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 Defender


Michaeli, Ethan. The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America. 2016. 071.7311 Micha.E.

I knew The Defender was highly influential in Chicago, especially on the south side, but I didn't know about its national reach. For much of the 20th century the newspaper was near the epicenter of the nation's social and political turbulence. It swayed the elections of Chicago mayors, of course, but also the elections of U.S. presidents such as Truman and Kennedy. An individual copy of the paper, picked up by a Pullman porter in Chicago, might be read by a dozen train-travelers in a dozen states.

White readers who spend time with Michaeli's sweeping history will gain an understanding of our country from a new vantage point. It's a little like growing up on familiar radio hits, or Old Town folk music, and stepping for the first time into a hopping blues club. You feel out of place, then you realize the story is partly your own.

Mr. Michaeli will be at the library on Thursday, July 21 to talk about his book.

(Jeff B., Reader's Services)


Troublemaker and Troublemaker 2


Evanovich, Janet. Troublemaker. 2010. (741.5973 Evano. J bk. 1), Troublemaker 2. 2011. (741.5973 Evano.J bk 2)

I am going to admit something here: I don’t like graphic novels. I find them incredibly frustrating to read. To me, the addition of images for every couple of lines of dialogue is more of a distraction than an enhancement of the story. But, in an effort to more widely read across genres, I decided to give the Troublemaker books a try. They’re written by an author that I love—Janet Evanovich, and her daughter Alex, with art by Joelle Jones—and are the third and fourth in a series that also includes Metro Girl and Motor Mouth (both full length novels, and not of the graphic variety). The series follows Alex “Barney” Barnaby, who is a mechanic for Sam Hooker, famous NASCAR driver. When their friend, Rosa, is kidnapped by a voodoo priest, Barney, Sam, and Sam’s giant St. Bernard, Beans, set out to find her. As the title of the books suggest, trouble ensues, but not without a few laughs along the way. The story is split into two parts, so be sure to check them both out at the same time so you aren’t left with a cliffhanger. While these books didn’t necessarily change my opinion about graphic novels, I didn’t hate them. I just think I would have enjoyed the story more in a typical novel format. But for those who really love graphic novels, these are a light and fun read. (Jeny, Reader's Services)



The Marriage of Opposites

titleHoffman, Alice. The Marriage of Opposites. 2015. (Fiction Hoffm.A)

Often called the Father of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands in 1830. In Hoffman's imagined life of the artist based loosely on facts, the novel's first half is taken up with the artist's mother and her rebellious nature and how the tiny Jewish community on the island shuts the family out. When the child Pissarro makes his appearance, he too is a rebel. Hoffman's writing throughout this book is spotty. Her prose was wonderful when describing the lush island environment and how a young artist sees the world. I found the sections set in Paris to have stronger plot lines that, alas, deserved more attention by the author. I was befuddled by the title--an alchemical term that refers to the blending of elements to produce something new. There is no strong theme in the book relating to this metaphor, or it's so obscure I missed it. My biggest problem was Hoffman's repetition: we hear over and over how the Jewish community shunned the family, or how Pissarro hated book learning and his father's business. She doesn't "show" us, she just keeps saying it. However, despite all that, my book club had a very nice discussion and the art history aspect was very illuminating. So...I guess this is a two-thumbs-sideways review.

(Barbara L., Reader's Services)


Little Black Dress

Meyer, Shannon. Little Black Dress: From Mourning to Night.  2016. (746.92 Meyer.S)

LBD. Little black dress: a fashion concept both simple and complex that's rich with possibilities. This is a truth "modern" desititlegners (think Chanel and later) grasped to the benefit of thousands and thousands of women who wonder what to where...anywhere. Black was originally a color of mourning that arose from pagan ritual practice and the Medieval period. It was thought to hide the living from the dead spirits; then later to express the suffering of the soul. By the time of Queen Victoria, who donned black while in deep and perpetual mourning for her beloved Albert and never again wore any other color, the custom of mourning attire was governed by strictly observed rules of dress. After WWI, a period where life changed dramatically for everyone but especially for women, black became fashionable, and it didn't take long for it to become the go-to color for those who wanted to look elegant, thin, perfectly au courant, and oh, yes, did I mention thin? This is a nice book choice for a temporary addition to your coffee table--it's well-crafted with great photos and nicely curated texts.

(Barbara L., Reader's Service)


Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America

titleWeil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. 2013.  (929.1 Weil.F)

First, this book isn’t a ‘how to’ manual on genealogy. Instead it’s a slightly academic work on the ‘why’ of genealogy in the United States from Colonial America to the DNA-testing era of our century. Weil’s thesis is fascinating: Americans’ search for identity through genealogy has firm roots in the desire to improve their social standing, align family members morally and religiously, to confirm racial purity (thereby excluding others) and—in the red-blooded American tradition—to make money. Weil begins with the early American aristocratic practice of creating pseudo genealogies in order to bolster their pedigrees. He also discusses how, after the civil war, genealogy was used to glorify and separate white Americans Anglo-Saxon heritage from others. In the 20th century, genealogy research evolved into a middle-class preoccupation that was more diversity-embracing, but the advent of the internet created new blessings and challenges of its own. Weil’s book provides an interesting perspective on the meaning behind America’s genealogy craze. (Russ K., Ref.)


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