Today is National Book Lover’s Day, a holiday that begs the question:
Why do we love the books we love?
Bibliophilic affection is unique to each reader. We might love exciting plots or well-developed characters; beautiful writing or the vagaries and specificities of genre. Some read for escape and others to delve into painful, confusing, or complicated issues. One reader can love a book another one absolutely detests, and yet they both love reading.
Thank goodness there are so many different types of books in print. Not every book is for every reader, but every reader can find a book to love.
And isn’t that just one of the best things in life: finding a book you love and want to tell everyone about?
As librarians, we’re all pretty invested in getting books into the hands of people who love them. So, to celebrate the holiday, here’s a list of National Book Lover’s Day staff recommendations from a few of the librarians here at Orem Public Library. These are books we’ve recently read, loved, and can’t stop talking about. Maybe one (or more!) will be your next beloved book.
By Sarah Winman
I recently finished Still Life by Sarah Winman and loved it. It tells the story of the encounter Ulysses Temper has with art historian Evelyn Skinner in Florence during World War II and how his life unfolds after the war. Partly I loved this because of the setting, as books in Italy always resonate with me. On a larger scale, I loved its exploration of how connections between people, from the fortuitous to the entirely missed, influence not just individuals but families, communities, and our perception of our places within history. The characters’ discussions of art and literature are fascinating; plus, the description of Italian foods will leave you with a serious craving for pasta cooked in water salty as the sea. And there’s a parrot who always knows the right thing to say.
I read this one slowly, savoring every bit, and think it might be my favorite read of 2022.
Amy S. (Programming and Outreach)
By Tom Clancy
One of my favorite novels is Without Remorse by Tom Clancy. It tells the origin story of John Kelly (aka John Clark) who appears as a character in many of Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels. Set in the Vietnam War era, the book tells the origin story of Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who, while mourning his late wife, hooks up with a hitchhiker he meets. When she is murdered by the drug ring she used to work for, he wages a secret one-man war against them. He hunts down and kills the gang members in a number of ingenious ways.
Eventually a police officer figures out what Kelly has been doing, so he remakes himself into John Clark. In many ways, Kelly/Clark is a meaner, dirtier, more vicious version of Jack Ryan. Whether fighting communists or drug dealers, Kelly/Clark conducts his missions ruthlessly and “without remorse.” I loved it.
Art N. (General Reference)
By Emily Austin
The last book that I loved, cherished, and truly adored was Everyone in This Room Will Someday be Dead, by Emily Austin.
Despite the macabre title, this book offers some lovely ideas about hope in a nihilistic world. It follows Gilda, our hopelessly awkward heroine, who navigates love, work, and the search for meaning in life. On a whim, she accepts a position as a receptionist at a Catholic church, despite being an atheist lesbian. From there, she investigates the suspicious death of Grace, the church’s former receptionist. The novel follows both Gilda’s investigation and her turbulent mental health.
Some might find this book depressing, but if you like dark humor and often find yourself ruminating on the human condition, I think you’ll love it. There are a lot of books written about women being lonely in modernity (think The Bell Jar or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), but this book tackled it in a truly refreshing manner. Gilda is hilarious and she’s got a lot of heart. I laughed; I cried. I came away from this book inspired to embrace life’s ups, downs, and long periods of stagnation.
Chelsea M. (General Reference)
By S. A. Cosby
A book that has managed to stay with me for a few months now is Razorblade Tears by S.A. Crosby. Two fathers seek vengeance for the murder of their sons, who were married. Aside from being ex-cons and in-laws, Ike and Buddy Lee don’t appear to have much in common. One black, one white. One a happily-married business owner on the straight and narrow, the other a quirky loner with ties to some shady characters. But neither fully accepted nor understood their gay sons.
After tragic circumstances bring them together, these old(er) men unite in a common goal. They will do better by their sons in death than they did in life. Armed with various weapons and unique skill sets, Ike and Buddy Lee begin the work of revenge. Heaven help anyone who gets in their way! As they work together to avenge their boys, and provide a future for their shared granddaughter, they must confront their complicated feelings and prejudices.
Razorblade Tears is part family drama, part mystery/thriller, with plenty of humor provided mostly by Buddy Lee. I laughed out loud and shed a few tears. Although violent and gritty, this book is full of heart.
Geri T. (General Reference)
By Kelly Barnhill
This year has been a wonderful reading year for me and I have enjoyed a number of fine books from romance to fantasy. If I must pick just one, my favorite is When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.
In an alternate reality that closely resembles our own, The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when women spontaneously become dragons, was a pivotal event in history. It was especially significant to Alex Green as it begins the unraveling of her life. She struggles to succeed and understand herself and the world around her. This is a thoughtful book, with achingly beautiful writing, that can be enjoyed on many levels. It is an anthem to sisterhood and female potential and the story and the thoughts it engendered stayed with me long after I finished reading.
Julie H. (Cataloging)
By Gabrielle Zevin
This year I finally read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and loved it. It’s one of those books that I wondered why I waited so long to get to. It’s about a cranky old (ish) bookseller who is mourning the loss of his wife and is so very sad and depressed. Then a couple of crazy things happen that completely change his life in ways he would have never expected. I loved it because it’s full of quirky characters, is beautifully written, and is a nod to the love of all things bookish. It’s a simply heart-warming story that made me sigh with perfect happiness at the end.
Kerri Sue J. (Administration)
By Larry McMurtry
I finally got around to reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry a few months ago and absolutely loved it. A historical fiction set in the American West, Lonesome Dove follows an aging group of retired Texas Rangers as they chase their dreams and demons in an effort to reconcile their lives and legacies in changing times. Much has been said about this novel, but I found myself unprepared for how it made me laugh out loud, filled me with dread, and created some profound feelings.
Similar to how Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy is more than a contemporary/neo western, Lonesome Dove is much more than a traditional western or romance. It sticks with you long after you finish it, and is now one of my favorite novels.
Mike S. (Administration)
By Jeff Zentner
One of my favorite books that I have read multiple times is Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King, which sort of sounds like a fantasy book but is realistic YA. Three teens in the south have to cope with their high school years coming to a close and facing a future where they’ll be going separate ways. All of this is in the wake of the main character dealing with the fallout of his dad, a prominent local, snake-handling pastor, being sent to prison and the resulting mistrust of his neighbors.
I love books that feature a group dynamic, especially when they’re a group of misfits, and found so much to root for in each of the three point-of-view characters (one’s a blogger, one’s a musician with inner demons, and one’s a fantasy nerd who brings around a wizard staff). As I’m writing this I feel like I’m due for a re-read!
Molly C. (Children’s)
By Alix Harrow
A book I read recently was The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. A fellow librarian recommended it. What I loved about the book is that not only is it about portals between different worlds, it is a story about how books both let us escape our reality and shape our choices within it.
Natalie L. (General Reference)
By Megan Whalen Turner
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner is by far one of my favorite books of all time. The beauty of the story Turner tells is found in the way she portrays her characters, especially the main character, Gen. As a reader, you are lulled into believing you understand each character and their individual motivations until you finish the book and find that you were wrong (and right at the same time). This is a book that I found as a teen that has held up to rereading as an adult.
The premise follows Gen, a young thief, who is recruited/forced to steal a sacred artifact for political purposes. As readers get to know Gen and his traveling companions, they experience the beautiful landscape, the myths known throughout the land, and the intricacy of the politics in which Gen plays a part.
Nora L. (General Reference)
By Carole Lindstrom
At the Utah Library Association Annual Conference, I asked Carole Lindstrom—Anishinabe/Metis Caldecott Winning author of We Are Water Protectors—to speak. It was a delight to moderate the Q&A with Carole, who is so warm, honest, and down-to-earth. So right now, the protagonist of We Are Water Protectors, an indigenous, unnamed girl is my favorite picture book character. This character has an acceptance and understanding of her people’s beliefs, stories, and songs. She has the courage to rally her people to stand for the water and land, even though it is hard. Standing as a water protector demands courage and in this way she is a good example to all children worldwide.
Rita C. (Children’s)
Tell us in the comments: What’s the last book you loved, adored, cherished, or were otherwise enchanted by? And why?