Under the guidance of the CA Department of Public Health and San Diego County’s Public Health Officer, the San Diego Public Library will be closed to the public from Monday, March 16 until April 6, 2020. All programming and events have been postponed or canceled during this time. Online library services remain available to the public.


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SDPL Recommended Books

Staff Picks 2020

San Diego Public Library staff write short book reviews of their favorite titles for the San Diego Union Tribune, which are published every other Sunday. These are a selection of the titles we've recommended. Checkout information may be found in the library catalog under Staff Picks

The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black

Reviewed by Brenda Wegener
Branch Manager, Carmel Valley Branch Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, March 15, 2020
Benjamin Black, pseudonym for Irish fiction author John Banville, usually writes detective novels taking place in Dublin in the1950s.But this novel is very different.In World War II London, just before the start of the German Blitz, the King and Queen secretly send the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to the rundown estate of the Duke of Edenmore deep in the countryside of neutral Ireland. The girls will be guarded by Cecilia Nashe, an MI6 agent posing as a governess and a young Anglo-Irish detective. The days on the estate are leisurely, with Elizabeth riding horses and Margaret getting into mischief until the secret begins to get out, first among the servants and then the townspeople.When a group of Irish rebels get wind of the princesses’ true identities,the situation becomes dangerous for all concerned. Anyone caught up in “The Crown” series will find this book engaging.

There There by Tommy Orange

Reviewed by Jason Rogers
Accessibility & I CAN! Center Manager, Central Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, March 1, 2020
Everything about Orange’s novel has an energy that keeps crackling along, from the passionate prologue through the tense conclusion. It begins with a series of seemingly disconnected character sketches of several Native Americans in and around Oakland. We get to meet each character in their current circumstance and gradually learn about their personal histories that eventually lead them to the novel’s climax, a big community powwow. The narrative jumps between characters as well as chronologically, but each character is rendered in such terrific details that you will be immersed well before the plot connections begin to show themselves. The range of voices that Orange presents in the book is truly impressive, but so is the way he constructs the story to keep the reader engaged through the final page.

Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Reviewed by David Cederholm
Library Assistant II, Allied Gardens/Benjamin Branch Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, February 16, 2020
Fresh off a Pulitzer Prize, Colson Whitehead gives us this startling and all too familiar story of Elwood Curtis.  An intelligent and idealistic kid with a seemingly bright future, he plans to enroll in the local community college when things go sideways and he is convicted of a petty crime.  Jim Crow is on full display as Elwood is sentenced to the Nickel Academy.  Outwardly, a respected and long-established Florida institution for the reform of youthful offenders, in truth a penal farm where Elwood and the black “students” are put to work in the fields and homes of local officials and gentry.  Beatings, sexual abuse and disappearances occur with regularity and Elwood learns that dreams and an optimistic outlook may not be enough to keep himself alive.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Reviewed by Vanessa Gempis
Manager, Pauline Foster Teen Center, Central Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, February 2, 2020
Magic, murder, and mayhem abound in the first book of the “Crown of Shards” series. Fronted by a compelling and engaging main character and a host of memorable side characters, Estep’s world is a fun, page-turning ride all the way through. With no obvious magical ability and as seventeenth in line for the throne, Lady Everleigh is oft overlooked. She keeps her head down and does as she’s told, biding her time until she can secure permission to leave the court of Bellona and make a quiet life that’s all her own. Everything changes when the crown princess assassinates the queen and massacres the rest of the royals, leaving Evie the only royal survivor. Forced to flee, she finds safety and strength amongst a group of gladiators. As Evie finds her strength and her confidence, she also finds a new goal: become a gladiator herself…to kill the queen.

The Dinner by Herman Koch book cover

Reviewed by Christine Miller
Librarian II, Humanities, Central Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, January 19, 2020
Two teenage cousins and one horrific act bring four affluent parents together to navigate an outcome while trying to keep their well-groomed lives intact. An expensive, classy restaurant is the perfect setting for the not-so-perfect complexities of these good families. Money, power, politics and human nature are on the table in this dark saga, not to mention sibling rivalries, ulterior motives, upper crust values and life out of balance. This dinner will be intense. By the time dessert arrives, you’ll be wondering whose reality is this, anyway? Elements of current events will surely come to mind. For fans of psychological suspense reminiscent of Defending Jacob and The Talented Mr. Ripley, there’s something to sink your teeth into here.

Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

Reviewed by Trevor Jones
Branch Manager, Scripps Miramar Ranch Library
San Diego Union-Tribune, January 5, 2020
True crime fans rejoice! Readers of Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” should check out this page-turner as a great follow-up. Jensen outlines his own beginnings as an amateur sleuth and investigative reporter, slowly developing a method to “crowdsource” crime solving via social media — with results! Several cases are examined — some unsolved to date — as Jensen helps find missing persons, works hand-in-hand with police. and receives tips from literally thousands of people. Jensen also offers wisdom and several guidelines for would-be detectives in the new age of Internet sleuthing.
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