Staff Reads — August 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.


  • I’ve read Who Was Alexander Hamilton? We read this book from the bestselling biography series for our latest Children’s book club. It was interesting and informative.
  • I also watched the PBS American Experience episode on the Chinese Exclusion Act and learned, to my surprise, the extent of the laws that prevented Chinese immigration and citizenship in the 1800s and 1900s.
  • I also have been watching old episodes of the $25,000 Pyramid (the Dick Clark era ones). My sister and I like to skip to the part where the contestants are at the pyramid. It is also interesting to see the clothes and hairstyles from the 80s.
  • I read Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons and Corduroy for one of my recent Storytimes with a button theme. This is my favorite Pete the Cat book as it incorporates math in a fun way while teaching kids that it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It turns out the girl who gives Corduroy a home is named Lisa. I don’t know too many Children’s books with a character named Lisa. It’s just another reason for me to like this classic.


  • The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar: Nour who is escaping Syria with her mother and sisters, tells the legend of Rawiya, a mapmaker’s apprentice who disguised herself as a boy and who follows a similar route to Nour and her family. This sad and gripping novel is frightening and hopeful, at the same time.
  • They Come in all Colors by Malcolm Hansen: The book opens in the late 1960’s when the narrator, fifteen year old Huey, is getting in trouble for an altercation with a fellow student and former friend. As Huey, whose mother is African-American and father is white, waits for his punishment, he recounts his story going back to his early childhood in the south and how he ended up in New York City. Set in the backdrop of the civil rights movement and how it resonated both in the North and the South, this character driven book is a good look at identity and subtle and not so subtle racism. Gripping and powerful.
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: This romance tells the tale of Stella, a successful economic forecaster on the spectrum who hires a male escort to learn how to act in a relationship. It’s easy to see where this gender reversal of Pretty Woman is going but it’s still enjoyable. The two main characters have a lot of agency and it’s always refreshing to have diversity in romance novels. Stella is on the spectrum and her love interest, Michael, is Vietnamese-American.
  • A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward: This book is a collection of the advice letters sent to the Yiddosh language newspaper The Forward and served as an inspiration for Meredith Goldstein’s Love Letters column. I read a graphic novel about the history of this column a few months ago, so it was great to read the letters.
  • The Peanuts Movie: I love the entire Peanuts gang, and it’s nice to see Charlie Brown kind of catch a break, for a change. I don’t understand why he still tries to play football with Lucy!



  • The Rabbi’s Daughter by Reva Mann is a well written memoir that chronicles a young woman’s search for meaning and belonging. Reva grew up in London, the daughter of an Orthodox Rabbi and his stylish wife. Her sister was born handicapped and sent to a home, a source of pain for the entire family. Reva often feels shut out by her parents and the loss of her sister is never discussed or processed by the family. Reva rebels and has some misadventures with drugs and promiscuity. She decides to become a doula to help women have healthy birth experiences. Ms. Mann goes to school in Israel and becomes captivated by a deeply religious community. She marries a man from this community and still feels unfulfilled. Her husband is so absorbed in the precepts and tenets of his religion that Reva feels shut out even in this world. She has three beautiful healthy children and still, there is something missing. Read this book to find out how this bright and lively woman comes to terms with her self, her community and her family.
  • Falling Into The Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounter With The Mind In Crisis by Christine Montross: Ms. Montross chronicles some of the different patients that she works with as a psychiatrist in a hospital and in her private practice. Her analysis is thoughtful and she describes various issues such as body dysmorphia, ingesting objects, suicidality, catatonia and more. This is a deeply insightful and fascinating book by a compassionate doctor who writes beautifully.

Debora H.:

  • West With the Night by Beryl Markham: The language of this memoir is downright delicious, but when I got to the part about using her plane to track elephants in order to help hunters, I had to put it down. Still, it was a magical read.
  • The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers: This is the perfect summer read – fast-paced, engrossing, and well told. It’s the story of a Bernie Madoff-like character, Jake, and his wife, Phoebe, and the lives they lead built upon the lies he’s created. Phoebe is a mostly sympathetic character and, because the author alternates points of view, you see Jake’s side as well – and he’s not a one dimensional bad guy. You see the complexity of life – and love.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu: I used my free month and paid for one more just so I could see Season 2 of this impossible to ignore TV series. Like a bad car accident, I was drawn in week after week to see what new horrors were visited on Offred and her fellow handmaids. The hardest part of watching this show is seeing how easily it could really happen here, in this country.


  • Guardian of the Dead was a delightful combination of modern world, relatable characters, and mythology. Karen Healey brings the reader into a New Zealand that is fully realized and makes sense even with the mythological aspects and invented school. Though there are many amazing aspects of this book, the believability of small details – about the characters, places, mythology – was particularly well done.
  • Giants Beware! got some laughs for the antics of Claudette, the heroine determined to slay a giant. The accompanying cast of characters and adventure made this graphic comic an entertaining, light-hearted, and quick read.
  • Wonder Woman: What a wonderful film. I don’t know what I can say that about it that hasn’t already been said, so do yourself a favor and watch it (again)!
  • Thor: Ragnarok manages to have the main character lose almost everything, and yet I still want to watch it again. Even though Ragnarok, the Norse end-of-times, is a story that has been told for thousands of years, this movie keeps the viewer guessing and engaged. The new characters are all entertaining and make you want to know more about them, the witty lines that are a hallmark of Marvel films do not disappoint, and even if the rest of the film didn’t measure up (which it definitely does!), it would be more than worth the 2+ hours just to watch the sibling relationship between Loki and Thor.
  • The Librarians is a fantastic show, and I don’t just think that because I am one! The balance of entertaining plot, nerdy references of all varieties, interesting characters, and an excellent cast creates an show that always leaves me waiting for the next episode or season!


  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: Obviously, when someone dies before completing their work, it’s a complicated situation. I am very glad this book was released after McNamara’s passing but I do wish it had been more carefully edited. The topic of the Golden State Killer is fascinating and McNamara was a great writer. You feel the tension and the dread of the time.
  • The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich: Two narratives combine around the author’s experiences. One of a child molester/killer, and one of the author’s own experience of being molested and knowing her perpetrator.
  • Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I love pop-science reads and this is a fun one. If you’re interested in how habits are formed, this is a good place to start. Rubin accounts for differences in motivation to discuss why and how people make habits stick.
  • How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein: I also love history and this is a super easy read. You could just flip through to the chapter about your state if you wanted. Stein is a great writer, he makes a topic that could be too academic/dry into something really interesting. The bits of history that we can discern from our borders is just so fascinating.
  • Sharp Objects: So dark. Amy Adams is a boss. Not sure if she’s a hero or an anti-hero yet.
  • Who Is America: This show is hilarious with the kind of trolling you expect from Sascha Baron Cohen. It can be heartbreaking to reflect on the honest reactions he gets out of people, but it’s worth the watch and the laughs.
  • I’m also rewatching The Wire for the umpteenth time. If you haven’t seen it, what’s stopping you?
  • The Sinner– Definitely an interesting role for Jessica Beil and I wasn’t sure about it (not big on USA?). But it has a great rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Bill Pullman is a lead, and it came to Netflix, so I gave it a shot. With such an unreliable narrator, you won’t see where it’s going (or at least, I didn’t). It’s definitely weird, very dark, and well done.
  • Drake- Scorpion
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound
  • St. Vincent- Masseduction


Mary V.:

  • An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry: This is the latest William Monk novel. Anne Perry delves into prejudice and fear of immigrants. Monk is forced to rethink his investigative techniques so that he won’t be caught up in violent bigotry. Commander Monk has never seen a more gruesome crime scene: a Hungarian warehouse owner lies in his blood soaked office, pierced through the chest with a bayonet and surrounded by seventeen candles. Monk believes that the crime is rooted in ethnic prejudices and he turns to London’s Hungarian community for help with customs as well as the language barrier.
  • Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton: This is the latest book in a series. It was entertaining, but I don’t think that I want to read the previous books in the series.
  • Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry: This is the newest Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Mystery. I really liked it because Charlotte and her sister, Emily involve themselves in the case. Thomas can’t tell Charlotte anything because he is head of Special Branch and everything he knows is a state secret. He has been asked by Queen Victoria to look into a death. Lack of knowledge does not keep Charlotte and Emily from becoming involved. In the earliest Pitt mysteries, Charlotte and Emily were always interfering and the sisterly bond was always my favorite part of this series.
  • The Disappeared by C. J. Box: This is the most recent Joe Pickett mystery. It involves political corruption and intrigue. It is fast paced, but I didn’t like how it ended.
  • The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs: I could not work my way through the Hamilton biography, so I read a novel about Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth. It is well written and I believe that it is historically accurate. It did not show James Madison in a positive way and I have always been a big fan of James Madison.
  • The Hamilton Cookbook by Laura Kumin: I never read cookbooks, but I wanted to know how women cooked different things in a fireplace. This book describes the techniques of food preparation and cooking equipment of the late eighteenth century. I wanted to make the lamb stew recipe, but I was unable to find any blanched chestnuts. So, I will make lamb stew the way my twentieth century mother did.
  • The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth: This book is a departure for me since there is no murder. The story involves a neighborhood in Melbourne where three families with young children are surprised when a single childless woman moves into their neighborhood. Everyone has a secret. It sounds dull, but I could not put it down. One advantage of working the ground floor desk is checking in the returned books and finding something different to read.


  • I have to say, I jumped into Watch! Read! Listen! with both feet. When the staff first started discussing a title for this year’s Story Experience I started looking into each title on the short list, Hamilton, the musical being one. I started with Chernow’s Biography, the way that Lin-Manuel Miranda (playwright of Hamilton the Musical) did. Not being a student who enjoyed history, I’m pleasantly surprised that I have become an adult who enjoys historical books more than I would ever have imagined. I was dubious about a weighty non-fiction title, but I was pleasantly surprised again and I really enjoyed it. I’m familiar with some of the islands in the Caribbean where Hamilton spent his youth, so that helped to capture me.
  • Then I moved on to Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel’s “making of a hip-hop musical”. I was immediately stuck by how brilliant a writer and musician he is; he’s got an extraordinarily clever and quick brain! Having not yet listed to the music of the play, some of this couldn’t make its full impression, but I’m going back to The Revolution again, so I know much more will click for me during a second reading.
  • Then I delved into the music of the play. Again I was immediately struck by how clever and witty it is. The Cabinet Battles are some of my favorite parts. I think if every history teacher could make the “characters” of any given time period seem like real people with feelings and causes and ethics (or not!) and grudges it would be a lot easier to understand why wars start!
  • Alex & Eliza, the first book in a trilogy by Melissa de le Cruz was next up. This is historical fiction written for teens and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s pretty historically accurate and does a god job painting a picture of what it must have been like to be dating in the 1780’s.
  • My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray was next. This is also historical fiction but is also very historically accurate – the author does explain which anecdotes are true and which were liberties she took. Several books in now, I can start to tell them apart! As I’m getting to know these “characters” who also happened to be real people, their attitudes and personality quirks often evoked lines from the play and I think this is helping to cement the facts and feelings of each of them from this time period. This audiobook shares its narrator with that of the Alex & Eliza trilogy and that also lends great consistency for getting to know these people, so-to-speak.
  • Love & War, #2 in the teen trilogy was next. I enjoyed this one more than the 1st.
  • Now I’m listening to The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs, more historical fiction & Hamilton: the Mix Tape a music album of many songs from the musical performed by current Hip-hop stars. I’m also delving back into The Revolution to catch more references about the play now that I’ve listened to it dozens of times. And sometime next year when the 3rd book in the Alex & Eliza trilogy wraps up, I’ll read that too!


  • Girl Made of Stars, Ashley Herring Blake: This was so beautiful! I really love this author.
  • I’ll be Gone in the Dark, Michelle Mcnamara: Fascinating if somewhat meandering read. It’s so sad that she died so close to him finally being caught.
  • The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir: Definitely based on a certain tv famous family, but it was an interesting plot!
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson: I wasn’t too into this at first. Teen girl brings back three girls from the dead, accidentally, while trying to solve their murders, but it grew on me!
  • Watching

  • Sharp Objects on HBO Not a big Gillian Flynn fan, but i’m all for southern gothic mysteries. It’s very slow and atmospheric, but well made and interesting.
  • Anne With an E season 2 on Netflix I love this show. Yes, it’s different from the books and very different from the beloved 80s miniseries (which i love( but i absolutely love this in a different way.