Seek the Unknown

Have you checked out the libraries eBook and eAudio collections lately? If not, you are in for a treat. One of the few silver linings of the current times in the library world, is the growing collections of electronic materials due to the emphasis on eFormats. The Everett Public Library is no exception and has added a lot of excellent new content. 

There are lots of great curated lists of titles on our Overdrive site, but I was particularly excited to find the collection, Seek the Unkown: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads. Like many lately, I’ve been in need of reading distractions and Science Fiction is my go to genre when I want to avoid the current situation at maximum warp. Here are a few of the titles that I’m particularly looking forward to downloading, complete with descriptions from the catalog.  

The Preserve by Ariel Winter 

Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered. 

Bright and Dangerous Objects by Anneliese MacKintosh 

Commercial deep-sea diver Solvig has a secret. She wants to be one of the first human beings to colonize Mars, and she’s one of a hundred people shortlisted by the Mars Project to do just that. But to fulfil her ambition, she’ll have to leave behind everything she’s ever known—for the rest of her life. 

The Light Years by R.W.W. Greene 

Hisako Saski was born with her life already mapped out. In exchange for an education, better housing for her family, and a boost out of poverty, she’s been contracted into an arranged marriage to Adem Sadiq, a maintenance engineer and amateur musician who works and lives aboard his family’s sub-light freighter, the Hajj. 

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn 

Wealthy participants in the ‘companionship’ program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people–a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway by Una McCormack 

Kathryn Janeway reveals her career in Starfleet, from her first command to her epic journey through the Delta Quadrant leading to her rise to the top as vice-admiral in Starfleet Command. Discover the story of the woman who travelled further than any human ever had before, stranded decades from home, encountering new worlds and species. 

These are just a few of the titles that caught my eye. Be sure to check out the full list for even more intriguing titles. Happy reading! 

Spot-Lit for February 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts

Spot-Lit for January 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts

Best of List Bonanza

As this strange, at times chaotic, and unprecedented year comes to an end, take heart (or not) in one constant that cannot be altered: The best of (insert year here) book list. 2020 has produced a bumper crop of these lists, maybe because many of us have had more time at home to read this year.  

Whatever the reason, wading through them all can be daunting. If you want to dip your toe in the ‘best reads of 2020’ waters, here is a selection of the major lists that have come out so far. And never forget, almost all of these titles are available from the Everett Public Library

First and foremost, and admittedly we could be a little biased here, you need to check out our very own Spot-Lit posts on A Reading Life. Every month, Spot-Lit highlights some of the most anticipated new fiction releases based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm. You can access all of the 2020 recommendations, complete with links to the catalog, from the Notable New Fiction 2020 list. 

Newspapers and news outlets are the mainstay of the Best of Lists, and this year is no exception: 

New York Times 100 Most Notable Books 

Washington Post Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction 

Los Angeles Times 10 Best Books of 2020 

USA Today Best Books of 2020 

NPR Staff Picks of 2020 

Magazines and media figures have also been busy compiling: 

Oprah Magazine Best Books of 2020 

Time Magazine 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 

Vanity Fair 15 Best Books of 2020 

Bill Gates 5 Good Books for a Lousy Year 

New Yorker The Best Books We Read in 2020 

And, of course, the literary & book world outlets have plenty of lists to peruse: 

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2020 

Library Journal Best Books 2020 

Literary Hub Our 65 Favorite Books of the Year 

Book Riot Best Books of 2020 

Pacific Northwest Booksellers 2021 Book Awards Shortlist (all published in 2020) 

Finally, it can be fun to view Best of Lists from other countries to gain a different perspective: 

The Guardian Best Books of 2020 

Canadian Broadcast Company Best Canadian Fiction of 2020 

BBC The Best Books of the Year 2020

So can anything good be said of this wretched outgoing year? Perhaps not. But at least it produced some great books for us to read as we move onward and upward. 

Survival of the Fittest

Reading dystopian novels during a pandemic? Maybe that’s the last thing you’d want to do right now, or maybe you find courage and inspiration in reading about how people survive harrowing situations. Dystopian is defined in the Oxford Dictionary:

relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice

Personally, I love survival stories of all kinds, and a favorite book of 2020 renewed my interest in the genre.

“I love building worlds – I think it’s one of my favorite parts of writing.” So says author Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness. Cook certainly succeeded in building a fascinating world and a gripping story about survival, sacrifice, and relationships challenged by this tough world. I was thrilled to find out the book was a finalist for The Booker Prize. (The prize was awarded to another book, Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart.) I agree completely with what Roxana Gay says about Cook’s debut novel “I was entirely engrossed in this novel. I didn’t want to leave it…” Learn more about the book by watching this video.

What is it about The New Wilderness that really stuck with me? I checked Novelist (featured in this blog post) to see how they describe it:

Genre: Dystopian fiction; Literary fiction; Multiple perspectives
Character: Complex
Storyline: issue-oriented
Tone: Darkly humorous; Suspenseful; Thought-provoking
Writing style: Compelling; Descriptive

If these descriptors sound good to you, take a look at these dystopian/survival favorites of mine from over the years. All of these titles, like The New Wilderness, left a lasting memory in my mind of their worlds.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood must be at the top of the list because it sparked my fascination with this genre (plus Atwood is just amazing overall). In the Republic of Gilead, male dominance has returned with a vengeance and women are relegated to a handful of truly horrible roles from Commanders’ wives to colony slaves. Don’t miss the Hulu series, which you can check out from the library!

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The world has been devastated by a pandemic, and outdoorsman Hig is surviving in an abandoned airport. He loves his dog, misses his wife, and has conversations with his weapons hoarding neighbor, while fighting off marauding bands of desperate savages. He also occasionally takes his small plane out to search for more survivors, and one day hears a voice on the radio. Library Journal describes the book: “In spare, poetic prose, [Heller] portrays a soaring spirit of hope that triumphs over heartbreak, trauma, and insurmountable struggles.”

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag is another climate change related book in which the ice caps have melted, raising the sea level so high that only mountains are left above water. Most of life is spent traveling by boat, trying to find enough to eat, and hoping to find some place on land not under the control of ruthless gangs of pirate types. Myra and her 7 year old daughter, barely making a living by fishing, hear a rumor that Myra’s oldest daughter, stolen by her ex and presumed dead, may be living in an encampment in the far north. The two embark on a perilous journey. Booklist describes it thus: “Anchored by a complicated, compelling heroine, this gripping, speculative, high-seas adventure is impossible to put down.”

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is the first in a four part young adult series which, despite being published 14 years ago, stays with me to this day. The moon has been knocked off course by a meteor and an extreme winter sets in. As the situation gets more and more dire, 16 year old Miranda and her family tries everything they can think of to stay alive. Publisher’s Weekly wrote in 2006: “…readers will find it absorbing from first page to last. This survival tale…celebrates the fortitude and resourcefulness of human beings during critical times.”

Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
The California drought turns the landscape into mountains of sand, and a mass exodus ensues, with only a few hearty, pioneering types left behind. Former model Luz and AWOL Ray are squatting in an abandoned mansion when they encounter a strange little orphan girl. They take to the hills in search of a safer place to raise her. BookList describes their trek: “Their journey across the vast, ever-changing dunes is cosmic and terrifying as Watkins conjures eerily beautiful and deadly sandscapes and a cult leader’s renegade colony.”

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, does not fit perfectly into this genre, but definitely involves survival. Eight year old Peggy has been taken to the woods by her survivalist dad who claims the world has ended and they are the only two people left. Library Journal, in its Starred Review of the book concludes, “Though not always easy reading, Fuller’s emotionally intense novel comes to an unexpected but rewarding conclusion. Don’t let this gripping story pass you by.”

But this is just a beginning – there are so many other good dystopian and survival books out there. Our librarians have created a few collections you may enjoy: If You Liked The Handmaid’s Tale, and Pandemic Apocalypse Fiction. If you prefer nonfiction, check out this list of true survival stories.

EPL’s Virtual Book Club says Bah! Humbug! to 2020!

Books with a general winter theme are the focus of discussion at our next meeting of the library’s virtual book club (Stay Home, Stay Reading) December 28 from 6-7pm. Read any title–fiction or nonfiction–of your choosing inspired by winter. Nary a sprig of new spring growth takes center stage this month! On Monday, Dec. 28, join us when you like, and leave when you like during our open discussion.  

If it’s possible to love and hate a season, then winter is it for me. I detest this dark season; yet, I enjoy hibernating and reading (or listening to) stories with a wintertime setting–the genre doesn’t matter. Still I grew up in Las Vegas, and grabbing a heavy sweater if you went out was about it for outside winter prep. The past years, starting around the Winter Solstice, even the cat knows now to look for me on the couch under a blanket, book in hand. In terms of daylight, Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) in Everett is 7 hours, 34 minutes shorter than on the longest day of the year, June Solstice. Las Vegas is a mere 4 hours, 55 minutes shorter than its longest day. I continue to adapt. 

A book with a chilly setting seems to be more haunting, or it can add a layer of mystery–which sends shivers down my spine. Maybe it’s the short days? If you’re looking for a great winter read, consider that much of Russian literature takes place where there is often snowfall, from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy to Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Back in America, check out the snowy scenes in Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and an iceberg-cold lake in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Also known to fill an icy wintery vibe and be slow to unfold are those Scandinavian crime novels from authors such as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Snow muffles sound, I’ve noticed, and books set in snow settings are a bit quieter. Whenever it’s snowy, too quiet and I’m alone reading Stieg Larsson, I check to make sure the doors and windows are locked. 

This season it seems appropriate to read or re-read, watch or rewatch A Christmas Carol, the beloved 1843 novella by Charles Dickens. Since it’s Dickens, you can expect that living circumstances are squalid. With few exceptions, there is great difficulty getting by in life, including for Tiny Tim, a child who uses a crutch. He is seen as being symbolic of the consequences of the protagonist’s choices. Our protagonist and well-off miser, Ebenezer Scrooge of Bah! Humbug! fame, scorns openly those who have less:

Merry Christmas! What right have you for being merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.

It is Christmas Eve, and what happens to Scrooge that night is among the greatest stories set in winter. A Christmas Carol is not about a holiday as much as it is about redemption, being for the light and against darkness, and being a good person. It is an inner dialogue you can have with yourself at any time of year. 

This year has a lot in common with Scrooge, who is described by Dickens as:

….squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; a frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Scrooge and 2020 both give off a stench of sourpuss right up until the end when Scrooge has a reckoning, and one of 2020’s few bright spots is that a Covid vaccine has arrived or will soon. As I write this, today the first person in the Western world has received the vaccine–a 90-year-old British grandmother. In 2021, we can hope for a smooth, efficient roll out of the vaccine in the U.S. 

If you’re looking for A Christmas Carol, the library has a lot to offer. Whether you listen to the audiobook, read it digitally or in the physical book format; or watch one of its many adaptations for television and film over the years, it’s a delight to step away from 2020. Check out physical materials such as these television and film DVDs also.

Many versions have emerged as the story of saving Scrooge’s soul is re-imagined. For example: Scrooged starring Bill Murray, the 1938 film A Christmas Carol (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), the 1970 musical film Scrooge, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott, the 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol, and on Hoopla, the 1951 B&W classic A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim.

This season I plan to re-watch the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol that I have enjoyed many times, and I’ll read A Christmas Carol using, for the first time, a book I recently came across on a shelf at my apartment. It belonged to my mother, who died 25 years ago this Thanksgiving. The title was long gone from the spine, it was so worn. Her signature was on the inside page in pencil, Erna Mae Lueder. For the season, these two will be a good winter combo for me. What special title–winter or not–will you be reading or watching? 

If you need a few more December books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, We Met in December by Rosie Curtis, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy, The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

At the book club meeting, we will discuss whatever winter books you’ve been reading or read in the past: Dec. 28 at 6pm. 

To join the meeting, you’ll need a phone or a computer with internet access and a browser. No special software is required. Use this link: https://tinyurl.com/y5mhq3bk or call 425-616-3920 and use conference ID 919 910 778#

Spot-Lit for December 2020

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2020 | All On-Order Fiction | 2020 Debuts

New Craft Books

New books are arriving in droves right now at the library because we are at the end of our purchasing year, and those on the topic of arts and crafts are no exception.

Since we are definitely moving into that time of year when we are stuck indoors more often than not, how about learning a new art technique or craft to keep you busy during the long fall and winter months?

Some of the new arts and crafts books available on the shelves at the Main Library.

There are many different titles to choose from, so in an attempt to show the variety, I grabbed eight new books off the shelf to check them out. Take a look, and place some holds to pick up through curbside service!

Drawing with Fire : a Beginner’s Guide to Woodburning Beautiful Hand-lettered Projects and Other Easy Artwork by Aney Carver, starts off with this quote that I truly believe – we all can be creative.

“Millions of people spend their spare time watching television day in and day out, and most feel unsatisfied. Why? I’m convinced that everyone is hardwired to create and be creative in their own way, despite how they may feel about their creative aptitude. It all starts with a moment of inspiration that encourages us to think, I can do that; I can be creative! Of course you can! Now get up and let’s do it.”

Drawing with Fire has projects that are mostly focused on lettered signs, which would be a good way to learn the techniques and develop control.
Templates are provided in the back of the book and can be enlarged to fit your project.

Check it out and see if you aren’t a little tempted to try woodburning. I know I am, especially the eagle project.

Beginner’s Guide to Screen 
Printing : 12 Beautiful Printing 
Projects with Templates by Erin Lacy, explains screen printing at it’s simplest. Card stock can even be used as a stencil for the most basic designs. Information on screens, paints and inks, and fixing your design after printing are covered, and then the projects begin, which involve surfaces of clothing, fabric, and paper.
Templates are provided at the end of the book.

Garden Mosaics : 19 Beautiful 
Projects to Make for Your Garden
by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin has some gorgeous designs and projects to offer. The authors cover the direct and indirect methods of creating a design and explain surfaces and tesserae (the pieces of glass or tile used to create a mosaic design). While most of the projects employ the use of square and other simple shaped pieces, the designs are striking and professional looking.

Creative Alcohol Inks : a Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Amazing Effects by Ashley Mahlberg showcases the fascinating effects that can be achieved with this medium whether the surface being painted is tile, glass ornaments, special papers, or wood panels.

If you’ve never explored alcohol inks, check out this book and try one of the projects. You’ll probably soon be buying more inks and supplies than you can ever use.

The Woven Home : Easy Frame 
Loom Projects to Spruce Up Your Living Space by Rainie Owen features large and small projects ranging from camera straps to string bags to wall hangings.

There’s a section on how to make your own loom, and the projects are all pleasing to look at; in fact the whole book is beautifully photographed. Weaving can be a peaceful meditative pastime for these stressful times.

50 Knitted Wraps and Shawls by Marisa Noldeke features a real spread of wonderful, warm looking yet not too bulky creations. Instructions and charts are provided for each project.
The author states there are projects that are suited to those learning to knit up to more complex designs, and there are illustrations of both knit and crochet techniques in the front.
Not being a knitter, all I can say is I want them all, and may beg my coworker who is a knit and crochet whiz to make me one!

Macramé : Techniques and 
Projects for the Compete 
Beginner by Tansy Wilson and Sian Hamilton
Macramé comes and goes in style, and clearly it’s back in again. This book is full of a variety of projects; one of the most simple yet beautiful is a dip-dyed wall hanging attached to a driftwood branch. The authors seem to excel at using color to add depth to their works.
Other macramé artists and their works are featured as well.
This is another craft that you can lose yourself in and free your mind.

Crocheted Dogs by Vanessa Mooncie features patterns for ten different dog breeds to choose from: Dachshund, Border Terrier, French Bulldog, Labrador, Chihuahua, Dalmation, Spaniel, Yorkie, German Shepherd, and Poodle.
Each set of instructions is thorough and fills several pages. Materials, and stitches are explained in the back of the book, as is stuffing and sewing. Check it out and try creating your own miniature dog!

If you are yearning to create but don’t know where to start, remember the library and all the books waiting patiently to be checked out. Give us a call at 425-257-8000 if you need more help finding books on any subject – we will be glad to pull some for you and place them on hold for curbside pickup.

Books that Give Us Hope

“Have Hope, Stay Strong,” (Other Title, “Hope,”) was created by artist Giancarlo Mancuso and published by Amplifier in Seattle, 2020. Poster (left) shows a collage of illustrated images with a center circle reading: “Honor our heroes–Help fight against COVID-19–Help prevent spread–Stay home for those who can’t.”


Books that give us hope will be the uniting theme and focus of discussion at the next meeting of the library’s virtual book club (Stay Home, Stay Reading) November 23 from 6-7pm. Read any title–fiction or nonfiction–of your choosing inspired by this month’s theme.  

This month read a book that gives you hope. Winter is coming, and November represents the transition to it from the autumnal harvest season. Thanksgiving, a beloved holiday to many, is a day to reap the harvest and celebrate the bounty. Books that give us hope can make the transition to winter less cruel and dark, and remind us not to fear, for spring will follow. 

If you need a few more November books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles:

It’s Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan, fiction. “A close-knit group of 60-something black women deals with loss, illness, addicted family members, and the never-ending challenges of diet and exercise.” –Kirkus Reviews

All Adults Here by Emma Straub, fiction. “….a beach read for when you can’t get to the beach. …Family secrets come soothingly to light.” –Vox.com 

Humans by Brandon Stanton, nonfiction. “Just when we need it, ‘Humans’ reminds us what it means to be human.” –Washington Post

Keep Moving, Notes On Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith, nonfiction. Sage insights and advice to return to in times of confusion or loss.

Whether you prefer to read a book in a digital or physical format, options are available through the Everett Public Library. The library not only has eBooks and eAudiobooks, but also physical copies of titles, including audiobooks (on CD), playaways and graphic novels. 

Instead of focusing on a specific book, each month we invite readers to discuss books around a broad theme. Aiming for easy to access and fun, we want to spur on open-ended discussions. Come and go from the meeting when it’s convenient for you. Read a book, don’t read a book. No problem. For those who love to read and exchange views on books (or just sit back and take in the conversation!), join us. You never know when you’ll find your next treasured read, but joining the library’s virtual book club can make it that much easier to do. There is no formal registration. 

If you could use a little help ahead of time to learn how to get connected to the meeting, call the library (425-257-8000 and 425-257-8250), and talk to a librarian who can walk you through the process. You will need a device with audio and video and an Internet connection to participate. Doubleclick on the text “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” below, and you’re on your way. If you are not comfortable using video, that’s okay! You can still join. Simply call the phone number below and enter the password (conference ID) on your phone and you will be connected. 

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

+1 425-616-3920   United States, Seattle (Toll)

Conference ID: 919 910 778#

The Everett Public Library hosts a virtual book club meeting on the 4th Monday of the month from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. through 2020. Our next meeting is December 28. The December theme is Winter–Books that take place during the winter season.

Spot-Lit for November 2020

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2020 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2020 Debuts