Staff Reads May 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Janet Z.



  • My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla) : I read this at the very beginning of the quarantine and honestly I don’t remember much about it now, other than it’s about a high school girl who has an affair with her forty-something year-old English teacher, and then repercussions, etc.. I do remember I liked it and thought it was quite well written.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Even though I had read Mary V’s review of this book back in March, I was somehow still surprised by how sad this book is. Based on true events, it follows a young girl and her younger siblings as they’re kidnapped from their family’s shantyboat and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, where they were then sold to other families. It was a very compelling book, and also horrifying that this actually happened so often.
  • The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): I don’t read thrillers or ghost stories very often, so I’m not a connoisseur, but I thought this was a great haunted house story. I loved that one of the main characters was a history nerd with an appreciation for local history, and that there were flashbacks to the previous century. I didn’t love the ending, but thought the book as a whole was good.
  • Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington (Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Every now and then it’s nice to read another woman’s experiences with motherhood, especially when you have moments where you feel like you’ve found a kindred soul. I thought this was a decent collection of essays, with a few laugh-out-loud moments, and others where I wanted to give Harrington either a hug or a high-five, or both.
  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays by R. Eric Thomas (Read it on Overdrive.): This is a funny and touching memoir about how Thomas has grappled with being “other” throughout his life – based on race, sexuality, economic background, religion, and more. His writing style is the kind that feels effortless in its humor and reflection, and it made me want to seek out his other work (he has a daily humor column about politics at
  • Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg: After reading The Last Town on Earth right before Covid-19 hit the news, I really wanted to read more about the 1918 influenza… maybe for some kind of reassurance that people made it through a pandemic, or maybe just because I find it fascinating. I was lamenting the lack of historical fiction focusing on the Spanish flu, and some colleagues recommended Wickett’s Remedy (I love working with librarians!). It was such a good book, with a bonus of being set in Boston, and I liked the different ways Goldberg tells the story – through the main plot, plus through old newspaper articles and commentary in the margins by different voices. It was very different, and very good.
  • Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden (Read it on Overdrive.): I had read positive reviews about this book – a satire about the education system – so I was pumped when my hold on Overdrive came in. It takes place in an underfunded urban high school in Texas, and follows the daily work and personal lives of several teachers. Even though I’m not a teacher, I could appreciate the humor in many of the scenes, and found the characters very compelling.
  • Overdue: The Final Unshelved Collection by Gene Ambaum, Bill Barnes, & Chris Hallbeck (Not in Minuteman, but there are other Unshelved books in the network.): I used to follow the Unshelved webcomic pretty religiously when it was active, and even got to meet Ambaum and Barnes at a library conference (nerd alert). I’ve been enjoying reading through this collection of their comics, and feeling wistful about working in the library!
  • Yesterday: My husband and I really enjoyed this movie, about a struggling musician who wakes up after an accident to discover that no one has ever heard of the Beatles. It was very cute, with a good soundtrack.
  • Fleabag: A bit late to the party with this one, but I love it. I’m so glad I snagged the Blu-Ray of Season 1 the last day the library was open!
  • Sex Education: We started watching this show before quarantine, and were able to binge our way through the rest of it once lockdown started. Such a good show – well-developed and synpathetic characters, and I want to live in Otis’s house!
  • I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with Kanopy Kids, namely:


  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang (Read it on Overdrive. Listen to it on Hoopla) : This nonfiction read is a fascinating insight into the lives of young rural Chinese women, many of whom are teenagers, who travel to the country’s manufacturing cities to work in factories. The scale of the so-called migrant movement is huge: 130 million individuals hop from job to job in massive factories (one is so large it has its own hospital) to improve both their pay and opportunities. They sleep in bunk beds in factory-owned dorms with others whom they rarely get to know; they interview for positions at the Talent Market where they lie about their experience and references are never checked; they work long hours with mandatory overtime and send money home to their parents on the farm. Chang focuses on the lives of two young women in particular, giving a sense of both perspective and story arc.


