The New York Times Best Books of 2017

Founded in 1851, the NYT has won 122 Pulitzers in its existence–more than any other newspaper.  As of September 2016, it had the largest combined print-and-digital circulation of any daily newspaper in the United States, and is ranked 18th in the world by circulation.

Since 1896, it’s also been running a supplement, now knows as the New York Times Book Review that covers new fiction and non-fiction books.  Each week the NYTBR receives 750 to 1000 books from authors and publishers in the mail, of which 20 to 30 are chosen for review, and the supplement is the most influential and widely read book review publication in the country.  So when The New York Times puts out it’s list of the 10 best books of the year, it’s worth paying attention.

Via The New York Times

Here are some highlights from their piece, which you can read here.  Starting in December (which is apparently coming in a few short hours….), we’ll be featuring some of these fine titles, along with other books from “Best Of” lists, along with our own picks for our favorite reads of 2017, on our displays.  So come on in and check out some of the literary highlights of the past year!

From The New York Times: 

What can explain the incredible diversity of beauty in nature? Richard O. Prum, an award-winning ornithologist, discusses Charles Darwin’s second and long-neglected theory–aesthetic mate choice–and what it means for our understanding of evolution. In addition, Prum connects those same evolutionary dynamics to the origins and diversity of human sexuality, offering riveting new thinking about the evolution of human beauty and the role of mate choice, thereby transforming our ancestors from typical infanticidal primates into socially intelligent, pair-bonding caregivers. Prum’s book is an exhilarating tour de force that begins in the trees and ends by fundamentally challenging how we understand human evolution and ourselves.  According to The New York Times: “If a science book can be subversive and feminist and change the way we look at our own bodies — but also be mostly about birds — this is it…It’s a passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans and will help you finally understand, among other things, how in the world we have an animal like the peacock.”
Pachinko By Min Jin Lee
This remarkable novel follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.  The New York Times had this to say:  “Exploring central concerns of identity, homeland and belonging, the book announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: “History has failed us, but no matter.” Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen.”
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. According to The New York Times: “[The family’s] story feels mythic, both encompassing the ghosts of the past and touching on all the racial and social dynamics of the South as they course through this one fractured family. Ward’s greatest feat here is achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination.”
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met, a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide. In this crazy, profane, and wonderfully wise memoir,, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence, from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultl-ike Catholic youth group, with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own.   As The New York Times observes, Lockwood “brings to bear her gifts as a poet, mixing the sacred and profane in a voice that’s wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.”
Check out The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2017 for more reading inspiration!

The Romance Garden!

John Singer Sargent, In a Garden: Corfu, 1909

We’re getting a jump on the new month today with a stroll through our genre experts’ favorite reads of the month.  The holiday period is certainly a stressful one for many, so be sure to take some time to relax with a good book now and then.  The act of reading has been shown to lower blood pressure, ease stress, and makes you better at empathy, but romance novels have been shown to be specifically useful to our health by activating the part of our brains that feeds on interpersonal interactions.  Which isn’t terribly surprising when you think about it, but it is an excellent excuse to check out and read a good romance novel if I ever heard one.  Here are some of the titles we enjoyed this month!


BridgetThe Bride Who Got Lucky by Janna MacGregor

I owe Janna MacGregor a tremendous debt of gratitude for breaking my romantic reading slump, so I can only hope it might do the same for other readers.  Though this is the second book in her Cavensham heiresses series, it is very easily read on it’s own (though the first book, The Bad Luck Bride is also charming).

The son of a cold-hearted duke, and a confirmed introvert, Nicholas St. Mauer has none of the skills, the temperament, or the desire to be involved in society, or find a bride. But despite himself, he always keeps a watchful eye on Lady Emma Cavensham.  Her energy and determination make her the most unsuitable woman for Nick–but he can’t seem to keep away from her.  And a good thing, too, because Emma is on a dangerous mission to prove her deceased friend’s husband was responsible for her death before he lures another innocent woman into a brutal marriage.  But a single compromising moment upends all her well-laid plans–and makes her relationship with Nick a much more formal arrangement than either every imagined.

I loved the quirkiness of MacGregor’s characters. Neither Nick nor Emma fit into the moulds we’ve come to expect from historical romances, but they work so well together than it’s a treat to watch them.  I also adored the honesty between them about matters big and small.  There is something wonderfully refreshing about characters who trust each other enough to be with each other, and admit their insecurities and emotional confusion.  The main plot of this book was interesting, but I would have been happy to read another 100 pages of nothing but Emma and Nick talking together.  I cannot wait to read more of MacGregor’s work after this impressive novel!

Kelley: A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe

There is much to love about A Daring Arrangement,  the first book in Joanna Shupe’s “The Four Hundred Series.” Set in New York City’s Gilded Age, the setting of Honora and Julius’ story immediately offers readers something unique in historical romance. The opulent lifestyle celebrated by wealthy Americans at that time is introduced to us through Julius Hatcher, one of the wealthiest investors in the city, who just so happens to have built himself a castle for a home, and lives a life so outrageously extravagant he throws himself a birthday party at one of New York’s finest restaurants where are guests attend the entirety of the event on horseback.

Enter Lady Honora Parker, just arrived in New York after being exiled from London by her powerful father who found her with her artist boyfriend. Knowing that only a scandal will convince her father to call her back to London and to the artist she loves, Honora convinces Julius to pose as her fiance, knowing her proper English father will be appalled. Honora is in love with another, and Julius has no intention of ever marrying, so neither is prepared for the feelings that develop between them.

What I love the most about this book is that when their feelings begin to change, Julius and Honora are honest with each other throughout the process. Things aren’t simple, but there are no secrets or intrigue, just two people who are perfectly matched and need to find their way to being together. To top it off the storytelling is excellent, making this book difficult to put down. A Daring Arrangement is easily the best romance I’ve read in quite awhile. I highly recommend that you check it out.

Until next month, dear readers, we wish you happy reading!

Happy Birthday, Fanny Kemble!

Frances Anne “Fanny” Kemble was born on this day in London in 1809.  Her parents were both prominent stage actors, and Fanny’s early career on the stage met with acclaim, as well.   She earned acclaim for her 1829 performance as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, performed at the Covent Garden Theatre (which was owned by her father Charles).

She embarked on a tour of the United States, and, in the course of her travels, Fanny met and married Pierce Mease Butler, one of the largest slaveholders in the country.  Butler kept Fanny and their children in Philadelphia, making occasional visits to his Georgia plantation.  In 1838, Fanny managed to convince him to bring her with him on his trip.   Fanny kept a diary throughout her visit, and was not at all shy about writing and speaking about her abolitionist beliefs.  Her husband forbid her to speak her opinions, or to publish her diaries as she wished.  The relationship grew ever more abusive from here, and Fanny took her daughters and fled to England.  In 1847, Butler filed for, and was granted, a divorce, after citing abandonment and “misdeed” by Kemble.

Because she was held at fault in the legal proceedings, Fanny was not allowed to maintain custody of their daughters.  Out of fear for their safety, she waited to publish her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 until 1863 (she had published her earlier journals right after her marriage, as well as several plays).  The work was no less powerful for the delay, and while it is marked by a number of contemporary prejudices,  it still cited by historians today as a powerful and brutally honest account of slavery, and, especially remarkable for the focus Fanny had on enslaved Black women.

Fanny later returned to the stage, giving dramatic readings of Shakespeare, and lived for much of her later life in Lenox, Massachusetts, before returning to London in 1877.   She died in 1893.

Fanny Kemble, via Wikipedia

In honor of this remarkable woman, we hope you enjoy this poem, published in Fanny Kemble’s 1844 collection of poetry


Let me not die for ever, when I’m gone
To the cold earth! but let my memory
Live like the gorgeous western light that shone
Over the clouds where sank day’s majesty.
Let me not be forgotten! though the grave
Has clasped its hideous arms around my brow.
Let me not be forgotten! though the wave
Of time’s dark current rolls above me now.
Yet not in tears remembered be my name;
Weep over those ye loved; for me, for me,
Give me the wreath of glory, and let fame
Over my tomb spread immortality!

