Continental Drifter by Kathy MacLeod

Kathy MacLeod talks about belonging in her new middle grade graphic memoir, Continental Drifter.

Kathy has spent most of her life feeling like she’s stuck between two different worlds. Kathy has a Thai mother and an American father, so she’s always felt like she doesn’t quite belong 100% with either group of people. Kathy and her family spend most of the year living in Bangkok. Her father, mother, older sister, and herself all have their own separate corners of the house, seldom spending time together as a family. Her mother works long hours, while her father is retired from the military, but set in his ways. Kathy has a secret though: she’s counting down the days until summer vacation! They are heading back to Maine for the summer to a tiny seaside town where they will visit family, eat local delicacies, and travel the area. Kathy is most excited about going to her first summer camp this year!

Kathy has big hopes that this summer will be when she finally fits in and makes friends. Writing in her diary, she outlines everything she wants to do as well as how she wants her summer to happen. As she and her family leave Bangkok for the twenty-four hour travel journey to Maine, Kathy finds herself getting nervous, but also excited to see what the summer has to offer.

When Kathy arrives at summer camp, she realizes it is nothing what she expected. No matter what she does. she struggles to fit in. She doesn’t look like the other kids and doesn’t know all the pop culture references. Kathy desperately wants to find a place where she fits in. Having pinned all her hopes on this summer camp, she is devastated when she doesn’t instantly click or feel that sense of belonging. If she doesn’t belong in America or Thailand, where will she find her place?

This graphic memoir captures the uneasiness of identity that almost all middle grade children go through. Adding on top of that summer camp insecurities and the challenges of making new friends, both at home and abroad, and the author has written a relatable heart-rending story of how feeling like you don’t belong can impact your life. The art style was also very cute and relatable to the life of an 11-year-old girl. This was a thoughtful read that walks readers trough feelings of ‘otherness’. Continental Drifter doesn’t end perfectly with everyone miraculously fixed and places found, instead it gives readers roads through which to go on their own journey of self-discovery.

2024 Pulitzer Prize Winners

The winners of the 2024 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced! You can watch the announcement video on the Pulitzer Prize website or read the media release. To celebrate the winners, we decided to highlight some of the winners and finalists. Below you will find the fiction winner and finalists, the biography winners, and the general nonfiction winner and finalists.

Reminder: what is written about below is not the complete list of 2024 Pulitzer Prize winners. For more information about the other 2024 Pulitzer Prize winners as well as past years’ winners, please check out their website.

Descriptions are provided by the publishers.

Fiction

Winner

Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips

In 1874, in the wake of the War, erasure, trauma, and namelessness haunt civilians and veterans, renegades and wanderers, freedmen and runaways. Twelve-year-old ConaLee, the adult in her family for as long as she can remember, finds herself on a buckboard journey with her mother, Eliza, who hasn’t spoken in more than a year. They arrive at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, delivered to the hospital’s entrance by a war veteran who has forced himself into their world. There, far from family, a beloved neighbor, and the mountain home they knew, they try to reclaim their lives.

The omnipresent vagaries of war and race rise to the surface as we learn their story: their flight to the highest mountain ridges of western Virginia; the disappearance of ConaLee’s father, who left for the War and never returned. Meanwhile, in the asylum, they begin to find a new path. ConaLee pretends to be her mother’s maid; Eliza responds slowly to treatment. They get swept up in the life of the facility—the mysterious man they call the Night Watch; the orphan child called Weed; the fearsome woman who runs the kitchen; the remarkable doctor at the head of the institution. – Knopf

This title is also available in large print.

Finalists:

Same Bed Different Dreams by Ed Park

In 1919, far-flung patriots establish the Korean Provisional Government to protest the Japanese occupation of their country. This government-in-exile proves mostly symbolic, though, and after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the KPG dissolves and civil war erupts, resulting in the tragic North-South split that remains today.

