2016 City Library Staff Picks

Take a look at some of the most impressive books, movies, and music albums City Library staff came across in 2016. Titles that don't have a year listed next to them were published or released in 2016.


Ghosts by César Aira (2009)
Such beautiful and building passages. You don't even realize the book is building up to a final climax until it has already happened, your stomach drops and you feel the sensation of missing a step on the stairs. —Lexi, Library Assistant, Children’s Library

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
This book is so sweet and the illustrations are amazing. Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite young adult and adult authors and I was so pleased to see him write this book. It is not only a diverse book, but a diverse book written by someone from that diverse community. —Sarah, Children’s Librarian, Glendale Branch

Lumberjanes by Brooke A. Allen, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters
Besides being diverse and forward-thinking, the Lumberjanes graphic novels absolutely tickle me. There's just the right blend of sarcasm, dry humor, and earnestness to completely win me over. I can't wait for the next volume to come out! —Tanya, Circulation Assistant

Soulless by Gail Carriger (2009)
I was impressed by the author’s ability to include real historical figures and details (including scientific inventions) in a fun fantasy romp. She also does a great job of spoofing the steamy romance novel and the Jane-Austen-like concern for etiquette and dress and decorum. —Celeste, Associate Librarian, Sprague Branch

Moonglow by Michael Chabon
Moonglow, a fictionalized biography of the Chabon’s grandfather, touches on mental illness, rockets, the Holocaust, the Challenger space shuttle, love, snakes, and about the truths we tell each other and the truths we choose to believe. —Brooke, Glendale Branch Manager

Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark
Guy Clark, who passed away in May, is an amazing songwriter. It was so cool to read the stories behind the songs. —Shannon, Library Assistant, Anderson-Foothill Branch

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (1946)
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist during World War II and survived slave labor and other atrocities at Auschwitz and other concentration camps in 1944 and 1945. This book was written based on his experiences in the camps, and yet I've never read anything so optimistic and redeeming of faith in the goodness of humanity. —Elaine, Library Assistant

The Inquisitor's Tale, or the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
Filled with humor, rich detail and culture, this is a masterful children's book, the kind I would have loved to read as a kid. While I haven't finished it yet, I'm completely hooked and caught up in its suspense. Like the listeners at the tavern, children will find themselves eagerly waiting on the next part of the tale. —Michael, Library Assistant

How To Be a Tudor: A Dawn‑to‑Dusk Guide to Tudor Life by Ruth Goodman (2015)
A fun and incredibly readable look at how real people actually lived in Tudor England. Goodman looks at everything from where people slept, to the bread that they ate, to even the way they made those fantastic collars. —Brooke, Glendale Branch Manager

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (2013)
This book offers a great viewpoint on modern Afghans who feel separated from their home after living in foreign countries. It’s also very good at showing how different lives all are connected in some way. —Asma, Library Aide

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Amazing book. Puts you right there in Alaska in the late 19th century, exploring the Wolverine River Valley. The story and writing are great. —Bob, Associate Librarian, Sprague Branch

Until Proven Guilty by J. A. Jance (1985)
This is a mystery set in Seattle, Washington that follows J.P. Beaumont, a police detective. Anyone who likes police stories will enjoy this. —Lenore, Librarian, Main Library

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
This story is told from the perspective of a very well-spoken fetus, who is living and growing inside its mother and plotting to kill its father with the father's brother. Crazy, right? —Tania, Librarian, Anderson-Foothill Branch

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
This is a fantastic fairytale retelling of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts before she became queen. Meyer does a great job of taking a story we all know and love and making it into a new, captivating story. —Jennifer, Librarian, Sweet Branch

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Siddhartha Mukherjee draws readers in so well through his use of the personal to relate to the general. He describes the history of our study of genes and focuses especially on the implications of human study and manipulation of these building blocks. He uses a personal—including the effect of genes on his own family—and scientific narrative to create a surprisingly interesting and persuasive read. —Tania, Librarian, Anderson-Foothill Branch

Absolutely on Music: Conversations by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa
From classical music anecdotes to comparisons of concerto interpretations (who's in charge, the conductor or the soloist?), it’s like hanging out at a record listening party with Murakami and Ozawa. —Jason, Associate Librarian, Main Library

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)
Dreamland is a timely, enthralling, and smoothly written book documenting the complex issues encircling opiate use in the U.S. The issue is so interesting and so well evoked by Quinones, I didn't want anything to interrupt my reading. —Donnae, Nonfiction Selector

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith (2014)
This is the first book in the Towers trilogy. Intertwined and undeniable throughout all three books is the theme of the enduring power of friendship. —Carrisa, Library Aide, Anderson-Foothill Branch

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough
Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. The recommendations in this book were great and, if applied, would change the world. —Camille, Associate Librarian, Main Library

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
This is a beautifully written novel. Towles is excellent at portraying a sense of place and this book has a definite feel of "old world elegance." The book’s Count Rostov handles his circumstances with grace and dignity. —Heather, Teen Librarian, Marmalade Branch

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker (2015)
Mark Vanhoenacker’s prose is gorgeous and his descriptions of the links between modern aviation and ancient navigation are fascinating. —Chris, Library Aide, Sweet Branch

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West is one of those writers who, within the space of a few paragraphs, can make me belly laugh and weep! I love her voice and commitment to self love and plainspoken defiance of the messages, both internal and external, that disconnect us from our worth and beauty. —Tommy, Adult Services Coordinator

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
I heard whisperings that this book would be a Printz Award contender so I wanted to read it. It has an odd story, some twists that are unexpected, and dips into Southern culture. I enjoyed it immensely. —Kim, Sweet Branch Manager


The Arrival
The Arrival is a brilliant first contact story that shows what it would be like to actually try to understand an alien species. The plot unfolds in interesting ways that casts new light on things you thought you understood. It’s a wonderful look at the ways we interact with each other and family, and how we value the choices we make. —Andrew, Tech Services Specialist

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This movie is a hidden gem. It's about a rebellious boy and his foster father who become the subjects of a manhunt after getting lost in the New Zealand bush. This movie is hilarious, sentimental, and one of my favorite movies of all time. —Jennifer, Librarian, Sweet Branch

The Lobster
Dark humor at its most bittersweet. —Lexi Johnson, Library Assistant, Children’s Library
The Lobster is an unusual movie and is interesting on several levels. —Lisa, Assistant Director for Main Library and Collections

Kubo and the Two Strings
The craftsmanship of the stop-motion animated film is exquisite. —Mike, Technology Assistant

Pete’s Dragon
So many people didn't pay attention to this movie because of attachment to the old one, but it's the best children's movie since WALL·E. —Ethan, Library Engagement Team Lead, VOA Homeless Outreach Program

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)
This is a thought-provoking movie about the struggles of South Asian Muslims after the 9/11 attacks. —Zui, Library Assistant

Rogue One
A Star Wars movie highlighting the importance of sacrifice. Also, Darth Vader is super cool. —Patrick, Staff Development Trainer


Blackstar by David Bowie
Each time I listen to this album, I hear something different or relate to it in a different way. Songs like "Lazarus" give us a potential glimpse into what David Bowie was feeling as he neared the end, or perhaps it was just him creating another story the way only he could. —Shavauna, Library Aide
Last album from David Bowie. Amazing. —Zelda, Library Assistant, Main Library

The Wilderness by Explosions in the Sky
For me, this is the most engaging album that Explosions in the Sky has released for a long time. It's also one of their most straightforward releases making it an excellent entry point for anyone looking to get into instrumental rock and post-rock. This has probably been my favorite album to come out this year and one I have really connected with. —Evan, Library Assistant, Marmalade Branch

Popestar by Ghost
This album is experimental in many aspects. —Briana, Library Aide

Blonde by Frank Ocean
I wish I could point to some quality of the album—like the soulful vocals or the rich composition—and say that this particular thing is what makes this album exceptional, but it's one of those albums that just has that intangible greatness. —Brennan, Library Assistant, Main Library

Divers by Joanna Newsom (2015)
I fell into this album so hard and I think it is intricate and alive. —Lexi, Library Assistant, Children’s Library

A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Radiohead has been my favorite band since I was about 12 years old. While their latest offering is certainly more mellow, and has been criticized for lacking some of the typical Radiohead edginess, I find it to be evidence of the band's ability to age gracefully. —Rebecca, Associate Librarian, Sweet Branch