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Director's Columns

Check It Out

Feb. 3, 2018


Check This Out




Anne Hennen Barber




Towards the end of December and into the beginning of January I love reading all the end of the year lists.  Best movies, best television, best music, and, of course, best books.  Best Picture Books, best Young Adult books, Best Sci Fi, Best Nonfiction etc., etc…  This year the five of us at the library decided to look back at what we read and list what impacted us the most.  Here’s a few that we recommend and can be checked out at the library.




Anne’s picks:


Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin.  I recommended this slim but intense book to quite a few people this year.  I read it very quickly because it is short but also because it doesn’t let up for even a second.  Translated from Spanish.                                                                                               Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.  I loved reading this collection of short stories.  Because the stories were so thematically connected it read seamlessly.  It is wild, mysterious, and dark.                                                                                   The Power by Naomi Alderman.  Possibly my favorite book of all time is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  This 2017 dystopian tale felt very connected to Atwood’s book but also had its own new kind of energy.                                                            A Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry                                                              by David L. Carlson.  This graphic novel blew my mind.  It’s based on the true story of how a father was blinded, sent to prison,   and shared a cell with Nathan Leopold Jr.  Yes, that Leopold—one half of the infamous Leopold & Loeb pair who kidnapped and murdered a 14 year old boy 1920s Chicago.  The drawings are fantastic.                                                                                                                              First Avenue: Minnesota’s Main Room  by Chris Riemenschneider.  In my 20s First Avenue was the best place to hear and see some of my favorite musicians up close. This book created so much nostalgia for me as I flipped through, backed up, and read bit and pieces.  After losing Prince First Ave. feels like an even more important Minnesota landmark.                                                                                    They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera.  I have really enjoyed reading from the genre of Young Adult books this past year.  I’m a sucker for stories about young male friendship so that’s part of the reason this book appealed.  I also thought The Hate U Give and Exit, Pursued by a Bear were incredibly powerful.  Teens are really lucky to have so many books written for them.  Me too.






Mary Ann’s picks:                                     


Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Told from three different perspectives, the story centers around three women, two of whom were real-life characters. A New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday, Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor and Kasia Kuzmerich a young Polish woman, who was a courier for the Polish Resistance.              Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during WWII; it is the story of two women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival.


Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.    Story of mothers and daughters set in a remote Yunnan village in a tea growing region in China.  Follows the life of the main character Li-Yan, a member of the ethnic minority Akha. One of my favorite authors.


Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve.   Is set in 1947 when a disastrous fire ravaged the coast of Maine. Grace, the main character is a pregnant mother of two in an unhappy marriage. Follows the impact on the fire on her life as she finds the courage to build a new life                        


Morningstar Growing Up with Books by Ann Hood.     Reminds me of my childhood. It brought back memories of Catholic school, the turmoil of Vietnam, large extended families and of course books and reading. The walk or bike ride to our rural corner to visit the bookmobile every two weeks. Haven’t thought about that in years.                                                                                                                      


Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. Great cookbook with many simple, easy to prepare recipes. Will probably be one I purchase for my kitchen.                      


Successful Gardening on the Northern Prairie by Eric Bergeson. This is a gardening book geared to where we live on the prairie.  Tons of practical information told with humor. Another books I will purchase as a resource for myself.                                                                   


Child’s First Book of Trump by Michael Black & Marc Rosenthal.   A humorous take on our current president told in picture book format. Pretty much sums it up and less depressing than a full size book about him.                                                                             Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.  A fun, humorous read.                                             






Sharon’s picks:


The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indrioason.  My genre of choice is usually mysteries.  I have read many of this author's books which are set in Iceland.  This is his newest. 


The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.  My dad served in the army in World War 2, so I have always liked to read historical fiction about that period in history.  This book is written from the perspective of wives and children left behind during the war.


Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World    by Admiral William H. McRaven.  This is the shortest book I read last year and has some simple, practical advice and words of encouragement when going through tough times.


To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon. The Mitford series is another series that I have loved reading.  Karon's stories are full of grace, compassion and humor.  As this is the 14th in the series, I would recommend starting with book # 1, At Home in Mitford.


Long Way Gone by Charles Martin.  This is another favorite author.  Everyone one of his books touches my heart and often moves me to tears. 






Roxane’s picks:


Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  This is one of the first suspense books I read and it helped me realize I like that genre.


The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.  Suspense. One night a baby disappears when a couple goes next door to a party.                                   


Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.  This couple seems to be perfect to all who knows them.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  In a futuristic U.S., women only serve the purpose of reproduction.  I did not like this book when I read it but I can’t stop thinking about it.


The Store by James Patterson.  This book tells of a futuristic U.S. where a store controls almost everything.  It made me think of the retailer Amazon and current U.S. politics.






Rachel’s picks: 


Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.  Lockwood gives us a wonderfully authentic and funny memoir about her bizarre, albeit endearing, family dynamic. One of those rare reads that had me laughing so hard, I had to pause my reading because my vision was so blurred from the tears in my eyes. 


Marlena by Julie Buntin.  This intoxicating, poignant novel captures the intensity of girlhood friendships. Buntin’s voice feels authentic and impactful. 


You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me  by Sherman Alexie.  Honest, funny, and heartbreaking, this memoir about Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother offers meditations on resentment and forgiveness with the author’s distinct poeticism and wit. 


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  An exceptional timely piece about race and police brutality in today’s social climate. Thomas writes with integrity and teenage protagonist Starr is sure to be a memorable character for years to come


My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.  A dark and challenging read that centrals around a tough, abused teenage girl outgrowing her toxic environment. Tallent’s rich prose and haunting characters has left my brain reeling in the weeks since I completed it.