Wednesday, December 22, 2021

New Releases: January Edition

Did one of the book covers on our homepage catch your eye? They are all new titles being released in January 2022, and all are well-reviewed and anticipated. You can read the description of each below, then click the linked title to request a copy or get your name on the wait list. And don't forget to watch for more featured releases next month!

Featured Fiction for January

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. But behind closed doors things are less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1% but she can’t find her own. Then she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront family secrets. Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

In 2030, an archeologist arrives in the Arctic to continue the work of his deceased daughter, where researchers are studying secrets revealed in melting permafrost, including the preserved remains of a girl who died of a virus. Once unleashed, the Arctic plague reshapes life for generations, traversing the globe, forcing humans to devise ways to embrace possibility amidst tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, an employee falls in love with a mother desperate to keep her infected son. A scientist finds that one of his test subjects—a pig—develops capacity for human speech. A painter and her granddaughter go on a cosmic quest to locate a new planet. From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, the author takes readers on an original and compassionate journey.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess: Celestial Kingdom, Book One by Sue Lynn Tan

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is used to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother. But when Xingyin’s existence is discovered, she is forced to flee, leaving her mother behind. Alone and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the Crown Prince, mastering archery and magic, even as passion grows between her and the emperor’s son. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. When treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the Celestial Emperor.

Featured Nonfiction for January

Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and the Legacy of Trauma by Galit Atlas

The people we love and those who raised us live inside us; we experience their emotional pain, we dream their memories, and these things shape our lives in ways we don’t always recognize. Emotional Inheritance is about family secrets that keep us from living to our full potential, create gaps between what we want for ourselves and what we are able to have, and haunt us like ghosts. In this transformative book, the author entwines the stories of her patients, her own stories, and decades of research to help us identify the links between our life struggles and the “emotional inheritance” we all carry. 

Murder at Teal's Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery that Inspired Twin Peaks by David Bushman and Mark T. Givens

In 1908, Hazel Drew was found floating in a pond in Sand Lake, New York, beaten to death. The unsolved murder inspired rumors, speculation, ghost stories, and, almost a century later, the phenomenon of Twin Peaks. Who killed Hazel Drew? Like Laura Palmer, she was a paradox of personalities―young and beautiful with secrets. Perhaps the trickier question is, Who was Hazel Drew? Seeking escape from her poor country roots, Hazel found work as a domestic servant in the notoriously corrupt metropolis of Troy, New York. Fate derailed her plans for reinvention. But the investigation that followed her brutal murder was fraught with red herrings, wild-goose chases, and unreliable witnesses. Did officials really follow the leads? Or did they bury them to protect the guilty?

Rise: My Story by Lindsey Vonn

A fixture in American sports for almost 20 years, Vonn is a legend. With a career that transformed how America celebrates female athletes, Vonn—who retired in 2019 as the most decorated American skier of all time—was in the vanguard of that change. In Rise, she shares her incredible journey, going behind the scenes of a life built around resilience and risk-taking. She offers a glimpse into her pursuit of her limits, a pursuit so focused on one-upping herself that she pushed her body past its breaking point. While this grit and perseverance helped her fight injuries, it came with a cost—physical and mental. Vonn opens up about her depression and struggles with self-confidence. She dissects the moments that sidelined her and how, each time, she came back using an approach rooted in hard work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

WooReads Winter Reading Challenge For Adults: Patron Book Reviews


Join the WooReads: Winter Reading Challenge for Adults for a chance to win a L.L. Bean tote bag featuring the WPL logo. All you have to do is log at least 9 books from December 1- February 28 to be entered into the drawing. Our WooReaders have been doing an excellent job of logging their books so far! Check out their reviews below. 

What an amazing book!! I really felt like I was there in the hot, Harlem summer, walking the streets from Harlem to Manhattan, riding the subways and navigating the underworld with Mark Purvis. Great writing, great plot and great character development. A must-read for any kid growing up in a city and kids in general. ~ Mario W.

Neat collection of short autobiographical episodes from a bunch of sequential artists, like Sergio Aragones, William Strout, and Fabio Moon. ~ Amy W.

McQuiston's second book is so much like their first, Red, White and Royal Blue, but also so very different. You can see their style carrying through, but the big emotions are so different when you're talking about a public love vs a private love. One Last Stop is all about learning to live by learning about yourself in big ways and small ways and finding yourself in how you relate to others (and how they relate to you). ~ Sarah L.

I was disappointed with the conclusion of this book. I had built up expectations for more encounters with the entity and a more dramatic ending. Just thought there'd be more excitement since this book was made into a movie. ~ Sandra B.

Reading Resources

Everything is better with a book! Did you know you can read eBooks and listen to audiobooks through the
 Libby and Hoopla apps? Both are free to use with your WPL card. You can read on mobile devices, tablets, or in your browser. If you need help navigating these resources, register for the Demystifying eBooks & Audiobooks class taught at the Main Library. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Vinyl Sticker Submission Form

Thank you for attending Introduction to Inkscape for Making Stickers with Technocopia. Please use the link below to submit your design for cutting on the library's vinyl cutter. 

Vinyl Sticker Submission Form 

Monday, December 13, 2021

WooReads Winter Reading Challenge For Adults: Patron Book Reviews


Hello WooReaders! We're back with a new challenge for the winter. Join the WooReads: Winter Reading Challenge for Adults for a chance to win a L.L. Bean tote bag featuring the WPL logo. All you have to do is log at least 9 books from December 1- February 28 to be entered into the drawing. Stay inside and snuggle up with a book this winter season!

To find your next great read, check out Reader's Corner for books recommended by WPL librarians. Looking to make a warm winter meal? View our Cozy Cooking booklist. 

Try one of our Bundles if you'd like a librarian to select books, magazines or DVDs for you. For information on adult classes and programs, visit

Enjoy these book reviews submitted by your fellow patrons through our WooReads challenge. 

Crime of the Ancient Marinara by Stephanie Cole

This is an entertaining cozy set in Tuscany, Italy. Nell Valenti is helping to set up a cooking school in an old villa surrounded by beautiful olive groves and forest. The premiere class is soon marked by a murder in its midst. Lots of humor and intrigue with a generous number of suspects, mysterious twists and red herrings. ~Mary R.

The author, who was born with a neuromuscular condition that allows him to walk extremely short distances, uses a wheelchair most of the time. He wrote this book at the time in his life where he and his wife had a one year old son. This life-changing event that he was not sure was ever in his future, caused him to reflect on his life thus far. This is not a long book, but an important one in terms of the rights of the disabled. Well worth the time.
~ Linda J.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Ever wondered what really happened in history? The lucky protagonist (or some may say unlucky) receives a job of a lifetime: time travel and document what really happens. It doesn't come easy though. Historian Madeleine Maxwell suffers many hardships because time is never easy on anyone. This science fiction novel is appropriately named and certainly a page turner. ~ Lex P.

The Family Roe: An American Story by Joshua Prager

An extraordinarily comprehensive overview of most of the people involved in the decision Roe v. Roe: not just the story, in extraordinary detail, of Norma McCorvey and her family (parents, siblings, cousins, children, partners) but the lives of the lawyers involved, the judges who handed down the decisions, the prosecutors who fought the other sides of the court cases. Don't start this book unless you are willing to spend the time to appreciate the detail and the thoughtfulness of the almost 500 pages of the primary text. The notes run another 140 pages, and in them are buried myriad details to delight or surprise. ~ Deb E.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Consumer Reports Holiday Gift Guide

Need help finding the best brands for your holiday purchases?  Before you head to the stores or start shopping online, check out the Consumer Reports Holiday Gift Guide.  

You will find:

❅Top gift ideas
❅Holiday deals
❅Buying guides
❅Safe gathering suggestions 
❅Do’s & Don’ts for safe holiday cooking
❅Holiday shopping tips & advice 

You also have FREE access to the online version of Consumer Reports with your Worcester Public Library card.   If you’re a fan of the magazine, you’ll enjoy being able to view the same helpful information from home.

To access Consumer Reports, go to WPL's website and then to the online databases page in the Resources tab and click on the home icon where Consumer Reports is listed. All you need to enter is your WPL library card number and password.  You can also click here for direct access to the database page.  

To borrow the print issue you can place a hold for pickup at the main library or one of the branches.  
  1. First go to account login at  Enter your library card number and password. This will bring you to the online catalog.
  2.  Enter "Consumer Reports" in the search bar and select "serial publications & magazines" in the format drop down menu.  Hit enter.
  3. Click on the "Place Hold" button.  You can then choose a specific issue using the "Select a Part" drop down menu.
  4. Select which issue you want, choose how you want the library to notify you when it's ready for pick up, and which library you want to pick up at.  Click submit.
For more information on Consumer Reports click here to see our previous blog.

WooReads: Winter Reading Challenge For Adults


WooReads: Winter Reading Challenge for Adults 

Dec 1, 2021 - Feb 28, 2022 

Join WooReads on Beanstack, an online tool where you can
keep track of your reading, post book reviews, discover good reads, win prizes,
and stay connected with the many library-related programs and resources!

***Win a WPL Tote Bag!***

Readers who log at least 9 books will be automatically entered into a drawing* for two chances to win a L.L. Bean Boat and Tote zip-top bag embroidered with the WPL logo. These coveted totes have been gently-used for our book club in a bag kits but have found new life as an exciting prize for our dedicated readers!

*Books read starting December 1, 2021 must be logged by February 28, 2022.
*Must be a Worcester Resident to win. Library employees are ineligible.

Programs and Resources
 be inspired by local talent.

-Visit WPL’s Reader’s Corner for staff picks, new titles, book lists, and more.

-Attend one of our several librarian-led book clubs to discuss books and meet 
like-minded readers.

Sign up at today. For mobile users, download the Beanstack Tracker app to get started.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

New Releases: December Edition

Did one of the book covers on our homepage catch your eye? They are all new titles being released in December 2021, and all are well-reviewed and anticipated. You can watch the video or read the description of each below, then click the linked title to request a copy or get your name on the wait list. And don't forget to watch for more featured releases next month!

Featured Fiction for December

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding
Sonya used to perform on stage. She attended glamorous parties, dated handsome men, rode in fast cars. But somewhere along the way, the stage lights Sonya lived for dimmed to black. In their absence came darkness—blackouts, empty cupboards, hazy nights she could not remember. Haunted by her failed career and lingering trauma from her childhood, Sonya fell deep into an alcoholic abyss. What kept her from losing herself completely was Tommy, her son. But her love for Tommy rivaled her love for the bottle. Addiction amplified her fear of losing her child; every maternal misstep compelled her to drink. Tommy’s precious life was in her shaky hands. Eventually Sonya was forced to make a choice. Give up drinking or lose Tommy—forever.

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim
In 1917, in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished hunter on the brink of starvation saves a Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga. In the aftermath, a girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living on the streets of Seoul, they form a friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a performer with a romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel
As the one-year anniversary of Renu's husband’s death approaches, she is watching soap operas and simmering with resentment. She keeps wondering if, 35 years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, tries to kickstart his career and commit to his boyfriend. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois. Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. Renu sends a message to the man she almost married, sparking an emotional affair that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Akash slips back into bad habits as he confronts his darkest secrets―including what happened between him and the first boy who broke his heart. 

Featured Nonfiction for December

A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind by Ann Wolbert Burgess
In this book Burgess reveals how her pioneering research on sexual assault and trauma caught the attention of the FBI, and steered her into a serial murder investigation in Nebraska. Over the course of two decades, she helped the new Behavioral Science Unit identify, interview, and track down violent offenders, including Ed Kemper ("The Co-Ed Killer"), Dennis Rader ("BTK"). As one of the first women within the FBI, Burgess knew many were expecting her to crack—but she was determined to protect future victims. This book pulls us into the investigations, interweaving never-before-seen transcripts and crime scene drawings alongside her recollections to provide insight into the minds of criminals and their victims. 

Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman
Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, these poems shine a light on a moment of reckoning.

Agent Sniper: The Cold War Superagent and the Ruthless Head of the CIA by Tim Tate
Michal Goleniewski, cover name Sniper, was one of the most important spies of the Cold War. For almost 3 years, as a Lieutenant Colonel at the top of Poland’s espionage service, he smuggled thousands of top-secret Soviet bloc intelligence documents, as well as 160 rolls of microfilm, from behind the Iron Curtain. Then, in January 1961, he abandoned his wife and children to make a dramatic defection across divided Berlin with his East German mistress to the safety of American territory. There, he exposed more than 1,600 Soviet bloc agents operating undercover in the West―more than any single spy in history. The CIA called Goleniewski “one of the West’s most valuable counterintelligence sources."

Sunday, November 21, 2021

WPL's Chess Guide

Thanks to the hit Netflix series The Queen's Gambit, Chess has become the game to learn. Where do you go when you need resources to help you learn something? The library, of course! WPL has several books about Chess, for both beginners and those looking to improve their game. Additionally, we are hosting a Beginner Chess class on Zoom this winter where you can learn the fundamentals of this complex game. We also have Chess tables and sets that you can practice with at the Main Library. 

Beginner Chess 

Tuesdays, Dec. 7, Jan. 4, & Feb. 1

Register here

Attend this three-part online class to learn the fundamentals of chess. You will learn the basics, including:

  • Setting up the chess men
  • Using the pawns
  • Chess pieces and how they move to win
  • Special moves
  • Ten tips for playing a better game
  • How to win a game of chess in 4 moves

Students need access to Zoom. Since teaching is done online with examples, interaction, animations and quizzes, a chess set is not necessary. Open to ages 16 and older.

Instructor Glenn Davison presents this class with the enthusiasm of a lifelong chess player who plays often and offers many interesting details about the game of chess. He has taught dozens of chess classes to beginners and has been a member of the Massachusetts Chess Association and the US Chess Federation.

Chess Tables at the Main Library

Improve your game by practicing at one of the Chess tables at the Main Library, available on the first and third floors. A Chess set is always set up on the first floor, and more are available to borrow at the welcome desk and third floor reference desk. 

If you'd like a break from Chess, try one of the other games at the Board Game Center on the first floor: Sorry: Simpson's Edition, Stratego, Battleship, Uno, Red Sox Monopoly, Trouble, Scrabble (Russian & English), Clue, Catchphrase, Checkers, Toppling Tower and Scattergories. 

Learn the Game 

Borrow these books and many more with a CWMARS library card. Need a card? Sign up for free! Click here for more information.

Magnus Carlsen's Most Instructive Games 

Study the tactical wizardry, strategic inventiveness, technical expertise and legendary fighting spirit of Magnus Carlsen, the greatest Chess player of the 21st century. 

The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess 

An efficient toolkit as well as an entertaining guide that teaches amateurs that they shouldn’t waste energy on rote learning but just strive for a good grasp of the basic essentials of endgame play, strategy, openings, tactics and defense. 

With his famous light touch and humor, Moskalenko explains the themes and concepts of his countless subjects in great detail. Subsequently, he presents a multitude of typical examples and rounds off with large exams to test your understanding.

300 Most Important Chess Positions 

An guide to understanding the most important Chess positions in the opening of a game, the middle game and the endgame.

Rules, skills and strategy, from beginner to expert, demonstrated in over 700 step-by-step illustrations. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

WooReads Fall Reading Challenge for Adults: Patron Book Reviews


Enjoy this week’s adult patron book reviews submitted through the WooReads Fall Reading Challenge for Adults. This challenge ends on November 30, so be sure to sign up and log the books you’ve read since September 1. Readers who log at least 9 books will be automatically entered into a drawing for two chances to win a L.L. Bean Boat and Tote zip-top bag embroidered with the WPL logo. These coveted totes have been gently-used for our book club in a bag kits but have found new life as an exciting prize for our dedicated readers!

This week's featured booklists from Reader's Corner are Nordic Noir, featuring Scandinavian crime fiction at its best, and Murder-free Mysteries for those of you who enjoy lighter mystery reads.

Raising Them by Kyl Myers

Wow. Dr Kyl eagerly welcomes us into their world of gender creative parenting. This book isn't a "how to" - it's a memoir of their journey thus far as a parent. I chose to read this book because I want to help combat gender stereotypes and teach my own children about inclusivity. It was wonderful to read Kyl and Brent's thinking as they dove headfirst into the gender creative world. ~Amanda C.

This book covers world history including Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Africa from the rise of Islam to the Renaissance. This book gives a lot of history on the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) empire, which I knew nothing about. I’ve read this book several times and it’s always fascinating. ~ David B. 

If you've read other financial literacy books, you're familiar with many of the talking points offered in this book. But, I also feel that Tiffany added some insight that I wasn't familiar with (i.e. the FIRE movement, building wealth, etc.). A great read re: achieving financial wholeness. ~ Mary T.

With the ever increasing need for clear communication, this book opened my eyes to how even the simplest changes can provide better digital communications. ~ Eric B.

Friday, November 5, 2021

WooReads Fall Reading Challenge for Adults: Patron Book Reviews


Our patron book reviews this week feature ghost hunters, Greek myths, witchcraft and Danny Trejo-what a selection! If you'd like to submit reviews, log the books you've read, and have a chance to win a L.L. Bean Boat and Tote zip-top bag embroidered with the WPL logo, sign up for the WooReads Fall Reading Challenge for Adults. This challenge ends on November 30th, so now is the time to sign up and log all of the books you've read since September 1st. 

This week's featured booklists from Reader's Corner are Books for Native American Heritage Month, which highlights poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books written by Native Americans and Mysteries and Thrillers by Indigenous Authors, which promotes and supports Indigenous mystery and thriller authors.

Onibi: Diary Of A Yokai Ghost Hunter by Atelier Sentō

What an adorably spooky collection of stories! I would love to see this animated or made into a film! The artwork and colors really brought the pages and characters to life! Amazing! I want to read it again already! ~ Sarina S.

Other than the epic scene in Breaking Bad, I did not know much about Danny Trejo, but was intrigued by reviews of this book. I was not disappointed as he is a strong individual who, once finding a path forward, did not veer from it and success followed. Not to say he did not face challenges after becoming sober and leaving prison, but he'd adopted a new way of looking at the world, and in time came to see himself and his history more clearly. It's a fascinating life and well worth the read. ~ Linda J.
Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Good read! A woman asks for a divorce after being mistreated by her husband. She was denied a divorce and is accused of witchcraft. I didn’t want to put it down!              ~ Karen S.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was such an interesting book! I loved the writer's style and the story was so compelling. ~ Diane G.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Big Library Read: Five Total Strangers


From November 1-15 library users can participate in The Big Library Read featuring Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards. This e-book club connects readers with the same book at the same time without any waitlists or holds. Download the discussion guide to start a conversation with other readers. You can also visit the Overdrive discussion board to share your thoughts. 

A page-turning thriller, Five Total Strangers focuses on Mira, who just needs to get home for the holidays. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled connecting flight, it looks like she might get stuck at the airport indefinitely. And then Harper, Mira's glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, offers her a ride. Harper and her three friends plan to drop Mira off on their way home. But as they set off, Mira realizes her fellow travelers are all total strangers and every one of them is hiding something.

Soon, roads go from slippery to terrifying. People's belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying, and may even be sabotaging the trip—but why? And can Mira make it home alive, or will this nightmare drive turn fatal?

Don’t miss a live, virtual event with author Natalie D. Richards on November 8 at 2pm ET. Register today.

To borrow the title, go to Under Resources, select eBooks and Digital Media. Click on OverDrive to check out Five Total Strangers from the catalog. 

To read this book on a handheld device, download the Overdrive app or Libby app. 

Readers also have a chance to win a tablet, Libby swag and signed books by the author if they use #biglibraryread on social media from November 1-15. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

New Releases: November Edition

Did one of the book covers on our homepage catch your eye? They are all new titles being released in November 2021, and all are well-reviewed and anticipated. You can watch the video or read the description of each below, then click the linked title to request a copy or get your name on the wait list. And don't forget to watch for more featured releases next month!

Featured Fiction for November

Just Haven't Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
Lifestyle reporter Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t off to a great start. After an embarrassing encounter with the most attractive man she’s ever seen, she arrives at her hotel and realizes she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation is its irresistible contents. The owner of the suitcase is clearly Laura’s dream man. Now, all she has to do is find him. But what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same island where her parents fell in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. 

The Perishing by Natashia Deon
Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there. Taken in by a foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but her life is about to become even more remarkable. When she befriends a firefighter at a boxing gym, Lou realizes that though she has no memory of meeting him, she’s been drawing his face for years. Increasingly certain that their paths previously crossed, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent for a very important reason, one that only others like her will be able to explain. 

A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske
Robin is struggling to be a good brother, a responsible employer, and the baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents. When a mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the reality he’s always known. Now he must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, a deadly curse, and the visions of the future that come with it―not to mention Edwin, his prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy. Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the land they live on and what binds it. 

Featured Nonfiction for November

The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece by Kevin Birmingham
As a young man, Dostoevsky was a celebrated writer, but his involvement with radical politics condemned him to a Siberian exile. There, he spent years studying the criminals that were his companions. Upon his return to St. Petersburg, he fought his way through gambling addiction, debt, epilepsy, and the deaths of those closest to him. The germ of Crime and Punishment came from the story of Pierre François Lacenaire, a murderer who charmed and outraged Paris. Dostoevsky began creating a Russian incarnation of Lacenaire, a character who could demonstrate the errors of radical ideas. His name would be Raskolnikov. Lacenaire shaped Raskolnikov in many ways, but the deeper insight, as Birmingham shows, is that Raskolnikov began to merge with Dostoevsky. 

The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth by Sam Quinones
Quinones traveled from Mexico to main streets across the U.S. to create Dreamland, a groundbreaking portrait of the opioid epidemic that awakened the nation. He was also among the first to see the dangers that lay ahead: synthetic drugs and new kingpins whose product could be made in blenders. In fentanyl, traffickers had a painkiller a hundred times more powerful than morphine. They laced it into cocaine, meth, and counterfeit pills to cause tens of thousands of deaths. At the same time, Mexican traffickers made methamphetamine cheaper and more potent than ever. Amid a landscape of despair, Quinones found hope in those embracing the forgotten and ignored, illuminating the truth that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable.

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei
Weiwei has written a memoir that presents the remarkable history of China while also illuminating his artistic process. Once an intimate of Mao Zedong and the nation’s most celebrated poet, Ai Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing, was branded a rightist. He and his family were banished to a desolate place known as “Little Siberia,” where Qing was sentenced to hard labor. Weiwei recounts his childhood in exile, and his difficult decision to leave his family to study art in America. He details his return to China and his rise from artistic unknown to art superstar and international human rights activist—and how his work has been shaped by living under a totalitarian regime.