One Book, One Chicago - Spring 2009
Posted March 31, 2009
Earlier this month the Chicago Public Library announced its 16th selection in the One Book, One Chicago program, The House on Mango Street. Written 25 years ago by Sandra Cisneros, the slim volume has become a classic. Through a series of vignettes the story of young Esperanza Cordero is told in beautifully poetic prose. We follow Esperanza through her coming of age in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago as she searches for her identity while traversing the dual cultures that make up her world.
Cisneros is only one of many Latino writers whose works have been widely read and praised by book lovers and critics alike. Below is a sampling of more Latino writers you can find in our collections:
Luis Alberto Urrea
The Hummingbird’s Daughter
Nelson Algren Centennial
Posted March 26, 2009
This Saturday, the 28th, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Algren, a giant of Chicago literature. The Library hosted a tribute last Tuesday, and the Nelson Algren Committee has organized a 100th birthday party for this Saturday. So who is Algren, and why all the fuss? Admired by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Studs Terkel and Richard Wright, Algren pushed the boundaries of urban realism in fiction and has been called the “poet of the Chicago slums,” though according to the Algren entry in the Contemporary Authors database, “he preferred to call himself ‘the tin whistle of American letters.’” Critic Chester E. Eisinger wrote that Algren was “the poet of the jail and the whorehouse; he has made a close study of the cockroach, the drunkard and the pimp, the garbage in the street and the spittle on the chin.”
Algren was born in Detroit but raised in working-class Chicago, and he was also shaped by his time on the road (and occasionally in jails) during the Great Depression, when work for a young journalist was hard to find. Though we rightly associate him strongly with Chicago, New Orleans and the rural Southwest also figure in his writings. His 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side, is a good example. A curio among his books is The Devil’s Stocking, a fictionalized treatment of the trials of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (which Algren covered for Esquire), published posthumously in America. Algren also penned some travelogues, and a new collection of his travel writings has been published in observance of the centennial.
As for Chicago work, one of his earliest major novels, Never Come Morning, was set in an impoverished Polish neighborhood of Northwest Chicago and concerns an aspiring boxer struggling with a life of crime. The book eventually sold a million copies and was translated into French by Jean-Paul Sartre. Then there’s Algren’s classic prose poem, Chicago: City on the Make, commissioned by Holiday magazine as the lead article for a Chicago-themed issue but that was relegated to the back once editors saw how unflattering it was.
Today he’s best known for 1949 novel The Man with the Golden Arm, a bestseller that earned Algren literary acclaim and several awards (including the National Book Award). The novel paved new territory in its realistic treatment of addiction and was also made into an excellent film directed by Otto Preminger.
Grow It Yourself!
Posted March 24, 2009
Spring is slowly arriving, and we can’t wait until it is here to stay. In the meantime, we know many of you have been thinking about planting both flowers and vegetables this year. USA Today recently reported a significant jump in seed sales this year, and many appear to be combating the recession by growing their own food. Or perhaps you are looking to beautify the outside of your home with a flower garden. Regardless of your reasons for digging into the dirt this year, the Chicago Public Library has resources to help you along the way. Check out the following gardening titles:
The Successful Herb Gardener by Sally Roth
The New Book of Herbs by Jekka McVicar
Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First-Time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening by Ellen Zachos
Balcony & Container Plants from A to Z by Joachim Mayer
The Green Gardener’s Guide by Joe Lamp’l
Gardening Basics For Dummies by Steven A. Frowine with the editors of the National Gardening Association
The Plant Finder: The Right Plants for Every Garden by Tony Rodd and Geoff Bryant
P. Allen Smith’s Living In The Garden Home by P. Allen Smith
New Kitchen Garden by Adam Caplin & Celia Brooks Brown
Growing Vegetables by Robert J. Dolezal
Crops in Pots: How to Plan, Plant and Grow Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs in Easy-Care Containers by Bob Purnell
Midwest Fruit and Vegetable Book by James A. Fizzell
Guide to Illinois Vegetable Gardening by James A. Fizzell
The Gardener’s A-Z guide to Growing Organic Food by Tanya L.K. Denckla
Spring Books Preview
March 19, 2009
With spring beginning Friday, now’s the perfect time to look ahead to the big books of the season. Like everyone else, the publishing industry has been cutting back. There have been layoffs and cutbacks in the number of titles released - but you’d never know it from a list like this. Not only are plenty of the usual stars of the bestseller charts slated to release new books, but plenty of exciting new names join their ranks as well. Additionally, we can’t help but point out that this season includes an exceptional crop of books by Chicago authors. There’s truly something for everyone on this list. So why not reserve your copy now? All you need is a library card and some time to partake in one of the finer experiences in life — a good book.
