Happy New Year! Happy reading!

January 1, 2020 by

[Lesley] I don’t set any reading resolutions (though there are lots of reading challenges out there – try one listed at the end of this post!), but this time of year always finds me adding new books to my to-read list. Between “best of” lists and previews of books to-be-published there are so many titles I hadn’t heard of or that I had forgotten about or that I didn’t realize I wanted to read. Here’s some of the titles I have added recently – if they turn out to be recommendable, you’ll see them again here later in the year!

Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli
Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer (and Dead Astronauts, #2 in the Borne series)
Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun
Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas
The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel

Just the tip of the iceberg! What are you looking forward to reading in the new year??

Book Challenges
How to plan for your 2020 reading challenge (Bookish):
https://www.bookish.com/articles/2020-reading-challenge/
Book Riot’s 2020 Read Harder challenge:
https://bookriot.com/2019/12/03/2020-read-harder-challenge/
Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge Listopias:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/20139904-2020-reading-challenge-listopias
Reading Challenge Addict blog list of 2020 reading challenges:
http://readingchallengeaddict.blogspot.com/p/2020-reading-challenges-to-help-feed.html

Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn

December 26, 2019 by

[Lesley]

If you are looking for a light, quick read – this isn’t it. However, it is a moving, authentic, devastating story. Patsy is desperate to escape Jamaica to follow her best friend to America. Living with her own mother who turned away from her (when Patsy was a child) in favor of religion and her own daughter, conceived “accidentally,” Patsy is drowning in depression (a debilitating “darkness”) and resentment. When Cicely – beautiful, light-skinned, and desired – chooses Patsy as her best friend, Patsy gives herself to her, ultimately leading her to blindly arrange a way to leave Jamaica (and her young daughter) with no intention to return.

In this book, no one is really free. Not the rich in Jamaica, not anyone in the U.S., not the fervently religious. The story explores the ideas of home, love, wealth, bias, language, emigration and immigration, and motherhood without ever leading us to conclusions or answers. The tragedies of being a mother – and by extension a woman – are wrenching. These are glimpses of motherhood that we almost never see and maybe don’t want to admit could ever exist – at least in “good” people. These characters all do hurtful and even awful things, but they are also sympathetically human, just like each of us.

This was a difficult book; really, really difficult. It was hard to read and it was impossible to walk away from. It made me reconsider some assumptions and opinions. Being human relating to other humans is also really, really difficult, but, of course, ultimately our most important and worthwhile endeavor.

I first heard about this book on the podcast “The Librarian Is In” by the NY Public Library. Gwen and Frank talk about books in a way that always intrigues me and often introduce me to books I didn’t know about or might not have read otherwise. Here is the episode including Patsy: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2019/12/12/librarian-podcast-ep-155

Is the book Patsy available right now at the library? Check the catalog (click here) & place a hold if it isn’t on the shelf right now.

The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee

December 12, 2019 by

[COURTNEY]

I loved this. It’s a great historical fiction YA for teens or adults!

Atlanta, GA in 1890 is an exciting, bustling place. But, for 17 year-old Jo Kuan, options are limited because of her Chinese heritage. Living in a secret underground apartment with her adoptive father, Old Gin, Jo has always found comfort in listening in on the family upstairs. That family, owners of a local newspaper, are finding it harder and harder to find readers. Jo’s affinity for the family–a family that does not know her even though she knows them well–leads her to follow through on a bold scheme: to write an anonymous advice column under the pseudonym Miss Sweetie. Miss Sweetie’s column quickly becomes the most-talked-about feature of the paper, and newspaper subscriptions climb quickly and steadily.

Jo must balance her secret life (keeping her location and her true identity completely private); and her public life (a Chinese-American lady’s maid for the wealthiest family in Atlanta). As her two worlds begin to collide, readers are taken on a lively journey that navigates deep family secrets, segregation, racism, and romance. Jo is outspoken, driven, and determined to make her mark in a world that wants her to fade into the shadows.

Stacey Lee deftly manages to turn a serious topic into a wholly enjoyable, often funny, historical fiction piece. Highly, highly recommend!

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19 Titles of 2019

December 12, 2019 by

[SAM]

I’m not a big fan of creating best of lists, because I’m far too literal a person to declare anything “the best of 2019.” That being said, I have read all kinds of really wonderful books published this year. So as we head into the new year, here are 19 of my favorite titles published in 2019.

