Staff Picks: Best of 2018

Our patrons are always asking us for advice on books, movies, video games, music, or just about anything else you can imagine, and we are always happy to give it! With that in mind we are pleased to present our annual list of what our staff members loved the most over the past year!


ERIN – Director

I had so many favorite things, I needed to narrow it down – below are my favorite new cookbooks of 2018, in no particular order!

The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen

I’ve yet to make a cookie out of this fantastic cookbook that hasn’t been a hit. Clear instructions and terrific tips – I highly recommend the jam thumbprints! (Full disclosure, not a 2018 release, but a late 2017 one that I enjoyed through the year!)

[Print Book]

Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace by Michael Symon with Douglas Trattner

The protein recipes are great but I really fell for the sides. Make the spaetzle and cabbage. It’s spectacular.

[Print Book]

Giada’s Italy: My Recipes for La Dolce Vita by Giada De Laurentiis

The release of this book was perfectly timed. Just when we feel like winter will never end in late March at the shore, this book hit our shelves. It’s filled with things you want to make on a beautiful sunny day and share with family and friends.

[Print Book]

Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit by Lisa Ludwinski

I have Shannon to thank for this one! She saw it and immediately told me I needed to check it out. She was right. It’s fantastic, filled with tons of great recipes and plenty of twists on old favorites. And if you haven’t heard about the namesake bakery in Detroit, look them up. It’s an impressive bakery with an even more impressive mission.

[Print Book | eBook]

Food52 Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake by Kristen Miglore

I was obsessed with Food52 Genius Recipes when it released in 2015 and had been anxiously awaiting this release. It delivered. If you like to bake, borrow it!

[eBook]

Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook by Dorie Greenspan

I’ve been using Dorie’s baking recipes for years. Her jammer cookies remain one of my all-time favorites. So I was particularly excited to check out her newest cookbook, which is her take on everyday cooking. I’ve loved every thing I’ve made so far! Try the Onion Galette.

[Print Book]


SEAN – Digital Outreach Associate

1. The Haunting of Hill House

This Netflix horror miniseries was perhaps the biggest surprise hit of the year. Over 10 episodes we follow the Crain family as they raise their children in the titular house and then decades later after those kids have grown up and are dealing with the trauma of what happened all those years ago. The emotions feel real, the plotting is near-perfect, and there all several really good scares scattered throughout the show (and even more ghosts hiding in the background as well). It plays like a mash-up of The Conjuring and This Is Us, and works so much better than that idea sounds.

[Streaming on Netflix]

2. The Overstory by Richard Powers

This remarkable achievement of a novel follows several strangers over the course of decades as their lives inevitably intersect in unexpected ways. Oh, and the author mixes in cutting-edge discoveries to make the trees around us feel like another character in the book. Compellingly plotted and gorgeously written, it will leave you with a new level of respect for the natural world.

[Print Book | eBook]

3. Palo Santo by Years & Years

British dance-pop doesn’t get much better than this. Blending catchy melodies, energetic beats, and singer Olly Alexander’s memorable voice, it’s easily one of the year’s most purely enjoyable records.

[Streaming on Hoopla]

4. Faces Places

This road-trip documentary follows 33 year-old French photographer & muralist JR and 89 year-old French New Wave artist Agnes Varda as they travel their home country talking to the people they encounter, memorializing what they see through their art, and discussing their lives. It all adds up to one of the most sweet and heart-warming films I’ve ever seen and is an absolute joy to watch the whole way through.

[Streaming on Kanopy]

5. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

Australian comic Hannah Gadsby knows how to tell a great joke, and she tells a lot of them in this stand-up special. But what really makes it stand out is that she has taken the genre and turned it into something more. She doesn’t just make us laugh, but opens up about the traumatic events of her past, making us think and cry and feel as well. Anyone who is brave enough to get on stage and subvert audience expectations so boldly and completely pull it off deserves the utmost respect, and Hannah Gadsby absolutely nails it here.

[Streaming on Netflix]

6. Maniac

Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star as 2 strangers with deep emotional issues who meet during a drug trial being run by an equally troubled doctor, his ex-girlfriend, and the emotionally unstable AI she created. If that doesn’t sound weird enough, the trial involves taking pills that cause them to go into a deep sleep and work through their traumas in their heads, and an electrical malfunction leads to our 2 leads wires getting crossed and the both of them consistently winding up in the other’s visions. It’s very weird, but it deals beautifully with ideas like human connection and grief, is filled with gorgeous imagery, and is frequently very funny. Easily one of the year’s most creative pieces of pop culture.

[Streaming on Netflix]

7. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

A family of 3 takes a vacation to an isolated cabin by a lake in the woods, only to have their peace and quiet interrupted by 3 strangers who take them captive and claim that the family must make a terrible sacrifice or the world will end. It’s a simple premise executed flawlessly. The characters are all well-drawn out, the reader is left constantly wondering exactly what is going on, and most importantly, it is genuinely scary. This is the most suspenseful book I’ve read in years, and with it’s themes that are perfectly tuned to our current moment, it’s also one that stuck with me long after the final page.

[Print Book | eBook]

8. Iridescence by Brockhampton

They may like to refer to themselves as a boy band, and they would technically be correct, but what they really are is the future of rap. The large and diverse collective has a youthful and hungry sound to their performances and isn’t afraid to experiment sonically, leading to some of the most original sounding music to be released in 2018.

[Streaming on Freegal]

9. The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

Loosely based on real events, this debut novel follows the lives of several young drag queens and gay men trying to make their way in the Harlem ball scene of the early 1980’s. Despite being poor and ostracized from their families, they manage to create a new family of their own and find moments of joy and beauty wherever they can. This moving story helps the reader to better understand a world they are likely unfamiliar with, and is sure to stick in their memory for a long time to come.

[Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook]

10. The Final Table

However much I love cooking reality shows, as a genre it’s become somewhat predictable. Leave it to Netflix to spice things up! This show brings in talented chefs from all over the world to compete in teams of 2, usually paired with another chef whom they already know. Each week they are tasked with cooking the food of a different country, to be judged by celebrities, food critics, and ultimately a master chef from each. The level of talent on display is consistently stunning throughout and the food photography and Chef’s Table-like biographies further elevate the show.

[Streaming on Netflix]


PAT – Patron Services

1. Becoming by Michelle Obama

[Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook]

2. The Miniaturist

[DVD]

3. BBC Gardener’s World

[Magazine]

4. A French Village: Season 7, 1945

[DVD | Streaming on Hoopla]

5. The English Home

[Magazine]

6. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

[Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook]

7. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright

[Print Book | Large Print Book | eBook]

8. The Post

[Blu-ray | DVD]

9. Doctor Thorne

[DVD]

10. Alpha

[Blu-ray | DVD]


TERRI – Patron Services

BOOKS:

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

[Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook]

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

[Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook]

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

[Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook]

MOVIES:

The 15:17 to Paris

[Blu-ray | DVD]

Game Night

[Blu-ray | DVD]

The Post

[Blu-ray | DVD]

TV SHOWS:

Bodyguard: Season 1

[Streaming on Netflix]

Ozark: Season 2

[Streaming on Netflix]

The Crown: Season 2

[Blu-ray | DVD | Streaming on Netflix]


SHANNON – Assistant Director

Samsung Galaxy S9

It’s just the right size (not too big, not too small) and I love the well-designed user interface. I think they have thought of everything.

[Buy it from Samsung]


JON – Patron Services

1. Dungeons and Dragons

For the past three years, “D&D” has been my favorite pastime.  It’s collaborative story-telling and improvisational theater packaged together in a strategic tabletop game.  Oh!  And there’s also the whole “fighting dragons” bit, which is quite fun.

[Get started at the official site]

2. Them by Ben Sasse

I really enjoyed Senator Sasse’s first book, The Vanishing American Adult, and Them is equally engrossing.  Combining scholarly insight and a Midwestern sensibility, Sasse makes a compelling case that we can cure our current national strife by focusing on our communities rather than the headlines.

[Print Book | eBook]

3. Bodyguard: Season 1

“In the midst of a heightened terror threat, a British war veteran is tasked with protecting the Home Secretary.”  In the tradition of those classic Hitchcockian thrillers, it’s a simple premise that quickly becomes more and more complicated as the story unfolds (over the course of a mere six episodes!) and you’re constantly left wondering “What will happen next?”  Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop.

[Streaming on Netflix]

4. The Terror: Season 1

Imagine if Mary Shelley wrote Moby Dick fan fiction and you would have The Terror.  This story about an ill-fated polar expedition combines supernatural horror with the very real dangers of Arctic exploration in the 19th century.  If you have the time, the original 992-page book by Dan Simmons is riveting, but the television series does an admirable job of condensing the material while featuring a stellar cast.

[DVD]

5. Write It When I’m Gone by Thomas M. DeFrank

As someone who was born WAY after 1977, my general impression of Gerald Ford has always been (however unintentionally) that of a footnote – a stop-gap presidency overshadowed by more historic and celebrated ones.  However, after reading this book, I have a new appreciation and admiration for this man who stood at the helm during one of our nation’s biggest scandals.  Write It When I’m Gone features a series of off-the-record interviews and discussions between Ford and DeFrank, which reveal a serious and dedicated public servant whose humility seems almost out of place in the Oval Office.

[Get it on Amazon]


LINDA – Program Coordinator

A Star is Born

[Now playing in theaters]


HEATHER – Patron Services

1. Ready Player One

The film was very entertaining, although the concept is disturbing to me, especially because our society seems very close to living completely virtual. Fans of the movie who haven’t read the book should give it a try, especially those growing up in the 80’s. The book has a much greater amount of 1980’s references than the movie.

[Blu-ray | DVD]

2. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

A girl finds herself dealing with a life-changing injury. While navigating her new world, she discovers her own strength as well as the strengths and weaknesses of those closest to her.

[Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook]

3. You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac

A single woman tries to fulfill a request made by her mother, who is suffering from Huntington’s Disease. The request is to strengthen the relationship between her young son and the father who barely exists in his life.

[Print Book | eBook]

4. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

Although I’ve heard mixed reviews, I enjoyed this newest version of the story. It made me laugh and also brought tears to my eyes.

[Now playing in theaters]


CHRIS H. – Patron Services

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

If there was ever a video game series that’s never let me down, it’s this one. Nintendo pulled out all the stops with their latest entry in the acclaimed king-of-the-hill style fighting game, sporting the largest roster of playable characters and stages of any previous iteration. There’s so much content jammed into this game, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

[Nintendo Switch Game (temporarily unavailable)]

2. Avengers: Infinity War

Ten years after the release of Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally come together to retell one of the most climactic and memorable story arcs ever to appear in a comic book. Full of action and the kind of excellent cinematography you’d expect in a superhero movie, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as the tension and stakes rise higher than ever before!

[Blu-ray | DVD]

3. God of War

It’s not often that a game series shows you the growth and evolution of a beloved character, but Kratos is a rare exception and one I’m pleased to see. He’s developed into a stoic and hardened man, clearly contrasting his wild and reckless iterations represented in earlier games. The changing relationship between he and his son Atreus is also fascinating to observe, and can actually be quite heartwarming at times. If you were a fan of The Last of Us, this one might be for you.

[Playstation 4 Game]

4. Red Dead Redemption II

Grand Theft Auto in the Wild West made a triumphant return to consoles this year, vastly improving on the features that made the first game shine. While I found the controls to be a little input-delayed, that’s always been a staple of Rockstar games so it didn’t hinder the experience much. Its well worth playing for the narrative alone.

[Playstation 4 | Xbox One]

5. Ready Player One

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How much 80’s nostalgia can you cram into 140 minutes?”, look no further than Ready Player One. While the plot can be a little thin and transparent at times, the world of Oasis is staggeringly beautiful and a gamer’s dream come true. It’s a gorgeous homage to pop culture, if not somewhat lacking in depth. Worth a watch if only to relive the days of your youth!

[Blu-ray | DVD]

6. Incredibles 2

A staggering 14 years after the original film was released, Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the last one left off and recaptures much of what made its predecessor so successful. Even though it’s packed full of action, it’s not your standard superhero experience. At times, it focuses on interpersonal relationships between members of the Parr family and really creates heartwarming experiences that you’ve come to expect as a staple of a Pixar/Disney film. Absolutely worth the wait.

[Blu-ray | DVD]

7. Black Panther

I was never a big fan of the Black Panther comics, but this movie had me captivated from start to finish. Tremendous acting and several well-placed plot twists will keep you wanting more. Definitely one of the high points as far as Marvel movies go!

[Blu-ray | DVD]

8. Spider-Man

The Batman: Arkham series served as a fine example of a superhero video game series (finally) done right, and in many respects, Spider-Man delivered very similarly in terms of combat, open-world exploration, and combat versatility. Its stunning visuals and Spidey’s fluid movement through the city make it seamlessly immersive and an absolute blast to play, even just to explore every rooftop or alleyway.

[Playstation 4 Game]

9. Dragon Ball FighterZ

While it’s admittedly a love letter to fans of the Dragon Ball series, it’s a respectable fighting game in its own right as well! The cell-shaded style and return to a 2.5D perspective are certainly among its strengths, though the campaign’s story breaks the fourth wall slightly and comes off as a bit corny. In terms of gameplay, however, it delivers a Street Fighter quality fighting game experience!

[Buy it on Amazon for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, or PC]

10. Kirby Star Allies

Fun, bright, and colorful perfectly encapsulate what Kirby Star Allies brings to the table. While not particularly difficult, this addition will keep you exploring and experimenting with various enemy abilities and combinations to find what works best for you. With callbacks to games from as long ago as 1995, this one is perfect for those times when you want to relax and take a frustration-free walk down memory lane.

[Nintendo Switch Game]


NOTE: We have provided links to obtain each item from the library either in person or through one of our online services when possible. For items that the library does not have in our collection, we have provided a link to the primary place in which the item is available. The library does not receive any compensation to links to outside retailers, and is not responsible for the content of these sites. Streaming links to Hoopla, Kanopy, and Freegal allow you to watch or listen to the content for free using your library card, but streaming links to Netflix require a paid Netflix account which the library does not provide.

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