As we near the end of 2018, we wanted to share some of the books, podcasts and other media that staff here at the Library Development and Network Division loved this year! Here’s to a great 2019!
Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking
I was so moved by Tara Westover’s stunning memoir, Educated, that I read it twice. This highly acclaimed book is worth all of the good press it has received. Westover grew up in an isolated survivalist family in Idaho, and had little access to schooling because of her parents’ mistrust of the educational system—indeed, they were hostile to all government and institutional systems to an extreme degree. How a bright, brutalized girl took charge of her life is nothing short of astonishing.
My favorite podcasts dive deeply into real events with multiple episodes and stellar reporting. Season One of Slow Burn was a fascinating overview of the Watergate scandal. I thought I knew the basics of Watergate, but this podcast provided context, a cast of fascinating characters, and a sense of what living through the period was like, before anyone knew how things would turn out. My guilty podcast pleasure is true crime: Death in Ice Valley, In the Dark, Dr. Death, Stranglers, and more!
Valicia Greenwood, Library Statistics Specialist
I have discovered podcasts this year! It started with a story from NPR which led to “Everything Happens with Kate Bowler.” Kate, in her mid-thirties, is a professor, mother and writer. She was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and turned it into an opportunity to let others know how to communicate with those going through dark and tragic times in their life. She wrote a book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, which allowed her to explore the topic personally, and then created the podcast, through which she explores the topic with others. While potentially sad, I come away from the broadcast refreshed. This podcast has interesting guests interviewed by Kate with warmth and humor, who share valuable insights on the rougher side of being human.
Another favorite podcast is the “TED Radio Hour,“ with host Guy Raz. These shows distill several related TED talks, interspersed with interviews with the speakers, who update or further explain their ideas. Topics are as broad and fascinating as the original talks on which they are based. It has taught me about history, celebrity personalities and even about burial practices around the world.
One other I am hooked on is “99% Invisible,” created and hosted by Roman Mars. This is trivia at its most detailed, from where “casual Fridays” come from to how Oklahoma City was born. According to the website, the podcast is about “all the though that goes into the things we don’t think about.” A fun, fascinating listen!
Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator
Earlier this year, Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith, did a fascinating interview with journalist/author Helen Thorpe on his PBS show, Overheard with Evan Smith, about Thorpe’s life and career, books, and insights. Thorpe is an Irish immigrant: born in the U.K. and raised in the U.S., she specializes in writing about “otherness.” Her technique is to embed, befriend, then write candid, sympathetic, and powerful stories about the carefully selected and unique people she gets to know. Intrigued, I read all three of Thorpe’s books and found them great reads.
Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America is an award-winning study of four high school girls, whose parents illegally immigrated from Mexico to Colorado. Two of the girls are U.S. citizens, two aren’t, but all struggle with immigration, legal documentation, and integration issues. It’s hard not to root for these real, flawed people who struggle to pursue successful, happy, safe lives – as we all do.
Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War covers twelve years in the lives of three women who enlisted in the Indiana National Guard for economic reasons just before 9/11, served unexpected deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, then returned home. This is an unusual and gritty book. Thorpe examines the women’s gender-unique struggles dealing with money, men, the military, war, death, their own injuries, families and children, careers, transitioning from civil to military/military to civil, everything else life throws at them – and how they cope and change. Despite the challenges all three found serving in the U.S. military, two choose to redeploy.
The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom profiles twenty-two newly-arrived immigrant/refugee teenagers from nations and refugee camps around the world as they work through their first year in the U.S., attending an intensive, beginner-level English Language Acquisition (ELA) class at a Colorado public high school. The book focuses on how these students aren’t just learning a new language, they are learning a new culture in order to successfully live in their new homes and country. Thorpe relates some of the frightful events these children have lived through, how hard being a refugee is both abroad and in the U.S., and how the children and their families are managing, highlighting the power – and sometimes the failures – of human resiliency and kindness.
Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant
As I have a 8 month old daughter, my reading pace has been rather slow. That said, we’ve been reading the first Harry Potter book to my 6 year old daughter, and I’ve been really enjoying simultaneously listening to Binge Mode: Harry Potter. The hosts of this podcast, Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, use each episode to examine the books chapter by chapter, with special episodes dedicated to topics such as the movies, Quidditch, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is a podcast that is great if you’re a Harry Potter fan looking for an escape; fair warning, though, that it is filled with spoilers and is meant for an adult audience.
Henry Stokes, Library Technology Consultant
How does this unlikely pairing sound to you? Groundhog Day time travel hijinks + Agatha Christie English manor mystery. If that sounds instantly appealing as it did to me then try the novel, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton.
I like my military sci-fi action adventure funny and touching (and also quick to read), so I very much enjoyed the four novellas that make up The Murderbot Diaries. They feature the first-person point-of-view of a former A.I. soldier as she makes her way in the world after freeing herself from robotic servitude.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but I am glad I read the true crime book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, by Michelle McNamara. It helped to know as I was reading that the serial murderer and rapist she investigated was caught just after the book’s publication due in no small part to the author’s impressive armchair detective work.