Five Book Friday!

And a frigid one it is, dear readers.   Though many of us consider ourselves hale and hearty New Englanders who tweak the nose of bad weather and giggle at climatic extremes…it’s really cold out there, and it never hurts to read, reread, and reminder ourselves of these helpful tips from the Red Cross about keeping everyone, humans and furry friends alike, safe during weather like this. They also have some winter tips and advisories for you to peruse.

We are here and the heat is on, so feel free to come warm up here at the Library, and take a gander at our books, movies, audiobooks, and other material to help pass these long winter nights.  Here’s just a preview of some of the sensation books that have sidled onto our shelves this week:


After the End of the World: Personally speaking, I could not be more excited that this book has arrived on our shelves.  It’s an open secret that Jonathan L. Howard is a Free-For-All favorite author, and his Carter and Lovecraft series is a terrific sci-fi adventure–particularly for fans of H.P. Lovecraft…particularly for those fans who would really like to confront and defy Lovecraft’s own odiousness while still enjoying the weirdness of his fiction.  In this second book in this series, PI Daniel Carter and his erstwhile partner Emily Lovecraft find themselves trapped in the Unfolded World.  In this world, the Cold War never happened because the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1941. In this world the Nazi Großdeutschland is the premier superpower, and is not merely tolerated but indulged because, in this world, the Holocaust happened behind the ruins of the Iron Curtain and consumed only Bolsheviks, Communists, and others the West was glad to see gone. In this world, there are monsters, and not all of them are human.  But even in the Unfolded World, there are still bills to pay and jobs to do. Carter finds himself working for the German secret security service to uncover the truth behind a major scientific joint project that is going suspiciously well. The trail takes Lovecraft and him to a distant, abandoned island, and a conspiracy that threatens everything. Fortunately, if there is a character who is going to face down the mind-bending darkness at play here, it’s Emily.  And she has a shotgun.  If my praise for Howard’s limitless imagination, fiendishly clever and detailed plotting, and talent for creating character you would willingly follow to the gates of Hell (often literally), then trust Booklist, who said in their review “This is a wonderful novel, ambitious on many levels and thoroughly successful. Its central characters are even more compelling than they were in their first appearance…and the story is diabolically clever and convoluted. As readers wait for the next installment, they will ask themselves where Howard will take Daniel and Emily next.”


The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny With a Dashing StrangerVictoria Alexander’s Lady Travelers series is just what the armchair adventurer needs for days like this–intriguing characters, beautiful locales, smart adventures, and plenty of witty banter and chemistry to keep things moving at a wicked clip.  When  Lady Wilhelmina Bascombe’s carefree, extravagant lifestyle vanishes with the demise of her husband, her only hope lies in retrieving a family treasure—a Renaissance masterpiece currently in the hands of a cunning art collector in Venice. Thankfully, the Lady Travelers Society has orchestrated a clever plan to get Willie to Europe, leading a tour of mothers and daughters…and one curiously attentive man.  Dante Augustus Montague’s one passion has long been his family’s art collection. He’s finally tracked a long-lost painting to the enchanting Lady Bascombe. Convinced that the canvas had been stolen, he will use any means to reclaim his birthright—including deception. But how long before pretend infatuation gives way to genuine desire?  Willie and Dante know they’re playing with fire in the magical moonlit city. Their common quest could compromise them both…or lead them to happily-ever-after.  The Lady Travelers series has already won plenty of acclaim already, and this second installment has been praised by critics and readers alike, with RT Book Reviews saying “”Alexander is an original and so are her romances…[she] fulfills readers’ desires and then some.”