But what if the KPG still existed—now working toward a unified Korea, secretly pulling levers to further its aims? Same Bed Different Dreams weaves together three distinct narrative voices with an archive of mysterious images, and twists reality like a kaleidoscope. Korean history, American pop culture, and our tech-fraught lives come together in this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Soon Sheen, a former writer now employed by the tech behemoth GLOAT, comes into possession of an unfinished book seemingly authored by the KPG. The manuscript is a riveting revisionist history, connecting famous names and obscure bit players to the KPG’s grand project—everyone from Syngman Rhee and architect-poet Yi Sang to Jack London and Marilyn Monroe. M*A*S*H is in here, too, as are the Moonies and a history of violence extending from the assassination of President McKinley to the Reagan-era downing of a passenger plane that puts the world on the brink of war. – Random House

Wednesday’s Child by Yiyun Li

A grieving mother makes a spreadsheet of everyone she’s lost. Elsewhere, a professor develops a troubled intimacy with her hairdresser. And every year, a restless woman receives an email from a strange man twice her age and several states away. In the stories of Wednesday’s Child, people strive for an ordinary existence until doing so becomes unsustainable, until the surface cracks and the grand mysterious forces—death, violence, estrangement—come to light. Even before such moments, everyday life is laden with meaning, studded with indelible details: a filched jar of honey, a mound of wounded ants, a photograph kept hidden for many years, until it must be seen.

Yiyun Li is a truly original writer, an alchemist of opposites: tender and unsentimental, metaphysical and blunt, funny and horrifying, omniscient and unusually aware of just how much we cannot know. Beloved for her novels and her memoir, she returns here to her earliest form, gathering pieces that have appeared in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and other publications. Taken together, these stories, written over the span of a decade, articulate the cost, both material and emotional, of living—exile, assimilation, loss, love—with Li’s trademark unnerving beauty and wisdom. – Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Biography

Winners

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig

Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Jonathan Eig’s King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.—and the first to include recently declassified FBI files. In this revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, the bestselling biographer gives us an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. He casts fresh light on the King family’s origins as well as MLK’s complex relationships with his wife, father, and fellow activists. King reveals a minister wrestling with his own human frailties and dark moods, a citizen hunted by his own government, and a man determined to fight for justice even if it proved to be a fight to the death. As he follows MLK from the classroom to the pulpit to the streets of Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis, Eig dramatically re-creates the journey of a man who recast American race relations and became our only modern-day founding father—as well as the nation’s most mourned martyr.

In this landmark biography, Eig gives us an MLK for our times: a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist, and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements, and whose demands for racial and economic justice remain as urgent today as they were in his lifetime. – Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo

In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.

Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.

But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher. – 37 Ink

General Nonfiction

Winner

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy by Nathan Thrall

Five-year-old Milad Salama is excited for a school trip to a theme park on the outskirts of Jerusalem. On the way, his bus collides with a semitrailer. His father, Abed, gets word of the crash and rushes to the site. The scene is chaos—the children have been taken to different hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank; some are missing, others cannot be identified. Abed sets off on an odyssey to learn Milad’s fate. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, but for Abed it is compounded by the maze of physical, emotional, and bureaucratic obstacles he must navigate because he is Palestinian. He is on the wrong side of the separation wall, holds the wrong ID to pass the military checkpoints, and has the wrong papers to enter the city of Jerusalem. Abed’s quest to find Milad is interwoven with the stories of a cast of Jewish and Palestinian characters whose lives and histories unexpectedly converge.

In A Day in the Life of Abed Salama, Nathan Thrall—hailed for his “severe allergy to conventional wisdom” (Time)—offers an indelibly human portrait of the struggle over Israel/Palestine and a new understanding of the tragic history and reality of one of the most contested places on earth. – Metropolitan Books

Finalists

Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives by Siddharth Kara

Cobalt Red is the searing, first-ever exposé of the immense toll taken on the people and environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by cobalt mining, as told through the testimonies of the Congolese people themselves. Activist and researcher Siddharth Kara has traveled deep into cobalt territory to document the testimonies of the people living, working, and dying for cobalt. To uncover the truth about brutal mining practices, Kara investigated militia-controlled mining areas, traced the supply chain of child-mined cobalt from toxic pit to consumer-facing tech giants, and gathered shocking testimonies of people who endure immense suffering and even die mining cobalt.

Cobalt is an essential component to every lithium-ion rechargeable battery made today, the batteries that power our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and electric vehicles. Roughly 75 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the Congo, often by peasants and children in sub-human conditions. Billions of people in the world cannot conduct their daily lives without participating in a human rights and environmental catastrophe in the Congo. In this stark and crucial book, Kara argues that we must all care about what is happening in the Congo—because we are all implicated. – St. Martin’s Press

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant

January’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Ten different nonfiction titles are chosen four times a year by our librarians and automatically placed on hold for you. Those selections come from the following categories: biography, body mind spirit, cookbook, explore your world, poetry, self-help, social justice, strength through struggle, theologies, and true crime. Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Biography pick

Flirting with Danger: the Mysterious Life of Marguerite Harrison, Socialite Spy by Janet Wallach

The true story of socialite Marguerite Harrison, who spied for U.S. military intelligence in Russia and Germany in the fraught period between the world wars

Born a privileged child of America’s Gilded Age, Marguerite Harrison rebelled against her mother’s ambitions, married the man she loved, was widowed at thirty-seven, and set off on a life of adventure. Hired as a society reporter, when America entered World War I she applied to Military Intelligence to work as a spy.

She arrived in Berlin immediately after the Armistice and befriended the enemy, dining with aristocrats and dancing with socialists. Late into the night she wrote prescient reports on the growing power of the German right. Sent to Moscow, she sneaked into Russia to observe the results of the Bolshevik Revolution. Although she carried press credentials she was caught and imprisoned as an American spy. Terrified when told her only way out was to spy for the Cheka, she became a double agent, aiming to convince the Russian rulers she was working for them while striving to stay loyal to her country.

In Germany and Russia, Harrison saw the future—a second war with Germany, a cold war with the Soviets—but her reports were ignored by many back home. Over a decade, Harrison’s mysterious adventures took her to Europe, Baghdad, and the Far East, as a socialite, secret agent, and documentary filmmaker. Janet Wallach captures Harrison’s daring and glamour in this stranger-than-fiction history of a woman drawn to the impossible. – Doubleday

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Body, Mind, Spirit pick

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful.

Sarah Wilson first came across this Chinese proverb in psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir An Unquiet Mind, and it became the key to understanding her own lifelong struggle with anxiety. Wilson, bestselling author, journalist, and entrepreneur has helped over 1.5 million people worldwide to live better, healthier lives through her I Quit Sugar books and program. And all along, she has been managing chronic anxiety.

In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Wilson directs her intense focus and fierce investigating skills onto her lifetime companion, looking at the triggers and treatments, the fashions and fads. She reads widely and interviews fellow sufferers, mental health experts, philosophers, and even the Dalai Lama, processing all she learns through the prism of her own experiences.

Wilson offers readers comfort, humor, companionship, and practical tips for living with the Beast:

  • Cultivate a “gratitude ritual.” You can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time.
  • Eat to curb anxiety. Real food is your best friend.
  • Just breathe. Embrace the healing power of meditation.
  • Make your bed. Every day. Simple outer order creates inner calm.
  • Study fellow fretters to know thyself. Emily Dickinson, Charles Darwin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all struggled with anxiety.
  • Actively practice missing out. Forget FOMO, curl up on the couch, and order takeout.

Practical and poetic, wise and funny, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful is a small book with a big heart. It will encourage the myriad souls who dance with this condition to embrace it as a part of who they are, and to explore the possibilities it offers for a richer, fuller life. – Dey Street Books

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Cookbook pick

Midwestern Food: A Chef’s Guide to the Surprising History of a Great American Cuisine, with more than 100 tasty recipes by Paul Fehribach

An acclaimed chef offers a historically informed cookbook that will change how you think about Midwestern cuisine.

Celebrated chef Paul Fehribach has made his name serving up some of the most thoughtful and authentic regional southern cooking—not in the South, but in Chicago at Big Jones. But over the last several years, he has been looking to his Indiana roots in the kitchen, while digging deep into the archives to document and record the history and changing foodways of the Midwest.

Fehribach is as painstaking with his historical research as he is with his culinary execution. In Midwestern Food, he focuses not only on the past and present of Midwestern foodways but on the diverse cultural migrations from the Ohio River Valley north- and westward that have informed them. Drawing on a range of little-explored sources, he traces the influence of several heritages, especially German, and debunks many culinary myths along the way.

The book is also full of Fehribach’s delicious recipes informed by history and family alike, such as his grandfather’s favorite watermelon rind pickles; sorghum-pecan sticky rolls; Detroit-style coney sauce; Duck and manoomin hotdish; pawpaw chiffon pie; strawberry pretzel gelatin salad (!); and he breaks the code to the most famous Midwestern pizza and BBQ styles you can easily reproduce at home. But it is more than just a cookbook, weaving together historical analysis and personal memoir with profiles of the chefs, purveyors, and farmers who make up the food networks of the region.

The result is a mouth-watering and surprising Midwestern feast from farm to plate. Flyover this! – University of Chicago Press

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Explore Your World pick

Most Delicious Poison: The Story of Nature’s Toxins – from Spices to Vices by Noah Whiteman

A deadly secret lurks within our spice racks, medicine cabinets, backyard gardens, and private stashes.

Scratch beneath the surface of a coffee bean, a red pepper flake, a poppy seed, a mold spore, a foxglove leaf, a magic-mushroom cap, a marijuana bud, or an apple seed, and we find a bevy of strange chemicals. We use these to greet our days (caffeine), titillate our tongues (capsaicin), recover from surgery (opioids), cure infections (penicillin), mend our hearts (digoxin), bend our minds (psilocybin), calm our nerves (CBD), and even kill our enemies (cyanide). But why do plants and fungi produce such chemicals? And how did we come to use and abuse some of them?

Based on cutting-edge science in the fields of evolution, chemistry, and neuroscience, Most Delicious Poison reveals:

  • The origins of toxins produced by plants, mushrooms, microbes, and even some animals
  • The mechanisms that animals evolved to overcome them
  • How a co-evolutionary arms race made its way into the human experience
  • And much more

This perpetual chemical war not only drove the diversification of life on Earth, but also is intimately tied to our own successes and failures. You will never look at a houseplant, mushroom, fruit, vegetable, or even the past five hundred years of human history the same way again. – Little Brown Spark

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Poetry pick

The Tiny Journalist: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

Internationally beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye places her Palestinian American identity center stage in her latest full-length poetry collection for adults. The collection is inspired by the story of Janna Jihad Ayyad, the “Youngest Journalist in Palestine,” who at age 7 began capturing videos of anti-occupation protests using her mother’s smartphone. Nye draws upon her own family’s roots in a West Bank village near Janna’s hometown to offer empathy and insight to the young girl’s reporting. Long an advocate for peaceful communication across all boundaries, Nye’s poems in

The Tiny Journalist puts a human face on war and the violence that divides us from each other. – BOA Editions, Ltd.

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Self-Help pick

The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnusson

In her international bestseller The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning Margareta Magnusson introduced the world to the Swedish tradition of döstädning, or “death cleaning”—clearing out your unnecessary belongings so others don’t have to do it for you. Now, unburdened by (literal and emotional) baggage, Magnusson is able to focus on what makes each day worth living. In her new book she reveals her discoveries about aging—some difficult to accept, many rather wondrous. She reflects on her idyllic childhood on the west coast of Sweden, the fullness of her life with her husband and five children, and learning how to live alone. Throughout, she offers advice on how to age gracefully, such as: wear stripes, don’t resist new technology, let go of what doesn’t matter, and more.

As with death cleaning, it’s never too early to begin. The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly shows all readers how to prepare for and understand the process of growing older and the joys and sorrows it can bring. While Magnusson still recommends decluttering (your loved ones will thank you!), her ultimate message is that we should not live in fear of death but rather focus on appreciating beauty, connecting with our loved ones, and enjoying our time together.

Wise, funny, and eminently practical, The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly is a gentle and welcome reminder that, no matter your age, there are always fresh discoveries ahead, and pleasures both new and familiar to be encountered every day. – Scribner

This title is also available in large print, Libby eBook, and Libby eAudiobook.

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Social Justice pick

Humanizing Immigration: How to Transform Our Racist and Unjust System by Bill Ong Hing

First book to argue that immigrant and refugee rights are part of the fight for racial justice; offers a humanitarian approach to reform and abolition

Representing non-citizens caught up in what he calls the immigration and enforcement “meat grinder”, Bill Ong Hing witnessed their trauma, arriving at this conclusion: migrants should have the right to free movement across borders—and the right to live free of harassment over immigration status.

He cites examples of racial injustices endemic in immigration law and enforcement, from historic courtroom cases to the recent treatment of Haitian migrants. Hing includes histories of Mexican immigration, African migration and the Asian exclusion era, all of which reveal ICE abuse and a history of often forgotten racist immigration laws.

While ultimately arguing for the abolishment of ICE, Hing advocates for change now. With 50 years of law practice and litigation, Hing has represented non-citizens—from gang members to asylum seekers fleeing violence, and from individuals in ICE detention to families at the US southern border seeking refuge.

Hing maps out major reforms to the immigration system, making an urgent call for the adoption of a radical, racial justice lens. Readers will understand the root causes of migration and our country’s culpability in contributing to those causes. – Beacon Press

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Strength Through Struggle pick

Twice as Hard: The Stories of Black Women who Fought to Become Physicians, from the Civil War to the 21st Century by Jasmine Brown

Black women physicians’ stories have gone untold for far too long, leaving gaping holes in American medical history, in women’s history, and in black history. It’s time to set the record straight

No real account of black women physicians in the US exists, and what little mention is made of these women in existing histories is often insubstantial or altogether incorrect. In this work of extensive research, Jasmine Brown offers a rich new perspective, penning the long-erased stories of nine pioneering black women physicians beginning in 1860, when a black woman first entered medical school. Brown champions these black women physicians, including the stories of:

· Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who graduated from medical school only fourteen months after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and provided medical care for the newly freed slaves who had been neglected and exploited by the medical system.

· Dr. Edith Irby Jones, the first African American to attend a previously white-only medical school in the Jim Crow South, where she was not allowed to eat lunch with her classmates or use the women’s bathroom. Still, Dr. Irby Jones persisted and graduated from medical school, going on to directly inspire other black women to pursue medicine such as . . .

· Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who, after meeting Dr. Irby Jones, changed her career ambitions from becoming a Dillard’s salesclerk to becoming a doctor. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Elders as the US surgeon general, making her the first African American and second woman to hold this position.

Brown tells the stories of these doctors from the perspective of a black woman in medicine. Her journey as a medical student already has parallels to those of black women who entered medicine generations before her. What she uncovers about these women’s struggles, their need to work twice as hard and be twice as good, and their ultimate success serves as instruction and inspiration for new generations considering a career in medicine or science. – Beacon Press

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Theologies pick

In Thought, Word, and Seed: Reckonings from a Midwest Farm by Tiffany Eberle Kriner with foreword by Thomas Gardner

In this brilliantly crafted essay collection, Tiffany Eberle Kriner weaves together literary criticism, nature writing, and memoir to explore what grows when we plant texts in the landscapes of our lives.

The first time Tiffany Eberle Kriner walked the parcel of land that would become Root and Sky Farm its primary crop seemed to be chaos. Industrial agriculture practices had depleted the fields, leaving them littered with the detritus of consumerism and rural poverty—plastic deck chairs, bags of diapers, endless empty cans of Monster Energy Drink. In this landscape, she meets Virgil and Charles W. Chesnutt, where her close readings of their works intersect with her efforts to create “a just and sustainable community farm.”

From her sixty acres in northern Illinois, Kriner reads James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, T. S. Eliot, William Langland, and others. She weaves reflections into the warp and woof of her life: coaxing growth from neglected land, embracing the frustrations and joys of family life, reckoning with racism in a small town. Along the way she cultivates an awareness of interdependence and mercy as they appear in the particulars of her rooted life.

Connecting culture, ecology, faith, and literature, In Thought, Word, and Seed invites readers to cultivate fruitful conversations between literature and the environments in which they live. – Eerdmans

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True Crime pick

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid

For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The corridor is known as the Highway of Tears, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis.

Journalist Jessica McDiarmid meticulously investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate in which Indigenous women and girls are overpoliced yet underprotected. McDiarmid interviews those closest to the victims—mothers and fathers, siblings and friends—and provides an intimate firsthand account of their loss and unflagging fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada—now estimated to number up to four thousand—contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in the country.

Highway of Tears is a piercing exploration of our ongoing failure to provide justice for the victims and a testament to their families’ and communities’ unwavering determination to find it. – Atria Books

This title is also available in large print.

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Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

GoodReads Choice Awards 2023 Winners

Goodreads has announced their 15th Annual Choice Awards winners for 2023. Even though there is controversy regarding category removals, we still want to highlight the winners as they are decided by readers! Below you will find the results of these annual awards from 15 different categories with 300 nominated books. The chosen categories are fiction, historical fiction, mystery & thriller, romance, romantasy, fantasy, science fiction, horror, young adult fantasy, young adult fiction, debut novel, nonfiction, memoir & autobiography, history & autobiography, and humor.

At the time of this writing, all of these titles are owned by the Davenport Public Library. The descriptions are provided by the publishers.

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Fiction: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. – HarperCollins

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and large print.

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Historical Fiction: Weyward by Emilia Hart

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great-aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she suspects that her great-aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. When Altha was a girl, her mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence of witchcraft is laid out against Altha, she knows it will take all her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an astonishing debut, and an enthralling novel of female resilience. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as a Libby ebook, Libby eAudiobook, and large print.

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Mystery & Thriller: The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden

“Don’t go in the guest bedroom.” A shadow falls on Douglas Garrick’s face as he touches the door with his fingertips. “My wife… she’s very ill.” As he continues showing me their incredible penthouse apartment, I have a terrible feeling about the woman behind closed doors. But I can’t risk losing this job—not if I want to keep my darkest secret safe…

It’s hard to find an employer who doesn’t ask too many questions about my past. So I thank my lucky stars that the Garricks miraculously give me a job, cleaning their stunning penthouse with views across the city and preparing fancy meals in their shiny kitchen. I can work here for a while, stay quiet until I get what I want.

It’s almost perfect. But I still haven’t met Mrs Garrick, or seen inside the guest bedroom. I’m sure I hear her crying. I notice spots of blood around the neck of her white nightgowns when I’m doing laundry. And one day I can’t help but knock on the door. When it gently swings open, what I see inside changes everything…

That’s when I make a promise. After all, I’ve done this before. I can protect Mrs Garrick while keeping my own secrets locked up safe.

Douglas Garrick has done wrong. He is going to pay. It’s simply a question of how far I’m willing to go… – Bookouture

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Romance: Happy Place by Emily Henry

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best? – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, large print, CD audiobook, Libby eAudiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Romantasy: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die. – Entangled Publishing

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Fantasy: Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory—even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and in large print.

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Science Fiction: In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, and like Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall-E, In the Lives of Puppets is a masterful stand-alone fantasy adventure from the beloved author who brought you The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Horror: Holly by Stephen King

Stephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.

When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.

Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King. – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, large print, CD audiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Young Adult Fantasy: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever.

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Shadow and Bone meets Lore in Rebecca Ross’s Divine Rivals, an epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel filled with hope and heartbreak, and the unparalleled power of love. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Young Adult Fiction: Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious “Kingkiller” Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist….

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…) – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Debut Novel: Weyward by Emilia Hart

See above!

This title also won the Historical Fiction category for 2023.

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Nonfiction: Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom. – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

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Memoir & Autobiography: The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

The Woman in Me is a brave and astonishingly moving story about freedom, fame, motherhood, survival, faith, and hope.

In June 2021, the whole world was listening as Britney Spears spoke in open court. The impact of sharing her voice—her truth—was undeniable, and it changed the course of her life and the lives of countless others. The Woman in Me reveals for the first time her incredible journey—and the strength at the core of one of the greatest performers in pop music history.

Written with remarkable candor and humor, Spears’s groundbreaking book illuminates the enduring power of music and love—and the importance of a woman telling her own story, on her own terms, at last. – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and CD audiobook.

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History & Biography: The Wager by David Grann

On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

But then … six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.

The Wager is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers. Grann’s recreation of the hidden world on a British warship rivals the work of Patrick O’Brian, his portrayal of the castaways’ desperate straits stands up to the classics of survival writing such as The Endurance, and his account of the court martial has the savvy of a Scott Turow thriller. As always with Grann’s work, the incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound. – Penguin Random House

This title is also available in large print, Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, CD audiobook, and in Playaway audiobook.

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Humor: Being Henry by Henry Winkler

From Emmy-award winning actor, author, comedian, producer, and director Henry Winkler, a deeply thoughtful memoir of the lifelong effects of stardom and the struggle to become whole.

Henry Winkler, launched into prominence as “The Fonz” in the beloved Happy Days, has transcended the role that made him who he is. Brilliant, funny, and widely-regarded as the nicest man in Hollywood (though he would be the first to tell you that it’s simply not the case, he’s really just grateful to be here), Henry shares in this achingly vulnerable memoir the disheartening truth of his childhood, the difficulties of a life with severe dyslexia, the pressures of a role that takes on a life of its own, and the path forward once your wildest dream seems behind you.

Since the glorious era of Happy Days fame, Henry has endeared himself to a new generation with roles in such adored shows as Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, and Barry, where he’s been revealed as an actor with immense depth and pathos, a departure from the period of his life when he was so distinctly typecast as The Fonz, he could hardly find work.

Filled with profound heart, charm, and self-deprecating humor, Being Henry is a memoir about so much more than a life in Hollywood and the curse of stardom. It is a meaningful testament to the power of sharing truth and kindness and of finding fulfillment within yourself. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available in large print, Libby eAudiobook, and CD audiobook.

Monstrous : A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer

My latest graphic novel nonfiction read came from the young adult section! Monstrous : A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer is a new graphic memoir published in June 2023. This title dives deep into the life of the author Sarah Myer, a Korean American, from the time of her adoption to the day she moves away to college. Sarah currently uses the pronouns they/them, but during this graphic memoir they refer to themselves as she, so I will be using she/her pronouns while talking about this book.

Sarah and her sister were both adopted from Korea by a white couple. She and her sister are not biologically related, which provides more fodder for her bullies later in life. Sarah grew up in a rural community with few Asian neighbors. Looking back, Sarah was able to recognize that she was struggling with anxiety before she even started school. Once she started school, the bullying, racism, and taunts became increasingly worse. Sarah found escape from the racist bullying by throwing herself into art and fandoms. She struggled to contain her anger, sometimes letting it explode at her bullies, friends, and family. Sarah’s escapes into drawing and cosplay can only help her so far when the bullying becomes even worse once she starts high school. How she reacts will define her future.

Monstrous is a graphic memoir that I wish I would have had growing up. I am not adopted, but Sarah discusses her struggles with mental health and anxiety throughout the book to which I related.

Washington’s Gay General: The Legends and Loves of Baron von Steuben

Do you have a favorite vacation memory? Mine is when my parents took us to Washington DC for the very first time. We spent a week visiting the museums and monuments to learn history and peak into the past. The monument I found most interesting was the one dedicated to Baron von Steuben. I had never heard of Baron von Steuben before, so I took a picture to research later. I discovered that he was one of the most important military leaders of the American Revolution, but is often forgotten. The fact that stuck out the most? von Steuben was openly gay. Flash forward. Imagine my surprise when I found Washington’s Gay General: The Legends and Loves of Baron von Steuben written by Josh Trujillo and illustrated by Levi Hastings on the new graphic novel shelves at work. I immediately checked it out to learn more!

Washington’s Gay General covers von Steuben’s young life in Prussia, his military history, to his death in upstate New York in 1794. Von Steuben served in the Prussian military for years before he was dismissed from the army due to rumors of homosexuality. After he was fired, he bounced from job to job, eventually accepting an offer from Benjamin Franklin to help the Continental army. His military qualifications led George Washington to accept him and to welcome his help. von Steuben drilled soldiers with the strict techniques he developed in Prussia, while also socializing with his troops. There are written records of sexually charged parties and intense relationships with other men. Those never affected his ability to lead the army. Having been made Inspector General, von Steuben taught more effective fighting techniques and worked hard to instill discipline. He also wrote a drill manual called the Blue Book that Army still uses parts of today.

von Steuben was instrumental in helping the Americans win the Revolutionary War. He became one of Washington’s most trusted advisors, serving eventually as his chief of staff. After the war ended however, Congress was hesitant to fulfill all the promises they made to von Steuben in the first place. It took years for them to pay him for his efforts, leading him to take out ever increasing loans to fund his lifestyle and that of his entourage of young men.

My description of this book and of von Steuben’s life is incredibly short for such a multi-faceted man. I encourage you to pick up Washington’s Gay General and to look up him up in other resources to learn more.

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

“But we are not one star. We are millions. Not one background, but millions.

To the untrained eye, the night sky is a scattering of stars, a chaos of light and dark across the universe.

And yet, the stars are not lost.
They form patterns. Constellations. If you know how to look, there are stories woven into the very essense of stars.

Be like a star. Shine your light. Shine your story. For stories will lead us home.”
― Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, When Stars Are Scattered

Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson worked together to create When Stars are Scattered, a graphic memoir telling the story of Omar and his younger brother’s lives as refugees. Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in a refugee camp in Kenya called Dadaab. Separated from their mother at a tender age, the two young boys are taken in by an older woman in the camp who becomes their foster mother/legal guardian. Life in the camp is boring. Hassan has complex medical needs that the doctors in the camp don’t know how to treat. There is never enough food. Straying too far past their camp could result in bullies taking their clothes.

When Omar is offered the chance to go to school, he is torn. He would love to go to school. He wants to learn. School would also add some liveliness into his day. If he went, he would have to stay away from Hassan for longer periods of time, something that he isn’t quite sure Hassan would understand given that they are the only family the other has left. The balance between family duty and the chance to change their future weighs on Omar the entire time they live in the refugee camp.

This graphic memoir was heartbreaking, yet full of so much tender hope. Victoria captures Omar’s story so expressively and manages to inject humor into a difficult situation. While the art style is simple, it doesn’t detract from the point the authors are making. This retelling of Omar’s story pulls on your hearstrings and will bounce your feelings all over the place. Even though this is categorized as a juvenile graphic novel, this story is applicable to readers of any age.

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada

“But you can learn a lot about history by figuring out what people wanted to hide.”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

I read Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada and illustrated by Ko Hyung-Ju right before Banned Book Week 2023 began. This week celebrates the freedom to read and the opposition to censorship. Banned Book Club couldn’t have been a more appropriate book to start off this year’s Banned Book Week. To boil it down, this book tells the story of a group of students who form a book club that reads banned books during the reign of South Korea’s Fifth Republic. They put their lives and the lives of their family and friends in danger in order to read censored and banned books, amongst other forms of protest.

In 1983, Kim Hyun Sook was finally able to convince her mother to let her go to college. She was beyond excited to start college, to expand her world, and to study Western Literature. Kim was ready for the break of working in her family’s restaurant. She couldn’t have known that her literature class would send her down a road that she never saw coming; it would be a massive turning point that would alter her life in a way she couldn’t imagine.

Kim’s decision to go to college happened in the midst of the South Korea’s Fifth Republic. This military regime found its way to power through torture, censorship, and the murder of protestors. When Kim started school, she was met with a wall of protestors hurling insults and molotov cocktails. Not interested in getting involved, she throws herself into her books. After meeting the editor of the school newspaper who invites her to join his book club, she is shocked to see that the group is actually an underground book club reading banned and illicit literature that the military regime has forbidden. Unsure of what to do, but wanting to read these books, Kim stays in the club and finds herself drawn into the dangerous activities that the other members are involved in. Soon she will be swept up in a torrent of fear and violence as the people of power close ranks on the protestors.

“Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they see themselves in their villains?”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth: an auto-bio-graphic-novel by Zoe Thorogood

TW for this book: suicidal ideation

“that’s the problem with flirting with the idea of something, sometimes you fall in”
― Zoe Thorogood, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth

Zoe Thorogood’s 2022 graphic novel, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth, destroyed me. It was messy and confusing and utterly desperate for help. Basically, it was perfect and fit what Zoe wrote it to be: an auto-bio-graphic-novel about her life as it falls apart.

Over a six month period, Zoe Thorogood tries to put her life back together even when the universe, and her own mind, conspires to destroy her. Zoe doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she wants to create. She must create something in order to survive.

This isn’t a light read. It’s destructive and heavy. Zoe writes about her depression and suicidal ideation, alongside other negative emotions. Her art is sharp and cuts you to the quick as she introduces readers to her other selves (animal-like and people-like). Zoe pulls in the people that she interacted with during those six months and how they impact her story and journey of survival. Her story takes place during the isolation of the pandemic, which in turn informs even more of her decisions. This graphic novel/memoir hit me right in the chest. Zoe is incredibly honest about her depression. She isn’t afraid to share how it affects her life and, in turn, her relationships with others. While her words pick you apart, the artwork isn’t idle, instead it intrigues you and pulls you in. She uses different drawing styles and colors depending on what the focus is. It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth may be messy, but it’s a relatable mess that I’m glad I stumbled on.

Last on his feet: Jack Johnson and the battle of the century / art by Youssef Daoudi and poetics by Adrian Matejka

Jack Johnson was the world’s first Black heavyweight champion. His life is examined in Last on His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century with art by Youssef Daoudi and poetics by Adrian Matejka.

Last on His Feet tells the story of the Battle of the Century: the fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries. On July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nevada, Jack Johnson, the world’s first Black heavyweight champion, was preparing to fight Jim Jeffries, a former white heavyweight champion. Why was this called the Battle of the Century? Well, that’s ‘simple’: race. Because of his race, Johnson was the most infamous athlete in the world. The public saw his as a brute beating up people to take what was theirs. Jim Jeffries, on the other hand, was known as ‘the great white hope’. Their battle was going to be legendary.

Johnson’s journey to convince Jeffries to fight took years. He had to chase Jeffries across the globe, trying to get Jeffries to just fight him already. You see, Jeffries was already retired by the time he agreed to fight. Their battle happened at the peak of the Jim Crow era. For weeks leading up to the fight, the public was hollering for Johnson’s blood. The day of, spectators didn’t hold back while hurling insults at Johnson. They were desperate for order to be restored in the world of boxing. Many believed that Johnson had upset the racial hierarchy and that the only way for it to be restored was by Jeffries beating him like he had beaten everyone else.

Last on His Feet also chronicles Johnson’s life before he started boxing, what happened in his personal life while he was boxing, and what he did in the years after the Battle of the Century. This book covers a wide range of years, but all is necessary to understand Johnson’s motivations. It is important to note that this graphic portrait of Jack Johnson may be based on real events, but the author has made some minor changes to locations and dates. At the end of the book, the author has included a timeline of the actual events.