Solano County Library Staff Picks



This is one of the first Japanese movies to make a splash outside of Japan (1950). It is an intriguing way to present a story, which involves a murder. We hear about the incidents that led up to the murder from various people who were involved in the incident or were eyewitnesses. They each tell a different tale. So viewers are left to interpret things for themselves because we have no way of knowing what the “truth” is. Beautifully filmed.
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 




Brown Girl Dreaming
Nothing I can say here will do justice to this poetic rendering of the author’s childhood. To grow up in South Carolina and New York in the 1960’s and 70’s was to grow up in two very different worlds. Through her story, we are reminded that from a young age, we search for identity, purpose, and home. A well-deserved National Book Award Winner.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 




When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses
Meet intriguing creatures defending themselves in unbelievable ways. Here you’ll find newts that can use poisonous ribs to defend themselves, as well as critters that can squirt blood or extremely foul feces to keep predators at bay.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 




The Boy who Lived with the Bears: And Other Iroquois Stories
November is Native American Heritage Month. Remembering my ancestors through stories and food will always bring a sense of nostalgia, a time to reflect on those I’ve lost and to give thanks for what they endured. Joseph Bruchac is a renowned storyteller and author from the Abenaki tribe. Storytelling is more than just entertainment; it’s a connection to the past and a guide to the future. Readers will enjoy life lessons told through rabbit, fox, bear and turtle. These are more than just stories; they are examples for us to live by. Reading Bruchac’s introduction reminds me that the Native American culture still brings peace to a warring world.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it? 




Enna Burning (audiobook)
Sequel to The Goose Girl, the story continues with the character Enna as the protagonist, who learns the language of fire and struggles with her desire to burn. Put on by Full Cast Audio, I could see the story so vividly in my mind. Every character has its own voice and occasional music sets the story’s tone. My usual habit is to listen to audiobooks during my commute. I found myself listening while parked in my garage after my commute was over and sneaking in my car during lunches to get in another couple of chapters. I recommend to those who love stories that are extensions of fairy tales.
Recommended by: Katrina L. Want it? 




The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
War is dangerous but the African-Americans stationed at Port Chicago, California were not lacking in bravery. They wanted to serve their country but racist policies and lack of essential training on loading munitions put them at risk. After 300 sailors were killed in an explosion at the docks, the Port Chicago 50 refused to return to work under the same hazardous conditions. They were court martialed and threatened with a firing squad. Award-winning author Sheinkin brings to light a little known chapter of history that is of special interest to readers interested in local history.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 




Patrick Marber’s play “Closer” offers an unflinching look at romance and sexual politics. Anna, Dan, Alice and Larry are caught in a romantic quadrangle that tests each person’s need for closeness. In their pursuit for love, each person abandons their own sense of truth and morality. Some people may be more familiar with the film version starring Clive Owen and Natalie Portman; however, the play contains intriguing scenes that were omitted in the film version.
Recommended by: Jonathan W. Want it? 




The Innocent
Will Robie is a professional assassin for the U.S. government. Something about his latest mission, though, doesn’t seem right. He does the unthinkable. He refuses to kill. Fleeing from his own “handlers,” Robie crosses paths with a 14-year old runaway. The more Robie learns about the girl, the more he’s convinced she’s at the center of a vast cover up. Author Baldacci infuses his lead character with a strong humanity that has you feeling for his plight as Robie questions his allegiances, his profession and his solitary life. Is he going to give up The Life before life gives up on him? Fast paced and good.
Recommended by: Yvette K. Want it? 




Night Train (DVD)
I guess the films of the Polish School (late '50s, early '60s) aren't too popular in the U.S. Night Train is not even available in U.S. format from Amazon--but you can get it here at the library, folks! The film is expertly shot and the story compelling. Two strangers share a sleeping compartment, and during the night the police stop the train to look for a murderer.
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 




Paths of Glory (DVD)
While not as famous as certain other Kubrick films, this is a truly brilliant condemnation of war. It exposes some of the corrupt, cowardly, criminal actions that can occur in the upper ranks of the military. Crisp and taut. Kirk Douglas does a fine job. Intense!
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 




Alone On The Ice
Alone on the Ice chronicles the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1912-1914, and in particular the stunning feat of expedition leader Douglas Mawson and his incredible journey across 300 miles of Antarctic ice, much of the journey alone. It is a tale of heroism and still stands as one of the greatest polar adventures.
Recommended by: Sandy S. Want it? 