Fool’s River: Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty thrillers deal with some pretty rough themes, including the Bangkok sex trade, but Hallinan balances these issues with such humanity and genuine sympathy that it makes his stories quite the compelling read.  In this eighth book in the series, Poke, a Bangkok writer, is facing down the worst days of his life.  It all started when Edward Dell, the almost-boyfriend of Poke’s teenage daughter, Miao pays an emergency visit.  The boy’s father, Buddy, a late-middle-aged womanizer who has moved to Bangkok for happy hunting, has disappeared, and money is being siphoned out of his bank and credit card accounts. It soon becomes apparent that Buddy is in the hands of a pair of killers who prey on Bangkok’s “sexpats”; when his accounts are empty, he’ll be found, like a dozen others before him, floating facedown in a Bangkok canal with a weighted cast on his unbroken leg. His money is almost gone.  Over forty-eight frantic hours, Poke does everything he can to locate Buddy before it’s too late.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this series entry a starred review, calling it “Outstanding . . . Fans of hard-boiled detective fiction will feel right at home.”

What It’s Like to Be a DogPeople with pets–and, no doubt, people without pets–often wonder just what is going on in the brains of the animals with whom we share this planet.  Enter  neuroscientist Gregory Berns, who set out to discover what it’s like to be a dog…and a bat….and a dolphin? Berns and his team began with a radical step: they taught dogs to go into an MRI scanner–completely awake. They discovered what makes dogs individuals with varying capacities for self-control, different value systems, and a complex understanding of human speech. It turns out, they are as emotionally complex, in many ways, as the humans they love.  And dogs were just the beginning. In this fascinating, insightful, and wonderfully educational book, Berns explores the fascinating inner lives of wild animals from dolphins and sea lions to the extinct Tasmanian tiger.  This book has gotten high praise from critics and readers, as well as experts like Temple Grandin and the Humane Society of the United States, who noted “Gregory Berns is a remarkable scientist, whose pioneering MRI studies of the brain across a range of species have opened up a pathway to deeper understanding of animals’ internal awareness and perspectives. He’s also an exceptional thinker, whose grasp of the ethical and practical significance of his findings for the status and treatment of animals is pervasive in this absorbing work.”

Hellfire BoysThe rules and experience of war changed permanently in 1915 when the German Army successfully unleashed poisoned gas along the Western Front of the First World War, earning international fury, as well as launching a new kind of international arms race.  The development of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in 1917 left an indelible imprint on World War I. This small yet powerful division, along with the burgeoning Bureau of Mines, assembled research and military unites devoted solely to chemical weaponry, outfitting regiments with hastily made gas-resistant uniforms and recruiting scientists and engineers from around the world into the fight. Drawing from years of research, Theo Emery brilliantly shows how World War I quickly spiraled into a chemists’ war, one led by the companies of young American engineers-turned-soldiers who would soon become known as the “Hellfire Boys.” As gas attacks began to mark the heaviest and most devastating battles, these brave and brilliant men were on the front lines, racing to protect, develop, and unleash the latest weapons of mass destruction.  Emery’s book emphasizes the importance of the First World War to American history, not only in terms of military technology, but also in understanding the ruthlessness of modern military ideology, in a work that earned a starred review from Library Journal, who praised both his research and storytelling skills: “Moving crisply between stateside turf wars and battlefront combat, this well-written and well-researched slice of history will appeal to virtually any history or war buff.”


Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading!

The Lynn Public Library’s Best of 2017!

We are enormously lucky to be part of NOBLE (North of Boston Library Exchange).  As many of you know, the NOBLE network allows you, our beloved patrons, to borrow books from the other libraries around us–including academic libraries at North Shore Community College and Salem State University–and utilize the programs and resources at our fellow NOBLE libraries.  It’s a fantastic system that we all value enormously.

The Lynn Public Library

So this year, we thought it might be fun to invite the other NOBLE libraries and staff members to join us in our end-of-the-year celebrations! This week, we bring you the Lynn Public Library’s Favorite Books of 2017!

Although Library services were available in Lynn as early as 1815, it wasn’t until a bequest was made to the city in 1896 that plans for a permanent Library were developed.  After some debate about the style, size, and scale of the building, construction began in 1898, with local architect George A. Moore overseeing the project.  The Library opened in 1900; that same year, the trustees commissioned a mural by Francis Luis Mora, a prominent Uruguayan-born American  painter, who was most likely the first Hispanic artist elected to the National Academy of Design (his self-portrait appears on the left).  This would be Mora’s first public mural, and, as a result, he received a commission for the Missouri State Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair)in 1904, as well as for the Governor’s Mansion of New Jersey, in the Sears family’s country home (of Sears & Roebuck fame)  in Brookline, Massachusetts, and painted the portrait of Warren Harding that is still on display in the White House.  He would later go on to teach at what would become Parsons The New School for Design, with Georgia O’Keeffe as one of his students…see what great things can come from Libraries?!

