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MCPL Staff Members Name Their Favorite Books of 2019!

December 31, 2019

book covers of some of this year's staff picks

With only a few hours remaining in 2019, another year is about to come to a close. Before we are thrust into a new year and a new decade, staff members at the Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) are taking a look back on the books they read over the past 12 months and selecting their favorites.

This year’s list features 26 books that MCPL employees say were their favorite of the year (along with a few runners-up). This diverse list includes adult fiction and nonfiction, youth nonfiction, best-sellers, and titles by both well-known and up-and-coming authors.

In addition to our own picks, we’d also like to know – what was your favorite book that you read this year? Let us know in the comments.

Of course, all of the titles mentioned below are available for check out at your local Marathon County Public Library location. To request a title, click on any of the book covers below or contact your local MCPL location.

Happy New Year from all of us at MCPL!


"MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE" by LORI GOTTLIEB

Laura L., Library Specialist at MCPL Wausau, says: "This book gave me a much-needed new perspective on the value of therapy while also exploring all of the messy and beautiful things that make us human."

"UNDERLAND: A DEEP TIME JOURNEY" by ROBERT MACFARLANE

Chad D., Library Specialist and Library Events Coordinator at MCPL Wausau, says: "This is fascinating look at life and history under the surface of the Earth; you'll never think of fungus the same after reading." Chad D. also selected "A Fortune For Your Disaster" by Hanif Abdurraqib, which he describes as "Love, loss, magic, Michael Jordan, Marvin Gaye and Nicola Tesla, all wrapped up in a terrific book of poetry."

"WRITERS AND THEIR PETS" by KATHLEEN KRULL

Rose D., Library Specialist at MCPL Wausau, says: "Author Kathleen Krull offers insight into the backgrounds of various authors from childhood to them becoming famous, highlighting how animals were inspirations, confidants, friends, and heroes to them."

"THE GREAT ALONE" by KRISTIN HANNAH

Audrey K., Spencer Branch Coordinator, says: "This powerful story takes you to Alaska, where a Vietnam War POW struggles to keep his family together by living off the Alaskan frontier."

"SADIE" by COURTNEY SUMMERS

Ashley S., Rothschild Branch Assistant, says: "I am a fan of true crime podcasts and this book was an excellent blend of a heartbreaking and thrilling, from the perspective of a podcast reporter and the sister of a murder victim. I could not put it down!"

"SPINNING SILVER" by NAOMI NOVIK

Hannah D., Rothschild Branch Assistant, says: "This book captured my imagination. Its protagonist is relatable and inspirational in the strangest way, and I found myself rooting for her while also recognizing her faults and embracing them." Hannah D. also selected "The Library of the Unwritten" by A. J. Hackwith, which she describes as "a concept I'd never even dreamed of...it was surprising and exciting, full of life and literary goodness."

"THE HUNTRESS" by KATE QUINN

Taylor W., Children's Librarian at MCPL Wausau, says: "I loved one of the main characters, Nina, who was a Russian peasant turned feisty airplane pilot in WWII turned fearless Nazi hunter, and how her character was compared to a Russian folklore legend called Rusalka, or a water witch."

"101 WAYS TO GO ZERO WASTE" by KATHRYN KELLOGG

Elizabeth L., Marathon City Branch Assistant, says: "This practical guide about identifying and reducing the waste generated by your lifestyle choices was really influential for me this year. Since I read it, I’ve been finding more and more ways to eliminate garbage in my life!"

"MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE" by LORI GOTTLIEB

Dan R., Library Marketing Specialist at MCPL Wausau, says: "I’ve always been greatly intrigued by the world of psychology and how people's behaviors – good or bad – develop. This book makes you, in a small way, take a look at your own life and do some self-reflection."

"WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING" by DELIA OWENS

Wendy D., Spencer Branch Assistant, says: "The plot caught me right away with what the protagonist went through, and the ending was such a surprise!"

"RECURSION" by BLAKE CROUCH

Ashley H., Rothschild Branch Assistant, says: "I enjoyed the concept of False Memory Syndrome, the possibility of changing our past and the devastating results that could happen if we did."

"THE STONE CIRCLE" by ELLY GRIFFITHS

Sarah M., Mosinee Branch Coordinator, says: "This is the 11th installment in the Ruth Galloway series (one of my all-time favorites), which is a must-read series with fantastic characters who you just can’t help but love, truly atmospheric settings, and layers of thrilling mysteries!" Sarah M. also selected "Lock Every Door" by Riley Sager, which she describes as "an atmospheric, fast-paced thriller about an apartment sitter who quickly realizes the people before her have all vanished under mysterious circumstances. It's packed full of excellent twists and turns!"

"THE FLATSHARE" by BETH O'LEARY

Kathy G., Library Specialist at MCPL Wausau, says: "You think it's going to be a nice romantic story - and it is - but the development of the plot lines makes this novel a fresh and appealing read."

"NINTH HOUSE" by LEIGH BARDUGO

Laura W., MCPL Rothschild Branch Coordinator and Branch Services Lead, says: "This book, about a freshman at Yale tasked with monitoring the activities of the school's secret societies, had it all - a murder mystery, magic, ghosts, and an intriguing heroine who may not be exactly what she seems."

"DOPESICK" by BETH MACY

Mary Jo N., Stratford Branch Coordinator, says: "This book was riveting, heart-wrenching, infuriating, and terrifying. Though it was a tough read due to the bleak topic, Macy’s in-depth research, compelling writing style, and true illustrative stories opened my eyes and helped me better understand the opioid crisis from all perspectives."

"#IMOMSOHARD" by KRISTIN HENSLEY AND JEN SMEDLEY

Alyssa S., Edgar Branch Assistant, says: "This is a hilarious and oh-so-relatable book about motherhood and just being a woman. I listened to the audiobook and laughed out loud numerous times!"

"LIGHTS ALL NIGHT LONG" by LYDIA FITZPATRICK

Kate S., Librarian and Adult Collection Development Specialist at MCPL Wausau, says: "A bildungsroman of two brothers in a Russian refinery town where one is excelling in school while the other spirals into the seedy underground where a new drug is running rampant."

"THE 13TH GIFT" by JOANNE HUIST SMITH

Heather B., Hatley Branch Coordinator, says: "This was a very heartwarming, based-on-true-events Christmas story that got you thinking about what you would do you if you had such a significant loss close the holidays. It also got you thinking about others that may be going through something similar and how this book could help them cope."

"THE SECOND-WORST RESTAURANT IN FRANCE" by ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH

Shahara F., Athens Branch Assistant, says: "I love anything by Alexander McCall Smith. In this story, Scottish cookbook author Paul Stuart needs a break and borrows his cousin's flat in France, and nothing goes as planned. Full of food and folly, this book was tops."

"MR. DICKENS AND HIS CAROL" by SAMANTHA SILVA

Deb G., Edgar Branch Coordinator, says: "This is a great story with humor, and creativity about Charles Dickens' home and work life. Although this is a work of fiction, it will make you rethink the original story of 'The Christmas Carol.'"

"UNDERSTANDING ALZHEIMER'S: AN INTRODUCTION FOR PATIENTS AND CAREGIVERS" by NAHEED ALI

Michelle K., Library Page at MCPL Wausau, says: "A close family member was diagnosed with Alzheimer's this year and this book was an eye-opener on what to expect as the disease progresses. It was the book that had the most impact on my life this year."

"BEHIND CLOSED DOORS" by B.A. PARIS

Robin W., Hatley Branch Assistant, says: " I was sucked into this book by the 'perfect' couple that the book focuses on. They are the kind that throw magnificent parties and that are the talk of the town. Most of us know people like this, but do we really know what goes on behind closed doors?"

"NEVER LET ME GO" by KAZUO ISHIGURO

Julie G., Mosinee Branch Assistant, says: "Kathy H. is a 'carer.' This particular definition is not found in a dictionary, nor is its meaning discovered by the reader until, ever so slowly, the dark but 'respectable' horror of this dystopian society is revealed. It's also one that will be pondered by the reader long after the book is finished."

"THE BOOTLACE MAGICIAN" by CASSIE BEASLEY

Hayley S., Library Page at MCPL Wausau, says: "This sequel to 'Circus Mirandus' could be enjoyed as a standalone, yet it builds nicely on the first. I was so nervous that something would happen to spoil the magic, but it didn’t."

"EDUCATED" by TARA WESTOVER

Lisa H., Marathon City Branch Coordinator, says: "This is a memoir that read like fiction. So many times, it had me thinking 'You can’t make this stuff up!'"

"MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL" by ADAM HIGGINBOTHAM

Julie K., Adult Services Librarian at MCPL Wausau, says: "I enjoy understanding how and why people react in the ways they do - their motives, their background, and what makes them act a certain way. The disaster and the aftermath in this book made it very clear that why certain decisions were made or not made and why this was a disaster just waiting to happen due to the instability of the Soviet government and economy."


Library Books

image credit: MCPL