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Published 11:36 am Monday, May 18, 2020

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Jen Pace Dickenson

Shelf Life


Express Books is a new service offered by Polk County Public Libraries for people who want reading recommendations! Let our staff hand-select materials for you and then pick them up curbside from Columbus Library or Saluda Library. How it works: Complete a form telling us your favorite genres, authors, and interests, and staff members specializing in those areas will choose titles for you. These items will be placed on hold and you will be notified when they are ready to be picked up. Visit polklibrary.org/express-books/ to get started! Here are a few titles I might select in the following areas.

Literary Fiction:

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

I picked this one up because it just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was excellent but very heavy and violent. Elwood is a black teenager in 1960s Tallahassee who has a steady job, is greatly inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., and is excited to enroll in college classes while attending high school. Dumb luck unfortunately gets him sent off to a reform school where horrible abuse and even murder is the norm. The novel also tells of Elwood’s adult life as a successful business owner in New York City, but he is still haunted by the atrocities of his youth. The saddest part is that it is based on the true story of the Dozier School for Boys in Florida, where the remains of murdered students were discovered in 2014.

Contemporary Romance:

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Cassie is a firefighter in Texas, who loves her job and coworkers and lives a simple life that she is very content with… Until she has to move to Massachusetts to help her mom, the same mom who abandoned her and her dad and she has spent the last ten years deeply resenting. She gets transferred to a fire department there but it’s not at all modern or progressive like the station she worked at in Austin. And she happens to start work the same day as a rookie, who she instantly falls in love with… Despite swearing off all romantic interactions since a horrible event that happened the night of her 16th birthday, the same night her mom left. This was a sweet book, with a strong theme of forgiveness, and some more serious events as well.

Young Adult:

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez

Julia is a high schooler in Chicago, mourning the sudden death of her older sister Olga and dealing with parents who don’t understand her. Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter in their eyes, never moving out of the house, always helping her family, and never arguing with them or creating any controversy. But as Julia digs deeper into Olga’s life, she finds secrets that none of them knew. That mystery is the center of the story, but Julia also deals with other issues… Her first romance, depression and anxiety, applying to colleges, and her traditional, overbearing mother. I wouldn’t call it a fun or light read, so I’d recommend it for teens looking for something more serious or adults who like to read YA.


Me by Elton John

I am currently listening to this audiobook (narrated by Taron Egerton, who also starred in Rocketman), and it is fabulous. It chronicles the life of one of the most famous pop stars of all time and includes plenty of saucy anecdotes about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Full of dry British wit and very honest, you feel like you’re getting a real glimpse into his rise to fame.


Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Malorie lives with her sister and finds out she is pregnant while strange events start happening around the world. People suddenly turn violent and kill themselves or others after seeing “something.” Sadly, her sister becomes a victim and Malorie must head out on her own to find survivors. The book alternates between Malorie’s life in a house with other survivors and four years later, when she is alone with her two children and trying to make their way down a river to a sanctuary she hopes still exists. I had already seen the film version of this but still thoroughly enjoyed the book, despite knowing most of what would happen. It was a bit anxiety-inducing, so not a great pick if you are trying to avoid that at this time. But overall it is a unique addition to the post-apocalyptic genre and a great character study, as you are constantly in Malorie’s head. The book is getting a sequel this year, which takes place 12 years later.

Jen Pace Dickenson is the youth services librarian for Polk County Public Libraries. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit polklibrary.org or call 828-894-8721.