Looking for some fresh reads? Try these librarian-reviewed and approved fiction and nonfiction titles.
We’ve been busy reading while we #stayhome. See what our staff has been reading below.
The Book of Essie by Meghan by MacLean Weir
The youngest daughter of a famous reality show evangelical family becomes pregnant. Essie helps her mother manufacture an engagement to a classmate in order to cover for the public, all the while providing the true story to a reporter with her own background trauma from religious fanaticism. An absorbing read with a trio of central characters you won’t want to leave behind. This book will appeal to adult and high school-age fiction lovers, reality TV junkies.
Flight Season by Marie Marquardt
This novel trails two characters trying to navigate their own personal worlds. It is a cleverly designed novel that allows insight into each of the characters minds. I finished this book in one go because it was so captivating. Young Adult readers who like self realization novels with a touch of romance would love this!
Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
I found myself drawn into the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox” about a young woman growing up in the Hasidic Jewish Community of Williamsburg, NY in present day. It was a limited series, only four episodes, I think, but I was fascinated to learn about this religious community, their beliefs and traditions. That led me to the book upon which the series was based, an autobiography also titled Unorthodox and written by Deborah Feldman. I found her coming of age story to be fascinating and a triumph about how to follow your own path in the most extraordinary of circumstances. The description of Jewish food, the kosher preparations they follow, the clothing and hairstyles allowed by single and married women and what they represent, were all very interesting to me in addition to the main story itself. Readers of biography, history, and religious and women’s studies will love this book.
Camino Island by John Grisham
I listened to and really liked Camino Island, which is about a young woman is recruited to recover priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts that were stolen during a daring heist. I thought it was interesting that the book was loosely inspired by Amelia Island in Florida and that the town with the bookstore in the book was modeled off Fernandina, Florida. I recommend it for anyone looking for a good mystery.
The book is a reader’s companion to the casework of Sherlock Holmes and it explores the methodology of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Written in a lively fashion, it covers everything from analyzing fingerprints to bee keeping. 224 pages, but can be read in a Pittsburgh rainy afternoon. The Sherlock Holmes Handbook will appeal to Baker Street Irregulars of all ages. Fun read.
The Bad Seed by William March
I’m just finishing The Bad Seed, the novel by William March. I had just re-watched the film of the same name – powerful performance by Nancy Kelly as the mother of the murderous Rhoda – and wondered about source material. The book is vastly different from the film but it is a deep and abiding portrait of a mother faced with the horrific circumstances involving a child (think “The Exorcist”). It is complex because the mother is as responsible for what occurs as the child. Great stuff!
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
I recently read The Glass Hotel. Beautifully written and with intriguing characters. From the author of Station Eleven— which was even better. I’m currently reading Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffith (which just won the Edgar Award for 2020); a slightly spooky mystery — can’t wait to find out whodunit!
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
This well-written story keeps you guessing until the end. It’s a modern mystery with a mid-level pace and several red herrings thrown in to keep readers engaged. I could barely put the book down & enjoyed several late-night reading sessions! Mystery lovers will enjoy this title.
I enjoyed it because it had elements of true crime as well as history. It tells a piece of the story of how to FBI came to be through the narrative surrounding a number of unsolved murders.
The Five Silent Years of Corrie Ten Boom by Pamela Rosewell Moore
The book I’m reading is really old, but really inspiring! So inspiring that I’m reading it a second time back-to-back! During World War II, Corrie and her family were arrested and sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home in Holland. The library also has Corrie’s best-selling book The Hiding Place which launched for Corrie a worldwide ministry of travel and speaking for 30 + years. Rosewell’s book is an inspiring account of how Corrie’s ministry amazingly continued after she suffered a stroke and could no longer speak! But the book I would recommend first is The Hiding Place because that would introduce readers to this inspiring lady, Corrie Ten Boom!
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Right now I am reading The Mirror & the Light. Although I am only about half way through it, I am enjoying it. I love the way she writes; you really feel like you are right there, talking to Henry VIII. Mantel is descriptive and the book is really well researched. This is the third book in the Wolf Hall Trilogy, so if you liked Wolf Hall (personal favorite) or Bring Up the Bodies, also by Mantel, you will enjoy this book!
