Readers' Services

The Readers’ Services staff can help you find specific materials and can offer reading suggestions. Please phone (847) 448-8620 for assistance. Use Novelist, to find reviews, reading guides, and reading lists for fiction lovers.

The Invention of Wings

altKidd, Sue Monk. The Invention of Wings. 2014. (Fiction Kidd.S)

When Sarah Grimke turned 11 in 1803, her parents' gift to her was little Hetty ("Handful"), daughter of their slave Charlotte, to be her lady's maid and companion. This was the custom amongst the upper-class of Charleston, SC. What follows is the moving and revealing story of the lives of these two women as they navigate the treacherous years ahead. In alternating chapters--one is Handful's story, one Sarah's--Kidd does a fine job of capturing the voice of each as they relate the horrors of slavery and the lack of a voice to speak against it. Based on the true-life abolitionists Sarah and Angelina Grimke, with much material gleaned from letters and writings of the time, this is an imagining of how they became so outspoken in the cause. If you enjoyed The Help by Stockett, you'll find the theme of this one similar, though it's set 150 years earlier.

(Barbara L., Reader's Services)


Dear Committee Members

altSchumacher, Julie. Dear Committee Members. 2014 (Fiction Schum.J)

The book review editors at Booklist selected their “funniest books” for the September 1 issue (see The Back Page). Good choices, but here’s one to add to that collection: Dear Committee Members had me laughing out loud. The story is written in the form of letters of recommendations from Jason Fitger, a disgruntled professor of creative writing at a fictional college. Not only is he constantly besieged by requests for these letters by students and colleagues alike, he has to contend with the construction of a new department directly above his – which wreaks havoc both in his office and on his relationship with administration. Unable to continue his own writing he vents all his frustrations in these letters, as well as trying to mentor the career of Darren Browles, one of his graduate students whose work Accountant in a Bordello, he’s touting as the next great American novel. This is a witty, satirical, and sometimes outrageous look at life in academia. You may never think of a letter of recommendation in quite the same way again. (Laura, Reader's Services)


The Story of Lucy Gault

titleTrevor, William. The Story of Lucy Gault. 2002. (Fiction Trevo.W)

Beautiful, sad, elegiac. The melancholy tone of the writing fits the heartbreaking tale of Lucy and her parents who, forced by The Troubles in 1920's Ireland, are unwittingly separated much longer than necessary. All spend lonely years waiting and drifting through their lives. There is a Sleeping Beauty quality to this story; it reads a bit like a fairytale though I held my breath for the inevitable end, which is not "They all lived happily ever after".

(Nancy E., North Branch)


Four Books on Israel-Palestine


Abunimah, Ali. The Battle for Justice in Palestine. 2014. (956.94054 Abuni.A).

Shavit, Ari. My Promised Land. 2013. (956.94 Shavi.A).

Abunimah, Ali. One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. 2006. (956.94054 Abuni.A).

Ross, Jack. Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism. 2011. (320.54092 Berge.E Ross.J).

This past August, a book talk by Mr. Abunimah generated great controversy at our library. Abunimah is an ardent defender of Palestinian rights: one of his central views (expressed in both of his books) is that the modern Israel was established wrongly on Palestinian territory and has no right to exist as a Jewish state. Some would say this reflects blatant anti-semitism. He rejects the charge, drawing a distinction between anti-Jewishness (which he decries) and two core anti-Zionist beliefs: that Judaism can't serve as a basis for nationhood, and that Jewish nationalism can't trump Palestinian rights. In Abunimah's view, Israel-Palestine must become a bi-national state, or else the majority of Palestinians will continue to suffer indefensible oppression in the Gaza Strip, the occupied territories, and in Israel itself.

Read more: Four Books on Israel-Palestine


A Tale for the Time Being


Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being. 2013. (Fiction Ozeki.R)

Ruth Ozeki weaves together two stories in her third – and most spellbinding – novel to date. An author (also named Ruth) discovers the diary of Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese American girl that washed ashore on her island off British Columbia. Ruth’s growing obsession (and ours too) with the diary leads her to try to discover whether Nao is still living. And what is a time being, you ask? Nao explains: “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.” Nao talks about everything in her journal – her parents, her time in California, her terrible school years, and her 104-year-old great-grandmother (and Buddhist nun) Jiko. Nao is such an original voice –and Ms. Ozeki captures it perfectly. Funny, sad, and at times heartbreaking, this novel has stayed with me long after I finished it. Kirkus Reviews called it “a masterpiece, pure and simple” – I completely agree. (Laura, Reader's Services)




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