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Staff Recommendations

We asked our staff for their current favorites to recommend to you. We hope you love them too. You can find these books and thousands more on OverDrive.

Staff Picks


Staff Picks
Staff Picks Online

Jenny from the Webster Public Library Recommends:

  The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (2019)

Broom’s memoir is as much about her house in New Orleans East as it is about her. She talks about how her mother had 12 children; the house was the unruly 13th child. Broom highlights the severe racial inequalities in New Orleans that Hurricane Katrina brought to the attention of America. In the aftermath of the disaster, Broom has to find a new way to live after her life is changed forever. A must-read.


Jason from the Webster Public Library Recommends:

  Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & R. Gregory Christie

This 2010 Coretta Scott King Award winner is about a little known, but very accomplished Black U.S. Marshal who worked in the Oklahoma Territory in the mid-1800s. It is a picture book that is chock full of interesting facts that readers of all ages can enjoy!


Kelly from the Mendon Public Library Recommends:

  Brave Enough by Jessie Diggins

For anyone wanting to feel cold in this hot season, I’d suggest Jessie Diggins’s autobiography, Brave Enough.  It tracks her rise from youth Nordic skier in Minnesota to gold medal winner at the Olympics!  It’s a multifaceted book that discusses endurance sports, eating disorders, and the tremendous power of teamwork.  I gave it five stars.


Chris from the Monroe Branch Recommends:

  Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

This just took the top spot on my favorite reads of the year so far. This is an EPIC of suspense and creepy thrills that just keeps twisting and turning and surprising and terrifying you. If you like Stephen King, Joe Hill, Clive Barker, or Paul Tremblay you’ll love this. It is a LONG book but it hooks you and becomes a fast-paced page-turner.


Diane from the Central Library Recommends:

  The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian (2020)
A young couple travels to Vietnam only to be confronted with a global conspiracy. A tech thriller with great, well-drawn characters. Bohjalian never disappoints.

  Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman (2020)
Another exciting thriller from Lippman, with lots of twists, told from many points of view.

  This Is All I Got by Lauren Sandler (2020)

In this highly readable work of nonfiction, Sandler, an award-winning journalist who writes about gender and inequality, has given us a gripping portrait of a young homeless mother in New York City who tries vigilantly to make a home for herself and her son. The odds are stacked against her by a social service system that seems more interested in rooting out cheaters than actually helping people—in the richest city in the world.


Melanie from the Central Library Recommends:

  A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Long-listed for the National Book Award
Winner of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association
A New York Times Notable Book
Brilliantly juxtaposing World War II, the ’80s, and post-Katrina present, Sexton follows three generations of a black New Orleans family as they struggle to bloom amid the poison of racism.

  The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Following her National Book Award-nominated debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton returns with this equally elegant and historically inspired story of survivors and healers, of black women and their black sons, set in the American South.

   Wench by Dolen Perkins Valdez

2011 finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction
She was also awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association

An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses.

  Balm by Dolen Perkins Valdez

The New York Times bestselling author of Wench returns to the Civil War era to explore the next chapter of history-the trauma of the War and the end of slavery-in this powerful story of love and healing about three people who struggle to overcome the pain of the past and define their own future


Pat from the Winton Branch Recommends:

  Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker.

A fascinating look at the subject of schizophrenia as it affects 6/12 siblings of a Denver family named the Galvin’s. Scientific data and information are offset by the colorful narratives of the 10 boys (6 of whom have the illness) and two girls. A compelling story that is both interesting and heartbreaking. An Oprah book club pick.


Kate from the Ogden Farmers’ Library Recommends:

  The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

Doris is nearing the end of her life and uses her address book to introduce the people she knew during her eventful life. Her stories were wonderful and included her heartbreaking romance as well as her successes and losses which made it a quick and interesting read.


Synn from the Irondequoit Public Library Recommends:

  House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild

A contemporary “Downton Abbey” of an ancient titled family fallen on hard times and trying to cope. Colorful, funny characters, believable storylines, well written.


Joe from the Central Library Recommends:

  The Guardians by John Grisham

The plot was superb, the characters engaging, and the twists and turns were plentiful and truly shocking.


Betty from the Central Library Recommends:

  Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal by Jack Kelly

A vastly entertaining account of early 19thcentury New York State, this book brings the Erie Canal together with the engineers, politicians, self-promoters, and revivalists who built and traveled the canal in its early days. Rochesterians will enjoy learning more about characters from Sam Patch to Joseph Smith and more!


Alison from the Brighton Memorial Library Recommends:

  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

One evening while walking home, Jason Dessen, a small-time physics professor, is abducted, knocked out, and wakes up in a world that is not his own. Tension escalates as Jason figures out what happened and how to fix it. This is a page-turning, alternate universe thriller that explores the importance of choice and mindset in life. If you like this one, don’t miss the author’s newest bestseller, Recursion, which delves into issues of memory.


Bruce W. from the Arnett Branch Recommends:

  Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene


Ginger from the Arnett Branch Recommends:

  Husband Material by Emily Belden

Looking for love in all the wrong places is the only way to describe Charlotte in Husband Material by Emily Belden. Charlotte, workaholic and self-proclaimed “Number Queen,” says that she is ready to date but she has so many (standards) excuses as to why she can’t seem to find the right guy. So what happens when her husband shows up at her door? As quoted, “I guess your new-husband priorities just kind of fall by the wayside when your old husband returns.” Secrets will be unearthed, lines will be crossed and the heart will be tested. The truth about Charlotte’s past and the present will be revealed as she discovers who has her best interest in mind. Will she be forgiving? Find love? Give up on love? You will have to find out. What are you waiting for? Read the book… Enjoy!


Colleen from the Arnett Branch Recommends:

  Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

This collection of short stories from The Dresden Files universe should be more than enough to fill fans’ appetites while they wait for the next novel (Peace Talks due out this summer!). The stories themselves are thrilling, funny, and give us, the reader, more information. Adding stories from additional character viewpoints helps the reader understand not only that character but by extension, Harry and the world of the novels. A particularly strong achievement is making a long-time antihero (to put it mildly) a compelling and almost sympathetic point of view character.


Bruce T. from the Arnett Branch Recommends:

  Life is Not a Fairy Tale by Fantasia Barrino

Everyone has a story to tell and singer Fantasia Barrino does a great job telling hers in her autobiography. You will never truly understand and appreciate a person unless you know their story. Fantasia is very transparent as we get to know her life from being raised in High Point, NC to become the American Idol. Humble beginnings have shaped Fantasia into becoming the woman that she is today. Through her mistakes and experiences, Fantasia has set out to inspire others who want more from life in spite of obstacles. As quoted, “Having dreams are the first part of making things happen. Dreaming big means that you can think you can. If you are not dreamin’ big then you are just sleepin’ on life.”


Adam from the Central Library Recommends:

  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The first volume of the Kingkiller Chronicle, this fantasy novel tells the story of an orphan who grows up to become the world’s most powerful wizard.

  Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The first volume of the Founders Trilogy, this epic fantasy novel tells the story of a city that runs on industrialized magic and the secret warriors who fight to overwrite reality itself.


Dori from the Central Library Recommends:

  Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

In this dark fantasy novel, Alex Stern is given a full ride to Yale due to her unique ability to see ghosts. She is there to become part of Lethe, an organization that oversees the eight secret magic societies on campus. When her mentor disappears and a body is found on campus, Alex finds herself in danger while investigating current and past murders potentially associated with the secret societies.


Katie from the Brighton Memorial Library Recommends:

  Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

Stand-up comedian Ali Wong has written a funny yet moving book addressed to her two daughters, who are still very young. She offers advice and stories from her life: her childhood, her beginnings in stand-up comedy, her relationships, and frank discussions of race and culture. Ali Wong has two Netflix specials, and those who enjoyed those will not be disappointed with her book.


Bob from the Central Library Recommends:

  Blog: Literary Hub

Subtitled “The Best of the Literary Internet,” Literary Hub is a daily blog that highlights “all the news, ideas, and richness of literary life.”


