Booklists Recommendations

Don’t Panic!

by Public Service Associate Hannah

September is National Preparedness Month — a time to prepare for natural and man-made disasters and emergencies. As a library user*, this PSA gets me thinking of all the thrilling apocalypse-type plot lines and thought-provoking stories on our shelves. But Hannah, you say, very real water, fire, and wind cause devastation every day. Where’s the entertainment in that?! Well, without making light of very real situations, think of these books and movies like you would visiting a haunted house or riding a roller coaster. A part of you is scared, and in my case screaming regret, while another part of you knows this is a manageable way to experience hardship and fear in a safe environment. Studies have even shown natural disaster films might teach us to take climate emergencies more seriously while providing tips for how to act in similar circumstances. Plus, it’s cathartic and rewarding to root for a protagonist as they seek shelter and find hope. 

Now set your solar flashlight out to charge as we dive into my disaster book and movie recommendations.

  • Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer | Book | Libby

Pfeffer’s Last Survivors novels enthralled me with their story of young people dealing with the upheaval of an apocalyptic event — an asteroid hitting the moon and setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. I enjoyed how their diary entries go from the days of impact and scrambling for survival to the hope of reforming societies. While I’ve yet to watch Moonfall (DVD | Blu-Ray), it too, pits humanity against a wayward moon.  

  • The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner | Book | Libby

This book is a testament to the strength of people in crisis. Downtrodden by her tenement life in New York, Irish immigrant Sophie answers an ad to become a mail-order bride. She is met in San Francisco by Martin, a handsome widower who needs a stepmother for his daughter, Kat, who has not spoken since her mother died. While Martin often travels for work, Sophie finds happiness in their modest home. Until one day in 1906 when a pregnant woman named Belinda knocks on the door. But before they can deal with that aftermath, the great earthquake hits.

  • Glimmer by Marjorie B. Kellogg | Book

It’s 2110, Earth’s glaciers have melted and there’s no climate fix in sight. As refugees stream inland from the inundated coasts, social structures and economies are stressed. Food production falters. Pandemics rage. On Manhattan Island, the stranded band together to create dens, micro-communities dedicated to keeping their chosen families alive. Glimmer, a young woman struggling with memory loss, hopes sheltering in place will trigger her memories. But time is running out — the next deadly storm is brewing, and the dens are turning on each other. Kellogg expertly lays out her plot, revealing information at a deliberate pace that keeps you invested.

Fifteen-year-old New Yorker Daisy is sent to live in the English countryside with cousins she’s never even met. When England is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy, the cousins find themselves on their own. When the power goes out and martial law goes into effect, they grow more isolated. For a spell, the farm becomes a kind of Eden with no rules. But even here, the war reaches them. A survival story and a love story told in the voice of a subversive and witty teenager, this book crackles with angst. And with actors Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, and Tom Holland playing leads, the movie adaptation is an unforgettable depiction of living in the age of terrorism.

  • We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés | Book | Libby

When Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico in 2017, Spanish-American chef and restaurateur Andrés stepped up and addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. 

  • My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor by Brendan McDonough | Book

With candor, determination, and a need for redemption, McDonough chronicles his journey to join the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of wildfire firefighters, who became his family and transformed him from a drug addict to a responsible team member. The dangers of battling fires on the ground and air are many and McDonough thrillingly explains the terror and reverberations of the fateful June 30, 2013 tragedy at Yarnell Hill.

After being pulled from the muddy wasteland that was formerly the jungle of Sri Lanka, Deraniyagala is taken to a hospital where the reality of her family’s death creeps into her psyche. Finding the profound absences intolerable, she withdraws from the world, even beckons her own death. This is her powerful story of embracing the future while carrying memories.

  • Prepared: A Manual for Surviving Worst-Case Scenarios by Mike Glover | Book

After 20 years in the US Army, Special Forces, and a contractor for the CIA, Mike Glover is sharing how to lower that freeze response during a crisis and increase your stress tolerance. While I don’t recommend going full Doomsday Castle, you can learn how to keep aside supplies and gain coping mechanisms.

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind dir. by Hayao Miyazaki | DVD | Blu-Ray

Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind tells the story of a world decimated by a war. The ecosystem has responded by spreading a toxic jungle of spores, fungi and giant insects that is threatening human existence. Nausicaä is the princess of a rural valley that lives at peace on the edge of a deadly fungal wasteland until a ship carrying a weapon from a bygone industrial age crashes nearby.

