Staff Reads March 2022




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  • Going There by Katie Couric: I would love other people to read this and tell me what they think. I don’t watch morning TV, so while I know who Katie Couric is, I wasn’t too vested in her story. I picked this up randomly, and I ended up having strong feelings (and learning that I was NOT pronouncing her last name correctly. It’s “kerr-ic” not “core-ic”.) On one hand, it’s her life story and it’s not fair for me to judge her. Some parts were interesting and some parts were really moving and honest. Overall, I thought Katie needed a better editor and timing for this book. Her opinions and the celebrity excess she shares didn’t resonate with me.
  • The Family Firm: A Data Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years by Emily Oster: I loved this book. I think it speaks to the hyper-organized librarian side of me and the parent side of me as we navigate kindergarten for the first time this year. It’s a how-to guide in some ways, but also a great read about data and what we think we know about childhood. 
  • Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell: This is an amazing book all about the idea of cults and how they work, both the dangerous (TW: suicide) and the more beneficial (Cross Fit). It’s super fascinating and engaging. It’s well written and reads easily, considering the topic. 
  • Pig the Stinker by Aaron Blabey and The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak: My kids (3 and 6) laughed and laughed at these books. We read them so many times, our whole family has them memorized and quotes them regularly. 



  • The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake: Main character, Nora Beady, was raised by a surgeon in early 1800s London after her parents died. Dr. Horace Croft teaches her everything he knows about medicine. There’s one hitch: King Henry VIII has banned women from the field. Nora’s secret is blown when a surgical resident, Daniel Gibson, joins the clinic. The plot thickens when Nora makes a new medical discovery and her life, as well as the careers of the doctors around her are imperiled. Yes, there’s a love story here, but the overriding message is one of a woman striving to function autonomously and pursuing her goals. Great historical fiction read
  • White Bird by R.J. Palacio: This is a graphic novel and a very quick read. Set in WWII (my go to!), it tells the story of young Sara, a Jewish girl who is hidden in a family’s barn during the Nazi occupation of France. Sara becomes friends with the family’s son, Julian, a boy she once shunned in her classroom. The story is sweet, poignant, and at times, terrifying. Beautiful graphics. Highly recommend. 
  • Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson: I’ve read a lot of WWII fiction, but never a book written by a Black author about Black characters. Grace Steele and Eliza Jones are two young Black women who join the segregated Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to serve their country. In addition to the usual hassles of army life, they must also deal with racism. They and their colleagues work hard to create the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion to sort mountains (literally, a plane hanger full) of undelivered mail, often addressed to first names only. The novel is based on the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II. Fantastic read
  • Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: This is a best selling WWII novel, but it took me a while to decide to read it. I’m glad I did. At its heart, it’s a love story between the eponymous title character, Lale, and another prisoner Gita. Based on a true story, it’s compelling and brutal, vivid and terrifying. Thoroughly engrossing story. 
  • Kew Gardens Girls by Posy Lovell: Based in London during WWI, this tells the story of the women who were hired to work at Kew Gardens, after the male staff went off to war. The novel creates a believable world centered on Louisa and Ivy, each with their own important back stories and personalities. Sexism, suffragettes, illiteracy, domestic violence, out of wedlock pregnancy, and conscientious objection all play their part to create a lovely story. 
  • Extraordinary Times, volumes 1 & 2 by Maria Photinakis: I read these two slim works because we hosted the author, Waltham resident Maria Photinakis. What an absolute treat. Maria drew comics and wrote a running commentary to create a narrative of her time during the pandemic, at home with her husband and a young child. Volume I takes you back to the early days of the pandemic when we were afraid to leave our homes and volume 2 captures the feeling of our first, vaccinated, tentative steps back into the world. I can’t recommend these highly enough – I hope everyone reads them!
