Best Genre Reads

Over the last year I worked with 10 other people to review 400 books, pick a couple stellar nominations in eight different genres, and then narrow those down to one best genre pick in each category and three runners-up. Needless to say, that was a ton of reading — for this year alone I’m at over 50 books so far. I know some of you are even faster readers! For me, it’s been a faster pace than usual.

We finalized the American Library Association’s Reading List this February. It can be viewed here.

Naturally, each of us on the committee had our own opinion about which books should make it in each genre. We each brought a list of the books we thought would win before beginning our debates. I thought you might enjoy seeing how my guesses compared to the actual results.


My pick: Gin Phillips’ Fierce Kingdom. It’s a tense and terrifying tale of a mother and her 4-year-old son trapped in a zoo with a mass shooter. The author’s portrayal of a small child is spot on and truly ramps up the terror. Trying to keep a kid from whining when it’s way past dinnertime has never been so frightening.

Reading List pick: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. We agreed that the combination of high tension, spot-on characters, and moral dilemmas made this impossible to put down.


My pick: Ruthanna Emrys’ Winter Tide. A semi-sequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The denizens of Innsmouth aren’t the monsters Lovecraft led us to believe, and one of the few survivors agrees to help catch a Communist spy if she’s allowed to explore her people’s heritage. Many praise this novel for taking Lovecraft’s story and removing problematic, racist elements from his mythos.

Reading List pick: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, though Winter Tide makes the short list. Both novels explore people trying to find where they fit and the importance of family. However, McGuire’s novella takes sisters to a strange, creepy world that promises hidden desires.

Historical Fiction

My pick: Linnea Hartsuyker’s The Half-Drowned King. Vikings! Do I need to say more? Not only is it exciting and historically accurate, but the political machinations would feel right at home in A Game of Thrones. A failed murder attempt pushes a man to battle for his rightful inheritance, while the only future his sister can accept seems to lie with his would-be murderer.

Reading List pick: The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. Another match! This novel can grab history buffs, action lovers, and even fantasy fans, despite the lack of magic. It appeals to so many types of readers.


My pick: Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven. Gunslingers battle an ancient, unimaginable horror for the soul of a child. They succeed … or do they? Years later they are drawn back to the battleground. Creepy in the extreme, sometimes gruesome, and full of imperfect characters to care about. The book even has illustrations.

Reading List pick: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Horror lovers will recognize the characters and tropes used here, but might be surprised by the way horror clichés are twisted into something new. Little Heaven made the short list, and is full of mysterious, supernatural evils.


My pick: Mark Billingham’s Love Like Blood. Though this is the 14th book in a series, it works as an entry point. The mystery is tricky and tense, while the novel explores social issues both chillingly and respectfully without becoming preachy.

Reading List pick: The Dime by Kathleen Kent. My first complete miss. Love Like Blood does not make the short list. The Dime is a faster ride, but with a strong enough mystery to not quite be a thriller. Dallas gangs, strange cults, and New York wisdom in the Lone Star State.


My pick: Gail Carriger’s The Sumage Solution. A snappy, hilarious paranormal romance of gay werewolves in San Francisco. Plenty of heart to this tale and absolutely lovable characters.

Reading List pick: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. The Sumage Solution made the short list. Cole’s novel, about a free black woman in Civil War times spying in the South, and the other books on the short list highlight the romance industry’s trend of diversity. People want to see themselves in their romances.

Science Fiction

My pick: Wendy N. Wagner’s An Oath of Dogs. This is science fiction that feels classic but explores modern issues and includes a diverse cast. It has one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: an alien ecology that may be more aware than we think.

Reading List pick: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. Scalzi is a huge name in sci-fi, so I was delighted that relative newcomer Wagner made the short list. Both books explore our understanding of science and have inclusive casts.

Women’s Fiction

My pick: Abbi Waxman’s The Garden of Small Beginnings. I loved the Peg Bracken-style gardening humor, as well as the exploration of years-old grief and the healing that can finally begin. The book has a lovely cast of characters and an excellent writing style.

Reading List pick: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. The Garden of Small Beginnings made the short list here, too. Both stories have a strong sister dynamic and great dose of humor, though The Almost Sisters also explores Deep South racism and the perils of a one-night stand with a Batman.

