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:
Everybody: The 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 Innocence: Edith 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).
Arrival: It 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.