A Book You Would Recommend to Your Younger Self: TPL Reading Challenge 2023

September 20, 2023 | Nisha

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When I think about books I would recommend to my younger self, I am a little afraid my younger self would hate them or (worse yet!) not understand them.  There are a couple of books I have reread over the years, and each time I have understood them a little bit differently, depending on where I've been in my life.  Take The Chrysalids. I hated it when I was forced to read it for a high school English class. However, when I read it years later, I realized it was an amazing look at society, real world allegory and racism. However, I didn’t have the right experiences and head space to grasp the themes when I was a teen. 

I thought long and hard about this category. In narrowing down my recommendations, I chose titles I think my younger self would be able to understand and appreciate. 

These are my picks:

Born confused

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

I really wish I had read this book when I was a teenager. The main character Dimple Lala, a teenager trying to fit in, is very relatable. She's trying balancing American life with Indian traditions and immigrant parents. When this book was published in 2002,  there weren't many South Asian young adult novels out there, so it would have been pretty exciting to see this book on a library shelf.  I really appreciated the entwining of two cultures and the message that it's perfectly ok to be "confused" like Dimple is when exploring identities. (The fact that Dimple could have multiple identities was mind blowing!) The story covers a variety of themes — family, friendship, love, arranged marriages, cultural identity and coming of age — and it would have been inspiring to read this as a young adult. 

Other categories:

  • A book about friendship
  • A book that makes you happy
  • A book about an optimistic future

Tell me how to be

Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel

Aakash and his mother Renu do not understand each other. He has spent the last year since his father died avoiding the family home. She has spent her time grieving her husband and thinking of her first love. In this tough family drama, this mother and son continue to argue and butt heads until they finally realize they have more common than they realize. Neel Patel hits the nail on the head in capturing how Indian families interact with each other, delving into the emotional relationships between immigrant parents and first generation North American children.  This type of book wasn't available when I was younger, so I would absolutely recommend this to my younger self to have my culture reflected back at her.

Other categories

  • A book by a 2SLGBTQ+ author who is also part of another marginalized group
  • A book about survival
  • A book about an optimistic future
  • A book about a person over age 65

Staff recommendations

The following books were picked by Toronto Public Library staff for this category:


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zeven

This book provides insight into the experiences of those entering university, including the competition, intense stress and relationships that can take place.  It would have been interesting to note how the gaming world develops and how fun and educational yet addictive it can be.  The book also delves into cross-cultural relationships, which would have been rare in publication during my younger years and would have been an interesting eye-opener. 

-Catherine, Librarian



Nosy Parker by Lesley Crewe

It was so refreshing reading about a preteen growing up in the Notre Dame de Grace neighbourhood in Montreal in the 1960s. The city’s multicultural nature was emphasized as well as life in the 60s at the time. It was a novel of nostalgia and human relationships in a neighbourhood where many cultures meet. Lesley Crewe has become one of my new favourite authors. 

-Despina, Branch Head


Gender queer

Gender Queer By Maia Kobabe

I wish this book had existed back when I was a teenager.  The author’s experiences, feelings about eir gender and love of all things geeky really resonate with me.  Sadly, this book is currently the most challenged and banned book of 2023

Kobabe wrote the book for eir teenage self and the guidance e needed to learn to understand and accept eirself.  I’m sure teenagers would benefit from this book (and so would adults) to learn to accept themselves and to accept others.  Maia Kobabe uses Spivak pronouns: e/em/eir

-Ames, Services Specialist


Dont sweat

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff –and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

Although a simple message, this powerful book would have immeasurably helped my younger self. The little hiccups of life can accrue in the mind and threaten to drown the self in a sea of doubt and annoyance.  By refocusing, reframing, seeing the forest for the trees and reclaiming a bird’s eye view of life, we can overcome that which keeps us from accessing our deepest selves and positive feelings of joy and happiness. Small daily changes are what’s offered. It’s a book you can return to again and again, finding solace in sourness, strength in cynicism, persistence in pettiness. Time to jump for joy wherever you are. 

-Tim, Librarian


Ringing Cedars
The Ringing of Cedars of Russia by Vladimir Megre

This book is a glimpse into the wild experience of life in a forest. Full of wisdom and delicate character development. Megre weaves together a world that is both intriguing and sprinkled with real-life tips on healthier living and deeper connection with nature. 

-Lucy, Librarian


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2023 discussion group. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.

French recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for the category in French Un livre que vous conseillera à votre jeune vous-même: suggestions pour le Défi lecture.  There’s a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!