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10 Great Biographies You Can Read or Listen to Right Now

Have you tried Hoopla yet? The app is free, the library pays for the content, and your library card will get you 10 downloads a month. Best of all, you never have to wait--everything is available right now. I’ve been browsing Hoopla for great reads to share with you--here are 10 biography picks, and all 10 are availble as an eBook and as an eAudiobook.

Descriptions in italics are provided by the publisher.

Old in Art School by Nell Irvin Painter
A Princeton University historian describes her post-retirement decision to study art, a venture that compelled her to find relevance in the undervalued masters she loves, the obstacles faced by women artists, and the challenges of balancing art and life. The author, a noted scholar, was raised in Oakland and graduated from Oakland Tech. Her book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Best Book of the Year selected by The San Francisco Chronicle.

Just Kids by Patti Smith
In this memoir, singer-songwriter Patti Smith shares tales of New York City : the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's and Strand bookstores and her new life in Brooklyn with a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe--the man who changed her life with his love, friendship, and genius. Winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and many other awards.

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories and archival documents, the author traces the iconic children's program host's personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work. Selected as a Best Book of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle.

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz
Jaquira Díaz writes an unflinching account of growing up as a queer biracial girl searching for home as her family splits apart and her mother struggles with mental illness and addiction. From her own struggles with depression and drug abuse to her experiences of violence to Puerto Rico's history of colonialism, every page vibrates with music and lyricism. Winner of a Whiting Award in Nonfiction, a Lambda Literary Awards Finalist​, and a Best Book of the Year selected by Library Journal.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Chung investigates the mysteries and complexities of her transracial adoption in this chronicle of unexpected family for anyone who has struggled to figure out where they belong. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Best Book of the Year selected by The Washington Post, NPR and numerous others.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Recounts how the author, an experienced falconer grieving the sudden death of her father, endeavored to train for the first time a dangerous goshawk predator as part of her personal recovery. Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Costa Book of the Year, one of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and numerous other accolades.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
The author recounts her coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest where she survived a dysfunctional childhood and found herself hospitalized with a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar II disorder. Selected as a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Library Journal and others.

The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri
In her first work of nonfiction, Dina Nayeri defies stereotypes and raises surprising questions about the immigrant experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh. Finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kirkus Prize.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin  
In this moving, inspirational memoir, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success.

Darling Days by iO Tillett Wright
At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering ma-a bond defined by freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Darling Days is also a provocative examination of culture and identity, of the instincts that shape us and the norms that deform us, and of the courage and resilience it takes to listen closely to your deepest self. When a group of boys refuse to let six-year-old, female-born iO play ball, iO instantly adopts a new persona, becoming a boy named Ricky-a choice iO's parents support and celebrate. It is the start of a profound exploration of gender and identity through the tenderest years, and the beginning of a life invented and reinvented at every step. Alternating between the harrowing and the hilarious, Darling Days is the candid, tough, and stirring memoir of a young person in search of an authentic self as family and home life devolve into chaos.

You can find out more about Oakland Public Library's online books, movies and more here.

If you need help with your library account or have other questions (including how to access Hoopla), please email eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org or leave a voice mail with your full name and details at 510-238-3134.

If you don’t have a library account, we're still issuing new library cards during the Shelter in Place Order. Just complete an online application and email eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org to set one up.

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Fiction eReads Available Right Now

If you haven’t used Hoopla yet, it’s easy—just download the free app, and it gives you access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, comics, music, movies and television shows. Best of all, there are no waitlists—all content is always available. Right now your library card will get you 10 downloads a month.

I’ve been browsing Hoopla for great reads, and here are 10 fiction picks for you.

 

Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo
This year Evaristo became the first Black woman to win the Booker Prize (sharing it with Margaret Atwood) for her novel that uses artful prose in an exploration of race, sexuality, gender, age and Black British womanhood through the interconnected lives of twelve women and femmes who take turns sharing the narrative spotlight. “The prose may be experimental, but the readerly pleasures of character and plot are very traditional. It is a life-enhancing, horizon-expanding novel: funny, inventive and fizzing with vitality.” (The Guardian

The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction along with a fistful of other awards. A half-Vietnamese, half-French young man looks back at the fall of Saigon, his flight to the United States as a refugee and his new life in Southern California. He’s a double agent: a Communist sympathizer working for the South Vietnamese Army, torn between two loyalties, two cultures and two lands. “Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work” (Library Journal). “Both chilling and funny, and a worthy addition to the library of first-rate novels about the Vietnam War” (Kirkus).  

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Roy and Celestial have a bright future ahead of them; he’s a rising corporate executive and she is an up-and-coming artist. Their lives are shattered when, in a case of mistaken identity, Roy is wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to twelve years in prison. “This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America… This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story. Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.” (Kirkus Reviews) An American Marriage won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Aspen Words Prize and an NAACP Image Award.  Also available as an eAudiobook. 

Oakland Noir
Edited by Jerry Thompson and Eddie Muller
Our beloved town grabs the spotlight in this long running crime anthology series from Akashic Books, featuring noir stories by local authors including Nayomi Munaweera, Judy Juanita, Keenan Norris, Kim Addonizio, and our own Oakland History Center Librarian and author Dorothy Lazard. “Thompson and Muller have taken such pains to choose stories highlighting Oakland's diversity and history that the result is a volume rich in local culture as well as crime.” (Kirkus Reviews) Also available as an eAudiobook 

Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Keiko Furukura was a strange child. When she turned 18, she discovered that as a convenience store worker at Smile Mart she could smother her unconventional urges with her employer’s rigid corporate culture. Another 18 years later, adult expectations of who she should be chip away at her efforts at living a “normal life.” “A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism… Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others… A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.” (Kirkus) Winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize.  Also available as an eAudiobook 

The Mountains Sing
by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
The history of the Trần family over four generations is set against the tumultuous background of Vietnam in the 20th century. Diệu Lan’s life of privilege as a young person fades as she persists through tragedy after tragedy, and she ultimately shares her story with her granddaughter Hương when she becomes her sole caregiver. “Widely published in Vietnamese, poet, nonfiction writer, and translator Nguyễn’s first novel in English balances the unrelenting devastation of war with redemptive moments of surprising humanity.” (Booklist) Also available as an eAudiobook.

The Leavers
by Lisa Ko
Ko won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a National Book Award Finalist for this debut novel about Peilan Guo, an undocumented immigrant and young mother from China, and her American-born son, Deming. Deming is a fifth grader when his mom fails to return from her job at a Bronx nail shop. Foster care puts him in the care of a couple of white professors in upstate New York. After years of wondering, a struggling 21 year old Deming seeks answers about his mother. “Ko’s stunning tale of love and loyalty—to family, to country—is a fresh and moving look at the immigrant experience in America, and is as timely as ever.” (Publishers Weekly) Also available as an eAudiobook. 

The Wangs Vs. the World
by Jade Chang
Charles Wang left China for the United States, where he built a cosmetics empire. When his company tanks during the economic crash of 2008, he loses his Bel Air house, pulls his younger kids out of college and private school and the family hits the road with the intent to move in with the eldest daughter, a conceptual artist who lives in the Catskills. “Chang’s charming and quirky characters and comic observations make the novel a jaunty joy ride to remember.” (Publishers Weekly) The Wangs Vs. the World was a New York Times Editor's Choice and selected as a Best Book of the Year by NPR and others.  

Useful Phrases for Immigrants
by May-Lee Chai
This slim volume of stories, winner of a 2019 American Book Award, looks at the lives of people in China and the Chinese diaspora around the globe, touching on issues of class, sexuality, identity and relationships. “With her masterful short story collection, Chai proves with exquisite craftsmanship that less can be so much more… The concise tales in this literary gem linger in the mind long after the pages are turned.” (Booklist 

Sarong Party Girls
by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Jazzy’s 27th birthday is coming up, so it’s time to stop partying and find her dream husband—an ang moh, a rich white Western expat. Cheeky, clever and determined, not to mention brand-obsessed, Jazzy pursues her marital goal in the often shocking after-hours clubs of Singapore. Her story is punctuated with Singlish—a patois derived from a mix of English, Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Indian and Cantonese. “A rowdy tale, memorable language, and a very distinctive protagonist.” (Kirkus Reviews) Tan is also the author of the memoir A Tiger in the Kitchen (2011). Also available as an eAudiobook.

You can find out more about Oakland Public Library's online books, movies and more here.

If you need help with your library account or have other questions (including how to access Hoopla), please email eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org or leave a voice mail with your full name and details at 510-238-3511.

