Essex Librarians Read

Want to learn more about Essex librarians’ favorite books and genres? Scroll below to discover our favorite reads and recommendations for you!

Jana’s Suggestions | Emily’s Suggestions |  Ann’s Suggestions | Anna’s Suggestions | Jessica’s Suggestions | Diane’s Suggestions | Richard’s Suggestions | Sue’s Suggestions

Jana’s Suggestions

  • Dream Work by Mary Oliver Dream Work by Mary Oliver
  • The Hanged Man by Francesa Lia Block The Hanged Man by Francesa Lia Block
  • The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
  • What the Living Do by Marie Howe What the Living Do by Marie Howe
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
  • The World’s Wife By Carol Ann Duffy The World’s Wife By Carol Ann Duffy
  • Ordinary Beast By Nicole Sealey Ordinary Beast By Nicole Sealey
  • No Matter the Wreckage By Sarah Kay No Matter the Wreckage By Sarah Kay
  • Good Poems Edited by Garrison Keillor Good Poems Edited by Garrison Keillor

The books Jana seems to be drawn to the most can usually be classified as poetry or Young Adult Literature (YA Lit.) She notes, “I want to feel connected to a book when I’m reading it, reflecting on it, or even when I am simply holding it in my hands, years after I’ve finished it. And I’ve noticed that poets, and YA Lit authors can, like no other, create this connection. And so, like moths to a flame, I tend to flock.

Poetry is one of Jana’s favorite genres. “Poets tend to have a quiet way of creating connection with their audience—there is this gentle resonating between poet and reader, bridged by shared experience. The genre is layered with this connection, this intimacy that is webbed across decades, and distance. These connections are quite unique to the genre of poetry, I find, and are also my favorite thing about it.

Jana appreciates writers who create intelligent descriptions and careful connections, writers who organize a paragraph (or a stanza) eloquently and effortlessly, and writers who evoke feeling or response from the reader. She notes, “I like to read writing that is poetic—as I find poets write very efficiently, and often times, very beautifully. Above all, I read writers like Francesca Lia Block and Mary Oliver who make an impact, leave a lingering taste or a lasting impression.”

Jana recommends Mary Oliver’s Dream Work and Francesca Lia Block’s novel The Hanged Man, as well as The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold.

Emily’s Suggestions

  • The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
  • City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • News of the World by Paulette Jiles News of the World by Paulette Jiles
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • The Rosie Project by Graene Simsion The Rosie Project by Graene Simsion
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Photo of EmilyAlthough Emily reads across many genres, she frequently finds herself reading historical fiction. She continues,”The best historical fiction novels are those that inspire me to read more. From Leo Tolstoy to Peter Carey, and Beatriz Williams to Sebastian Barry, I’m bound to find one I’ll enjoy. When I need a lighter option, I tend to curl up with women’s literature or a cozy mystery. I also enjoy escaping with a great comedic memoir.”

Emily cites “Journey Fiction” as one of her favorite genres. She says, “After recently reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles, I realized how much I enjoy novels depicting a character who takes a journey. Recently, several wonderful books have been written about people, who through their travels, heal their own private wounds. I’m especially excited to read about a character unintentionally discovering another facet of his/her personality.

Emily reads across many genres, which is reflected by her favorite authors. “When I am looking for historical fiction that has some humor, I always enjoy Beatriz Williams. Her characters are delightful and often reappear in other novels. If I am in the mood for a thriller, I have been enthralled consistently by Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton Series, which takes place in the Yukon. Bill Bryson has never failed to make me laugh as I quickly escape into his hilarious travelogues.

Emily recommends The Secret Life of Violet Grant (Schuyler Sisters #1) by Beatriz Williams, City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Ann’s Suggestions

  • The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg
  • The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
  • West by Carys Davies West by Carys Davies
  • Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin by Calvin Trillin Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin by Calvin Trillin
  • Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rahoff Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rahoff
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
  • The Essays of E B White by E B White The Essays of E B White by E B White
  • How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
  • Arguably by Christopher Hitchens Arguably by Christopher Hitchens

Photo of AnnWhen discussing her reading preferences, Ann explains, “The books I enjoy most are those that transport me, even if only temporarily, because they have a felicity of language or memorable and richly detailed characters. Those books always end too quickly, regardless of the length. If the writing is really terrific, I’ll read it; it doesn’t matter what the genre is. I confess to seeking out good mysteries, especially ones with plausible twists that keep the solution obscure to the ending. Worse yet, I find books about gardens, garden design and interesting plant combinations virtually irresistible.”

Asked about her favorite genre, Ann responds, “One of my favorite genres after mysteries and gardening books is Essays. When a terrific writer holds court through an essay it is equally fascinating and delightful as any literature. In some ways, one gets to know an author better as a person through their essays by allowing the reader to know what is important and compelling to the author. And, of course, some humor is always a welcome element.

Ann enjoys reading books written by the following authors: Verlyn Klinkenborg, Tom Rachman, and Carys Davies. She notes, “They each have extraordinary skills when setting a scene, creating characters and describing a thought. Their ability to transport a reader and carry them along through the story is consistent and reliable. In fact, they provide a relatively perfect read.” She is always happy to recommend other authors who share similar writing techniques.

Ann suggests checking out: The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg, The Italian Teacher: A Novel by Tom Rachman, and the recently released West: A Novel by Carys Davies.

Anna’s Suggestions

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
  • Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
  • Firelight by Kristen Callihan Firelight by Kristen Callihan
  • Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

Photo of Anna Anna says, “My top three genres are romance (38%), mystery (12%), and classic literature (12%), but I’ve been reading more fantasy (9%) and science fiction (7%) lately. I also enjoy biography and history.” Expanding upon her favorite genres and books, Anna continues, “I read widely across genres, but well-written characters are essential. They don’t have to be likeable, but they must be convincing. I also love interesting and/or historical settings.

Anna cites “Romance” as one of her favorite genres, for as she explains: “I enjoy the development of a relationship between two people, and the security of knowing that no matter what happens, they will be happy together. Furthermore, there are romance novels for a reader’s every mood or preference, be it melancholy, whimsical, suspenseful, or speculative, and with thousands of novels published every year, the supply is nearly inexhaustible.

She has several favorite authors, but she narrowed her recommended list to the following: Barbara Hambly, Neil Gaiman, and Naomi Novik. She says, “My favorite authors share a wry wit, intelligent prose, and unworldly plots. Sometimes whimsical and sometimes terrifying,they are all talented wordsmiths who write compelling characters. Hambly, Gaiman, and Novik appeal to me because they all balance drama with humor.” She also enjoys reading books written by Terry Pratchett and Stephen King.

Jessica’s Suggestions

  • The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me by Suzanne Kingsbury The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me by Suzanne Kingsbury
  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  • The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  • Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Photo of JessJessica loves to learn something new, for as she states, “It’s empowering to read a book that can entice you to learn how to mend a shirt, change a tire or make a meal.” She additionally enjoys getting lost in the plot of a well-written story and is delighted to become engrossed in any form of great writing, from historical fiction to complete fantasy. Therefore, Jessica’s list of favorite genres includes historical fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction memoirs, essays and do-it-yourself reference.

“Nature” is one of Jessica’s favorite genres; she explains “I spent the majority of my childhood exploring the forest and visiting the ocean. As a way to further this relationship with the natural world, I’ve taken to any literature I can find that embodies it. I’m especially interested in ecosystems, animal behavior, and natural history. I most enjoy descriptive works of fiction, volumes of poetry, and factual accounts and do my best to use what I’ve learned through nature-based education strategies in our programming for young children. I hope to inspire the type of excitement surrounding wildlife and conservation that I experienced while growing up.”

Jessica enjoys many authors, but she particularly enjoys reading books written by Jason ReynoldsBarbara Kingsolver, and Ruta Sepetys. She notes, “The one commonality found in the work of my favorite authors is the ability he or she has to transport the reader in a few single words. Some poetic, others practical in their narrative, I’ve come to truly appreciate their carefully crafted worlds. Whether I’m re-visiting an old favorite or trying a new title, they never fail to pull me out of my own reality and into a newly described setting, reflection or plot.” She also recommends Suzanne KingsburyAnita Diamant, and Tim O’Brien.

Diane’s Suggestions

  • Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens
  • Endless Summer Cookbook by Katy Lee Endless Summer Cookbook by Katy Lee
  • Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
  • Food, Gift, Love Food, Gift, Love
  • Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso
  • The Messy Baker by Charmain Christie The Messy Baker by Charmain Christie
  • Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Photo of Diane Diane is drawn to psychological thrillers, but finds that a good mystery or love story will grab her attention as well. Expanding upon her reading preferences, Diane says, “I like to be surprised by a story, any story, whether it’s mystery, love story or thriller. I enjoy the fast pace and unexpected twists and turns that draw me in and the anticipation of the final chapter where I can say…whoa! I didn’t see that coming! There’s a certain satisfaction in surviving that rollercoaster ride.

Diane names “Cooking” as one of her favorite genres, explaining, “At the end of a busy week, if I need ideas for a special meal or just to try something new, I love to curl up on my couch with a bunch of cookbooks. Just flipping through the pages inspires and relaxes me. I think like everyone I have my “go to” favorites, but enjoy seeking our new books as they are added to the library collection.”

Diane particularly enjoys reading works by the following three authors: Jandy Nelson, Allen Eskens, and Victor Lodato. She notes, “Jandy Nelson is a Young Adult (YA) author and new find for me. Nelson writes with incredibly tangible emotion that consumes the reader. Allen Eskens and Victor Lodato have different writing styles and genres, but both authors have well developed characters you cannot help care about.” If you already appreciate books by those authors, she suggests trying novels written by Alice Hoffman and Kate Morton.

Richard’s Suggestions

  • Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
  • Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • From Here to Eternity by James Jones From Here to Eternity by James Jones
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
  • All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  • The Living by Annie Dillard The Living by Annie Dillard
  • The Cider House Rules by John Irving The Cider House Rules by John Irving

Richard enjoys contemporary fiction (particularly historical) written by American and British authors, American history, American and British “classics,” and for beach/vacation light reading, books by Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, Ian Rankin, or Patricia Cornwell.

Elaborating upon why these books and genres have become his favorites, Richard explains that while in college, “I was fortunate enough to take a few well taught courses that exposed me to the work of authors such as William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, John Dos Passos, James T. Farrell, and James Jones who were major literary lights in their day but are now relatively obscure. The common thread among them is that they wrote about what their contemporary world (ranging from the late 19th to mid – 20th centuries) was like. They were neither historians nor cultural anthropologists. Rather, they attempted to use fiction to describe their times as opposed to simply making up a good story out of pure imagination. Tom Wolfe and Jonathan Franzen are two examples of authors that I feel employ the same style today.

When asked to name his favorite genre, Richard responds, “My taste in genres is rather eclectic, but one that I find particularly interesting is mid-twentieth century American literature – particularly the post-World War II era.  This was a time when the writing done by many authors was deeply informed by the effects on our culture of the aftermath of two major wars, an extreme economic depression, and the advent of the possibility of the world literally coming to an end through the use of nuclear weapons.

Richard particularly enjoys books written by John Irving, Richard Russo and Ken Kesey.  “When it comes to fiction, I’m as likely as anyone else to pick up a light read for an airplane flight or trip to the beach. I prefer more serious novels, though, and I find these authors consistently provide me with new perspectives on how we all cope with life.” If you also enjoy his favorite authors and are looking for similar writing, he suggests reading books by the following authors: Kazuo Ishiguro, David Mitchell, Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, T. C. Boyle, and Jane Smiley.

Sue’s Suggestions

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
  • Why Won't You Apologize by Hariet Lerner, Ph.D. Why Won't You Apologize by Hariet Lerner, Ph.D.
  • There is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. There is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D.
  • Hiding in the Bathroom by Morra Aarons-Mele Hiding in the Bathroom by Morra Aarons-Mele
  • Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende

Sue enjoys a mix of genres, but she finds herself gravitating toward comedy, suspense and realistic fiction.  She also enjoys reading the occasional non-fiction book here and there.  She notes, “I like varying the genres because it keeps reading interesting for me.  I particularly like to find clever stories that hold my attention, and of course, a bit of humor adds an element of fun for me.

Sue enjoys nonfiction. “Lately, one of my favorite genres is non-fiction: specifically focusing on self-awareness and mindfulness. I enjoy this genre because it helps me learn new things, and there are many unique topics to peruse. I have found that reading about mindfulness is particularly helpful in today’s often stressful world.

You can discover more books our librarians are reading by accessing our “Staff Reads” Pinterest boards.