Memoirs & Biographies

Check out these picks from our staff that offer a glimpse into people’s lives.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, recommended by Roseann:
Be careful of volunteering ideas at work–you, not someone else,may wind up implementing them. This is what happens to Barbara Ehrenreich when in the aftermath of welfare law changes in 1998 she suggests actually living on the minimum hourly wage of $6-7. Great idea–says the editor–and you do it. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, working as house cleaner, cashier she learns even two jobs do not really a living make. Excellent choice for teenagers who may think college only delays their getting a start in the job world.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, recommended by Roseann:
What an ironic title! Despite a poorly equipped background as a socialite and a self-inflicted gunshot wound that left her with a prosthetic leg, Virginia Hill worked for Winston Churchill’s intelligence sector as she became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines, created spy networks and,of course, battled against deeply set male chauvinism that even extended to the paltry US government recognition that she received at the war’s end. As Mitch Mc Connell once said of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “Nevertheless she persisted.”
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

Yes Please by Amy Poehler, recommended by Barbara and Selena:
Fans of Amy Poehler will enjoy this behind the scenes look into Ms. Poehler’s life. There are sections that cover her time doing improv, when she was at SNL, as well as sections about Parks & Recreation and what she has been doing since Parks & Rec ended. There are funny and serious sections and it was an enjoyable read.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, recommended by Selena:
I loved this book. I thought it was hilarious and I laughed out loud throughout. I definitely recommend this book and I am looking forward to reading her next book. Note: The book does contain vulgar language on occasion.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audio

Wild by Cheryl Strayed, recommended by Selena:
Wild tells the story of how after losing her mother, Cheryl Strayed solo hikes the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to Washington state. Along the way she reflects on her life. This book was thrilling and well-written. Very enjoyable.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

Other titles you may enjoy:

Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson
Recommended by Leann
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook, Hoopla Ebook, Hoopla Audiobook

Heavy by Kiese Laymon
Recommended by Catherine
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Recommended by Joelle
Available on Overdrive Ebook

Naturally Tan by Tan France
Recommended by Chrissy
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Killing It by Camas Davis
Recommended by Catherine
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Recommended by Lauren
Available on Overdrive Audiobook, Hoopla Audiobook

Do you have any favorite Memoirs or Biographies? Let us know in the comments.

Suspense, Thrillers, and Mysteries, Oh My!

Do you enjoy a good page turner? Books that keeping you guessing until the end? Or maybe a book with a great surprise twist? Check out these staff picks.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, recommended by Dawn:
If you like a book with many twists and turns that lead to unexpected surprises, this book is for you!
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

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Golden in Death by J.D. Robb, recommended by Lauren:
For fans of the series, this is yet another solid entry. For people who are jumping into these books for the first time, I would suggest you start with book one. The victims of the murders are the kinds of people you just can’t help but like, which makes the tragedies they suffer all the more horrible. The resulting chase between the killer and Eve is super satisfying, especially in the closing pages.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

Guardians by John Grisham, recommended by Roseann:
Grisham’s ability to tell a compelling story within a legal framework is very much in evidence here. As he wrote at the conclusion, the real life conviction of a man imprisoned for years for the murder of his wife which relied heavily on a blood spattered flashlight inspired Grisham to write this his latest.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

How the Light Gets in by Louise Penny, recommended by Roseann:
Louise Penny’s mysteries are all top notch but this may be her masterpiece (I have read it twice and may go back yet again). Inspector Gamache tries to solve multiple problems: the disappearance of a celebrity, trouble on the force and approaching destruction. The plot is tightly woven and will not disappoint the reader. As is true with all Louise Penny mysteries, don’t read them on an empty stomach. The description of food offerings at the Bistro will send you racing to the refrigerator for Brie and wine.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook
Hoopla Audiobook

The Mystery of the Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah (writing as Agatha Christie), recommended by Roseann:
Sophie Hannah takes Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and adds her own distinct touch. Poirot who is usually approached by others in peril now finds the shoe on the other foot as several irate people berate him for accusing them of Barnabas Pandy. Does the man exist, is he dead, who has used Poirot’s name and reputation in vain are just some of the Belgian’s dilemmas.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook

Overdrive Audiobook
Hoopla Audiobook

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James, recommended by Selena:
A supernatural mystery involving a motel in upstate NY. A young woman in the present investigates the mysterious disappearance of her aunt in the 1970s and encounters some ghosts along the way.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

