Ever wondered about the librarians who work behind the scenes to create and host all of the library’s programs, events, and reading challenges? Meet Orem Public Library’s Outreach staff. These librarians work hard to make the activities that happen in Library Hall vibrant events for all Orem community members. From choir concerts to ballet performances, from monthly teen and tween programs to summer reading, from art exhibits to magic shows, we strive for a diverse mix of programs to provide experiences for the community to enjoy.
And we also love books!
This eclectic Outreach staff favorites list reveals a bit about our personalities. These are books we read and loved in 2022, tomes that changed our perspectives about the world in the way all of the best books do.
Now that you know a bit more about us, say hello the next time you come to a program at the library!
Outreach Staff Favorites
Nathan’s Favorite: Tree of Smoke
By Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson’s National Book Award-winning novel, Tree of Smoke, takes an unflinching look at the Vietnam War. Following a number of characters throughout the conflict and aftermath, including a CIA agent, a Seventh-Day Adventist missionary, several American enlistees, a Vietcong operative, and a South Vietnamese Air Force officer, the novel spans a period of about 35 years, beginning in Southeast Asia before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and ending in the mid 1990s.
Like all of Johnson’s works, Tree of Smoke is incredibly moving in its observations of humanity. Johnson is one of the most compassionate writers I know. His depictions of people involved in deep suffering, addiction, violence, incarceration, and poverty portray the dignity of human life, even in the midst of the very worst humans are capable of. His writing is objective but never cold, which lends the reader a certain amount of understanding without justifying or softening the sometimes monstrous actions of the characters.
This novel has long been on my “to read” pile, but after a holiday visit with my father-in-law, and a conversation about his experiences as a U.S. naval officer in Vietnam during the mid-1960s, I picked it up hoping for a better understanding of the war. What I left the novel with was a sense of hope, love, and reconciliation in spite of human shortcomings, failures, and cruelty.
Holly’s Favorite: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
By Kelly Barnhill
After my 11-year-old daughter finished reading the award-winning junior novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, for her school’s Battle of the Books this year, she recommended it to me (as she does with all the books she reads and likes). I actually took her recommendation seriously, though, because earlier this year I had the most enlightening and magical experience reading Barnhill’s adult novel, When Women Were Dragons.
I gave myself a figurative kick for not reading anything by Barnhill sooner after I started reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon. The word magical can be a clichéd, tired adjective, but the word fits her books perfectly. The fantasy worlds Barnhill creates feel unique yet classic in a fairy-tale way, and the effortless way her stories unfold is mesmerizing. I can’t wait to explore her backlist!
Meg’s Favorite: Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged that rereading Pride and Prejudice is just as fun, if not more fun, than reading it for the first time. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice several times, but my 2022 re-read was a special one. My dad passed away earlier this year, and so this read was dedicated to him. He and I used to quote Pride and Prejudice to each other all the time. He loved the witty dialogue, the characters, and the heart in the story. I thought about my dad as I read every page. Reading one of his favorite stories felt like it brought me a little closer to him. It was a delightful, tender, and bittersweet reading experience.
Amy’s Favorite: World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War
By Max Brooks
My 22-year-old son had listened to the audiobook World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War by Max Brooks last year and insisted I had to read it too. I finally got to the top of the hold list for the e-audiobook in March, and wow: he was right. This book is nothing like the movie. Instead, it is a fractured telling of a broken society. Characters share their stories as oral histories of the people who survived the zombie apocalypse. The questions and commentary of the interviewer (narrated by the author) create the novel’s narrative flow. The story comes from many voices, and each character is narrated by their own voice actor, including Nathan Fillion, Alan Alda, and Carl Reiner.
The idea that enlightenment or wisdom could come from a novel about zombies might seem ridiculous, but I found so many resonant moments. This was especially true as I listened to this novel about war while the war in Ukraine became more violent. Reading about man’s inhumanity to man while my own faith in humanity was shaky actually gave me strength. It reminded me that while war has always existed, so, too, at least, have the small moments of redemption or peace.
Chelsea’s Favorite: Once Upon a River
By Diane Setterfield
This year I read the 2018 novel Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. This vividly atmospheric book is set on the river Thames, and it starts with a miracle: a dead child comes back to life. The miraculous child is quickly claimed by three families who’ve each suffered great loss, but one child can’t fix three broken families. Or can she? As the following year unfolds, the child’s identity is slowly revealed as Setterfield weaves together the back stories of the complicated characters who surround her.
Setterfield’s novel is an example of truly masterful storytelling. Every element of this book flows together with the grace and fluidity of the river at the heart of it all. It’s been awhile since I’ve read something so full of beautiful words, rich ideas, and perfectly flawed characters. I slipped into the story effortlessly and savored every last bit of it.
Jordyn’s Favorite: My Policeman
By Bethann Roberts
Last April my family and I went on a cruise to Mexico for my 17th birthday. I ended up reading four books while on that boat, and My Policeman was by far my favorite. My cousin suggested it, based solely on the fact that Harry Styles announced he would be playing the protagonist in the October 2022 film adaptation. As we read it and cried together, the book earned a special place in my heart. I will forever suggest it to other readers.
Taking place in 1950s England after he just returned from the National Service, this is the story of Tom, who is offered two chances at love. The struggle is of him discovering his sexuality and setting up his future. Told from the point of view of both Marion and Patrick, Tom’s life unfolds leaving missed opportunities and heartache, yet still a chance at love and hope.
Ruth’s Favorite: Dozens of Donuts
By Carrie Finison
As a mom of four children under the age of six, I read approximately one million picture books in 2022, but this is the one that stood out. My husband and I read it on different nights, and came to each other to say just how much we loved this book—that’s how good it is!
LouAnn is a bear preparing for a long winter’s nap by making herself a feast of doughnuts. But before she can take a bite, the doorbell rings. It’s Woodrow the woodchuck. LouAnn happily shares her doughnuts with him, but before they start eating, another friend arrives. One by one, more surprise guests arrive, and LouAnn becomes increasingly frustrated, anxious, and grumpy. This book teaches counting and division (LouAnn divides the doughnuts equally among her friends). And it relates the importance of recognizing and advocating for your needs. I recommend it to any caregiver of small people and anyone looking for a sweet and wholesome story with relatable big feelings and a heartwarming ending.
Stephanie’s Favorite: Unsouled
By Will Wight
This was a fantastic read this year for me, recommended to me by my brother. I would describe it as the literary version of a hole-in-the-wall: it is not well-known to the general reading populace, but it has a loyal and growing fan base. It is a fantasy novel and the first book of the 11-book Cradle series, so named after the planet in which its stories take place. The depth of its world-building is comparable to that of Brandon Sanderson and Tolkien, and its mysterious universe leaves you wanting to read more and more to figure out how everything works in relation to each other. You follow a protagonist who has the odds stacked against him, and you find yourself relating to him, rooting for him to succeed. Overall, an adventurous and inspiring read, with plenty of content that will entertain you for a good while.
Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian