LibraryReads is the monthly nationwide library staff picks list for adult fiction and non-fiction. Rather than picking “the best” of anything, LibraryReads represents collective favorites—the books library staff across the U.S. loved reading and cannot wait to share. The August 2023 LibraryReads list includes:
Happiness Falls by Angie Kim
Mia, the irreverent, hyperanalytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything–which is why she isn’t initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don’t return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia’s brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.
What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance. Full of shocking twists and fascinating questions of love, language, race, and human connection, Happiness Falls is a mystery, a family drama, and a novel of profound philosophical inquiry. With all the powerful storytelling she brought to her award-winning debut Miracle Creek, Angie Kim turns the missing person story into something wholly original, creating an indelible tale of a family who must go to remarkable lengths to truly understand one another.
Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake–a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led–her sisters are surprised. Has Flor forseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.
But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets. Matilde has tried for decades to cover the extent of her husband’s infidelity, but she must now confront the true state of her marriage. Pastora is typically the most reserved sister, but Flor’s wake motivates this driven woman to solve her sibling’s problems. Camila is the youngest sibling, and often the forgotten one, but she’s decided she no longer wants to be taken for granted.
And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own: Yadi is reuniting with her first love, who was imprisoned when they were both still kids; Ona is married for years and attempting to conceive. Ona must decide whether it’s worth it to keep trying–to have a child, and the anthropology research that’s begun to feel lackluster.
Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the north. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead.
Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago.
Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind.
Blonde Identity by Ally Carter
It’s the middle of the night in the middle of Paris and a woman just woke up with no memory.
She only knows three things for certain: 1. She has a splitting headache. 2. The hottest guy she has (probably) ever seen is standing over her, telling her to run. And oh yeah… 3. People keep trying to kill her.
She doesn’t know who. Or why. But when she sees footage of herself fighting off a dozen men there’s only one explanation: obviously. . . she’s a spy! Except, according to Mr. Hot Guy, she’s not. She’s a spy’s identical twin sister.
Too bad the only person who knows she’s not the woman they’re looking for is this very grouchy, very sexy, very secret agent who (reluctantly) agrees to help her disappear.
Kiss the Girl by Córdova
Ariel del Mar is one of the most famous singers in the world. She and her sisters—together, known as the band Siren Seven—have been a pop culture phenomenon since they were kids. On stage, wearing her iconic red wig and sequined costumes, staring out at a sea of fans, is where she shines. Anyone would think she’s the girl who has everything.
But lately, she wants more . Siren Seven is wrapping up their farewell tour, and Ariel can’t wait to spend the summer just living a normal life—part of a world she’s only ever seen from the outside. But her father, the head of Atlantica Records, has other begin her breakout solo career immediately, starting with a splashy announcement on a morning talk show.
The night before, Ariel and her sisters sneak out of their Manhattan penthouse for a night of incognito fun at a rock concert in Brooklyn. It’s there that Ariel crosses paths with Eric Reyes, dreamy lead singer of an up-and-coming band. Unaware of her true identity, Eric spontaneously invites her on the road for the summer. And for the first time in her life, Ariel disobeys her father—and goes with him.
Whalefall by Daniel Kraus
Jay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.
The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.
As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community–heaven and earth–that sustain us.
The Witch is Back by Sophie H. Morgan
There’s nothing wrong with being a wallflower. Not to Emmaline Bluewater, anyway. Emma may have been born into witch society, but her days of trying to fit in where she doesn’t belong are over—they ended seven years ago, when the man she’d hoped to marry left town without a word. She’s much happier now, living a delightfully mundane human life in Chicago and running her bar, Toil and Trouble.
Until Bastian Truenote walks through the door and announces that he wants her back.
Bastian had his reasons for leaving—even if he can’t tell Emma what they are. Now, to win Emma’s heart, he’s got to face down an adorably goofy dog familiar, a best friend who’s all too eager to hit him with a carefully aimed hex, and a woman who’s far from the meek witch he remembers.
Codename Charming by Lucy Parker
Petunia De Vere enjoys being the personal assistant to lovable, bumbling Johnny Marchmont. But the job has its share of challenges, including the royal’s giant, intimidating bodyguard, Matthias. Pet and Matthias are polar opposites—she’s spontaneous and enthusiastic, he’s rigid and stoic—but she can sense there’s something softer underneath that tough exterior…
For Matthias Vaughn, protecting others is the name of the game. But keeping his royal charge out of trouble is more difficult than he imagined because everywhere Johnny goes, calamity ensues, and his petite, bubbly assistant is often caught in the fray. Matthias hates the idea of Pet getting hurt and he’s determined to keep everyone safe, even if it means clashing with his adorable new coworker.
When a clumsy moment leads to a questionable tabloid photo, the press begins to speculate that Pet is romantically involved with Johnny. To put an end to the rumors, the royal PR team asks Pet and Matthias to stage a fake relationship and the two reluctantly agree. But as they spend more time together outside of work, they begin to wonder what real emotions this pretend connection might uncover. Especially when a passionate kiss leaves both of their heads spinning…
Mister Magic by Kiersten White
Thirty years after a tragic accident shut down production of the classic children’s program Mister Magic, the five surviving cast members have done their best to move on. But just as generations of cultishly devoted fans still cling to the lessons they learned from the show, the cast, known as the Circle of Friends, have spent their lives searching for the happiness they felt while they were on it. The friendship. The feeling of belonging. And the protection of Mister Magic.
But with no surviving video of the show, no evidence of who directed or produced it, and no records of who—or what—the beloved host actually was, memories are all the former Circle of Friends has.
Then a twist of fate brings the castmates back together at the remote desert filming compound that feels like it’s been waiting for them all this time. Even though they haven’t seen each other for years, they understand one another better than anyone has since.
Bonus Pick: The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp by Leonie Swann
It has been an eventful morning for Agnes Sharp and the other inhabitants of Sunset Hall, a house share for the old and unruly in the sleepy English countryside. Although they have had some issues (misplaced reading glasses, conflicting culinary tastes, decreasing mobility, and unruly grandsons), nothing prepares them for an unexpected visit from a police officer with some shocking news. A body has been discovered next door. Everyone puts on a long face for show, but they are secretly relieved the body in question is not the one they’re currently hiding in the shed (sorry, Lillith).
It seems the answer to their little problem with Lillith may have fallen right into their lap. All they have to do is find out who murdered their neighbor, so they can pin Lillith’s death on them, thus killing two (old) birds with one stone (cold killer).
With their plan sorted, Agnes and her geriatric gang spring into action. After all, everybody likes a good mystery. Besides, the more suspicion they can cast about, surely the less will land on them. To investigate, they will step out of their comfort zone, into the not-so-idyllic village of Duck End and tangle with sinister bakers, broken stairlifts, inept criminals, the local authorities, and their own dark secrets.
Nonfiction: The Girls Who Fought Crime by Mari Eder
Mary “Mae” Foley was a force to be reckoned with. On one hip she held her makeup compact, on the other, her NYPD badge. When women were fighting for the vote, Mae was fighting crime in the heart of New York City – taking down rapists, boot-leggers, Nazis, and serial killers. One of the first women to be sworn into the police force, Mae not only fought crime in the city that never sleeps, but also did something much bigger – challenged the patriarchal systems that continually tried to shut her and other women down. The result of her efforts? A long career that helped over 2,000 women join her auxiliary police force, the ‘Masher Squad.’ Mae Foley is proof that women can do anything men can do, all while wearing corsets and the perfect shade of rouge.