2018 Favorites from Librarians Across the Board | The Reader's Shelf, December 2018

In keeping with this column’s end-of-the-year tradition of sharing favorites, students learning to become librarians, collection development librarians working in the field, and two notable librarians who retired this year each share a book they have deeply enjoyed in 2018.

In keeping with this column’s end-of-the-year tradition of sharing favorites, students learning to become librarians, collection development librarians working in the field, and two notable librarians who retired this year each share a book they have deeply enjoyed in 2018.

Allie Rowbottom’s memoir, Jell-O Girls: A Family History (Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. ISBN 9780316510615. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316510639), details the hardships of womanhood in America through themes of mental health, feminism, parenting, and death. It is a mother-daughter story that alternates between the history of Jell-O and the lives of the family who inherited a fortune based on its sales. Beginning in 1897, the book describes how the moldable, bouncy, sweet treat has played a role in America’s ever-changing culture. Rowbottom also turns her eye inward, detailing how she and her mother, Mary, have also had to find a place in an inconstant world. An intriguing and well-crafted mix of story and history.

Check Please. Bk. 1: #Hockey (First Second. Sept. 2018. ISBN 9781250177957. $23.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250224033) by Ngozi Ukazu follows the life of former figure skater, vlogger, and baker Eric Bittle as he tackles life as a member of the Samwell University Men’s Hockey Team. Collected from the popular webcomic of the same name, this graphic novel is a hilarious and poignant coming-of-age tale featuring endless pies, hockey, bros, coming out, and finding the best friends of your life in places you never expected. The first volume in a two-part series, this multifaceted work includes updated art, a visual glossary of hockey terms, and tweets from the protagonist.

Susan Orlean will make a friend of most librarians with her latest nonfiction narrative, The Library Book (S. & S. Oct. 2018. ISBN 9781476740188. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781476740201). The main character is the Los Angeles Public Library, specifically its gorgeous downtown central branch. Orlean interweaves stories of the building’s history; the 1986 fire that nearly destroyed it and the man who was accused of setting that fire; and the daily life of its current staff and patrons. The result is a love letter to all libraries, full of anecdotes that could have happened any day at almost any public library, told with humor, drama, pathos, and empathy. Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, it highlights the reasons that libraries and library professionals are essential.

Cherish Me (Wandering Road. Jun. 2018. ISBN 9781947628038. pap. $11.99; ebk. ISBN 9781947628021) by Farrah Rochon is part of her “Holmes Brothers” series, all of which can be read as stand-alones. In this seventh outing, Rochon tweaks the romance formula to focus on a couple weathering rockiness in their marriage. Harrison and Willow Holmes seem to have it all, until things start to fray around the edges. Reminiscent of Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, the novel dives deep into character while moving along at a good pace. The relationship each of the characters has with their own desires and disappointments is as important—and takes as much work—as the union they are hoping to save. Book discussion material as Rochon takes readers on a journey to a true happily ever after.

Madeline Miller’s imaginative retelling of the Greek myth in Circe (Hachette Audio. Apr. 2018. ISBN 9781549142383. $35) mines a rich her-story, with Odysseus’s celebrated visit playing only a small role. Born to the Titan Helios, Circe is mistress of witchcraft and herbs, but she offends the gods and is banished to a solitary life on a remote island, where she is visited by deities and unfortunate mortals—including many seamen, boors turned into boars by her spells. On audio, narrated by Perdita Weeks, this book is nothing less than sensational. Weeks’s gorgeous alto enhances the haunting, dreamy quality of the myth, and her voice, like Circe’s own, is simply mesmerizing. Weeks’s strong story­telling skills complement Miller’s and create a spellbinding listening experience.

In London, a fox bolts across the Waterloo Bridge as two distracted onlookers collide in Aminatta Forna’s ­Happiness (Atlantic Monthly. Mar. 2018. ISBN 9780802127556. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802165572). The tangled pair are Jean, an American biologist researching the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist in London to deliver the keynote address at a conference on trauma and to check on his niece Ama and her son, Tano, who have been out of touch for a while. Their silence, readers learn, is because they have been taken by immigration services. Ama is accounted for, but Tano is on the run. Forna draws parallels in this multilayered novel between the foxes and the immigrants, each displaced. While the novel exploits memories of loss or sadness, the overall tone is hopeful, the people resilient, and, as Attila learns, happiness is a paradox.


This column was contributed by Laurel Post, Graduate Asst., Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Hannah Arnow, Graduate Student, Simmons Univ., MA; Terzah Becker, Boulder PL, CO; Robin Bradford, Timberland Regional Lib., WA; Joyce Saricks, Downers Grove, IL; and Charlene Rue, Queens, NY. Annotations are in the order given


This article was originally published in Library Journal's December 1, 2018, issue.

Author Image
Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt is LJ’s readers’ advisory columnist, contributing The Reader’s Shelf, Book Pulse, and Wyatt’s World columns. She is the coauthor of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 3d ed. (ALA Editions, 2019). Contact her at nwyatt@mediasourceinc.com

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