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.

City of Thieves

titleBenioff, David. City of Thieves. 2008. (Fiction Benio.D)

My sister told me I would love this book. "It's about an improbable friendship told with sharp humor. It takes place during the Siege of Leningrad." How could a story about that be funny? "Okay," she said, "black humor." The improbable friendship is a result of an impossible proposition made to two inmates awaiting their death. If in this starving country, they can find a dozen eggs for a colonel's daughter's wedding cake, they will be freed and their ration cards returned.  One of the two is a seventeen year old angst filled Jew-who wouldn't be filled with angst at this time in Leningrad's history-and a good-humored handsome randy literary army deserter. I had to look away from the violence several times but there was always a leavening of the promised black humor. The author has gone on to write and produce Game of Thrones so perhaps this rich mix is unsurprising.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


The Golem and The Jinni


Wecker, Helene. The Golem and The Jinni. 2013. (Fiction Wecke.H)

The best thing I can say about this wonderful novel is that I can't wait for Wecker's next one to be published. It may take a while though, if she gives as much attention to combining historical detail, fantastical stories, intriguing characters, joy,  horror, humor and pathos, in her next book as she did in this one. Everything that happens here is unexpected because the two main characters are mythical creatures who are brought unknowingly to turn of the 20th century New York. The Golem, a slave devoted unthinkingly to a single master has no master since hers has died on the boat to the new land and the Jinni, a creature usually unfettered by anything except its own wants, finds itself partially freed from a captivity it can't remember. Along with all the other immigrants in the city, they try to find a way to live without giving away or betraying their true natures.

(Nancy E., North Branch)


The Lost World of Bletchley Park

titleMcKay, Sinclair. The Lost World of Bletchley Park: An Illustrated History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre. 2013. (940.5486 MCK)

For World War II buffs, Anglophiles, cryptography geeks, and fans of the excellent Masterpiece Mystery series The Bletchley Circle, this book takes readers to the top-top-secret estate of Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire that was for five years home to the crucial work of cracking the German military codes. Bletchley was a world unto itself, staffed with cryptographers, mathematicians, linguists, military specialists, intelligence agents, stenographers, and locals who served as the housekeeping and kitchen staff. Oh, and there was the occasional genius to shed light on the codes to be cracked. Everyone involved had to sign the Official Secrets Act and almost all kept mum well after the war was won. This book is a compendium of all things Bletchley. It's a trove of memoirs, anecdotes, mini-biographies, the workings of the Enigma machines and more all accompanied by wonderful photos of life at Bletchley.

(Barbara L., Reader's Services)


Dear Life

titleMunro, Alice. Dear Life: Stories. 2012. (Fiction Munro.A)

This latest collection (and possible last according to recent interviews) by the 2013 Nobelist in literature explores various themes found throughout her large body of work: coming-of-age, stultifying small-town life and the act of leaving home, unusual childhoods, and how even betrayal and abandonment cannot change love. Though I (nor my clever book group friends) could find no direct connection between the stories in this book such as one does with Jumpa Lahiri's immigrant tales or the very connected tales in Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, Munro's smooth, slightly detached tone and the evocation of an era (usually post-World War II or the 70s) somehow worked to pull these disparate stories together. Ending with a quartet of stories that are actually memoirs from Munro's childhood, we are offered a glimpse into this author's formative experiences.

(Barbara L., Reader's Services)


Still Life With Bread Crumbs


Quindlen, Anna. Still Life With Bread Crumbs. 2014. (Fiction Quind.A)

The title of Anna Quindlen’s latest book intrigued me, especially after seeing a recent exhibit of American still life paintings at the Art Institute last year. But this still life is a photograph described as “a vaguely Flemish composition of dirty wine glasses, stacked plates, the torn ends of two baguettes, and a dish towel singed at one corner by the gas stove” which launched Rebecca Winter’s famed career. Now at age 60, her star is fading, her money dwindling, and her family floundering. Subletting her expensive Manhattan apartment, she rents a dilapidated cabin in upstate New York and begins the process of reinventing her life and finding new inspiration for her artwork, as well as becoming involved with some of her interesting new neighbors. Despite a somewhat pat outcome, this was an insightful and satisfying read. After all, a story about "une femme d’un certain age” who discovers herself and finds love to boot – what’s not to like? (Laura, Reader's Services)


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