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What was your favorite read of the year?

2016 December 21
by Katherine Adelberg

What was the best book that you read this year?

I love historical fiction and non-fiction. One of my recent favorites was the March graphic novel series by Congressman John Lewis. Reading Part Three enabled me to read a National Book Award winner in a single night! I’m a few chapters in to Guns of August, a book about the first month of World War I. The author brings the time period to life with evocative language and just a hint of foreshadowing; it reads like a novel.

Here are a few other recommendations from State Library staff:

Valicia Greenwood, Statistics Specialist – Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards. Far better, in my opinion, than her bestseller Memory Keeper’s Daughter, this details the struggle of a millennial reconciling her life and values with that of one of her ancestors previously omitted from family history.  Her search for the ancestor’s story, her discoveries about early the women’s suffrage movement and the art of glassmaking, and her relationships in her past and present all come together to help her define her own life.  Thoughtfully written with beautiful descriptions of art works, moods and landscapes. Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber. A fascinating novel about an woman of mixed Iranian heritage, living in an Arab American community in Southern California, and working as a chef at a Lebanese restaurant.  Told in fable, love story, poetry and  food book, it includes some traditional Middle Eastern recipes.  Great cross-cultural experience!

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator – The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia by Susan Jaques. This is a sympathetic, carefully researched, detailed biography of one of the world’s most famous rulers.  The brilliant German-born Catherine embraced her adopted country and followed Peter the Great’s lead in Westernizing and modernizing Russia during her 34 year reign.  The author focuses on Catherine’s artistic legacy, endeavors, patronage, and propagandizing, as well as describing her improbable, colorful life.  Notably, she built or rebuilt important portions of Saint Petersburg, founded the famous Heritage Museum, and shrewdly purchased a sizable amount of the museum’s core collection. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, by Tim Wu. Dr. Wu’s book examines the advertising industry’s history and its increasing intrusions into what were once considered private spaces.   Wu, famous for coining the term “net neutrality,” comes down solidly on the side of privacy rights for individuals and customers.  He suggests that “attention merchants,” aka advertisers, have succeeded in inserting ads in everything from newspapers, radio, TV, to the “free” Internet, where companies gather and reuse the personal data customers helpfully provide to target customers with ever-more personalized ads.

Sara Hayes, Interlibrary Loan Program Coordinator – Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr.  The ‘Mats were perhaps the ultimate rock and roll band and this is their gritty story, from their Minnesota beginnings to their self-destructive behaviors keeping them from conventional fame, to their dissolution.  The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking by Jeanine Donofrio, an Austin author!  A beautiful cookbook of plant based recipes.

Deborah Littrell, Division Director – The Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante. The series is the story of the life and friendship of two girls who grew up in a very poor neighborhood of Naples. Their lives take very different tracks over time and the series is a rich and rewarding story.

Rebekah Manley, Texas Center for the Book Coordinator – Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Bowman. I know Donna and it was a long journey to get this book published. It’s an incredible TRUE story. Very inspiring! A movie is coming out, not specifically based on her book but exciting all the same. The main character is Morgan Freeman.

Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This was a touching story of an man who is ready to give up on life, that is until a chatty young couple move in next door and force him to try living again. Ove is a grouchy old man who is unapologetically honest about his dislikes and his strict beliefs but behind the crusty exterior is story of love and sadness. The way the new neighbors proceed to upend and change Ove’s life makes for a hilarious and heartwarming story. The audio version is very good and I would highly recommend it!

Jennifer Peters, Community Engagement Coordinator – Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Inspired by my family’s obsession with the Hamilton soundtrack, I read and loved this biography. This in turn inspired me to read more about the Founding Fathers (and Mothers!), notably, David McCullough’s John Adams. I also looked for escapism this tumultuous year and discovered a number of great historical mystery series. One that stood out was the Barrister Matthew Shardlake mysteries by CJ Sansom. Starting with Dissolution, these well-plotted mysteries bring Henry VIII’s England to life, with all of its religious upheaval, palace intrigue, casual violence, and jockeying for power.

Russlene Waukechon, TexShare E-Resources Coordinator – The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick. This is the story of Emma, Queen of England. Married at the age of 13 to Aethelred, King of England, Emma outlives him to marry his successor, Cnut the Great, ruler of the North Sea Empire. This fictional account of Emma’s life brings to light a period of English history most people of unaware of, when England was considered part of Scandinavia and Vikings ruled over a great part of England.

What were your favorite reads of 2016? Send us a comment and let us know!

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