Our Favorite Books of 2019

OPL staff look back on their favorite books of 2019.

It's an annual tradition: Oakland Public Library staff share their favorite books from the last twelve months. We'd love to hear your picks too--please share in the comments! 

American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
by Shane Bauer
The author surely brings a unique perspective to his experience, related in this book, as a guard in a private prison in Louisiana. Three years earlier, he was himself, along with two companions, arrested and imprisoned in Iran for more than two years after accidentally crossing the Iranian border while hiking in Iraq.  His job as prison guard is a cover for an article he is writing for Mother Jones magazine.  His $9 an hour position lasts for four months; in that time he absorbs the feel of what it is to wield the power over others of a prison guard, while recalling the experience of being captive and powerless as a prisoner.  He delves into the history of for-profit prisons and how the poor and minorities are disproportionately subjected to imprisonment, including deficient medical care, stints, sometimes quite long, in solitary confinement and the daily degradations of prison life.  An eye-opening read, for anyone interested in the issue of prison reform in America. 
Recommended for: Adults          
Recommended by: Helen Anderson, Librarian, On Call Librarian

American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1968-1969
by R. A. Lafferty, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, Jack Vance. Gary K.Wolfe, ed.
Yet another literary giant from Oakland's rich legacy of creative achievement, Jack Vance, is a standout of 2019's installment in the Library of America's American Science Fiction series. The series, which begins with science fiction from as early as 1953, is providing a comprehensive literary education to readers. This year's selection includes work from 1966-1968, a tumultuous period in all aspects of American life embracing the rise of the Black Panther Party, the New Left and the mass mobilization against the Vietnam War, when Vance's visionary Emphyrio first appeared. In this volume, Vance is joined with three other classic writers of science fiction of the 1960s: R. A. Lafferty, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, the latter representing the first African-American to gain fame in the genre. The selection presents four of the most important works of American literature of that period, when science fiction was flourishing along with the popularity of psychedelic drugs.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Bom Boy
by Yewande Omotoso
In Livermore, Calif. of all places, J. L. Powers, a historian and author from the Rio Grande Valley, has established the non-profit Catalyst Press to focus on bringing current South African literature to a North American audience. Long an important bastion of great writing (consider Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, Nobel Prize-winner Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee, Athol Fugard, et al.), South Africa has most recently gone under-represented in the international book trade. Catalyst Press is doing its share to change that unfortunate situation by publishing Bom Boy, the tale of an adopted child struggling to find a cure for loneliness in the urban hubbub of Cape Town. Omotoso, who is also an architect, has emerged as one of South Africa's leading literary figures and Catalyst Press has emerged to make sure we have a chance to read her compelling fiction here in the United States.     
Recommended for: Adults          
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

The Book of Delights: Essays
by Ross Gay
Upon turning 42, Ross Gay decided he would write an essay about delight every day for a year. Though he doesn't make it to 365, he offers up 102 short, funny, sad, profound, joyous, poetic, and thoughtful essays that are a perfect pick-up-anytime reminder that the world is full of obvious and not-so-obvious delights.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Sadie, Librarian, Main

by Sarah Menefee
From her long-standing and strident advocacy on behalf of poor and unsheltered people she encounters on the streets of San Francisco, Menefee has collected excerpts of the imagery and language she encounters in her noble work in this scintillating work of minimalist verse. She brings the wise observations, dark memories, hallucinatory visions, vivid scenes of the hard lives she encounters and the gasps of joy and tragedy that she can hear around her as she carries on her life's work on behalf of our most vulnerable neighbors and fellow citizens. Menefee's terse and forthright language and the vivid imagery of the 64 poems collected in the 91 pages of Cement make for a powerful testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman
by Bob Kaufman
At last, all in one volume, we have the artifacts of one of the great poetic talents and vivid contemporary imaginations in contemporary American literature with this collection of the work of the late North Beach poet Bob Kaufman. His poems stand among the most essential documents of the Beat Generation, reflecting the profound influence of both jazz improvisation and French surrealism on modern American poetry, existing as a vital bellwether of the African-American literary uprising that followed.  The poems are subversive in their resonant beauty and revolutionary spirit.               
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Dragon Pearl
by Yoon Ha Lee
Dragon Pearl combines the mystery of interstellar travel with the magic of myth to begin the story of Min, 13-year-old space traveler and shape shifter. Yoon Ha Lee's book both tells an engaging story and promises readers more to come.
Recommended for: Children, Teens
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett
Did you ever dream about a window seat where you could draw the curtains and hide away with a good novel? The Dutch House is that perfect immersive experience and there's even a window seat in the Dutch House that plays such a big role in the novel! It's a fairy tale wrapped up in a mystery wrapped up in a coming of age novel (like David Copperfield) crossed with an epic portrait of a Robert Moses or Frank Lloyd Wright type figure. Mostly, though, it's a tale of siblings left on their own. Are they creating their own lives or are they following a revenge script or a destiny written in a fairy tale?
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Emily Odza, Librarian, Eastmont