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Based on a true story, this book explores the secret Cold War plot to bring Doctor Zhivago to the world. The idea that literature can change the world prompted the CIA to try and smuggle this masterpiece out of the USSR. Prescott weaves the tales of Pasternak, his muse Olga, and the CIA to create this delicious blend of historical fiction and espionage thriller. Read if you like historical fiction, spies, and Russian literature.
So Much Longing In So Little Space / The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard
I am reading So Much Longing In So Little Space / The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Loving this book, a brilliant writer’s thoughts and opinions about the work and psyche of one of my favorite painters, Munch. Every sentence is rich and provocative, with many references to philosophers and other painters (including interviews with) and of course a plethora of information about Munch’s life.
UnTamed by Glennon Doyle
I loved this book! Honest, raw and gave me so much to think about in regards to relationships and how to live life authentically.
Virgin River by Robyn Carr
I have read many books during this time but here are three I really enjoyed: Virgin River a light read from Robyn Carr. When you finish the book you can binge watch the original Netflix series of the same name based on the book. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grimes is a debut novel that delves into the family secrets of an Italian American family. I could not put down this timely family story. And also once again local author Marie Benedict’s Lady Clementine entertains while giving us a gentle history lesson.
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
This is the perfect book for anyone who needs a laugh. Especially if you have kids. Comedy Lovers will really enjoy this title. I also read, When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan (writer, director & Jim’s wife). When you are a mother of five and writing partner of a well-know comedian, learning that you have a tumor the size of a pear in your head is not great news. Well, it’s not really great news for anyone. Even though medical scares are serious, Gaffigan is able to tell her story humor and heart. This title is really great for Biography readers.
Our October staff pick comes from Pat Drogowski. This is what she had to say about it.
“My summer favorite, maybe all-time favorite:
The Boys in the Boat : Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown
The popularity and challenges of crew are intricately and interestingly described through the Seattle college team that makes it to 1936 Berlin Olympics team! This was the number-one sport of that era. But more than that is the struggle of the main character faced with extreme poverty, family abandonment and the stamina and courage to win and lose. History and the extremes of life during the Depression and Dust Bowl are woven so well into this story. He is an unsung American hero to say the least.”
This month we have a great selection from one of our librarians, Lynne H.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
“The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan has been my favorite book of the summer. It’s totally basically fanfiction of Kate Middleton and Prince William… but don’t laugh, I swear it’s really good! For those who love easy to read chick lit that you don’t have to think about.”
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn was a huge bestseller two years ago, staying on the New York Times’ list for months.
Pat, who picked the book, said about it:
Think Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close in a hip marriage! Everything you think will happen, doesn’t. It’s terrifying for a desperate husband who is accused of murdering the ‘gone’ girl – his wife.
About why the book is especially appealing she said:
You cannot put it down! There are twists, turns, a sociopathic/psychopathic wife who is assumed murdered, quick chapters, believable characters, families in dysfunction, and confused one-sided investigators. This book needs a sequel.
While author Gilliam Flynn has no plans for a sequel, the movie is due out on October 3, 2014. The internet was abuzz this week when a new trailer was released.
If you haven’t read it yet, check out a copy and read it before you see the movie this autumn!
After a month off from staff picks, we’re back in June with one from Meghan!
LOST LAKE by Sarah Addison Allen
Kate has been lingering in a fog throughout the year since her husband died, and it is only when her manipulative mother-in-law threatens to hijack her life that Kate begins to snap to. When her wardrobe-challenged eight-year-old daughter, Devin, discovers an old letter from Kate’s great-aunt Eby, the pair go on the lam to Lost Lake, Eby’s dilapidated resort camp tucked deep in the south Georgia swamplands. Long widowed, with dwindling funds and a diminishing guest roster, Eby may be forced to sell her fading haven to an unscrupulous developer, until Kate’s arrival gives her a new lease on life.
When talking about why she liked this book, Meghan said,
I love Sarah Addison Allen’s books because of their atmosphere, magical realism, and pleasurable endings.
If this sounds like a story you’d enjoy reading too, be sure to click the title above to request a copy. It is also available as an audiobook. Book description from Booklist, copyright 2010.
For our April Staff Pick, which comes a little later in the month, let’s look at a recommendation from Emily (who, for full disclosure, is me…since referring to myself in the third person just felt weird).
Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell, is an exploration of the places in America with connections to the first three US Presidential assassinations. Vowell explains how these places and the collective memories of significant people and events related to the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley have been shaped and in some cases manipulated by the historical tourism industry. Assassination Vacation reads as part pop history, part travelogue and part (irreverently) witty essay.
I really liked this book and enjoyed reading it because of the characters. Even though it is a nonfiction book, there were definitely characters. I found the section on President Garfield to be particularly interesting, and he an especially interesting character. Also, Sarah Vowell herself, and her friends and family were all really great, vivid characters.
Assassination Vacation is also available in Large Print, as a Book on CD, and as an OverDrive eBook in Kindle Book or Adobe EPUB eBook formats. Vowell has written several other books on American history and culture, including The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World, and Unfamiliar Fishes.
Our March Staff Pick is from Pat, on the first anniversary of it’s publication in March 2013, after nearly 50 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List (including time spent in the number one spot): Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Click the title to read more about the book and see reviews in our library catalog.
This book received a *Starred Review* from Booklist and was called, “the new manifesto for women in the workplace,” by Oprah Winfrey.
Here is what Pat has to say about the book, and why she liked it:
The chief operating officer of Facebook wisely and clearly explains the inequalities women face in the workforce and how she has paved her way. This book reads and rings true, especially for young women in all leadership positions. Sandberg writes compellingly and includes a wonderful family background that guided her throughout and taught her well. Those who have made gains for women and others need to understand that these huge strides have made the world a better place for everyone.
Pat also said that she thought Lean In would be eye-opening for men as well as women, even especially for men.
Lean In is also available at Sewickley Public Library as a Book on CD; or through OverDrive as a eBook in both Kindle Book and Adobe EPUB eBook formats, and as an eAudiobook in both mp3 and WMA formats.
This month’s staff pick is from Ing: Help for the Haunted, by John Searles. Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson calls Searles’ third novel “[s]uperlative storytelling” in a starred review.
Ing described the story, without giving too much away…
Sylvie has always known that her parents had unique jobs, jobs that scared others and even scared her from time to time. Her parents were help to haunted souls, modern day exorcists, if you will. But was the danger in their family really of a supernatural nature? Or was something even more sinister going on?
When asked what appealed to her about the book, and why you should check it out, Ing said,
This is a fascinating story and has a very sympathetic narrator in Sylvie. If you enjoy supernatural stories, or even if you don’t, this book is written well and keeps you guessing all the way through.
Help for the Haunted has won a 2014 Alex Award, which is given each year by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association, to “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.” Click the link above to see other 2014 Alex Award Winners.
Our first staff pick in an ongoing series has been graciously provided by Sue. This debut novel by M.L. Stedman was a months-long New York Times bestseller and received a starred review from Booklist.
After serving four years on the Western Front, Tom returns a decorated military hero. He takes a position as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island, Janus Rock. Soon after, he meets his young bride, Isabel, and brings her to accompany him. They have dreams of raising their family happily, together on the island. After years of fertility trouble and two miscarriages, a boat washes up to the shore carrying a dead man and a living baby. And this is all on page one of the book!
Sue enjoyed The Light Between Oceans for a variety of reasons. Here are her comments on what appealed to her and why you should check it out:
The writing is beautiful, and yet fast-paced enough so that you don’t want to put it down. From page one, you are hooked. This is a good old-fashioned novel: plot driven with plenty of twists, poetic descriptions, emotional conflict, and well-drawn characters. In fact, it’s impossible to read this book and not become totally drawn in by the characters. The setting is also appealing, a remote island off the coast of Western Australia on which a lone couple lives and keeps the lighthouse. But, what an emotional quandary they face! And how they unknowingly affecting the lives of others with their choices!
Sue said she highly recommends The Light Between Oceans for book club discussions due to the deep moral dilemmas faced by many of the characters.
Click the title above to find this book in the online library catalog, where you can request a copy.