What makes a great reading experience? Is it the author, the subject matter, the style? For most of us, it’s some combination of factors that makes a book truly memorable. We all have favorites, and while others may not understand our enthusiasm for a particular book, we recall that certain title that really touched us.
I spoke with several staff members at the library, asking for their 2016 picks for top book. Some suggested newer titles, but others found choices among some of the older titles in our collections.
What follows are their picks and their reasons for their selections. With a little luck, you might find your own next treasure among their favorites.
Here are ten titles the staff encourage you to read: “The War that Saved My Life,” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was a first choice. This work is children’s historical fiction that takes place in London during World War II. Young Ada, who has a twisted foot, is neglected by her mother, but the girl flees her mother and follows her brother to a safe home outside the town. Our reader notes that the girl had to go through a lot before the book turns toward a more hopeful ending.
“Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America,” by Linda Tirado is an adult nonfiction title that forces the reader to think in a different perspective. Author Tirado experienced poverty first hand, but she also developed a sense of humor that is admirable. Our reader noted that the author made some wrong decisions, but they were not always a personal choice.
Feel like reading some science fiction? One reader spoke highly of “The Golden Son,” by Pierce Brown, the second volume in the Red Rising Trilogy. It is something of a “Hunger Games” tale for adults, a story that demonstrates how a singular event can affect so much. There is also so much action that makes this book appealing.
That wasn’t the only science fiction title. Another reader had warm praise for Iain Banks’s “Consider Phlebus.” This tale concerns a galactic war in which ships are creations of artificial intelligence. The reader describes the book as a very different take on humanity.
Another reader is an admirer of Patti Smith and had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Kansas City in the 1980s. Her book choice? Smith’s “M Train,” an adult biographical meditation. Our reader noted that Smith is a unique thinker who very creatively discussed her own life throughout the book.
“Etta and Otto and Russell and James,” by Emma Hooper is another favorite. This fiction title is an adult story of an elderly Canadian woman who has never seen the ocean. And so, she decides to walk across the country to see it, a trip her husband Otto comprehends because he, too, once traveled a great distance. Our reader enjoyed the great prose the book offered, the way the language flowed.
One of our readers highly praises “Small Great Things,” by perennial favorite Jodi Picoult. This well-written tale concerns a fictional encounter between a white supremacist and an African American nurse. What follows is a tragedy during which the reader sees both complex points of view.
Another newer favorite is Paulette Giles’ “News of the World.” One reader described the story as another take on True Grit by Charles Portis. In fictional 19th century Texas, an older gentleman accompanies a young girl on her return to relatives after she was kidnapped some years earlier by the Kiowa. Despite the fact that the girl speaks no English, the two travelers bond during a perilous journey that leads to an uplifting finish.
A young adult selection that gained great praise from a reader is David Levithan’s “Two Boys Kissing.” The book is about gay teenagers, but it is also about so much more. Our reader said the book had an incredible impact and left her with a sense of raw emotions.
Let’s end on another science fiction title. “Dark Matter,” by Blake Crouch is the story of a character kidnapped by his alternative self from a parallel universe. His task becomes the struggle to return to his home. Our reader said it was a story like he’d never encountered before.
Whatever your reading choices, all of the library staff wish you years of fulfilling reading.