Hi Jax Stacks readers! Welcome to the first-ever year-round Jacksonville Public Library Reading Challenge! The two themes we have this month are "A Book Written By A Jacksonville Author" and "A Book Read By A Library Book Club in 2022". We've put together a booklist for both of these themes that you can use as a handy reference for your book selections or you can also search our catalog to choose your own book. Be sure to put some books on hold and stop by your local library branch to pick them up along with your Jax Stacks Reaching Challenge bookmark. The bookmark will help you keep track of your progress!
Also, don't forget that a lot of these books you can download a digital copy of through Hoopla or Overdrive. Or if you prefer a hard copy, try out our curbside pickup service which is fast, stress-free, and available to make all your reading quick, easy, and safe!
Are you looking for other readers to talk about the challenge with? Check out our open thread on Facebook and our monthly in-person book club meetings (registration required) to chat about what you’re reading and what you would recommend! If you haven't yet, be sure to sign up for our Jax Stacks readers monthly newsletter and stay on top of all the monthly happenings!
#Jax Author Recommendations
To start off, let’s dive into the first round of this month’s recommendations, for our category on Jacksonville authors. This is the Jax Stacks challenge, after all, so we thought it would be great to throw a little love toward some authors who live or have lived here! We’ve got recommendations for fiction and non-fiction, small self-published books, and huge bestsellers. And if you think we missed anything (which we definitely did – we only had room for a limited amount of books on this list!), pop on over to our Facebook group and let us know what books you’re reading for this category!
- One Christmas Wish, by Brenda Jackson
Brenda is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, an award-winning author of more than 100 romance novels, and a popular presenter at many Library events!
"Vaughn Miller's Wall Street career was abruptly ended by a wrongful conviction and two years in prison. Since then, he's returned to his hometown, kept his head down and forged a way forward. When he is exonerated and his name cleared, he feels he can hold his head up once again, maybe even talk to the beautiful café owner who sets his blood to simmering. Sierra Crane escaped a disastrous marriage - barely. She and her six-year-old goddaughter have returned to the only place that feels like home. Complication is the last thing she needs, but the moment Vaughn walks into her café, she can't keep her eyes off the smoldering loner."
- The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw
Deesha doesn’t live in Jacksonville anymore, but she was raised here, worked at the Haydon Burns/Old Main Library in high school, and came to town last November for an awesome Lit Chat. Oh, and this, her debut short story collection, won the PEN/Faulkner Award and an LA Times Book Prize, among others, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.”
- The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton
Dawnie grew up in Jacksonville and now lives in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, styled as an oral history, was named a best book of 2021 by Esquire and Entertainment Weekly. It was also a pick for our New Leaf Book Club last year.
“An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour. … Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.”
- Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz
Dantiel grew up in Jacksonville and was living here during the publication of her debut short-story collection, although she has recently moved to Wisconsin to teach graduate school.
“Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story in Milk Blood Heat delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another.”
- Four Women, by Nikesha Elise Williams
Nikesha is a prolific writer and Jacksonville resident and has been an interviewer and instructor for the Library’s Lit Chats and Writer’s Labs. Her debut novel, Four Women, received the 2018 National Association of Black Journalists Outstanding Literary Work Award and the Florida Authors and Publisher’s Association President’s Award for Adult Contemporary/Literary Fiction.
“This is the story of four women. Soleil St. James, Dawn Anthony, Ebony Jones, and Dr. Jonelle "Johnnie" Edwards all live, work, and love in Jacksonville, Florida. The women from four different backgrounds don't know each other, but when one tragically triumphant event brings their worlds together, the women's jobs, relationships, and exponentially budding connections get tested in ways they've never imagined.”
- Secret Jacksonville, by Bill Delaney
Bill is a local writer who covers the culture and history of Northeast Florida. He joined us as an interviewer and featured author for our Lit Chat series in 2021, including for his book Secret Jacksonville, which highlights cool Jacksonville locations including our own Main Library and Willow Branch Library!
“Here you’ll find out where you can see a long forgotten Florida waterfall with connections to Jacksonville’s founder, and learn why there’s a tombstone in the middle of a neighborhood sidewalk. You’ll hear the stories behind local delicacies like Jacksonville-style garlic crabs, datil peppers, Mayport shrimp and camel rider sandwiches. And of course, you’ll learn what exactly is up with that orange roadside dinosaur everyone’s always talking about.”
- Paperweight, by Meg Haston
Meg grew up in a lot of different cities and states but calls Jacksonville “home”. Her children's book, How to Rock Braces and Glasses, was turned into a Nickelodeon TV series. Paperweight was her debut young adult novel.
“Enduring regimented and intrusive treatment at an eating-disorder center, seventeen-year-old Stevie is haunted by guilt for her brother's fatal accident and secretly plans to commit suicide on the anniversary of his death.”
- A View From My Seat, by Armand Rosamilia
Armand is a local fiction author who wrote this nonfiction book about a year of Jumbo Shrimp home games. If you spend your winter waiting for Opening Day and the smell of hot dogs at the stadium, this book should whet your baseball whistle! Note: This book is part of our Local Author Collection and we have limited copies.
“[Rosamilia] not only breaks down the entire 2017 Jumbo Shrimp season but gives his own perspective as a fan and tells stories from his own past as a baseball fan... going to the infamous Pine Tar Game... being a diehard Red Sox fan... the 1993 World Series... Brooks Robinson's final game... collecting baseball cards and so much more! Features interviews with Jumbo Shrimp staff and players, too.”
- The Race to Space, by Erik Slader
Erik is the co-author of the Epic Fails middle grade book series. He lives outside of Jacksonville, in Green Cove Springs, but we’ll give him a pass on that so you can include these great non-fiction reads for kids in your reading challenge!
“In 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite, into orbit, America had barely crossed the starting line of the great Space Race. Later that year, our first attempt was such a failure that the media nicknamed it "Kaputnik." Still, we didn't give up. With each failure, we gleaned valuable information about what went wrong, and how to avoid it in the future. So we tried again. And again. And each time we failed, we failed a little bit better.”
- It was never about a hot dog and a coke!, by Rodney L. Hurst, Sr.
Rodney published this book back in 2008, but it rose in popularity again last year with the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday. If you haven’t read this staple of Jacksonville history, take the time to check it out now.
“On August 27, 1960, more than 200 whites with ax handles and baseball bats attacked members of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP in downtown Jacksonville who were sitting in at white lunch counters protesting racism and segregation. Referred to as Ax Handle Saturday, [this book] chronicles the racial and political climate of Jacksonville, Florida in the late fifties, the events leading up to that infamous day, and the aftermath.”
- 15 Views of Jacksonville
This book isn’t written by just one Jacksonville author, but sixteen, including Lit Chat and Writer’s Lab alums Tiffany Melanson, Hurley Winkler, and Tim Gilmore. Check out these short stories and an essay for views of Jacksonville that span the whole county.
"Fifteen Views of Jacksonville: Stories from a Bold City is a literary portrait of Jacksonville told in fifteen short stories and one essay by sixteen Jacksonville authors. Sprawling from Atlantic Beach to Orange Park, Northside to Arlington, these stories navigate the city sporadically, capturing Duval County in a way only those who know her can. Story to story, you'll cross bridges and be introduced to this city's small pockets of bold absurdity."
#Books Read By A Library Book Club In 2022
For our second theme of the month, we’re taking a cue from our 10 library book clubs and asking you to read what they’re reading! We've included the selections from Jacksonville Public Library book clubs that will be read over the next few months, and you can check out all of the upcoming selections on our event calendar online, and maybe sign up for a book club or two while you’re at it! If you missed the book club date for your book, or you’re looking for a buddy to come with you, join us on our Facebook group to chat about your pick!
- Discovery Book Club at Pablo Creek Library (First Thursdays)
January’s pick: The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery
“An investigation of the emotional and physical world of the octopus.”
- ComiClub Graphic Novel Book Club at Willow Branch Library (Second Tuesdays)
January’s pick: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal
“Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City -- until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she also unlocks a secret behind them. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her prove too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, Jersey!”
- Nuts About Reading Book Club at West Branch Library (Third Tuesdays)
January’s pick: Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer.
- Flamingo Book Club at Beaches Library (Last Tuesdays)
January’s pick: Squeeze Me, by Florida author Carl Hiaasen
“A bizarre and comical political thriller from the mind of Carl Hiaasen, one of Florida’s premiere authors.”
- Cookbook Book Club at Regency Square Library (Quarterly, Third Tuesdays)
February’s pick: Colombiana, by Mariana Velázquez
“A recipe developer and food stylist—whose work has taken her across the globe to work with clients like Michelle Obama and into the test kitchens of today's most esteemed culinary publications—pays homage to her native country with this vibrant, visually stunning cooking, the first dedicated solely to Colombian food, featuring 100 recipes that meld the contemporary and the traditional.”
- LibraryU Book Club, online via Facebook (dates vary)
February’s pick: Everything is Horrible and Wonderful, by Stephanie Wittels Wachs
“When Wittels Wachs's younger brother Harris died of a heroin overdose, she didn't know how to make sense of such a tragic end to a life of so much hilarious brilliance. Here she alternates between her brother's struggle with addiction, and the first year after his death. Even in all its emotional devastation, this exploration of the love between siblings will make you laugh, cry... and wonder if that possum on the fence is really your brother's spirit animal.”
- New Leaf Book Club at Highlands Library (Fourth Saturdays)
February’s pick: The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.”
- Club 364.1 online via Zoom (Third Thursdays)
March’s pick: The Black Hand by Stephan Talty
“Beginning in the summer of 1903 the children of Italian immigrants were kidnapped, and dozens of innocent victims were gunned down. Bombs tore apart tenement buildings. Judges, senators, Rockefellers, and society matrons were threatened with gruesome deaths. The perpetrators' only calling card: the symbol of a black hand.”
- As the Page Turns Book Club at Mandarin Library (Second Thursdays)
April’s pick: The Chancellor, by Kati Marton
“The definitive biography of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, detailing the remarkable rise and political brilliance of the most powerful—and elusive—woman in the world.”
- Mysterious Affairs Adult Book Club at Highlands Library (Fourth Saturdays)
April’s pick: The Madness Of Crowds, by Louise Penny
“When a visiting professor spreads lies so that fact and fiction are so confused it's nearly impossible to tell them apart, leading to murder, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache must investigate this case as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.”