Staff Picks Top 15 Part 3: Jen, Dale, and Linda

As part of Topsham Public Library’s 15th anniversary on Foreside Road, the staff has chosen their Top 15 picks of all time. The staff was allowed to choose the Top 15 over all or the Top 15 in up to three categories. Have fun with the lists!

Jen’s Top 15 Picks:

When I began thinking about my top fifteen picks, I was giddy with excitement, but the more I thought about it, the more I grew nervous. Sharing your favorites of anything can be scary because it is so personal. Thoughts of what others may think of you seep into your selection process. How much of yourself do you want to reveal by the choices you make?

I started my lists over again numerous times, so I finally had to ask myself the age old question – if I was stranded on an island, what book, audio book, movie would I want with me? Some of my picks may seem silly and/or passé, but each one I chose contains characters or ideas I think about often. Some of them I have enjoyed since I was young, some are my favorites because my children and I discovered them together (and, yes, we still talk about and quote from them years later), some are challenging and make me uncomfortable, and some are new to me, but all of them I love. So, here we go.

Jen’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis




Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien




Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier




Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë




The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis




The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde




Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – This is the first in a trilogy, but I prefer it as a stand alone.



The Holy Bible




All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot




The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom




Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig




A Time to Kill by John Grisham




The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas




Jacob, Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson




Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafόn



Jen’s Top 15 Audiobooks in no particular order:


Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce




The Book Thief by Markus Zusak



The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Richard Yancey



Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard



Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage




The Giver by Lois Lowry




Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling




Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay




The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown




Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys




This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley




The Help by Kathryn Stockett




Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle




Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith



Jen’s Top 15 Movies in no particular order:


The Sandlot (1993)




Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)




King Arthur (2004)




Lady in the Water (2006)




Penelope (2006)




Rear Window (1954)




Braveheart (1995)




Star Wars Episode 4 (1977)




The Bourne Identity (2002)




A Knight’s Tale (2001)




Last of the Mohicans (1992)




3:10 to Yuma (2007)




The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)




Princess Bride (1987)




A Few Good Men (1992)




Dale’s Top 15 Graphic Novels in no particular order:


30 Days of Night by Steve Niles




Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson




The Collected Essex County  by Jeff Lemire



Outcast by Robert Kirkman



Birthright by Joshua Williamson



Here by Richard McGuire



Locke & Key by Joe Hill



Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan



Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean



The Cape series by Joe Hill



Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito



Dept H by Matt Kindt



Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire



Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron



DMZ by Brian Wood



Dale’s Top 15 Albums in no particular order:

Ice Nine Kills. Every Trick In the Book

We Came As Romans. Tracing Back Roots

Goldfinger. Open Your Eyes

Boston. Boston

A Day to Remember. What Separates Me From You

August Burns Red. Constellations

The Amity Affliction. Let the Oceans Take Me


We Came As Romans. Cold Like War


If I Were You. The Sleepless


Nas. Illmatic


Friends Will Be Friends. Welcome to the Backstage

Villain of the Story. Wrapped in Vines, Covered in Thorns 


Led Zeppelin. Early Days: Volume 1


Blink-182. Take off Your Pants and Jacket


Linkin Park. Hybrid Theory



Linda’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:

Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny– I highly recommend this series and cannot possibly choose one volume over the others. Ms. Penny creates a place where everyone feels safe, and at home, juxtaposed against murder, police corruption, and every sort of evil. Her characters are complex and sometimes unpredictable. Each book is full of suspense and can stand alone. However, a subplot winds like a snake among the individual stories until it explodes onto the forefront to change everything for our favorite characters. Because of that this series must be read in order to get the full effect. The writing is beautiful, the plots engaging, and the characters lovable (or hateable?) It’s my FOAT! (Favorite Of All Time)

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn – first book in a series which could be all five of my favorites! Lady Julia Grey and her husband Edward are having a dinner party when her husband suddenly becomes very ill and dies. His whole family is of poor constitution so this is hardly unexpected. Enter the dark, brooding, enquiry agent recently contracted by her husband, who declares that Edward has been murdered. He and Lady Grey do not exactly hit it off and the sparks fly. This Victorian mystery is satisfyingly complex with many a twist and a surprise ending. Some swashbuckling adventure and romance add to the mix to create a fun and satisfying result.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill – Meet Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler and his whole family in a character driven mystery series written by British author Susan Hill. The first book is called The Various Haunts of Men. Ms. Hill is a writer in the same league with P.D. James or Elizabeth George and her exploration of human nature and complex issues is superb. This book is more than just a mystery, though the mystery itself is compelling. A middle age woman is missing but the police do not seem overly concerned. After all she has no ties that bind and could be off on a jaunt. Only Freya Graffam, the new transfer in from London, seems to be convinced there is a crime to pursue; until someone else turns up missing. Then the game is on. The suspense will keep you reading into the night and the ending will keep you up even later. I highly recommend this book, but it comes with a warning. It’s definitely not a cozy.

A Cold Treachery by Charles Todd – Ian Rutledge, inspector in Scotland Yard has returned from WWI, wanting to pick up right from where he left off before the war. But he knows he is not the man he used to be. Can he keep his ‘shell shock’ a secret and get the job done? This case kept me guessing right up to the end. The mother-son writing team offers a great study in human nature along with an engrossing mystery.


House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – Brilliant! is the one word description I would give to Anthony Horowitz’s House of Silk. The characters came to life through Mr. Horowitz’s pen; and his descriptions of the lavish and indulgent life of the privileged juxtaposed against the desperation of the poor and the orphaned provided the perfect setting; all wrapped up in the dirt and fog of a raw English winter. I was there with Sherlock Holmes and Watson in Victorian London. But it wasn’t only the weather that chilled me to the bone. The subject was so shocking to Watson that he ordered the manuscript not to be published for 100 years. With two very different murders to investigate the plot is deliciously complex. While some answers seemed obvious, others took me by surprise. This mystery was fulfilling on every level. The writing was beautiful, the descriptions vivid, and the puzzle engaging right to the end. Written as a reflection by Dr. Watson, some years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, the characters were completely true to the originals. It’s no wonder that this was the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by another author to receive the authorization of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – This book takes place in a very small village in the Shetland Islands. It is very suspenseful, and somewhat dark, showing the negative side of insular living in a small, isolated village. Outsider Jimmy Perez, a detective that grew up in an even smaller island community, heads up the investigation of a dead teenager. Once before in Shetland, a young girl disappeared, never to be found. There was a prime suspect but neither a body nor the proof was ever discovered. Is there a connection? The locals certainly think so, but Detective Perez isn’t so sure. This one kept me guessing right up to the moment of the arrest.

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields – It’s 1892 Portland, Maine, and the body of a young prostitute is found pinned to the earth with a pitchfork and laid out to form a pentagram. Deputy Marshall, Archie McLean is assigned to the case. He is soon joined by noted criminalist, former Pinkerton Agent Percival Gray, who is also half Abenaki. I loved this book for its historical detail and the uniqueness of the story. The characters are engaging and realistic as is the setting.

The Cutting by James Hayman – The set-up is familiar. Big city cop moves to a smaller New England town (Portland) to live a more peaceful, family friendly life with his teenage daughter. A body is found in a local scrap heap, a star athlete with his heart cut out. The adventure begins as Mike McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage, rush to find this cruel murderer before there is another grisly crime. This is a real page turner with lots of action and suspense. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry – This is a great thriller. I couldn’t put it down, read it in one day. Jane Whitefield, Seneca Native, helps people disappear when they are in danger using finely honed gifts and techniques passed down through the centuries by her ancestors. In this story, Jane attempts to rescue a wrongly convicted man from the courthouse but this time she makes a mistake. Would she pay for it with her life? See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!


Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan – A down and out young man hangs himself in the attic of the bookstore and is found by Lydia, one of the cashiers. He was one of her favorites and the tragedy hits her hard. Why would Joey do that? Things get really strange when Joey’s landlady finds Lydia and tells her she is Joey’s contact person and she has to come get his stuff. In his belongings Lydia finds a picture of her 10 year old self on her birthday. Lydia has a secret past that no one is supposed to know about. How did Joey get this picture and what did he know about her? These questions lead Lydia on a return journey to the worst moment of her life; the murder of her childhood friend, Carol, which has never been solved. The plot carries this book with plenty of twists to confound and puzzles to unravel. This book reminds us that every action we take sets in motion a ring of consequences, for good or for evil.

Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh – This is the first book in a series about Beatrice Stubbs, a British detective. Having been involved in ‘an incident’ Beatrice’s career has been stalling. Her superior knows that she is an exemplary officer and he assigns her to a puzzling case. Four high-powered men have died on the continent and he sends Beatrice to head up the investigation. But can she trust herself? And can she prevent the next murder? This is an exciting romp around Europe after a clever and efficient killer. Beatrice Stubbs is a well-drawn character, flawed though she is, and I found myself rooting for her all the way.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen – Cute! Perky! Charming! are the words I would use to describe this mystery series by Rhys Bowen. Meet Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the British throne. Georgie, as her friends call her, is not interested in an arranged marriage to a foreign prince so she leaves the family castle in Scotland to make her own way in the world. Alone in the family home in London it’s not too long before she finds trouble, in the form of a body in her bath. This is the first in a series. Light and easy to read, these books are the perfect companion for a day at the beach or an evening on the couch.

Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell – This is an in-depth, well-researched fictional account of the life of Lucanus, a Greek citizen, raised in Antioch and trained to be a physician. Ms. Caldwell, in her epic style, tells us what his life may have been like in the times he lived and shares his spiritual journey from simple physician to apostle of Jesus and writer of the Gospel of Luke.

Great Lion of God by Taylor Caldwell – This is the story of Paul of Tarsus who became St Paul. This beautifully written novel shows us a view of the religious and cultural times in which his character and conscience were formed and how he became one of the most influential men in the formation of the early church.

Winterdance by Gary Paulsen – From complete novice at dog sledding to Iditerod racer, this adventurous true story will keep you at the edge of your seat. Full of humor and excitement you may wonder at the sanity of such an attempt. I was astonished that he lived through the experience. Perhaps so was he.


Linda’s Top 15 DVD Mystery Series in no particular order:


Broadchurch (2013)



Brokenwood Mysteries (2014)



Doctor Blake Mysteries (2013)



Endeavour (2012)



Father Brown (2013)



Foyle’s War (2002)



Inspector Lewis (2006)



Loch Ness (2017)



Midsomer Murders (1997)



Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012)



Mrs. Bradley Mysteries (1998)




Murdoch Mysteries (2008)



New Tricks (2003)




Silent Witness (1996)



Vera (2011)