For a quick look at these genre reads, I’ve collated the Reading List here and my top genre picks here.


Diverse Reads for a Fresh Perspective

“Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.” – Barbara Kingsolver


Visiting another’s story is a form of travel. No matter where you go or your level of immersion, you are always offered a perspective that helps you grow. And as I once heard DCL’s former HR director mention, when we travel to other places and watch people going about their daily lives, we find we have more in common with each other than we might think. A trip into someone’s life through literature can surprise us with our commonalities, and inform us about our differences.

All of us across the globe, with all our differences, want to be understood. Understanding helps us find common ground, which in turn helps us connect to each other, and connection is vital to the human spirit and one’s sense of well-being.

Reading for diverse perspectives helps us learn about those things that are unfamiliar to us. It helps us to see through the eyes of someone who has grown up differently, and who has had different experiences. It is both an adventure and education in one. It is cerebral travel.

These are some young adult books I have read that offered me a fresh perspective, as well as an education.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

by Eric Lindstrom
For 16-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. When a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium. – Goodreads 

Climbing the Stairs

by Padma Venkatraman
During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, 15-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But after her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible. 

Vidya’s only refuge is her grandfather’s library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother decides to fight with the hated British against the Nazis, and when Raman proposes marriage too soon, Vidya must question all she has believed in. – Goodreads

If I Ever Get Out of Here

by Eric L. Gansworth

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. – Goodreads

Another excellent, semiautobiographical read that focuses on poverty and the Native American experience: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

None of the Above

by I.W. Gregorio

Kristin is an accomplished runner and a friendly teenager who gets along with everyone. After her first attempt at sex goes horribly wrong, she visits an OB-GYN for the first time and discovers that she’s intersex. When the news leaks at school, she must process the new information about herself and high-school bullying simultaneously.

Another excellent read exploring the topic of intersexuality: Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin.

The Queen of Water

by Laura Resau
Based on a true story. Seven-year-old Virginia was born in an Andean village in Ecuador, where she lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta — stupid Indian — by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds. – Goodreads
If you’re looking for more diverse reads, try this list. While it was compiled in 2014, it can be a great starting point for reading stories from many different perspectives.

What I’m Reading in 2018

It’s 2018, and we’re well into the new year. While some of us started the year making resolutions and cleaning up leftover holiday clutter, I was busy compiling my To-Read-in-2018 book pile.

I’ve set a reading goal of 120 books for the year. Most of these reads will be audiobooks, though some will be print. Many will be graphic novels, and I’ll throw some picture books in the mix because I can’t let the cute ones pass me by. I’ll try to keep my list varied with different genres, too — some nonfiction and biographies, and anything else that piques my interest. I might even try a romance or prepper novel, but don’t hold your breath.

Here are some of the books I’ve started reading this month along with my reasons and expectations.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

What it is: Fantasy fiction in print.

Why I’m going to read it: I keep seeing this pop up on “best fantasy” lists and several of my book-nerd friends have recommended it.

My expectations: I love Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts and this sounds like it has some similar themes. I think I’ll like it fairly well, though I don’t expect to adore it.

Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine

What it is: Nonfiction in print.

Why I’m going to read it: A bunch of us here in the inner workings of the library got sick during the holiday season. I was talking to one of our collection development specialists (the people who decide which books, movies, databases, and that kind of stuff we buy) who told me that she was so tired of not being able to breathe through her nose that she was going to fix herself with essential oils. She had checked out this book and found it informative and helpful and recommended it to me, so I put it on my list.

My expectations: I know that I have to go to the doctor if I’m sick but I also feel there are plenty of home remedies, such as chicken soup loaded with garlic and cayenne or the liberal application of hot toddies, that can help ease suffering during cold and flu season. I already use essential oils in my homemade cleaning products (laundry detergent and counter cleaner) so why not up the ante and see what they can do for all the nasty little plagues that creep in during the winter? At the very least, I’ll look at the pretty pictures, but I hope to learn something along the way, too. I expect to enjoy this one.

Far From the Tree

What it is: Young adult fiction in print.

