July 2021 Staff Picks

We're pretty excited about this month's topic. Staff are sharing favorite books set in bookstores and libraries. (p.s. Have you ever wondered why some people are drawn to the smell of books? This article outlines three scientific reasons.)

"I really love books about books or books set in bookshops or libraries, so I had a tough time narrowing down my picks this month!" - Nancy B., Readers' Advisory Librarian

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
This book has a little bit of everything: mystery, fantasy, romance, and conspiracy theories. We follow Clay Jannon, a recently downsized graphic designer, who now works the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore. The one hard rule?  Clay is forbidden to open any books shelved in the way-back stacks, as they’re reserved for members of a book club who arrive periodically and trade one book for another.  His curiosity gets the better of him and Clay is drawn into the mystery of the bookstore itself with the revelation that patterns and codes are everywhere. It’s a fast-paced read that intertwines new and old technology, secret societies, and quirky characters that had me racing through the pages needing to solve the mystery along with Clay. Even the book itself has a little bit of mystery—look at the cover in the dark! 

Book excerpt
"I did not know people your age still read books," Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. "I was under the impression they read everything on their mobile phones." ''Not everyone. There are plenty of people who, you know--people who still like the smell of books."
Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

Note: For ages ten and older, I would also suggest Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library as a family read (younger kids may also enjoy this one). Read and solve puzzles together this summer!

Much Ado About You
by Samantha Young
A very cute romantic comedy with nods to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Evie Starling is having a rough week. She was stood up on a blind date, and much worse, she was passed over for a promotion that she definitely deserved.  She finds the perfect escape to rent and run a bookstore in a small English village. She impulsively books her vacation planning to reevaluate her life and puts into place one rule: absolutely, positively no men. She’s quickly drawn to the villagers and their lives, and one particular charismatic farmer. A quick read even though it’s over 300 pages, and beautifully crafted secondary characters who you care about just as much as Evie.

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
I’m sure this book has been recommended so many times—it deserves it!  I’m not a big nonfiction reader myself, but The Library Book checks all of the boxes that I want in nonfiction.  It has a decades old true crime mystery that still hasn’t been solved, and might never be. The storytelling is a more personal narrative, so I don’t feel like I’m reading a textbook.  Bonus, the content connects with me personally, with library history, and an insider’s view of library service. I do think that the book draws you in with thinking that this is focused mostly on the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, but that’s more of a secondary plot line—so be warned! —the real focus is libraries.

The Last Bookaneer
by Matthew Pearl
My last pick is a little bit of a cheat as it’s not set in the library or a bookshop, but it does have to do with books, publishing, and copyright. Here’s my one sentence summary: two archrival book pirates try to steal the magnum opus of Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, on the island of Samoa at the end of the legal book piracy era. I listened to the audiobook, and I was transported Samoa with the rich descriptions, and the narrator perfectly read the relaxed pace while the story was filled with intrigue and suspense.

Teen Services Librarian Maggie encourages you to check out these page turners.
Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crawley
Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited, but Henry never came. Now Rachel has returned to the city…and the bookshop. She works with the boy she’d rather never see again because she needs a distraction from the grief of her brother’s drowning. As Henry and Rachel work side by side, surrounded by books, exchanging letters between the pages, they find it’s possible that words and second chances are enough. You’re going to fall in love with this story and wish the bookshop was real. 

We Are Inevitable
by Gayle Forman
This new release from the bestselling author of If I Stay is about a bookstore and is packed full of bookish references. Aaron Stein used to think books were miracles, but not anymore. Now, his brother and mom are gone, his friends have moved on after graduation, and Aaron is stuck working with his grieving father in his family’s secondhand bookshop in a town where no one seems to read anymore. But things start to look up when Aaron becomes friends with optimistic Chad and meets Hannah, a beautiful musician who might be the inevitable one that Aaron’s been waiting for.

Sorcery of Thorns
by Margaret Rogerson
Would you dare to enter a magical and dangerous library? In the world of Austermeer, all sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known this her whole life, being raised as an apprentice librarian in charge of magical grimoires that transform into monsters. But when Elisabeth is implicated in releasing the library's most dangerous grimoire, she becomes entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy that could mean the end of everything.  

From toddlers to tweens, these top picks are sure to capture young readers' imaginations! Thanks to our Children's Department staff who always impress us with their incredible knowledge of books for kids. If there is something specific you are searching for to match your child's current interest, be sure to stop by the lower level desk and talk to a staff person. Not only can they suggest authors, titles and genres, they can also help you locate specific items on the shelves.

Picture Books

Ronan the Librarian
by Tara Luebbe
This is an absolute fun story to entice the youngest audience into the library!  Barbarians don’t read!  They raid!  Check this book out to see what is the real treasure after all.

Bats at the Library
by Brian Lies
Lyrical text and fascinating illustrations deliver the rhyming tale to the heart of imagination.  Bat night at the library happens when a light is left on and a window is left open. Why would bats want to visit the library?

The Librarian of Basra
Jeanette Winter
This is an amazing true story.  A story that resonates with those who believe in the preservation of the printed word. With war raging in Basra, Iraq, the chief librarian, Alia, was able to hide 30,000 of the library’s books only nine days before the building burned to the ground. She stashed them both in her house with friends. 

Chapter Books
The Neverending Story

by Michael Ende
When Bastian happens upon an old book in a local bookstore, he becomes immersed in the story- so much that he discovers that he actually is a character in the story! The magical world in the book, Fantastica, is in great danger and he has been chosen to save it! Recommended for ages 10+.

The Library of Ever
by Zeno Alexander
With her parents off traveling the globe, Lenora is bored, bored, bored―until she discovers a secret doorway into the ultimate library. Mazelike and reality-bending, the library contains all the universe’s wisdom. Every book ever written, and every fact ever known, can be found within its walls. And Lenora becomes its newly appointed Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian.

She rockets to the stars, travels to a future filled with robots, and faces down a dark nothingness that wants to destroy all knowledge. To save the library, Lenora will have to test her limits and uncover secrets hidden among its shelves. Recommended for ages 8 – 12 yrs.

The Haunted Library
by Dori Hillstead Butler
When ghost boy Kaz’s haunt is torn down and he is separated from his ghost family, he meets a real girl named Claire, who lives above the town library with her parents and her grandmother. Claire has a special ability to see ghosts when other humans cannot, and she and Kaz quickly form a friendship. The two join forces to solve the mystery of the ghost that is haunting the library. Could it be one of Kaz’s lost family members? This newer series is great for kids reading easy chapter books. Recommended for ages 6 -8 yrs.