Friday, December 30, 2011

Staff Picks of 2011

The staff at Deerfield Public Library has done a lot of reading this year! In order to share our love of books with you, we've compiled a list of our favorite books that we've read this year.  Keep in mind, they aren't necessarily books that have been published this year.  Just books that we read in 2011 and loved!  


The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Persuasion by Jane Austen


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Clara and Mr. Tiffany  by Susan Vreeland
Definitely Not Mr. Darcy  by Karen Doornebos
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


In The Garden Of Beasts by Erik Larson
Life by Keith Richards
Batman:  Year One by Frank Miller
Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown
Paying For It by Chester Brown
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Drinking At The Movies by Julia Wertz
The Sinner’s Grand Tour:  A Journey Through The Historical Underbelly of Europe by Tony Perrottet
How To Understand Israel in 60 Days Or Less by Sarah Glidden
Unbroken by Sarah Hillenbrand


The Submission by Amy Waldman
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Adler-Olsen
The Quickening by Michelle Hoover
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo


Warmth of Other Sun by Isabel Wilkerson 
Townie by Andre Dubus III
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Room by Emma Donoghue
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Art of Fielding by Chad Harback
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Hunger Games series
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer


The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell


The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
 The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Bossypants by Tina Fey


Breaking Night by Liz Murray
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
The Hypnotist by Lars Keplar
Conquistadora by Esmerelda Santiago
Bossypants by Tina Fey 


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville
Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
Rose of No Man’s Land by Michelle Tea
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Submarine by Joe Dunthorne
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Daddy’s by Lindsay Hunter
Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
Swamplandia! By Karen Russell
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

There are plenty more books that we loved but just didn't quite make our "favorite" lists this year so be sure to ask us for suggestions!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speaking of AudioBooks

"3 Nights In August" by Buzz Bissinger

I love working at the Deerfield Public Library.  But I live in Chicago and the commutes can sometimes be pretty rough.  For years my wife has told me that she enjoys listening to audio books during her commutes.  She said that it helps make the time fly when you get into listening to a book.  I finally took her advice and checked out an audio book a few months ago.  She was right!  Listening to a good audio book while driving home really does seem to make the time fly by. 

I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m already in deep baseball withdraw.  I recently checked out an audio book from the library that I really enjoyed.  “3 Nights In August” is written by Buzz Bissinger who is best known as the author of “Friday Night Lights”.  “3 Nights In August” is a book about Tony La Russa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  The framework of the book is a three game series that the Cardinals are playing against their hated rivals, the Chicago Cubs, in 2003. 

Even though the book is about Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals, there was plenty in there for a Chicago baseball fan to enjoy as well.  First of all, the book is about a three game series against the Cubs.  Each game is discussed in detail and many of the Cubs players are talked about in detail as well.  I found the discussion about Mark Prior to be almost sadly prophetic.  Tony La Russa talks about what a fantastic pitcher he is and how he can tell the young man is completely brimming with confidence about his abilities and future.  But Tony La Russa then reflects on how fleeting a career as a baseball pitcher can be.  One bad injury and a once promising career can be cut painfully short.  If you’re a Cubs fan you know how true those words turned out to be.

While the book focuses on the three game series against the Cubs it also tells the story of Tony La Russa’s life and his start in baseball.  So once again we get a good dose of Chicago baseball history as Tony La Russa’s start with the Chicago White Sox is discussed.  I’m a huge White Sox fan so I really enjoyed hearing the stories about Bill Veeck, Carlton Fisk, and Harold Baines.  I also really enjoyed finding out that Tom Seaver was the only pitcher that Tony La Russa ever managed who wouldn’t lie to him when he would go out to the mound and ask him how he was feeling.

What ultimately made the book fascinating to me though was how it really got into what a manager really does in baseball.  The day to day, and hour by hour breakdown of a typical day for Tony La Russa is a lot of what this book is about.  As much as possible Buzz Bissinger tries to get inside the head of Tony La Russa to figure out how he makes the decisions he makes during a baseball game.  I was amazed to learn, for instance, that deciding to have your pitcher try to hit an opposing batter can depend on if that batter gave money to his wife’s charity the year before!  This book was also published shortly after the hugely influential “Moneyball” was released.  Tony La Russa talks a lot about his own personal strategies for running a baseball offense and how it differs from the “Moneyball” philosophy.  If you’ve read “Moneyball” you will probably find that discussion to be very interesting.

So if you’re a baseball fan, and you’re looking for a great way to kill some time during your commute, I highly recommend “3 Nights In August”.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And For My Next Book...

As the year ends, a deluge of lists hit our desks and screens claiming the best books of 2011.  As much as I try to keep up with all the new books that make their debut throughout the year, it’s impossible to read them all.  And that starts me thinking about all the great books I might have missed in years past.  And then I start to worry that I will never read everything I want to or that I missed the greatest book ever written.

After I calm down and tell myself that books are meant to be enjoyed and it’s not a contest, I realize I need to select my next book.  What a decision!  Something that’s new or something that's old?  I decide to go with old, a 2007 publication date to be more specific.  I don’t even remember where I read the review of The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips, but it sounded intriguing. The story of a race to chronicle the tale of a seventeenth century courtesan who tries to warn the Venetian Council of a Spanish plot to overthrow the Venetian Republic sounded right up my alley.

Clare Donovan is trying to complete her thesis of the mysterious courtesan, Alessandra Rossetti, when she discovers that there is another scholar who may just beat her to it.  Clare’s career may never take off if this occurs. We follow Clare to present day Venice on her quest to locate the documents she needs to present her case.  Parallel to Clare’s story, we also read Alessandra’s story, which is filled with treachery, violence, politics and romance.

For those who love historical fiction, as I do, this book is a great find. A new author that has me wanting to read not only more by her, but also more about the little known Spanish Conspiracy against Venice.  The Rossetti Letter was just what I needed to remind me not to forget those books that don’t show up on any lists and to just relax and enjoy the book.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Funny You Should Mention Chelsea Handler...

Every time my husband and I have to make a road trip to visit our families for the holidays, I insist on listening to an audiobook. I tend to get car sick, so I prefer listening to a book rather than reading in the car. And there is no way I'm going to give up several prime hours of reading time to stare out the window at corn fields. The problem is that my husband and I have very different reading tastes, so it's always difficult to find an audiobook we both enjoy. I have had pretty good success with humor. Last Christmas we enjoyed listening to I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas by Lewis Black. This year I snagged Chelsea Handler's latest Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me. Halfway through our drive I was gasping for breath and literally weeping (from laughing, not crying, in case that was unclear). Two days later I was still tittering when I recalled one of the more humorous stories.
It turns out that Chelsea Handler is a huge liar. She delights in pulling pranks on those around her and will go to great lengths to create elaborate ruses to trap her victims. This book is a compilation of stories told by Chelsea's friends, coworkers, and family members, who recount the instances when they fell prey to her shenanigans. I'm always envious of people who are clever enough to create a good prank and pull it off successfully. Chelsea Handler is a master at pulling pranks. At times they almost seem cruel, but the people in her life seem to understand that this is part of Chelsea and accept it with begrudgingly good humor. Fans of Chelsea's show will recognize some of the comedians that often appear such as Heather McDonald, Josh Wolf, and Brad Wollack. Outrageously funny, fans of Chelsea Handler will love this one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mental Note- Avoid Writing Books About Exes

Along with a large percentage of the 20-30 something female population, I've been known to read snarky humor books written by other women. These books often focus on the status of the author's love life, previous relationships, and awful trips to the mall/salon/Mexico/high school reunion/dance club/family dinner. I cringe when I see an awful first date approaching and I sympathize when an ex-boyfriend says something inappropriate post breakup. That being said, I was immediately drawn to My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me by Hilary Winston. The book is nonfiction, and as you may have guessed, starts out with a story about how the author's ex-boyfriend wrote a book seemingly based on their 5 year relationship. Let's just say, it was not a flattering portrayal.
The dedication of My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me says "This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever had their heart broken. And dreamed of getting the tiniest slice of revenge. And didn't do it because they were worried they'd look crazy. I'm taking this bullet for you. You're welcome." That's basically the summary of the stories in this book. Winston writes chapter after chapter of hilarious, cringe-worthy stories about ex-boyfriends and you can't help but get sucked into reading every last page. In addition to the dirty details about her former flames, Winston writes with enough self deprecation that you don't feel like she's being unfair to any of her targets. I'd give you more details but they aren't quite appropriate for a library blog. While this book may not be short listed for any awards this year, I'd absolutely recommend it to Chelsea Handler fans and those looking for a read that is maybe a touch bitter but definitely quick and funny.

Short on Time?

Sometimes being in the midst of the holiday season is like being in a whirlwind.  With everything going on it is sometimes very hard to find some time to carve out for ourselves to just sit and read a good book.

We can still read some quality material in less time by reading shorter stories.  Some people dismiss short stories.  Short stories are not only a great way to find a way to read when you have very little time, but to find new authors for future reading.

Highly reviewed Volt by Alan Heathcock brings us eight stories set mostly within small towns.  Some characters are linked throughout the stories, but the stories do not have to be read in any certain order.  Hancock writes of life in a sparse, gritty style where characters encounter a lot of life’s, well, volts.

For mystery lovers, A Study in Sherlock: stories inspired by the Holmes canon includes stories by several prominent mystery writers including Lee Child, Dana Stabenow, Charles Todd and S.J. Rozan.  And if you want to get into the holiday spirit, try  Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop: ‘tis the season to be deadly.  This great collection of short stories is centered around the holiday season and each story involves a bookshop.

These are only a few collections you may want to try.  If you want to look for more collections of short stories, enter the words “short stories” or “anthology” into the DPL catalog and you’ll find a vast list of books to explore.  Take some time off for yourself this season and Happy Holidays!

My Holiday gift to you, dear Reader

Joy! I can hardly wait! This gave me the shivers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

As we prepare to turn another corner and throw ourselves head first into the new year, we are bombarded with a seemingly endless selection of obsessive compulsive attempts to document the best, worst, and most overrated of everything. Many of the repeated picks will continue to be the best sellers and book club selections of tomorrow, and, by default, the novels most often praised as “great” or slammed as “so not worth the effort” by the masses. One destined to fall under both headings is Haruki Murakami’s 944-page behemoth 1Q84. Page count aside, it’s a work of fiction so thoroughly loaded with Murakami’s trademark surrealism that the story alone is enough to cause derision between avid readers. For some, Murakami’s genre cocktail of fantasy and the undeniably ‘literary’ will likely read as silly indulgence matched by a tediously lengthy narrative arc (and yes, fairly overwritten sex sequences). I won’t say these people are in the wrong. On the contrary, 1Q84 is certainly not for everyone. What I will say, though, is that the tome tops my shortlist of the best fiction writing of 2011. For those willing to take the journey, what Murakami has to offer is a languid, gorgeous read that transports its audience into a realm where time is fluid and the pages fly by. This is pure magic realism. It is a dream in print and should only be read when time allows.

The story defies synopsis, but a very simplified outline may read something like this: 1Q84 is the tale of two protagonists on seemingly disparate paths. The first is Aomame, a cynical woman who has fallen into a job as a hired assassin. Aomame enacts vigilante justice by neatly murdering notorious misogynists. In the book’s opening chapters, traffic has prevented Aomame’s taxi from reaching her next mark on time. In an act of desperation, she leaps from the car and slips through a construction worker’s shortcut that we soon learn is a sort of concrete rabbit hole. Why this is, we do not know. From here, Aomame enters a world in which there are two moons; a dimension she takes to referring to as 1Q84, an alternate reality of her 1984 present rife with allusion, symbolism, and a wealth of complicated mechanics.

Our second protagonist, too, has had his world turned upside down, though in a rather different way. Tengo is an unpublished novelist who, while judging a fiction competition, finds himself hired to ghostwrite a revision of a teenage ingĂ©nue’s mysteriously compelling manuscript. She’s a sensation, but insists that the fantastical elements of her story are not rooted in her imagination, but are instead very real. It’s worth noting that our accidental lit celebrity is a wonderful character, a sort of cyborg-like slip of a girl who serves as authorial device and enigmatic presence. As the stories begin to slowly enter parallel paths, they meet in places we couldn’t have expected at the outset, but which reveal themselves naturally in context.

The beauty of Murakami’s style (or, at least, the translation from the original Japanese) is that while we may veer into distraction and detail, we never lose sight of the story. This is not a pretentious book written to deliberately obfuscate meaning or confuse its readers. It’s instead a highly intelligent page turner. You read it, you understand it. 1Q84 is a sort of epic urban fairy tale densely packed with mysterious cults, romantic entanglements, echoing incantations and thrilling, cinematic subplots. Murakami guides us through his otherworld with simplistic prose and lays the cards on the table in ways that are often alarmingly blunt, very nearly mimicking the even-keeled language of a young adult adventure. It’s sharp, smart, wholly unique, but not interested in hearing itself speak.

Still, this is not beginner’s Murakami. While the novel is a beautiful piece of work deserving of those inches on your bookshelf, 1Q84 seems written for those already in love with Haruki Murakami’s past works. It’s the equivalent, perhaps, of those later ‘indulgent’ Federico Fellini films whined about by the movie theater complainer in Annie Hall. 1Q84 is the work of a literary auteur who has been given full license to run with his subconscious, however far that may take him. It’s not overblown, it’s not actually indulgent, it is idiosyncratic and it does take its time. In some ways, you have to want to see what Murakami is willing to show you. I followed him down the rabbit hole wholeheartedly, and the rewards have been invaluable. Months later, I still recall moments of this complex tale in crystal clear detail, which is more than I can say for certain books I read just last week. When a work of art has me stumbling into its world that long after the fact, that, for me, speaks to its ultimate value.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Drinking At The Movies" by Julia Wertz

"Drinking At The Movies" is a new graphic novel by Julia Wertz. I found it to be a really interesting graphic novel on several different levels.

First of all, one of the things we librarian types often talk about it is "what does YA mean?". Many books that are labeled as YA books seem to be more for the tween set. Some other YA books are very graphic and not at all what would be appropriate for a 13 year old.  It can be a tough category to figure out sometimes.  While reading "Drinking At The Movies" it struck me that perhaps this was a "real" young adult book. All of the characters are in their early 20's and are trying to figure out how to function and live in a grown up world. This is real life stuff as well. It is basically an autobiographical account of the authors move from San Francisco to New York City and trying to make it there. Much of the comic is about things like trying to find a cheap apartment, roommate issues, trying to find a job, boyfriends, drinking, problems with parents, a brother in rehab, and trying to figure out what to do in life. It may not sound particularly exciting but it's real and true to life. While reading about her trials and tribulations I found myself liking the author more and more as a person. By the end of the book I felt in a funny way like I had made a new friend.

I also found it to be a fascinating graphic novel because of the style of drawings Julia Wertz uses. It seems to be another example of a trend I've noticed in graphic novels that I'm still not sure how I feel about. In the past it seems like a "good" graphic novel had both an interesting story to tell, but was also beautifully drawn, so the pictures were just as interesting as the story. Harvey Pekar couldn't draw so he had his famous friends like Robert Crumb illustrate his graphic novels for him. "Maus", while being a little more primitive in the drawing style still had a style of it's own and was fascinating to look at. Joe Sacco, Jamie Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware are all skilled artists. Julia Wertz, I'm afraid, doesn't seem to be in that league.

So when I first started reading "Drinking At The Movies" it threw me at first. The drawings seemed almost like something a child would draw. But I kept on getting drawn into the story. Julia Wertz may not be able to draw as well of some of the other graphic novelists out there, but she can tell a great story. In my opinion it was one of the best graphic novels I've read that was recently published.

Finally, the last thing that I found interesting was that in some many ways this is a 2.0 book. At the end there is a link to the Julia Wertz website. The website has archives of her older comics as well as newer ones she's written. I found myself spending hours reading her older comics that she's posted online and reading her new ones as well and getting up to date in her life. Her website also includes a blog and links to her Flikr page. I found it interesting to look at her Flickr account and see pictures of many of the people she mentions in the book. Her contact info is right there and she seems like the kind of person who might actually write back if you sent her a note.

So check out "Drinking At The Movies" if you would like to read a good "Young Adult" graphic novel that is true to life. Maybe you'll feel like you made a new friend as well.

Check out the Julia Wertz website.  Her current post is about libraries!

Have you ever read a book and felt in a funny way like you've made a new friend?

