You asked for it, so here it is! Top picks from the Barrington Library staff of their favorite books. You will find a wide range of books worth discovering, enjoying, and passing along to others. My thanks to the Barrington staff who helped compile and prepare Staff Picks. Happy reading!
Debbie Barchi, Library Director
Baker, Kage. Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers. Fantasy short stories about immortal workers laboring for their 24th century “masters” and the hapless “mortals” they bump into and manipulate along the way. Intelligent and funny.
Barr, Nevada. Flashback. This is the latest book in Barr’s excellent mystery series featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. While stationed in Dry Tortugas National Park, Pigeon spends her time reading letters written by her great-great aunt (who lived in the park during the Civil War), and solving her own mystery.
Beauman, Sally. Rebecca’s Tale. In the famous novel Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, the title character is seen as evil and manipulative. In this book another side of Rebecca emerges to present a very different interpretation of the story.
Booth, Stephen. Black Dog. The first book in a series of gritty crime novels set in the Peak District of England. It introduces Detective Constable Ben Cooper and his new partner Dianne Fry, whose style completely clashes with his own.
Bowen, Rhys. Murphy’s Law. Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant in New York City, is a suspect in a murder she did not commit and is determined to find the killer herself.
Buchan, Elizabeth. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. Living well is the best revenge for a London book review editor who loses both husband and job to her conniving assistant in this sophisticated and satisfying novel.
Carr, Caleb. The Alienist. Set in 1896 New York City, an alienist (psychologist) is consulted in a serial killer case. The seamy side of New York City is graphically depicted.
Connell, Evan. Mrs. Bridge. Mr. Bridge. Companion novels that constitute a “tour de force” of storytelling. The first tells of a matron entombed in her role as a Kansas City upper-class matron between the wars. The second reveals the inmost secrets of the constrained and cautious man who loves her.
Dallas, Sandra. The Chili Queen. In the late 1800’s a kindhearted Madame, owner of a thriving Southwestern brothel, takes in a remarkably naïve young woman and tries to keep her from learning about the business.
Dew, Robb Forman. Fortunate Lives. An ordinary family spends a summer getting ready to send their only remaining child off to college and must confront and accept its past.
Evanovich, Janet. One for the Money. New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum solves a crime surrounded by the zaniest cast of characters ever to appear in a mystery series. If you think this one is funny, read the rest of the series!
Farrington, Tim. The Monk Downstairs. A single mother rents her basement apartment to a monk who has left his order after serving in it for 20 years. A tale of friendship, love and starting over.
Grafton, Sue. A is for Alibi. California private eye Kinsey Millhone makes her debut in this mystery novel. The plot revolves around her attempt to exonerate her client—a convicted murderess.
Greene, Graham. Travels With My Aunt. Can Graham Greene be funny? Read this book about a staid middle-aged man who gets caught up in the crazy affairs of his elderly aunt and her young lover to find out!
Gunesekera, Romesh. The Reef. A delicious coming-of-age novel told from the perspective of a houseboy in 1970’s era Sri Lanka. A Booker Prize nominee.
Harrod Eagles, Cynthia. Orchestrated Death. A British inspector, struggling with a deteriorating marriage, tries to solve the murder of a young woman while developing an attraction to the deceased woman’s friend. First book in the Inspector Bill Slider series.
Hartley, L.P. The Go-Between. The Boer War looms forbiddingly in this tale of an innocent young boy who unwittingly acts as a messenger for an aristocratic young woman involved in a steamy affair with a good looking farmer.
Hearn, Lian. Across the Nightingale Floor. Book one of “Tales of the Otori”. This elegant, beautifully written fantasy novel is set in a world that greatly resembles feudal Japan. The fantasy element concerns a “tribe” of gifted men and women whose magical talents place them outside the system, while their stubborn loyalties call them into it time and time again. (The other two books in the series are Grass for His Pillow and a projected third volume, Brilliance of the Moon.)
Hill, Susan. The Woman in Black. A chilling tale set on the lonely moors in which a young lawyer is quite literally haunted by the presence of a wraithlike, evil woman dressed entirely in black.
Hughes, Langston. The Ways of White Folks. Open your eyes to the golden age of Harlem in the Roaring Twenties and to the reality of race relations in America.
Jiles, Paulette. Enemy Women. A Missouri family is torn apart by Union soldiers and the oldest daughter ends up in a women's prison in St. Louis. A harrowing tale of love and survival in a very dangerous time.
Johnston, Wayne. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. This novel, based on the life of an extremely controversial figure in Newfoundland history will: a) leave you spellbound b) make you want to research the protagonist and c) go on vacation to Newfoundland!
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. The title story only takes a half hour to read, but may change the way you see other people and yourself forever.
Mc Call Smith, Alexander. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. In this delightfully written mystery novel, a young woman who has inherited money uses it to start a successful detective agency in Botswana.
Mason, A.E.W. The Four Feathers. When a young soldier in late Victorian England resigns his commission on the eve of combat, his three friends and his fiancé send him four white feathers. A moving tale of the destructive power of self-doubt and the redemptive power of love and courage.
Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance. A vast, intricately told tale of India in which four low caste people throw their lots in together to survive crushing poverty. Although this novel tells of horrific poverty and struggle, it ultimately leaves the reader marveling at the human spirit.
Moon, Elizabeth. The Speed of Dark. This science fiction novel set in the near future centers on the hard choice that faces its autistic hero—should he embrace his unique perceptions, or accept a neural makeover that will leave him changed in his very essence? The author knows her territory here. She is an acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer whose son is autistic. Both parts of her life support her in telling this story with remarkable power and grace.
O' Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. This riveting novel, set in Minnesota, employs an unusual method of chronology, which keeps readers on their toes. It ends with an unsolved mystery that will leave the reader wondering about the outcome long after the book is finished.
O’Connell, Brendan. The Young Wan. A prequel about the youth of the feisty and irrepressible Agnes Browne, made famous through O’Connell’s popular Irish stories.
Ondaatje, Michael. In the Skin of a Lion. Some of the most beautiful words in the English language are contained in this work by the author of The English Patient. The plot is secondary to the lyrical nature of Ondaatje's prose, but nonetheless totally compelling.
Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev. Potok exposes the closed world of the Hasidic Jewish community in New York City and the inner world of Asher Lev, the protagonist. This classic is an absolute must read.
Price, Reynolds. Roxanna Slade. A Southern woman looks back over her one hundred year life, an ordinary life with struggles and triumphs. It is Price's writing that beguiles us.
Proulx, Annie. The Shipping News. Set in Newfoundland, this is the tale of hapless Quoyle, raising his daughters and working as a newspaper columnist in a small town populated with quirky and generous people.
Pym, Barbara. No Fond Return of Love. Another delightful confection by Barbara Pym, who shows that opportunities for love abound even in the most unlikely places and among the most unlikely people.
Roy, Arundati. God of Small Things. Magical prose is reason enough to savor this short novel of a family tragedy in a small village in India.
Satterthwait, Walter. Escapade. This ingenious mystery set in the 1920’s on an English country estate, pits Harry Houdini and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle against a clever killer in a classic locked room murder.
Sayers, Dorothy. The Documents in the Case. A Dorothy Sayers mystery, but without Lord Peter Whimsey to solve a cold blooded case of poisoning that throws everyone under suspicion of murder.
Schnitzler, Arthur. Night Games. Freud believed that Schnitzler was one of the greatest writers of his generation when it came to exploring the dark mysteries of the human psyche, and of people who want to do right but often do not.
Shea, Suzanne Strempek. Lily of the Valley. A very funny story about a young woman whose dreams of finding love and of fulfilling herself as an artist are not quite going according to plan.
Swift, Graham. Last Orders. A Booker Prize winner, this at once humorous and melancholy novel tells of a group of World War II comrades who come together many years later to take the ashes of one of their group from London to be scattered in the sea.
Von Arnim, Elizabeth. Enchanted April. Four women of various ages and social backgrounds travel to a warm and idyllic villa in Italy and try to solve their problems of loneliness and love.
Vreeland, Susan. The Passion of Artemisia. A young woman, in an arranged marriage to an artist, discovers her own artistic talent. This talent, once found, clashes with her family life and the morals of the time.
Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited. Neither immense wealth, aristocratic family connections nor the love of his friends seem to be able to save a handsome young man bent on self-destruction.
Weisberger, Lauren. The Devil Wears Prada. This much-hyped book does in fact live up to its reputation. A lively and engaging work that will invariably remain a classic beach read for many years.
Winspear, Jacqueline. Maisie Dobbs. Ten years after serving as a nurse in World War I, Maisie Dobbs starts her own investigation agency in London and her first case opens up wounds from the past. Hopefully this will be the start of new series featuring Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale.
Yoshimoto, Banana. Lizard. This collection of short stories set in Japan serves as an introduction to the engaging fiction of Yoshimoto, one of Japan's most popular authors.
Baker, Russell. Growing Up. The genial host of Masterpiece Theater writes of his youth with the same warmth and charm he demonstrates in front of a television camera.
Beer, Edith Hahn. The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust. This biography will keep you enraptured from page one. A must-read for any WWII or Jewish history buff.
Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. You will love this feisty behind-the-scenes view of the restaurant biz.
Eire, Carlos. Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. One of the best memoirs ever, this narrative has a lovely vigor and fidelity to boyhood preoccupations that is extremely refreshing. The underlying drama waiting to cut Eire’s charmed childhood short is a big and violent one—Castro’s wholesale takeover of Cuban society.
Howard, Michael Eliot. The First World War. This little book is an absolute gem. Howard explains the major parts of WWI concisely, with fabulous illustrations, maps and text. A great book to brush up on forgotten high school history, especially if you are European-vacation bound.
Lauck, Jennifer. Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found. Lauck tells a story of a childhood going from bad to worse in this affecting memoir. Yet there is a tremendous satisfaction and inspiration in watching her beat the odds by sheer grit and determination. (The sequel, titled Still Waters, is as interesting and gripping as the first installment.)
Mitchell, Joseph. Up In the Old Hotel. These wonderful character studies of the famous, the infamous, and the just plain down and out of New York City read as smoothly as the best fiction, but with the added punch of being completely, often very disturbingly, true.
Nuland, Sherwin. Lost in America: a Journey with My Father. A physician stalled by depression is forced to look closely at the childhood years he spent in close company with his angry, ill father. In the process he uncovers a closely held family secret and is able to rediscover his love for his father and move on.
Roth, Philip. Patrimony. Not the usual Roth fare, he recounts his father's final illness with tenderness, wit and vulnerability.
Sobel, Dava. Galileo’s Daughter. This volume contains the actual letters sent to Galileo from his daughter, who spent nearly her entire life in a convent. They are filled with love, intelligence, and compassionate support for her famous, often-beleaguered father.
Weldon, Fay. Auto da Fay: a Memoir. Brilliant, witty and sometimes decidedly perverse English novelist Fay Weldon weaves a spell with this telling of her life story. Her novels are wonderful; what a pleasure to get a closer look at the well-spring and source of them all.
Weller, Sheila. Dancing at Ciro’s: a Family’s Love, Loss and Scandal On the Sunset Strip. This page-turner of a memoir gives the reader a glimpse into the dazzling world of a popular Hollywood nightclub in the middle decades of the twentieth century. But public glitz is marred by personal tragedy as Sheila Weller seamlessly weaves a history of the American nightclub into the saga of an unforgettable family—her own.