Listen With Pride

June is both Pride Month and Audiobook Month. Let’s get you listening to some fabulous stories starring LGBTQ characters!

A few of my favorite Fiction Titles-an exciting space opera, a whirlwind romance, a heartwarming fantasy, and a charming tale of family and grief.

Check out these nonfiction titles, a mixed bag of humor and heartbreak.

A Look at Some New Children’s Books

I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be in a profession where my colleagues and I share book recommendations with one another almost daily. And, even better, I regularly also hear about titles that aren’t even out yet.

A couple of weeks ago, my good fortune was rewarded once again when I attended Cuyahoga County Public Library’s “Youth Book Buzz”. This virtual event offered several publishers, including Norton Books, Penguin Random House, Workman and Baker and Taylor, an opportunity to share some of their new Summer and Fall children and teen book releases. Librarians all over Ohio were invited to learn about hundreds of forthcoming books to be prepared to recommend that “perfect” new title to patrons and parents.

Here are just a few books that caught my fancy from that day:

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill is a fantasy for readers aged 10 and up and is about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when it loses sight of those things. Already published in March, it’s technically not a forthcoming title, but I still can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho will be published in November. In this romantic comedy, Lari Ramires falls hard for Pedro Molina, but knows, as the grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries, their love can never be. With a beautiful setting, a star-crossed romance and amazing-sounding food, this new teen novel will be one to devour.

A Library is a lyrical picture book by poet Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by fine artist Erin Robinson. Together they have crafted a love letter to the magic places that libraries are. A Library will be published in September this year, and while it might seem obvious, I will be sure to check it out.

The Flamingo by Guojing is my kind of illustrated book. This wordless, graphic novel/chapter book follows an imaginative girl who becomes obsessed with flamingoes while on a beach vacation with her grandmother. I can already tell that this title, out in September, will make a great holiday gift.

Elephants Remember by Jennifer O’Connell is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Lawrence Anthony and his animal reserve in South Africa. There, he developed a deep bond he with the matriarch of an elephant herd that he helped to save. Look for it in October.

Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholk and illustrated by Khoa Le is picture book that will be published in September. It is heartwarming, slightly spooky tale about two very different sisters, Beatrice and Roo, who learn to celebrate their individuality, understanding that love runs deeper than their differences. I’m looking forward to reading this one to my favorite four-year-old.

While these titles are (almost) all too new to be in our catalog. Make sure you look for them starting this Summer. In the meantime, visit us at Rocky River Public Library and we’ll suggest some other great books for you to read.

-Carol

Infinite Goodness: Pi Day

Lemon, peach, apple, 3.14159, oh my! Pi Day, which falls on Monday, March 14, is fast approaching! Pi day is an annual holiday devoted to celebrating the infinite mathematical constant π, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter that starts off as 3.14. This Pi Day, indulge with a slice (or two, or three!) of your favorite pie and some of the books below.

How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng: What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? Using insights from the kitchen, professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics.

Pie Academy: Mastering the Perfect Crust and 255 Amazing Fillings by Ken Haedrich: Here’s the only pie cookbook you’ll ever need. Novice and experienced bakers will discover the secrets to baking a pie from scratch with step-by-step photos and recipes, advice about tools and ingredients, tips for gorgeous fluted and lattice pie tops, and more.

The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies by Erin Jeanne McDowell: Start with the basics, including ways to mix pie dough for extra flaky crusts, storage and freezing, and tips for decorating, before diving into dozens of recipes for all different kinds of pies: fruit, custard, cream, chiffon, cold set, savory, and mini.

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker: Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near misses, and mathematical mishaps involving the Internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries, an Olympic team, and even the Roman Empire, stand-up comedian Matt Parker uncovers the ways math trips us up and how essential math is in everyday life.

One Poison Pie by Lynn Cahoon: What’s a kitchen witch to do when her almost-financé leaves her suddenly single and unemployed? For Mia Malone, the answer’s simple: move to her grandmother’s quirky Idaho hometown, where magic is an open secret and witches and warlocks are (mostly) welcome. But when her first catering job takes a distasteful turn, Mia must find out which of the town’s eccentric residents has an appetite for murder before her fresh start comes to a sticky end.

