Bookish Travel-United States Edition

One of my favorite prompts from a past reading challenge was to read a book set in the location of your current vacation. Thanks to this prompt, I read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough while on a trip to the Outer Banks and Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire while soaking up the South Beach sun. Being in the locale where the books took place allowed me to connect with the books in a way that I would not have otherwise.

Whether you’re in the dreaming phase of vacation planning or on vacation as you’re reading this, if you’d like to add a bookish spin to your time away, here are a few options for your next vacation-inspired read.

According to Newsweek these five locations are some of the most popular places to vacation stateside, so I’ve included two fiction and a nonfiction recommendation for each destination.

New York City

Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses–the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. 

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing (Nonfiction)

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. 

Hawaii

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive – one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. Now his luck has changed. 

Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley (Nonfiction)

Tells the story of King Kamehameha I, The Conqueror, who unified the islands through terror and bloodshed, but whose dynasty succumbed to inbreeding; of Gilded Age tycoons like Claus Spreckels who brilliantly outmaneuvered his competitors; of firebrand Lorrin Thurston, who was determined that Hawaii be ruled by whites; of President McKinley, who presided over the eventual annexation of the islands.

New Orleans

Photo by Aya Salman on Unsplash

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking . . . and The Witching Hour begins. It begins in our time with a rescue at sea.  Rowan Mayfair, a beautiful woman, a brilliant practitioner of neurosurgery–aware that she has special powers but unaware that she comes from an ancient line of witches–finds the drowned body of a man off the coast of California and brings him to life.  

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm. 

The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette (Nonfiction)

New Orleans is the most elusive of American cities. The product of the centuries-long struggle among three mighty empires–France, Spain, and England–and among their respective American colonies and enslaved African peoples, it has always seemed like a foreign port to most Americans, baffled as they are by its complex cultural inheritance.

San Diego

Photo by Andres Garcia on Unsplash

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.

The Neighbors Are Watching by Debra Ginsberg

Set against the backdrop of the deadly 2007 wildfires that forced the evacuation of half a million San Diego residents, the dark side of suburbia is examined–a place where everyone has something to hide.

Alta California by Nick Neely (Nonfiction)

Despite having grown up in California, Nick Neely realized how little he knew about its history. So he set off to learn it bodily, with just a backpack and a tent, trekking through stretches of California both lonely and urban.

Washington, D.C.

Photo by Ridwan Meah on Unsplash

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. 

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. 

This Town by Mark Leibovich (Nonfiction)

Washington This Town might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and busy days at this nexus of bug politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires. That is the grubby secret of the place in the twenty-first century.

Want to continue reading about destinations? Try the Uncorked Librarian‘s America Reading Challenge or Read the World for international recommendations.

Remember that our digital library allows you to pack light! Download a few books from Libby or Hoopla to keep you company.

Enjoy your trip!

-Melinda

108 Years of Rocky Mountain National Park

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, establishing park boundaries and protecting the area for the future.  

For more than 11,000 years, people have lived in the area that would become Rocky Mountain National Park. Ute and Arapaho peoples lived on the land that would become the National Park. When white settlers came into the area in the mid-1800s, Native Americans were displaced, forcing many to leave in the 1860s and others made to move to reservations. Throughout the Park, there is still plenty of evidence of Native American settlement, such as stone and bone tools used for cooking, hunting, and processing hide.

The Park is one of the most visited national parks, topping over 4.5 million visitors in 2018. From hiking to rock-climbing to fishing, there is no shortage of activities. The views, even if you aren’t looking to hike uphill for miles, are stunning. The mountains, trees, and waterfalls are bountiful and with all there is to learn about the history, it’s almost impossible to not find something to enjoy. 

Whether you want to plan a trip to a National Park or just want to know more about the absolute wonders that make up the National Parks, we’ve got the materials for you! 

Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Guide by James Kaiser 

Native American Archaeology in the Parks: A Guide to Heritage Sites in Our National Parks and Monuments by Kenneth L. Feder

National Parks of America by Amy C. Balfour 

The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA  

Accessible Vacations: An Insider’s Guide to 10 National Parks by Simon Hayhoe 

Complete Guide to the National Parks: All 61 Treasures from Coast to Coast by Erika Hueneke 

National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of the United States  

100 Things to See in the National Parks: Your Guide to the Most Popular Features of the US National Parks by Stefanie Payne 

Best Parks Ever: America’s National Parks  

America’s National Parks: A Video Tour of All 55 National Parks 

-Linnea  

Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton!

Dolly Parton has long been considered an icon. Even before she was a teenager, Dolly was singing on local radio stations in their small Tennessee town. And at 13 years old, she performed at the Grand Ole Opry and met Johnny Cash. After high school, Dolly immediately moved to Nashville to hone her talents and live her dream. I think we all know how that panned out—Dolly Parton is a household name with the records to support it, but her legendary status doesn’t stop with just music. 

Dolly is a well-known philanthropist, through her Dollywood Foundation. It originally provided scholarships to local high school students then continued to grow and provide other charitable support as well. Her Imagination Library provides books to pre-school-age children in over five countries; one book per month from birth until they enter kindergarten. (For more information, visit our Children’s Department webpage!) During the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, she organized a telethon and gathered about $9 million for those impacted by the fires. She’s also donated to medical centers and specifically pediatric programs.

Even if you swear that you’re not a country music fan, it’s easy to find something to appreciate about Dolly Parton. Check out some of these books to pique your interest and then maybe you’ll feel inspired to listen to one of her albums! 

Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia Hamessley 

Dolly Parton: Songteller, My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton 

Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson 

(And if you want some music to listen to while you read, Dolly wrote an album of the same name to accompany the novel!) 

She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh 

Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection  

-Linnea

Happy Birthday, Haruki Murakami!

Haruki Murakami turns 74 years old today! He is a prolific author, having written novels, short stories, nonfiction works, and essays that have consistently been published in The New Yorker. While Murakami remains mostly out of the public eye, the reader may get a general sense of who Murakami is when reading his books: a lover of jazz and music in general, a big baseball fan, a collector of random t-shirts, and a dedicated runner. His books incorporate magical realism, a unique brand of humor, and almost always a cat.  

If you’ve never read Murakami before, he has an extensive catalog to choose from! Whether you prefer nonfiction or short stories or hefty novels, he has something for everyone. (Of course, while he is a well-regarded author, his works might not appeal to all!) 

Short Story Collections 

The Elephant Vanishes (1993) 

Containing stories such as “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” “The Kangaroo Communiqué,” and “Lederhosen,” this is a great introduction to Murakami’s writing style. One of the short stories (“Barn Burning”) even became the basis for the 2018 South Korean psychological thriller Burning. 

After the Quake (2002) 

This collection was written after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. While each short story is independent of one another, they are all connected by the earthquake and its aftermath. 

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006) 

Quite a few of the short stories in this collection were featured in various English publications before being compiled into one book. Several were in The New Yorker, a few in Harper’s, and one in McSweeney’s. One short story, “Firefly,” was reused in Murakami’s well-known novel Norwegian Wood. 

Nonfiction 

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (2000) 

In 1995, a religious cult attacked Tokyo subway stations with the toxic liquid sarin, injuring over 5,000 people and killing 14. Murakami interviewed over 60 people: witnesses, survivors, family of the victims, and even members of the cult that committed the act, Aum Shinrikyo.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) 

In this memoir, Murakami discusses his passion for running and how running goes hand in hand with writing. His discipline with the sport and examination of the relationship between running and writing are interesting to read about, even if you don’t run. Plus, reading about all the places he’s run marathons (Greece, Hawaii, Boston) is a treat. 

Murakami T: the T-Shirts I Love (2021) 

Pictures of t-shirts that Murakami has acquired over the years and their origin stories—what’s not to enjoy? 

Fiction 

Norwegian Wood (1989) 

Told from the perspective of Toru Watanabe, he is in his late 30s, reflecting on his days as a college student in 1960s Japan. A deeply emotional novel, the sense of nostalgia and longing are intimately felt throughout. This book helped catapult Murakami into more of a celebrity (to his dismay at the time). 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997) 

If you read the short story “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” then you’ve already tackled the first chapter of the much-longer novel. Full of signature Murakami traits like cats, wells, unexpected phone calls, and mysterious disappearances, this is a great introduction to Murakami’s brand of humor. But forewarning—it is over 600 pages! 

Kafka on the Shore (2005) 

Intertwining narratives make up this magical tale: a 15-year-old boy who runs away to escape a curse and an old man who can talk to cats. Metaphysics, music, suspense, humor, and the mundane make up this brilliantly woven story. 

-Linnea 

National Bird Day

Pigeons, parrots, penguins-oh my! With almost 11,000 species of birds in the world, there’s a lot to learn! In North America, that number lessens to about 2,000 species and in just Ohio, there are 427 species, making it a little easier to recognize that bird perched on a tree branch in your backyard.  

