Your Library Curated: New Book Recommendations

I just finished a couple books and they were both awesome!  The best part about these two books is your library owns them, so stop in and check them out or put them on hold today.


“A Face Like Glass” by Frances Hardinge:  Everyone in Caverna is born with a blank canvas for a face and must be taught how to make expressions.  Facesmiths are the professionals who provide the service of creating expressions for the people of Caverna.  The problem with this service is that it costs money–the rich get to choose from an array of faces while those that don’t have financial resources get stuck with faces that have already been chosen for them such as expressions of subservience. This book is pure magic in both the craft of the writing, as well as the actual content.

face like glass

“Bad Dreams and Other Stories” by Tessa Hadley:  This short story collection gives readers complex characters and a sense of closure when each story is finished.  I actually became attached to a lot of the characters here instead of forgetting them the moment I moved on to the next story.  The connecting thread between these stories is self-reflection–each character goes through a deeply conflicting experience and must look inside themselves for the answers.

bad dreams

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

In order to highlight some of the best and newest additions to the Jacksonville Public Library’s collection, the blog will have a regular curation of mini book reviews.  If you’re interested in any of these titles, stop in or give us a call!

  • “I’d Die for You” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anne Margaret Daniel:  This is a new collection of Fitzgerald’s previously unpublished or uncollected short stories.  Not every story is destined to become a new classic.  However, each story gives readers insight into the famed author’s psyche while trying to produce new work.

I'd die for you

  • “Anything Is Possible” by Elizabeth Strout:  As with other works by Strout, it’s hard to quite tell if this is a novel or a collection of short stories.  Either way, each chapter or story is connected by common themes.  Strout’s newest book is well-written and examines ideas like class (as in working-class etc.), insecurity, and forgiveness.  Don’t miss out!

anything is possible

  • “The Pearl Thief” by Elizabeth Wein:  I am reviewing a novel for young adults because both adults and teens alike enjoy reading them.  This book is published by the same author as Code Name Verity.  However, you do not need to read the previously published novel to understand and enjoy this new one.  It’s both a murder mystery and a coming-of-age story.  The thing I loved most about this book was the main character–she’s witty and real.

pearl thief

  • “House of Names” by Colm Toibin:  This book is quite tragic… Characters are thrown into dungeons and the amount of violence that occurs is quite staggering.  However, the violence isn’t gratuitous.  With Toibin’s adept writing, the characters are alive with depth.  This book doesn’t quite seem like Toibin’s other work, but it is a great book on its own.  I was sitting on the edge of my seat as I turned every page.

house of names

  • “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore:  This book is all about workers’ rights.  The women Moore writes about died from the radium they were exposed to while working for dial-making factories.  The women’s lives were painful and tragic, but their legacy has paved the way for the protection of workers today.

radium girls

  • “The American Spirit” by David McCullough:  This collection of speeches is tied together by the theme of history.  McCullough is synonymous with expert as he has won 2 Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his previous work.  These speeches instill a much-needed hope at a time of unrest on both sides of the aisle.

american spirit

  • “Shattered” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes:  This book explores the ins and outs of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.  Ultimately, it looks at what went wrong and tries to make sense of Clinton’s shocking loss last November.  This book is the first word on 2016, but it most certainly will not be the last. shattered
  • “The Shadow Land” by Elizabeth Kostova:  In Kostova’s third novel, she returns to Eastern Europe–Bulgaria.  The author  has spent much time in this country as this is where she met her husband.  The novel starts in 2008 with the main character teaching English in a new country and quickly turns into a mystery to figure out the life of a man named Stoyan Lazarov.  Kostova has managed to make another masterpiece so check it out today!      shadow land
  • “The Upside of Unrequited” by Becky Albertalli:  This new young adult  novel explores all the challenges and beauty that comes with new love.  This book is super fun with a cast of characters that will keep you entertained.  Try this one out for a summer beach read!

upside of unrequited

  • “Richard Nixon” by John A. Farrell:  This biography turns Richard Nixon into a human with depth and feelings.  However, it doesn’t let Nixon off the hook for the corruption of his presidency.  The book also brings previously unknown details to light from diaries and reports that were recently discovered.  If you’ve ever been curious about Nixon, the man, this book is for you.richard nixon


New Language Learning Database

The library is now subscribing to a new language learning database:  Rocket Languages.  All you need is your library card and you could be on your way to finally fulfilling your New Year’s resolution from five years ago to learn a new language.  I kid.

But, really, I’ve been meaning to brush up on the seven years of Spanish I took in both high school and college–I can barely remember how to have a basic conversation.  I’m pretty excited myself to have this new resource!

Rocket Languages has a really neat component called the Interactive Audio Course that allows users to have real conversations.  I can attest to how important this is because I have forgotten all of my Spanish because I haven’t been using it.  The database even has culture lessons and games!  So, if you’re looking for something fulfilling to do this summer, learn a new language with the library’s new database.

rocket languages

The Best Cult Novels at Your Public Library

What is a cult novel?  A cult novel is one in which a rabid group of fans swears it’s the best book of all time.  I’m sure there are better definitions, but that’s what I’m going with.

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger:  Everyone knows this classic, but it used to be super underground in the 50s.  In fact, it used to be the most banned book of all time after it caught on with the youth!catcher in the rye
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac:  Reviewers around the time this book was published weren’t too keen on this novel, but it has become an essential book for those who like to wander a little bit more than average.on the road
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole:  Sadly, our culture tends to revere authors and other artists when they die too soon or before their work becomes famous.  That’s the case with this novel.  There are a huge number of cult fans who will swear this is the funniest book they’ve ever read.

confederacy of dunces

  • Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis:  Another funny one!  A cult novel written by a cult author about a cult!

masters of atlantis

  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse:  Thinking about travelling to the Himalayas?  You should probably read this book.


  • Dune by Frank Herbert:  This book has the most intense fan-base I’ve ever seen.  If you haven’t read this amazing piece of science-fiction, I’m here to tell you that you probably should.


  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein:  The main character was raised by aliens. Need I say more?  Oh, it has also been very influential in the realm of science-fiction.


  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt:  Teenagers love this book because it follows around a group of college students–it’s both successful and culty (is that a word?).

secret history

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski:  A lot of people hate this book with extreme passion, but a lot of people also really love it.  This is one of those books that had a cult following online before it was officially published in print.  The mystery, as well as the stark differences in opinion regarding its literary merit, will make this a cult novel for years to come.

house of leaves

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig:  This book was rejected by more publishers than any other bestseller.  While this book is kind of kitschy at this point, it is still incredibly popular.

zen and the art of

jimmy corrigan

  • Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski:  Everything Bukowski has ever done is culty.  I personally think his work can be hard to get into, but not everyone agrees.

ham on rye

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card:  While there have been questions about the author’s homophobia, many fans still champion this book quite fervently.

ender's game

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong:  A coming-of-age story for the ages…

fear of flying


  • Generation X by Douglas Coupland:  This novel is responsible for coining its namesake.  What do people born after 1960 think?  I don’t know; read this book.

generation x

  • The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk:  The first book by Pamuk where we really get to witness his chops as an author.

black book

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace:  Everyone I’ve every known that has read this book likes to act like they’re better than the people who have not read it.  Ah well.

infinite jest

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler:  Everyone who reads this author falls in love with her!


why did I ever

  • Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann:  This novel is seen as the ‘girl’s’ version of Catcher in the Rye and was self-published before it was picked up by Random House years later.  Sounds like the makings of a cult novel!

anthropology of an american girl


All of these books are available at the Jacksonville Public Library.  Let us know if you’re interested in any of them.

Hemingway’s Love Letters

high school hemingway

I often wonder how authors would feel if they knew that our modern world was consuming the work they had never anticipated publishing.  See:  Franz Kafka and Emily Dickinson.  What’s even more revealing is the correspondence some authors had with the ones who were closest to them in their lifetime.  One such example that sparked my interest today was that of Ernest Hemingway’s love letters.

A woman named Betsy Fermano went to a Hemingway exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum and recognized a name from her family (Coates).  Frances Elizabeth Coates was someone that Hemingway felt quite deeply about after they dated for a short time.  Two letters that passed between the two have survived and are on display in the exhibit.  These letters are important because they show a different side of the famous author that not many readers have had the opportunity to see.

The Paris Review covers these fascinating letters and more in detail here.

Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays

I recently read All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai.  I absolutely loved most of it.  It’s relentlessly hilarious with an incredibly unique concept.  In the main character’s timeline, the world is almost perfect–technology has solved every conceivable problem that we have today.  There’s just one problem that Tom still has–he’s lost the love of his life, but he has a time machine.

The worst thing possible happens:  Tom ends up in the readers’ (our) timeline and he doesn’t understand our world at all.  He has some big choices to make:  stay here with the woman of his dreams or go back to a technologically advanced haven.  I can tell you one thing:  he doesn’t make it easy on himself.

My only issue with the book was that the story became a bit convoluted at times, but it continued to maintain my interest.  I actually laughed out loud multiple times and truly enjoyed reading something so out-of-this-world.

This book is available at our library, so come check it out!

all our wrong todays

The Dark Tower Movie Adaptation

Trailer Just Released for Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’

I know we have some Stephen King fans who frequent the library, so it would be a good time to mention that the trailer for the new movie was just released today.  There’s an eight-part Dark Tower series, but apparently this movie is supposed to be some sort of sequel to the series.  I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to go, but it’s sure to be interesting.  The movie comes out on August 4th, but in the meantime, stop into the library and read or re-read the series so you’re ready!

Computer Classes and Other Tech Help

Patrons often ask for help with their new devices (like tablets, phones, and laptops), but a lot of people don’t realize that we offer this service.  We have two staff members that are available to sit down with you to answer (just about) any question you might have regarding technology.  We can set up a one-on-one appointment with you where we can sit down and get to the bottom of any problem you might be having.  The only thing we can’t really do is fix your device–save that for the computer shops in town.  So, if you’re struggling with learning a new piece of software, you want to get e-books from the library, or you just have a question, let us know and we’ll help.


Also, we have a new round of computer classes this month.  The dates are:  May 9, May 16, May 23 and May 30 at 7 p.m.  Sarah will be teaching them at Lincoln Land Community College here in Jacksonville.  The topics are:  internet safety, search techniques, image editing basics, and wearable technology.  Just give the library a call at 217-243-5435 to sign up!  Intermediate Computer Classes

Why Does This Blog Exist?

We decided to start this blog in order to have a platform to share opinion-based content, librarian recommendations, long-form descriptions of upcoming programs, library news and just fun book-ish items we run across.  Our website is a pretty straightforward destination for basic library information, including links to our databases and catalog.  Our Facebook and Twitter are good places to find out about upcoming library events and tidbits that we share every now and then.  This blog is, you guessed it, just for fun!