Day of the Triffids
Often and surprisingly overlooked, John Wyndham’s 1951 classic The Day of the Triffids is a post-apocalyptic story similar to many of today’s fan favorites (The Walking Dead, The Road, The Stand). On one remarkable night, the majority of the earth’s population plays spectator to a tremendous meteor shower. Fortunately for Englishman Bill Masen—who lays indisposed in the hospital with his eyes bandaged—this spectacle goes completely unobserved,and he is now one of the few humans on earth not suffering from the meteor shower’s side effects—blindness! As Bill makes his way through chaos and confusion in London’s city streets, he slowly realizes the blind are the least of his worries. He must also watch out for the Triffids—a biologically engineered race of carnivorous plants. When cultivated by mankind, the Triffids serve a wonderful commercial purpose, but now that devastation has struck, the humans have become prey to the Triffid’s appetite. Although laughable in concept, with outdated gender roles, this book remains a gripping and believable cautionary tale from the cold-war era.
Recommended by: Ryan K. Want it? 


"Defiance" is an appealing post-alien invasion, frontier town story. If you enjoyed "Firefly," I suspect you’ll be hooked on "Defiance" quicker than Irathient Irisa can hurl a blade. You’ll get that reference soon…
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


The Painter
The Painter had me transfixed through the entire tale. It’s a rare novel that blends nature, violence, art and humanity in such a riveting package.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


To be a Princess: The Fascinating Lives of Real Princesses
Princesses don’t live only in fairytales. These twelve real princesses are presented with breathtakingly beautiful portraits of their families. From Queen Elizabeth to the brave Ka’iulani, the Hawaiian princess who stood up in a foreign land to speak for the welfare of her people, to Gayatri “Ayesha” Devi, the first maharani to run for parliament--they were more than just beautiful girls—they were strong in character and compassionate towards their people.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it? 


Alice 19th. Volume 1, Lotis Master
A spin on Alice in Wonderland, Alice 19th is the tale of white rabbit turned half girl, sister-rivals, courage, strength and true love— the story of a shy and overlooked high school student learning to stand up for herself.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it? 


If you Happen to Have a Dinosaur
If you happen to need a suggestion for a dinosaur book-- and if there are small people in your life then that's a given-- why, give this delightful tale a whirl!
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


Some say this is a better, more mature work than Jane Eyre. I can't disagree. While it doesn't have the dazzling plot elements of Jane Eyre, Villette's characters and the dynamics between them are more nuanced. Fascinating!
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 


Act One
For anyone who has loved the theater, or had a dream, this is a laugh-out-loud story of Moss Hart’s trip from an impoverished Brooklyn childhood to go-fer job on Broadway to becoming the dashing playwright known for “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “You Can’t Take it With You.” He is HILARIOUS! “LOL” sounds strange for a book over 50 years old, but his cringe-worthy humiliations and eventual triumphs feel just as real now as when they occurred. I guarantee, you will laugh out loud. The book was recently made into a play. The reviews are good, but the play doesn’t begin to capture the joy and pain of the book. Read the book, then see the play.
Recommended by: Ann M. Want it? 


The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
This account of the people who saved priceless works of art from friendly fire, looting and theft by the Nazis is an interesting read about an effort unknown to most people till the George Clooney movie was released. The writing is a little uneven but it's worth reading in order to learn about these unlikely “soldiers” and the extensive loot the Nazis collected. The movie, on the other hand, was a sappy joke. Read the book, it’s better.
Recommended by: Ann M. Want it? 


Orphan Black (DVD)
This offering from BBC America is my new guilty pleasure. I only hope that actress Tatiana Maslany can maintain her brilliant portrayals of clones for several more seasons!
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
The account of passengers on a train stranded at the small town of Wellington, Washington on the rail route through the Cascade Mountains in late February 1910. Many died when an avalanche forces the train down a ravine after five days of snow storm after snow storm. An intense, breathtaking read.
Recommended by: Juli H. Want it? 


The Double Bind: A Novel
This is a page-turning mystery about a search for the identity of a drifter who leaves behind a stunning photograph collection. It is also a sympathetic look at mental illness and the instability that can occur after trauma. The book was inspired by a real-life photographer who struggled with mental illness and homelessness. His photographs punctuate the chapters, you will not be able to put this book down.
Recommended by: Ann M. Want it? 


The Goldfinch: An Novel
This book is completely immersing. A great book to get lost in on vacation. After surviving a traumatic event, the main character moves from the art world and New York society to gamblers in Las Vegas and gangsters in Europe. The book is beautifully written, you will be able to paint every scene in your imagination while turning the pages long into the night to find out what happens next.
Recommended by: Ann M. Want it? 


Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
I expected more insider gossip and behind-the-scenes Washington from this book, instead I found a straight-shooting account of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honest and straightforward yes, but at times a little boring. Anyone who aspires to a leadership position would do well to read this book. Gates is a smart and loyal bureaucrat, who never loses touch with the people he puts in harm’s way. Reading this book helps me keep the big picture in focus and not be distracted by personal squabbles. His thoughts on keeping a game face during congressional hearings was illuminating, apparently it is as difficult as it looks.
Recommended by: Ann M. Want it? 


The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
This is not a book that you read for beauty of language or intriguing plot, but rather for insight into the mind of a teen who desperately wants to be understood and to connect to the world around him. Children, teens, and adults might all find this title of interest.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


Here comes Destructosaurus!
Quake at the preschool-esque temper of Destructosaurus! If your wee one wants Godzilla and that's a bit much, try this on for size.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 


Temple Grandin (DVD)
This movie is based on the real life of Temple Grandin. If you’re unfamiliar with her story, it’s quite interesting. My complaint about many such biopics is that they are too Hollywood-ized, smoothed over and predictable. This one, however, is better than the average. There’s often something a bit odd about Claire Danes’ performances—in a good way. Her odd intensity proves perfect for her role in this film—even if she is too attractive for the part!
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 


An innovative and very approachable presentation of gravity for young children. The multicultural characters and bold illustrations make this an excellent choice for introducing children to science.
Recommended by: Natasha N. Want it? 

A Long Walk to Water
An eleven-year-old boy escapes death and warfare by walking across the Akobo desert. Salva lives in an Ethiopian refugee camp with thousands of other Sudanese people. When the camp closes, the Sudanese people are forced into crocodile infested water. Those who survived the crocodile attacks risked drowning or being shot. Salva survives and leads over 1200 boys to a new camp across the desert. Some of the surviving “Lost Boys of Sudan” were brought America. Salva lived with a new family, learned English and attended college. This is the story of Salva Dut, the founder of Water for Sudan, a non-profit organization responsible for building dozens of wells for the impoverished Sudanese people.

Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it?

Alice in Wonderland with a dark, gothic twist, meet Alice’s (or so they say) great-great…granddaughter. The females in the family are cursed. Morpheus, the caterpillar is tall, beautifully woven–a seductive character. You will fall in love all over again with the twisted characters. I can’t write the words to describe the dark beauty this book portrays. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it?

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
I had to read this book! I love Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. This is the story of Alexander Dumas’s father, Thomas Alexander Dumas, a Count in his own right, a black general in the military and the son of a slave. This infamous man broke racial boundaries, powered his way into military ranks and led his men with a vigor that rivals Olympians and Gladiators in battle. He was the real deal, an absolutely fascinating man. Read the story of the Black Count and you’ll get a glimpse of Alexander Dumas’s inspiration.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it?

Mrs. Roopy is Loopy
The Dewey Decimal System, that strange system those weird library people use to put books about horses, history and dinosaurs together. I’ve heard many people explain it to kids but this is the first time I’ve listening to it with entertainment. Dan Gutman teaches kids about the Dewey Decimal System by weaving a hilarious tale about a librarian of many “characteristics.” Students interact with this strange librarian while characters from history mysteriously plop into their world. Reading it is fun but listening to it on audiobook is hilarious, it screams car trip.
Recommended by: Vanessa C. Want it?




See the newsletter...


Non Fiction

What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions


See the newsletter...