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End of the Year Lists – Best of 2017

2017 December 21
by Kyla Hunt

Reading a Book by Manual Cacciatori is licensed through CC BY 2.0 (

As we near the end of 2017, I wanted to share some of the books, podcasts and other media that staff here at the Library Development and Network Division loved this year! Happy holidays!

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking

As I’m always on the hunt for dark British police procedurals, I was delighted to discover the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill this fall. Starting with The Various Haunts of Men, I’m less interested in  the lead detective than I am by his extended family, colleagues, and the inhabitants of the fictional town of Lafferton where these murders take place. And they are good whodunits. I’m on book four of the series and am making a concerted effort to check them out in order from the library – so far, Austin Public hasn’t failed me once!

A read that left me thinking this year was Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue’s novel about a Cameroonian couple pursuing the American Dream in the early 2000s. Employed by a wealthy New York family, Jende and Neni Jonga seem to be on the verge of financial stability before the Great Recession hits. Its impact leaves their family in crisis and illuminates both the struggle and spirit of immigrant communities.

Russlene Waukechon, TexShare E-resources Coordinator

If you love, really LOVE storytelling you have to listen to Snap Judgement. This weekly podcast will keep you glued to your headphones. Focusing on deeply personal stories this is a podcast anyone would enjoy.

Valicia Greenwood, Library Statistics Specialist

I have long been a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Harper Lee, so when I came across Charles Shields 2006 biography, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, I read it quickly.  Although Lee refused to grant an interview to him, Shields interviewed many, many others who knew her well, and presented a compelling picture of Lee’s life.  One of the aspects Shields covered details Lee’s research with Truman Capote into the Clutter family murders in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 – the background material for Capote’s 1965 novel, In Cold Blood.

With that background in mind, I then took the opportunity to read In Cold Blood.  Capote’s book was considered graphic and unsettling for its time, but I found it tame by modern standards.  It reads like a Ken Burns’ documentary, capturing the personalities, the dialect and feelings of major and minor players in this true-life crime story.  I would heartily recommend this modern classic, both for the structure and language of the book, as well as the way Capote leaves judgement and interpretation largely to the reader.

Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator

Origin by Dan Brown – As usual our favorite Harvard professor is again embroiled in a murder/mystery. In his usual style Dan Brown delivers a book full of history, religion, and mysteries, this one is set in Spain. I really enjoyed the questions this book raised with regard to technology and it’s rapid rise, how that affects us now and in the future. It also questions the future of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and how it might control our world more than we think, even now……

As always if you like mysteries, history, and a good murder story Dan Brown will make it an interesting one!

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator

I recommend Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948.  Proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction, this biography documents how, in middle age, Madeleine discovered her family’s Jewish heritage and the sad fate of many of her Czech family members during World War II.  Czechoslovakian history and Madeleine’s family involvement in mid-20th century politics are clearly explained and quite fascinating.  Her father, Josef Korbel, was a gifted diplomat who served the Czech government until the Communist Party’s rise to power in 1948.  Korbel and his family successfully applied for U.S. political asylum when Madeleine was 11 years old.   She became a U.S. citizen in 1957 and later served with distinction as a U.S. diplomat, notably as Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.

Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant

Maybe it’s just been a busier year than others, but I found myself rereading books this year more than reading new titles. One author in particular that I have found myself turning to is one of my favorite graphic novel authors, Faith Erin Hicks. I have reread her book Friends with Boys at least twice this year, and each time am struck with different aspects of the illustrations or characters. This book, about a previously homeschooled girl who starts high school while being haunted by a ghost, appears trivial but is satisfying with every read. I also recommend her currently running The Nameless City Trilogy, two of which are currently out now.

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