BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Nonfiction for Adults

The books considered for our 2017 nonfiction list ran the gamut—from intensely personal memoirs to true crime investigations, travelogues, ethnographic studies, historical biographies, science texts, and even cookbooks. But even in examining all of those topics, nonfiction is an extensive and wide-ranging category to cover. For example, it’s difficult to directly compare the merits of Electric Arches, Eve L. Ewing’s mixed-media, poetic collection, with Samin Nostrat’s beautiful and lively cooking guide Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, in which the recipes are almost secondary.

Neither of those books made the final cut, but trust me—both are worth looking into. In the end, we went with our gut, choosing the books that each of us most enjoyed and appreciated. I think you’ll find a bit of bias in the results—apparently, we really love memoirs!—but there is still a bit of variety in the final list for you to explore, to learn, and to enjoy.

(Also… in the interest of full disclosure, no one ever got around to reading that massive biography of Ulysses S. Grant. I’m still #32 on KLU’s e-audiobook waitlist!)

The 2017 committee includes:

  • Anna, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Brandy F., Reference Services, Lebanon Junction Branch Library
  • Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
  • Marianne, Reference Services, Ridgway Memorial Library
  • Tanya, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer
Alligator Candy by David Kushner
Marianne says:
An unforgettable memoir about a family’s ultimate tragedy and their struggle to recover and carry on.
American Eclipse by David Baron
Marianne says:
I listened to this book in the week before the August 2017 eclipse and so really felt like I understood the excitement that the 1878 eclipse must have generated. It’s an interesting and informative book about science, discovery, and invention.
American Fire by Monica Hesse
Tanya says:
I enjoy reading true crime, if it’s well written, and this one definitely is. It covers all details, from beginning to end, and doesn’t miss a beat. I think true crime readers will enjoy this one.
Tracy says:
This is a solid true-crime read with a little extra. The author did a masterful job putting this bizarre occurrence into thought-provoking economic and historical contexts.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Heather says:
This short, quickly moving book packs a wild punch. Mind-blowing nuggets of information given in such a way non-scientists can understand. Not to mention, Neil deGrasse Tyson himself narrates the audiobook, and his voice is like warm molasses!
Tracy says:
This gem of a book provides a clear and fascinating overview of the subject. I might have to listen to the audio again or pick up the book to fully grasp a few of the concepts—but the book is so short and accessible, I wouldn’t mind that a bit. I loved the author’s occasional shamelessly dorky asides.
Heather says:
This captivating memoir could not have been told in a more beautiful way than the graphic novel format. A raw and emotional monologue on identity and heritage.
Tracy says:
 Emotionally and visually evocative. 
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
Anna says:
I really enjoyed reading this.  It provided a broad understanding of basic civil rights issues that were going on during the 1950s and 60s in the black community. 
Tracy says:
Tyson does a clear-eyed, thorough, and thought-provoking job covering a seminal case in civil rights history, painting a vivid picture of the era’s social landscape and explaining why the event is still so very relevant today. 
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
Brandy says:
I LOVED The Bright Hour. It’s honest and thought-provoking, lyrical and touching. Heart wrenching even. It will make you laugh and make you cry. Loved every moment.
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesenvich
Tanya says:
Very compelling read. It’s almost like reading a work of fiction, but knowing it’s not just amazed me. 
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
Anna says:
 This book is in my top three for 2017.
Heather says:
A macabre but beautiful exploration of what it means to live and die in cultures around the world. Extremely well-written and entertaining. I fought sleep to stay up and read it!
Tracy says:
Stunning, honest, and brave. Roxane Gay is a superb talent, and I was by turns heartbroken, inspired, and awed by every word she wrote. Her story is both universal and achingly personal.
Anna says:
A well-written combination of history and memoir, told from multiple voices.
Marianne says:
Another heart-wrenching and mind-boggling history lesson about the incredible injustice dealt to the Osage American Indians by our government.
Tracy says:
I can’t stop thinking about and talking about this book. It’s an eye-opening look at a hidden subculture of America that is far more prevalent that we might think, based on the encounters of a journalist who embedded herself within the secret tribe of van dwellers and nomads on and off over a period of more than three years. The book does much to challenge our perceptions of “homelessness” and “houselessness,” and the various “characters” and situations Bruder introduces are completely engrossing. I finished the audiobook—about 10 hours in length—in two days, listening to it on my commute, at work, while cooking dinner, and any other time I was able to squeeze it in to my day.
Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Marianne says:
This is a fascinating and astounding history lesson about life in the early 1900s for some young women who were “lucky” enough to land a lucrative job painting clock faces. You can’t make this stuff up!
Tracy says:
This is a well researched, fascinating story that deserves telling. 
Anna says:
Really well-written and fascinating story. I highly recommend.
Shoot Like a Girl by Mary Jennings Hegar
Anna says:
Extremely well-written and an excellent perspective on female military service.
Heather says:
 This absolutely incredible memoir is one of my favorite books of 2017. MJ’s strong, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s flawed, and she’s brilliant. She’s every repressed woman reaching for a man’s dream and doing it with amazing finesse. I read this book covered in goose bumps.
Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler
Heather says:
A lovely, rambling monologue on love, life, tragedy, and the healing power of immersing yourself in the world after grief has changed you.
Tanya says:
What an emotional journey this takes you on. It’s not just a book, but a life story, so much love and heartbreak and healing in what seemed like not enough time. A very powerful read. 
Tracy says:
A hypnotic blend of poetry and prose that provides a raw, searing portrait of grief, a complicated childhood, and—as can be expected from Alexie—the realities of life as a modern American Indian.

Source: Book News and Reviews

BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Fiction for Adults

This past year, our committee has traveled from magical lands in the Middle East and medieval Russia to the haunted landscape of modern America. We’ve journeyed across time and space and continents, reading stories that are stunning in their eye-opening realism and others that have taken us on a fantastical adventure. We read many magnificent books that didn’t make the cut, including thrillers that left us reeling (Tanya loved Fiona Barton’s The Child, for example) and the ambitious offerings of literary heavyweights like Jennifer Egan, Paul Auster, and George Saunders.

In the end, though, these are the books that have most stuck with us, the ones that entertained us, taught us, and inspired us. We hope you love them as much as we did!

