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

Trent’s Top 10 of 2020

While 2020 was, in many ways, an extraordinarily challenging year, it was, for me, a good year for reading. Once again, new books make up a smaller portion of my 2020 lists, with only a few from this year or last. Instead, I continue to enjoy exploring classics, the crime genre canon, and working through a favorite author’s backlist. Here are the best books I’ve read in 2020.

10. Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

              Blacktop Wasteland is an old-fashioned heist novel ripe for the big screen staring a modern Steve McQueen style lead. Beauregard “Bug” Montage is the archetypical getaway driver gone straight that gets pulled back into one last job that is too sweet to pass up in difficult times. There is nothing too new in the plot, following typical heist tropes. What Cosby does deliver is plenty of action and character with depth and a good backstory in Bug.

9. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

              I never thought I’d be an Ann Patchett reader.  But, a coworker frequently brought up Bel Canto when we discussed books and told me on multiple occasions I should read it.  Since this same coworker badgered me into reading A Gentleman in Moscow, which turned out to be one of the best books I read last year, I figured I’d give Bel Canto a shot.  A book that was so excellent; that even with a trash ending, it still ended up on my top ten list.  This may sound like faint praise given the “trash ending” portion of the comment, but don’t let that ruin what is otherwise a sublime book for you, and you might even enjoy the ending. 

8. Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

              I enjoy travel and nature writing, but often I get annoyed with the author’s peevish or moralistic insight or their lengthy rapturous prose capturing the awe-inspiring world we all inhabit.  Macfarlane skews hard toward rapturous prose, and clocking in near 500 pages, Underland is lengthy.  With that said, Macfarlane does an amazing job making you feel the underworlds he visits.  There is one passage that portrayed such a profound sense of claustrophobia that I was unsure if I was going to be able to finish the chapter.  Another chapter exploring the catacombs of Paris is among the most fascinating pieces of travel literature I have ever read. Also, the cover art was fantastic, and the sole reason I picked up the book in the first place.

7. Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8) by James S.A. Corey

              I wouldn’t have thought that the eighth book in a nine-book space-opera series would be my favorite one yet.  The Expanse has been a remarkably consistent series, both in quality and publishing schedule (I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin).  More than any other book, the next book in this series is the one I’m most looking forward to reading next year.

6. Monstress, Vol 5: Warchild by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda

              Each new collection of Monstress continues to blow me away. Foremost because Takeda’s art is stunning.  I’ll continue with this series for as long as Takeda does the art.  Though progressing unhurriedly, the story continues to excel as well.  War arrives early in this volume, and the inevitable devastation follows.  This series remains complex, and I’m considering a reread to refresh myself on the early storyline. I am envious of anyone that gets to jump into the series now and can read multiple volumes without having to await the next release.

5. The Likeness (The Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French

              I read Tana French’s In the Woods two years back and loved it.  However, I couldn’t imagine enjoying The Likeness as much with only some of the characters returning for this book.  Needless to say, since it’s on my Best Of list, that I needn’t have worried. A few elements to the storyline seem rather unlikely.  For example, Cassie is a perfect doppelganger for a murder victim. However, the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can focus on the engaging characters. I learned my lesson with The Likeness and didn’t wait long before picking up Faithful Place, also very enjoyable, the next in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.

4. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

              I’m still working through the oeuvre of Don Winslow, so it’s too early for me to argue that you should read everything by him.  However, having read three more of his novels read this year, I have yet to be disappointed with any of his books.  The Winter of Frankie Machine and The Death and Life of Bobby Z, to a slightly lesser extent, were a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend them. However, it is Winslow’s Power of the Dog, a fictionalization of the war on drugs, that leads the pack.   

3. Dead Soon Enough (Juniper Song #3) by Steph Cha

              Read everything by Steph Cha.  There aren’t as many books by her as I’d like, only four, but they’re all phenomenal.  Three Juniper Song Marlowe-inspired PI novels, revitalizing the LA noir tropes in interesting and intelligent ways.  Dead Soon Enough being the final of the Song novels.  The fourth book is the lauded and award winning Their House Will Pay that revolves around the 1992 LA race riots.

2. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They by Horace McCoy

              I had heard of marathon dance competitions, but until reading They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, I never considered them much and certainly not as bleak and miserable experiences.  Robert and Gloria, two strangers with nothing to lose in depression-era California, meet and enter a marathon dance competition as partners.  They battle extreme physical and mental exhaustion and producers with schemes to create hype and excitement in order to bring in crowds – at the expense of the contestants. 

1. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

              At the onset of World War I, Paul Bäumer and several of this high school classmates enlist in a rush of patriotic fervor, incited largely by their teacher’s impassioned jingoistic speeches.  Their enthusiasm is bombarded as soon as they reach the trenches of the front.  Remarque masterfully writes the German counterpart to Wilfred Owen’s English poem Dulce Et Deocrum Est. “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” (Dulce et Decorum Est)

Honorable Mentions

New Books Tuesday @RRPL

This week we have a collection of autobiography, horror, historical fiction, and much more for you to choose from. You can also find topics such as health & fitness, sports, and social science… Enjoy!

NYPD Red 6 by James Patterson & Marshall Karp – Available for the first time in print, a sixth entry in the series co-written by the award-winning author of Jackie Ha-Ha continues the story of top NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan and his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald.

The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston – This third installment in the Found Things series finds Xanthe taking responsibility for inadvertently transporting the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time, while learning to use her skills as a spinner to keep her and Flora safe.

Future of Nutrition, The: An Insider’s Look at the Science, Why We Keep Getting It Wrong, and How to Start Getting It Right by T. Colin Campbell with Nelson Disla – A follow-up to the best-selling Whole presents a critique of the nutrition institution that identifies the systematic ways that even well-intentioned companies perpetuate misinformation, overlook key nutritional deficiencies and promote unhealthy levels of animal protein dependence.

I Came As a Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson – Provides the long-awaited autobiography from Georgetown University’s legendary coach, whose life on and off the basketball court throws America’s unresolved struggle with racial justice into sharp relief. 125,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Proquest Statistical Abstract of the United States 2021: The National Data Book by Proquest/ Bernan Press – The Statistical Abstract of the United States is the best known statistical reference. As a comprehensive collection of statistics on the social, political, and economic conditions of the country, it is a snapshot of America and its people. It includes over 1,400 tables from hundreds of sources.

Kings of Crypto:  One Startup’s Quest to Take Cryptocurrency Out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street by Jeff John Roberts – The author covers subjects such as cryptocurrency, patent reform, blockchain technology, hacking, and privacy in the age of social media for Fortune. His work has also appeared in a variety of other outlets, including Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Reuters, Fortune, and the New York Times.

Benedict XVI a Life: Youth in Nazi Germany to the Second Vatican Council 1927-1965 by Peter Seewald – The long-awaited and authoritative biography of Pope Benedict XVI. This necessary companion to Benedict’s own memoir, Last Testament, is the fullest account to date of the life of a radical Catholic leader who has continued to make news while cloistered in retirement in the Vatican gardens.

Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel by Rachel Holmes – On the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the definitive biography of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst-human rights champion, and radical feminist ahead of her time. In this enthralling biography, acclaimed author Rachel Holmes interweaves Pankhurst’s rebellious political and private lives to show how her astonishing achievements continue to resonate today.

The Berlin Shadow by Jonathan Lichtenstein – A deeply moving memoir that confronts the defining trauma of the twentieth century… Written with tenderness and grace, The Berlin Shadow is a highly compelling story about time, trauma, family, and a father and son’s attempt to emerge from the shadows of history.

Remina by Junji Ito – Another of Junji Ito’s classics, the sci-fi masterwork Remina tells the chilling tale of a hell star, unfolding on a universal scale.

~Semanur~

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2020

This year I stayed quite nicely tucked into my reading comfort blanket of weird, atmospheric, and dark reads for the most part. I read more than one collection of short stories, and one novella, which reflects my unpredictable ebb and flow of reading ambition the past ten months: some days I couldn’t focus on reading for more than fifteen minutes, while others days I was inspired to plant myself on the couch and read all weekend. Below you’ll find my ten favorite books I read this past year: including some supernatural thrillers, weird and beautiful science fiction, horror short stories, literary fiction, and more!

Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Stories of Horror Edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer

Bunny by Mona Awad

Circe by Madeline Miller

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

What I’m Reading Now- Comics

Hello readers! I haven’t been particularly inspired to write as of late, but after a wee holiday break over Thanksgiving and some relaxation time, I have returned to the keyboard. I’m ready to share some of what I’ve been reading these past few weeks, get you some great bookish gift recommendations (coming at you later this month!) and I’m also very ready to see this year out the door. Bye, 2020. It’s been real.

Today I’m listing some great comics I’ve been enjoying recently. I’m a huge Hoopla fan and per usual, all of the titles shared below are available on Hoopla with your library card!

Basketful of Heads Vol. 1 by Joe Hill

Is this actually a story involving a basketful of heads? Why yes, it is. Talking heads to be exact – not to be confused with the band. It is also the story of June Branch, a young woman who after narrowly escaping an attack with her life, finds herself in possession of a supernaturally powered Viking axe that seemingly allows decapitated heads to continue living after their bodily departure. As she tries to save her kidnapped boyfriend she discovers that all is not as it seems in this small town. It’s all the fun and weirdness I love from Joe Hill with a dash of crime, mystery, and some solid humor sprinkled in.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott

This graphic memoir from actor and activist George Takei is truly amazing. I recently read it for the second time to discuss in RRPL’s teen graphic novel book club, Comix Club, and was once again struck by this moving and eye opening story. Readers learn all about Takei’s traumatic experiences as a young child forced to live in the Japanese-American internment camps with his siblings and parents in the 40s. An important and often glossed over aspect of American history, this personal account of the terrible treatment many American citizens endured is a book that everyone should read.

The Red Mother Vol. 1 by Jeremy Haun

After suffering a mysterious and brutal attack while out with her boyfriend one evening, Daisy is not only left without her boyfriend but she also wakes in the hospital missing an eye. After receiving a prosthetic eye, she begins to have strange visions and see a dark and ominous creature staring at her amongst crowds- that nobody else seems to see except her. This first volume doesn’t reveal much and leaves readers with quite a cliffhanger, so I look forward to what is revealed in the next collected volume.

Dune: The Graphic Novel: Book 1 by Frank Herbert. Adapted by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson

I enjoy science fiction from time to time, but have yet to read any of the sci-fi classic Dune. It always seemed somewhat intimidating and I must admit some classic science fiction titles tend to strike me as a bit too male-centric for my tastes. This graphic novel adaptation is a great way to dip your toes into the series if you are like me and don’t want to commit to the traditional novels! With the new Dune film slated to be released soon there will surely be a new influx of interest in this series so now is a great time to dive in.

What have you been reading? Any new graphic novels that you have loved? Stay safe and happy reading!

RRPL Gift Guide

Growing up I had one aunt, my Aunt Mary, who always gave books as gifts. Being a life long book lover, I was always happy to get something new from her. I am now the book giving aunt and I love it. And Aunt Mary? She’s still good for the occasional book gift. In fact, she recently sent me this one, just because. Book loving aunts are the best!

A couple of wish list books for me include A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants by Hilton Carter, and The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

For the teens and tweens in my life, I’m considering Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, and Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell.

The younger ones might receive Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, and Dino by Diego Vaisberg.

What books are on your holiday wish list? Don’t forget to support your local bookstores when you shop-check out bookshop.org.

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays. Stay home and read this year!

~Megan

What we’re reading now-

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Guest List is a psychological mystery/thriller.  The main characters are the bride, the groom, the bridesmaid, the best man, the plus-one and the wedding planner.  The novel takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland.  The story begins on the eve of the wedding, and someone ends up dead.  Many twists and turns throughout the story, and for me, a surprise ending.  The mystery/thriller genre is not my wheelhouse, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Foley did a great job of describing a breath-taking setting, peppered with a full Irish cast of characters.   The story moved at a quick pace, and I simply could not put the book down. Mary

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I just started reading this book on the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend and am very much enjoying this weird and riveting story thus far. Written by one of Japan’s most highly regarded novelists, this book follows Toru Okada as he searches for his wife’s missing cat in a Tokyo suburb. He soon finds himself looking for his wife as well in a strange underworld that lies beneath the surface of Tokyo, full of odd and sometimes menacing people. I have no idea how this will end but look forward to getting there! Nicole

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Sydney has lived in the same historically Black neighborhood since she was a little girl, knowing the same neighbors all her life, but gentrification is coming. Over the course of a week, neighbors mysteriously ‘move out,’ the greasy-spoon bodega changes hands to become a place that sells kombucha and wraps, and real estate agents knock on her door more and more aggressively to try to force her to sell her mother’s house. Sydney will discover that garden-variety gentrification isn’t the only thing in play, and that there are darker motives under the changes. This gentrification twist on the traditional thriller is a page-turning, suspenseful read as well as a biting social commentary. Shannon

 The Last Great Road Bum by Hector Tobar

This novel is a fascinating amalgam of fiction and non-fiction featuring a real person, Joe Sanderson. Sanderson, raised in the traditional Midwest of the 1950s and expected to go to college and marry, instead became a globe-trotter, searching out locations where wars raged, so that he could experience a life of adventure and the makings of a great novel. Author Tobar acquired Sanderson’s writings and added fictionalized touches to Sanderson’s life, envisioning his childhood and why he made the choices that he did. Though his novel was never published, maybe Sanderson would see in Tobar’s work the novel that he envisioned.  Dori

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp

I heard about this graphic novel when watching Comic-Con@Home 2020. A bunch of authors had a panel discussion about writing heroine characters in the Batman universe in the YouTube video Batgirls! Nijkamp is a writer who has lived in a wheelchair most of her life, so she brings real experience to the story of Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. It is about teenage Barbara going to a rehabilitation center after being shot and adjusting to her new life in a wheelchair. In comics after The Killing Joke, Barbara, in her wheelchair, is often portrayed as becoming a librarian while secretly working as Oracle, providing intel to Batman. But here she is younger and trying to solve a mystery in her new temporary home where she feels so uncomfortable and has lost her sense of self. I’m enjoying artist Manuel Preitano’s style, including the childlike creepy ghost stories, and metaphors of jumbled puzzle pieces. Byron

Jane in Love by Robin Givney 

You don’t need to be a Janeite to enjoy the story of Jane Austen traveling through time based on making an accidental wish to find her one true love. When Jane finds herself still in Bath, England but modern day, she’s stuck in a world she doesn’t understand without money or people to rely on. How did she get here and will she be stuck forever? If you want to consider the challenges of being a woman in 1803 vs. right now, or make some new fictional friends, this might be the book for you! Stacey

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on the latest by Alice Hoffman and was not disappointed. This novel is a prequel to Hoffman’s popular 1995 novel Practical Magic and is set in 17th-century in England, Salem, Massachusetts, and New York City. It follows the life of Maria Owens, a foundling child who is rescued by Hannah Owens, a kind witch who raises Maria to practice “green magic” and teaches her to only use these powers to help and heal those in need. Unfortunately, the hardships Maria faces in her life allow her lose sight of these rules of magic, and she brings a curse upon her future generations with one impulsive move. This is a book about magic, love, family, injustice, history and best of all, witches, and it makes for a riveting read. Hoffman’s writing has only improved in the last 25 years and for this reader, Magic Lessons was even better than its sequel. Prepare to be spellbound.   Carol

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg

I just checked out a copy of the new Fannie Flagg book, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop. It’s the sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The reviews are great and I’ve enjoyed reading other books by this author, and I look forward to reading this one. Emma