  • Conjure Women by Afia Atakora: I read this because we hosted the author for a talk on Wednesday, March 9 and ended up just loving it. Atakora’s most compelling character, Rue, is both complex and fascinating. The story goes back and forth in time between the pre and post-Civil War South with Rue, Rue’s mother, May Belle, and the master’s daughter, Varina, the main characters. Read it for its epic scope and realistic portrayal of what life was like for people enslaved on plantations.
  • Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community by Vanessa Holden: We hosted this author as part of our A Year of Black History series and our speaker was very compelling. Using mostly court records and first person narratives, Holden describes the community of women and children who aided Nat Turner’s rebellion. The video will be deleted at the end of March. 
  • We Share the Same Sky by Rachael Cerrotti: We’re hosting this author (and podcaster!) on Wednesday, March 16. Her book tells an amazing story, both of her grandmother’s escape from the Nazis and her own journey of love. 
  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of the women whose lives were greatly disrupted, this was a fantastic read. It tells the story of several women of Troy, including the often hilarious goddesses who started the whole war. Highly recommend. 
  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: This was a random choice and it did not disappoint. It tells the story of Ana, the (likely) fictional wife of Jesus. Ana is an intelligent, often defiant daughter who marries the man she loves, Jesus, instead of the man her parents choose for her. She’s drawn to his bold ideas and spiritual bent. As a writer, she yearns to have her stories documented and remembered. The prose is lyrical and inviting, the story compelling at every turn. 


  • The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh: I like a creepy gothic haunting, but this was a little slow for me. The main character also kept jumping to conclusions, which I found annoying. 
  • Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming-of-Age Story by Stacey Chomiak: This was intensely relatable to me as a lesbian who grew up in a fundamentalist christian household in the nineties. Every detail was like my life. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and I related hard. 
  • Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee: This was an incredibly moving middle grade novel about a queer 13 year old girl who just wants to attend a young singer songwrite clss, but her single mom can’t afford it. 
  • The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke: An interesting mystery, but I was a little disappointed by the science fiction twist at the end. 
  • The Girl in the Woods on Paramount +: You can definitely tell that this show was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (one of my favorites!) I like horror, not much scares me, but this show hit my creepy buttons. There was one episode I had to keep pausing. It has a great diverse cast, and an interesting plot. 
  • Single All the Way on Netflix: I love a cheesy Christmas movie. Thanks Hallmark! And now we’re finally getting the diverse stories we deserve, like this cute gay one. 
  • Under the Christmas Tree on Lifetime: A real lesbian “Hallmark” style Christmas movie!


  • Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit: Solnit is one of my favorite authors (her The Faraway Nearby is in my personal pantheon) and an essential essayist for these times. In this book, she takes as starting point the fact that George Orwell (the author) planted roses in his garden. Solnit then investigates what it means to nourish small beauty against the backdrop of unjust, violent history, examining both the times Orwell lived in and her/our own. This is a book for artists, gardeners, parents, activists, environmentalists, or anyone else who creates space in this chaotic, dark world for love and unnecessary beauty.
  • Dopesick (Hulu) – A compelling, character-driven look at some of the lives affected by Oxycontin and an overview of how the Sackler family/Purdue pharma knowingly seeded our current crisis. It’s always nice to see Michael Keaton on screen, and I was moved by the arc of a religious Appalachian family whose daughter is injured in the mines and life spirals when she becomes addicted. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Richard Sackler as a kind of Fredo Corleone but with Vito’s voice. 
  • Encanto (Disney+) and soundtrack (Hoopla): A family story with deep emotional intelligence and the kind of meticulous attention to cultural details now commonplace in animated/childrens’ filmmaking. Of course, we love the music. Now if we could just get it out of our heads. 
  • The Edge of Sports podcast with Dave Zirin (from The Nation magazine) – A weekly podcast at “the intersection of sports and politics.” I don’t listen every week, but when Dave Zirin is hitting on all cylinders, he really nails why sports can provide a unique lens into our societal inequities and be a platform for hope, for setting our collective sights higher. Recent episodes have included his takes on Barry Bonds’ exclusion from the Hall of Fame and the lawsuit brought by Brian Flores. Dave mercilessly targets hypocrisy and susses out the core of issues with language that’s a lot of fun–and doesn’t pull any punches.


  • Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the first in the Annalisa Vega series by this local Waltham author with whom I went to school. There’s a second in this series due out later this year. It’s so very cool to know a successful author of books I like to read! This series takes place in Chicago and is good crime/detective/mystery/thriller-type stuff.
  • Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting written and narrated by Lisa Genova: This nonfiction is about the science of remembering, why we forget and a few strategies for keeping it together by the author of Still Alice
  • The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs: Part Historical-fiction, part chick-lit, this first novel in a series is mostly set in California on the Apple Orchard of an old man whose background during WWII in Denmark is revealed.
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and narrated by Steven Crossley: This is a quirky, humorous adventure story, with a dash of history mixed in, set in Sweden and very similar to A Man Called Ove by Frederik Bachman. If you liked Ove, I think you’ll like Allan Karlsson as well.
  • How To Stop Time by Matt Haig and narrated by Mark Meadows: This almost-historical-fiction meets time-travel physics novel has many elements in common with The Midnight Library also by Matt Haig. The story is good (not as great as Midnight library, but good). There’s an annoying character that makes you  wonder ”Who made you the boss of the world?!?”
  • In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn: This is a really interesting study in human nature. When a crisis happens, do you look out for others or do you look out for yourself? Told from the perspective of the 16-yo girl who dies in the crisis (not a spoiler… it’s the whole premise of the book) her omniscient perspective is unique. Really enjoyable! My colleague, Dana, listed it as a Favorite of 2021 (See the previous Staff Reads blog post) and she hasn’t steered me wrong before!
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver Narrated by M.W. Wilson: Non-binary coming-of-age story. Likable characters stumbling through high school. Pretty similar to Felix Ever After.
  • The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed and narrated by Kiersey Clemons: Teen fiction centered around a HS girl from LA during the Rodney King riots. Good story. Good characters. Dialog seemed a little contemporary for 1992, but overall, quite enjoyable. Too bad we’re still having many of the issues brought up.
  • The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel and narrated by Robin Eller, Lisa Flanagan, Madeleine Maby: Historical fiction about a vineyard in France during WWII. I struggle with dishonesty from characters in the books I read. I always feel that everyone would have a much easier time if they weren’t keeping secrets, even though I realize this makes for a less-interesting plot. This is true of this story even though I enjoyed it. There were 2 characters that frustrated me a bit and by the end it became clear why!
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune: Really fun British chick-lit. There were 2 narrators: one that voiced the female character and one that voiced the male side of the story. Love the 2 different voices… Leon’s speech cadence and total lack of using any pronouns and articles was so amusing!
  • Dear Justyce by Nic Stone and narrated by Dion Graham: Second in a series after Dear Martin, this is a bit of a spinoff of a character from the first book. Incarcerated teen Quan is telling his tale through letters and flashbacks to Justyce, the main character of Dear Martin.  This would appeal to readers of Jason Reynolds or Angie Thomas.
  • A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi and narrated by Priya Ayyar: Set one year after 9/11, this follows 16 year-old Muslim girl through high school where she tries to shake off stereotypes. Part coming-of-age story and part historical fiction. More likable characters stumbling through high school with some interesting perspectives shared.


  • There Should Be Flowers by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza: This is a beautiful, heartbreaking poetry collection. I read a bunch of these poems over and over. Content warnings for transphobia and depression.
  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: I thought this was a really engaging, well-written novel but I also often felt squeamish reading fiction that borrows so heavily from the life of a real person who is still around (this book is inspired by former First Lady Laura Bush), especially because there are a few specific and undoubtedly traumatizing events from her life that were fictionalized. I possibly would have put it down if I’d read a physical copy instead of listening to the audiobook (Kimberly Farr was a great narrator! So great in fact that it probably added to my discomfort because I kept having to remind myself that this was a novel and not a memoir!).