The 2017 committee includes:

  • Beth, Assistant Branch Manager, Lebanon Junction Branch Library
  • Donna, Circulation Clerk, Ridgway Memorial Library
  • Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library
  • Tanya, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer
  • Trish, Reference Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai 
Heather says:
This sci-fi novel is overflowing with personality. Insanely smart and intelligently written, Mastai has created art with words in a distant utopia, and given us a character that is endearing, funny, and a complete idiot. Loved every page of this one.
Tracy says:
Unless you count YA dystopia, sci-fi is SO not to my usual taste. But I adored this breezy, smartly written time travel caper with its bungling, strangely charming anti-hero. Mastai takes a concept that could’ve easily become trite or stale and breathes magnificent life into it. Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down.

Donna says:
I did not think I would like this book, as it has a fantasy sticker on it, but I absolutely love it.  (Fantasy is not my usual style.)  It is set in medieval Russia.  This author made me believe the gods and demons are real in this timeframe.  I love Katherine Arden’s  fresh style of writing. I almost could not put it down.
Heather says:
Beautifully written and darkly enchanting, this is a must-read for all lovers of fantasy and fairy tales. I was hooked from page one. It breathes a breath of fresh air on a genre that (usually) relies heavily on Germanic folklore by bringing to life little-known Russian fairy tales in an epic that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you breathless.

The City of Brass by S.A.Chakraborty
Tracy says:

A spellbinding, addictive fantasy that steps outside the usual tropes and settings to create something truly memorable. Weaving in fascinating details of Islamic history and folklore, The City of Brass is a fast-paced, opulent roller-coaster ride drenched in intrigue, hidden dangers, and compelling world building. I hung on every word and can’t wait to see what comes next for this fascinatingly complex cast of characters.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Donna says:
Very engrossing novel.  I could not put it down.   
Heather says:
Stunningly well-written and chock-full of visceral details. The short scenes pack big punches, and each thread interweaves in an incredible, connected stream of consciousness. Time is not linear, and there are moments of sheer brilliance in the writing. One of my favorite reads this year.

Steph says:
Wonderfully written and subtly stunning. I am going to have to read her first book.
Heather says:
My favorite thing is this book! Surreal and mesmerizing, both in the words and the gorgeous illustrations. Storytelling and mythology interweave the narrative, creating a phenomenal exploration of the human monster, society, and the inner demons we all carry. Of all the books I’ve read this year, this one touched me at the deepest part of my psyche.
Panchinko by Min Jin Lee
Steph says:
This book does what all good fiction is supposed to. It entertains, it teaches, it crosses the stratum of emotions, and it leaves you thinking. A must read for fans of Amy Tan or The Joy Luck Club.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Donna says:
I loved this book.  I read the first half straight through from about 2:30 AM till 5:30 AM. Stepping into the world of a woman that lived through much hardship and just got on with her family responsibilities without any doubt about what she should do or could do struck a chord with me. I hated for the book to end. 
Steph S. says:
I really enjoyed this book. It is beautifully written.
Tanya says:
I liked this book more than I expected to. It’s a nicely written story and it kept me interested beginning to end.
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Beth says:
Loved this book! A good coming-of-age story. 
Heather says:
A wildly fun romp through a little girl’s screwed up world. It’s like a mid-grade novel on steroids. 
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Steph says:
This was fantastic!

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Donna says:
A generational story of wealthy refugees, this novel offers a view into a slice of life that we ordinarily do not see. The tense relations between the East and West areas of the world have been going on since time began, it seems. This story seems to close the distance just a little, and brings understanding of another culture with it.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Beth says:
“Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks! When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41!” Lizzie Borden was acquitted of murdering her parents in 1892, but there has always been a question of whether she really did the deed, and the author presents a fictional tale of how the murders could have happened.
Heather says: 
What a ride! A gripping opening, razor-sharp dialogue, and an intense attention to detail that puts you right in the scene. The narrative flows into madness until Lizzie becomes real, and you question everything. This one has stuck with me for a while.
Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Tracy says:
An urgent, haunting exploration of the weight of history and how it echoes through today’s reality. Reminiscent of Beloved, with a powerful, thoroughly modern spin.
Beth says:
Aa great read, especially when you figure out what the “twelve lives” are.
Tanya says:
This is one of my favorites. It travels back and forth between past and present in the book setting, but it flows perfectly. I had a hard time putting this one down. Excellent read.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Donna says:
I found this novel to be a true page turner. The characters are universal.  Even though the book is set in the middle east, the story could take place right here in the United States. If not for the mention of towns like Beersheba and lots of mentions of the desert, a person could forget exactly where the story takes place. The human emotions of fear, jealousy, and survival are the same in any language or country. I highly recommend this novel.

Source: Book News and Reviews

BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Books for Teens

In a year that the new John Green book doesn’t make our Best of the Year list, you know it was a great year for Young Adult literature. In fact, there were so many additional books we loved this year, that we can’t resist also adding a Honorable Mentions list!

The 2017 committee includes:

  • Chris, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Crystal, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library
  • Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer

FICTION

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Chris says:
From the start, this book grips you in an emotional struggle and doesn’t let go.
Tracy says:
Magical and gritty and completely original. I usually move from one book to the next easily, but with this book, I was compelled to pause a bit to breathe it in and absorb the experience fully.

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
Heather says:

A bizarre, intriguing journey into a brilliant mind that made me think I was losing mine! Incredible relationship dynamics and characters I wanted to drown in.
Tracy says:
Gripping from the first page, this mind-bending sci-fi gem delivers a little of everything, from complex, dynamic characters and stunning writing to a visceral, almost claustrophobic level of suspense.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Crystal says:
Loved, loved, LOVED this one! I cannot recommend this series enough.
Steph says:
THIS WAS FANTASTIC! I am amazed that a third book in a series is keeping up so well, maybe even surpassing its prequels.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner 
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
Heather says:

A wild romp from page one! Written in a conversational, bantering tone from the point-of-view of an itinerant man of privilege, this book is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I didn’t want it to end! I’m so excited there’s a sequel coming in 2018!
Tracy says:
This book is a wild, delightful romp from page 1. I didn’t even know or care where the plot was going for the first quarter of the book—I simply hung on for the ride. I loved almost everything about it from beginning to end: the sometimes stunning writing that caught me unaware, moving me quickly from laughter to admiration for the writer’s skill; the deliciously layered characters and relationships; the breakneck pacing; and most of all Monty’s witty, brash, incorrigible, and occasionally vulnerable voice. Although I am gutted that the next book will have a different narrator, I can’t wait for the sequel from Felicity’s POV!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Heather says:

