AADL's 2022 staff picks for words

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Books, audiobooks, graphic novels, comics, websites, and more:



Donkey Gospel
by Tony Hoagland

I’m impatient with poetry, I’ll usually do a cursory reading of something and put it back on the shelf. I loved winding down with this author at night, enjoyable for its simplicity, like miniature prose. It’s a sad-funny variety, thoughtful and self-conscious, about sickness, friendships, pollution, and sex, many of them ending on a defeated note, some people might find this woefully relatable. {AADL

The Fourth Child
by Jessica Winter

There are two viewpoints telling this story: a young mother absorbed by her faith and a challenging adoption; and the other, her teenage daughter, quietly suffering from this sudden family disruption. You get to see both of them come-of-age, in very similar yet completely different ways. It is hard to stomach in spots, disturbing even, but the characters are so durable, loving, and saturated with detail that it makes the story highly gratifying. The relationships and the distinctly American realms they occupy feel so incredibly real and entertaining, I look forward to anything Jessica Winter writes. {AADL}



Firekeeper’s Daughter 
by Angeline Boulley

Written by a Michigan author and set in the Upper Peninsula, this award-winning teen novel has a strong female teen narrator and features family, community, murder, suspense, drugs, a love story, hockey, the FBI, and Ojibwe culture. Loved it! {AADL}

by David Sedaris 

Another great one by this incomparable author, and it is perhaps one of my favorites by Sedaris. He goes back to talking more about his family, and we learn more about his dad. I read it and look forward to listening to the audio! {AADL}

The Black Flamingo 
by Dean Atta

A coming-of-age story about a gay, biracial teen growing up in London. He slowly comes to terms with his family, race, and sexuality, and then he joins the Drag Society in college and really finds himself. It’s beautifully written in verse, by a poet. {AADL}

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil 

This collection of essays about the natural world was more than I ever could have imagined. Beautiful prose, personal stories, facts about nature, and some beautiful little illustrations scattered throughout. {AADL}

The Only Good Indians 
by Stephen Graham Jones

A horror novel about revenge. A decade ago four Blackfeet men harmed some elk and years later that one day comes back to haunt each one of them in a gory way. This author is a must-read for horror fans. {AADL}

Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

The audiobook is amazing! This author cannot write a bad sentence. It’s about a family of multiple generations living in poverty in rural Mississippi. It’s an odyssey and features a few ghosts and some unforgettable characters who narrate alternate chapters. {AADL}



Care of: Letters, Connections, and Cures
by Ivan Coyote

During 2020, author, musician, and spoken word poet Ivan Coyote wrote responses to notes they had received from readers and listeners over the years. "Care of" is a selection of some of the original letters and Ivan's responses. They cover topics like transgender identity, family, and growing up in the Yukon. This collection is a total tearjerker! {AADL}



The Raven Tower
by Ann Leckie


To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
by Christopher Paolini


The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune


Red Sister
by Mark Lawrence


Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower
by Tamsyn Muir




Magical Boy
Volumes 1, 2
by Kao Studios

A fun exploration of the popular Magical Girl genre. Max, a young trans man, is just trying to get through high school. His world is upended when he discovers he is a descendant of a long line of Magical Girls tasked with saving the world. His powers swiftly develop despite being a man, leaving him to struggle with both his gender identity AND learning how to fight an ancient evil. {AADL}

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky

An incredible graphic novel adaptation of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. While the team adapting this book could not provide a comprehensive graphic novel covering every page of the famous diary, this is an incredible summary with moving art that can help readers gain a deeper understanding of Frank's time in the Secret Annex. It even contains material from the diary that had been removed from earlier publications, including Anne's growing interest in women. A highly recommended adaptation. {AADL}



The Twilight World
by Werner Herzog

An incredible story about Hiroo Onoda. This was Herzog's first novel and his skill as a writer really shines through. He contemplated making this into a film but decided that the story and sense of time would be best conveyed through writing, which I totally agree with. {AADL}

Bound For Glory
by Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie wrote his autobiography when he was 30 years old, so this book only covers the first half of his life but is still filled with lots of beauty, tragedy, and humor. I enjoyed learning more about Guthrie's life and what compelled him to pursue music. Guthrie's iconic voice and colorful language were definitely highlights. {AADL}

The Pillow Book
by Sei Shōnagon

A book of 9th-century ramblings and drama. Witty and highly detailed. Lots of fun lists in this book too: "Things that make the heart grow fonder," "Awe-inspiring things," "Very tiresome things," "Things that makes one happy," "Embarrassing things." {AADL}



Crying in H Mart: A Memoir 
by Michelle Zauner

Crying is right. In H Mart, at the club, this book had me in tears. {AADL}

Himawari House 
by Harmony Becker

I read Himawari House in one go. It was so comfortable and warm, I never wanted it to end, I wanted to live with those characters forever. I can’t wait to reread it after I’ve given myself a little time to forget it. {AADL}

Cold Enough for Snow 
by Jessica Au

A peaceful meditation of a book. {AADL}

Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir 
by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Get into it! {AADL}

People From My Neighborhood 
by Hiromi Kawakami

This book was just bizarro and fun and very enjoyable to read. It's the second book by Kawakami I've read, and I like their writing so much I might have to go and read their entire oeuvre. {AADL}



Heretic (2022) 
by Jeanna Kadlec

I was blown away by this fantastic memoir. Kadlec chronicles her decision to leave the evangelical church and her growing acceptance of her queer identity, weaving her experiences together with an incisive and clear-eyed exploration of the influences Christianity has had on American society since its founding. Kadlec's honesty about her life makes her insights into the inner workings of the church that much more decisive and urgent; you can tell that Kadlec mourns for some of the aspects of Christian life even as she recognizes the overall toxicity in her experience. {AADL}

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle 
by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

I think at this point in human history we are all barreling toward burnout of one kind or another. Emily and Amelia Nagoski explore the science behind the stress cycle and offer realistic ways to deal with the stress we accumulate in everyday life. While this book is excellent on a practical level—the stuff they suggest actually helps and is grounded in the reality that we can't all quit our jobs and move to Europe!—the science writing on display in this book is phenomenal. The writing is conversational and approachable, drawing on everything from Disney princesses to tennis to help explain the inner workings of our brains. {AADL}

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton

Beaton is perhaps best known for the historical humor of her Hark, A Vagrant! webcomic. Ducks is a pivot from that, exploring the much more somber nuances of living and working in an oil extraction site. This is an autobiographical work, and Beaton extends compassion to all of the characters depicted in the book, which is an impressive feat of kindness given the way she was treated by some of her coworkers. I can't say enough about this graphic novel, from Beaton's measured consideration of the moral and environmental implications of oil refining to the way humans treat one another to the truly excellent cartooning skills on display. {AADL}



The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making
by Jared Yates Saxton

An analytic and highly personal critique of American masculinity, The Man They Wanted Me to Be balances the stark facts of the toll of toxic masculinity with memoir, insightful perspective, and an ethos of radical compassion. The courage it takes to write something like this can't be overstated. Highly recommend. {AADL}

See You in the Cosmos
by Jack Cheng

A touching middle-grade novel (by a local author!) about a passionate kid who's responsible beyond his years and the adults in his life who come to see how they've failed him. Its strong narrative voice made for a believable (and thoroughly lovable) 11-year-old protagonist. If you're an audiobook reader, check this one out—it's an award-winning production, and it's easy to hear why. {AADL / Overdrive}

Prosper's Demon
The Devil You Know
by K.J. Parker
(2020, 2016) 

A novella and a short story set in the same historical-adjacent fantasy world, both flaunting Parker's devious imagination and sardonic wit. I devoured these back to back and loved every moment. They're both standalone works, but I enjoyed them in this order. {AADL / AADL}

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

This one was on my list for ages, and I'm so glad I finally gave it a read. It unearths the true story of Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cells, harvested without her knowledge during a biopsy in 1951, became the source of the scientifically invaluable HeLa line. Skloot presents a thorough timeline of the HeLa cell line and its role in science and medicine, interspersed with a chronicle of Lacks' personal and family history pieced together through years of collaboration with her surviving relatives and neighbors. Really eye-opening. {AADL}



Unravelling Women's Art
by P.L. Henderson

My favorite kind of nonfiction opens a whole world that you didn't realize existed before, with a subject that touches so many aspects of life. With Unraveling, you realize that fiber arts are a fundamental part of culture and life, from the Bayeux Tapestry to Louise Bourgeois' spider creations. This is art, fashion, the environment, and a fight for identity. {AADL}



A Cup of Silver Linings
by Karen Hawkins

This is the second book in the series, the first being The Book Charmer which is also a wonderful read and recommended. There are seven Dove sisters, and they all have a magical talent. One can hear books talking, one can hear plants talking, etc. The characters are well described, and it is a series that concentrates on bonds of friendship and family. {AADL}

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good
by Helene Tursten

This is the first book in the series. This is a slim volume of short stories about a woman named Maud in her 80s that takes care of business when she decides she doesn’t like someone. It is a bit macabre, but at the same time, a fun read. The second book in the series that I also recommend is An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed. {AADL}

Beach Read
by Emily Henry

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like this. It is about a female author who has a love-hate relationship with her neighbor. I picked it up for an easy read and it is in places, but there are deeper themes throughout the book that make you think about your own life. This was the first book I read by the author, and I really enjoyed it. {AADL}

One of Us Is Lying
by Karen McManus

One of my favorite books of the year. It is a locked-door mystery, set in high school. Five students walk into detention and only four come out. Who killed Simon and why? {AADL}

How Y’all Doing? Misadventures and Mischief of a Life Well Lived
by Leslie Jordan

I listened to this after I found out Leslie Jordan passed away suddenly. It was bittersweet to listen to as he read his own book, but Leslie reading it made it so much funnier. I’m really glad I found this. {AADL}

Badge 112
by Peter Stipe

This book is written by a retired Ann Arbor police officer, and it was a fascinating read given that I grew up in Ann Arbor. He changes the names for everyone but himself and his wife, but he tells what happened in cases otherwise intact. I remember some of the cases when they happened years ago. If you are interested in finding behind the scene details of what happened in Ann Arbor over the years, you might like this. {AADL}

Trubble Town: Squirrel Do Bad
by Stephen Pastis

This kid’s graphic novel series (two books so far) are by the same guy who writes the comic Pearls Before Swine. If you like Pearls Before Swine, you will like this. It is about a girl with an overprotective dad who goes out of town, and she is able to wander around the town and find herself in odd situations. It is funny and ridiculous, and I really enjoyed it. {AADL}

Heartstopper series
by Alice Oseman

This series (four volumes so far) is about Charlie, a gay boy, and Nick, a questioning boy, who meet in high school. They become friends and develop feelings for each other. It is a great story of growing up, finding love, and dealing with everyday life. I found this series by chance a couple of years ago (I read volume 4 this year), and I’m so glad I did. {AADL}

Bingo Love
by Tee Franklin

This is a graphic novel about two bisexual women that fall in love, get split apart, and find each other again many years later. This was recommended to me, and I am so glad they did. {AADL}

Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang

This graphic novel is about a dressmaker that is hired to dress a prince but the prince has a secret. He likes to dress in women’s dresses, and she makes dresses for him. This is a story about friendship, love, and the bonds that people create when difficult situations arise. {AADL}

Breaking Cat News series
by Georgia Dunn

This youth graphic novel series is just wonderful. It involves cats like Elvis, Pucky, Tommy, Burt, Lupin, and others that do a report of what is happening in their apartment (and what they can see of the outside world) in the style of the evening news. The cats are wonderful, and the series is funny and sweet and just makes me smile. {AADL}

Criminal series
Reckless series
by Ed Brubaker
(2006-2011, 2021-)

Both these series are dark and violent, but the art and the plot are breathtaking. The characters are real and flawed. I found that when I read these graphic novels I really wanted to know what happened next. {AADL} {AADL}

Emmie and Friends series
by Terri Libenson 

This youth graphic novel series is set in middle school, and the main character has some issues they have to deal with along with living everyday life. The books all interconnect because the characters in the background have been the main characters in other books. I really like this series because even though I read them as an adult, it seems like it would help teens know they are not alone in having problems. I also like this series because there is always a twist ending to every book. (Remarkably Ruby, Just Jaime, Truly Tyler, Invisible Emmie, Becoming Brianna, Positively Izzy, and coming in May 2023 Surprisingly Sarah). {AADL}

I Think Our Son Is Gay series
by Okura

This is a sweet manga series about a teenage boy who is gay but won’t/can’t admit it. But his mom knows and supports him in any way possible without letting on that she knows he’s gay. {AADL}

Way of the Househusband
by Kousuke Oono

I adore this series. Tatsu is now a househusband but was a Yakuza legend that was greatly feared. He retired and now takes the ferocity he had as a part of the Yakuza and makes sure the household is run well, gets the best deals, and helps the community. All this happens in a very funny way because people are afraid of him, and he can’t see it. This is a series that makes me laugh out loud. This is also an anime and a live-action series on Netflix. {AADL}

What Did You Eat Yesterday? series
by Fumi Yoshinaga

This is a slice-of-life manga series about a Japanese middle-aged gay couple who have been together a long time. Shiro is a lawyer and is not completely out but Kenji, a hairdresser, is out. Shiro loves to cook and about half of each volume is detailed recipes of what he cooks. Shiro and Kenji love to eat together and tell each other about their day. I always look forward to the next volume. {AADL}



by Jordan Ifueko
(2020, 2021)


Castles in Their Bones
by Laura Sebastian


Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsin Muir


Son of the Storm
by Suyi Davies Okungbowa


The Modern Witch’s Guide to Magickal Self-Care
by Tenae Stewart


How to Keep House While Drowning: 31 Days of Compassionate Help
by KC Davis


Trauma Is Really Strange
by Steve Haines


Galaxy Watercolor: Paint the Universe With 30 Awe-Inspiring Projects
by Sosha Davis




Dracula Daily
Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula is comprised of letters, diaries, telegrams, and newspaper clippings that take place between May 3 to November 10. This Substack newsletter takes those artifacts and emails them directly to you in chronological order. It’s a new and fun way to experience the book in “real time.” {Website}

it was never going to be okay
by jaye simpson

I’m not much of a poetry reader, but this is a beautiful and moving collection of poems about the intimacies of understanding intergenerational trauma, indigeneity, and queerness. {AADL}

The Street
by Ann Petry

I read this 1946 classic for our Black Lives Matter book discussion series and was absolutely blown away by the story and the writing. You can watch the staff discussion here. {AADL}

The Water Knife
by Paulo Bacigalupi

This book took me months to read because it is such a horrific, brutal, and realistic depiction of the American West’s future without water. It has stayed with me. {AADL}



Love Me for Who I Am series
by Kata Konayama

Nonbinary high school student Mogumo is lonely and wants to find friendship. However, finding friends who understand them is a challenge, until classmate Iwaoka Tetsu invites Mogumo to work at an untraditional maid café with other students who also don’t fit societal gender norms. An LGBT+ manga about finding friendship and common ground. {AADL}

I Think Our Son Is Gay series
by Okura

Tomoko thinks that her son Hiroki might be gay. She decides that she is going to let him figure things out for himself, but Hiroki is not very good at keeping his "secret" and has frequent slips of the tongue about who he likes, which leads to much embarrassment! His mother makes sure to let Hiroki know that she loves him no matter what and offers her support without letting on what she knows. A wholesome manga with episodic chapters. {AADL}

Revenge of the Librarians 
by Tom Gauld

A witty collection of literary comics that I found hilariously entertaining as both a reader and a library employee. {AADL}



Red White and Royal Blue
One Last Stop
I Kissed Shara Wheeler 
by Casey McQuiston
(2019, 2021, 2022)

I loved Casey McQuiston’s first book, Red White and Royal Blue. I don’t read much romance, but this story about a prince of England falling in love with the son of the American president. Their second one, One Last Stop, didn’t impress me quite as much but was still fun and quite ambitious. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is their foray into teen literature, and it was a total delight from start to finish. Featuring funny, realistic characters, a Southern setting that wasn’t written condescendingly, and some of the best, simplest explanations of genderqueerness I’ve found in fiction, this book was a winner. I’d recommend it to any teens or adults. {AADL}



The Lincoln Highway
by Amor Towles

Book I recommended the most. Character-driven travels of two orphaned brothers and the people they encounter who all have fascinating story arcs of their own. The roles they portray and how they manage themselves is unforgettable. {AADL}

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2001-2023

Biggest, most informative book of the year. If you can lift this book—it’s 1253 pages not including the index—it is full of recipes from all the America’s Test Kitchen shows plus product recommendations from kitchen gadgets to tons of food items. {AADL}

Like a Rolling Stone
by Jann Wenner

Memoir that kept me going back for more. Jann Wenner’s memoir of how he created Rolling Stone Magazine. If you grew up reading Rolling Stone, it’s like a walk down memory lane. {AADL}

Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century

Fanciest cover ever. It caught my eye on a display because it was covered in blue velvet. This is a quintessential coffee-table book with gorgeous photos of beautiful rooms in homes of iconic world figures done up by famous designers. {AADL}

Little Blue Truck series
by Alice Schertle

Picture books with morals but not too preachy. Little Blue Truck lives on a farm with his farm pals who learn a thing or two from Little Blue as he encounters a new neighbor or tries to help a big truck get unstuck in the mud. His folksy and encouraging voice makes any reader want to be as pleasant as Little Blue Truck! {AADL}


EMILY H. — Library Technician

Keeping Two
by Jordan Crane

While I am no stranger to following graphic novels that arrive bit by bit, year by year (see: Vattu), I was completely unaware of Jordan Crane’s Keeping Two—which he has been publishing in parts since 2002—until it was finally published in a single volume this year. It’s not an action-packed drama, just a simple story about what it means to choose someone and stay with them through life’s vicissitudes. But by the end of this story, the mundane world has been transformed. There is some tough stuff in this story, especially regarding the loss of a child and suicidal ideation, so be advised. Despite the challenge, I emerged on the other side of this graphic novel soft, hopeful, and grateful that I could read it all in one go. {AADL}

by Evan Dahm

OK, and while we’re on the topic of graphic novels, Vattu, Evan Dahm’s 1200-plus page fantasy novel, finally wrapped up this September. I was there the day he published the first page in 2010 and read the updates faithfully every week until the end. While set in the weird fantasy land of Overside, Vattu is an exploration of topics very relevant to the present moment: gender, race, power, colonization, trade, religion, and connection to place. It is strange that a graphic novel that was part of my daily life for 12 years is now over. You, on the other hand, can probably read it in a few hours. {Website}

Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir
by Rajiv Mohabir

Rajiv Mohabir’s memoir is an exploration of trying to find one’s place in a world where no place will accept you as you are. As a descendant of the Guyanese Indian diaspora living in the United States, he is surrounded by people who mistake him for an Arab Muslim or who have no idea that the Indian labor diaspora exists (I didn’t until reading this book). As a person of Indian descent, he is considered not to be a “real” Indian by people from the subcontinent. As a poet of color, he is criticized by fellow poets for writing in Caribbean Bhojpuri, the language of his grandmother. By his family, he is ostracized for being queer and for wanting to speak and sing in his grandmother’s language instead of assimilating into white Christian culture. Although a difficult read, this book was a beautiful portrait of a person overcoming self-hatred and rejection to stay true to his heritage and art. {AADL}

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir
by Ashley C. Ford

Ashley C. Ford’s memoir of her relationship with her parents is a loving, heartbreaking, and complex exploration of what we owe to the people we love, what they owe to us, and what it means to love someone who has done irreparable harm. {AADL}

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
by Roxanne Gay

I have known about Roxanne Gay for a number of years but had only read a stray article or two of hers until picking up Hunger. Gay writes with such clarity and vulnerability that the book offers a glimpse of what it’s like to step inside someone else’s life experience. {AADL}

by Patti Smith

I knew who Patti Smith was before picking up this book, but I have never actually listened to her music. I often don’t have an interest in memoirs written by musicians because they tend to be bland affairs of getting a band together and wild times on the road. Smith, however, is an accomplished author (winner of the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids), and I’d recommend Woolgathering regardless of whether or not you’re interested in her other artistic pursuits. Mostly a memoir of her childhood in the 1950s, Woolgathering was written expressly to be a small book and has a bijou air about it. Definitely worth a few hours of anyone’s time who is interested in revisiting the inner life of childhood. {AADL}



The Immortal King Rao
by Vauhini Vara

This is a stunning debut novel where all national governments have been replaced by one Board of Shareholders and the climate crisis has reached a point called Hothouse Earth, past the point of no return, with islands and cities already underwater. This dystopian tale is relayed through the alternating storylines of King Rao, who started life as a low-caste worker on a coconut plantation in India, and of his daughter, Athena, now in a prison on Bainbridge Island, having been accused of killing her father, who ended his life as the CEO of the Board of Shareholders. As she waits for an algorithm - Algo - to decide her fate, Athena also provides some of her father’s direct memories as given to her through a biotechnological invention that allows for such an inheritance. At its core, The Immortal King Rao is a book about storytelling: who collects peoples’ stories, who passes them on, and what happens when their holders die? How do we make stories last beyond people? A beautiful, brilliant juxtaposition of accurately portrayed historical details and a richly imagined near future. {AADL}

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton

This is Kate Beaton’s account, in graphic novel form, of the two years she spent working in the oil fields in extremely rural Canada, in order to pay off college loan debt. In an isolated environment where women were scarce, her experiences were often distressing. She writes honestly about those times, but with humor and compassion. In looking back on the story, Beaton also works to reconcile her time spent in Alberta with the environmental repercussions of the industry, and the toll taken on bodies and minds by brutal and demanding physical labor. Beaton is not only an excellent artist but a storyteller as well. {AADL}



Sharks in the Time of Saviors 
by Kawai Strong Washburn

I read this for an Unerased Book Club discussion. I’ve immensely enjoyed participating in discussions and following along with their picks! The audio recording of this book is incredible, with a cast of narrators that bring the characters to life in ways that had me wishing the book would never end. {AADL}

The Night Watchman 
by Louise Erdrich

Since 2020, I’ve struggled with reading. In fact, I used to dislike listening to books, and now it is my preferred method of consuming them. I particularly enjoy it when books are narrated by their authors. Another pick from a book club, I read this incredible book by Louise Erdrich for IndigiLit Book Club. Narrated by the author, this world was another I wanted to stay in as long as possible. {AADL}



by David Mitchell

Told as many unique stories each with a different perspective, Ghostwritten crosses genre, tone, and the globe—one moment you are privy to underhanded business dealings in Hong Kong, the next traversing Mongolia in search of lost folk tales, the next desperately trying to get out of debt in London. It is difficult to pin down exactly what kind of novel this is, but seeing how each character's story impacts another—sometimes tangentially, sometimes more significantly—will keep you hooked through its entirety. I was confused, hopeful, nervous, sad, and full of excitement when reading this. It intrigued me in a way I haven't found for a long time. {AADL}

Anxious People
by Fredrick Backman

I saw this circulating a lot this past year, and I was thrilled when I finally got my hands on a copy—it did not disappoint. A bank robbery turned hostage situation turned police investigation with poignant commentary on mental health, people, and connection throughout, this will have you think you finally have everything figured out until it throws a rabbit into the mix. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time. {AADL}



