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 Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

titleWaal, F. B. M. de. The Bonobo and the Atheist. 2013. (599.8 Waal.F)

The Dutch primatologist, Frans de Wall, has a message for ‘the atheists’: religion is an overall force for good…and it’s not going away. Religious desire, he believes, is not a man-made phenomenon, but rather something genetically ingrained: a product of evolution that’s deeply rooted in pre-human animal morality for the purpose of ensuring communal cooperation. De Waal’s proof comes from his experience researching and observing our closest primate cousins: apes, chimps and, in particular, the bonobos.  He claims that these three families—whose genetic makeup is 99.5% of our own—are innately moral because studies have shown them to exhibit behaviors such as sharing, caring and cooperation. That said, de Waal’s book is less a critique of the ‘new atheist’ movement than it is about non-human mammals and their ability to sympathize and empathize with each other. A 'popular science' book written for the layperson, The Bonobo and the Atheist is a fun and fascinating read. (Russ K., Ref.)


City of Bones

title Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones. 2007. (Science Fiction Clare.C)

What do you get when you mix the Harry Potter, Sookie Stackhouse, and Twilight series with just a dash of incest?  City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  Clary Fray is a half human, half nephilim (which is half human, half angel) and she is completely unaware of this fact until one night, at a club, she sees a violent murder that no one else seems to be able to see.  Then thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters and a war against demons and nephilim alike, Clary learns the truth of her heritage, her mother, and her destiny.  Does this book have a sanctuary for special kids – check.  A love triangle – check.  And all sorts of creatures – check?  Also, falling in love with a dude that turns out to be your brother - *spoiler alert* - check.  It was a good enough novel, much more appropriate for the YA designation than adult, but as I’m a perpetual teen… it worked.  Beware though, because the movie is HORRIBLE.  It barely follows the book and, sadly, even Jonathan Rhys Meyers as evil Valentine can’t even save it.  (Kim - Reader's Services) 


The Book Thief

titleThe Book Thief. 2014. (DVD Drama Book)

I’m usually reluctant to see movies based on books I love, so when I went to see The Book Thief, I was pleasantly surprised. This adaptation of Markus Zusak’s bestseller with its perfect casting and recreation of 1930s Germany retained the book’s essence. The story, set in Nazi Germany, focuses on Liesel Meminger sent to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann in a small village outside Munich. It is Hans who teaches Liesel to read and it is her passion for reading and words that compels her to “borrow” books. Sophie Nelisse, who made her screen debut in Monsieur Lazhar, gives another wonderful performance here as the film’s young protagonist – and holds her own against veteran actors Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson who play her foster parents. The sardonic narration by Death which works so well in the book doesn’t quite translate in the film – but despite that the film is beautiful and moving. Recommended for both adults and young adults.

(Laura, Reader's Services)



Alien: Out of the Shadows


Lebbon, Tim. Alien: Out of the Shadows. 2014. (Downloadable eBook).

This novelization of the 1979 film (and its sequels) is available from EPL only in downloadable format, which feels appropriate: following the action on a tablet or e-reader pulls you closer to the story's futuristic atmosphere and inhuman lead characters. Thumbing through paper pages would reduce the eerie effect. As in the film, the alien characters use human space travelers as cocoons, bursting out into the open amidst gore and terror. Once "born" they may be stopped only after [spoiler alert: highly predictable plot component about to be revealed] the two central human characters, Ripley and Hooper, who share a love interest, witness the gruesome deaths of most of their colleagues. Ripley's and Hooper's psychological struggles are forgettable: this is for fans of gadgetry and non-stop action, more than characterization and plot. (Jeff B., Reader's Services)


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)


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