We’re excited to welcome our first guest to the Tall Poppy blog, Colleen Oakley, author of the funny, gut-wrenching, and ultimately hopeful novel, BEFORE I GO! She’s here to share her top heroes who have used books as a means to make a positive change in our world.

December is supposed to be a time of merry-making, a time of hope and joy and snuggling under cozy blankets with loved ones. But I have to confess— I’ve been having troubling catching the spirit this year. Maybe it’s because every time I turn around, there’s another massacre, another presidential candidate spewing hate, another Kardashian headline (WHO CARES ABOUT THIS FAMILY????)

Or maybe it’s because I mistakenly booked a flight for the wrong time of day and Delta wanted to charge me $600 to fix it. (Side note: YOU SUCK, DELTA).

Regardless, this month has been full of bad news.

But, being an eternal optimist, whenever I become inundated with bad news, I run and hide under the covers with tequila and YouTube videos of baby goats, I look for the bright side of things. The good news. There are people in the world who are not spewing hate or wielding guns as a family on Christmas cards or working in customer service for Delta.

And those people, the good people, are—more often than not—book people. I can’t explain it, but people who love books and share that love of reading with the world are some of the best people you could ever meet: independent book store owners, librarians, my mom.

So, if you are as fed up with the current state of the world as I am, then grab some wine and a comfy blanket and fill up your feel-good tank with this list of the top Book Heroes of 2015. (And some baby goats).

This mailman. In Salt Lake City, Utah, this summer, 12-year-old Matthew Flores asked his mailman Ron Lynch for leftover junkmail. When Lynch inquired why, Flores told him he loves to read, but had no books. So Lynch made a plea on Facebook, it went viral and — voila! — Flores now has hundreds of books from Good Samaritans all over the world.

This airline. JetBlue has donated more than $1.25 million worth of books to help kids in need, but this is the first year they set up three vending machines in Washington, D.C. where kids can pick out their own free books—and there’s no limit to how many they can choose. The company says this is just the beginning of the program, which is why I’ll be going out of my way to fly on JetBlue from here on out. (Also: SUCK IT, DELTA).

These teachers. To build excitement for reading in their middle schools a group of Biloxi, Mississippi teachers spent the summer transforming old lockers into an avenue of book spines. The artistic endeavor quickly went viral and my inner-12-year-old was wildly jealous that this wasn’t my school.

These college kids. After seeing a shortage of books at a small Louisiana prison, the members of Grambling State’s Psychology and Sociology Club started a drive to get the inmates more reading materials. After challenging other colleges to do the same, they raised a total of 4,500 books for the Caddo Correctional Center.

This soldier. To help his wife and children cope with their long-term separations while he was overseas, J.D. Manders sent them chapters of fairytales he penned himself. He’s recently started publishing his books to help other families in hopes that the happy tales can help other families in the same situation.

This barber. Courtney Holmes, a barber in Iowa offered free back-to-school haircuts to kids who read him books during the service. His reason? “I just want to support kids reading.”

This girl. Late in December 2014, 7-year-old Parker Dains wrote to Adobo Publishing to complain that their Biggest Baddest Book Series for Boys was wrongly named. “Girls can like bugs, too,” she said. The company quickly saw the error of their ways, and dropped the gender specifications off their titles this year.

These librarians. Public libraries across the country are taking their show on the road — specifically, biking books to kids who live in book deserts, parts of town with no access to libraries.

And if these eight heroes aren’t enough to melt your cold Grinch heart, I leave you with this picture:



Now that Colleen’s shared her heroes, we want to hear about yours. Hit the comments with your favorite heart-warming stories of the year!


colleen-oakley-headshotColleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO, called a best new book by People magazine and an Us Weekly “Must” Pick. Her next book CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH will be released by Gallery/Simon & Schuster in early 2017. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids, and the world’s biggest lapdog Bailey. Find out more at the links below!