ICPL'S TOP PICKS 2019

It's here!

After sharing with you our favorite titles in 10 genres, we now present our BEST OF THE BEST books of 2019. These are the books that were nominated by more than one library employee, so if you're looking for some titles to get you reading in 2020, you know we like the following.

Our BEST BOOK for 2019, the title that was nominated by more staff than any other book on this list, is RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston. This is a sweet LGBTQ love story that combines politics, social media, royalty and snarky emails in a combination that had many of us wanting more. And, by the number of holds still on this book months after publication, we are not alone!

Happy reading!

 

Also check out Top Picks from previous years: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

Red, white & royal blue : a novel

Casey McQuiston

FICTION Mcquisto Casey
Romance

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and proclaim Red, White & Royal Blue my favorite book of 2019! I was immediately captivated by the world newcomer Casey McQuiston created and loved all of her characters, Alex and Henry especially, but also the supporting cast of equally great people. For as long as I can remember, my parenting goals were Myron and Katherine Krupnik (from the Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry), but now I want to be a mom like President Ellen Claremont. The perfect summer read!
- Meredith

With the fire on high

Elizabeth Acevedo

YOUNG ADULT FICTION Acevedo Elizabe
Young Adult

"Teen mother Emoni Santiago struggles with the challenges of finishing high school and her dream of working as a chef." --

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A beautiful story. The writing was so descriptive, I felt like I could taste every dish. "Trust, okay? Trust. Yourself mainly, but the world, too. There is magic working in your favor."
- Meredith

The long call

Ann Cleeves

MYSTERY Cleeves Ann
Mystery

From Ann Cleeves--bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows--comes the first in a gripping new series. "Ann Cleeves is one of my favorite mystery writers."--Louise Penny In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father's funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too. Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death. The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide. An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.

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I took it hard when Ann Cleeves recently announced she would not be writing any more Shetland mysteries. But I am very happy to find that I like the main character in her new series "Two Rivers" just as much. Detective Matthew Venn is a sympathetic character--earnest, introverted, working outside of his comfort zone because he cares about making things right. This first novel is suspenseful and the setting on the Devon coast is interesting and inviting. I look forward to more in this new series.
- Heidi L

Recursion : a novel

Blake Crouch

FICTION Crouch Blake
Science Fiction

New York City cop Barry Sutton investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome-- a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Neuroscientist Helena Smith dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. Together they face a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. Memory makes reality-- and the force is beginning to unmake the world as we know it. -- adapted from jacket

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I devoured this book. The jacket copy doesn't do it justice, but I don't want to spoil the story! I'll say this: Blake Crouch writes AMAZING Sci-Fi thrillers. Think Michael Crichton but way better. If you like this, read "Dark Matter" afterwards.
- Brian

Catch and kill : lies, spies, and a conspiracy to protect predators

Ronan Farrow

364.153 /Farrow
Nonfiction

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood's most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance they could not explain -- until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond. This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. And it's the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Best friends

Shannon Hale

jGRAPHIC NOVEL Hale
Graphic Novels, Fiction, Kids

When she becomes part of the in-crowd, Shannon begins to question whether she wants to remain there, in a story about popularity, first boyfriends, and finding a path in life.

Evvie Drake starts over : a novel

Linda (Radio talk show host) Holmes

FICTION Holmes Linda
Fiction

"In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth "Evvie" Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn't correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy's childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the "yips": he can't throw straight anymore, and he can't figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie's house, the two make a deal: Dean won't ask about Evvie's late husband, and Evvie won't ask about Dean's baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken--and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they'll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they've broken, the plans they've changed, and the secrets they've kept. They'll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there's always a chance--right up until the last out"--

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This sweet story was EXACTLY what I needed after reading several psychological thrillers. I love Evvie. I love Dean. I love Andy and his daughters.
- Meredith

The gifted school : a novel

Bruce W. Holsinger

FICTION Holsinger, Bruce
Fiction

"This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege. Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who've been a part of one another's lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group's children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It's a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost"-

Ask again yes : a novel

Mary Beth Keane

FICTION Keane Mary
Fiction

"A family saga about two Irish American families in a New York suburb, the love between two of their children, and the tragedies that threaten to tear them apart and destroy their futures"--

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The incident that defines the characters and the stories didn't happen right away, but the book is beautifully written that it doesn't matter. I was drawn into the words. The amazing story was a bonus.
- Meredith

Say nothing : a true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland

Patrick Radden Keefe

941.60824 /Keefe
True Crime, History

"From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions. In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as the Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the IRA was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville's children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the garments--with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes. Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children but also IRA members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war but simple murders. From radical and impetuous IRA terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious IRA mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his IRA past--[this book] conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish."--Dust jacket.

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This is a true crime story about a mother of ten's disappearance during the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, almost three decades in of turmoil between Catholics and Protestants while the IRA recruited young people to plant bombs and carry out murders. While this mystery operates as a frame work, I would say it's more of a modern telling of the history of violence, albeit a chilling nonfiction narrative. There were almost too many characters to keep track of, but I found the story of Dolours Price and her sister Marian to be fascinating. Both were arrested for the car bombing of the Old Bailey in London in the 70's and spent years in prison on hunger strike until they were allowed to finish their prison sentence in Northern Ireland. This story makes you question if there is a difference between political violence and crime.
- Mari

Maid : hard work, low pay, and a mother's will to survive

Stephanie Land

331.481 /Land
Nonfiction, Memoir

A journalist describes the years she worked in low-paying domestic work under wealthy employers, contrasting the privileges of the upper-middle class to the realities of the overworked laborers supporting them.

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This isn’t an easy book to read, but it is an important one. It helps describe and explain what life is like for poor people in this country. Government programs that are put in place to help people in poverty often, as Land describes and explains, punishes those working to get out of poverty. For every step forward, you lose a service that could keep you moving forward. I’m glad Land was able to beat the odds and share her story.
- Meredith

Sulwe

Lupita Nyong'o

jE Nyongo
Picture Books

When five-year-old Sulwe's classmates make fun of her dark skin, she tries lightening herself to no avail, but her encounter with a shooting star helps her understand there is beauty in every shade.

The flatshare : a novel

Beth O'Leary

FICTION Oleary Beth
Fiction, Romance

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met. After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art. Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet. Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more. But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you've never met.

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Take one quirky guy and match him with an equally quirky girl and you have sparks! Leon and Tiffy are perfect for each other. They even share a flat, yet have never met. The premise of this novel made me pick it up and I'm happy to report that it did not disappoint! An ideal summer read.
- Meredith

Daisy Jones & the Six : a novel

Taylor Jenkins Reid

FICTION Reid Taylor
Historical Fiction

"Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it's the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she's twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she's pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice"--

Pumpkinheads

Rainbow Rowell

GRAPHIC NOVEL Rowell
Graphic Novels

"Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. Every autumn, all through high school, they've worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they're reunited every September 1. But this Halloween is different -- Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye. Josiah's ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn't ready to let him. She's got a plan: What if -- instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut -- they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he's been mooning over for three years ... What if their last shift was an adventure? Beloved writer Rainbow Rowell and Eisner Award-winning artist Faith Erin Hicks have teamed up to create this tender and hilarious story about two irresistible teens discovering what it means to leave behind a place -- and a person -- with no regrets."--

Wayward son

Rainbow Rowell

YOUNG ADULT FICTION Rowell Rainbow
Young Adult

"Simon Snow is back and he's coming to America! The story is supposed to be over. Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after... So why can't Simon Snow get off the couch? What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light... That's how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West. They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place... With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It's another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter. Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero's journey might be over--but your life has just begun"--

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Rainbow does it again! I know of no other author with such a knack for writing and creating characters to absolutely fall in love with (SHEPARD <3 <3 <3). If you liked "Carry On," you're going to like this--no doubt about it. It ends on a cliffhanger (curses!), but Rainbow has already announced a follow up: "Any Way the Wind Blows." I can't wait!
- Brian

The lager queen of Minnesota

J. Ryan Stradal

FICTION Stradal J. Ryan
Fiction

"A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate, and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest"--

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Warning: You will crave pie and beer while devouring this wonderful story.
- Meredith

Guts

Raina Telgemeier

jGRAPHIC NOVEL Telgemeier
Kids

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she's dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away... and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What's going on?

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I'm always into whatever Raina Telgemeier puts out, and this is not exception. Closer in tone to her more autobiographical works like Sisters or Smile this one deals with how sometimes kids can struggle with putting words on their emotions and inner life. A great title for all ages, and because it took me so little time to read I had the privilege of passing my copy on to my nephew. Win-win!
- Frannie

On democracy

E. B. (Elwyn Brooks) White

320.973 /White
Nonfiction, Political

"Anchored by an introduction by Jon Meacham, this concise collection of essays, letters, and poems from one of this country's most eminent literary voices sheds much-needed historical context on the state of the nation and offers a ray of hope for the future of our society; for "as long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman...the scene is not desolate.""--

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This collection of essays, letters, and poetry brings together E.B. White's thoughts on the politics of his day, mostly from the 1930's to the 1970's. All are very relevant to our own time--the role of the free press, freedom of speech, and what democracy means in America. It is a great read.
- Anne M

To Night Owl from Dogfish

Holly Goldberg Sloan

jFICTION Sloan Holly
Fiction, Kids

Unhappy about being sent to the same summer camp after their fathers start dating, Bett and Avery, two girls, age eleven, eventually begin scheming to get the couple back together after a break-up. Told entirely through letters, emails and text messages.

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Told in emails and letters, two girls connect over their fathers' new relationship. So funny and page-turning!
- Anne W