Book Suggestions from our Staff

Staff Recommended Books

With New Year reading goals around the corner, we at the Talking Book Program gathered some personal book suggestions for you. Some of us couldn’t pick just one! All listed titles are available through TBP and are downloadable from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). Feel free to contact us to request these titles.


· Kayleigh Matheson, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman (DB 87395)

Neil Gaiman is my favorite author and you can pick one of his books at random and be happy. I’m recommending this one to expand people’s mythology horizons beyond the Greek. This is a great retelling of traditional stories and will have you laughing and learning. I named my dog after the Norse goddess, Freya, after reading this!

· Laura Jean, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

THICKET by Joe R. Lansdale (DBC 00014)

Joe R. Lansdale is a Texas author who writes across several genres. I particularly love his gritty, realistic westerns like The Thicket. This is not for the faint of heart. If you like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or western horror as a genre, you’ll most likely enjoy this book too.

· Dina Abramson, Disability Information & Referral Coordinator-

IF YOU TELL: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER, FAMILY SECRETS, AND THE UNBREAKABLE BOND OF SISTERHOOD by Gregg Olsen (DB 98239)

I’m a big true crime fan. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite book, but it is one of the best true crime books I’ve read–a real page turner! It’s about the worst mother in the world and the survival of her three daughters. Note: Not for the faint of heart!

· Victor Hunter, Reader Consultant-

HOW DO YOU KISS A BLIND GIRL? by Sally Wagner (DB 27117)

No, this is not a book about kissing. This is a book by a blind reporter, who describes social interactions that often happen between blind people and sighted people, and the rather humorous results that occur through those encounters. As you read this book, you will not only laugh, but learn a few things along the way.

· Guffie Robinson, Operations Supervisor-

DUTCH HOUSE, by Ann Patchett (LB 12756)

I had never read any of her books before. She was recommended to me as historical fiction, but I would consider this just good fiction in a good setting. The book has well written characters making the plot almost irrelevant.

NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING, by Anand Gopal (DB 79895).

Embedded journalist tells the stories of US personnel, Taliban members, and local Afghans all amidst the changing warscape in Afghanistan in the early years of the war. Absolutely brilliant and my top recommended read.

LIGHTHOUSE, by P.D. James (LB 12513).

P.D. James is my favorite mystery writer. Her stories are set in the UK and led by recurring characters Detective Dalgliesh and Inspector Miskin. Well written and fleshed out characters bring her mysteries to a higher level of enjoyment.

· Penny Van Horn, Reader Consultant-

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman (DB 87829)

The narrator really makes the book. It’s very funny—and, ultimately, sad. I keep it on hand for whenever I need a laugh.

· Sheila Hubertus, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

THE ANTHROPOCENE REVIEWED by John Green (LB 13412 and DB 103903):

The Anthropocene Reviewed, expanded from John Green’s podcast of the same name, is a series of essays that review facets of our human-centered planet on a 5-star scale. It sounds like a silly premise, but Green incorporates his personal experiences, giving us an autobiography of sorts and a glimpse at how he manages life with mental illness. A personal favorite line from his review of the Bonneville Salt Flats: “I was thinking about the people I used to be, and how they fought and scrapped and survived for moments like this one.” John Green’s vulnerability in these essays inspires me to fight and scrap and survive for my future moments. I refuse to succumb to the hokey gimmick of leaving a 5-star review for this book of 5-star reviews, so check it out for yourself.

YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO LACEY by Amber Ruffin (DB 102254):

You might know Amber Ruffin from her writing gig on Late Night with Seth Meyers or her own Amber Ruffin Show, but have you heard what happened to her sister, Lacey? This book addresses the seriousness of microaggressions and outright racism experienced by Lacey and Amber in a humorous, palatable manner. Nevertheless, this is a sobering and educational book about the realities of American race relations today.