Today, the staff of the Lynn Public Library is dedicated to serving the needs of a diverse population whose interests range from scholarly research to cultural pursuits to entertainment.  Their collection numbers almost 125,000 volumes, with over 30,000 in the Children’s Department alone. The large Reference collection is known for its emphasis on Lynn history, genealogy, and the Civil War, and offers a wealth of services and information for patrons.  Their Calendar of Events is packed with events for teens, adults, and kids, from book clubs to crafting events, so feel free to check them out!

And, without further ado, is just a small sampling from the  Lynn Public Library’s staff’s favorite reads from 2017!

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Anderson

Warcross by Marie Lu

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Behind Closed Doors by B.A Paris

Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

The Store by James Patterson

Hard Core Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne White

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Murder Games by James Patterson

Black Book by James Patteson

Chew Approved by The Chew

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond

Our Staff’s Best of 2017, Part 4!

A brief note: This blog post was held up because your friendly neighborhood blogger has been laid up with a really nasty case of the ‘flu.  It comes, nevertheless, with much love, as well as apologies, beloved patrons.

Here at the Peabody Institute Library, we are truly fortunate to have a staff with wonderfully diverse tastes in books, graphic novels, films, audiobooks, and more.  And so we are always on-hand to help you find whatever you are looking for when you come into the Library.

It also means that when we at the Free For All ask our staff for their favorite books/films/audiobooks from the past year, the results are fascinating, beautifully varied, and totally engaging.  So it is our pleasure today to begin our survey of our staff picks for the “Best of 2017”.

The rules are simple: the media in question doesn’t have to have been created during this year, they just have to be enjoyed this year.  As a result, you’ll see books from the nineteenth century and films made released in the past few months, and audiobook adaptations of classic novels, as well as recordings of new thrillers.  We hope you enjoy these suggestions, and that you find some books to help usher in the New Year!

Best of 2017

From the West Branch:

EverybodyThe third studio album by American rapper Logic was released on May 5, 2017, to both critical and popular acclaim.  Everybody loosely follows the journey of a recently deceased man named Atom who, after dying in a car accident on his way home, meets God (voiced here by Neil DeGrasse Tyson) and has a conversation with him spanning a multitude of topics and millennia.  From the other side of the great divide, Atom learns about himself, as well as all the other incarnations he has embodied over the course of time.  In Atom is the entirety of humanity, and, he is told, by learning to see through the perspective of others, can he transcend.  The result is an album that deals with some really big topics–activism, laziness, identity, the power of human connections and human hatred–without being heavy-handed.  HipHopDX noted that this is very much an album that will hold meaning, especially for Logic’s “fan base, especially those going through struggles of their own, his latest work will be the catharsis to keep them from plunging off the deep end.”  Just a friendly note, this album does have a parental advisory for language.

Small Great Things Jodi Picoult is not an author who shies away from the big issues, and this best-selling novel (soon, apparently, to be a motion picture) grapples with privilege, identity, and American racism, in all its shades and shapes, and does so in a way that is both heart-rending and insightful.  Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. When she hesitates and the child dies, Ruth finds herself at the center of a major court case–and media sensation.  Critics called this Picoult’s best book to date, and the San Francisco Book Review hailed it as “A novel that puts its finger on the very pulse of the nation that we live in today . . . a fantastic read from beginning to end, as can always be expected from Picoult, this novel maintains a steady, page-turning pace that makes it hard for readers to put down.”

