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.

Monstrous Regiment

titlePratchett, Terry. Monstrous Regiment. 2003. (Science Fiction Pratc.T)

Delightfully wacky, full of wordplay, anti-war sentiment and good humor, this stand-alone addition to Pratchett's Discworld series makes for a great listen or read. The title refers to a diatribe by John Knox in 1558 against women rulers but is interpreted here in a different and surprising manner. Well, who is surprised is kind of the surprise. Polly leaves home disguised as a young man in order to join the army and hunt for her missing brother Paul. Along the way, she and her fellow foot soldiers encounter the wounded, royalty, a journalist, varied fools and officers, all trying to win the endless war. Or profit from it. Or prolong it. Or explain it. Or just to find coffee.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


Shotgun Lovesongs

titleButler, Nickolas. Shotgun Lovesongs. 2014. (Fiction Butle.N)

This is a love letter to small Midwestern towns and to male friendship. These four boyhood companions never lose their love for each other or where they come from, though they are all tested and some are found wanting in their loyalties. The landscape, weather, old houses and farms, ponds and fields, music and memories, feed the bond tying Henry, Lee, Kip and Ronnie together.  Here, kindness is more important than either success or failure, and forgiveness forges new bonds. They may spin apart but there is a band that holds them, if not always in proximity, in each other's consciousness.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

titleWalton, Leslye J. The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. 2014. (YA Fiction Walto.L)

If Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Laura Esquivel and Audrey Niffenegger all had a beatific child together, this novel is what she would look like. "Love makes us such fools," says a ghost, killed by his lover, which pretty much sums up the theme of this tale of generation after generation following the wrong beloved. Lush, sensuous writing enwraps the wonderfully odd characters as they ignore the loving normal acquaintances in their midst. Evil almost triumphs because they fail to see truly, but only glance at what is before them. We readers wait to see if anyone will finally notice the true love waiting for him or her. The title is a painful irony, yet as lulling as the rich language throughout.

(Nancy E., North Branch )


We Are Our Brains


Swaab, D. F. We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's. 2014. (612.82 Swaab.D)

The premise of D.F. Swaab’s book We Are Our Brains is perfectly reflected in its title: thanks to inherited genes and hormones washing over our fetal brains, our future characteristics, talents and limitations are largely established by the time we’re born. By adulthood, there is little about our brains that can be modified. Swaab, an internationally renowned neuroscientist, explains how mother and unborn child ‘work together’ for a successful birth; if they don’t, the child’s development may be thwarted. Swaab shows how gender identity and sexual orientation are predetermined by hormones in the womb. He delves into adolescent and adult brains; how brain damage alters personalities and creates fascinating illusions for the afflicted (schizophrenia, autism, and a host of unusual conditions).  Lastly, Swaab explores human morality (it’s an animal thing), religiosity (determined by genes and the brain); and the ‘Near Death Experience’ (just the brain shutting down). We Are Our Brains is an excellent read; highly recommended. (Russ K., Ref.)



The Lunchbox


The Lunchbox. 2014. (DVD Foreign Hindi Lunchbo)

DVD Foreign Hindi Lunchbo

The system of delivering lunches in Mumbai India is so famous Harvard Business School did a study on it. Every day wives make hot home-cooked lunches which are picked up by bicycle delivery men (dabbawallahs) to bring to their husbands in offices all over the city. Up to 250,000 lunches are delivered that way every day without a hitch. But In Ritesh Batra’s debut film one lunchbox is delivered to the wrong man – and what a good thing for us and him. Neglected and lonely wife Ila makes special meals (which look so delicious you can almost taste them) for her husband which get delivered to dour, middle-aged Saajan by mistake. A series of heartfelt handwritten notes are sent back and forth in the lunch box – a correspondence that evolves into a sharing of confidences. We know from the expressive faces of the two main actors exactly what they’re feeling – and we sympathize with them. This isn't your traditional romantic comedy, though - it's a bittersweet and moving film with an unexpected ending. I loved it.

(Laura, Reader's Services)



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