The Murder Room by P.D. James, recommended by Roseann:
P.D. James often said that she started writing mysteries to get herself in shape to write novels. But thankfully for her readers, she discovered that she could deliver much needed insight about the human psyche within the confines of a mystery. As always James, prizes the setting. This one is a winner, the Dupayne Museum, on the edge of London, and its stellar attraction: the Murder Room which highlights grisly crimes committed during the interwar period of 1919-39. Adam Dalgliesh is called to the scene when the brother in the dysfunctional owner family perishes in his flaming car. Both this and the next murder bear uncanny resemblance to crimes from the Murder Room. Stay with this one–it is a winner. Equally worthwhile is the PBS version with Martin Shaw’s fine interpretation of Dalgliesh not only dealing with the crime but also with the romantic complications posed by Emma Lavenham who poses a serious threat to his bachelor existence.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich, recommended by Dawn:
I really enjoy Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. This was a hoot because Grandma got remarried! That in itself should tell you you will be laughing most of the way through the book.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Overdrive Audiobook

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, recommended by Holly:
The best mystery series let the reader learn something while enjoying the whodunit. Crossing Places is the first of a series featuring Ruth, a forensic archaeologist living at the edge of a remote ocean-side English marsh. As you may imagine, bones show up in the marsh, Ruth checks them out, and somehow ends up in the role of mystery-solver. Everything about this book is done well; the all too human characters are colored in just a few sentences and there’s a deep sense of place. Even the salt sprayed wind whipping through the marsh lashes the reader. You will feel as if you’re there, and as a bonus, you’ll learn a bit about archaeology! Readers who enjoy the Louise Penney and Julia Spencer-Fleming mysteries will happily delve into this unique series.
Available Formats:
Overdrive Ebook
Hoopla Ebook

Other Mystery/Thriller Titles You May Enjoy:

The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
Recommended by Selena
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Recommended by Catherine
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
Recommended by Chrissy
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Recommended by Selena
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Another Time, Another Place

Looking for books that take place in a different time period? Our first re-entry into Staff Picks will focus on Historical Fiction, books that take place sometime in the near or distant past.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, recommended by Diana:
The long-awaited conclusion to Mantel’s classic historical trio! Expansive and poignant, a heartbreaking finale for Cromwell.
The third book in the Wolf Hall trilogy.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, recommended by Roseann: Get a jump on this latest Julian Fellowes work before its TV version airs. The characters are as rich as their surroundings and the plot is well developed. I like the way Fellowes deftly combines the characters’ fictional doings with the facts of history.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook
Hoopla Audiobook

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, recommended by Marcia:
This story was amazing. I would love to learn about the real life character.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audio
Hoopla Ebook, Hoopla Audiobook

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The Last Letter to Your Lover by Jojo Moyes, recommended by Dawn:
All the Jojo Moyes books I have read so far have not disappointed me. This wasn’t what I originally expected, it was actually better.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook

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The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, recommended by Roseann:
After World War II, a young woman decides to open a book shop in a small English town. Sounds like a great idea-right? Not to the local grand dame who stoops to every means possible to close it. After you read it, try to watch the movie version and choose which ending (they differ considerably) you prefer. The movie also stars Bill Nigby who makes any film the richer for his presence.
Available formats: Overdrive Ebook , Overdrive Audiobook

Some other historical fiction titles you may enjoy:

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
Recommended by Joelle
Available on Overdrive Audiobook

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Recommended by Catherine
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Recommended by Vicki & Marcia
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

The Tattooist of Aushwitz by Heather Morris
Recommended by Marcia
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Staff Picks Update: We’re Going Digital!

Our staff picks had been previously moved to Goodreads, but we are reviving this blog once again! Our Goodreads shelf will remain active, so think of this blog as a bonus where you can find reviews by genre, longer reviews and links to where you can access the content digitally while the library building is closed.

Stay tuned for lots of great recommendations from library staff.

Our Staff Picks Have Moved!

We have moved our Staff Picks from this WordPress blog to to our Goodreads account.  You can also get reading recommendations delivered directly to your inbox with our NextReads newsletters. Click on the newsletter titles to see a sample newsletter.  To sign up, check the boxes of the newsletters you’d like to receive and fill in your information at the bottom of the page. If you’d rather search for your next read on your own, try our new NoveList database.  You can search by genre, read-alikes, series, appeal factors, and more!

Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris

Theft by Finding book coverDavid Sedaris has become well known for his wit and humor. After keeping a diary for 40 years, Sedaris has written his first of two books taken from his notes. His notes are really just a few words about what he’s doing, thinking, or experiencing.

During this period of time he is involved quite heavily with drugs and unable to hold down a steady job. In between jobs he helps his parents with their rental properties to make spending money.

Each entry is brief but thought provoking making it a quick page turner to see what situation he’ll get into next.  Request a copy.

