Best of the Year

Our Favorite Books of 2017

When the new year prompts you to look back on the previous twelve months, at least you can always count on good books. Here are a few of our favorites published in 2017.

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
The long-awaited sequel to Akata Witch delivers on all its promises! Exciting, complex, coming-of-age fantasy with interesting characters, set in Nigeria. Sunny Nwazue, a young teen with magic she is just learning to use, must join with her friends to defeat a powerful spirit.
Recommended for: Children, Teens
Recommended by: Margaret, Children's librarian, Piedmont Ave

American War by Omar El Akkad
2074 United States is rocked by rising sea levels, plague, drought, severe storms, military occupation, foreign political interference and civil war. Sarat is a six- year-old refugee from mostly-underwater Louisiana who grows up to become a radicalized warrior. Author El Akkad is a war reporter who has covered the war in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and the Arab Spring, and his experience covering conflict no doubt contributed to the harsh realism of this story. American War is horribly grim, and seems all too plausible.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Blitzed: Drugs and the Third Reich by Norman Ohler
I was shocked, but not surprised, by the extensive use of methamphetamine by the Nazis. They produced it as a vitamin and gave it to their soldiers. Blitzed is a fascincating history told through the lense of drug-use during WWII. The strengths of Ohler’s account lie not only in the rich array of rare documents he mines and the archival images he reproduces to accompany the text, but also in his character studies.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Andrew Demcak, Senior Collection Development Librarian, Main Library

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan
Wenxuan's story, set in rural China during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, is accessible, lively, dynamic, captivating, and full of details to give a sense of the place and living conditions, as well as the community and values from Wenxuan's childhood. The writing style and pace match the content - dramatic environmental events like droughts & fire, swarms of locusts, freezing storms, etc. are interspersed with many days of ordinary rural life, but they are relentless; one trouble follows closely on the heels of a narrowly-survived previous trouble, and they march along as impervious to basic human emotional needs as the seasons, with few moans or complaints from any of the characters. The two young, idealized characters -- Sunflower and Bronze -- seem to embody the best of a cultural/family value system of the time & place, which is probably familiar to Chinese readers and perhaps Chinese American readers as well. Wenxuan might have planned the parallels between Sunflower's father and Vincent Van Gogh, equally consumed by a passion for painting, and remembered for his famous paintings of sunflowers. As specific as it is, this feels like a universal story. Meilo So's occasional illustrations are wonderful, as usual.
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Erica S, Children's Librarian, Rockridge

Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life by Chelsea Martin
Reading the 18 personal essays here, by one of the leading figures in the world of "low-fi" publishing, supplies a vivid education into the sociology of the "Echo Boomers" growing up on the outskirts of the urban San Francisco Bay Area. The book explores such topics as the nuances of life as a "Goth" in a heavy metal world, the suffering caused by being "unfriended" on social media and of alternating between a low- and a high-income, non-cohabitant, parent. Of local interest is her efforts to shed parts of her earlier life by relocating to a shared quarters in industrial Oakland. So much to identify with!
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
Occasionally a book comes along that dramatically shifts your understanding of something you think you know pretty well. Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law: The Forgotten Story of How Our Government Segregated America examines the various ways local, state and federal agencies established policies that created racial and economic divisions across the country. It also explains how these policies have led to generational poverty, rampant urban homelessness, corrupt banking practices, and homogenized suburbs. This well-researched yet accessible book blends public policy with social and architectural history. Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a Haas Institute fellow, has produced a book that will be read and reread for many years to come.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Dorothy Lazard, Librarian, Oakland History Room

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
It's a complicated story with a bit of a mystery at the core of it. If you are curious about post-war culture in Korea, the impact of American soldiers on that society, and the effects of a repressive dictator on young people's lives, but also want to feel involved in the lives of the main characters in a very emotional and moving way, this is the book for you.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Emily Odza, Librarian, All over Oakland!

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In an unnamed country in the Middle East, Saeed and Nadia fall in love amidst the chaos of a burgeoning civil war. As the repression, terror and hardship mounts, they seek their escape. This brief novel is beautifully written and offers a painfully sharp view into the lives of refugees.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Local headlines of a teen setting the skirt of another teen on fire on the local 57 busline made headlines in Oakland and around the country several years ago.  Looking at issues of gender identity, criminal justice system failures, race and the vibrant city of Oakland, Slater fleshes out the actors and the tragic story in memorable ways.
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Helen, Children's Librarian, Main Library

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez
Celia Perez brings her amazing DIY Zine Making skills to her first novel.  The first rule of punk, according to Malú’s dad, is to be yourself – as if yourself is a single, easy-to-define, tangible something.   But when you’re in middle school, figuring out who you are is a lot more complicated than that.   Malú is a delighful character, working on figuring out how she can be her mom's Mexican daughter AND her dad's punk rock daughter.
Recommended for: Children, Teens, Families
Recommended by: Sharon McKellar, Community Relations Librarian

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong
San Franciscan Ruth Young is still hurting from a bad breakup when she decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. Told in episodic vignettes, I love how the story unfolded. A brisk read that is both funny and poignant. 
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
The lives of four middle schoolers converge on the first day of summer, leading to a very mean prank, new friendships, and self-discovery. While each character has eccentricities, their unique outlooks are treated with compassion and a dash of humor.
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Lolade, Librarian

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen, ed.
Editor Kelly Jensen has gathered contributions - some written, some drawn, some playlists - from an array of sources on an array of interconnected topics. Actors, authors, activists, and more offer accessible information and insights on engaging feminisms in the 21st century.
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

I Love It Though by Alli Warren
The most recent collection of the Oakland poet's work shows her ascending yet another rung toward her climb into the pantheon of contemporary American poetry. These latest poems show her voice becoming stronger and her vision even broader as she mesmerizes readers with the subtle complexity and beauty of her verse.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel
Jaya and Rasa takes some tips from the Shakespearean play that shares its initials (Romeo & Juliet). Sonia Patel deftly blends those shared elements of reckless, urgent adolescent romance with the complex realities of life in 21st century Hawaii.
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors is an adorably hilarious children's picture book by Drew Daywalt, (who also wrote The Day the Crayons Quit). I love the intelligent humor that both children and parents can enjoy and the dynamic illustrations.
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Judy Kim, Library Aide, Cesar Chavez, Temescal and the Main

