Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
I read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki on Valentine’s Day… It’s a story of young adults traversing the difficulty of relationships and self-worth. The characters are often making mistakes and trying to deal with real (at times, very heavy) challenges alone, which absolutely makes them relatable. I think it’s a lesson in learning to value ourselves in order to break off the toxicity we sometimes endure. The art style is gorgeous and brings life to the pages in fantastic pink, black, and white.
Leadership in Turbulent Times
Doris Kearnes Goodwin
This book explores Lincoln, FDR, LBJ, and Teddy Roosevelt and what it was within each of them that allowed them to lead us through turbulent times. I’d say it’s a must read for anyone with even a mild interest in our nation’s history.
by Fredrik Backman
This book is a very cleverly written book, like all of the author's other ones. In a nutshell, it’s about the lasting power of friendship, even in very anxious times. The way it is written makes you not like many of the characters upfront, but shows you exactly what kind of people they are by the end. Definitely a fascinating read and one I’d highly recommend!
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
At the age of 116, Mary Walker learned to read. This book explores her journey from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Her perseverance and dedication is a reminder that age is never an excuse for not learning.
by Jessie Mihalik
After two years on the run from a political marriage, Ada von Hasenberg finds herself locked in a cell with the notorious Devil of Fornax Zero, Marcus Loch. In order to escape, they form an uneasy alliance that grows into trust and working together to solve a bigger problem. I loved Polaris Rising for the space adventure, espionage, and even the romance, but what I really enjoyed was the interactions between characters. Amidst everything else going on, Ada and Marcus learn to trust in each other’s motives and abilities, they take turns rescuing each other, and they recognize and work through problems with miscommunication. I really appreciated the fact that Ada wasn’t simply a damsel in distress or a flawless heroine but had her own unique strengths and weaknesses to utilize and struggle with.
by Madeline Miller
Circe is a beautifully written piece of literary fiction. I love that is takes a ‘villain’ from a classic work (The Odyssey) and makes her our anti-hero, a protagonist in her own narrative, where Odysseus himself is merely a bit player. I think Circe will appeal to any fan of literary fiction and anyone who has ever been interested in Greek mythology or Homer’s epics.
The Answer is...Reflections on My Life
by Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek wrote his autobiography during the recent quarantine. It expresses his values, his views on work and the joy to be found in life and his love of family and friends. He never considered himself to be a star; but he touched many lives with how well he lived his life and how he faced his illness.
by Martha Wells
Network Effect is the first full length novel in the Murderbot Diaries series. This series has been on my radar since the first title was published in 2017. I am so glad I finally read them. The main character is a security unit (it calls itself Murderbot) made of mixed organic and robotic parts. It has hacked its governance module and now finds itself navigating existence as a unique entity. I don’t have the words to describe how much I love this character and its adventures. I find myself thinking about Murderbot a disturbing amount in my daily life.
Idiot: Life Stories from the Creator of Help Helen Smash
by Laura Clery
I’ve been following Laura Clery for a few years now, and now knowing in detail some of the hardships that she has been though has been a bit of a shining light in the not so shiny year.
by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi was my favorite book this year because it is so creative and inventive, and took me on a visual journey without pictures. I actually listened to the audio version, which swept me away on a sometimes forceful, sometimes soothing, tide of ethereal imagery that unfolded into a story that gently weaves fantasy and realism through rhythmic tides. Trying to explain this book falls short of the actual reading experience.
An Enchantment of Ravens
by Margaret Rogerson
I did not expect to like this book as much as I did, as stories about fairies usually aren’t my thing. I listened to the audiobook, and I finished it in about two days. The story is compelling and the prose is beautiful. The characters are all so unique and Margaret Rogerson is able to bring Whimsy and all the fairy courts to life in the most colorful way, wrapping it up in a delightfully comforting romance.
- Sam L.
by J.R.R. Tolkien
I chose “The Hobbit” as my favorite book because I’ve always wanted to read this book and it started my reading frenzy this year. It definitely got the ball rolling for me to read more and provided much needed escapism. Dragons, hobbits, and treasure; what’s not to like?
Promise of Blood
by Brian McClellan
Promise of Blood is the first book in the Powder Mage Series, an epic fantasy tale that mixes traditional fantasy magic with the technology of the industrial revolution. Field Marshal Tamas, a Powder Mage (someone who can magically control gun powder), kicks off the novel by overthrowing the King of Adro and destroying the King’s cabal of Privileged wizards. This is widely considered to be a very bad move, and now Tamas, his son Taniel, and their fellow Powder Mages have to fight enemies within and without in order to save their newly established Republic. This one is action packed and full of interesting twists and turns, I couldn’t put it down! Oh, and there’s a magic chef, what more could you want?
by Alex Landragin
This is my favorite kind of book - inventive and engrossing! While reading, I was reminded of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas in that it is telling a story from multiple perspectives over a long period of time. I read this using the 'Baroness Sequence' which has you jumping between the stories. I do admit to being tempted to read it again straight through but haven't yet. If you enjoy books that are puzzles, that challenge you to put together what is going on, you may also love this book.
Escaping the Delta
by Elijah Wald
Elijah Wald is no stranger to folk music or strong opinions and both are present in Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Wald argues that our perception of Blues music is not based upon what was historically popular, but in what interested white record collectors in the 1950s and 60s.
The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
One of the good things coming out of quarantine was that I finally tackled this masterpiece. It truly is a remarkable pleasure to read, but it also served a greater purpose for me during this unusual time. It reminded me that people have been dealing with difficulties and turmoil in their lives for centuries, and life does not stop. It may look a bit differently here today than Russia in 1861 (or maybe not), but it made me feel connected with others who have lived through chaos and frustration and gave me a renewed sense of purpose and, as a result, made me feel more hopeful.
Positively Disney: More Heartwarming Stories About Disney's Impact On People's Lives The Romance Edition
by Kimberley Bouchard (2018)
Anyone who works here will tell you what a Disney devotee I am. I am also the literal definition of a hopeless romantic. So to say this book combines two of my favorite things is a bit of an understatement. I love all of the books in this series and each one has amazing stories to touch your heart, but this one inspires my belief in true love and soulmates. That dreams really can come true and that you really can have it all if you just believe.
by Robert Galbraith
Troubled Blood is book 5 in the Cormoran Strike series and this book finds Strike and Robin investigating the cold case of a woman who disappeared 40 years ago. She was believed to be killed by a known serial killer but her daughter wants to know for sure what happened to her. Without too much hope, the pair agrees to a one year contract to try to dig into the past while struggling to solve the other cases they have on their hands. The story dives deep into the personal lives of Strike and Robin which is just what I wanted out of this book. The plot was complex and full of twists and turns. Although this book was lengthy I found myself not wanting to let go of the characters by the end. I can't wait for book 6!
In the Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado
In The Dream House is an incredible memoir about the author’s abusive same-sex relationship. It’s very beautifully written with small stories and memories of their time together. It’s a haunting, painful, and very honest book about a topic that isn’t discussed enough.
by Brenna Thummler
This was such a heartfelt and touching middle grade graphic novel. The colors were beautiful and the illustrations truly made you feel the pain of the main characters. It was often a sad read as it dealt with depression, loss, and self deprivation in such a young girl but it also had it's happy ending and a sense of resolution. I can't wait for its sequel!