San Rafael Public Library

Library Updates

Patron Picks for Bookshelf Bingo

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LogoIt’s summer time: which means it’s time to read books and win prizes with the library’s Adult Summer Reading Program- Bookshelf Bingo! We’ve got lots of fun rewards and raffle prizes for when you complete bingo square challenges such as Try a project from a home/garden/cookbook, or read a Book set in the past or the future. A new square this year, recommended by a previous Bingo participant, is Patron Pick. She even provided her own list of patron picks!


You can see a few of her picks, as well as some titles that were recommended by last year’s Bookshelf Bingo players, on our Patron Picks list!  Another good source for well-loved books is this list: Reader’s Choice 2015, the result of the reference librarians asking people who came to the help desk in January for the favorite book they read last year.

Both of these lists show the wide variety of really good books out there waiting for you. Come by the library and pick one up. And while you’re here, don’t forget to sign up for our Adult Summer Reading Program. It lasts from June 1 – September 6, 2016. (For the little ones, the Youth Summer Reading starts June 10.) Happy Reading Everyone!

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Women Writers Rule the Nebulas

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At this weekend’s Nebula Awards, female authors dominated the ceremonies, winning prizes for the best novel, novella, novelette, and short story.  The Nebula Awards are presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

This year’s winner for Best Novel was Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. Other winners included Nnedi Okorafor for her novella, Binti; Sarah Pinsker for the novelette, Our Lady of the Open Road; and Alyssa Wong for her short story, Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers. Even the Young Adult fiction award, called the Andre Norton Award, went to a woman: Fran Wilde, for her novel Updraft.

The final Nebula Award, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, went to Mad Max: Fury Road, written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris. (Not a female screenwriter among them, sure, but at least the movie had strong female characters!)

Evoking Eastern European folklore but with a strong, intelligent female narrator, Uprooted tells the story of Agnieszka as she discovers and develops her magical abilities to help protect her quiet village from the corrupted Wood that surrounds her home.

If you’re looking for more award-winning Science Fiction, see our list of Favorite Nebula winners.  Interested in trying Science Fiction, but not sure where to start? Try our list: Science Fiction for Beginners, with tons of titles sorted by their appeal factor.

Also, here are the other novels that were nominated for the Nebula’s Best Novel award this year:

Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen
Updraft, Fran Wilde

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It’s No Mystery… these books are great!

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Looking for a good mystery? Try an award winner!  The Edgar Awards and the Agatha Awards were both recently announced. Have you read these titles yet? Also see this handout with past winners of the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel and the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.

The Edgar Awards are named for the father of the modern detective novel, Edgar Allan Poe. They are awarded by the Mystery Writers of America.


The 2016 Edgar Award Winners are:

Best Novel: Let Me Die in His Footsteps, by Lori Roy

Best First Novel: The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Best Fact Crime: Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully, by Allen Kurzweil

Mary Higgins Clark: Little Pretty Things, by Lori Rader-Day


The Agatha Awards honor “traditional” or “cozy” mysteries, as typified by the works of Agatha Christie. They are chosen by the mystery fan organization Malice Domestic, Ltd.


The 2015 Agatha Award Winners (which were awarded in 2016) are:

Best Contemporary: Long Upon the Land, by Margaret Maron

Best Historical: Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King

Best First Novel: On the Road with Del and Louise, by Art Taylor

Best Nonfiction: The Golden Age of Murder, by Martin Edwards

If you need help finding these books, or want more suggestions of mysteries to try, drop by the library, call, or contact us online. We’re always happy to help connect you to a great read!

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Pulitzer Reads

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23168277Congratulations to the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner, Viet Thanh Nguyen, for his book The Sympathizer.  The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is awarded to “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author.”

This year’s Fiction winner, according to the Pulitzer website, offers “a layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a ‘man of two minds’ — and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.”

To see past Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, see our list online or download our Fiction Winners handout, which lists winners of the Man Booker, National Book Award, and Pulitzer.

Other Pulitzer Winners

Pulitzer Prizes were also awarded in the following literature areas:


Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, by T.J. Stiles

Biography or Autobiography:
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan

Ozone Journal, by Peter Balakian

General Nonfiction:
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, by Joby Warrick

Also, if all these new books are checked out, you can always look at some of the older Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction.

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Intro to Women’s Bib(liography)

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In celebration of Women’s History Month, we thought we’d collect some of our past book lists centered on women. We’ve got straightforward biographies, novelizations of real-life women, books about the strong bonds of friendship between women, and more!


Fascinating American Women – nonfiction biographies


Female Friendships –fiction about the sisterhood of friends


True Life Fiction- Royalty – fiction featuring real kings and queens


True Life Fiction- Women – fiction about famous women


Women in Science – female scientists in fiction and true biography


Women Writers’ Lives – fiction and biographies of female writers

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Fall in love with a good book

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Looking for really good read? We’ve got you covered.

