What Evanston Readers Love to Read the Most (Nonfiction Edition!)

October 26, 2017

I have many fun tools to play with at the library. Tools that tell me when items haven’t circulated in years and years. Tools that inform me how well I’m keeping up with popular materials. Tools that tell me when an item on the shelf is “grubby”.  That last tool is an interesting one. Basically, it informs me as to which materials have circulated the most. From this list I’m able to reorder those books and switch out the gross with the shiny.

In theory.

In practice a lot of the books with the most circulations are out-of-print or the devil to find online.

Today we’re going to look at the true and factual books on our shelves with the highest circulations. What do Evanstonians like to read the most? Here’s a top ten list that may well surprise you:

  1. The Fall of Berlin, 1945 by Antony Beever

Description: The Red Army had much to avenge when it finally reached the frontiers of the Third Reich in January 1945. Frenzied by their terrible experiences with Wehrmacht and SS brutality, they wreaked havoc—tanks crushing refugee columns, mass rape, pillage, and unimaginable destruction. Hundreds of thousands of women are children froze to death or were massacred; more than seven million fled westward from the fury of the Red Army. It was the most terrifying example of fire and sword ever known. Antony Beevor has reconstructed the experiences of those millions caught up in the nightmare of the Third Reich’s final collapse. The Fall of Berlin is a terrible story of pride, stupidity, fanaticism, revenge, and savagery, yet it is also one of astonishing endurance, self-sacrifice, and survival against all odds.

2. Evanstoniana: An Informal History of Evanston and Its Architecture by Margery Perkins

Description: This book concentrates on Evanston’s rich legacy of houses, and also covers other kinds of architecture, including many past and present buildings of Northwestern University. Architects represented range all the way from Thomas Eddy Tallmadge to Walter Netsch. Architect Lawrence B. Perkins, husband of the late author, did several sketches for the book. For lagniappe, we even get a lacing of anecdotes such as the one about how Evanston gave the ice cream sundae its name.

3. Evanston by Barbara J. Buchbinder-Green

Description: A pictorial history of the city.

4. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Description: The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author. An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.

5. West Side Story: A New Musical Based On a Conception of Jerome Robbins by Leonard Bernstein

Description: The score of the famous musical. An indication of the age of this item is the fact that the show is described as “new” in it subtitle.

6. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

Description: We always have a choice, Pema Chödrön teaches: We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. Here Pema provides the tools to deal with the problems and difficulties that life throws our way. This wisdom is always available to us, she teaches, but we usually block it with habitual patterns rooted in fear. Beyond that fear lies a state of openheartedness and tenderness. This book teaches us how to awaken our basic goodness and connect with others, to accept ourselves and others complete with faults and imperfections, and to stay in the present moment by seeing through the strategies of ego that cause us to resist life as it is.

7. Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris

Description: In David Sedaris’s world, no one is safe and no cow is sacred. Sedaris’s collection of essays and stories is a rollicking tour through the national Zeitgeist: a do-it-yourself suburban dad saves money by performing home surgery; a man who is loved too much flees the heavyweight champion of the world; a teenage suicide tries to incite a lynch mob at her funeral; a bitter Santa abuses the elves. With a perfect eye and a voice infused with as much empathy as wit, Sedaris writes stories and essays that target the soulful ridiculousness of our behavior. Barrel Fever is like a blind date with modern life, and anything can happen.

8. Evanston; Its Land and Its People by Viola Crouch Reeling

Description: As the book describes itself it is, “not a history in the accepted sense of the word, but is intended to be a narrative with historic value, citing great events and small happenings, and, except in a few instances, is carried only to the  year of 1900.”

9. The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka

Description: The Not So Big House proposes clear guidelines for creating homes that serve spiritual needs as well as material requirements. Topics include designing for specific lifestyles, budgeting, building a home from scratch, and using energy-efficient construction.

10. All Sondheim by Stephen Sondheim

Description: A collection of the composer’s earliest works.

Amazingrace: A Piece of Evanston History

September 16, 2011

The fall issue of Northwestern’s alumni magazine contains an excellent cover story about Amazingrace, the Evanston non-alcoholic coffeehouse and nightclub that began in the basement of Northwestern’s Scott Hall in 1971. After moving to Shanley Hall in the spring of 1972, the group enjoyed a reputation beyond Evanston and Northwestern for hosting folk singers. By 1973 the twelve original  members of Amazingrace had either graduated from Northwestern or dropped out and began living communally in a house in Evaston at the corner of Sherman and Colfax. In 1974, after years of zoning disagreements with Northwestern and the city, Amazingrace severed ties with Northwestern and moved the The Main, a newly built “town center” shopping area at Main and Chicago. According to Northwestern University Archives, during the next few years Amazingrace continued to gain in popularity and became one of the best places in the Chicagoland area to hear live music. Times were changing, however, and refusing to embrace the changing business culture of the late seventies was the group’s downfall. Amazingrace fell behind on their rent and were evicted in July 1978. For more information on Amazingrace coffee shop and nightclub checkout the library’s reference files, Northwestern Library Archives, or read the Northwestern feature article where you will also see wonderful photos of an interesting piece of Evanston’s history.

Rika G.

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