· Darin Spelber, Reader Consultant-

BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel (DB 74880)

2012 Man Booker Prize winner.

This is the second book of the trilogy about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the chief minister of King Henry VIII. This book, along with the first one in the trilogy (Wolf Hall, 2009), is such a fresh, original take on this well-known historical figure. I love how Mantel brings her readers into Cromwell’s world, providing a fascinating glimpse into his inner life, and into the late Medieval period in England. I’m looking forward to reading the third book of the trilogy, The Mirror & the Light (2020), which I somehow missed when it was published last year.

· Becky Helton, Reader Consultant-

BROTHER SINISTER SERIES by Courtney Milan (DB 84533).

All four books are available on one cartridge. Fun, sweet and happy historical romance. On the steamier end of the genre. I like being taken far away from here and now. I also like that her characters are well-rounded and how she threads the stories together. Always read the postscripts; she tells you where she veers away from history, and how things could have happened the way she has written them. The one about doctors and handwashing is especially poignant. If you want escapism, well-rounded characters, and some steaminess, Courtney Milan is a good author to try.

· Sarah Jacobson, Director-

ISSAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY by Eric Larson (DB 48811)

This is a compelling story of hurricane Isaac, the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. I really enjoyed Eric Larson’s narrative storytelling, chock full of facts and interesting details. It’s a piece of Texas history that changed Galveston forever.

· Sylvia Perry, Bibliographic Control and ILL Librarian-

SERIES: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON by Robert Caro

So far, there are four books in the series:

THE PATH TO POWER: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 18676)

MEANS OF ASCENT: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 30837)

MASTER OF THE SENATE: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 54174)

THE PASSAGE OF POWER: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 74635)

This series is very good. Every book is a page-turner even though they are works of biography and history. I like these books because, as the series title indicates, the books talk not only about Lyndon Johnson, but about what was happening in the country and in the world during those years. I can remember many of those years very vividly. Robert Caro is currently working on the last volume of the series, and I look forward to its publication.

· Garrett Bruner, Audio Production Specialist-

COMPLETE POEMS OF ANNA AKHMATOVA. V. I (DB 33626)

COMPLETE POEMS OF ANNA AKHMATOVA. V. II (DB 33627)

It’s hard to find any comparison to Akhmatova’s body of work, due to the times she lived in and the sensitivity with which she documented them. The most significant events of her era the fall of the Russian tsars, the October Revolution and World War I, the rise of Stalin leading to purges and starvations (resulting in the murder of her first husband and the imprisonment of her own son in a gulag), the second World War following it, and the Cold War after that (the author finally outliving Stalin’s reign). Her poetry takes all this in, and is as unflinching as it is lyrical. And Judith Hemschemeyer’s translation is another miracle, rendering it all very familiar and accessible to an American ear. The suffering put to words and the dignity of pulling through the worst. You don’t need to know about Russian history to be moved by Akhmatova’s poems. You will deepen your understanding with the accompanying Introductions–especially the one written by Isaiah Berlin recounting his meeting Akhmatova in 1945, her demeanor, and the paranoid air of the Stalinist period. And though these appear like two massive tomes (like the size of Tolstoy novels), the poems themselves are short pieces, rarely longer than a page or two. The highlight sequence of her poetry, to me the peak of her work, is found in her 1940s book called Reed, in a sequence called Requiem, where she gives voice to those who had fallen in the 1930s and 1940s.

· Linda Buie, Reader Consultant-

GLASS CASTLE: A MEMOIR by Jeanette Walls (DB 61540 and BRC 00809)

I enjoyed it and have recommended it on several occasions to some of our patrons. The message I think it sends is that no matter what your parents or your childhood are like or how poor you may be, that does not dictate your future. Jeannette Walls grew up to be an American author and journalist.

· Jaclyn Owusu, Public Awareness Coordinator-

THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton (DB 22433)

This classic young adult novel is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ponyboy, the fourteen-year-old narrator, tells how it looks and feels to be a Greaser—from the wrong side of the tracks. He vividly describes the guerilla raids into his territory by their traditional, upper-middle-class enemy, the Socs, and of the beating that led to a murder charge and two deaths.

This is not necessarily a recommended book just because it was one of my favorites growing up; but also because of the poem in the book by Robert Frost:

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down today. Nothing gold can stay.

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