ReadersChoiceFor a mix that covers the gamut from razor sharp short stories to a moving portrait of a father and his autistic son, try Reader’s Choice 2015. This eclectic list is from an informal survey we did asking our patrons what book that they read in the past year was their favorite.

MarilynsFavsWant a real librarian’s honest opinion of a book? Adult services librarian Marilyn picks her favorites from the past year and tells you in two sentences (and an adjective) why you should read it. Like the Reader’s list, this includes both new releases and older titles.

Tired of being on the wait list for the latest best-seller? Try the best-sellers from past years! We’ve got lists of favorites from 2014, as well as 2013, and 2012. These are books that had tons of holds and were also hefty enough to support book club discussions.

AwardWinnersSpeaking of quality reads, why not trust the authorities? Here’s a printable list of Award Winners that includes past winners of the Man Booker, Pulitzer, and National Book Awards.

If you really want to keep yourself busy, try our Book Club Books: All-in-one Handout. It features our picks for good book club reads based on whether you want a classic book, something dark but compelling, something uplifting, and more!

Lastly, if you’re still not finding a title to tickle your fancy, then drop by or call the library. We’re here to help. Happy Reading!

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Read a Winner

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Brief-JamesCongratulations to the 2015 Man Booker Prize winner, Marlon James, for his book A Brief History of Seven Killings!

The Man Booker Prize goes to the best literary fiction written in English, as voted on by a panel of five judges. Originally limited to authors from the United Kingdom & Commonwealth, the Man Booker was recently expanded to include any author writing originally in English and published in the UK.

This year’s Man Booker winner offers a fictionalized oral history recounting assassination attempts on Bob Marley during the late 1970s in Jamaica. Mr. James is the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker. The Chair of this year’s judges, Michael Wood, says of the book: ‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’

To see past winners of the Man Booker, National Book Award, and Pulitzer see our Fiction Winners handout.

National Book Award

While you’re on the wait list for this year’s Man Booker winner, why not get ahead of the game and read on of the books short-listed for next month’s National Book Award. Here are library links to explore the Adult Fiction and Adult Nonfiction nominees.


Natl Bk Awrdk-Fiction


Karen E. Bender, Refund
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Natl Bk Awrd-NF


Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Sally Mann, Hold Still
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light

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A Nod to Nordic Noir

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935308Henning Mankell, whose Wallander mystery series paved the way for the legions of atmospheric Nordic tales available in translation today, died recently from cancer.   Faceless Killers was the first in his series featuring the personally troubled, yet professionally astute, police inspector Kurt Wallander. Set in the icy grey environs of Sweden, the book took the average police procedural and expanded it with its fully fleshed-out characters and a story that confronts racial prejudice against refugees.

BranaghThe Wallander series spawned not just one, but two faithfully rendered yet surprisingly different television iterations. The first, from his native Sweden, premiered in 2005 and starred Krister Henriksson in the title role. Its strong suit is the rich supporting cast who are flawed but utterly humane. The BBC came out with an English-language series in 2008, with Kenneth Branagh upping the melancholia and bringing more psychological intensity to the role.

borgenFor more Nordic dramas of the gloomy and gritty variety, try these: The Eagle is a Danish production about the cunning yet tormented police officer Hallgrim Halgrimsson and his colleagues at a newly established international criminal investigative unit. Inspector Irene Huss is a wife and mother of teenage girls, in addition to being in charge of solving violent crimes. Then there’s Borgen, featuring high-stakes political drama and intrigue in Denmark.

nesboTurning back to books, our Nordic Noir booklist will point you to more moody mysteries from the northern ends of Europe. Among those featured is Jo Nesbo’s Oslo police detective Harry Hole, an alcoholic on a downward spiral who has a knack for solving gruesome serial crimes. If you want the brooding yet effective detective without the Nordic setting, also try Ian Rankin’s Scottish Inspector John Rebus, or Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series set in Los Angeles.

italianmankellLastly, if you haven’t read Mankell’s work outside of his Wallander series, do give it a try. He consistently shows a knack for evocative settings and complex characters. One example of this is his book Italian Shoes, about a surgeon who goes into self-exile on an island north of Sweden. It’s a reflective, moving tale of redemption and mortality.

Feel free to stop by the library, call, or contact us for more personalized viewing and reading recommendations!

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Science Fiction For Beginners

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If you’re new to Science Fiction, you could of course start with some of the award winners, such as the recently announced Hugo Award or the Nebula Award. But if you still don’t know where to start, here’s our handy-dandy guide!

Sci-Fi seems hard, give me something easy! (Sci-Fi light):
martianAndy Weir’s The Martian is a man vs. nature survival story, but the nature/environment here is Mars, and the man is a wonderfully snarky and resourceful scientist. John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation also has a lovable rogue at its heart, who encounters a new species. Scalzi’s books often have an easy to follow story and humorous characters. And of course Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series is well known for its eccentric British humor, but if you’re into mysteries you can also try Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

No Alpha Centauri for me! (Earth-based Sci-Fi):kindred
Carl Sagan’s Contact, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition more or less take place on contemporary Earth. Contact and Spin begin in a recognizable present and regard humankind’s reaction to an alien influence. Gibson’s book is like an alternate, more technologically-entrenched present day Earth and reads like a thriller.

Also firmly based on Earth, but involving time travel are Octavia Butler’s Kindred, in which a black woman is sent back to the antebellum South, and Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, her more humorous entry in a series of books on Oxford time travelers.

No 800-page ten-part series, please! (Sci-Fi shorts):
martianchroniclesPhilip K. Dick’s Minority Report was a novella before it was a blockbuster movie. Our copy includes other short stories by the author. Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of thought-provoking short stories, and the beloved Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles has short narratives linked together as a fictionalized record of Mars colonization.

Don’t pander to me, I can handle the real stuff (Hard Sci-Fi):
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game introduced many to Sci-Fi with it’s coming-of-age story of a young boy being sent to Battle School in space. To be truly transported to a different world, try Frank Herbert’s Dune— you’ll encounter a sand planet steeped in issues of power, politics, and religion.

leviathanWant something written in this decade? Two well-regarded modern sci-fi series are Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, featuring an artificial intelligence with a burning desire for vengeance, and James Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, a fast-paced action adventure space opera.

Don’t give me that pulp, give me something really well-written! (Literary Sci-Fi):
left handStart with The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, or Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Both tackle complex social issues and are sharply written. Many famous literary authors write books with a speculative bent, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Here are some other titles found in the Fiction section that have science fiction elements in them: Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson; Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut; Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon.

Find more detailed descriptions of these titles on our Science Fiction for Beginners list.

Happy exploring new worlds of fiction! As always, if you need help finding a good read, come by the library, give us a call or contact us online.

(This post was adapted from an article.)

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Mockingbird and More: Experience the South

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harper leeOn the wait list for Harper Lee’s newest book, Go Set a Watchman? The library can help you find a book or two to keep you busy and satisfied.

You can always start by re-reading her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, or watching the stellar movie adaptation. Also don’t miss Hey Boo, a documentary about Harper Lee, the context in which she wrote her novel, and the great impact of both the novel and the movie.

capoteOne of Harper Lee’s close friends was Truman Capote. Check out The Grass Harp, a novel published in 1951 inspired by his memories of growing up in Alabama. Another take on childhood in the South is The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers. Published in 1946, it features a 12-year old girl, Frankie Addams.

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. A few years earlier, in 1958, James Agee won the Pulitzer for his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. This story is set in Knoxville, Tennessee and describes the effect of a man’s unexpected death on the rest of his family, particularly his young son, Rufus.

Eudora Welty wrote a number of books about the South, but you should also try her collection of autobiographical essays, One Writer’s Beginnings. It gives insight into how growing up in Mississippi impacted her later writings.

In Kaye Gibbons’ Ellen Foster, a young girl in the rural South flees an abusive relationship and reconciles the racist views of her upbringing with the reality of the kind treatment she receives from her black best friend and her friend’s family.

mudboundTold from various points of view, Mudbound by Hilary Jordan, provides a view of race relations in the pre-Civil Rights South. It is 1946 in the Mississippi Delta, and two men, one black and one white, return from fighting in the war only to face a different tragedy.

Another powerful novel on race relations is Ernest Gaines’ A Gathering of Old Men, set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970’s. It’s a searing portrayal of racial tensions in which a group of elderly black men stand up to a posse of white men seeking vengeance.

Go Set a Watchman portrays the adult “Scout” (Jean Louise) Finch’s coming to terms with her previously idealized father’s viewpoints on race and society. It’s somewhat of a stretch, but you may also like Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. In this gritty yet lyrical novel, sixteen-year old Ree Dolly searches for her father who has skipped bail on charges of running a meth lab. Like Jean Louise, Ree is both strong yet vulnerable.

Lastly, for something entirely different, try some Southern Gothic. Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood is both bizarre and riveting in its portrayal of a returning WWII vet, false prophets, faith, and redemption.

None of these tickle your fancy? Contact the library with a description of the type of book you are looking for or come in and ask one our trusty librarians for a suggestion!

Books and movies mentioned in this post:

A Death in the Family by James Agee

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The Grass Harp by Truman Capote

Hey Boo (documentary)

One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

The Member of the Wedding by Caron McCullers

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird (the movie)

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

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