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Not to be too “Matilda” about it all, but I absolutely love the library. I was the child checking out ten to fifteen books at a time (“Yes, I will read them all!”), participating in the yearly summer reading challenge, and signing up for the variety of programming my local branch offered year-round (I think I still have my babysitting certificate somewhere). And so I am obviously always excited about National Library Week, a yearly celebration hosted by the American Library Association to promote the importance of libraries to all readers and their communities.
This year’s theme is “Connect with Your Library,” and so I took the opportunity to connect with librarians all over the country to hear more about the one book they think (almost) any reader would love. Visit your local library this week and pick up one of these titles (but they’re linked below if you’d rather own them forever).
“I was thoroughly impressed with ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’. Towles reflects on what it means to be faithful to people and I find that I usually read it once a year. I find nourishment in it — it stands up to rereading, if that’s something you like to do.” — Mark Moore, librarian at the Cleveland Public Library
“It’s a family biography of the Grimkés, who lived locally here in Boston but were originally from Charleston, South Carolina, and they were involved with the abolitionist movement. It spans several generations [of their family]. It’s really fascinating and an easy read, but very informative and I recommend it to everyone I know. I also am involved with a book club called Boston by Book and I pushed that title so well they asked me to lead the book discussion on it in June!” — Elisa Birdseye, librarian at the Adams Street Branch of Boston Public Library
“I know…yes, it’s library week, so why choose a book titled ‘The Personal Librarian’, however this book is incredible! It is about a woman, Belle de Costa Green (born Belle Marion Greener) who is the personal librarian to the well-known J.P. Morgan. This historical fiction book is about Belle de Costa Green who is known for her extensive knowledge and intelligence about art and books. She is hired to run New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library. Aside from being a woman, she also is hiding that she is “passing” as white, as she is born a Black woman. I appreciate the work of Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray bringing Belle’s story to life.” — Britainy A. Montague, library assistant at the Lincoln Library in Springfield
“It’s a nonfiction title about a person who grew up in Washington in a Mexican immigrant family and worked at an apple packing plant. He learns about a movement called “The Peace & Dignity Journey,” and joins a marathon [that goes] from Canada all the way to Guatemala. The book is really accessible, and locally relevant to Washington—right now, there’s a farm worker’s strike, so it’s even more timely.” —Staff member at the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library
“’Slaughterhouse Five’ is beautifully written, sad yet funny, sharply satirical and just something everyone should read at least once. It is my go to for: adults looking for something different and not formulaic, the reluctant reader needing a classic for school work, the kids who are transitioning from young adult books to adult books (sci-fi is really suited to crossing reading levels), or patrons who usually read nonfiction (this is a way to recommend a WWII fiction book). It’s short, it explores humanity at its best and worst and all the ambiguity in between, threaded through with hope and love, which is the very best reason to pick up a book.” — Bethany Ronnberg, librarian at Scottsdale Public Library
“I can’t stop recommending ‘Medusa’. This story is a myth reimagined from Medusa’s perspective, and it’s a young adult novel with plenty of grownup appeal. Give this book to teens and adults who are ready for an old story in an amazing new skin.” — Andrea Lipinski, Senior Young Adult Librarian for Kingsbridge Library
“Before I read it, I believed in the interconnectedness of things, but the book really reinforced that feeling. It changed the way I think about trees and the planet — when I look at trees, I think about what I can’t see. What lies below the surface is even more important than what you see above ground. I think you can learn a lot about reading fiction books —they open you up to different perspectives and different points of view.” — Margaret Miles, Fairfax Branch of the Marin County Free Library
“‘Living with Viola’ is a graphic novel. The storyline touches on a young lady dealing with anxiety. The book is geared toward older children, possibly 9/10 years old. This was one of the books I enjoyed while on the 2021 BIPOC committee, I loved the realism of it and this would be quite helpful and relatable to a child who may be going through this.” — Ann-Marie Braithwaite, Children’s Librarian at Parkchester Library
“It’s instantly relatable, to anyone who is (or was) in middle school. It perfectly captures the in-between-ness of middle schoolers, still playful children and yet incredibly mature and insightful, and the in-between-ness of the setting of the time after school, between the final bell and coming home, where kids are unattended and allowed to be themselves, even unintentionally. It’s subtle in its storytelling, with each story and the entire book leaving the characters on the cusp of changing. It’s incredibly well-crafted, without a single sentence out of place or an unnecessary word. It’s short enough for anyone to read. I laughed, multiple times. I cried, multiple times. It’s a perfect book.” — Julia Erlanger, librarian at the Sacramento Public Library