From the Circulation Desk:

The Age of InnocenceEdith Wharton’s twelfth novel, a wonderfully witty depiction of upper-class New Yorkers won the Pulitzer Prize in 1920, making her the first woman to be awarded the prestigious prize.  At the heart of the story are three people who are both defined and trapped by the opulent and restrictive society in which they live: Newland Archer, a restrained young attorney, is engaged to the lovely May Welland but falls in love with May’s beautiful and unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Despite his fear of a dull marriage to May, Archer goes through with the ceremony — persuaded by his own sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. The love triangle that persists amongst these three is both a commentary on 19th century society and a comical, moving, human tale, making this a wonderfully (and surprisingly) readable classic novel that has remained a favorite among readers and critics alike.  (The novel was also adapted into a terrific film starring Daniel Day Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Michelle Pfeiffer).

ArrivalIt isn’t often that a time-and-reality-bending sci-fi film manages to be so touching, so human, and so gripping, but this film, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer,  based on a short story by Ted Chiang, and directed by Denis Villeneuve, is just that.  Opening on the day a series of mysterious spacecraft touch down around the world, this movie tells the story of a a team ,including linguist Louise Banks, who are brought together to investigate the ships and the beings inside it. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers, and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.  This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat, but will also give you plenty to think about after the final scene has played out, making it a rare kind of success–and a sensational adaptation.


We’ll be back with more recommendations soon, beloved patrons.  Until then, stay warm and toasty!

Blessing for the Longest Night by Jan Richardson

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

© Jan Richardson.

Five Book Friday!

And happy first Friday of winter, beloved patrons!  It looks like winter has finally remembered us, and it’s going to be rough going this weekend.  So this seemed as good a time as any to remind you about our Winter Weather Policies.  If you have any questions about Library Hours during the wintry season, just give us a call.   The answering message will be updated to reflect any changes in our hours (this includes holiday closings).

Main Library: (978) 531-0100
South Branch: (978) 531-3380
West Branch: (978) 535-3354

Also, we would also like to make you aware of the new Parking Advisory in Peabody, which you can access via this link here.  This should help in the case of parking bans and emergency closures.

But, in advance of any climactic unpleasantness, why not come into the Library and check out a few films, audiobooks, or books to help while away the long winter evenings?  Here are just a few of the titles that have braved the elements to make it onto our shelves this week, and would love a chance to spend the holiday season with you!


The Emerald CircusMultiple-award winning author Jane Yolen’s first full collection in more than ten years is a vibrant, wondrous, and thought-provoking journey through some of the best-known fairy tales and children’s stories.  Her characters may be familiar, but these stories are all refreshingly unique: Edgar Allan Poe’s young bride is beguiled by a most unusual bird. Dorothy, lifted from Kansas, returns as a gymnastic sophisticate. Emily Dickinson dwells in possibility and sails away in a starship made of light. Wendy leads a labor strike against the Lost Boys.  Beauty sneaks out to get a Christmas gift for the Beast, with…interesting results.  Like fun house mirrors, these stories flip the tales you know upside down, stretch them and skew them, but always create something that is wholly unique and simply delightful.  Library Journal agrees, giving this collection a starred review and saying, “These delightful retellings of favorite stories will captivate newcomers and fans of Yolen as she once again delivers the magic, humor, and lovely prose that has attracted readers for years.”

Improv Nation: How We Make Great American ArtAt the height of the McCarthy era, an experimental theater troupe set up shop in a bar near the University of Chicago. Via word-of-mouth, astonished crowds packed the ad-hoc venue to see its unscripted, interactive, consciousness-raising style. From this unlikely seed grew the Second City, the massively influential comedy theater troupe, and its offshoots—the Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL, and a slew of others.  Sam Wasson charts the meteoric rise of improv in this richly reported, scene-driven narrative that, like its subject, moves fast and digs deep.  He revels in the anecdotal stories of the now-famous improv artists and comedians who have made this genre great, from the chance meeting at a train station between Mike Nichols and Elaine May to the after-hours bar Dan Aykroyd opened so that friends like John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner would always have a home.  This is a fast-paced book full of nostalgic photos and fun stories that The Seattle Times called “A fast-paced, thoroughly engaging road map of how improv — that rapid-fire art of entirely unscripted performance — came to infiltrate and shape the American pop-culture landscape . . . A whirlwind of quick, sharp anecdotes, never lingering too long yet still giving the reader a full sense of the people and the history shaping improv into what it is today.”

