Category Archives: Staff Writer

Reader’s Advisory: Choosing Books for a Book Discussion

Are you the lucky person who gets to pick the next book for your group to discuss? Feeling a little pressured? Here are some tips and suggestions that can help make the decision a little easier. 

Start by considering the needs of the individuals in your group. Does anyone need large print or an audio version? No matter how great the book, if someone can’t participate because it’s not available in the format they need, don’t pick that book.  

Next, consider the group’s interests as well as what they’ve recently read. As one patron mentioned recently, “I am so tired of depressing books!” Her group had read four books in a row that left her feeling down. Most groups need variety to maintain interest among members. 

Another consideration is whether group members are willing to buy the book, or do they prefer to get copies from the library. If they want to get their copies from the library, it’s important to choose titles that are at least a year old and not in high demand. What does “in high demand” mean? Titles are typically in high demand when they are less than a year old and/or on the New York Times bestseller list. Older titles can become in high demand when a movie or TV series based on the book is released (for example, “American Prometheus”, which is the book “Oppenheimer” is based on). If the book you want is in high demand, you could choose a different book by the same author. 

One more thing to consider is how your group likes to discuss the book. Will you (or someone else) be leading the discussion? Is the group comfortable with a rambling conversation that can go in any direction, or do they prefer having a framework? If the group needs a framework, you may want to limit your selections to books that have discussion guides/questions. Sometimes these are included in the book itself, other times you can find them on the internet. Try the publisher’s or author’s websites first. Sometimes there aren’t any “official” questions, but you might find questions created by another group that have been posted for anyone to use. You can also try LitLovers: LitLovers has discussion questions for specific titles as well as generic questions that are good for most books. They also have guides for starting and running book groups. 

Now that you have some guidelines for choosing a book, all you need is to pick one! Still feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at past selections from the library’s book groups here: Every book read by all of the groups is listed here. And below are my 15 fiction and nonfiction favorites, chosen from those lists. 


The Art of Racing in the Rain / Garth Stein Racing, Dogs, Illness, Family 
The Bees / Laline Paull Bees, Communities, Change 
The Bonesetter’s Daughter / Amy Tan   Family, Aging, China, Customs                                                   
Finding Nouf / Zoe Ferraris           Mystery, Saudi Arabia, Customs 
The Half-Drowned King / Linnea Hartsuyker Historical Fiction, Vikings, Roles 
The Immortalists / Chloe BenjaminFamily, Destiny 
The Last Town on Earth / Thomas MullenHistorical Fiction, epidemics 
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand / Helen SimonsonAging, Love, Family, Social Roles 
My Antonia / Willa Cather  Classic, Coming of Age, Immigrants 
The Nest / Cynthia D-Aprix Sweeney   Family, Relationships 
Never Let Me Go / Kazuo IshiguroComing of Age, Dystopian
The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency / Alexander McCall SmithMystery, Botswana, Social Roles 
The Ocean at the End of the World / Neil GaimanFantasy/Terror, Coming of Age
The Pumpkin Rollers / Elmer KeltonWestern, Coming of Age 
The Silent Land / Graham JoyceMarriage, Death


Ants Among Elephants / Gidla Sujatha    History (India), Family, Politics 
The Boys in the Boat / Daniel Brown  Rowing, History, Friendship 
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight / Alexandra Fuller     South Africa, Family, Resilience 
Dust Bowl Girls / Lydia ReederBasketball, History, Friendship 
Educated: A Memoir / Tara WestoverComing of Age, Resilience 
Empty Mansions / Bill DedmanBiography, History, Wealth
In the Heart of the Sea / Nathaniel Philbrick History, Whaling, Resilience   
Limping Through Life / Jerry Apps   Illness, Wisconsin, Resilience
My Life in France / Julia Child Food, France 
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Caitlin Doughty  Death and Dying, Humor
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating / Elisabeth Tova Bailey  Illness, Snails, Nature, Resilience
They Left Us Everything / Plum Johnson Family, Aging 
Three Weeks With My Brother / Nicholas SparksFamily, Grief, Resilience 
A Time of Gifts / Patrick Leigh Fermor History, Travel
Wave / Sunila Deraniyagala  Disasters, Family, Resilience 

Reader’s Advisory

Are you looking to read more, read “better”, or read something “different”? Do you ever feel clueless when you’re trying to find something to read? Does it seem like you keep seeing the same book, different title over and over? No surprises there, 80% of the US book market is published by just five companies! If a title does well, they will print many, many versions of it in the future. How many versions of stories about quirky, intrepid female spies evading the Gestapo while pining for an enigmatic co-worker “is he/isn’t he a covert enemy” love interest can they publish anyway?

This blog post is dedicated to introducing you to a variety of resources that can help you find something new and/or different to read.

Resources at the library

BookPage – This monthly magazine is available free at the library. It features articles on new books for all ages, book club suggestions, and usually has special features such as author interviews or in depth looks at different genres. January’s issue just arrived, and it’s a good one!

NoveList – If you’re a Wisconsin resident, you have free access to BadgerLink, Wisconsin’s Online Library, which provides licensed trustworthy resources from a variety of content providers. You can access BadgerLink from our website, or go directly to BadgerLink here: Scroll down to NoveList. If it’s your first time, there is a short video to help users learn how to make the most of what NoveList has to offer.

New York Times Bestseller List – The current NYT bestseller lists can be found at the library’s New Book display. Each side (fiction and nonfiction) has a stand with the current week’s bestsellers. Bestsellers tend to be popular, so you might not find the book on the shelf; however, the Information Desk staff will be happy to put a copy on hold for you.

Library Reads – This monthly list of books is created from suggestions by library staff across the nation. It’s not a bestseller list, but you’ll probably see some items on the list that will also be found on best seller lists. You’ll find the Library Reads list on top of the New Fiction book shelf.

Magazines and Newspapers – Many magazines available at the library regularly feature articles on books. Time and Atlantic are both known for their coverage, but don’t forget that other magazines have them too. For example, if you’re interested in the outdoors or nature, Outside magazine and Mother Earth News are possibilities. For an all in one source, try the Library Journal, which covers hundreds of titles every month. Newspapers that the library carries also regularly feature articles on books. The Wall Street Journal has articles on new releases, and the Journal Sentinel is a good source for articles on books by authors from Wisconsin.

Book Club Lists – The library’s website lists all the books ever read by all our book clubs. Go to, then search under the different groups to see what they’ve read.

Resources outside the library

Online book groups – Search for “online book clubs”. Even if you’re not interested in participating, these sites are a good source of ideas for books to read. A couple of the most popular groups are:

Additional online resources for book club suggestions, discussion questions upcoming books, book trends and more:

Need more tips? – Try googling “best books” or “reading suggestions” and then select the sites that look interesting to you. A recent search I did for “reading suggestions” came up with a wide variety of lists, including books recommended by TED Talk speakers. If you enjoy listening to TED Talks, you’re likely to find something of interest on this list. Some sites will require you to create an account, but if you don’t want to do that, you’ll still find plenty other sites to access.

And just like love, sometimes you find the right one when you’re not looking: the book I enjoyed most last year was Whale Hunt: The Narrative of a Voyage by Nelson Cole Haley, Harpooner in the Ship Charles W. Morgan 1849-1853. First published in 1948, this memoir was a fascinating look into a world long gone. I was looking over the shelves of the library’s ongoing book sale, and it caught my eye. Someone read it, donated it, and it found a new home on my own shelves.

Lynn R.
Adult Reference Librarian


Of all the months, December is probably the one with the most traditions. One you may not have heard of gets my vote for the best possible holiday tradition of all: in Iceland, people celebrate Christmas with a tradition called Jolabokaflod, which translates to “Christmas book flood” in English.

Jolabokaflod began in World War II, when almost everything was rationed. However, paper was not rationed.  Since there were no limits on books, that became the go-to gift. Giving each other books has become an essential part of the Christmas season for Icelanders. And, because gifts are traditionally opened on Christmas Eve night, people tend to spend that evening reading.

For over 70 years, every household in Iceland has gotten a book bulletin from the publishers of books in their country. This catalog helps people choose books for their friends and family.

If you’re looking for ideas for your own gift giving, I suggest you pick up a copy of this month’s edition of BookPage, available free at the library. While you’re here, ask the staff for their recommendations too! We are always happy to share our favorites with you.

Here’s a few we enjoyed this year:

Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure: Buck, Rinker:  9781501106378: Books

Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure, by Rinker Buck. History.
Travelling the Mississippi in a wooden flatboat like those used in the 1800s, Rinker Buck encounters danger and adventure.

The High Sierra: A Love Story by Kim Stanley Robinson

The High Sierra: A Love Story, by Kim Stanley Robinson. History, Americana, Nature.
Best known for his science fiction, in this book Robinson shares his love of the Sierra Nevada mountains and tells the history of its exploration and those who lived there.

Long Overdue at the Lakeside Library (A Lakeside Library Mystery Book 2) -  Kindle edition by Danvers, Holly. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle  eBooks @

Long Overdue at the Lakeside Library, by Holly Danvers. Mystery.
Second in the Lakeside Library series by Wisconsin author Danvers (aka Holly Quinn), this book is perfect for those who prefer cozy mysteries.

The Runaway (A Peter Ash Novel): 9780525535508: Petrie, Nick: Books -

The Runaway
, by Nick Petrie. Thriller/Suspense.
The latest in local author Petrie’s Peter Ash series, this title is sure to please the suspense lover on your list.

Happy Reading!

Lynn R.
Adult Services Librarian

6 things we can guarantee at our Yule Ball (and 6 things we cannot)

If you’ve read or seen Harry Potter then yule know what a Yule Ball entails. We’re throwing our own Yule Ball on December 10th from 5:30pm-8:00pm. There will be snacks, games, music, and other magical festivities!

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Register here! All ages 8+ welcome!

Here’s a list of things we CAN and CANNOT guarantee at our Yule Ball.

  1. We CAN guarantee fancy outfits! Come dressed to the nines!
The Yule Ball | Harry potter gif, Hermione granger, Harry ...

We CANNOT guarantee that all of them will be fashion forward.

lijahsgirl_ — Ron Weasley Imagine - The Yule Ball

2. We can guarantee winter décor! Lights, snow, action!

Harry Potter Yule Ball GIFs | Tenor

We cannot guarantee that it will actually be snowing.

Wisconsin weather is weird.

3. We CAN guarantee live music!

Latest Yule Ball GIFs | Gfycat

The wizard rock lead Tonks and the Auror’s will be attending!

We CANNOT, however, guarantee crowd surfing.

(In fact, we’re gonna outright say that’s not happening.)

Harry Potter + dance

4. We can guarantee dancing!

Neville Longbottom GIF - Neville Longbottom GIFs
TEARS OF A PHOENIX → FRED WEASLEY - the yule ball - Wattpad

We CANNOT guarantee that it won’t be awkward.

Weasley And Mcgonagall Dance GIF - Harry Potter Ron Weasley ...

5. We can guarantee snacks!

Wicked. — Honeydukes // “There were shelves upon shelves of...

We cannot guarantee that they won’t be stolen by a kid in an invisibility cloak.

10 Worst Things Harry Potter Has Ever Done – Page 8

6. We can guarantee a good time!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Book vs. Movie – My Tiny Obsessions
A better time than these guys, anyway.

We CANNOT guarantee that Draco Malfoy will be in attendance, sorry.

Or you’re welcome, depending.

Dramione - The Yule Ball Exerpt | Harry Potter Roleplay Amino! Amino

If you’re a fan of winter, magic, and music, come celebrate the yuletide at our Yule Ball! Registration is open!

A Case for Dungeons and Dragons: the Fun, the Friends, and the Fantasy

When I’m not working at the library, I’m a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There, I also run the Dungeons and Dragons Network, a club dedicated to finding groups of people who want to play DnD together. I’ve somehow brought the hype back with me, because I honestly can’t stop talking about Dungeons and Dragons.

Historically, DnD was created right here in Wisconsin, only about an hour away from Germantown in Lake Geneva, by Gary Gygax. The game, when released in the 1970’s was met with acclaim and controversy, and in the 80s, was synonymous with “nerd”. Since then various editions have come out. Right now, the popular one is 5th edition.

Despite DnD’s history as a nerdy underground game, one typically sidelined to the dorky friend’s personality in 80’s high school movies, DnD has a pretty major following. I think a lot of this hype, as least in the recent mainstream sense, can be tied to Netflix’s Stranger Things, which actually has it’s own official adventure book now. That and the fact that kids who played DnD back when in came out are now the ones in the Hollywood writer’s rooms.

Turns out, Dungeons and Dragons, today, is en vogue. Well, as en vogue as a tabletop roleplaying game can be. You’d be hard pressed to find someone whose into reading but not interested in learning about or wants to try DnD. Celebrities play DnD. In fact, Joe Manganiello pretty famously has a basement dedicated to the game and a DnD inspired clothing line.

Joe Manganiello runs a star-studded DnD campaign with players including Vince Vaughn, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and Game of Thrones co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.

If celebrity RPG tables isn’t enough to convince you that Dungeons and Dragons has come back with a fervor, maybe the sheer amount of content dedicated to the game might. The podcasts, the YouTube videos, the books! One of the more popular DnD podcasts, Critical Role, was just turned into the Amazon Prime show The Legends of Vox Machina. My favorite DnD podcast, The Adventure Zone has been turned into a series of graphic novels (soon to be available at your local Germantown Community Library).

But in all of these storylines and formats, there’s a common thread through it all, and there’s surprisingly a lot to learn from DnD.

Aside from how to roll and calculating ability scores or battle strategy, DnD is the perfect way to learn about storytelling. Because, underneath the numbers and character sheets and stats, what DnD is at its core, is a collaborative story. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure book but with 90% more customization. It’s a way to delve into what makes a story great, and bring everyone else along the ride with you. When you play DnD, it’s not like a video game, where you can be placed in a situation and there are a certain number of moves and combinations, or certain objectives with a storyline that ends up generally the same. Video games have a level of complexity all their own, but I don’t think I’d be able to find one that does exactly what makes DnD so unique.

Hey, you! You’re finally awake.

I don’t think a video game will ever be able to replicate the feeling of creating a character, a backstory for that character, a personality for that character, a family for that character, a goal and aspiration for that character, and then to have that character give her life to save a lady who gave her a rock one day. It’ll never replicate the customization of encounters, how that same character, in all her “rush in and do good recklessly” glory, completely decimated a fellow party members illusion. Or the one time we had a complete makeover montage right before our dragon encounter. Or the time we had to save the city of Detroit from being lost to the abyss.

I’m a first time Dungeon Master, and I’ve got the dice to show for it. I’ve never had more fun playing Dungeons and Dragons than I am right now, planning and improvising on the fly, creating NPCs with weird, inconsistent accents (hey, not all of us are extremely talented voice actors like the cast of Critical Role), and most importantly: telling a story with others, having the players affect the story, mess with its outcome. No session ever turns out exactly as I plan it, and that’s the great part! In every single iteration of DnD in the media, the story has never never been the same. Not even a close resemblance. The possibilities are endless, whether you’re playing the beginners module (which both The Adventure Zone and I have done, to EXTREMELY variable results) or homebrewing your own campaign.

It’s a weird, kind of beautiful way to spend your time. You create a fictional universe that only lives in your head, then you share it with others, have them play there, have them affect the world, have them mess with the people there, have them struggle, have them triumph. All in your head. All in theirs.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced to give Dungeons and Dragons or its related media a try, because we’re bringing DnD to the library!

There are some DnD sourcebooks available for checkout in the Young Adult section! That, and our Teen Advisory Board is getting on the DnD train too. We’re having a DnD Info Session on Monday, May 16th, where tweens and teens can learn about the game, get a feel for it and maybe even make a character.

It’s a great game, and it is what you make of it. I hope you make something cool one day!

Shannon S.
Youth Services Specialist