  • A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll: I adored this one! This middle-grade novel is about eleven-year-old Addie who is singled out by her teacher and classmates because she’s autistic. A lot of the novel explores what that means for her and the way she processes her thoughts and emotions. When she learns about witch trials that happened in her Scottish village, she begins a campaign to install a memorial that attones for what was done to them. This is a sensitive, empowering novel that I recommend to everyone! Also, McNicoll is a neurodivergent author, and it was evident that she was drawing from real-life expertise, which made it that much more of an enriching reading experience. I learned a lot from Addie and I can’t wait to read everything else McNicoll writes.
  • Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig: This was a phenomenal memoir in essays in which Taussig shares what it’s been like for her to navigate society in a wheelchair. The essays cover a variety of topics, including ableism and accessibility, dating and relationships, portrayals of disability in the media, and her experiences teaching about disability to young people. It was so articulate, educational, and accessible. I also loved how much she emphasized that increasing accessibility has the potential to make life easier, in large and small ways, for everyone, not just people with disabilities (for example, she poses the question: What opportunities for play and creative expression would open up for *all* children if we made playgrounds more accessible to kids with disabilities?) It’s such a refreshing and necessary framework. I really hope more people pick this one up.
  • The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Deesha Philyaw did so much in such a brief short story collection. Every sentence felt like it needed to be there. These stories, which are all about the inner lives of Black women of various ages who have some connection to the church, are complex and nuanced. Pretty much all of the women live in a state of moral ambiguity as they pursue their desires and navigate relationships, which I loved. I also highly recommend the audiobook – I’m really impressed by Janina Edwards’ ability to bring all of the characters to life in such distinct ways. 
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich: This novel is about a thirteen-year-old boy named Joe and his attempts to seek justice after his mother is sexually assaulted in their Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It’s a powerful story that brings to light the horrifying statistics of violence against indigenous women in the United States, as well as the seemingly endless legal challenges faced by those trying to seek justice while living on reservations, due to disputes over sovereignty and jurisdiction. But it’s also a story of teen boys being teen boys through it all. One of my favorite things in fiction is when an author really captures what it’s like to be a kid, and I really think Erdrich knocked it out of the park, which is so rare. The feelings Joe expresses, often but not always pertaining to the big issues he’s dealing with, instantly brought me back to what it felt like to be 13 and made the overall reading experience so impactful. This was a 5-star read!
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: VERY quick listen on audio (not even 2 hours if I remember correctly?) that packs a punch. It’s a young adult novel in verse about a teen boy who’s on his way to kill the guy he thinks shot and killed his older brother. The whole novel takes place in the 60 seconds he’s on the elevator, during which he encounters a different person from his past on each floor. I love that Jason Reynolds narrates the audiobook himself. This was my first time reading one of his books and not my last!
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: This novel follows a neuroscience graduate student named Gifty as she conducts lab experiments while her mother, who has depression, stays with her. It’s a novel about grief, as Gifty’s brother died of a heroin overdose when she was a child. This tragedy largely influenced her life path – she is obsessed with what causes addiction and how her line of work could potentially help people suffering. It’s also so much about Gifty’s reckoning with her religious upbringing, and how that clashes with (or is sometimes in unexpected and harmonious conversation with) the scientific part of her mind. This book deeply resonated with me for many reasons, and I ended up loving it more than her first novel, Homegoing (which is also great!).
  • Station Eleven (Show): Warning that this show starts with a virus killing 99.9% of civilization (the first episode is the toughest!). I totally understand why someone would want to avoid pandemic content right now, but honestly for me, watching a show about a group of people surviving a worst case scenario, accepting their new normal, and making something beautiful out of it was so comforting. One of the most moving tv watching experiences I’ve had in years. I sobbed during the final episode! 
  • Hacks (TV Show): I loved Jean Smart in Mare of Easttown, so I had to watch her in Hacks next. This show is about a Gen Z comedy writer and a legendary standup comedian (somewhat reminiscent of Joan Rivers?) whose life circumstances force them to work together. It was great.