Signal LossReaders looking for a bit of an escape this holiday season might want to consider Garry Disher’s Australian noir series featuring  Inspector Hal Challis.  Although there are six books in the series to date, this mystery can certainly be read as a stand-alone–and may be the perfect way to get into this gritty, gripping series.  A pair of hit men working a job for a meth kingpin have a very bad day, and the resulting bushfire draws attention to a drug lab and two burned bodies in a Mercedes.    With meth-related crime on the rise, interdepartmental tensions mount, and Challis soon finds himself fighting to keep control of his case. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ellen Destry—newly minted head of her department’s sex crime unit and Challis’ partner— is hunting for a serial rapist who is extremely adept at not leaving clues.  Darkly funny and compulsively readable, this series installment earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Excellent . . . A searing commentary on the meth crisis and its tremendous toll on users and communities alike.”

One of Us Will Be Dead By Morning: Fans of David Moody’s Hater trilogy will be delighted to know that it isn’t over yet.  Returning to his near-apocalyptic world, this psychological thriller is one that longtime readers–and newcomers, too!–will be on the edge of their seat to finish.  Fourteen people are trapped on Skek, a barren island in the middle of the North Sea somewhere between the coasts of the UK and Denmark. Over the years this place has served many purposes―a fishing settlement, a military outpost, a scientific base―but one by one its inhabitants have abandoned its inhospitable shores. Today it’s home to Hazleton Adventure Experiences, an extreme sports company specializing in corporate team building events. Life there is fragile and tough. One slip is all it takes; and when the body count quickly begins to rise after a single seemingly tragic accident, questions are inevitably asked. Are the deaths coincidental, or something else entirely? Those people you thought you knew, can you really trust them? Is the person standing next to you a killer? Will you be their next victim?  This isn’t a tale for the faint of heart, but horror and slasher aficionados shouldn’t miss this winner of a series.  Booklist gave it a starred review, gushing that “Moody really knows how to write creeping, claustrophobic terror, effectively sneaking up on his readers and, finally, scaring the life out of them. Top-drawer horror.”

London’s Triumph: Merchants, Adventurers, and Money in Shakespeare’s CityFor most, England in the sixteenth century was the era of the Tudors, from Henry VII and VIII to Elizabeth I. But as their dramas played out at court, England was being transformed economically by the astonishing discoveries on the American continents and of direct sea routes to Asia. At the start of the century, England was hardly involved in the wider world and London remained a gloomy, introverted medieval city. But as the century progressed something extraordinary happened, which placed London at the center of the world stage forever.  In this fascinating story, Stephen Alford neatly side-steps the “rise of the West” histories that are typically invoked to explain this period of history, and instead describes the network of merchants, visionaries, crooks, and sailors who traded with Russia and the Levant, explored areas now known as Virginia and the Arctic, and searched the Indian Ocean for exotic spices and new flavors.  This is an intriguing tale about big personalities, wondrous discoveries, and the growth of the human world that continues to have echoes in our lives to this day.  Kirkus Reviews wrote a glowing report of this book, saying “Alford makes expert use of individual lives to bring London’s various stages to life…These and many other stories bring the past to life in warmly human terms, as do Alford’s evocative descriptions of the city’s changing landscape and architecture…Solid scholarly history written with an accessible verve that will appeal to general readers.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The Lucius Beebe Library’s Best of 2017

We are enormously lucky to be part of NOBLE (North of Boston Library Exchange).  As many of you know, the NOBLE network allows you, our beloved patrons, to borrow books from the other libraries around us–including academic libraries at North Shore Community College and Salem State University–and utilize the programs and resources at our fellow NOBLE libraries.  It’s a fantastic system that we all value enormously.

So this year, we thought it might be fun to invite the other NOBLE libraries and staff members to join us in our end-of-the-year celebrations! This week, we bring you the Lucius Beebe Library of Wakefield’s list of the Best Books of 2017!