Fiction

Nonfiction

YA

Kids Books

National Native American Heritage Month

November 7, 2019 by

[SAM]

November is National Native American Heritage Month. According to a study conducted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center only one percent of children’s books published in 2018 depicted characters who are American Indian or First Nation. Here are some recommended titles all written by native authors:

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Beautiful on the outside by Adam Rippon

November 5, 2019 by

[SAM]

It’s November right now. The holidays are heading our way fast and furious. Snow and all its complications feel as though they are right around the corner. There’s so much to schedule, so much to get done. I’ve reached that point where I just need a happy, uncomplicated book. Save your great works of literature for another day. I am here for some sarcasm, a few laughs, maybe a fun fact or two, and extremely low stakes. If this sounds good to you as well check out Beautiful on the outside by Adam Rippon. 

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You don’t need to know anything about figure skating or care about the Olympics to enjoy this memoir. Though if you are a figure skating fan you’ll have a lot of fun recognizing some of the names he references. Mostly it’s a fun, light hearted detailing of Rippon’s many years of hard work on and off the ice. The audiobook version is also a delight.  

Sandwiches! More Than You’ve EVER Wanted to Know About Eating and Making America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering

November 1, 2019 by

[SAM]

I am not known for my cooking skills. I am also not a person who really wishes to acquire a wide variety of cooking skills. I am basically just looking to feed myself and not be bored to death in the process. So for those of you that share my very lofty culinary goals may I recommend the book Sandwiches! More Than You’ve EVER Wanted to Know About Eating and Making America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering

Part cookbook, part comic book, part infographic. Recipes are sorted by level, with level one requiring only a plate and knife to prepare, up to level five entitled “The Big Time.”  Interspersed with the wide range of sandwich recipes you’ll find “Between the Bread” pages that give you the history of classic sandwiches like the grilled cheese. This book is fun and easy to use. Definitely not your everyday average cookbook.

The Secrets we Kept by Lara Prescott

October 24, 2019 by

[Tricia]

This historical fiction novel set during the Cold War is based on the true story of the CIA mission to smuggle copies of Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak into the Soviet Union after it had been banned. I knew almost nothing about Pasternak’s story or CIA mission before reading this. The book is told from multiple perspectives, including Pasternak, several of the CIA workers, Pasternak’s mistress Olga Ivinskaya, and a kind of Greek Chorus typing pool at the CIA. While the story itself is quite compelling, I found the three women at the center of the book: Olga, Sally and Irina (the latter two are fictionalized CIA spies) to be the most interesting. Their stories highlight the difficulty women in both societies faced at the time, and the high prices they often paid for living unconventional lives. I haven’t read Dr. Zhivago, although I have seen the movie, but I will add it to my list.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

October 16, 2019 by

[Tricia]

I always look forward to Ann Patchett’s books. There are scenes in her books that have stayed with me over the years, and in case of The Dutch House, I imagine it will be the recurring image of siblings Danny and Maeve throughout their lives parking across the street from the Dutch House – the house they grew up in and which their stepmother unceremoniously kicked them out of – gazing at the house while they talk about their lives. This brother-sister relationship is the heart of this book, and I love those small, intimate scenes over the years where the two of them come together to look at the house and confide in each other. It is both so dysfunctional and so touching that they do this, and that tricky balance throughout this book is what makes it so good. The characters in this book are each screwed up in their own particular way and, in the case of everyone except the stepmother and maybe the mother, very relatable ways.

So much in this book is so small, and yet so impactful. For instance, the fact that growing up in this beautiful mansion, Danny never realized that the cook and the housekeeper, the two women who basically raised him, were sisters. It just never occurred to him to notice, or to ask. It is a really interesting choice to make Danny the narrator. While he is a sympathetic character, he is often completely oblivious to himself and those around him. With the exception of his sister Maeve, the other characters in the book are held at arm distance, which is a reflection of how Danny sees them. I think listening to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Tom Hanks, worked really well for me, as it made Danny seem more relatable and understandable than he might have been for me on the page. But overall a very good addition to Ann Patchett’s work.

Ladybug Picture Book Award

October 7, 2019 by

[SAM]

Did you know New Hampshire has its own picture book award? The Ladybug Picture Book Award is designed to promote early literacy and honor the best in recent children’s picture books. A committee of children’s librarians from around the state selects 10 picture book titles each spring. Then, during November, New Hampshire children from preschoolers to those in third grade choose the award winner. The winning picture book is announced at the end of the year. This year’s nominees are truly fantastic. Stop by the kids room and check them out:

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