Staff Picks of 2018, Part 1

Another new year is here, but we’re not quite done with 2018, yet. Today, and continuing for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing Topsham Public Library’s Staff Picks of 2018. To qualify for a staff pick the staff member must have read/listened to/watched the staff pick in 2018, but it does not have to be a new release in 2018. The lists are in no particular order. I always enjoy seeing what made the cut. Enjoy!


Helen’s 2018 Top Picks:

Ararat by Christopher Golden is about the discovery of an ancient ship on Mount Ararat in Turkey. As archaeologists, scholars, and filmmakers rush to see what it holds the happen upon a coffin with the remains of a horned creature inside. As happens in the mountains, a blizzard blows in, trapping them all inside the ship.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris tells the story of Cass, a woman who didn’t help when she had the opportunity and now another woman is dead. She’s still not convinced she could have helped, but things have not been the same since that stormy night: from increasing forgetfulness to receiving calls with no one on the other end. Is she losing her mind?

One of the best things about camping is sitting around the fire at night talking and telling stories, but what happens if those stories told to spook and scare come true? Campfire by Shawn Sarles shows us, and you might postpone that camping trip you were planning.


First in a series, The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green revisits the story of an isolated manor house and blizzard that traps all occupants inside. Amongst the guests is an investigator that has his own secrets, prefers to operate unnoticed, and is not above killing others if he sees fit. A great book to read on a cold, January day.

Bram Stoker has found himself in a tower with as many crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle. He must make it through one night, but he must confront an indescribable evil before the light of dawn. Bram writes while he waits, and bestselling author, J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker, a descendant of Bram’s, tells the story in Dracul.


In Beauchamp Hall by Danielle Steele, a daughter puts her dreams on hold to care for her sick mother.


While 7-year-old Wen is outside playing, a large, young man appears who is friendly and the two of them talk a play. Suddenly, without warning the young man announces that what is about to happen is not Wen’s fault. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay is a thriller that will keep you turning the page.

A daughter of a wealthy tech giant goes missing. It’s assumed she is off on a wild adventure until her body, minus her head, is found in an abandoned warehouse. City of Endless Night is #17 in the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston.


Death of an Honest Man is the next installment in the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton. In this mystery, Hamish tries to warn the new comer that it might be best not to always tell the truth. He doesn’t listen, and he pays the price.


Kristin Hannah does it again. She is a favorite author here, and The Great Alone does not disappoint. A POW returns from the Vietnam War in 1974, and finding he can’t adjust, he decides to move him and his family to Alaska and live off the grid.



Emma’s 2018 Top Picks:

She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

I read a lot of short story collections, and this one by critically-acclaimed weird writer, Nadia Bulkin, was my hands-down favorite this year. Original, raw and unapologetically socio-political, this is an astonishing range of stories that are unlike any you have read before.


The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

This novelette merges the real-life plight of Topsy the elephant with the group of New Jersey female factory workers who slowly died of radiation poisoning in a dark alternate history. This book is beautiful: A distillation of anger and sadness and grief and injustice. I cried my heart out. I knew it was going to be heartbreaking but I WAS NOT PREPARED. ALSO YOU WILL NOT BE PREPARED. Read it anyway.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

A novella from McGuire’s Wayward Children series, a portal fantasy in which children who don’t fit in their own lives often tumble into other ones that are more suited to them. The problem comes when these worlds spit the children back. Forever changed, they may end up in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The beauty of this series is that is not linear and in takes place in many different worlds so it can be read in any order. This one is my favorite because of the world twin sisters, Jack and Jill, fall into—a world of windswept moors, forests full of werewolves, a mad scientist and a vampire who rules the villagers with fear. How will the sisters fare in this world?

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente

Image result for space opera catherynne valenteSo I was always going to love this book: wordy, hitchhiker’s-esque paean to Eurovision with a Bowie-worshipping glam rock hero? That’s like a list of all the things I love. What I didn’t expect was for it to exceed my (very high) expectations. I didn’t expect different kinds of northern British working class heroes and families that made me teary-eyed and a little bit homesick as well as laugh or biting social commentary along with a sense of hope and A LOT of glitter. If you mourned Douglas Adams and you mourned Bowie. Read this. It makes it not so bad.

Monstress #3 by Marjorie M. Liu

I don’t think that there is a more beautiful looking graphic novel series out there today than Monstress. Artist, Sana Takeda’s ultra-detailed depiction of an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia complete with art-deco steam punk, shark-pirate ladies, Lovecraftian monsters, historian cats and much much more, carries you through Liu’s sometimes horrific, sometimes heart-rending, sometimes confusing but ultimately compelling story of Maika Halfwolf, fox-kid Kippa and Master Ren, a two-tailed cat.

Saga #8 and #9 by Brian K. Vaughan

I used to think I wasn’t much of a sci-fi reader, turns out (looking at the list above) I am. Saga has definitely had something to do with that. This sweeping graphic novel sci-fi saga(!) of two enemy soldiers and the family they create and find as they go on the run from, well, everyone, has had my heart for years now. It is definitely not for everyone. It is highly subversive and very adult. Your favorite characters may die but you will care so much for this crazy, flawed space family that you will go along for the ride anyway. Just a message for the author from me: Vaughan, if you kill Ghus, we’re done, you hear me? I am not reading anymore if you do that.

The Rust Maidens by Gwendoline Kiste

It’s 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio and things aren’t looking good for the inhabitants of Denton Street—The mill they all depend on is going to be shut down and a group of girls are going through a grotesque transformation. The Rust Maidens, as they become known, are corroding, their skin withering away to reveal rusted bones, their nails turning to broken glass. I’d not finished this book by the time I had to hand in my picks but I knew it was one of my favorites of the year. There is an atmosphere to it that is reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides crossed with a unique type of body horror that gives these girls a sense of agency and power.


Dale’s 2018 Top Picks:

Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson is a horror story in graphic novel form. Buckaroo, Oregon has birthed a high number of serial killers and NSA Agent Nicholas Finch will team up with infamous serial killer, Nailbiter, to stop the carnage.

Another graphic novel, Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, is about a building that appears and re-appears throughout history leaving death and madness in its wake. Now, a recluse and a washed-up priest are caught up in the mystery and neither of them are ready for what’s inside.


A Netflix film released in October,  Apostle is a horror story set in 1905. A drifter, played by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, sets out to rescue his kidnapped sister and takes on a religious cult isolated on an island.

Starring Bill Pullman, Jessica Biel and Dohn Norwood, The Sinner is a dark TV series airing on USA Network. This is an anthology series examining why seemingly normal people commit brutal crimes.

Released in October, The Silver Scream by Ice Nine Kills an American metal band, is the fifth studio album for the group. Each song on this album is based on a horror film. Can you match the song to the film?


Monique’s 2018 Top Picks:

Want to hone your observation skills? Try Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy Herman. Herman, an art historian, will help you develop skills you didn’t even know you have to better see and communicate at work and at home.


Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It by Ian Leslie is a look at the ease at which we have access to information and how that is affecting our curiosity.


To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue is a collection of blessings for a variety of occasions, from joyful occasions to sorrowful times.


Robin Wall Kimmerer is a leading research biologist and a member of the Potawatomi nation, not only is she a student of nature as a scientist but her culture has taught her another knowing of nature. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer weaves these two kinds of knowing together to bring people back into a conversation about nature and how it is speaking to us.


Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel is a new look at the way memory is used and knowledge retrieved and is not just beneficial in formal studies but for lifelong learners, too.