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Winter Reading Ideas: Chosen Family Stories

Chosen families happen for a variety of reasons, but they always have very special and unique bonds. We’ve collected a bunch of stories that explore chosen families. These books show how diverse the idea of family can be. As these are fictional stories, there are some truly magical selected families as well as self-styled families that can be found in present day or in the past. Choose your pick of a chosen family story!

 

 

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

An award-winning Trinidadian author offers a novel that looks at a complicated marriage, an unconventional family and the shocking secrets that unite them.

Strong Sense of Place; Lyrical

 

 

 

Little Family by Ishmael Beah

A powerful novel about young people in a conflict-scarred land, struggling to replace the homes they have lost with the one they have created together.

Atmospheric; Complex

 

 

 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place-and realizing that family is yours.

Heartwarming; Witty

 

 

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

A woman in mid-20th-century rural North Carolina, determined to live on her own terms in spite of community gossip, finds unexpected support from a veteran fixer who struggles with an inability to correct his own troubled past.

Historical Fiction; Well-Crafted Dialogue

 

 

My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

A group of New England islanders come together for a recently orphaned girl, an act that reveals the power of community, as well as dredges up long-buried secrets.

Character-driven; Melancholy

 

 

 

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

Enduring the rampant violence against women and the LGBTQ community in the decades of the Uruguayan dictatorship, five women heartbreakingly unite as lovers, friends and family.

Dramatic; Lush

 

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

After getting dumped by her husband, a woman sets out to prove her worth by entering a ‘best housewife’ pageant in 1970 Palm Springs.

Humorous; Engaging

Winter Reading Ideas: Best Books of 2020

Best Books of 2020

We sifted through a great many of the Best Books of 2020 opinions that have been making the rounds and put some of the more frequent fliers on this curated Best Books of 2020 list. Featured below are some of the books that our staff have heard rave reviews about as well as those consistently on those Best Of indexes!

Deacon King Kong book cover

 

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

In the aftermath of a 1969 Brooklyn church deacon’s public shooting of a local drug dealer, the community’s African-American and Latinx witnesses find unexpected support from each other when they are targeted by violent mobsters.

 

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family book cover

 

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Tells the heartrending story of a midcentury American family with 12 children, 6 of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

 

Transcendent Kingdom book cover

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice.

 

Blacktop Wasteland book cover

 

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Compelled by poverty to agree to a lucrative final heist that will allow him to go straight, a skilled getaway driver finds his efforts complicated by racial dynamics and the ghosts of his past.

 

The Cold Millions book cover

 

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Enduring a harsh existence as day laborers, orphaned brothers Gig and Rye Dolan are drawn to a feminist activist and a vaudeville singer whose experiences reflect an unjust world on the brink of upheaval.

 

 

The City We Became book cover

 

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Takes readers into the dark underbelly of New York City where a roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars.

 

 

The Only Good Indians book cover

 

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

 

Party of Two book cover

 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

Going against her better judgement, LA lawyer Olivia Monroe secretly starts dating a hotshot junior senator until their romance is made public and her life falls under intense media scrutiny, jeopardizing everything.

Winter Reading: Social Justice

social justice

Books are a great entry point in learning about social fairness and equality. Social justice is a topic that is broad, diverse, and features subjects that help us reflect upon the society in which we live, learning about experiences different from our own. Issues of social justice are found in many subject areas that may be explored within both fiction and nonfiction. Browse a curated list of books on Social Justice, or look below for some quick recommendations. Any of these would be ideal for your own reading exploration or for the optional mini reading challenge on Social Justice for Winter Reading!

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground book cover

 

A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott

A personal meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America, in an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about Native people in North America.

 

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman book cover

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

A popular BuzzFeed columnist examines the phenomenon of popular provocative womanhood to discuss the rise of such counterculture stars as Amy Schumer, Nicki Minaj and Caitlyn Jenner, exploring why they are popular in spite of negative behaviors and what makes and breaks today’s divas.

 

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City book cover

 

Five Days: the Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore

An account of the 2015 police-brutality killing of Freddie Gray retraces key events from the perspectives of seven insiders, including a conflicted Baltimore Police Department captain, the victim’s sister and the owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

 

 

we cast a shadow book cover

 

We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

In a near-future South where an increasing number of people with dark skin endure cosmetic procedures to pass as white, a father embarks on an obsessive quest to protect his son, who bears a dark, spreading birthmark.

 

 

Good Kings Bad Kings book cover

 

Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum

The residents at a facility for disabled young people in Chicago build trust and make friends in an effort to fight against their living conditions and mistreatment in this debut novel from the playwright behind “Mishuganismo”.

 

 

Please See Us book cover

 

Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

Two young women become unlikely friends during one fateful summer in Atlantic City as mysterious disappearances hit dangerously close to home.

 

 

1919 book cover

 

1919 by Eve Ewing

Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.

 

 

 

Join in on the Winter Reading fun on Beanstack!

justice

Winter Reading Ideas: New Fiction in January

New Fiction in January

New year, new fiction! Start 2021 with some fresh new reads and with Warm Up With Reading, our Winter Reading program. There’s a “read what you like” route as well as an optional mini reading challenge. We also have a larger list of new fiction in January and, as always, you may contact us at readers@mppl.org for personalized reading suggestions!

Yellow Wife book cover

 

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Born on a plantation but set apart from the others by her mother’s position as a medicine woman, a young slave is forced to leave home at 18 and unexpectedly finds herself in an infamously cruel jail.

 

 

Prodigal Son book cover

 

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz, 6th book in Orphan X series

Retiring from his Nowhere Man activities in exchange for an unofficial pardon, former government assassin Evan Smoak is entreated by a unlikely client to help rescue a fellow orphan from a dangerous foster home.

 

 

Black Buck book cover

 

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

An unambitious college graduate accepts a job at Sumwun, the hottest NYC startup, and reimagines himself as “Buck” a ruthless salesman and begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force.

 

 

The Prophets book cover

 

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. 

Two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation find refuge in each other while transforming a quiet shed into a haven for their fellow slaves, before an enslaved preacher declares their bond sinful.

 

 

The House on Vesper Sands book cover

 

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A Victorian-inspired supernatural mystery follows the experiences of a Cambridge dropout and his savvy detective partner, who connect a paramour’s disappearance to a bizarre suicide.

 

 

Siri, Who Am I? book cover

 

Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida

Waking from a coma with no memory of who she is, a wealthy millennial tries to piece together her identity through her social-media activity before following leads to a billionaire’s home and the site of a suspicious accident.

 

 

Across the Green Grass Fields book cover

 

Across The Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire, 6th book in Wayward Children series

Regan passes through a mysterious doorway before finding herself in a fantastical world of magical equines who expect humans to step up as heroes.

 

 

Nick book cover

 

Nick by Michael Farris Smith

A tale inspired by Fitzgerald’s famous narrator imagines the life of Nick Carraway before Gatsby, depicting a war-traumatized, heavily drinking man who embarks on a doomed journey of redemption from Paris to New Orleans.

 

Best Films of 2020

best films of 2020

2020 was a very different year for films, but we scoured through the Best Films of 2020 rankings that have been circulating and spotlighted the more frequent fliers on this Best Films of 2020 list. Featured below are some of the movies that our staff have heard rave reviews about as well as those consistently on multiple Best Of indexes!

For Best Of streaming-only options (not featured here), you can look into checking out one of our Rokus.

 

First Cow DVD cover

 

First Cow

A loner and cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds a connection with Chinese immigrants. The men collaborate on business, although its longevity is reliant upon the participation of a wealthy landowners prized milking cow.

 

The Assistant DVD cover

 

The Assistant

One day in the life of Jane, a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. As Jane follows her daily routine, she, and viewers, grow increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colors every aspect of her workday, an accumulation of degradations against which Jane decides to take a stand, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always DVD cover

 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, the film is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion.

 

Beanpole DVD cover

 

Beanpole

1945, Leningrad. WWII has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.

 

The Whistlers DVD cover

 

The Whistlers

Not everything is as it seems for Cristi, a police inspector in Bucharest who plays both sides of the law. Embarking with the beautiful Gilda on a high-stakes heist, both will have to navigate the twists and turns of corruption, treachery and deception. A trip to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language might just be what they need to pull it off.

 

Bad Education DVD cover

 

Bad Education

The beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district and his staff, friends and relatives become the prime suspects in the unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.

 

 

Sorry We Missed You DVD cover

 

Sorry We Missed You

Ricky and his wife Abby, who lost their home in the 2008 financial crash, are desperate to get out of their economic distress. When Ricky gets the opportunity to be his own boss as a delivery driver, they trade in their only asset, Abby’s car, for a new white van and the dream that Ricky can work his way up to owning his own franchise. But the couple find their lives are quickly pushed further to the edge by an unrelenting work schedule, a ruthless supervisor, and the needs of their children.