“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” Lady Bird Johnson
My favorite place to browse for books is the Staff Picks section at my local library. Although tastes can differ, a good librarian won’t recommend a book that is poorly written. Most (I’d venture to say all) librarians are serious readers and see hundreds of books come through the library doors. They get the latest scoop on what’s hot off the presses and are typically knowledgeable about the best books in all different genres. There’s no incentive to recommend bad books because they’re not making any money from sales, so their recommendations can be trusted to be books they truly loved.
I’m sure the caliber of staff recommendations varies depending on the library, but there’s an easy way to tell if it’s a top-notch selection: Check to see if any of the best books you’ve already read are included on the shelf. When I spotted Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed as one of the staff picks, I knew I’d hit the literary jackpot. Since we moved to our town a year and a half ago, I’ve read six Staff Picks books. Five of them were great, and one of them was well-written but not my style.
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff – A very interesting novel that flashes back and forth between the stories of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and a young man exiled from a fundamentalist Morman group in the late 20th century.
Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart – Apparently Megan Hart is known for writing erotica, but this book is not that. It’s a dark, suspenseful cabin-in-the-woods novel that would make a great beach read for any woman, particularly a mother, who doesn’t mind dark stories. A page turner.
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon – An excellent collection of fictional stories about military families on the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. I was a military spouse for almost three years, and the characters rang true for me.
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – A very dark and graphic suspenseful novel that I could not put down. It’ll have you checking the locks on your doors and maybe even hiding under the covers. Much more suspenseful than some more recent disappointing bestsellers which shall remain nameless at this time.
A Small Hotel by Robert Olen Butler – This is the one I didn’t like. It’s a bleak story about a broken marriage. I can understand why it was recommended, though, as the writing is very good.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – As I shared in my last post, this book is a gem and one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. The small town Mississippi setting and complicated characters are so well done. My favorite, so far, of the Staff Picks.
Then there’s these three, the Staff Picks checked out to me at the moment.
I’m not sure I’ll love them, but I’m pretty confident they’re worth a read.
What’s your favorite place to browse?