As 2020 comes to a close, I asked staff to reflect on their favorites books, movies, and albums from this year. Some staff found it easy to narrow it down, while others couldn’t choose just one! Here are the BPL staff favorite books of 2020:
Christian’s Pick – The Lucky Star by William T. Vollmann | print
David’s Pick – COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora MacKenzie | print
Hannah’s Pick – Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Outdoors by Ray Mears | print
Juliana’s Favorite Memoir – This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn | print
Juliana’s Favorite Fiction Read – Writers & Lovers by Lily King | print / digital
Leann’s Science Fiction Pick – A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green | print / digital
Leann’s Favorite Thriller – The Guest List by Lucy Foley | print / digital
Nichole’s Pick – Being Lolita by Alisson Wood | print
Sue’s Pick – Deacon King Kong by James McBride | print / digital
Our favorite films from 2020 include:
Christian’s Pick – Feels Good Man *currently unavailable through the CLC
Juliana’s Pick – The Devil All the Time *currently only available on Netflix
Nichole’s Pick – The King of Staten Island | DVD / Blu-Ray
And finally, our BPL staff favorite albums from 2020 include:
Christian’s Pick – Heaven to a Tortured Mind by Yves Tumor | CD
Hannah’s Pick – Old Flowers by Courtney Marie Andrews | CD
The legendary Albanian author Ismail Kadare is a prolific writer, having written a great amount of novels, poetry, and essays throughout his tenure in the literary world. His 2008 (translated in 2010 by John Hodgson) novel The Accident is no different to the themes conjured throughout his career—having to do with the fracturing of the Balkans, from the end of the People’s Socialist Republic of Alabania to the balkanizing of Yugoslavia; however, this novel is special in the way that it presents this split in South-Eastern Europe, as the novel is centered around a car crash involving a taxi and the mystery behind the couple in the back seat of this taxi that were in a moment of love or hate.
This novel is an intentional mess of structure, moving from
point of views, how the novel is styled, and the time period the events are
taken place. This uncompromising novel reflects the fractured Balkans through
the 20th century (and early new millennium)—a confusing, traumatic
century for the people living in this region. This is represented through the
symbolic couple of Besfort Y. and Rovena—a relationship based in lies,
cheating, and eventually, separation and death. The history of their
relationship is just as confusing as the history of the Balkans.
The story is one that aptly represents a time where the
state of the Balkans was up the air, and The Hague, a city in the Netherlands
known for its International Court of Justice, became a location all too
familiar within the news of political officials of the Balkans (and a location
present within the latter half of The
While the novel does not land entirely on its feet in its pace—its story and structure is something that represents a time of horror and uncertainty through a creative flow. Kadare showcases his original voice in an often-forgotten, but still ever-present moment in history.
This November marks the 30th anniversary of Native American Heritage Month, as declared by President George H. W. Bush in 1990.
The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.
“The trouble with paradise…is that the serpent finds its way in.”
In 1972, the city of Detroit is in a state of pandemonium—in the midst of long-running economic decline, police brutality, and now demonic forces, it is up to the titular journalist, Elena Abbott, to bring a light into this dark world. Abbott, a young, Black woman working for a small newspaper company, reports of a case of police brutality, which puts her reputation as a reporter into question—and as this happens, strange things start developing. The beheading of a horse, dead bodies, the missing son of the owner of a diner she frequents, and a mysterious figure with an ancient mask that corners her in an alley—all things that connect to a conclusion where Abbott must face her past and bring a resolve to the city of Detroit.
What Abbott does in its short, five-issue run is create a sprawling world with so much life and character. It feels like seeing a glimpse of an alternative past, but one that would never be recognized in its time. Although this graphic novel began its run two years ago, it feels more relevant than ever. In her story, Abbott states that the city of Detroit is “an environment that has left many of the city’s residents wondering if any part of Detroit can truly be considered safe.” This is a thought that looms within every conversation Abbott has outside her immediate circle of friends and past lovers and one that rings familiar in the current state of the world.
Abbott was written by Saladin Ahmed, a prominent, new voice in comic books. He has been a writer for a lot of popular characters such as Miles Morales, Black Bolt, and Ms. Marvel. His writing style feels like it captures a world that already exists and continues to exist within this short frame of 100-something pages—and it makes sense as Ahmed has written a novel and poetry. His versatility as a writer shines in this graphic novel by showcasing a level of depth in the world and characters he builds.
This graphic novel was brought to my attention while putting together a list for a recent program that we hosted virtually, “Black Power in Comics”. And I am glad I took the chance to read this short-run comic, as it a story that stuck with me and one I wish had not ended as soon as it has. Abbott feels like it could be an ongoing series, but is serves a purpose in the way that it ends. It is a story that represents something that could not be forged in the decade it is based in and a story that is needed now more than ever.
For more graphic novels like this one, I recommend checking out the rest of the “Black Power in Comics” carousel, found on our Black Lives Matter page.
The feeling of a ghostly presence, knickknacks moved out of place, someone or something tapping one’s shoulder, but is Jeffrey Mansion, the Jacobethan Revival home on North Parkview Avenue, haunted?
Tales of its haunting have been attributed to unidentified individuals and their mysterious and unreported deaths. Perhaps it’s the spirit of a young woman, said to have been murdered there, that haunts the third floor, or that of a man, one supposedly hung himself in the towerwhileanother from the staircase.
Donated to the City of Bexley in 1941, the original owner, former Mayor of Columbus Robert Hutchins Jeffrey, had the stone and brick residence built in 1905. He had long since moved out when he died in 1961 at Grant Hospital. His wifeAlice Kilbourne Jeffreydied inside the home in 1922, but only after an illness lasting several months.
During the seventies, children experienced sightings of a witch, her white hair outlined by light in a second floor window. Then, opening the window, in a “scratchy, shaky, haunting voice,” the woman scared the children off. But, that was just Violet Ketner, who with her husband John, were live-in caretakers for nearly two decades. “I’m not really afraid,” she told a reporter from the Dispatch. “I’ve never seen anything.”
For more ghostly tales and scary stories from around Columbus and Ohio explore these titles:
With just less than a month to go, the second meeting of the BPL Virtual Book Club is just around the corner! The upcoming meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 4 at 7PM, and we’ll discuss the book Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. It’s an award-winning book, well received by critics and readers alike, and is sure to generate an engaging discussion. Register to join us! I’m still in the midst of reading the book, but I’m enjoying it so far. It seems like a book I could usually finish in just a day or two, but I’ve been trying to take my time with it. Not only to better prepare for the discussion, but I also have a feeling it is a book I’ll be sad to see end.
If you’re like me and don’t want to race through the book just yet, you might be looking for another book to absorb yourself with in the meantime. These books share a variety of themes with Shamsie’s: identity, belonging (especially as experienced by an “outsider”), and the nuances of strained/difficult relationships. They follow well-developed, complex and sympathetic (though often flawed) characters. They’re books that evoke a strong sense of place and that attempt to humanize and explore sometimes difficult political stories; i.e., my favorite kinds of books. Indeed, several of these make my list of all time favorite reads!
Happy October, Readers! When October rolls around, I love to wrap up in heart warming stories about witches like Practical Magic or The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and bone chilling thrillers like Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway. In this week’s blog post, I’ll highlight five new books that are perfect for the spooky month of October. Enjoy!
Embody Your Magick: A Guided Journal for the Modern Witch by Gabriela Herstik
Witchcraft is, once again, gaining popularity in mainstream culture as a way for all people to find empowerment. Often, modern witchcraft is framed as a way to focus on self-care and self-improvement. In her latest release, self-proclaimed witch and devotee of the Goddess of Love, Gabriela Herstik has created a series of inspirational and creative prompts that will help readers embrace their inner witch. This is a book for anyone interested in what it means to be a modern witch. The book includes journal prompts, meditations, rituals, and more, all in an effort to help readers better connect to the universe and their inner light.
Naomi Novik is known for her fairytale-esque stories like Uprooted and Spinning Silver, which center on powerful women who, after embracing their own power, thrive in the face of adversity. A Deadly Education promises to deliver on Novik’s legacy of complicated, nuanced, powerful women. The book is about a magic, and deadly, school and at its center is an unwilling dark sorceress who is destined to rewrite the rules of magic. Fans of The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and any of the popular TV shows about magic schools like Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem will surely find something to delight in with A Deadly Education.
