2015 Best Reads

By Library Director Vicky Calmes

As library director at the Colby Public Library, each year I prepare a list of top personal reads. Enjoy!

Fiction Favorites

  1. Orphan Train (Christina Baker Kline)

Orphan trains traveled from 1854-1929 between Eastern cities to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children to new homes.  Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship. 


  1. Inside the O‘Briens (Lisa Genova)

 Joe O’Brien, a middle-aged Boston policeman, is diagnosed with Huntington’s, a progressive and lethal disease with no cure.  Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate.  As Joe’s symptoms worsen, he struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.


  1. The Marriage of Opposites (Alice Hoffman)

Growing up on tropical St. Thomas Island in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business.  When her husband dies suddenly and his nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.


  1. The Last Midwife (Sandra Dallas)

It is 1880.  Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime.   The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn’t imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.   But everything changes when a baby is found dead…and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.


  1. We Never Asked for Wings (Vanessa Diffenbaugh)

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children.  Now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.  Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustices that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.


  1. Pretending to Dance (Diane Chamberlain)

Molly Arnette lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own.  The process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family.  The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending.  If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?


  1. The Color of Light (Emilie Richards)

For more than a decade minister Analiese Wagner has felt privileged to lead her parishioners. Her commitment has never been seriously tested until the frigid night she encounters a homeless family huddling in the churchyard. Offering them shelter in a vacant parish house apartment and taking teenage Shiloh Fowler—a girl desperate to rescue her parents—under her wing, she tests the loyalty and faith of her congregation. Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor and the man she secretly longed for, understands her struggles only too well.  At a crossroads, he’s suddenly reappeared in her life, torn between his priesthood and his growing desire for a future with Analiese. Divided between love and vows they’ve taken, both must face the possibilities of living very different lives or continuing to serve their communities.


  1. Before I Go To Sleep (S.J. Watson)

A compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories.  She desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.


  1. Last Bus to Wisdom (Ivan Doig)

Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies.  When Gram has to have surgery in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate–bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. When Kate packs him back on the next Greyhound to Montana, the road-trip puts Donal in contact with a host of interesting characters and involvement in a number of escapades. 


  1. The Theory of Death (Faye Kellerman)

Former LAPD lieutenant Peter Decker is relishing the quiet and slow pace of his new job with the Greenbury PD.  Then the body of a nude man is found deep within the woods, shattering Decker’s peace.  The investigation takes Decker and his friend McAdams to Kneed Loft College, where it will take all of Decker’s experience and McAdams’s brains to solve a dark, twisted crime devised by some brilliant and depraved masterminds.


  1. The Lake House (Kate Morton)
    One evening, after a party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace.  Decades later, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago.  Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and the Edevanes together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.


  1. Crash and Burn (Lisa Gardner)

Nicole Frank shouldn’t have survived the car accident, much less the crawl up the steep ravine.   One thought allows her to defy the odds and flag down help―she must save Vero.  Arriving at the scene, Sergeant Wyatt Foster joins the desperate hunt for a missing child, only to learn that Nicky suffers from a rare brain injury that causes delusions.  According to her husband, there is no child. Never has been. It turns out Nicky has recently suffered more than one close accident.  It seems someone out there won’t rest until Nicky crashes and burns…


  1. The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning seeing the same scenes each day.  One day she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.  Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


  1. 12. Evergreen (Rebecca Rasmussen)

It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband, Emil, into the Minnesota wilderness.  Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a baby boy named Hux.  But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, a dangerous stranger arrives, fracturing their small family forever and leaving Hux to grow up wondering if the wrongs of the past can ever be mended. 


  1. The Tie That Binds (Kent Haruf)

Eighty-year-old Edith is lying in a hospital bed on an IV drip.  She has been charged with murder.  The clues: a sack of chicken feed slit with a knife, and a milky-eyed dog tied outdoors one cold afternoon.  The motives: the brutal business of farming and a family code of ethics as unforgiving as the winter prairie itself.  Who has she murdered—and why?  This is the story of a woman who sacrifices her happiness in the name of family–and then, in one gesture, reclaims her freedom.


  1. Jesus Cow (Michael Perry)

Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ.  Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral.  Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?


  1. Finding Jake (Bryan Reardon)

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney.  Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines.  Now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.  Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait.  One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children.  Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

  1. Where They Found Her (Kimberly McCreight)

At the end of a long winter, in Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of an infant is discovered in the woods near the town’s prestigious university campus.  No one knows who the baby is, or how her body ended up there.  Told from the perspectives of Molly, Barbara, and Sandy, this novel unwinds the tangled truth about the baby’s death revealing that these three women have far more in common than they realized.


  1. Me Before You /The Girl You Left Behind (JoJo Moyes)
  • Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. Will Traynor has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—but he is wheelchair bound after an accident and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. When Lou learns Will has shocking plans, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living in this love story for the generation.
  • Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision.  Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, and after a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.



  1. Cane and Abe (James Grippando)

An explosive psychological thriller in which Miami’s top prosecutor becomes a prime suspect when his wife’s disappearance may have a chilling connection to the vicious murders of beautiful women in the Florida Everglades.

  1. Sworn to Silence—and all seven books in the set with number 8 anxiously awaited (Linda Castillo)

Sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community of Painters Mill, Ohio.  Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish.  Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate has been asked to return to Painters Mill as Chief of Police.  In these mystery thrillers, Kate must seek out the truth in a society of silence—and face some secrets of her own.


  1. Memory Man (David Baldacci)

A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro.  A violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect—he can never forget anything.  Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare—his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.  To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them.  He must endure the memories he would much rather forget, and he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.


  1. We Are Not Ourselves (Matthew Thomas)

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.  When Eileen meets Ed Leary, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit.  They marry, and Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift.  An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

  1. Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)

This epic panorama of WWII illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war.  The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France.  This is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.


  1. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
    Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind, and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home.  When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo. With them, they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.  In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth and then a special assignment to track the resistance.  More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.


Non-Fiction Favorites


  1. Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Berry (Dave Barry)

During the course of living, Dave Barry has learned much of wisdom, and he is eager to pass it on to the next generation.  In brilliant, brand-new, never-before-published pieces, Dave passes on home truths to his new grandson and to his daughter Sophie.  He explores the hometown of his youth.  You’ll have a lot to laugh about!


  1. Smoke Gets in your Eyes (Caitlin Doughty)

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work.  Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. 


  1. Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Laura Hillenbrand)

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini.  His success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. This is a book about the three men that survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit into an American sports icon.

  1. 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska’s Frozen Wilderness (Brian Murphy)

Shortly before Christmas in 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska’s Ladd Field on a routine flight to test their hastily retrofitted B-24 Liberator in harsh winter conditions.  The mission ended in a crash that claimed all but one—Leon Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia with no wilderness experience.  With little more than a parachute for cover and an old Boy Scout knife in his pocket, Crane now found himself alone in subzero temperatures. Crane knew that his chance of survival dropped swiftly with each passing day.  This is the full story of Crane’s remarkable tale of the capacity to endure extreme conditions, intense loneliness, and flashes of raw terror—and emerge stronger than before.


  1. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (Kate Clifford Larson)

Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the Queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters.  Yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled — a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.  This collection of letters, diary entries, and family interviews provides a look into Rosemary’s life and the events that inspired Rosemary’s siblings to bring her home after twenty years of isolation in Wisconsin and direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.