2017 Staff Favorites

We see a lot of books cross our service desk each year at Essex Public Library. In fact, so far in 2017, we’ve handled more than 16,000 circulations of print books–and that doesn’t even include books on CD or e-books! Our Library staff members are big-time literature lovers, and since we deal with books all day long, we discover a lot of new favorites. Here are some Essex Public Library staff recommendations from the last year.

Word by Word: the Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

You might think that a memoir about working as an editor for Merriam-Webster would be boring. But you’d be wrong. In Word by Word, Kory Stamper shares stories from her experience working for the world-famous dictionary publisher. Sprinkled with fascinating tidbits about the history of the English language, Stamper’s love for linguistics shines throughout this book. The tone is irreverent, breezy, even funny. This surprising page-turner is a must-read for anyone who has an enthusiasm for words.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Towles’ delightful 2016 novel made it onto multiple staff picks lists this year and has been highly requested by our library users as well. Elegant and entertaining, A Gentleman in Moscow follows Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is placed under house arrest inside Moscow’s Metropol Hotel after the Bolshevik Revolution. This historical context adds just the right amount of flavor and interest, the characters are perfectly charming, and the story is beautifully crafted.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

In American Fire, journalist Monica Hesse combines a true crime procedural with a doomed love story, and the whole tale is set nearby on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This book was named one of NPR’s Best Books of the Year and one of the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Books of 2017. Our staff members agree with the critics. Following two lovers who set fire to dozens of buildings over the course of five months, American Fire is a timely and compelling nonfiction book that highlights modern life in rural America–right in our backyard.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

Three short novels make up Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. Each takes place mostly in Area X, an abandoned portion of land in coastal Florida which has been cut off from all civilian visitors. Inspired by the natural world, this is a genre-bending sci-fi trilogy that hits deep in the psyche. The author’s descriptive style is extraordinarily lush and atmospheric but won’t bog readers down. A strong female lead and lots of tense action power the story forward. A movie adaptation of Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, is set for release in February 2018, and we recommend you get a jump start on the book before the story hits the big screen.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will love this charmer written by Scottish author Gail Honeyman. Eleanor has survived unspeakable tragedy to lead a life that is . . . well, completely fine. But through the help of new friends, she begins to break down the barriers that have been keeping her from happiness. Eleanor is certainly quirky and maybe not immediately likable, but in the end, this delightful story will give your faith in the human spirit a nice little boost.

These are just a few of the best books we read in 2017. Do you have a suggestion for us? Please let us know! Looking for more reviews and recommendations? We are happy to help fill your new year with great reads! Stop by the Library and check out what’s on display, and also be sure to follow us on Facebook, where we post lots of book news: www.facebook.com/EssexPublicLibrary.

Happy New Year from your Essex Public Library staff!


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