Posts Tagged ‘favorites’


The Best Books I Read in 2018

by Anne Wilmoth on January 3rd, 2019

As a new reading year dawns, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite reads of the past year. Mind you, these are books not necessarily published in 2018, but all are books that I eagerly devoured during 2018.

Adult books: 38 nonfiction; 29 fiction

Juvenile/YA books: 3 nonfiction; 44 fiction

Total: 114

Because it’s impossible to judge adult and children’s books on the same plane, I have to enthuse about my favorites in each category.

Top 5 Adult Fiction I Read This Year:

ThumbnailNine Perfect StrangersLiane Moriarty (2018)

In Moriarty’s newest book, nine strangers meet on a remote Australian health retreat. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different guest, and we learn incrementally about the background of each and their reasons for joining the retreat. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and then becomes creepy – Moriarty is a master of the slow-building thriller. Events become more and more outlandish as the plot builds but in a completely delicious way. The ending is a little weak but by that point you don’t care because the roller coaster has been so exciting.

ThumbnailEligible Curtis Sittenfeld (2016)

I feel defensive of this book because I don’t want people to dismiss it as fluffy “chick lit.” The cover image doesn’t help, but please believe me when I say that Sittenfeld has some of the most sharp, incisive, crisp (and hilarious) writing you’ll ever read here. (If a man writes a book about relationships, it’s taken for granted as valuable literature appropriate for the edification of all, whereas if a woman writes about relationships, it’s frivolous, idiotic “chick lit” that would only appeal to other women [i.e., no one important]…okay, that’s a whole other blog post.) Anyway, this is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, in which the five single, adult Bennet sisters return to their childhood home in Ohio after their father’s health scare and their mother obsesses about marrying them off.

ThumbnailThe Underground RailroadColson Whitehead (2016)

Despite the fact that this book won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick, I was skeptical when I heard that in this book, the Underground Railroad is a real, literal train operating underneath the ground. BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE MAGICAL REALISM. However, I gave it a try anyway, and I was so glad I did, because my mind was absolutely blown by this book. Protagonist Cora endures unthinkable suffering in bondage before her daring escape North, state by state, on the Underground Railroad, launching a twist-filled, page-turning narrative (and the train thing just works). It’s difficult to read, to say the least, but the sanitized version of slavery that fills school history books is not enough to understand our American legacy.

ThumbnailClock DanceAnne Tyler (2018)

Tyler has written 22 novels, but this is the first of hers I’d ever read. This book’s protagonist is Willa, and the book is divided into four sections that describe the four defining periods of her life. In the final section, her son’s ex-girlfriend (who Willa barely knows) is temporarily sidelined with an injury and Willa ends up moving in with the ex-girlfriend and her young daughter in an unfamiliar city. Tyler’s style is fairly understated, in that the details are richly observed, the characters are deeply developed, and the reader is left to largely draw her own conclusions. Some conclusions: women’s choices have been constrained in different ways throughout history; women have been taught to be quiet and not make a fuss about anything; in the modern world, you might have to actively create your own community.

ThumbnailMrs. FletcherTom Perrotta (2017)

In case you haven’t noticed, I like female-driven fiction. In this book, Eve Fletcher is a middle-aged single mother of one son. When he leaves for college, Eve is at loose ends. Then she experiences something of a sexual reawakening when she receives an anonymous late-night “sext,” at the same time she is trying to decide how to address her son’s casual misogyny. Her fixation on this digital overture begins to affect other areas of her life – this book is filled with ethical dilemmas and has much to say that is timely and relevant about gender relations and expectations.

Top 5 Adult Nonfiction:

ThumbnailNomadland: Surviving America in the 21st CenturyJessica Bruder (2017)

You know how you see older adults rambling down the highways of America in their RVs, and you think they’re taking it easy now that they’ve retired, seeing the sights on a great road trip? Well, that might not be the case. This book describes a new, low-cost labor pool exploited by America’s corporations: transient older adults, who lost everything in the Great Recession or simply can’t afford to retire at all, who live full-time in vehicles and work as campground hosts, seasonal Amazon warehouse workers, Adventureland ride operators, or at other short-term, scattered hustles across the country, many of which offer poor working conditions. Prepare to have your eyes opened by this stunning work of investigative journalism, in which author Bruder spent months living in a camper van to document this group, hidden in plain sight.

ThumbnailStranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitMichael Finkel (2017)

This book tells the shocking true story of Christopher Knight, who unceremoniously took to the woods in 1986, when he was 20 years old, and reemerged almost three decades later. During that time, Knight lived alone, year-round, without once seeing or speaking to another human being, in the woods of Maine. Knight had no real agenda or statement to make – he just really, really preferred to be alone. So much so that he stole from nearby summer cabins and camps to survive and evaded law enforcement for thirty years. This is a fascinating account of one man’s dedication to life on his terms.

ThumbnailThe Not Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USADoug Mack (2017)

This was the first book I read in 2018, and it stuck with me the whole year. If, like me, you know nothing about America’s territories beyond a vague awareness that they exist, you will find this book incredibly enlightening. There is a section dedicated to each of America’s five inhabited territories, and interesting facts abound – for example, I didn’t know American Samoa has the highest rate of military enlistment of any U.S. state or territory. (This is despite the fact that those born in American Samoa, unlike those born in any of the other five inhabited territories, are considered U.S. nationals, not U.S. citizens). This book is written as an exciting travelogue, as Mack travels to each territory and writes about the culture, landscape, and history of each location.

ThumbnailSmall Animals: Parenthood in the Age of FearKim Brooks (2018)

It all started when Brooks ran briefly into a suburban Target and left her three-year-old son alone in the car. After she was arrested and battling child-endangerment charges, Brooks began researching the modern-day hysteria surrounding child safety. (Spoiler alert: kids have a literally one-in-a-million chance of being snatched by a stranger off the street.) Brooks, self-deprecatingly and with humor, examines how parenting has changed over the years and the role fear plays in modern parenting.

 

ThumbnailNorthland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten BorderPorter Fox (2018)

Fox travels by canoe, car, foot, and steamship along the longest land border between two countries in all the world: the border between the U.S. and Canada. Along the way, Fox examines the history of the border region, including the indigenous peoples and European exploration; how climate change has affected the Great Lakes region; the political climate’s influence on borderlands; and the modern culture of those who live along the border. Fun fact: though the vast majority of American resources go to protecting our border with Mexico, the only two known terrorists who have crossed overland into America have come in from Canada. Also, Fox lovingly describes the breathtaking landscapes so you’ll want to go canoe and camp in the Boundary Waters immediately.

Top 5 Juvenile/YA Fiction:

ThumbnailThe Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

I have never laughed so hard while reading a book! This multi-award-winning book by autoworker-turned-author Curtis describes one summer in the life of 10-year-old Kenny, a kid tortured by his teenage brother Byron, who is an “official juvenile delinquent” in early-1960s Flint, Michigan. In an attempt to straighten Byron out, the Watsons embark on a road trip to Alabama to visit an intimidating older relation. Some poignant moments hint at what’s to come, but the stunning ending will take your breath away.

 

ThumbnailLong Way Down Jason Reynolds (2017)

In another multi-award-winner, Will’s older brother is shot and killed in an act of gang-related violence, and Will, consumed by with shock and grief, grabs his brother’s gun from their home and goes to avenge his death. However, on the elevator ride down from their apartment to the street, the elevator begins stopping at every floor to admit the ghost of a person from Will’s life who was killed previously by gun violence. They all have a story to tell that influences Will’s understanding of the code of the streets by which he’s always abided – in the end, what will Will choose to do? This book is written in staccato verse, takes place over just 60 seconds, and will leave you reeling. A good choice for reluctant readers, as it can be read quickly and the story is extremely compelling.

ThumbnailMidnight Without a MoonLinda Williams Jackson (2017)

This work of historical fiction describes a summer in the life of Rose Lee Carter, who lives a harsh existence with her grandparents on a sharecropper plantation in Mississippi in 1955. When Emmett Till is murdered nearby, fear and anger reverberate through the community, ultimately leading to some hard choices for Rose Lee. What I enjoyed most about this book are the fully-developed, multi-faceted characters, the nuanced – never simplistic – portrayal of conditions in the American South in this period, and the bold dialogue.

 

ThumbnailThree Times LuckySheila Turnage (2012)

Strong female protagonist Moses LeBeau, a “rising sixth grader” in the tiny town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, has a mystery to solve. When a local eccentric turns up dead, Mo and her best friend Dale (named after Dale Earnhardt), find themselves evading a smooth-talking, out-of-town lawman while they attempt to pinpoint the killer themselves. Mo’s own existence is something of a mystery, seeing as she washed ashore in a hurricane and is being raised by two more eccentrics, who own the local cafe. Mo’s Southern voice is delightful here, and wisdom and wit fill every page (“I’m Baptist. So far, Fast or Never is the only speeds I got with forgiving.”) The book is funny, and the suspenseful mystery keeps the pages turning.

ThumbnailA Case in Any CaseUlf Nilsson (2016)

I don’t know why, but any children’s book translated from the Swedish is a pure delight, and this book is no exception. The third in a series (the first two were just as good), lovable curmudgeon Detective Gordon (a frog) and his deputy Detective Buffy  Then, when two mouse children go missing during a class outing, Gordon and Buffy must find them! A sweet and gentle mystery perfect for reading aloud to children ages three and up, this book is so cute and funny that I had to read certain bits over several times, just to let the pleasure sink in. (“It was all the forest children from the kindergarten on an expedition. Buffy saluted the teacher mouse at the front of the line. The children all wore flowery tops and backpacks.”) The messages of kindness, community, and looking out for one another were welcome, too.

Happy reading! Did you have a reading goal in 2018? What were some of your favorites?

Leave Me Alone!

by Casey Maynard on October 5th, 2016

Image result for vera brosgol leave me aloneLeave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol is one of my new favorite picture books for 2016.  It’s funny, original and has a great message.  The art is wonderful and jam packed with highly colorful detail. A must read for anyone who enjoys their space when working on projects–especially knitters and crocheters–introverts and grumpy ladies.

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Storytime Recap: Favorites of 2015

by Morgan Reeves on December 30th, 2015
Storytime Recap: Favorites of 2015 Cover Image

Today we started storytime off with our new hello song, “Oh Hey, Oh Hi Hello” by Jim Gill. Hopefully we will be real pros at singing this when Jim Gill gives his show at the Englert on January 23rd. We talked a bit about what everyone’s year of 2015, mostly how good it was. Since this was our last storytime of 2015 I decided we would take a look back at some favorite stories from this year. Our first book, Wait by Antoinette Portis, uses just a couple of words, “hurry” and “wait” to tell the story of a busy morning and remembering to stop and enjoy the little things in life. I read the word hurry and asked the kids to say “wait,” when I pointed to them, a little interaction goes a long way.

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