Banned Books Week 2021: Shannon’s Favorites

The logo for banned books week: a yellow banner with black text that reads "Banned Books Week" over an icon of a red book.

It’s Banned Books Week again, and now more than ever, it is important to talk to about censorship and the right to read. We as librarians stand against censorship and banning books, and in fact, some of my favorite books are on the list of the most frequently challenged books.

In honor of this important week, here are some of my favorite books from the list:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book cover + links to RRPL catalog

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, moving story ripped straight from the headlines, of a Black girl who was the only witness to her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer; this book is number 30 of the 100 most challenged books of the decade.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi book cover that links to RRPL catalog.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

An excellent graphic memoir that details the author’s childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution; I read this in college and it changed my perspective on regular people living in the Middle East. Number 40.

The Giver by Lois Lowry book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I read this dystopian classic in grade school, and it has remained one of my favorite books. It truly helped me see the world differently. This one is number 61.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

A beloved series of science fiction space opera graphic novels, Saga is often challenged in libraries due to violence and sexual content. This series come in at number 76 on the list of most challenged books of the decade.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Number two on the list of most challenged books of 2020, this important book teaches racism to children of a new generation.

These are my favorite banned books, but plenty of books are challenged in libraries every day. To participate in Banned Books Week yourself, check out the Banned Books Week website for challenges, activities, interviews with authors, and more.

Image with two hands holding a book that reads: Censorship divides us. The picture is a link to the Banned Books Week website.

10 Recommended Funny Books by Women

Are you in need of a good laugh? I’m sure most of us are seeking humor more than usual during this difficult time and one of my favorite ways to be heartened is cozying up with a hilarious book. I just finished Shit, Actually by Lindy West, a collection of scathing and laugh out loud funny reviews of popular films, which was exactly what I needed this past week.

If you are interested in women’s comedy, which has long been a prime spot for women to talk back and break taboos in mainstream popular culture, join us tonight on Zoom for Pretty/Funny: Women Comedians and Body Politics at 7 pm Eastern. This sure to be engaging virtual program with Linda Mizejewski, Ph.D, Distinguished Professor in Ohio State University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department, is an overview of women’s comedy beginning with Mae West and ending with the new generation of women comedians such as Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic, targeting glamour and in some cases making it clear that in popular culture, “pretty” almost always means “white.” Click here to register!


There are a plethora of fabulous titles out there by my favorite funny women, and I’ve selected ten of my top choices for you below.

Hop on over to our Overdrive catalog to snag one of these fabulous titles now, or request a print copy, and let the laughter begin! Happy reading all.

Ten Graphic Novels for Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month! Did you know that Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981? Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields. You can read more about Women’s History Month here.

To celebrate, I’m sharing some great graphic novels that highlight women authors, illustrators, women’s stories, and more! Take a look below to see my ten picks for graphic novels you should read this month to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Click here jump to our online catalog! All titles are available in our print collection or digitally in Hoopla.

Happy reading!

What I’m Currently Reading & What’s Next

In typical librarian fashion, I am always reading a book or two, in addition to having a plethora of books sitting in various to-be-read piles in my house. Back in the days of spending time at my library office desk, I would always keep a book there to read during my meal breaks (stares nostalgically out window thinking of my desk…). Of course, now that I’m home most of the time I keep a book in the dining room to read during lunch breaks. There is always a book on my night stand (usually my Kindle hangs out there) as well and a book on my coffee table, so I’m prepared for reading at all times. Take a look below to see what I’m currently reading and what I have lined up for the next couple months!

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

I was so excited to snag an ARC of this book from NetGalley! I’m only about halfway through but it is great so far. After escaping a dangerously strict religious compound, where she was forced to marry the nefarious leader Reverend Sherman, teenage Vern escapes to the woods pregnant and alone. She gives birth to twins in the forest and tries her best to survive the harsh realities of this isolated life, all the while being pursued by a mysterious fiend, odd hallucinations, and experiencing uncanny changes in her body and abilities.

You can read a full review of this novel from my colleague Shannon by clicking here!

Something is Killing the Children: Volume 2 by James Tynion IV

Collecting issues #6-10 of this horror comic series, readers catch up with monster killer Erica Slaughter after she has slain the beast who was terrorizing the small town of Archer’s Peak. The only problem is that the monster had babies and now they are loose in the town. A mysterious man from The House of Slaughter arrives (is this the monster slayer version of a Watcher?) to help clean up the mess but seems to make matters worse.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

I am not usually an audiobook person, but every once in a while I check out an audiobook on Hoopla to listen to while I’m in the kitchen. I adore Shirley Jackson but have yet to read all her short stories and this audiobook has been a joy to listen to. Humorous, dark, and sometimes tragic, this powerful collection of haunting stories is read by a variety of voice actors making for an interesting and engaging experience.

What’s next for me? I have Tender is the Flesh by Agustina María Bazterrica, on deck, which was recommended by multiple authors in a recent Women in Horror author panel I viewed. It’s been on my want to read list for a while but after hearing some amazing authors highlight it as one of their favorite books of last year, I knew I needed to bump it up the pile! Another book that was shared in the panel and recommended to me by a friend is Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation. I just got the ebook loaded on my Kindle thanks to OverDrive and can’t wait to start it. Finally, I’m patiently waiting for a digital copy of The Push by Ashley Audrain to arrive for me!

What is on your to-be-read pile? What are you currently reading? Share in the comments and happy reading!

Love WandaVision? Read These Graphic Novels

Scarlet Witch has been a favorite character of mine since childhood. I’m sure there is still a late 90s era Scarlet Witch action figure at my parent’s house somewhere, in all her red and pink spandex glory. Disney+ recently launched a new streaming series all about Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and her love Vision, entitled WandaVision. The show is an entertaining blend of era-specific sitcoms, think I Love Lucy, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, etc., shrouded in mystery and ominous tones reminiscent of the best of The Twilight Zone.

Not since Game of Thrones (RIP Dany- you will always be my Queen) has a television show inspired me to read weekly AV Club articles, peruse the internet for other fan’s theories and predictions, and talk at length with friends about episodes. It is so much fun.

If you’re enjoying the show, but not well-versed in the comics history of this stellar character, I would highly recommend reading one or all of the graphic novels below! They are collected volumes of some of Wanda and Vision’s best story arcs and would serve as a great introduction to these two. Conversely, if you are an established fan like myself, re-reading these might give you a greater appreciation of the show, in addition to fuel for your plot theories. *wink wink*

The Vision: Little Worse Than a Man by Tom King

The Vision wants to be human and in this Eisner award winning series he decides that family is about as human as it gets. So he heads back to the beginning, to the laboratory where Ultron created him and molded him into a weapon. The place where he first rebelled against his given destiny and imagined that he could be more -that he could be a man. There, he builds them. A wife, Virginia. Two teenage twins, Viv and Vin. They look like him. They have his powers. They share his grandest ambition (or is that obsession?) the unrelenting need to be ordinary. What could go wrong?

Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch- A Year in the Life by Steve Englehart

In a world full of heroes, villains, and monsters, there are few stranger phenomenons than the marriage of a mutant witch to a heroic synthozoid! As this unlikely couple settles into their home in Leonia, New Jersey, they find themselves at odds with the members of their complex families, including Ultron, the Grim Reaper, Quicksilver, and Magneto. When Wanda uses the power of a village of witches to make herself pregnant, the happy twosome becomes a happy foursome when twin sons William and Thomas are born, the future Wiccan and Speed of the Young Avengers!

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis

I read this story arc years ago but want to revisit it thanks to WandaVision and some sly Easter eggs that seem to point to this potentially being important to the show’s mysterious plot. In 2005, Bendis and Coipel created the world of the House of M storyline. This was one of the many times that Scarlet Witch changed reality with her powers. The Avengers are trying to determine what to do with Wanda, with some believing they need to kill her. Wanda creates a new world known as the House of M- she said “no more mutants,” and 98% of the world’s mutants instantly lost their powers. Oops?!

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg

Another story arc I read years ago, The Children’s Crusade picks up following Wanda’s actions in House of M. Wanda has disappeared. While some knew where she was, the world soon learned that Wanda was still alive and well, and that sent the Avengers to find her and the X-Men to try and possibly kill her. Eventually, they take her back into the fold of the Avengers and the X-Men are held off for now.

Scarlet Witch: Witches’ Road by James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire & Cory Petit

This is the first collected volume of this great series from some of my favorite writers and artists, like Jordie Bellaire (check out her Buffy reboot! SO GOOD.). Witchcraft is broken – and Wanda is on a journey across the globe to fix it. From the back alleys of Manhattan to the serene Greek Isles to the Irish countryside, the former Avenger will face myths and legends from ancient lore, cure curses, and discover there’s is even more to her complex family history than she knew. In Spain she will visit a church where witches like her were once burned at the stake – and be haunted by the ghosts of the Spanish Inquisition!

All the titles above are available via Hoopla or through our catalog! Are you watching WandaVision? Do you have a favorite Scarlet Witch or Vision comic? Share in the comments! Happy reading !

Discover Your 2021 Reading Goals

Like many other librarians and avid readers, I have set a reading goal for myself each January for at least the past decade. The book number tends to steadily increase, though I’ve stuck to 50 books for the last couple years. 50 books seemed daunting when I first set that goal, but after realizing I should count everything I read (not just novels) it was definitely an attainable goal. Between the single issue comics I regularly pick up and the plethora of cookbooks I seem to always have checked out, I’m able to get to my goal without too much trouble. This year I’m planning to revisit some old favorites for second or third readings (looking at your American Gods) in addition to a good variety of newly published titled and new to me titles.

