Solano County Library Staff Picks



My brilliant friend
The first book in the Neapolitan Series, My Brilliant Friend truly is a masterpiece. Set in Italy in the 1950s, this book begins the story of two friends whose lives are connected from when they meet as young girls in their poor neighborhood outside of Naples. Both girls are remarkably intelligent, but their paths diverge when one is allowed to continue her education while the other is sent to work in her family’s business. The book covers the girls’ lives through adolescence but their story continues through the next three books. The books are addicting. The characters are compelling and fascinating as is the setting the author creates. The story is violent and the characters are often brutal to each other. The reader gets a sense of what it must have been like living in Italy during the social and political upheavals of that time. The author has created a fascinating world in these books. Begin with this book and then continue the series.
Recommended by: Nancy R. Want it? 




I'm thinking of ending things
It's hard to describe this book without spoiling the story for the reader. Reid has written an unsettling, tense, suspenseful book that defies easy description. From the very start, you will be on edge but for reasons you can't quite define. The book seemingly moves back and forth through time as the narrator remembers events throughout her life, but the reader senses that all isn't as it seems. And it isn't. Take this book home, read it and enjoy the unsettling and disturbing story. And when you're finished, read it again to see the clues that you missed the first time.
Recommended by: Nancy R. Want it? 




I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids
This is a great book for teachers looking to create a positive classroom culture. Many of the author's suggestions can also be incorporated into creating a positive staff culture in one's place of business. So, it would be great for small business owners as well.
Recommended by: Juli H. Want it? 




The Obelisk Gate
This is how the world ends. The Stillness has been torn apart, a Season has begun. The last Season. Essun began her journey looking for her daughter. Instead, she found a community. And Alabaster Tenring. Alabaster has given her a task: to bring back the moon. To do this Essun must learn how to use the obelisks without being killed. Far away her daughter, Nassun, grows in power, learning from the Guardian Schaffa. But the Stone Eaters also want Nassun. With the Broken Earth Trilogy, Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin has built an intriguing world populated with complex characters and an exciting plot. The characters are fully realized, the world feels familiar, yet not. The story progresses naturally, The Obelisk Gate taking up immediately where the first book, The Fifth Season, ended. It is a perfect centerpiece, setting the reader up for what is sure to be an exhilarating finale. Jemisin is a refreshing voice in the science fiction/fantasy genre and definitely worth reading.
Recommended by: Sandy S. Want it? 




Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Duckworth's research has been featured in other psychologist's books, and in this title makes her research and that of others on the topic digestible and easy to understand. The evidence on how perseverance and passion, rather than talent, can help us to build more productive lives for ourselves and our children, is one that if we can shift towards as a culture can positively impact achievement in the workplace and in schools. With anecdotes and examples sprinkled throughout her book to entertain while she informs she lays out ideas and practices that will be beneficial to anyone who wants to learn to be more gritty.
Recommended by: Taaren S. Want it? 




The Hunger Pains: A Parody
Katniss Neverclean and Pita Malarkey are chosen to play in the Hunger Games reality television show. Both from the worst neighborhood of the districts, “The Crack,” they have to make difficult decisions in order to last throughout the games. Katniss is faced with the reality of an ever-threatening death, her romantic interests, and family peril. Although the storyline becomes a little boggy towards the end, The Harvard Lampoon creates an awkward and hilarious retort to the original. This parody on Suzanne Collin’s “Hunger Games” is a must read! “May da odds be eva in ya fava, mon!”
Recommended by: Nikki H. Want it? 




The Good Lie (DVD)
“The Good Lie” sheds light on the struggle that the Sudanese people endured in their Civil War. The film shadows Mamere, Jeremiah, Paul, and Abital’s journey from their Sudan Village to America. Being forced out of their village for fear of being massacred alongside their family, a group of Sudanese children face the dessert to find solace. After enduring weeks of starvation, slaughter, and much uncertainty they arrive to a refugee camp in Kenya. Years later, they are among the few given asylum in America. Although this “saving grace” brings a new breath of hope, they are met with more disappointments and hurdles that they have not met before. What I love most about this journey of fear, uncertainty, hope, restoration and redemption is that it unveils the stock the human race has to overcome famine, poverty, war and death. It is encouraging to see those with less to overcome so much and it gives me hope that though what I may go through may be minuscule to their pains, that I can keep my head up when I face struggles knowing they, and so many others, made it.
Recommended by: Nikki H. Want it? 




