Top Picks of 2017

Here we go! As promised, over the next few weeks, I will be sharing Topsham Public Library Staff’s Top Picks of 2017.



I will get things rolling! Here are my Top Picks of 2017:

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig is at the top of my Top Picks of 2017 list. Ivan Doig is one of my favorite authors because of the sense of place that grounds his novels and the insightful and witty characters of whom he writes. Doig passed away in April, 2015, and Last Bus to Wisdom was his final novel, so I waited until this year to read it as I didn’t want to rush it. Last Bus to Wisdom did not disappoint, and I felt like I was on that bus with Donal, an orphan living with his grandmother on a ranch, who must travel cross country to stay with a relative he has never met while his gram has surgery for “female trouble.” Those he meets along the way are well developed characters, and I wanted to hang out with them – well, most of them.


The first book written by Ruta Sepetys that I read was Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with Fifty Shades of Grey) and I liked it, so when I saw she had written Salt to the Sea, I decided to try it. Sepetys only gets better. Salt to the Sea is set at the end of World War II and the story is told from four points of view. Each character is fleeing from the Russians and the Germans as the Russians advance westward to Germany, and they want to get to the Wilhelm Gustloff a refugee ship that will take them to safety. Sepetys, a daughter of a refugee herself, offers insight into the fate of those peoples, and nations, who were caught between Germany and Russia at the end of World War II. I listened to the audio book and highly recommend it. Whether you listen to it, or you read it, you don’t want to miss it.


Australian author, Markus Zusak, captured me with his book The Book Thief. With I Am the Messenger, Zusak does it again. Ed Kennedy, a cabdriver trying to mind his own business, finds himself stopping a bank robbery. The dust settles, his life returns to normal, and Ed carries on with his life and his weekly poker game with friends. Things get interesting, even dangerous, when Ed receives the first ace in the mail. His task as The Messenger will change not only his life, but the lives of everyone around him. Insightful, goofy, strange, this book is worth a read. I will admit I found the ending a little disappointing, but the trip the story took me on was well worth it.


My Cousin Rachel by Dauphne du Maurier was recently made into a movie starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin. Before I could watch it, I wanted to read it, so I did. Du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of my favorite books, so I was a little nervous about reading this hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. Du Maurier is so subtly eerie it’s freaky. Philip, a young man bereaved by the death of his cousin, is positive that his cousin’s wife killed her husband. Rachel, the widow, unexpectedly shows up at Philip’s estate. Slowly, Philip falls in love with her, but in the end, this relationship leads to tragedy. Du Maurier plants doubts in my mind about everyone’s character that by the time I finished the book, I didn’t know who is guilty, but I was sure no one was innocent. I was convinced I knew who was guilty, and the next that surety melted away to doubt.


The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson was my one non-fiction book this year. I struggle reading nonfiction, but I am forcing myself to read at least one a year. It is getting easier, and I am discovering some pretty good nonfiction books, and The Marriage Bureau is one of them. On the eve of World War II, two young women go into business together and run a marriage bureau to help people find love. This is the story of how they got started, and the impact they had in the lives of the people of London, England and beyond.


I was finishing up my day behind the desk at Topsham Public Library when a new movie came across the desk. Dave told me I should watch it, and I thought, meh, I’ll give it a go. That evening my sister and I were on my couch with the TV to ourselves, and I put The Hollars in the DVD player. We still don’t know what the movie is about, well, I mean, it’s about life and all it’s oddities and joys and sorrows, but this movie explores life in a quirky way that does not detract from the telling, but adds to it. The cast includes John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, and Anna Kendrick. This is a hidden gem that you want to enjoy one winter day.



Dale’s Top Picks of 2017:


Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron is a graphic novel that takes place in rural Alabama. The main character is the local high school’s football coach who may have buried bodies under the bleachers.




Essex County by Jeff Lemire is also a graphic novel that follows a community and the problems and issues its members tackle.




Stephen King and Richard Chizmar co-authored Gwendy’s Button Box, the next of Dale’s top picks. With an author like King, you know it’s a horror story. When will little girls learn to stay away from strangers?




Wind River starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson is one of Dale’s favorite movies of the year. A game tracker (Renner) is recruited to help an FBI agent (Olson) investigate a murder that occurred on reservation land.



The last of Dale’s picks is also a movie. It Comes At Night is about one family who opens their home to another family in need as the world is terrorized by an unnatural threat. Paranoia and mistrust grow between the families, and characters must ask themselves what they would do to protect their loved ones. Stars include Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and Christopher Abbott.



Helen’s Top Picks of 2017:


Knife Creek by Maine author Paul Doiron is first on Helen’s list. The adventures continue for Mike Bowditch, Maine Game Warden, when he discovers the body of a baby while he is out hunting feral hogs. Rumor is that the mother died years earlier, but as Mike investigates, he discovers nothing is certain.



John Grisham delves into the world of black market manuscripts and stolen books in his book Camino Island. Bookstore owner, Bruce Cable, has a legitimate business selling books, but on the side he sells stolen goods. Mercer Mann is hired to go undercover and learn Cable’s secrets. Sometimes, one can learn too much.



Everything is fine until the dinner party. That’s when Kate, happily married mother of two, meets Peter. After that, it all goes south. One of them ends up dead, and to find out who-done-it read Fatal by John Lescroart.



Part of the Pendergast novels, The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, makes it on Helen’s list. Filled with grief, believing that Special Agent Pendergast is dead, Constance, his ward, takes shelter in the chambers beneath the family mansion. But she is not left alone to grieve as a dark figure from the past takes her captive.



Also part of a series, The Play of Death by Oliver Potzsch, is the newest installment in the Hangman’s Daughter Tales. Set in Germany during the late 1600s, an actor is killed and Jakob, the hangman along with his daughter and son-in-law, investigate and uncover the secrets the town has tried to hide.