Staff Picks - Recommended Reads from 2016

We admit it—being around so many great books at work each day is a dream made real. Enjoy this year’s list of our most recent favorites.


Compiled by:
Elizabeth G.

Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr
Doerr

The radio figures prominently into this WWII-era novel, where a blind French girl, children under Nazi rule, and a cursed diamond eventually connect with a German pilot.


Barkskins

Annie Proulx
Proulx

Proulx’s books are always wonderful reads—and this one’s no exception. A work of historical fiction that feels absolutely true in its tales of people and forests throughout our nation's history of land use and abuse.


The Big Green Tent

Ludmila Ulitskaya
Ulitska

(translated by Peggy Gannon)

A must-read for anyone trying to understand Russia’s current political and social reality. The novel harkens back to a number of classic Russian themes, transplanting them into the period just after Stalin’s death.


Bite Me

Shelly Laurenston
Laurens
Series: Pride stories

A small-but-mighty honey badger and a hybrid polar bear/tiger take on breed prejudice and human predators—as well as a steamy courtship marked by snappy dialog. Subplots involving roller derby and hockey teams are very funny as well.


Britt-Marie Was Here

Fredrik Backman
Backman

(translated by Henning Koch)

The heartwarming story of a compulsive Swedish woman who must start over after her husband is unfaithful. But when Britt-Marie takes a cleaning job in the small, economically-depressed town of Borg, she never suspects that she’ll end up as a youth soccer coach. (The audiobook, read by Joan Walker, is a hoot, by the way.)


The Brontë Plot

Katherine Reay
Reay

After her unethical behavior cuts her bookselling career short, Victoria embarks on a literary and antiques excursion with her boyfriend’s grandmother. At Haworth, the Brontë sisters’ home, the women confront painful memories, and Victoria is inspired to make changes.


Giant Days

John Allison
Allison
Series: Giant Days

(illustrated by Lissa Treiman; colors by Whitney Cogar)

This graphic novel series centers on Susan, Esther, and Daisy, who are just starting university in England. Each volume is a humorous but truthful look at what it’s like to leave home, only to be thrust into a whole new world.


If I Was Your Girl

Meredith Russo
Y Russo

A fantastic opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a transgender girl who just wants to live a life free from harm. Empathetically and realistically written.


A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara
Yanagih

The power of friendship and its limits is explored through the successes and failures of four college friends after graduation. The story centers on Jude, a fierce litigator scarred by a brutal childhood.


The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

P.D. James
MYS James

Four previously uncollected tales by the late, great mystery author; two feature her trademark sleuth, Sergeant Dalgliesh.


The Past: A Novel

Tessa Hadley
Hadley

Three sisters and a highly successful brother return to their recently-inherited family homestead, where old rivalries resurface and new romances blossom. Captures the beautiful British seascape and the fractious love within families well.


The Raven King

Maggie Stiefvater
Y Stiefva
Series: Raven Cycle

A resounding conclusion to the Raven Cycle series. Blue discovers that a warning about kissing her true love might actually come true and cause his death. Magic, dreams, journeys—all connected by imaginative storytelling—make for a rich read.


Roses and Rot

Kat Howard
SF Howard

Perfect for fans of fairy tales, this fantasy novel centers on two sisters, both accepted to an elite residence program for artists. Romance, mystery, magic, and amazing writing are all here.


The Royal We

Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan
Cocks

Pretty much the cutest book ever, it's essentially Will and Kate fanfiction with the names changed. Compulsively readable.


Shady Hollow

Juneau Black
MYS Black

A thrilling murder mystery starring a quick-witted journalist fox who does whatever it takes to solve a case.


The Singing Bone

Beth Hahn
Hahn

A professor’s carefully constructed life is threatened by a documentary about a prisoner and his Manson-like cult, where a young girl’s quest for freedom turns into a terrifying descent into abuse and violence. Suspenseful and thought-provoking.


A Study in Charlotte

Brittany Cavallaro
Y Cavalla
Series: Charlotte Holmes

Charlotte and Jamie, the teenage descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, find friendship and follow the crime-solving tradition. May not be suitable for younger YA readers.


Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d

Alan Bradley
MYS Bradley
Series: Flavia de Luce mysteries

The latest (#8) featuring the delightful teenage sleuth Flavia de Luce in the series that’s been called as “addictive as dark chocolate.”


What is Not Yours is Not Yours: Stories

Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi

Short fiction set in a magical world of stopped clocks, locked gardens, lost libraries, and marshlands of the dead. Interconnected by a cast of recurring characters, the stories show us how to find the fantastical in the everyday.


The Wild Robot

Peter Brown
J Brown

A heartwarming tale about an abandoned robot and her journey to find herself and her place in the wilderness.


Nonfiction

1920: the Year That Made the Decade Roar

Eric Burns
973.913 Bur

A fascinating introduction to the changing landscape of early 20th-century America that also serves as a warning against repeating history: the parallels drawn between the anti-immigrant sentiment, rising nationalism, and economic anxiety of the years following WWI and our current era are sobering.


Boy Soldiers of the American Revolution

Caroline Cox
973.3408 Cox

Through pension records for the Continental Army and lists of state militias, the experiences of America's youngest patriot soldiers are examined in this short historical work.


The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy

Kliph Nesteroff
792.7609 Nes

A look at how American stand-up has developed from the early days of vaudeville to the podcasting boom of recent years. Based on interviews and archival research for New York’s WFMU Radio.


Eruption: the Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

Steve Olson
363.3495 Ols

An account of the largest volcanic eruption in American history—and much more. A history of logging in the Pacific Northwest, personal accounts of victims and survivors, and a look at the resulting push for conservation are also included.


Hamilton: The Revolution

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter
782.1402 Mir

The story of the Tony-winning musical that continues to take Broadway by storm. Miranda relates what inspired him to depict America’s revolutionary beginnings in rap form—and the revelations along the way.


Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

Carrie Brownstein
780.92 Brownstein Bro

Olympia Washington’s creative independent music scene is the backdrop for this memoir, where an indie rock star examines her stormy childhood and the other experiences that pushed her toward a dynamic career.


Modern Romance: An Investigation

Aziz Ansari
646.7702 Ans

This book focuses on the pathways to love—with lots of examples of the impediments along the way. (Audiobook highly recommended—it’s read by the author and hilarious.)


Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

Joshua David Greene
170 Gre

A neuroscientist proposes the “us-versus-them” tribal mentality as a fundamental cause of human conflict—and offers a way forward. The great potential for intertribal struggle in a multicultural society, as well as the unprecedented opportunities it offers, is also discussed.


Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs

Dave Holmes
791.4392 Holmes Hol

Set to the soundtrack of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, this memoir by a gay former DJ tells the story of the proverbial square peg who discovers himself through the power of music.


A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

Tyler Kord
641.84 Kor

Self-deprecating, funny, and useful—it might be the first cookbook you read front-to-back.


Trials of the Earth: the True Story of a Pioneer Woman

Mary Hamilton
921 Hamilton Ham

Tales of a strong woman who battled wilderness and prejudice in the pioneer South, enduring floods, tornadoes, bears, panthers and snakes—and running a logging camp.


True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray

James Renner
363.2336 Ren

Interesting in its approach as a true crime investigation as well a study of the author himself—the process, motivation, intentions, and doubts regarding the writing of this book.


When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi
Paul Kalanithi

Drawn to both medicine and writing, Kalanithi often battled with himself. This sad, beautiful memoir proves that he excelled at both, becoming Chief Neurosurgery Resident at Stanford before brain cancer put him in the role of the patient who must accept his own mortality.