The town of Wakefield was known as South Reading until 1868. During the early part of the 19th century, there was a library in South Reading known as the Social Library.  That Library was a subscription library (meaning that people had to pay to take out materials), and held mostly divinity books.  It turns out that, even in the 19th century, divinity books were not the most scintillating of reads, and the Social Library closed due to lack of support.   However, you can’t keep a good library down, and the town’s first public library was established in 1856, with a $300 budget to buy books.  Within three years, that initial $300 investment had grown into a library with some 1,678 volumes.  Lucius Beebe was the first chairman of the Board of Library Trustees.

In 1868, when Wakefield became…well, Wakefield, the Library  Cyrus Wakefield, after whom the town was named, donated a house to be used by the city, with one half dedicated as the new library space.  Lucius Beebe (pictured below, left, via the Beebe Library website) donated $500 to the purchase of new books and, as a result, the town renamed the library as the “Beebe Public Library.”

With such phenomenal support, the Beebe Library soon needed to expand, and in 1916, the townspeople purchased a lot at the corner of Main and Avon Streets for $16,000.  Junius Beebe, son of Lucius Beebe, donated $60,000 toward the construction of a new library building, to be built in memory of his parents, Lucius and Sylenda (to put that into perspective, the annual yearly income in the area at this time was right around $800).  The US entrance into the First World War delayed the construction of the building, but in 1922, the cornerstone for the new library was laid, and the building was dedicated on April 15, 1923.  The architect for the 1922 building was Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed Princeton University.  The Beebe library has continued to grow, and was expanded most recently in 1995.

The Circulation Desk, via

Today, the Library is a vital part of the Wakefield community, with a number of programs and reading groups–including a reading group that will be meeting at local restaurants!  It was also was the first library in Massachusetts to sponsor a townwide reading program, “Wakefield Reads”.   Check out the Lucius Beebe Library’s website to see all the phenomenal resources they offer, from job hunting to homebound delivery to college resources.  They are also a wonderfully welcoming, friendly Library community.  I can tell you from experience, as a reader who has lingered for way longer than anticipated in the chairs in their beautiful New Fiction section!   So feel free to stop by, enjoy their beautiful space, and check out all this sensational library has to offer!

We are also pleased to highlight the Lucius Beebe Library Staff’s Favorites of 2017!   Don’t forget to check out the super page on their website for the full list!

Madame Zero: The Guardian dubbed Sarah Hall as  “one of the most significant and exciting of Britain’s young novelists”, and this collection of nine works of short fiction will help you see why.  Each of these stunning, insightful tales plumbs the truth of what it means to be female in this world, as well as what it means to be human.  A husband’s wife transforms into a vulpine in “Mrs. Fox”…A new mother runs into an old lover in “Luxury Hour.” In “Case Study 2,” a social worker struggles with a foster child raised in a commune.  In beautiful, rich prose, full of observations and striking clarity, Hall has composed nine wholly original pieces—works of fiction that will resonate long after the final page is turned.

Ill Will: This tale about intertwined crimes–one in the past and one in the present–mades Dan Chaon’s novel one of the most acclaimed psychological thrillers of the year, as well as being a selection at the Beebe Library.  A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears that his adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. Despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning. Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses his patient’s suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence–and paranoid enough to put everything he values at risk.

Her Body and Other Parties: Carmen Maria Machado’s debut book of short stories took the literary world by storm this year, and is a celebrated part of the Beebe Library’s staff picks for the year.  A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.  Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

Get Out: One of the most important, talked-about, and thought-provoking move of the year, Jordan Peele’s debut horror film is also among the Beebe Library staff’s favorites of the year.  When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American man, visits his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family estate, he becomes ensnared in the more sinister, real reason for the invitation. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.  This is a movie with a social message that is genuinely entertaining, a horror movie that operates on so many more levels than the visceral, and a moving take on the State of Things that you won’t soon forget.

Be sure to check out the rest of the list over at the Lucius Beebe Library website!