Welcome, or welcome back, to the Rec News, an occasional publication featuring recreational and recommended reading from our SJPL Librarians. In our last issue, we took a look at books for finding new hobbies, celebrating Lunar New Year, as well as starting a series to keep us reading all year long. This month, our reads are aimed at helping you read to honor two widely known celebrations, one lasting but a single day, the other spanning the full month.
First, we have plenty of books with love as the core theme to help us all get into the mood for St. Valentine's Day, of course! While originally a Christian martyr/saint day, this holiday is now observed in many countries worldwide as a celebration of romance and love.
Second, we will have plenty of lists featuring works relating to Black History and celebrating Black authorship to mark Black History Month. Learning more about Black History and amplifying Black voices in media is a way to pay homage to Black people's contributions, innovations, accomplishments, and victories throughout US History. Reading the books on these lists is a great way to participate, learn more about Black History, and celebrate the many accomplishments of the African diaspora. I would also direct readers to these engaging blogs and resources and take advantage of one of the many Black History Month events happening at your local library!
Keep scrolling to find recs for Adults, Teens, and Kids.
Above is a cross-section of the latest additions to this month's featured lists, and, dear reader, there are four of them.
Our first two lists are meant to complement and celebrate Black History Month. We've got some Black History Essentials to help anyone deepen their understanding of or examine the Black experience from different angles. This list contains the latest books making waves such as the 1619 Project, but also classic literature from the likes of Toni Morisson, poetry from Langston Hughes, and many more classic titles showing the profound impact these masterworks have had not only on literature but, as the list title suggests, history.
Our second list featured this month is full of Recent Fiction from Black Authors. If you're like me and prefer contemporary literature to classic, then dive into this list of mixed genres to find plenty to add to a 'to read' list. Personally, I'm waiting for my turn with The Ballad of Perilous Graves and I'm pretty excited about it; if contemporary fantasy isn't your thing, you'll find historical, psychological, romance, magical realism, thrillers, sci-fi, and more, waiting for you just a click away.
List #3 for February is for Valentine's Day; while I hate to disappoint it would be irresponsible not to prepare you: Love stories ≠ Romance. While they may overlap, Love Stories emerges as a distinct subgenre when you consider the arc of the story, the tone, as well as the characters. With Love Stories you can expect the plot of a romantic entanglement to reflect the complications that come with love and the flawed individuals involved; and they may not always have a happy ending. In fact, sometimes the very nature of the love in the story will point to an unhappy ending. For many, historical events or political upheaval come into play, and the hurdles for love to overcome will be, in general, heavier in Love Stories. You might think me bitter, but I feel this is a more accurate reflection of love in life, and thus the perfect nod to the holiday commemorating love.
Ok, Ok...I'm not so bitter that I would deny you a sweet romance read for Valentines Day, and the books on this list will deliver. Romance can be great at capturing those warm-fuzzies you feel when romance is new. If you're looking to kindle that warmth in yourself, pick up a Romance, and enjoy the hunks, hotties, and meet-cutes your heart desires.
For Teens we also have four lists, similar to the offerings for Adults.
Every year, Black History Month has a theme to help guide those honoring the month to acknowledge different aspects of Black History. This year the theme centers around Black Resistance, calling attention to Black people's excellence through resistance in the face of oppression as well as the undeniable power of organizing people to bring about change. Each one of these books has been selected as it speaks to Black Resistance in some way, which, as expressed by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, can include, but is not limited to, "armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media, and legislation/politics. Black led institutions and affiliations have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested, and achieved success." The fictional accounts on this booklist tell stories of Black resistance, no matter the scale.
Of course, Black authors are publishing books year round (duh), not just during Black History Month! So if you're committed to having diverse representation in your reads, you can use this list this month and every month to find fresh YA fiction to amplify Black voices in an industry where they have classically been underrepresented.
Again, I can't deny any library patron looking for something sweet this February. If you enjoy the more light-hearted side of romance, skim some of the latest teen rom-coms that are sure to bring about some insta(book)love.
But...if you prefer your romantic reads with less focus on awkwardly funny moments and more on the nitty-gritties of finding love, then you might try Love Stories & Romance over Romcoms. These reads won't be as light as those in the above list, but they'll still toy with your heart in all the right ways.
Last, and definitely not least, we have some picks for Kids on the similar themes as Adults and Teens.
There are plenty of ways to include and honor Black History Month with even the youngest members of our community. This collection of picture books speaks to a wide age range (picture books AREN'T just for little ones!), and this list has some excellent picture book biographies to introduce anyone (really, anyone) to the myriad important figures in Black history.
These books relating to the Black Experience focus on positivity and Black Joy, which in itself relates to Black History Month's theme of Black Resistance; if you find joy, confidence, and love in who you are as you are, especially when it seems like parts of the world want you to be someone else, that's certainly resistance! These reads, full of joyful resistance, are also full of the themes love and family.
Of course, there's more to Valentine's Day than just romantic love! These picture books attempt to capture the full spectrum of where we find love in our lives: parents hugging children...families caring for their pet...unexpected surprises from grandparents...playing your friend's favorite game...an older sibling making you your favorite meal...listening when someone's upset...missing ones we've lost...even worms marrying worms, all these brands of love and more are warmly expressed with inviting illustration in these quick, and lovely, reads.
SJPL Picks: Quick Links
If this month's featured reads aren't your favorite themes, or you're looking to expand your browsing, try checking out any and all of the lists from our librarians on our SJPL Picks team. All our lists will be labeled "SJPL Picks" or "SJPL Recommends".
If you're looking for further recommendations and aren't in the mood to browse, let us do the browsing for you! San José Public Library's 5forU team offers personalized recommendations via email. You can also fill in the profile on someone else's behalf and we can find just the right titles - perfect for caregivers looking to recommend books to their children, for book clubs stumped on what to discuss next meeting, or if you're hoping to give the gift of literature. Just fill in the profile and we'll do the rest - and remember, the more information you give us in the profile, the better and more tailored your recommendations will be! Hearing exactly why you love or hate a book gives us more clues to find your new favorite. Requests will be answered within 5 business days. Ready to begin your 5forU journey? Start your 5forU request!