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2017 Howard County Reads Top Picks

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

“Everyone knows a white blackbird is nothing more than a ghost, a shadow of what it ought to be."

This engaging and beautifully written collection of short stories follows the Blackbird House on Cape Cod from its construction in the 18th Century to the present. Its occupants experience sorrow and personal loss but also the power of love. The house is a haunting presence throughout the book as is the pet blackbird who magically reappears throughout the narratives.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

“Looking back on it, I think my life was at once ordinary and amazing. I couldn’t imagine any other life."

In this memoir told in mesmerizing verse, author Jacqueline Woodson describes growing in both rural South Carolina and New York City, her experience as an African-American in the 1960s and 1970s, and the joy of finding her creative voice.

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter

“We should be seen as the unswerving champions of human rights, both among our own citizens and within the global community."

Jimmy Carter, thirty-ninth President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, international humanitarian, and fisherman, reflects on his full and happy life with pride, humor, and a few second thoughts.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery

“She had told her children she was going on walk. That was no lie. She just never finished her sentence, never offered her own offspring the astonishing, impossible particulars."

In 1955 at the age of 67, Emma Gatewood became the first woman to continuously hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, a feat she repeated two more times, making her the first person to hike the trail three times. The publicity she brought to the then little-known Appalachian Trail resulted in much needed maintenance and inspired generations of hikers. Her incredible story illustrates the power of determination and the human spirit.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."

Rather than creating another organizational system, Kondo founded a philosophy, known as the KonMari Method, to help people simplify, organize, and declutter their lives. Its central tenet is the simple rule to keep only those possessions that “spark joy."

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are."

Capturing the epic panorama of World War II and illuminating the women’s war, a part of history seldom seen, The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience as well as by ideals, passion, and circumstance. Each embarks on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

“War is catastrophe. It breaks families in irretrievable pieces. But those who are gone are not necessarily lost."

Near the end of World War II, ten thousand refugees from East Prussia make a desperate trek toward freedom aboard the "Wilhelm Gustloff." When tragedy strikes, Joana, Emilia, and Florian unite, finding strength, courage, and trust in each other. Inspired by a real-life tragedy, Salt to the Sea unearths a little-known casualty of the war, proving that humanity and love can prevail even in the darkest of hours.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“The trouble with dying is you don't get to see how everything turns out. You don't know the ending."

Abby and Red Whitshank and their four grown children have shared not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From 1920s Baltimore to the twenty-first century, four generations of lives unfold in and around the lovingly worn house that has always been their anchor.

Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Mozes Kor

Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Mozes Kor

"At Auschwitz dying was so easy. Surviving was a fulltime job."

Eva and her twin sister Miriam were 10 years old when they arrived at Auschwitz. They were spared the gas chamber only to be subjected to Dr. Mengele’s cruel medical experiments. In simple straightforward language, Eva narrates the miraculous story of their survival.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done."

What men carry in war isn’t always strict government issue. The men of Alpha Company carried dog tags, malaria tablets, love letters, M-16s, cigarettes, C rations, photographs, grenades, and each other. Those made it home alive from Vietnam carried images of a nightmarish conflict that continues to haunt our history and echo into our present.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage."

Every ten years the Dragon, a powerful magician who uses his magic to protect the remote villages near his tower from the evil of the encroaching Wood, chooses a girl to come live with him. He doesn’t kill them, but when they return to their families after ten years, they are changed. Agnieszka is certain that her best friend Kaisa will be chosen because of her talent and her beauty, but when the Dragon comes, he chooses the unlikely Agnieszka instead.

About Howard County Reads

Inspired by the Washington Center for the Book’s “One Book” concept, the Howard County Reads (HCR) program was founded in 2004 to foster a sense of community through page-turning togetherness. It is an annual community-wide reading program sponsored by the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, the Greentown Public Library, and Indiana University Kokomo Library. Every year a committee of staff members from the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, the Greentown Public Library, and the Indiana University Kokomo Library as well as community members collaborate to select books and plan programs.