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!
Ah, the kitchen. The heart of the home, the place with the snacks, and the location where you have probably spent much more time this year compared to last year. Maybe you devoted hours of sheltering at home time to baking, perhaps you took this as an opportunity to try that elaborate new recipe you never felt you had the time for, or maybe you just have gotten tired of takeout and decided to try and recreate a fancy restaurant experience at home.
If any of these sound like you, or your nearest and dearest, take a look at my picks for the ten best cookbooks to come out in 2020! I love to gift my favorite cookbooks during the holiday season. If you are lucky they will share some of their successful and hopefully delicious results with you after they try out some recipes! *wink wink*
Each of these titles would make a wonderful gift for a family member, friend, or a lovely book to add to your own cookery library. Don’t forget to order from Bookshop.org so you can support your local, independent booksellers this holiday season!
Happy holidays and I hope you stay happy, healthy, and safe this season!
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.
- Harrow County by Cullen Bunn
- Wytches by Scott Snyder
- Clean Room by Gail Simone
- Revival by Tim Seeley
- Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge
- Black Hole by Charles Burns
- The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
- Outcast by Robert Kirkman
- Locke & Key by Joe Hill
- Redlands by Jordie Bellaire
Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.
Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.
Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.
What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!
I recently finished Stephen Graham Jones’ latest novel, The Only Good Indians, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The book is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve read. Teetering along a fine line between literary horror (yes, there is some disagreement as to whether that exists but I strongly support the notion that it does), a straight-up revenge story, and multi-faceted narratives of various Native American experiences, it delivers some serious gore alongside real emotional pain. It’s wildly atmospheric and to put it plainly, weird. Weird in the very best way, of course.
The revenge plot centers on four Native American men getting their just deserts after disrespecting the sacredness of an elk herd while hunting on elder tribal lands. The group’s excessive spray of bullets decimates an elk herd that includes a pregnant elk, who struggles with every thing she has to survive for her calf. She succumbs to her wounds and the Blackfeet reservation’s game warden discovers their trespass which results in them being forced to leave all the elk meat behind, except for the cow who fought so hard. The four pals are banned from hunting on the reservation for ten years as further punishment, but their real punishment arrives years later.
Without spoiling too much of the story, because there are indeed some surprising twists and turns, I can say this moment of carelessness and disregard results in very serious repercussions for the four men, their friends and family, and even their pets. In the beginning readers increasingly question what is real and what is being told to us by an unreliable narrator. Eventually, through a very clever shift in perspective, readers see the truth of what is happening and the story really picks up speed as we hurtle towards a conclusion.
The Only Good Indians is a stellar example of how horror can also be literary, as Jones has crafted a deeply felt look at cycles of violence, identity and the price of breaking away from tradition, and perhaps most surprisingly, the power of forgiveness and hope. I can’t promise it will all make sense in a neat, tidy way in the end but it doesn’t really need to honestly. A #ownvoices title that is highly recommended reading for fans of horror, literary fiction, strong character writing, and twisty plots.
Trigger warning: When I say there is gore in this, I am not exaggerating. It does include some brutal ends for specifically dogs. I assure you, the book overall is worth reading and you can breeze past some of the grisly paragraphs if need be.
The Only Good Indians is the November selection for Novel Scares book club, my book club devoted to all things horror. Please join us for a lively discussion on Zoom November 12th @ 7 pm! Registration for fall programs begins September 1st and you can register for Novel Scares here. This program is also part of the county wide One Community Reads, taking place now through September, inviting you to read and reflect about race, injustice, history, and a better future.
Happy reading and stay safe!
Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).
One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.
Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!
Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.
I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.
Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.
I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.
This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.
Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!
As you may have guessed, I love books. My home library includes a little bit of everything- classics, poetry, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and a variety of cookbooks that I’ve been gifted or picked up throughout the years. Traditionally, my home library organization mostly consisted of “put the books wherever they fit” and “let’s start stacking books under the coffee table”… but my husband and I recently purchased a new home and I now find myself with more space and shelving than ever before! I have a dedicated cookbook area in my kitchen, plenty of time to try out recipes that have long sat flagged with Post-it notes, and no plans to leave the house (except for groceries) for some time- could there be a more perfect time to experiment in the kitchen?
Today I’m sharing a few cookbooks I’ve been working my way through, along with links to some favorite recipes I have (successfully!) made myself so you can try at home.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Both The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and the follow-up Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman are fabulous, and Deb writes with such a conversational and encouraging tone, you will feel emboldened to try even her most complicated recipe. She is a home cook from NYC and her tasty comfort food is perfect for the stress we might all be feeling right now. I recommend making her one-pan farro and tomatoes– an easy dish that requires few ingredients and even fewer pots and pans!
Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit by Lisa Ludwinski
I am totally obsessed with Sister Pie bakery. My brother-in-law lives in Detroit and whenever I visit we make sure to schedule a stop at this awesome bakery, snagging pie slices and cookies to take back with us (or consume entirely on the drive back home). I highly recommend making the sweet beet pie or the honey lemon meringue- both are crazy delicious and included in the cookbook!
Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon
Liddon’s cookbook is full of healthy vegan recipes and usually utilizes pantry staples and basic ingredients, so you don’t need to go to any specialty stores for ingredients (and nobody wants to go to a basic grocery store now, let alone a specialty store!). Try this quick pantry dal that you can make with basically whatever veggies you have around the house.
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
Fun fact- Gerard grew up right here in Northeast Ohio! She lives in Colorado now but there are definite Midwest influences in many of her recipes, and she particularly adores broccoli cheddar soup recipes inspired by her childhood love of Panera Bread. Her crinkle top brownies are my absolute favorite brownie recipe, but be warned you may be tempted to eat the whole pan. Exercise extreme caution.
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
This was one of the first cookbooks I ever purchased (I own the original edition but the 10th anniversary edition has new recipes and updates!) and it is still one of my favorites. With extensive recipes for every occasion and meal, these vegan recipes are so delicious and flavorful you don’t need to be vegan to appreciate them. Time consuming and oh so delicious, I highly recommend making her eggplant moussaka with pine nut cream. It has been my go-to recipe for potlucks and parties for years, but also a great family dish for home because it will provide delicious vegan leftovers for days!
Don’t forget you can access an amazing array of cookbooks to browse as well through our digital library! And most of the cookbooks highlighted above include a recipe link to the author’s blogs, which are full of hundreds of more delicious recipes. Another great place for recipe discovery online is from the New York Times Cooking site, who are currently allowing free access to many more recipes than usual for non-subscribers.
What fun and exciting dishes or baked goods have you whipped up at home these past couple weeks? What do you have planned for April cooking? I’m hoping to try out some more Sister Pie recipes!
Happy National Poetry Month from all of us at Rocky River Public Library! National Poetry Month was launched in April of 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. You can read more about National Poetry Month and ways to get involved here!
Below you will find some favorite poems and poetry collections curated by RRPL staff we hope you will enjoy, along with lots of links so you can explore our favorite poets from home.
Dori’s Poetry Pick: “Sorrow Is Not My Name” from Bringing the Shovel Down, by Ross Gay
Megan’s Poetry Pick: “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats
You can read more from Yeats, widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, through the Poetry Foundation, or choose from four of Willam Butler Yeats poetry collections in our digital collection, including some of his early poems and an audiobook.
Read more of Smith’s award-winning poetry on his website and on the Poetry Foundation website. You can find more of Sax’s work on his website, through the Poetry Foundation site , and you can check out his debut collection of poems, Madness, from our digital library collection.
Nicole’s Poetry Pick: Blud by Rachel McKibbens
Carol’s Poetry Pick: “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William Carlos Williams
Stacey’s Poetry Pick: “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems by Maya Angelou
We’ll be celebrating poetry all month long over on the library’s social media, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more staff favorites, book spine poetry, and more. If you want to participate, consider recording yourself reading a favorite poem and sharing it on social media! We can all #shelterinpoems while we shelter in place- thanks to the Poetry Foundation for that wonderful hashtag!
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!