Beyond Bestsellers

by Michelle C.

Beyond Bestsellers is a new community reading challenge at Sno-Isle Libraries! Have you read every Dean Koontz or Danielle Steel? Are you looking for something new to read that you don’t have to wait in line for? We invite you to read along with us for the next five months as we discover new books, take a walk outside our comfort zone, and share each other’s favorite under-the-radar books. Starting July 1, on the first of each month we will explore a different theme, post reading suggestions on the blog, and encourage you to share your favorite titles. On the fifteenth of each month we will post again, following up with readers and sharing more information about what makes each theme unique. The themes for Beyond Bestsellers are:

July: Mysteries

Aug.: True Stories

Sept.: Westerns

Oct.: Horror

Nov.: Graphic Novels

Continue reading »

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Beyond Bestsellers: Metaphorical Journeys

by Marina M.

A journey starts with a single page . . .

As happens with many people that read a lot (or anything at all, really), I find that some books make a difference in my life. They take me on a journey, if you will. Not a physical or literal journey. More metaphorical. Where I’m given a new perspective on a topic.

Take, for instance, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. I was very young when it happened and I don’t remember anything firsthand. Not the haze of the ash covering the state. (Although, current weather conditions seem to be comparable.) Not the mishandling of warnings by politicians and local officials. Not the unfortunate deaths of those unaware that impending danger was actually . . . impending. Except for the stories that everybody knows about Harry Truman and his adamant stance on not leaving his home. But in his book, Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, author Steve Olson not only details the immediate events leading up to the eruption but he goes into the history of the Weyerhaeuser Company (which, if you grew up walking through the woods as much as I did as a kid you know that name and how to pronounce it) as well as the history behind the National Parks, National Forests and/or National Monuments of that region. And my bonus takeaway? The narrator of the audiobook was able to pronounce the location names correctly!


I’m just here for the food . . .

Another book that influenced me is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where she, her husband and their daughter lived a year eating from just what they produced at home and could acquire locally. While I haven’t gone so far as to grind my own flour I have taken a closer look at what I can produce in my yard seasonally. Until recently, I had a small flock of chickens and ducks for eggs, but I continue to maintain a vegetable garden and have several fruit trees and berry bushes on my property.

Devoured by Sophie Egan is another food related book that has helped evolve my eating style. Similar to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Egan discusses the practices of Americans and their big meals and counters with healthy snacking to prevent a huge intake of calories in one sitting. She also brings a little bit of food problems (Velveeta shortages?), bizarre food crazes (Doritos Locos Tacos, anybody?), some food history, and a discussion of eating habits. No sad desk lunches for me!

. . . and the puppy kisses

The last book I want to share that has given me a fresh perspective is Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey. Now, I’m not one to hold anything against a dog because of its type. Well, not generally. However, if you asked me to be completely honest I’d admit that I’m not a fan of the little dogs. Not a specific breed of little dogs just little dogs in general. I already almost step on my big dogs, I can’t imagine the damage I’d do with a little dog underfoot. Anyway, I was looking into adopting another dog and after two poodle mixes (standard poodles!) in a row I thought why not something different. Growing up, with the exception of a sheltie (I know, a small-ish dog), we always had some sort of big sporting dog or sporting dog mix. Several Lab mixes, a Brittany, the poodle mixes (Poodles originated in Germany as water retrievers). But after watching several seasons of Pit Bulls and Parolees I was becoming enamored with the resilience and inherent forgiveness of the pit bull type. Ms. Dickey’s book gave me some historical perspective, as well as an equal look at both sides of the current debate over the bully dogs. Needless to say, a few months after reading this book I became the proud adopter of a pit bull mix.

How about you? What true life books have shaped a part of your life?

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All Shook Up

by KP

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”–Elvis

2017 marks the 40 year anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Widely regarded as the “King of Rock & Roll,” Elvis’ life has grown into a mix of myth and legend. Despite dying on August 16, 1977, some fans continue to believe he’s still alive somewhere. To this day, you can’t visit Las Vegas without running across numerous Elvis impersonators. (I even learned you can book an impersonator right out of Seattle!)

Although I’ve missed the annual Elvis Festival, and live too far away to visit Graceland, I’ve been using our Beyond Bestsellers: True Stories theme to read up on Elvis’ fascinating life (and shamelessly watch all his movies).



In Being Elvis: A Lonely Life, rock journalist Ray Connolly takes Elvis out of the megafame of a twentieth-century pop icon, and places him back in the South. I find Connolly’s ability to explain how poverty, class and fame had profound effects on Elvis both enlightening and relatable.








