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Below are the staff picks from 2023.

2023 Staff Picks

Current Staff Picks

2020 Staff Picks

2021 Staff Picks

Jan Vohs

Library Assistant  |  January 2023

Interlibrary Loan

2022 Staff Picks

Photo of Jan Vohs, library staff

1. The Award by Danielle Steel
When Gaelle de Barbet is 16, she witnesses her best friend and her family being taken by the Germans in 1940 and being sent to a detention camp.  Gaelle finds out where they have been taken and visits her friend every day until one day the camp is no longer occupied and she loses contact.  The local German commandant sets up headquarters in her family home.  By accident, she begins assisting the French Resistance in attempting to save lives knowing that she was unable to save her friend.  Needing to find a job, she is referred to a model agency where she becomes a very successful model.  In time, she eventually marries and has children and grandchildren, but there are challenging relationships in her family.  Her granddaughter works diligently to get her grandmother recognized for the work she did with the Resistance.  I highly recommend this book.

2. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
College student Joe Talbert is given a writing assignment where he needs to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person.  He chooses to go to a nearby nursing home to find his subject.  He selects Carl Iverson, who is a Vietnam veteran and a convicted murderer.  Joe learns that Carl served 30 years in prison but was medically paroled to the nursing home.  Joe's neighbor helps him uncover some important history to Carl's story, but the stakes grow high.  At the same time, Joe is dealing with his dysfunctional mother who has custody of Joe's autistic brother.  He's pulled in different directions with trying to stay in college, complete his assignment and also trying to keep his brother safe.  A very good book.

3. The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell.  It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats – leaving them unprepared when disaster struck.  At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning.  School teachers as young as 16 were suddenly faced with an impossible decision:  Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn't get lost in the storm. Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both school teachers – one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath.  It's also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption.  It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land.  Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn't care what lies they told these families to get them there.  This is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents' choices.  It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today – because so many of its victims were immigrants in this country.  Excellent book!!

4. If I Were You by Lynn Austin
Set during WW2, Eve and Audrey become friends unexpectedly.  Eve's mother served as a lady's maid to Audrey's mother.  The Nazi invasion occurs in 1940.  They both join the fight as ambulance drivers, battling constant danger.  Audrey begins dating an American who is stationed in England and Eve hopes to have a future with Audrey's brother.  But in the wake of devastating loss, both women must make life-altering decisions.  In 1950, Audrey leaves England for a fresh start in America with her young son.  She needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met.  When she arrives, she finds that Eve has been impersonating her for the past four years.  Very interesting story.

5. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
This is a true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, who is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.  Because he could speak several languages, his captors put him to work as a tattooist, permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.  At one point, there is a young woman in his line to receive a tattoo, and he vows to survive the camp and marry her.  This book is a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.  

Kiersten Allen

Library Director  |  February 2023

As you know, I like a mixture of romance, suspense and a solid mystery to keep my attention, and for some reason I got hooked on series several years ago. I tried providing the top five authors who give me what I need in a book and I had to boost it to the top 10:

1. Author Marie Force
She writes in such a variety of styles. It's hard to pick a favorite of her series, so I keep up with all of them and they are all very different.

2. Author William Kent Krueger
After meeting him, I will absolutely read everything he writes. I do love the Cork O'Connor series.

3. Author C.J. Box
Who doesn't love Joe Pickett?! I don't prefer Box's other series and I don't think I can bring myself to watch the television adaptation because Joe is so clear in my mind that I don't want that character ruined for me.

4. Author Nora Roberts
I don't prefer her paranormal titles. She gets me hooked quickly and completely.

5. Author Sandra Brown
A tie with Roberts, probably. Roberts is more prolific, which makes me wonder if she has a ghost writer. That would make me sad. I like the authenticity of authors because it feels like you get to know their personalities through their characters. You can tell when that shifts and I've had some tingling that Roberts is subtly shifting. She definitely has a hand in her work still.

6. Author Debbie Macomber
For a sweet, heartfelt read, she's my go-to.

7. Author Dee Henderson
I could read her series multiple times...and have.

8. Author Randy Wayne White
He writes what C.J. Box and Kent Krueger write, just in Florida and further south. Very intense.

9. Author Irene Hannon
Love her suspense and subtle romance.

10. Author Colleen Hoover
She's new to my list and recommended by a friend - some of her titles could be considered cross-over to YA, as her characters are young.

Cate Finch

Library Assistant |  March 2023

Cate Finch

1. The Selection by Kiera Cass
This is the first book in The Selection series and tells the story about a girl named America who gets the chance to escape her life in the lower class to stay at the palace. But, she will get sent home if she doesn't win the prince's heart. These books are one of my favorite young adult series and I have recommended them to all of my friends.

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This is the first book in another young adult series that follows different characters in a space adaptation of classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel.

3. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
I read this whole series starting in 3rd grade and it was my favorite for many years. Reading these books is like entering a whole new world full of adventure, creative characters, kingdoms, and magic.

4. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Another juvenile fiction series that I read during quarantine and had to order every book on Amazon because I couldn't stop reading them! I absolutely loved these books and have been waiting for a movie to come out and it finally did! So when you finish the books, head over to Netflix to watch the movie!

5. Author Sharon M. Draper
This is my favorite juvenile fiction author that writes incredible stand alone books such as Out of My Mind, Blended, and Stella by Starlight.

Jennifer Keagle

Jennifer Keagle

Collection Development  |  April 2023

1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
I knew about the dust bowl, or so I thought. I read this book and learned so many things. Things I hadn't thought about and things no one mentions when teaching about this time period in history. This book was sad, so get your tissues out.

2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
This book is for book lovers! Meet A.J. Fikry, widowed owner of a failing bookstore on Alice Island. A.J. likes to be left alone to grieve the loss of his wife by drinking. All of that changes when he receives an unexpected package in his store. His life can not continue on the same lonely path, and he starts doing things he never thought he would be able to do again.

3. The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
This historical fiction was recommended by a coworker. This was a great read about two girls living during the Nazi invasion. The most unlikely friendship happens in this book between Sadie, an 18 year old Jewish girl, and Ella, a Polish girl. Sadie seeks refuge in the sewers under the Ghetto during the Nazi invasion. Ella's stepmother loves entertaining and befriending the Nazi soldiers. How is it possible that these girls could become friends?

4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I love this book so much! The ending was quite the surprise to me. Bonus, it's been made into a movie!

5. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
Evie Blackwell is the main character in this clean read mystery. She is put incharge of creating a cold case task force in a small Illinois town. She works closely with Gabriel Thane to investigate the cases of a missing tourist couple's daughter and a local sheriff's deputy along with his family.

Rebecca Bowman

Library Assistant  |  May 2023

Rebecca Bowman

1. The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
This book is about an eighteen year old girl named Sadie Gault. She lived with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive. You will have a hard time putting this one down.

2. The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
This book is about a Sixteen-year-old girl named Noa. She was cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep. When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night. This book will have you on the edge of your seat.

3. If I Were You by Lynn Austin
A friend of mine suggested this book. It is full of surprises. In the wake of the war in 1950, Audrey Clarkson leaves her manor house in England for a fresh start in America with her young son. As a widowed war bride, Audrey needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met. But she arrives to find that her longtime friend Eve Dawson has been impersonating her for the past four years. Unraveling this deception will force Audrey and Eve's secrets and the complicated history of their friendship to the surface.

4. The Inn at Ocean's Edge by Colleen Coble
Colleen Coble has always been a favorite author of mine. This series... Sunset Cove is full of surprises. It is about Claire Dellamare in 1989. She disappeared from her own fourth birthday party at the Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine. She showed up a year later at the same hotel, with a note pinned to her dress but no explanation. Nobody knows where Claire spent that year—and until now, Claire didn't even know she had ever been missing. Someone—maybe everyone—is hiding something from Claire Dellamare, and it will cost her everything to drag the truth out into the light.

5. Love's Unfading Light by Naomi Rawlings
This Book series...An Eagle Harbor is an Historical fiction series. Widow Tressa Danell is finished with men! She has townsmen trying to date her and a banker who wants to repossess her bakery. Every hour is spent working to pay off her late husband's debt and keep a roof over her son's head, though it's doubtful she can do both for very long.  Can Tressa ever accept support if it means giving up her independence and being obligated to a man again? I read this entire book series and really enjoyed it.

Abby Werth

Library Assistant  |  June 2023

1. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
I really enjoyed this book as I like to live a minimalist lifestyle. This book discusses ways that you can let go of stuff in a meaningful way so as not to burden your loved ones when you pass away. The author goes step by step through her process and how she accomplished her death cleaning journey after her husband died. I think it is important for us all to look at how much stuff we accumulate and why we keep it.

2. Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica
This book was a whirlwind of suspense from the first chapter to the very last sentence! As I was reading, I thought I had the entire story figured out; who the bad guy was, who the good guy was, but I was so wrong! The story follows four main characters, two couples, through an intense journey of murder, coverups, disappearances, and so much more! Really a great book!

3. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
Amazing! I loved every word of this book. I am always looking for ways to better myself as a parent and boy, did I find it with this book! The importance of allowing our children to grow and learn at their own pace is one of the best things we can do for them. One of the most significant tidbits I gained from this book is that PARENT stands for Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No ultimatums, and Togetherness. "The language we use is extremely powerful. It is the frame through which we perceive and describe ourselves and our picture of the world." Truly a fantastic book that every parent should own!

4. The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter
My brother suggested this book to me and I was really glad he did. We've all become so comfortable in our lives that we cannot handle a bit of discomfort. "We are living progressively sheltered, sterile, temperature-controlled, overfed, underchallenged, safety-netted lives. And it's limiting the degree to which we experience our 'one wild and precious life'." By getting uncomfortable we can reclaim our health and happiness. A journey through discomfort is "part rewilding, part rewiring. And its benefits are all-encompassing."

5. Dog (Film starring Channing Tatum)
I watched this a few weekends ago and I was pleasantly surprised. It follows the main character, an Army Ranger who is medically discharged following a TBI. While trying to get his life together he is enlisted by his commanding officer to escort a military dog to the funeral of her handler. Lulu the dog is an emotional disaster who tries to eat everyone and everything in sight. On their adventure from Washington to Arizona, man and beast are pushed to their limits and end up helping each other in more ways than you can imagine.

Holly McLain

Adult Services |  July 2023

Louisburg Library currently has two book clubs for adults: Mystery Book Club (est. 2004), and Guys Read (est. 2009).  Over the years the book clubs have had some great books, thought provoking books, and some not so great books.  Below are a few of the books that stuck with me.

1. Open Season by C.J. Box
In 2007, the Mystery Book Club read this book and enjoyed it.  It is the first in the Joe Pickett series.  In 2011, the Guys Read book club read the book and didn't enjoy it as much.  Several of both club members have gone on to be fans of the Joe Pickett series.  There are people who don't enjoy this first book of the series as much as later books, so you may want to try the second or third book in the series first.  However, I enjoyed this book in part because Box spends a little more time on the characters and you get to know Joe and his family fairly well.  This series has gone on to be a national bestseller and a television series.

2. Still Life by Louise Penny
In 2009, the Mystery Book Club read this book and talked with the author via phone from London.  It was wonderful talking to her and getting some inside perspective on Chief Inspector Gamache. This is the first book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.  Many readers have found Louise Penny's books since and fallen in love. This series is another series that has become a best seller and had a television series come out based on the books.

3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I read this book several years ago with a book club that no longer meets.  This book is probably the book club book that has stuck with me the most over the years.  It is about Alice Howland, a Harvard professor, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.  The book follows Alice as her life is turned upside down.  Genova does a wonderful job of humanizing dementia, a disease that is growing in numbers world-wide and effects millions of families.  If you've seen the movie, but not read the book, treat yourself to the book.

4. The Martian by Andy Weir
In 2015, Guys Read read this book.  I thorougly enjoyed this book.  The science was wonderful, the action was exciting, and the possibility of what could happen kept me reading.  When a book is very popular, I some times steer clear because I've been disappointed many times when the book didn't live up to it's hype.  This one lived up to the hype, at least for me.  The movie was good, so if you aren't into science fiction maybe try the movie.

5. The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein
In 2012, Guys Read read this book.  I am an anglophile, so that may be part of the reason I enjoyed this memoir set in Northern England.  I also enjoy romance, so that may be another reason this story stuck with me.  This book is about a family on the eve of WWI and the invisible wall that divided Jewish and Christian families, and the choices a young boy makes.

Joanne Seck

Library Assistant |  August 2023

1. Killing the Mob by Bill O'Reilly
I enjoy Bill O'Reilly's books because they are so full of history, the in-depth history you probably didn't learn in school.  
Killing the Mob describes crime in America, from Dillinger to organized crime, from bank robberies to drugs.  It also tells of the people who fought to stop them, Melvin Purvis and J. Edgar Hoover and the countless agents assigned to the dangerous duty of protecting us.
Killing the Mob is full of intrigue and surprises.  If you like history, Bill O'Reilly's books are for you.

2. News of the World
This movie stars Tom Hanks as a Civil War veteran who travels around Texas reading the newspaper to people who either can't read or are too busy farming to read it themselves.
On one of his travels he encounters a young girl along with her dead escort who was taking her to relatives.  The girl's parents had been killed by Apaches and she was taken and raised by them, then rescued several years later.  The movie tells of the hardships they encounter on their search for her relatives.  It is an interesting movie with a heart-warming ending.

3. White Bird by R.J. Palacio
I saw the trailer of White Bird at the movie theater and wondered if it was based on a book I could read before the movie came out in August 2023.
To my surprise, I discovered it was written by the same author who wrote Wonder.  It is based on a character from that book.  Julian is one of Auggie's tormentors. Julian has to write a paper for school and asks his grandmother to tell the story of her childhood as a Jewish girl in occupied France during World War 2.  It is a touching story with a message of kindness that we can all learn from.

4. The Women's March by Jennifer Chiaverini
Some of Jennifer Chiaverini's books are historical fiction mostly about women.  I particularly liked the The Women's March, a book about what women had to go through to obtain the right to vote.  It was a long process that lasted several years.  Many people, both male and female, were opposed to it.   This book tells of fictional women who meet and become allies of the real-life heroines of the suffrage movement.
Jennifer Chiaverini has also written a series of over 20 books called Elm Creek Quilts.  If you're looking for a new author, Jennifer Chiaverini will keep you in books for quite a while.

5. AudiobooksHave you ever been engrossed in a book and realized you had to put it down to go somewhere or needed to get something else done?  If you listen to audiobooks you can take your book with you.  I first listened to an audiobook when I was waiting for a bestseller and it had 25 holds on it.  The librarians told me there was an audiobook and I thought I might as well try it.  After that I was hooked.  
Audiobooks are not for everyone, but if you've never listened to a book, I urge you to give it a try. You might find sitting in highway road construction or washing dishes is more enjoyable with a book.

Connie Powell

Connie Powell

Administrative Assistant |  September 2023

1. Chatter: the Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross
I had noticed this book on the shelf and then it was advertised about an upcoming online speaker's talk with the author, Ethan Kross. The Louisburg Library is part of the Library Speakers Consortium which allows the library to bring online author talks about a variety of topics.  Once you register you can submit questions for the author if you choose to do so.  The talk lasted about an hour and if you are unable to make that time you can watch it on our website.  I enjoyed both the book and the talk with the author.

2. Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm by Hilarie Burton Morgan
I receive many of my book recommendations from my family.  I was visiting one of my children and she had this book.  We have had this book on our shelf for a while but I had not read it yet.  I started it and realized what a good book it was.  I recommend it for reading and the tips and recipes scattered throughout.


3. Rory: Quest for the Northern Lights by Sarah Cullen
Once again, my family is responsible for this choice.  I was looking for books with my granddaughter and she found this series of books called Ocean Tales.  It is written by two sisters from Australia who have a love of the ocean and the beautiful creatures in it.  They share these stories with a moral in each one and learning questions at the end.  The illustrations are beautiful and I highly recommend them.

4. These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett
After reading some heavier texts, I was looking for something lighter and this book truly hit the spot.  Ann Patchett shares wonderful essays about her life and I would highly recommend this book.

5. Captured By Love: Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs by Lee Ellis and Greg Godek
Some of you may know Lee Ellis as a POW from Vietnam.  He has done and continues to do outstanding work. This book highlights stories of love and hope that resulted from POWs and their families.  

Anna Brizendine

Library Assistant |  October 2023

1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
As a huge fan of musicals, I am absolutely in love with this book that started the hit Broadway production. Maguire is a greatly talented writer with much love for his craft. This book tells the story of an unlikely friendship formed between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda, the Good Witch of the North during their college days.

2. A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
A retelling of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in Ophelia's point of view.Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, including Ophelia. At the center of her crumbling world is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. He, too, understands the power of a promise to a parent- even a dead one. To him, Ophelia is the only person not tainted by deceit and hypocrisy, a mirror of his own broken soul. And to Ophelia, Dane quickly becomes everything. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane slips away. Consumed by suspicion, rage, and madness, he spirals towards his tragic fate- dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him. The name "Ophelia" is as deeply, painfully, tragically real as you first read in "Hamlet".

3. Columbine by David Cullen
I've never been a fan of nonfiction books, in fact, I don't think I've ever fully read through an entire lengthy nonfiction book until Columbine. I originally picked this book up for a high school English course, and was quickly stricken by how well-written it was. Dave Cullen is an absolute master of his craft(s). The research, time, skill, and emotion woven through the words of this book are truly unique to Cullen's ways. The book highlighted a tragedy in an extremely impressive light, giving the reader a reason to want to come back and hear more after every chapter. This book reminded me why I love literature so deeply.

4. Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella by Alan Schroeder
My sister raised me on this book and it is, to me, one of the biggest staples of my childhood. I was read and reread this book for years up until it was time for my sister to move out, and surprisingly…I never grew tired of it. The most striking characteristic of this book is undoubtedly the gorgeous artwork illustrated on all of the pages. I like to think that this book gave me an early mindset of the feminine fierceness and (sometimes) stubbornness I possess today :) This book is terribly underrated, and I highly recommend picking up this book for your kiddos, especially if they're obsessed with Cinderella!!

5. Author: Alex Michaelides
This young and fresh author is EXTREMELY talented! His slow-burn psychological thrillers are impossible to put down once started. His books have a unique chill to them, which is perfect for this spooky month!! Any fans of thrillers will not be disappointed

Angela Allen

Young Adult Services  |  November 2023

1. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The book tells the story of how Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz in 1942, fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp. The story is based on the real lives of Sokolov and his wife, Gita Furman.

2. The Tournout by Megan Abbott
This novel follows twin sisters Dara and Marie Durant, who grew up in a Victorian home with their father, an electrician, and their mother, a former ballet dancer. Their mother opens The Durant School of Dance and teaches her daughters ballet at home, making ballet central to the girls' identities.

3. The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon
A psychological thriller about a serial killer.  This novel is narrated by those closest to him: his 13 year old daughter, his girlfriend, and the one victim  he has spared.  

4. Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Like many couples, Michael and Jolene have to face the pressures of everyday life—children, careers, bills, chores—even as their twelve year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm's way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty.

5. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
In pre-World War II Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, an unexpected encounter leads to an inescapable glance of recognition, and the realization that providence has given Lenka and Josef one more chance.

Library Staff

Library Services  |  December 2023

Favorite holiday picks from Louisburg Library staff.


2024 Staff Picks