Why I’m going to read it: This is all on Hannah Greendale. Her review made me curious, because she doesn’t tell you anything about the story except that it was excellent. The summary mentions sisters and that is one of, if not my most favorite story themes.

My expectations: Thanks to Hannah’s review and her lack of spoilers, I’m going to go ahead and not spoiler myself by reading any other reviews or anything at all about this book. That way, I can go into it with no preconceived notions, and I think I’ll come out the other side enjoying this a good deal.

Long Way Down

What it is: Young adult novel in verse on Playaway.

Why I’m going to read it: I feel this one was forced on me by the universe. I cataloged the book and then the Playaway. Later, I saw this interview and, suddenly, my Goodreads friends started reviewing it left and right. It keeps creeping into my life so I’m just going to roll my eyes, take a hint, and listen to the book.

My expectations: I don’t have high expectations because I am no longer a lover of poetry, not even slam poetry or its ilk, which I think is the proper category for this. But, hey, it’s always good to try new things, right?

Killer of Enemies

What it is: Young adult fiction in print.

Why I’m going to read it: It sounded interesting when I cataloged it. That’s really all it took for me to check this out.

My expectations: I have none, actually. If it’s good, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If it’s not, I’ll be mildly disappointed.

Year of Wonders

What it is: Adult fiction on audiobook (CD).

Why I’m going to read this: This has been recommended to me a few times and when the aforementioned Hannah Greendale gave it a favorable review, I went ahead and added it to the pile.

My expectations: I’m morbid. I’m probably going to like this one a lot.

The Witch Boy

What it is: Junior graphic novel in print.

Why I’m going to read it: I love witchy stuff — I eat it up. As a literary theme, it’s right up there with sisters, and happily, the two often appear together. In this story, women are witches and men are shapeshifters, but the protagonist is male and a witch. Since role reversal and gender swapping are also of interest to me, there’s nothing about this that doesn’t scream “READ ME!”

My expectations: I want this to give me the same feelings I got from Nimona; I hope to love it.

Park Bench

What it is: Graphic novel in print.

Why I’m going to read it: I read Chabouté’s Alone last fall. It was intriguing — lovely illustrations, few words, yet a solid story. When I saw this on a book cart in our cataloging room, I put it on hold immediately.

My expectations: At the very least, it will be wonderful visually. Chabouté’s illustrations are simple but powerful. This is about a park bench so it probably won’t be very exciting, but I still have high hopes.

What are you planning to read this year? Do you want to buddy-read any of these with me? We can all add our reviews in Douglas County Libraries’ catalog!

If you’re looking for more recommendations, here are the books that made Vogue‘s list of the most-anticipated January reads. You could also check out DCL’s 2018 Reading Challenge lists.

2017 Goodreads Choice Awards

One of my favorite book tools, as both a librarian and a reader, is Goodreads. If you’ve never heard of it, Goodreads is a reader-driven book review and discussion website. You don’t have to be a professional reviewer, author, publisher, librarian or bookseller to use it — anyone who reads books can both read and write reviews on the site.

Every year, Goodreads announces its readers’ Choice Awards. In the opening round, nominees are chosen based on the site’s top-rated books — those that were published in the past year with a user rating of 3.5 or above are selected as nominees. Readers can also write in their own nominations, the top five of which in each category will move on to the next round so that there are 20 books per category in the semifinal and final rounds. Any member on the site can cast votes until the contest closes.

Last year, I was disappointed to find I’d only read one Goodreads Choice Award book, and not just among the finalists, but out of all the books, including the original nominees! Typically, I’ll have read one or two books in five or six of the categories, but I really dropped the ball in 2016.

This year, I tried much harder to read books published in 2017 and as many new authors as I could fit in. When the winners were announced on December 5, I was pleased to find I had read 13 books in 10 categories and I felt much better about myself. I’ll tell you about those 13 books below.

If you’re interested in the 2017 finalists and winners that you can find in Douglas County Libraries’ collection, check out the books in these four lists. You can place holds directly from the lists.

List 1: Fiction, Mystery and Thriller, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, and Romance categories

List 2: Science Fiction, Horror, Humor, Nonfiction, and Memoir and Autobiography categories

List 3: History and Biography, Science and Technology, Food and Cookbooks, Graphic Novels and Comics, and Poetry categories

List 4: Debut Goodreads Author, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction, Middle Grade and Children’s, and Picture Book categories

Exit West (Fiction – 6th Place)

I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. It’s about a young couple in a war-torn country who become refugees and seek asylum. There’s an element of quiet, magical realism to this one as random doorways turn into portals and refugees can step through these doors, leaving their homes behind and walking into more peaceful areas. The problem, of course, is that governments don’t want unvetted people easily showing up in any and every country.

More important, though, is the growth of the couple’s relationship as they go from college students to expatriates, and as they try to find safety and stability among violence and chaos. It’s a terrible tale with a realistic, yet still hopeful ending.

Glass Houses (Mystery & Thriller – 3rd Place)

Confession: I haven’t actually read this one yet, but it’s on my to-read list. Highlighting a book I haven’t read will seem perfectly normal if you read my earlier post about Louise Penny. I didn’t vote for this book because I could not in good conscience do so, but I assume I will enjoy it immensely once I get to it. If you’re a fan of character-driven stories and don’t mind some light mystery, I strongly recommend this series.

Pachinko (Historical Fiction – 8th Place)

I didn’t vote for this one because I didn’t think it was the best historical fiction of the year. I liked the book well enough, but it also bored me throughout. Several of my Goodreads friends mentioned they hadn’t known about the animosity between Japan and South Korea during the 20th century so they felt they learned something interesting. I went into the story armed with that knowledge; it’s why I wanted to read this book in the first place. While I didn’t learn anything new on that front, it was refreshing to get a different perspective via South Koreans living in Japan rather than South Koreans in occupied territory or comfort women and their children. I’m a sucker for family sagas so this should have appealed to me on many levels, but, as I said before, I was bored just as often as I was engaged and I don’t think I’ll remember this story for long.

I listened to this book and didn’t particularly like the narrator, Allison Hiroto, so perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more had I read it with my own two eyes.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (Science Fiction – 14th Place)

This is by no means hard science fiction — it has far too much magic and time travel paired with elements of the classic government thriller. However, it’s a fun, speculative romp through spy vs. spy territory in which magic has been rediscovered and competing factions travel increasingly further back in time to affect contemporary politics.

This is definitely not a character study. The protagonists are fairly standard and boring, while the supporting cast could have been picked out of a hat. But if you’re not looking for strong character development anyway, and you want some interesting and sometimes funny fiction, this is your book.

Yes, I voted for this one.

The Lost City of the Monkey God (Nonfiction – 4th Place)

I have three favorite audiobooks for 2017, and this is one of them. I gleefully voted for it! Preston, who has penned articles for National Geographic, was part of a team that flew to Honduras to learn more about the myths surrounding two lost cities, La Ciudad Blanca and The City of the Monkey God.

As you may imagine, there was some pushback over Americans who are not archaeologists storming the jungles of Honduras for treasure and fame. Preston touches on that, presenting both the pros and cons of the expedition. Mostly, though, he describes the genesis of this adventure, as well as how it all worked out once it got going. It’s an exciting story that introduced me to my new favorite horrible disease: leishmaniasis. Also, there are howler monkeys. Who doesn’t love those?

Note: Of my three favorite audiobooks, this one has the weakest narrator. His pronunciation of Spanish and Mesoamerican words leaves something to be desired.

From Here to Eternity (Nonfiction – 5th Place)

Here’s another one I haven’t actually read (and I’m glad because I didn’t have to agonize over voting for this or The Lost City of the Monkey God), but I do own the book and I follow Doughty’s YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician, and her website, Order of the Good Death. Thus, I feel qualified to talk about this book. Pro tip: If you’re currently journeying toward the death of a loved one, Doughty may be a great resource for you.

You might have read her previous autobiographical work, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, about her time as a crematory operator. If that turned you off, don’t worry: This one is not about cremains. It’s about Doughty’s travels around the globe to experience a variety of death rituals across cultures. Much more upbeat!

Doughty’s mission is to help people make peace with death, especially in America where we have sanitized and vilified the end of life, making it into something we can’t talk about because it scares us. I wholeheartedly support Doughty’s work and recommend this book even though I’ve yet to read it myself.

Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: The Lies (Graphic Novels & Comics – 2nd Place)

I was disappointed to see that this finalist did so well, especially when compared to some of the other finalists in the category. Like many readers, I absolutely loved “Wonder Woman” when I was a kid. I watched the TV show starring Lynda Carter and subsequently spun around on the playground trying to transform from Diana into Wonder Woman. I had a Wonder Woman doll (that came to a bad end soon after I got her), and my ultimate goal, at the time, was to own Wonder Woman Underoos.

While I was in college, Wonder Woman comics transformed. They focused more on the portrayal of her body — her chest grew while the rest of her thinned out and she was often shown in needlessly provocative poses — and less so on her story. I lost interest shortly after and stopped reading comics altogether.

Earlier this year, The Legends of Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Origins came across my desk. I read it and was charmed; it was just like being back in childhood. I fell in love all over again, so when DC Universe’s Rebirth of Wonder Woman showed up, I was excited to read it, too. It was horribly disappointing. I felt the art was less than mediocre, once again focusing on Diana’s body. The elements of female friendship and women’s changing role in the world, which had been prevalent in Origins, was watered down to be more fetishistic and less realistic. It also got a little tongue-in-cheek meta as Wonder Woman pondered her origin stories, all her timelines, wondering who she really is.

Having been so put off by this one, I was saddened to see that it made it to second place, ahead of even my favorite in this list (Saga, below).

Saga, Vol. 7 (Graphic Novels & Comics – 3rd Place)

This is the graphic novel I voted for because I am madly in love with this series! Have you read any of these yet? It’s a space opera graphic novel series that focuses on the “graphic.” It’s full of violence, sex, racism, speciesism, drug use, and general horribleness all illustrated with Fiona Staples’ phenomenal artwork. Warning: Some things can’t be unseen and might be best unseen, no matter how well they’re drawn. If that doesn’t put you off, though, and you’re a fan of space travel, star-crossed lovers, adorable babies sporting wings and horns, sweeping dramas, family sagas, strange characters, uncomfortable situations, and intergalactic war, plus a dash of sweetness and humor, check out the first in this series and see where it takes you.

Monstress, Vol. 2 (Graphic Novels & Comics – 5th Place)

While I’m still not hooked on the storyline, the art in Monstress is a treat for the eyes. It’s probably not surprising that fans of Saga are also fans of this series; there’s some commonality between the two stories, mainly involving people on the run who are caught between violent factions fighting with each other. This tale follows a young woman possessed — possessed by what she does not know. She’s out to get revenge against the witches who killed her mother but learns in the process that her mother wasn’t the paragon of parenthood, and that friends can betray you. She also meets a pirate shark. As in, a humanoid shark who is a pirate. That, in itself, should be a recommendation for this book.

Sana Takeda’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. I got too caught up in looking at the detail in each panel to actually follow the story, but I will keep reading (looking at) these as long as they continue to be published.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too (Graphic Novels & Comics – 8th Place)

While I get why this resonates with readers, I couldn’t connect with it myself. I mentioned in my Goodreads review that I felt far too old for this, but I also felt my niece would eat it up.

If you enjoy sweet(ish) stories about being alienated (pun intended) and how one finds one’s place in this cold, heartless world, this graphic novel is for you!

Paper Girls, Vol. 2 (Graphic Novels & Comics – 10th Place)

I have no idea what this story is about. It’s a super-trippy tale about newspaper delivery girls from the 1980s on a time-travel adventure. Regardless, I enjoyed following along even if I didn’t understand a thing that was going on.

This is another graphic novel with excellent illustrations. They’re not nearly as evocative as Fiona Staples’ work in Saga, nor are they as gorgeous as what you’ll see from Sana Takeda in Monstress, but Cliff Chiang does a fantastic job bringing the feel of a moment into the story.

The Hate U Give (Debut Goodreads Author – Winner; Young Adult Fiction – Winner)

This is another favorite audiobook from this year. I voted for it in both categories and was thrilled that it won in both. If you’ve already read this but want to revisit it, I strongly recommend listening to the audio version, narrated by Bahni Turpin. Her perfect performance enhances this already phenomenal story.