No punches are pulled in Alyssa Cole’s first foray into thrillers and the results are completely engrossing. The lily-white psychological thriller genre welcomes this book as both intense and jaw dropping in turns of jumps and thrills, but also as a clever and insightful commentary on the very real disruption of swiftly gentrifying neighborhoods. Cole uses the genre to deftly illustrate what being displaced through gentrification feels like and how a system of oppression is truly a monster to those within its grasp. When No One is Watching translates the tone and setting of Hitchcock’s Rear Window into Jordan Peele’s Get Out and leaves us with an unapologetic, terrific thriller. And don’t worry, for those fans of Cole’s romance work, she doesn’t leave you high and dry.
The title doesn’t bury the lede: Mexican Gothic is just that, a gothic supernatural horror set in the hills of Mexico. I hesitate to call the book horror, as it isn’t gory and the vibe is tense and suspenseful more than shocking, but it does have some pretty intense elements and supernatural scenes. The protagonist, a young, smart, glamorous debutante named Noemí travels to the distant countryside after receiving a frantic and cryptic letter from her newly-wed cousin. When she arrives at High Place, a dilapidated old mansion in the hills of a rural town, she finds stories of violence and madness and meets her cousin’s alluring but menacing English husband. The question soon becomes: will Noemí be able to leave High Place? Mexican Gothic is for fans of Daphne Du Maurier’s works like Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel as well as those who loved Get Out or Lovecraft Country.
There’s a library, it’s in Hell, and it’s full of books that their authors never finished. Sometimes, characters in those books become restless and escape and the librarian, with the help of a demon and a muse, must track them down. At least, that’s how things work in the first installment of the Hell’s Library’s books, The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith. Saying she is, “Certainly not an ink witch in a hoodie,” Hackwith is a queer writer of fantasy and science fiction and writes sci-fi romance as Ada Harper. In the second installment of Hell’s Library books, released this year, after a war between Heaven and Hell, mysterious and nefarious ink has started to pour out of some of the volumes in Hell’s library and the librarian, demon, muse, and this time also an angel, must investigate. Fans of the TV show or Marvel comic Lucifer, the books and subsequent TV show A Discovery of Witches, and the books The Bear and the Nightingale, and Uprooted will likely enjoy this series.
Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.
While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
Reasons: for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin | print / digital
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller | print / digital
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth | print / digital
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis | print
Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas | print
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
Election Day 2020 is now a mere 43 days away. Somehow this seems like both a lifetime away and, well, tomorrow. Regardless of how you plan to vote this November, Bexley Public Library is here to help! To encourage everyone in the community to exercise one of their most fundamental rights, we are hosting two drive-in voter registration events with The League of Women Voters on Tuesday, (TOMORROW!) September 22 from 3-5PM and Thursday, October 1 from 5-7PM. Both events will be held in the BPL parking lot and will also feature musical guests and food trucks. Join us as we celebrate – maybe not the election itself, but at least our ability to have a say in its outcome! And be sure to visit http://bexleylibrary.org/vote or give us a call at 614-231-2793 to get more information on deadlines, procedures, accessing voting materials, etc.
In the spirit of the election season, I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite “political” (I’m using that term in a fairly broad sense) books. And while this list is attached to a post about preparing for the upcoming election, I’ve chosen books that, I think, are largely non-partisan, and don’t focus much on presidential elections or candidates. Rather, they’re books that have helped me better understand and refine my own political worldview, while also helping me better understand those views I may not agree with. Importantly, several of these books put the struggles and concerns of real people at their centers: in my mind, what politics should always be about. Such stories help us build empathy for, and an understanding of people who aren’t always politically aligned with us already. Happy reading!
The Populist’s Guide to 2020: A New Right and New Left are Rising by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti | print
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis | print / digital
Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Hedges and Sacco | print
With Liberty and Justice for Some by Glenn Greenwald | print
Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild | print / digital