The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune

I checked out the audiobook version of this title through Libby. I didn’t really know what to expect going in since I hadn’t heard much about the plot. The story takes place in an alternate universe filled with magical children of all kinds. The main character evaluates orphanages for these children and is sent to one that is top secret. Overall, it was a heartwarming story about finding a family, and there are plenty of funny parts throughout. {AADL}

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy
by Theodora Goss

I didn’t include the titles for each book in the series because the titles are extraordinarily long. The first book was recommended to me through my StoryGraph app, and I have to say that it was spot-on. If you enjoy Victorian-era novels, especially science fiction (Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Rappaccini's Daughter, Frankenstein, and more), then you’ll find this an interesting read. Theodora Goss takes the marginalized female characters from these classic stories and makes them the main characters in a whole new set of adventures! You don’t have to be familiar with the novels that they come from, because there is enough background given. I was only familiar with a handful of the original titles, and it didn’t affect my understanding of the story at all. I used Libby to listen to the audiobook versions and thought they were very well done. {AADL

Sue & Tai-Chan series
by Kanata Konami

These are cute manga graphic novels about the daily lives and hijinks of a kitten and a senior cat. They are super quick reads and are always good for a laugh. {AADL}

by Rainbow Rowell

This novel follows Cath as she navigates her freshman year of college. She struggles with growing apart from her twin sister, makes new friends, and above all, writes Simon Snow fanfiction for a huge following. I love reading fan fiction, so it was exciting to have a novel where that was a big part of the main character’s life. There are snippets of her fanfiction throughout the novel, which leads to my next pick! {AADL}

Simon Snow series
by Rainbow Rowell

I listened to all of these three novels in their audiobook format. The plotlines carry from one to the next. Carry On is a story about a chosen one, Wayward Son is about what happens after you suddenly stop being the chosen one, and Any Way the Wind Blows is about acceptance and moving forward. These are great fantasy novels and feature an incredibly diverse cast of characters. {AADL}

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride
by Lucy Knisley

If you’ve never read anything by Lucy Knisley, I highly recommend checking her books out. Her graphic novels are full color, and I just love her illustrations. My book club decided to read this one last spring as I was getting ready for my own wedding. It was such a fun, real read. I had read a couple of wedding-prep memoirs the previous year, and I just did not relate with the authors at all. I did relate a lot more to Lucy and her experiences. Even if you aren’t getting married soon, this is such a fun book to read. {AADL}

Chef’s Kiss
by Jarrett Melendez

I was attracted to this book by the illustrations, which are warm and soothing colors. The main character is a fresh college graduate who is struggling to find a job with his English degree. He takes a part-time job in a restaurant and falls hard for one of the chefs on the staff. The cast of characters is diverse, the plot is fun but also emotional, and the food looks divine! {AADL}



Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
by David Graeber and David Wengrow

Anthropologist David Graeber and archeologist David Wengrow spent years pulling together this controversial reworking of the early history of humankind. They challenge entrenched beliefs baked into centuries of research—most notably, the Enlightenment-era notion that harmonious bands of hunter-gatherers inevitably progress to complex societies embracing hierarchical structures—and offer an alternate view that sees our ancestors making conscious and nuanced decisions involving property, equality, and the relationship of the individual to the state. Graeber and Wengrow blow a blast of fresh air into the pages of our early social history and deliver a far more interesting portrait of Homo sapiens at the dawn of everything than we ever learned in school. {AADL}

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures
by Merlin Sheldrake

The author's name alone is a sufficient reason to pick up the book and he fully lives up to it—a shaman of shrooms, right down to (literally) eating his words. The book is full of engaging stories from the altogether strange and hidden world of fungi. We learn about its mind-altering capabilities in the animal kingdom; its practical uses in the packaging industry; its role in the communication between trees; even its potential, here in the midst of the Anthropocene, to save us from ourselves. You'll never look at a beer or a walk in the woods quite the same way again. {AADL}

Testament of Youth
by Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain had recently been accepted to Oxford and had just become engaged to her first love when the Great War broke out in 1914 and turned her life—as well as the lives of millions of other young people like her—upside down. This personal and wide-ranging memoir, an enduring classic, explores the microscopic to the macroscopic as Brittain moves from firsthand accounts of her experience as a frontline nurse who saw both mental and physical battle wounds, to her reckoning with her own wrenching losses as the war years tick by, to her penetrating post-war reflection from the vantage point of two decades steeped in feminist thought. A superlative personal account of the mammoth horror that was World War I. {AADL}



The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton

My ideal book genre has got to be "mystery, but weird," and that seems to be Stuart Turton's specialty. Both this novel and his previous one, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, are my go-to examples of the niche. Not only are they deeply satisfying mysteries in their own right, delivering all the twists and turns you could possibly want and then some, but they're also completely different from anything else I've read in the genre- including each other. Though this entry is technically for Devil, since it's the one I read first, I'd wholeheartedly recommend either. 7½ Deaths is pitched as "Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap," which (to my delight) barely scratches the surface of its intricate plot. The logline for Devil is "A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist," and if that doesn't have you scrambling to get your hands on it as fast as possible, it may not be the book for you. What really stood out to me about Devil, however, is the setting: a transport ship in 1634, which is rendered in such rich (and often foul) detail that you feel viscerally every horrible thing happening to and around those trapped aboard. Pair that with characters you can't help but care about from the start, and you've got a truly killer book. {AADL}

The Ballad of Perilous Graves
by Alex Jennings

This book. What can I even say about this book? It's the sort of fantasy novel that throws you into its world right away, without explanation and without exposition, and yet within a few pages, you're willing to buy anything the author is selling and go anywhere he wants to take you. The novel starts with two narratives, one set in the real New Orleans, the other in a fantastical version of the city where music and magic are intertwined, and the stories begin to slowly cross over and bleed into each other as they progress. I won't try to explain it further than that, but even if it didn't have a riveting plot (which it does) I could recommend it based on its world alone. I found myself actually muttering "that is so cool" aloud multiple times while reading. Perilous Graves is the kind of fantasy novel that gets me excited about the possibilities of the genre and where it'll go in the future. {AADL}

Gothic: An Illustrated History
by Roger Luckhurst

If you've ever wanted a succinct, straightforward answer to the question, "What does gothic actually mean?"—good luck, I still don't know. This book doesn't either, but it's got lots of ideas and goes into every one of them—from gothic architecture to fake ruins, folklore to film, and even the gothic aspects of the four cardinal directions. It's expansive, fascinating, and has a coffee-table book's worth of gorgeous illustrations and photographs. Even though it touches on so many different aspects of the gothic, it never feels surface level and does a deep dive into every subject it examines without getting bogged down. A great read for anyone with an interest in the eerie and uncanny. {AADL}

Delicious in Dungeon series
by Ryoko Kui

This is the series that I will, without fail, recommend to anyone and everyone who makes even a passing reference to manga in my presence. The premise is simple: adventurers, in need of food as they go further and further into the depths of a dungeon, start cooking and eating the monsters they kill. The worldbuilding alone is enough to recommend it; the ways the characters cook using fantasy creatures and physics are incredibly inventive and often funny (how exactly does one cook with a ghost, for example?), but the deceptively simple premise is only the top level of a story that gets darker and more complex as the characters descend further into the dungeon. Without a double my favorite manga of the past few years, and angling for the all-time top spot. {AADL}

Blue Period series
by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

It shouldn't be a surprise that a manga about art would make full use of artistic techniques, but I still get caught up in how beautiful and unusual Blue Period is. It's a simple story; the main character is a high schooler who, in his last year, discovers a love for painting and decides he wants to get into one of the most exclusive art schools in the country. From there it traces a classic manga arc, following a group of aspiring art students through the highs and lows of pursuing their goals. What's so special about Blue Period is how well it expresses complicated and conflicting emotions, perfectly combining art and writing to pack a serious punch. There are moments so real and specific that it's impossible not to feel them in your gut. {MeLCat}

Paper Girls series
by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Cliff Chiang (illustrator)

It never fails to amaze me how much story can fit comfortably into a slim little graphic novel, and this series is a perfect example. Time travel narratives can be tricky, and it's very easy to do them badly, but where Paper Girls excels is in centering the story so firmly on the four main characters, who feel so real that no matter how bonkers the plot gets, it never truly feels unbelievable. The less I reveal about what actually happens, the better—trust me—but suffice to say, it's a wild ride, enhanced by the absolutely gorgeous art and color design. There are single panels of this comic that I could stare at for hours. {AADL}



In the Dream House 
by Carmen Maria Machado

All the feelings. Beautifully written memoir about being in a queer abusive relationship. {AADL}

Mistborn: The Final Empire 
by Brandon Sanderson

This is the first of the Mistborn fantasy series. One of the main characters is a resilient girl who discovers her powers and discovers what she is capable of by joining a crew of thieves. {AADL}



An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
(2014 edition)

In this important, albeit very sad work, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz re-narrates U.S. history from a (but certainly not the) First Nations perspective. Her reframing of American history causes us to scrutinize innumerable facets of American culture and history that many of us have long been aware of, but never truly noticed or grappled with. William Tecumseh Sherman seems like less of a military innovator when you know about his family background and the significance of his middle name. Likewise, present-day American imperialism seems less of a surprising about-face for the "land of the free," when we consider the Founding Fathers' own colonialist ambitions. Dunbar-Ortiz holds a mirror up to the relationship between capital, settler colonialism, and empire building, and her work comes recommended to anyone with an interest in how we got where we are today. {AADL}

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

This one's been around forever (okay, 209 years, but who's counting?), and this classic is a classic for good reason: well-drawn characters, crackling dialog, biting social critique, and richly developed romances. Pride and Prejudice is also a fun guidebook to the norms of Regency-period Britain, and the secret joy in reading Jane Austen is that, in her society of regimented norms, every glance, careless remark, and clipped response is loaded with hidden meanings for the reader to unpack. This is true of all fiction, but in the drawing rooms and gardens of rural England the effect feels a bit more pronounced, and ordinary conversations begin to feel like a game of chess. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. {AADL}



Dirtbag Rapture. Volume 1
by Christopher Sebela

After a near-death experience, Kat, a laid-back person, is able to see ghosts and helps them finish their unfinished business. She is thrown into not-so-laid-back situations and is forced to become the main character she was born to be. {AADL

Logan's Run 
by William F. Nolan
(1967, 2015 reprint)

In the year 2116, it is against the law to live past the age of 21. Logan 5 has lived his whole adult life serving this law as a sandman, but when his 21st birthday arrives, his will to live beats his want to obey the law. Through water, caves, eternal ice, an android who wants to immortalize him, and much more, he must evade capture long enough to find sanctuary. {AADL



The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

This book was not only my favorite youth book I read this year but also my favorite book I read this year—period! The story centers on Luna, a baby girl who was found in the woods and accidentally given magic by the witch, Xan, who decides to raise the child herself, with the help of a Swamp Monster who loves poetry and a Simply Enormous Dragon. This book was delightfully funny, heartwarming, and bittersweet. There is so much else happening in this book that I can't even put into words. I'll be searching for more books that make me cry and laugh like this one. {AADL}

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston

This year I decided that I was going to read more LGBTQ romance novels, and this one was one of my favorites: one part romance, one part sci-fi, all parts awesome! The book is about August Landry, a cynical 23-year-old who just moved to New York City, and the woman she sees every day on the subway, who looks like a '70s punk rocker. It doesn't take long for August to realize that not only is this woman stuck on the train but that she has been for a while. I read this book in one sitting and could not put it down. It was 100% worth it. {AADL}

The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune

This book was recommended to me by another coworker, so a double Staff Pick! I listened to this book as an audiobook, and I absolutely loved the narrator and all the funny voices they used. {AADL}



Reckless Girls
by Rachel Hawkins




Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton

Beaton is best known for her ridiculously funny webcomic HARK! A Vagrant and outstandingly cute picture books The Princess and the Pony and King Baby, but Ducks is a dark and intensely personal work. Her engaging panels tell the story of the isolation and constant harassment she experienced, alongside the environmental degradation and corporate impunity she witnessed while working in the oil industry to pay off her student loans. {AADL}

Spaceman of Bohemia
by Jaroslav Kalfař

Unlikely Czech astronaut Jakub Procha leaves his complicated and deteriorating life behind to travel solo to Venus, encountering an unexpected presence en route. This is very different from just about any other sci-fi ... other than 2021's Project Hail Mary. After reading both, Weil's book seems unmistakably like an Americanized, reengineered retelling of this very unusual book. {AADL}



Fleishman Is in Trouble
by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I’ve always been a huge fan of Taffy Brodesser-Akner (you might recognize her name from those in-depth celebrity profiles from The New York Times Magazine), so was thrilled to discover she had written a novel. Title character Fleishman’s marriage has fallen apart and, consequently, it seems his life is too. Struggling with his growing expectations as the “responsible parent” while also trying to enjoy being single proves to be tough for Fleishman to balance. Brodesser-Akner writes and creates realistic characters and balances humor and heart in this title. I selfishly hope she continues to take breaks from journalism to write another book. Additionally, Hulu has recently adapted the title—I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, but that may be worth looking into as well! {AADL}

by Karen Joy Fowler

This expansive historical tome looks at the lie of John Wilkes Booth through the perspectives of his many siblings. Fowler is a decadent writer and especially shines when giving voice to the female characters, who are often overlooked when telling the Booth story. {AADL}

The Anomaly
by Hervé Le Tellier

Midway through a flight from Paris to New York, something very strange happens (an anomaly, you might say) that changes the lives of everyone on board. Told from multiple passengers' perspectives from before and after the flight, The Anomaly starts a bit slow but ramps up as you begin to wonder about the characters' fates and the mystery of the anomaly. I joke that I was tricked into reading this book; somehow I missed that it has a large sci-fi component (a genre that’s typically not for me) when I picked it up. But I was utterly drawn in and so glad I checked it out. A good reminder to read outside my usual genres. {AADL}



by Fernanda Melchor

Fernanda Melchor’s writing is often abrasive, and this book is no different. The story follows a poor boy working in a luxury housing complex who spends his time with a spoiled rich boy with violent tendencies. Everything she puts on the page feels raw and real, and this (very quick) read impacted me more than any other book this year. {AADL}

My Dear Bomb
by Yohji Yamamoto

Written on the heels of declaring bankruptcy, My Dear Bomb serves as a collection of reflective essays by Yohji Yamamoto. Yamamoto is one of my favorite fashion designers, and it’s extremely fascinating to have the opportunity to get into his head like this. {WorldCat}

Morvern Callar 
by Alan Warner

After watching the movie, I decided to check out the book and loved it. Much like the movie it was very gray and dry at times, though still funny in an oblique way. I found myself comparing this book to Trainspotting at times, but I think that’s a bit unfair, and it holds up as its own work. {AADL}

The Cult of We
by Eliot Brown

This was definitely one of my favorite books I read this year. I’ve been into fraud lately (as a concept, of course) and while this may not necessarily be a story of monetary fraud it’s definitely a story of … societal fraud? Personality-led technological downfall? Whatever the case may be, it’s a great look into a man with too much money that I really wouldn’t want to be around in any capacity. {AADL}

