Jerry Spinelli’s Top 5 Favorite Books

The beloved YA author shares the books that stuck with him.

For over 30 years, author Jerry Spinelli has been publishing some of the most beloved books of young adult genre. Newberry Honor titles Wringer and Maniac Macgee have become standard reading for middle schoolers, while Stargirl has been recently nominated as one of the best YA novels of all time by Entertainment Weekly. As a writer who so expertly creates humorous stories using much of his own childhood as research, we wondered if there were any books that made an equally memorable impression.


The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley (essays)
The enthralling perceptions — okay. But the language! How did such artful, beautiful sentences come from the pen of . . . a scientist?

Ondine by Jean Giraudoux (play)
Oh, if only we measured up to the wonder in her eyes!

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (novel)
If the question is “What’s up with people?” the answer is here.

“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” from the collection Flowering Judas and Other Stories by Katherine Anne Porter (short story)
You’ll swear it’s a real person, not a story. It is a masterpiece of point of view.

When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli & illustrated by Geraldo Valerio (picture book)
This book hits my picture book trifecta: language, illustrations, message. Never has so much humanity been packed into so few pages.


Jerry Spinelli’s newest book is The Warden’s Daughter, published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.


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