‘Tis the season for everyone to share their list of “best” books for 2017 and Librarians are no exception! If you are on Twitter, check out the hashtag #libfaves17 to see all the tweets from this year, or you can read the summary of each day (and the top 10 vote-getters) here.
It’s always interesting to see whether my own favorite reads end up on other “best of” lists. For example, I completely agree with the number 1 Librarian pick, The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (ESPECIALLY the audiobook – it’s really exceptional) and I enjoyed many of the others in the top 10. That said, I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t finish Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman which leaves me wondering if I need to give it another try or just move on.
On the other hand, two of my absolute most enjoyable reads only show up here and there on the best of 2017 lists. They are both filled with suspense, but each has complex and fascinating characters and layered, heart-felt stories that kept me completely engaged. One is Celine by Peter Heller, (reviewer Ron Charles called it “a thriller with heart”) and the other is The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (author Ann Patchett called it, “One part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade, and twelve parts wild innovation.”
Two other titles I enjoyed were much quieter: The Mountain by Paul Yoon (“reflective, spare, haunting and beautiful” are just a few of the words I used to describe these connected stories) and Andrew Krivak’s The Signal Flame (a quiet, compelling story of family, friendship and a small community touched by tragedy). Bonus: if you enjoy these, each author wrote a previous novel that are also wonderful!
If you want to see more from the “Best of 2017” lists, drop by the new book area during January and browse our display of titles published in 2017 that received accolades – and feel free to let us know YOUR favorites as well.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy is a suspenseful tale of how quickly life can go from wonderful to terrifying. Two privileged Los Angeles families decide to take a cruise to Central America with their children, ages 6-11, and all starts out splendid, with beautiful scenery, a nonstop buffet and an entertaining kids’ club. Then one afternoon, the wives and children pair up with a woman from Argentina and her two teenagers for a zip line excursion. A vehicle breakdown, a moment of inattention on the beach, and suddenly all six children go missing. This plot-driven tale alternates between what is happening to the children with how the parents cope and react. Although some may find the ending a bit contrived, this is a quick read that is hard to put down.
You don’t have to be a mystery lover to enjoy Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, but a careful reading for those who are will find all sorts of delightful references to the genre. Horowitz, who wrote scripts for Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, as well as other books, has written a very clever mystery within a mystery. The book starts with editor Susan Ryland sharing with us the script of famous author Alan Conway’s latest novel–a classic British mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. However, the last chapter is missing, and when she tells her boss, she learns that the famous author has committed suicide. However, as she gleans clues from the first manuscript, Susan comes to believe Alan’s death may have been murder. Great fun as the reader becomes involved in seeking out clues while enjoying the “in” jokes and various plays on words.
With all the hoopla about the musical Hamilton, many of us have become more interested in the events concerning that time in our history. However, if you tried reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton and found it a bit too heavy, try reading Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick. This riveting nonfiction narrative mixes scholarship with great storytelling, centering on the figures George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Covering a period of four years, set amidst infighting of generals and dismal conditions, the reader gains a greater understanding of how Washington worked hard to overcome many difficulties while Arnold succumbed to a long list of slights he felt against him.
Books your friends and neighbors have been talking about!
Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson (FIC OHLSSON)
This very good mystery set in Sweden is the first in a new series being translated into English. Would especially suggest if you like the author Jo Nesbo.
Peter De Vries is a name you may not be familiar with, but this author (born in Chicago) writes satire that is side-splitting funny and has a great perspective. Several of his titles are available as eBooks in Hoopla – give one a try!
Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping Into Nature’s Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future by Amina Khan (620 KHA)
I picked up the book because it was on display and the cover looked cool, and it was full of interesting information about how humans can tap into nature’s secrets to design and build a better future.
Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (381.141 WOO)
If you are enjoying the PBS miniseries then you should check out this entertaining biography about the man who inspired it!
And speaking of miniseries, a patron said she laughed through every episode of the British comedy, Mrs. Brown’s Boys – featuring a mom who loves to meddle in the lives of her six children.
In case you’ve been living under a rock (pun intended), you’ve probably already heard that on Monday, August 21 around 1:20 p.m., Illinois will be privy to a solar eclipse viewing. Partial sighting will take place in the Chicagoland area, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the southern portion of the state (Hello Carbondale!) you’ll be able to witness the main event.