If you are someone who hasn’t set a reading goal before, or perhaps you’ve struggled with not completing your goal, I’m here to encourage you to give it another try! Most importantly to remind you- if you are setting this reading goal for fun, because you enjoy reading, then make sure you have FUN! I have plenty of friends who seem to beat themselves up for not reading more, but your reading habits aren’t for any awards or competition. Read what you like, as often as you like. If that means 5 books a year, then that is fabulous!

I often hear people putting pressure on themselves to read “important” books. Just the other day my husband semi-jokingly said “2021 will be the year I read Crime and Punishment!” as he grabbed the Dostoevsky classic off our home bookshelf. Is he actually going to read this book? Probably not. Is it a book that he might feel he is supposed to read because #literature? Yes. But who really cares about all that? If all you want to read in 2021 is romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, or heartwarming dog stories, then you do you.

This year, as I ease back into my routine after some relaxing time sequestering myself away during the holidays, I’m looking at what I am most excited to read in the coming months. Below you will find some of the soon-to-be published titles I cannot wait to read in 2021!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

Getaway by Zoje Stage (no cover art available)

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Poison Flowers and Pandemonium by Richard Sala

If you are a horror fan like me I highly recommend checking out this awesome post from Emily Hughes on the Tor Nightfire blog- you can see all the horror books being published in 2021 in a handy dandy month by month list! *heart-eyes emoji*

2020 was obviously a difficult year, and even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel for 2021, we aren’t out of the woods yet so be kind to yourself and read what brings you joy and happiness. What are you most excited to read this year? Share in the comments below!

Dori’s Top Ten of 2020

Yikes – what a year, right? I’ve been caught between not being able to focus on reading at all, with my concentration as slippery as an eel, and total and complete immersion in a book, with a desire to never leave!

What that means in terms of the quantity of books read is that I did not read a lot, but those that I did read I sunk into and they felt like the perfect book to read at the time. Lots of historical fiction, a graphic novel, essays about nature and climate change, and an endearing fable all provided me with an outlet, an escape, or an insightful way to get through this year. I hope you found similar ways to take your mind off 2020. Here’s to getting to 2021!

Hamnet: a Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell: a story about the family of William Shakespeare and the death of his young son, Hamnet, from the plague. The best of historical fiction, O’Farrell tells us the story from multiple perspectives, focusing on Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes.

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel: sad, but expected, the fascinating trilogy about Thomas Cromwell had to end, but it was a riveting journey.

Weather by Jenny Offill: I read this early in pandemic shutdown time and it just was a perfect fit – a meditative look at a woman and her family and her future; funny and prescient.

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza: this is the kind of book that I love – it’s narrated by an art historian in Argentina and each chapter she talks about a piece of art that she’s affected by and weaves the story of the artist and artwork into stories about her life and family in Argentina.

Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley: ok, this may seem like a silly book, a book with talking animals, but it’s not at all cheesy, or sickly sweet. It’s Smiley writing well, a lovely story about what all of us need, love, freedom, respect, and to dream.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon: I love Yoon’s writing; his latest is set in Cambodia and we see the effects of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War through the eyes of the 3 friends.

Trieste by Dasa Drndic: I picked this up because it was on my list to discard from the collection, then I read about it and took it home and became immersed in the story. I have read many things about the Holocaust, but this one has a new perspective – it’s fiction, but uses historical facts to tell the story of the Holocaust in Northern Italy and children removed from their parents. Challenging but worth it.

Sapiens: A Graphic History, The Birth of Humankind (Vol. 1) by Yuval Noah Harari, Daniel Casanave,  and David Vandermeulen: This book is based on the author’s book Sapiens, which I never read (but should now) and is volume 1 of the story of the evolution of humanity – clever and eye-opening.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King: King’s Euphoria was a favorite of mine a few years back; this one is altogether different – set in the present, a woman writer finding her way.

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald: MacDonald’s H is for Hawk took the world by storm and this new book of collected essays continues with her focus on the natural world and climate change, with glorious writing to boot.

A joyful holiday season to all –

~ Dori

Megan’s Favorite Books of 2020

This year mysteries, thrillers, and true crime book topped my reading list. The Novel Scares book club forced me out of that comfort zone and introduced me to two of the books on my list-books I never would have selected for myself.

Mystery/Thrillers/Horror:

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

The Good House by Tananarive Due

Good Night Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Nonfiction/Memoirs

The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial

Good Kids, Bad City by Kyle Swenson

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Delightful Surprises:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Sweet Murder by Tegan Maher

With the exception of Solutions and Other Problems, I listened to all of these books. The House in the Cerulean Sea was my absolute favorite book of 2020. It was the charming and thoughtful book that I needed during this difficult year.

~Megan