Want to learn more about Essex librarians’ favorite books and genres? Scroll below to discover our favorite reads and recommendations for you!
Click for more information: Ann’s Suggestions | Claire’s Suggestions | Val’s Suggestions | Amy’s Suggestions | Emily’s Suggestions | Norma’s Suggestions | Heather’s Suggestions | Anna’s Suggestions | Jessica’s Suggestions | Diane’s Suggestions | Richard’s Suggestions
When 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.”
Although Claire has always been drawn to fantasy and realistic fiction, recently she has developed a love for historical fiction (particularly WWII) and dramas. Seeking books that will leave her “completely transported and emotionally invested,” Claire describes her reading preferences as follows: “Beautiful writing and attention to detail is a must. I find that I enjoy books most when I get attached to characters, whether that is through their personalities, interactions with others, romances, etc. That is why I love WWII books so much – they are always very powerful and emotional, and it’s easy to feel connected to the characters.”
Val says “There is something about books that ‘aren’t your average story’ which entice my imagination. I enjoy the weird and the dark and twisty; the mysterious and fantastical. The constant theme: writers that are always questioning the probable and the impossible. That is not to say I wouldn’t read anything one was to place in front of me. For those of you looking for something different to entertain you; try something out of the box. These genres are (but not limited to) fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal, romance, and urban fantasy.”
Amy enjoys reading across a range of genres for escapism, enjoyment, or education. She explains, “Other than works of historical fiction, I tend to gravitate towards fiction with a humorous touch; the overarching theme is stories that are constructed around well developed characters with whom I can empathize. I mostly enjoy works by authors whose writing elevates the story to a point where the reader learns something new as she becomes engrossed in the characters’ circumstances and conflicts.”
Although 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.”
Norma grew up reading Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, Edgar Allan Poe, the classics required in school, and fairy tales. The librarian adds, “I am more a reader by author than necessarily a genre. For example, I’ve read every Agatha Christie book written. The same is true of Toni Morrison and JRR Tolkien. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings at least three times. But I also enjoy Algernon Blackwood and Stephen King. On the flip side, I enjoy reading biographies and history, most particularly about England and Russia. Since I do family history, I find it important to read about US History particularly during the pre-Civil War era through Reconstruction.”
You’ll often find Heather reading Children and Young Adult books: Nutmeg winners, informational books, or the newest picture and chapter books on the shelf. She also enjoys comedies, inspiring stories, and books by local authors.
Heather is a life-long learner who enjoys reading and researching many topics, which is why “Nonfiction” is one of her favorite genres. She notes, “You have so much freedom with nonfiction! You can jump around and read the parts or chapters you’re interested in at that time. There are so many subjects to explore and there’s always new research coming out. I like how the information can be presented so differently. Who doesn’t enjoy a good caption, photograph, chart, or diagram?”
Anna says, “My top three genres are romance (38%), mystery (12%), and classic literature (12%), but I’ve also 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.”
Jessica 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.”
- Endless Summer Cookbook by Katy Lee
- Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
- Food, Gift, Love
- Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso
- The Messy Baker by Charmain Christie
- Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
- Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
- The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
- The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Diane is drawn to psychological thrillers, but finds that a good mystery or love story will grab her attention as well. Expanding upon on 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.”
- The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- From Here to Eternity by James Jones
- A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
- All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
- The Living by Annie Dillard
- 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 Hiassen, 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.”
You can discover more books our librarians are reading by accessing our “Staff Reads” Pinterest boards.