The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography by Walt Whitman
The University of Iowa may seem an unlikely place to be publishing the definitive work and criticism of New York's (and the nation's) singularly most important poet & the English Department at the University of Houston might seem equally unlikely as a center of Whitman scholarship. Nevertheless, Houston is where Jack Turpin was a student when he discovered this fascinating "lost" work of Whitman in the newspaper collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. Turpin learned of its possible existence somewhere during his careful study of the great poet's notebooks, where Whitman had sketched out details of the story. An early edition of the New York Times contained an ad for something to look for inside a rival newspaper, the Sunday Dispatch, that drew Turpin's attention. This led Turpin to the Library of Congress, where some of the only extant copies of the Sunday Dispatch are held, in which this highly-entertaining and brilliantly innovative (for the time) a fun and fascinating pseudo-autobiography of young wry orphan rambling the social whirl of New York City in the middle of the 19th century.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Suzette, aka Little (as in sister), and her brother Lionel, aka Lion, are both teenagers in Los Angeles spending the summer together after a school year apart. Brandy Colbert brings them, their struggles and joys, and their family and friends to life in a novel that gives life's complexities more room to be.
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann & Sébastian Gobert
The toppling of propagandizing statues of Vladimir Lenin characterized the sweeping popular unrest that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the Ukraine, this phenomenon, known as "Leninfall," was particularly widespread, until by the end of 2013, all representations of the great Russian revolutionary leader were purged from public view. Two Western European photojournalists ventured to document the fate of these statues with their cameras. This collection of the photographs serves as a droll but stunning visual testament to this dramatic piece of modern history and its consequences, as well as an interesting look inside the war-torn nation.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Lost Ballparks by Dennis Evanosky & Eric J. Kos
The ever-productive partnership behind the Alameda Sun add to their growing list of historical works with this heavily illustrated coffee-table book that recalls storied facilities across the country and in Canada and Japan where professional baseball has been played. Of course, they a section to Oaks Park in Emeryville, home field of the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Well-chosen and well-reproduced archival photographs, with text based on the coauthors' trademark authoritative research, make for a splendid experience for any true fan.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Two mothers struggle over the custody of a “lucky” child. Soli is an undocumented immigrant who loses her child when authorities discover her status. Her story is a tragic one that exposes the treacherous risks people take to cross into the USA and the injustices of our broken immigration system and our corrupt prisons. Kavya’s story is also affecting—she should be much less sympathetic due to her selfish actions as a privileged foster mom who wants to adopt at any cost but I felt myself just as lashed to her longings. The local Berkley setting is a bonus. Engrossing, heartbreaking, compassionate.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Mad about Trump by The Usual Gang of Idiots (i.e., members of the Mad magazine staff)
One thing's for sure, 2017 has brought a bombardment of Trumpism to our electronic media and our public sphere. Its dire consequences are no laughing matter, which can make the tweeting and the saber-rattling even harder to cope with. Somehow, the screwball masters at Mad magazine have managed to supply some of the good medicine of laughter to help restore at least some perspective on today's challenges. A few frames of "The Trump Family Circus," or Kenny Keil's "No, Donald!," a revision of David Shannon's children's classic "No, David!," or any of the other extracts from Mad magazine dating from 2004 that constitute this compilation, might prove to be just the right dose of that time-tested medicine to get a good night's sleep after watching the news at 11.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Midnight without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
Midnight without a Moon is a coming-of-age novel set in the 1950s in Mississippi. Thirteen year-old Rose Lee, her family, and community grapple with family dynamics, violent racism, religion, and conflicting understandings of success in a page-turner of a first novel from Linda Williams Jackson.
Recommended for: Children, Teens
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
The art and writing transcends the graphic novel genre as Emil Ferris explores and blends many themes and styles.  It's part mystery, pulp fiction, horror, and also an emotional coming-of-age story that explores race, history, and many other themes.  In addition to the amazing narrative the art is stunning and expressive. 
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Rachel Sher, Senior L.A./TLL Library Manager, Tool Lending

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow
T.E. McMorrow's retelling of a familiar Christmas classic reaches back to the tale the ballet was based on and moves it forward to the Harlem Renaissance. Lush, lively illustrations bring to life this story of a young girl finding her voice through a bit of holiday magic.
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

OG Told Me by Pendarvis Harshaw
The author shares his intimate reminiscences of growing up in Oakland, utilizing the urban parlance of the period, incorporating the wisdom he gained from the elders he encountered along the way. The ingenuity of his approach to a simple coming-of-age memoir is excitingly creative. The wisdom the book imparts is valuable, besides, and the African-American tradition of paying homage to the elders is sustained into the 21st century in a highly enjoyable and fascinating way, whether the reader is from the culture or looking in from the outside. It includes colorful and artistic graphics that help to communicate the integrity of the elder neighbors who populate this little gem of a book.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
Fifteen-year-old Julie returns home for the summer and finds herself tangled up in a deadly mystery. Set in Scotland between the two World Wars, this historical fiction gives brilliant insights into class divisions and gendered expectations. A prequel to the stunning Code Name Verity, but stands alone.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Margaret, Children's librarian, Piedmont Ave

Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand
Comedian and movie star Russell Brand shares a range of interesting stories based on his fourteen years of recovery. His personal addictions serve as examples for the full spectrum--from drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar addictions to addictions to work, stress, sex, bad relationships, digital media, and fame. His writing is creative, thought-provoking, compassionate, funny and even profound.  By helping to better understand what drives our addictions, this book will help tackle any New Year's resolutions from the small to the most difficult behavioral changes.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Associate Director, Main Library

Royals by Cedar Sigo
Sigo's poems show glimmers of the Zen and jazz-inspired musicality of the mid-20th century Bay Area poetry scene combined with expressions from his own literary DNA as part of the Suquamish people of the Pacific Northwest to shimmer on the page. To all that, he adds the cries of social exasperation and exhausting resistance that the present day demands.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Thirteen-year-old Jojo and his sister Kayla have been brought up by their loving maternal grandparents. Their mother Leonie is a drug abuser who lacks any maternal instincts, their father Michael is incarcerated, and they’ve never even met their white paternal grandparents. When they learn that Michael is being released, Leonie piles the kids and best friend in the car to pick him up from prison, anticipating a joyous family reunion instead of the traumatic journey that unfolds. This brutal story of poverty and racism in the American South is cut with moments of hope, tenderness, resilience and mystical power. Jojo’s tale is especially vivid, and I found myself absolutely immersed in his story.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott
The fiction of the Libertines of France's Baroque period of the 18th century has had my attention, with its subversive intent, since I first discovered it as a pubescent student of the French language. The masterpiece of that genre, whose title translates Dangerous Liaisons, has inspired at least three ballets, seven feature films, television miniseries in France and Brazil and now Scott's novel set among well-to-do African Americans in Harlem, New York City, in the halcyon days following World War II. In Scott's retelling, presented in the brisk style of most popular fiction, the surreptitious exploits and manipulations of the leading characters renders a very similar fate in Harlem as similar conduct did in the timeless original to members of the pre-revolutionary French aristocracy. The lesson of this tale really helps to sustain the faith during puzzling times.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
A beautiful novel with layers of story about a girl who has experienced loss in multiple ways over her life, and in especially impactful ways very recently.  Marin learns that no matter how hard she tries, she can’t run away from loss or from love, even when the love is no longer requited and the loss is so profound you think you will never heal.  San Francisco is the background to Marin’s previous life, when her best friend became her girlfriend and her grandpa was still alive, but the cold winter better suits her current mood.  When her best friend shows up, she is forced to remember what she is trying to forget. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Sharon McKellar, Community Relations Librarian

Windows by Julia Denos
Windows is a quietly lovely picture book perfect for bedtime reading. Sleepy youngsters can follow the child in the book on a walk around the neighborhood with the family dog, then drift off to the final image of the child curled up on the couch with Mom and dog.
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Janine deManda, Temporary Part-Time Library Assistant, Main, Eastmont

What were your favorite books of 2017? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Oakland Public Library Staff’s Favorite Books of 2016

As it draws to a close, some have declared 2016 the worst year ever. Whether or not we all agree with that sentiment, we can look back fondly on at least one thing: the books! Here are some of our favorite books from the past twelve months.

Please share your favorite books of 2016 in the comments.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
An evocative tale of growing up and the role best friends play during that time.  The Brooklyn of the 1970s is a perfectly rendered additional character. 
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Helen, Librarian, Main

Desert Boys by Chris McCormick
A collection of linked stories revolve around Daley “Kush” Kushner, a young man growing up in a small desert town in California’s Antelope Valley. Daley struggles with being secretly (or not so secretly) gay, being tender hearted in a world of tough guys, and wanting to move away and create a new life while he remains frustratingly tethered to his birthplace. This book is packed with amazingly sharp observations, beautiful human connections, humor and heartbreak. 
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Dessert First by Dean Gloster      
In most families, there's one person who's best at keeping things together in times of trouble. If you're a teenager, and you feel like that person is you, it's hard - especially when the trouble is way out of your league to fix. Dessert First has a few similarities to The Fault in Our Stars, but I found Dessert First more believable and a better book on many levels.     
Recommended for: Teens           
Recommended by: Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator, Second Start - Main  

Dreaming On the Edge: Poets and Book Artists in California by Alastair M. Johnston
In an exquisitely illustrated survey, Johnston's vivid and erudite discussion of the poets and book artists of California provides a grand tour of art on the Pacific Coast in the modern era. This book is fascinating and beautifully illustrated.
Recommended for: Adults            
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Page by page, a plant grows as sharply-dressed insects speculate -- in their own language -- about what it might be. Each spread shows the same space as it incrementally changes over the seasons, and the bugs investigate, build a treehouse, and face danger from a swooping bird. Careful readers will notice lesser dramas, too: a caterpillar does his thing, a stick bug is barely noticeable until a many-eyed spider steps on its head, a mushroom grows. Kids (and adults) will love decoding the bugs' strange, silly language. The style is distinctly Ellis’: the gouache and ink illustrations will be familiar to fans of her work as artist-in-residence for the Decemberists. Kindergartners and everyone on up will get the most out of the book, especially repeat readings.         
Recommended for: Children, Families
Recommended by: Mary, Children's Librarian, Elmhurst Branch 

Every Man A Menace by Patrick Hoffman
Fast paced crime novel about the international drug trade, much of which takes place in the Bay Area.  The pace doesn't detract from the reader seeing the humanity of the many characters.  Tense and thrilling.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Brian Boies, Librarian II, TeenZone   

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
This book is showing up on many “Best Of 2016” lists and for good reason. The author, a Harvard professor and MacArthur Genius grant recipient, spent time living in the rough parts of Milwaukee, getting to know landlords and the tenants who cycle through their often dilapidated properties. Occupants struggle to keep their housing when any unexpected expense means the rent doesn’t get paid. Eviction court does not provide or require legal representation, and once marked by an eviction history, options for decent housing become scarce.  Personal stories make this book read more like a novel, but the truth in Evicted will change how you think about “home” forever.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Christine, Librarian, Main     

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
I didn't know what to think of this book when I opened it.... and it surprised me over and over again. Hermione is a cheerleader -- not your stereotypical social butterfly shaking pom-poms, but a serious elite athlete -- and as she and her squad are training for the final competition, someone spikes her drink, brutally attacks her, and leaves her on the shore of the lake at cheer camp. Suddenly she's the topic of everyone's gossip. How does she come back from this and start to plan her future again? With the help of her parents, her best friend, her teammates, universal healthcare, and a really good (though unconventional) therapist. This is a survival story, a phoenix story, not just a teen issue book. Highly recommended even if you don't get the Shakespeare reference in the title.      
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Remy, Teen Librarian, Eastmont       

The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965-1975
by Mat Callahan
Much has been published lately about the uprisings of the 1960s. Callahan's book stands alone. He experienced the period he writes about first hand as a rock musician (The Looters, Wild Bouquet, etc.), singer-songwriter, music theorist, member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and leftist social activist. This has helped to inform his brilliant analysis of the moment in history when San Francisco Bay Area was the world's primary center of innovation in popular music and locus of a worldwide cultural revolution.
Recommended for: Adults            
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Faithful by Alice Hoffman
Beautiful story of loss and mourning that left me feeling hopeful. For regular Hoffman readers, there isn't any supernatural elements in this book (but I found I didn't need them for this story).
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Rebekah Randle, Library Aide, Lakeview

The Golden Age by Joan London
In 1950’s Perth, Australia, Frank is a 13-year-old Jewish refugee from Hungary who is wise beyond his years. He’s a poet, and he’s also a polio survivor struggling with his new disability. His life is changed when he finds a home at a convalescent hospital for juvenile polio survivors called the Golden Age, where he experiences his first love. Tender and bittersweet and filled with vivid characters, this book intertwines sorrow and longing with hope.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I immediately wanted to re-read this book! Solid contemporary romance about enemies that are forced to work together and come to realize that hating someone is disturbingly similar to loving someone.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Rebekah Randle, Library Aide, Lakeview

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
In alternating chapters, Homegoing follows the descendants of two branches of a Ghanaian family from the 18th century to today. This is a story of vast sweep, through continents and centuries, touching the slave trade, colonization, tribal warfare, captivity, marriage within and without one's own kind, American racism and black pride, homophobia, and much more. But it's not a big book, and it isn't written as an epic - it's just a story of people, one chapter per person, one chapter at a time, until you are surrounded and overwhelmed and buoyed up as though by the ocean the characters cross and fear and love.            
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator, Second Start - Main  

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Not a novel for the faint-hearted. Imagine Me Gone tells, through five distinct voices, the story of a family devastated by two generations of crippling depression and anxiety. Raw and urgent.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Kathleen DiGiovanni, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
Combining adventure, medieval history, religion and scatological humor, this amazing quest tale features three children crossing 13th century France. Multiple voices give rise to well-written characters and a complex narrative but that complexity never overwhelms. A fabulous read!
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Helen, Children's Librarian, Main Children's Room    

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Landreaux, hunting a deer, accidentally kills his neighbor’s son.  How the two families survive and are changed by this horrific event makes magnificent storytelling in Erdrich’s hand.  Landreaux’s own son, LaRose, is the centerpiece of the story, which is told from many perspectives, current and past.  Erdrich’s narrative wanders unevenly through different character’s history but always with vividness, surprise, and humor,  in a story of revenge and forgiveness, and of the interplay of an individual’s and a family’s transformation.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children’s Services

Listen, Liberal, or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank
Explains how the Democratic party become the party of the Meritocracy movement or the professional classes and in turn lost its old FDR New Deal base or what is now called the "White Working Class". This book more or less predicted the election of a demagogue like Donald Trump who tapped into the anger, frustration and resentment the "White Working Class" has against the professional elite class.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Paul Schiesser, Branch Manager, Rockridge 

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
In this challenging and rewarding book, the author considers the role loneliness and isolation, whether imposed from without or self-assumed, in the creation of art. Laing discusses the lives and works of Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Klaus Nomi, and David Wojnarowicz, among others.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Kathleen DiGiovanni, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

The Mexican Flyboy by Alfredo Vea Jr.  
With locations from San Quentin to the Central Valley to the Mexican/Texas borderlands, this book combines magical realism and a story about how sometimes in order to save someone, you have to save yourself. It's a quick read and the figures encountered along the way are all easily identifiable, even without needing a Google search.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Lina, Delivery                            

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
A group of World War II refugees thrown together by chance are making their way to the ships that will offer them freedom from the aftermath of the war. First, however, they must get through East Prussia without getting killed or imprisoned by the Red Army or Nazis. A not-often-heard side of World War II of the civilians left behind after the war’s end, Salt to the Sea is based on the true tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the greatest maritime disaster in history. Intricately plotted and told in alternating viewpoints by complex characters hiding secrets from each other and from themselves, this is a story both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Sally Engelfried, Children's Librarian, Montclair Branch        

Scratch a Thief & House of Evil, two thrillers by John Trinian (aka Zekial Marko)
The author was an integral part of a circle of Bohemians who in the mid-1960s frequented Juanita's, a saloon operated by its colorful namesake on the converted ferry, Charles Van Damme, docked on the Sausalito waterfront. He would later land in Hollywood, as Zekial Marko, to produce some of the period's most compelling television scripts as episodes of "The Rockford Files," "Mission: Impossible," and "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." In these two reprinted thrillers, first published in 1961 & 1962 respectively, Trinian (a pen name) uses the backdrop of San Francisco in those years to display the unique imagination that helped him succeed in Hollywood.
Recommended for: Adults            
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
In an era when a reckless attachment to not ruffling any feathers has turned the country's leadership over to corrupt oligarchs tied to actively xenophobic, racist, sexist, ableist, antisemitic, queerphobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, nationalist individuals and organizations, Ms. West's willingness to raise her voice and speak truth to power, feathers be d*mned, is both refreshing and necessary. This book focuses for the most part on issues related to Ms. West's experiences with sexism, misogyny, and fatphobia, and it opens the door to the rest of her body of thoughtful, politically engaged work as a writer and activist. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Main - Children's & GovDocs    

          

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet 
Melissa Sweet's collage artwork on nearly every page form a perfect complement to her clearly-written biography, which gives enticing back-story information to E.B. White's most popular children's books, and inspiring scenes of the life of a writer.  Adults who read his books aloud to their children will enjoy reading this one aloud as well. Ample quotes from his stories, letters, and articles are set in old-typewriter font and dated for clarity. Photos, ephemera, and watercolor illustrations are combined for a dynamic and appealing presentation.
Recommended for: Children, Adults, Families
Recommended by: Erica S., Children's Librarian, Rockridge Branch           

Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America by Charles Russo  
Not only a brief look into the life of Bruce Lee, but also insight into the historical background on how martial arts was spread in the United States.  The author, Charles Russo, a local San Francisco writer, delves deep into the history of martial arts in San Francisco and Oakland, and how one of its most famous cultural icons, helped spread its influence around the world.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Liza Ly, PT Librarian I               

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
LOVED IT. Smart, interesting take on Sherlock that tackles the reality of being a woman in that era.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Rebekah Randle, Library Aide, Lakeview

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
A cat walks through the world with its whiskers, ears and paws. Different animals all see the cat: a child sees a friendly face, a bee sees a pixillated creature, a flea sees a forest of hair, a mouse sees enormous claws and teeth, a bird sees a back way below - and what does the cat see? Gorgeous illustrations, a funny idea that little kids will love, and deeper underlying food for thought: what makes different viewers see the same thing in completely different ways?         
Recommended for: Children     
Recommended by: Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator, Second Start - Main  

Today Will Be Different  by Maria Semple             
Semple excels at taking "a day in the life" of her character, Eleanor Flood, and unraveling a whole lifetime (as well as her sanity) in the course of that day. How does a writer so skillfully encapsulate a marriage, career in television, mother-son relationship, and the bond of sisters, through the interior thoughts of the narrator? Through risk-taking, soul-baring, side-aching writing. I like how deeply buried secrets belonging to the narrator are secrets to us readers as well, until they are not secrets anymore. I enjoy the surprises throughout the novel, and you just have to trust Semple is taking you somewhere interesting. It is perhaps not as consistently laugh out loud funny as the previous novel, (Where'd You Go Bernadette)— because there is ultimately much sadness in the story she creates in collage-like fashion. However, it is also dependably quirky, supremely honest, and a great satire of modern life. I enjoyed the additional surprise element of the graphic illustrations -- it wouldn't be the same book without these 'found objects.' Have you kept something from your past life that you wish you could work into a collage, a song, or a novel? Writers will also laugh out loud that she procrastinated for eight years on her next creation, apparently oblivious that her agent and editor had been sloughed off due to the great publishing conglomeration debacle of this century. One by one, all day long, all things fall away, all illusions fall away, not just her book deal. The book could be called, Where'd you go, life?
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Emily Odza, Librarian, Your friendly neighborhood branch (various locations)              

To the Brink: True Story of the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Earth by Jason Lewis
In this, the long-awaited conclusion to the author's epic documentation of his journey to become the first person ever to have circled the planet using only the power of his own body, Lewis lands his pedal boat, Moksha, in Cairns, Australia after crossing the Pacific Ocean. From there he crosses the Australian continent, heading back to England via the Himalayas, the troubled lands on the African shore of the Red Sea, the Holy Land then across Europe. The book concludes the three volume chronicle of his journey (following Dark Waters of 2012 and The Seed Buried Deep of 2014) that began at the Greenwich meridian and concludes there after his daring and treacherous westward circumnavigation of the earth, walking, rowing, pedaling and even swimming. Lewis captures all the wonder, terror and loneliness that faced him in a gripping and captivating style.   
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch   

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a young slave who flees the violence and terror of her Georgia plantation via a system of literal, not metaphorical, subterranean steam trains. It’s a suspenseful and inventive page turner that takes an unflinching look at the horrors of American slavery and other brutal injustices that formed the foundation of our nation. Whitehead is one of our country’s great literary talents and it came as no surprise that this book won this year's National Book Award for Fiction.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung
People have always treated seventh-grader Chloe Cho like she’s from outer space, just because she’s the only Asian American in her school.  When a new teacher, Ms. Lee, becomes the second Korean American, assigns a project to explore family history, and starts asking pressing questions, Chloe begins to realize there is much more to her parents’ immigration story than she ever imagined.  Mike Jung, an Oakland author, delivers a hilarious and provocative story about identity and friendship.
Recommended for: Children, Teens
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children’s Services

We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang
An incredibly timely and important book that contextualizes the racial and class tensions we recently witnessed and experienced in the presidential campaign this year. Chang discusses how white Americans' feelings of displacement in our multiracial American society has fueled so many of our public policies around housing, policing, education, public speech, and equity. He asserts that we've avoided the necessary discourses we need to have to attain true equality. For people (particularly local folks) interested in how things got the way they are, this book is a must-read.
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Dorothy Lazard, Librarian, Oakland History Room

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant young doctor and researcher in the Bay Area when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This slim volume is his story in his own words, finished by his widow after his death. This book is especially recommended for anyone dealing with the illness or death of someone in their family or anyone they love.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator, Second Start-Main     

Oakland Public Library Staff’s Favorite Books of 2015

It's that time of year when everyone publishes their best of the year lists. I look forward to seeing what the New York Times has to say on this matter, but I think my colleagues at Oakland Public Library always come up with the best reading suggestions! Here are some of our favorites from 2015. 

We'd love to hear from you, too--please share your favorites of 2015 in the comments. 

All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Miriam Medow, Children's Librarian, Dimond Branch
In alternating chapters, two authors -- one Black and one White -- give voice to the very real struggles of two all-American boys -- one Black and one White. Racialized police brutality, the implications of white silence in the face of such violence, and the meaning of justice are brought to light in this powerful, important new young adult novel.

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children's Services, Main Library
Short, dense, and transformative; Coates' singular work, one of the NY Times best 10 books of the year and a National Book Award winner, is a very personal narrative exploring America's foundational history of racism. I imagine that readers will experience this book in radically different ways, but I'd wager that no one will finish it unchanged.

The Big Bitch
by John Patrick Lang
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch Library
First-time Oakland novelist John Patrick Lang takes the tried-and-true noir formula, applies it to the economic circumstances that resulted after the mortgage meltdown of 2008, and invents a rookie East Bay private investigator, "Doc" Holiday whose luck, gall, desperation and fear helps him wing his first assignment with the aplomb of a 21st-century Jacques Clouseau.

Court of Fives
by Kate Elliott
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Remy, Teen Librarian, Eastmont       
A Romeo and Juliet story set in the arena of Gladiators. Jessamy lives in a world where her very existence is taboo: her mother is a Commoner and her father a Patron, their love forbidden by strict hierarchy and social custom. She and her sisters will not be able to marry into wealth, and they are prohibited from working, so Jessamy's future is uncertain. Her only joy is running the Fives, a game of strength and strategy that provides entertainment for the public -- but even a whiff of recognition would be disastrous for her father's political advancement. When a handsome Patron youth notices her talent at Fives, will he reveal her identity and doom her family? Exploring struggles of class, race, and gender, this fast-paced fantasy adventure will thrill teen readers.

Eileen
by Ottessa Moshfegh
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch Library
Ottessa Moshfegh, who has based herself in Oakland while she's completing a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, uses her exceptional talents as a writer to bring to life a truly damaged and unlikable character, pulling the reader slowly along the course of reality faced by a personality consumed by anxiety, self-loathing and dread. To tackle the starkness and distress this novel addresses is a monumental literary challenge, and Moshfegh has the unique gift to assemble it into an unforgettable reading experience.

Fates and Furies              
by Lauren Groff               
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Alice McCain, Library Assistant, Piedmont Ave Branch            
The author gets to the meat and gristle of the two married characters and explores how they at once support--and somewhat destroy--one another. Fascinating.  

Furiously Happy
by Jenny Lawson
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Dayni, Librarian, Asian Library            
Furiously Happy is the funniest book I've read in a long, long time.  Find out what happens when a woman with depression, OCD and crippling anxiety decides to be furiously happy.  Hijinks include visiting Australia and attempting to hold a koala . . . while dressed in a koala costume, hanging out with Rory, a stuffed raccoon and so much more.

Gold Fame Citrus
by Claire Vaye Watkins
AND The Water Knife
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Christine, Librarian, Main
I could not pick between my two favorite books published in 2015: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins and The Water Knife by Paulo Bacigalupi.  Each drought-themed post-apocalyptic novel offers similar yet distinctly compelling visions of an ever-more arid Southwest.   In The Water Knife, climate-change refugees overwhelm Phoenix as corporate- controlled states battle over rights to disappearing rivers. Gold Fame Citrus follows a couple fleeing the insane violence of LA, only to be swallowed up by a cult in the shadow of the enormous sand dune replacing the Mojave Desert.  Both books use exquisite language and detail to show that in the absence of water, violence surfaces and floods communities large and small, springing from that great underground aquifer- fear. Lest we be lulled into forgetfulness as we batten down for “El Nino-zilla” this winter, these accomplished authors remind us that the future is dry.

I Can Give You Anything But Love
by Gary Indiana
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Sean Dickerson, Library Assistant, Main Library/Elmhurst Branch
Intercut with scenes of its own editing in present day Havana, Gary Indiana’s account of his early years is spiked with portraits taken from the saturnalia of a fading Haight-Ashbury, Gay Marxist Liberation groups of 1970's Los Angeles, and literary friendships with the likes of Susan Sontag. The perennial bridesmaid (as he'd prefer it), Indiana's "first and last" memoir is a reminder why many consider him among America's greatest underground writers. His finale is refreshingly anti-nostalgia: “Like everything irreversible and embarrassing, I’d like to remember it differently.”

Listen, Slowly
by Thanhha Lai 
Recommended for: Children
Recommended by: Helen, Children's Librarian, Main Library
Twelve-year old Vietnamese-American Mai believes that her summer at the beach has been ruined when she has to accompany her grandmother back to their family village in an attempt to discover what happened to her grandfather during the war. This child of immigrants fish-out-of-water story deepens and transforms as Mai develops relationships with her family, adapts to village life and ultimately learns her grandfather's fate.  Mai's voice is perfect and the story is filled with realistic, three-dimensional characters.

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
by Lucia Berlin
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch Library
These moving and captivating stories, which have languished inside several small-press editions attracting far too little attention while Lucia Berlin was producing them in her various Oakland and Berkeley residences, have finally found the wide audience they deserve. Although this collection leaves out a story or two that I particularly enjoy, its editor, Stephen Emerson, a loyal library patron, did an extraordinary job with the selection, the introduction and the hard work of extricating Berlin from her undue oblivion.

Modern Romance
by Aziz Ansari
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Associate Director, Main Library
Actor and stand-up comedian, Aziz Ansari, is on a roll.  Not content to rest on his laurels following the end of the TV sit-com "Parks and Recreation", Aziz teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project in order to craft a book that combines humor and serious social science. "Modern Romance" analyzes courtship and romantic behavior over the past 100 years and makes a cross-cultural comparison about what love looks like and means now.  As soon as you finish this great book, check out Ansari's brilliant Netflix series "Master of None" to see if you can watch just one episode at a time!

The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind
by Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Cap, editors
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children's Services, Main Library
In 2011, Claudia Rankine composed an open letter about race and the creative imagination on her website and invited others to respond.  The Racial Imaginary project developed in collaboration with Beth Loffreda and Max King Cap, involving visual art as well as writing.  They have assembled a selection of the project in this book.  "The essays gathered here unveil race's operations in the act of creativity," writes Loffreda in her introduction. Each one is personal, specific, and provocative, and I treasure being able to dip into the collection and any place, read one short essay, and walk away with a new perspective on writing, reading, and being a citizen of Oakland and the world.

Ray Davies: A Complicated Life
by Johnny Rogan
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Branch Manager, Temescal Branch Library
For London-based biographer Johnny Rogan, his pop music idols serve as the subjects for epic chronicles of both the person his book is about and the circumstances surrounding the life he records. (The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited, his second book on the watershed California band, is widely recognized as the finest music biography ever written.) For his most recent epic, he leaps into the life one of the most enigmatic survivors of the musical phenomenon known as the British Invasion. The result is a compelling, often poignant, portrayal of the origins and the aftermath of one of the 20th century's most significant periods.

