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Note to Shelf: January 2022 Edition

Happy New Year everyone! While 2021 wasn’t necessarily the comeback year that we had all anticipated, we have great hopes for 2022.

Here is a fun fact about January: did you know there are more than 100 national days this month? You can celebrate your love of blueberry pancakes on January 28th or dedicate yourself to tidying up on National Clean Your Desk Day (which is today)! If you are a fan of squirrels, you might want to pencil in some quality time with your favorite woodland creature on January 21st. While some of these days might seem frivolous at first, the fact is that they were created because someone or a group of individuals were passionate about their cause. There is something beautiful about that level of enthusiasm and commitment that draws a community together.

As you may have experienced with our Readers’ Advisory team, there’s no doubt that we are very passionate about our collection of books. We can’t get enough of them and we love sharing them with you. Last month, our staff voted on our favorite adult fiction books of 2021 and while 10 books took the top honors, there were more than 100 additional titles that our librarians nominated. And from what we have previewed, 2022 is going to be a great year for new titles. We can’t wait to share our upcoming favorites with you in the months to come.

Ann

Olga by Bernhard Schlink is the quietly unfolding story of a Prussian woman’s life in Germany from the early 1900s until her death in the 1950s.

The beginning of this novel tells the story of young Olga and the love of her life, Herbert. When she becomes orphaned as a young teen and sent to live with her cold, harsh grandmother who wants to change her name to something “less Slavic,” Olga stands up for herself and refuses to change her name. She falls in love with Herbert, whose family disapproves of, but they continue to secretly see each other. But Herbert, unlike Olga, wants to see the world and abandons her for adventures and war.

In the second part of the novel, Olga's life has changed in many ways. After the war, Olga has lost her hearing and become a seamstress for a family. Ferdinand, a young boy who befriends Olga, narrates this section. The two of them share their stories and their lives, forming a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Olga's letters to Herbert, discovered after her mysterious death, drive the last section of the novel and reveal her lifelong secrets. This book is very interesting in such a quiet way. While written very simply, it tells the engrossing story of Olga's life. I enjoyed this book very much and found Olga to be a truly captivating character.

Marianne

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan tells a beautiful and tender story of Bill Furlong and his past, his family, and how he handles a difficult situation in just 128 pages.

The year is 1985. Christmas is approaching, but the residents in the small Irish town of New Ross are struggling with an increasingly difficult recession.

Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, manages to support his family of five daughters and a wife, and while they don’t have much, they have enough.

One day, while making a delivery to the Magdalene laundry run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, he makes a disturbing discovery: a young girl has been locked in the coal shed. Faced with the possibility of ruin by defying a powerful organization, the question is: will Bill act on what he’s found?

You only need an afternoon or an evening to treat yourself to a great read!

Jill

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris is a powerful debut novel set in Georgia at the end of the Civil War. George Walker and his wife Isabelle live on the outskirts of Old Ox, Georgia and are waiting for their only child, Caleb, to return from the war. When Caleb’s best friend, August, comes home and tells them that Caleb did not make it back, Isabelle’s world collapses. Isabelle takes to her room to grieve while George retreats into the woods where he spends his days just meandering. One day, he encounters two men, Prentiss and Landry, who he slowly befriends over time.

George, a white land owner, offers Prentiss and Landry, who have just been emancipated, an opportunity to help him till his land. The community immediately ostracizes the Walkers for employing these men, and when a murder takes place on his property, the Walker family ethics are fully tested. In spite of the backlash, they maintain their moral integrity while battling a discriminatory society. In a parallel storyline, two Confederate soldiers are trying to hide their love for each other in this provincial society. The intersection of these two storylines keeps you turning the pages.

The Sweetness of Water is a story of relationships, integrity, and moral strength all rolled into one remarkable debut novel for this 29-year-old author. There are some spoilers that I have omitted, so you’ll just have to read this beautifully written novel. It’s one of my most favorite books from 2021!

Sarah

In 56 Days, Catherine Ryan Howard tells a riveting murder mystery unlike any you’ve ever read. Clara and Oliver meet in a Dublin supermarket the same week that COVID-19 reaches Ireland. When lockdown begins, the couple decide to take a chance and live together in Oliver’s apartment. Less than a month later, the police discover a decomposing body in that apartment. So: whose body is it, and what happened? All I can tell you is that neither Clara nor Oliver are being honest about who they are, and the smoldering pile of lies between them turns into a raging fire under the pressure of lockdown.

The whole story is gradually revealed by the author through a skillfully crafted timeline that brings the reader into every moment. The book’s first chapter begins “Today”, when the body is discovered. The following chapters travel to the past (Clara and Oliver met “56 Days Ago”), back to “Today” (where the investigation is ongoing), and back to the past again. Each chapter offers a few nuggets of truth about what really happened, but make no assumptions: just when you think you know the truth, Howard rips away your certainty with twists you won’t see coming. The story truly lasts until the last line of the book.

56 Days is a perfect read for fans of thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction who are looking for a book that breaks new ground in these genres. I guarantee you’ll stay up late to finish it, no matter how disciplined you are about your bedtime. It’s that good. Check it out!

Caroline

I’m recommending Plants First by Dr. Katie Takayasu in hopes that sharing this wonderful book with thousands of people will motivate me to actually incorporate all of her excellent recommendations into my life! Plants First is a beautiful book – several of my family members received it for Christmas. If the cover is not enough to draw you in, Dr. Katie then makes “The Case for Plants” and explains how wellness is all about finding the right balance in all aspects of your life. There are sections on everything from water intake to sleep to extra-dark chocolate (yay!) and, of course, recipes. If you’re looking to kick-start 2022 with a healthy lifestyle, definitely check it out!

January Spotlight:

On January 17th, we honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday. Held each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the federal holiday dedicated to encouraging and empowering Americans to participate in community service. In observance of this important day, we will be closed on Monday, January 17th.

Dr. King's immortal “I Have a Dream” speech continues to resonate with us today, as does his commitment to service that inspires people all over to work together for positive change. In addition to being a civil rights activist and minister, did you know Dr. King was also the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964?

And, we encourage you to explore more little known facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know that January 17th is also Benjamin Franklin’s birthday? This renowned statesman, inventor, and scientist is also thought of as the father of modern almanac. He can be credited with the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove! Read some little known facts about Benjamin Franklin.

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