The Best Books of the Year (So Far) According to Your Librarians

Summer may be over, but that doesn't mean our reading list has gotten any shorter! Here are just a few books we've enjoyed this year. All titles are linked to the Library's catalog. Summaries have been taken from the publishing website.



Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr: After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent, a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants, also searches for the painting. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A thrilling tale of secrets, love, and sacrifice that illuminates the destructive cruelty of war and greed and the triumphant power of beauty and love, this is the story of a remarkable woman and an exquisite work of art that burns bright, moving through hands, hearts, and history.

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict: Marie Benedict's powerful new novel shines a light on Rosalind Franklin, a woman who sacrificed her life to discover the nature of our very DNA, a woman whose world-changing contributions were hidden by the men around her but whose relentless drive advanced our understanding of humankind. Benedict weaves together molecular biology and human psychology to bring vivid life to Rosalind Franklin, whose discovery of DNA's double-helix structure takes on the narrative intensity of a thriller.

Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close: JP Sullivan’s restaurant is an institution known for the best burgers in Oak Park, Il. The unexpected death of the family patriarch draws this diverse family back together. Gretchen is the lead singer in a successful 90’s cover band living the rock star life or so her family thinks. Jane, her older sister, is living in style in suburban Lake Forest and becoming concerned that her marriage is crumbling. And Teddy, the cousin who is managing the family restaurant, isn’t quite sure if he is ready to take on the total responsibility of running this successful landmark. Somehow, this scattered family needs to find a way to come together and become a family.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry: Nora Stephens' life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby. Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away. But instead of picnics in meadows, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute. If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again, what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

The Liz Taylor Ring by Brenda Janowitz: In 1978, Lizzie Morgan and Ritchie Schneider embark on a whirlwind romance on the glamorous yachts of Long Island. Their relationship has its share of ups and downs, including a nine-month hiatus that ends with a stunning eleven-carat ring—one that looks just like the diamond Richard Burton gifted Liz Taylor after their own separation. Decades later, when the lost ring unexpectedly resurfaces, the Schneiders’ three children gather under one roof, eager to get their hands on this beloved, expensive reminder of their departed parents. But when the ring reveals a secret that challenges everything they thought they knew about their parents, they’ll have to decide whether to move forward as a family or let the ring break them once and for all.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner: Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the girls in the shop have plans. As they interact with various literary figures of the time: Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Samuel Beckett, and others--these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals, and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally: Edward Dickens, the tenth child of England’s most famous author Charles Dickens, has consistently let his parents down. Unable to apply himself at school and adrift in life, the teenaged boy is sent to Australia in the hopes that he can make something of himself. He soon finds himself in the remote Outback, determined to prove to his parents and more importantly, himself, that he can succeed in this vast and unfamiliar wilderness. Edward works hard at his new life amidst various livestock, bushrangers, shifty stock agents, and frontier battles. By reimagining the tale of a fascinating yet little-known figure in history, this tender coming-of-age story offers insights into Colonialism and the fate of Australia’s indigenous people, and a wonderfully intimate portrait of Charles Dickens, as seen through the eyes of his son.

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard: Stefan was just seventeen when he went to prison for the drug-fueled murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Three years later, he’s released to a world that refuses to let him move on. Belinda’s mother, once Thea’s good friend, galvanizes the community to rally against him to protest in her daughter’s memory. The media, however, paints Stefan as a symbol of white privilege and indifferent justice. Neighbors, employers, even some members of Thea's own family turn away. Meanwhile, Thea struggles to understand her son. At times, he is still the sweet boy he has always been; at others, he is a young man tormented by guilt and almost broken by his time in prison. But as his efforts to make amends meet escalating resistance and threats, Thea suspects more forces are at play than just community outrage.

Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley: Every day Iona, a larger-than-life magazine advice columnist, travels the ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station by train, accompanied by her dog, Lulu. Every day she sees the same people, whom she knows only by nickname: Impossibly-Pretty-Bookworm and Terribly-Lonely-Teenager. Of course, they never speak. Seasoned commuters never do. Then one morning, the man she calls Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader chokes on a grape right in front of her. He’d have died were it not for the timely intervention of Sanjay, a nurse, who gives him the Heimlich maneuver. This single event starts a chain reaction, and an eclectic group of people with almost nothing in common except their commute discover that a chance encounter can blossom into much more.

The Great Passion by James Runcie: In 1727, Stefan Silbermann is a grief-stricken thirteen-year-old, struggling with the death of his mother and his removal to a school in distant Leipzig. Stefan is haunted by her absence, and, to make matters worse, he's bullied by his new classmates. But when the school's cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, takes notice of his new pupil's beautiful singing voice and draws him from the choir to be a soloist, Stefan's life is permanently changed. Under Bach's careful tutelage, Stefan's musical skill progresses, and he is allowed to work as a copyist for Bach's many musical works. When another tragedy strikes, this time in the Bach family, Stefan bears witness to the depths of grief, the horrors of death, the solace of religion, and the beauty that can spring from even the most profound losses.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson: In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White: Newport, Rhode Island, 2019: Andie Figuero has just landed her dream job as a producer of Mansion Makeover, a popular reality show about restoring America’s most lavish historic houses. But Andie runs into trouble: the reclusive heiress who still lives in the mansion, Lucia “Lucky” Sprague, will only allow the show to go forward on two conditions: One, nobody speaks to her. Two, nobody touches the mansion’s ruined boathouse. As the cameras roll on Mansion Makeover, the house begins to yield up the dark secrets the Spragues thought would stay hidden forever….


Mystery and Thriller

Box 88 by Charles Cummings: Lachlan Kite is a member of BOX 88, an elite transatlantic black ops outfit so covert that not even MI6 and the CIA are certain of its existence. At the funeral of his childhood best friend, Lachlan falls into a trap that drops him into the hands of a potentially deadly interrogation, his foes searching for the information he is sworn on his own life to protect. In the haze of a gap year summer, he was on a special assignment on the coast of France, where a friendship allowed him special access to one of Iran’s most dangerous men. Today, Lachlan’s nostalgia for the trip is corrupted by recollection of the deceit that accompanied it but, in order to save his family, he’ll be forced to revisit those painful memories one last time.

Iced (A Dick Francis Novel) by Felix Francis: Seven years ago, Miles Pussett was a steeplechase jockey, loving the rush of the race. But after an unfortunate event, he left horseracing behind and swore he would never return. Finding himself in St Moritz during the same weekend as White Turf, when high-class horseracing takes place on the frozen lake, he gets talked into helping with the horses. Against his better judgement, he decides to assist, but things aren’t as innocent as they seemed. When he discovers something suspicious is going on in the races, something that may have a profound impact on his future, Miles begins a search for answers. But someone is adamant about stopping him—and they’ll go to any length to do it.

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li: A senior at Harvard, Will Chen fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents' American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago. If he and his group succeed, they earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they've dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Overboard by Sarah Paretsky: On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski is led by her dogs on a mad chase that ends when they discover a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity. As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago powerbrokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. And now V.I.’s own life is in jeopardy as well. Told against the backdrop of a city emerging from its pandemic lockdown, Overboard lays bare the dark secrets and corruption buried in Chicago’s neighborhoods in masterly fashion.

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak: Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy. She immediately bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body. As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house.

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson: Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke—until bad things begin happening to people on the list. What do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor, and they’re located all over the country. FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman?



The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Douglas Carlton Abrams and Jane Goodall: Looking at the headlines, it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed. In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world's most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought-after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her "Four Reasons for Hope": The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit. And for the first time, Jane shares her profound revelations about her next, and perhaps final, adventure.

The Listeners: A History of Wiretapping in the United States by Brian Hochman: Wiretapping is nearly as old as electronic communications. Telegraph operators intercepted enemy messages during the Civil War. Communications firms have assisted government eavesdropping programs since the early twentieth century. Such breaches of privacy once provoked outrage, but today most Americans have resigned themselves to constant electronic monitoring. How did we get from there to here? Hochman explores the origins of wiretapping in military campaigns and criminal confidence games and tracks the use of telephone taps in the US government’s wars on alcohol, communism, terrorism, and crime. While high-profile eavesdropping scandals fueled public debates about national security, crime control, and the rights and liberties of individuals, wiretapping became a routine surveillance tactic for private businesses and police agencies alike.

The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America's Bird by Jack E. Davis: The bald eagle is regal but fearless, a bird you’re not inclined to argue with. For centuries, Americans have celebrated it as “majestic” and “noble,” yet savaged the living bird behind their national symbol as a malicious predator of livestock and, falsely, a snatcher of babies. Taking us from before the nation’s founding through inconceivable resurgences of this enduring all-American species, Jack E. Davis contrasts the age when native peoples lived beside it peacefully with that when others. Davis deftly brings alive the bald eagle as a real animal, separate from both the myths of its rapaciousness and the symbolic majesty that at times has made the birds emblems for organizations ranging from the National Rifle Association to the National Wildlife Foundation.

The Brownie Diaries: My Recipes for Happy Times, Heartbreak and Everything in Between by Leah Hyslop: Fun and user-friendly, this book offers brownie-based solutions to all life's challenges, big and small. From brownies for comfort, like the "Feeling Lonesome Tonight" brownie, to brownies for celebration, such as the "I Think I Love You" Brownie, you'll find the perfect brownie for every occasion among these pages. Stuck indoors on a rainy Sunday afternoon? There's a brownie for that, too, along with brownie-inspired twists on classic recipes for cookies and ice-cream sundaes. Complete with a cocoa-dusted smattering of brownie trivia and quick-fixes to stop your brownies from sinking, this is the perfect book for brownie lovers everywhere.

Great Literary Friendships by Janet Phillips: Close friendships are a heart-warming feature of many of our best-loved works of fiction. From the poignant schoolgirl relationship between Jane Eyre and Helen Burns to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’s adventures on the Mississippi, fictional friends have supported, guided, comforted—and at times betrayed—the heroes and heroines of our most popular plays and novels. This book explores twenty-four literary friendships and together with character studies and publication history, describes how each key relationship influences character, determines the plot, or underlines the theme of each literary work. It shows how authors have by turn celebrated, lamented, or transformed friendships throughout the ages.

Tales from the Tillerman: A Life-Long Love Affair with Britain’s Waterways by Steve Haywood: This work is both a tribute to Britain's canals, rivers, and countryside and a celebration of Britishness in all its eccentric glory by drawing from Haywood's fifty years of experience, recounting the many hair-raising escapades he's had up and down the country and reflecting on how the country and the cruising landscape has changed in those fifty years. Containing anecdotes and light-hearted rants aplenty, mixed with some tall tales and a smattering of nostalgia, you’ll be thoroughly entertained as a middle-aged man (oh, go on then, an old one) reflects on his long love affair with boats and waterways, contemplating their importance to his life and how they've changed it.


Biography and Memoir

Nora Ephron: A Biography by Kristin Marguerite Doidge: This is the first in-depth biography to explore the complex themes that ran through Ephron's work and to examine why so many of them still grab our attention today. Based on rare archival research and numerous interviews with some of Ephron's closest friends, collaborators, and award-winning colleagues including actors Tom Hanks and Caroline Aaron, and lifelong friends from Wellesley to New York to Hollywood—as well as interviews Ephron herself gave throughout her career—award-winning journalist Doidge has written a captivating story of the life of a creative writer whose passion for the perfect one-liner and ferocious drive to succeed revolutionized journalism, comedy, and film.

Fly Girl: A Memoir by Ann Hood: Many of you probably remember what it was like to fly on planes where cocktails were served for free, meals were served hot, and people dressed in their Sunday best to board a 10-hour flight. Ann Hood gives the reader a personal and in-depth look into the world of flying from the perspective of a flight attendant. As a TWA flight attendant, she was required to provide first-class hospitality, charm even the rudest customers, and be ready to work at a moment's notice. Hood and her colleague hand-tossed salads in front of passengers and assisted with plane maintenance and evacuations all while wearing high heels and skirts. This is the story of her decades-long career, and the changes airlines saw throughout those years.

James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson: This is the official autobiography of James Patterson, where he tells the story of his life and his journey to becoming one of the bestselling writers of all time. Did you know that: on the morning he was born, he nearly died? Or that growing up, he didn't love to read? Or that Dolly Parton once sang "Happy Birthday" to James over the phone (she calls him J.J., for Jimmy James)? How did a boy from small-town New York become the world’s most successful writer? How does he do it? Read James’ biography to find out more.

Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson: Before the 20th century a wife’s inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. Heiresses tells the stories of these million-dollar babies: Mary Davies, who inherited London’s most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American “Dollar Heiress”, forced into a loveless marriage; and Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of independence and achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother's fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; and Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor.

An Extravagant Life: An Autobiography Incorporating Blue Water, Green Skipper by Stuart Woods: Over the last forty years, Stuart Woods has written more than ninety novels of suspense and intrigue. What many readers don’t know is that Woods's very own life was filled with similar stories of adventure. Born in Georgia, Woods worked in advertising in New York, served in the US Air Force, and had a short stint as an advance man. At the age of 37, he found himself in a transatlantic sailing race, and pursued writing as a full-time career shortly thereafter. Along the way, Woods has lived all over the world, from New York to London, Santa Fe to Ireland. This is the story of a life well-lived, and a special inside look into the beloved author’s many exploits.