Red: A Crayon's Story    
by Michael Hall
Recommended for: Children, Families
Recommended by: Mary Dubbs, Children's Librarian, Elmhurst Branch Library
A crayon with a red label can't seem to get anything right: not fire engines, not strawberries, not hearts... At this point, kids hearing this book read aloud are clamoring to point out what the crayons in the story don't yet see: that "red" crayon is obviously blue! Clever details, such as the grandparent crayons being shorter than the young crayons, encourage careful re-readings. Managing to avoid didacticism, the story nevertheless invites discussion about the labels placed on us and their consequences. This is one of my favorite picture books of the year to read to preschoolers up through fifth grade.

TWO librarians loved this book! Here’s what Kate Conn, Librarian at Main had to add:
Although his label may have said "red" it wasn't until one day a new friend asks him to draw a blue ocean, that Red crayon realizes he's Blue! Finally he can let his true color shine; no longer dictated by labels or other crayons' opinions he goes on to do incredible drawings of blueberries, bluebells, blue jeans, blue skies, etc. Not only is this terrifically fun to read aloud, it has a great classic message for kids: Be true to yourself!  

Shadowshaper
by Daniel Jose Older
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Remy, Teen Librarian, Eastmont       
Set in a vibrant Brooklyn community, this story blends the mystical with the mundane. Sierra Santiago is an artist bringing beauty to abandoned buildings with her murals, but her grandfather's secrets hint at another side to her art -- one that will send her on an urgent mission to stop a supernatural killer stalking the neighborhood. With her friends guarding her back, Sierra sets out to discover the truth about her family and herself.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed
by Jon Ronson  
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Xochitl Gavidia, Librarian, Chavez
This extremely moving and entertaining book about public shaming is one of the best books I’ve read all year.  Ronson examines why some people are shamed by the public and some aren’t.  He also investigates the power of social media and the way’s the public can use it to ruin some people’s lives.  This book made me laugh, feel anger, feel empathy, and total amazement about the world we live in.

Torpor
by Chris Kraus
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Sean Dickerson, Library Assistant, Main Library/Elmhurst Branch
Of the spate of great reissues in 2015 (Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles, Resentment by Gary Indiana) perhaps most welcome was the republication of Chris Kraus' Torpor, now with critical afterword by McKenzie Wark. Written during the "post-MTV, pre-AOL" 1990's (a time when "'collateral damage,' a military term coined to describe the accidental wasting of civilian populations, is just beginning to cross over into self-help therapeutic terminology"), Kraus' narrative of a search for relationships uncomplicated by politics and subsequent paralysis still feels pressingly timely.

The Turner House
by Angela Flournoy
Recommended for: Adults         
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library
The story of a family, a house and a city. The Turner family consists of a widowed matriarch with 13 grown children and their families. Their bonds are tested by sibling differences, marital strife, illness, addiction and even a haint who haunts the eldest son. They’re in danger of losing their beloved home on Yarrow Street, now surrounded by abandoned lots and saddled with an underwater mortgage, and over the last 75 years, they’ve seen Detroit change drastically under the pressure of political discord and financial depression. A 2015 National Book Award finalist, this book is a great choice for readers who love family sagas, African American fiction, potent settings, and stories that are both funny and poignant.

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
by George Saunders, illustrated by Lane Smith
Recommended for: Children, Teens, Adults       
Recommended by: Jenera! Librarian, Piedmont Ave Branch
This is a parable about good and bad neighbors and goats. I liked it because it's super-short (82 pages, illustrated) and reminds you not to be a jerk.

Wolfie the Bunny
by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Recommended for: Children, Families
Recommended by: Miriam Medow, Children's Librarian, Dimond Branch
When Wolfie (a baby wolf) is found on the doorstep of the Bunny family's Brooklyn-styled home, Dot (a young bunny) doesn't like him one bit. Wearing a red hoodie and a fierce scowl, Dot tries to convince her parents that, "He's going to eat us all up!" -- but they love the adorable wolf and his goofy overbite, and raise him as their own. Giggle-inducing details, like Wolfie's huge pink bunny onesie, and a delightfully surprising climax belie more serious themes of trust and loyalty in this wholly original sibling story.

Oakland Public Library Staff’s Favorite Books of 2014

You’ve seen them everywhere—end of the year Best Books lists in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Amazon, to name just a few—now it’s time for us to weigh in. Here are a few of our favorite books published in 2014.

We’d love to hear from you, too! Please tell us about your favorite books of 2014 in the comments.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr 
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Emily Odza, Librarian
I love the kind of story where two persons' fates slowly converge, lending a feverish suspense to the story, despite its experimental approach to time. The backdrop is France and Germany and it tells the parallel stories of two young people swept up in WWII. Doerr has an incredible ability to depict a setting, and I still smell the salt air of Saint Malo, the crash of the ocean, and the atmosphere of a town under occupation, as experienced by a blind French girl. Meanwhile, a young German boy is drafted by Hitler Youth and then into the Army, witness to and participant in terrible atrocities in the hunt for partisans. It is possible to follow along as he comes to realize that he does not want to be part of Hitler's machine anymore and as the final days of the war degenerate into chaos, he is able to do the one good act that redeems his life.

Annihilation
by Jeff VanderMeer
Recommended for: Teens, Adults           
Recommended by: Alice, Library Assistant, Piedmont Branch
It has colorful and textural descriptions of a dense natural environment that may actually be a character in the story. Its like a fine tuned naturalist wrote a mystery that you can't put down. Bonus: It is book one of a trilogy!!

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
by Hilary Mantel
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Kathleen DiGiovanni, Senior Librarian, Main Library
Read this collection of ten short stories by the masterful English writer Hilary Mantel while you wait for the third installment of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy to be published. The stories are darkly humorous, many of them touched by the macabre. Mantel's language is rich, crisply specific, and evocative.

The Bohemians
by Ben Tarnoff
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Kathleen DiGiovanni, Senior Librarian, Main Library
The Bohemians is a fascinating read for its depictions of San Francisco's literary elite during the Civil War. Why did Mark Twain's star rise? Why did Bret Harte's fall as he squandered his early success? Tarnoff analyzes both of these questions. He also brings into the story two of early San Francisco's other leading writers, the long-forgotten gay writer Charles Warren Stoddard and Oakland's own Ina Coolbrith, California's first Poet Laureate, both associates of Harte and part of Twain's circle.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Kathleen DiGiovanni, Senior Librarian, Main Library
If you've ever struggled to have a difficult conversation with your children or your aging parents, read Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's graphic memoir of her parents' final years. Sad but never sentimental; laugh-out-loud funny and insightful, Chast nails the experience of middle-aged children coping with their beloved but complicated parents in decline.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Brian Guenther,  Branch Manager,  Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch
With encouragement from his lover, Murakami's title character seeks to find out why his tight-knit group of friends suddenly cut ties with him after he left home for college. Through reconnecting with his old friends Tazaki uncovers shocking news, reveals a dark mystery, and discovers truths about himself. An usually realistic novel for Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru is a beautifully solemn book about authenticity and how we often don't know ourselves as much as we think we do.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Mana Tominaga, Librarian, Main Library
Ng’s debut novel is an elegantly written thriller with some familiar elements – a missing girl, a lake nearby, and a love interest apparently gone awry, with some surprising twists involving parental expectations, sibling rivalries, and the added complexities of a mixed race family growing roots in 1977, in an all-American town in Ohio. The book was gripping, and I plowed through, trying to figure out why each family member just couldn’t bring themselves to talk about the real reasons behind Lydia’s disappearance. It’s a heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history as well as with each other.  

The Flight of the Silvers
by Daniel Price
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Susy, Teen Librarian, Cesar E. Chavez Branch
Two sisters are saved from the end of the world by two alien beings sliding silver bracelets on their wrists. They find themselves on a parallel Earth where they meet 4 other survivors from "their" Earth. The 6 find themselves fighting an incredibly fierce and knowing enemy and searching for an answer and a savior in their new world as well. After 600 pages I can't wait for the next one in this series.

The Girl in the Road
by Monica Byrne
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Christine I.,  Librarian, Main Library
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne has remained with me like a vivid fever dream. Only the insane or desperate attempt to cross the Indian Ocean on a floating “bridge” of linked energy platforms. At first unsteady as a baby learning to walk, Meena is battered by the waves, then enters a watery world of eccentrics and miracles. Her story parallels a clandestine escape across Africa by another obsessed woman years before. How their lives are related and how they survive their harrowing circumstances make this near-future debut novel a fascinating alternative to the glut of formulaic dystopian tales crowding the shelves.

Glitter and Glue: A Memoir
by Kelly Corrigan
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Tamar Kirschner, Collection Development Librarian
Ms. Corrigan is a local memoirist with a gift for prose that is deceptively light and entertaining, while dealing with the really tough stuff in life. In Glitter and Glue we meet an Australian family left broken and stuck soon after the mother has died of Cancer. Enter a young traveling Kelly Corrigan looking to make a few bucks on her way through town as their live-in au pair. The course of the relationships she develops with the children and other members of the family over the next few months is as humorous and uplifting as it is painful to follow.      

How It Went Down
by Kekla Magoon
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay,  Supervising Librarian for Children's Services, Main Library
Sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot and killed in the street, but that is all that is certain. Alternating voices of teens relate the aftermath as the mystery around the tragedy unfolds.

I Pity the Poor Immigrant
by Zachary Lazar
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Barbara Bibel, Reference Librarian, Main Library
It is a fascinating fictional account of the early days of Las Vegas seen through the eyes fo Bugsy Siegel and his Holocaust survivor mistress.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
by Nayomi Munaweera
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library
An eye opening fictional account of the devastating civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamil people of Sri Lanka. A Sinhalese girl immigrates to the U.S. with her family, only to return years later, her fate intertwined with a Tamil girl who is haunted by violence. A devastating book to read for its depiction of violence, but open the book to any page and you will read gorgeous prose.  Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a debut novel by an Oakland author and winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region.

It's Night in San Francisco But It's Sunny in Oakland
by Various Authors
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Sean,  Library Aide, Main Library
So many amazing East Bay poets released work this year that it would be impossible to narrow down a few favorites. This anthology by Oakland-based small press Timeless Infinite Light gathers 60 local writers for "a post/Occupy house reading that never ends." In a year when small press went big (hitting the cover of the East Bay Express) this collection is a snapshot, a celebration, and a poetical call to arms.

Over Easy
by Mimi Pond
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Susy, Teen Librarian, Cesar E. Chavez Branch
Even though it has an alias you know this is Mama's Royal Café on Broadway in our own Oakland. The storyline is fantastic and the characters are great. A good story about finding your way through art school actually any post high school and early adulthood in general. Should also especially appeal to those who have worked in the service industry - i.e. cafes and restaurants.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
by Steve Sheinkin
Recommended for: Children, Teens, Adults, Families
Recommended by: Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children's Services, Main Library
An explosion at the Bay Area Port Chicago Naval Base in 1944 led to a groundbreaking civil rights protest by African-American sailors unjustly charged with mutiny. Sheinkin's book is one of the first following historian Robert Allen's uncovering of this story. It is gripping, provocative, and highly readable for tweens to adults.

Sinner
by Maggie Stiefvater
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Susy, Teen Librarian, Cesar E. Chavez Branch
This is a companion book to the Shiver Trilogy so it can easily stand on its own. It follows a character from the trilogy - Cole St. Clair. He's a rock and roll star who became an addict, had his inevitable downfall, and disappeared. He's also a werewolf in love with a human. He has found a way back, especially to her, by being in a reality show filing in Los Angeles. I thought I'd hate Cole but I really felt for him.

The Truth About Alice
by Jennifer Mathieu
Recommended for: Teens
Recommended by: Susy, Teen Librarian, Cesar E. Chavez Library
Alice is a slut - everyone knows. She was sexting the quarterback when he crashed his car and died. Different voices tell the story of how the rumors about Alice got so bad. Alice, herself, speaks up too. This book shows how quickly whispered rumors can so quickly turn to vicious, severely damaging bullying and how a young woman can be irrevocably slut shamed. 

The White Van
by Patrick Hoffman
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Brian Boies, Librarian, TeenZone
Bleak and spare crime novel of current day San Francisco, will keep you tense and turning pages.