Author Archives: Jane

Listen Up!

Grunt Hidden Figures A Gentleman in Moscow Journey to Munich Everybody's Fool

Looking for something to listen to over the winter holidays?  Here is a sampling of some of the best audiobooks of 2016.


Grunt, by Mary Roach.  Bestselling author Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war. Narrated by Abby Elvidge.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Narrated by Robin Miles.

American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin. The wild saga of the kidnapping, crimes and trial of Patty Hearst.  Narrated by Paul Michael.


A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. From the bestselling author of Rules of Civility –a transporting story about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.  Narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith.

Journey to Munich, by Jacqueline Winspear. The 12th installment of Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  This time Maisie heads to Munich.  There will be Nazis.  Narrated by by Orlagh Cassidy.

Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo.  After 23 years, the author returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody’s Fool, a huge success.  Narrated by Mark Bramhall.

The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva. An international thriller that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind. Narrated by George Guidall.


Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight.  The Nike founder and CEO  shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.  Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer.  A refreshingly candid and raucously funny collection of extremely personal and observational essays.  Narrated by the author.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo   The Black Widow Shoe Dog American Heiress


June is Audiobook Month

june audiobook monthI’m not sure who designates such things as ‘audiobook month’, but I couldn’t be happier about it.  As an ardent listener, every month is audiobook month.

In the mood for a British romance? Look no further than Jojo Moyes’ excellent, thought-provoking love story,  Me Before You and the satisfying sequel After You.  Moyes’ protagonist, Louisa Clark, is one part snark, two parts heart and you will be instantly drawn into her life.  Keep a hankie on hand.

How about a little fantasy on your commute? Neil Gaiman’s self-narrated The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a delightful–if a little unsettling–exploration of time and memory. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, is a masterpiece that will transport listeners into the body and mind of a wizard.  FYI, Gaiman just released a collection of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats, also self-narrated, which is generating heat in the publishing world.

Family sagas anyone?  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney has it all: four East Coast siblings and a shared inheritance hanging in the balance.  The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer is another sibling story filled with family secrets and bad behavior.

If Sci-Fi is your preference try Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or The Martian by Andy Weir.

Finally, thrillers/suspense. Who doesn’t like an ‘edge-of-your-seat’ story? Hot new releases include Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben, 15th Affair by James Patterson, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and The Last Mile by David Baldacci.

There are literally thousands of audiobooks to choose from, with more arriving every day.  So, take off your reading glasses, put on your headphones and get hooked on audiobooks.

Me Before You  jojo oceangaimanname station  The Martian

fool 15thnest Children's Crusade


Listen to This!

We all have our instruments. There’re wind people who cotton to flutes, oboes, harmonicas and the like. There’re brassy folk who love the waa-waa of a trumpet or trombone. String lovers prefer guitars, violins and cellos. Ukulele and banjo lovers get their own categories.

I’ve always been drawn to the piano. It’s the Steinway of all instruments. Take a listen to these new (more or less) CDs in the collection and perhaps you, too, will fall in love with the piano.

Leon Fleisher John Medeski Michael Nyman The Art of Bach Cecile Chaminade keith

The attractive people running through the sand on the cover of “The Art of Bach” are the inspiring duo Anderson + Roe. They are fresh and talented and really fun to watch (and hear).

Billy Jean may not be my lover, but this video is:

And finally, because the daffodils are coming up, check out “It Might as Well be Spring” (track 5) from “Last Dance” by Keith Jarrett and the late, great Charlie Haden.

— Jane

Listen to This!

The book was so much better than the movie!  How many times have we heardwild (or said) that? And generally, it’s true. The most recent example that comes to mind is “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. The book was better.  And I’d argue that the audiobook is best!


So what about audiobooks? When is the listen better than the read? Ardent listeners know that good narrators make a book come alive. As listening is my preferred format, here are a few suggestions for your spoken word pleasure.  All worth trying if you’ve been curious or are looking for a good listen while you wait for Season 2 of Serial.

Girl on the TrainHot out of the recording studio is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It’s being touted as the next Gone Girl so get your name on a hold list. Hawkins delivers a tight, psychological thriller located on the outskirts of London. Love those British accents!


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  Australian mates this toime. Fun, offbeat romance with quirky lead the rosie effectcharacter. The sequel, The Rosie Effect is just out on audio so you can make it a marathon.

Nonfiction can be so dry (a.k.a. boring) but not in the hands of this narrator! Try Arthur Morey‘s reading of In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides.In the Kingdom of ice Yeah it’s 17 hours long, but Morey’s assured tone keeps you interested.


Literary Fiction is usually great on audio and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is no exception. The Invention of WingsTwo narrators alternate in telling the story of Sarah Grimke, the actual abolitionist and women’s rights advocate and Hetty Handful Grimke a fictionalized enslaved woman owned by the Grimke family. The clip is from the opening chapter of the book in Sarah’s voice:


Mysteries are great to listen to because with audio you can’t easily cheat and flip to the last chapter to see who done it. Try Robert Galbraith’s  The Cuckoo’s Calling followed by The Silkworm, or Still Life – first in the series by Louise Penny. Also good: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, Cop Town by Karin Slaughter or The Heist by Daniel Silva.

Finally, if you really don’t care what the book isEdoardo Ballerini about and just want to listen to a good reader, seek out Edoardo Ballerini.  You won’t be disappointed. (The clip is from Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant.)



Banned Books, Get ’em While You Still Can!

The Lovely Bones A Time to Kill Olive's Ocean Snow Falling on Cedars

This week (Sept. 21-27) is Banned Books Week which is not, in fact, a week we spend pulling books off the shelves and throwing them in a fire; it is a week of celebrating the freedom to read. So, hurry in and pick up a copy of a book that someone, somewhere in time, has challenged your right to read.

Leaves of Grass  To Kill a Mockingbird  The Great Gatsby  Lady Chatterley's Lover

We have classics such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in both print AND audio (hmm, is listening okay if reading is not?) also, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (most of his major works have been challenged, so take your pick), To Kill a Mockingbird (what’s not to like about Gregory Peck?), The Call of the Wild, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings, The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Ryethe list goes on and on and we’ve got ’em all!

Harry Potter  Captain Underpants  Goosebumps  Gossip Girl

Want something a little more current? There’s Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Goosebumps and Gossip Girlall these series have been challenged.

Stop by the Library to learn more about Banned Books Week, pick up a bookmark or two and exercise your freedom to read (or listen or watch).

The Color Purple  Slaughterhouse-Five  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  The Hunger Games

The Sound of Music

The hills are alive with the Von Trapp singers! Dream a Little Dream

Yes, it’s true, Pink Martini has teamed up with the Von Trapps (the great-grandchildren of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer). Alright, alright, those aren’t the real great-grandparents but rather the actors who portrayed Captain and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. The result of the collaboration is a new release called Dream a Little Dream. And it sure is dreamy!

The first track is a composition by August von Trapp called “Storm.” It’s a beautiful four-part harmony number which ebbs and flows, rises and swells as it invokes the power and awesomeness of a storm on the sea.

The remaining 14 tracks are songs from every continent with Pink Martini orchestrations providing the assured foundation to the Von Trapps tight vocal harmonization. There are several guest artists, but the most charming surely is Charmian Carr (the original Leisl in the The Sound of Music) who sings Edelweiss on the penultimate track.




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.



Sweet Thoughts on Book Discussion

After Visiting FriendsA big shout out to the 2nd Tuesday Evening book group for venturing out on a very cold night to discuss After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story, by Michael C. Hainey.

Besides the delicious edible treats (cranberry and chocolate shortbread cookies from the Blue Goose!) we had the A/V treat of discussing the book with the author who joined us from New York via Skype.

Discussing universal themes of love, loss and family, Michael Hainey gave generously of his time and delved deeply with us into his story of truth-seeking and reconciliation.  All of us in attendance appreciated Mr. Hainey’s thoughtful responses and were moved by his willingness to address our questions.

After we signed off with Michael we continued to discuss the book – but having had a glimpse of the real person behind  the words on the page, our discussion seemed weightier.  Some of us changed our opinion about the author’s motivation. Some of us felt an even deeper bond to the story.  Our discussion meandered through personal histories, memories of Chicago landmarks, family relationships – all the while linking back to the memoir we had gathered on a chilly night to discuss.

Next month we will be discussing The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Morning) and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Evening).  I hope you will consider dropping by.  There will be treats, there will be conversation and there will be something to think about.

Sense of an Ending               affair

For more on this topic please see Marlise’s “Part 2” post.


Fa La La La La, La La, La, La

The weather outside is kinda frightful especially if you’re walking in this winter wonderland, but inside the decked halls of the Library, we’ve got a wide selection of holiday music sure to warm you up.

Why there’s the Robertson’s clan, bringing you Duck the Halls (CD 781.723 ROB). Why indeed.
Duck the Halls

And just when you think Susan Boyle can’t perform any more miracles she gives us Home for Christmas (CD 781.723 BOY). The first track is a duet with Elvis, the first ever posthumous recording the King has done of “O Come, All ye Faithful.”

Home For Christmas MI0003369471

More of a traditionalist?

Buon Natale Classic Christmas Album Angels sing


A Mary Christmas Christmas in My Heart Black Nativity

And finally, what blog post would be complete without providing some holiday magic from the Piano Guys on YouTube?



Music, seen

Soooo much talk about the “Music Scene” these days.

“CDs are dead.” (Not yet!)

“The Internet has killed the music industry.” (Not killed, but rather changed the industry.)

“No one even listens to music anymore.” (That’s just patently false.) Of course we listen!

Which brings me to YouTube. YouTube is today’s turntable. Those who were teenagers at some point between 1950-1980 had 2 choices for recorded music–vinyl or radio. Sometimes simultaneously if the spirit moved us. But that was then and now it’s YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora–lots of choices.

The great thing about the expanded universe is that you can find more than you ever even knew existed. The bad thing is there’s a lot of dreck. The good thing is it’s instant gratification (almost) and usually free. The bad thing is you can’t watch YouTube and clean your room at the same time. The good thing is you can listen to a CD or an iPod and get your chores done.

So here’s my recommendation for getting your chores done: Check out these CDs,

Pitch Perfect Sapphires In A World Like This

then rest awhile with a screen and watch this YouTube sensation, Kurt Hugo Schneider.