A curated booklist by your favorite SPL librarians!
Adult Fiction | Adult Nonfiction | Children’s and Middle Grade | Young Adult | Comics and Graphic Novels
|A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
A romantic fantasy set in Edwardian England where Robin Blyth will discover the hidden world of magic within his own when he takes a dead end government post. Instead he finds danger, intrigue, and even more than he could have expected. A beautiful, queer love story runs throughout this first in a series novel. Recommended by Brigid, Generalist Librarian.
|The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Astonishing retelling of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of Jordan Baker, who is queer, Asian, and adopted. I'm a pedestrian reader but Vo reminded me how exquisitely language can be used. Recommended by Karen, Deputy Director.
|Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Parallel lives across the centuries tell the story of an ancient manuscript, and the moments in history when people fought to preserve it, and it preserved them. Cloud Cuckoo Land is the tale about the hope that whimsy can give us when facing down the end of all things. Recommended by Tim, Reference Librarian.
|Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Set during the 1880s, a young girl named Daiyu is kidnapped and smuggled out of China and brought to America. The story follows her throughout the years as she struggles to find her place as anti-Chinese sentiment is spreading throughout the country. Recommended by Jess, Reference Librarian.
|Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
The struggles of an Asian-American actor against Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes play out against the larger backdrop of race, immigration, and assimilation. Currently being adapted for a series by Hulu directed by Taika Waititi and starring Jimmy O. Yang. Recommended by Karen, Deputy Director.
|Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho
At 33, witty Singapore attorney Andrea Tang has yet to make partner at her firm, or find the right person to settle down with, to the disappointment of her wealthy Malaysian-Chinese family. But Andrea’s determined to find love and beat infuriatingly charming workplace rival Suresh out of a promotion. Fans of enemies to lovers tropes will swoon! Recommended by Bethany, Reference Librarian.
|A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
A monk encounters the first robot seen in centuries. A didactic sci-fi tale about meaning and purpose, religion and destiny. Heavily features non-binary and queer characters. Recommended by Tim, Reference Librarian.
|The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad
Faraz Ali is a high-ranking policeman who's been summoned to his hometown of Lahore by his powerful father to "investigate" a murder--i.e., arrange a cover-up. But Faraz is a man of integrity and wants to actually solve the murder, no matter the consequences for his career or his family. Recommended by Kevin, Head of Reference.
|We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
Following the Danvers High field hockey team during their 1989 winning season, we view the team individually and collectively in a way that takes the teen experience seriously. Written by Quan Barry, who was born in Saigon and raised in Danvers, it's littered with local and fun 80s references, all wrapped in witchcraft. Recommended by Katie, Senior Substitute Librarian.
|Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert
An absolutely steaming hot mythic retelling with complicated characters and intriguing political subplots, this m/m/f romance is a perfect entry point for the Dark Olympus series. Recommended by Brigid, Generalist Librarian.
|Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal
Legal commentator and lawyer Elie Mystal provides a humorous, thoughtful analysis of the constitution through the perspective of social justice rhetoric. A must-read for any human rights advocate seeking an antidote to outdated and potentially unsafe ideas that linger in our political system. Recommended by Carrie, Senior Substitute Librarian.
|The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow
A new interpretation of the anthropological and historical evidence we have for human history, The Dawn of Everything shows us just how many assumptions about human nature Western historians have made for generations. By looking through the lens of Indigenous thinkers, and cutting edge research on paleolithic humans, Graeber and Wengrow show us that another reality is possible, because it has already happened. Recommended by Tim, Reference Librarian.
|The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER by Thomas Fisher
Black ER attending physician, Thomas Fisher, writes about his 2020 experience in his native South Side of Chicago but is actually writing about the caste system in health care. Dr. Fisher writes in accessible language and includes detailed endnotes. Recommended by Alyssa, Reference Librarian.
|A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
In a mesmerizing blend of memoir, literary studies, and autofiction, Irish author Doireann Ní Ghríofa seamlessly weaves her experiences with those of the brilliant but obscured poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill. This book is full of potent ruminations on creative obsession, motherhood, and the ties that bind us together across time and space. Recommended by ShanTil, Community Services Librarian.
|How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth by Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns, Jenifer Hixson, Sarah Austin Jenness, and Kate Tellers
Immensely practical and engaging how-to on weaving an unwritten tale for the ages. Recommended by Alyssa, Reference Librarian.
|I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Former child star Jennette McCurdy recounts her troubled childhood and early adulthood in this earnest, funny, and heartbreaking memoir. Recommended by Kayla, Generalist Librarian.
|The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke
As someone who also has a chronic illness, O'Rourke's extensive journalism and lived experiences as a person with disabilities absolutely blew me away. My hope after reading this is to see more research conducted on autoimmune diseases, better information and publicity on the subject, and continued advancements in the ways we speak about and treat chronic illness. Recommended by ShanTil, Community Services Librarian.
|The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act by Isaac Butler
The platonic ideal of a nonfiction book: deeply researched on a subject ubiquitous but not fully understood mixed with just enough juicy gossip. Anyone interested in performance and/or culture of the 20th century will appreciate this book. Recommended by Brigid, Generalist Librarian.
|Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994-2007) by Dan Ozzi
This is an excellent oral history pop culture deep dive into the attempts to commercialize pop, punk, emo, and hardcore in the post-Nirvana boom. It's a nuanced look at how bands made decisions for their artistry and financial success, and I strongly recommend listening to the audiobook (and the albums in the book as you go along). Recommended by Katie, Senior Substitute Librarian.
Children’s and Middle Grade
|The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo
Adventure/quest middle grade novel featuring a girl, her goat, and an unlikely group of supporters. As with anything by Kate DiCamillo, it's excellent. Recommended by Alison, Children’s Librarian.
|The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A stunning middle grade fantasy novel about Luna, a young girl with dormant magical powers growing up in a bog with a kind and gentle witch, a wise Swamp Monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. As Luna reaches her 13th birthday, her magic swarms as tension in the nearby city grows. Recommended by Bethany, Reference Librarian.
|New From Here by Kelly Yang
In early 2020, a family moves from Hong Kong to California in an attempt to avoid an as-yet-unnamed virus. But things are not as easy as they'd hoped -- the parents struggle with new roles within the family; the siblings' relationships are frayed; the middle child and narrator realizes his family was hiding his ADHD diagnosis; and the family experiences anti-Asian hate and racism. Full disclosure, this was a tough (but excellent) book to read - clearly I have not processed my own pandemic experience! Recommended by Alison, Children’s Librarian.
|Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
In this speculative re-imaginaing of the Civial War era, Jane a young queer, Black women, graduates from combat school–where she's been trained in etiquette, fighting, and weaponry–to serve and protect the upper class from the zombie infestation. Hoping to return home to her family in Kentucky, Jane’s plans are thwarted when she stumbles on a conspiracy in Baltimore. Recommended by Bethany, Reference Librarian.
|Sapiens: A Graphic History: The Birth of Humankind (Vol. 1) by Yuval Noah Harari, illustrated by Daniel Casanave
A graphic adaptation of Israeli author Harari's 2011 bestseller, this is more than bare bones history. It advances a number of interesting theories on topics such as humankind's "cognitive revolution," and the ways in which it has affected every aspect of our lives and cultures. Recommended by Ellen, Head of Teen Services.
|The Upper World by Femi Fadugba
Esso tries to stay out of trouble, but he knows it's coming...because he's seen it when an accident knocks him into a different world where he can view slices of the past and future. Set in modern London among a group of teen characters who are mostly Black children of African immigrants, this science fiction story is suspenseful and filled with intriguing ideas that will make you think. Recommended by Ellen, Head of Teen Services.
|The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Practically perfect YA book about the importance of voting and making sure others can vote (plus a little romance, social justice, family drama, and cats). Features alternating chapters from the two Black protagonists. Recommended by Alison, Children’s Librarian.
|The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
This retelling of Carrie tackles racism as biracial Maddy is publicly outed after passing for white her whole life. The bullying of Maddy intensifies and some of her classmates have ulterior motives to being on her side. Everything comes to a head the night of prom when Maddy reaches her breaking point. Recommended by Keri, Generalist Librarian.
Comics and Graphic Novels
|Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton
Comic historian Kate Beaton's graphic memoir of her post-college life as a woman in the deeply misogynistic Canadian Oil Sands. Recommended by Alyssa, Reference Librarian.
|Nimona by ND Stevenson
Nimona, a lovable shapeshifter with a flair for the dramatic, works with Lord Blackheart to prove the Institution for Law Enforcement and Heroics is actually a cover for the most dastardly deeds committed in the kingdom. With dragons, medieval villains, and most importantly, layers, Nimona is the perfect recipe for a good time. Recommended by Bethany, Reference Librarian.
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