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

Greg’s Top 10 for 2020

Carol’s Top 10 of ’20

Here’s one good thing I’ll say about 2020 – at least I had the opportunity to read and enjoy some pretty fantastic books this year! And for that, I am grateful and ready to share.

Here are my top ten of 2020 (along with links to our library’s catalog):

The Searcher by Tana French

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips

The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley

Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

And, now, I’m off to make merry and to add my name to waiting lists for all of my coworkers’ favorite books that I haven’t read! Happy Holidays. -Carol

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

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!

Beth’s 2020 Top 10

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is a quietly suspenseful novel, which is eerily related to current times.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi outlines the myriad of cultural constructs that we all need to assess within ourselves to build a more just society.
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline tells the fictional historic account of women forced to colonize Australia.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson is the historic fictional account of the WPA program in Appalachia.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett tells the story of one family and the house that raised them.
Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age is a coming of age story with a thought-provoking message of race and the roles people take on.
The Silent Patient is the psychological thriller of an artist turned murder, whos trauma sentences her to a life of silence.
Delia Owen’s Where the CrawDads Sing tells the triumphant story of woman forced to make her own way in the marshlands.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an intimate letter to his son sharing his personal lived experience as an African American raised in the United States.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is a fictitious twist on the life of Hillary Clinton.

My Top 10 Favorite Horror Graphic Novels

As promised, I’m back this week to share some of my all-time favorite scary, spooky, and otherwise guaranteed to keep you up late at night books. It was so difficult narrowing this down, so I decided to share my top ten favorite horror graphic novels this week- saving my favorite traditionally formatted prose novels for next week.

Below you’ll find melancholy stories of hauntings and witches, disturbing tales of otherworldly creatures, horrific murder mysteries, and more tales that will leave you contemplating whats lurking in the shadows long after you close the book’s covers.

  1. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn
  2. Wytches by Scott Snyder
  3. Clean Room by Gail Simone
  4. Revival by Tim Seeley
  5. Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge
  6. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  7. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
  8. Outcast by Robert Kirkman
  9. Locke & Key by Joe Hill
  10. Redlands by Jordie Bellaire

Check out one of these great book today at the library or pop on over to Hoopla to read graphic novels without ever having to leave your couch!

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2019

It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Institute by Stephen King

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Greg’s Top 11 for 2019

Stacey’s Top Ten Fiction (and Nine Nonfiction) of 2019!

If you check out some of my previous Top Ten lists -you might notice I like to go for bonus titles.. heh! This year I split my list into ten fiction and a bonus nine nonfiction… double heh! I’ll also mention, this year I was part of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction Committee -and the entire list is worth a look! You’ll also notice some of the titles on that list are also on mine, so maybe that counts as a double Top Ten suggestion?

This list is *not* in order of preference but does follow the Librarian Tradition of Alphabetical Order:

Fiction
 Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
No one in this story is perfect, and that’s what makes it such a fun book to read!

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Time travel is a key feature, but it’s really about family and finding a place you belong.

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
A magical, emotional, thoroughly engaging story!

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
You don’t have to love Jane Austen to love this book.

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
A mystery set in a boarding school with plenty of surprises.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Like The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin -for adults.

Normal People by Salley Rooney
Teens growing into young adults -set in Ireland.

Save Me From Dangerous Men by Eli Saslow
Gritty and graphic, and all kinds of grrl power.

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
If you’re a word nerd -this one’s for you!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Ah -all the feels.

Nonfiction
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson
We should all rethink how we think about aging.

Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
Fascinating and well-researched look at decades of misconduct by men in power.

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
Theodore Geissel was more than the creator of children’s books, and this book will tell you that story.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
While telling the story of one woman’s disappearance (and likely murder), readers will also get a clear background on The Troubles in Ireland.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
A beautifully written look at the natural world and how it’s changed, and continues to change.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Not just a book about libraries, but also a great “true crime” mystery!

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Ladies, be ready to be annoyed and then -let’s change the world!

An Elegant Defense by Matt Ritchel
Do you know how your immune system works (or doesn’t work)? You will after you read this!

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
How do we not talk more about some of the topics in this book?!

I hope you find something you enjoy -and- that you have a happy, wonderful Holiday Season!

-Stacey