Originally published in: 1962
What it’s about: Merricat, Constance, and Uncle Julian are an odd, reclusive family, ostracized by the people of their community after the rest of their family die of arsenic poisoning.
What made me pick it up: This was a deep dive into my TBR backlist, but the audiobook was available on OverDrive so I went for it.
My favorite things: This isn’t a complex story, but it is elegantly told. Merricat’s narration is simple, uncomfortably direct, and quietly unsettling. And yet – her fears and anxieties feel valid and worthy of consideration. More sinister than odd, the Blackwood family still demands pity. Jackson was a master at creating creepy but believably human characters.
Who it’s great for: I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a reading slump, or really any kind of slump, I need a creepy story or two to kick me back into gear. If that’s true for you then you should definitely grab this the next time you need a pick-me-up. Good for fans of gothic novels, horror, and mysteries.
Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.
Originally published in: 2012
What it’s about: Bee Fox, daughter of the titular Bernadette, looking for her mother after a string of dramatic incidents occur and she disappears.
What made me pick it up: I’ve had this book recommended to me repeatedly in the past few years. It’s been touted as “fun”. I’ve also participated in recommending it to people for our library’s reader’s advisory service, and I was finally curious to see what it’s all about. And I had it on audio, which makes reading that much more enticing.
My favorite things: The narrator of this audiobook is excellent. I highly recommend listening to it. I also really liked the characters of Bee and Bernadette. I thought the author incorporated that snide, upper crust, private school stereotype well. I also enjoyed the bit of unreliable narration and the mostly-plausible missed connections and misunderstandings that drove everything haywire.
Who it’s great for: Adults. Older teens. Anyone looking to suspend disbelief. Those who like things too neatly tied up at the end. Readers in pursuit of a short, entertaining read.
Best Audiobook: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Originally published in: 2011
What it’s about: Wade Watts spends nearly all his time in the immersive virtual world that is the OASIS. He begins to solve the puzzle left by the creator of the world which has stumped players for decades. His progress leads to immediate fame and marks him as a target for other obsessed members of the OASIS.
What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook STAT – this one was available and had been lost somewhere in my to-read list for a while. I was a few years late to pick this one up-but I loved it so much I immediately sought out Cline’s next book, Armada.
My favorite things: Full disclosure: I don’t really have a lot to say about video games or 80’s pop culture, but I found Cline’s enthusiasm for both infectious and it somehow made me really care about the players in the OASIS. He does a great job of making a puzzle in a virtual world feel urgent and meaningful, and even finds the time for a little virtual romance. Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook and he’s so perfect for it that I wonder if Cline wrote it with him in mind.
Who it’s great for: Fans of video games, from the classics through mmorpgs, and DnD die-hards. 80’s pop culture buffs. Readers looking for an exciting dystopian adventure.
Best Graphic Novel: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Set in the same universe as Greenberg’s 2013 debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a storyteller weaves tales for 100 nights to protect her true love from a lecherous man.
What made me pick it up: l loved The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and was excited to see what Greenberg would create next.
My favorite things: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORLD AND IT WAS WEIRD.” Greenberg starts off with a bang and doesn’t fail to deliver. Her artistic style is one of my favorites and I’ve found myself flipping through repeatedly to find specific scenes that I loved. This is a kind of adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nights that expertly flips the script into a queer feminist retelling. The characters in each tale are as compelling and important as those in the framing story and include several strong women working to overcome dire situations to be independent.
Who it’s great for: Fans of fables and folklore. Readers looking for a collection of stories about love of all kinds. Fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works.
Did you come across any graphic novels or audiobooks this year that you can’t stop talking about?
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: As it turns out, Zack Lightman’s love of video games isn’t a waste of time. It’s going to help him save the world from an alien invasion.
What made me pick it up: I loved the audiobook for Cline’s 2011 Ready Player One and was excited to see that Wil Wheaton would be the reader for this one as well.
My favorite things: Cline strikes a great balance between poking fun at sci-fi tropes and embracing them. He gives equal importance to the everyday angst-producing experiences of teenage life and the terrifying thrills of trying to save the world. Wil Wheaton is an incredible reader and brings a lot to the audiobook – he’s a perfect fit for the story and I hope he comes back for Cline’s next book!
Who it’s great for: Anyone looking for a funny, adventurous, high-stakes coming of age story. People looking for a lighthearted answer to Ender’s Game. Fans of sci-fi, video games, and teenage drama.
Originally published in: 2011
What it’s about: Dr. Robin Zasio, a consulting psychologist on A&E’s Hoarders, talks about the reasons behind hoarding and cluttering and how to overcome those tendencies and compulsions.
What made me pick it up: I felt like I needed this after I finished reading Messy by Tim Harford. I chose to the audiobook so that I could listen to it while I rounded up clutter to remove from my home.
My favorite things: Dr. Zasio introduces the idea of a hoarding continuum, ranging from keeping a tidy home to the dangerous conditions that can accompany compulsive hoarding. She explains how to identify where you fall on that continuum and offers great suggestions for improving your hoarding or cluttering tendencies. Zasio does a great job of explaining these kinds of compulsions without judgement and offering solutions that feel very attainable.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who wants to work on their clutter and organization but doesn’t know where to begin. People worried about their own need to acquire or that of a loved one.