Still looking for some good reads to gift this holiday season? Here are some of the favorite books we’ve read this year.

Fiction

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon

“This novel follows cousins, Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, who make it big in the early days of comic books. Even as their superhero, the Escapist, becomes an American icon, the cousins attempt escape acts of their own—Joe laboring to rescue a family left behind in Nazi-occupied Prague, Sammy reckoning with the promises and strictures of the American dream. This book has something for everyone—Jewish folklore, feminist metafiction, Antarctic suspense, celebrity cameos!—but it always returns to the characters themselves in private and surprising moments. It’s an ingenious magic trick of a novel, and kept me enthralled until the very last page.”

-Rebecca Schneider, Sr. Reference Librarian

Rules for Visiting - Jessica Francis Kane

“Features curmudgeonly 40 something May Attwood who is “forced” to take time off from her university gardener job at a local university, after receiving a sabbatical as a thank you for her years of service. May uses the leave to visit four college friends she has lost touch with–simultaneously judging them while learning about herself. Four cities, three countries, and a persistent love interest later, May holds  a mirror up for all of us in re-evaluating our snap judgments. Oh, and a dose of instruction on caring for cacti.”

-Nan Carmack, Director, Library Development & Networking

Milkman - Anna Burns

“Winner of the 2018 Booker Prize – puts the reader inside the mind of a young woman coming of age during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland 40 years ago. It is a riveting and suspenseful journey that reveals how it feels to live in a community that is strife with anxieties, from terrorism to sexual harassment to political divisions which make future peace seem out of reach.”

-Lisa Wehrmann, Electronic Reference Services Coordinator

Noir - Christopher Moore

“The summary that I read described it as “Raymond Chandler meets Damon Runyon with more than a dash of Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes All Stars,” and that sold me. I was not disappointed. This book is both a send up and a love letter to the likes of “Chinatown” and “The Thin Man,” and is lousy with enough pulp slang to give a button-man with a hot roscoe and his dish the Heebie Jeebies! And if that’s a line, I’m all wet!”

-Vince Brooks, Senior Local Records Archivist

Non-Fiction

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life - Eric Klinenberg

As we increasingly struggle with social fragmentation and polarization, this book explores the importance and history of and social infrastructure—“physical places or organizations that shape the way people interact.” Libraries are one site of social infrastructure- others include churches, parks, pools, and other places that are valued by the community. When social infrastructure is well-designed and invested in, societies are more likely to be healthy, tolerant, and resilient in response to challenges. Klinenburg argues that improved social infrastructure can help solve many issues today from public health (opioid crisis, declining life expectancy) to environmental changes (rising seas, worsening storms). Isolation and social divides can be lessened by facilitating community interaction across class, race, age, and other barriers. A fascinating read about the potential for libraries in the 21st century!

Sonya Coleman, Digital Engagement & Social Media Coordinator

Mudlark: In Search of London's Past Along the River Thames - Lara Maiklem

Lara Maiklem begins her book by offering the many definitions, often derogatory, of “mudlarking,” which now mostly means looking in the mud along a river for historic items. Her 15 years of mudlarking along the Thames have taken her from its eastern marshes, where she explores a prehistoric forest in Erith with scientists, to the western boundary of the Port of London Authority in Teddington, where she walks on the river bed and considers the development of fizzy drink bottles. Each section of the Thames has its own unique history and set of items to be found, and she uses these finds as a way of remembering the ups and downs of her own life story. The book is a reminder to think of the many layers of history below your feet (and to always pay attention to tide tables!).

Meghan Townes, Visual Studies Collection Registrar

The Body - Billy Bryson & Look Alive Out There: Essays - Sloane Crosley


My best read of the year was Bill Bryson’s new book, The Body: a guide for occupants, but if Bill Bryson writes a single sentence on anything I think it’s the best sentence ever written, so consider the source. I know I’m over my limit already but…Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley. Her observational humor and wit leaves the reader thinking how did she do that? How did she explain in 3 words a concept that would take everyone else paragraphs to explain?

-Donna Pletcher, Monograph Cataloger

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