The Nix by Nathan Hill (2016)
The Nix is a smart, funny view on the media, elections, and pop-culture. Samuel Andresen-Anderson is teaching English at a small college and spending his days immersed in the multiplayer game, Elfquest. Abandoned by his mother Faye at the age of eleven, Samuel knows little beyond her life in small town Iowa. When Faye is arrested for throwing gravel at a right-wing presidential candidate, Samuel sees the chance to fulfill his long overdue publishing contract by reconnecting with his mother to write her story. Faye's secret past in 1968 Chicago links her to the judge on the current case. Hill alternates between narrators, times, and generations, creating an engaging, dark, humorous read.
Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas (2013)
This book messes with you. Much like a sociopath might if they chose to do so. The author also argues for the value of sociopathy very convincingly and challenges the societal demonization of sociopaths. Similar to the essay collection On the Fear of Narcissism, this first-hand account of sociopathy reminds us what personality disorders reveal is a very human fear of our own capacity for ruthlessness or self-absorption, while offering an examination of what exactly makes us human. Is it empathy? Is it darker and more unsettling impulses? Both? A scary and enthralling read in a voyeuristic way, I couldn't put it down.
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath (Audio, 2017)
Each day is made up moments, moments that you can choose to make memorable and meaningful. This book is full of real-life examples and compelling stories of individuals and groups who are intentionally creative in constructing impactful moments both personally and as organizations. Inspirational and thought-provoking, I bought a copy after listening to it to be able to highlight the most compellingly written passages that I want to revisit to use to construct my own meaningful experiments. Suggested for those that enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, Brene Brown, or Seth Godin.
Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture by Ken Jennings (2018, Audio)
Laugh out loud funny from start to finish with a great narrator! This was a high-level survey of current culture and how comedy has infused so much of our everyday media consumption. The realization that commercials have gotten steadily funnier over the years and what that means about society provided a delightful ah-ha! haha moment. The chapter on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was a personal favorite. Suggested for fans of stand-up comedy, sitcoms, and Monty Python.
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart (2015, Audio)
Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp are three sisters trying to live a quiet life in Wyckoff, New Jersey, in the summer of 1914. Their world (and their buggy) are turned upside down after colliding with a local factory boss’s automobile. The Kopp sisters’ routines and relatively isolated lives are suddenly rife with arson, kidnapping, threats, labor disputes, and gun fights. Even with so much excitement packed in, readers will be able to spend time getting to know a great cast of characters in a beautifully rendered world. The most fascinating part to me is that this novel is based on a true story--the Kopp sisters really existed and a surprising amount of the novel draws from real-life events. For fellow listeners, Christina Moore is a fabulous narrator to the audio version.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
“There is no problem a library card can’t solve.” The three Andreas sisters find themselves back at home with the excuse of caring for their ailing mother, however each has a big secret and a past from which they are trying to escape. Through family squabbles and family love, each figures out that their problems aren’t insurmountable when faced with each other by their side. This book is uniquely written in the first person plural, which provides an interesting narrative. Also, the characters are well developed and the writing is beautiful.
Kristen A.’s Pick:
Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad (2018)
As interesting as I expected the story of the first Muslim American woman who competed in the Olympics wearing a headscarf to be, Proud surpassed my expectations! Muhammad writes in such a relatable way about growing up as an outsider in school, struggling to find her place during and after college, balancing all of her passions, and making the decision to finally commit herself to becoming the best she could be at what she loves -- fencing. She also takes us through her journey to the Olympics, and all the struggles she faced both domestically and internationally as an African-American woman fencer. Truly an inspiration! (Also available in a young readers edition titled Proud: Living My Dream.)
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (2016)
Vassa lives in the magical land of Brooklyn, where she embarks on a quest for light bulbs from the witch Babs Yagg’s convenience store (picture a dancing 7-11 on chicken legs). Mayhem ensues. While readers will find many of the fairytale tropes in Vassa in the Night familiar (impossible tasks, witches in disguise, mysterious strangers), this whimsical retelling of Russian fairytale Vasilissa the Beautiful manages to feel fresh amidst a sea of recent fairytale retellings. Porter’s writing veers from humorous to heartbreaking, often in the space of a single page. Vassa in the Night combines the magic of a Disney movie with the unsettling creepiness of Welcome to Night Vale, echoing an older time, when fairytales were told as much to warn as to entice.
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (2012)
A woman wearing latex gloves wakes up in a park surrounded by dead bodies, no memory of who she is, a note in her pocket saying “the body you are wearing used to be mine,” and that she is a high-ranking member in a secret organization that battles supernatural forces in Britain. She must follow the letters from her former self in order to find out who is trying to destroy her while also trying to figure out who she is. If you enjoy this one, check out the sequel, Stiletto.
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (2018)
A cloying mother keeps her adult son close to ensure dangerous secrets remain trapped within their London estate. But truth seeks light and sons seek freedom. Every bit as engrossing as her debut, Unraveling Oliver, with Lying in Wait, Liz Nugent proves her chops.
City Librarian Michelle’s Pick:
Currently reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, an easy read on research-based best practices for leadership, and the first book in the new to me Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation Series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan. So far, so good!
Tune in next month for DPL's Staff's Favorite Reads of 2018!