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In what has become an annual holiday tradition, we offer once again a list of suggestions of what to read over break this year from Kirkwood Library Services. Find lists from previous years, 2013, 20142015 and 2017.

Some books have a copy at both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, others are only at one or the other. A few we don’t own copies of, but you should be able to find them at a local public library. Check with a librarian if you have questions and remember you can get most Kirkwood library books delivered to you at any of the centers.

Between semesters is a golden time to do what you don’t have time for during the regular semester, read something that YOU pick! Stumped over what that should be? Check out our selections below.

This year I want to recommend a classic. I read my first novel by Rex Stout because I was reading a P.G. Wodehouse story that had a character rave about him. I thought, “If Wodehouse thinks he’s good, he must be” and I was right. Stout’s books focus on the character of Nero Wolfe the world’s largest, most eccentric, and greatest detective. His version of John Watson is Archie Goodwin as quick with his brain as with his fists. Wolfe seldom likes to leave the house so he often sends out Archie to act in accordance of “his intelligence guided by his experience.” Wonderful puzzles and plots and magnificent dialogue make all the Nero Wolfe books a pleasure. I limit myself to not reading them often because I hope when I meet that awful day when I reach the end of all he’s written I’ll have let enough time pass so that I will have forgotten enough detail that I can start all over. Most recently I read Might as Well Be Dead, but really you can’t go wrong with any title and I don’t read them in order. The first in the series is Fer-de-Lance.
Sarah Uthoff, Reference Librarian

Bravetart CoverMy recommendation this year is the cookbook BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks (Call Number: 641.86 P252b). For starters, the recipes are delicious. The super fudgy brownies were my favorite, but the red (wine) velvet cake was also a winner for its deep chocolate flavor. Furthermore, Stella highlights the history of iconic treats both store bought and homemade. Did you know that a group of bakers rioted at a speech given by the creator of the graham cracker? I didn’t – until I read this book.
Sarah Young, Office Manager

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Call Number: PB HAN) is historical fiction about two sisters living in France during World War II. This is the story of the two very different sisters and what they each did to survive and to make it through the war. Vianne is raising a child on her own and is forced to take a German soldier into her home, and her younger sister Isabelle joins the Resistance. If you’re like me, you’ll want to have a box of tissues handy.
– Julie Petersen, Reference Librarian

The Changeling by Victor LaValle begins as the story of a young couple having their first baby and all the usual struggles that ensue, which would be quite enough for anyone. So when an evil element enters into the story we see just how deeply the characters have to dig to survive. Great character development and a non-stop story line make this book an outstanding read. And I’m not alone in my excitement! Winner of (so far) three awards: The American Book Award, The World Fantasy Award, The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel.
Kate Hess, Iowa City Library Coordinator

Boys in the Bunkhouse coverI recommend Survivor’s Club by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. It tells the story of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939. The author earned a Ph.D.  from U of I.
– Barbara Oldenburg, Circulation

Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland by Dan Barry (Call Number: 362.3 B279b) is the heartbreaking, outrage-producing, yet somewhat hopeful true story that took place right here in Iowa, in the small town of Atalissa.  A group of developmentally disabled men were brought to Iowa from Texas in 1974 to work the worst possible jobs in a turkey processing plant. They earned $65 a month (they never got a raise), and worked and lived in increasing deplorable and increasingly abusive conditions until 2009.  Finally, their plight was brought to the attention of the right people and a massive effort was made to remove the men and get them the medical attention and living conditions they needed and deserved.  This was the All Iowa Reads selection for 2018.
– Julie Petersen, Reference Librarian

The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein (Call Number: 741.5 S587r) -From the Publisher: “Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science, and his basement experiments were far more ambitious than those of other boys. While working on his Atomic Energy merit badge for the Boy Scouts, David’s obsessive attention turned to nuclear energy. Throwing caution to the wind, he plunged into a new project: building a model nuclear breeder reactor in his backyard garden shed. Ken Silverstein re-creates in brilliant detail the months of David’s improbable nuclear quest. His unsanctioned and wholly unsupervised project finally sparked an environmental catastrophe that put his town’s forty thousand residents at risk and caused the EPA to shut down his lab and bury it at a radioactive dumpsite in Utah​.”
-Andres Mauricio Calvopina, Circulation

Radioactive Boy Scout CoverThe Road Back to You:  An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I like it because it helped me understand my own personality type and why I work well or not with others.
– Shelley Schultz, Technical Services

Ice by Anna Kavan – From WorldCat: “In this haunting and surreal novel, the narrator and a man known as the warden search for an elusive girl in a frozen, seemingly post-nuclear, apocalyptic landscape. The country has been invaded and is being governed by a secret organisation [sic]. There is destruction everywhere; great walls of ice overrun the world. Together with the narrator, the reader is swept into a hallucinatory quest for this strange and fragile creature with albino hair. She is, we know, Anna Kavan herself. Acclaimed by Brian Aldiss on its publication in 1967 as the best science fiction book of the year, this extraordinary and innovative novel has subsequently been recognised [sic] as a major work of literature in its own right.”
Ryan Strempke-Durgin,  Digital Services Librarian

Small Great Things is another Jodi Picoult (Call Number: PB PIC) contemporary novel inspired by real events. In the book, Ruth Jefferson, an African American labor and delivery nurse is barred from tending to a newborn baby by the baby’s white supremacist parents. The baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is on duty and briefly alone with him in the nursery. What should she do? What will happen to her as a result of what she does or does not do?  As with most of this author’s books, this will give you a lot to think about.
– Julie Petersen, Reference Librarian

I would like to recommend the memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (Call Number: 616.99 K141w). This inspirational book was not only on the New York Times bestseller list, but also was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2016. Paul, who died at the age of 36 from lung cancer, had just become a neurosurgeon at Stanford University, as well as a young father, when diagnosed. This book describes his journey towards death. Is it sad? Yes, of course. In many ways, it is heartbreaking, but it will also touch you with its beauty and strength. As the author faces his own mortality, he ultimately comes to grips with the question of what makes a life worth living.​
Sue Miller, Reference Librarian

I recommend The Diary by Eileen Goudge. This is a romance journey discovered by two grown daughters from their mother’s diary.
– Barbara Oldenburg, Circulation

Sarah Uthoff is a reference library at Kirkwood Community College. LIKE the Kirkwood Community College Library on Facebook and find links to Sarah all over the web at her About Me Profile.