Kids + Teens

On My Nightstand: Children’s Editorial Assistant Ariel Richardson

Each year our Editorial department sets specific goals. Usually they involve things like making deadlines and keeping promises. This year, though, one of our goals is a little more lighthearted! I will copy it word for word, in case you doubt me: “Commit to three crazy things in 2011 that will make you happy.”

How amazing is that? We have compiled a list of all of our crazy things next to the refrigerator in our kitchen, so we can inspire each other. Here are a few of my favorites from the list: start a blog, attend every First Thursday (when the galleries stay open late), have a meeting in South Park. With the end of the year approaching, I still had one crazy thing left to accomplish. So, last weekend I went on a “reading vacation.” I wanted a weekend where I could read whatever I wanted, without feeling guilty about neglected submissions and manuscripts. So, I rented a house in Sea Ranch for the weekend, complete with a porch with a view of the ocean, surprisingly comfortable wooden reading chairs, and lots of peace and quiet.

I read City of Thieves by David Benioff, a novel about the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. Intense at times, it was also crude and funny, beautifully written, with complex characters, and great elegance in its plot structure. It had been recommended by pretty much the entire staff at Copperfield’s Petaluma and Mrs. Dalloway’s, two wonderful independent bookstores, and it lived up to my expectations. I so rarely read adult literary fiction these days that reading City of Thieves was a nice vacation from my everyday reading life.

So after my weekend reading getaway, what is left on my to-read list you might ask? Plenty. Here are the top ten (okay, eleven) of the moment:

Name of the Wind: I rarely read adult fantasy these days, although it was a staple of mine as a teenager. Several friends have raved about Name of the Wind, and its sequel. One friend finished the sequel just to turn around and start reading it again from the beginning. That is the sign of a good book!

My Own Country: Abraham Verghese has become almost a household name for his bestselling novel Cutting for Stone. Here Verghese documents his time working as a doctor in Tennessee when the first case of AIDS appeared. I got to hear Verghese speak a while back, and was captivated. I’m interested in public health and hope this will be educational, inspiring, and beautifully written.

Akata Witch: A friend, who happens to be a Children’s Librarian for the Oakland Public Library, raved about this on Goodreads, I read a great interview with the author a while back, and it has been getting just a little bit of Newbery buzz. I am always interested in sci-fi and fantasy featuring protagonists of color, especially in settings other than the US and UK, as there are far too few! Here is a novel set in South Africa, with a protagonist of color, and a blurb from Ursula LeGuin on the jacket. Plus, the cover is gorgeous. I want to read it!

Okay for Now: I have been hearing so much Newbery buzz about Okay for Now. I want to see what all the fuss is about! Plus, I imagine it will be on my Mock Newbery list.

My Most Excellent Year and Dairy Queen: These are my “dirty secrets”—I know I really should have read these by now, as I’ve been hearing rave reviews for years, but I still haven’t gotten to them. It is high time I remedied the situation!

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You: When I was a bookseller I had a very passionate, well-read customer take me aside and shake me by the shoulders, pleading with me to read I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. She and her husband are addicted to the series, and she couldn’t seem to stop talking about them… I don’t naturally gravitate toward fun, lighthearted, girly YA, but this premise sounds fun.

47: I am totally intrigued by the way Walter Mosley has apparently melded sci-fi and African American history in this novel. The premise: One boy and one intergalactic traveler combine forces to break the chains of slavery, with the help of a little time travel and shape shifting. It has a great cover and spine, too.

Fire: I rarely reread books, but this is one that is on my list to reread. I remember having to go in to work when I was half way done with Fire—I was totally distracted all day on the job; all I wanted was to get home so I could finish it. One of my favorite children’s literature debates over the last couple of years has been which is better, Graceling or Fire. I feel to do this debate justice I really have to reread them both (or maybe that is just a convenient excuse to reread them, since I love them both so). I’m very much looking forward to Bitterblue, coming out next May.

Flygirl: I wanted to be a Blue Angel or an astronaut for a good chunk of my childhood. But alas, I didn’t want to join the military, and my math and science skills didn’t quite cut it. Now I get to live the life of a pilot vicariously by reading about it.

Dreamhunter: Melissa Manlove, an editor here at Chronicle, raves about this series. And I trust her opinions on books!

It looks like I’ll have to schedule another reading vacation sometime soon.

Ariel Richardson
Children’s Editorial Assistant



  • Edie Asst. October 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Goals are awesome. Meeting them is awesome. Reading books by the sea is fantasy-level amazing, and I salute you for accomplishing this goal.

    Still- please tell me that that by "I'm an editorial assistant, and I rented a house at Sea Ranch for the weekend, for funsies," you mean that you and 6 other EA's rented the house. Otherwise I may eat my hat, and non-vacation-rental-accessing EA salary.


    • Ariel October 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      Rest assured, I did have friends to help with the financial burden! Still, it felt like a pretty big investment in my own happiness–definitely a big deal.
      I like this idea of the EAs going away to read together–I may have to steal that idea from you!


      • Edie Asst. October 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

        Brilliant, and on behalf of the EA's over here who were sighing with jealousy yesterday (namely this guy)- your book trip is inspiring. There is definitely a banner being taken up about a literary mini-break.


  • Sherri L. Smith October 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Ariel,

    A good friend directed me to this post and I was daydreaming of a book vacation and busily writing down book recommendations, when I saw my book in your stack! I'm the author of FLYGIRL and I am truly honored to see it on your list. Thanks for keeping me in the pile with such excellent company. This makes my week!


    • Ariel October 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      How serendipitous that you stumbled across this post! Thank you so much for getting in touch. I have heard such good things about FLYGIRL, and have been looking forward to reading it since it came out. HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET has also been raved about by so many people I respect–it is a favorite of an Oakland librarian friend, and a favorite at Mrs. Dalloway's book store in Berkeley. If you ever visit the bay area, feel free to get in touch!


  • Anabel Mire October 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I can not imagine a more perfect landscape for a weekend of reading (the Sea Ranch land/sea scape, which was realized by that west-coast genius Lawrence Halprin! (RIP)).

    I am really jealous of your weekend retreat! I wish there were more photos of the house you rented. But in particular your photo of the books on the bench is wonderful – all that beautiful well-weathered gray.

    (It is difficult to follow a comment posted by the author of one of your books!)

    All the best Ariel!


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