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2023 Staff Picks

We consumed a lot of content this year, on the page and screen and through our earphones! Here are some of our favorites!

PRO TIP: If you click the title of the item, the link will lead you to the library’s online catalog and you can request it right then and there!

Darcy Poletti, Assistant Director

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve been a Barbara Kingsolver fan since I read Poisonwood Bible in a high school English class. But as soon as I was 10 minutes into this audiobook, I knew this would be on my top books of the year, heck the last few years. I highly recommend the audio on this one- the reader makes you feel like you are right there with him as he spins the yarn of his hardscrabble life. You’ve heard of the ” Great American Novel,” well I think this is a contender for the “Great Appalachian Novel,” full of sense of place, great and sharply drawn characters, and the heartbreak of the opioid crisis.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

I was looking for a paperback on my own bookshelves to take on a backpacking trip this summer, and I found a copy of this novel, which I had picked up from a neighborhood Little Free Library based on its cover art only. The novel tells the story of the unspeakable war tragedies that defined the lives of Chechens for years, yet the book still manages to have such a strong sense of transcendent humanity. Not an “easy” read, but this book is beautiful, heartbreaking, and stays with you!

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

This collection of interrelated short stories (that read like a novel) weave together the story of a family of Jamaican-Americans living in Miami. The writing is humorous, sharp, and harrowing at once and the stories span the family’s homeland, the first generation immigrant experience, as well as the trials of second generation immigrants. I especially recommend the audiobook of this novel, as the reader moves in and out of Jamaican patois and his narration and accents deepen the experience of the story

Music: Wet Leg by Wet Leg

Book CoverEarly in 2023, this album became my snow shoveling soundtrack. I just love the catchy, sarcastic, girl power, post-punk vibes of this self titled album.

Music: Un Verano Sin Ti  and Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana by Bad Bunny

It’s late fall of 2023, but I’m still listening to the 2022 summer album Un Verano Sin Ti by Bad Bunny. If you haven’t heard of the phenomenon that is the Puerto Rican reggaetón/Latin trap artist Bad Bunny, check out this album (we have it in the music section at PRL!), The album is full of tropical, party ready rhythms that are the perfect soundtrack for the beach or lifting the winter blues. But don’t be fooled, these tracks go deeper than just a good time- they also cover topics from femicide to political corruption.  I also recommend his newest album that just came out this fall, which harkens back to the darker sounds of his Latin Trap roots. Since the album came out, “Monaco” has been my song of the moment and his live performance on Saturday Night Live made me love it even more.

TV: Girls and Rez Dogs

This year I rewatched “Girls,” the HBO series by Lena Dunham that was like a whip smart, quirky millennial feminist version of Sex in the City- although I hate to pigeonhole it like that. I first watched it when it came out in 2012, I was recently out of college and the same age as the characters. I have to say I think I enjoyed it even more on the second watch. I also loved the final season of Rez Dogs (streaming on Hulu) that came out this year. This coming of age “comedy” tells the story of a group of Native Americans growing up on a reservation in Oklahoma. It’s quite the feat to be able to weave the story of generations of disenfranchisement, but also hope, community, and traditions into a “sitcom” but that’s just what creator Sterlin Harjo has done with this show.

Lisa Paulek, Library Assistant

TV: The Good Karma Hospital

This was a feel good show that takes place on the gorgeous coast of India. The setting added such a beautiful richness to the story, and I absolutely fell in love with the characters at the Good Karma Hospital.

Author Pick: Emily Henry

Emily Henry is one of my favorite authors, and I think I read everything by her this summer. Her books are well-written modern romance novels that will make you laugh out loud.

Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

This series tells the story of a mapmaker who turns out to be the most powerful being able to wield an element in her world. Her adventure is a high energy romp that is now a Netflix series!

Folk of the Air Trilogy by Holly Black

Cover ImageHoly Black is one of my new favorite authors after thoroughly enjoying this trilogy. The Cruel Prince is a fast moving romantacy in the world of Fae.

TV: Joe Pickett


 Book CoverThough I have never read C.J. Box’s series about Joe Pickett, I loved the storyline brought to life in this thrilling TV show based on the first few books in his series. I was totally drawn into the story of a Wyoming game warden who is wildly underestimated as he unravels the web of lies and deceit in his town. Please excuse the questionable elk animation in the first episode… the story is what really gets you hooked!

Lisa Stone Zabka, eMaterials Librarian

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Book Cover This book tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” a century ago. I loved that this story was told from the point of view of a whole group of women as a character, a unique style I had never experienced before! 

An Immense World by Ed Yong

Book CoverIn this book the author Ed Yong, a science journalist, encourages us to go beyond our own senses, allowing us to perceive the scents, waves of electromagnetism, and pulses of pressure that surround us. The title of this book is perfect, because it’s scope really is immense!

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

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Amid daily reports of violence, Cushla lives a quiet life with her mother in a small town near Belfast. The plot thickens when she meets a Protestant barrister who’s made a name for himself defending IRA members. Against her better judgment, Cushla lets herself get drawn into his sophisticated world. I loved the historical setting of this novel and the exploration of 1960’s Irish culture and conflict.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Book CoverIt is 1950 and London is still reeling from World War II.  Margery Benson, a schoolteacher and spinster, is just trying to get through life. One day, she reaches her breaking point, abandoning her job and small existence to set out on an expedition to the other side of the world in search of her childhood obsession: an insect that may or may not exist—the golden beetle of New Caledonia. I loved the strong female characters that carry this unique storyline.

Liz vonTauffkirchen, Library Specialist

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

This cozy fantasy book is a prequal to the Legends & Lattes book which I also read and loved this year. In my opinion, one could read either book first and enjoy them equally as much. These books have a warm ambiance and a cozy feel—perfect for fall and winter weather and a nice, hot bevvy.

System Collapse by Martha Wells

This long-awaited installment in the Murderbot Diaries series is exactly the next book we’ve all been waiting for! This continuing story of a construct’s search for self is a fascinating character study placed amid super fun pew-pew space battles and I’m so here for it!

The House of Earth and Blood and The House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #1 & #2) by Sarah J. Maas

If you’ve read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series or the Throne of Glass series by Maas, then you are probably familiar with her particular style of “Romantacy.” This new series does not disappoint and follows her usual formula of sexy Fae males and strong female lead characters.

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

This touching and thought-provoking graphic memoir was a quick read/listen but also compelling and engaging. In this book, a woman explores what it means to be American in a series of conversations with her young son.

Fourth Wing and Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

These fun new Romantasy books are not to be missed! If you are a fan of Sarah J. Maas, these books will definitely appeal to you! The action takes place in an academy for dragon riders and it combines the danger and excitement of The Hunger Games with the fantasy elements and romance of a Sarah J. Maas title. These books have action, adventure, romance, Dragons, and so much more!

Hideout by Louisa Luna

This third book in the Alice Vega series is the best so far! Alice Vega is a private detective who, in this installment, is chasing down a missing person cold case from the mid-1980s. These mysteries are gritty and our protagonist is tough and resilient, the stories well plotted, and the conclusions satisfying.

Becky Van Den Berg, Young Adult Services Manager

Starter Vilain by John Scalzi

Book CoverThis book is so much fun, and I want to live in a world where I have my own criminal mastermind talking cat henchman!

None of This is True by Lisa Jewel

Book CoverJewel’s mystery books are all worth the read. If you are a fan of true crime and true crime podcasts this book is a terrific companion!

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

Book CoverThis is the perfect Halloween read, especially if haunted forests and demon/ghosts are your brand of scary!

Michaela Wilson, Public Services Librarian

Slewfoot: a Tale of Bewitchery by Brom

Book CoverThis is 100% a woman’s revenge story and I’m here for it! This dark folklore story follows Abitha, who is fighting for the little freedom she has when she meets Slewfoot, a powerful spirit that has recently awoken. When people start dying the rumors start: there’s a witch and women are being hung. And both Abitha and Slewfoot must decide who they want to be in this historical horror novel.

Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown

Cover ImageAfter 3 years of waiting we finally got book six in this epic science fiction space opera. In preperation for the new release, I went back and re-read the whole series and it was still as perfect as I remember. The first book, Red Rising, takes place on Mars, in the future. The main character, Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste of people. From the mines of Mars we watch Darrow discover the truth and become a part of a rebellion to right their overlords wrongs. And you’re with him all the way. Dystopian, science fiction, epic war fantasy, this book has it all and it’s amazing.

Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell

I love the horror genre and this book is one of the only ones I’ve read that has genuinely unnerved me, especially because it takes place in rural Colorado (very similar to where I live). This book has “something is watching you from the woods” vibes to create a eerie and tense atomosphere when a romantic getaway goes wrong. There are voices in the woods: animals screaming, crying children and a figure whispering to the one character through the window at night. It’s not long before her fiancée realizes she’s not talking in her sleep…she’s whispering back. I highly recommend if you’re looking for a good scare!

TV: Poker Face

Book CoverThis show is so fun and quirky! I recommend it if you need something light and funny, but also keeps you wondering what happened. The episodes are set up that you watch the murder/crime and then get to follow our main character, Charlie, around to figure out what happened. And she might just have some extra intuition.

Brenda Marshall, Library Director

Pine River Library of Things: Apple Peeler

Cover ImageThis year we expanded our collection to include a variety of things! I have two apple trees in my yard and this year I had an abundant crop. The library’s apple peeler was so fun and easy to use, I loved it!

You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith

Book CoverI was really moved by this beautiful memoir of the poet, Maggie Smith. An honest and perceptive journey through the breakdown of her marriage, her own personal growth, and the way she is choosing to move through this painful and joyous life.

The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith

Book CoverThe seventh book in the detective Cormaron Strike series. Robin and Cormoran investigate a cult – a great page turner!

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

Book Cover Sci-Fi is not my usual genre but I got sucked into this quickly and inhaled this book over a weekend!

Bittersweet by Susan Cain

Book CoverI really connected with this book. She explores in depth how we can manage the myriad of experiences that make us human.

Summer Sandford, Youth Enrichment Manager 

Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter
by Zoraida Cordova

Book CoverDelightful fantasy read revolves around a protagonist hailing from a family dedicated to safeguarding monsters and transporting them back to their parallel universe. However, tragedy strikes, forcing our main character into a life of normalcy. The narrative unfolds post-tragedy, delving into the struggles of our protagonist as they navigate the challenges of fitting into the ordinary world while harboring a deep desire to continue finding and protecting these fantastical creatures. A delightful and engaging read that seamlessly blends fantasy elements with the complexities of the human experience.

TV: Letterkenny

Book CoverThis binge-able Canadian series is a treasure trove of delightful dry humor, brimming with clever puns and wordplay that adds a playful and entertaining layer.

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Book CoverEmbark on a high-seas adventure within a captivating Thai-inspired fantasy realm. Follow the compelling journey of a young woman as she grapples with the weight of her past, striving to carve her own destiny in a world veiled in secrets. This thought-provoking narrative explores themes of identity and integrity, weaving an intricate tale as elaborate as the maps of old.

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Book CoverThis fantasy novel, set in the enchanting backdrop of the Middle East, invites readers into a mesmerizing realm of magic and djinns. A captivating read that skillfully turns the tables on expectations, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats as the fantastical world unfolds. The narrative surprises and delights, making it a truly engaging and unpredictable journey.

Lydia Wacasey, Acquisitions and Cataloging Manager

Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 Days a Year by Simon Griffiths

Book CoverArmed with new ideas for winter happiness, I borrowed a copy of Swim Wild & Free: a practical guide to swimming outdoors 365 days a year, which offeres advice on gear, preparation and tips for swimming outdoors on the coldest days. Even if you’d rather stick to the shore during winter months, this book is worth browsing for the photos of blissed-out and smiling, post-swim faces.

The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu by Katja Pantzar

Book CoverMoving in to winter, I hoped to develop a bit more grit and resilience, so I looked to Katja Pantzar’s The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu and learned about the Finnish virtue Sisu, which is a mix of determination, courage and fortitude. Thanks in part to their Sisu mindset, Finland is consistently ranked the “Happiest Country on Earth.” I’ll have what they’re having, thank you very much.

There are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important Than Kindness: And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy and the World by Carlo Rovelli

Book Cover I was intrigued by the title of Carlo Rovelli’s There are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important Than Kindness: and other thoughts on physics, philosophy and the world, and the book did not disappoint. It’s packed full of the theoretical physicist’s musings on subjects ranging from Copurnicus and Einstein to the nervous systems of octopi and blackholes. He manages to show connections between ancient thought and current ideas in a way that kept me reading through the night. Recommended for non-fiction loving polymaths, who enjoy building reading lists from footnotes.

Asteroid City DVD and Library of Things Projector

Book CoverWes Anderson movie releases are cause for celebration at my house. We borrowed the projector from the Library of Things and had a family viewing of Asteroid City, which is vibrant and beautiful and the perfect film for the big screen.

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Music: Texas Moon by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges 

Book CoverDescribing Khruangbin & Leon Bridges’ Texas Moon album is almost as tricky as pronouncing the band’s name, but I’ll give it a shot: neo-funk meets spaghetti western, crossed with soul and wrapped in Leon Bridges’ silky vocals. It was released in 2022, so I was late to its discovery this year. With each listening, I find something new to love.