  • Abbott Elementary: Funniest show on TV right now! It makes me so happy. Quinta Brunson is a genius and the cast has no weak links. I want 20 more seasons, please.



  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris: Compelling psychology thriller set against the backdrop of the publishing industry. Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner publishing and is happy to bond with Hazel, when she’s finally hired. However, when Nella starts to become suspicious and receives anonymous threatening notes, things start to unravel.
  • If You Ask Me by Betty White, read by the author: Series of short vignettes and words of wisdom from the late Golden Girl. It was nice to hear White’s voice so soon after her death.
  • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson: Beautiful family story about estranged siblings, Byron and Benny, their late mother’s traditional Caribbean Black Cake, and a parallel story about a woman leaving behind a potential abusive marriage and a murder charge. 
  • All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business by Mel Brooks, read by the author: Mel Brooks! The Memoir! (disappointingly not The Lunchbox!) Fun romp through Mel Brooks’s life and career. I loved hearing him talk about how the original The Producers came about, as it’s one of my favorite movies. Some complimentary words about some members of Hollywood who were later revealed to be problematic are a little hard to take in some places.
  • A Lot like Adiós by Alexis Daria: Steamy romance taking place in the same universe as You Had Me at Hola. I loved the fact that the two main characters first bond as teenagers, writing fan fiction for a fictional science fiction television show.
  • Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno, read by the author: Rita can do no wrong, in my eyes. I loved listening to this honest and, at times, heartbreaking memoir. It’s distressing to hear how she was treated in Hollywood as one of the few Latin-American actors. No flaws in this book, except for the fact it’s from 2011, so nothing about the recent West Side Story or the reboot of One Day at a Time.
  • A Lowcountry Bride by Preslaysa Williams: Lovely romance that takes place amongst the backdrop and aftermath of the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Despite the sad setup, this is a loving and heartwarming family story full of hope.
  • A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll: Addie, who is on the Autism spectrum, finds herself relating to the story of witch trials in her small Scottish town, knowing all too well about being persecuted for who she is and what others may not understand. I loved this middle grade novel and thought it did such a wonderful job at treating the topic with respect and sensitivity. 
  • West Side Story (2021)I loved this remake! I’m a big fan of West Side Story, in general, but know that it’s not without faults, especially the 1961 film. This remake does a lot to correct them, including hiring actors who are Latinx to play the members of the Sharks and their friends and family. It was also refreshing listening to actual singers and Broadway talent singing and performing. (I want Bernardo’s David Alvarez and Riff’s Mike Faist to work on another musical together. Ariana DeBose as Anita was perfect). And Rita Moreno (aka 1961’s “Anita”) as new character, Valentina (the widow of the original show and movie’s “Doc”) brings a gravitas to the film. 
  • Spiderman: No Way Home: I had a good time with this third installment in the MCU Spiderman series. This was fan service done right. (I’m looking at you, Ghostbusters: Afterlife)
  • Abbott Elementary: I love this show about an elementary school in Philadelphia, created by and starring Quinta Brunson as an idealistic second grader teacher. This is one of the few times that I think the mockumentary sitcom style works well.
  • The Gilded Age: I really really want to like this show. The majority of the cast is from the Broadway/musical world (Audra McDonald, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Denée Benton, Kelli O’Hara, Carrie Coon, just to name a few) and the acting is very good but it just isn’t working for me. The character development in the writing is pretty one dimensional (IE, Cynthia Nixon plays a character whose one trait is that she’s “sweet”. She’s a good actress so it’s not a reflection of her.) The scenery is pretty so I’m sticking with it, for now.
  • The Book of Boba FettTemuera Morrison is a very good actor and does the best he can with the most overrated character in Star Wars. (Laura quickly runs and hides from die hard Star Wars fans.) This show didn’t do anything for me, until it suddenly turned into The Mandalorian Season 2.5 (Spoiler alert, I guess.)