  • The Day After Tomorrow dir. by Roland Emmerich| DVD | Blu-Ray

This movie premiered
2004 and you probably have seen it. Drumming up opening day excitement alongside global warming fears, the promotions asked, “Where
be?”. Hopefully with someone who knows what they are doing, like climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) and his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal). They, along with a small band of survivors (Emmy Rossum), ride out the growing superstorm in a library(!) and face of an enemy more powerful and relentless than anything anyone has ever encountered: Mother Nature.

  • Mr. Tornado dir. by Michael Rossi | DVD 

The Super Outbreak of 1974 was the most intense tornado outbreak on record, generating 148 tornadoes from Alabama to Ontario, damaging thousands of homes, and killing more than 300 people. Meteorologist Ted Fujita studied the aftermath and discovered “microbursts”, sudden high wind patterns that could cause airplanes to drop without warning. He transformed aviation history and saved untold number of lives. From those documentary experts at American Experience so you know you’ll learn something cool!

  • Twister dir. by Jan de Bont | Blu-Ray

Yes, you have seen this one, but it is a classic! Scientist Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and her team of tornado chasers are pursuing the most destructive weather front to sweep through mid-America’s Tornado Alley in 50 years. TV weatherman Bill Harding (Bill Paxton) is trying to get Jo to sign divorce papers. But Mother Nature is actually the one calling the shots.

When a magnitude 9+ earthquake leaves California in ruins, a helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) make their way to San Francisco to save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario). This is one you put on for the look-what-we-can-do special effects and senses-shattering destruction, not a deep plot. But you certainly won’t look at skyscrapers the same way again.

Let’s wrap up on a positive note. Looking around at our structured environment and watching these movies and reading these books, it might feel like humanity has severed its ties with nature. In his book The Eight Master Lessons of Nature: What Nature Teaches Us About Living Well in the World (Book | Libby), Gary Ferguson presents a fascinating exploration into how many of the most remarkable aspects of nature are hardwired into our very DNA. I think this book will leave you with more hope and joy.

*As a responsible library worker, I must also share a couple of helpful resources.

Everyone knows the American Red Cross arrives after an event, but did you know the organization can also help you avoid and/or weather a crisis with more confidence? Their site can help you start a fire escape plan, help children cope with trauma, or refresh your knowledge of hands only CPR. is The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) one-stop shop for information on how to build emergency supply kits and plans you can tailor to your needs and potential circumstances. 

AARP shares 7 steps you can take now to be ready later.


Natural Disaster Films: A Social Learning and Perceived Realism Perspective by Melissa Seipel, Brigham Young University Understanding the Impact of Disaster Movies on the Social Construction of Risk Perception by Sayantani Satpathi and Jamie N. Smith, University of Oklahoma

Recommendations staff favorites

Tolkien’s 50th Death-iversary and Hobbit Day Celebration

by Public Service Associate Luke

September is an important month for Tolkien fans. On the 2nd, his loyal readers celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famed author’s death, both mourning the loss of the greatest fantasy writer to ever live and taking the opportunity to honor the greatest fantasy world to ever exist. Twenty days later, on the 22nd, Tolkien lovers observe the fictional birthdays of two of Tolkien’s central characters: Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins, a day known as Hobbit Day.

Book Spotlight Recommendations staff favorites

Book Spotlight: Aug 9–Fog

by Public Service Associate Juliana

Aug 9–Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (2019) | print

Spare • Experimental fiction • Literary realism

Welcome to another Book Spotlight! Today’s feature, Aug 9–Fog, will appeal to those who gravitate toward literary realism.

Literary realism: a literary movement that represents reality by portraying mundane, everyday experiences as they are in real life. (Master Class)

All the books currently checked out on my library card contain the subject “everyday life”, books by Tove Jansson, Virginia Woolf, Kathryn Scanlan. These books highlight the beauty of the day-to-day, the minutiae of real life. This results in leisurely paced narratives that focus on character rather than plot; nothing much happens; characters talk about the weather, daily routines and what they’ll watch later on TV.


International Cat Day

by Public Service Associate Autumn

In late 2015, several news outlets, including USA Today, announced scientists had determined that if housecats were larger, they would kill and eat their human companions. A nice, snappy headline, but strictly speaking not true. The actual study1 does not say that our beloved kitties are just waiting for their moment to strike. It just says that personality-wise, a cat is a cat, whether they’re hunting the laser you point for them or stalking prey across the African Savannah. This was probably obvious to anyone who has seen photos of jaguars, tigers or pumas sitting in cardboard boxes. Or this lion sitting in a wheelbarrow.  I should acknowledge here that I am not an ailurophile (a lover of cats). I have dogs. However, August 8th is International Cat Day, and we here at the library do not want to make our individual cat overlords unhappy by not acknowledging it. 

Recommendations staff favorites

Gonzo Journalism: Dark, Funny, Strange, and Mostly True

by Public Service Associate Luke

One of the core tenets of journalism is to remove yourself from the story and keep that sense of detachment in order to avoid any kind of bias or personal involvement. This rule is what allows journalists to maintain an air of neutrality in their reporting. “Gonzo Journalism” is the direct breaking of and sometimes flippant disregard for that rule. These stories often become more about the writing itself, rather than just the objective of the article or book. The term “Gonzo” has several disputed origins, from the semi-translation of a French term to a 1960s jazz song (no, none of them relate to the blue-beaked Muppet).

Gonzo Journalism was first mentioned by the editor of Scanlan’s Monthly when describing the seminal piece “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” by the creator of the movement, Hunter S. Thompson. This journalistic style is known for its writers being directly involved in the act they are meant to be observing. Think of embedded journalism, if the journalist also fired the rifle, smoked the drugs, or engaged in otherwise frowned-upon activities. The ethics of such a style are questionable, but they certainly bring about excellent and extremely detailed product. Hunter S. Thompson would begin and continue to add to the movement, while many other journalists and authors took influence from him and began getting involved in their own subject material. I first found Thompson in junior high, and I now own a copy (or two) of each of his works. I love this type of writing, and so I’ve collected a list of some of my favorites.


Books Becoming TV and Movies

by Public Service Associate Luke

Adapting books into movies and television is no new situation. Some of the greatest directors of all time have used the written form for story inspiration, such as Steven Spielberg adapting Jaws and the near entirety of Stanley Kubrick’s filmography. Sometimes the adaptation falls short, and others are changed with such near perfection they become cultural media juggernauts on their own, such as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Television shows are also no stranger to creating new versions of novels, which has given us The Handmaid’s Tale, Daisy Jones and the Six, The Old Man, and so much more. It is almost difficult in this IP-driven media landscape to find a current movie or TV series that does not have some form of inception from literature.


Iconic Reading Glasses

by Public Service Associate Hannah

When I say glasses, what comes to mind? The pair you place on your nose each morning? A pair of cheaters left behind at some restaurant? Or maybe a celebrity’s iconic look. As someone who has worn glasses since the fifth grade, with no interest in adding contact hygiene to my daily routine, glasses mean the world to me. They go hand in hand (eye in eye?) with my love of reading! So naturally, I decided to write a BPL Blog about glasses.


The Irish-American Novel

by Public Service Associate Owen

St. Patrick’s Day may have come and gone, but, in the spirit of Irish-American History Month, I’d still like to highlight some of the great contributions that Irish-Americans have made to the tapestry of American literature. What makes American literature so unique is the sheer variety and diversity of its authors; writers of all different creeds, classes, and backgrounds have contributed (and will continue to contribute) their work, and the Irish-Americans are no exception. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to John O’Hara to Colum McCann, Irish-Americans of all stripes and generations have accorded us their literary talents. So to honor them, and all other past and prospective Irish-American authors, I’d like to present a brief history of Irish emigration to America, as well as recommend some archetypal Irish-American novels.


A World of Books: The Gilmore List

by Public Service Associate Juliana

I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior.
– Rory Gilmore

As someone who works at a library it’s no surprise that my favorite conversations are about books and that my favorite question to ask is “What are you reading?” I particularly love to ask my mom and my sister because they are almost always reading something I need to know about or something I’ve read and should revisit. This happens on a regular basis thanks in large part to the Gilmore list.


All The Presidents’ Memoirs

by Public Service Associate Owen

It’s February! It’s the time of year for dreary weather, expressions of love, Super Bowls, and forgotten New Year’s resolutions. It is also the month that contains the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and as such February 17th is celebrated as Presidents Day. In honor of this day and of those who have served as our nation’s chief executive, I thought I’d assemble a list of some of my (and my dad’s) favorite biographies of presidents.