This book has wickedly clever writing, and a narrator whose voice is pure gold. I read it two days, hooked and unable to stop!
Tracy says:
A well-written, fast-paced read with substance! This is an important book that is also enjoyable to read, featuring a great, authentic voice and wonderful character development.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Steph says:
What a haunting and heartbreaking story about the foster care system and the power of love. The two main characters are so well-developed and relatable, you will love them. This story will stick with you. But seriously, you will need tissues.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Crystal says:

I really liked this one. It left you wondering what choice Will was going to make.That kind of ambiguity usually bothers me in endings, but I think it worked really well with this book.
Heather says:
Breathtaking and poetic; raw and anguished. I loved this and walked away from this book with a total author crush on Jason Reynolds.
Tracy says:
The verse is strong, and there is a mesmerizing tension that will transfix even the most reluctant reader. I was stunned by the power, emotion, and insight Reynolds was able to infuse into this short book that essentially takes place in a matter of minutes. Reminds me of a strange, magical mashup of both Walter Dean Myers’s Monster and A Christmas Carol.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Chris says:
I loved this book. There were so many moments that made me stop and close the book so I could digest them. A very powerful read.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland
Tracy says:
This graphic novel is creepily, eerily good! The intentionally messy art took some getting used to, but the frenzied lines and vivid, loud colors create the perfect backdrop for Westerfeld’s mysterious, nightmarish world. This first installment of an intended duology introduces intriguing characters and plotlines full of complexity and nuance—I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Steph S. says:

A beautifully written story about an underdog who dared to dream. This book will remind you of why you fell in love with reading, or make you fall in love for the first time.
Crystal says:
This was my first time reading anything by this author. The world Taylor has created is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Skillfully written characters and an intriguing story. I could not put it down.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Heather says:
This entirely un-put-downable book starts deep in the thick of tension and stays heart-pounding till the end. The tension is incredible, and the two narrators are the perfect voices to tell a story about dying too young—and knowing it’s coming. Silvera has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Chris says:
This book feels very personal and genuine. One of the most realistic depictions of modern teens I’ve seen in a book.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Heather says:

Jae-Jones is an author with a true talent for painting with words. I couldn’t put this book down! Rich and majestic, with an aching depth to the protagonist and a cruel vulnerability to the Erlking. Reckless and dark and oh-so-beautiful.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Chris says:
The characters felt like real people. I was surprised at how easy it was to be pulled in.
Steph says:
Strong characters and a great story.

Honorable Mentions:
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Bang by Barry Lyga
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

NONFICTION

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Saved Their Lives 
by Dashka Slater
Tracy says:
This is a powerful story about the flawed legal system, gender identity, and perception, centered on  two teens whose lives were changed by an impulsive crime—one the the victim, the other the perpetrator. An artful exploration in the healing power found in simple humanity, tolerance, and forgiveness.


How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Tracy says:

A gut-wrenching and inspiring memoir about growing up in a conflict zone, adapting to life in the U.S., and finding your voice. Told in conversational language with almost brutal honesty, Sandra’s story is both eye-opening and thoughtful, neither sensationalizing nor downplaying her experiences.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Heather says:
Gorgeous illustrations and an incredibly realistic story combine to make this memoir something that teens (and even adults) can relate to—particularly in aspects of bullying, sexual identity, and a feeling of isolation. I didn’t put it down once I picked it up.

Source: Book News and Reviews

BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Books for Middle-Grade Readers/Tweens

Unlike last year, we seem to have a few trends running throughout our favorite middle-grade reads of the year.

  1. Oh, the poetry! Poetry had a good year in 2017, and not just in regard to MG books. But for this list, we were somehow able to narrow it down to just two titles—Kwame Alexander’s gorgeous celebration of poets and poetry itself, and Chris Harris’s hilarious romp that recalls  the best of Shel Silverstein. We think both books have the potential to become classics, and we’re expecting some serious awards nods for Out of Wonder when Youth Media Awards time rolls around.
  2. The graphic fantastic! Graphic novels were a big hit with us this year, though we couldn’t include all the books we loved on this list (sorry, Jennifer Holm). But our final selection does feature three of them—two standout, wonderfully illustrated tales about the perils of middle school and an otherworldly sci-fi adventure that has us anxiously awaiting the sequel this May. 

That’s not to say we don’t have plenty of variety to choose from this year. There’s the wonderful humor of Posted and the breathless intensity of Refugee. The quiet mystery of Beyond the Bright Sea, and the fantastical adventures of The Shadow Cipher. From the magical tale of a tree determined to help a friendless child to the gripping realism of a boy finding peace in LEGO constructions after his brother’s murder, we hope every reader of middle-grade fiction or nonfiction will discover a book they love among our Best of 2017 list. We sure did!

The 2017 committee includes:

  • Brandy T., Children’s Programming and Outreach Library Specialist
  • Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
  • Marianne, Reference Services, Ridgway Memorial Library
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library
  • Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer

FICTION

5 Worlds, Book 1: The Sand Warrior by Mark Segel
Heather says: So adorable! The world building is AWESOME, and it’s a really exciting, fast-paced story.
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Heather says: So absolutely adorable! I loved this one. Perfect illustrations, and a story that really captures the innocence of being a tween—and how the real world can test that innocence.
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
Heather says: I love this book! Wolk is amazing.
Tracy says: Wolk weaves an affecting tale full of heart and adventure, featuring an intrepid heroine, compelling relationships, and an intriguing setting.
Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
Heather says: The melting pot of this family and this life is SO real, especially for people who have experienced adoption and the foster system. A strong, vibrant voice and an effortlessly beautiful story. I devoured it in a matter of hours.
Marianne says: This is a heart-wrenching and mind-boggling book about a little girl who has been in the foster care system and is now learning to be part of a family. It’s heart-wrenching because it happens all the time in real life…and it’s mind-boggling because there ARE REAL LIFE children who have to shoulder the same trauma and struggle as our 11-year-old narrator, Flora. Thought-provoking and moving.
Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis
Heather says: This is a raw, violent story of fighting to survive and fighting for what’s right. I loved the story, which will be great for older tween readers.
Steph says: Would you risk your life to save a baby gorilla? That is exactly what Imara and Bobo do. An inspirational story of courage and taking a stand, when what you have to lose is everything.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Heather says: A funny, clever tale with pieces that fit together perfectly like a predestined puzzle.
It All Comes Down to This by Karen English
Steph says: A wonderful coming of age story set in the 1960s. Sophie is dealing with relationships, both friendly and familial and trying to define herself amidst racism, sometimes even felt within her own home.
Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King
Heather says: Obe is every twelve year old I knew. Obe is me, awkward but smart and compassionate, fine with being the outsider (mostly) but still a ball of anxiety over things he can’t control. He and his family are so real and dysfunctional; the way he stands for what he believes despite his parents’ dismissal resonates with me. This is a story about the devastation humans can bring about just by changing things. It isn’t a warning to stop changing. Just a warning to be more compassionate, to care about every step you take. So beautifully and wonderfully done.
Steph says:  This book is a reminder that we should cherish our environment. A must read for fans of Hoot.

