Staff Picks of 2018

Woman in the Window
by A.J. Finn Maryann B.
In an Absent Dream
by Seanan McGuireThis is the 4th book in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire and I am still completely in love with the characters and the world she’s writing.If you want to start at the beginning, the other books are:

  1. Every heart a doorway
  2. Down among the sticks and bones
  3. Beneath the sugar sky

– Adam

The Power
by Naomi Alderman– Adam
Freedom
by Jonathan FranzenThis really long and somewhat meandering books was still one of my favorite pieces of fiction I read this year. I am just in awe of authors like Franzen, who just have so much to say about certain characters or events. The characters he creates and the stories he tells stick with you and seem very believable even when extreme things are happening. I really liked his main character, despite her many flaws, and was kept interested by the story line that spanned decades. It was also a surprisingly quick read for such a long novel.– Shelly
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
by Ayelet WaldmanThis book really made you think about different kinds of love: love between partners, love between parents/stepparents and their children, and love related to loss. It was interesting also in that the reader often feels annoyed, enamored, and sorry for with the main character, depending on the page. At the end, you find yourself rooting for everyone all together and really feeling like you’re hoping for a good outcome for your friend. As with all of Waldman’s books, her writing is great and easy to read — a rare combination.– Shelly
Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter– Regan
Washington Black
by Esi Edugyan– Maryann R.
The Italian Teacher
by Tom Rachman– Maryann R.
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones– Maryann R.
Circe
by Madeline Miller– Maryann R.
The Maze at Windermere
by Gregory Blake Smith– Maryann R.
The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai– Maryann R.

Bad Blood
by John Carreyrou Sew Yeng
Lost Connection
by Johann Hari–Sew Yeng
Hillbilly Elegy
by J.D. Vance Sew Yeng
Selling Sickness:
How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients
by Ray Moynihan and Alan CasselsThe title almost says it all, but basically, the authors’ view is that drug companies first cultivate the market by creating a grassroots campaign about a new sickness or disorder; and then create the marketing campaign to sell the drug which will “fix” that sickness. We know that many people greatly benefit by medications; but a greater amount of people begin to see a “risk factor” they may have as a disorder which requires medication, thus creating an enormous market and enormous profits for the pharma companies. And there’s more… Donna
It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes:
How to Minimize Conflict and Maximize Happiness in Your Relationship
(originally published as Spousenomics)
by Paula Szuchman & Jenny AndersonI am actually in the middle of reading this book a second time — I read it once and now I am going back and literally taking notes! It somehow makes two seemingly boring topics — marital woes and economics — seem interesting and understandable. The authors go through real economic theories and tie them to creating better relationships. Even as I type this, it seems like the book should be boring or not really applicable to the average couple…but it’s super interesting, helpful, and applicable to anyone!– Shelly
Bad Mother:
A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
by Ayelet WaldmanThis is my favorite piece of work by Waldman. It’s basically taking the Modern Love essay that made her well-known and expanding it into a fascinating anthology of essays relating to parenthood and love. When I was going over reviews of her work to write this, I read someone describe her as “smart, loud, oversharing, opinionated, funny, quirky and contradictory” and that really says it all. Waldman is genuinely fun to read and level-headed in a crazy world. Her honesty, in all types of writing, is refreshing.– Shelly
What Happened
by Hillary Rodham ClintonI honestly debated sitting this book out, for fear it would just make me sad and depressed. Of course, it was absolutely heartbreaking at times. Overall it made me more angry than sad. But, surprisingly, it was also full of hope and insight and positivity. While I’ll never run for president, I will face the kind of backlash and criticism that Clinton went into detail to explain. She offers positive perspectives, honesty in her disappointment, and inspiration to try and make things better. She also uses others’ quotes to illustrate many of her great points.– Shelly
This Close to Happy:
A Reckoning with Depression
by Daphne MerkinThis was another book that had the potential to be sad and make you feel empty while reading, but actually filled me with hope and kind of a relief that I wasn’t alone. This book is a memoir of the author’s depression, from its roots in her girlhood to her hospitalizations as an adult. It talked through her whole history honestly and without whining. It’s a solid read for anyone who has been depressed, or had someone they love be depressed — which I’d have to think is most of the population.– Shelly
Order of Time
by Carlo Rovelli Regan
The Last Black Unicorn
by Tiffany Haddish– Regan
Dying To Be Me:
My Journey From Cancer, To Near Death, To True Healing
by Anita Moorjani– Neera
Educated: A Memoir
by Tara Westover– Neera
Funny in Farsi
by Firoozeh Dumas– Amber

Akata Warrior
by Nnedi OkoraforSome reviews have called this the “African Harry Potter”, which does a disservice to this series. Book one was Akata witch, and that book alone established a rich world of magic populated by interesting characters, all of which stands on its own. The “adolescent magician learning their power” is a familiar place to start, but these books dig into an original mythology like you haven’t seen before.– Adam
Leah on the Offbeat
by Becky AlbertalliI picked up Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens agenda because I tend to read books as their movie adaptions come out. It was a nice romantic comedy, but I kind of like Leah a bit more than Simon. Well, I happen to be in luck because she has her own spinoff. It had more angst than Simon did, but she felt realer for it. And it was interesting to see the author play with a hidden identity from a different perspective.– Adam
Girl Mans Up
by M-E GirardI picked up this book randomly and was so glad I did! The main character is super interesting, awe inspiring, complex, and really makes the reader root for her. She deals with a few typical growing up themes — first love, fall outs with friends, parents who don’t understand, a brother getting in trouble — while also struggling with her gender identity and sexuality, her self-esteem, and how she presents herself to the world. The book gave me a lot of insight into the different challenges of the non-binary, mixed in with same sex relationships, immigrant parents, and current teen issues. It’s up there with one of my all-time favorites — Stargirl — as a book I think every middle schooler should be required to read!– Shelly
Sawkill Girls
by Claire LegrandSawkill Island has never been safe for young girls. Every year girls go missing, and there are never any bodies to be found. There is a local legend about a paranormal beast called The Collector, who hunts and feasts on these young girls, But there is no way that the Collector is capturing these girls on his own. Three girls band together to solve the mystery and stop the disappearances once and for all.– Liz
Girls of Paper and Fire
by Natasha NganIn the world of Ikhara there are three castes: Moon, the reigning caste that is entirely demon, Paper, the downtrodden caste that is wholly human, and Steel, who are both demon and human elements. Every year the King chooses 8 paper girls as concubines, but Lei, ripped from her home to become a ‘paper girl’, refuses to submit.– Liz
The Agony House
by Cherie PriestThis hybrid novel/graphic novel follows Denise, her mom and step-dad as they travel back to what is left of their home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise, but when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here.– Liz
Not Even Bones
by Rebecca SchaefferNita doesn’t kill, she only dissects the supernatural beings her mother kills. But when her mother brings back a live boy, Nita cannot bring herself to harm him and decides she wants out. But when she tries to save him, she ends up sold on the black market herself, since Nita is also a supernatural being.– Liz

Check Please! Vol. 1: #hockey
by Ngozi UkazuI wasn’t aware of this webcomic (http://checkpleasecomic.com/) at all until we got in the first published volume of it. It’s kind of fantastic. The art looks great, the story moves along. It reminds me of a cuter version of Giant Days, which is also worth checking out if you haven’t read it yet.– Adam
Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen WangThis book was one of the best surprises of the year. It’s an original graphic novel and has all the elements of books I am not interested in: it’s a period piece, it involves royalty, and so on. But the story is beyond charming and by the end of it everyone has their own plot and character arc. There’s no side-kick, just a bunch of interesting people all living together.– Adam

