From the Beacon: Library staff picks best reads of 2009

Each January, the Beaufort County Public Library staff members share the best books they've read during the previous year. Below is a sampling of the staff favorites from 2009. To see the full list, go to

"Columbine" by Dave Cullen; recommended by Halle Eisenman, administration: I don't usually read nonfiction, but this gripping account of the horrifying school shooting on April 20, 1999, had me turning the pages late into the night. Cullen recounts the events of the day and what led up to it, dispelling many of the myths perpetuated by the media. His interviews with the families of the victims and the shooters, the survivors and the community, as well as his analysis of the motivations of the shooters, lead to a compelling, riveting read.

"Death with Interruptions" by José Saramago; recommended by Amanda Brewer, Beaufort branch: For those who wish to stretch their reading boundaries, try this fictional tale examining what life would be like if Death, in this case a lady with a scythe, took a vacation from gathering souls in one town. What would everyday life, culture and spirituality be like in your town if, for an undetermined time, no one could die? Quite an interesting, thought-provoking read.

"The Reformed Vampire Support Group" by Catherine Jinks; recommended by Melinda Vest, Lobeco branch: Had enough of sexy, mysterious teen vampire stories? Here's one with a twist. There are support groups for smokers, overeaters and alcoholics. Why not one for vampires? Nina (who has been a teenager since 1973) and her support group struggle with their commitment to give up human blood and avoid creating new vampires. When one of them is killed, the group must pull together to find the murderer. Their story is a comedy, mystery, action/adventure rolled into one.

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova; recommended by Jan Campbell, Hilton Head branch: This book by Genova, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, is a sensational account of the devastation of Alzheimer's disease. What sets her work apart from previous novels on the topic is that it is told through the eyes of Alice, a psychiatry professor at Harvard, as she deals with an early-onset diagnosis. Instead of deciding she is a victim, we see her as Alice, still living her life. The story provides an extremely potent and progressive view of Alzheimer's.

The Temperance Brennan series, by Kathy Reichs; recommended by Ann Rosen, Bluffton branch: I've been a fan of the TV show, "Bones," for several years, but it was only recently that I started reading the books on which the show is based. There are now 12 titles in the series. Kathy Reichs, the author and executive producer of the TV show, is an outstanding storyteller and keeps the reader engrossed in her suspenseful tales which always revolve around some newly discovered bones. Like the main character in the TV show and in her books, Dr. Temperance Brennan, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, so we are not only treated to a good story but also detailed explanations of what forensic anthropology involves. In addition, there are excellent descriptions, including some history, of the places where "Tempe" has been called to investigate these bones. Both Reichs and "Tempe" also are consultants in Montreal, so several of the books feature that city and its environs.