Staff Picks

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Staff Picks

Looking for something new to read? Our staff are avid readers and provide recommendations each month.

Below are a selection of our favourite recent reads, including teen fiction, adult fiction and non-fiction.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Adult fiction

Picked by Amanda

Alone in the world, Elspeth Swansome has taken the position of nanny to a family on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. Her charge, Mary, is a troubled child. Distracted and secretive, she hasn't uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William - just days after their former nanny disappeared. With Mary defiantly silent, Elspeth turns to the islanders. But no one will speak of what happened to William. Just as no one can explain the hypnotic lullabies sung in empty corridors. Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms. Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night... As winter draws in and passage to the mainland becomes impossible, Elspeth finds herself trapped. But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past? Or the secrets of the living...?

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Irondad Life: a year of bad decisions and questionable motives - what I learned on the quest to conquer Ironman Lake Placid by Russell Newell

Adult non-fiction 796.4257 NEW

Picked by Porsche

A humorous look at the world of Ironman triathlons and how one man tries to juggle training with the demands of a busy family.

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London's No. 1 Dog Walking Agency by Kate MacDougall

Adult non-fiction 92 MACD

Picked by Maggie

Kate MacDougall always knew her heart wasn't really in her job at Sotheby's. All around her, her friends were finding their dream jobs and whooshing up career ladders, fulfilled and glowing with success, flush with easy credit. After yet another breakage, this time of two precious porcelain pigeons, she had enough, and walked out of her comfortable, snoozy, back-office existence into the unknown world of the then-nascent gig economy. London's No 1 Dog-Walking Agency is the story of her next 5 years and the dogs (and people) she meets along the way. There's Winston, the Labrador who isn't allowed to get muddy, even after owners split up and then enlist Kate in their custody battle. There's the chic trio of Islington couples whose immaculately arranged dog walking schedule is thrown off when one of them gets off with the dog walker Kate has employed. There's Kate's long-suffering, dog-agnostic boyfriend Finn, and her mother, who is always on the alert for wedding bells and grandchildren. Amongst all this, there's Kate herself: trying to work out what she wants from life and when, and how to get there.

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Educated by Tara Westover

Adult non-fiction 92 WES

Also available as an ebook and eaudiobook

Picked by Kia

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd travelled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

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The Fire Keeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Teen fiction

Also available as an ebook

Picked by Briana

Strong Ojibwe women are like the ride, reminding us of forces too powerful to control. Weak people fear that strength. Eighteen-year-old Daunis's mixed heritage has always made her feel like an outsider, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. When she witnesses a shocking murder, she reluctantly agrees to be part of a covert FBI operation into a series of drug related deaths. But the deceptions - and deaths - keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now Daunis must decide what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she'll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she's ever known.

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The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Adult fiction

Picked by Tania

After the tragic death his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house - a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous. At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world, where "things happen". He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many ; and he meets his very own Book-a talking thing-who narrates Benny's life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

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The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Adult fiction

Also available as an ebook and eaudiobook

Picked by Nikki

In 1901, the word 'Bondmaid' was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it. Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the 'Scriptorium', a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme's place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word 'bondmaid' flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world. Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women's experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

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The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

Adult fiction

Picked by Paige

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability to harness them - known as the blood-blessed. But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate's last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it. Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world. As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

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I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke

Adult non-fiction 92 CLA

Picked by Duncan

John Cooper Clarke is a phenomenon: Poet Laureate of Punk, rock star, fashion icon, TV and radio presenter, social and cultural commentator. At 5 feet 11 inches (32in chest, 27in waist), in trademark dark glasses, tailored suit, shock of black hair and mouth full of gold teeth, he is instantly recognizable. As a writer his voice is equally unmistakable and his own brand of sick humour is never far from the surface. I Wanna Be Yours covers an extraordinary life, filled with remarkable personalities: from Nico to Chuck Berry; Bernard Manning to Linton Kwesi Johnson; Elvis Costello to Gregory Corso; Mark E. Smith to Gil Scott Heron and Joe Strummer and on to more recent fans and collaborators like Alex Turner, Plan B and Guy Garvey. Interspersed with stories of his rock and roll and performing career, John also reveals his mind-boggling encyclopaedic take on popular culture over the centuries: from Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, to Pop Art, pop music, the movies, fashion, football and showbusiness - with more than a few laughs along the way.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Adult fiction

Picked by Lis

From the Pulitzer Prize winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story. The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril. An ancient text, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky, provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness, with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we're gone. Dedicated to "the librarians then, now, and in the years to come," Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship, of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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