The Dark Matter of Mona Starr

When teenager Mona Starr finds herself spiraling into a depression, her best friend persuades her to begin seeing a therapist. Mona does more than see a therapist. She takes an active role in her own healing journey by meditating, journaling about her thoughts and feelings, and analyzing how her mind works with the help of a therapist. Young Mona’s visceral struggles are translated into images so deftly that people who have experienced mental illness will take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Those who have not experienced mental illness will find this book a rare window into the inner world of people who have.

The visual language in The Dark Matter of Mona Starr avails itself of the most common school supplies found in students’ backpacks (i.e., graphite pencil, black pen, graph paper, and yellow highlighter). This palette will be recognizable to high-school-notebook-doodlers past and present. Such pedestrian materials might be overlooked by many artists, but when deployed with the level of imagination and skill possessed by Laura Lee Gulledge, they result in mind-blowing images. Beautiful graphite illustrations, lovingly blended to create soft textures, are meticulously inked in black for sharp detail.  Juxtaposed with cover-to-cover depressive grayscale, highlighter-yellow is used sparingly throughout the book to convey the magical healing powers of love, friendship, creativity, and self-compassion.

I especially love how this book is both a moving story and a practical guide! In the back of the book Gulledge’s personal Self-Care Plan is laid out in detail, and beside it, a companion note-catcher in which readers can figure out a self-care plan of their own.

Stuck Home? Need Something to Read? Evanston Public Library’s Got Your Back

March 17, 2020

Well folks, it happened. The library up and closed on you and here you are without anything to read. A great big library full of books, but you can’t get access to them. Does that sound fair?

Not to worry. Consider this a golden opportunity. After all, it has never been a better time to discover the wide and wonderful world of e-books. Do electronic books and audiobooks sound scary or weird? They’re not! These are just a new way to read all your favorites without leaving the comfort of your own home. And luckily for you, EPL has a whole range of options to choose from. Not just books either but also movies are sitting there just ripe for the watching. Here’s a quick How To guide on your options:

Overdrive / Libby

Okay, let’s start with the place that will have the LARGEST selection of ebooks just waiting for you. To make sure you get access to as many books as possible, Evanston Public Library belongs to an ebook consortium called the Digital Library of Illinois. Basically, a whole slew of local libraries came together to pool our ebooks. That means that even if we don’t have the specific title available that you’re looking for, at least there’s plenty of other things to browse. To access these books and audiobooks, all you need is your library card. Then you can either go to this website or download the Overdrive app which is named Libby. From there you’ll be asked to sign in with your library card. After that, all you need to do is find what you’re interested in and download it. Sometimes you’ll find that someone else has “checked out” the item you want. Don’t worry. You can just put it on hold and find something else to read or listen to in the interim.


hoopla logo

Don’t feel like waiting around for someone to return an e-item? Then check out Hoopla, where there’s never a wait. Like Overdrive you can download the app or go to the aforementioned website to check out the selection. See something you like? You can check it out immediately! Just bear in mind that we have a daily limit and if too many people download items in a single day you might have to wait until the next day to get what you want. Best of all, there’s music, movies, and TV shows to choose from. All for the taking.


introducing Kanopy

Of course, Hoopla’s movies and TV shows are a bit . . . limited sometimes. What if you wanted to see a classic film or something from the Criterion collection? What if you wanted to pluck something from a huge selection of indie films or documentaries? What if you wanted something from the Great Courses series? All of that, and much more, is available through Kanopy. And like Hoopla, everything you’ll find there is instantly available. Be careful, though. You’re only allowed three titles per month, so if you accidentally download something there’s nothing to be done!


So here’s a question for you. What if you’ve an interest in reading the books written by your fellow Evanstonians? Is there a place where you can find ebooks by local writers? There is! Introducing Biblioboard. Like Knopy and Hoopla it’s based on simultaneous use. Browse works by locals or, if you’re feeling brave, check out the other self-published titles available. Are you interested in maybe getting your own book on the site as well. You can! With our program, you can format and submit your own title.


