Staff Picks: December

December Staff Picks

This month, library staff from several departments share the best books they read in 2018.

Michael McArthur, Local History and Genealogy Reference Librarian
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
In the summer of 1969, four siblings go to a local fortune teller in New York and learn the day of their deaths; some believe it, some don't, but all are changed. It's about family, fate and the choices people make in life. I generally don't read epic family dramas, but the characters and places are rendered so vividly, I couldn't put it down.

Sandy Toland, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
Calypso by David Sedaris. Like a fine wine; his observations about family and his own idiosyncrasies are deeper and more complex as he’s gotten older. 

Miss Subways by David Duchovny. I enjoyed this story the same way Alice enjoyed following the White Rabbit. I wasn’t sure where I was going; but boy was the journey exciting. This is a great afternoon read about magical beings, love and New York subways. Grab your coffee and get reading!

Maggie Mueller, Teen Librarian
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I can't get over the ending to this book--I'm still thinking about it months later! It's so intense and fast-paced, I finished it in one sitting. I would recommend convincing a friend to read this with you, so you can talk about the book with someone afterwards!

Legendary by Stephanie Garber
It’s not often that I like a sequel better than the original, but Legendary nailed it! It’s a magical, mystical, murderous mystery, mixed with a little bit of love and a lot of lies. If that’s your thing, make sure you read Caraval first.

Cathie Books, First Floor Public Service
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorsey-Stein
A Craigslist ad. A “once in a lifetime” opportunity: a bit part in President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and subsequent second term in office. Candidly gritty memoir, splashed with humorous escapades. I only put this down because I was doing my chores.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
The movie Hidden Figures is based upon this national bestseller. Ignition sequence… Houston we are a go for reading!!!

Adeline Miller, Children’s & Family Outreach Librarian
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada (children’s book)
This is another great addition to Yamada’s What Do You Do With… series. Gorgeous and thoughtful illustrations complement the beautiful use of language as the narrator grapples with the idea of a chance and what it means to take it.

Drawn Together by Minh Le (children’s book)
A grandfather and his grandson separated by language, cultural and generational differences bond together with drawing and imagination. The story is magnificently illustrated by Dan Santat.

Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Dean and Shannon Hale (children’s book)
The frilly, super hero princess again delights readers as she saves the science fair from a hungry monster.

Stretched Too Thin by Jessica N. Turner
A practical and inspiring guide for working moms who are trying to balance the demands of work, home and taking care of themselves.

Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar
In this historical fiction, Ariadne flees her grandfather’s home in Athens to live with her father in Corinth only to discover that he is an infamous thief. Adventure awaits as she struggles with the timeless questions of self-worth and belonging.

Justin Cole, Graphic Designer
Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
A vast, intricate novel that weaves six narratives and spans from 1984 to the 2030s about a secret war between a cult of soul-decanters and a small group of vigilantes called the Night Shift who try to take them down. An up-all-night story that fluently mixes the super-natural, sci-fi, horror, social satire and heartbreaking realism.

Why I love it: It’s a story that spans the life of a single character. She isn’t always the narrator, but you get snapshots of her life through the eyes of different characters. It isn’t all supernatural either. A large portion of the book is grounded in the real world – the supernatural aspects are mostly in the background.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat—and then for his wife as well—in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface. As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists. Gripping, prophetic, and suffused with comedy and menace, this is an astonishingly imaginative detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage and an excavation of the buried secrets from Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria during World War II.

Why I love it: There are so many intersections in this book. It seems like a simple mystery at first, but morphs into a sprawling tale of Toru’s life and the changes and people he encounters.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
To escape economic and social collapse around them, a married couple, Charmaine and Stan, become part of the Positron Project and move into the idyllic town of Consilience. No one is unemployed, and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in, for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. When Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house in opposite months, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

Why I love it: WHAT A TRIP! This book takes you for a ride, and the twists and turns keep you guessing about what’s really going on in this town. The story is emotional and examines the relationship between a couple forced into desperate circumstances and the secrets people keep from each other.

Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace--and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox--possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Why I love it: This book messes with your sense of time by looking back and forward at the same time. Reading Nao’s story and learning her struggles is heartbreaking, but there is a sense of coming of age and growth that shines through her words. Ruth struggles in her own way, and the dualistic format of the book provides a look at two women at different points in time and in different points in their lives. Poignant and reflective, it’s a great story to really make you think.

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance--now a fledgling New Republic--presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy's scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy's strength is unfolding. Determined to preserve the Empire's power, the surviving Imperial Elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit--to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven't reckoned on Norra Wexley and her newfound allies--her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector--who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire's oppressive reign once and for all.

Why I love it: I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I love the stories that tie in to the main films. This book starts off a new trilogy about what happened after the second was destroyed. With a new group of characters, and nods to the original and sequel series, Aftermath starts to fill in the gaps. It also expands on the lore of the Star Wars universe while setting up bigger showdowns in Aftermath: Life Debt and Aftermath: Empire’s End. There is a whole lot of Star Wars out there to enjoy, and Aftermath is a fun place to start.

Marie Boleman, Children’s & Family Outreach Managing Librarian
Loretta’s Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller and Alea Marley (children’s book)
I see a Loretta in thoughtful, loving children everywhere who want to show their love with a gift. When they learn how powerful a gift it is to share of oneself, kids become mighty little forces for good. 

Trevor by Jim Averbeck (children’s book)
The author managed to stir something in my heart with this story of a bird who befriends a lemon.

Daddy Played the Blues by Michael Garland (children’s book)
A picture book for slightly older kids. Woodcut images beautifully illustrate this historically-based tale about the roots and growth of Blues in America.

Something Smells! By Blake Liliane Hellman (children’s book)
We’ve all asked the question at some time or another. “What smells?” Will Elliot find out? Humorous good read for families.

Mama Built a Little Den by Jennifer Ward (children’s book)
Beautiful pictures by Steve Jenkins show us the homes of many animals.

The Button War: A Tale of the Great War by Avi (chapter book) 
Another fast-paced, well-written historical fiction by Avi. He does not shy away from children’s stories that take place during wars, plagues or widespread poverty. Indeed, kids usually take the brunt of these disasters. This one is during WWI in a small Polish village that is bombed by Germans then taken over by their soldiers.   

Waste of Space (Moon Base Alpha Book 3) by Stuart Gibbs (chapter book)  
Just as engaging as the first two. Funny, relatable characters and a murder mystery all on a space station with science underpinning everything. 

The Lifters by Dave Eggers (chapter book)  
A secret magical world lies beneath the city of Carousel. I recommend this book for the imaginative ideas and uplifting message. The situations are at times silly (which most kids are good with), but the cool fantasy adventure is intriguing.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson 

Döstädning or “death cleaning.” My mother has performed this her whole life. This book shed some light on her Spartan ways. The author uses humor in discussing the practicality of it in the face of our mortality. 

The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard: 1935-1936 by Ivan Chistyakov   

The very survival of this Russian guard’s account is rare indeed. Conditions for guards and prisoners alike were brutal and bitter day after day summer and winter. Of course, prisoners perished regularly, but this record also offers insight into the guard’s position of being forced to be there and his moral conflicts over it. My life feels very satisfactory after reading this. 

November Staff Picks

October Staff Picks

September Staff Picks