Chicago Book Festival
Posted September 30, 2008
Fall is upon us, and the Chicago Book Festival, a celebration of books, authors and reading during the month of October, is one of the great events of the season. This year we can look forward to programs with Jonathan Kozol, Louise Glück and Sarah Vowell (promoting her latest book, The Wordy Shipmates), just to name a few. You can also join Josh Elder to learn about creating comics; or attend Writers on Record with Victoria Lautman featuring Egyptian author Alaa al Aswany. Bring your appetite for the culinary talk and tour with Marilyn Pocius, author of A Cook’s Guide to Chicago (Where to Find Everything You Need and Lots of Things You Didn’t Know You Did); or if you’re a poetry fan, don’t miss Li-Young Lee reading from his most recent collection, Behind My Eyes. Don’t forget about the many One Book, One Chicago programs taking place this month as well, including discussions, exhibits, panels, performances and screenings focused on our fall 2008 book, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. There is a wide variety of Chicago Book Festival events happening at the Chicago Public Library and many other venues throughout the city. Every book lover will find something of interest at this year’s CBF, so join the celebration!
Fall Into Books
Posted September 25, 2008
This week autumn officially begins. The kids are going back to school, the weather is cooling down, and as the nights get longer we look forward to curling up with some good book. To that end, we present a list of some of the biggest, most anticipated books of the fall season, followed by a second list of books flying slightly lower on the radar but that also sound particularly promising.
The Big Books of Fall
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Indignation by Philip Roth
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods
Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Tales from the Perilous Realm by J. R. R. Tolkien
Cross Country by James Patterson
Divine Justice by David Baldacci
Dying for Revenge by Eric Jerome Dickey
Midnight: A Gangster Love Story by Sister Souljah
Just After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
The Private Patient by P D James
Staff Picks: Beyond the Blockbusters of the Fall Lineup:
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson (Sep)
Fabergé’s Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire by Toby Faber (Oct)
Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany (Oct)
Fault Lines by Nancy Huston (Oct)
New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker (Oct)
John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman (Nov)
2666 by Roberto Bolaño (Nov)
Bamboo and Blood: An Inspector O Novel by James Church (Nov)
Posted September 23, 2008
Do you ever feel that your book club has become a chore? The folks over at Real Simple may have just the thing for you. In the current issue RS asks readers, “What is the best book your book club has read?” We think that’s a terrific question. What’s even better is that RS is starting their very own book club, the No-Obligation Book Club. This is how it works. Every month a RS editor chooses four titles. You vote on which one should be read for the month. During the month, the editor will post their thoughts on the book and facilitate the discussion online. You can jump in when you like by commenting, or not, whatever suits you. It’s the same process every month with a different book, but the past discussions remain online so you can always go back and comment. They still have a lively discussion going for their inaugural book club selection, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck. Ephron’s book beat out The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. Interested in joining? You can go here to vote for October’s pick. The four contenders are listed below and can be found at the Chicago Public Library. The Real Simple line of books is also available at various branches of the Library.
Brother I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Run by Ann Patchett
And some highlights from Real Simple readers’ book club picks, also available at CPL:
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hal
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Hispanic Heritage Month
Posted September 18, 2008
Yesterday was the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and the Chicago Public Library is celebrating by offering a variety of programs throughout the month, so please join us. Hispanic Heritage Month is also an ideal time to highlight some novels by Hispanic authors. Dominican-American author Junot Diaz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year for his excellent debut novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Fans of Diaz’s wonderful short story collection, Drown, waited a decade for Oscar, the overweight nerdy protagonist who dreams of becoming a fantasy writer. Diaz visited the Chicago Public Library last week to talk with Victoria Lautman. If you missed the event, you can listen to the interview in MP3 format at Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman. Speaking of Pulitzer winners, Oscar Hujelos won the 1990 Pulitzer for Fiction, the first American-born Hispanic author to do so, for his novel Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The story about two brothers who emigrate from Cuba to New York City in 1949 was also adapted into a film. We also recommend The House on Mango Street, a series of vignettes in the life of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in Chicago, and Caramelo, narrated by Lala, the youngest of a large Mexican American family recounting her family’s history as they travel to and from Mexico. Both books are by poet and author Sandra Cisneros, who was born in Chicago in 1954. Luis Alberto Urrea, who currently resides in the Chicago area, rigorously researched the life of his great aunt, Teresa, for the historical novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter. You can check out a recent review of this title on the We Recommend section of our website or an interview with the author on the literary weblog The Elegant Variation. These are just a few of many titles that we have enjoyed. For more recommendations, check out Hispanic Heritage Month: A Selected Bibliography featuring music, movies and more books.
David Foster Wallace, RIP
Posted September 16, 2008
The much too premature death of author David Foster Wallace has shaken the world of literature this week. There are abundant appreciations and memorials on the web. A few highlights: Time Magazine, Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune, Laura Miller on Salon.com, Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times and Dwight Garner on the Paper Cuts blog. Meanwhile, McSweeneys is assembling “memories, anecdotes and encounters,” which they will be posting throughout the week. And Believer has made available an interview that Dave Eggers conducted with Wallace.
What better way to remember the writer than to read his work? His most famous book, of course, is that notorious doorstopper Infinite Jest, but Wallace is very much loved for his nonfiction and his stories as well.
Selected Books by David Foster Wallace:
Consider the Lobster (essays, 2005)
Oblivion (stories, 2004)
Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (nonfiction, 2003)
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (stories, 1999)
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (essays, 1997)
Infinite Jest (novel, 1996)
Girl with Curious Hair (stories, 1989)
The Broom of the System (novel, 1987)
Booker Prize Shortlist 2008
Posted September 11, 2008
The announcement of the annual Man Booker Prize shortlist this week unofficially kicks off the literary awards season that seems like a traditional part of fall. The winner will be announced in mid-October. Likewise, the National Book Award finalists will be announced in October, the winners in November. (In fact, this year the NBA finalists will be announced by Chicago-area author Scott Turow at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre on October 15.) The Nobel Prize for Literature is usually awarded in October. In November and December, those ever-popular “best books of the year” features will start popping up in newspapers and magazines across the English-speaking world, and by the time the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes are announced in early 2008, a consensus will probably have emerged about which 2008 books will be celebrated as the best. The interesting thing right now is that there doesn’t seem to be any consensus at all, a refreshing change after last year when the same four or five books dominated every award and list.
This shortlist is notable for skipping Salman Rushdie’s latest, not to mention Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, one of the few literary novels to emerge from the pack so far this year. It’s also notable for featuring some fairly fresh names that are unlikely to appear on the later lists. In other words, dear readers, there’s still plenty of time to explore those bookshelves and to make up your own minds about what’s good before the season of heavy hype sets in.
2008 Booker Shortlist:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (coming in October)
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (not yet scheduled for U.S. release)
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (to be published in the U.S. in 2009)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
Elvis Appears on the Ed Sullivan Show
Posted September 9, 2008
On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. 1956 was considered Presley’s breakout year. That year he appeared on The Milton Berle Show in April and again in June with such huge ratings that Steve Allen (NBC) booked him to appear on his show in July. Concerned about the uproar over his gyrating hips, the network asked Elvis to keep this appearance “family friendly” by singing “Hound Dog” to a basset hound in a top hat. Despite this ridiculous performance, the ratings topped The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time and subsequently Sullivan booked Elvis for three appearances on his show for $50,000, an unhead of sum for the time. His debut on The Ed Sullivan Show drew an estimated 55 million viewers, the largest television audience ever at the time. Notably, Elvis was only shown from the waist up on The Ed Sullivan Show. We imagine the viewing audience could have been even larger had this not been the case. Those interested in Elvis’s life should check out the slim biography Elvis Presley by Bobbie Ann Mason. However, we think the best way to experience the King is to listen to his music, so we have put together a list of some essential recordings to get you started.
D.I.Y. Listening Fest: Elvis 101
Elvis 30 #1 Hits - A primer for the Elvis novice, this disc includes all of the King’s hits, big and small, including “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender.”
Elvis At Sun - Presley’s first recordings were with Sun Records in Memphis in 1954-1955. This album includes his five Sun singles and additional demos with Scotty Moore on guitar and Billy Black on bass. These energetic early recordings include rockabilly, country and blues tracks.
Million Dollar Quartet - This is a recording of an impromptu jam session at Sun Studios made on December 4, 1956 with other Sun artists Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
How Great Thou Art - Elvis did more than cause anxiety in the parents of American teenagers. He also sang the praises of God. His second full length gospel LP won a Grammy in 1967.
From Elvis in Memphis - On the heels of Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special television appearance, he recorded the album that many critics consider his best. Elvis returned to Memphis to record this album, which featured country, blues and soul tracks.
Sew Long Summer
Posted September 02, 2008
I don’t know about you, but with the official close of one busy summer, I’m looking forward to getting back to some indoor hobbies. Last year—with lofty ideas of whipping up cute household accessories or doing my own alterations—I took some sewing classes. But then winter came along and my interests turned to all things knit. And though I’m not quite ready to pull out the crochet needles, I think I’ll dust off the old sewing machine and find a new project. Thankfully, the Library has lots of books for both beginners and pros in need of a refresher course or inspiration. A quick browse of the catalog turned up lots of good picks starting with S.E.W. : Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide with 25 Fabulous Original Designs, Including 8 Patterns by Diana Rupp. This jam-packed volume covers everything from the gear you’ll need, to the how-to, and finally tons of fabulous ideas. My favorites so far are the “tote-ally awesome” tote bag and the “wear anywhere yoga pants.” Another great find was Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew by Amy Karol. I first heard of Karol from her Flickr page of the same name. She set it up so that all you crafty people can post photos of the great stuff you make using her book. What a great idea. The book includes 30 projects including: pillows, aprons and purses. Need more ideas or tips? Try some of the titles below and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master seamster.
Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads into Street Couture by Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng and Melissa Rannels
Sewing Basics by Wendy Gardiner
Sew What! Skirts: 16 simple styles you can make with fabulous fabrics by Francesca DenHartog & Carole Ann Camp
Simple Gifts to Stitch: 30 elegant and easy projects by Jocelyn Worrall
Sew U: the Built by Wendy guide to making your own wardrobe by Wendy Mullin with Eviana Hartman