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow coverThe main character, Count Alexander Rostov, has been sentenced to house arrest by Russia’s new Soviet masters in one of Moscow’s finest hotel Metropol. The story follows the Count’s decades confined in very small quarters within a hotel for the elite.

Rostov survives as well as he does because of of his strong belief that “If one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them”. Just when you might become a little weary of the tale, the story takes a turn that will re-awaken your interest.  Request a copy.

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Wonder Woman book jacketAfter you take in this summer’s new Wonder Woman movie, read the crazier-than-fiction backstory on the creation of America’s favorite female superhero.  Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman traces Wonder Woman’s creation by William Moulton Marston, who also invented the lie detector test (lasso of truth, anyone?). Marston’s unusual family arrangement is a story unto itself, and following the ups and downs of his personal life and career makes for a fascinating summer read.

In exploring the pre- and post-WWII American cultural landscape and examining Marston’s connection to major feminists of the period, including Margaret Sanger, Lepore nicely frames Wonder Woman’s rise and examines the various parties who competed over—sometimes for control, sometimes to censor—this rising icon. Request a copy.

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

I hadn’t before read a graphic novel (or in this case, a graphic memoir), so Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This was new territory for me.  I was drawn to this book because of its topic, rather than its format.  In it, Radtke explores her fascination with architectural ruins, relating them to her own sense of the impermanence of life and her grief over losing a close relative.  Never feeling rooted or settled, she travels the world visiting abandoned towns and structures as they are slowly reclaimed by nature.

Radtke tells her story in direct, unfussy language and compelling black and white drawings.  In some pages, she conforms to the traditional three to nine frame comic format, and in others her drawings overlap the frame or incorporate collage or drawn-over photographic elements, giving the book a lot of life, and the reader plenty of incentive to keep turning the pages.  Radtke’s story is poignant, her illustrations lovely.  This book quickly hooked me and I read it in one sitting.  I now consider it a favorite.  This is a great entry point into the graphic book format, and I recommend it to new graphic book readers (and experienced graphic readers won’t want to miss it).  Request a copy.

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

I’ve got sand in all the wrong places by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

I listened to the audiobook on a trip up and back to Massachusetts. I’ve read a bunch of Lisa Scottoline’s books (she’s a lawyer who writes really cool mystery books), so I thought I’d try this.  She’s written a series of books with her daughter and I wanted to check it out. They take turns with the chapters and they talk about their lives alone and together and all kinds of stuff that happens in between. I enjoyed this, as a lot of it reminded me of my daughter and me. Now I may look for their other books, since I enjoyed this one.  Request a copy.

Victoria: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin and Victoria: Season 1

I knew very little about Queen Victoria.  The various Queens Elizabeth are much better known to me, but I am very glad I watched the Masterpiece show on PBS.  Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV show and also the book.  Having seen and read both, I would recommend you do the same.

Queen Victoria was quite small, under five feet tall.  She was imperious, and while an era is named after her, she was not the fierce little old lady I was expecting.  Her ascension to the throne happened when she was young, and many in power at the time tried to control her.  She was determined to rule wisely and make her own choices.  Jenna Coleman does a remarkable job in the title roll of the show, and if you look at pictures of Victoria when she was young, there is a good resemblance.  The show closely follows the book, but it is still enjoyable to check out them both.

Lord Melbourne is the Prime Minister and the Queen’s first love.  Lehzen, Victoria’s governess, later advisor and companion and Dash, the dog, also lend support.  Of course we must mention Prince Albert, also a fascinating character with an interest in modernization and his own difficulties being married to Royalty.  With politics, romance and history, this coming of age story is most enjoyable.  So do read the book and also see the DVD of season 1.  Some scenes were deleted from the original Masterpiece TV show, so it may be preferable to watch it on DVD if you are able.  And God save the Queen!  Request a copy.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben

It isn’t often that I have read a non-fiction book in the sciences that has been so enjoyable.  This title is written in story form, as if trees are almost human.  It’s not simply technical literature about how trees survive or do not survive in their various environments.  I guarantee you will never look at another tree without thinking about what you learned from this book.  Absolutely fascinating!  Request a copy.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it ultimately took me about 2 months to finish it, and I still can’t believe Lin-Manuel Miranda took this giant book on a tropical vacation to read!  That being said – it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.  The life that Alexander Hamilton lived and the accomplishments he was able to achieve in his relatively short life are absolutely mind boggling.  His influence is still felt today in our financial world near and far.  A life truly cut too short.  What a loss to our country, but we are to this day indebted to him and his ideas.  Listen or read this book – it will floor you!  Request a copy.