  • We Were promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul (Read it on Overdrive)
  • The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Read it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla.): I loved this. Highly recommended for fans of Ashly Herring Blake or if you like gentle and melancholy lyrical stories.
  • Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer (Read it on Overdrive.):  This was so good! It was exciting and mysterious and I couldn’t put it down!
  • PS I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Read it or listen to it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla): Also sad! But it’s so great that we now have so many middle grade books with lesbian main characters. You’ll cry reading this one.
  • Motherland Fort Salem on Freeform/Hulu: I really love this show. I was hesitant after reading less than stellar feeviews, but I devour every episode.
  • Home Before Dark on Apple TV+: An amazing young cast, killer soundtrack and intriguing mystery make this show very compelling to watch.
  • Killing Eve season 3 on BBC America
  • Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (Hoopla): Film version of Alex’s memoir Saving Alex about the 6 months her parents forced her into conversion therapy when she told them she was gay. Definitely an important watch, as conversion therapy for minors is still legal in 30 states.
  • I Am Not Ok With This on Netflix
  • What We Do in the Shadows season 2 Hulu (Watch the movie on Hoopla or Kanopy)
  • NOS4A2 on Hulu based on the book. (Listen to the book on Hoopla.)



  • Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  My favorite read of quarantine. Maybe of the year so far? Shapiro is a well-established, proudly Jewish author. She takes a DNA test on a whim, and everything changes. She is launched on a journey to discover the truth about her existence. This memoir (as are her others) is sweet, delicate, loving, and ever so eloquent. I loved learning about her family memories, DNA testing, and the factors that convalesced to bring Shapiro into being. I highly recommend this title.
  • Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): What a fascinating, and often upsetting, book. Kolker tells the story of the Galvin family as they grew up in the 1970s. There are twelve children, by itself a distinguishable characteristic. But that’s not the story: six of the children are diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book jumps back and forth a bit, but overall it’s a very compelling story about mental health and family dynamics.
  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King (Read it or listen to it on Overdrive.  Read it on Hoopla).:   I really enjoyed this novel about an aspiring writing set in Cambridge. It felt like a believable and honest portrayal of a young woman aging and finding her footing.
  • Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz  (Listen to it on Overdrive.): This book was a truly enjoyable read in which I learned a good amount about my canine companion’s biology and senses.
  • Setting the Table by Danny Meyer (Read it on Overdrive.  Read or listen to it on Hoopla):  Had some issues with the self-congratulatory narrative of this book. There’s no real acknowledgement of the author’s privilege, which struck me as odd and unfortunate. However, Meyer’s thoughts on hospitality are good, and they are buried throughout the memoir. I would’ve preferred digesting those bits in a listicle.
  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Okay. Not previously a Jessica Simpson fan (still not), but that’s not why I picked this memoir up. I just kept hearing how good, open, and honest this audiobook was (and it lived up to that!). Simpson spills the tea on a lot of pop culture moments I vaguely remember but enjoyed hearing about. She is open about her abuse, addiction, family troubles, and the national body shaming she endured before/during/after her career. It was a perfectly mindless kind of read overall, definitely a great distraction. I recommend the audiobook. Also, turns out my dislike of John Mayer is justified!
  • You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  I did not enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed their other books. It felt somewhat formulaic (for them). The suspense built for SO LONG, but was all resolved within a few pages and it didn’t feel satisfying.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Finally finished rereading this treasure. I can’t say anything more about it than that it is worth your time.
  • The Suspect by Kent Alexander (Read it on Hoopla.): This is a great read about how the media ran wild with a suspect in the Olympic bombing in Atlanta in the 90’s. It was very well written and engaging, but never refrains from sensationalizing the events like a certain movie about the same topic (Richard Jewell). In fact, you probably won’t recognize this story if you only saw that movie!
  • The Witches are Coming by Lindy West (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This collection of essays were well enjoyed. Part call-to-action, part-memoir…always written with candor and often with humor. My partner and I loved this book so much…in fact, he asked to listen to her other book, Shrill, immediately upon completing this audiobook.
  • Shrill by Lindy West  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This was my second time reading this memoir and I loved it just as much. I find West’s voice to be so clear, she just gets to the point and doesn’t suffer fools. I highly recommend both of her books listed here, as well as the TV adaptation of this memoir!
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  I was nervous about this book because I’d heard the buzz for so long, but found myself having a hard time getting invested. All of a sudden 70 pages in, I was hooked. I thought I knew where some of the story was going, but I didn’t. I loved not being able to see what the reveal was going to be ahead of time. I liked this much more than I liked Everything I Never Told You. If you’re one of the few that hasn’t already read this and binged the adaptation on Hulu, why not pick it up now? It’s available on Libby/Overdrive!
  • The Last Dance (ESPN)
  • Normal People (Hulu) (Read or listen to the book on Overdrive.)
  • The King (Netflix)
  • What We Do in the Shadows (season 1 on Hulu) (Watch the movie on Hoopla or Kanopy)

