Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Favorite Books of 2013, part one

It's time once again for the staff of Carnegie-Stout Public Library to pick our favorite books of 2013. It's a mix of books new in 2013, and books new to us in 2013. And if you just can't get enough of librarian reading suggestions, check out the Twitter hashtag #libfaves13 for the favorite reads of librarians across the nation and around the world. We'd love it if you'd share your favorite books from this past year in the comments!

You can browse our favorite books from past years here:
Staff Picks 2011, new books
Staff Picks 2011
Staff Picks 2012, part one
Staff Picks 2012, part two

Andrew, Adult Services: I’d love this book even if it was just a chunk of paper bound together as an excuse to print the clever title, but it quickly becomes apparent that Ryan North knows Hamlet very well and is quite aware of the bizarre genius of making a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book out of what may be the most famous example of literary indecision. North’s humor is gleeful and smart, alternating between Dungeons & Dragons references and insightful critique of the play. His wry commentary on the treatment of Ophelia is particularly enjoyable. I’ll be playing around in these 600+ pages for some time to come!

Jackie, Circulation: Drinking and Tweeting by Brandi Glanville is exactly what I expected it to be and more! It is an honest, sad, hysterical, sarcastic account of Brandi's life. This book shares her ups, downs, and everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) in between! It is a candid account of her life before Real Housewives of Orange County and her separation from her cheating husband (Eddie Cibrian). She speaks openly about dealing with the loss of her relationship, having a woman move in on her life and children (LeAnn Rimes), reinventing herself, and getting back into the dating world. She briefly discusses her spot on the Real Housewives show but it is not the driving force of the book by any means. This is a great, funny, quick read! If you have ever had relationship blunders you will surely relate to Brandi!

Mary, Youth Services: My favorite read in 2013 was The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Kelsey Moore. Excellent book with touching stories and a big splash of humor. It's about the enduring bond of three high school friends though the ups and downs of life. Reminded me of the nostalgia settings in the Fannie Flagg's books.

Laura, Circulation: The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr. This is a truly unique historical novel with the feel of a fantasy even without any supernatural elements.  Although mostly speculative, it feels natural and believable, mysteriously set . . . somewhere . . . in a post-Roman Europe, in a dangerous culture that has maybe sown the seeds of its own destruction.  Precise, flowing prose and a jaw-dropping plot twist made this my favorite book of the year.  I've never read anything else like it!
Mike, Adult Services: A book I enjoyed this year was Mississippi Solo: A River Quest by Eddy L. Harris. It was published in 1988 and is out of print, so I bought a used paperback copy on eBay. When he was 30, Harris canoed the length of the Mississippi River by himself, and his book takes readers along on the three-month journey, from camping on sandbars to locking through dams to exploring quirky river towns like Dubuque, where Harris ate Yen Cheng egg rolls under the Town Clock. Harris's bubbliness is weird, and he goes overboard with his anthropomorphic descriptions of the river, but his book reminded me of my younger days when I lived three blocks from Ol' Man River in Savanna, Illinois, especially the days I spent with friends in flat-bottom boats. Now at 60, Harris is raising money to paddle the river again, this time with documentary filmmakers in tow: If Harris makes it back to Yen Cheng, his crew is bound to shoot some interesting footage. If not, he has at the very least inspired one aging river-rat wannabe to save up for a canoe.

Allison, Adult Services: I picked up Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block expecting a standard YA end-of-the-world survival story, with some teenage love drama thrown in. While there is a world-ending catastrophe and romance, the book was anything but standard. Drawing on Homer's "Odyssey" (which, I'll be honest, I only skimmed in high school. It isn't necessary to be familiar with the tales, but, I appreciated Block's book more after a little review) the story begins when a cataclysmic earthquake destroys the West Coast and a wall of water sweeps seventeen-year-old Penelope's family away. After narrowly escaping death at the hands of looters, Pen sets off on a perilous journey to find her family, encountering human-devouring giants, sirens,  lotus-eaters and witches, and gathering three companions to aid her quest. Magic and the fantastic is woven throughout the narrative, which skims back and forth from Pen's present journey to her life before the Earth Shaker, when she was just on the precipice of discovering her sexuality. Even though the book wasn't at all what I though it was, I was enchanted by the magical realism and love that suffused the story.

Lisa, Circulation: Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I really enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaime Ford. I learned about part of American history that I never really knew about before. Set in Seattle during World War II, the story centers around the evacuation of Japanese Americans to internment camps hundreds of miles away from their homes. They are denied their belongings and the lives they have established there. It is a story of a shamful part of American hisotry, but also of family ties and bonds between fathers and sons. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. 

Amy, Youth Services, The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier (Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, and Emerald Green): Gwen has inherited the time-travel gene from her ancestors.  She travels through time in London with Gideon, another time-traveler, to search for the "Circle of Twelve" which are other time-travelers and find out what her own destiny is.  She is the Ruby in the Circle of Twelve and once all the pieces of the puzzle are put together, her own destiny will be revealed.  These books were very interesting and had a refreshing story that separates it from all the similarly written dystopian YA novels of this year.

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