How To Hang a Witch
Teenager Samantha Mather and her stepmother move to her father’s ancestral home in Salem, where he lies hospitalized in a mysterious coma. She soon discovers that although 300 years have passed since one of her relatives initiated the infamous Witch Trials, local descendants of the victims still harbor a malicious grudge. Finding herself at the center of a centuries old curse about to replay itself, she races against time to break the chain of events that are, once again, causing residents to die. Will her father be next? Spells, ghosts, frightening visions and intrigue abound in this engaging allegory likening bullying to a modern-day witch hunt.
Recommended by: C.S. C. Want it? 




Plants and landscapes for summer-dry climates of the San Francisco Bay region
There's no end to the drought in site, so many Californians are choosing to landscape their yards with drought tolerant options. This book is a valuable resource to discover plants that will do well in our specific climate.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 




This is a great resource that explains the origins of the city of Fairfield in photos. One interesting fact about the book that you can't discover from the cover or description on the back is that there is an in-depth history of the public library that spans several pages. This was a great find! I also consider this required reading for potential library students.
Recommended by: Johnny P. Want it? 




Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News
Interesting history of the 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles' War of the World and its aftermath. It's also the history of radio from it's earliest beginnings right up to today and the life of Orson Welles himself. Very engaging, readable, and hard to put down.
Recommended by: Juli H. Want it? 




Eye in the Sky (DVD)
Eye in the Sky is the late Alan Rickman's final film, and is definitely one worth watching. A brilliant war film that keeps you wondering what is going to happen next, while asking questions about the costs of war.
Recommended by: Mychal T. Want it? 




The Cure for Dreaming
Cat Winters has a knack for making her readers feel like they’ve been dropped right into important moments in history, from the horrors of the Spanish Influenza to the hope of the Underground Railroad. In The Cure for Dreaming, we get a glimpse inside the Woman’s Suffrage Movement through the eyes of a girl named Olivia with quite a horrific twist. At her father’s order, Olivia is hypnotized to “see the world as it is”. From then on, Olivia sees the nature of a person through nightmarish visions: a cruel person might look like a gruesome fanged monster, an oppressed woman might appear so drained of spirit that Olivia can see right through her. While it’s a terrifying experience, she finds strength in it and is driven to make an important mark on the suffrage movement. This is a great historical psychological thriller, but also a perfectly creepy Halloween read!
Recommended by: Becky V. Want it? 




Blood Orange
Blood Orange is the 24th in the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. You might expect that the series would be losing steam by now, but it’s still going strong. In Blood Orange, China Bayles, former lawyer turned herbalist, confronts the disappearance of a nurse who is renting China’s guest cottage, and the growing suspicion that something is not quite right in the local Pecan Springs hospice. When the nurse calls China to say she has information about the hospice and then dies after being run off the road, China and her friends investigate the possibility that it was murder. All the while, China worries about her husband, a private investigator. What is this job which has taken him to El Paso? Is he in danger? Is he spending time with a former lover in El Paso? Is he even in El Paso?
Recommended by: Teri S. Want it? 




Dark Matter
Brilliant and engrossing exploration of what could happen if people could explore the path less taken. The main character, a physicist at a local college, finds himself in a world where another version of himself has found a way to tap into the multiverse and can get to worlds where different versions of the physicist made different choices resulting in a different universe. His journey to get back to his world with the family that he chose is a compelling, fascinating one that you should try. One of the best science fiction books I've read this year.
Recommended by: Taaren S. Want it? 




African Americans in Vallejo
This is a great overview of African American history in the city of Vallejo. The book also explains why many African American migrated from southern states to California during the Great Migration. This book also gives some insight on my family history.
Recommended by: Johnny P. Want it? 




The Last Kingdom (DVD)
The Last Kingdom is a British TV show adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon stories. It chronicles the life of Uhtred who was born a Saxon but raised by Viking Danes. I enjoyed taking a step-back into the time of the Vikings. Good script and acting as well....a great "binge" watch.
Recommended by: Jana C. Want it? 




Bullies: A Friendship
This book is part memoir, part history of Oakland, and chronicle of the East Bay Rats Motorcycle Club. It is a crazy ride that left me unsettled but engrossed in the organized violence of their clubhouse ring fights and street racing.
Recommended by: Heather C. Want it? 




The Illegal
Keita Ali, an elite athlete from the fictional land of Zantoroland, is an undocumented immigrant to Freedom State who is struggling to survive and compete. Although this very familiar story takes place in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where no land mass actually exists, both islands come to life in a way that could be ripped from the headlines.
Recommended by: Tim M. Want it? 




The Good Son
Former circus performer—and famous, but controversial author—Sonia Laghari plans a world peace symposium in the Kashmir region of Pakistan, but she and her esteemed guests are kidnapped en route. Trained in Jungian psychotherapy, Sonia translates dreams for the kidnappers while negotiating her survival. Back in the States…Sonia’s son Theo arranges for a specials forces strike to rescue her. The suspense is enough to keep you going, but Gruber’s novels always add a cross-cultural, anthropological aspect to the story.
Recommended by: Tim M. Want it? 




Welcome to Night Vale
Night Vale is a small town somewhere in the desert. Time doesn't always work right and all conspiracy theories are true. The Welcome to Night Vale podcast is well done and the book really expands on that world. It was a weird and quirky read...much like the town itself. I recommend both the book and the podcast.
Recommended by: Juli H. Want it? 




The Artist (DVD)
One of my favorite films of recent years is silent. Maybe you’ve heard of it. The Artist (2011) is a silent film about silent films. It takes place in the late twenties when silent films were on the way out and “talkies” were the new rage. And some silent film stars, like George Valentin (played by Academy Award winner, Jean Dujardin), were not able to make the transition successfully. This is also a love story, a rags to riches story, and, most importantly, a good story. It also stars Berenice Bejo as George’s love interest, as well as some great supporting actors such as John Goodman, James Cromwell and (my favorite) Uggie, the dog (who really should’ve won Best Supporting Actor, or, at least Best Supporting Animal). Besides Dujardin’s award for Best Actor, The Artist also won Best Picture and Best Director – all well-deserved. Since “talkies” have been around for almost 90 years, some might think a silent film would be difficult to follow or understand for a modern audience. But since the story is so well done and the subtitles are even easier to read than this review, hopefully others besides me will watch and love and cheer loudly for this silent film.
Recommended by: Dan R. Want it? 




An Incomplete Revenge: A Maise Dobbs Novel
I was immediately absorbed into book 5 of the Maise Dobbs series. Though not her most recent bestseller, there is a comfortable melancholy to this character’s post WWI descriptions. The very nature of dialogue creates a clinging atmosphere as she investigates still another mystery that is anything but straightforward. What starts off as a matter concerning a land purchase becomes far more convoluted, as much so as the community and the people of the area. What seems like a nice county village really has a secret that saturates everyone. As Maise brilliantly chips away at the underlying concerns, her case becomes far more intriguing. People are dead and Maise needs to know why and how. As any fan would agree, Winspear weaves her characters and history with true style and passion, and most importantly with a respect for all those who her pen touches.
Recommended by: Jennifer M. Want it? 




How Children Succeed
How Children Succeed is an open letter to educators, administrators, and parents condensing and connecting much of the science that has been uncovered over the last few decades on how to best apply society's energy and funding into today's youth. It explores methods that work, and some that don't, in order to give us a clearer road map to building a better future for each generation of children by maximizing their potential by looking at how social and physical factors influence brain development. Accessible and enlightening.
Recommended by: Taaren S. Want it? 




The Boston Girl (audiobook)
This entertaining novel is structured as an interview given by 85 year-old grandmother to her granddaughter. Addie Baum talks about her life as the daughter of Jewish immigrants in the beginning of the twentieth century, a life span that encompasses women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, two world wars, and so much more. While these historical events are mentioned in the context of this person’s life it is mainly a very personal story and Addie reminisces about her family’s heartaches and joys and reminds us how different life was for women one hundred years ago. She had to fight to get an education and her pluck enabled her to land some interesting jobs. After reading about Addie’s stint as a columnist for the ladies section of a Boston newspaper I read some historical articles from the Vallejo Chronicle on microfilm. While recognizing how restricted women’s lives were it was still fun to read about the luncheons, teas, parties, and occasional lectures that made up the society pages of that time. Listening to the narration by award-winning actress Linda Lavin was a great pleasure.
Recommended by: Sabine S. Want it? 






See the newsletter...


Non Fiction


See the newsletter...