If you enjoy verbose nonfiction offerings and naughty words, GUMPTION by comedian and author Nick Offerman should be on your to read list.  Offerman profiles 21 individuals, some contemporary and some historical. Much of these individuals’ accomplishments are attributed to “gumption”, which he defines as “willingness, even a hunger, for one’s mettle to be challenged.” Each profiled individual possesses traits of gumption: perseverance, discipline, curiosity, diligence, idealism, intelligence, fearlessness, valor, vision and courage. Each entry is well researched and tinted with humor.


NLS annotation:

Comedian Nick Offerman profiles the lives of those Americans who have inspired him. He tells the stories of twenty-one individuals, from George Washington to Willie Nelson, and, using both serious history and humor, describes why they inspire him. Unrated.Commercial audio book. Bestseller. 2015.

If you’ve already read this book and enjoy your history with a heavy side of sarcasm and spunk you might like Sarah Vowel’s UNFAMILIAR FISHES (DB 73201) or WORDY SHIPMATES (BR 17935, DB 67904)

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– DEATH OF A HEALING WOMAN: A TEXANA JONES MYSTERY by Allana Martin, DB 47921

Death of a Healing Woman by Allana Martin Cover

If you like contemporary mysteries with a western flavor such as the Walt Longmire Series by Craig Johnson or the Joe Pickett Series by C. J. Box, you might try the Texana Jones Mystery Series by Allana Martin, starting with DEATH OF A HEALING WOMAN (DB 47921). Winner of the 1996 Spur Award, this story, set in rural El Polvo, Texas, follows local resident Texana Jones as she investigates the murder of the local curandera, Rhea Fair.

Plot driven with a strong sense of place, this suspenseful mystery also hosts a cast of vividly memorable characters. The author, Allana Martin, lives in Marfa, Texas and her knowledge of the area reveals itself in her detailed descriptions of the people, culture and landscape of the border region.

NLS Annotation:

Texana Jones operates a trading post on the Mexican-American border. She is still mourning the death of two friends when she finds the body of a third, healer Rhea Fair. The authorities blame drug couriers. As Texana investigates, an outbreak of rabies spreads through the countryside. Spur Award Winner. Some violence. 1996.

If you’ve already read this book and enjoy a good mystery series with a female protagonist that takes place in rural setting, you may try the Anna Pigeon Series by Nevada Barr, starting with TRACK OF THE CAT (DB 65648) If you’d prefer a male lead, try the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Series by Bill Crider.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks, DB 82635

If you enjoy literary historical Biblical fiction that is realistic in nature, you may enjoy THE SECRET CHORD. Nominated for the 2016 Women’s Prize for Fiction as well making Booklist’s Best Historical Fiction for 2016 list, THE SECRET CHORD tells the story of the Old Testament warrior, King David, from the viewpoint of Natan, his prophet and advisor.

Cover of The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Ms. Brooks, who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for MARCH (DB 64617), provides a vivid, richly detailed view of the land of Israel a millennium prior to the birth of Christ. Amid this setting, she places a variety of characters who each relate a part of David’s life.

NLS Annotation: King David rules Israel during the Second Iron Age. As he moves from a lowly shepherd to the leader of the Israelites, the lives of those he impacts, including the prophet Natan, his wives, and his son Solomon, reflect back on him. Violence, strong language, and descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

For a non-fiction look at the life of King David try KING DAVID: THE REAL LIFE OF THE MAN WHO RULED ISRAEL by Jonathan Kirsch DB 56945. Or if you’d enjoy another historical fictional account of this legendary man, try the Children of the Lion series by Peter Danielson. The eighteenth and nineteenth books in the series, THE SHINING KING DB 51108 and TRIUMPH OF THE LION DB 51109, both deal specifically with the life of King David.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware, DB 82625

If you enjoy psychologically suspenseful novels such as GONE GIRL or GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you may enjoy Ruth Ware’s début novel IN A DARK, DARK WOOD (Digital: DB   82625, Large print: LB   08245, Braille: BR 21161). Set in the contemporary English countryside, this book tells the story of Leonora Shaw, who attends the bachelorette party of a high school friend.

