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Penn Libraries News

Featured Books, DVDs, and Sound Recordings: Staff Picks

You’ll find more listings than usual, because Penn Libraries staff feel passionately about their recommendations!

A person in a colorful striped sweater, shown from the neck down, sits holding a large stack of DVDs, books, and CDs. Peaking from behind the stack is the top of a record sleeve reading Heartbreakers.

As another year comes to a close at the Penn Libraries, our staff have come together again to share some of our favorite items on the shelves, with a mix of new releases, classics, and hidden gems in our collections. You’ll find more listings than usual, because Penn Libraries staff feel passionately about their recommendations! Notably, this year our music library staff suggested adding sound recordings to the list, so make sure to explore those as well.  

All of the descriptions and reviews below were written by Penn Libraries staff.

You can find the selections highlighted below, and many more, on display on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, next to New Books.



THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE: An Illuminated Edition  

“This is a boxed edition of an illustrated edition of the Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde. Wilde’s fairy tales are powerful reading on their own, but the illuminated artwork in this volume makes it truly stunning.” - Susan Gavin-Leone, Library Assistant

The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman  

“In this sprawling trip down memory lane, cultural writer Chuck Klosterman revisits and reckons with all things 1990s. By looking at the politics, technology, sports, movies and music of the time, he recalls what it was like to be there, while also challenging the legacies of the moments and movements that defined the decade. This book filled me with nostalgia for my formative years, bridged gaps that I was too young to fully understand at the time, and made me see things I took for granted in a new light. Whether you remember the ’90s like they were yesterday or weren’t there at all, Klosterman’s book is sure to ignite reflection, reevaluation, and debate.” - Ian Dykstra, Stacks Assistant

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer  

“It was a privilege to read this book and learn so much about the overlooked heroes of our earth (mosses) not only from a scientific lens, but a spiritual one as well. Every chapter unlocked a new level of love and appreciation for our home planet—and a desperation to keep her safe." - Noelle Ramirez-Faisca, Digital Media Lab Coordinator

Finally Got the News: The Printed Legacy of the U.S. Radical Left, 1970–1979 edited by Brad Duncan  

“Incredible collection of images, ephemera and essays covering the Radical Left era of the ’70s. An archival gem edited by Penn Libraries staff.” - Megan Brown, Library Specialist

So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin' True Story of the New York Mets―the Best Worst Team in Sports by Devin Gordon  

“From ill-advised trades to questionable deals (who can forget Bobby Bonilla Day?!), the Mets have found creative ways to lose (and fascinating ways to occasionally win!).” - Florrie Marks, Music Library Administrative Assistant

Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

“The first time I read this beautiful novel/poem/autobiography by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, I was in awe of how she melded diary, experimental structure, photography, and mythology to tell the stories of women throughout history, including Joan of Arc, Persephone, the author's mother, and the author herself.” - Jeff Sadueste, Library Assistant

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy  

“I read this book when it was first published. It helped me understand what led to the opioid epidemic. There is also a Hulu series named Dopesick, in which Season 1 follows the stories from the book.” - Aman Kaur, Health Literacy Librarian

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Harman

This history, set primarily in Philadelphia and New York City in the early 20th century, explores the ways that women – mainly queer Black women and girls – defied expectations, reimagined their place in society, and lived on their own terms. Like the history it uncovers, the book is experimental and shifts among narratives and perspectives, relying on women’s own words when possible and at other times providing crucial context for official reports and news articles from the time. It’s an exciting history that inspires the reader to reexamine their own assumptions about kinship, intimacy, social norms, and possibilities for the future." - Amanda Alexander, Associate Editor-Writer

A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers

“Ever wondered what would happen if a psychotic yet powerful women did terrible things in the name of ‘female empowerment’? This book is what happens when a female Patrick Bateman perverts feminism and only shops at Di Bruno Bros. A wild literary thriller.” - Lauren Phegley, Research Data Engineer



Endeavor, Series 1

“Fans of Morse and Lewis will not be disappointed by this prequel. The treatment of the period details and social issues of the 1960s and ’70s is spot-on. Shaun Evans, who also directed, is compelling in the title role, filling in the backstory for a complicated and tragic figure, but the ensemble cast is what really makes this series work, notably veteran character actor Anton Lesser as Superintendent Bright.” - Edith Mulhern, Acquisitions Library Specialist

I Called Him Morgan

“An elegiac, carefully rendered portrait of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan’s life and shocking death at the age of 33. After watching the film, I was left feeling sad but grateful for his musical legacy. Surprisingly, I also felt a strong sense of sympathy towards his former partner, Helen Moore. Many of Morgan’s recordings are held in the Libraries’ digital and circulating collections. Check out the ‘Lee Morgan Live at the Lighthouse’ CD, also included in this month’s Featured Books & Music display. It was recorded about 18 months before Morgan’s death and was the last of his records released during his lifetime.” - Eileen Kelly, Head of Collection Management


“For fans of Pokerface, this hardboiled, detective drama is set in an early-2000s high school. The script goes all in on old-timey noir dialog.” - Sylvie Larsen, Head of Resource Sharing Services


Sound Recordings

Harold en Italie: Op. 16; Tristia: Op. 18 by Hector Berlioz

“Berlioz composed this work in 1834 for the great violin virtuoso, Niccolò Pagannini, who refused to perform it because there was not enough solo material for the viola. Although less well-known today than his other works, ‘Harold en Italie’ contains some of Berlioz’s most compelling and attractive music. It was inspired by the English poet Lord Byron’s narrative work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. The four movements of this “symphony with viola obbligato,” as Berlioz called it, depict four scenes contained within Byron’s epic poem. John Eliot Gardiner’s performance stands apart from other recordings, particularly in its attention to detail and nuance—two words not often associated with the music of Berlioz. Gardiner’s orchestra is lean (fewer players) but powerful, and the ensemble playing is impeccably precise. It is presently in high rotation on my personal playlist.”- Lloyd Frank, Library Specialist

Lee Morgan Live at the Lighthouse

This album complements Eileen Kelly’s DVD selection, I Call Him Morgan.

Philadelphia Folk Festival: 40th Anniversary

“[I] particularly [recommend] the eerie, lyrically-complex ‘Tanglewood Tree’ by the astonishing songwriter Dave Carter who died far too young in 2002.” - Sarah Heim, Public Services Librarian