2023 Staff Favorites

The White Plains Library Staff have assembled their picks for the year, featuring literary fiction, audiobooks, fantasy, music, and more. It's a wonderfully wide-ranging list, full of lots of surprises, and should help with your holiday shopping or just some entertainment for yourself. Enjoy!

Below you'll find a list with links to the catalog as well as a blurb on why staff enjoyed it.


Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
All available formats
From the opening page you are hooked, violently, by this book. In this dark, dystopian future, prisoners held within the privatized penal system fight to the death in CAPE (Criminal Action Penal Entertainment), a corporate-sponsored game show competition for the hopes of being freed. While this premise is not new, this book shoves you harshly into the world and makes you not only a spectator, but a participant. Will you see the all-too-possible nature of Adjei-Brenyah’s fully-realized world and his protestation against our own or will you get swept up in the quest for fame, glory, freedom, and massive bloodshed? Chain Gang All-Stars features gorgeous lyrical writing that smashes against brutality in a perfect blend of literary and popular genre fiction.– Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
All available formats
Maya is several years out of college, and she may just be getting past a pivotal memory—seeing Aubrey, her best high-school buddy, keel over dead, with only their odd friend, Frank, to witness it. Or did he, in some way, cause it? Readers will be biting their nails watching Maya take the risks that are necessary if she will ever be free. A subtle, beautifully written thriller with strong characters and a great sense of place.–Brian Kenney, Library Director

Exiles by Jane Harper
All available formats
As in her other books, Harper creates an engrossing mystery that’s populated with well-fleshed-out characters of all kinds; even minor actors are fully realized and contribute to the twists and turns. Going back and forth from the time of the disappearance to a year later ratchets up the suspense and the relationship drama, and when the last third of the book switches to a different, unexpected narrator, we’re rapt. Think Maeve Binchy characterization mixed with Ruth Ware’s mysteries and pick up Harper’s The Survivors while you’re waiting for this title.–Brian Kenney, Library Director

Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree
All available formats
Adult Cozy Fantasy
Viv has been a mercenary fighter for most of her life, but she’s finally earned enough to retire and open a coffee shop, like the one that changed her life so many years ago. A brilliant plan…except for the fact that she’s ended up in a town that’s never heard of coffee. And orcs have never been anyone’s favorite neighbor. Still, Viv is determined – and her determination wins her both allies and enemies. A cozy high fantasy story that will leave you as warm and delighted as a delicious cup of coffee. Plus, there’s a prequel novel, Bookshops & Bonedust, that just came out and is equally delightful!–Erica Roberts, Youth Services Librarian

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
All available formats
Moreno-Garcia returns with a perfect read for my fellow classic horror fans. Silver Nitrate introduces down-on-their-luck best friends Monserrat and Tristán – two horror film buffs living in Mexico City in the 1990s. Monserrat is a freelance sound editor dealing with boys' club politics and Tristán is a former popular Soap Opera star who, after a tragic car accident and tabloid gossip, now scrapes by on voice work. When Tristán moves into a new apartment complex, he discovers his neighbor is none other than his and Monserrat's hero, cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the story takes a turn into the occult and supernatural. Fans of Catriona Ward and Grady Hendrix will no doubt enjoy this wild ride.–Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno, Marketing Librarian

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue
All available formats
The Rachel Incident explores the friendship between Rachel and James during the time of The Great Recession. Rachel and James struggle with identity, decreasing bookshop shifts, crafting a TV script, and the repercussions of James's affair with Rachel's married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne. All set amidst economic strife in Ireland, this is a darkly funny and deeply charming tale of platonic and romantic love. For fans of Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Sally Rooney's novels.–Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno, Marketing Librarian


Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox
All available formats
Fox joined the CIA after the 9/11 terror attacks and the brutal terrorist murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was her friend. She was at the top of her class in the agency and earned some coveted (and dangerous) assignments. But having a baby made her want to make the world safer in a different way than a life undercover offered her.–Austin Duffy, Local History Librarian

Fresh Fly Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style
All available formats
I enjoyed looking through this book. If you enjoy 80's and 90's Hip Hop like I do, this book is for you. It was interesting reading how a lot of artists got started and their own stories. The book also has great pictures. It's a great blast from the past.–Mariel Perez, Adult Services Librarian

Worthy by Jada Pinkett Smith
All available formats
This is a well-written and interesting memoir. It's not a tell all book, but more of a self-help memoir. The audiobook is read by the author and each chapter ends with a spiritual passage and life lessons that I'm sure many people can relate with. – Mariel Perez, Adult Services Librarian

Dolls of Our Lives: Why We Can’t Quit American Girl by Mary Mahoney & Allison Horrocks
Library Catalog
Honestly, what better use of getting Ph.D.s in History than to dive into the fictional worlds of 9-year-old girls in different time periods and the company that created them? For some of us, American Girl goes beyond nostalgia. Not only have these dolls been my friends since childhood, but they also were a path to lifelong friendship with people not made of vinyl. Whether your dolls are being proudly displayed throughout your home as fancy decor or hidden away in a closet or attic, this book is a must read. –Erika Peiffer, Youth Services Librarian

Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking by Dan Langan
Library Catalog
A party without cake is just a meeting. His first debut cookbook shares 100 recipes for game-changing versions of familiar classics, as well as unique creations…Pro tips included. Designed for the new or experienced bakers. If the title doesn’t entice you to bake, visit his YouTube channel. –Sharon Rothman, Adult Services Librarian


I've been buying books for a while now, and this was the first year that I ordered anything written by a non-human entity. First came Death of an Author by AIdan MArCHINE (get it?) and Stephen Marche, a novella Marche wrote using ChatGPT. Far more compelling, I found, was I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks: Poems by Code-davinci-002, Brent Katz, Josh Morgenthau, & Simon Rich. This book is best enjoyed as an audiobook in Libby, where at first you'll hear the human authors debating Artificial Intelligence and describing how the poems came to be. Is AI sentient? Did they influence it to write these particular poems? They concluded that they were “more hands-off than typical editors” and that “Maybe like Dr. Frankenstein, we're the ones who built this creature, but that doesn't change the fact that it is now speaking on its own.” Werner Herzog narrates the poems, lending them a distinct flair and gravitas. I found the poems alternately provocative and a little disturbing. For more on Artificial Intelligence, see also: How AI Works: From Sorcery to Science by Ronald T. Kneusel and The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century's Greatest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman & Michael Bhaskar.–Karyn DeLuca, Librarian

If you can't get enough of Werner Herzog's narration, check out the audiobook of the filmmaker's new memoir, Every Man for Himself and God Against All translated by Michael Hofmann and read by the author. In reviewing the book, a New York Times critic wrote that he didn't believe a word of it. Did Herzog eat his shoe, work as a rodeo clown, or leap into a cactus field? The memoir is astonishing and peculiar, but that's the beauty of it. How many other books intentionally end in the middle of a sentence? See also: Werner Herzog: a Guide for the Perplexed by Paul Cronin. –Karyn DeLuca, Librarian

A Haunting on The Hill by Elizabeth Hand
All available formats
Audiobooks have been my preferred reading (yes, audiobooks count as “reading”) format for the past eight years or so, and in that time I've listened to a wide variety of titles, but this is the first novel that I've encountered that makes use of the format to craft something truly eerie. Hand is a Shirley Jackson Award winner, and in her latest work she updates Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House with a post-Covid, upstate New York setting. Struggling playwright Holly Sherwin rents a long vacated mansion in Hillsdale, New York for a group reading of her latest work-in-progress and as things take a spooky turn, the narrator adds sound effects such as the buzzing of insects and garbled voices to help further the plot. This is a fun and semi-nightmare inducing listen.–Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno, Marketing Librarian

YA Fiction

The Red Palace by June Hur
All available formats
This is a very fun read if you like historical mysteries with a touch of romance thrown in. The novel is set in Korea during the Choson dynasty and focuses on Korean history and culture, something new for me. The Red Palace is the 2023 Edgar Allan Poe Award winner for Best Young Adult Mystery. Enjoy!–Tim Baird, Manager of Adult Services

The Inheritance Games by Jamie Lynn Barnes
All available formats
I enjoyed getting in touch with my inner teen with this suspenseful novel geared toward young adults that kept me turning pages. The plans of high school student Avery Kylie Grambs focus on survival today with eventual escape to a better life after college. But her circumstances reverse when an apparent stranger to her, eccentric billionaire Tobias Hawthorne, names her in his will. For Avery, this money will make accessible not only necessities but also things of which she's only dreamed. However, to claim her inheritance she must take up residency in Hawthorne's mansion and live with his disinherited, resentful grandchildren. In short and eventful chapters, Avery follows Hawthorne's riddle-like clues, all the while nearing the mystery of why he chose her.–Susan Hoover, Adult Services

Juvenile Fiction

Coo by Kaela Noel
Middle Grade
Library Catalog
This book had me come to the realization that I am emotionally attached to pigeons (Does this say more about the book or me?). Raised by a flock, Coo must leave the rooftops in order to save her friend. A fun, heartwarming read that is perfect on a cold day. –Erika Peiffer, Youth Services Librarian

Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King
All available formats
Middle-Grade Novel
Mac is a kid who believes in the importance of asking questions – *especially* the hard ones teachers don’t always want to answer. So when he and his friends find out that their sixth-grade teacher has given them books with censor bars over certain words – specifically hiding references to a young girl’s breasts – they’re appalled, and decide to take action. This is a powerful story about the importance of seeking truth, standing up for what’s right and knowing when rules need to be broken. A relatable and well-developed cast of characters come together to tell a compelling story, one that readers today will recognize in their own communities – and hopefully absorb the message of the importance of what their voice and keeping an open mind can do for them and the world they live in.–Erica Roberts, Youth Services Librarian

Film & Television

All Available Formats
It’s been a long time since I’ve found the Predator and Alien franchises exciting. The original Predator still stands up today: it hides a lot deeper stuff behind machismo, Arnold, explosions and gunfire. For example, it is in many ways a ‘80s retelling of the Old English epic Beowulf. Likewise the first two Alien films, while very tonally different, are cornerstones of sci-fi horror and action. I went into Prey without much hope for it to be good, just that it would be fun and entertaining. Was I delightfully surprised. The decision to take the played-out concept of a few humans facing down the intergalactic hunter and moving it to the Northern Great Plains in 1719 while having the cast be overwhelmingly played by indigenous actors AND adding elements of the prejudice and racism of the period into the story? GENIUS. It’s fun, exciting, visually interesting and is the best Predator film since the original. OH, and the ability to watch the entire film completely in Comanche? That’s a cool and inclusive addition.–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

John Wick: Chapter 4
All available formats
The fourth entry in Keanu Reeves’ series of stylized violent revenge films is probably the best since the original. It’s long. It’s bloody. It’s cool as heck. The characters are intriguing and this installment introduces some of the most interesting non-John Wick characters so far: Shamier Anderson’s Tracker and Donnie Yen’s Caine. The visuals are some of the best of the series – that overhead long shot looking down into the various rooms while John Wick and various others play cat and mouse? AWESOME. The set pieces are tons of fun – that long fight on the stairs? SO COOL. While the movie may seem to wrap things up, the Wickverse has plenty of steam left in it – the Peacock miniseries The Continental recently released and films based on other parts of John Wick’s world are on the way.  nd of course, can one ever truly believe John Wick is down for the count?–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

Star Wars:  The Clone Wars
All Available Formats
I held off watching this show for so long and I don’t know why. Yes, there’s plenty you can skip (like all the droid-centric shows: you don’t need to really watch an episode about R2 and 3PO going to a droid spa), but the show is so good! First: you get to meet Ahsoka, who finally came to live action with her own (amazing) Disney+ show this year. She may very well be the most completely developed character in all of Star Wars and her story throughout the Clone Wars animated series, going into Rebels (which you should watch, as well!), and then into her own show is fantastic. In addition, her relationship with Anakin is arguably more important, overall, to Star Wars than his relationship with Padme (yes, I said it). Second, speaking of Anakin: the Anakin we go on adventures with throughout The Clone Wars is the Anakin we should have met during the prequel trilogy (in so many ways The Clone Wars allows the prequels to age better than the sequels ever will). His fall at the end of Revenge of the Sith, his first meeting with Obi Wan in the latter’s titular show, and his ultimate redemption due to his son’s love all hit so much harder having spent several seasons with him in the animated series. Finally: Star Wars has the word “war” in its name, and The Clone Wars delivers on that. At times I was struck by how strongly, darkly, it does so. You get to be on the front lines, with the clones and the Jedi, seeing the casualties, the sacrifices, the tough choices, and the toll that war takes on people. I was not expecting any of that from a “kids” show.–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

Leverage Season 1
On DVD here and (the first episode) on hoopla here
Adventure TV show
Leverage is an amazing 5-season TV show that has held up very well for a show filmed in the mid-2000s. A good man becomes the moral center for a group of criminals who begin to take down those who use their power to hurt regular people (corrupt corporations, rich jerks, small-town celebrities, etc) through cons. The group becomes a found family as they begin to trust and respect one another – trust and respect that’s needed as their enemies start to multiply.–Erica Roberts, Youth Services Librarian


72 Seasons by Metallica
All Available Formats
72 Seasons is the 11th studio album of famed American Heavy Metal band Metallica. It was released in April 2023 by their own record label, Blackened Recordings. There are many comments about the length of the album [77 minutes], the lyrics feeling like they were written right after lead singer James Hetfield has come out of therapy, and the greatness of some of the solos. Metallica is an amazing band so take a listen and form your own opinion.–Tim Baird, Manager of Adult Services

Blondshell by Blondshell
All Available Formats
To pick some favorite albums from this year, I reviewed my #SongOfTheDay 2023 playlist. Blondshell made several appearances. Tracks like “Joiner,” “Veronica Mars,” and “Olympus” take confessional lyrics and combine them with alt-rock 90s inspired guitars and catchy hooks and choruses.–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

Wet Leg by Wet Leg
All Available Formats
Released in 2022, I listened to this a TON in 2023. “Chaise Lounge” was the raunchy tongue-in-cheek hit single, but tracks like “Too Late Now,” “Loving You,” and “Being in Love” have made my #SongOfTheDay list and show what I hope is the direction the band takes moving forward.–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

Aperture by Hannah Jadagu
All Available Formats
“Say it Now” and “What You Did” were already on my 2023 #SongOftheDay list, and at least one more track will make it onto the list before the end of the year. The best way I can describe this genre-blending album is lush, complex, shimmery, and dynamic indie-pop.–Joshua Carlson, Manager of Youth Services

The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess by Chappell Roan
Chappell Roan has seen breakout success in the last year thanks to viral TikTok hits such as “Casual” and “Hot to Go.” Thanks to her own talent and charm and an assist from Olivia Rodrigo's producer Dan Nigro, though, I think she's fated for pop superstardom. Her debut is a no skip album for me, but I'd recommend “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” or “Red Wine Supernova” for your next dance party or to simply sing along to in the car. Her music is made to be blasted and belted.–Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno, Marketing Librarian

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