“…tell the old story for our modern times…”

Hey, Homer

The Odyssey is a work is one of the oldest works in the history of literature, and has inspired countless other works of art.  It has been sung, performed, discussed, and read by millions and millions of people across the generations, across approximately three millennia.  It has been in print in English since about 1615.

But The Odyssey has never been translated by a woman.

Until now.

Emily Wilson, by Ralph Rosen, via Bustle

Oxford graduate and UPenn professor Emily Wilson (pictured above via Bustle) is the first woman to translate this ancient text into English, and the results are truly astounding.   Not only does she bring a different perspective to the piece, but she highlights people, situations, and themes that no other translator has sought to do.  And that emphasis can change the way we think about a work that has been with us, literally, for ages.

Homer has a story for you…

The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus, a veteran of the Trojan Wars, who, in attempting to return home to his wife and son, offends the god Poseidon, and ends up being cast adrift.  He and his crew wander to remote islands and caves, have liaisons with gods and fight sea creatures, and, eventually, find their way home to Ithaca.  It is an adventure story.  A story about overcoming odds, and beating the forces of fate.

At the same time, Odysseus’ wife Penelope is forced to fend of a legion of suitors for her hand, tolerating their advances and abuses, and putting up with her whining, generally unhelpful and sulky son, hopeful that her husband will return home.  This story is one of silence, of undoing, and of endurance.  And though many previous translators and scholars have attempted to frame Penelope’s portion of the story has heroic in its own way, the truth of the matter is that this is not a feminist text.  And usually, translators overlook this in order to get back to the doing, the adventuring.  Emily Wilson doesn’t.

Instead, she takes a new, closer look at Penelope, and the world of Odysseus’ home, bringing and understanding to these sections that is normally not present.  She doesn’t try to transform Penelope into a hero/ine.  Instead, she examines her life and her actions through the medium of words.  As she explained in an essay at The Guardian“Female translators often stand at a critical distance when approaching authors who are not only male, but also deeply embedded in a canon that has for many centuries been imagined as belonging to men.” She called translating Homer as a woman an experience of “intimate alienation.”

This kind of focus–the kind that allows us to see Penelope’s life in greater detail–also takes in other people who have been marginalized, not only in literature, but in real life, as well.  Wilson calls the slaves who live and work in Odysseus’ house, “slaves”.  Not ‘maidservants’, which implies they have a choice in the matter, or ‘whores’, as some male translators have done previously (emphasizing that they ‘sold themselves’ to men, rather than that, once again, they have no control over their own situation or bodies).  Instead, as she explained in an interview with The New York Times: 

Young female slaves in a palace would have had little agency to resist the demands of powerful men. Where Fagles wrote “whores” and “the likes of them” — and Lattimore “the creatures” — the original Greek, Wilson explained, is just a feminine definite article meaning “female ones.” To call them “whores” and “creatures” reflects, for Wilson, “a misogynistic agenda”: their translators’ interpretation of how these females would be defined.

Wilson has also attempted, throughout her fascinating and powerful translation, to keep the language active, exciting, and vibrant.   As Vox described in an article about her work:

In its matter-of-fact language, [Wilson’s translation is] worlds different from Fagles’s “Sing to me of the man, Muse,” or Robert Fitzgerald’s 1961 version, “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story / of that man skilled in all ways of contending.” Wilson chose to use plain, relatively contemporary language in part to “invite readers to respond more actively with the text,” she writes in a translator’s note. “Impressive displays of rhetoric and linguistic force are a good way to seem important and invite a particular kind of admiration, but they tend to silence dissent and discourage deeper modes of engagement.”

And, according to all reviews, she succeeds in stellar fashion.  Her understanding of ancient Greek, in the power of language, and in the nuanced meanings of words, syntax, and phrasing, make this work more than just a “first” in literature.  It makes it a really significant event in the history of translations.

We’ve talked here about the significance of translators to literature, the difficulty of the work of translation, and power that the translator has over the piece on which they work.  Emily Wilson realizes all of these elements of her work, and she has been more than responsible in her duties.  We are so eager to delve further into her work, and so very excited for this new era of The Odyssey!


The Washington Post’s 10 Best Books of 2017!

The Washington Post has an important place in American history, not only as a newspaper of record for the country’s national politics, but also because of the role it has played in shaping those politics.  In the early 1970s, in the best-known episode in the newspaper’s history, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led the American press’ investigation into what became known as the Watergate scandal.  These reports were highly influential to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.  The newspaper has also won a total of 47 Pulitzer Prizes in its 140 year history, including  six separate Pulitzers awarded in 2008, the second-highest number ever awarded to a single newspaper in one year.

The Washington Post also cares about books.  A lot.  Their book review sections are robust, informed, and insightful.  They also feature “Chapter One” an online page that allows readers to access the first chapters of selected new books (all of which are also reviewed in The Washington Post).

So when The Washington Post puts out their list of the “10 Best Books of 2017“, it’s worth paying some attention.  This list is a fantastic mix of non-fiction and fiction, of contemporary politics and historical fiction, of current events and fantastical worlds.  So we wanted to bring some selections of that list to you, in the hopes that it may help you choose some books for your end-of-the-year reading…or your beginning-of-the-new-year reading.  And stay tuned for our own “Best of” lists, coming to the Free For All soon!

To see all the selections from The Washington Postcheck out their Books Reviews page!

I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street:  On July 17, 2014, a forty-three-year-old black man named Eric Garner died on a Staten Island sidewalk after a police officer put him in what has been described as an illegal chokehold during an arrest for selling bootleg cigarettes. The final moments of Garner’s life were captured on video and seen by millions. His agonized last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter protest movement. A grand jury ultimately declined to indict the officer who wrestled Garner to the pavement.  Matt Taibbi’s deeply reported retelling of these events liberates Eric Garner from the abstractions of newspaper accounts and lets us see the man in full—with all his flaws and contradictions intact.  His insight extends to the other people in this story, highlighting not only the story of an individual, isolated incident, but placing it within the context of the American judicial system and culture in a way that is deeply enlightening and emotionally wrenching.  According to The Washington Post: This gut-wrenching account of the death and life of Eric Garner is a deep dive into every aspect of the case, including its legal impact, which is minimal, and its cultural and political ones, which have been profound.

Saints for All OccasionsNora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children, while Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont.  But when an unexpected death brings these sisters together for the first time in years, forcing them to reckon with the choices they made so long ago.  J. Courtney Sullivan manages something remarkable in this book–condensing a lifetime of memories into the space of a few days, and creating a book that is at once a familiar story of family and a wholly unique study of two deeply complex women.  The Washington Post has this to say: In a style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, Sullivan draws us into the lives of the Raffertys and, in the rare miracle of fiction, makes us care about them as if they were our own family. 

The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed RussiaWe celebrated the arrival of Masha Gessen’s book, and now it’s being hailed by The WaPo, and plenty of other national outlets.  In this stunning and chilling work, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy in what was once the Soviet Union. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.  Gessen then charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of a regime that looks far too much like the old Soviet order, within the context of a frightening new world.  The Washington Post adored this book, noting. This is a sweeping intellectual history of Russia over the past four decades, told through a Tolstoyan gallery of characters. It makes a convincing if depressing case that Homo Sovieticus, the unique species created a century ago with the Bolshevik Revolution, did not die out along with the Soviet Union. What makes the book so worthwhile are its keen observations about Russia from the point of view of those experiencing its heavy-handed state. 

LessHere’s another book we featured when it first made it way onto our shelves (clearly, we have excellent taste, dear readers).  Who says you can’t run away from your problems?   In Andrew Sean Greer’s world, Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail, announcing that his boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. He knows he can’t accept, as it would be far too awkward, but he can’t say no and risk looking bitter.  So instead, he decides to accept all of the other invitations on his desk, and sets off on what will be the adventure of a lifetime.  A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a thought-provoking tale about growing up and growing old, and, ultimately, a love story, this is a all-around winner of a book that The Washington Post loved, saying: Too often, our standards of literary greatness exclude comic novels — which is usually fine because there are so few great comic novels. But you should make more room for Less…Greer is brilliantly funny about the awkwardness that awaits a traveling writer of less repute….This is the comedy of disappointment distilled to a sweet elixir. 

