A guide to exploring new genres

Each year, groups of librarians from across the country hole up in a room (this year, a virtual room) to discuss and select the best books from the year before. The Notable Books List features literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; the Listen List is all about outstanding audiobooks; and The Reading List, which I want to tell you about today, highlights outstanding genre fiction in eight genres: Adrenaline (aka thrillers, adventure stories), Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Relationship Fiction, Romance, and Science Fiction.

While each genre has a winner, it also has a four-title shortlist of runners up. Taken together, the five books in each genre represent a range of the types of stories a reader can find in that genre, with the idea that both longtime fans and folks new to the genre can find a title of interest. If you are looking to branch out into new areas of fiction reading, it is a great place to start. Check out the 2021 winners (for books published in 2020) below, with annotations from the ALA Reading List Council, or in our catalog.

Adrenaline

The Holdout by Graham Moore
Ten years after Maya Seale convinced her fellow jurors to acquit a man of murder, a true crime documentary reunites the jury amid claims of new Continue reading “A guide to exploring new genres”

Christmas Horror!

Ah, Christmas! A magical time filled with colored lights, falling snow, and visits from old St Nick. Yet colored lights can’t hide the fact that each day it gets darker earlier and stays dark longer. Falling snow is awfully good at making footprints look strangely shaped or just covering them up all together. And isn’t there something creepy about someone dressed in red walking around on rooftops crawling down your chimney at night, when you’re sound asleep? In this column, I’ll be talking about Christmas movies that take a very different view of the holiday, one where ghosts, monsters, and some not-very-nice Santas have their own ideas on how to celebrate the season.

Let’s start by talking about the most adapted Christmas story of all time: Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. There are dramatic adaptations (the classic 1951 version starring Alistair Sim and the 1984 version starring George C. Scott), musical versions (Scrooge starring Albert Finney), animated versions (A Christmas Carol featuring Jim Carrey), animated musical versions (Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol), and even one featuring The Muppets (The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine). Continue reading “Christmas Horror!”

Vampires, Possession, and … Elk? It’s Horror Season!

Darkness encroaches! This year’s horror novels bring us several takes on possession, some very creepy homes, vampires, and even a vengeful elk spirit. So make a hot beverage, grab a blanket, and settle in on the couch as you prepare to feel a frisson of fear from an outstanding recent horror novel.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Ten years ago, four young Native American men took an elk hunting trip that strayed into the area of their Blackfoot Reservation reserved for elders. The memory of that day haunts them all to different degrees, but now the spirit of the elk they wronged is out for revenge, in this slow-burn horror novel. Continue reading “Vampires, Possession, and … Elk? It’s Horror Season!”

Horrorfest on Kanopy

For those of us finding ourselves spending extra time with housemates or family, horror movie marathons are an excellent way to pass the days. If you’ve exhausted the movie options on your go-to streaming subscription service, Kanopy has an incredible selection of films that are free to access with your library card. Here are a few diverse and international scary films all released within the last 10 years that you can start watching tonight! (Important note: most of these films are only appropriate for adults; please use discretion if watching with younger family members.)

Florence Pugh makes up her mind in Midsommar

If you missed Midsommar when it came out in theaters last summer, now is a perfect time to catch up – for free! This film shows what happens when a small group of American graduate students travel to Sweden for an obscure (and chilling) midsummer festival, inverting traditional horror tropes as the entire plot unravels during the bright light of day. Continue reading “Horrorfest on Kanopy”

Stay-at-Home Drive-In Movie Madness!!

After regular movie theaters have suspended operations, many couples and families have rediscovered Drive-In Movie Theaters, where social distancing is a standard feature! My sister is a drive-in movie buff, and so she and her husband love to go to the Blue Fox Drive-In up on Oak Harbor, one of five still running in our state.

Mahoning Drive-in, Leighton Pennsylvania

Sadly, now even drive-ins will need to close for a while in keeping with Washington State’s newly issued Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, but never fear: we have the solution! Kanopy, available with your Seattle Public Library card, has everything you need for a classic Drive In movie night at home  – including some wonderfully schlocky classic drive-in movie fare. First of all, learn about the history of drive-ins and their revival with a pair of documentaries:

  • At the Drive-In: Saving the Mahoning Drive-In Theater. Unable to purchase a $50,000 digital projector, a group of quirky film fanatics in rural Pennsylvania fight to keep a dying drive-in theater alive by screening only vintage 35mm film prints and working entirely for free. An award-winning underdog story.
  • Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In Movie. A product of post World War II optimism, the drive-in movie theater emerged as the perfect blend of entertainment and car culture. In light of the recent resurgence of drive-in theaters, this informative documentary studies the factors that affected the drive-in’s dramatic rise, decline and rebirth.

Then check out Kanopy’s other offerings to create your own double feature. In amongst a wealth of classic art house films and award-winning international cinema, lurk some truly forgettable yet indelible B-movies, redolent of the heyday of drive-in cinema. Note: none of these are family films. I’m talking about movies such as…

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Continue reading “Stay-at-Home Drive-In Movie Madness!!”