Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions from the Staff of EPL

December 6, 2017

If the people that work at Evanston Public Library know one thing, it’s how to recommend a book. Now I’m sure you’ve all already seen EPL’s magnificent 101 Great Books for Children list, produced just the other day. The list has been a great success (pick up a physical copy in the library today!), so much so that we’ve received many requests for a teen or adult version. And while it’s too late in the year to kick off such lists at this point in the game, I can at least provide you with the brilliance of our staff. Therefore, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce to you Evanston Public Library’s own Staff Picks for Holiday Shopping.  Here are the materials my staff think are definitely worth considering this year:

Adult Fiction

  • A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Recommended by Jill
  • A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin – Recommended by Allison
  • Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero – Recommended by Matthew
  • World Chase Me Down by Andrew Hilleman – Recommended by Matthew
  • Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova – Recommended by Renee
  • The Purple Swamp Hen: Stories by Penelope Lively – Recommended by Barb
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Recommended by Jill
  • The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

For 2017 books, I’ve LOVED LOVED LOVED The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter – Jaime

  • Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong – Recommended by Jill
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – Recommended by Jill
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – Recommended by Barb
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jessmyn Ward – Recommended by Betsy
  • Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder – Recommended by Allison
  • Stoner by John Williams – Recommended by Brian
  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin – Recommended by Jill




  • The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffith’s Magic Men Mystery series just gets better and better. It’s a peek into post war Britain. Did you know they took sweets off rationing in honor of the Queen’s coronation? – Bridget

  • Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris – Recommended by Kassy
  • A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – Recommended by Jaime


  • With Love From the Inside by Angela Pisel – Recommended by Matthew


Science Fiction

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

An original fairytale, with an original heroine, who is not content to settle for an expected fairytale ending.  Strongly grounded in Russian folklore, with a wonderful and a sense of place and time (and a little bit of magic)! – Lorena

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Recommended by Jeff

NOT an original choice, I know, but I thoroughly enjoyed wallowing in the world of 1980s arcade games and pop culture, which this novel celebrates—in addition to presenting a convincing dystopian vision for the future (and NOT just of Columbus, Ohio). It may be a good YA book—it’s got naughty bits—but I had fun with it as a rip-roaring fantasy novel for adults, too. Soon to be a Stanley Kubrick movie near you, btw . . . – Jeff

  • Provenance by Ann Leckie
Set in a different corner of the Imperial Radch universe that Leckie explores in her award-winning “Ancillary” series, with a focus on how we define ourselves – individually, in relation to (or away from) our families, and as nations.  – Lorena
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
This book features that trademark Scalzi humor, along with a compelling and fast-paced storyline that sets up what promises to be an interesting new space opera series. – Lorena
  • Annihilation, Book 1 of the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – Recommended by Jill
  • Artemis by Andy Weir – Recommended by Kassy
  • All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

It may seem strange to say about a book in a series called “The Murderbot Diaries,” but this was just a whole lot of fun! It’s full of classic sci-fi elements like a stranded team on a hostile planet under attack from unknown sources, but tells the tale from the viewpoint of the team’s assigned security bot – a cloned human/robot hybrid (who has hacked its own controls and is now secretly a free agent, and refers to itself as “Murderbot”). The story behind the moniker, and the question of how Murderbot finds its place in the universe, add depth (and humor) to the action. – Lorena


Graphic Novels

  • Octavia Butler’s Kindred – a graphic novel adaptation, by Damian Duffy.  – Recommended by Lorena
  • My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

Absolutely terrific graphic novel from Japan – Martha

  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by local author Emil Ferris – Recommended by Heather

For graphic novel fans I cannot recommend  enough Emil Ferris’s book, My Favorite Thing is Monsters. I believe she lives in Evanston so there’s a local author connection as well. The art is inventive and amazing and the story, a mystery set in Uptown in Chicago referring back to WWII Germany coexists beautifully with the story of a girl’s coming of age. It would make a great gift for teens, or for anyone who’s a fan of graphic storytelling. – Julie



  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nuff – Recommended by Jess
  • Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur – Recommended by Jill
  • The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy In a New Gilded Age by David Callahan

Explores the “great power shift” in American and the world today, and explores who is really in charge. As we consider who manages our destiny, we must consider the role of powerful corporations, government…and also big philanthropy. I think this is a topic that a wide variety of Evanstonians will appreciate, and it might encourage some strategic thinking. – Wynn

  • How Cycling Can Save the World by Peter Walker

Overview of cycling’s effects throughout the world and a great explanation of what Evanston means when it says “livable city” – Martha

  • Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – Recommended by Ted
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Recommended by Tyler
  • Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

Apart from being scrupulously researched, it is a riveting story of how pain, injustice, and then often just blind luck brought many young German Jews to the United States in the 1930s—and a chance to fight back against their persecutors, which they did extraordinarily effectively as interrogators of captured Nazis. – Jeff

  • Fetch by Nicole Georges

A beautiful book about how she [Georges] learned a lot about herself by taking in a difficult rescue dog. The way she relates her own childhood and relationship problems to those of her dog is so insightful and the book is great for animal lovers or people who like stories of resilience.  – Louise


  • The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui – Recommended by Jess
  • Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.  by Danielle Allen – Recommended by Jill
  • On Bowie by Rob Sheffield – Recommended by Brian
  • Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes – Recommended by Brian



  • Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

For getting in the holiday spirit, I downloaded from Hoopla David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice. I like the audio version because David reads the stories. I listened to it on a plane traveling over Thanksgiving and was laughing so hard I disturbed my seat mate. – Jess

  •  If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? by Alan Alda – Recommended by Bridget


Young Adult Fiction

  • If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout – Recommended by Kassy
  • Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman – Recommended by Louise
  • You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins – Recommended by Renee
  • Loving V. Virginia by Patricia Powell – Recommended by Renee
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Recommended by Taylor

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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