NPR Listeners Pick the Best of SF/Fantasy
Posted August 30, 2011
Just as they did with Thrillers last year, NPR recently polled their listeners for their favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy books of all time. The results are in. Note that they excluded young adult books (such as the Harry Potter series) and horror books because they plan to make those topics for future Summer polls. That being said, it's a wonderful list. We're quite happy to see that recent our Spring 2011 One Book One Chicago selection, Neverwhere, made the cut, as did several other books by Neil Gaiman. It's no surprise that Tolkien and Martin, whose books have been adapted recently into popular movies and tv series, ranked high. But we're also happy to see some of our recent favorites on the list, such as Watchmen, The Name of the Wind, World War Z, The Road, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Way of Kings, The Eyre Affair, and Anathem.
Especially if you are in a book group, there's a response well worth checking out over at Booklist magazine. Science Fiction and Fantasy aficionado Neil Hollands whittled that list of 100 titles down to 49 titles which he recommends for book groups/newbies: titles that can be finished in a month by most readers, whose themes are good for discussion, and that are standalone reads or kick off series that end satisfyingly.
Here are the top ten titles, but be sure to check out the full list. Happy reading.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert [first book in series: Dune]
A Song Of Ice And Fire Series by George R. R. Martin [first book in series: A Game of Thrones]
1984 by George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov [first book in trilogy: Foundation]
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Chicago River 1999-2010
Posted August 23, 2011
If you're downtown looking for something to do, head over to the Harold Washington Library Center. We currently have an exhibit of the Chicago River on display on the ground floor down the Congress Corridor. With 28 black and white photographs by Richard Wasserman you can learn about the history of the river and see the evolution of one of our city's most distinctive features.
To read more about the Chicago River you can check out The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide to the River and Its Waterways by David M. Solzman or The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History by Libby Hill. You can also check out more photos of the river in Jonathan Genzen's The Chicago River: A History in Photographs. Or take a virtual tour of the river with the DVD of Chicago by Boat: The New River Tour hosted by Geoffrey Baer.
The exhibit closes September 2nd so hurry over!
Philip Levine, Poet Laureate
Posted August 18, 2011
The Library of Congress recently chose Philip Levine to succeed W.S. Merwin as Poet Laureate. The choice seems an apt one, especially given the times, since much of Levine's poetry centers on working-class Detroit. Born in 1928 in Detroit to Jewish immigrant parents, Levine began his working life in an auto factory before finding a home in poetry. In a profile of the poet, The Los Angeles Times writes: "Informed by his personal experience working in factories, Levine's poetry focuses on the moments and textures of the day-to-day life of the working class." Philip Levine was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Simple Truth; he also received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award – twice.
Listen to Philip Levine read his poems "They Feed They Lion" and "What Work Is," along with commentary by Edward Hirsch, and watch as Levine recalls life in the factory, both at the Poetry Foundation's web site. We also recommend checking out the poet's profile from the Academy of American Poets. And of course, delve into Philip Levine's poetry at the Chicago Public Library.
May the Force Be With You...Always
Posted August 16, 2011
The Chicago Tribune's recent profile of the Midwest Garrison of the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars enthusiasts who dress as imperial stormtroopers at charity functions as well as events such as this past weekend's Wizard World Chicago Comic Con in Rosemont, got us thinking about the continued success of the Star Wars novels. They continue to hit the bestseller lists with a frequency that would impress Master Yoda himself. (And where better to get comprehensive coverage of this publishing phenomenon than the Wookieepedia?)
The books explore times and characters of the Star Wars universe that 10 George Lucases and 10 Industrial Light and Magic companies would never be able to keep up with. The newest book in this ongoing series is Ascension, the eighth novel in the Fate of the Jedi series, featuring Luke Skywalker and his son Ben. And just last month we saw the publication of Choices of One, written by beloved science fiction scribe Timothy Zahn. It's a story set before the events of the movie The Empire Strikes Back. So the film series may be finished, but Star Wars lives on. For more Star Wars novels, consult our online catalog.
Celebrating L.A. Banks
Posted August 11, 2011
The extremely popular writer L.A. Banks died this month, at far too young an age, after battling cancer. Her fans will miss her greatly. Banks was a highly successful writer of diverse genres known especially for her romances (as Leslie Esdaile) and fantasies. Bestselling author Tananarive Due recently gave a lovely brief interview to NPR in remembrance of Banks in which her work was compared to that of Charlaine Harris.
Looking to catch up on Banks's work? Here we've listed two of her most popular series. Also note that she started a new series more recently, beginning with Surrender the Dark. The sequel, Conquer the Dark, comes out late next month.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Posted August 9, 2011
Fans of Muriel Barbery's literary sleeper sensation The Elegance of the Hedgehog will be happy to know that a film adaptation (called simply The Hedgehog) is coming to theaters soon, scheduled to hit Chicago in September. The novel tells the story of the eccentric residents of a Parisian apartment building, focusing on a gruff concierge and a precocious yet despondent twelve year old girl, a tale of outsiders discovering common cause.
Fans of the book may be interested to read Barbery's first novel, Gourmet Rhapsody, also set in the same apartment building but focusing on the character of a dying food critic.
Also, you could check out other books from Barbery's publisher, Europa Editions, which specializing in bringing good European novels to the American market in English translation. One of the publisher's biggest hits has been the much-lauded Jane Gardam's Old Filth, the story of a lawyer whose nickname is an acronym standing for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong." And the publisher's latest hit is Alina Bronsky's The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, the story of an enjoyably conniving grandmother. You can find further books from this quirky publisher in our catalog.
Scandinavian Crime: Still Hot and Here to Stay
Posted August 4, 2011
Many fans of Scandinavian crime fiction have long finished Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy and have recently bid farewell to Kurt Wallander in Mankell's final installment, The Troubled Man, but the Nordic noir phenomena is far from over. Scandinavian crime fiction is still hot, and publishers are on top of it, publishing plenty of titles to sate American readers. Here is a sampling of some of the summer's best:
Jo Nesbo is arguably the new darling of Scandinavian Crime. The Snowman, his fifth Harry Hole title to be translated into English, received glowing reviews, and it seems readers agree. Stories featuring serial killers are always popular, but Nesbo's book appears to be the cream of the crop and demand for the title is high. Kirkus called the book's opening "one of the creepiest in recent memory" and a Library Journal reviewer stated that, "This is simply the best detective novel this reviewer has read in years."
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler, the pseudonym for a husband-wife author team, may be the Scandinavian crime debut of the season. In hopes of resolving a harrowing crime, a hypnotist is called in to talk to a boy found at the scene. Janet Maslin stated The Hypnotist would be "the summer's likely Nordic hit." Booklist asserted that it belongs on "every international crime fan's reading list."
And there's more! Check out Kjell Eriksson's The Hand That Trembles, the fourth in his Inspector Ann Lindell series, about the mysterious disappearance of a local politician, which Kirkus called a "challenging and rewarding mystery."
The fourth installment of the Inspector Van Veeteren series, The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser, involving a dead girl and secretive cult, was called "taut and compelling" by Booklist.
Bad Intentions, the seventh installment in Karin Fossum's series, features Inspector Sejer investigating a suspicious suicide and its possible connection to a missing person case. Library Journal called Fossum "one of Nordic noir's most skilled practitioners."
Finally, don't skip Asa Larsson's fourth Rebecka Martinson novel, Until Thy Wrath Be Past, which Booklist praised: "The supernatural elements are worked seamlessly into a complex and engaging mystery, resulting in a thoroughly compelling reading experience."
If You Liked The Help
Posted August 2, 2011
The much anticipated movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's runaway bestseller The Help is set to come out next week. Emma Stone is cast in the lead role of Skeeter, a young recent grad and aspiring writer who returns to her hometown and embarks on a writing project in which she conducts a series of interviews with local black maids. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer play Aibileen and Minny, her willing subjects. Rounding out the supporting cast is a bevy of acclaimed actresses including: Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mary Steenburgen and Allison Janney.
If you enjoyed The Help and would like to read more fiction with a Southern setting and strong female characters check out some of these titles:
The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson
Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg