It’s that time of year again. The time when algorithms — and the multinational corporations who employ them — encourage us to look back. At the pictures we’ve taken, the music we’ve listened to, and the digital lives we’ve led over the past year. We inevitably start to draw conclusions. What kind of year has it been? ‘Have I listened to a lot of emotional music this year?’ Or, ‘Should I start taking more pictures of my friends?’ It feels as if we’re being prepped to make our new year’s resolutions starting from the end of November, and resolutions have never been my friends. I don’t find it helpful to try to start new habits at the beginning of the calendar year, when we’re all getting over the indulgences and excesses of the winter holiday season. If there’s a habit I want to start, I try to start it when the motivation and momentum are there. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t have much motivation or momentum at the beginning of January. Nevertheless, it is the end of the year, so here at VPL we’re looking back at the most popular books and films borrowed by our customers in 2023. Here are my recommendations from the top ten lists this year. I share them in the hopes that they may bring a little joy to the last part of your 2023. Don’t worry about your new year’s resolutions yet. To paraphrase Ina Garten:
Don’t worry about the future. If you’re in a stream, and you find yourself knocking against the riverbanks, you’re in the wrong stream. Find a stream that carries you along. 1
That’s what I wish for you — dear readers — I hope you’ve found a stream that carries you along. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when you feel like you’ve found the right path, at least for the present moment.
People We Meet on Vacation (Top Ten Borrowed Adult Fiction Books)
Emily Henry is a popular, contemporary romance author, and for good reason! Her heroines are funny, smart, somewhat neurotic, and generally nuanced in comparison to a lot of characters in the romance genre. People We Meet on Vacation is one of her later offerings, having arrived on the scene in 2021. It follows travel writer Poppy Wright and her friendship with Alex, a fellow alumni of University of Chicago with whom she drove home for summer vacation one year. They were the closest of friends until they weren’t. Now, Poppy is attempting to rekindle the friendship with one of their classic thrifty vacations. The best romances start with friendship, so you might be able to guess where this one goes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look.
Becoming (Top 10 Borrowed Adult Non-Fiction Books)
I recently started reading Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir that covers her life up until the white house. I was a little surprised at how candid she is in describing her childhood. Sometimes I find biographies and memoirs a little dry because there is an obvious attempt to be impartial when describing real-life figures from the person’s past. The problem with this is that the sentences convey nothing in particular. I understand the desire not to appear judgmental or critical, particularly if the person has passed away, but we’re always attempting to convey truth by the things we write — whether real or imagined. The fullness of truth is best conveyed with accurate description (balanced by compassion). I say leave the judgment or lack of judgment to the reader to decide.
The former First Lady’s descriptions of her grandmother convey a lot of truth about the kind of presence she had in her life. Her grandmother taught piano from the bottom floor of the house Michelle Obama grew up in. The impression you get as a reader is that her grandmother was stern, strict, exacting, incapable of loosening the restrictions she placed on herself and others. The love she has for her grandmother is evident as well, but Obama never shies away from the intimate details and facts of her childhood. It’s well-written and engaging, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s curious about this powerhouse of a woman, who has held several powerful positions in her life already.
The Light We Carry
Michelle Obama’s latest book — published last year — is also on this list. It’s a non-fiction work that provides tips for ‘lighting up’ for the people in our lives. One of the hardest things to do is adapt to the changes we’re faced with all the time. This book contains the strategies, principles, and rules Michelle Obama lives by to continue adapting and surviving in spite of adversity.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Top 10 Borrowed Kids’ Fiction Books)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Rowley Jefferson books dominated the Top 10 Borrowed Kids’ Fiction Books, taking up eight spots out of the ten. There’s a reason why Jeff Kinney’s stories about Greg and his best friend Rowley have struck such a chord with young readers around the world. My experience with the Wimpy Kid franchise has been exclusively with the film adaptation. I remember watching it when I was probably too old to be included in the target audience. I think I was in my late teens or early twenties, but I still had a lot of fun. I remember laughing a lot and feeling for Greg as he tries to make friends and stay out of trouble in an intimidating school environment. His older brother Rodrick is a bit of a piece of work as well. I’m sure these books will continue to be popular for years to come.
Minecraft for Beginners (Top 10 Borrowed Kids’ Non-Fiction Books)
I had a lot of fun running our Minecrafters Club program almost a year ago now. The rich, textured world of Minecraft has spawned so many different books, games, online communities, and so much more. This “step-by-step” guide is just one of several from this publisher on various Minecraft topics. There’s so much to learn and discover about the different facets of the game. Might I suggest taking out one of these guides and putting your knowledge to the test at Minecrafters Club with the family? This time around it’s running at Kleinburg Library, starting January 14th.
Black Panther : Wakanda forever (Top 10 Borrowed Feature Films for All Ages)
It’s always controversial when a film franchise changes things up for the sequel. Given that the first Black Panther was such a critical and popular success, there was a lot of pressure on the second one to live up to those expectations. Wakanda Forever is substantially different from its predecessor. There is a lot less action, less focus on choreographed fight scenes, and a significant amount of time spent with the characters’ grief. The filmmakers slowly take us through four of the five stages of grief: anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Enough time has elapsed since King T’Challa’s (and Chadwick Boseman’s) death that denial is impossible. Both the character and the actor’s absence is felt in every frame. The character Shuri — capably performed by Letitia Wright — steps into the empty spotlight created by her brother’s passing. The villain, or as close to a villain as we get, is a fascinating one. Namor’s backstory is steeped in the history of the Maya and their colonization by the Spanish. This was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers to alter the character from its comic book origins in Greek mythology. His motivation to protect his underwater homeland is nuanced and fascinating, informing his decisions in the film with a depth not often found in superhero movies.
Here are the top ten lists in their entirety. Click the list titles for more information, to check availability, or to place holds.
- It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- Verity by Colleen Hoover
- Book Lovers by Emily Henry
- Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
- People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
- Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
- It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
- Spare by Prince Harry
- The Official MTO Driver’s Handbook
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing : A Memoir by Matthew Perry
- 12 Rules for Life : An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
- Atomic habits : Tiny changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear
- The Light We Carry : Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
- People Love Dead Jews : Reports from a Haunted Present
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Parts One & Two by J.K. Rowling
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
- One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid : Wrecking Ball by Jeff Kinney
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid : Diper överlöde by Jeff Kinney
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid : The Deep End by Jeff Kinney
- Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid : Rowley Jefferson’s Journal by Jeff Kinney
- The Island of Dragons : The Twelfth Adventure in the Kingdom of Fantasy by Geronimo Stilton
- Tales from a Not-So-Best-Friend-Forever by Rachel Renée Russell
- Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid : The Getaway by Jeff Kinney
- Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid : The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney
- Guinness World Records
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition
- Everything You Need to Ace Science in One Big Fat Notebook
- The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary : The Next Chapter by Jeff Kinney
- Inside the World of Roblox by Alexander Cox
- Complete Canadian Curriculum : Grade 6
- Who Is Jackie Chan? by Jody Jensen Shaffer
- Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook
- Minecraft for Beginners by Stephanie Milton
- Top Gun : Maverick
- Black Adam
- Black Panther : Wakanda Forever
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- Puss in Boots : The Last Wish
- Ticket to Paradise
- Bullet Train
Comment below if you’ve seen any of these movies or read any of these books. Happy Holidays, and see you in the new year!
- Garten, Ina. “Ina Garten on success, home cooking, and internet fame | BBC News.” YouTube, uploaded by BBC News, 24 Nov. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN_6eZf5qho.