Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

March 23, 2015


by Johnson, Mat

This book was recommended to me by another librarian who knows about my love of graphic novels. Incognegro is more than just a graphic novel. Set in the 1930s, Harlem newspaper man Zane Pinchback exposes the murders committed against African Americans in the turbulent south by going Incognegro.

Incognegro provides the reader with an inside look into an undercover story of passing both by color and gender. Zane is a pale African American who poses as a Caucasian in order to expose members of the KKK in his news articles, written under the pseudonym Incognegro. Zane longs to be known for his news stories but realizes that he must remain anonymous if he is to keep trying to right the wrongs of the south. His work takes an interesting turn for the worse when he learns that his brother is being held for the murder of a Caucasian woman.

A mystery revolving around race and gender identity unfolds to reveal that some people are not what or who they claim to be.

                   --Recommended by Vanessa Jamerson, East 38th Street Library


March 16, 2015

Burial Rites

Burial Rites
by Kent, Hannah

I wish I was a better writer as I don’t think I can do this book justice! Set in Iceland in the early 1800s, it is the story of Agnes, an accused murderess, the family she is sent to live with on a remote farm until her execution, and the young minister assigned to bring her redemption and salvation. Margaret, the mother of the family, is at first fearful, but comes to appreciate Agnes’ help and learns that there is more to the crime than first appears. We slowly discover Agnes’ brutal early life and what led to the murder of her employer. “To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.” The starkness of the setting and the beautiful prose set off this intriguing story based on an actual case.

Burial Rites is also available as a downloadable e-book.

                — Recommended by Ann Grilliot, Lawrence Library


March 9, 2015

Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Wladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos

Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Wladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos
by Keri, Jonah
796.35764 KER

The Montreal Expos played their final game of baseball in 2004, but the team lives on in Jonah Keri’s comprehensive history.

As a life-long fan of the Expos, Keri rehashes the highs and lows of the club’s 35 year history, allowing us to feel every triumph and heartbreak the way he did from his seat at Olympic Stadium. Even avid baseball fans may not know the unlikely story of how the Expos came to be the first Major League Baseball franchise based outside of the United States. Many may have forgotten the disappointment of the 1994 season, in which the Expos were leading the National League when a players’ strike ended the season prematurely. And while Hall of Famers like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Randy Johnson may be household names for most baseball fans, many of those fans may not recall that those three players began their careers as Expos.

Though the Expos eventually left Canada and became the Washington Nationals, they left behind a legacy in Montreal that any fan of the team, or fan of baseball, will want to remember.

             — Recommended by Adam Todd, Spades Park Library


March 2, 2015

Girl In Translation

Girl In Translation
by Kwok, Jean

This debut novel follows Kimberly Chang who moves to New York City from China eager to forge a new life. Almost immediately, she is forced to lead a secret double life when the house she and her mother were promised turns out to be a squalid Brooklyn apartment, and the "big American factory" is, in fact, a sweatshop. Distinguished student by day, Chinatown sweatshop worker by night, Kimberly faces the harsh realities of extreme poverty and the struggles of attempting to span two cultures. The author, herself an immigrant, details the lives of those like Kimberly who contend with language barriers, questions of identity and loyalty to family. A poignant story of heartache and hope, from a world that is most often shrouded in secrecy.

                 --Recommended by Jackie Kelly, Central Library


February 23, 2015

Yes Please

Yes Please
by Poehler, Amy
792.7028 Poehler POE

Amy Poehler is a master sketch comedian (comedienne). Her book is like her skits – it's funny, topical, and bounces around with great energy. She tells of her family, her many comedy experiences before her well known ones in Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, and her friendship of many years with fellow improv alum, writer, actress, and co-Golden Globes host Tina Fey.

Poehler’s reaction to a childhood comment that she was funny-looking meant she didn’t focus on her looks – she focused on her talent. There’s a great lesson in that for people of any gender. (Of course, Poehler is actually very attractive, but focus on hard work and willingness to be a character chameleon serve her well.) No wonder Poehler is involved with the organization Smart Girls at the Party (which, according to, “is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”)

Readers of screwball authors David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, and others who enjoy tales of funny family life are likely to enjoy some of Poehler’s over-the-top recountings. But remember, her Boston-area upbringing wasn’t for sissies. Some of the language is strong, and so is some of the drinking and use of other substances. Poehler’s book isn’t always flattering, but it has the ring of candor. It’s heartening to hear that some of the things that irritate her; sadly, some of what irritated this reader was her repetition that it’s hard to write a book, and that she’s sleep deprived. One or two mentions of each would have been just fine.

Readers who like a linear, chronological narrative will probably find Yes Please choppy. I hadn’t known much about Upright Citizens Brigade, and would have enjoyed reading more about its New York era.

Poehler devotes some space in her book to love, marriage, and divorce, but there is more musing than meanness in the tidbits. Tales of her sons will make other parents smile in recognition. Parts that don’t appeal to some readers can be skimmed. Like a buffet – or an evening of improv - there’s a lot of choice stuff to nibble on.

 Yes Please is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

                  --Recommended by Diane Palguta, College Avenue Library