Each January, popular magazines include articles about de-cluttering and starting out fresh with new colors, clothes and goals. At the library we’ve long-since packed away Christmas decorations, and begin planning Summer Reading programs. Outside, dried plants and grasses are trimmed to make way for fresh growth, and the lawn is regularly mowed. Inside, we “weed” books to make room for new ones. Books that are damaged or no longer checked out are removed. New books are displayed to entice readers.

It’s been said that there are over 600,000 new books published annually. How do we decide what books to buy? We can’t read them all and must rely on outside guidance. We accept suggestions from our readers. We pore over “Book Page,” which contains reviews, author interviews and book blogs. We receive dozens of promotional catalogs, e-mails from book companies and authors, and samples of new books hitting the market. We track the “New York Times” bestseller list, and some of the “Best of” lists that are published. We listen to author interviews on NPR, and read others in magazines. Our Southeast Kansas Library System sends a newsletter that recommends books. We read as many of the new books hitting the market as we can. Thankfully, we all enjoy reading so this is not a chore.

I made a New Year’s Resolution to read books by diverse authors. A few recent personal favorites include “The Underground Railroad” by Colston Whitehead, which recently won a Pulitzer Prize, and was also a National Book Award Winner. Amazon describes it as “a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.” That was followed by “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, which also won numerous awards. It tells of two West African half-sisters, whose lives diverge when one becomes the wife of a British slaver, and the other is taken as a slave. “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith takes place in modern times and shares the story of two young friends whose lives also diverge as they follow their dreams to become famous dancers.

Two non-fiction books followed. “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” is described by Amazon: “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.” Next I read, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. As described by Amazon: “This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?”

I followed with a light-hearted fiction book, “Lillian Boxfish Take a Walk: A Novel” by Kathleen Rooney. The book was loosely based on the life of Margaret Fishback, a well-known copy advertising writer and poet. Amazon’s description: “A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Visit soon to pick up a fresh take on life with one of our new books at the library!