All the King’s Horses: The Equestrian Life of Elvis Presley by Kimberly Gatto and Victoria Racimo offers a rare look at Elvis’ love of horses. Gorgeous pictures accompany stories of his tireless pursuit of a Golden Palomino who would later become Rising Sun, his favorite companion.









I mentioned shamelessly watching his movies, and my favorite is Jailhouse Rock. It is ranked 495th on Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. It was also selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Jailhouse Rock is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” particularly for its title number.

But really, it’s just plain fun. Hard to imagine the scandal it caused in his day.



I could go on and on about Elvis, including his ties to one of my other favorite artists Michael Jackson, but I’ve decided it’s better to put together a (super) brief highlight of some of his work.

What’s your favorite Elvis movie, song or book?

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Beyond Bestsellers: True Stories

by Brian H.

True Stories Inspire

We are halfway through this month’s theme, True Stories. Community readers have been inspired! The lists of True Story and Mystery titles are coming in steadily.

My daughter Lily (Lois and Beth too) with her professor journalist/author Pamela Newkirk @ NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

Literary journalism is an area of true storytelling that I have a great interest in. My daughter Lily has just completed her journalism degree from NYU. Through Lily’s experiences at NYU, I have learned that there is an incredible amount of research and investigative know-how that goes into a writing project undertaken by a journalist. On top of that, the journalists/writers have to know how to tell a compelling story.

I was inspired to read Spectacle, The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga after meeting Lily’s professor, author Pamela Newkirk. She is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism at NYU. Newkirk’s book is a perfect example of that kind of keenly researched and truth revealing book. And her storytelling had me turning pages!



The journalist Pamela Newkirk has ferreted out the truth concerning a singular figure named Ota Benga, a young man from the Congo who was presented to American audiences as an “African Pygmy.” Two years after an appearance at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, he was brought to the New York Zoological Park (better known as the Bronx Zoo), where he was locked in a cage with an orangutan before a jeering throng.” New York Times Sunday book review.





Here is a list of compelling true story books written by journalists, all shedding light on true stories that need to be told and read.

Participating in the Beyond Bestsellers community reading challenge is easy! We provide the theme. You choose a title or two to read that fits the theme. Then share what you are enjoying reading. Add comments to the BiblioFiles blog posts. Share lists in the new catalog. I’ll share two more lists , a Mystery list and a True Stories list to inspire you to participate and create a list to share!

I look forward to see more true story lists and sharing those lists with BiblioFiles blog readers in a post on Aug. 31.  September Beyond Bestsellers theme coming up: Westerns!

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New Book Discussion Kits for Autumn!

by Jackie

We’ve recently added a large batch of new book discussion kits to our collection! Whether you belong to a private club, a Sno-Isle Library book club, or you want to start your own, these kits are a great way to connect with your community and spark discussion about the big questions.

See the new kits below:

Descriptions can be found in our Book Kit Reservation System.

Each book kit contains ten paperback copies of a single title and can be checked out for any book group. Currently, there are 299 book kits available to reserve. If there’s a book you absolutely love as a book group pick and want to share with others, let us know in the comments!

See this list in the catalog.

This Book Discussion Kit collection is funded by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and individual donations given for this purpose. Book Discussion Kits can be sponsored for a $200 donation to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation. Contact the foundation to donate.

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Gay Historical Romance

by Lindsey A.

Historical romance is one of my favorite genres to read but let’s face it – it’s not very diverse. Fortunately, though traditional publishing still has a long way to go, it’s starting to acknowledge that many readers want to see more representation (of all kinds) in their romance.

One of the biggest booms in romance publishing is in the LGBTQ genre. I devour these books! While it’s harder to find lesbian historical romance, the gay historical romance sub-genre flourishes. Please note that sometimes these books are labeled as M/M (male/male) romance rather than gay romance.

Readers may find it difficult to reconcile the treatment of LGBTQ people in history with the “happily ever after” typically found in romance. Some authors keep it realistic by having their characters show discretion. Dreamspinner Press, a popular publisher of LGBTQ romance, has a line of historical romances called Timeless Dreams. These stories “celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.” To me, it’s no different than suspending my disbelief over the many inter-class relationships in traditional historical romance. It may be anachronistic but it makes for a cozier reading experience. As author KJ Charles said, “We don’t read historical romance for historical misery.”

There are many stand-alone historical romances to discover, but here are a couple of my favorite series!

Cat Sebastian’s Regency series

These books are a hoot! They’re not intended as pure romantic comedy, but Sebastian’s dialogue is quick, witty and laced with innuendo. All of the stories deal with class differences and other contrasts, and the characters make great foils to one another. In The Soldier’s Scoundrel, Oliver, a high-born veteran seeks the services of Jack, a scoundrel from the slums who works as a “fixer.” The Lawrence Browne Affair follows Jack’s charming con-man brother, Georgie, who takes a position as secretary to Lawrence, a reclusive “mad” aristocrat with an interest in science. In The Ruin of a Rake, stuffy gentleman Julian is tasked by his sister with dragging Lord Courtenay – known rake – around London in an effort to approve his reputation. Sebastian is currently working on a new novel about a bossy sea captain and a free-spirited vicar, which is right up my alley!

KJ Charles’ Sins of the Cities series

Welcome to the darker side of Victorian London. In the spirit of the penny dreadfuls of that era, these books are filled with intrigue, murder, scandal, and of course, romance. In An Unseen Attraction, socially awkward Clem runs a lodging house and finds his quiet life upturned when he falls for one of his taxidermist tenant, Rowley. In An Unnatural Vice, journalist Nathaniel leads a crusade against the spiritualist fad, targeting Justin, a handsome swindler who calls himself the Seer of London. An Unsuitable Heir won’t be out until Oct. 3 of this year, but it stars a private detective and a trapeze artist. If you simply can’t wait, why not try another KJ Charles book, maybe one from her Society of Gentlemen series or her Charm of Magpies series? I haven’t read it myself yet, but a colleague recommended Think of England, a stand-alone novel.

I couldn’t stop there, so I created a list of some of my favorite historical romances you can find at the library!

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Author Spotlight: Rick Geary

by Liz K.

A few weeks ago, I came across Rick Geary’s new graphic novel, The Black Dahlia. As a long-time a lover of all things pulp and mid-century, the art work on the cover immediately drew me in. The mystery surrounding the murder of young starlet Elizabeth Stanton has captivated authors and filmmakers since it first made headlines in 1947. Gruesome and unsolved, the case that came to be known as the Black Dahlia Murder dominated newspaper headlines in Los Angeles for months. I, too, had long been intrigued by the murder, but had never really read a true crime account of the Ms. Stanton’s demise. Mainly because I usually find true crime books to be either too graphic, or too dry, for my taste. Mr. Geary’s was neither. Respectful to the victim, expressively illustrated, and with all the facts of the case, I quickly devoured it and wanted more. And wouldn’t you know it? Turns out this title is actually part of a series!


In his Treasury of XXth Century Murder series, the Mr. Geary explores some of the most controversial crimes in modern history, including one of my favorite: The Madison Square Tragedy.  A love triangle like no other! Heir to a variety of fortunes, Harry K. Thaw is outraged by the longtime “friendship” between his wife, the orginal Gibson Girl, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, one of New York’s most famous architects. Drama and scandal abound!


And for those who prefer the crimes more Victorian in nature, Mr. Geary has a series of those as well. I would start with The Saga of the Bloody Benders. It is a good one. Trust me.

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LibraryReads List August 2017

by Lindsey

Hello, August!

The dog days of summer are here! I don’t know about you, but I’m already anxious for autumn. My lawn has dried to a yellow crisp and I’m ready to feel rain again. If you’re hoping to spend the last days of summer reading, the new LibraryReads list features a nice mix of light and heavy reads, including mysteries and the ever-popular books about books!

Gabrielle Zevin, author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, tops the list with Young Jane Young, an engaging read about a woman who reinvents herself in the wake of a scandal. Louise Penny also returns with a new entry in her beloved Chief Inspector Gamache series. I’m absolutely enchanted by the cover of Reincarnation Blues and Emma in the Night has been tempting me as well.

What’s on your list this month?

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Beyond Bestsellers: True Stories

by Brian

For the month of August, the Beyond Bestsellers theme is true stories! If you are just joining us, read this post to learn details about participating. Beyond Bestsellers is a new reading challenge where we will be reading books from different themes each month. Participants can engage by creating lists in the new catalog and/or offering reading suggestions in the comments.

Who doesn’t like a true story?  The story may be one that you can relate to in your everyday life, about something you’ve experienced in a similar way. Or, the story may be so beyond belief you must read on to know all the details and circumstances that could have brought about such an incredible event. Either way, there is a draw to reading true stories.

True stories cover the gamut from family humor to adventurous outdoor sports. Some of the best true stories come from travel and journeys. When people connect, stories abound.

Try this quiz to see what type of true story you might be drawn to.



This month, read a true story. Suggest your favorite true story titles to community reading program participants. Create a list with your favorite types of true stories and have it featured in an upcoming Beyond Bestsellers blog post.

During the month of August we will have unlimited access to the ebook My Family and other Animals and the eaudiobook A Long Way Home. You can check out these books through OverDrive with no holds queue at anytime during the month of August! For additional titles available in other formats, you can also check out this list of true story titles.

I will check in again on Aug. 15 to see how it is going and what true story everyone is reading. Keep us updated in the comments and start creating those lists in the new catalog!

Don’t forget to:

  • Include Beyond Bestsellers in your list title
  • Like your favorite lists
  • Find more true story titles to add your For Later reading shelf

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Beyond Bestsellers: Mystery Lists

by Michelle C.

Our resourceful participants have been busy this month creating lists and sharing their favorite titles from Beyond Bestsellers: Mysteries. I want to share some of these lists and encourage other participants to share their favorites as well!

ree86 created a fun list called Beyond Bestsellers: Dying for a Vacation:

Visit exotic locales from the comfort of your easy chair. As long as you’re on vacation, you might as well solve a crime or two…. Here are some of my favorite mysteries set outside the the United States. Each title is the first of a series.


From Chickwheat, we have Beyond Bestsellers: International Mysteries:

I love novels set in different countries and different cultures – why escape into the world I already know? Each of these titles has a little humor (a must for me) and a a little insight into cultures and experiences different from my own. Bonus: most of them are the first title in a series, so you can keep reading! Looks like I haven’t explored South America, so I’d love to hear your recommendations!


Pigmama6 looked local and created Beyond Bestsellers: Washington State Mysteries:

Mysteries set in Washington State by Pacific Northwest Authors


From mercurious007, we have Beyond Bestsellers: Lesbian Mysteries (bonus points to mercurious007 for adding a Web Resource to their list!):

Queer women are on the case! They unravel mysteries and solve crimes as detectives, private investigators, and amateur sleuths.


TerryAB created a list with some great annotations called Beyond Bestsellers: Slightly Cozy Mysteries:

I’m a big mystery reader and reading cozies is like potato chips–you can’t stop eating them once you start. Here are a few that I’ve read this year.

To see all of the other lists that have been created so far, search for Beyond Bestsellers under List in our new catalog. Thanks for reading with us this month and remember to check back tomorrow as we move from Mysteries to True Stories!

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Beyond Bestsellers: Atmospheric mysteries to carry you away

by Denise

As you might have noticed, I have a bit of a travel obsession. I feed that addiction with books when I can’t hit the road or skies.

It’s all about setting…

When it comes to armchair escape, few genres suit for a quick trip quite like mysteries. Detectives snoop around hidden corners, question locals, eat food on the run, and drink at the neighborhood tavern. By following detectives’ exploits, mysteries immediately envelope you in a setting.

For me, a mystery wins when the author transports me to a different place and/or time. For readers who like their mysteries to read quickly, the details required to create a strong setting might slow down the story. But, if you like to armchair travel with mysteries, here are a few to try:

The French Pyrenees

If the summer heat is getting to you, why not head to the remote, snowbound French Pyrenees mountains? The Frozen Dead is the first book in the Commandant Martin Servaz series, an international bestselling series gradually being translated into English from the original French. The Frozen Dead of the title is actually a beheaded horse, found at a hydroelectric power plant reachable only by cable car. Are you getting a sense of the creepiness of this setting yet? What if I told you the story’s other major location is an asylum for the criminally insane where a new female psychologist has just started to work?

I’ve only read the first book in this series, but I still recall how the creepy atmosphere upped the suspense in this book. The next two are on my For Later shelf. If you’re looking for something to read after all the Scandinavian crimes, give this series a try.

The Arctic

Like the idea of mysteries that take place in ridiculously cold settings to help you cool off in the summer heat? How about a small indigenous Sami village in northern Norway? After 40 days of polar night, a Sami reindeer herder is found murdered. Who are the detectives in Forty Days Without Shadow? The reindeer police, of course. Talk about not-your-usual police force!

For an even colder read, travel to the arctic area of Swedish Lapland in the year 1717 in Wolf Winter. A family fallen on hard times. A bleak landscape. A mutilated body. The harshest winter in history. Did I mention the detective is a mother left on her own?

Post-climate change New York City


How about a mystery that transports you into a dystopian future, where New York City is twenty-one stories under water? With a tough-as-nails woman private investigator?





Pre-Revolution Paris




And we end where we started… France. But not contemporary southern France. Paris in the 1760s. Do you enjoy the narrative style of classical novels– stories rich in sensory details and shared with a more formal voice? Then consider the Nicolas le Floch novels by Jean-Francois Parot. To block a romance with his daughter, le Floch’s guardian sends him from Brittany to Paris, with a referral to a contact in the King’s Police.

Although Mr. Parot is a contemporary French writer and diplomat, his books bring pre-Revolutionary Paris alive and make you feel like he is writing what he sees, smells and tastes. You might have met Nicolas le Floch in the television series.

Do you read mysteries for a sense of place? Where are your favorite mysteries set?


View the entire list here.

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