Your Community: Finding “hidden treasures” to read this fall and winter


Autumn is the perfect time to curl up with a great book, or a whole stack of them. And Johnson County Library staff is busy searching out new releases that may not yet be on Top 10 lists but are definitely worth a read.

“I’m looking for those hidden treasures,” says Gregg Winsor, Johnson County Readers’ Advisory Librarian, who is always on the hunt for literary gems. “I really want to see those mid-list titles that maybe are overlooked by the best seller lists but really deserve that attention.”

Winsor, a self-described “book concierge and word nerd” is based at Central Resource Library. He facilitates the Readers’ Advisory Group, which includes nine other employees who work with the Library branch book clubs. Together they keep their fingers on the pulse of the community, learning about what people want to read and discovering publications to appeal throughout the library system.

“It’s a wonderful, challenging job,” Winsor says, “because Johnson County Library users don’t just gravitate to the next big blockbuster. They are smart, curious, and interested in all sorts of genres. They are extremely adventurous…we want to make sure to feed that love, that desire.”

Summer may be a time for fluffy romances or beach mysteries. For the fall/winter season, Winsor says he’s looking for fiction that’s well-written, has compelling characters and is “dark and discussable.”

Choices abound. Ever since Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” was published in 2012, a big trend in new releases is “noir” psychological thrillers and dramas. Of course, with the 2020 presidential election season underway, many readers will be diving into non-fiction political tomes. But Winsor is drawn to fiction, as a welcome escape from current events.

“The Library needs to be a respite from a very busy, overwhelming world out there,” said Winsor, who lives in Overland Park and is the father of two sons. “We want to be an oasis for people.” He also appreciates fiction as a portal for readers to experience the vast universe, both real and imagined. “In my view,” he said, “leisure reading is important because it teaches you how to be human.”

Five Good Reads to have on your radar for fall and winter:

  • “My Dark Vanessa,” by Kate Elizabeth Russell, who has a creative writing PhD from KU. It’s a type of “Lolita,” told from the young woman’s perspective, particularly relevant in the #MeToo era. It’s due out in January.
  • “The Topeka School,” by Ben Lerner, who grew up in Topeka. This family drama explores “the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity.”
  • “The Starless Sea,” by Erin Morgenstern. This fantasy/romance takes place in a secret underground world.
  • “Nothing to See Here,” by Kevin Wilson. Winsor says this is a delightfully quirky novel about a dysfunctional family that will appeal to readers who like David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs.
  • “Dominicana,” by Angie Cruz. Just released historical fiction about a woman from the Dominican Republic growing up in the fascinating world of New York City in the 1960s.

For more helpful staff reviews and suggestions, visit jocolibrary.org/we-recommend/reviews/

Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom