Beyond Bestsellers: Horror

by Kimberly P.

 

A chill of the grave taints the air. Trees rattle, shuddering off dry leaves that crunch underfoot. An ever-present gloom settles over the horizon, concealing a menace that waits.

And hungers.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown.” –H.P. Lovecraft

You’ve guessed it, participants, it’s October and we’ve reached our fourth Beyond Bestsellers theme: Horror!

Horror fiction explores mankind’s darkest fears. It evokes anything from dread to terror to disgust. It can be as tame as a comical ghost story, or a taboo, gore-filled monster survival quest.

Authors like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Dean Koontz have long been powerhouses in the dark realms of horror, but Beyond Bestsellers is about stepping into the creepy cellar and finding out what’s down there.

If you’re feeling brave, survive our quiz* to uncover a new horror author to read.


Want to Read Now?

Our OverDrive simultaneous access titles for this month are the ebook Bird Box, and the eaudiobooks My Best Friend’s Exorcism, A Winter Haunting, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. There’s no wait and no fuss.

It’s not too late to participate! Sign up for Beyond Bestsellers and create your lists at any time before Nov. 30. If you’re new to creating lists, check out these easy to follow instructions, but don’t forget to include the Beyond Bestsellers header. (It’s what allows us and other participants to search for your lists.)

“Man is the creature he fears.” –Bird Box

I’ve ventured into the dark, dark room and have unearthed a few horror titles to get you started on your own sinister exploration.

*= Bonus points if you can guess which horror movie the quotes come from. Be sure to put your guesses in the comments box. I’ll reveal the answers on Halloween.

See you on October 15th, my ghouls and boos!

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Beyond Bestsellers: Western Lists

by Liz K.

With the last rays of September sun setting over the horizon, our Beyond Bestsellers: Westerns month comes to a close. I hope you enjoyed this challenge and were inspired to discover some new favorites. I know I did! If you’re still looking for that new favorite or are just curious about what Westerns your fellow readers devoured this month, check out some of their lists below.

ree86 has some great titles on their list, Beyond Bestsellers: Wrangling with Westerns.

What makes a Western a Western? Here are a few titles with western settings that might challenge your thinking on the subject.

For all our movie lovers out there, shewterk’s list Beyond Bestsellers: Read Before You Watch Westerns may be of interest to you.

Great movies, better books!

And kaleydoscope’s list Beyond Bestsellers: When Westerns are Strange has you covered if Westerns more fantastical in nature are your thing.

I love all things weird! Here are some paranormal/scifi/fantasy westerns!

To see all the lists created for this month’s theme, as well as our previous themes, simply search by “List” for Beyond Bestsellers. Our readers have made some great lists this month. Can’t wait to see what our community of readers come up with for next month’s theme…HORROR!

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Italy through the Ages

by Lindsey A.

For years I’ve had a love affair with Italy. I’ve never been there, I don’t know when I’ll manage a trip abroad, but I dream of Italy often and I love reading about it. As a historical fictionista, my tastes naturally run toward books that explore Italy’s past. There are many to choose from!

It all started when I was a teenager studying art history in high school. I fell in love with the Italian Renaissance, particularly the painters: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Artemisia, Lippi, Arcimboldo… I could go on. It was also around this time that I plowed through Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Renaissance Venice featured prominently in The Vampire Armand, and Rice’s evocative writing painted a picture that I longed to dive into and never leave.

It’s been a long time since those days, but Italy has continued to appear prominently in my reading. Over the past year I also binge-watched a few gorgeous historical TV series based in Italy, including BorgiaThe Borgias and Medici: Masters of Florence, which further fueled the fire.