Posted by John David Anderson
Heather says: I love this book!!! I was blown away by how well-written this is, and how relatable the characters are.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Tracy: Three stories of refugees—separated by time, place, and culture—are skillfully interwoven in this breathless tale of suspense. Each of the stories is powerful and compelling on its own, but the combined tale of parallel adventures, tragedies, and triumphs is absolutely stunning. Gratz does a masterful job of bringing the experiences of refugees to life, across generations and across continents, in a way that is heartbreakingly real but ultimately inspiring.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Tracy says: 
This is a novel that doesn’t shy away from complexities or fun, diverse characters, and the book is all the richer for it. Lolly’s anger and sadness as he tries to move past his brother’s death are stunningly real, and I was riveted by the poetic detail and vibrant characters that bring Lolly’s Harlem neighborhood to life. An engrossing story about grief, imagination, choices, and finding hope in the face of hostile circumstances.
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Tracy says: This is a nuanced, thoroughly enjoyable WWII-era fiction filled with wonderful characters and plenty of heart. The writing is so fluid and brimming with Ada’s personality, I felt like her troubles and emotions were my own. It’s a very quiet, character-driven story, and yet there is so much that happens, not to mention all of the inner struggles happening beneath Ada’s brave, determined surface. This is a sequel to The War That Saved My Life, but it didn’t even matter that I haven’t read the first book—though I certainly intend to do so now!
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Tracy says: This book has a wonderful message about kindness, community, environmentalism, and speaking up in the face of injustice. Applegate has a way of infusing magic into the ordinary, and this quiet little book provides a near-perfect balance of humor and thoughtfulness.
The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
Heather says: Smart, funny, and overflowing with personality. The world is a fascinating, steampunk-flavored miracle of imagination.
Stephanie says: I loved this adventure! This mystery/fantasy kept me captivated as I fell in love with Tess, Theo, and Jaime. Supported with facts, Ruby’s book will have you wanting to move to New York City!


NONFICTION

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed: Thrills, Chills, and Hauntingly True Stories
by Anna Claybourne
Tracy says: From vampire bats to haunted islands to alien species, this fascinating collection of facts and stories has something for everyone. And if the spine-tingling tales aren’t enough on their own, the full-color spreads, astounding photographs, and interactive quizzes make this a surefire winner for anyone interested in the paranormal, the creepy, or the unusual.
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids
and Immature Grown-ups
by Chris Harris

Tracy says: These poems are so fun, and the illustrations and playful asides are the perfect complement! I loved every bit of this wonderfully wacky compilation. I guess you can add me to the “immature grown-ups” list!
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
Brandy says: This is a really great read. I was worried it would be way too factual and therefore boring, but I was wrong. I was worried about the science in this book being over my head and a turn off. Instead, I got a page-turning read and a better understanding of some of the science of Harry Potter. Also, 100% recommend the audiobook. 
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley & Marjory Wentworth

Heather says: Stunning artwork in colors that speak as loud as the poems themselves. Some so beautiful they take your breath away. A short read; you could easily spend an entire day, soaking in the beauty of the words
Marianne says: The Newbery Award-winning author has paid tribute to famous poets by adopting their style. This is an interesting and educational book (I had to harken back to my middle school English classes when we studied poetry) which is also filled with lovely artwork. My number one favorite on the list.
 
Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden
Marianne says: For the category “People Marianne didn’t learn about in school.” Short and interesting biographies of fascinating people with big, bold dreams. I loved these history lessons!
Real Friends by Shannon Hale
Tracy says: Achingly real and slyly funny, this graphic memoir from a beloved author provides an honest portrait of the ups and downs of childhood friendships and sibling rela
tionships. I was particularly intrigued by the parts about Shannon’s inner imagination—perfectly conveyed by LeUyen Pham’s vibrant illustrations—and her journey as a young writer and storyteller. 
Survivor’s Club: The True Story of A Very Young Boy in Auschwitz 
by Michael Bornstein and‎ Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

Brandy says: This book will pull at your heartstrings for sure. It is a great place to start if you are interested in reading an account from a survivor of the Holocaust. It is as easy of a read as it can be for a Holocaust story. I highly recommend it!

Source: Book News and Reviews

BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Books for Young Readers

It’s been a busy year of reading! Over the course of the last year, our Young Readers Committee read (and often reread) nearly 200 books on our longlist to identify those titles we believe to be the best 2017 had to offer for pre-school and early-elementary-aged children, roughly ages 0 to 8.

The 2017 committee includes:
Angel, Children’s Librarian
Brandy T., Children’s Outreach & Programming Library Specialist
Monty, Circulation Clerk
Pam, Mt. Washington Branch Manager
Stephanie L., Reference Clerk
Tanya, Circulation Clerk
Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer

It was tough narrowing down the finalists and we had plenty of disagreements along the way. We were particularly divided on A Different Pond and After the Fall: How Humpty Got Up Again. Some felt A Different Pond is better suited to older kids, while it was at the absoulte top of the list for others. After the Fall also ranked very high on some readers’ list while others were less enthused. But in the end, we decided to include both of them and let you decide for yourselves! Other books, like Be Quiet! were pretty much universally loved and have been shoe-ins from our first encounter. Overall, we are very happy with our final selections. In particular, we were pleased with the quality of the nonfiction and chapter books to be found this year. So without further ado, BCPL’s favorite 2017 books for young readers are:

PICTURE BOOKS–FICTION

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Up Again by Doug Santat
Monty says: This book has a good message about not giving up and learning to conquer your fears—and if you do, you may just become the something great you were meant to be.

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson
Tanya says: I really enjoyed this book. It told a cute story, plus a life lesson, in one. The pictures are amazing and it was a very sweet read.

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Brandy says: I’m completely in love with this book.
Stephanie says: My 5 year old and I loved this book; we laughed throughout the whole thing! The illustrations were good, the characters funny and imaginative, and the storyline hilarious. We read it twice that day and then read parts of it to everyone at dinner.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi
Tracy says: Gorgeous. I love the saturated illustrations and the quietly captivating story,
Give Me Back My Book by Travis Foster and Ethan Long
Pam says: This is a hilarious book about two friends, Bloo and Redd, arguing over a book.
A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins
Pam says: The watercolor pictures are so well done, and the characters really come to life in this tongue-twister. The fun builds and builds with each page. I love the illustration on the last page, greyhound and groundhog are both worn out, but boy did they have a good time!

I Am Not a Chair by Ross Burach
Monty says: This book is GREAT! The illustrations are very funny, and the book had several of us laughing out lout at work.
In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes
Tracy says: A very engaging reading experience, with the text and illustrations work together beautifully.
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt
Stephanie says: A silly story of how the “decision making” game came about! My daughter and I both laughed throughout.
Life by Cynthia Rylant
Pam says: I cannot get over how moving this story is. The author encourages us to appreciate life, even when the world looks dark. The illustrations are so beautiful. I will have to purchase a personal copy of this book.

Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s by Patrick McDonnell
Pam says: I enjoyed every page of this wordless book. This is a fun book to share with someone learning the alphabet. The illustrations tell a wonderfully fun story. 
Tracy says: Think alphabet book meets seek and find meets adventure story. This is a great book for an adult and child to read together to work on early literacy skills. It would be fun too because kids might come up with slight variations on what’s happening or notice new things with each reread.
Now by Antoinette Portis
Pam says: I liked the simplicity of the illustrations. The book is about living in the “now” and I found the illustrations to focus on the now. There are no distractions, just what is going on right now. 

There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher
Pam says: This is such a fun, interactive book to read with little ones. The illustrations are colorful and the monster…you will see.
Walk with Me by Jairo Biutrago
Tracy says: A deceptively simple story about big emotions and the adult responsibilities children must sometimes take on due to circumstance. There’s lots of little details in the illustrations and subtleties that follow from page to page that leave room for discussion and add a lot to the text.
What to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen
Stephanie says: I love this story! Such great examples of using your imagination with something as simple as a cardboard box! My 8 year old daughter who is very creative was inspired by this book!

PICTURE BOOKS–NONFICTION
All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

Monty says: The illustrations in this book are wonderful and very realistic. They add much to this story about family and the views of a young boy’s trip to Havana in the old family car.
Tracy says: This is a great story about perseverance, family, and tradition. Not to mention the illustrations are fabulous. Car enthusiasts in particular will love it.
Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Angel says: I love how the book started when Harriet was older but went back to where her journey began. The illustrations are amazing and have a lot of emotion.
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvindar Naberhaus
Angel says: I love the amazing illustrations, and the words are simple but really speak to what we hold dear.
Feathers and Hair: What Animals Wear by Jennifer Ward
Stephanie says: A vibrant, beautifully illustrated book about different animals!
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Tracy says: I always love Jason Chin’s work! Here, he includes so much wonderful detail and opportunities for the readers to engage, discuss, and feel part of the journey. It’s full of information, but very accessible.

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Tracy says: This is a really engaging exploration of the Statue of Liberty and its purpose, to be enjoyed by readers young and old.
Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout, Dance, Spin & Turn It Out: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood collected by Patricia C. McKissack
Tanya says: I loved this book. It brought back so many memories of games and rhymes and stories that I learned as a child. I think this is a great read for anyone, both young and old.
Round by Joyce Sidman
Tracy says: This simple yet thoughtful book does a wonderful job of introducing the concept of roundness while celebrating nature.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton
Stephanie says: I would recommend this book to anyone with children, especially with little girls. I love the quotes from each of the women and the constant message that “she persisted” and you should never give up! I read this to both my girls and talked to them in length about each lady in the book.
Tracy says: This is a fantastic, inspirational read for kids and their parents. From the variation in text to the illustrations and the way they work together, this book is laid out beautifully.

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
Tanya says: The illustrations are fascinating in this great story about using your imagination and doing big things in your life.
Tracy says: I love this book! It’s inspiring and imaginative, with text and illustrations that work together perfectly to convey facts as well as ideas that are much larger.

BEGINNING/EASY READERS
Alexander Hamilton: From Orphan to Founding Father by Monica Kulling
Brandy says: Right now is the perfect timing for this book.
Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder
Tracy says: The repetition is great for beginning readers, and the illustrations are adorable and do a lot to bring the simple text to life. The stories are very relateable tales about two brothers, with plenty of gentle humor.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Ada Lace, On the Case by Emily Calandrelli
Beatrice Zinker: Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes
Tracy says: 
Beatrice Zinkner is a wonderful new character in children’s literature, an imaginative, one-of-a-kind girl with a huge heart.
The Case of the Poached Egg by Robin Newman
Monty says: This is a really cute book with lots of play on words and fun pictures.
Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner
Stephanie says: A fun and cure chapter book with an entertaining story and good illustrations.

Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster
Tracy says: This is a super-cute story about a lovable vampire-fairy trying to find a place to belong, and the black, white, and pink illustrations proved the perfect complement to the story. I think kids will be eager to follow Isadora’s further adventures as the series continues.
Princess Cora & the Crocodile by Laura Any Schlitz
Monty says: This is a delightful chapter book filled with soft pastel watercolors.
Tracy says: What a funny little gem of a chapter book! It would be great for kids navigating everyday issues with their parents.


Source: Book News and Reviews

BCPL Patrons’ Favorite Books of 2017

Our first staff-generated Best Books of 2017 list will be announced this Saturday, but first we’re sharing the books YOU loved over the past year. In December, we asked you to tell us your favorites from the last year, and the results are in!








Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Young Readers
Our top vote getters from 2017 were You Don’t Want a Unicorn!—another hilarious offering from BCPL staff favorite Ame Dyckman—and Patrick McDonnell’s Shine!, a thoughtful book about learning to appreciate the world’s wonders.

Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Middle-Grade Readers/Tweens

Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King was the top standalone pick, but series were also popular this year. We received votes for The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan (2nd in the Percy Jackson spin-off series The Trials of Apollo) and the American Girl series—Gabriela: Time for Change by Varian Johnson was mentioned by one voter specifically. Also getting some love was Jennifer Bell’s The Uncommoners series, which began in 2016 with The Crooked Sixpence and continued this year with The Smoking Hourglass.



Patron Vote: Best Book for Teens

The big favorite here was Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited, a fresh, upbeat romance featuring a slightly overweight teen who has been more comfortable nursing a lengthy series of secret crushes than actually talking to a boy she likes. Then she finds herself embroiled in a love triangle (but not really) while coping with new changes to her relationship with her sister. It’s a fast-paced, enjoyable read, with just the right amount of quirk, perfect for readers who enjoy realistic fiction with smart, diverse characters and well-drawn relationships.


Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Adults
Votes in the favorite book for adults category were a hodgepodge, including George Saunders’s multi-voiced literary tome Lincoln in the Bardo; No Middle Name, a collection of Jack Reacher stories from Lee Child; John Boyne’s coming-of-age tale The Heart’s Invisible Fury; and Katherine Arden’s spellbinding fantasy, The Bear and the Nightingale—which is also a favorite of several BCPL staff members. 

Source: Book News and Reviews

BCPL Patrons’ Favorite Books of 2017

Our first staff-generated Best Books of 2017 list will be announced this Saturday, but first we’re sharing the books YOU loved over the past year. In December, we asked you to tell us your favorites from the last year, and the results are in!








Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Young Readers
Our top vote getters from 2017 were You Don’t Want a Unicorn!—another hilarious offering from BCPL staff favorite Ame Dyckman—and Patrick McDonnell’s Shine!, a thoughtful book about learning to appreciate the world’s wonders.

Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Middle-Grade Readers/Tweens

Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King was the top standalone pick, but series were also popular this year. We received votes for The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan (2nd in the Percy Jackson spin-off series The Trials of Apollo) and the American Girl series—Gabriela: Time for Change by Varian Johnson was mentioned by one voter specifically. Also getting some love was Jennifer Bell’s The Uncommoners series, which began in 2016 with The Crooked Sixpence and continued this year with The Smoking Hourglass.



Patron Vote: Best Book for Teens

The big favorite here was Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited, a fresh, upbeat romance featuring a slightly overweight teen who has been more comfortable nursing a lengthy series of secret crushes than actually talking to a boy she likes. Then she finds herself embroiled in a love triangle (but not really) while coping with new changes to her relationship with her sister. It’s a fast-paced, enjoyable read, with just the right amount of quirk, perfect for readers who enjoy realistic fiction with smart, diverse characters and well-drawn relationships.


Patron Vote: Best Book(s) for Adults
Votes in the favorite book for adults category were a hodgepodge, including George Saunders’s multi-voiced literary tome Lincoln in the Bardo; No Middle Name, a collection of Jack Reacher stories from Lee Child; John Boyne’s coming-of-age tale The Heart’s Invisible Fury; and Katherine Arden’s spellbinding fantasy, The Bear and the Nightingale—which is also a favorite of several BCPL staff members. 

Source: Book News and Reviews

Staff Members Pick Their Top 5 Reads of the Year

Last year, I kicked off the New Year with my first Tracy’s Year in Reading post. This year, I am putting a different spin on things and sharing the top 5 picks from a number of BCPL staffers. These are the books that we loved best in 2017, from the hottest new thrillers to enduring classics we read for the first (or 100th) time.

Amanda’s Top 5:
Circulation Clerk, Ridgway Memorial


Come Sundown by Nora Roberts   
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb 

View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

The Obsession by Nora Roberts   
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman   
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU


Life of Lies by Sharon Sala
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Anna’s Top 5:
Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington


We Were One by Patrick K. O’Donnell
Get e-audiobook via Hoopla

Rebel Mother by Peter Andreas
View in catalog | Get e-audiobook via Hoopla

Colonial Project, National Game by Andrew D. Morris
BCPL currently has no holdings for this title, but you can request an Interlibrary Loan!

Manchurian Legacy by Kazuko Kuramoto
BCPL currently has no holdings for this title, but you can request an Interlibrary Loan!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Get e-book via KLU

Beth’s Top 5:
Assistant Branch Manager, Lebanon Junction

Strange Weather by Joe Hill
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU
I love a scary story, and these 4 novellas give you that creepy feeling like you’re being watched, and there IS a monster underneath your bed!! Joe Hill is proof that great horror writing is genetic—his father is Stephen King!

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
View in catalog | Get e-book via Hoopla | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU
“Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks! When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41!” Lizzie Borden was acquitted of murdering her parents in 1892, but there has always been a question of whether she really did the deed, and the author presents a fictional tale of how the murders could have happened.

The Rift by Walter J. Williams
BCPL currently has no holdings for this title, but you can request an Interlibrary Loan!
Residents of the Midwest have been watching and waiting for the New Madrid Fault to produce “The Big One Earthquake”—many tremors have been felt in recent years. The Rift is this native Illinoisan’s worst nightmare-an 8.9 earthquake rips through New Madrid, Missouri, changing lives there and throughout the country forever. I couldn’t put it down—great beach read!!

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen
View in catalog
Do you ever really know your neighbors? This book explores the lives of 3 families of a quiet cul-de-sac in a neighborhood that’s rated one of “The Top Twenty Safest Neighborhoods in America,” and the secrets that everyone hides, including the new neighbors. Another great beach read!

The Day the World Went Nuclear: Dropping the Atom Bomb and the End of WWII in the Pacific by Bill O’Reilly
View in catalog
Everyone knows the United States dropped atomic bombs on two cities in Japan in August 1945—Nagasaki and Hiroshima. O’Reilly tells the story of how the bomb was developed, who the key players were, and the dropping of the bombs and Japan’s surrender just days after. It’s a story everyone should know, and a story that should never be forgotten-and raises the age old question: Just because we can, should we??

Cheryl’s Top 5:
Assistant Branch Manager, Ridgway Memorial


A Child Called It by Dave Peltzer
View in catalog
This book is number one in a series of four. This story will impact your life. You will either like or dislike the book, but you will never forget it!

Plain Fame by Sarah Price
View in catalog
Book one in a series of six. This is a story of an Amish girl getting involved with an Englisher. They have a whirlwind of a relationship with a lot of differences and sameness. Excellent series!

Last One Home by Debbie Macomber
View in catalog
Book one in a series of four called “New Beginnings.” It is a different side to Debbie Macomber, one that I truly enjoyed reading. It has all the good, the bad, and the ugly— just like real life.

Mind Game by Iris Johansen
View in catalog
I love a good mystery, one that you can’t easily figure out. That’s what Iris Johansen has done with this story. It follows the Jane MacGuire, daughter of Eve Duncan, to Scotland. She comes face to face with intrigue, mystery, and death.

The Trials of Mrs. Lincoln by Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr
View in catalog
Abraham Lincoln is my favorite person in history. Finding out Mrs. Lincoln was railroaded by her son, Robert, she was institutionalized in a mental hospital. Her finances cut short, reputation shattered, Mrs. Lincoln lives out the remainder of her days in Europe.

Crystal’s Top 5:
Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Firstborn by Tosca Lee
View in catalog

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU

Heather’s Top 5:

Administrative Assistant, Public Relations


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via Hoopla
A wild romp from page one! Written in a conversational, bantering tone from the point-of-view of an itinerant man of privilege, this book is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I didn’t want it to end! I’m so excited there’s a sequel coming in 2018!

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai 
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU
This sci-fi novel is overflowing with personality. Insanely smart and intelligently written, Mastei has created art with words in a distant utopia, and given us a character that is endearing, funny, and a complete idiot. Loved every page of this one.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
View in catalog
My favorite thing is this book! Surreal and mesmerizing, both in the words and the gorgeous illustrations. Storytelling and mythology interweave the narrative, creating a phenomenal exploration of the human monster, society, and the inner demons we all carry. Of all the books I’ve read this year, this one touched me at the deepest part of my psyche.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden 
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU
Beautifully written and darkly enchanting, this is a must-read for all lovers of fantasy and fairy tales. I was hooked from page one. It breathes a breath of fresh air on a genre that (usually) relies heavily on Germanic folklore by bringing to life little-known Russian fairy tales in an epic that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you breathless.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU
Jae-Jones is an author with a true talent for painting with words. I couldn’t put this book down! Rich and majestic, with an aching depth to the protagonist and a cruel vulnerability to the Erlking. Reckless and dark and oh-so-beautiful.

Tracy’s Top 5:

Public Relations Coordinator


All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai 
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU
Unless you count YA dystopia, sci-fi is SO not to my usual taste. But I adored this breezy, smartly written time travel caper with its bungling, strangely charming anti-hero. Mastai takes a concept that could’ve easily become trite or stale and breathes magnificent life into it. Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
View in catalog | Get e-audiobook via Hoopla
The City of Brass is an absorbing fantasy that steps outside the usual tropes and settings to create something truly memorable. Weaving in fascinating details of Islamic history and folklore, it’s a fast-paced, opulent roller-coaster ride drenched in intrigue, hidden dangers, and spellbinding world building. I hung on every word and can’t wait to see what comes next for this fascinatingly complex cast of characters. Book 2 of this trilogy can’t come fast enough for me.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via Hoopla
Clearly, Heather and I need to stop reading all the same books! As she so perfectly describes, this book is a wild, delightful romp from page 1. I didn’t even know or care where the plot was going for the first quarter of the book—I simply hung on for the ride. I loved almost everything about it from beginning to end: the sometimes stunning writing that caught me unaware, moving me quickly from laughter to admiration for the writer’s skill; the deliciously layered characters and relationships; the breakneck pacing; and most of all Monty’s witty, brazen, incorrigible, and occasionally vulnerable voice. Although I am gutted that the next book will have a different narrator, I can’t wait for the sequel from Felicity’s POV!

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
View in catalog
This sweeping, luminous debut was a late addition to our Best of 2016 Adult Fiction list. I discovered it in January, barely a week before our final Best of the Year list was released, and I insisted on adding it to the final selection. The beautiful, powerful writing; thought-provoking story; and strong characterizations that make up this historical saga still linger in my mind nearly a full year later.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
View in catalog | Get e-book via KLU | Get e-audiobook via KLU
A hypnotic blend of poetry and prose provides a raw, searing portrait of grief, a complicated childhood, and—as can be expected from Alexie—the realities of life as a modern American Indian. It’s also the book I’ve probably connected with the most this year on a personal level. I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s work ever since a classmate introduced me to a story from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven my sophomore year of college (read: a very, very long time ago). He’s an author who’s not afraid to be a bit controversial to make his point and tell his truth.

Source: Book News and Reviews

UTB Spotlight: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Greetings! And happy Teen Read Week!

Traditionally here at BCPL, Teen Read Week has become the time when we announce the latest additions to our annual Ultimate Teen Booklist. This year, we are trying something a little different. Instead of providing you with a utilitarian list of all the new additions, we’ve decided to tell you a little more about each of our picks—including an explanation of WHY we believe it deserves a spot on our Ultimate Teen Booklist. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be highlighting new additions for our 2017 list one by one so that you can learn more about each of them. So while Teen Read Week may officially end after today, we’ll be keeping the celebration going!

The first new addition to our 2017 list is Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley!

Whaley’s third novel was a Best of 2016 selection and has since appeared as a Staff Pick from yours truly, so it may come as no surprise that it’s joining the Ultimate Teen Booklist. I’ve read each of Whaley’s books, and every one of them has been named to the BCPL Best of the Year list: Where Things Come Back appeared on our 2011 Best of the Year list (our very first!); Noggin made the 2014 list; and, finally, Highly Illogical Behavior was selected last year.

Where Things Come Back also won Michael L. Printz and Morris awards, and Noggin was a National Book Award finalist. Yet of the three, Highly Illogical Behavior is the first to make the cut for our Ultimate Teen Booklist. All of Whaley’s books are extremely well written, with snappy dialog and intriguing characters, but Highly Illogical Behavior is the one that, for me, is the most memorable.

What it’s about:
Sixteen-year-old Solomon Reed hasn’t left his house in three years, and even the thought of doing so brings on crippling anxiety attacks. Solomon loves his family and Star Trek—and he’s fairly content with the status quo, even if his parents continue to hope he will someday want more. Enter seventeen-year-old Lisa Payton, a type-A overachiever with an essay to write about her “personal experience” with mental illness. Solomon’s breakdown three years ago was pretty public, so Lisa decides to “befriend” him and “fix” him to lock in the scholarship she’s chasing. She also pulls her boyfriend Clark in on the scheme.

Why it belongs on the list:
This is highly readable story about mental illness, friendship, and taking chances. It’s funny, bittersweet, though-provoking, smart, and sometimes eye-opening. Mental illness has become a popular topic of YA fiction in recent years, but Solomon’s anxiety is depicted so vividly that it feels like the realest, truest picture of anxiety I’ve encountered yet in fiction. Whaley has done a remarkable job of making the thoughts and fears of a teenage agoraphobe relatable.

The characters of Highly Illogical Behavior are complex and often defy stereotypes, from Solomon—who is so much more than the labels others might use to define him—to the sweet, unexpectedly layered Clark, who couldn’t be further from the standard one-dimensional “jock” character we’ve come to expect in fiction. Then there’s Lisa, who’s self-serving scheme should make her an easy character to loath, and yet the reader can’t help but see her redeeming qualities or at least understand her—and not just because of some “noble sacrifice” manufactured by the author to make her redeemable. Thankfully, Whaley has also avoided the too-common YA trope of absent or vilified parents—Solomon’s are pretty great without being too ridiculously perfect either. While the book’s characters act in a way that is completely believable, they still keep you guessing. Just when you feel a situation is taking a turn toward the predictable, it goes somewhere so much better and infinitely more honest.

Witty dialog, prose that seems effortless, and oodles of quirky charm make this book a joy to read, and the book is further elevated by the thoughtful, multi-dimensional treatment of a character with anxiety disorder. It’s a book that makes you think about friendship, about forgiveness, and about personal courage—not the courage that wins medals and acclaim, but the small braveries that can be found in each and every day.
Source: Book News and Reviews

SummerQuest 2017: 7 Guest Reviews from Middle-Grade Readers

SummerQuest is on! We’re having a great summer at BCPL with events ranging from awesome makerspaces to gaming nights to an outdoor concert. But the heart of our summer library program will always be books and reading.

And we’re so excited with the response we are receiving from the participants in our 10 in 10 Reading Challenge for Tweens, Teens, and Adults. Here are just a few of the book reviews we’ve received so far; more will be posted here over the month to come. A HUGE thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: The book Sisters is about two girls named Raina and Amara. Raina and Amara have to travel for a week in the car to Colorado when the incident comes up again.  I think this book is good because its about the sisters. The author is also creative. There is also a lot of drama between the two sisters.

*This book completes the Book By or About Someone I Admire challenge in Victoria’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: This was my first Raina Telgemeier book, and I saw immediately why she has become so popular with both readers and reviewers. Her work is full of  heart and realistic relationships we can relate to. Here’s what I had to say a few years ago, when Sisters made our Best of 2014 list:

In her follow-up to Smile, Telgemeier focuses on the ups and downs of her childhood relationship with her younger sister. The two are wildly different and have frequent battles, and yet they have one very important thing in common. Though there are frequent flashbacks to key moments, the narrative centers on a family road trip to attend a family reunion. The pacing, text, and expressive art are top-notch.


The Hunt for the Hundredth Key by Geronimo Stilton
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Readers 

Victoria’s Summary & Review: The book, The Hunt for the Hundredth Key, is about Geronimo Stilton wanting to write a book until his sister takes him to help solve a mystery. I like the book because the author is creative. Another reason is because of the characters, setting, and the mystery.

*This book completes the Book I Loved As a Child challenge in Victoria’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

The Baby Sitters Club by Raina Telgemeier
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: The book, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, is about Claudia, Janine, and a baby-sitters club. Claudia and her friends want to baby-sit while Janine wants to study until an accident comes up. I enjoyed the book because of the setting, characters, and the author. The setting is outside and I like the outside, so that is why I like the setting. I like the characters because they are caring. I like the author, Raina Telgemeier, because she is creative.

*This book completes the Graphic Novel challenge in Victoria’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: This book is about a sister who loses her older sister while she was running to fast, so she slipped and fell into the slip. Her younger sister has help with her soul animal to find out why her sister had wanted to run faster. I liked this book, Maybe a Fox, because the author, Kathi Appelt, showed emotion well while writing. I also like how she describe every little detail. She also described each personality of the sisters really well. This is why I like the book Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt.

*This book completes the BCPL Staff Pick challenge in Katelynn’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!


Rutabaga The Adventure Chef…Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria’s Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: Rutabaga continues his mission to find exotic foods for his dishes. While trying to do this, he runs into all sorts of messes. While being a chief he gets taken and forced to work as a chief for an evil goblin. The book was okay because the author didn’t show any emotion while writing. Also, I don’t really like comics. Another thing is that the characters don’t really develop. This is why I think the book was okay.

*This book completes the Graphic Novel challenge in Katelynn’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: This book is about a kid who enters sweepstakes to earn something for his mom, because their dad died and they are put on eviction at their apartment for not paying the rent on time. I like this book because the author, Donna Gephart, puts good emotion into her writing. She also does a good job explaining how things happen in a different way than most authors do. This makes her writing enjoyable. This is why I think you should read the book Death by Toilet Paper.

*This book completes the Book Your Friends Love challenge in Katelynn’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

Middle School Escape to Australia by James Patterson
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria’s Summary & Review: This book is about a kid named Rafe who wins an art competition and wins a trip to Australia. There he finds a group called the outsiders which he fits right into. He then makes a piece of art to display. What the people don’t know is that he has a bigger surprise coming. The book, Middle School Escape to Australia, is something you should read. First the author, James Patterson, does a really good job on showing emotion. Also, he does a good job on describing the characters. Not to mention he has a really good plot. He also does a good job on the setting. He makes the setting fit the story. This is why I think the book Middle School Escape to Australia is a good book to read.

*This book completes the Book Published in 2017 challenge in Katelynn’s 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

Source: Book News and Reviews