We’ve begun a new year, but those of us here at Marion Public Library are looking back on our favorite books read in 2013. What are the best books you read this past year? Share in the comments section below.
Mary E., Director
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
“Not a recent book but it was recommended to me by a friend. Sweeping saga of a group of people in Charleston, South Carolina. There is intrigue. There is love. There is angst. This takes you into that wonderful city and makes you feel like you are walking the streets with these people or watching the boats come through. I only wish that I had read it before I visited the city a few years ago. “
Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo’s older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him.
Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades-from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston’s dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for. South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest; a long-awaited work from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds.
Mary L., Head of Reference
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
“The story opens with a bedtime story to a brother and sister which will ultimately foreshadow their own fate. The devoted brother and sister are tragically parted when the father sells the sister to keep the rest of the family alive. Breathtaking and compelling, a beautiful read about the strength of love. A celebration of humanness and family in the face of adversity.”
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
Karen B., Tech Services
The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy
“This biography/autobiography provides a look into the life Pat Conroy led in his father’s house and after he moved out up until the time his father died. It’s also a biography of his father, who was the basis for Conroy’s hit novel, The Great Santini. It’s a riveting read.”
Pat Conroy’s father, Donald Patrick Conroy, was a towering figure in his son’s life. The Marine Corps fighter pilot was often brutal, cruel, and violent; as Pat says, “I hated my father long before I knew there was an English word for ‘hate.'” As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the toll his father’s behavior took on his siblings, and especially on his mother, Peg. She was Pat’s lifeline to a better world-that of books and culture. But eventually, despite repeated confrontations with his father, Pat managed to claw his way toward a life he could have only imagined as a child.
Pat’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused with his father brought even more attention. Their long-simmering conflict burst into the open, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, he and his son reached a rapprochement of sorts. Quite unexpectedly, the Santini who had freely doled out physical abuse to his wife and children refocused his ire on those who had turned on Pat over the years. He defended his son’s honor.
The Death of Santini is at once a heart-wrenching account of personal and family struggle and a poignant lesson in how the ties of blood can both strangle and offer succor. It is an act of reckoning, an exorcism of demons, but one whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to one of the most-often quoted lines from Pat’s bestselling novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”
Kristie F., Volunteer Reference Librarian
The Cherry Cola Book Club by Lee Ashton
“It’s about a small town, southern librarian, who manages to get the town to support a doomed public library by showing them how it touches their lives. It’s not the best book I read this year, but it was a fun read.”
With its corrugated iron siding and cramped interior, the Cherico, Mississippi, library is no Antebellum gem. But for young librarian Maura Beth Mayhew, it’s as essential to the community as the delicious desserts at the Twinkle, Twinkle Café. It’s a place for neighbors to mingle and browse through the newest bestsellers, for the indomitable Miss Voncille Nettles to host her “Who’s Who in Cherico?” meetings. The library may be underfunded and overlooked, but it’s Maura Beth’s pride, and she won’t let the good ole boys on the City Council close it down without a fight.
Which is why Maura Beth has founded the Cherry Cola Book Club–a last-ditch attempt to boost circulation and save her job. Over potluck dinners featuring treasured family recipes, the booklovers of Cherico come together to talk about literary classics. But soon it’s not just Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee being discussed over chicken gumbo and homemade biscuits with green pepper jelly. Secrets are shared, old dreams rekindled, and new loves slowly blossom.
Sue I., Reference Librarian
The Library: A World History by James W.P. Campbell
“This beautiful book written by architectural historian James Campbell traces the history of libraries from ancient times to the present. The stunning photographs document over eighty libraries.”
A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Library in Finland, to the ancient ruins of the library of Pergamum in modern Turkey, the architecture of a library is a symbol of its time as well as of its builders’ wealth, culture, and learning.
Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day.
As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere. Together, Campbell and Pryce have produced a landmark book—the definitive photographic history of the library and one that will be essential for the home libraries of book lovers and architecture devotees alike.
Jennifer H., Reference Librarian
“I read a ridiculous amount of good books in 2013 and I can’t pick just one favorite. Here are three books that I thoroughly enjoyed.”
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. #1)
“As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to horror books and movies. The Screaming Staircase, though, was tons of fun and though it was plenty frightening, it didn’t give me nightmares for a week (always a plus). Combine Stroud’s knack for creating memorable, intriguing characters and his trademark wit, and you have yourself the makings of an excellent book. I can’t wait to catch up with Lockwood and Co. in the next book.”
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.
Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake (Goddess War #1)
“Think of this book as the older, edgier sister of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Like Rick Riordan (whose excellent books I’ve finally gotten around to reading, thanks to my love for this book), Ms. Blake has brought the characters from Greek mythology into the modern world and given them new and deadly challenges to face. Antigoddess is a thoroughly entertaining book and even made me want to delve into the original mythology of the Greek gods, goddesses and heroes.”
Old Gods never die…
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.
Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.
These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.
Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.
Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave #1)
“Rick Yancey has an incredible gift for storytelling and bringing characters to life. I adored Cassie and if an alien apocalypse really does occur, I want her on my team. Evan can join up as well.
This book kept me guessing and on my toes up until the very end (I did have some ideas of what was really going down and it was nice to have them confirmed by the conclusion of the book). Sometimes books are hyped for a reason and The 5th Wave is one of them. ”
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.