Pause to Read – with a Long Book

BigBooksbagOne of the enjoyments of a lazy summer weekend (or two, or three…)  is allowing yourself to spend a lot of time with a long book.  Yes, they will take up a bit more of your time, but we think you’ll find them so engrossing you’ll be sad when your realize your time with the characters is coming to an end. If this sounds up your alley, we’ve compiled a captivating list of such time-worthy tomes, including:

11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King (849 pages) Many patrons have commented on how much they enjoyed this alternate history/time travel look at the Kennedy assassination.

If a lush family saga is more your style, Leila Meacham’s Roses (609 pages) is sure to please.

Science Fiction readers are used to  incredible, world-building detail, but anyone who enjoys fast-paced suspense will like REAMDE  by Neal Stephenson (1,044 pages)as it hops around the globe and in and out of cyberspace.

And finally, don’t forget the “classics” such as Shogun by James Clavell (998 pages).

11-22-63    Roses   reamde    Shogun

Do you  have a favorite long read?

NextReads – Book Recommendations by Email

NextReadslogoThere are so many ways to find out about new books: from social media and newspaper reviews, to late night shows like The Colbert Report (check out their “books featured” page). And don’t forget browsing the shelves at the Library and our monthly “Sneak Peeks” at the new titles we’re purchasing!

Now we’re adding one more great resource:  “newsletters” conveniently sent to you in your email! Each one has five to ten new titles, plus some bonus titles (often older or “under the radar” books) to add to your TBR (to be read) list. It’s organized by topic/genre and covers everything from Mysteries and Romance to Armchair Travel and Nature and Science. It also has the weekly New York Times Bestseller lists! Start here and sign up for as many as you like or, if you prefer, you can subscribe by RSS feed.

You can also simply view the latest issue online.  Click on any topic in the list and a brief description will appear plus a link to the current issue (see example below).




What the Staff is Reading

AboveAllThingsIf you enjoy historical fiction and books about marriage relationships, you will enjoy Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. George Mallory is deeply committed to his young wife, Ruth, and their three young children. Yet he feels an overpowering pull to make one more attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924. Masterfully told from the alternating viewpoints of Ruth and George, the reader is pulled into the tension. Rideout succeeds in conveying the harsh conditions and extreme physical demands of such a climb as well as the compelling personal need, but we can also empathize with Ruth’s trying–but not quite—coming to terms with it.

AstonishMeAstonish Me by Maggie Shipstead is also a domestic fiction story about relationships, but centering around the world of ballet. Joan leaves the ballet both knowing she’s not cut out for greatness and due to sudden pregnancy. She marries childhood sweetheart Jacob, despite her longtime desperate love for a Russian ballet dancer she helped defect. As we follow Joan and Jacob they have a son who also ends up becoming a dancer, and as his skill is noticed many people realize what secret Joan has been hiding. The story goes back and forth through time, has interesting characters, and peeks “behind the scenes” of the disciplined dance world.

LostLakeThe latest novel by Sarah Addison Allen, Lost Lake, is “right on.” Georgia’s Lost Lake was magical for Kate as a child, but now she returns as a widow with her eight-year-old daughter. The book is filled with quirky characters and a great sense of place, along with a thread of the supernatural. The end result is a deeply satisfying, happy read.

If you enjoy very odd stories, try the young adult book Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.  It’s a story combining the past, present, and the future, intricately linked in mysterious ways by an island with a very mysterious history. A little creepy at times, this story would appeal to both males and females.

DevotionDefianceIn nonfiction, a woman definitely worth knowing is Humaira Awais Shahid. In her book Devotion and Defiance: My Journey in Love, Faith and Politics, it’s as though you’re engaged in a conversation with a best friend, and the pages fly by. Raised in Kuwait, Humaira moves to her parents’ native Pakistan to finish high school and continue her studies in the university. After she falls in love and marries Ednan, she is drawn into his family’s newspaper business and eventually, politics. She becomes the country’s most prominent woman activist and legislator for women’s rights and is labeled “the most unmanageable woman in Pakistan,” all the while facing personal struggles and remaining devoted to her family and her Muslim religion. Her struggle to carry on despite many obstacles is inspiring.


