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Library News

2023 Staff Picks

StaffPicks2023_Adults_blog

It’s that time of year again! We’re reflecting on our favorite reads from 2023, and are eager to share our picks with you. We hope you’ll find new titles to add to your nightstand or to wrap up as a gift this holiday season.

Be sure to also check out our Staff Picks lists for Teens and Kids to find new reads for the whole family. And if you’re looking for more recommended reads for 2024, try our My Next Read service to receive a custom list of recommendations from one of our librarians.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season full of joy and reading!

FICTION

  • The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty – recommended by Savannah C. at Library Administration and Naila P. at Tuckahoe
    • Remarkable from beginning-to-end! An impressive captain and her loyal crew embark on a final heist trying to avoid supernatural foes, daunting enemies, treacherous seas, and so much more. – Naila P.
  • A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher – recommended by Tracey B. at Tuckahoe
    • This book, with its mix of family drama, supernatural horror, Southern Gothic vibe, and a relatable main character, has a twisty unpredictable plot. This novel confronts familial issues and racist history while reminding the reader that horrors can come from outside one's self, but the most terrifying ones come from within. 
  • All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss – recommended by Drew C. at Gayton
    • This coming-of-age story follows two young teen girls in rural, World War II-era North Carolina. Each chapter is a little story that adds up to a larger tale about disappearing townsfolk, a German POW camp, honeybees, the importance of uniting with others instead of dividing, and the power of reading. My favorite story this year.
  • Babel by R.F. Kuang – recommended by Ashby C. at Gayton
  • The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff – recommended by Kareemah H. at Varina and Lauren M. at Libbie Mill
  • Birds of Maine by Michael DeForge – recommended by Laren M. at Libbie Mill
    • DeForge has an encapsulating way of building fictional, abstract worlds that encourage pondering the absurdities present in our own society. The art is breathtaking and the context never fails to entertain. Birds of Maineis a great triumph and solidifier of the artist's game-changing presence in the realm of graphic novels. 
  • Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon – recommended by Marie R. at Gayton
    • As a fan of sci-fi space operas and comic cons, this book really hit all of those and more!
  • The Devil's Playground by Craig Russell – recommended by Julie S. at Glen Allen
    • Part mystery, part historical fiction, surrounding the legend of the greatest silent horror film ever created.
  • The East Indian by Brinda Charry – recommended by Lisa K. at Glen Allen
    • Experience Jamestown through a fresh set of eyes.
  • Fourth Wingand Iron Flame (Empyrean Series) by Rebecca Yarros – recommended by Tori N. at Tuckahoe
    • These two came out back-to-back and they are A LOT of story!  Amazing character and world building, a perfect "new adult" fantasy book with adventure, romance, and a captivating narrative.
  • The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken – recommended by Lindsey H. at Libbie Mill
    • This is autofiction with exquisite characterization and a deeply loving portrait of the narrator’s mother in all her infinite particularity. McCracken examines both anticipatory grief and grief that’s well underway and a little lived-in, dissects the nuances of a rich mother-daughter relationship, and writes candidly about loss without sacrificing her capacity for joy or sense of humor.
  • Holly by Stephen King – recommended by Tiffany A. at Libbie Mill
    • This novel solidifies my love of the characters with an interesting story that engages Holly and further develops other characters we’ve met before. Holly remains flawed but has such a strong personality, you feel as though you’re listening to an old friend. Note: While the novel does not engage the supernatural, there is a disturbing storyline.
  • How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix – recommended by Kristina C. at Library Administration
    • There were so many twists and turns that I stayed up way too late to finish reading it!
  • In Memoriam by Alice Winn – recommended by Kristyn S. at Fairfield
  • Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward – recommended by Kelsey C. at Varina
  • The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner – recommended by Antonia P. at Fairfield
    • Murder, mystery, and ghosts! Who could ask for more in this historical supernatural fiction tale about a young woman on a mission to find her sister's killer, even if that means learning to commune with the dead? 
  • Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher – recommended by Barbie B. at Tuckahoe
  • Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson – recommended by Victoria H. at Libbie Mill
    • Wilson’s writing is so engaging that having a storyline with two children who spontaneously combust felt completely normal!
  • The Plinko Bounce by Martin Clark – recommended by John M. at Twin Hickory
    • Set in Patrick County, Virginia, a public defender is tasked with representing a felon with a violent past that is accused of murdering a wealthy business leader’s wife. The author is a retired Virginia circuit court judge that is skilled at developing a suspenseful plot that keeps the reader engaged.  Authentic characters, courtroom drama, and inconspicuous storytelling are the elements that made this legal thriller a standout for me.
  • Spear by Nicola Griffith – recommended by Savannah T. at North Park
    • This is a gender-bent retelling of the Arthurian legend of Percival wrapped in Celtic mythos on the cusp of the dark ages. Follow Peretur on her quest to become a great knight and fulfill her destiny. 
  • Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – recommended by Alisha H. at Libbie Mill
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – recommended by Elizabeth P. at Libbie Mill
    • This book has reached inside me and carved a permanent place in my heart. The letters written between the two characters flow from careful circling feints and inquisitive, daring bravado, to veiled feelings and poetic metaphors, and spiral into raw, sharp, dangerous displays of emotion that feel inevitable to both the characters and the reader. I read it twice in a single month, and can’t recommend it enough.
  • Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher – recommended by Barbra S. at North Park
    • Per her usual, T. Kingfisher turns the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale on its head with lovely prose and deep emotion in this novella. 
  • When the Emperor was Divineby Julie Otsuka – recommended by Susan L. at Libbie Mill
    • I was definitely surprised by the tone of this book. There is no sugar-coating and the portrayal of life after internment was both refreshing and depressing.
  • Yellowface by R.F. Kuang – recommended by Jamie C. at Library Administration

NONFICTION

  • The Art Thief by Michael Finkel – recommended by Alicia A. at Library Administration
  • The Book by Mary Ruefle – recommended by Lindsey H. at Libbie Mill
    • I read The Book thinking “wow, no one sees the world quite like she does,” but after I finished it there were glimmers of her perspective in the corners of my own vision. That’s about the highest praise I can give a poet.
  • Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why they Matter by Ben Goldfarb – recommended by Barbra S. at North Park
    • Eager manages to maintain its scientific integrity while remaining readable and relatable. The narratives surrounding the various researchers and environmentalists in the book play no small part in drawing the reader in. 
  • Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry – recommended by Dawn C. at Varina and Bridget O. at Gayton
    • Very frank about the good and the bad, and not bogged down in too much detail. – Dawn C.
  • The Good-Enough Life by Avrim Alpert – recommended by John M. at Twin Hickory
    • We humans are frequently very hard on ourselves.  Reaching the top is a primary goal that is globally promoted.  Alpert presents the benefits of scaling back our anxiety-ridden desires so that we can live a life of fulfillment that benefits us as individuals and collectively.
  • I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – recommended by Tori N. at Tuckahoe and Kristina C. at Library Administration
    • I honestly had no idea who this young woman is or what she was famous for, but it didn't matter. It was a compelling and brutally honest story that really stayed with me! – Tori N.
    •  It’s hard to call this a “favorite” because it was really gut-wrenching, but ultimately hopeful. I recommend listening to the audiobook that’s narrated by McCurdy herself. – Kristina C.
  • In the Houses of Their Dead: The Lincolns, the Booths, and the Spirits by Terry Alford – recommended by Katie C. at Fairfield
    • This book gave me a new perspective on not only the lives of Lincoln and his would-be assassin, Booth, but their families as well.  I found it interesting how the author showed how both families were connected by the new religion of the time, Spiritualism.
  • King: A Life by Jonathan Eig – recommended by Fritz D. at Varina
  • The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson by Jeff Pearlman – recommended by Drew C. at Gayton
    • In this engrossing biography, Jeff Pearlman makes the argument that MLB and NFL star Bo Jackson is an American legend whose story has more in common with the likes of Paul Bunyan or John Henry than with a traditional sports superstar. He then proceeds to weave a narrative with hundreds of interviews (from seemingly everyone who ever came into contact with Bo) to show that, by being in Bo’s orbit, people regularly got to see feats and acts they had never seen before and would not see again. A top-level sports biography.
  • Misbelief by Dan Ariely – recommended by Susan L. at Libbie Mill
  • Surrender by Bono – recommended by Aimee H. at Glen Allen
  • The Talk by Darrin Bell – recommended by Jamie C. at Library Administration
  • Valiant Women by Lena S. Andrews – recommended by Kareemah H. at Varina
  • What an Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman – recommended by Kendall H. at Library Administration
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