Lauren’s Top Ten of 2017

Last year I read my first ever book by Neil Gaiman (I KNOW.) (American Gods).  So 2017, for me, was sort of The Year of Gaiman and I spent it getting my hands on as much of his work as I could.  I picked out a few of my top Gaiman reads for the year and gave them one spot on my list (the rules are pretty liberal around here).  I did the same for another author I happened to discover this year, Jason Reynolds.  Again, as soon as I read my first book by Reynolds I immediately went after more.  Playing catch-up is SUPER fun when you don’t have to wait around for an author to put out more stuff for you to read.  The rest is, as per me, a little bit of everything.  Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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1.) Favorites by Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Graveyard BookNeverwhere)

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2.) Favorites by Jason Reynolds (Ghost- Track Series #1When I Was the GreatestAll American Boys)

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3.) A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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4.) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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5.) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

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6.) The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney

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7.) Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

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8.) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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9.) The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (The Magicians Series)

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10.) The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (The Neapolitan Novels)

Lauren’s Top Ten of 2016

Each year I worry that I won’t know what to come up with for my top ten list–this worrying lasts all of two seconds because as soon as I start to look back over a year’s worth of nose-in-a-book, I realize I read PLENTY of wonderful stuff!  This year my list is a little bit all over the place, just like my reading preferences.  Enjoy! ~Lauren


The Trespasser by Tana French


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer


You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day


Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda


Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman


American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Thrice the Brinded Cath Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley


The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers


Here are a couple of extra favorites for me this year that I was inspired to read by my coworkers who picked them for their Top Ten lists last year. So if that initial plug wasn’t enough to motivate you, maybe my two-thumbs-up will help!


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff / The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins / The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Viktor Schreckengost

Is the name Viktor Schreckengost familiar to you? It should be!  Schreckengost (1906-2008) was one of Cleveland’s most prized artists and industrial designers and his work is still celebrated all over the world.  Cowan Pottery Museum at Rocky River Public Library is home to a number of works by Viktor Schreckengost, including his most famous ceramic work, the Jazz Bowl from 1931.  It’s arguably one of the most important examples of American art pottery ever (for sure, if you ask me).

25.)Schreckengost-Jazz Bowl 3

There have been a lot of Schreckengost items in the local news lately.  A couple of his works are being restored and reinstalled in Cleveland institutions (hooray!) and now that the dream of a Schreckengost museum has been abandoned, a huge collection of work that was in the possession of his family is being auctioned off as well as donated to a few local museums (bittersweet!).


Here are some links to catch up on your Viktor-buzz…have a look and you will be sure to wow friends at your next cocktail party!

Schreckengost’s pachyderms at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

City of Cleveland restoring Schreckengost’s “Time & Space”

Schreckengost heirs drop museum idea and plan to auction and donate artworks, designs

NYT- A Designer’s Sale of Memorabilia


Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s Day! March 8th is a worldwide celebration of women and their achievements and a call for gender equality.  Take today to celebrate being YOU or any of the special ladies in your life!  Last night I started reading Gloria Steinem’s latest, My Life on the Road, which feels pretty appropriate for this week.  (My signed copy was a Christmas gift!)  I tried to jot down a quick list of some of my favorite women authors and I kept thinking of writers of children’s books.  It turns out I grew up reading some pretty great women, so I mixed those in with other classics.  What women have shaped your bookshelves over the years?

jane eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

handmaid's tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

little house

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

murder on the orient

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

julie wolves

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

harriet the spy

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

stepping cracks.jpg

Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn

from the mixed up files

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg


From the Page to the Silver Screen

Did you watch the Oscars on Sunday night? The Academy Awards are hands-down my favorite awards show.  In the months leading up to the big night I get out and see as many of the nominated films as possible and obsessively cross them off my list before finally marking my own ballot in the days leading up to Oscar Sunday.  There were lots of great movies this year and it was nice to see some major categories spread around to different films.  The Revenant took home Best Director and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio (15-year-old me was THRILLED about this ;)….), Mad Max: Fury Road nearly cleaned up all the technical categories, and Spotlight won for its screenplay and the ultimate prize—Best Picture.

There are always great movies that started out as great books—and this year was no exception!  I loved Room by Emma Donoghue and was not disappointed by the film adaptation.  Here are the books that inspired a number of this year’s Oscar nominees—check them out!

big short

The Big Short by Michael Lewis


Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

price of salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (later republished under the title Carol)

the martian

The Martian by Andy Weir


Room by Emma Donoghue


The Revenant: a Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

danish girl

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

100 year old man

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


Lauren’s 2015 Top Ten (and then some…)

This year I’ve got an even split between fiction and non-fiction! While I am always reading both, I definitely read more fiction in general.  I guess if it’s non-fiction it’s something I’ve heard about and really want to read, so I am usually not disappointed. Here are some of my favorites I’ve read the past year–and a chunk of bonus books!


Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Crimson Petal

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


Thunder and Lightning

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss

Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Why Not Me

Why Not Me?  by Mindy Kaling

Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson


Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

My bonus section is reserved for series that I love and that have taken up a lot of my reading time this year–they are mostly historical fiction/mystery, with a little YA and sci-fi/fantasy thrown in.  Any of these books’ “partners” in their respective series are a GO.

As Chimney SweepersCareer of EvilMortal Heart

Curious BeginningWinter




Latest Additions

Hate me all you want, but since this has never happened and likely will never happen again, I would just like to take a small piece of this public forum to announce: My Christmas Shopping Is Already Done. I can’t explain how this has been accomplished (aliens swapped out my brain with that of someone way more proactive about this stuff???), but there are presents–wrapped–under my Christmas tree.  If you’re like me, take some time to relax in these usually  crazy weeks leading up to the holidays and curl up with a book.  Go for it even if you’re not! That’s what typical-me would certainly do.


A Gift from Bob by James Bowen


The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown


The Borden Murders: LIzzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller


The Great Forgetting by James Renner


The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins


Cheers to Library history!

I attended the Ohio Museums Association’s annual conference on behalf of the Cowan Pottery Museum this past weekend.  This year’s conference took place right here in Cleveland and both Sunday’s museum tours and Monday’s conference sessions were wonderful.  I am excited to have returned chock full of some new ideas to bring to the Museum!

We capped our conference experience with a special treat—a private tour of the Great Lakes Brewing Company facilities in Ohio City.  Though they were much appreciated, my enthusiasm to go on the tour did not rest solely upon the promise of free samples of beer.  Additionally, I was excited to visit a place with an important connection to Rocky River Public Library’s history.  The building that now houses GLBC once housed the operations of the Schlather Brewing Company.  Leonard Schlather did business in Ohio City, but he relaxed at the lavish country estate he built in Rocky River (originally on Wooster Road).  It is because of the bequest of Leonard and Sophia Schlather that the library was able to complete its first major expansion in the 1956 (familiar to you as the “Schlather Room”).  Much of the fine art collection that graces the Library’s walls (given in 1954) is also part of the bequest that Sophia Schlather made in honor of her husband.

GLBC 3         GLBC 2

It was very neat to see that GLBC has some artifacts of Schlather Brewing in their building.  They even have a large piece of the building’s old parapet bearing the Schlather name that was unearthed during construction work years ago and put on display in their tap room.  What a great slice of local history to be enjoyed by museum professionals and beer drinkers alike!




Road trip!

I had a chance to take a mini-getaway to the Windy City this past weekend. Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit!  When I’m on vacation my top priorities usually center on what museums I am going to visit and what I am going to eat—and this trip was no exception.  I got a chance to see a really spectacular retrospective of early 20th Century American painter Archibald Motley at the Chicago Cultural Center and then tackled the Art Institute to visit some old favorites.  Did you know: the Art Institute of Chicago is home to one of Viktor Schreckengost’s iconic Jazz Bowls?  Indeed, the pride of our own Cowan Pottery Museum has a cousin in Chicago.  Of course I took a photo.  People probably wondered why I was so drawn to a funky blue punch bowl while surrounded by some of the most famous paintings in the history of American art, but I didn’t mind (I did the same thing last September at the Smithsonian!).jazz bowl

There was plenty of great food and drink (I ate TWO cheeseburgers at two separate restaurants) and lots of walking around the city which offered us some pretty perfect sunny weather.  I even stopped in the Chicago Public Library!  I’d never been inside what is a really gorgeous building (inside and out) right downtown.  The best part was the “Winter Garden” up on the very top floor with its spectacular atrium.  (Also tried to get a library card, totally denied…boo…)

chicago library


The Art World’s Great Mystery

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the theft of 13 works of art totaling $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. On March 18, 1990, in a plot that one imagines could only happen in the movies, two thieves disguised as police officers were buzzed into the museum by a security guard in the early morning hours. They then bound and handcuffed both guards on duty before stealing a number of Rembrandts (including his only known seascape), a Vermeer, and five Degas drawings, among other objects. The Museum initially offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works, but 25 years later the case remains open.

In 2013 the FBI announced that they believed the theft had been carried out by a New England-based crime organization and that some of the works had possibly been sold around Philadelphia in the early 2000s. Today all 13 works are still missing.

The theft has been the subject of much speculation and attention in popular culture, including Barbara A. Shapiro’s The Art Forger from 2012. Claire Roth is a struggling artist, reduced to creating copies of masterworks to make a living instead of forwarding her own career. She is approached by a gallery owner and agrees to forge a Degas drawing that was stolen during the famous heist in exchange for an exhibition of her own work. Claire quickly realizes the situation is more complicated—and more dangerous—than she could have ever imagined. Sounds like perfect reading for today!