A popular question this week has involved the availability of eclipse-viewing glasses. The library will be distributing them to St. Charles Public Library cardholders (one pair per card, please have your card in hand to receive a pair) this Friday -Monday when our doors open. We will also be live-streaming it on the lower level in the Huntley meeting room, so consider yourself invited.
Staff has also compiled a list of related resources that are currently being featured at the Reader Services Desk. Feel free to check them out and take them home:
American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World
by David Baron 523.78 BAR
Documents the efforts of three scientists to observe the rare total solar eclipse of 1878, citing how the ambitions of James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison helped America’s early pursuits as a scientific superpower.
Eclipse: Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon
by F.E. Close 523.78 CLO
Looks at the science of eclipses, reveals their role in culture, and focuses on people who travel around the world chasing these events.
Sun, Moon, Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses, from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets
by Tyler Nordgren
An astronomer describes how solar eclipses were treated and interpreted by past civilizations, philosophers and Victorian scientists.
In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses
by Anthony F. Aveni
Explores the scientific and cultural significance of solar eclipses.
Mask of the Sun: The Science, History, and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses
by John Dvorak
An astronomer explores the ways eclipses have shaped the course of human history.
A spur-of-the-moment decision found Qanta Ahmed on board a flight from New York to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. As she boarded her plane, this US-trained physician of Pakistani heritage, raised in Britain, couldn’t help but wonder about many things: who were her fellow passengers; if she was appropriately dressed and how she would manage without the required abbayah; how would she manage to meet up with her sponsor (for as an unmarried female employee, she could not enter the kingdom without a male representative from her employer); and exactly what she gotten herself into. In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom is a fascinating account that answers all these questions and more in great detail, from abbayah shopping her first day, through coworkers reactions to 9/11 shortly before she left two years later. The reader also learns a great deal about Islam, as Qanta is Muslim and makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, again, described in great detail.
Holly Fitzgerald has experienced an abundance of heart-stopping experiences around the world, but none affected her as much as her near fatal river journey in the Amazon River basin. Years later, Fitzgerald’s daughter encouraged her to take a memoir class, and that resulted in Ruthless River: Love & Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios, a recounting of several weeks in the spring of 1973. The author kept a journal at the time, and so tells the tale as though it were yesterday, of how what was to be a wonderful year-long around the world honeymoon turned into terror. Holly and her husband Fitz survived a plane crash only to become stranded in a cove of the Madre de Dios, attacked by bees during the day and fearing the sounds of the jungle at night. They are truly lost in the jungle and resort to the unthinkable to survive. Anyone who enjoys a riveting true survival story will be fascinated by this one.
Exit West is the fourth novel for Mohsin Hamid and deals with the very timely politics of immigration and refugees. A young couple in an unnamed country on the brink of disaster fall in love, and as conditions get more and more explosive Nadia and Saeed make the decision to leave through one of the many doorways they have heard whispered about, a doorway not without risks but one that can get them out of the chaos of the country. Described by a staff member as “a spellbinding blend of reality and unreality with lots of social commentary,” readers who enjoyed those same elements of The Underground Railroad may find a great deal to like about this title.
Many readers were shocked at Harlequin’s recent announcement that they will stop publishing several “categories” of romance. For those who want to more information, please check out this informative post from Novelist. I think it is also helpful that they explain how to find certain types of romance using specific searches in the Novelist Plus database.
What is Novelist, you ask? The Library subscribes to this database to provide patrons with even more reading recommendations for both fiction and nonfiction, for all ages and including audiobooks! It’s also handy for series information and book discussions. If you haven’t played with it lately, you just need to sign in with your library card and PIN (from home) or ask Reader Services staff to give you a demonstration the next time you’re in the library!
Some of the books (and more!) patrons have said are so good, others need to know about them:
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias: 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping and Compassion: (616.831 CHI)
Patron who was just diagnosed with dementia said she read it in bed and her husband couldn’t watch her read it because she would start crying, and her daughters didn’t want her to read it because it made her cry. However, she felt she needed to and it helped her so much to learn what she will be going through. Learning how others have gone through dementia and strategies for coping, “was a tremendous help.”
Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan (658.45 SUL)
Sophisticated yet simple book on communicating better with everyone. Author has a good writing style and says things in a new way – really great!