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life
by Darcey Steinke
Millions of people are living in perimenopause every day. Somewhere between the power of the Grandmother hypothesis and the superpower of [aging into] invisibility is the reality Darcy Steinke explores in Flash Count Diary. If you are or know a perimenopausal person, this book has something for you.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

45 Thought Crimes
by Lynn Breedlove          
Lynn Breedlove has once again penned a volume brimming with intensity, truth, love, and pain. 45 Thought Crimes draws on the power of resisters past and present to offer readers company and solace as we traverse these difficult times.   
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating      

Fragments of the Brooklyn Talmud
by Andrew Ramer
In the current moment when the future isn't promised or even expected by many, Andrew Ramer offers a window into possibility. Taking in stride the mess humanity has made, he nonetheless manages to offer a vision of the future that includes some brightness. In the context of a continuity of human persistence that stretches back millennia into the past, Fragments of the Brooklyn Talmud opens a window onto days to come.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

The Godfather: The Corleone Family Cookbook
by Liliana Battle
This is a great cookbook to add to your collection! It's full of illustrations and easy to follow Sicilian recipes beloved by the Corleone family. I feasted on lemon roasted chicken while watching The Godfather Part 1.
Recommended for: Adults, Families
Recommended by: Pilar Gigler, Library Aide, Elmhurst Branch

Good Talk
by Mira Jacob
Centered around tough conversations with her son, Jacob's graphic memoir looks at parenting, race and racism, immigrant experiences and being human in the age of Obama and Trump. This charming, thought-provoking book made me laugh and cry.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Home Remedies
by Xuan Juliana Wang
Elegant stories featuring contemporary Chinese and Chinese American youths, expanding beyond these identities and the broad categories of family, love, time and space by which the 12 pieces are organized. Wang's prose glides lithely between fantasy and familiarity, displaying great emotional depth through fresh characters: a qigong grandmaster who has landed in California as a touring spectacle; an Olympics-bound synchronized diver who is falling for his long-time diving partner as both boys bloom into adolescence; an expat living in Paris who happens to inherit a dead girl's closet of luxury fashion; fathers, daughters, families who wish to connect across cultural and geographic divides in unique ways. Wang's fiction shimmers with a sense of imagination and wonder.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Menghsin, Librarian

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way through the TV Revolution
by Emily Nussbaum
I Like to Watch is a collection of culture critic Emily Nussbaum's columns for The New Yorker. Anyone who's been watching television more than they maybe think they should've over the last couple of decades will likely find some favorites to enjoy in a new way in this book.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

If these Walls Could Talk: Oakland A's, stories from the Oakland A's Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box
by Ken Korach & Susan Slusser
No one else could possibly have more inside knowledge of Oakland's Major League Baseball team and its players, staff and fans than these two authors. Ken Korach has announced A's games on the radio since 1996 and Susan Slusser, beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, has followed the Oakland A's since a little girl of six years old. For any baseball fan, their stories alone would make this book necessary, but we also get extended interviews of the A's great manager Bob Melvin, staff members and groundskeeper Clay Wood, with recollections of some of the great games of the current century. Essential for all A's fans, if only for the photograph of Slusser riding the mule Charlie O, the A's mascot.                
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Indian-ish: recipes and antics from a modern American family
by Priya Krishna
The recipes in this book are packed with cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and all the spices that make Indian food so delicious but come together quickly enough for a weeknight family dinner and don't fill your sink with dirty pots and pans. My kids gobbled up the aloo gobi and loved helping me make roti (and watching them puff up on the stove). I've been looking for a weeknight dinner friendly Indian cookbook for years but now I can call off the search. This book fits the bill and then some!
Recommended for: Adults, Families
Recommended by: Elia Shelton, Cataloging, Main Library

