Staff Picks: Favorite Authors, Classics and Reading Outside the Box

Posted by Aaron on

coffee with bookIs there a classic out there that you simply haven’t read? Or maybe one you’ve not read in a long time? I am perpetually surrounded by books, but by far I have not read them all. In fact, I realized that I had never read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This perennially assigned title was not a must-read in my high school and has slipped under my radar ever since.  I decided it was finally time to get this short, fairly easy read off of my “to read” list. The story, of course, involves the wealthy Jay Gatsby’s love for… and desire to win back… Daisy Buchanan. We learn of Gatsby’s rags-to-riches acquisition of the American Dream. Through the perspective of narrator Nick Carraway, we attend the tumultuous gatherings of socialites with whom Gatsby surrounds himself. What I enjoyed most about the book was the setting: the opulent, Roaring 1920’s on Long Island. Being a Long Island native, myself, I may have a slight bias. But I was able to picture the settings and imagine them in that excessive, historic time period.

For a similar read, try House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. For another well-known Fitzgerald title, try The Beautiful and Damned.

∼ Amanda, reference librarian, Warrenton central library

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Handel is a title that I would not normally pick up. It’s dystopian, set in the future and a bit science fiction. Apparently librarians have been raving about this book since it was published in 2014. And did I mention it revolves around a traveling Shakespearean theater company? Fast forward to the post-apocalyptic world, where the Georgian Flu has all but decimated the entire continent. Twenty years after the pandemic, members of the traveling Shakespeare club are content walking around various mid west states, visiting other survivors in their make shift towns and cities performing various plays and acts from Shakespeare. Their motto: “Survival Is Insufficient,” (which the author admits to borrowing from “Star Trek, The Next Generation”). One must read the book to make your own determination of that motto, but the author thinks by using art during an apocalyptic time “we will be reminded of our humility.” For instance, one of the survivors begins collecting useless things, credit cards, cell phones and old newspapers. He wants the newest members of civilization to learn about the past.

The book moves back and forth through time, which I don’t normally enjoy, but in this case it works. All of the events and characters come full circle over time, including fascination with things, people, celebrities and greed. The survivors are faced with fear and terror, and a young “prophet” who wants everyone to fall in behind him. I enjoyed this read, and if you like dystopian, apocalyptic subject matter you will too. But do yourself a favor and read it before the movie is produced.

For another survival story, try Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.

∼ Jody, reference librarian, Warrenton central library

There are several mystery writers that I really like, and I wait eagerly for their latest books to be published. In the last few weeks, I was lucky enough to read two new books from favorite authors. In a Churn for the Worse, set in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, shop owner Claire Weatherly and Detective Jakob Fisher investigate the murder of an Amish farmer, and the disappearance of money from several Amish households. Will they find the killer before another murder occurs? This is the fifth book in Bradford’s Amish mystery series, and I have enjoyed all of them.

The latest book in Chris Nickson’s Tom Harper mystery series, set in 1890s Leeds, England, is Skin Like Silver. Detective Inspector Tom Harper has several cases to work on—a dead baby in an unclaimed parcel at the Central Post Office and a fire at the railway station with a dead woman’s body found in the rubble. Was the fire deliberately set to cover up her murder? Was the woman murdered because of her involvement with the Leeds Suffrage Society, the same one Harper’s wife does speeches for? This is the third book in this excellently-written series.

For another series set in England, try Victorian Mystery Series by Robin Paige.

∼ Vicky, reference librarian, Warrenton central library

Book lists, reviews from our book clubs and favorites from library staff are great resources when searching for your next book. Or stop by the reference desk at your local library.

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