Whether you’re a birdwatcher, bird lover, or just bird tolerator, there’s a lot to know about these ever-present creatures. If you’re curious about the best places to birdwatch or you want to learn which birds are native Ohioans or just look at some pretty pictures of birds, we’ve got some books for you! 

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Ohio by Paul G. Rodewald 

Birds of Ohio by Jim McCormac 

The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird by Jack E. Davis 

Around the World in 80 Birds by Mike Unwin 

The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live by Jack Gedney 

The Hummingbird Handbook: Everything You Need to Know about these Fascinating Birds by John Shewey 

Where the Birds Are: The 100 Best Birdwatching Spots in North America by Robert M. Brown 

Great Birding in the Great Lakes: A Guide to the 50 Best Birdwatching Sites in the Great Lakes States by Tom Powers 

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide by Tui De Roy 

Happy birding!

-Linnea

For the Love of Audiobooks

One of the first audiobooks I fell in love with was Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Amy’s improv roots made the audiobook seem like an extended standup routine, and the guest narrators made for a very fun listening experience.

Once I started reading with my ears (because yes, audiobooks do count as reading), I couldn’t stop. Here are a few reasons I love audiobooks:

  1. Audiobooks allow me to multitask. I read while walking my dog, cleaning, or working on a puzzle. Mundane household chores become bearable thanks to the power of a good story.
  2. Audiobooks give the characters a literal voice, which adds depth and nuance.
  3. Audiobook narrators can take a ho-hum story or topic and make it more interesting.
  4. Digital audiobooks allow you to control the playback speed so you can easily slow down or speed up as your reading comprehension allows.
  5. Audiobooks make a car, train or plane ride something to look forward to. Seriously, audiobooks are made for travel!

If you haven’t been convinced yet, try reading the following audiobooks, all of which are winners in my book!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, read by the author

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, read by Bahni Turpin

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, read by Rory Kinnear

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, read by James Cameron Stewart

Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi, read by the author

The Institute by Stephen King, read by Santino Fontana

If none of these titles are catching your interest, try one of AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2022.

Enjoy a new reading experience and pick up an audiobook today. You can download them right to your phone using Hoopla or Libby or check them out as books on CD or Playaway.

Happy listening!

-Melinda

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when we all choose how we want to improve or adjust in the new year. We’re full of hope and ambition, the fear of abandoning our resolutions yet to creep into reality. Our resolutions tend to be pretty similar year after year. How many of us vow to read more, spend less money, watch less television, or pick up a new hobby? And how many of us, after weeks of good intentions, let those goals fall by the wayside as ~life~ gets in the way? You are not alone! And if your goals match any that I listed, you’re not alone there either. 

According to statista.com, a lot of us share the same resolutions:

To help achieve those goals and stay on track longer than a month or two, maybe some of these books will be handy!  

If you… 

Want to cook more meals at home: 

The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen: 80 Authentic, Healthy Recipes Made Quick and Easy for Everyday Cooking by Samantha Ferraro 

The Easy Vegan Cookbook: Make Healthy Home Cooking Practically Effortless by Kathy Hester 

Eating Well Made Easy: Deliciously Healthy Recipes for Everyone, Every Day by Lorraine Pascale 

Want to spend less time on social media: 

How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price 

Growing Up Shared: How Parents Can Share Smarter on Social Media-and What You Can Do to Keep Your Family Safe in a No-Privacy World by Stacey Steinberg 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport 

Want to reduce stress: 

The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A Scientist’s Guide to the Power of Meditation by Steven Laureys 

Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance by Emily Fletcher 

The Extremely Busy Woman’s Guide to Self-Care: Do Less, Achieve More, and Live the Life You Want by Suzanne Falter 

Want to exercise more: 

Hiking Ohio Gary S. Williams 

Running Well by Sam Murphy 

How to Rock Climb! by John Long 

Want to learn a new skill: 

Hoop Quilts for Beginners: 15 Designs Using Easy Patchwork and Embroidery by AnneMarie Chany 

HTML and CSS by Joe Casabona 

Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & CD: Listen, Practise, and Learn 

Want to spend less money: 

Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-sufficient Life by Merissa A. Alink 

The 30-Day Money Cleanse: Take Control of Your Finances, Manage Your Spending, and De-stress Your Money for Good by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley 

Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love by Blair Stocker 

I hope some of these books help you create a plan or spark ideas for how to keep going on your resolutions. But remember, It’s Okay to Break Your New Year’s Resolutions! 

-Linnea 

A Concert for the Ages 

On December 22, 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven debuted two symphonies (including perhaps his most famous, The Fifth Symphony), a piano concerto, and a choral piece, plus a few other favorites in a four-hour long benefit concert at the Theater-an-der-Wien, one of Vienna’s grandest theaters.  

The concert was…not a success. From frigid temperatures to ill-rehearsed pieces to contentious relationships between Beethoven and the musicians, the concert was certainly one to remember, but maybe not for the reasons a composer would want!  

Even though the concert may not have gone to plan, Beethoven did make a cash profit—his only of the entire year. Many composers were not revered in their time and only in their later years or even posthumously, were they appreciated and acknowledged for their talent. 

Beethoven is probably one of the most famous names in composing and if you’re interested in some of the reasons he is so highly regarded, here are some books to learn more: 

Beethoven: A Life by Jan Caeyers 

The Great Composers: The Lives and Music of 50 Great Classical Composers by Jeremy Nicholas 

How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond by John Powell 

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes 

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths 

And if you want to recreate the concert from the comfort of your home, here are some of the pieces on CD: 

Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 

Choral Fantasy, Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 5 

Symphony No. 5, C minor; Symphony No. 6, F major, “Pastoral” 

Give us a call (440-333-7610) if you’d like to place any of the physical copies on hold! 

-Linnea 

Linnea’s Top Ten of 2022

The Ghost That Ate Us: The Tragic True Story of the Burger City Poltergeist by Daniel Kraus (2022) 

On June 1, 2017, six people were killed at a Burger City franchise off I-80 near Jonny, Iowa. It was the bizarre and gruesome conclusion to nine months of alleged paranormal activity at the fast-food joint—events popularly known as “the Burger City Poltergeist.” 

Presented here is the definitive story of “the most exhaustively documented haunting in history,” including—for the first time ever—interviews with every living survivor of the tragedy. 

The employees of Burger City were a family. They loved one another. At least, at the beginning. 

But love can make you do unspeakable things. 

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum (2022) 

A witty and moving debut. Moving to the quiet, mostly non-Jewish town of Tregaron, Hoodie Rosen falls for the daughter of the mayor who is trying to keep Hoodie’s Orthodox Jewish community out of town, and when antisemitic crimes turn deadly, he must choose between his first love and the only world he’s ever known.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014) 

When his most prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, is stolen, bookstore owner A. J. Fikry begins isolating himself from his friends, family and associates before receiving a mysterious package that compels him to remake his life.

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin (2021) 

Chronicling her life in the songs she writes, April Sawicki, after leaving home for good, finds her way to Ithaca, New York where she finally finds a sense of belonging but cannot shake the feeling that she’ll hurt her new friends that way she’s been hurt. 

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (2021) 

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-American, becoming a professional musician and caring for her terminally ill mother. 

The Bright Side Running Club by Josie Lloyd (2020) 

Josie Lloyd’s fearless novel is a tribute to the power of the human spirit in the face of hardship, based on the author’s own experience with cancer and community. 

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett (2020) 

Presents an urgent call for justice-system reform in the story of a disadvantaged, African-American single mother from the rural South who was separated from her young daughter and sentenced to life in prison for a first-time offense. 

The Winners by Fredrik Backman (2021) 

As simmering tensions between the towns of Beartown and Hed turn into acts of intimidation and then violence, a 14-year-old boy, increasingly alienated from this hockey-obsessed community, puts in motion a plan to avenge his beloved sister’s death that will leave Beartown with an unimaginable loss. 

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (2021) 

Accepting a contract from a fledgling record company, a talented music artist in early 1970s New York endures racist responses to her activism, before a reunion interview decades later reveals explosive secrets. 

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022) 

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, this is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.  

-Linnea

Megan’s Top Ten Books of 2022

This is the first time in a long time that I did not struggle to create this list. Upon reviewing my 2022 reads, I discovered that I was quite frugal when it came to awarding 5 stars this year. Click on the picture to see availability if you are interested in any of these.

My non-fiction 5 star reads are no surprise-I love a true crime story! I was surprised to find two poetry books and a romance on my list! My ready adventures also included relistening to the first three books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy (always 5 stars from me!), devouring more volumes of Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (if you grew up with Calvin & Hobbes, these are must reads!), and breezing through dozens of thrillers.

Happy Reading!

Megan