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Best of 2019: Our Staff’s Favorite Books of 2019

31 Dec

It has been a busy year at the Hoboken Public Library.  We’ve begun preparing for our renovations of the third floor Children’s Department.  We opened our new Toybrary, in the Annex. and the Learning Center.  There have been lots of great programs including our Library Fair in June.  Our blog reached 300 posts last month.  Thanks to all our library patrons here in Hoboken and all our readers world wide for joining us this year and celebrating the written word.  We wanted to wrap up 2019 with a look at some of the favorite books our staff enjoyed this year.  They include fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, a picture book, and a book of poetry!

Throw Me to the Wolves
by Patrick McGuinness
Throw Me to the Wolves

In this murder mystery set in Britain, two detectives are starkly different in age, temperament, and policy. The suspect is a boarding school teacher known to one detective from his school days. Two parallel stories about the murder investigation and about events of times past converge. The story feels contemporary because of current events (Brexit, fatberg) and deals with the role of tabloids, social media, and the internet in society today.  I liked everything about Throw Me to the Wolves: the plotting, the observations, the language, and the humor.
~Victoria Turk, Reference Librarian

Soft Science
by Franny Choi
soft science

My favorite book this year was Soft Science by Franny Choi. It’s a poetry collection inspired by the Turing test and it’s a true testament to how creative poetry can be. There are poems in the form of a glossary, a computer code and even a collection of Twitter insults run through Google Translate several times.
~Samantha Evaristo, Outreach Assistant

The Starless Sea
by Erin Morgenstern
Starless Sea

I was eagerly looking forward to Erin Morgenstern’s follow up to her fantastic first novel, the New York Times bestselling The Night CircusThe Starless Sea happily exceeded my expectation and was my favorite book of 2019.  I enjoyed the metafiction aspects of it which included stories within stories set in both our world and an underground world where a mysterious magical library exists.  Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere will enjoy this novel.
~Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Serpent and Dove
by Shelby Mahurin
serpent and dove

This is a great YA read published in 2019.  Serpent and Dove is  a story about a rebellious witch named Lou who left her coven to become a thief. She then, meets Reid a witch-hunter and they fall for each other. In a tale, of forbidden love, they show plenty of courage and have a lot of loyalty in this series. This book is a must read!
~Michelle Valle, Circulation Assistant

Mooncakes 
Written by Suzanne Walker and Illustrated by Wendy Xu
Mooncakes

Mooncakes is my pick for Graphic Novel of the year.  The story focuses on a witch living in New England who just reunited with her childhood crush.  School Library Journal says, “This sweet, spellbinding story will appeal to fans of magic and romance.”  I was impressed that it was lgbtq inclusive with a diverse group of characters.
~Steph Diorio, History Librarian

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Written by Sonia Sotomayor and Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Just Ask

Kids are different! In this book, by United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, kids are celebrated for being exactly who they are! Just Ask encourages compassion, empathy, understanding, and curiosity. It is also beautifully illustrated! Great for all ages. It is one of my favorite picture books of 2019.
~ Ashley Hoffman, Children’s Librarian

The Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcee Who Became the Duchess of Windsor
by Anna Pasternak
The Real Wallis Simpson

The Real Wallis Simpson is a kinder and more historically accurate portrayal of an often misunderstood historical figure.
~Lindsay T. Sakmann, Reference Librarian

How to Be an Antiracist
by Ibram X Kendi
HowtoBeanAntiracist

Ibram X. Kendi is one of America’s most important public intellectuals. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi combines a memoir of his life with a clear guide on how readers’ can confront the structural racism that still plagues America. Kendi’s book is destined to become a classic on high school and college reading lists.
~Karl Schwartz, Young Adult Librarian

The Borgias
Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Milo Manara
The Borgias

I am excited to read The Borgias, a graphic novel, since I am such a fan of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movies such as Holy Mountain and Endless Poetry.
~Sacha Chavez, Reference Assistant

What was your favorite book of 2019?  Share it in the comments!

For gamers, checkout BCCLS list of the Best Games of 2019!  My son’s faves have been Super Mario Maker 2 and Pokemon Shield.

Would you like to discuss great books in 2020?  We have Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, and Mystery Book Discussion Groups at HPL!

Learning about Iran Through Two Classic Books: All the Shah’s Men and Persepolis

11 Dec

Many people learn about Iran because of its hostile relationship with the United States, but the history and culture of the country is much more complex than it is often portrayed. Two classic books, All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, are compelling stories that provide great context for understanding Iran in 2019.

All the Shah’s Men focuses on a 1953 coup d’état led by the U.S. and Great Britain against Iran’s democratically elected president Mohammed Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh was a progressive leader who supported religious freedom, women’s rights, and empowering the poor in his country. He was elected  by promising to nationalize the British oil companies operating in Iran that were siphoning all of the wealth they were generating out of the country. This greatly angered the British and at the height of Cold War hysteria, President Eisenhower began to fear that Iran would fall to Communist rule. Kinzer’s book explains how the coup against Mosaddegh was orchestrated, going into great detail about secret plots, propaganda campaigns, and international conspiracies. This is history written as a spy novel and a suspenseful story that describes an Iran that was on the verge on becoming a secular democracy before it was so cruelly undermined.

Persepolis picks up shortly after the events of All the Shah’s Men. Marji is a ten-year old girl in 1980 who is growing up during the Islamic Revolution, a time when her country is becoming increasingly religious and more restrictive of women’s freedoms. Had Mohammed Mosaddegh stayed in power, Marji may have grown up in a much different country, but his ousting created an opening for religious fundamentalism to thrive. Persepolis is a graphic novel that provides an on the ground view of what life is like for someone living through these events. Marji is a smart and observant narrator who makes life Iran understandable to an audience of all ages. Satrapi’s wonderful art and storytelling have made Persepolis one of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time.  You can also borrow the sequel and an adaptation on DVD.

Reading both books together gave me a great overview of Iran’s modern history. What new and countries and cultures have you learned about through the resources available at the Hoboken Public Library?  Share with us in the comments.

Written by:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

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