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.

LIght Up the Sky

altHart, Moss. Light Up the Sky: comedy in three acts. 1948. (812 H25L)

Ripe for overacting, I can just picture the grandiose actors portraying the director, star, and producer in this comedy about show business. It is the opening night of a new play in Boston for its out-of-town tryout. The first act is in the early evening before the opening, act two is after the show and act three is after the reviews have been published. The highs and lows and "Darlings" are extreme. Even the stage directions are overwrought. I can't wait to see it, if only in my mind.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


A Northern Light

titleDonnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light. 2003. (YA Fiction Donne.J)

Life is painfully hard in upstate New York in the early 1900's on the hardscrabble farms. There's the annual six week period during the end of winter when the food has run out and the ground is still hard and the river frozen. Women die easily from childbirth and exhaustion, folk remedies sometimes work and often fail. Mattie wants to go to college and become a writer. It's an unlikely dream since her mother has died leaving Mattie to raise her younger siblings and help her father with the farm. There is hardly enough money for food let alone foolish things like education. In the summer, the area is beautiful, attracting the wealthy to its lakes and hills. Mattie gets a job for the summer at a resort to help her father pay for a new mule. One day, a young woman guest hands Mattie a pile of letters and asks her to burn them. Before Mattie is able to comply, the young woman drowns in a boating accident and her young man disappears. He is assumed drowned as well but as Mattie starts to read the letters, she reluctantly comes to a different conclusion.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


And When She Was Good

titleLippman, Laura. And When She Was Good. 2012. (Mystery Lippm.L)

To her neighbors, Heloise Lewis is a young widow who does it all. She lives in an affluent neighborhood of Baltimore, she manages to hold down what must be a high paying job-- although what it is, they don't really know-- and she's a model mother to her pre-teen son. But many men of the area are well aware that there's more to Heloise's story. She's a highly paid prostitute who runs her own, incredibly discreet, rigidly structured escort service.

She learned the business from Val, her son's father, who is in prison on a murder charge... and he's in prison because she put him there. He doesn't know that, though, and he doesn't know that he has a son. However, he might not be staying in prison for long because of a possible unreliable witness in his trial. And Val is beginning to suspect that Heloise has been keeping secrets.

Read more: And When She Was Good


The End of Nature


McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. 1989. (304.28 Mckib.W)

I'm typing this review on a computer, with my lunch and a cell phone at hand. Nothing special, right? Wrong, McKibben would say. This scene is unfathomable from any perspective except our own--and perhaps unsustainable too. The computer runs whenever I want on electricity from a coal-fired plant. The lunch includes citrus trucked in from Florida. The cell phone kited in from Asia. I have access to these items because I live in a culture of affluence, obviously--but also a "culture of effluents." The power plant, the citrus truck, and the Asia plane all emit CO2 that's changing the climate. We grasp this now, but many didn't in 1989 when McKibben helped put global warming on the political map with this book. (The New Yorker, for whom he was a staff writer for years, devoted most of one issue to excerpts.) Though the science is largely settled, it's still worth reading for its insights into the challenges facing our industrialized species.

Read more: The End of Nature


The Humans

Haig, Matt. The Humans. 2013. (Science Fiction Haig.M) 

titleThe morning after Cambridge mathematics professor Andrew Martin solves the Riemann Hypothesis, he is "replaced" by a Vonnadorian agent sent from a far away planet. The alien, our narrator in this darkly comic tale, is on a mission: destroy all evidence of the solution and eliminate anyone Professor Martin may have told. The imposter takes on the professor's form even though he's repulsed by most things human. They have parts protruding from their bodies (ugly noses, odd-shaped ears, holes filled with gelatinous orbs, and worse things); they smell of partially digested cow; their cars are earthbound; and the worst, they are irrational and emotion-driven.

Read more: The Humans


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