Carol from the Central Library Recommends:

  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

This is award-winning Louise Erdrich at her best. Erdrich has written an extraordinary story based on the life of her tireless Chippewa grandfather who worked as a night watchman and led a fight against Congress in the 1950s to protect Native American treaty rights in North Dakota. Full of compelling and complex characters, themes of love and death and family are explored with depth and humor in this historical novel.


Podcasts for Readers

If you’re like many readers, once you finish a great book you suddenly find yourself at a loss for what to read next. Podcasts—serial, “radio-like” programs that cover topics in detail—can offer inspiration. Usually, podcast episodes are short—approximately 20-30 minutes long—so they are perfect listening for those extra moments you may find throughout your day.

Podcasts can be downloaded or streamed on computers, tablets, or smartphones. They are available from your app store (iTunes, Google Play) or streaming services (Spotify, Pandora).

Rest assured that there is a podcast for every reader! Today we offer you a sampling of three good programs that will cover most interests.

If you have any questions about getting started with podcasting, please email our Reference staff at RICref@libraryweb.org

  It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders (NPR) Each week, Sam Sanders interviews people in the culture who deserve your attention. Plus weekly wraps of the news with other journalists. Join Sam as he makes sense of the world through conversation.


  Revisionist History Welcome to Revisionist History, a podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Pushkin Industries. Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.


   Super Soul  Awaken, discover, and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you with SuperSoul. Hear Oprah’s personal selection of her interviews with thought-leaders, best-selling authors, spiritual luminaries, as well as health and wellness experts. All designed to light you up, guide you through life’s big questions, and help bring you one step closer to your best self.


   A Decade of Watching Black People Die (NPR) The last few weeks have been filled with devastating news — stories about the police killing black people. At this point, these calamities feel familiar — so familiar, in fact, that their details have begun to echo each other.


  Snap Judgment is a weekly storytelling radio program and podcast hosted by Glynn Washington and mixes real stories with killer beats to produce cinematic, and dramatic radio.


   Tales  Traditional fairy tales aren’t exactly suitable for kids. Women vomit spiders. Children get eaten. There’s even murder! Every week, go through the twists and turns of the dark origins of your favorite pieces of folklore.

   LeVar Burton Reads  LeVar Burton (Roots, Reading Rainbow, Star Trek) invites you to take a break from your daily life, and dive into a great story. LeVar’s narration blends with gorgeous soundscapes to bring stories by Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, and more to life.

   Black Chick Lit  A bi-monthly podcast discussing books by and about black women.

  Books & Boba Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.

   The New Yorker Fiction Podcast Audiobook fans should love this one. A well-known person in entertainment, the arts, or other areas reads a short work of fiction that has appeared in the pages of The New Yorker. Then the host of the podcast, Deborah Treisman, and the reader will discuss the work. A mini-reading and book club, in effect.

   Getting Into Comics with Tim Paige A podcast for lovers of graphic novels and comics–always been popular but are now enjoying a resurgence by readers of all ages. Host Paige attempts to “demystify the world of comics” after becoming reacquainted with the genre recently.

   So Many Damn Books Hosts Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard met in 2014 over their shared love of books, not to mention an eccentric sense of humor. They describe their podcast as having “author guests, special drinks, and more book recs than you can shake a stick at — what more could you need?”

  Coode Street Podcast (Science Fiction) Coode Street hosts Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe talk to sci-fi readers and book lovers from around the world about what they’re reading and what’s getting them through this strange time.

   The Book Review Podcast (The New York Times) Described as “the podcast that takes you inside the literary world,” it is just that. Recent episodes include A conversation with James McBride about his new novel Deacon King Kong; interviews with Irish mystery writer Tana French, nonfiction writer and journalist Michael Lewis; and LBJ biographer Robert Caro.

   Booklist’s Shelf Care Podcast (Booklist, a publication from the American Library Association) Launched in 2019, Shelf Care is geared toward the library community—library staff and library patrons. A wide variety of books are reviewed in each episode. Publishing and librarianship trends are also covered.

   What Should I Read Next? (Wondery) Ann Bogel, who writes the blog “The Modern Mrs. Darcy,” tackles this weighty question in her light-hearted style.