I truly believe there is something for every historical fiction reader. If you’re interested in the lives of artists, try The Painter of Souls, Oil and Marble, The Passion of Artemisia, or The Agony and the Ecstasy. If you prefer wartime reads, try A Thread of Grace, Not All Bastards Are From ViennaThe Girl From Venice, or Beneath a Scarlet Sky. If court intrigue and nobility are more up your alley, look for The Family, The Scarlet Contessa, The Serpent and the Pearl, or The King’s Agent. If you’re rather read about the everyday people, try Sacred HeartsThe Gondola Maker, The Violinist of Venice, or In the Company of the Courtesan. And if you like a little magic with your history, there’s the Rapunzel-inspired Bitter Greens or the time-traveling romance The Scribe of Siena.

See? I really can go on forever! Luckily I created a list so I don’t have to.

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Once upon a Crime: Robert Dugoni

by Lindsey A.

This week we feature an interview with bestselling crime writer Robert Dugoni, who will be at the Oak Harbor Library on Oct. 10. This is part of the series Once upon a Crime, in which local authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels visit the library on select Tuesdays to talk about their books and the craft of writing mysteries. Last week we shared an interview with Marty Wingate.

Bob’s books, including the critically acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite and David Sloane series, are sold and translated worldwide. He is known for high-speed, intricately plotted stories set in the Pacific Northwest. Bob has earned many honors for his work, from winning the Nancy Pearl Award and the Spotted Owl Award, to appearing on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

Bob was kind enough to spend some time chatting with Sno-Isle Libraries staff member and mystery enthusiast, Marie B. I hope you enjoy their conversation!


Interview with Robert Dugoni

Marie: Have you ever based characters on people you know?

Bob: All the time. Writing is a very personal endeavor and I know a lot of writers who pull from their past for experiences, scenes and characters. I laugh sometimes if a reader says a character isn’t believable when it’s based on a real person. The interesting thing is that people you do write about don’t see themselves in your characters, and people you don’t write about often do. It can get a little crazy that way. I’ve received emails from people I’ve never met telling me that one of my characters or the experiences they encounter, were exactly the experiences they encountered at a time in their lives. I write fiction, however, and all of my characters, ultimately, are fictional, because they come from my impressions and imagination.

Marie: What (or who) inspires you when creating characters who kill?

Bob: You know, I really don’t think I write killers all that well. I know some thriller writers who write from the perspective of the killer and it is really creepy. I’ve done that only once or twice in my career. Most recently, I wrote from the killer’s perspective in Her Final Breath and, to be honest, it’s difficult to go to that place. I think, like all good writing, writing from that perspective comes from a place within the writer, but that is not the writer. Weird as this sounds, I’ve come to believe over the years that, at times, I’m just a medium and the story is already out there, written. My job is to just take it down. It’s strange, I know, but I also know other writers who will understand what I’m saying.

Marie: Your experience as a lawyer has served you well in the David Sloane series. Do you have personal experiences that you draw on for the Tracy Crosswhite series?

Bob: Some experience for sure goes into those novels, but I rely heavily on professionals in law enforcement to help me to get it right. My novels usually contain a long series of acknowledgements at the end thanking all those people who provided their expertise – homicide detectives, forensic medical examiners, trackers, officers who investigate traffic accidents, CSI detectives. It’s fascinating for me and I couldn’t write the novels without them.

Marie: What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

Bob: I’m laughing because I can’t really think of any. I live a pretty mundane life. I love to be home with my family and dogs more than anything. Thankfully, I’ve avoided any scenarios too horrific or worthy of exposition. I recently sold a literary novel that I had first written almost ten years ago and spent a lot of time refining over the last few years. I’m in the process of editing that book now and it is eerie all of the things in that novel I had forgotten about that have come to fruition. One of the characters suffered a stroke. I suffered a stroke about a year and a half ago. One of the characters made a trip to Costa Rica. I made that trip and didn’t recall the trip in the book. There have been other things as well.

Marie: What was the last amazingly good book you read?

Bob: I really enjoyed A Man Called Ove. It was poignant, funny, sad. All those things that make us readers continue to turn the pages, to laugh out loud, and to cry.

Marie: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Bob: I spend time with my family. I used to coach, but the kids have outgrown me. One is in college and the other will soon follow. So I’m working on rekindling hobbies I had before I was working two jobs. I bought a boat and recently went shrimping. Salmon fishing is also on the horizon. I also bought some new golf clubs. The others were hand-me-downs and not too good, but then, neither am I. I’m hoping to spend more time with friends. I also love to read and to listen to books on tape in the car. I have about a half an hour commute each way from my office and I have listened to dozens of books over the years. When you get the right narrator, it makes the time in the car just fly.

Marie: What was your favorite book as a child, and why?

Bob: I wasn’t really a child when I read it, but I’d have to say Lonesome Dove really had a profound impact on me. That book spoke to me at a time in my life when I was floundering in my legal career and really uncertain what I was going to do. I wanted to write novels, but I was terrified to step away and take that chance. That book helped me to get past that fear and to go for it. It was men on a high-adventure and they were such great characters, fearless in many ways. It was a book with drama, tension, passionate moment. I felt like I knew those characters, or at least I wanted to know them. And when that book ended, and Captain Call goes home again, this time alone, I cried for what he’d lost, and would never have again. I decided that I didn’t want to be that guy looking back at a life unfulfilled. I wanted to follow my dreams. Shortly thereafter, I did.

Marie: What do you enjoy most about interacting with fans?

Bob: It is particularly heart-warming when I get an email from a fan who thanks me for my novels and tells me that they’re ill, that they have cancer and are undergoing treatment, or that they live alone and can’t get out easily anymore. They tell me how much my novels have entertained them during difficult times in their lives and made stays in the hospital better because they feel as though they have company. Really, for a writer, or any artist for that matter, I don’t know that it can get any better than that.

Marie: What is the worst job you ever had?

Bob: I haven’t. I loved my jobs. I loved cutting lawns. I loved being my dad’s delivery boy, I loved working at a gas station. I loved being a janitor at a school and then at a hospital. I loved working construction and learning how to perform tile work. I loved the painting jobs I’ve had, I loved writing for the LA Times and I loved the law firm that I worked at. I’ve been very blessed this way. I honestly can’t think of any job that I hated, but if I had to come up with one, it’s probably working cleaning dishes at Stanford University to help pay my tuition. Some days the job was Saturday morning after a late Friday night and you can imagine what it’s like cleaning slop while hungover.

Marie: Which authors do you enjoy most, and what do you like about their books?

Bob: Years ago, I read a lot of Stephen Hunter. Not so much anymore. I love the Stephen King novels – not his horror books – but his other books, like The Green Mile, 11-22-63 and others. I think that man is a genius and with time, people will look back on his novels the way we look at the greats like Dickens and Hemingway. His descriptions are so vivid, so engaging, that’s what makes his work so frightening, and moving. Other than him, I read books more than I read authors. If someone tells me they’ve read a good book. I’ll read it. I love reading literary works especially.

Marie: What is your favorite thing about being an author?

Bob: Every day I wake up I’m excited to go to work.

 

Below is a list of Bob’s books in our collection and the titles mentioned in the interview.


Meet Robert Dugoni at the Oak Harbor Library on Oct. 10 at 2:00 p.m. Books from The Book Rack will be available for purchase.

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Beyond Bestsellers: Confessions and Suggestions from a Western Avoider

by Denise D.

Confession

Library folk like books (not a secret). But most of us have one (or more) genres we read with great reluctance. For years, Westerns were my genre-to-avoid.

A library friend once described Westerns as romance for men. That explanation sufficed for me. I don’t really like romance and I’m not a man. So why would I like Westerns?

Reconsideration

Why indeed? Because Westerns thrive on setting and character– the two essentials I look for in any book. I want to be transported to a different place and time (setting) and spend time with interesting people (characters).

Then I remembered my favorite genre from the early 1990s. I was a stressed-out student in a competitive program in a violent city. When I found time for pleasure reading, I read to escape. Where did I go? The Wild West, of course.

Westerns from other voices

But not the West of gunfights and violence. That was outside my front door. And not the West of yore. I went to the contemporary West. Where women held their own in the outdoors. Where Native Americans persevered in a world defined by their Otherness to the cowboy. I read books that stayed with me for the rest of my life.

My favorite “Westerns”

Maybe it’s because I was in my wandering twenties when I met these books, but they immediately jumped to my “best books ever” pile.

Native Voices

Sherman Alexie, of course, is now a local legend. But, when my aunt handed me The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven during a school break in 1993, it was a revelation. I was working with Native American tribes on a complex environmental land use project, but was absolutely clueless about modern reservation life. This book changed my career focus and became THE BOOK I handed to everyone. Sherman Alexie has gone on to publish many works of literary art, but this one launched my gratitude for him. From him, I went onto other Native literary stars, James Welch and Louise Erdrich.

Women’s voices

Another book that grabbed me in the 1990s was Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. (Sherman criticized Kingsolver’s work as colonial, a point I give credence.) Whereas Alexie’s stories opened my eyes to an unfamiliar world, Kingsolver’s heroine was another young woman forging her identity in the modern West, similar to the women of Chinchilla Farm, Dalva and Cowboys are My Weakness.

Recent Favorites

Once I started expanding my definition of Western beyond the classic cowboy-with-gun standard, I realized that I still do read Westerns. In fact, the three recent reads above appear on my list of “Westerns” I suggest for the Western-avoider.

What about you? Are you a Western-avoider? What are you reading for the Western month of September?

 

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Take a Letter Maria

by Marina M.

The inspiration for this post came from Dear Diary Day, which is September 22. As you saw from my list of books with lists, I enjoy a little something extra to move my stories along. In this case, it’s the journal entry or a letter (typically many) written to another character. Or even texting and emails. Since we’re so firmly entrenched in the digital age. Because it’s my list and I can do as I please. And that pleases me.

And it’s times like this I feel . . .

Epistolary novels are written in letter, diary, or journal entries (or the like) in their entirety. My titles are psuedo-epistolary novels. I’ve found that I’m way too fond of getting into the active mind of the characters to engage with a book consisting primarily of passive correspondence. Here, the journal entries, letters, emails, etc., are an addition that help progress the story. Even more enjoyable are those letters that never had a real recipient. And were never meant to be read by another person in the first place. And that started an anonymous correspondence that evolved into a bond of shared histories or emotions. Other times they’re just fun additions that break up the chapters for the reader.

The letter-writing process was enjoyable when I was younger. You know, on paper. With a fun pen. These days it’s like pulling teeth to get me to complete any hand-written correspondence. I think the immediacy of emails, texting and messaging has taken the anticipation out of it. So, I’ll take my enjoyment by reading other people’s fictional letters.

Address it to . . . ?

I have a fondness for the anonymous letter/unexpected reader trope. As you’ll see in most of the titles I’m highlighting below.


“Mink” and “Alex” in Jenn Bennett’s book Alex, Approximately are actually Bailey and Porter. But they don’t know it. And their first day working together at a local museum is a disaster. Bailey sets out (on her cool moped!), using their anonymous emails from the classic movie forum they’re in, to piece together who her secret pen pal really is. And as their enemistry turns to chemistry Bailey is finding it hard to choose between “Alex” and Porter.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer is another anonymous letter tale. Juliet has a habit of writing letters to her famous photojournalist mom. And that habit continues even after her death. Declan, who is fulfilling a community service requirement after a drunk driving incident, is working as part of the maintenance crew where Juliet’s mother is buried. Running across one of those letters Declan pens a brief response. That elicits a rebuttal from Juliet and starts a conversation between two anonymous strangers and the hurts and demons they are fighting.

The one story in this short list that doesn’t contain anonymity on the letter-writers has a pretty unique premise of its own. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger is the story of three high school freshmen writing an essay about their, well, most excellent year. They, and many of their friends and family members, have correspondence included that move the story along.

And, finally, When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare takes the anonymous letter writing to a whole new level. Madeline Gracechurch never wanted to enter London society. To keep herself out of the social crush she invented a suitor. And then she killed him off in a military battle. Indeed, all went well until that imaginary suitor showed up. With her letters in hand. Surprise?!?

Do you have a favorite fictional letter-writer or journal-keeper?


View the whole list

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Once upon a Crime: Marty Wingate

by Lindsey A.

In October, Oak Harbor Library will present Once upon a Crime, a series of programs featuring local authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels. On select Tuesdays, authors will visit the library to talk about their books and the craft of writing mysteries. This week we feature an interview with Marty Wingate, whose British mysteries combine two of her passions: gardening and birding.

Marty is a Seattle-based writer with a love of Britain. In the Potting Shed mysteries, Pru Parke is a middle-aged gardener and American transplant living in England. In the Birds of a Feather series, birder Julia Lanchester runs a tourist office in Suffolk. A devoted gardener, Marty writes for Country Gardens and The American Gardener, and has led garden tours throughout Britain. She’s a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association.

Marty was kind enough to share a conversation with Sno-Isle Libraries staff member and mystery enthusiast, Marie B.


Interview with Marty Wingate

Marie: Have you ever based characters on people you know?

Marty: Oh dear, yes. But not so as they would actually recognize themselves – at least, I hope not.

Marie: What (or who) inspires you when creating characters who kill?

Marty: I don’t know who said this first, but mystery authors are always reminding each other that the murderer – in his or her own eyes – is really the hero. So, I start out thinking perhaps any one of the characters could be a killer – could convince him or herself that there may be good reasons for this action.

Marie: Gardening plays a big part in both of your mystery series. Why is that?

Marty: I am a gardener and have written garden books and magazine articles for many years, so there’s no escape! I love drawing in plants and gardening information when writing a Potting Shed mystery (with correct horticultural details!), and bringing in both the natural plant world and cultivated gardens to the Birds of a Feather series.

Marie: You lead garden tours in England. Which is your favorite English garden?

Marty: This is a tough question – and the answer changes often, depending on my passion of the moment. Right now, because Best-Laid Plants is coming out on Oct. 17, I would have to say the Arts-and-Crafts masterpiece Hidcote Manor is my number one. The gardens at Glebe House (in Best-Laid Plants) are, shall we say, inspired by Hidcote (with a nod to Prince Charles’s garden, Highgrove).

Marie: What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

Marty: Some people think it’s a mystery that I can write two books a year! Perhaps there’s a story there – what happens if I missed a deadline, even though the book had been written. It all began when there was a knock at my study door…

Marie: What was the last amazingly good book you read?

Marty: Himself by Jess Kidd. It’s a fantastic sort-of mystery with a bit of otherworldliness to it. It’s set in Ireland, and I lived in Dublin briefly many years ago, so I have an affinity for the country.

Marie: What do you enjoy most about interacting with fans?

Marty: I love hearing about the gardens they’ve visited or the birds they’ve seen, of course. But it always touches an author’s heart to hear fans pick out specific characters or events from a particular book and talk about them as if they are real – because, of course, they are real to us. (I have one reader who knows my characters better than I do!)

Marie: Which authors do you enjoy most, and what do you like about their books?

Marty: I love the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths, because it’s set in Norfolk (just the next county up from my Birds of a Feather series) and because Ruth is an independent woman with lots of worries and insecurities. The Bruno, Chief of Police series (by Martin Walker) draws me into murder and intrigue, but as the books are set in the Périgord region of France, there’s a lot of food and drink involved. And I’m having great fun with local author Wendy Delaney’s Working Stiffs mystery series.

Marie: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Marty: I take walks and think about characters and story lines! Also, I love to travel – how convenient, as I have to check out all those places in Britain that I write about. When we are in Europe, my husband and I love to travel by train. I also enjoy cooking and baking – I’m always thinking up menus and cakes to write about in my books, and so then I must try out the recipes. (I must say, my husband and my writing group really benefit from this!)

Marie: What was your favorite book as a child, and why?

Marty: Little Women – what female writer didn’t want to be Jo? By the time I was in junior high, I was drawn into Ray Bradbury’s world. I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, but his writing is so much more. The first time I heard him speak I was 13 years old and the last time was just a few years before he died. He was a truly remarkably man who loved words and stories with a passion.

Marie: What is the worst job you ever had?

Marty: In college, I spent a week in training to sell vacuum cleaners. (What was I thinking?) The last day, we were told to try out our spiel on a friend – just to practice. I asked my assistant pastor and his wife. A real salesman went along with me, and as soon as I finished my bit, he immediately went in for the hard sale. I was appalled. I returned him and the vacuum to the company and that ended my career in sales.

Marie: What is your favorite thing about being an author?

Marty: Now, that’s a tough question! I love telling stories, I suppose. I enjoy researching a topic or place or time in history for a particular book I’m writing (my excuse is that writers always need to know more than they put in a book, but really I’m a lifelong student), and I love being able to weave those details into the story of these characters who have come to life.

 

Below is a list of Marty’s books in our collection and the titles mentioned in the interview.


Meet Marty Wingate at the Oak Harbor Library on Oct. 3 at 2:00 p.m. She will not be selling books, but all future Once upon a Crime author events will have books from The Book Rack, available for purchase and signing.

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Back to School Movies

by Michelle C. 

I’ll admit it. I am one of those people who loved high school. Recess was also never my favorite subject in elementary school. Math was. The first day of school always filled me with joy. New pencils just waiting to be sharpened. The waxy smell of crayons. An attempt at curled bangs that always fell flat by the end of the day. For me, September will always symbolize the start of a new year and endless possibilities.

Now that I am out of school (way, way out of school), I rely on movies to bring back the nostalgia. Funny, dramatic, and empowering, these movies show those curious moments that shaped who you would become. Or if high school wasn’t as enjoyable for you, you can think of these movies as alternate horror movies–raising the heart rate and bringing on the cringe factor. Either way, enjoy!

The Breakfast Club: Five high school students– a Rebel, an Athlete, a Brain, a Princess, and a Basketcase– find themselves thrown together serving a Saturday morning detention. They do not have much in common, except giving up their day, sitting in the school library, and writing an essay for the principal.

Never Been Kissed: Josie, a twenty-five-year-old Chicago copy editor, gets her first assignment as a reporter, going undercover at her old high school to learn about today’s teens. While working, she finds that memories of her own high-school years come back to haunt her.

Stand and Deliver: Based on a true story, Jaime Escalante, a math teacher at East Los Angeles’ Garfield High School, refuses to write off his inner-city students as losers. Escalante pushes and inspires 18 students who were struggling with math to become math whizzes.

I remember watching Stand and Deliver in a math class during high school and thinking why are we watching a movie in math class? Re-watching it as an adult, I now understand what my teacher was trying to convey. If it’s been a while since you last saw it, I would recommend a look again.

What are some of your favorite Back to School Movies?

 

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Beyond Bestsellers: Westerns

by Liz K.

We are officially halfway through the month of September and our month of reading Westerns. I hope you are enjoying exploring this genre as much as I am! Already knowing that I enjoy the Historical/Classic Westerns, I have focused my reading this month on titles that cross over into other genres.

Here are a few of my highlights:

Reaching way outside my comfort zone, I read The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick. As a child of missionaries in the West, Eliza is taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a brutal massacre in 1847. Now a young mother on a journey to yet another new territory, Eliza her memories of that time and how they have affected her adult relationships. Brutality aside, this is a great read for those seeking gentler, more inspirational, Western read.

 

If mysteries are your usual go-to, I highly recommend giving the Longmire Series by Craig Johnson a try. I had read a couple before this challenge started, but figured this would be a great excuse to dive further into the series. Yes, I said series, but don’t worry about reading them in order. It is kind of fun to jump around in time with the Absaroka County gang! The audiobooks are worth a listen too.

 

Looking for a graphic novel? I recommend giving Law of the Desert Born by Charles Santino a look-see. Yes, it is a classic Louis L’Amour tale, but graphic format gives it a whole new life! Adapted with the help of L’Amour’s son Beau, this short story was gritty and tense. Almost like watching a Western movie…but with pages!

 

How about you? What good reads have you rustled up for our Western month?

If you need a refresher on what exactly Beyond Bestsellers is, you can get caught up here. Pretty simple, really. Each month, read within our monthly highlighted theme and create lists to share with your fellow readers. Don’t forget to begin your list with Beyond Bestsellers! And keep an eye out for at the end of the month, yours may just get featured in my blog post! Happy reading!

 

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What are You Listening to?

by Emily Z.

Yes, you. What audiobook are you listening to that is really doing it for you? We genuinely want to know. Is it something you’ve read before? A new author? How did you come across it? What piqued your interest? Is the narrator absolutely bringing it?

Quite a few of us at Sno-Isle Libraries adore audiobooks. We don’t consider it “cheating,” either. Audiobooks are a great use of your brain’s time. I use them to fill up my commute and also listen while doing chores, going for a walk, and sometimes even as I’m falling asleep. So yes, I am personally very much Team Free Audiobook.

To get this party started, we’ve gathered up a bunch of recommendations from different library staff. These titles are as diverse as we are, so I’m just going to put them in alphabetical order by title (it’s a library thing) and let you explore. Don’t forget to comment with your current audiobook crush though, even if you’ve just started it.

——-

Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford

 Pulitzer Prize winner Ford talks about his traveling salesman father and in-charge mother. Do we really ever know our parents, especially if one dies before we are an adult? Were they happy? Was Richard happy growing up? Richard’s answer is yes. His success as a writer has allowed him to honor his parents with this short memoir. Suggested by Becky B.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell 

I’m listening to this for our Beyond Bestsellers: Western theme. I loved this author’s The Sparrow, which was just so philosophical considering ethics of culture that I was curious what she’d do with familiar characters in a Western setting. Thus far, I’m enjoying the lawless Dodge setting that initially throws all these legendary characters together. Russell is fantastic at creating characters with depth and conflicting motivations and that’s a great place to start for both the Wild West, and in first contact as with “The Sparrow.” Suggested by Jackie P.

Dog Years by Mark Doty

I am currently listening to “Dog Years” by Mark Doty, read by the author. The poetic style in this memoir is sublime, and only eclipsed by the beautiful, quotable, philosophical observations of the author’s endearing and heartbreaking relationship with his dying partner Wally, and his lifeboats Beau and Arden, his two dogs. Suggested by Jenny S.

 

Ghostland by Colin Dickey

Dickey explores supernatural legends from all across the U.S., taking a close look at the communities and historical periods that birthed them. He focuses on the patterns he notices, how our ghost stories are evolving, and even does a bit of debunking. Did you know there was once a significant connection between early American spiritualism and feminism? Ever noticed the prevalence of Caucasian ghosts in regions better known for significant African American strife? Care to consider what new ghosts will manifest alongside our technology-driven society? “Ghostland” is about ghosts, but it’s also very much about the living. Suggested by Emily Z.

 

Pompeii by Robert Harris

When newly-promoted water engineer Marcus Attilius Primus comes to Pompeii to discover what’s wrong with an aqueduct, he finds far more than clogged pipes. Our upstanding hero discovers political machinations, runs afoul of a wealthy man who is well-known for his cruelty, and falls in love. Oh, and the oddly flat Mt. Vesuvius is rumbling in a disconcerting manner. Can Attilius save the girl – and himself – or are they destined to become frozen in time in the impending eruption? The narrator’s British accent is contributing greatly to my overall enjoyment of this fast-paced, suspenseful historical novel. Suggested by Marie B.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Action-packed, intriguing in every sense, world-ranging, and featuring a wide variety of original, diverse characters, Reamde is the perfect combination of cyber science fiction, gamer geekdom, and international spy novel. Narrated with subtle flair by Malcolm Hilgartner. Save for a cross-country trip or dedicated time period. Suggested by Darren N.

 The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara

Skillfully narrated by the author, I was not expecting to become as engrossed in a book about fat as I did. It was fascinating how fat could be and do so many things, and so differently for different people. The case studies explored in the book examined how fat responded to certain factors. It really makes you look at how not only your genetic makeup but your gender, your environment and your lifestyle can really shape how fat interacts with you and your body. This book also offers a lot of insight on different ways to combat fat, how there are good fats and bad fats, how it’s an organ, how fluctuations in your weight can cause (or limit) certain biological functions, and how to embrace the fat so it works for and with you. Suggested by Marina M.

 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This whirlwind of a YA book is told primarily from two perspectives and both narrators are excellent, not only nuanced in their performances, but extremely well-cast. Natasha is our female lead and hails from Jamaica, but moved to the U.S. as a young girl. She meets Daniel, a first-generation Korean American, in New York city where they spend a wild day together and find themselves falling in love. Yoon wastes no time getting the story rolling between these vivid characters, which is good as Natasha is facing deportation and isn’t sure how long she and Daniel have to be together. Suggested by Abby B.

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

The creator of the ShondaLand TGIT empire on ABC has a smart, funny memoir about working motherhood, taking risks, and making time for yourself. It’s narrated by the author and it comes across no-nonsense like Olivia Pope talking to one of her gladiators at Pope & Associates. You don’t need to be a “Scandal” or “Grey’s Anatomy” fan to say yes to this book. Suggested by Danielle Dreger-Babbitt.

 Books in a Series

Spells, Swords, & Stealth Series by Drew Hayes

This series offers a fresh twist on the high-fantasy adventure genre. Not only does Hayes let the normally minor, background characters take center stage, they start breaking down the wall between their world and ours almost immediately. This motley crew of half-orc, humans, and a gnome use the fake-it-‘til-you-make it route to Adventurer status and just happen to uncover an ancient, trans-dimensional conspiracy. Along the way, each character grows considerably as they work to find their ideal role within the party (being the biggest in the group doesn’t automatically make you the best barbarian warrior). Above all, this series is a love letter to tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. Suggested by Emily Z.

 

Book 1: NPCs
Book 2: Split the Party
Book 3: Going Rogue


Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers

Right now I’m totally enamored with Becky Chambers’ “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” and its companion “A Closed and Common Orbit”. Not only are these really enjoyable science-fiction, but the characters are so wonderful. The first takes place in a tiny spaceship, with a crew that doesn’t always see eye to eye, but really come together as family. The second is about what happens when the beloved AI from the ship loses her memory, and is given a chance at a new life…on a planet. If you like sci-fi with lots of feeling, get these audiobooks ASAP! Suggested by Dawn R.

 

Book 1: The Long Way to a Small Angry, Planet
Book 2: A Closed and Common Orbit

If you’re looking for something to listen to, and none of the above or anything in the comments strike your fancy, peruse the audiobooks available now on OverDrive in Fiction and/or Non-Fiction. You can limit to genres you like in the sidebar. Right now, of course, we also encourage you to listen to a Western. American Meteor & Journal of the Gun Years are good options!

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