Cover of In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Fast-paced with a menacing tone, Ms. Ware’s compelling writing kept me on the edge of my seat as I navigated the intricate plot twists. As the story progresses, Leonora proves to be an unreliable narrator, and secrets from her past influence events during the course of the weekend.

NLS Annotation: Twenty-six-year-old British crime-fiction writer Leonora Shaw is shocked to be invited to her long-estranged friend’s hen party. Soon after their arrival at the remote glass house in the woods, it becomes obvious that someone besides the invitees is on the property. Then Leonora awakens in the hospital. Strong language and some violence. 2015.

For another psychological suspenseful mystery featuring an unreliable female protagonist, try WIDOW by Fiona Barton DB 83700. Or try one of the classics in this genre, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie DB 11077.  This book was specifically mentioned during the course of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD and Ms. Ware counts it as one of the influences of her work.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin, DB 82240

Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award, FIFTH SEASON tells the story of how the world ends – for the last time. Told from three different viewpoints, N. K. Jemisin weaves a story of survival against the backdrop of the Stillness, a world constantly threatened by catastrophic geologic upheaval.


Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated author, N. K. Jemisin, describes the plight of the orogenes, a feared section of the population, who have the ability to control the geologic energy held within the Earth. Written in a compelling manner with a gritty tone, she deftly describes the events leading up to the beginning of the Fifth Season, a time of catastrophic climate change.

NLS Annotation for FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin (DB 82240): Essun is a woman living in a world ruled by the violent tectonic activity it experiences. She comes home to find her husband has killed her son and kidnapped her daughter, all for the secret ability Essun and her children have to control the Earth. Strong language, some explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence. 2015.

If you have already read this book or enjoy fantasy fiction with apocalyptic overtones, try WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okoafor (DB 73989). Or if you’d like to try something similar with more of a science fiction feel, try the Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott starting with PURE (DB 78234).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– GIRL IN THE DARK by Anna Lyndsey, DB 81009

Written in a lyrical and literary manner, GIRL IN THE DARK describes the life of the author, Anna Lyndsey, as she struggles with the onset of an illness that causes an intense sensitivity to light. Each section of the book deals with an aspect of her life; whether it is the months leading up to the beginning of her condition, an event that occurs during the course of her seclusion, her conversations with friends and acquaintances, or the ways she passes the time while isolated in her protective dark room. The author describes her life with honesty and humor.

NLS Annotation for GIRL IN THE DARK by Anna Lyndsey (DB 81009): A young woman writes of a light sensitivity that has forced her to live in darkness. She describes how the first symptom–her face burning from the computer screen–progressed to her entire body’s intolerance of fluorescent light and sunlight. Audiobooks, word games, occasional relative remissions, and the man she loves make it bearable. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

If you have already read this book or enjoy memoirs written by people battling chronic illness, try BRAIN ON FIRE: MY MONTH OF MADNESS by Susannah Cahalan (DB 76074).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes, DB 76161

The impending theatrical release of the movie Me Before You, featuring Emilia Clarke, brings to life the 2012 New York Times Bestseller, ME BEFORE YOU. Two time winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, Jojo Moyes, tells the story of caregiver Lou Clark and her friendship with her charge, Will Traynor.

Character driven, issue oriented with a romantic yet thought-provoking tone, ME BEFORE YOU made me laugh out loud at some of the humorous and snarky comments made by both Lou and Will, yet it also made me contemplate what it is to be almost entirely dependent on others and the heaviness of the responsibility of caring for one who is.

NLS Annotation for ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes (DB 76161, BR 19900): Working-class English girl Louisa “Lou” Clark is hired as an aide to wealthy Will Traynor, a former mogul who has been paralyzed since a road accident. Lou tries to keep the embittered Will engaged with the world, while Will encourages Lou to expand her horizons. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2012.

ME BEFORE YOU is followed by a sequel, so be sure to ask your friendly neighborhood reader consultant about it!

If you have already read this book or enjoy books that deal with the relationship between caregiver and charge, try REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING by Jonathan Evison (DB 75360, BR 19596).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– IN THE HEART OF THE SEA by Nathaniel Philbrick, DB 50271

The recent theatrical release of the movie In the Heart of the Sea, featuring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Ron Howard, has generated new interest in the book that inspired it. Author Nathaniel Philbrick won the National Book Award for nonfiction for this exploration of the 1820 sinking of the Whaleship Essex, the event which inspired Herman Melville to write the classic novel, Moby Dick.

Written in a compelling literary style, The Heart of the Sea delves into the survivors’ long journey and fight for survival. Philbrick compares their story to that of the mutiny on the Bounty and other survivals at sea. Taking a scholarly approach, he examines various studies about leadership traits that result in successful outcomes during times of crisis. In addition, Philbrick investigates Herman Melville’s interest in the story and subsequent writing of Moby Dick.

NLS Annotation for IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX by Nathaniel Philbrick (DB 50271): Relying mainly on the cabin boy’s journal discovered in 1960, the author recounts the disastrous 1819 voyage of the whaling ship Essex. He describes the attack of an eighty-five-foot bull sperm whale, and the ensuing starvation, dehydration, and cannibalism that befalls the shipwrecked survivors. Bestseller.

If you have already read this book or enjoy true life nautical survival adventures you may also like IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE: THE GRAND AND TERRIBLE POLAR VOYAGE OF THE USS JEANNETTE by Hampton Sides (DB 79535). Or if you prefer a fictional sea adventure, you might try TERROR by Dan Simmons (DB 63124).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– NEVERHOME by Laird Hunt, DB 79591

If you enjoy realistic literary historical fiction, you may enjoy Laird Hunt’s novel Neverhome (Digital: DB   79591, Large print: LB   07986). Set during the United States’ Civil War, Neverhome is told from the viewpoint of Ash Thompson, a young married woman who leaves her Illinois farm, disguises herself as a man, and sets off to fight in the war.

Neverhome is a short novel but it packs a punch. Hunt’s writing is spare yet compelling as he creates a realistic view of life as a soldier during the Civil War. As the story progresses, Ash proves to be an unreliable narrator, omitting crucial tidbits of knowledge from the reader, which lends this story a psychological element and renders Ash even more of a mystery.

NLS Annotation:

Ash Thompson wears the uniform of a Union soldier, and through many exploits becomes a legend among the other soldiers. But Ash hides a secret. Ash is really a runaway farmer’s wife–Constance. After witnessing the horrors of war, Ash must decide about becoming Constance again. Violence and some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2014.

If you enjoy this book, try Revolutionary by Alex Meyers (DB 78228) to read about a female soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  For a historically accurate non-fiction look at the women soldiers during the Civil War, try Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (DB 80094).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean – NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan, DB 78261

A delightful blend of traditional fantasy with historical fiction, A Natural History of Dragons (DB   78261) relates the memoirs of Isabella Camherst, Lady Trent, a woman dedicated to the scientific study of dragons in a time and place where such pursuits are not considered acceptable for a well-bred young lady.  Isabella ignores convention and with a group of dragon enthusiasts, she travels to study dragons in their natural element.

Fast paced and action-filled, Isabella Brennan deftly creates a world oddly reminiscent of Victorian England, yet full of mythical creatures such as wyverns and dragons. Isabella is a strong-willed, passionate guide to this world and through her memoirs the reader learns not only about the anatomy and behavior of dragons, but about the boundaries of class and gender that permeate her world.

NLS Annotation: The Natural History of Dragons (DB   78261): Fictional memoir of dragon naturalist Isabella, Lady Trent. She reflects on her early fascination with dragons and her efforts to study and learn more about the creatures. Describes her eventual trip into the field for first-hand observations. Some violence. 2013.

The Natural History of Dragons is the first book in Marie Brennan’s Memoirs by Lady Trent series. It is followed by Tropic of Serpents (DB   80128) with hopefully many more sequels to come.

For another dragon fantasy novel set in an alternative Victorian Era England, try His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, the first book in the Temeraire Adventures Series (DX   64445 and Available on BARD).