Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2003

This month I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks by looking back at some of my favorite books I’ve read over the years, the ones that have stood out among the Stand-outs.

As I look these over, I’m blown away by what good books I was reading! It must have helped that at the time, I worked half-time. More time for reading! Once again, I’m only going to focus on the books I read for the first time in 2003.

Tonight I’ll reminisce about my favorites from the Best Books of 2003.

That year, I posted my three favorite books of the year on top of the page, so I’ll start with them.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

The first of the Books of Bayern series, and the book that made me fall in love with Shannon Hale’s writing! It’s a retelling of the classic fairy tale about a princess who must learn her own worth. Still one of my all-time favorite books.

Beyond the Limit: The Dream of Sofya Kovalevskaya, by Joan Spicci

Another that’s still one of my all-time favorites. A novelization of the life of the great mathematician Sofya Kovalevskaya, who had to enter a fake marriage in order to leave Russia and study mathematics, but who still faced incredible obstacles.

Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay

This is the first Hilary McKay book I read, introducing me to the amazing and chaotic Casson family. Brimming with joy.

East, by Edith Pattou

Another fairy tale retelling that arrived at the Sembach Base Library the same day as Goose Girl. This one retells “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It’s also amazing.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling

Yes, Book Five came out that year. We were still reading them together as a family.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde

So much fun! Six new versions of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale that all make more sense than the original.

Feed, by M. T. Anderson

This one’s already a classic. It’s set in a future society where people get a chip implanted in their brain to stream the internet — and we can see that their language and ability to think deteriorates.

A Coalition of Lions, by Elizabeth E. Wein

The first Elizabeth Wein book I read! It’s about a daughter of King Arthur who has had to flee to Africa and the kingdom of Aksum.

Run from the Nun!, by Erin MacLellan

My own friend Erin got published! This delightful book is about a girl who tries to get herself kicked out of Catholic school.

Firebirds, edited by Sharyn November

This truly wonderful short story collection led me to some new favorite fantasy authors.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

A novel for adults, this story is told by an autistic boy who solves a mystery.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

This novel was an amazing accomplishment, telling the story of a man with an illness that makes him skip around in time without any warning. Who manages to fall in love and get married. The book skips around in time, and yet the author pulls it off.

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Another astonishing and memorable book. About a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger. Amazingly, he lives to tell the tale — and we believe it. Or at least maybe we do.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, by Lorna Landvik

Isn’t that the best title? A fun story of female friendship and how it can get you through the crises of life.

Children of the Star, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

This is an amazing science fiction trilogy about a society built on a new planet.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

Wow, that was when I read the first of these wonderful books. I now have seventeen reviews of books from that series posted, about a woman who starts a detective agency in Botswana.

The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France, by Ina Caro

A wonderful combination of history and travel guide — my only sorrow is that we never did make it to these parts of France while we lived next door in Germany.

Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, by Leonard Mlodinow

Some really wonderful musings about life based in the author’s relationship with Richard Feynman.

What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question, by Po Bronson

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book and how much it stuck with me — true stories of how people decided what they’d do with their lives.

Take Joy! A Book for Writers, by Jane Yolen

A book that reminds writers to take joy in what they’re doing.

The Myth of Laziness: America‚Äôs Top Learning Expert Shows How Kids–and Parents–Can Become More Productive, by Mel Levine

This eye-opening book explains that nobody wants to be unproductive — but many different things block the productivity of children and adults. It’s also full of ideas for helping open up that productivity.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Willems

This classic picture book was my introduction to Mo Willems, one of the greatest picture book authors of them all.

Serious Farm, by Tim Egan

This picture book about a farmer who’s too serious still makes me laugh.

The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds

A picture book about making art your own way.

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