It’s time once again for a look back through our checkout history to choose the books, movies, TV series and more that entertained, moved and enlightened us this year.
EPL Services Manager (and über-reader) Angie polled library staff and volunteers — and the list is quite full, especially if you like fiction. Miss Sue included her picks for children and teens, including graphic novels.
See how many you also enjoyed this year or may want to put on your ‘to read’ list for 2022…
Listed in alphabetical order (and published in 2021 unless otherwise noted). Titles link to the printed book format in the online catalog when possible (and you may place holds on items there from your online account); otherwise, titles link to OverDrive/Libby or Hoopla for digital versions when a printed book is not available through the library or the Lehigh Carbon Library Cooperative.
- All the Feels (Spoiler Alert series #2) by Olivia Dade. Meet-cute romance. [Reader’s note: One of the highest-rated romances for fall 2021, Dade allows real women, not the Hollywood, rail-thin perfect types, to lead her novels. All the Feels is not quite an enemies to lovers story, but close enough to feel familiar in all the cozy ways.]
- Before the Coffee Gets Cold (2020) and Tales from the Café by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot). Time-travel fantasy. [Reader’s note: What would you do if you could travel back in time, knowing your actions couldn’t alter the future, and you only have as long as it takes a cup of coffee to cool? These short snippets give hope, love, and life a second chance.]
- Billy Summers by Stephen King. Thriller, suspense fiction. Billy Summers is a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong? How about everything.
- Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen. Domestic fiction. [Reader’s note: Franzen is a master of scratching beneath the surface of suburbia. This time it’s the 1970s, when teens were discovering pot, marriages began to crumble, and God’s guilt loomed large. If you grew up in suburbia in the ’70s, you lived this.]
- Death Grip (2020) and Life Without Parole (Angela Richman, Death Investigator series #4 & #5) by Elaine Viets. Detective, mystery. Every town has its secrets. Some are too deadly to stay hidden. Fans of J.A. Jance and Lisa Gardner will love this exploration of the little-known job of death investigator in small-town Missouri where Angela Richman finds herself investigating the lives and secrets of the one percenters in Chouteau Forest.
- Engagement and Espionage (Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries) (2020) by Penny Reid. Romance/cozy mystery. [Reader’s note: A cozy mystery spinoff from the author’s Winston Brothers series. Jenn is the reigning Banana Cake Queen, and everyone is out to beat her in this year’s bake-off. Baking suppliers’ sabotage will not be tolerated by her beau and his brothers (one is actually named Beau). Fair warning — she writes some spicy sex scenes.]
- For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing. Suspense, school drama. [Reader’s note: Teacher of the year Teddy wants to be one of the good ones — the teacher everyone loves, the teacher everyone respects, the teacher everyone trusts, the teacher who gets the full potential of his students to rise to the surface. His wife would be proud of how far he’s come, even if no one has seen her for a while. Now there’s been a murder of a prominent school parent (…her entitled kid totally did it…) and teachers are getting sick. If everyone would just leave him alone so he could teach these kids how to succeed, maybe it will all be worth it in the end.]
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Historical fiction. An epic novel set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras–the Great Depression. Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. Elsa Martinelli–like so many of her neighbors–must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life.
- Game On: Tempting twenty-eight (Stephanie Plum series #28) by Janet Evanovich. Detective, mystery. When Stephanie Plum is woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of footsteps in her apartment, she wishes she didn’t keep her gun in the cookie jar in her kitchen. And when she finds out the intruder is fellow apprehension agent Diesel, six feet of hard muscle and bad attitude who she hasn’t seen in more than two years, she still thinks the gun might come in handy. Turns out Diesel and Stephanie are on the trail of the same fugitive: Oswald Wednesday, an international computer hacker as brilliant as he is ruthless.
- The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth. Thriller, domestic fiction. From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one, with a home and a husband and a fierce desire to become a mother. Fern is the quirky one, the free spirit. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome.
- Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. Historical fiction. [Reader’s note: This sweeping historical novel takes you along a great ride — from Marian Graves’ inauspicious beginnings in 1914 to her dreams of becoming a female pilot and mysterious disappearance.]
- The Heart Principle (Kiss Quotient series #3) by Helen Hoang. Modern Romance. [Reader’s note: Fan favorite Quan finally gets his own novel! When Ana Sun’s violin virtuoso goes viral, she is thrilled. Then, when she tries to recreate that magical moment, she gets burned out and frustrated. Then her boyfriend wants a change — instead of proposing marriage, he proposes an open relationship. What’s a talented, smart, family focused girl to do? Find the least suitable one-night stand she can (…that’s where Quan comes in). Until it’s not a one-night stand. It’s everything she didn’t think she deserved and more. Hoang is known for writing non-traditional women (and their sex lives) with complicated medical, financial, personal and interpersonal problems in a way that is open and accessible, though sometimes graphic.]
- The Last Picture Show (1966) by Larry McMurtry. Fiction. [Reader’s note: McMurtry’s death this year made me wonder about all the accolades over his work. This was just a stunningly bleak portrayal of two teen boys and their dead-end Texas town.]
- Later by Stephen King. Thriller, ghost story. Jamie Conklin, a boy born with an unnatural ability to see and learn things no one else can, is enlisted to help an NYPD detective pursue a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.
- Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica. Thriller/psychological fiction. Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold. Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find.
- The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. Fiction, suspense. [Reader’s note: Mariana Andros is lured back to her uni days at Cambridge by the grisly murder of her niece’s friend, a member of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens. Mariana is convinced that beloved educator Edward Fosca is the murderer and plans to stop him — with or without help from the police — even if it means risking her own life.]
- Matrix by Lauren Groff. Women’s lit, historical fiction. [Reader’s note: A study in female power and strength set against the royal court and abbey life under Eleanor of Aquitaine. Marie finds herself in devotion, war, and politics while she focuses on protecting her sisters and her first true love.]
- Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapeña. Thriller/psychological fiction. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated. Or are they?
- The Other Emily by Dean Koontz. Thriller, psychological fiction. A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims whose remains were never found. Writer David Thorne still hasn’t recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David’s obsession grows, Maddison’s mysterious past deepens–and terror escalates. Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer?
- The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer. Thriller, psychological fiction. As a child Penny was found abandoned. Grace Francome felt like fate brought Penny to her and her husband Arthur. But as she grew, Penny’s actions grew more disturbing, and different “personalities” emerged. Now Penny is in the locked ward of a decaying state psychiatric hospital, charged with the murder of a stranger.
- Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. Thriller/psychological fiction. Faved by two staff members. [Reader’s note: Psychological suspense/thriller set in remote Scotland with a heckuva twisted ending. How well do you know your spouse? What if you suffered facial blindness and were a self-confessed workaholic? When you celebrate each of your 10 anniversaries with traditional gifts, should you look a gift-horse (with a free weekend getaway) in the mouth?]
- The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. Detective, suspense. [Reader’s note: Pressured into a ‘leave’ from her detective work, Elin visits Le Sommet — a new boutique hotel run by her estranged brother and his fiancée high up in the Swiss Alps. Trapped on the remote site after a storm, Elin and the remaining guests who are not able to evacuate down the mountain are starting to panic. One of them has gone missing, another found murdered, and everyone is under suspicion.]
- The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. Paranormal fiction. [Reader’s note: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Erdrich crafts a tale of a haunted woman during the year of Covid with her signature blend of humor and deft observations of human nature.]
- A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins. Thriller, suspense. When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women who are, for different reasons, simmering with resentment.
- Sooley by John Grisham. Sports fiction. After seventeen-year-old Samuel “Sooley” Sooleymon receives a college scholarship to play basketball for North Carolina Central, he moves to Durham from his native, war-torn South Sudan, enrolls in classes, joins the team, and prepares to sit out his freshman season, but Sooley has a fierce determination to succeed so he can bring his family to America, working tirelessly on his game until he dominates everyone in practice, and when Sooley is called off the bench, the legend begins.
- Survive the Night by Riley Sager. Psychological fiction. It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.
- That Summer by Jennifer Weiner. Domestic fiction. Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. While she tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When the two women meet and become friends, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?
- The Therapist by B.A. Paris. Thriller. When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive. As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.
- The Thursday Murder Club (2020) by Richard Osman. [Reader’s note: Just a fun, fun read about a group of septuagenarians who try to solve cold-case murders for fun in their retirement village, but then a real murder happens.]
- The Turnout by Megan Abbott. Thriller, psychological fiction. Ballet flows through their veins; Dara and Marie Durant were homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. They keep the studio thriving — until a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker. Then an interloper arrives, and threatens the delicate balance.
- Viral by Robin Cook. Thriller, medical fiction. In this electrifying new medical thriller from New York Times bestseller Robin Cook, a family’s exposure to a rare yet deadly virus puts them at the center of a terrifying danger to mankind–and pulls back the curtain on a healthcare system powered by greed and corruption.
- All That She Carried: The journey of Ashley’s sack, a Black family keepsake by Tiya Miles. [Reader’s note: Nonfiction winner of the National Book Award by an award-winning historian at Harvard University. Miles tells the story of a simple cotton sack that an enslaved mother filled with life-sustaining items and gave to her 9-year-old daughter who was sold to another owner, never to be seen again. The sack was passed from generation to generation until a descendant embroidered the story onto the sack itself. Today the sack can be viewed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.]
- Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive behavioral therapy in 7 weeks by Seth Gillihan. [Reader’s note: Cognitive behavioral therapy is an oldie-but-goodie tool for anyone with stress, trauma, PTSD, or distress in general. This workbook walks you through basic building blocks of how to retrain your brain to process and accept situational stress and find healthy (or healthier) ways of managing your wellbeing.]
- The Taking of Jemima Boone: The true story of the kidnap and rescue that shaped America by Matthew Pearl. [Reader’s note: A harrowing account of early Revolutionary War days and how one young girl became an important piece of the disputed Kentucky land divide between the Native tribes and the colonists. Reads like fiction, but definitely isn’t.]
- (Parenting Collection) When the World Feels Like A Scary Place: Essential conversations for anxious parents & worried kids by Abigail H. Gewirtz. [Reader’s note: New parenting book to help us all work our way through a changing world.]
- Center Center: A funny, sexy, sad, almost-memoir of a boy in ballet by James Whiteside. [Reader’s note: Short, absurd essay format following James’ triple-threat (not the conventional kind) life. From realizing ballet is NOT for wusses, to earning that center-center spot with the American Ballet Theatre, and all of the after-party antics that go with it. If you don’t follow him and his alter egos on the socials (predominately TikTok and Instagram), you should.]
YOUNG ADULT READS
Listed in alphabetical order (and published in 2021 unless otherwise noted).
- Rebel Sisters (2020) by Tochi Onyebuchi. Science fiction, war fiction. [Reader’s note: Sequel to War Girls (2019). After the Biafran wars, Ify find her dream job as a medical worker in the Space Colonies. When a viral infection breaks out, she must discover the cause. It is from back home?]
- The Thousandth Floor (2016), The Dazzling Heights (2017), and The Towering Sky (2018) (The Thousandth Floor series) by Katherine McGee. SciFi/fantasy, young adult. [Reader’s note: Set in 2118 Manhattan, New York is home to the tallest building on earth — a towering 1000-floor supertower. High-tech luxury and glamour are everywhere on the highest floors, while the lower floors struggle for everything, including light. The series follows five young adults who are bonded together, but an unfortunate and deadly accident reminds them just how fortunate (or not) they really are.]
- Cells At Work (2016-2017) manga series by Akane Shimizu. [Reader’s note: This 5-book series (also made into an animé) follows the adventures of a klutzy red blood cell in her mission to supply the body with food and oxygen. Often attacked by sinister bacteria, she is defended by a brave white blood cell! Not as simplistic as it sounds, AND an interesting way to understand the workings of our systems.]
- Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? (2019) by Caitlin Doughty. [Reader’s note: Caitlin Doughty, of “Ask a Mortician” answers questions that young people have asked her about death, and what physically happens afterward. Positive approach, and can be shared with younger children in a family reading.]
Listed in alphabetical order (and published in 2021 unless otherwise noted).
- I Am Not A Penguin: A pangolin’s lament by Liz Wong. [Reader’s note: Pangolins are really neat, but everyone seems to know more about penguins!]
- Woodpecker Girl (2020) by Chingyen Liu. [Reader’s note: A girl confined to a wheelchair learns to use a paintbrush strapped to her head to make wonderful pictures! Lovely illustrations!]
- The Pea, Bee & Jay series (2020-2021) by Brian “Smitty” Smith. [Reader’s note: Three very different friends get into adventures. These early readers are beginning chapter books.]
- When You Trap a Tiger (2020) by Tae Keller. [Reader’s note: To cure her sick grandmother, Lily traps a tiger, and makes a deal with it. 2021 Newbery Award winner!]
- Phoebe and Her Unicorn series (2014-2021) by Dana Simpson. [Reader’s note: I love this series of graphic novels about a young girl named Phoebe, and her Unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. It’s not overly sweet, as both characters are somewhat snarky, and they deal with all the perils of ordinary (for humans) life.]
- Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs by Mike Lowery. [Reader’s note: Fun facts, interesting tidbits, and awesome information about dinosaurs! What could be better?]
MOVIES, TV SERIES & PODCASTS
- Cruella.* PG-13. [Viewer’s note: OMGee that trash-truck dress! Emma Thompson is flawless, Emma Stone is perfect, and the supporting cast is well-balanced and interesting. A great ‘villain origin story’ and an amazing opportunity for costume and set design to really shine.]
- Nomadland.* R. [Viewer’s note: Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao are a dream team. This movie is beautiful and painful and full of remarkable humans.]
- Tenet.* PG-13. [Viewer’s note: Christopher Nolan does it again in this fast-paced, time-bending, ridiculously well-crafted sci-fi thriller.]
* Available in our DVD collection.
- Big Sky (ABC). [Viewer’s note: Vikings alum Katheryn Winnick, newish comers Jesse James Keitel, Kylie Bunbury and Brian Geraghty, and 90s heartthrob Ryan Phillippe feature in this detective thriller (not a procedural). Loosely based on C.J. Box’s Highway series, these women focus on righting wrongs and staying just inside the lines. Sexuality, some strong language, use of drugs/alcohol, and lots of violence with gore.]
- Doom Patrol* (HBO). [Viewer’s note: This show is based on the DC Comics super hero team of the same name. It’s an absurd dramedy that takes you places you’ve never been before. It stars Brendan Fraser, my long time favorite actor.]
- Dead to Me* (Netflix). [Viewer’s note: A drama starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as BFFs who keep deadly secrets from each other. Best viewed with a glass of wine.]
- Finch (Apple TV). [Viewer’s note: Tom Hanks makes me cry, again. In post-apocalyptic United States, Finch searches for a way to live out his remaining days with his canine companion and robot creations and ensuring their survival even after he is gone.
- New Girl (now on Netflix, originally on Fox). [Viewer’s note: Yes, I know it’s not ‘new,’ but I much prefer Justin Long and his violin in the first Thanksgiving episode (season 1, ep. 6 pretty much perfectly sums up all the awkwardness of family holidays) over the Friends ‘flashback’ episode (season 5, with a turkey stuck on their heads…controversial, I know, but the Friends’ cast is to awful to each other and never seemed to grow into better humans). And the Santa episode (season 2, ep. 11) where Schmidt starts to believe in himself as more than just the ‘now hot dude who used to be overweight’ and Winston shows off his amazing kid-handling skills. This rag tag group of TV friends is #goals.]
- Pose (FX). [Viewer’s note: These amazing dance sequences are AMAZING!! NYC drag life is equal parts inspiring and sad — I think James Whiteside (Center Center) would fit right in. These performers are human. Humane, fabulous, strong and inspiring. Perfect for a binge session or one at a time. Some sex and nudity, mild violence, lots of language and smoking, alcohol and drug use.]
- Also: Cobra Kai*, Grey’s Anatomy*, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: SVU, and Project Runway.
* Available in our DVD collection.
- Judge John Hodgman. Actor and comedian John Hodgman teams up with a fellow comedian, Jesse Thorn, to adjudicate good natured disputes between family and friends. For example: What is the best pretzel shape? Is it improper for dad to wear pajama pants when he puts out the garbage? I get at least one good laugh out of every episode.
If you like podcasts, be sure to also check out these ‘bookish podcast’ recommendations from early 2020 shared by Lauri, adult services librarian.
There you have it! We’re excited to start finding the great reads and DVDs of 2022!