Best of 2018 Staff Picks

We see thousands of books move across our service desk each year at Essex Public Library. As big-time book lovers, we discover many fresh favorites as they hit our shelves, and of course we also hear about lots of great reads from our library users. At the end of 2018, we took a little time to reflect on our year of reading. We created a list of seven favorites, and we hope that one of these books will become a favorite for you in the new year.

Circe by Madeline Miller

You don’t need to be a classics scholar to enjoy this mythical retelling from the Greek goddess Circe’s point of view. Mounting rivalries among Circe’s powerful family and her encounters with mythical creatures add drama and suspense. Circe’s voice is warm and intimate, yet her sweeping story stretches across countless years. This novel, ultimately a celebration of humanity, will remind you why these myths are so enduring.

Don’t You Ever: My Mother and Her Secret Son
by Mary Carter Bishop

In this compelling memoir, Mary Carter Bishop explores deep family secrets after discovering that she had a half-brother who was given up at birth in a home for unwed mothers, the result of their mother’s shameful youthful “mistake.” Bishop’s powerful story explores themes of guilt and fate, and the Central Virginia setting makes Don’t You Ever especially interesting to our local reading audience.

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
by Leslie Connor

This novel was written for middle grade readers, but both kids and adults will find twelve-year-old protagonist Mason Buttle a remarkably memorable character. Mason is the biggest, sweatiest kid in school, and he has a learning disability. When he finds his best friend dead at the base of their tree fort, things get even worse. Written with sensitivity and compassion, The Truth Told as Told by Mason Buttle is a heartwarming story about resilience and love.

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

As one of Oprah’s 2018 Book Club picks, An American Marriage isn’t exactly an under-the-radar choice for our list, but it deserves the attention. The story centers on a modern African-American newlywed couple, Celestial and Roy, ripped apart by terrible and unexpected circumstances when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a crime Celestial knows he did not commit. This intimate novel is a striking portrait of the ensuing devastation of their marriage and family

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Waterman of Vanishing Tangier Island
by Earl Swift

Chesapeake Requiem is a respectful study of the past, present, and tenuous future of Chesapeake Bay’s Tangier Island and its residents, mainly families who have been rooted on the island for generations. But Tangier Island is disappearing. The proof is everywhere and mounting each year. As the graves of their ancestors are washed out by the tide, Tangier’s residents battle to maintain the only way of life they know. Here is more excellent nonfiction which will have high appeal for our region.

A Princess in Theory
by Alyssa Cole

Romance readers should not miss Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series, which begins with A Princess in Theory. In this delightful and steamy contemporary royal romance, our heroine Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairytales. Emails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince have been interrupting her busy life as a grad school student with multiple jobs. She, of course, deletes them. But the ever-dutiful Prince Thabiso is willing to go to great lengths to track down his betrothed. Can this city Cinderella find happiness with Prince Charming?

The Word Is Murder
by Anthony Horowitz

The brilliant Anthony Horowitz dazzles readers in this inventive mystery in which he centers a fictional version of himself as the ghostwriting “Watson” to a modern-day “Holmes.” His Holmes is an eccentric, disgraced London investigator named Daniel Hawthorne, who asks Horowitz to write a book about him. Together, they investigate the death of a woman who walks into a funeral parlor to arrange her own funeral and then is murdered six hours later. As the murder suspects are revealed, readers will find the testy relationship between Horowitz and Hawthorne just as intense as the unraveling murder plot.


We wish you lots of good reading in 2019. Happy New Year from Essex Public Library!

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