2014 staff favorites

As the year draws to a close, FDL Library staff reflects on 2014's most memorable books. Click on any book title to place a hold.

Jon Mark Bolthouse, director:

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. The author of the acclaimed biography of Steve Jobs returns with a profile of the personalities responsible for our current Digital Revolution. Going back as far as the 19th century, Isaacson traces the lives and careers of the mavericks, hackers and wide-range thinkers whose innovations created the amazing digital world in which we live in today.

As You Wish by Carey Elwes. As one the stars of the much-beloved film, The Princess Bride, Carey Elwes has an insider's knowledge of what can be confidently called a classic, and he doesn't disappoint. Filled with interviews with co-stars, trivia and many personal stories, this memoir is a perfect companion to a truly wonderful movie. As director Rob Reiner says in the introduction, pick up the book, curl up in a comfy spot and have fun storming the castle.

Lori Burgess, Support Services coordinator:

Heroes Are My Weakness audiobook written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and read by Erin Bennett. Annie, the main character, is an out of work, broke puppeteer who retreats to her recently deceased mother's island cottage to find her hidden inheritance. While there, she reluctantly reconnects with the man who betrayed her as a teen-ager. He's now a famous author who writes chilling horror novels. Someone wants her off the island, but it's up to Annie to figure out why and decide who she can trust.

Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham, Early Chronicler of Plants, Rocks, Rivers, Mounds and All Things Wisconsin by Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes. I typically don't read nonfiction for pleasure, but this was an interesting book. I grew up in Wisconsin, but I didn't recognize the name of Increase Lapham, but I should have. This guy was brilliant! This book would make a great holiday gift for a Wisconsin native and/or science buff.

Josh Cowles, IT specialist:

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. There isn't any one simple story here. Part biography of William Moulton Marston (and his wife and his mistress, who happened to be Margaret Sanger's niece), part cultural history of the controversially feminist icon that he created in Wonder Woman, this book appeals to comic fans, history buffs, gender nerds and the habitually curious, among whom I count myself.

Terri Fleming, community information coordinator:

The Paying Guests audiobook, written by Sarah Waters and read by Juliet Stevensen. I'm addicted to audiobooks. This one had me in a vice grip – the ear buds were not coming out. It's a story about forbidden love and harsh consequences in post-WWI London that was mysterious, steamy, emotional, suspenseful and enthralling. The reader, an accomplished British actress, lends considerable flavor with characters' accents, helping this Yank understand how the British class system plays a role in the story's plot. A real winner.

Euphoria by Lily King. If you read to escape to different places and different cultures, Euphoria brings all that and much more. Loosely based on the real lives of Margaret Mead and her once and future husbands, this novel is a love triangle set in the wilds of the South Pacific's New Guinea, where headhunting and tribal warfare are de rigueur and local customs baffle and haunt.

Joanne Mengel, library assistant:

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins. This book is about first love and second chances and had the perfect combination of humor, romance and heart. Colleen O'Rourke runs a tavern in Manningsport, NY, with twin brother Connor, doling out romantic advice and making matches for everyone but herself. She's never gotten over her first true love, Lucas. When he returns to town to care for his uncle, the fun begins. The book is filled with many loveable characters, each dealing with issues we can all relate to. Love wins in the end but there are lots of humorous mishaps along the way.

An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer. A quick read to get you in the Christmas spirit. A family comes together on Nantucket to celebrate the holidays and a Christmas Day wedding. It's a book about accepting people for who they are. With an entire family under one roof, there's bound to be trouble, especially when newly adopted cat Rex and two small rambunctious children are added to the mix. You'll chuckle at this Yuletide disaster.

  • Sarah Newton, Children's and Teen Services coordinator

A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas by Jennifer Sattler. A holiday tale of our two favorite best friends finds Chick and Pug taking on the roles of Santa and his helper, who might just be real superheroes. With tongue-in-cheek humor, bright and expressive illustrations and a holiday story to warm anyone's hearts, this is an excellent choice for sharing with the family this holiday season. Great for preschool to 2nd grade.

A Perfectly Messed-up Story by Patrick McDonnell. Speaking of tongue in cheek ...this simple and fun tale finds Louie, our main character, having to deal with jelly stains, fingerprints and scribbles all over his story (gasp!). Poor Louie discovers, by the end, that although things didn't go the way he planned, they still turned out just fine. A lovely, but challenging, lesson for young ones. Preschool to 2nd grade.

The Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson. This sequel to #1: Magic Marks the Spot continues the tale of Hilary Westfield, who tried to join a school for pirates, but was turned down when they discover she's a girl ("Girls do not make good pirates!") Determined to join, she sets off on her own accidental swashbuckling adventure. Grades 3-7.

Susan Ringer, librarian ("It was hard to pick only five!")

Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer. Fictional UW math professor and Soviet defector died in 2001, and her son looks back at that time, especially the shiva (seven days of mourning) at the family home in Madison that's crashed by eccentric mathematicians. Funny yet serious and moving.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. This is a continuation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead. It focuses on Lila, the much younger wife of the Rev. John Ames. Reflective novel about grace and matters of the heart.

Lake of Tears by Mary Logue. Latest in Claire Watkins mysteries set in Pepin County, Wis. Logic and police procedures solve the crime.

Objects of Her Affection by Sonya Cobb. A mother of preschoolers accidentally ends up with a valuable mirror from the museum where her husband works. Facing financial pressures, she sells the mirror and finds herself in over her head. Starts out light and humorous but becomes suspenseful.

End of Always by Randi Davenport. Set in 1907 in Waukesha and based on the author's family history. Harrowing at times as the story deals with domestic abuse and family violence.

Daryl Rogers, Information Services coordinator

The Confabulist by Steven Galloway is a novel about memory and magic. The author takes recently developed theories about Harry Houdini's possible work for the U.S. government in the years before World War II and weaves them into a compelling tale of mystery and intrigue. And like any good magic trick, it has a surprise ending.

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver is the author's 11th entry into his Lincoln Rhyme series. Though paralyzed from the neck down, Rhyme uses his encyclopedic knowledge of New York City and its environs, and his years of experience as a crime scene investigator, to solve a series of crimes perpetrated using tattoo ink as a lethal weapon. An antagonist from an earlier novel returns to complicate matters even more.

The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston is the author's latest solo effort. Preston is well-known for his collaborations with fellow author Lincoln Child. In this novel, Preston brings back ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford to investigate a rogue self-aware artificial intelligence roaming the internet while Earth itself is facing an even bigger threat from one of the moons of Saturn.

The Martian by Andy Weir is a movie for the mind. As you read about the harrowing adventures of a futuristic Robinson Crusoe, you can't help but feel that you will soon be seeing the same story played out on the big screen. It is very difficult to put this book down.

Sara Roltgen, library clerk

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. This was one of my favorite books this year. It's an unexpectedly engaging and tender story of a quirky, curmudgeon 40-something bookstore owner who discovers that life is richer when he allows others into his not-so-perfect life. I like Zevin's writing style, her attention to good character development and the message of living life outside yourself.

Kristi Scorcio, library clerk

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. Her dad was the glitter, her mom the glue; Kelly Corrigan grew up determined to be the glitter when she raised her family. In this beautifully written memoir, Corrigan, author of the best-selling memoir The Middle Place about her fight with cancer, shows how she came to recognize and even appreciate the great importance of the glue her mother provided in her life. I've loved all of Corrigan's books, but this one was especially moving.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon. For Jan Karon fans, the residents of Mitford are like old friends. Catching up on their lives is always a treat, and this book is especially sweet. Whenever I hear of someone who hasn't read any of the Mitford Years series, I always tell them, "You're so lucky! Start at the beginning (At Home in Mitford) and read them slowly. You'll love them."

Jenny Wittlinger, Circulation supervisor

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf. Gudenkauf relates the human side of overworked social workers and the children they serve. Her characters are flawed and easy to like. I liked this book because it left me with a sense of hope.



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