Cemetery Dance by Douglas J. Preston
Company We Keep by Mary Monroe
Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
First Family by David Baldacci
Ghetto Superstar by Nikki Turner
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Intent to Kill by James Grippando
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
Long Fall by Walter Mosley
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
Wicked Prey by John Sandford
More Hot Fiction
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
Laura Rider’s Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Lover Avenged (Black Dagger Brotherhood) by J. R. Ward
Nobody Move by Denis Johnson
Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Song Is You by Arthur Phillips
Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell
Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers
New from Chicago-Area Authors
Cradle by Patrick Somerville
Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000-Year-Old Delicacy Inspired the World’s Fiercest Food Fight by Mark Caro
Great Perhaps by Joe Meno
Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon
Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music by Greg Kot
Ruins by Achy Obejas
Posted March 17, 2009
On the March 26, the long-running author interview series Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman (now proudly hosted by the Harold Washington Library Center) presents Mary Gaitskill. Her new collection, Don’t Cry, has received raves from all of the usual suspects. Booklist wrote, “…the stories gathered here can be enjoyed for their believable characters and dialogue, sparse descriptions and tight craftsmanship” while Library Journal gave it a starred review, praising “…the author’s exquisite use of language and metaphor…” This is, of course, no surprise after her 2005 novel Veronica ended up as a finalist for the National Book Award. This will be Ms. Lautman’s second interview with the author. You can find the first interview online.
Fiction From the Land of Erin
Posted March 12, 2009
Next Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration for one of Ireland’s most popular patron saints. Chicago will celebrate this weekend by dyeing the Chicago River green and holding parades downtown on Saturday, March 14 and on the South Side on Sunday, March 15. But the Irish have given us much more than a great holiday: Ireland is also home to some exceptional writers. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we’d like to highlight some of our favorite Irish authors and their novels.
It’s no surprise that the country that gave us James Joyce has produced a number of literary heavyweights. Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture won this year’s Costa and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Publishers Weekly praised the novel noting, “Written in captivating, lyrical prose, Barry’s novel is both a sparkling literary puzzle and a stark cautionary tale of corrupted power.” Anne Enright won the 2007 Booker Prize for her novel, The Gathering, a bleak but lyrical portrait of a large Irish family, and a collection of her short stories, Yesterday’s Weather, was recently published. Fans of the short story should not overlook the masterful works of William Trevor. Publishers Weekly wrote that his recently published collection, Cheating at Canasta, “recalls Joyce’s Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device,” and we also recommend A Bit On the Side and After Rain.
If you prefer a mystery or crime novel, there are a few recent series of note. John Banville won the 2005 Booker Prize for his novel The Sea, but he also started writing a series of crime fiction books as Benjamin Black featuring the hard-drinking pathologist Garret Quirke. The gripping series started with Christine Falls and the most recent installment is Silver Swan. Tana French’s books featuring Detective Cassie Maddox have also garnered acclaim, and fans of police procedurals and psychological suspense are certain to be satisfied by this series. In Into the Woods, an Edgar award-winner, we find Detective Maddox investigating the murder of a 12-year-old girl in a Dublin suburb. In The Likeness, Cassie is working undercover by taking on the identity of a murder victim.
Roddy Doyle is one of our favorite Irish authors and has written several bestselling novels, a few of which have been adapted into films. His dialogue-driven novels often exhibit brash humor and some unforgettable characters. Check out the hilarious Barrytown Trilogy, which includes The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van. We also recommend the Booker-winning Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha, and if you prefer short stories, you might enjoy The Deportees and Other Stories.
Tournament of Books
Posted March 10, 2009
The fifth annual Tournament of Books kicked off this week. Literary awards are a dime a dozen, but this contest sponsored by Powell’s Books livens up the competition by pitting 16 of the most highly praised books of the last year against each other in March Madness-style brackets. And what, you might ask, does the author of the winning book get for his or her literary triumph? Why, a live rooster, of course. Yes, that’s right, in honor of David Sedaris’ brother, featured in one of the most hilarious stories ever penned, “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” included in Me Talk Pretty One Day, the winner receives a live rooster. Judges include last year’s winner (for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), Junot Diaz, Monica Ali (author of Alentejo Blue), Mary Roach (writer of popular non-fiction titles Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex), and funny man John Hodgman (author of The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require). For more details about the Tournament including the brackets, complete list of judges and past winners visit the contest site. Below is a list of the 16 contenders, all available at the Chicago Public Library:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
2666 by Roberto Bolano
A Partisan’s Daughter by Louis de Bernieres
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Steer Toward Rock by Fae Myenne Ng
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
City of Refuge by Tom Piazza
Home by Marilynne Robinson
Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas
Posted March 5, 2009
Many of us love Indian cuisine and are more than willing to travel to Devon Avenue to get the best the city has to offer. Cooking Indian food at home, however, can seem intimidating. It doesn’t need to be. You can find an array of cookbooks at the Chicago Public Library that will walk you through the steps of making your favorite Indian curry, saag paneer or chicken vindaloo to enjoy at home. Madhur Jaffery, who the New York Times called “the Indian cuisine authority,” is the author of over a dozen popular cookbooks. Jaffery’s very popular Indian Cooking covers techniques and ingredients in addition to providing some outstanding recipes. Some of Jaffery’s other excellent titles include From Curries to Kabobs and Madhur Jaffery’s Spice Kitchen. If you are a fan of curry, then the recently published 660 Curries by Ragahvan Iyer is the cookbook for you. According to Publishers Weekly, “Iyer makes the enormous spectrum of Indian curry dishes enticing and accessible in this hefty tome, bound to be a must-have for lovers of Indian cuisine.” For a traditional approach to Indian food, try Cuisines of India, in which each chapter covers a distinct region of India and its cuisine. A very vegetarian-friendly cuisine, there are a host of books that cover meatless Indian cooking, including India’s Vegetarian Cooking, Indian Vegetarian Cooking from an American Kitchen and The Indian Vegetarian. This is just a small sample of what is available at the Chicago Public Library; check out our catalog for more books on Indian cooking.
Neal Bascomb Reading
Posted March 3, 2009
Adolf Eichmann, the infamous Nazi war criminal, fled after the war and lived for many years under an alias in Argentina until he was captured by the Mossad and tried for his crimes. (It was Eichmann who inspired philosopher Hannah Arendt to coin the phrase “banality of evil.”) Author Neal Bascomb delves into this story and reportedly unearths some startling new findings in Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi. Mr. Bascomb is a rising star of narrative nonfiction, with several acclaimed works that reveal a gift for selecting broadly appealing topics: the seeds of the Russian Revolution in Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin; the race to break the four-minute mile in The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It; and the pre-Depression competition to build the tallest skyscraper in Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City. Please join us as we welcome Mr. Bascomb for a reading from his latest book next Wednesday, March 11 at the Harold Washington Library Center’s Cindy Pritzker Auditorium.