Ah, the clean slate of a new year, full of possibilities. While January brings a renewed sense of hope, along with new gym memberships and good intentions, it’s also kind of…meh. The winter holidays are over, it’s cold outside, and it’s tempting to go to bed by 7:00 every night. But wait, there is something to get excited about! The Adult Winter Reading Challenge at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Why? Because you get a prize, and who doesn’t like prizes? All you have to do is read and log five books between now and March 31, and you’ll earn a cozy plaid blanket (necessary disclaimer: while supplies last). For another dopamine boost, you can also earn activity badges while expanding your reading sphere. There are five activity badges, each of which contains a set of fun literary and entertaining challenges to kick those winter doldrums to the curb.
Here are some reading recommendations that all count toward your activity badges:
For the “Winter Celebrations” badge:
Ashes of Fiery Weather, opens a new window by Kathleen Donohoe
March is Irish American Heritage Month, making Donohoe’s sweeping debut the ideal read. The stories of six generations of women in an Irish American family of firefighters flow between the 19th-century Irish Potato Famine to 21st-century New York City. Revolving around the Glory Devlins, the Brooklyn fire company of which their loved ones are members, the women’s stories are realistic and compelling, made authentic by the author’s own experiences growing up in a firefighting family.
For the “Genre Mixup” badge, a romance and a thriller:
Kamila Knows Best, opens a new window by Farah Heron
Jane Austen fans will love Heron’s retelling of Emma set in a South Asian community in Ontario, Canada. Kamila Hussain has a pretty good life with plenty of friends, a loving father, and fulfilling volunteer work. She’s happy to play matchmaker for her friends but has no time for love herself. That is, until close family friend Rohan starts spending more time with Kamila’s longtime nemesis Jana. Suddenly, Kamila’s wondering whether what she wants has been right in front of her all along.
The Children on the Hill, opens a new window by Jennifer McMahon
McMahon is a pro at psychological suspense, and this retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does not disappoint. In 1978, Vi Hildreth and her brother, Eric, live with their grandmother, the renowned Dr. Helen Hildreth, who operates a highly regarded psychiatric facility called Hillside Inn. Vi and Eri are lovingly raised, yet the two are fascinated by monsters, spurred on by rumors of violent patients and experiments at the Inn. When Gran brings home a skittish girl named Iris to stay, the three children join forces in monster hunting until tragedy strikes. In 2019, Lizzy Shelley, host of the podcast “Monsters Among Us,” is headed to Vermont, where a girl has been abducted and a monster has been reportedly sighted. Lizzy intends to track the monster down because she, of all people, knows monsters are real.
For the “Staff Picks” badge, a riveting biography:
Agent Josephine, opens a new window by Damien Lewis
Using her celebrity to hide in plain sight, revered entertainer Josephine Baker became a spy for the Allied Forces during World War II. Growing up in American segregation, Baker readily identified the evil of Nazism and repeatedly risked her life to undermine them. While performing during the war, often for British and American troops, Baker collaborated with her manager Jacques Abtey to gather intelligence to use against the Nazis. Even during a severe illness, Baker managed to pipe information through her hospital room in Casablanca.
For the “Winter Fun” badge, a book with a blue cover:
The Furrows, opens a new window by Namwali Serpell
When Cassandra Williams was 12 and her brother Wayne was seven, and the two were alone together, Wayne vanished in a shocking accident, never to be found. As a result, Cassandra’s father leaves to start another family, while her mother forms an organization devoted to finding missing children. Cassandra grows up thinking she sees her brother everywhere, from coffee shops to subway cars. Then she meets a man who is also searching for someone…and his name is Wayne.
For the “Diversify Your Reading” badge:
Disability Visibility, opens a new window edited by Alice Wong
According to the last census, one in five people in the United States lives with a disability, either visible or hidden, yet people with disabilities are vastly underrepresented in media and pop culture. This important collection of personal essays by disabled writers seeks to reverse that trend by celebrating the diversity of talent, interests, and everyday life experiences that comprise disability culture.
Visit librarypoint.org/winter, opens a new window to register for the Adult Winter Reading Challenge and start earning your cozy blanket today. To connect with other book lovers, join the CRRL Book Chat group at facebook.com/groups/crrlbookchat., opens a new window
Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.