Check the rest of The Washington Post’s Best Books of 2017 here!

Five Book Friday!

The holiday season is approaching with remorseless resolve, dear readers.  If this is a time that makes your heart flutter, then we wish you heaping helpings of good cheer!  If you’d rather hide in a blanket fort until it’s all over, that’s perfectly alright, too.  We wish you warmth and good books, no matter the time or circumstances.

Your obligatory cornucopia picture, hooray!

But do please remember that the Library (the Main Library and Branches) will be observing our Thanksgiving Hours in the coming week:

Wednesday, November 22:    Close at 5 pm

Thursday, November 23:        Closed

Friday, November 24:             Closed

The main library and branches resume regular hours on Saturday, November 25.

So if you’re planning on stocking up on books, cds, or dvds for the long Thanksgiving Break, then make sure to check our hours and hurry in!  Here are just a few of the new books that shuffled their way onto our shelves this week and are eager to share your Thanksgiving plans with you!

ArtemisFans of Weir’s are no doubt already eagerly anticipating for this sci-fi-noir-thriller, but for those of you still on the fence, consider there–a number of outlets are claiming that this book is even better than Weir’s bestselling The Martian.  Set on on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, Weir tells the tale of Jazz, a criminal.  Well, maybe.  Life on Artemis is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay, and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.  This novel is getting starred reviews all over the place, with Booklist declaring it “An exciting, whip-smart, funny thrill-ride…one of the best science fiction novels of the year.”

Promise Me, Dad: When Vice-President joe Biden’s son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, he demanded one thing from his father: “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.  This book is the chronicle of the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq.  For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family, all while directly in the public spotlight. This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband, and tells a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.  This is not an easy read, or a trite bit of preachiness.  Biden’s heart-wrenching honesty about the loss of his son is deeply memorable, and his struggle to carry on is both aching and inspiration.  As The New York Times observed, “The book is a backstage drama, honest, raw and rich in detail. People who have lost someone will genuinely take comfort from what he has to say…These flashes of vulnerability are part of what makes Promise Me, Dad memorable; so, too, are the small, tender interactions between Biden and his dying son.”

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World: In 2015, Noah Strycker set himself a lofty goal: to become the first person to see half the world’s birds in one year. For 365 days, with a backpack, binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, he traveled across forty-one countries and all seven continents, eventually spotting 6,042 species—by far the biggest birding year on record.  This is no travelogue or glorified checklist. Noah ventures deep into a world of blood-sucking leeches, chronic sleep deprivation, airline snafus, breakdowns, mudslides, floods, war zones, ecologic devastation, conservation triumphs, common and iconic species, and scores of passionate bird lovers around the globe. By pursuing the freest creatures on the planet, Noah gains a unique perspective on the world they share with us—and offers a hopeful message that even as many birds face an uncertain future, more people than ever are working to protect them.  A book for bird-lovers, wanderlust readers, and armchair adventurers alike, this is a book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, who raved, “Strycker’s description of a year ‘expanded to its maximum potential’ will inspire readers to explore the world, ‘from the tiniest detail to the biggest panorama.’ . . . Colorful but unassuming—and unexpected—lessons for living life fully, presented from a birder’s-eye view.”

Mrs. OsmondAre you a fan of Henry James?  What about his novel The Portrait of a Lady?  Well, if you loved it, or you think James’ bizarre and hostile misogyny pokes through one too many times, John Banville has arrived to give us the further adventures of the Isabel Archer, the young a vibrant American who traveled to Europe to find herself, became an heiress, and became inescapably entangled in the machinations of a coterie of scheming women and dastardly men.  Banville follows James’s story line to the point when Isabel returns to Italy…but then takes over the story for himself,  and makes it his own with the narrative inventiveness, the lyrical precision and surprising humor.  It turns out that Isabel arrives in Italy along with someone else…who is it?  And why?  You’ll have to read to find out!  Banville has some pretty big, well-known shoes to fill in this tale, but, as Kirkus noted, in a starred review for this book, it is “A sequel that honors James and his singular heroine while showing Banville to be both an uncanny mimic and, as always, a captivating writer.