Mary V.

  • Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth: When the church organist falls to her death in a stream on her way home, it is thought to be an accident. However, her friend and housemate doesn’t believe it. Enter former Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair who is visiting friends near Winchester. He looks into the tragedy and follows a circuitous route to discover answers.
  • Long Range by C J Box (Read it on Overdrive.): This is the newest Joe Pickett novel. Joe must help his best friend Nate Romanowski who is being targeted by a vengeful group of terrorists who want to kill Nate, his wife and infant daughter.
  • Sins of Two Fathers by Denis Hamill: The lives of two fathers cross paths many years ago. Now, one of the fathers wants to avenge his son who was sent to prison for something that he didn’t do by conspiring to send the son of the second father to prison for something he didn’t do. I think this is a very good story about the consequences of alcoholism and how alcohol can destroy families. However, none of the characters in this book can utter a sentence that isn’t laced with profanity. I detest profanity and I found the endless stream of profanity distasteful.
  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This is a sweet story about a teenager who is obviously autistic although that word is never used. A neighbor’s dog is killed during the night and Chris Boone is determined to find the culprit. He has limited resources but immense determination.
  • Tenant For Death by Cyril Hare: This novel was written in 1937. London financier Lionel Barrymore is found strangled. Mr.  Barrymore was involved in a financial scandal. So, suspicions fall on those involved in the scandal. However, there are many other suspects who have motives for disposing of  the very unpopular Mr. Ballantine.


  • Vegetables Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen (Read this on Overdrive.): When I bought this book nearly a year ago I had no idea how much I would come to rely on it. A few weeks ago I subscribed to a vegetable delivery service. Similar in nature to a CSA, the options provided are what’s in season and what’s available that specific week so, basically, you get what you get and you don’t get upset! The vegetables in the book are organized alphabetically and there are recipes for each vegetable ranging from appetizers (parsnip hummus) to desserts  (carrot cake). What I especially love about this book is the background provided, including information on how to properly store and prep each vegetable.
  • Jazz Festing in Place on WWOZ New Orleans: The annual New Orleans Jazz Fest, scheduled to take place over two weeks in April and May, was obviously canceled this year. The local independent radio station instead held Festing in Place: full days of performances spanning the history of the festival’s 50 years in existence. The lineup included truly out-of-this world performances such as Ella Fitzgerald with surprise guest Stevie Wonder and an emotional performance from Bruce Springsteen performing with the Seeger Sessions Band the year after Katrina. WWOZ provides a two-week on-demand archive of their streaming content so, as of this writing (May 6), there is still time to go back and have a listen.
  • Homeland Season 8 (Previous seasons. Read the e-book on Hoopla) : This is the final season of the CIA spy drama starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin. Although I’ve watched the show since the beginning (2011, how is that possible??) I haven’t been as excited about the show in recent seasons because, to me, it required a bit too much suspension of disbelief and I didn’t think the writing was as sharp as it was in the first season or two. However, the show really was in top form for its final run and I found myself on the edge of my seat during several episodes. When we discovered Showtime was only available for free during April (and we were two or three episodes from finishing) we promptly subscribed.
  • BoschSeason 6 : Based on novels by Michael Connelly, the sixth season of this American detective show recently returned to Amazon Prime. Similarly to Homeland, I felt that though the show had drifted off the rails in past seasons, the current season was a return to form. I also think Titus Welliver is amazing and would likely watch him in just about anything.
  • Scott & Bailey (Watch it on Hoopla): This smart British detective series featuring strong female characters was written by Sally Wainwright, the writer of Happy Valley (also featuring strong female characters). Though the show focuses on the murders that Detectives Scott and Bailey must solve, the characters are  given subplots that add to the drama.
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: I rarely watch anything on network tv (and have actually just canceled my cable subscription) and it’s even more unlikely that I watch a network show live, but this show was worth every single ‘we’re all in this together’ commercial I had to endure. The show focuses on Zoey, a  computer coder in San Francisco, and how her life changes after an MRI gone awry enables her to hear people’s thoughts in song. The musical numbers are spectacular, the writing is razor sharp, and I really can’t say enough about this show. I loved it so much I am going to rewatch every episode until the cable technician comes to take away the cable box (which is on hold because of the current situation).



