Our Favorite Books of 2017

Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2020


What books were winners with Library staff in 2017?  From pop culture potboilers to heavy-hitting history reads, check out the favorites that lined our staff shelves this past year.


View the full list of books in the catalog >


 

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas

"The book emphasizes the need to speak up about the injustices of the world we now unfortunately live in. A young African-American girl has to deal with the difference between the life in her old neighborhood and her new life in a suburban prep school. On top of it all, she is trying get justice for a friend after she was the sole witness to his killing at the hands of a police officer. It's an event that has happened before, and this allows a new perspective, which is that maybe what some people need to make a change."

- Alisha Helms, OneNorth Technology Center


"This timely piece about a girl who sees her friend get shot by a police officer deals with race, socioeconomic status, and identity. However, its realism and relatable protagonist keep it feeling authentic instead of heavy-handed."

- Anna Francesca Garcia, Central Youth Services


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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
Kate Moore

"A fascinating look at the industrial and pharmaceutical craze for radium circa World War I, and the way that certain segments of the population (in this case, young women) can be taken advantage of and neglected by surging industries."

- Katie Sowder, Digital Branch


"The true tale of corporate greed juxtaposed with the destructive health plights of these young women literally fighting for their lives is both horrifying, yet somewhat redemptive. This is compelling storytelling at its finest."

- Stacey Mitchell, Reference Services


"A must read! A fast-paced, wonderful narrative nonfiction book about the women who painted glow-in-the-dark watch faces during World War I and beyond."

- Erica V., Collection Development


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Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
Beth Ann Fennelly

"It is an incredible new book of poems celebrating the everyday quirks of living, intimacy and relationships, and family. "

- Jakob VanLammeren, Reference Services


"In the time it takes a reader to finish a beer, he or she will finish Beth Ann's memoir and feel as if they bought the first round."

- Kaite Stover, Director of Readers' Services


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Homesick for Another World
Ottessa Moshfegh

"A collection of short stories from the author of the highly praised novels McGlue and Eileen. Each story is strange, often moving, and perfectly written in Moshfegh's unique voice. " 

- Mick Cottin, Delivery Services


"Dark, cynical, and very funny. Ottessa Moshfegh's willingness to inhabit terrible and selfish people is a rare and remarkable gift." 

- Flannery C., Westport/Ruiz branches

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Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders

"Saunders somehow managed to perfectly balance real history, heartbreaking sweetness, and utter weirdness in one of the most engaging and enchanting novels I've read in years -- the only book I've ever read in hardcover, then turned around and immediately read as an audiobook. It has everything that's wonderful about the hard copy, delivered by a huge cast including David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Julianne Moore, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jeff Tweedy."

- Katie Sowder, Digital Branch


"George Saunders is a master of the short story, and has won (or been shortlisted) for what seems like every literary prize. His first attempt at a novel is as odd and wonderful as his short story collections."

- Mick Cottin, Delivery Services


"The opening chapters may be confusing for some readers -- multiple viewpoints, myriad characters, snippets from history books, footnotes, and a narrative layout similar to reading a script. Close the book and cue up the audio version, and listen to a rich, talented cast narrate a story of a father's grief, a child's bewilderment, and the diverse family of ghosts who want to help both move on in their lives while navigating their own eternal lives in a southern cemetery limbo."

- Kaite Stover, Director of Readers' Services


"One of my favorites from 2017, in large part because its storytelling style is so unique. Very nontraditional in its structure, the book draws from a true historical event (the death of Abraham Lincoln's son Willie) and frames it within a fictional supernatural world (the limbo-like "bardo" inhabited by a large cast of colorful souls). Lovely, challenging, emotional, moving -- hard to describe, better to simply read (or listen to) and experience for oneself."

- Andy Dandino, Public Affairs


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NOTE: George Saunders will discuss Lincoln in the Bardo during an upcoming visit to the Kansas City Public Library.

Thursday, February 15, 2018
6:30 p.m.
Plaza Branch


Details / RSVP
 

Off Speed Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception
Terry McDermott

"Fastball, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, spitter, slider; McDermott covers them all in this inside-baseball look at the pitches you see thrown by major league pitchers. How they work, how they were invented, how effective they are. All wrapped up in the narrative of  the perfect game pitched by Felix Hernandez in 2012." 

- Joel Jones, Deputy Director, Library Services

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The Girl in the Tower
Katherine Arden

"What's the opposite of a sophomore slump? The Girl in the Tower is the second in a trilogy, which usually means a bridge between 'beginning' and 'end.' But this book is phenomenal! It came out at the beginning of December, a month earlier than the planned release, and it was a great journey. I highly recommend it to any fan of fantasy or historical fiction -- actually, I recommend it to everyone!" 

- Seth Emery, Westport/Ruiz branches

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How to Survive a Summer
Nick White

"I loved this literary tale. The teenage son of a preacher is sent to a religious anti-gay camp; 10 years later, he is struggling to accept what happened at the camp and how it shaped him as a person. It's a beautiful book full of raw, heartbreaking emotion -- and surprisingly, a happy ending." 

- Seth Emery, Westport/Ruiz branches

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Seraphina
Rachel Hartman

"This subtle steam-punk dragon book has everything my dormant 16-year old self could desire. A strong female character, dragon fights, political intrigue, fantasy world-building, and just a touch of romance." 

- Samantha Edwards, Central Youth Services

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The False Prince
Jennifer Nielsen

"A suspenseful young adult political drama about the life-or-death competition among four orphans for the right to pose as the long-lost prince of Carthya and prevent civil war. The plot twists were spellbinding and the characters compelling." 

- Samantha Edwards, Central Youth Services

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Gerald's Game
Stephen King

"I saw the movie, then read the book. I am a huge Stephen King fan. No one thinks like he does. The things that go through his mind are terrifying. Jesse goes with her husband to a remote mountain cabin to put the spark back in their marriage. He talks her into some kinky stuff and handcuffs her to the bed, then has a heart attack and dies. She can’t get out of the handcuffs and no one is around for miles. She kicks him off the bed, and a wild dog she befriended outside comes in and starts terrorizing her. She’s so frightened that she starts hallucinating. I enjoyed both the book and the movie. The plot was very unusual." 

- Linda L., Reference Services

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The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom

"It’s about two Dutch sisters who live with their pop and work with him in his watch repair shop. They end up in a German prison camp after being arrested for hiding Jews. Corrie tells what it was like living through that. It’s a very heartbreaking story about the mistreatment of prisoners by the Germans. Corrie's sister Betsie dies in the camp, and she watches a lot of other people die. But through it all, she keeps her faith in God. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it." 

- Linda L., Reference Services

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From Sea to Shining Sea
James Alexander Thom

"It’s based on a true story of the William Clark family fighting for our independence, their grueling journeys across the continent, the Lewis and Clark expeditions, and life with their 10 sons. Two sisters are captured by Indians and forced to walk 1,000 miles up into the mountains, where one of them becomes the chief's wife. She escapes and walks back home through the mountains in winter without a coat. This book is out of print but available in our Missouri Valley Room to read there." 

- Linda L., Reference Services

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I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness
Susan Verde

"This book has beautiful illustrations and simple language. Reading it feels like taking a deep breath. In this busy and sometimes overwhelming world, it is lovely to have an active reminder to slow oneself and reconnect with inner calm." 

- Anna Francesca Garcia, Central Youth Services

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The Stars Beneath Our Feet
David Barclay Moore

"This is the story of a 12-year-old boy, 'Lolly' Rachpaul, who lives in a housing project in Harlem. He can't walk from his afterschool program at the rec center to his home without fear of being harassed or robbed because he's going through another crew's territory. His older brother can no longer protect him -- he's been recently murdered. So his choices are to join a crew for protection, shoot his harassers, or walk the neighborhood in continuous fear. There are two things that I love about this novel. The first is the diversity. Lolly's grandparents are from Trinidad, his best friend is from the Dominican Republic, his mother has a girlfriend, and one of his friends from aftercare is autistic. But this isn't a book about immigration or homosexuality or autism or gangs -- these are just characteristics of Lolly's Harlem. The other thing I love about this novel is the importance of art. Lolly builds brilliant, imaginative, artistic cities with Legos. The act of creating is an escape from Lolly's struggles, but it also provides real hope for his future." 