The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman: When her efforts to pursue a professional culinary life away from her family’s northern Michigan orchard end in disappointment, Sam spends a summer working for the family pie shop and begins to understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food as she prepares beloved ancestral recipes.

The Curse of the Cherry Pie by Amy Patricia Meade: When Tish Tarragon’s friend pulls out of the prestigious Virginia Commonwealth Bake-Off, an anxious Tish reluctantly takes her place. As the bake-off gets underway, Tish learns that her signature bake, a frangipane cherry pie, has played a deadly role in the previous two competitions. Is the curse of the cherry pie about to strike again?

Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and the Palate by Lauren Ko: Whether you want to impress at the holidays or just spruce up a family meal, Pieometry is your guide to transforming a traditional dessert into a modern masterpiece. The pie-making genius behind the popular Instagram account @lokokitchen reveals how to build 50 sweet and savory pies from crust to top. Look for butternut bacon macaroni and cheese pie, lavender blackberry cream pie, honey ricotta tart, grilled cinnamon pineapple pie, and more.

Pie all the Time: Elevated Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion by Taylor Harbin: Whether you’re craving comfort food, an exciting new flavor, a quick treat, or a celebratory indulgence, the answer is always pie. Taylor Harbin, the creator behind the blog “All Purpose Flour Child,” offers familiar classics, inventive flavors, and easy methods for flawless pies every time.

Sweet as Pie by Alicia Hunter Pace: The path to true love isn’t quite as easy as pie, but it sure is sweet in the end. Jake Champagne is looking forward to a new team, new town, and clean slate in Laurel Springs. After a disastrous year, the hockey hotshot is leaving his past behind – even betting his best friend that he can stay away from women. But he’s happy to reconnect with a piece of home when he visits childhood friend and now successful baker Evie. Between slices of Mississippi mud pie and chicken potpie, Jake starts to remember what a fool he was to let Evie get away.

March is Women’s History Month

From pioneering scientists to determined suffragists to avant-garde artists to mothers, Women’s History Month celebrates the accomplishments of ordinary and trailblazing women in American society. You can celebrate by reading the works of female authors throughout the month. Below is a list of 31 inspiring, empowering, and entertaining titles by some of the most current female authors. Read one each day this month or throughout the year!

Matrix by Lauren Groff: Cast out of the royal court, 17-year-old Marie de France, born the last in a long line of women warriors, is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey where she vows to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: A trans woman, her detransitioned ex and his cisgender lover build an unconventional family together in the wake of heartbreak and an unplanned pregnancy.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry: Nearly three centuries after their coastal community’s witch trials, the women athletes of the 1989 Danvers Falcons hockey team combine individual and collective talents with 1980s iconography to storm their way to the state finals.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs: Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin’s son James, about Alberta King’s son Martin Luther, and Louise Little’s son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, who were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns identifies the qualifying characteristics of historical caste systems to reveal how a rigid hierarchy of human rankings, enforced by religious views, heritage and stigma, impact everyday American lives.

Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller: Drawing on archival documents in a narrative account, Geller explores how her family’s troubled past and the death of her mother, a homeless alcoholic, reflect the traditions and tragic history of her Navajo heritage.

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva: In August of 1797, as her midwife struggles to keep her and her fragile daughter alive, Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of the famous novelist Mary Shelley, recounts the life she dared to live amidst the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late 18th century.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Beginning in the 1950s, Elena and Lila grow up in Naples, Italy, mirroring two different aspects of their nation.

Circe by Madeline Miller: Circe follows the banished witch daughter of the Titans as she practices her powers for an inevitable conflict with one of Olympus’ most vindictive gods.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia: An affluent Cuban immigrant reckons with her daughter’s drug addiction and her own culpability in their self-destructive choices.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, The Night Watchman traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall: In this collection of essays, Kendall explores how feminism has not acknowledged the many ways in which race, class, and sexual orientation intersect with gender. Through a biographical lens, Kendall examines how issues like food security, access to education, safe housing, and healthcare connect to feminist concerns, and ponders why they continue to be ignored by mainstream feminists.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: The best-selling author of Bad Feminist presents a frank memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed one’s hunger in healthy ways.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore: Moore recounts the struggles of hundreds of women who were exposed to radium while working factory jobs during World War I, describing how they were mislead by their employers and became embroiled in a battle for workers’ rights.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: In this memoir graphic novel, Bechdel offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, a funeral home director, a high school English teacher, and a closeted gay man.

