In this time of stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus, and social distancing, everyone’s life has changed. There may be more stress right now, but many people have more time on their hands too. Anoka County Library recommends checking out books as a way to spend your time and reduce stress. Reading for pleasure is a proven way give your mind space to escape the stresses of life. These staff-recommended titles cover a range of genres for different interests and are available on the cloudLibrary app and in print through curbside pickup at several library locations. Curbside information can be found by visiting anokacountylibrary.org and clicking on the “curbside pickup” link.

“Old World Murder” by Kathleen Ernst (Chloe Ellefson Mystery #1): In 1982, trying to leave painful memories behind, Chloe Ellefson is making a fresh start as the new collection’s curator at Old World Wisconsin. On her first day an elderly woman begs Chloe to find a priceless Norwegian ale bowl donated to the museum years ago. Chloe promises to look, but within minutes the woman dies in a suspicious car wreck. When Chloe reports the missing artifact to her boss, Ralph Petty, he orders her to drop the matter. Is the accident a coincidence? Chloe doesn’t think so.

“I Owe You One” by Sophie Kinsella: “I Owe You One” is a story of love, empowerment and an IOU that changes everything. Fixie Farr is a quirky, energetic, fixaholic, who can’t say “no.” After her father’s death, she is trying to keep the family business going with no “real” help from her family. On a visit to a coffee shop one day, a stranger asks her to look after his laptop for a moment. While keeping an eye on it she saves the laptop from disaster. The owner scribbles an IOU as a thank you. Entering the scene is Fixie’s old crush who needs a job. Fixie decides to help by cashing in on the IOU. Things don’t go as planned, and Fixie ends up owing the stranger big time. But that is only the beginning.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead: As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual, and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.” In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors. Winner of the Kirkus prize for fiction, this book is based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children.

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers — and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Carol Nelson is an associate at the Anoka County Library’s St. Francis Branch.

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