Vacationland : true stories from painful beachesDoes the winter weather get you down?  Do you need a chuckle?  Were you a fan of John Hodgman’s delightfully unique humor on The Daily Show?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then Hodgman’s first non-fiction work…the travel memoirs of a Massachusetts native, are absolutely the pick for you.  In his book, Hodgman recounts his real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.  Though wildly, Hodgmaniacally funny as usual, this is also an unexpectedly poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.  If Neil Gaiman writing a blurb for this book isn’t enough reason to go take a look….I just don’t know what to say.  Here’s what Gaiman said, though: “This book is genuinely it-will-make-you-laugh funny, it is a wistful and sad examination of the impulse that causes us to move to out of the way places and of what John Hodgman found when he went there, and it is always wiser than it seems. If you do not read it, you will be missing out on something special.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017

It’s getting to be that time of year, beloved patrons, when reviewing outlets, newspapers, websites, and, yes, Libraries, release their definitive  “Best of 2017” Lists.  This week, it is was Kirkus Reviews’ selections for the best fiction of the yearKirkus Reviews does not skimp when it comes to their best of lists, and they space out the release of their “best of” books–first, because there are So Many Good Books out there, and second, I’m sure, to give us all a chance to put them on hold at the library, or go pick them up.  Here is the schedule of the day the rest of their “Best Of” lists will be released:

Fiction: November 11
Picture Books: November 20
Middle Grade: November 27
Teen: December 4
Nonfiction: December 11
Indie: December 18

Kirkus Reviews breaks down their fiction lists into genres, providing not only the more conventional categories (mystery, sci-fi, etc.), but also a few that are delightfully unexpected (fiction with a twist of magic, Best Fictional Families of 2017…).  As a result, there is certainly something here for any fiction lover, and for those looking to branch out and find something completely new to read over the holiday season and into the New Year!

So here, without further ado, are some of the highlights Kirkus Reviews best fiction books of 2017, with links to the Library Catalog to help you get those books as quickly as possible!  You can find the full selection of titles and reviews at Kirkus Reviews website.

Best Mystery & Thriller:

MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz
THE SMACK by Richard Lange
SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks
EXPOSED by Lisa Scottoline
THE FIFTH ELEMENT by Jorgen Brekke ; translated by Steven T. Murray
KEEP HER SAFE by Sophie Hannah
THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly
A CAST OF VULTURES by Judith Flanders
DEFECTORS by Joseph Kanon
HOUSE OF SPIES by Daniel Silva
FIERCE KINGDOM by Gin Phillips
LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan

Best Science Fiction & Fantasy:
BORNE by Jeff VanderMeer
THE STONE SKY by N.K. Jemisin
THE STONE IN THE SKULL by Elizabeth Bear
THE REMNANT by Charlie Fletcher
RECLUCE TALES by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
THE STARS ARE LEGION by Kameron Hurley
AUTONOMOUS by Annalee Newitz
NOUMENON by Marina J. Lostetter
WALKAWAY by Cory Doctorow
Best Romance Novel:

BREATH OF FIRE by Amanda Bouchet
ROGUE MAGIC by Kit Brisby
HATE TO WANT YOU by Alisha Rai

Best Debut Novel:

MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent
TEMPORARY PEOPLE by Deepak Unnikrishnan
LIVE FROM CAIRO by Ian Bassingthwaighte
MARLENA by Julie Buntin
WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons
RABBIT CAKE by Annie Hartnett
GOLDEN HILL by Francis Spufford

Best Fiction with a Twist of Magic:

LITTLE SISTER by Barbara Gowdy
THE POWER by Naomi Alderman
MRS. CALIBAN by Rachel Ingalls
THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle
AFTER THE FLARE by Deji Bryce Olukotun
EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid