Staff Picks: The Best of 2019

As you can imagine, people who work in libraries tend to be well-read and generally pretty up-to-date with pop culture. So, we got some members of our staff to pick their favorite books, movies, TV shows, and video games that they got to over the past year.

Shannon Nagle – Assistant Director

My favorite 2019 film was Avengers: Endgame. It was a satisfying conclusion to a series of movies that I have enjoyed for a long time.

My favorite 2019 book was Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman. It’s nice to get a quality standalone from an author who writes a good series. Lady in the Lake is tangentially related to the Tess Monaghan books; you could call it a way-back prequel.

Sean Farrell – Digital Outreach Associate

1. Watchmen

HBO’s sequel to Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel wound up being far better than I think anyone expected. Confidently tackling issues of race, authority, and other thorny ethical dilemmas, this was one of the year’s smartest and most entertaining series.

2. Marriage Story

Tackles the end of a marriage that just didn’t work out, not because anyone was especially awful, or because they didn’t love each other. This Netflix original movie features a pair of stunning central performances and more earned emotion than nearly any other story this year.

3. The Good Place

There are still a few episodes left before this metaphysical sitcom wraps up, but so far it is sticking the landing with all the humor, pathos, suspense, and moral philosophizing that it’s become known for.

4. Exhalation by Ted Chiang

The 9 short stories contained here are masterful examples of the best of science fiction. Using a variety of sci-fi themes, these stories challenge us to think about the very nature of humanity and our relationship to the world around us, and leave the reader feeling hopeful that with enough effort, our species might just become our best possible selves.

5. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, written in the form of a letter from a son to his illiterate mother, sparkles with beautiful prose and searing emotion. Easily one of the most gorgeous books I’ve read in a very long time.

6. The Mandalorian

Disney+ launched pretty strong out of the gate with this excellent Star Wars series. Following a bounty hounter after the fall of the empire in Episode VI, the simple but engaging story arch allows the show to play with everything that makes Star Wars great, i.e., exotic planets, strange creatures, and fun adventures.

7. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead & The Institute by Stephen King

It might be a little bit of a cheat to put 2 entries here, but these 2 books both tell stories about children being held captive in institutions ostensibly for the greater good of society, but with markedly less than noble results. And both serve as stark and searing reminders of humankind’s capacity for cruelty towards each other. I highly recommend reading both.

8. The Outer Worlds & Disco Elysium

These 2 indie RPG’s are far more interesting and exciting than any game to come out of a major studio this year. Sure, The Outer Worlds’ spacefaring adventure felt a little derivative of the Fallout series and Joss Whedon’s Firefly, but it packed in great storytelling, smart dialogue, meaningful decision-making, and loads of pure fun. Disco Elysium is likewise filled with many of the same great features, but with a darker overall tone, and the ability to communicate with your own internal organs. Yes, you read that correctly.

9. Midsommar

The story of a controlling relationship dissolving told through the lens of a Wicker Man-style folk horror film. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, sufficiently creepy, and every bit as weird as that description sounds.

10. Stranger Things 3

For pure fun, it’s hard to beat Netflix’s mega-hit series. As is usually the case with sequels, the stakes keep getting raised, and everyone involved with this show handles it with aplomb. I can’t wait for part 4.

Lisa Papineau – Program Assistant

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This murder is no mystery. It has twists and turns you won’t see coming. My favorite psychological thriller of the year.

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow

A wrongfully accused man seeks justice his own way – an emotional and thought provoking crime story.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

One woman’s obsession to find the Golden State Killer. True crime buffs will love this one.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Well written emotional and memorable story about love, murder, and so much more.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

After reading the book, I wasn’t sure if the movie could do it justice – it did that and more. Very well done.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Wow – the acting, music, everything about this movie is incredible. I’ve watched it twice, so far.

Chris Hunnicutt – Patron Services

Pokémon Sword and Shield

At long last, Nintendo has finally given fans of the Pokémon series what they’ve wanted for ages: a home console version! It doesn’t hurt that the Switch is also a portable console, so it’s the best of both worlds combined. Although a bit on the easy side, the story seems less linear and some of the new designs and Galarian forms look incredible!

The Outer Worlds

Obsidian, creator of the beloved Fallout: New Vegas, has essentially taken that game and created a spacefaring adventure of it! With fun and sometimes zany gunplay and a story that leaves you, the player, in charge of a colony that rival corporations are trying to control. Be their doom or their salvation; it’s entirely your call! Tremendous replay value here.

Borderlands 3

The zany, over-the-top shooter with a bazillion guns is back with its fourth installment, delivering more of the fast-paced excitement that Gearbox has become known for. While lacking a little in innovation, the fun can’t be denied. It’s undeniably one of the best multiplayer games available to play at the moment!

Mortal Kombat 11

If fighting games are your forte, MK 11 is one of the best around. Not shying away from brutality and gore, it delivers a game that’s easy to play but difficult to master, an interesting story, and truly memorable characters both old and new. GET OVER HERE and check it out! I’m not even sorry.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Koji Igarashi, mastermind behind several of the most successful Castlevania games, departed from Konami and began his own gaming studio. If you’re fond of his previous works like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Bloodstained is a spiritual successor that doesn’t disappoint. I put off playing this one for a while, but once I did, it was impossible to put down until I’d completed it. Far and away my winner for 2019.

Resident Evil 2

Nostalgia seems to be a recurring theme this year in terms of gaming, and the developers hearkening back to simpler times are truly doing their remakes justice. If you’ve ever wanted to play Resident Evil 2, with its gritty environments, terrifying ambiance, and unnerving visuals, but hated the clunky tank-controls of the original, pick up this gem. Everything has been remade from the ground up, but it somehow hasn’t lost its charm in the slightest! A must-play for any horror fan.

IT: Chapter 2

While not as terrifying as I thought it’d be, IT: Chapter 2 felt like a more complete, rewarding ending than we received in the miniseries. The acting, as always, was top-notch and the story and plot twists were quite enjoyable, although the scares seemed to be a bit short in supply, but it almost seems fitting for a movie series about facing and overcoming fear.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The unstoppable assassin returns for even more headshots in John Wick 3, continuing exactly where the last movie left off. If you’re looking for an action-packed run-and-gun thrill ride that doesn’t slow down for more than five minutes at a time, look no further than arguably the best installment in the series yet!

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