Book Buzz: 2023 Literary Gift Guide for All Ages

It may seem strange for a public library system to publish an annual gift guide, but hear us out: All of the books mentioned in the 2023 roundup are gifts, whether you check them out from Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) as a treat for yourself, or purchase them for friends and family.  

Our fabulous librarians have a firsthand view of all the new materials added to our library shelves over the past year, and have selected some of the best to share with you.

You can pick up a paper copy of WCLS’s 2023 Gift Guide at any WCLS branch library — we serve all of the communities in Whatcom County outside the city limits of Bellingham — or view it online at

The following are a few highlights to get you started.

For a young child who marches to their own beat: Bellingham’s talented picture book author and illustrator Keith Negley’s book “A Lot Like Batman” speaks to all the kids who may not feel like they fit in. Negley’s exuberant illustrations celebrate kids who may be quiet, shy or introverted — and points out they share these characteristics with a famous superhero, and it’s great to be amazing on your own terms.

For the school-aged reader who appreciates little details: “101 Ways to Read a Book” by Timothee de Fombelle and Benjamin Chaud presents a creative rundown of cleverly named types of readers — from the diva who gestures widely while reading aloud to a flock of birds, to the innovator who “upends the norm” by sitting in a chair turned on its side. Readers of all stripes will recognize themselves and realize they are not alone.

For the tween reader who adores animals and beautiful words: Dave Eggers (yes, that Dave Eggers) has written a wholly original children’s adventure story about a stray dog named Johannes. “The Eyes & the Impossible” follows Johannes as he notes the changes happening in his urban park and reports them to three wise bison who are the Keepers of the Equilibrium. The book is interspersed with lush oil-painting-like illustrations.

For the teen who’s glued to their phone: “Tell Me What Really Happened” by Chelsea Sedoti is a thriller where the mystery is reported entirely through police interviews. Five teens head out into the forest one night to have some fun — and then one vanishes. The four who remain all tell different stories to the cops. Who’s lying? What are they trying to cover up?

For the adult mystery fan who loved “Knives Out”: Meet Ernie Cunningham, a wise-talking member of a notorious crime family, heading to a family reunion at a remote mountain resort. As the title states, “Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone,” and when a dead body turns up, Ernie knows he won’t have to look far for the culprit — but which family member did it? Author Benjamin Stevenson has invented a modern-day sleuth with attitude.

For the newcomer to Whatcom County, or for someone who loves the Northwest in all its glory: “On Island Time: A Traveler’s Atlas” by Chandler O’Leary is a collection of “illustrated adventures on and around the islands of Washington and British Columbia.” Loaded with charming hand-drawn illustrations and maps, readers will want to savor all the details, recognize familiar places, and learn about the wondrous animals, vegetables and minerals of our corner of the Salish Sea. This one’s going on the top of my own wish list (hint, hint).

Reviewed by WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins

Originally published in Cascadia Daily News, Dec. 9, 2023