- Ron Freeman, Plaza Youth Services

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Hostage
Guy Delisle

"Just your average story of a Doctors Without Borders worker kidnapped and held hostage by Chechen rebels. Christophe Andre spends the first couple of weeks of his hostage situation assured that his release is in the process of being arranged. But the book is 430 pages long, and you can see that it's going to be a while. This is a totally harrowing and amazing story that puts you right in the terrifying drudgery of being chained to a radiator and not knowing if you will be released or taken out into the middle of nowhere and shot. Delisle perfectly captures Christophe Andre's spirit and resolve, and his pacing is incredible. We spend so much time locked up with Andre that when the endgame is suddenly upon us, it is absolutely exhilarating (much like the scene of Andre coming across a clove of garlic after months of eating nothing but thin vegetable soup). My heart was pounding out of my chest. It's outstanding stuff, and easily my favorite book of the year." 

- Ian Hrabe, Waldo Branch

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The Collapsing Empire
John Scalzi

"An outstanding first book in a series whose follow-ups I will be impatiently awaiting for years to come. Scalzi is a dual threat, excelling at crafting endlessly fascinating worlds and endlessly interesting characters, and he's operating at the top of his game here. If you’re looking to get in on the ground floor of a new science fiction series, you can’t go wrong with this one." 

- Ian Hrabe, Waldo Branch

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Universal Harvester
John Darnielle

"The second novel by the Mountain Goats' frontman is haunting, beautiful, heartbreaking, deeply moving, and basically all the things you have come to know and love and expect from a Mountain Goats record. Darnielle's greatest gift -- in both his songwriting and his prose -- is making small, quotidian moments and places seem like the only moments ever experienced and the only places in the universe. There's so much care, and so much poetry put into his characters and the places they inhabit. There is real darkness, sure, but never so much that the light can't be let in when it needs to be." 

- Ian Hrabe, Waldo Branch

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Satellite
Nick Lake

"I wish I'd had this book when I was a middle schooler. Lake crafts a detailed world, compelling characters, and tackles deep moral questions with gentle compassion. The science is accurate, the emotional life of the characters is gripping, the exploration of human nature and society is unflinching. The writing style might be off-putting for some: The first-person narration is written in txtspk, with abbreviations, ellisons, acronyms, etc., but it rings true as the voice of the central character. A rich and satisfying story." 

- John Keogh, Digital Branch

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Autonomous
Annalee Newitz

"Newitz's debut novel is a bit polarizing. Some love it; some really don't. I loved it. It's action-packed, thought-provoking science fiction. She tackles questions of identity, autonomy, gender, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, corporate ethics, medical ethics, and ecological collapse. But it's never unwieldy, never preachy, and her writing is confident, with an assured style and deep characterization. Highly recommended for long-time science fiction fans and new readers alike." 

- John Keogh, Digital Branch

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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Richard Rothstein

"This is one of the most important explorations of American history I've read. It's an uncompromising look into the systemic roots of racism in this country and a clear portrait of just how much work is left to do to set things right." 

- John Keogh, Digital Branch

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The Cairo Trilogy
Najīb Maḥfūẓ

"In the current wave of Islamophobia, it was quite refreshing to see 1940s-1950s Egypt through the eyes of a Muslim author." 

- Bernard Norcott-Mahany, Bluford Branch

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Hidden Figures
Margot Lee Shetterly

"So much of 'history' is hidden -- attributed to a select few while the majority is largely forgotten. It was good to see the spotlight cast on those women of color who contributed so much to NASA and its predecessors." 

- Bernard Norcott-Mahany, Bluford Branch

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Silence
Shūsaku Endō

"Endo's presentation of the trials and tribulations of people of faith is striking in that it offers no easy answer for the 'silence of God' to suffering." 

- Bernard Norcott-Mahany, Bluford Branch

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Little Excavator
Anna Dewdney

"Little Excavator is a lovely children's book from the late author Anna Dewdney, who created the Llama Llama books. Little Excavator was her final book. Little E, the title character, wants to prove himself to his bigger friends: the large construction vehicles building a park. The book has a fun cadence and lots of sight words to help little kids. The illustrations are also adorable and full of detail. We particularly like watching the park go from a dilapidated dumping ground to a beautiful play place. Dewdney's death was heartbreaking for all the fans -- kids and grownups alike -- of Llama Llama, but Little Excavator is a sweet, fun, colorful tale that will have everyone smiling." 

- Courtney Lewis, Public Affairs

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There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé
Morgan Parker

"I will admit that I don't read a lot of poetry, but it didn't take me long to recognize the quality of the written words on each page of Morgan Parker's book. Beautiful and thoughtful, each poem in this short book is worth your time and effort." 

- Mick Cottin, Delivery Services

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Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley

"For anyone who has lost a beloved pet that was dear to their hearts, this story (fictionalized but based on the author's real-life experience of losing his dog) will have you relating and perhaps lead you to a road of healing -- as it did for me. This metaphorical tale is not just about death, but life. Keep a box of Kleenex handy." 

- Stacey Mitchell, Reference Services

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Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
Sam Quinones

"The 'opioid epidemic' has been making headline news a lot in the past year. This is an excellent journalistic account of how black tar heroin from Mexico snaked its way north into the U.S. A gripping and informative read about prescription painkiller/heroin addiction and how we got to where we are today." 

- Stacey Mitchell, Reference Services

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A Column of Fire
Ken Follett

"A Column of Fire is the third in the Kingbridge series, which started with Pillars of the Earth in 1989 and continued with World Without End in 2007. It has been a long wait for No. 3 but well worth it. This historical novel begins in 1558 as England is divided by religion: Protestants vs. Catholics. Families are torn apart, battles are fought, and lovers are separated by their beliefs. Ken Follett does such an exceptional job of depicting the tumultuous times and powerful characters, some real and some fictional, that I always find myself caught up in his stories and feel like I lived through them myself. " 

- Diana Ash, North-East Branch

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The Leavers
Lisa Ko

"It's easy to look past the faces of immigrants in America. Lisa Ko takes one of the faces in the crowd and tells the story of a Chinese mother and son, tragically separated when the mother is deported to China and the son placed with a suburban white family. Neither knows where the other has gone or why. A timely story of contemporary immigrant life." 

- Kaite Stover, Director of Readers' Services

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman

"Eleanor struggles with social skills and says exactly what's on her mind. She times her life perfectly by avoiding social situations, and plans her weekends around pizza, vodka, and talking to her mom on the phone. It all changes in a matter of moments when she and an IT guy from her company save someone's life. At first, I found Eleanor sad and pathetic, but I grew to love her. This is one of my new favorite books of 2017." 

- Erica V., Collection Development

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Real Friends
Shannon Hale

"Shannon struggles to maintain her longtime friendship with her best friend Adrienne. Suddenly, Adrienne is hanging out with the most popular girl in school. The book hit very close to home. It's as if Shannon had a window into my grade school life. We both started kindergarten the same year, and I suffered through the changes of many friends all through elementary school. This is a great graphic novel that captures Shannon's sense of awkwardness. I loved the early '80s fashions and references to pop culture at a time when being the fan of a particular band could make or break your coolness. Wonderful book!" 

- Erica V., Collection Development

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My Favorite Thing is Monsters
Emil Ferris

"This graphic novel took me by surprise! It's touching, scary, funny, mysterious, gripping, and nostalgic all at once. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the large format lends itself perfectly to the detailed drawings. Part murder mystery, part coming-of-age story, part monster-movie fan-fic, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is the fictional diary/sketchbook of Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old girl growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, and the interwoven story of her loving but flawed brother and mother and mysterious neighbors. Throughout, Karen draws herself as a monster who relates to the world through B-movie monster imagery -- somehow perfectly capturing what it's like to be an unusual child struggling to understand your world. This is one of those graphic novels that sticks with you long after you've put it down. I can't wait for the next installment!" 

- Grace Bentley, Bluford Branch Manager

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Neil deGrasse Tyson

"An author reading his own book can be scary. Tyson, however, has a great reading voice, and it was easy to listen to him explain astrophysics -- quarks, black holes and other great unknowns. Not only is this book for people in a hurry, but it is for people who have no real knowledge of the subject. The chapters are short, making it easy to listen while driving to work or walking around the block." 

- Julie Robinson, Outreach Services

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Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman

"Mythology has been a favorite topic for many years. The movie versions of Thor and Loki led me to pick up this book to read the non-Hollywood versions of the stories. The book is well-written (a standard for Neil Gaiman). He begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds, and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman ― difficult with his beard and huge appetite ― to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people. (Not the Hollywood version.)" 

- Julie Robinson, Outreach Services

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Wicked Abyss (from the Immportals After Dark series)
Kresley Cole

"Beauty and the Beast in a sexier story. Abyssian 'Sian' Infernas had his heart shattered by a treacherous fey beauty who died before he could exact vengeance. Millennia later, a curse has transformed him into a demonic monster — just as she’s been reincarnated. Sian captures the delicate but bold female, forcing her back to hell. Princess Calliope 'Lila' Barbot’s people have hated and feared Abyssian and his alliance of monsters for eons. When the beastly demon imprisons her in his mystical castle, vowing revenge for betrayals she can’t remember, Lila makes her own vow: to bring down the wicked beast for good. As Lila turns hell inside out, the all-powerful Sian finds himself defenseless against his feelings for her. In turn, Lila reluctantly responds to the beast’s cleverness and gruff vulnerability. But when truths from a far distant past are revealed, can their tenuous bond withstand ages of deceit, a curse, and a looming supernatural war?" 

- Julie Robinson, Outreach Services

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Dead Girls And Other Stories
Emily Geminder

"A poetic exploration of trauma and violence written with near-omniscient insight." 

- Flannery C., Westport/Ruiz branches

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Generation Wealth
Lauren Greenfield

"A luxurious tome about the worst people on earth and what they do for fun." 

- Flannery C., Westport/Ruiz branches

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Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts
Christopher De Hamel

"A chance to visit libraries that are closed to the public and learn more about some of the most amazing handwritten and illustrated books ever created." 

- Ziya Reynolds, OneNorth Technology Center

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I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street
Matt Taibbi

"The story of Eric Garner's 2014 death at the hands of a New York City police officer -- captured on video -- blazed across the internet and ultimately spread onto the streets in the form of nationwide protests. Taibbi's book chronicles the complicated history behind the headlines, providing not only an account of Garner's troubled past but also an exploration of controversial law enforcement practices (stop-and-frisk and 'broken windows' policing among them) used in NYC and other cities around the U.S.. A compelling look at police tactics, the criminal justice system, contemporary race relations and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the power of media in the modern age. " 

- Andy Dandino, Public Affairs

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Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Jessica Bruder

"One of the more eye-opening reads from the past year, Nomadland follows several middle-class retirees as they reinvent their lives in our new American economy by joining the growing community of workers who live in RVs, vans, and mobile homes ('workampers'), traveling across the country in pursuit of seasonal jobs at places like Amazon warehouses. Bruder's book is sobering -- the promise of a leisurely retirement is increasingly out of reach for many Americans -- but it is also inspiring as she introduces us to many hardworking and caring people simply trying to make their way in a post-recession world." 

- Andy Dandino, Public Affairs

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Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
Derrick D. Barnes

"Joy jumps out of each page of this delightful picture book about how a young boy feels getting his hair cut in a neighborhood barber shop. The author worked for the library at one time, and it is joyful to see his book receive such amazing reviews." 

- Crystal Faris, Director of Youth & Family Engagement

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Magpie Murders
Anthony Horowitz

"A captivating story and amazing audiobook production that is a bit of a homage to traditional British mysteries. An editor reads the latest mystery novel of a bestselling author that is missing the resolution/conclusion, but the author has been killed. What really happened (in both stories)? Truly absorbing." 

- Crystal Faris, Director of Youth & Family Engagement

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Exit, Pursued by a Bear
E.K. Johnston

"A beautifully executed story about what can happen when we listen to, believe, and support victims and survivors of sexual assault." 

- Lauren Olson, Bluford Youth Services

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Scythe
Neal Shusterman

"The perfect antidote for the young adult science fiction fan who is tired of the same old dystopian setting. The world building and lore is just the thing when you're looking to immerse yourself in a title." 

- Lauren Olson, Bluford Youth Services

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