The story focuses on Starr, a black teenage girl from the inner city who attends a private school with a predominately white student body. She has all the normal teenager troubles; she likes basketball, shoes, and hanging out with her friends; and she’s got a boyfriend and they sometimes have troubles. After she witnesses a close friend’s death at the hands of an overzealous white police officer, she has to deal with her anger and grief and must come to terms with where she fits in the lives of others. She also has to come to terms with how her neighborhood, skin color, and family background influence who she is to herself and to others.

If the political nature of the story puts you off, I’m here to tell you it expands far beyond the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a powerful story that is sincere and well-written. It’s also timely and important, especially for readers who are removed from the issues presented in this book.

Caraval (Debut Goodreads Author – 2nd Place; Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction – 5th Place)

My reaction to Caraval was not as glowing as the reactions of most other readers. This is the kind of young adult novel I try to avoid: It centers on a main character who doesn’t have a lot of depth and yet somehow winds up in the center of a dangerous adventure and love triangle.

This is fantasy in that it doesn’t take place in our world and there’s a magical live-action game that’s played on a remote island. There are no mythical creatures or epic quests, however, making it sort of fantasy-lite.

I would recommend this for fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.

Strange the Dreamer (Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction – 4th Place)

I was completely invested in the first half of this story. The second half focused on a forbidden romance, and since I am not a fan of romance at all I quickly lost interest. However, many readers love that about this tale, and you may, too!

Little Fox in the Forest (Picture Books – 8th Place)

A little girl in a monochrome world sees a real fox abscond with her beloved stuffed fox. The girl and her best friend embark on a colorful adventure as they attempt a search-and-rescue mission for the stolen toy. It’s a cute story with adorable illustrations and some positive messages, including the importance of sharing, representation and compassion. I voted for this one.

2017 World Fantasy Award Winners

Fantasy used to be a frowned-upon genre, something read by daydreamers and nerds. Now it’s celebrated for its ability to showcase local or global problems without getting snarled in discussions over contemporary politics, to help boost imagination and creativity, and because it can be a great form of escapism, allowing readers to experience situations that would never happen in real life.

If you want to get into fantasy but aren’t sure where to start, try Tor’s collection of free original short stories, or Tor Shorts as those of us who are enamored with these freebies call them. With so many fantasy authors out there, it can be hard to find some you like. That’s what makes the Tor’s collection a great start: You can easily sample the wares, so to speak. And once you find authors whose short stories you enjoy, you can look for their longer fiction and novels at the library!

Soon you’ll learn to love this magical genre and you’ll care about things like the World Fantasy Convention, which was held November 2-5 in San Antonio, Texas, where Terry Brooks and Marina Warner were both given lifetime achievement awards.

Perhaps you’re now curious as to what other World Fantasy Awards were given out. Here are a few.

Best Novel

The Sudden Appearance of Hope

by Claire North
My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before — a thousand times. I am the girl the world forgets. It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit — you will never remember who I am. That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

Best Long Fiction

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

by Kij Johnson
Both a commentary on a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and a profound reflection on a woman’s life. Vellitt’s quest to find a former student who may be the only person who can save her community takes her through a world governed by a seemingly arbitrary dream logic in which she occasionally glimpses an underlying but mysterious order, a world ruled by capricious gods and populated by the creatures of dreams and nightmares.

Best Collection

A Natural History of Hell

by Jeffrey Ford
A book of fantastic stories about the “hell on earth that is living.”

Best Artist

Jeffrey Alan Love

Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Love’s illustrations are paired with the author’s fascinating stories of Norse mythology for an exceptional look at the Viking gods.

Want more? Here are the finalists you can find at Douglas County Libraries.

You Are Here (Again)

Remember my post back in May On Being Different, about Jenny Lawson’s book You Are Here?

Before I continue, let me just brag about that a tiny bit: Jenny saw the post and reblogged it on her own site, and I fangirled and died. (I didn’t really die, obviously, since I’m writing this, but I did fangirl something terrible!)

Anyway, about that post: I thought it would be fun to follow up on the interactive copies we released into Douglas County Libraries’ collection.

I was secretly a little sad that not every page in every copy was completely “artified.” Regardless, it’s amazing to see what you guys have done to these books!

Here are some examples:


This copy saw the most use and was, therefore, the most fun to look through. Barcode ending in 631


While only one picture was colored, there was a lot of doodle work on these pages. There’s some talent out there.Seems like the dandelion and bird were the most popular to color, but this was the only copy with a colored door.

Barcode ending in 615My favorite addition, so far, is in this copy — those solid and striped tights on top of the patterned world. I’m also a fan of the green bird of okay-ness.

Barcode ending in 278

I was happy to see so many unique pictures colored, with overlap only on the bird and cats.Barcode ending in 623

Once again, the bird and dandelion were modified. Those seem to resonate with a lot of people.

Barcode ending in 684One rebel colored a “Don’t Mark in This Book” copy.

I really like this project. I know these books will continue to change as they cycle through households. I love that they may bring a bit of joy or solace to people when they need it most, that we’re enhancing these as a community and leaving a bit of ourselves behind for others to see.

You know what might be an interesting activity for the irreverent family on Thanksgiving Day? Check out one of the interactive copies of You Are Here and share it with the adults and mature teens (parental advisory for language) during that downtime after eating. You can see what your community has added to these books and then maybe add something to it, too!

Helpful Resources

A reminder, especially as the holidays, which can be difficult and painful, draw near: If you need something beyond the items Douglas County Libraries offers, these resources can help.

Remember: You are here, but you are not alone.

Foreign Films: East or West, Cricket Is the Best!

Admittedly, I am not the biggest sports fan. To broaden my horizons, I watched a film about cricket (huge in India!) and one about wrestling. I saved what I thought would be my least favorite for last, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it best. Dangal, a Hindi word for wrestling, has been around for centuries and I enjoyed learning more about this sport. The first cricket club was established in Calcutta in 1792! These days, the India national cricket team, also known as Team India and Men in Blue, represents India in international cricket competition.

Give these movies a try — I think you’ll enjoy them!



Based on a true story, Aamir Khan portrays former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat. Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra do fantastic jobs playing his daughters, Geeta and Babita. As a newly married man, Mahavir hopes for a son who will excel in the sport of wrestling. When only daughters are born, his plan changes and he successfully trains them to become world-class competitors. It is no wonder Disney co-produced this inspirational film.

My Rating: 5 Stars



John Abraham is super-cop Kabir who pairs up with rookie cop Janaid (Varun Dhawan) in a frantic search for India’s top batsman, Viraj. The action in this film is great and will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering whether India will have its star player back in time for the final match with Pakistan. You might not learn a lot about the game of cricket, but the cameo by actor Akshay Kumar is not to be missed!

My Rating: 3 Stars

Find Your Funny Bone

Ah, November. The leaves have fallen, and the nights are long. We’re in that spot between thrilling tales of Halloween and inspiring Thanksgiving tales of sharing and gratitude. So what should you read in the meantime?

It’s time for something not too sweet, but not too creepy either. Maybe something to kick-start your commute and fill up those long nights. Something to make you laugh! Take your pick from this list of engaging, humorous reads. Not only are all of these books excellent on their own, but they also come in audiobook formats for those of us who enjoy a good book in the car.

Swim the Fly

by Don Calame
Leading the list is this teen read by screenwriter and author Don Calame. Not so sure about a book intended for a teen audience? If you are in the mood for hysterical (and sometimes a bit raunchy) antics and scenes that you could envision being in the next big comedy film, this novel is for you. On top of that, my favorite narrator, Nick Podehl, reads the audiobook, and he does a great job of drawing listeners right into all the goofy hijinks. Just don’t drink any water while listening.

Furiously Happy

by Jenny Lawson
One of my co-workers bought this book because the cover makes her laugh every time she sees it — the book sits right on her coffee table. In Furiously Happy, Lawson takes on the topic of mental illness, focusing on her own struggles and triumphs. Despite the serious subject matter, the author is a master of transforming her experiences into relatable, laugh-out-loud material.

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan
If you have ever thought “My relatives are nuts,” or wondered about the lifestyles of the “so rich they’re beyond famous,” this is the book for you. I never envisioned myself enjoying a novel that largely revolves around shopping, but I ended up loving the quirky cast of characters and the descriptions of life in Singapore and Hong Kong. Not only is this book funny, but it’s also been making the rounds through book clubs and is currently being made into a movie.

The Everything Box

by Richard Kadrey
OK, you have to be ready for anything if you’re going to read this book. There are heists and capers, plots and kidnappings, twists and double turns. Not only are there vampires and werewolves, but there are also shopping malls for vampires and werewolves. And there’s a box that might just mean the end of the world if anyone opens it — and a bunch of really strange people want to open it. There isn’t a lot of plot depth here, but Kadrey constantly managed to surprise me into laughter with his over-the-top characters. There’s something to be said for the unexpected!

Young Jane Young

by Gabrielle Zevin
Zevin’s novel of a young woman who becomes embroiled in public scandal after having an affair with a political figure not only amuses with witty, well-crafted writing, but it also offers unexpected depth and reflection on society’s standards. Told from a variety of viewpoints, Young Jane Young blends perspectives and outlooks to create a unique look at family, community, and the ups and downs of life. If you’re familiar with Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, you can expect the same quality writing, but know that this novel has a much different feel.


For those of you who like to fill your reading list to max capacity, here are a few other DCL staff suggestions: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson; Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby; and The Martian by Andy Weir.

Foreign Films: King Khan – Larger Than Life

With a fan following of more than 3.2 billion, it boggles my mind that Indian movie star Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is better known worldwide than any Hollywood star! The first movie I saw with this legend was Main Hoon Na (2004). I was drawn in by the combination of action, family angst, and romance, as well as the subtle patriotism using estranged brothers to symbolize India and Pakistan.

The film begins with SRK (as he is known) doing a stunt that was filmed with new special effects technology for the time. Compared to movies made in Hollywood, it could seem a bit cheesy; but as you watch these movies you really see the charm.

These two recent movies show the actor in different genres, but his heart and ability to connect with audiences always shine through.



This is a quirky tale of two feuding crime families spanning three generations. Undying love — with a bit of Romeo and Juliet — give it those “ahhh” moments. There is a great car chase and violence with a capital V. The slapstick comedy throughout the roller-coaster ride of a story makes it worth the ride!

My Rating: 3 Stars



This film has more of a docudrama tone. Set in Gujarat, an Indian state, Raees is the story of a man who knows what he wants out of life from an early age. After overcoming many obstacles, he is on the brink of success when the challenge of his life — a cop who lives by the letter of the law — comes to town. This action film tested my sense of right and wrong as I found myself rooting for the “bad guy.”

My Rating: 3 Stars

Foreign Films: Hindi Is the Spice of Life

If you already watch movies made in India, skip this intro and scroll down to the good stuff. If you don’t, let me tell you why you might want to try watching them.

First, they are dynamic and full of life, with dancing (but not just for dancing’s sake), songs that build up the plot, and uniquely interesting characters. You’ll seldom wonder how a character feels, especially when the male lead is crying his eyes out!

Second, family and honor are very important. These strong ties can lead to things like revenge for wrongs and feuds that last generations.

But don’t take my word for it. These two romances take very different views of that tricky little thing called love. Check them out!

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil


This film has it all — music, dancing, stylish wardrobes, exotic locales, and two epic stars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. If that’s not enough, the main characters Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) find themselves in a love triangle. This romantic comedy takes its time to develop characters you will love in a storyline that might just break your heart.

My Rating: 4 Stars



Befikre is about carefree love — no commitment or using the L-word. Chemistry rules in this film, and between Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shyra (Vaani Kapoor) it is hot, hot, hot! The whirlwind lustfest that gets these two together tested my ideas of relationships. To prove their continuing desire for each other, they go through a series of dares that are mostly silly and sometimes illegal. Keep an ear out for the one-liners in this film — they are stellar! As Dharam tells Shyra’s father, “If we live together we’ll find out if we’re a good fit,” to which Shyra’s father replies, “She’s my daughter, not a free yoga class!”

My Rating: 2½ Stars