The Institute
by Stephen King
In addition to being a horror novel, The Institute is a timely take on the incalculable cost of refusing to recognize error and accept responsibility. No specific spoilers, but Stephen King's latest is also The Kind of Story We Need Right Now [shout out to Late Night with Seth Meyers].
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

It Would Be Night in Caracas
by Karina Sainz Borgo
A fast-paced novel, set in modern day Caracas, Venezuela.  Adelaida Falcón struggles to survive during a civil uprising after recently burying her mother. This book is very engaging--never a dull moment!
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Pilar Gigle, Library Aide, Elmhurst Branch

The I Wonder Bookstore
by Shinsuke Yoshitake
This slim comic volume brings bibliophilia to the next level! The minimalist illustrations are totally charming and the ideas are humorous and imaginative, like a chart of how to wrap books in unexpected ways, a mock history of "paperback dogs" trained to deliver books to people in distress, an itinerary for a very non-traditional "bookstore wedding," and tons of other surprises.  This left me believing even more in the magical capacity of books.             
Recommended for: Teens, Adults, Families
Recommended by: Menghsin, Librarian

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches
by Tyler Kepner
The national baseball writer for The New York Times jumps into the crowded fray of history of the "national pastime" with this clever contribution: combining his personal narratives of his relationship with the game with chapter-long histories of each of baseball's most important pitches. Taken all together, the writing provides a fascinating and masterfully researched history of how baseball has come to be played today.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Kalifornia Kool - Photographs 1976-1982
by Ruby Ray
The work of Ruby Ray, the principle documentary photographer of the early punk rock scene in San Francisco is gathered at long last into a single volume for our viewing pleasure. Along with a relatively accurate introductory essay entitled "How Punk Started in San Francisco," by V. Vale, formerly of the legendary proto-heavy metal band Blue Cheer and founder of the punk art magazine Search & Destroy, Kalifornia Kool, published in distant Stockholm, Sweden will serve for posterity as primary document preserving an important period of cultural history in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally, too.
Recommended for: Teens; Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Know my Name               
by Chanel Miller
This powerful memoir, and the back story that surrounds it, makes for essential reading. The courage with which the author speaks and the poignancy and honesty with which she describes the emotional consequences of the violence she experienced against her makes for mesmerizing reading. The book has propelled the author into the international feminist arena to which she brings her powerfully personal and inspiringly honest voice to the movement.           
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Lost Children Archive
by Valeria Luiselli
A family of four takes a slow-moving road trip from New York City to Arizona, so that the parents can pursue their individual documentary projects. The book features multiple story lines that are both engrossing and tragic. It also incorporates photos, poetry, songs, and audio books in a way that made me feel like I was right there in the car with them!  It's a beautiful, well-written novel.            
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Sara DuBois, Coordinator, Grants & Volunteers           

Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Desirina Boskovich
Speculative storytelling has over its long history struggled to be recognized as work to be taken seriously by critics and literate society as a whole. Much of it is easy to dismiss as little more than hack writing designed to make a writer a quick buck and to take the reader onto an escapist flight of fancy. Lost Transmissions deftly, and with visual splendor, illustrates how speculative storytelling is much more than that, and demonstrates how it has embedded itself into all forms of expression, from the late Renaissance-period Latin prose of Johannes Kepler to the worlds of high fashion, the Afro-futurist pop music of Janelle Monáe and the singular experiences of virtual reality technology. Adding to the intrigue of the book are scatterings of contributions by third parties, such as Neil Gaiman's "On Virconium," Annalee Newitz on "X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene and Punk Rock Science Fiction," etc.              
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Mostly Dead Things
by Kristen Arnett
As one reviewer put it, "Kristen Arnett's 'Mostly Dead Things' is the lesbian Florida taxidermy family novel you never knew you needed." Arnett's debut work made the NY Times bestseller list, among other honors, drawing readers in with its dark humor and complex characters. Set in the author's home state of Florida, this book is a raw, strange, and compelling read.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Anna Graves, Librarian, Main

