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Shelf Matters@ Whitefish Bay Public Library

Scott Lenski is the Community & Adult Services Librarian at the Whitefish Bay Public Library. Scott shares news about upcoming programs and events for kids, teens and adults happening at the library. Also look for book news and reviews.

Favorite Reads of 2013

 What a year for books! 2013 saw some fantastic reads. The librarians of Whitefish Bay Public Library share their favorite reads from this past year.

Scott Lenski, Community & Adult Services Librarian
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Easily my favorite book this year, The Interestings is the story of six teenagers who meet at an arts summer camp. We follow these teenagers to middle age, as each must deal with their successes (or lack thereof). This book examines what happens to our dreams when we grow up. Wolitzer’s style reminded me of John Irving, one of my other favorite authors.  I cherished every single page of this book and look forward to reading some of her other work.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Tartt writes one novel about every ten years, and this one was worth the wait. The story is about Theo Decker, a boy who loses his mother in a bombing but leaves the scene with a stolen piece of art. Theo wanders through New York City, lost without his mother. He moves to Las Vegas, then back to New York as he tries to find his place in the world. The cast of characters are fascinating, and I couldn’t get enough of them. The prose is so beautiful you’ll want to take your time with this gem.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Another book that deals with the loss of a family member. The Cooke family is reeling from a huge loss. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot. I will say that Fowler is a beautiful writer, and I enjoyed her language and storytelling abilities.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A 16-year old girl is being bullied at her school in Tokyo. She wants to end her life, but before she does that she wants to record the life of her great grandmother who is a Buddhist nun. This written record falls into the hands of Ruth, a writer who is living across the Pacific. I’m not sure how to categorize this book, but that’s one of the things I really enjoyed about it.

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott
This book is my favorite nonfiction book this year. Abbott loses her mother at the age of two. After her mother’s death, Abbott’s bisexual father relocates the family to San Francisco. Alysia grows up around artists, poets and writers during the 70’s, but then AIDS starts killing off all those around her. This memoir is not only the legacy of her father, but also a love letter to the vibrant city of San Francisco. The book also includes some writings and drawings of her father’s works. 

Krista Hutley, Administrative Services Librarian
Night Film
by Marisha Pessl
Scott McGrath, a disgraced investigative journalist, seeks to re-launch his career with an expose on the death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of the reclusive cult horror filmmaker Stansilas Cordova. Scott has gone after Stanislas once before, ruining his own career with a botched investigation, but this time he intends to prove that Ashley’s death was no suicide, but murder. This book is propulsive and maddening and unsettling, and its mixed-media production is well worth getting your hands on a physical copy.   The

Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This one is perfect for those looking for a light, humorous, feel-good read. Don Tillman, professor of genetics, is looking for the perfect wife. He even has a lengthy questionnaire ready for women to fill out that will quantify their statistical potential as mates. However, a brash, emotional, highly puzzling woman named Rosie distracts his orderly search with her own: the search for her biological father. Cue the blossoming of unlikely romance. This sweet romantic comedy with narrator who has Asperger’s  is a kooky, satisfying read.

 The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater.
Often the second book in a trilogy is the weakest, without the dramatic punches and emotional highs of a first or last book. This is a middle book done right, done perfectly. Sure, you should start with the first one, The Raven Boys, about a girl named Blue who is cursed to one day kill her true love; her crazy family full of paranormal, spunky women; and three unusual boys and their search for a mythic Welsh king, rumored to grant any wish to the one who wakes him from enchanted sleep. But then you should immediately move on to this sequel, because it only gets better.

Katie Kiekhaefer, Head of Youth Services
Drama High: the Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater by Michael Sokolove
In Drama High, Michael Sokolove (a native of the town featured in this book) not only tells the story of this beloved teacher, his students and their daring, talented drama department but also manages to address the issues of class in America, the fall of blue collar work, and the importance of arts education.   It's incredibly readable.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. 
At its most basic level, this book, set in 1980s Omaha, is about two high school students who fall in love.  But, like any love story, it’s much more complicated than that.  Rainbow Rowell’s writing is compelling, swoon-worthy, and very often heart-breaking while still managing to be hopeful.  This is a book that stayed with me long after I finished reading it. 

Etiquette and Espionage and Curtsies & Conspiracies (The Finishing School Series) by Gail Carriger
 In order to fix her abominable manners, 14-year-old Sophronia is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.  When Sophronia arrives, she learns that instead of only learning tea serving, dancing, and curtsying, Mademoiselle Geraldine's also teaches spying, poisoning, and espionage.  Set in a steampunk Victorian world, these books are definitely not for everyone, but I loved the characters and all of the fantastic steampunk details Carriger includes.

 Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline Carlson 
Magic Marks the Spot tells the story of Hilary, who longs to be a pirate, but is rejected by the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates for being a girl and sent to Miss Pimm's Finishing School for Delicate Ladies instead.  Hilary plans her escape, and what follows is an entertaining and even heart-warming adventure with a charming group of characters. 

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