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev (306.0947 POM)
With Putin and Russia in the daily news, this is a fascinating and highly-recommended read.
The Art of Beatrix Potter by Emily Zach (823.912 POT)
A patron who was teaching a unit on Beatrix Potter said that, unlike so many that only give part of her story, this book had it all and is “wonderful!” (Note: some might also enjoy the fictional mystery series, “The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter” starting with The Tale of Hill Top Farm.)
And finally, if you are looking for something new to listen to, a patron says the podcast EconTalk is excellent. Hosted by Russ Roberts, it is billed as an “economics podcast for daily life.”
Not a poetry buff? No worries. The library has an expansive collection of anthologies and favorite authors represented to whet any appetite. Haiku or Sonnet? Limerick or Epic? From Collins to Whitman, Shakespeare to Angelou, whatever your interests, please stop by Readers Services for some suggestions.
We currently have two displays honoring National Poetry Month: Readers Services is celebrating Poets Laureate featuring Illinois’ own Gwendolyn Brooks, while the Young Adult department’s Poet Justice is promoting books written in verse. Don’t miss these special collections! As always, items labeled as “Display” can be checked out.
Please feel free to stop in and “leaf” through some “poet-tree” in April
Several staff members have been reading Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Set in London and Malta, between September 1939 and May 1942, themes of class and race are dealt with while London is damaged by continuing nighttime bombings. Engaging characters are well-crafted, and the dialogue provides a good dose of dry British wit amid the most difficult of circumstances. Mary, young, idealistic, and from a privileged family is quick to sign up when war breaks out, but is disappointed when she is assigned to something as mundane as teaching. However, she soon falls for Tom, who is in charge of the school district. Tom has no desire to join the war effort, but finds himself conflicted when his best friend Alistair, joins up. Hilda, Mary’s best friend, rounds out this group of four. For audio fans, the narrator does a wonderful job of portraying the various voices. The story is inspired by the author’s grandparents’ wartime experiences.
Andrew Krivak’s newest novel, The Signal Flame, concerns the next generation of the family from his first novel, The Sojourn, but they don’t have to be read in order. With spare but beautiful language, Krivak reveals a family quietly going about their daily lives, dealing with issues of life and land while waiting to hear word of a family member missing in Vietnam. The year is 1972, and the patriarch, Jozef Vinich has died, leaving his daughter Hannah and her son Bo to grieve. Gradually, more and more depth is added to the backstory of this family’s heartbreak. Set in a remote mountain area of northeastern Pennsylvania, the book conveys a strong sense of place.
“So good!” was how one staff member described Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. In this chef’s memoir, Ripert recalls how a difficult childhood in the south of France led him to find solace in the kitchen. A locally-renowned chef takes him under his wing, inviting him into his kitchen after school to make mousse and hear stories of a wider world. Eric finds his calling, and becomes determined to be the best chef he can be, describing the intense pressure behind the scenes at the poshest restaurants. This is a good coming-of-age story that’s well-plotted.
As the Senate holds confirmation hearings, legal issues and the Supreme Court are getting a lot of attention. Here are several titles you might find of interest:
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America by Wil Haygood 347.732634 HAY
Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court justice and one of the most important legal minds in American history. Haygood is an award-winning author.
Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik B GINSBURG
An unprecedented look at a feminist pioneer and Supreme Court Justice and how she has changed the world.
The Case Against the Supreme Court by Erwin Chemerinsky 347.7326 CHE
Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar from the University of California, Irvine, offers an accessible, refreshingly candid, and no-holds-barred indictment of the Supreme Court.
Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA by Roberta Kaplan 346.0168 KAP
Civil rights lawyer Kaplan, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, tells the remarkable story of the landmark case that was a victory for gay rights.
The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right by Michael J. Graetz 347.7326 GRA
A Columbia Law School professor and a New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning legal journalist combine expertise to provide the best kind of legal history: cogent, relevant, and timely, given the focus on the Court’s role and power.
Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman 347.732634 HIR
An account of the lives of the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court and their fascinating relationship.
The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities by Stephen Breyer 347.7326 BRE
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer looks at the work of the Supreme Court in an increasingly interconnected world in which the Court must consider issues that no longer involve just U.S. citizens and corporations.