Mostly White
by Alison Hart
The writing draws you into this family herstory and captures your imagination. The story isn't easy to read at times, but the perseverance and strength of the women gives one hope.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: J B, Library Assistant, Martin Luther King

Olive, Again
by Elizabeth Strout         
This is a follow-up to Strout's award-winning "Olive Kitteridge," and so you'll want to read these two books in order. Both books are a series of short stories with recurring and connected characters. Olive and the other inhabitants of Crosby, Maine will melt your heart and horrify you -- all at the same time. No matter how you feel about Olive, you will certainly never forget her!  
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Sara DuBois, Coordinator, Grants & Volunteers           

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong
This beautifully written memoir from Vietnamese-American writer, Ocean Vuong, is meant to be savored slowly so readers can enjoy the poetic but fierce experiences he describes to us.   Ocean, who is affectionately called "Little Dog", recounts his sometimes difficult childhood growing up in Connecticut such as the bullying he endured as a child. His mother is a complicated one, suffering from PTSD which sometimes results in child abuse but at least he also has his grandmother (who suffers from Schizophrenia). Ocean, as he grows into a teen, realizes he is gay and begins a heartfelt romance with one of his fellow workers on a farm. This book has humor as well and Ocean deftly takes the reader on a magical journey, flashing back and forth from his life in Hartford to his childhood in Vietnam.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Pete Villasenor, Branch Manager, Cesar Chavez Library

Red at the Bone
by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson's deft prose brings several generations of a Black American family to life in her most recent novel. Red at the Bone encompasses nearly a century of living and embraces the perspectives of several members of a family as they share love, tragedy, joy, grief, time, and space.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

Red, White, and Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
What if the son of the U.S. president fell head over heels for the prince of England? With a sideslip through alternate history, this witty queer romance charms readers with realistic dialogue and email banter worthy of The West Wing. Though it's not my usual chick-lit jam, I laughed and cried and wished hard for a world where this fairytale could come true. I'm looking forward to more from this author! Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Remy, Children's Librarian, Elmhurst

Shortest Way Home
by Pete Buttigieg
This book is fascinating and different from many books I have read. It talks about the 2020 presidential candidate's personal life as a Harvard student, military officer and the mayor of South Bend, a city not many have heard of including me. I love that he has an impressive background as a Harvard graduate, Navy veteran and mayor. I enjoyed the way he started talking about making his way up until becoming mayor—even after losing for state treasurer, he did not give up on his dream in politics. I really admire this guy and would be disappointed if he doesn't win the 2020 Elections.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Qaher Samrin, Library Aide   

Slavery's Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation
by edited by Dionne Ford and Jill Strauss              
2019 was the year I dug into my family's history and discovered slaveholding ancestors, from Southern states and Northern colonies: a lot to reckon with. I am grateful for the essays in Slavery's Descendants, by white and black members of Coming to the Table, a national organization "for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery." CTTT encourages starting with family research: most of the white essayists found evidence (as I did) of slaveholding in ancestors' wills, or in the nameless slave censuses of 1850 or 1860; the black essayists often knew more family stories ran into walls finding other documentation. All described grappling with the legacy of slavery; some even built ongoing relationships with "linked descendants", who share ancestry across slaveholders and the people they enslaved. The organization, and the possibilities for growth toward reconciliation, are inspiring. (P.S. If you want to dig into your own family history, try OPL's genealogy resources and the hints in the back of this book.)  
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Lisa Hubbell, Librarian I, TPT 

The Snakes
by Sadie Jones
Sadie Jones' latest novel traces the misfortunes of a young married couple from London, Bea and Dan, during a summer trip to France. While visiting Bea's troubled brother in Burgundy, Bea and Dan are thrown into a family crisis. Meeting up with her estranged parents, whose values are abhorrent to her, Bea is forced to reassess her own marriage and attitude to her family's vast wealth accumulated through her father's property development. Themes of economic disparity, gentrification, sexual abuse and race infuse a suspenseful story. Part thriller, part family drama and murder mystery, this is a gripping and disturbing novel.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Stella Goodwin, Librarian, Main

So Much: Selected Poems Volume II 1990-2010 Notebook-Keyboard
by Pat Nolan

Following up on the first volume of his selected poems, published in 2018 from his typewritten manuscripts, ex-Oaklander Pat Nolan moves us closer to the present with the second volume, rendered into print from computer-generated manuscripts. This generous selection of his more recent work further solidifies his status as one of the West Coast's masters of the contemporary lyric poem. Heavily influenced by the Chinese poetry of the Tang Dynasty, the classical Japanese forms of tanga, the poets of the mid-twentieth century New York School (of Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, et al.) and the French avant-garde, Nolan represents a unique voice among his Northern California contemporaries. His verse reflects the relative remoteness of his physical environment, along the lower reaches of the Russian River in Sonoma County, and his relative obscurity as a literary figure, contributing to the refined and refreshing originality of his poetry.  
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

The Song of the Jade Lily
by Kirsty Manning
The Song of the Jade Lily begins in Europe on Kristallnacht and moves through time and space, crossing continents, seas, and decades. Kirsty Manning weaves together the stories of several characters each shaped differently by war, the making of family, and the challenges of peace.           
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

by Lupita Nyong'o           
This is a sweet story of encouragement and empowerment of a young girl.
Recommended for: Children, Families
Recommended by: J B, Library Assistant, Melrose                                                                                                             

They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker
This autobiography in graphic novel format begins when George Takei is 5 years old, and tells what happened in the 4 years when he and his Japanese family were unconstitutionally incarcerated in California during World War II. The descriptions stay true to the perspective of a child of about 8 or 9 years old, but include descriptions of his teenage years and adulthood; once he and his family are released, he continues to talk to his father about the traumatic time, and struggles to understand what happened. The descriptions of prejudice, racism, and abuse by the government and by white citizens will make the story very relevant to members of any other groups who are currently being unjustly incarcerated or who are witnessing it. Although it is probably aimed at older readers, 5- to 6-year-olds whose families have had a similar experience today might be able to relate to this very strongly. And any other individuals who aren't experiencing it and aren't even witnessing it shouldn't miss reading this. Parents can read it aloud to their children and explain how they are (or are not) taking the kinds of moral, generous, and loving actions that George's father seems to have taken over and over all his life. The wonderful black and white artwork is clear and lively; the characters have substantiality and uniqueness despite the simplicity of the images, covering this important topic beautifully with emotional resonance to fill a gap in school history books.
Recommended for: Children, Teens, Adults         
Recommended by: Erica Siskind, Children's Librarian, Rockridge Branch

Toil & Trouble: A Memoir
by Augusten Burroughs
In his latest memoir, Augusten Burroughs tells stories from his life and childhood by coming out as a witch and describing his experience of magick.  Burroughs' books are rich in visual imagery, honesty and emotion.  The stories are funny even as the characters experience isolation or sorrow.   I felt like a good friend came to visit and brought new secrets to share.    
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Library Director, Main Library

The Travelers
by Regina Porter
A nonlinear, sprawling story told in intricately intersecting vignettes is built around the lives of two families, one Black, one white, over the years between the 1950s and the Obama era. Absolutely devastating at times, always beautifully written, this lively book vividly portrays the lives of its characters while also illuminating issues of history, race, sexuality and place. My favorite character, Eloise, is a queer woman who, inspired by the fierce bravery of Bessie Coleman, becomes a pilot and travels the globe, finding personal satisfaction but always haunted by her first love. But this is just one of the many of the gripping stories that are woven into this novel in stories.           
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Trick Mirror
by Jia Tolentino
These essays by New Yorker Magazine writer, Jia Tolentino, are smart and thought-provoking. I was especially impressed with her commentary on living under capitalism as a young person in the United States.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Molly, Library Assistant, Elmhurst Branch

Trust Exercise
by Susan Choi
Trust Exercise isn't your typical coming-of-age novel--Susan Choi's latest work (recent winner of the National Book Award) has multiple narratives that challenge and captivate readers. Whose memory is most reliable, and what really happened to the characters as teenagers so many years ago? Choi's masterful storytelling will keep you thinking about her writing long after you put down the book.   
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Anna Graves, Librarian, Main

Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet              
by Will Hunt
Have you ever explored vacant subways, abandoned mines, or the dark culverts that connect our rivers? Urban Explorer Will Hunt has written the book Underground, which examines life beneath our very feet, including art installations found in the Catacombs of Paris, the ancient bacteria that thrives deep below our earth's surface, or the strange phenomena referred to as "mole men" who have an insatiable and almost primal need to burrow into the underground. Underground is a fascinating and adventurous read loaded with eccentric characters and interesting facts about a world beneath our world.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Ryan Lindsay, Library Assistant, Rockridge

The Undying
by Anne Boyer
Author Anne Boyer, a poet and associate professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, was 41 when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Boyer chronicles a journey in the footsteps of fellow writers such as Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and others who have also shared their experiences with cancer. The book expands on illness under capitalism, as metaphor, in time, and its effects on physical and mental being—touching on topics contemporary discourse on survival hasn't reached before. As reviews have claimed, it's an "undoing of the corporate pink ribbon" that reconstructs what affliction in the public imagination is and can be.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Patricia L. Villon, Library Aide, PPT, Golden Gate

A Voice of the Warm: The Life of Rod McKuen
by Barry Alfonso
The author encapsulates Rod McKuen's legacy in a single sentence late in the book: "Rod McKuen was often accused of sugarcoating the world for mass consumption." That he did and he did it very lucratively. Many reading this may be completely baffled, failing to recognize McKuen's name and be puzzled why a book would be written about someone so unknown. But at the height of his career, McKuen, of Oakland, was the most famous & most popular poet in the world. From our vantage here in Oakland, this biography provides a fascinating glimpse into life in this city when McKuen was launching his career on the airwaves as "The Lonesome Boy of KROW," the station formerly broadcasting at 960 on the AM radio dial from transmitters on the Oakland end of the Bay Bridge and at studios in downtown Oakland. When not on the air, he was exploring his homosexuality, his musical talents and his athletic aspirations in the Beat-era clubs and his rodeo arenas of northern California. This is a fascinating glimpse of a by-gone era.
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library

Waste Tide
by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu    
Compelling eco-dystopian science fiction, full of both action and gorgeous sentences. Silicon Isle is a dump for electronic waste, which underpaid workers sort on behalf of the wealthy clans that control the island. An American and his Chinese-American translator go there to broker a deal for an American recycling company, and the translator Kaizong becomes close to waste worker Mimi. The story oozes with sensory details of food, pollution, and physical ailments. While human thoughts and feelings remain in the forefront, some of the toxic waste is also nearly sentient. I had a hard time putting this one down, and fully expected it to be near the top of the holds list.
Recommended for: Teens, Adults
Recommended by: Lisa Hubbell, Librarian I TPT  

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
by Samra Habib
I really enjoyed reading this book. Samra Habib, the author, narrates her life with her family, growing up in Pakistan as an Ahmadi Muslim. Her family flees to Canada to escape religious persecution where she experiences poverty, bullying, and an arranged marriage.        
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Pilar Gigler, Library Aide, Elmhurst

When Aidan Became a Brother
by Kyle Lukoff
Kyle Lukoff's words combine with Kaylani Juanita's pictures to make When Aidan Became a Brother an engaging picture book. Integrating an older sibling's feelings around a new baby on the way with the story of a family's evolving understanding of gender, this is a welcome book on both topics.
Recommended for: Children, Families
Recommended by: Janine deManda, TPT Library Assistant, Floating

The Yellow House
by Sarah M. Broom
For anyone who loves New Orleans, Sarah M. Broom's memoir is a must-read. Digging deep into her family's history, Broom describes how she and her eleven siblings grew up in New Orleans East, an overlooked neighborhood far removed from the French Quarter. The book's title refers to a shotgun house her mother purchased in 1961 that served as the family's home until it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for nonfiction, The Yellow House addresses issues of race and class, and dispels mainstream mythologies about New Orleans. More than just a memoir, this book is a moving narrative about family and inequality in America.             
Recommended for: Adults
Recommended by: Anna Graves, Librarian, Main

What were your favorite books of 2019?