  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (Read it on Overdrive. Read it on Hoopla): I was excited that Alvarez, one of my favorite authors, wrote a new novel and it did not disappoint.  Come discuss this book at the June 25 meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • Dig by A.S. King (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This mysterious and beautiful novel focusing on multiple points of view of various teenagers covers a lot including white privilege, violence against women, and long time secrets all surrounding a typical, or not so typical family.
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Woodson’s lyrical writing gives great life to Melody and her family as they explore what it means to be black and how it defines their identities.  Whether Woodson is writing in verse of prose (as she does here), I love her beautiful writing style.
  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This is the true story of a family, namely the family of transgender actress, Nicole Maines.  In addition to Nicole and her family’s story, there is a lot of context and history.  I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I know.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman, read by the author (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla.): I enjoyed Gaiman’s witty take on a scary tale featuring a very resourceful and smart girl.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • From the Corner of the Oval by Becky Dorey-Stein, read by the author (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): I expected a bit more from this memoir of an Obama White House stenographer.  Instead of an insider’s take on what it’s really like to work in the White House, a lot of the book seemed to be about the writer’s unhealthy relationship with a fellow staffer.
  • Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson, read by Perdita Weeks and John Sackville (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.  Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Back and forth tale using Frankenstein as a base.  I found it interesting and thoughtful though I don’t think audio was the best way to experience the novel.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui, read by Soneela Nankai (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla.): This bittersweet, descriptive novel is about Pival, a woman traveling to the United States and her two travel companions, Satya and Rebecca.  Pival is in search of, and coming to terms with, her son, Rahi.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • Big Little Lies (show): I had read and enjoyed this book a few years ago but had been holding off on watching the television adaptation until now.  I was intrigued how the story would go beyond a first season, when it ran out of source material.  The second season was a little over the top, but I still enjoyed it.  I also appreciated that the characters of Bonnie and Renata were a lot more developed as characters than they were in the novel.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Watch it on Kanopy): This is a heartbreaking movie about the friendship between Jimmie and Mont and Jimmie’s attempt to reclaim the house that he claims his grandfather built in a now gentrified neighborhood.
  • I’ve been doing some re-watches of old favorites, some of which have aged better than others:
    • Dallas: This show had already not aged well when I first binge watched it back in the late 1990’s.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it hadn’t aged well by the time the show ended in 1991.  Yet, I still love it.  Secret confession time: a part of me wanted to be a Ewing grandchild.  I liked the idea of going to a wedding in which someone was going to get pushed into a pool.
    • The X-Files: Mulder and Scully forever!  Some of the episodes are great and some are a bit miss, but the chemistry of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is still off the charts.  The episode, “F. Emasculata” about a disease outbreak and public health concern rings a little too true, right now.
    • The Golden Girls: While there are definitely elements to this show that are a product of its time, this show was ahead of the curve in so many ways and, with the exception of some episodes, still plays well.  A lot of the jokes still land and I love that the women on this show, all of whom are senior citizens, are vibrant and proud of their sexuality.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment