Top FifTEeN of 2020 (Heh! No one will notice the extra five, right?)

This has been an unusual year (such an understatement!) and (not shockingly) it’s translated to what I wound up reading this year… (so much insight!) But like every previous year, it was a struggle to decide which books and why. Hopefully you’ll find a new book to try or you’ll have a happy “oh! meeee too!” moment! (Bonus comments in parentheses because you can’t see me doing eyerolls at myself. Enjoy!)

Now let’s get on to the goods, in alphabetical order by author, The Books:

Adult Fiction

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen

It felt like reading an excellent BBC series: engaging characters, smart mystery, and a great WWII time/place setting. The second book in the series will be out before the end of the year: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers! (Historical Mystery)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Mr. Backman can write a likable,  curmudgeonly character like few can but this book is really more of an ensemble journey and each character has their own quirky personality. The beginning is a little dark but quickly becomes an uplifting story of how individuals can build their own supportive community. (General Fiction)

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Just like when you hear about any picture of a perfect wife, husband, or marriage, it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfect. Quiet and thoughtful, suspenseful and satisfying, this book was everything I wanted it to be. (General Fiction)

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

I loved Ready Player One and was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original, what a waste of a decent worry! All the pop culture references, interesting future-thinking ideas, and plenty of exciting plot twists, this is *chef’s kiss* a delight! Fun extra -the IRL setting is Columbus, Ohio!(General Fiction/Science Fiction)

Weather by Jenny Offill

Odd, quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely engaging. If you’re looking for a book short on pages and long on impact, this might be the one for you! (Literary Fiction)

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was on my list last year and prompted me to read this older title by the same author. Yep, just as good! It’s a long-game mystery with shades of The Shining suspense. (Mystery)

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The family relationships, the wanting to be a part of something while also needing to be an individual, watching how society’s views on a variety of topics changed with the decades, all made each page of this book a pleasure. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll feel this story that much more deeply. (General Fiction)

Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

Mix a little Thin Man, Nick and Nora, with a little Mickey Spillane, add a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson, put World War II espionage into the background, and you’ll get close to understanding why you want to read this next. It’s a debut and I’m typing this with my fingers crossed that the second book will be coming soon! (Historical Mystery)

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman

This author consistently connects her characters and action in smart and surprising ways, with conclusions that are unexpected and satisfying. I’ve only listened to the audio versions of Ms. Steadman’s books, and I don’t plan to change that, it’s like hearing a radio drama with all the sound effects a listener could hope for! (Mystery)

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Charming and insightful, this is the story of a “bot” who has a degree of self-awareness that he needs to seek therapy before going on a journey to fulfill his dreams. It’s not a simple journey as he needs to hide his true nature as our society is prejudiced against AI and are as likely to attack him as help him. You might shed a tear or two along the way, but it’s worth it. (General Fiction)

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

If you like superhero/supervillain movies or you’ve watched The Boys on Amazon Prime, you will love every page of this book. Anna shows some small but special abilities with numbers but she’s tired of being a contract worker for whichever villain needs temporary help. Offered what seemed to be an easy and high paying gig changed everything, just not for the better. With engaging characters, interesting thoughts on how we think of good vs. evil, and some really clever surprises, this book checked all the boxes for me this year. (General or Science Fiction)

Adult Nonfiction

Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America  by David Giffels

The 2020 General Election may have cost Ohio our “bellwether state” title but if you want a better understanding of how one state can represent so much of the entire USA, this book is the one to read. The author uses his own travels to different locations and conversations with individuals to make each experience engaging for the reader. (Nonfiction)

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m embarrassed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Gladwell but this book sent me off on a “what else” deep dive, and now I’m a die-hard fan. I learned so much but reading the book felt more like I was reading a series of short, connected, stories. If you pick this one up, we can talk about how crazy it is that our brain defaults to what we want to believe even when the facts show a different reality. Just, so good!

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Individually, they are funny and the laughs only increase as they tell how they became a couple. I listened to the audio version and highly recommend this option as Megan and Nick are the readers -it starts to feel like you’re in a candid conversation with new friends.

Teen Fiction

The Darkness Duology: Courting Darkness and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

The characters and setting are part of the His Fair Assassin series, and it feels like catching up with old friends (who can kick some serious hiney). Sybella must protect her younger sisters from being used as political pawns while also trying to keep the new Queen safe from enemies within the Royal House. The author always provides such strong women as main characters but remembers to give them flaws and quirks so they remain relatable. Ms. LaFevers never disappoints! (Historical Mystery)

Of course, I also think pretty highly of the books I suggested for the RRPL Gift Guide -ya know- and I might be counting those books as part of a bigger list for the year? Anyway… Happy Holidays, with books and snackies, for all!!

-Stacey

Shannon’s Top Ten of 2020

It’s been a hell of a year, and I don’t blame any of you for not reading as much as you wanted to – we’re all just trying to survive 2020 at this point! One of my pandemic activities has been to read lots of books, so it was a little difficult to pick my Top Ten, but I think I got a pretty good list. It has a lot of science fiction and fantasy (which I’m sure no one is surprised by) but also a thriller, a graphic novel, historical fiction, and horror.

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN.

Ninth House catalog link

10. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Survivor Song catalog link

9. Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

The City We Became catalog link

8. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin


The Bone Ships catalog link

7. The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker

Mexican Gothic catalog link

6. Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia

Fangs catalog link

5. Fangs by Sarah Andersen


When No One is Watching catalog link

4. When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

3. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Starless Sea catalog link

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


And last but certainly not least, my number one book of 2020 is… drumroll please….

Gideon the Ninth catalog link

1. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Hands down, Gideon the Ninth is the best book I read this year (even though technically it’s from 2019) – if you love science fiction, you’ve got to read this book!

Stay on the lookout this week for Top Ten posts from other staff members!

Mary’s Top 10 of 2020

While I fell short of my personal reading challenge this year, I can say my top ten books of this year I thoroughly enjoyed. The Ferrante quartet I simply fell in love with, the historical fiction choices captured the details of the time period with eloquence, the thrillers kept me engaged and the nonfiction moved me beyond words. I took my time with each book and found moments of pause and new meaning in a world that can be overwhelming, and admiration and gratitude for sharing their story, albeit fiction or truth. Happy holidays and my best for a peaceful and bright 2021.

Review: 'The Story of the Lost Child' by Elena Ferrante - Chicago Tribune

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

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

In this week’s special picks there are new exciting romance, mystery, suspense, and many more genres for you to choose from! Enjoy!

D: A Tale of Two Worlds by Michel Faber – Baffled by the sudden disappearance of the letter D, a young woman is summoned to the home of a former history teacher before arriving in an enslaved, wintry land where free thinking is under threat.

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson – Published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination and based on insider interviews, a chronicle of the iconic music artist’s final days includes coverage of his last album and the life of Mark David Chapman.

Layla by Colleen Hoover – From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love in this engaging contemporary romance with a supernatural twist. It is part psychological thriller and part paranormal romance.

Cold Wind by Paige Shelton – A sequel to Thin Ice finds Beth investigating the discovery of a trapper’s secluded home in the woods near Benedict, Alaska, where a murder victim is linked to the owner of the local mercantile.

The How Not to Diet Cookbook by Michael Greger, M.D., FACLM –  The author of the New York Times bestseller How Not to Die, comes a four-color, fully illustrated cookbook that shares the science of long-term weight-loss success. This book is primed to be a revolutionary new addition to the cookbook industry: incredibly effective and designed for everyone looking to make changes to their dietary habits to improve their quality of life, weight loss notwithstanding.

Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the U.S.S. Plunkett by James Sullivan – Documents the true story of a U.S. Navy destroyer that inspired the writings of John Ford and Herman Wouk, drawing on the journals and other writings of five shipmates who witnessed the Anzio attacks and D-Day invasion.