30 Going on 13; Delving into Teen Fiction!

So you may not think that as an adult it's totally OK to check out what's going on in Teen book world. I'm here to say that there is nothing wrong with finding a gem of a book that's labeled as "Teen" or "YA". In fact, I highly recommend it. As a Youth Services/Teen Librarian I not only spend my days ordering for both Juvenile and Teen fiction collections, but inevitably I find myself spending free time reading from both departments. In my book (pun intended), crossover between the world of Adult fiction and Teen fiction is one of the most entertaining and relevant occurrences in any library. There are plenty of teens who are interested in titles that are housed in Adult fiction, and vice-versa. So don't be afraid or uncomfortable to venture into that unknown territory in the library where the chairs are really bright and the stories are so so intriguing. Teen fiction has all of that drama and creativity you crave, along with the realism and true experiences that bring life to a story.

Check out the "Can I Borrow Your Book" display in the Library's Adult Fiction department for recommended teen titles that fit the bill, or try some of the titles below as well. As an avid adult reader of "Teen labeled" titles I can say this: Once you start reading them, you won't look back; except of course for when you're in the mood for some awesome Adult fiction, but that's a whole other story (again, pun intended)!

Tell us: What's your all time favorite "Teen" or YA" book?

Cryer's Cross
You are my Only
Anna Dressed in Blood
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The love curse of the Rumbaughs
The Musicians Daughter
The Twin's Daughter
Bitter Melon
PostSecret : Extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives
The Silence of Murder

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Only Time Will Tell

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer is Volume 1 of The Clifton Chronicles—a saga that will cover 100 years of family history. Set in Bristol, England just after World War I, it introduces Harry Clifton, the son of a dockworker whose sharp mind and unexpected gift for singing attract attention and win him a scholarship to an exclusive boys' school. The book features two families: the working-class Cliftons, including Harry’s feisty, attractive mother, and the wealthy Barringtons, including Sir Walter and Hugo, the docks’ shipping magnates. Themes of class, the power of wealth, integrity, and betrayal play out with plot twists, and the setting as England prepares for a second war makes this more than a coming of age story. The story is told by different characters over time, combining first-person accounts with third-person storytelling, adding perspective to the novel's events. It's a well-paced, enjoyable read—with a cliff-hanger ending that has me waiting for the next volume!

Historical fiction—including family sagas written as series—offer hours of great reading. Consider these series while you wait for the next volume of the Clifton Chronicles, The Sins of the Fathers, due out in May 2012:

Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series, begins in twelfth century England and follows the lives entwined in the building of a great gothic cathedral; begin with Pillars of the Earth.

Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles begins with The Skystone and recounts the origins of Camelot based on Arthurian legend.

Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series embraces the legend and fact of the American West. Begin with the Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove.

Beverly Swerling’s City of Four series, begins in New Amsterdam in the 1660’s as immigrants make their way in what will be the greatest city of the new world. Begin with City of Dreams.

What historical fiction series have you enjoyed?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors. His novels often include a twist at the end that leave the reader rethinking the entire novel. His latest, The Night Strangers, includes a paranormal element that is new for Bohjalian. But he does a great job of creating a sinister, ominous tone that keeps the reader intrigued throughout the novel.

When airline pilot Chip Linton’s plane goes down, he attempts to land his plane on Lake Champlain. But unlike the plane that successfully landed on the Hudson in 2009, Chip’s attempt does not end well. The plane is broken into pieces and thirty-nine of the passengers die. Unable to move past his grief and guilt, Chip, his wife Emily and their twin ten-year-old daughters leave their life in Pennsylvania behind for the quiet of New Hampshire. They purchase a rambling Victorian home in a small New England town with the hopes that Chip will be able to start a new life. But in a dark corner of the basement, Chip discovers a mysterious door that has been bolted shut with thirty-nine carriage bolts. The mystery of the door and the peculiar number of bolts nags at Chip. As the Lintons learn more about the house’s strange history, they also begin meeting members of their new community. Many of the women in town are self-proclaimed herbalists, growing uncommon herbs in their greenhouses that they use in baking and tinctures. The women also begin to take an unusual interest in the Linton’s twins. When Chip begins seeing the ghosts of some of the passengers from his crash, he wonders if he is losing his mind. Will these herbalists be able to help Chip, or is something more sinister at play?

Readers do have to be willing to accept the idea of ghosts or spirits, but it’s not over-the-top or silly, as so many paranormal stories usually are. The audiobook is narrated by Alison Fraser and Mark Bramhall, who do a wonderful job of creating distinct voices for all of the characters. Bohjalian is interviewed at the end of the audiobook and discusses how he came up with the idea for this story and the research he did, which is quite interesting. A good choice for audiobook fans.