Byron’s Top 10 2019

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts  
I loved reading the Wizard of Oz series when I was a kid. The MGM musical is one of my favorite movies. So, this historical fiction novel that traces the life of Maud Gage, later Maud Baum, touches on many themes that I enjoy. We get behind the scenes looks at how the creation of the first book and the classic technicolor movie might have happened. Maud’s mother Matilda Joslyn Gage, the most prolific suffragette writer, has a big influence on Maud and Frank. From the perspective of 2019 when there is a record number of women serving in the U.S. Congress (at 24%) it is fascinating to see the strength of women who fought for early women’s rights. This book really brings the history to life. I enjoyed that the story was told from Maud’s point of view, and I recommend that you check out this book too!

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker  
With a lot of examples professor Pinker proceeds to lay out his case that the world and the human condition are in fact getting better. Or at least with the problem solving tools of the Enlightenment we humans are capable of improving the world’s problems.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel  
This award winning graphic memoir about a father and daughter’s relationship is captivating. The fusion of visual and verbal language is some of the best out there.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig  
A book about Haig’s personal journey with depression. A book that makes sense to those dealing with depression. Short poems, lists, and essays have a refreshing informality.      

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler  
Dana is a black woman living in the 1970s who is mysteriously pulled back in time to the early 1800s. The book is a bit more fast paced than the Outlander series with back and forth time travelling.

Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection  
This is not only a book of essays and archival history about the musician Lead Belly, but a BONUS set of 5 CDs. He was a singer of folk tunes, blues, and an early influencer of rock & roll.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds  
A teen frequently gets in trouble at school because his classmates make fun of the neighborhood where he lives, his ill-fitting clothes, the fact that his mother cuts his hair, everything associated with being poor. Can he adapt to the rules at track practice with Coach and find a place among the other young runners?        

Hell’s Heart (Star Trek: Prey #1) by John Jackson Miller
The Jackal’s Trick (Star Trek: Prey #2) by John Jackson Miller
The Hall of Heroes (Star Trek: Prey #3) by John Jackson Miller  
While waiting for new Star Trek TV content I read this trio of paperbacks. Beloved characters from the existing series and a handful of new well-drawn characters embark on a new adventure involving the Unsung and peril in the Klingon-Federation alliance.      

BONUS Movie:  
The Public written and directed by Emilio Estevez

Byron’s Top Ten of 2018

Eight out of my top ten this year I listened to on CDs during my commutes. Half are written by women and half by men. Half of these also have a strong connection to Hollywood or the entertainment industry, which is one of my favorite subjects in both fiction and non-fiction. Try out some of these recommended titles for yourself and Happy Holidays!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

narrated by Wil Wheaton

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

narrated by Neil Gaiman

Circe by Madeline Miller

narrated by Perdita Weeks

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

narrated by Elizabeth McGovern

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

narrated by Kimberly Farr

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

narrated by Sean Runnette

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

narrated by Kathe Mazur

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger

 

Bonus: Two 5 star films in my opinion. One deservedly received recognition in last year’s awards season. The other is in limited theatrical release right now, so you would have to wait for the movie to be available at our library.

Lady Bird (2017) directed by Greta Gerwig

Mirai (2018) directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Top 7 of 2017

Let me introduce myself since I’m the newest sub at the Reference Desk. You might also see me around the library shelving for the Circulation Department. I’m Byron. I’ve written movie reviews online for Flixster (now Rotten Tomatoes) and published a collection of 365 of those reviews in my book 100+ Years of Movies. Through some entrepreneurial struggles and not having as much leisure time to read I’ve unfortunately fallen short of my reading goal this year. It seemed silly to me to recommend my top 10 when I only read 22 books all year. Therefore, listed in the order I read them, I present my Top 7!

Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert by Roger Ebert • I regularly read about the art of cinema. As the cover says this contains some of the best of Ebert’s writing throughout forty years of his career. If you are only familiar with his reviews, you can sample his essays and unique interviews here too.

AwakeintheDark

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates • Journalist Coates has such important things to say about race relations in America. It is not to be dismissed, but will likely require careful repeat reading of passages to fully grasp everything. Glancing at my co-workers’ posts earlier this week I’ve noticed that at least two others have also recommended this work.

BetweentheWorldandMe

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson • Marvel has had certain writers reimagining classic heroes to introduce more diversity. Volume 5 in the series about Muslim American teen Kamala Khan is a return to the excitement of the beginning of the series considering I thought Volumes 3 and 4 went a little off track.

MsMarvelVol5

March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis • During 2017 I read all three parts of this graphic novel autobiographical series by Congressman John Lewis. Book One is slightly weaker in structure with so much exposition compared to Book Two and Book Three, however taken together they are all very strong. This period of history comes alive in graphic format.

MarchBookOneMarchBookTwoMarchBookThree

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard • I’ve been intrigued by this title for quite awhile. I had to wait several months to check out the ebook on OverDrive. I’ve been struggling to understand recent National election results and have felt the country is more divided than united. America is more complicated than two political parties, red states, and blue states. This book dives into North America’s history and uncovers eleven cultural nations that have been vying for power since the beginning.

AmericanNations