Red Hands by Christopher Golden – Ben Walker, an expert in weird phenomena is asked by the Global Science Research Coalition to locate a woman who has been the victim of a devastating bioweapon that causes every person she touches to drop dead.

The Daydream Cabin by Carolyn Brown – A headstrong woman discovers it’s never too late for change in New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown’s spirited novel about lost hope and second chances. Working as a summer counselor at an amenities-limited camp for at-risk teens, a public-school teacher employs a tough-love approach to intervene on behalf of three troubled girls while bonding with a hardened boot-camp drill instructor.

Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic by Kenya Hunt – The award-winning Grazia UK fashion director presents an evocative anthology of essays celebrating the timeless, thriving potential of being a Black woman, mother and global citizen in today’s dynamic world.

Blowing My Way to the Top: How to Break the Rules, Find Your Purpose, and Create the Life and Career You Deserve by Jen Atkin – The celebrity stylist and social media influencer discusses the challenges faced by today’s women entrepreneurs and the foundational values that shaped her rise from a conservative, isolated teen to the head of a multi-million-dollar empire.

Snowdrift by Helene Tursten – Swedish Detective Inspector Embla Nyström puts her life on the line when a new lead breaks in the unsolved disappearance of her best friend, a cold case that is further complicated by the murder of a notorious gang member.

The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn – A talented young deep-sea diver from occupied 1948 Korea’s neighboring Jeju Island visits Mt. Halla for her family’s annual trading trip before her romance with a mountain youth is upended by family tragedy and political turbulence.

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah – Leaving her high-profile law position for a job at a crisis center, Zara Kaleel becomes involved in the case of a deformed teenage girl who accuses four boys in her class of rape, tearing the community apart.

The System by Ryan Gattis – On December 6, 1993, a drug dealer called Scrappy is shot and left for dead on the lawn outside her mother’s house in South Central Los Angeles, a heroin addict fingers two drug dealers as the killers, but only one of them is guilty.

~Semanur~

RRPL Gift Guide

If I could be your personal shopper for books I would pick…

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante, a fantastic coming-of-age novel by a best-selling author

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, a deeply moving and brilliantly imagined historical novel

The Guest List by Lucy Foley, a fast-paced thriller with a wonderful cast of characters

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, a magical story, masterfully told.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, non-fiction written with clarity and compassion

Hopefully these picks will appeal to a variety of readers in your life, so get busy and shop at Bookshop.org, an online book store that supports local book shops, fill your cart and make the reader in your life happy. Happy Holidays!

RRPL Gift Guide

I love giving books and will take advantage of any occasion to find something I think will fit my giftee, and that includes pondering if there’s something you might want to gift yourself of course! I sorted the titles into broad ideas of who they might appeal to but left the heavy lifting of plot description to the reviews on bookshop.org (Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mishttps://bookshop.org/books/weather-9780345806901/9780385351102sion to financially support local, independent bookstores.) I hope this list helps you finish off your holiday shopping on a high note!

For your friend who wants something “different”
Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain
The Butterfly Lampshade by Amiee Bender
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
The Darkness Duology by Robin LaFevers
Weather by Jenny Offill
Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

For your friend who wants something “thoughtful”
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Barnstorming Ohio by David Giffels
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Do Nothing by Celeste Headless
Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine May
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

For your friend who wants something “funny”
Anxious People by Fredrick Backman
The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan
The Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman

For your friend who wants to “solve the puzzle”
Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen
Death in Her Hands by Ottesa Moshfegh
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

And if you’re looking for a way to do something extra, I just discovered the United States Postal Service has a program called “Operation Santa.” This won’t be news to everyone as it’s been going on for years but if you, like me, hadn’t heard of it before I’ll drop a link here.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy holiday season, with a book (or two) to help you keep feeling strong!
-Stacey

Books to give for Christmas (of course, we also recommend checking them out from the library ;-)

This year, Christmas feels a little strange and isolated. But it also feel a little cozy. The first snowfall was absolutely beautiful and really got me into the Christmas spirit. As I try to avoid malls and busy stores, I have of course turned to online shopping like many of us. But somehow that just seems impersonal this year. After weeks of quarantining, ordering carry out, groceries from Instacart, and pretty much everything else in the world from Amazon, I’m ready to get back to basics for this year’s holiday. My daughter and I tried our hand at making candles (we definitely need to read up on this a little bit, as I watch one of ours smoke itself out), we have plans for many more cookie varieties than ever, and are drawn towards handmade gifts from Etsy and local stores.

In keeping with this, I am buying books as gifts for the first time in years! My teen/young adult kids don’t read as vociferously as they used to, and most of my family reads on a Kindle. But this year, it just feels right to go back to basics, hold a real book in my hands while I sip coffee by my Christmas tree and lights. My kids have watched pretty much everything Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have to offer, so I think I’m going to try and entice them to take an electronic break, relax on the couch with me to read a good book by the tree.

Here are a few titles coming out in December. Some of them haven’t been published yet, but what is more fun then preordering a book and knowing you will be one of the first to read it? Remember that our local retailers need you this year more than ever. So head to bookshop.org to get some of these new titles that promise to be keepers! They also offer gift cards if you just can’t choose ;-).

Simply thrilling

There’s no such thing as a perfect family. And it’s usually not wise to point that out.

Thriller, romance and fantasy, all rolled into one.

A debut thriller that asks one simple question, shouldn’t a dead husband stay dead?

On the lighter side

Quinn and Minnie share their day of birth, but their lives couldn’t be more different.

A dare and a crash course in flirting turn a frumpy college professor’s life upside down.

An anxiety-ridden introvert finds herself in the spotlight and decides to fake it til she makes it.

Different times and places

Stunning debut explores Afghanistan on the eve of a violent revolution.

A story of survival, loss and love, and the sisters who changed fashion forever.

A poor girl with dreams grows up in the shadow of Biltmore House, the palatial Vanderbilt mansion.

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

We have some new releases picked out for you to dive in for the following week. There is more romance, humor, thrillers and suspense for you to enjoy!

Fool Me Twice by Jeff Lindsay – A sequel to Just Watch Me finds thief and disguise artist Riley Wolfe continuing his Robin Hood-inspired crusade against the wealthy elite by orchestrating the theft of a highly prized Faberge egg. By the best-selling author of the Dexter series.

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister – Secretly hired by an eccentric Lady Franklin to lead a team of women explorers into the Arctic to recover Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition, Virginia Reeve survives a harrowing quest only to find herself on trial for murder.

Eddie’s Boy by Thomas Perry – Surviving an attempt on his life, retired mob hit man Michael Shaeffer reflects on his apprenticeship under an elite killer while pursuing his would-be assassins from Australia to the United States to identify who is trying to eliminate him.

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce – From the acclaimed author of Blood Orange, a dark new psychological thriller about the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect family—and the perfect murder. 

Badass Habits: Cultivate the Awareness, Boundaries, and Daily Upgrades You Need to Make Them Stick
by Jen Sincero – The motivational coach and best-selling author of You Are a Badass shares illustrative case studies to outline a step-by-step, 21-day guide for overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors while cultivating habits that support healthy priorities and personal goals.

Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley – Coexisting in the lush hidden spaces of Paris until cold weather arrives, an escaped racehorse and her companion, a German shorthaired pointer, forge a bond with a boy living in seclusion with his nonagenarian grandmother in an ivy-covered house.

Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good by Tina Turner – The iconic performing artist provides spiritual tools and advice for self-empowerment and fulfillment while examining the role of her enduring Buddhist faith in helping her overcome poverty, loss and other personal and professional obstacles.

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo – A history of American white male identity by the best-selling author of So You Want to Talk About Race imagines a merit-based, non-discriminating model while exposing the actual costs of successes defined by racial and sexual dominance.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller – Reluctantly visiting his upstate New York hometown when his father falls ill, a restless gay photographer reconnects with two high-school friends who become his allies in a plan to expose the corrupt motives of invasive corporate gentrifies.

My Name Is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde – Realizing that a neighbor is trapped in an abusive marriage, a smitten 18-year-old youth, haunted by his brother’s accidental death, offers the woman shelter and a means to escape. By the award-winning author of Pay It Forward. 

~Semanur~

RRPL Gift Guide Kickoff

It’s the last day of November and the Black Friday sales are behind us, but there is still plenty of time to shop for holiday gifts. At Rocky River Public Library, we’re in the business of recommending books and movies, music and audiobooks, so we thought we’d spend the next couple of weeks sharing with you some titles we’d like to give, or get, for the 2020 Holiday season.

Below I’ll mainly talk about 2020 books and link them to our catalog so you can read a longer description. If you’re interested in buying the book, go to bookshop.org and they’ll find you a local, independent bookstore to order from. We want to support our independent bookstores!

First, for anyone on your list who likes to DIY or who has spent their pandemic time learning new skills, check out Storey’s Curious Compendium of Practical and Obscure Skills: 214 Things You can Actually Learn How to Do, an oversized book with images and step-by-step instructions. Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Party Snacks by Maria Del Mar Sacasa would make any cocktail afficionando light up. Me, I hope to get Jacques Pepin’s new cookbook Quick & Simple, which is how I like to cook right now.

For lovers of historical fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a fascinating look at the family of William Shakespeare, particularly his wife, Agnes, an expert in nature and cures. It’s perfect for a winter lie-in (the audiobook is also very well done). I’m going to give my daughter an oldie, but one of my favorites, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, the story of a former slave who becomes a slaveholder; it’s become a classic.

For scifi/fantasy fans, I’ve recently read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and this story of a woman who makes a deal with the Devil will mesmerize you. Again, the audiobook is stellar, so hop to it! Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarer Series, has a new addition to the series coming out next year, so now’s the time to buy your space-loving, fantasy adoring giftee the 3 previous volumes – it’s fun, character-rich, and so so good!

If your recepient is interested in the state of the world, politics or, searing experiences, please give them Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. I also really love the writing of Paul Yoon, who’s Run Me to Earth follows a group of 3 friends in Laos during and after the Vietnam War. If non-fiction is their bag, try Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, described as, an “Instant American Classic”.

I love a good crime novel or thriller. The Searcher by Tana French brings a Chicago police detective to Ireland, where all is not fairies and rainbows. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is altogether different, a funny murder mystery starring retirees. Both would make great gifts for your mystery loving pals.

I’ll finish up with some more books that I’d like for Christmas, as well as a few I’m going to buy for family and friends.

I love the great outdoors and would be so happy to get a copy of Robert McFarlane’s Lost Spells, with poetry and art to inspire. Other nature books that I’d like to receive are World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald (she of H is for Hawk).

I gave my daughter Say Nothing by Patrick Keefe last year, and she then took a deep dive into “The Troubles” and Irish politics. I thought I’d add Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen to her gifts this year; it’s lighter, , about an autistic young woman who lives in a town in Northern Ireland still affected by “The Troubles” For my son, who has been reading Anna Karenina, but also loves Murakami and history, I will buy the 2020 National Book Award Winner for Translated Fiction, Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Marie. Or maybe the non-fiction award winner, The Dead are Arising, a Life of Malcom X. Wait, I think he’d really like Vassily Grossman’s, republished classic, Life and Fate. Oh what to buy?!?

And to close, you couldn’t do better than to give The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories: From Hans Christian Anderson to Angela Carter, “…a collection of the most magical, moving, chilling and surprising Christmas stories from around the world, taking us from frozen Nordic woods to glittering Paris, a New York speakeasy to an English country house, bustling Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even outer space.”

Have a beautiful, peaceful, and loving holiday season.

~ Dori