Staff Picks

Not sure what to read next, or just looking for something new? Our staff loves to read and put together a list of their favorites below. The list is regularly updated so check back often. Not interested in the options below? Check out our suggested adult reading list, or ask for a list of personalized recommendations from one of our librarians.
Staff Picks and Reviews at Arapahoe Libraries
Title Author Description Staff Review
Caitlin Moran After she shames herself on local television, Johanna Morgan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde--a fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero--until two years later, while eviscerating bands as a music critic, she realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw.

"Fabulous, original, very funny coming of age book with a dark undercurrent that makes it a serious, poignant novel. Johanna Morrigan is 14 years old, fat, rock-bottom poor, and lives with her parents and four brothers in Wolverhampton, England. Rather than wallowing in her dire straits, she uses her writing talent and optimism to reinvent herself as an outspoken music critic named Dolly Wilde. What I loved most is the way Johanna is able to take horribly embarrassing situations, learn from them, and use her powers of reinvention to take her life in another direction. It's not often a wholesome direction, but Johanna is indomitable.   This is not a Young Adult book, despite the age of the heroine, because of  the frank discussion of sex, as well as lots of cussing by just about everyone." ~Alice K.

Tim Federle An eighth-grader who dreams of performing in a Broadway musical concocts a plan to run away to New York and audition for the role of Elliot in the musical version of "E.T."

"Wonderful humor and a great story about a thirteen-year-old boy named Nate who sings show tunes all the time and longs to audition for a Broadway musical in New York. Very sympathetic portrayal of a short, chubby, rather unattractive boy who is called a faggot and bullied in middle school and is constantly compared to his tall, athletic brother. The author drew on his own experience of living in Pittsburgh, loving show tunes, being bullied, and leaving for New York as soon as he could. Nate is a wonderful character, the story is touching without being heavy handed, and the humor is terrific. I loved this book." ~Alice K.

Libba Bray When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

"A delightful mix of beauty queens, pirates, an evil Corporation, and a mad dictator on a deserted island.  Get into the goofiness." ~Alice K.

Anna Quindlen Abandoning her expensive world to move to a small country cabin, a once world-famous photographer bonds with a local man and begins to see the world around her in new, deeper dimensions while evaluating second chances at love, career and self-understanding.

"A charming, beautifully written book about a 60-year-old photographer, Rebecca Winter, who is living on a small income from sales from photos taken years ago. To earn money, she rents out her Manhattan apartment and rents a house in the boonies that is nothing like what was pictured on the website. Over the next few months, she learns what it is she truly values, gains a new creative passion, and reframes her life. The characters are authentic and sympathetic, which is what I read for. Lyrical, insightful, and often funny writing. Quindlen at her best." ~Alice K.

John Waters John Waters is putting his life on the line. Armed with wit, a pencil-thin mustache, and a cardboard sign that reads "I'm Not Psycho," he hitchhikes across America from Baltimore to San Francisco, braving lonely roads and treacherous drivers. But who should we be more worried about, the delicate film director with genteel manners or the unsuspecting travelers transporting the Pope of Trash?

"This is a book in three parts. John Waters sets out to hitchhike from his house in Baltimore to his apartment in San Francisco. The first part is the trip taken with imaginary good rides. The second part is the trip taken with imaginary bad rides--the funniest, but also the most horrific part of the book. The third part is what actually happened.  I liked the imaginary parts, but I enjoyed the third part the most because I felt like I got to know John Waters through his interactions with others people. He is a kind, thoughtful man--much less crazy than I would have expected after seeing his films. I learned about how he views himself, and how others see him.  Very creative work--as one would expect from John Waters.  Audiobook is read by the author—a great way to enjoy the story." ~Alice K.

Anne Byrn; photography by Ben Fink Here are 160 brand-new recipes--that's right, 160 amazing cake mix recipes--for luscious layer cakes, sheet cakes, brownies, bars, cookies, and more.

"More than just cakes, find cookie recipes, too, based on using cake mixes.  I was re-inspired in my baking efforts and learned some neat tips along the way such as the ability to freeze bundt cakes!" ~Cynthia K.

Robert Kurson Into thin air and Sebastian Junger's The perfect storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery and make history themselves. For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.

"A great read that hardly feels like nonfiction.  I needed to remember to stop holding my breath with all of the underwater narrative!" ~Cynthia K.

David Mitchell A vast, intricate novel that weaves six narratives and spans from 1984 to the 2030s about a secret war between a cult of soul-decanters and a small group of vigilantes called the Night Shift who try to take them down. An up-all-night story that fluently mixes the super-natural, sci-fi, horror, social satire, and hearbreaking realism

"This book has it all, realistic characters and believable settings, sci-fi creatures and otherworldly situations, dystopian angst and finally grateful acceptance.  David Mitchell creates a world where the unbelievable becomes real and reality is often not what it seems." ~Wendy T.

Paula McLain Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman--Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa. Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature's delicate balance.

"Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman--Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa. Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature's delicate balance." ~Wendy T.

J.K. Rowling ; illustrated by Jim Kay Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"Wow!  The world of Harry Potter has always been magical and it just got better. This re-release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is fully illustrated in vibrant color by Jim Kay and adds a whole new dimension to the most popular series in children’s literature.  Immerse yourself and get re-acquainted with the Hogwarts community or enjoy it as a family read-aloud. This one is on my Christmas list!" ~Susan M.

Bob Raczka; Illustrated by Chuck Groenink Twenty-five haiku give readers a fresh, humorous perspective on Santa's December preparations, and rich illustrations pull readers into every wintry scene.

"December 1st - Wishes blowing in - from my overfilled maibox - December's first storm. So begins a lovely new picture book, Santa Clauses: Short Poems From the North Pole by Bob Raczka. It is filled with haiku that counts down each day until Christmas making it a perfect build-up to the big day and a nice pair with an advent calendar. It took me back to the days of composing haiku with my 7-year-old, clapping out the syllables as we went. This fun book may bring out the creative spirit in your child." ~Susan M.

Archer Mayor During the height of a particularly brutal Vermont winter, one morning a woman's body is found hanging high above the interstate. The woman, found with the word "dyke" carved on her chest is quickly determined to be the victim of a brutal murder. That alone is enough to bring in Joe Gunther and his VBI (Vermont Bureau of Investigation) team. But when the victim is identified not only as a state senator, but as an intimate friend of the governor's, it unleashes a publicity maelstrom that makes a difficult investigation more challenging.

"One of the things that is nice about series is how much character development there is.  While you can certainly read this without having read other Joe Guther books, it adds to the experience because there is a history between Joe, his detectives and the people surrounding the victim.  The mix of politics, relationships and murder sure do make for a good read!" ~ Cindy P.

Linda Castillo In this electrifying thriller by New York Times bestseller Linda Castillo, Kate Burkholder must uncover a family's long-hidden past to solve a brutal murder When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder finds herself tasked with the responsibility of identifying the bones--and notifying the family.

"A stellar entry in the Kate Burkholder series.  The characters are so well developed and the way the plot lines interweave really brings you in the story.  The mystery is intriguing and keeps you involved.  A wonderful read." ~Cindy P.

Gail Sheehy No one really expects it, but at some time or another, just about everyone has been—or will be—responsible for giving care, for a sustained period, to someone close to them.

"Found the right book at the right time.  Full of great information for those who are caregivers.  Highly recommended." ~Cynthia K.

Kate DiCamillo ; illustrated by Yoko Tanaka When ten-year-old orphan Peter Augustus Duchene encounters a fortune teller in the marketplace one day and she tells him that his sister, who is presumed dead, is in fact alive, he embarks on a remarkable series of adventures as he desperately tries to find her.

"Quiet.  Optimistic. Poetic.  All centered around an elephant!  This title garnered numerous award nominations." ~Cynthia K.

Jason A. Ramos Enter a world of breathtaking danger and beauty: In this remarkable memoir, veteran smokejumper Jason Ramos offers a rare inside look at the lives of airborne firefighters, the select few who parachute into the most rugged and remote wild areas to battle nature's blazes.

"I enjoy biographies because you can learn something new about people, professions and events. Since there are fewer than 500 smokejumpers in the US you do not hear a lot about them unless something goes wrong. It was fascinating to learn about what they do, the rigors of their training and the challenges they face. Ramos does a great job of bringing it to life." ~Cindy P.

Jessie Close The Close sisters are descended from very prominent and wealthy ancestors. When the Close sisters were very young, their parents joined a cult called the MRA, or Moral Rearmament. The family was suddenly uprooted to a cult school in Switzerland and, ultimately, to the Belgian Congo where their father became a surgeon in the war ravaged republic, and ultimately the personal physician to President Mobutu.

"I listened to the book on CD which Jessie Close narrates and it added to the experience to hear her voice tell the stories of her struggle with mental illness. It is sobering to hear her struggles and to know that others don’t have the support system that she had, which were essential in her finding effective treatment." ~Cindy P.

Jacqueline Woodson Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

"Award winner Jacqueline Woodson brings her talent to this children's autobiography - done in verse!  How to eloquently capture feelings and story makes this a rewarding read." ~Cynthia K.

Eugenia Kim In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother--but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country.

"A wonderful story which intertwines the birth of the calligrapher's daughter with the political changes occurring in Korea in the early 1900's. Full of tradition and customs I enjoyed learning Korean history and stories set with a strong female." ~Cynthia K. 

Mordicai Gerstein A lyrical evocation of Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers in New York City

"Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center Twin towers in 1974. It's a feat that will never be performed again.  Robert Zemeckis' live action film, The Walk, is released this month. If you want to experience that thrill of that walk 1,350 above the ground you will enjoy reading,  or listening to, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, Mordecai Gerstein's Caldecott Award-winning picture book." ~Susan M.

Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair; translated by Carolin Sommer The memoir of a German-Nigerian woman who learns that her grandfather was the brutal Nazi commandant depicted [by Ralph Fiennes] in Schindler's List, Amon Goeth.

"How would you react if you found out that one of your relatives was a notoriously vicious concentration camp commandant? To read about what Teege went through emotionally when she discovered this, while also struggling with the fact that her mother gave her up for adoption is both absorbing and sad. The aftermath of war has a very long reach and it is interesting to learn about how people continue to cope with it." ~Cindy P.

Tracey West Eight-year-old Drake is snatched up by the King's soldiers and taken to the castle where he is told by the wizard Griffith that he has been chosen to be a Dragon Master like Ana, Rori, and Bo--and his first task will be to discover whether his dragon, Worm, has any special powers.

"The adventure begins when eight-year-old Drake is taken from his family’s farm and brought to the king’s castle for dragon master training with three other students.  The dragon masters in-training must learn about their dragon’s special powers and how to use them. Drake is not sure how to communicate with his Earth Dragon, named Worm.  With lots of action-packed pictures, this fast-paced early chapter book, the first in the Dragon Masters series, will hook newly independent readers." ~Lindsay H.


"To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an American classic that draws readers in as early as 6th grade.  Young Scout Finch, a tween herself, is a curious and an independent thinker  who is growing up in the South during the Depression. She tells this powerful story of prejudice and racial tension in her town. To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that stays with you for a lifetime and you read over and over again.  If you love it and want something similar, these are some of our tween books that you may enjoy." ~Susan M.

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