I’m Glad My Mom Died
by Jennette McCurdy
I think it’s kind of amazing that this book became such a phenomenon (it sold out everywhere!), but I’m very sorry that McCurdy had to endure this kind of upbringing. Her story is one that is very foreign to me—she grew up in the spotlight with an abusive and narcissistic stage mom—but I’m glad writing this has brought her some catharsis. I’m glad McCurdy is receiving a book deal; she’s a great writer who can navigate tough subjects with care and humor. {AADL}

by Imogen Binnie

I remember attempting to read Nevada in 2014 and being drawn in by the almost Livejournal-esque writing style but intimidated by how claustrophobic it felt. This year, after a reread, I found myself resonating more with the darker humor and explorations of self-destruction. {AADL}

Film As a Subversive Art
by Amos Vogel 

This collection of mini-essays on film history by Amos Vogel focuses on the movement toward exploration into previously forbidden topics in cinema. It's almost 50 years old yet it still feels extremely relevant. {FilmDeskBooks}

Rookie Yearbook 1
by Tavi Gevinson

Sometimes you just have to go back to the classics! If you were in high school in 2012 and owned a dress with a Peter Pan collar you’ll know all about Rookie. For those of you who didn’t covet Kitsuné Maison mixtapes, though, I still believe there’s much to learn from this collection of essays, interviews, and photoshoots. {AADL}

by Ottessa Moshfegh

Now, this was a really bleak book to dig into! Although My Year of Rest and Relaxation is Moshfegh’s most popular novel, I found this to be more in line with her typical style of writing. Even with her new foray into a vaguely medieval setting, I found this tale of beaten-down misfits to be par for the course. {AADL}

by John Waters

This book was sleazy, surreal, and filled to the brim with unlikeable characters. It’s great to see John still has his touch! {AADL}



Will Eisner
As a big fan of graphic novels, I can’t believe it has taken me until this year to read any works by one of the founders of the genre. {AADL

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr
by Ram V.


That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story
by Huda Fahmy


An Embarrassment of Witches
by Sophie Goldstein


Shiver: Selected Stories
by Junji Ito


Birchbark House
by Louise Erdrich


Front Desk
by Kelly Yang


Mary Jane
by Jessica Anya Blau


What Are You Looking At?
by Erin Wakeland


Trick Mirror
by Jia Tolentino




Into the Forest: The Secret Language of Trees
by Susan Tyler Hitchcock


The Sense of Wonder
by Rachel Carson


The Other Shore
by Thich Nhat Hahn


Island Book trilogy
by Evan Dahm

{Website} {AADL}



The Magic Fish
by Trung Le Nguyen


New Kid
Class Act
by Jerry Craft
(2019, 2020)


by Rainbow Rowell


Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe
by Lindsay S. Zrull


Breaking Cat News series
by Georgia Dunn


I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf
by Grant Snider


The Man Who Died Twice
The Thursday Murder Club
by Richard Osman
(2020, 2021)


Louise Erdrich novels

Run, Rose, Run
by Dolly Parton and James Patterson


The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
by Sonya Renee Taylor


Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival
by Velma Wallis


Slough House
by Mick Herron




Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
Hark! A Vagrant
Step Aside, Pops
by Kate Beaton
(2022, 2011, 2015)

I was in high school when cartoonist Kate Beaton began her webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, and it wasn’t on my radar back then. It wasn’t until I read her graphic novel memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands this fall that I became familiar with Beaton and obsessed with her work. Ducks tells the fascinating, moving, and by turns traumatizing and amusing story of Beaton’s decision to spend two years working in the Alberta oil sands in the mid-aughts to pay off her college debt. The oil sands are an extremely tough world, especially for a young woman, and the rendering of her experiences had me glued to every page studying the nuances of each drawing. Some of my favorite parts of Beaton's story were when she would find delight in occasionally encountering other people from her very tiny hometown in Nova Scotia by chance on a job site, and they would recognize one another by their accents. She doesn’t shy away from the painful aspects of her experience either, including the extreme danger of working on an oil sands job site, the environmental impact of the operations, and the personal traumas she was forced to endure. I truly would recommend this one to … literally, anyone.

After Ducks, I had to read more of Beaton’s work, so I turned to her two books that were published from her webcomic: the first, Hark! A Vagrant, which bears the same name as the comic, and the second, Step Aside, Pops. One of my favorite memories of this year is stopping into Old Town Tavern after work on a cold day to read Hark! A Vagrant and crying laughing so hard at it at a table that I embarrassed myself and nearly had to leave. The comics mainly focus on humorous interpretations of real historical events and classic literature and music. Beaton’s drawings aren’t always detailed (they don’t need to be), but the expressions she gives her characters convey an incredible amount of emotion and hilarity. Picture new interpretations of the real frenemy-ship between Brahms and Liszt, repeated poking fun at Robinson Crusoe and Lewis and Clark for all being bumbling, and a great deal of Middle Ages and Tudor court humor (Queen: “Where is the court jester? I could do with some pointless nonsense.” King: “Honey, please! The man is an ARTIST!” Jester: [performs absolute inanity]). Both of these books are high on my holiday gifting list for friends and family, and they should be high on YOUR to-read list. {AADL}

The Nineties
by Chuck Klosterman

Some folks love Chuck Klosterman and some don’t, and that’s fine. I love him, and I particularly loved his most recent book, The Nineties. I was born in 1991, so my memories of the 1990s are mostly getting pogs at the dentist and asking my mom why I couldn’t listen to “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera—but I still feel very much like a product of the decade, and I think about those years often, wishing I could remember more. When I read The Nineties, I felt like I got memories I didn’t even know I had back, and it explained so much to me that went over my head back in the day. In classic Klosterman form, the book ranges widely from lighthearted discussions of bizarre '90s pop-culture phenomenon (though objectively a mediocre–at best–film, Meet Joe Black made way more money than expected at the box office because people bought a ticket to it simply to see the preview for The Phantom Menace, then left without actually watching Meet Joe Black), to more serious discussions of pop culture phenomenon (how the music industry viewed and treated female artists in the '90s), to political commentary, to discussions of racial and health issues. It was all riveting to me, and I think I recommend it most to people around my age, who remember enough about the '90s to not be totally confused, but who will regain memories or learn something new with nearly every turn of the page. Klosterman’s other books are also well worth a read if you haven’t given his body of work a try yet. {AADL}


Valerie L. — Acquisitions Clerk I

In the Middle of Hickory Lane
by Heather Webber

The magical realism combined with wanting to belong combined with a stellar cast of characters makes this one excellent book! It IS available through Libby, though not as a physical book at AADL. {Goodreads}

The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune

Do you like magical realism? Do you like queer relationships? Do you like books that stretch the boundaries of your imagination? If so, this is definitely the book for you! I absolutely adore this book and its characters. I’ve already read it three times this year and look forward to rereading it again! {AADL}

It’s Totally Platonic
by Alex Kramer

This debut novel from Alex Kramer is wonderful! It explores the differences between platonic and romantic relationships. It shows how even with a platonic relationship, you can experience the intimacy of cuddling without it having to lead to anything else. It explores the true meaning of consent. It explores asexuality and being transgender. All very valuable things to discuss in this day and age. There are a few rookie author mistakes but, all in all, it’s a wonderful book! {Goodreads}

by Nora Roberts

In this latest book by Nora Roberts, we have a classic case of someone doing something wrong but for the right reasons. Our main character is a thief. He started stealing to pay his mother’s medical bills at the age of nine. There’s still a pull in him to steal but not one yet to live a “normal” life. Excellent romantic suspense. {AADL}

A Brush With Murder
by Bailee Abbott

A great start to a new cozy mystery series. I could not put this book down! Lots of great characters, a great setting, and artists’ endeavors, it’s got it all! I’m in the middle of the second book now. {AADL}

Upside Down
by N.R. Walker

A fantastic asexual fiction book! This romance pairs two asexual people together and shows how intimate a relationship can be without having sex. It provides great representation! {Goodreads}

The Night Watchman
by Louise Erdrich

I’ve been trying to work in more diverse books into my reading/listening. The Night Watchman provides an excellent example of the Indigenous population’s struggles. The stage might be set in 1953, but a lot of the lessons and information still apply today. {AADL}

The Patchwork Quilt
by J.D. Clark

This is an excellent explanation of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personalities Disorder). It breaks it down so it’s easy for a child or an adult to understand. It helps break the stereotypes that everyone with D.I.D. is a criminal or a monster. {AADL}

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask: Young Reader’s Edition
by Anton Treuer
(2021, audiobook)

I actually listened to both the adult and the young reader’s edition but enjoyed the young reader’s edition more for several reasons. 1) It’s read by the author so everything’s pronounced correctly. The narrator in the adult version totally butchered Sault Ste. Marie. 2) It’s more up-to-date. The original adult version was published in 2012. The young reader’s edition was published in 2021 so it’s far more up-to-date with information on what issues the Indigenous people in our country face today. 3) It gave suggestions for advocacy. {AADL}

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi
(2020, audiobook)

This is a shortened, condensed, remix of Stamped From the Beginning. It was fabulous. I listened to it multiple times just to make sure I got all the information. {AADL}

Disability Visibility: First Person Stories From the Twenty-First Century
edited by Alice Wong
(2020, audiobook)

This book provides a look at what it’s like living with a disability in the 21st century. The good, the spectacular, the bad, and the ugly, all presented in essays by disabled writers. I do wish the audiobook had used alternating narrators as some of the stories seemed to blend together, but the information itself was wonderful. {AADL}

So You Want to Talk About Race
by Ijeoma Oluo

This along with White Fragility by Robin di Angelo are among the first books a white person should read about race. They’re excellent starts to trying to become anti-racist. They by far are not the only books you should read, but they are a good start. I learned quite a bit from this book. {AADL}

The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
by Sonya Renee Taylor

This book is transformative. If you really have radical self-love, it spills out into your whole life. You have more empathy, compassion, and love for others. It’s more than just about being fat; it’s loving your body no matter what shape, size, and/or disability it may be/have. I put it and the workbook on my Christmas list this year because I want to own this, highlight things, put notes in, etc. It was that good to me. {AADL}

The Power of Disability: Ten Lessons for Surviving, Thriving, and Changing the World
by Al Etmanski

Similar to Disability Visibility, this book uses vignettes from the lives of disabled people. In this case, however, those vignettes serve to help make a point in each lesson. {Goodreads}

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi

I’m still making my way through this audiobook. It is very dense, chock full of information, and is best taken in small chunks. At least for me. I listen to about 25-30 minutes of it and then I take a break and process what I’ve learned. Consequently, it’s taken me much of this year to get through the audiobook, but I’ve learned a TON. It’s well worth the read or listen. {AADL}



Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer
(2013; 2016 audiobook edition)

I listened to Braiding Sweetgrass for an education class where we got to listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer speak about the book. I'm a big fan of audiobooks where the author reads it, and this one was no different! Listening to Robin read her book was an incredible experience and worth the 13 discs. Robin shares her indigenous knowledge, intertwining "the analytic and the emotional, the scientific and the cultural," and encourages readers to engage in reciprocity with mother nature and justice for all of creation. {AADL}

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
by Gallup Press / James K. Harter

I read First, Break All the Rules for a class on management. The books they offered for the assignment were all biographies, and while there's worth in biographies, I wanted cold, hard data. Gallup Press came through, with 80,000 interviews with the world's best managers, as well as some with their employees. The book provided a lot of insight into why people leave companies (bad managers, not bad companies), what makes a good manager (facilitation, standing up for their employees, listening to employee perspectives, etc.), and how, instead of trying to teach new skills, managers should draw out talent. It really made me think about how I like to be managed and the qualities my best (and worst) managers have had. I'd recommend this book both to managers and to anyone thinking about how they like to be managed/what they're looking for in a workplace. {AADL}

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
by Akwaeke Emezi
(2022, audiobook)

This summer I was looking for audiobooks, and I found this one while browsing through our new book-on-CD section. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the journey this book took me on. The DRAMA the INTRIGUE ... it was an absolutely wild romance book, and I have to say maybe my book of the year. I couldn't put it down (or rather, couldn't leave my car while I was listening to it). Definitely NSFK (not safe for kids) but very fun for adults. {AADL}

Black Roses: Odes Celebrating Powerful Black Women
by Harold Green III
(2022, audiobook)

Harold Green wrote these odes celebrating powerful Black women as a form of emotional reciprocity. Featuring well-known and unknown Black women, these odes are extra beautiful when read aloud by the author. I enjoyed this audiobook so much that I requested that the library get the companion piece, Black Oak, as a BOCD. {AADL}

Heartstopper series
by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper, a graphic novel about two high school boys who fall in love, was an excellent series. While I had heard about it from friends before, I only started it after I watched the Netflix series based on the comic (also a recommendation!). One of the best & healthiest portrayals of young love I've ever seen, I'd recommend the series to anyone. While I read the first two volumes as books, I eventually switched over to the Webtoon, which includes more content along with another chapter that has not yet been published as a book. {AADL}

Frog and Toad Audio Collection
by Arnold Lobel
(2004, audiobook)

Recorded by the author, this audio collection of all the Frog and Toad books is excellent. I was sharing my love of Frog and Toad with a coworker one day when a patron mentioned this audio collection! I immediately checked it out, and I love all the different sound effects that were included. Frog and Toad, no matter the format, is required reading for readers of any age! {AADL}

My Cat Looks Like My Dad
by Thao Lam

I've been on a kid's book journey this year, so I've been reading a lot of books. A coworker recommended Thao Lam's books, and boy was this one a standout! Super cute with a surprise twist at the end. {AADL}

Oliver Jeffers
There are too many to count, but any kid's book by Oliver Jeffers is excellent! Again, recommended to me by one of my awesome coworkers! {AADL}

George and Martha series
by James Marshall

Recently, I asked a coworker what some of his favorite kids' books were and he mentioned the George and Martha series as being very similar to the Frog and Toad books. I love Frog and Toad, so I knew I had to check out George and Martha! And boy, they did not disappoint. Five different short stories come in each of the picture books, and you get to follow George and Martha's friendship throughout. There was only one of the stories I didn't appreciate" "The Disguise," where George "dresses up as an Indian." I don't think it ruins the rest of stories by any means, but can definitely be skipped or used as a learning moment when reading to kiddos. {AADL}



Good & Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
by Rebecca Traister
(2018, audiobook)

Written in 2018, a fantastic discussion of feminist activism and intersectionality through history. I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, while on lots of walks during the summer of 2022. {AADL}

The Fifth Season
by N.K. Jemisin 

I decided to get into some science fiction and fantasy writing this year as a welcome escape from *gestures around at the state of the world*. I particularly liked this worldbuilding because it is inspired by geological forces, which makes this former geology major very happy. {AADL}

Du Iz Tak?
by Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis is one of my favorite illustrators and this picture book is just totally fantastic. Her ability to build rich characters and an entire world in a span of 32 pages is so impressive, and sprinkling it with wry humor makes it even better. {AADL}



by Jeff Vandermeer

This was my first Vandermeer novel. It won't be my last! This slim book has great worldbuilding that asks as many questions as it answers. {AADL}

The Optimist's Daughter 
by Eudora Welty

My friend Matt sent me this book this year. He is a BIG Welty fan, and I wanted to understand why. The Optimist's Daughter is a quiet, moving novel about grief with beautiful sentences. It took me a little while to get to the meat of the book but once I did it was so worth it—I think I underlined about half of the last third of the book. {AADL}

Giannis: The Improbably Rise of an NBA MVP 
by Mirin Fader

After a childhood obsessed with the Detroit Pistons and the NBA, I spent several years away from the game of basketball. I thought I was done caring. Until, last year, when I watched Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title for the first time since 1971. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Giannis—the way he plays, the way he comports himself—completely reignited my interest in NBA basketball. This biography is the incredible story of his path from a poor, Nigerian-Greek, facing racism and adversity in Greece, to becoming an NBA champion. {AADL}

Illness As Metaphor
by Susan Sontag

A book-length essay about the ways our society uses and has used metaphors to describe illness. In this particular case: tuberculosis in the past and cancer in the present. There are lines and ideas from this book that will be rattling around my head forever. {AADL}

Leviathan Wakes
by James S.A. Corey

Sometimes you just need to read a space-opera page-turner. And I thought this one was a corker. Set in a future in which humanity has colonized much of the solar system, there are governing bodies—and tensions—on Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt. The main protagonists are a do-good captain and a grizzled detective. There's an unknown space goo making people into zombies and interplanetary war is brewing. Can't wait to keep reading The Expanse series! {Website}

Books for Living: Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting and Embracing Life 
by Will Schwalbe

When I get into a reading slump, I usually turn toward sci-fi or fantasy (see: Leviathan Wakes). However, I've realized that often "books about books" will also do the trick. This book is about finding the right book at the right time, and it was that for me. Each chapter centers on a different book that has meaning to the author, but there are several more referenced that I have added to my TBR. This one helped me get excited about reading again when I was struggling to do so. {AADL}

The Paddington Treasury
by Michael Bond

My 15-month-old son mostly sat through these stories as I read them aloud, but I also found them delightful. And a good excuse to practice terrible, English-accented voices. {MelCat}

"I’ve Always Struggled With My Weight. Losing It Didn’t Mean Winning." New York Times Magazine
by Sam Anderson

Another excellent piece by one of my favorite writer-discoveries of last year. Anderson chronicles his weight gain during the pandemic, his dalliance with the weight loss app Noom—"the cool youth pastor" of diet culture—and how it all made him feel. Not just about weight loss, this piece ponders bodies in general and our relationship to them. Not to ruin it, but this essay has one of my favorite quotes in recent memory: "diet culture is a fear of death disguised as transformation." {New York Times Magazine}



A Master of Djinn
by P. Djèlí Clark


Beach Read
by Emily Henry


The Love Study
by Kris Ripper


by Michelle Houts


Thirsty Mermaids
by Kat Leyh


by Danie Stirling


Great Lakes Monsters and Mysteries
by Brad Blair




by Kat Leyh

Super cute witchy kids comic! Involves queer characters and characters of color. Easy, sweet read with wonderful art. {AADL}



Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix
by Anna-Marie McLemore

A retelling of Fitzgerald's famous novel, but with queer and trans folk! McLemore brought the story back to life in a richer, more emotional way that doesn't leave you feeling empty at the end. {AADL}

A Taste of Gold and Iron
by Alexandra Rowland

Anxiety gays! Questioning! Ace folk! Trans folk! Bodyguard and Prince! Court Intrigue! Magic! Action! Romance! This book has everything! {AADL}

Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America's Cemeteries
by Greg Melville

Traveling through America's history, both good and terrible, one cemetery at a time. A decidedly not-morbid look at death and how it shaped the country. {AADL}



Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges
as told by Iggy Pop


I Need More
by Iggy Pop with Anne Wehrer
(1982; 1997 edition)

For Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges, Detroit/Nashville's Third Man Books compiled Iggy Pop's oral history of the band and supplemented it with tons of rare photos and memorabilia. The earlier book I Need More takes the same approach but with less-refined results, which could also describe Ol' Ig's eye-opening admissions about his "rock 'n' roll" lifestyle printed therein. I read several books on Pop this year and these two were by far my favorites, though the many, many, many—did I say many many?—man-behaving-badly tales might have Ann Arbor folks who can't separate the art from the artist reconsidering whether they still want to claim the punk-rock originator as their own. (Side note: I spoke to some sophomore high school students this year in Ann Arbor and none of them had heard of Iggy or The Stooges. I aged 150 years at that moment.)

The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall
by Steve Hanley and Olivia Piekarski


The Rise, the Fall, and the Rise
by Brix Smith Start

The Fall was a band but, in reality, it was just one man: Mark E. Smith, an enfant terrible with an ear for street poetry and a mouth built to gobble speed and alcohol while delivering tongue-lashings to anyone who got on his bad side (which was all his sides). With a career spanning 1976–2018, the stupidly prolific group's brilliant musical output spanned everything from punk rock to dance music, though The Fall's general sound was that of an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway at one speed, with no breaks, as the driver shout-mumbled words of discouragement over a garage-rock riff. The Fall's longest-standing member outside of Smith was bassist Steve Hanley and his The Big Midweek is a droll account of his time in what sounds like the most awful band to be in of all time. Smith is a jerk's jerk and the fact that Hanley lasted so long when other musicians came and went like the weather—always with a verbal lashing on the way out from the lead singer—is a testament to his patience. (Or really, he didn't want to have to go work in his parents' bakery again.) But the tea is really spilled on Mark. E. Smith in his ex-wife's autobiography, The Rise, the Fall, and the Rise, an earnest and diaristic account of Brix Smith Start's time in the band, her rocky marriage (more like a rock slide), and her life before and after The Fall. If Mark E. Smith had a chance to read either of these books before he died in 2018 at age 60, even he might be surprised by what an a-hole he was in his life—even if he couldn't remember any of it.



The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Last year, Viet Thanh Nguyen wrote a piercing op-ed that helped me realize how Hollywood renditions of the Vietnam War could make someone feel ashamed. Nguyen's writing—perceptive and humane—made me seek out The Sympathizer, his novel that’s set in the Vietnam War’s immediate aftermath. It stars a nameless North Vietnamese double-agent working deep undercover among refugee remnants of the South Vietnamese army in California, USA. The story’s fast-paced action feels erratic, gritty, and borderline absurd: think Kafka/Orwell/Catch-22The Sympathizer brims with ideas and grim situations that complicate the idealized Vietnam War narrative I grew up with. {AADL}

How to Babysit a Grandpa
by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish
Board books that can’t withstand repeat readings get hustled right out of our house and returned to the library. How to Babysit a Grandpa almost got that treatment—the story and illustrations didn't seem special at first—but the book has a tenderness that crept up on me. Grandpa has a great babysitter. {AADL}

“Renaissance” Review: America Has a Problem and Beyoncé Ain’t It
by Wesley Morris
To read a cultural critic review a work they love is a delight—doubly so if you're excited about that work too, and especially so if you've been marinating on that critic’s other ideas, and feel you know him like you do as an impossibly-cool-yet-easygoing friend. If Renaissance floored you, I bet you’ll enjoy reading it described, examined, and celebrated by Wesley Morris. {NYT}



The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American
by Andrew Seidel
What do you know, nothing in any of the founding documents of the U.S. supports anything that is being pushed by half of the country right now, meaning white Christian nationalism. The only true religious freedom, if that’s what people really want, is one that is not enforced by anyone, most of all the government, in any way. Andrew Seidel shows, with meticulous research and word for word quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and personal writings from the founders, that the "Judeo-Christian" (read: anti-Jewish, pro-Christian, according to Seidel) pseudo-morality that has been propelled by those who wish to implement a theocratic dictatorship since the 1950s is not only tyrannical, but strictly antithetical to the whole point of America. {MeLCat}

Christopher Hitchens
Various Writings and Debates
Christopher Hitchens was perhaps the most eloquent, sharp-witted, knowledgeable, and funny debater of religion who was ever formed out of exploding stars. I happened to catch a mid-2000s debate of his versus the questionably “informed” Dinesh D'Souza, in which Hitchens eviscerated his exasperated opponent at every possible turn. I mean, not that it was a difficult task, but it was still fun to watch. I’ve since read four of Hitchens’ books, and continue to seek out further writings and lectures. His overall thesis can be summed up by the subtitle of his most famous work: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. {AADL}

More AADL Staff Picks:
➥ 2021
➥ 2020
➥ 2019
➥ 2018
➥ 2017