Staff Recommended Reads for 2015

Every year the Library asks its staff members to tell us about their favorite reads and provide a brief description to share. If you're stumped and need a smashing good tale, this is a good place to start.


Compiled by:
Dory L.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

George R. R. Martin
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Martin

Adventures of a knight in the land of the Game of Thrones about a century before Ned Stark lost his head. The cool thing is that the book is partially a graphic novel.


A Symphony for the City of the Dead

M. T. Anderson
Adult Nonfiction - 780.92 And

An examination of the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich. It is easy to read, but gives an excellent description of Soviet society and the siege of Leningrad. It appeals to many: classical music lovers, WWII buffs, and those with an interest in Soviet Russia.


Against the Country

Ben Metcalf
Adult Fiction - Metcalf

The pompous, understated hilarity of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, channeled into a bitter contemporary narrator’s tirade against his father’s decision to transplant the family from small town life to “seclusion in the American brush.” Every page in this darkly comedic novel is scorched with long, outraged passages that swerve from accounts of specific incidents in the narrator’s upbringing to bombastic ponderings on his father’s sadistic parenting philosophy. Metcalf’s style, relentless as a starving coyote and as dense as a wilderness briar patch, is a challenge to wade through at times, but the wicked humor he employs makes it worth it.


Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives

Gretchen Rubin
Adult Nonfiction - 158.1 Rub

Are you an Upholder or a Rebel, a Questioner or an Obliger, an Abstainer or a Moderator? The author of The Happiness Project models the many ways that people approach habits—both “good” and “bad” habits—so that we can recognize some of our own patterns of behavior and find ways to work with ourselves in order to start new patterns, end old ones, and successfully make our lives a little better than before. A very accessible, enlightening, and quick read.


Confronting Capitalism

Philip Kotler
Adult Nonfiction - 330.122 Kot

You might expect a book with such a pointed title to be authored by a passionate Marxist, but Philip Kotler is a marketing guru who studied under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. And that’s what lends such an even-handed authority to the book’s critique of consumer capitalism—when even a free-market disciple of Kotler’s credentials warns us of the dangers of ignoring the downsides to our current economic system, it might be worth listening to what he has to say. A wake-up call for readers of all political stripes.


Crucifixion Creek: a Belltree Mystery

Barry Maitlan
Mystery & Detective - MYS Maitlan

Homicide detective Harry Belltree, an Australian veteran of the Afghanistan War, discovers three deaths in one day. One victim turns out to be his brother-in-law Greg. Harry goes off the grid to enter the dangerous world of the killer. Lots of action and intrigue Down Under.


Get in Trouble

Kelly Link
Adult Fiction - Link

Stand-out tales in this collection include “Two Houses,” a deep-space homage to DC comics’ House or Mystery and House of Secrets horror anthologies, and “Valley of the Girls,” in which extended childhood comes to a messy and sordid end in a future culture obsessed with Egyptian mythology. A master of the form, Link’s stories have dark, fantastical plots leavened with sharp dialog and a consistent streak of whimsy, featuring mostly young adults.


Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Ben Montgomery
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Gatewood Mon

It's not great literature, but it is well-written and researched, and really provides insight into why a woman in her late sixties, the mother of eleven, might embark on and complete a two thousand plus mile walk without really telling anyone where she was going and when she might return. Quite a story, sometimes heartbreaking, and with lasting impact on the condition and reputation of the Appalachian Trail.


Last Hundred Years: a Family Saga

Jane Smiley
Adult Fiction - Smiley

This trilogy, which includes the books Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age, follows the Langdon family through each year from around the turn of the century to the present day.  The story of this family and their relationships feels so intimate and true that you will be swept up into their joys and heartaches as they build their lives on their farm and in the wider world beyond.


March Book One and Book Two

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Graphic Novels - 921 Lew

These graphic novels explore the history of the civil rights movement in our country as seen through the eyes of one of its leaders and icons, Representative John Lewis. Both books detail, through words and illustrations, the organizing, suffering, and nonviolent protests that changed America.


Memory of Violets: a Novel of London’s Flower Sellers

Hazel Gaynor
Adult Fiction - Gaynor

Victorian era streets of London meet flower sellers who are downtrodden. Some are lifted out of the streets with a chance for a new life, but others become plagued by those they left behind.


Mislaid

Nell Zink
Adult Fiction - Zink

If you like your notions of race, gender, and sexuality tidy and unruffled, this isn’t the novel for you. But if you’re willing to revoke their status as sacred cows—to laugh about them, even—long enough to read this story of a white lesbian who marries a gay man (also white), kidnaps their child, and assumes the identity of a black single mother, you might gain some insights into the complexity and messiness of living in a diverse America. The story and characters beg to be made into a Wes Anderson movie, and Zink’s sharp, observant writing style surely had something to do with Mislaid’s being longlisted for the National Book Award.


Next Life Might Be Kinder

Howard Norman
Adult Fiction - Norman

This novel tells the story of writer Sam Lattimore, whose wife was murdered by the bellhop in a Halifax hotel shortly after their marriage. But is Lizzie really gone? If so, why does she appear on the Atlantic beach outside Sam’s new home each night? This novel explores the nature of marriage, filmmaking, therapy, and the afterlife in a sardonic, exquisitely phrased novel.


Our Endless Numbered Days

Claire Fuller
Adult Fiction - Fuller

Young Peggy Hillcoat is taken away by her survivalist father to live in a dilapidated hut deep in the woods. He convinces her that the entire world has been destroyed except for their wooded valley and that everyone she’s ever known is dead. When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest, she begins a search for their owner and unwittingly begins to unravel the lies she’s been told and discovers the strength she needs to go back to the mother and life she thought she’d lost. Beautifully written, whimsical and haunting, this novel grabs you and keeps you reading and then sticks with you long after the final page has been turned.


Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier
Adult Fiction - Dumauri

The tale of a lady’s maid who marries a rich man, and confronts his dead wife’s spirit at their large estate. Powerful and haunting, its female lead is honest and raw with a poetic yet desperately human voice. Though it's an oldie, it is mesmerizing.


Recipes for Love and Murder

Sally Andrew
Mystery & Detective - MYS Andrew

Tania Maria writes a food column for the South African newspaper, the Klein Karoo Gazette. Her boss decides to axe the cooking column and replace it with a love advice one. Tania combines the two in a “Love Advice and Recipe” feature. When a woman writes Tania about her abusive husband and is later killed, Tania searches for the murderer. A funny, endearing debut.


Sea of Poppies

Amitav Ghosh
Adult Fiction - Ghosh

Takes place in India and China around the time of the Opium Wars. This is the first book in an awesome trilogy. It tells the entwined stories of various characters embarking on the schooner, Ibis. Each character is like a poppy seed travelling to its fate.


Seveneves

Neal Stephenson
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Stephen

Follow the story of a society preparing for the end of life on earth, courtesy of the moon raining down infinite meteoroids onto the planet. This is true science fiction at its best, ripe with great descriptions of orbital mechanics along with believable and well constructed characters. Plus, you not only get a front row seat to the end of the world, you get to see what happens five thousand years after the fact.


Silver Screen Fiend: Learning about Life from an Addiction to Film

Patton Oswalt
Adult Nonfiction - 791.4392 Osw

The perfect book for any movie lover—especially if you think you may love movies just a little too much. With his well-honed wit, Patton looks back on his all-consuming obsession with movies and how it dovetailed with his days as a fledgling stand-up comedian and actor.


Six of Crows

Leigh Bardugo
Young Adult Fiction - Bardugo

Six young outcasts must come together to break into an impenetrable fortress, kidnap a scientist with dangerous knowledge, and save the world from a drug that makes Grisha (magic users) infinitely powerful. This fast paced story features narration from all six of the main characters allowing readers to get to know each of them. The world building is fabulous and so is the story itself.


Somerset

Leila Meacham
Adult Fiction - Meacham

Read this prequel first before reading Meacham’s original book Roses. Two powerful antebellum South Carolina families send their sons and one daughter to Texas for land and better financial opportunities. The story follows these characters into the late 19th century vividly describing the Texas landscape and all the hardships they faced setting up a new town, forming families of their own, and making fortunes. Then read Roses to find out what happens to their descendants.


Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Mandel

This book is not just one more title in the popular genre of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction – it is a thoughtful exploration of human life before, during, and long after a devastating event. This book considers where and how we find comfort and meaning in art, storytelling, preserving personal histories, and developing and maintaining relationships by looking within and without. The many characters and settings of this book will stick with you, but be warned – there are no zombies or cannibal hordes (that we know of).


The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir

Riad Sattouf
Graphic Novels - 921 Sat

The story of a young boy who grew up in Libya and Syria with his Syrian father and French mother. Riad sees the world around him both as an insider and an outsider. His life is fascinating and will leave readers wanting volume 2. A must read for those who enjoyed Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.


The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Nel

At the heart of this memoir is the romance between Nelson and Harry Dodge, an artist who is fluidly-gendered. Nelson describes this relationship and her journey through a pregnancy by weaving together critical theory about identity, gender, and sexuality with her own prose. You’ll laugh and cry, and you may want to keep a dictionary close by. It's a short book, barely 160 pages, so it's not exhaustive. Highly recommended.


The Contemporaries: Travels in the 21st-Century Art World

Roger White
Adult Nonfiction - 709.0512 Whi

A thoughtful, witty, and somehow completely accessible exploration of the landscape of the contemporary fine art world, with plenty of helpful historical context. White, a painter, looks at the changing face and role of artists in American society: who is making what and where they're making it; how local scenes in the middle of the country are rising; how everybody who's anybody is getting an MFA these days; how assistants make all of Jeff Koons's art and why that's totally accepted. An illuminating read for aspirants and aficionados alike!


The Gluten Lie: and Other Myths about What You Eat

Alan Levinovitz
Adult Nonfiction - 613.2 Lev

While a bit wordy, its message is poignant and vitally important for our current society. Basically, the book's message can be summed up in the following statement: If you have Celiac Disease, don't eat gluten. For everyone else, we don't have conclusive evidence that gluten, sugar, or fat are universally detrimental. So relax and eat


The Martian

Andy Weir
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Weir

A quick, satisfying read with a few brief sections of technical, mathematical and engineering jargon. If that won't put you off, however, this story will reward you with an inspiring tale of astronaut Mark Watney and his struggle to survive after being left alone on the barren Red Planet following a botched mission. He is not a cliché, buzz-cut astronaut. This is a book about isolation, ingenuity, and disco music. The Martian presents an interesting take on the social, moral, and international politics of space travel.


The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Beatriz Williams
Adult Fiction - William

First book in a trilogy, this story goes back and forth between 1914 Germany and 1964 New York City. It tells the story of young physicist, Violet Grant, and her life with an older abusive husband, renowned physicist, Walter Grant.  Flashing to New York City 1964, recent college graduate Violet’s niece, Vivian, has received a long lost suitcase belonging to Violet, whom Vivian has never met. The suitcase stirs up many hidden secrets and painful memories. Caught in a bad romance, Vivian decides to find out about this long lost aunt and her mysterious suitcase.


The Wright Brothers

David McCullough
921 Wright Mcc

A wonderful story about family relationships, from the father on down, but especially between the two brothers and their sister Katherine, who was the real glue in the family. It also narrates the brothers' journey from just getting their craft off the ground in 1905, which was never really their aim, to their real goal of sustained and controlled flight, and is meticulously and entertainingly told.


Welcome to Night Vale

Joseph Fink
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Fink

This is a book set in the fictional town of Night Vale, from the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. This comedy pokes fun at modern society with its quirky characters, sinister forces, and secret—but incompetent—government agencies. Ultimately, it is about a journey of realization and transitioning from teenage years into adulthood.