Wild Things
by Clay CarmichaelThis book was a quick but impactful read about an orphaned eleven-year-old girl who goes to live with an uncle she’s never met. It’s a bit of a cliched relationship (tough girl/man no longer trust anyone but learn to trust each other) but the good writing, funny characters, intriguing and realistic story line, and touching moments make it surprising enough to stand on its own. You feel really connected to all the recurring characters and it all wraps up in a satisfying — not perfect — way.– Shelly
Peek-a-Who?
by Elsa Mroziewicz– Amber
Max the Brave
by Ed Vere– Amber
Lucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar– Amber
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
by Firoozeh Dumas– Amber
The Penderwicks at Last
by Jeanna Birdsall– Amber

Chris
Christine and the Queens– Adam
Dirty Computer
Janelle Monáe– Adam
Love is Dead (Hoopla)
Chvrches– Adam
Various albums, and Buffering the Vampire Slayer
Jenny Owen YoungsI’ve been listening to a lot of Jenny Owen Youngs this year. It’s not because she has a new album, but because she has a currently running podcast that is great.

– Adam

The Haunting of Hill House

Sew Yeng & Maryann B.

Love Actually
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Hoopla)

Often, I like to read books before seeing the movie adaptations, but this is one where I worked backwards. Written and directed by Desiree Akhavan (who’s currently exploding between this and her TV debut), it follows the titular character of Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz) as she’s sent to a gay conversion camp in the 1990s. While it does touch on the humor of 80s John Hughes-type movies, the humor is a bit drier and the tone more introspective.

– Adam

Tully

Tully flew under my radar while it was in theaters, but I kept hearing little bits about it (including a spoiler for a twist in the 3rd act) and it piqued my interest. It turns out that this movie as a sleeper gem. Everyone in it is great, especially Charlize Theron. It takes a look at pregnancy that is neither sentimental nor flippant. Instead, it puts Marlo (Charlize Theron) as a person a the forefront. It shows how what we want can sometimes be at odds with what will make us happy, and how the people we become can miss the people we used to be. It’s smart, engaging, and did not make the splash it deserved to.

– Adam

Atypical

I started watching this Netflix show after becoming annoyed with how silly the story lines in Speechless on ABC were getting. Atypical is along the same lines as Speechless — male high schooler with a disability navigates life with a supportive but flawed family — but is more realistic, funnier, and makes you care about the characters themselves, not just the ideas of them. I’m only in season one but eager to keep watching. The music in the show is great, too.

– Shelly

Superstore

I think of Superstore as a hidden gem on NBC. It’s a workplace comedy — actually created and produced by the writer of The Office, which I don’t actually like but everyone else seems to — that sneaks smart, offbeat jokes into nearly every scene. The characters are a bit one dimensional at times, but I’m hoping as the show goes on that they will explore different sides of them. The plot lines are all realistic, or would be if they didn’t all happen to occur at the same store. But the characters make me laugh in every episode, and even rewind at times to catch jokes again or watch what’s happening in the background. It’s an easy, fun watch.

– Shelly

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Biopic about Fred Rogers, who created the children’s program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that accompanied many current-day adults through their own childhood. I cried while watching it in the theater, and cried while watching it again with friends at home. A must-see if you have fond memories of watching that train pulling slowly in and out of the Land of Make-Believe.

– Joyce

Thor: Ragnarok

This is just such a /fun/ movie! You don’t need to have seen the first two installments in the series, although it probably helps to have some idea of the Marvel-verse in general. It’s the kind of film that makes you think everyone in it had a blast filming it, from Anthony Hopkins all the way to Jeff Goldblum, and that lighthearted whimsy carries through the screen.

– Joyce

Crazy Rich Asians

I’m an ABC (American Born Chinese) myself, so I have to rec this, right? Just a solid, fun romcom through and through, although it loses steam towards the end. Does a good job of showing (if exaggerating) the cultural divide that exists between traditional Chinese and “Westernized” Chinese.

– Joyce

Venom

Doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets from critics. Is it a great movie? No. Is it a fun movie? Yes, yes and yes. Not all superhero movies can be “The Dark Knight” and “The Winter Soldier”, and thank god for that.

– Joyce

Raazi

– Neera