Growing up, though I had school libraries, I didn’t live in places with good public library systems. Since I lacked that specific experience, I lived vicariously through movies like The Pagemaster (1994) and Matilda (2001). These presented a library card as a year-round golden ticket to stories that might teach me something new or make me feel empathized with, or just make me laugh. 

This is why something I’ve appreciated most about the North American cities I’ve lived in is the easy access to fantastic public libraries. Book prices here are absurd, and as someone who works in the publishing industry, I understand why. But it’s still impossible to buy every single book I want to read, so most of the time I go to the library! 

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month in the U.S., so in honor of that, here are my top 5 books borrowed from libraries: 

Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix

Author: C. B. Lee

My rating: 5 stars

Genres: YA, historical fiction, LGBTQ+

Goodreads Summary: Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

CWs: Click here for the full list of warnings divided by graphic, moderate, and minor.

The Heart Principle

Author: Helen Hoang

My Rating: 4 stars

Genres: New adult, contemporary, romance

Goodreads Summary: A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

CW: Click here for the full list of warnings divided by graphic, moderate, and minor.

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Author: Adiba Jagirdar

My rating: 4 stars

Genres: YA, Fiction, LGBTQ+

Goodreads Summary: Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.

CW: Click here for the full list of warnings divided by graphic, moderate, and minor.

Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 stars

Genres: Fantasy, fiction, adventure

Goodreads Summary: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Read Vania’s character analyses here.

CW: Click here for the full list of warnings divided by graphic, moderate, and minor.

Eliza and Her Monsters

Author: Francesca Zappia

My rating: 4 stars

Genres: YA, contemporary, fiction

Goodreads Summary: Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

CW: Click here for the full list of warnings divided by graphic, moderate, and minor.

What are some of your favorite library finds? Let me know in the comments!