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach: Join Roach on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A grizzly bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? As Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: In a four-color, illustrated collection of stories and essays, Brosh’s debut chronicles the many “learning experiences” she has endured as a result of her own character flaws, and the horrible experiences that other people have had to endure because she was such a terrible child. Possibly the worst child. For example, one time she ate an entire cake just to spite her mother.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Fighting an ugly custody battle with an artistic tenant who has little regard for the strict rules of their progressive Cleveland suburb, a straitlaced family woman who is seeking to adopt a baby becomes obsessed with exposing the tenant’s past, only to trigger devastating consequences for both of their families.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: In early 1900s Korea, prized daughter Sunja finds herself pregnant and alone, bringing shame on her family, until a minister offers to marry her and move with her to Japan in the saga of one family bound together as their faith and identity are called into question.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: Coming out of exile to ascend her rightful throne, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, with a cadre of soldiers and the magical Tearling sapphire to protect her, makes a daring decision that evokes that wrath of the evil Red Witch, forcing her to embark on a quest to save her kingdom and fulfill her destiny.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Separated by respective ambitions after falling in love in occupied Nigeria, beautiful Ifemelu experiences triumph and defeat in America while exploring new concepts of race, while Obinze endures an undocumented status in London until the pair is reunited in their homeland 15 years later, where they face the toughest decisions of their lives.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn: In an effort to keep himself footloose and single in spite of the efforts of the town’s matchmakers, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, begins a sham courtship with Daphne Bridgerton.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean: Orlean reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution: our libraries.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Two half-sisters, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in 18th century Ghana and experience profoundly different lives and legacies throughout subsequent generations marked by wealth, slavery, war, coal mining, the Great Migration, and the realities of 20th century Harlem.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: The Japanese Breakfast indie pop star presents a full-length account of her viral New Yorker essay to share poignant reflections on her experiences of growing up Korean-America, becoming a professional musician, and caring for her terminally ill mother.

The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin: Haunted by dreams of the dead who seek to invade Earthsea through him, the sorcerer Alder enlists the aid of Ged, a former Archmage, who advises him to find the holiest place in the world, which holds the key to preserving Earthsea.

The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago by Judy Chicago: In this provocative and resonant autobiography, world-renowned artist and feminist icon Judy Chicago reflects on her extraordinary life and career.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado: Women and their bodies, and the violence done to them, occupy the center of Machado’s inventive, sensual, and eerie debut horror collection. These stories use situations at once familiar and completely strange to reveal what it is like to inhabit the female body.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby: Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. In her second collection of essays, Irby explores what it means what it means to be “fat and black.”

Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman: The presidential inaugural poet and unforgettable new voice in American poetry presents a collection of poems that includes the stirring poem she read at the inauguration of President Biden.

New Nonfiction

From true crime to history to art, there are some excellent nonfiction books coming out this year. I thought I’d share a few of the titles I’ve added to my endless TBR pile.

Treasured: How Tutankhamun Shaped a Century by Christina Riggs
Publication Date: February 1, 2022. Request a copy from the Library here.
When it was discovered in 1922, the 3,300-year-old tomb of Tutankhamun sent shockwaves around the world, turning the boy-king into a household name overnight and kickstarting an international obsession with Egyptology that endures to this day. Professor of Visual Culture Christina Riggs offers a bold account of the tomb’s excavation, archeology and colonialism, tourism and cultural exhibitions, politics, and more – and all just in time for the discovery’s centennial anniversary. Get ready to have Steve Martin’s “King Tut” stuck in your head for weeks. How’d you get so funky? Funky Tut!

Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth by Elizabeth Williamson
Publication Date: March 8, 2022. Request a copy from the Library here.
On December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A decade later, the Sandy Hook killings have been lumped into a messy cycle of conspiracy theories involving the JFK assassination, 9/11, the 2020 President election, and other events. Some people have insisted the tragedy never occurred or was staged by the government to prompt the passage of gun control legislation. Drawing on hours of extensive research, New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson provides a definitive account of the school shooting and the aftermath, including the work of Sandy Hook parents who fought to defend themselves and the legacies of their children against the frenzied distortions of conspiracy theorists.

Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton
Publication Date: March 29, 2022. Request a copy from the Library here.
Maud Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother’s father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married thirteen times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother’s grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in a mental institution. Maud’s father, obsessed with the “purity” of his family bloodline, traced his family back to the Revolutionary War. Diving headfirst into her genealogy, Maud Newton exposes the secrets and contradictions of her ancestors to show the transformational possibilities that reckoning with ancestors has for all of us.

Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments by Erin L. Thompson
Publication Date: February 8, 2022. Request a copy from the Library here.
Since 2020, we’ve witnessed heated debates and outright protests and violent clashes over public monuments. Why do we care so much about hunks of marble? How do we decide which monuments should stay up and which ones need to come down? Erin L. Thompson, Professor of Art Crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, takes readers on a journey through America’s turbulent relationship with statues, particularly monuments concerning the Confederacy, slavery, and America’s founding fathers, and how we can better navigate the legal, political, and social concerns involved in our public monuments.

Gentrifier: A Memoir by Anne Elizabeth Moore
Publication Date: October 19, 2021. Request a copy from the Library here.
In 2016, a Detroit arts organization granted writer and artist Anne Elizabeth Moore a free house in Detroit’s Bangladeshi “Banglatown.” Accompanied by her cats, Moore moves to the bungalow where she gardens, befriends the neighborhood youth, and grows to intimately understand civic collapse and community solidarity. When the troubled history of her house comes to light, Moore finds her life destabilized by the aftershocks of the housing crisis and governmental corruption.

All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work by Hayley Campbell
Publication Date: August 16, 2022. It’s still a little too early to request a copy of this gem, but keep checking back with the Library as we move closer to summer!
Inspired by a her longtime fascination with death, Hayley Campbell embarked on a three year trip across the US and the UK to met with a variety of professionals in the death industry to see how they work. She encountered funeral directors, embalmers, former executioners, anatomy students, homicide detectives, and more, and asked them the same question: Why choose a life of working with the dead? Campbell is already getting comparisons to Mary Roach so don’t miss this one.

A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them by Neil Bradbury
Publication Date: February 1, 2022. Request a copy from the Library here.
As any true crime fan can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring and popular weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, or even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break down our bodies, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict? In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury examines this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith
Publication Date: June 1, 2021. Request a copy from the Library here.
Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads readers through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history and ourselves. From Monticello to Whitney Plantation to Angola Prison to Blandford Cemetery, Smith shows how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain sight and how we can better reflect on the roles of memory and history.


Kari’s Top Ten of 2021

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry 

The losing Danvers High Women’s Varsity Field Hockey Team pledges themselves to dark forces by signing their names into a spiral notebook with actor Emilio Estevez’s face on it and by tying strips of sweat socks around their arms. When they start to win, the Falcons find themselves trying to recharge the power of Emilio with darker and darker witchcraft to keep their streak going all the way to state.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R. Austin 

Gilda, a twenty-something, depressed, hypochondriac, lesbian atheist obsessed with death, finds herself accidently working as the office assistant for a Catholic Church. While she tries to blend in as a good Catholic, she becomes fixated on the death of the 86-year-old woman she replaced. Was her predecessor murdered?

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon 

In order to save her public radio station and her job from the chopping block, Shay proposes a new show where exes-turned-friends deliver relationship advice. Her boss enthusiastically greenlights the show. The problem? He wants Shay to host it with Dominic, her arch nemesis, and pretend that they’ve dated, essentially lying to their listeners and violating who knows how many journalism ethics. Sparks fly immediately: the show becomes a hit, the deception grows, and Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other.  

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo 

After seeing an ad for Tommy Andrews, male impersonator at the Telegraph Club, Lily sneaks out with classmate Kathleen Miller to see her perform. Both girls quickly become entangled in the underground lesbian culture of 1950s San Franciso, but Lily’s new secrets and her blossoming feelings for Kathleen jeopardize her father’s citizenship status.  

Memorial by Bryan Washington 

When Mike abruptly leaves for Japan to see his dying father, his partner Benson finds himself the roommate of Mike’s mother, a woman he’s never met and who came for an extended visit the very same day Mike took off for Japan. As they separately unravel their traumas, Mike and Benson learn what it means to fall in and out of love over and over. 

Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach 

When Eliese’s plans for escaping her hometown of Cleveland come to a halt during the Economic Recession, she finds herself working at the Cleveland Steel Mill as Utility Worker #6691. In confronting mental illness, gender inequality, Catholicism, politics, and the very real dangers of the molten iron she works with day after day, Eliese rebuilds herself, just like Cleveland.  

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson  

A descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings takes refuge in Jefferson’s Monticello when white supremacists threaten violence; A university professor uses his son to test the depths of racism; A woman named Virginia tries to escape her namesake birthplace; Another crafts an impossible list for buying a house and attaining security. This collection of short stories explores racial identity and the quest for self-discovery in a world that is still grappling with the legacies of slavery and racism.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante 

Giovanna’s father calls her ugly; she’s just like his sister, Vittoria. The comparison to a woman that she’s never met and that her parents so clearly hate triggers Giovanna’s insecurities and sends her into an existential panic. As Giovanna begins a quest to learn about her aunt and her identity, she must grapple with deceptions from the adults around her.  

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 

It is February 1862 and the United States is slowly realizing that the Civil War is going to be a long, bloody struggle. Against the backdrop of the nation’s collective grief, President Lincoln is in anguish over the death of his eleven-year-old son Willie. While the President visits his son’s tomb and holds his body, Willie finds himself stuck in a strange purgatory, unsure where his soul should go, with a diverse array of ghosts.   

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens   

Kya is abandoned by her parents, her siblings, and even her community at a young age, but the hermit takes solace in the surrounding North Carolina marshlands and becomes an expert on the natural world. The lush landscape, however, can’t protect Kya when she is suspected of murdering the town’s most beloved son. 

Christine’s First Top Ten!

I’m not sure I can really do my 2021 reading list justice with a list of only ten books. So with some emotional support from my co-workers, and after a long talk with my cat, I was finally able to take a deep breath and chose twelve.

Reflecting over the past year, each one of these books takes me back to a time and place of extreme joy and extreme pain. Each one is a mile marker that reminds me to keep breathing, keep moving, and when all else fails- shut out the world and grab a good book.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin: Reunited over bingo after 45 years, these two grandmothers find that their love for one another never faded. Hope, love, and realizing that it is never too late to live authentically and with all your heart!

Good Kids, Bad City by Kyle Swenson: True crime set across the decades in Cleveland, Ohio, this is the story of a still unsolved murder and the longest wrongful incarceration of three men and their fight for justice.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: A young woman sets out to find community and herself. What she discovers is the true meaning of intersectionality and standing in her own self-love.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole: A thriller that is a little bit ‘Rear Window’ and a little bit mole people. Gentrification, murder, evil pharmaceutical companies, and the most unexpected heroes.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton: A fictional rock biography that spans decades that reads and feels like non-fiction. This story explores the music industry, generational trauma, sexism, and race.

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymulina: This short thriller is narrated by a young girl, who happens to be a ghost trying to help her father get justice for another young girl. Part murder mystery, part Australian Aboriginal tale, this story will sit with you long after you finish the book.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: A darkly humorus story about two sisters- the beautiful and popular one and the responsible one. They have nothing in common, including how they deal with their traumatic childhood. One sister becomes a serial killer, the other learns how to clean up a crime scene.

Skye Falling by Mia MacKenzie: A Black queer woman in her 30’s enjoys her life of no attachments and no responsibilities until the 12 year old egg she donated to a friend she’s lost contact with shows up one day. You will laugh just as much as you cry while you go along for a truly amazing ride!

The Deep by Rivers Solomon: How did the mermaids in the Pacific Ocean come to be? This is their origin story. Beautifully written, Solomon speaks to community, healing, and reclaiming your identity.

The Push by Ashley Audrain: A psychological drama about motherhood, family, and murder (?) that will have you holding your breath and gasping out loud.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey: Three friends, affectionately called The Supremes, hold tightly to each other through decades of all that life can throw at them. All while Eleanor Roosevelt’s ghost is watching over them. Really.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur: A young female impersonates a man in order to find her father and solve ongoing murders. Set 600 years ago in Korea, this story will pull you in and not let go until the final word.

Trent’s Top 10 of 2021

It is always difficult to narrow down my annual list to ten titles. The top five were easy to slot in, but there were another eleven I wanted to list. I have once again included the honorable mentions that did not make the final cut so that all the books I think were remarkable are included.  

This year’s list sees the return of a few of my perennial favorites, though sadly, there is no new Steph Cha book for me to add to the list, and I am not picking up the final volume of The Expanse series until later today. Here is what made me 2021 Top Ten list:

10. Eathereater – Dolores Reyes

A young woman begins to feel compelled to eat dirt soon after her mother dies. When she does eat earth, she has visions of people with a connection to that soil. Though the locales are unsettled by her ability, people begin leaving jars of dirt with notes pleading for her assistance. This short novel was truly unique and unsettling.

9. Bullet Train – Kotaro Isaka

Bullet Train is an odd balance of fast-paced action, quirky humor, and Japanese psychological thriller. Mayhem ensues when a mix of criminals-for-hire and a youthful psychopath end up on the same train for several interrelated reasons. I have always had a soft spot for books set on trains, and the Shinkansen is a key to the story as the Orient Express in Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit. The movie adaptation is set to be released next year.

8. All Systems Red – Martha Wells

All Systems Red and protagonist Murderbot are unexpectedly charming. It is surprisingly easy to relate to Murderbot, who wants little more than to be left alone so they can watch their soaps. Funny and fast-paced, this slim novella left me excited to read the rest of the series.

7. Razorblade Tears – S.A. Cosby

Ike, a Black man, and reformed convict turned successful business owner, and Buddy Lee, a White good old boy ex-con with a penchant for drinking, would not normally associate with each other. However, when their married sons are murdered, both Ike and Buddy Lee are left with feelings of shame and regret over the strained relationships they had with their sons. Together, they start to look into the death of their sons. 

6. Murder on the Red River & Girl Gone Missing – Marcie R. Rendon

Often my favorite crime novels are when the crime or mystery component takes a backseat to characters and setting to the point of the crime being almost superfluous. Renee “Cash” Blackbear, one of the disproportionate number of American Indian children removed from parental care and raised in various white foster homes, spends her days as a Minnesota farm laborer and truck driver and her evenings drinking and shooting pool in the local bars. Cash occasionally serves as an unofficial sidekick to the local Sheriff, and when a body is found in a field, Cash begins to dream of the victim’s house and family. Cash and 1970s Minnesota Red River Valley are the reason to keep reading – and I wish there were more to read.

5. Untamed Shore – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet was the Night is on most of the 2021 notable books lists, same for Mexican Gothic last year and Gods of Jade and Shadow the year before that. That Untamed Shore managed to go largely unnoticed is a tragedy. This bildungsroman-cum-noir is more compelling and relatable than Velvet was the Night or Mexican Gothic.

4. The Secret Place – Tana French

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is consistently outstanding. I completed both Broken Harbor and The Secret Place in 2021.  Broken Harbor was perhaps my least favorite of the series, and still very good, whereas, The Secret Place may be my favorite so far. French continues to cycle familiar characters from previous books into starting roles to excellent effect. I am excited to start the final installation of the series sometime soon. 

3. The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Vietnam War is coming to an end, and as Saigon is about to fall, a Captain begins to plan his General’s escape from the county. Together, with a select few, they flee Saigon on one of the last army transports over-crowded with other refugees. The Captain, half-French half-Vietnamese, a man of two minds, is a communist agent whose role is to observe and report back on the military cadre as they establish themselves in America. As suspicion of a mole rises, the Captain must deflect attention away from himself at terrible costs. This was a poignant and relevant contemplation of war, refugees, politics, and film considering the parallels of the recent withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan.

2. The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis

I started reading The Queen’s Gambit shortly after seeing that Netflix has released a new series based on the book. The story follows orphan Beth Harmon as she discovers and embraces her natural genius for chess. Beth’s struggles with loneliness and addiction are simultaneously exacerbated by and inhibiting to her meteoric rise in the national chess rankings.

1. The Library At Mount Char – Scott Hawkins

It is not too often that a book manages to be so thoroughly unique, strange, and enjoyable from start to finish. After my wife finished reading it, she insisted, nearly daily, that I read it immediately, not so I would enjoy an excellent book, but instead to have some to share in the same “what just happened” experience. I have since hunted down several RRPL staff members to ask them what they thought of The Library At Mount Char.

Honorable Mentions

What We’re Reading Now…November edition

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Last year’s hit novel, this is the story of two families on a collision course. Amanda and Clay take their two kids to a vacation home on Long Island. In the middle of the night, the owners of the house, Ruth and G.H., show up, claiming that something has gone very wrong in New York City. With no idea what is happening and no other options, the two families stay together in the house and wait for what may be the end of the world. Shannon

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede

I am rereading this book from 2002. The author shares the experiences of the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland. They became hosts to the more than six thousand passengers traveling on thirty-eight U.S.-bound international jetliners forced to land in Gander in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The citizens of Gander and surrounding communities put their lives on hold for 6 days to feed, shelter and support those stranded. An amazing community of selfless people. Emma

The Ghost Variations by Kevin Brockmeier

I have read reviews of Brockmeier’s work before but this was the first one I elected to read. This collection of short stories of varying length is connected by its shared theme, ghosts. Each story offers its unique perspective on the theme, changing in tone from the humorous to the unsettling (and sometimes both).  Ghost Variations: one hundred stories was a great introduction to the author’s work that has made me excited to explore their previously published works. Greg

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain

Millions of Americans start their day with a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin or can’t help but sneak a few fries from the bag on their way home from the McDonald’s drive-through, but for black Americans, fast food is a source of both economic power and despair. In the years following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leaders believed racial inequality could be solved through “black capitalism.” As chronicled by Marcia Chatelain in Franchise, a struggling civil rights movement, McDonald’s clever system of franchising and advertising, and Nixon’s “silent majority” era perfectly combined so that fast food could become deeply entrenched in black communities. While fast food certainly created successful black entrepreneurs and black communities with serious purchasing power, economic advancement for black Americans ultimately fizzled in the face of food deserts, dead-end fast food jobs, and continuing racial inequality. A fascinating look at when Big Macs and capitalism combine. Marcia Chatelain is a Professor of History and African American studies at Georgetown University. Franchise won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History.  Kari

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

This smartly written coming-of-age horror story looks at a new type of “final girl” as it follows quirky slasher-obsessed teenager Jade as a series of mysterious murders spring up in her town of Proofrock. Jade is quite sassy and can be hilarious in her exchanges with other characters and is by far my favorite part of this book so far. My Heart is a Chainsaw is a completely different vibe than his previous novel, The Only Good Indians, and so far is much lighter fare.  Nicole

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

This book is a kind of Sherlock Holmes meets The Pirates of the Caribbean tale. Is the merchant vessel, the Saardam, travelling from the East Indies to Amersterdam, haunted? From evil omens painted on the sail and burned into the ship, to sightings of a bloody leper that the crew watched die in a fiery blaze, and a raging storm that lasts more than a week, strange things are certainly afoot on this old, scarred ship. The crew and passengers are hearing wicked whispers in the night, promising them their heart’s desires in return for performing a small service, and the crew is threatening mutiny for fear that there is a devil aboard. It’s up to the world’s greatest detective, Sammy Pipps, his body guard Arent Hayes and a few brave passengers to unravel what is happening aboard the Saardam before it is too late for all of them. A very entertaining book that will keep you guessing until the end. Sara