows just how to subvert the suspicions of the reader. Not only is the book an excellent work of fantasy, but it is also brilliantly written and full of diversity. If you have just five minutes, watch Jemisin’s 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novel acceptance speech here.

YULIANA MIRELES-MARIN, School & Community Programs Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) Still Life with Tornado by A.S King

King’s use of magic realism to tell the story of a struggling 16-year-old girl has been in my mind since the first time I read it in high school. The use of repetition and simplest writing helps explore hard topics about abuse and bullying in an earnest and captivating way.

2) Dracula by Bram Stoker

From vampires climbing on walls in lizard-like ways to a group of vampire hunters who don’t quite know what they’re doing – what’s not to like about this literary classic? Dracula is successfully able to both entertain and question the human condition.

3) Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

The beautiful writing style along with the powerful story of Tayo makes for a wonderful read that I was unable to put down until finished.

4) The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Such a beautifully crafted story and McGinnis uses elements found in most YA contemporary books to explore teenage romance and anger toward the way things are at times. I first read this book in high school and have continued to reread it many times since.

5) Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Read for the first time when I was a child, Esperanza Rising is such a touching and beautiful story that has been with me since the first read it and has influenced me greatly.

NOOR IQBAL, Literary Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

Although I’m not a fan of musical theater, this choreopoem combined theater, poetry, song, dance, and colors in a way that raised goosebumps on my arms when I first read it. It validated the feeling of having to choose between the multiple identities I carry and, even now, it reminds me that I am just a person, not a representative.

2) The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut 

I searched for “what is satire” when I was 14 and this popped up. Since then, I’ve reread this multiple times because I am amazed at how many existential themes a single novel can address. Greed, belonging, family, love, memory, the purpose of life – and to top it all off, there’s intergalactic time travel and futuristic planets!

3) A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza 

Fatima Farheen Mirza masterfully switches between multiple perspectives and timelines to create a complete picture of a Pakistani Muslim family in America and their joys and heartbreaks. I hold this book so close to my heart because it put so many feelings and experiences I had into words for the first time.

4) Luster by Raven Leilani

Elegant and free-flowing prose (especially about the human condition) always hooks me. Raven Leilani’s command of language creates a main character who is imperfect and confused but relatable and loveable in this novel exploring art, class, race, love, and sexuality.

5) The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel 

My love for reading started with children’s books, especially the Frog and Toad series. It shows how two friends’ relationship is strengthened through solving their issues together. Besides the adorable illustrations and comforting color palette, these books use simple situations to teach valuable lessons that are applicable throughout our entire lives.

EMILY HIRSH, Marketing & Communications Intern

Top five favorite books (at the moment):

1) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I remember reading this book in seventh grade and thinking it was strange in the best way. I recently read it again, and I have to say – that initial reaction holds up. This is a beautiful, thought-provoking novel that always has me staring at the ceiling rethinking every perspective I’ve ever had. It might also be the root of my extreme fear of outer space, but c’est la vie. 

2) The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

This collection of short essays centers on Green’s observations of the world and how humans fit into it. Ranging from discussions about Dr. Pepper to species longevity, every chapter had me hooked, and Green’s uncanny ability to provoke emotion makes this book extremely special to me. Bonus points go to whoever can guess which chapter made me cry.

3) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

You know how when you say a book made you laugh out loud, but you really mean it just made you exhale through your nose or pull a quick smile? When I say this book makes me laugh, I actually mean it – it took me forever to finish the first time because I kept having to take breaks! Adams mixes dry wit, absurdist comedy, satire, and science fiction so easily that you don’t even think about all the elements he’s balancing (effortlessly, I might add).

4) Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

As someone who grew up watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I vividly remember the day Trevor Noah took over as host, and Born a Crime is a fascinating look into where it all started – his childhood, his fascinating relationship with his mother, and his personal experience with apartheid. Noah’s sense of humor translates so well on the page, even when writing about some of the most difficult moments of his life. This book is educational and entertaining, heart-wrenching and heartwarming at once. Update: Noah just announced that he will no longer be the host of The Daily Show starting in 2023.

5) Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I feel like romance is often unfairly assumed to be a “lesser” genre, and Emily Henry takes care to counter this stereotype in all of her novels. In Book Lovers, Henry crafts a delicate balance of witty criticism and simultaneous respect for romance tropes in this sweet, funny, and thoughtful love story. The best way I can describe my affection for this book is that I want to read it when I feel sick.

It’s nice to meet you all, and we hope to see you at the Festival in November!

Nearly 300 authors will appear at the 2022 Texas Book Festival, which takes place November 5-6 in downtown Austin. The Festival is free and open to the public! Check out our full-author lineup. Stay tuned for the Schedule release next week!