If you don’t have a library account, we're still issuing new library cards during the Shelter in Place Order. Just complete an online application and email eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org to set one up.

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

Go Green with eBooks

This Earth Day consider checking out something from OPL’s quickly expanding digital collection; choose from thousands of eBooks. Whether you already dabble in eBook reading or are certain you could never give up the feel, smell and comfort of a good book, or even if you suspect eReaders and tablets are heralding the decline of civilization, you may be surprised at how easy it is to sink into a good eBook. I was. I was so sure I would never want to read from a backlit screen that I read books in the dark next to my sleeping baby with the flashlight from my phone pointed at the page. When my husband got me an iPad for my birthday I never planned to use it for personal reading, but I had to try out our eBook platforms as part of my job. (Didn’t I?) In no time I began reading mostly on the iPad. I read it in the dark, I read it in the light, in waiting rooms, on trips (you can load a ton of books onto one tablet). I would read it on the train, and I would read it in the rain (carefully). I would read it with a fox, and I would read it in in a box. I do so love my green earth-friendly tablet.

I am not alone. OPL patrons are checking out eBooks like crazy. Look at the upward trajectory of eBook checkouts at OPL over the past 2 years on the Overdrive eBook platform:

In spite of the addition of a second eBook platform, 3M Cloud Library, last January (over 400 amazing new titles and counting), Overdrive checkouts continue on their steady incline. We've gotten the message and have been enthusiastically purchasing all kinds of eBooks for adults, teens, and children. The majority of what we purchase are the latest popular titles on bestseller lists and topping our own print holds queues. We maintain a maximum ratio of 1 digital copy per 6 holds. But, also, a substantial portion of our eBook collection comes to us through Patron Driven Acquisition, which is an elaborate way of saying, "You choose the eBooks at your library". It works like this: If you see that Overdrive or 3M Cloud Library have titles that you want that are not currently owned by the library, you recommend them to us through the click of a button. Then we purchase them and you get notified. That's it. And you'll find much more than the bestsellers from which to choose.

Why do we now offer two options for borrowing eBooks? 3M Cloud Library has an easier setup process and eBook titles not available from Overdrive. Overdrive offers digital audiobooks and Kindle books, which are not available from 3M Cloud Library, and other eBook titles not available from 3M Cloud Library.

 A bit more about each eBook platform:

                 

   Not just for Scotch tape anymore!

http://ebook.3m.com/library/OaklandPublicLibrary 

  • Our very latest ebook titles for adults, teens, and kids.
  • Download ebooks for tablets, various eReaders, and Kindle Fires.
  • Get started with an easy setup process. Simply download the app and log in with your library card number and PIN.
  • Insider's tip: 3M hasn't caught on at OPL, yet, so there is little to no wait on most frontlist titles.

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http://oakland.lib.overdrive.com/9250FB38-4664-481D-A526-4A085C353F69/10...

  • OPL’s largest e-collection, with thousands of titles, for adults, teens, and kids.
  • Get books for most devices, including the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and your Windows or Mac computer.
  • Popular fiction and non-fiction titles in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.
  • You’ll need to create an account using your library card number and PIN, and install free software (Adobe Digital Editions).

 

To learn as much as you could ever want to know (more even!) about these eBook platforms and other digital media available through OPL, go to: http://oaklandlibrary.org/online-resources/e-books-and-downloadable-audiobooks 

If you are browsing, you should go directly to the 3M Cloud Library for titles published since January (generally), and to Overdrive for those published in 2013 and earlier (usually). However, if you know what you are looking for and want to take the guesswork out of where to look, you can search directly through our catalog and find records for all our eBooks, updated every week or two. Here's an example:

http://encore.oaklandlibrary.org/iii/encore/record/C__Rb1944861__Sstill%...

Even niftier is that 3M eBooks are integrated with our catalog, which allows for quick e-book checkouts, holds and account management from the 'My Account' feature of the catalog. You never have to leave our site. As with most of our print collection, the checkout period is for 21 days.

Am I suggesting that eBooks should replace print books? No way! I'm a librarian. I love real live paper books. Plus, many publishers are still not working with digital library models, yet, and you'll need to stick with their print copies until they get there. But it may be rewarding, and environmentally friendly, to make a little room on your bookshelf for an eReader or tablet loaded with a few good books.