Great Reads for the Great Men in Your Life

A recent request got staff brainstorming about audiobook recommendations for a man of “The Greatest Generation.” The end result is definitely worth sharing, whether you prefer to read or listen, especially with Father’s Day right around the corner! There’s a mix of nonfiction listed, including some really enjoyable WWII historical reads:

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown

One Summer, America 1927 by Bill Bryson

Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Vanished: The Sixty-year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos

John Adams by David McCullough

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly

In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival, and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Drop In – Discuss Books!

Just wanted to send out a friendly reminder that all patrons are invited to drop in to either/both of the two book discussions Reader Services offers every month!  To make it even easier, for June and July of this year, we’ve picked titles that we know many of you have already read:

The morning discussion starts at 10:00 am, and the evening discussion begins at 7:00 pm. Both generally last about an hour. We hope you will consider joining us whenever a title we’re discussing catches your interest – and, of course, please let us know if we can help you obtain a copy of the book!

What the Staff is Reading

As April ends and May begins, a new roundup of titles the Library staff have enjoyed!

TheSonIf you love a long family saga to get involved in, try The Son by Philipp Meyer. The story of the McCullough family starts with the kidnapping in 1849 of Eli, a 13-year-old white boy, who is carried off by Comanche Native Americans. Though he adapts well, times are changing and as the Comanche become unable to maintain their lifestyle, Eli finds himself back in the white man’s world but no longer fully feeling a part of it. Eli’s telling of the story is interspersed with his son Pete’s voice, centering in the late 1910′s, and his great-granddaughter’s, Jeannie, who carries the family’s story to the present.  The morals and choices needed to become a wealthy ranching-and-oil dynasty are set against the background of Texas history. I found the descriptions of Comanche life and customs particularly fascinating.

TheKeptAnother historical novel is The Kept by  James Scott. Set in the 19th century in upstate New York, this is a deeply atmospheric book with finely-drawn characters that will linger in your memory long after the last sentence has been read. In the harsh winter of 1897, Elspeth returns home to a grisly crime scene that only her 12-year-old son Caleb survived. Together they seek revenge and as secrets are unfolded, ultimately, they are able to form a new bond.

TrainsandLoversOn a much lighter note, Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith makes a great vacation read, especially for someone lucky enough to be traveling by train from Edinburgh to London, where it takes place. The pace of the story itself conjures up the feel of the train’s rhythm, as each character shares his/her own experiences involving trains and their personal relationships. There’s the comfort of anonymity here, similar to sitting next to strangers on an airplane for hours and discussing life’s little details with no concern for future ramifications.

thisisIn nonfiction, there is something for almost everyone in Ann Patchett’s collection of essays,  This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She is so wise, and these essays and previously-published articles cover everything from the controversy surrounding her commencement address at Clemson University to how she got started in the business of writing, to opening her bookstore, to training to be a member of the LAPD.

Pat and DickAlso in nonficion,  Pat & Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage by Will Swift concentrates on the relationship rather than the politics. For everyone who thought the President and First Lady were America’s original odd couple, Swift’s revelations about a kinder, gentler Nixon and his tougher, more independent wife will open some eyes to the private story behind a very public relationship.

realityboyAnd last, some fiction for those who enjoy Young Adult books.  Reality Boy by A. S. King is one messed up book about one very messed up family. Sixteen year old Gerald Faust is trying to live a normal life after having been featured on a reality TV show. Network Nanny, similar to Super Nanny, tried to “fix” the problem children of the household but failed to address the real problems- a violent psychotic sister and an emotionally detached mother, leaving a very resentful Gerald, who acted out the only way he knew how. Gerald is now sixteen and still trying to emotionally cope with his anger, hurt and resentment about what he has to deal with in his crazy, dysfunctional home. The characters are amazing in this book, and King does a fine job of making you hate this family and reality TV. Relevant, uncomfortable, difficult, heartbreaking and shocking all describe this book.



Go West, Young Man…

…for books, that is! Browsing the newest additions to our collection takes just a few more footsteps, with NEW items now relocated on the opposite side of the Library’s main staircase. You’ll still find crisp new fiction and nonfiction along with our refreshed Readers Services Department, complete with librarians ready to help you find that next great read. While you’re there, grab a copy of our popular monthly reading lists, along with Book Pages, book discussion titles and dates, bookmarks, and more. We’d love to see you!








Aye, the Bard yet liveth

In The Waste Land,  T.S. Eliot wrote “April is the cruellest month,” but he meant to say April is National Poetry Month.

And today, April 23, happens to be Shakespeare’s birthday.  Talk about your great poets!  Quick, grab a loved one and recite Sonnet 116:

“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;”

Of course the Library has a plethora of poetry – from the contemporary, see Mark Mitchell’s The Least Little Thing to the ancient epic Beowulf – I recommend listening to Seamus Heaney read his own translation.

Other poets worth slowing down for? Mary Oliver, Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein, Kay Ryan, and current U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, but there are literally 100s of others.

As parting is such sweet sorrow, I’ll close with 2 videos: The young rapper/playwright/poet Kate Tempest performing “My Shakespeare” (I’m at least 10 of her 40K views) and the former (twice!) Poet Laureate Billy Collins – because he’s sublime.



Is the Next Great Author Your Neighbor?

100+ entries STBFbannersmall
90 days
23 judges
3 finalists

…and now a winner for the inaugural Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author project! Congratulations to Joanne Zienty, of Wheaton, who won yesterday with her book The Things We Save. We will be adding her book to our collection so you can check it out for yourself (also available on Amazon).

Some of the judges at the award ceremony.

Some of the judges at the award ceremony.

I had the honor of being involved as a judge for the project which meant an interesting few months of reading! There were a wide range of stories and many were set locally which added an element of fun as I recognized a town, or commiserated with having to drive a certain stretch of tollway, or tried to guess which Chicago blues bar had inspired the author.

The other two finalists were Rick Polad of Carol Stream for his mystery Change of Address and Mary Hutchings Reed for her novel Warming Up. I also want to give kudos to our own St. Charles author, Bruce Steinberg, who was among the nominees for his book, The Widow’s Son.

Mysteries the Staff Have Enjoyed

There are many reasons mysteries are so satisfying. Mysteries are puzzles and we like not only having them solved but trying to solve them ourselves along the way; we enjoy getting to know characters in a series and seeing what happens to them over time; and we know that the “bad guy” will be caught and justice will be served in a satisfying ending (usually).

Here are some new and old mystery titles the staff have been enjoying:

mrchurchSeries by Susan Elia MacNeal, starts with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Fast-paced, historical mystery with spy elements set in WWII London. Great sense of time and place.

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall is the first in a series featuring India’s “most private investigator.” Filled with interesting characters and humor–a good one to try if you like the #1 Detective Agency books by McCall Smith.

thymeSusan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series starting with Thyme of Death–former lawyer buys an herb shop in Texas and becomes involved in solving mysteries. Enjoy the stories and the recipes and information about herbs.

The Cat Who Came to Breakfast by Lillian Jackson Braun (who died in 2011). This is sixteenth in series of 29 books. They are amusing, fun, “clean,” heart-warming mysteries with a strong sense of place. The main characters are retired reporter and amateur detective Jim Quilleran and his two Siamese cats. (Note: Cats do catlike things that are interpreted by Quill as clues in solving crimes, but they are not supernatural, magic, etc.). In this story they are investigating odd accidents plaguing a fancy resort recently built on a nearby island.

malteseThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. A beautiful woman arrives at Spade’s office begging for help and it leads to the death of Spade’s partner, Miles Archer. It is up to Spade to try and sift through the stories of some colorful characters and put together the truth (and up to the reader to try and guess if Spade is motivated by vengeance, the law, money, or the truth). Iconic (if pointedly un-politically correct) dialogue in this classic hard-boiled mystery.

spellmanThe Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz is the first in character-driven series featuring a dysfunctional family who run a PI firm in San Francisco. These are light, funny reads with quirky characters who are likeable and quick-witted. Also good in audiobook format.

talkingTalking to the Dead by Harry Bingham. This police procedural/psychological thriller features Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, a Cambridge grad and rookie officer who doesn’t quite fit in with her co-workers.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams. Thirteen-year-old thespian Ingrid loves Sherlock Holmes, so when her new-found friend, “cracked up Katie” is murdered–and Ingrid is a potential suspect–she decides to solve the case. This award-winning JH title is fast-paced with a good sense of danger. (JH ABRAHAMS)

reluctantFans of historical fiction should try the informative and entertaining Thomas Potts mystery series by Sara Fraser.  Set in early 19th century England, Fraser has thoroughly researched the customs and culture of a rough-and-tumble closed society. The first is The Reluctant Constable.

this dogIf you like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone character try This Dog for Hire by Carol Lea Benjamin, the first in series set in Greenwich Village featuring PI Rachel Alexander and her “partner” (a pit bull).