Our Best of 2019
NPL staffers weigh-in on their year in reading and watching (so far!)
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland / Patrick Radden Keefe
Olive, Again / Elizabeth Strout. I loved being in Olive’s orbit again. Olive has softened just a tad, but her biting directness is still strong.
The Chain / Adrian McKinty. How far would you go to save your child’s life? The inventive (and diabolical) plot will keep you reading all night.
Killing Eve. I binged this show in one day and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Season 2 is just as good!
Maiden. A documentary marking the first all-women’s sailling crew of the famed Whitebread Race Around the World. A great watch.
Circe / Madeline Miller
The Lost Children Archive / Valeria Luiselli
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Dutch House / Ann Patchett
The Weight of Ink / Rachel Kadish
The Most Fun We Ever Had / Claire Lombardo. I still think about these characters and the ways in which they came together as a family. There were little moments that were sprinkled throughout (the sheets!) that made me feel as if these people were real, experiencing life as I do. Lombardo gave us Marilyn and David, a couple in a long-standing, loving marriage, and for that I’m grateful.
The Lost Children Archive / Valeria Luiselli. A road trip novel about a family of four setting off to the West. Reading it felt like I was riding along, listening to their stories and inside jokes. The narrator’s struggles and her love of words and polaroids connected with me deeply. Finishing the book I felt as if I had traveled many miles, and I wasn’t the same person as I was when I started this journey.
In the Dream House / Carmen Maria Machado. Machado’s innovativeness when it comes to formatting and categorization blew my mind wide open. This was not like any memoir I’d ever read before. If I could teach a college course on just one book—this would be it. We’d have many discussions and by the end we’d all want to create something new from our own ashes.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous / Ocean Vuong. This letter to a mother that will never read it is filled with longing and a piercing raw beauty that left me stunned and speechless. Love is love is love and reading about the connections we forge in our lives reminds me of all that is good and possible in this world.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett read by Tom Hanks. I read The Dutch House first and was thoroughly convinced that Patchett is a marvel of her own making. Then I decided to listen to the audiobook and was thrilled to discover that Tom Hanks lends his own brilliance to an interpretation that exceeded my expectations.
Finding Fred hosted by Carvell Wallace. Listening to this took me right back to my own childhood. And at the same time I felt like an observer, thankful for the chance to learn more about this man and the impact he’s had over the years. Feels like we’re in the middle of a Mr. Rogers resurgence, perhaps now is when we need him the most.
Shoplifters. Finding your own family is a theme I often return to in what I read. And watching this beautiful gem of a movie reminded me how strong the ties are when we come together in adversity. This is one to watch slowly and allow yourself the joy of savoring each scene.
Queer Eye. When this show was first on the air, one of the librarians would record it on VHS and then we’d take turns watching it. Now all these years later I am ever so delighted to discover this reboot of a series that has brought me so much joy. These five guys remind me that we are all human and there’s real power in connection and simple, loving gestures.
The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater (available via an interlibrary loan request) / Alanna Okum. This is a collection of essays about fiber-related crafts and how they help us cope with life’s occasional hiccups.
The War Bride’s Scrapbook / Caroline Preston. This graphic novel is illustrated using the old scrapbook style of collage. Ribbons, pins collected ticket stubs, tokins, magazine clippings and personal correspondence tells the story of the hopes, dreams and realities of a bride left at home during WWII.
Bob / Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. This children’s chapter book is about the power of friends, whether they are fact or fantasy. It is a magical, sweet, tender, funny Must Read.
The Book of Boy / Catherine Gilbert Murdock. This children’s chapter book is in the style of Karen Cushman’s stories about life in the Middle Ages. This combines a journey/pilgrimage with a coming-of-age story/metamorphosis of a most unexpected boy.
The Chain / Adrian McKinty (mystery)
Echo in the canyon [DVD] (documentary)
The favourite [DVD]
Free solo [DVD] (documentary)
Toil & trouble / Augusten Burroughs (memoir)
The valedictorian of being dead : the true story of dying ten times to live / Heather B. Armstrong (nonfiction, mental illness)
The wall : a novel / John Lanchester
Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont / Teresa Mares. UVM Professor Teresa Mares reveals the physical and historical borders faced by Latinx dairy workers in Vermont and how they have emerged as leaders in farmworker justice. Any one who believes in Vermont agriculture and its futures should read this book.
Transit / Rachel Cusk. Cusk published Transit in 2017, but I am new to her work. There were many lingering and thought-provoking passages from this novel about change, personal upheaval, and emotional growth as faced by the protagonist’s move to London from elsewhere.
Optic Nerve (available with an interlibrary loan request) / Maria Gainza. Translated into English by Thomas Bunstead and originally published in Spanish in 2014, Optic Nerve is Argentine writer Maria Gainza’s first novel. Its narrator, also named Maria, is an art critic and the entire novel is told through her voice, in vignettes that juxtapose with the stories and work of famous artists, with tales of her life and the lives of those around her. It’s a beautiful work of art.
The Nickel Boys / Colson Whitehead.
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (available with an interlibrary loan request) / Saidiya Hartman. What does it mean to be free? Hartman’s book explores the ways young black women in the twentieth century created forms of intimacy and kinship in ways that were outside the bounds of dominant (white) law and culture. Hartman’s research for her book pushes the boundaries of academic and scholarly archives to tell stories of lives that transformed urban spaces.