NYT Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2015

As with many other organizations, the New York Times Book Review puts out an annual list of the best books published in the past year. Known for its in-depth, analytical reviews each week, I always enjoy seeing the books that critics at the Book Review consider the best of the best.

You can see the entire list of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2015 here, and make requests on books you’re interested in! What’s on the list this year? Some widely acclaimed titles like Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life won’t surprise readers, but there’s a fair share of unique titles on the list too:

Vanessa and Her Sister is the story of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, both exceedingly talented, and both part of a turn-of-the-century group of eccentric artists and intellectuals. Told through the eyes of Vanessa, readers get a fascinating perspective on the life of Virginia Woolf and her long-term struggle with mental illness.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, is the story of author William Finnegan’s actual experiences as a life-long surfer. The breezy book is reminiscent of a day spent surfing the California coast, although Finnegan began his career in Honolulu and eventually traveled to the most exotic of exotic locales chasing the perfect wave.

Do No Harm, by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in hospitals and surgerical rooms. Part biography, part consideration of health policy, and party absorbsing description of operations and procedures, this account is brutally honest and sheds new light on the outlook of doctors everywhere.


COMING SOON to a Library near YOU!
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads begins in January 2016.

This year's community read is:
The BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS: A Novel by Christina Henriquez.
The story in a nutshell ... The Rivera family is moving from Mexico to America when their daughter suffers a near-fatal accident.
The Riveras confront cultural barriers, during their daughter's difficult recovery, and her developing relationship with a Panamanian boy.
The story brings out family feelings from different Latin American points of view.

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Librarians created two reading lists especially for youth readers.
Kids Grades K-8 can read and join family discussions of immigrants and immigration issues.

Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads 2016 - Grades K-5.

Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads 2016 - Grades 6-8.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #570

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland, an award-winning journalist (The Guardian) set his debut thriller (written under his real name) in the not-so-distant future, in return for forgiving trillions in debt, the People's Republic of China, now the world's dominant global superpower, has established a permanent military presence on US soil. An economically weakened U.S. has also given China direct access to custom duties as part of the arrangement for repayments.

Los Angeles Times reporter Madison Webb will do anything to get to the heart of a story; to expose lies and corruption. When her younger sister is murdered and the Police seems too eager to write it up as an isolated incident, Maddy's investigation determines that the murder is one of a series; might be tied to a conspiracy that threatens some very powerful people; and that the Chinese military makes for a terrifying enemy.

For fans of international intrigue, try also I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes; The Heist by Daniel Silva; The Expats by Chris Pavone; and novels by Jonathan Freedland written under the name of Sam Bourne.

PreK Bits - Tea for "2"


Ms. Rachel held a "T for 2" party in Preschool Storytime.
In TWO OF EVERYTHING ... there was a magic pot that made a copy of everything that went into it.
Banjo Betsy sang and played "Two For Tea", the Jim Gill version on Jim Gill Presents MUSIC PLAY ... while Ms. Rachel and the kids sang and made the motions.
We marched, hopped, rocked, wiggled to "I'm In The Mood For Dancing" recorded by Raffi on RISE And SHINE.
Bear showed his special things in his suitcase and discovered sharing is JUST RIGHT For TWO.

For more easy counting try these titles:
1,2 BUCKLE MY SHOE by Anna Grossnickle Hines ... for beginning counters and rhymers.
THAT’S (not) MINE by Anna Kang ... about finding and sharing.
BUNNY MONEY by Rosemary Wells ...about two siblings saving and spending.
TWO STICKS by Orel Protopopescu.
SUN And MOON by Lindsey Yankey .. can you have both at once?


One of my favorite books published this year is George by Alex Gino. In their debut novel, Gino expertly crafts the story of George, a transgender girl coming to terms with her identity.

In this moving and heartwarming novel, we follow George as she attempts to land the lead role of Charlotte in her school play of Charlotte's Web. There's only one problem: the lead role is a "girl's role". George is not a boy who "wants to be a girl", but a girl in a world where no one can see her. George feels that if she were to play the role of Charlotte, the world would see her as she truly is and not as she appears outwardly. The book brilliantly weaves together George's intensely private and public struggles, and the reactions of her family, friends, classmates and the world at large.

Intended for a middle grade audience (fourth to sixth grade), this simple but important story never comes across as a lesson. Instead, George speaks to the difficulties that transgender members of our community face on a regular basis. Gino approaches the subject with a clear and positive outlook on a sometimes tricky topic, and ultimately delivers a profound story of an individual trying to find their place in the world.

Interested in similar stories? Give Gracefully Grayson a try. This book tells the story of Grayson Sender, a sixth-grader coming into her own as a transgender girl. This novel is intended for a slightly older crowd (for sixth grade and older), but is another wonderful story about discovering your identity and staying true to oneself.

Also check out our Gender Variant Books for Children and Teens public list for more picture book, middle grade and teen book recommendations.

2015 Thumbs Up award from the Michigan Library Association winner

Every year the Michigan Library Association gives out the Thumbs Up award that recognizes books that offer an outstanding contribution to young adult literature. This years winner is Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.
The book has 5 graphic stories in it each one a complete "fairy tale" type story. The artwork is just phenomenal and the stories gave me chills. Th stories included in the book are Our neighbor's house - A lady's hands are cold - His face all red --My friend Janna - The nesting place and each one creates a great feeling of the "weird" that really works great in tandem with the artwork.

So if you are interested in a great series of short weird graphic stories then give the 2015 Thumbs Up award winning Through the Woods a read!

NPR's Best Books of 2015

NPR recently released its Best Books of 2015 list, an in depth yearly endeavor where critics and NPR staff choose their favorite books of the year and compile them into a genre-spanning list of several hundred titles. I love that, along with the expected books on the list that are getting accolades from numerous publications and organizations, NPR’s list always contains more obscure titles that many readers likely missed over the course of the year.

You can view all of the titles from the list that we have available in our catalog here.

So what’s on this list of nearly 300 books? Here’s a preview:

In Speak, by Louisa Hall, a young Puritan woman travels to America with her unwanted husband, while in other time and place Alan Turing writes letters to his best friend’s mother and a Jewish refugee tries to reconnect with his distant wife. Elsewhere in time and space, a lonely young girl speaks with an intelligent software program and a formerly celebrated Silicon Valley entrepreneur is imprisoned for making illegal lifelike dolls. How does Hall tie all these characters together? As they all try somehow to communicate across gaps, Hall connects their stories, creating an amazing book that is a blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy.

V is for Vegetables offers more than 140 simple recipes for cooking vegetables in unique and unexpected ways at home. Author and chef Michael Anthony has cleverly divided the chapters of the book by vegetable, so if you ever find yourself staring at kohlrabi or tomatillos in the grocery store, curious about how one cooks such things, this is the book for you! And even expert cooks will be refreshed by Anthony’s new ideas for ways to use common vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and squash.

The Battle of Versailles tells of a little-known event that took place at the Palace of Versailles: as a fundraiser for the restoration of the palace, the world’s elite gathered in the grand theater there for a “fashion competition” of sorts: five American designers (including Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein) faced off against five French designers considered to be the best designers in the world—Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy and others. The American clothes were expected to be a laughingstock but instead, the garments and the energy of the models who wore them wowed the crowd. By the end of the evening, American fashion in the world had transformed from a footnote to an enormous influence, not only on style itself but also on the way race, gender, sexuality and economics were treated in fashion in the years to come.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #569

The Drifter * by Nicholas Petrie (a Hopwood Awards winner while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan) introduces to Jack Reacher fans a new cult hero.

Lt. Peter Ash, a highly decorated former Marine (Iraq and Afghanistan), suffers debilitating claustrophobia, a form of PTSD that drives him outdoors, living rough for over a year. Only the death of his former sergeant/best friend Jimmy Johnson could force him to return to the dilapidated Milwaukee neighborhood.

While making repairs on the crumbling porch on the Johnson's house, Peter finds more than he bargained for: the largest, ugliest, meanest dog and a Samsonite suitcase stuffed with cash and explosives. As Peter begins to track down the owner of the suitcase, he finds himself at the center of a conspiracy plot that is far larger, more sinister and deadlier than he could have imagined.

"A powerful, empathetic, and entertaining tale about the plight many combat veterans face when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Top-notch storytelling."

“A tangled tale of intrigue, action, and adventure with a battle-scarred hero who definitely rises to the challenge. The clever plot is firmly conceived and crisp writing makes this a terrific story." ~ Steve Berry.

* = starred review

Beyond the Birds and Bees

Do you know kids who are ready to learn about the facts of life, from preschoolers who want to know where their new baby sibling came from, to adolescents dealing with puberty and sex? We have two perfect books for you, both written by sex educator Cory Silverberg and beautifully illustrated by Fiona Smyth! With bright, cheerful illustrations, straightforward text, and true diversity, these books blow other sex and puberty books away.

What Makes a Baby is for younger children who are just learning about where babies come from. The book explains that sperm and an egg are needed to make a baby. What Makes a Baby uses precise language but leaves it up to the reader to explain where their little one came from. This leaves the book open for use by any kind of family- a refreshing change for families that are usually relegated to a footnote. The illustrations boast a wealth of different kinds of families and the book emphasizes the joy that a new baby brings.

When your kids start to wonder about puberty and sex, check out Sex is a Funny Word, which is as bright and cheerful as What Makes a Baby, but longer and more advanced. This book describes sex in completely inclusive language that relates to all orientations, genders, and gender identities. It also pulls in concepts like respect, trust, joy, and justice to explain how sex fits into a bigger picture of the world. Sex is a Funny Word explores puberty, body parts, safe and unsafe touch, crushes, and so much more! The text is completely nonjudgmental and incredibly diverse.

Simply put, these books are spectacular! Go check them out!

President Obama and the First Lady share their favorite books of 2015

In a recent interview with People magazine, President Obama and First Lady Michelle shared their favorite books of 2015. The President chose Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, as his favorite book of the year. Spanning twenty-four years, the acclaimed novel is a fascinating portrait of a marriage, told first from the husband’s perspective and, in the second half, from the wife’s perspective. With elements of Greek Tragedy, Fates and Furies throws fitting themes at the reader; betrayal, passion, forgiveness, and vengeance all interweave themselves throughout the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s relationship, from their courtship, into the glamorous early years of their marriage, through their journey into middle age. Groff’s brilliant idea to paint one picture for readers in the first half of the novel, and then upend it in the second half by switching narrators is a deafening reminder that there are two sides to every story. The book is a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award.

First Lady Michelle Obama also chose a portrait of a marriage for her favorite book of the year: Elizabeth Alexander’s memoir The Light of the World, which details the sudden death of her husband and her ensuing feelings, reactions and experiences. Some of her emotions surprise her: she feels an intense gratitude for the years that she and her husband were able to share together and a renewed devotion to her two young sons. She details her quest for meaning, understanding and acceptance of the tragedy that has befallen her in beautiful prose, seamlessly switching from her typical medium of poetry. “This beautifully written book is for anyone who has loved and lost,” reads the jacket. “It’s about being strong when you want to collapse, about being grateful when someone has been stolen from you—it’s discovering the truth in your life’s journey: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Obamas also shared their favorite TV shows and songs from 2015. The First Lady’s favorite song of the year was “Uptown Funk.”

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