Staff Picks - Books

  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Normal

Current Size: 100%

  text size

Subscribe to this blog: RSS Email

Meta Critics


Reading reviews of the documentary Life Itself on is, well, indeed a “meta” experience.  The reviews are about a movie about someone who wrote movie reviews.

The new documentary’s source material is largely based on film critic Roger Ebert’s memoir, called Life Itself itself (there’s another meta moment for you). It can be checked out in print or audio CD format from the library. 


Here are other books about the lives of well-known critics, all available in SJPL's catalog:


Film Critic
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow 
"The most powerful, loved and hated film critic of her time" - Roger Ebert, critic.


Literary Critic

The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life by Harold Bloom 
"It is admirable to want to write criticism for someone other than one's colleagues and graduate students, and Bloom's intelligence, erudition, and charm have made him America's best-known man of letters." - James Wood, critic.

Music Critic

Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic by Jim DeRogatis

"An elegy for one of the few critics whose work is worth reading for itself, apart from its subjects." - Roger Ebert, critic. 

Theater Critic
White Girls by Hilton Als

"Als is one of the most consistently unpredictable and surprising essayists out there, an author who confounds our expectations virtually every time he writes." - David Ulin, critic.


"We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness. Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully." - Roger Ebert, critic

New Audiobooks on Overdrive!

Bird Box cover

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

In an abandoned house by a river, Malorie and her two children seek refuge against the violence that terrorized their town five years ago. Under the comfort of their house, Malorie and her family are safe, that is until their supplies start to run low. With the help of Tom, another refugee, Malorie  steps outside and confront the unknown.





Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael KorytaThose Who Wish Me Dead cover

When he was thirteen, Jace Wilson witnessed the Blackwell Brothers brutally murder someone. Now the brothers are after him. To hide from them, Jace dawns a new identity and hides in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The only thing stopping the brothers from getting Jace are Ethan and Allison, who own the camp, and miles and miles of mountains. But the brothers are closer than you think. Will Jace survive or will the Blackwell Brothers bring him to his grave?



Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyBig Little Lies cover

you would expect a school Trivia night to be the most uneventful night ever, right? You are wrong. One parent is left dead during Pirriwee Public's annual school event. The public is call it a tragic accident; however, the police are calling it cold-blooded murder. The murderer can be anyone, a school official, another parent, or even a student. Nobody is safe, but everybody is a suspect.

Project Gutenberg - 45,000 free eBooks (and counting)

Project Gutenberg is a collection of free eBooks and it includes over 45,000 titles. This growing collection contains many classic titles, all of which were previously published by bona fide publishers. These titles were digitized and diligently proofread with the help of thousands of volunteers.  No fee or registration is required.  In mid-2014, Project Gutenberg volunteers undertook a significant revitalization of the collection by grouping eBooks on particular topics or in particular genres, or otherwise having something in common. This can be a great way to discover books you were unaware of, and it is also an efficient way of finding some of the collection of particular interest. Visit their "Bookshelves" to use this feature.


There is also a free self-publishing site for eBooks, Project Gutenberg Self Publishing Portal.  This service allows "authors to share their works with our readers as well as allows readers to provide comments, reviews and feedback to the authors. Every eBooks has its own detail page with ratings and Wall for displaying readers comments."

The Leftovers

Copy of the cover of "Leftovers" by Tom PerrottaWhat happens when millions of people disappear? Was it the "rapture", or just a never before seen supernatural epidemic? The people that disappeared were a random lot; not part of any one faith, (some not part of faith at all). The Leftovers; the people remaining, are anxious. Why didn't they get taken? Is there another, greater "rapture" on the way? The new HBO series Leftovers expands on Tom Perrotta's 2011 book and adds more layers of complexity.

Short Stories!

Don't have time to read a 300 page novel? Then try these short stories insead! They'll give

you the same sense of adventure and action as a regular book, but in a couple of chapters!



Four Houses cover

Four Houses by Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott, author of the Dante Walker and Fire & Flood series, is re-relasing an extended version of her short story, Four Houses, on July 22, 2014! Rediscover the suspense and thrill of this dark YA short story and find out if the house you choose is the right one.




The Demigod Diaries by Rick RiordanThe Demigod Diaries cover

In The Demigod Diaries, Rick Riordan brings you three short stories about Percy Jackson and all his friends! Follow Percy and Annabeth as they try to face a fire-breathing giant! Join Piper, Leo, and Jason as they chase a runaway table that is bound to get into trouble, and find out if Thalia and Luke ever make it to Camp Half-Blood!




Dare to be Scared: 13 Stories to Chill and Thrill by Robert D. San SDare to Be Scared coverouci

Want some scary stories to tell around the campe fire? Then prepare to be scared with these 13 stories. Get ready for some creepy crawlies, ghosts, and some haunted fun!

June 2014: Top 10 Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction Checkouts

It's that time again for the monthly check on what the community's reading! Here's a selection from the top titles for June. Here's the previous lists for April and May. Enjoy!


Top Fiction

  1. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hr Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  2. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
  3. Inferno by Dan Brown
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  5. Fables by Bill Willingham
  6. And The Mountains Echoed by Hosseini Khaled
  7. W Is For Wasted by Sue Grafton
  8. King & Maxwell by David Baldacci
  9. Never Go Back by Lee Child
  10. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Top Non-Fiction

  1. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  2. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  3. What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles
  4. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  5. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
  6. Lao Fuzi by Ze Wang
  7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Stayed
  8. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  9. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolution  by Michael Lewis
  10. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Books with Local Settings

It's great fun to read a book set in a location you know. Here are some books you'll find at the San Jose Public Library that are either entirely or partially set in San Jose and/or the surrounding valley:

The Setup Man: A Novel by T.T. Monday 
Johnny Adcock is a relief pitcher for the San Jose Bay Dogs baseball team. To fund his retirement, he begins moonlighting as a private investigator for his teammates.

Good Grief : A Novel
by Lolly Winston
36-year old Sophie Stanton leads a high-pressure Silicon Valley life in San Jose. But after she loses her husband to cancer, she seeks out a change of scenery in Ashland, Oregon.

Also available on audio CD and in large print.

Dot Dead: A Silicon Valley Mystery by Keith Raffel

A Silicon Valley executive comes home to find his cleaning lady stabbed to death in his apartment. He's never actually met her, but the Palo Alto police believe they have evidence that suggests an affair.

Also available as an ebook.

What We Are by Peter Nathaniel Malae
28-year-old Samoan-American Paul Tusifale drifts in and out of society in San Jose and tries to find his purpose in defending the downtrodden.

The Unknowns: A Novel by Gabriel Roth

An awkward young computer geek turned Silicon Valley millionarie falls for a journalist with a dark secret in her past.

Also available as an ebook.

Browse the catalog for more books set in the Silicon Valley.

Get Caught Listening

Get caught listeningJune is National Audiobook Month.  Listen to a good book today!  The library has books on CD and downloadable audiobooks, expertly read by professional narrators.  Then take a picture of yourself listening and post it on your Facebook or Pinterest page.

Almaden Branch Library: Spin the Wheel and Win a Prize

picture of spinning wheelThe Almaden Branch Library has a fun Summer Reading Challenge activity to encourage participation. Daily we hide our "Summer Reading Challenge Robot" in the Children's Area and when a child locates it, they can spin the wheel for a small prize. In the photo, one of our teen volunteers, Suraj Lalwani, helps a child with their prize. Recently, a young father from France brought his two young sons to the library for their first visit.  After they joined the Summer Reading Challenge, the two boys went on the hunt for the robot. After finding the robot, spinning the wheel and receiving their prize the father was all smiles stating: "My boys are going to love this place." 

National Summer Learning Day

Logo for Summer Learning Day June 20

Mark your calendars! National Summer Learning Day is coming up on Friday June 20th! If you don't want to wait, you don't have to. You can celebrate Summer Learning Day all summer long.


How can you celebrate?


1. Sign up for our Summer Reading Challenge! This year's bingo grid is filled with lots of fun activities for everyone in the family.


2. Find out what events and programs are taking place at your local library this summer.


3. Use our Discover and Go program for discounted or even free tickets to Bay Area museums (Including the San Jose Tech Museum and the Cal Academy of Sciences in San Francisco!)


4. Host a family literacy celebration. Talk to your children about your favorite books and topics. Learn about a new subject together, or build something together. Ask grandparents to share stories about their youth.