Enjoy the range of selections from your favorite local library. And don’t worry. Soon enough we’ll be up and running again, but now you’ll have the knowledge you need to keep checking out ebooks in the future. Cheers!

If you've eight hours to lend to Billy Corgan and Siddhartha…

April 7, 2014

Billy_CorganBilly Corgan, frontman of the Chicago-based Smashing Pumpkins rock band, performed a musical interpretation of the Herman Hesse novella in Highland Park (at Madame ZuZu’s tea house) last month. The performance lasted eight hours, and attendees were rotated in groups so that all had a chance to marvel at the Chicago rock legend. How can your favorite novella inspire you?


Marian McPartland, Jazz Pianist And NPR Radio Host,1918-2013

August 23, 2013

marmcpartAcclaimed jazz pianist Marian McPartland died at the age of 95 on August 20. Born in England and trained as a classical pianist,  she was “drawn to the improvisational freedom of jazz.” and succeeded, according to critic Leonard Feather in spite of “three hopeless strikes against her: she was British, white, and a woman.” Besides recording over 50 albums, Ms. McPartland composed music, and led the way for other female jazz performers from Carmen McRae to Norah Jones. She is perhaps best remembered for her interviews and performances with other musicians on her long-running NPR program “Piano Jazz” which first aired in 1979. In 1958 she was one of two women included in the famous portrait of jazz musicians which inspired the 1994 documentary A Great Day in Harlem. She won a “Lifetime Achievement” Grammy in 2004 and in 2010,  was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. You can read the entire NPR article here and the Washington Post obit here. And check out the EPL catalog for her recordings.


Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

August 24, 2012

Better Late Than Never

An F. Scott Fitzgerald story rejected 75 years ago is finally published in The New Yorker.  Recently discovered by Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, “Thank You for the Light” is a short, fable-like vignette turned down in 1936 for being too unlike his other work.  See what you think.

Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

The predicted demise of the book is tracked through the ages by the NY Times.  Beginning with Theophile Gautier’s 1835 declaration that “the newspaper is killing the book,”  the essay traces how every generation has rewritten the book’s epitaph for nearly 200 years.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Scientologist

A 7-year-old Neil Gaiman talks to BBC Radio about Scientology in this transcript published by the Village Voice.  Discovered in a 1969 church pamphlet, the future sci-fi writer – whose dad was Scientology’s PR chief in the UK – is interviewed to refute Parliament’s objections to the church.

Cross-Pollinating the Arts

Lovers of books and music shouldn’t miss the Literary Jukebox.  Matching a daily book quote with a thematically-related song, this new website shares such unique pairings as Ernest Hemmingway with Mazzy Star, Susan Sontag with Andrew Bird, and many others.

An NU Alumni Sampler

June 23, 2011

NU alum Charlton Heston

All dressed up in its purple best, Northwestern University celebrated last week as it sent a new graduating class out into the world, and odds are good this won’t be the last you hear of them.  Over the years, you see, NU has become a veritable assembly line of notable alums – a fact comedian Stephen Colbert duly noted during his much-anticipated commencement address. “Northwestern’s alumni list is truly impressive,” said the 1987 NU grad.  “This university has graduated bestselling authors, Olympians, presidential candidates, Grammy winners, Peabody winners, Emmy winners – and that’s just me.”  All kidding aside, though, he’s right.  From Saul Bellow and Cloris Leachman to Steve Albini and Dan Chaon, Wildcat grads are clearly an accomplished bunch.  So to honor their achievements both past and future, we present the following eclectic list of books, movies, and music from some of Northwestern’s talented very own.  Enjoy, and stay tuned.  The list is growing.

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Amazon Debuts Cloud for Music

May 19, 2011

The drive to access media more conveniently has culminated recently in the appearance of the free Amazon Cloud system, among others, designed for a one-stop music experience. This article on ZDNET discusses the various legal issues arising between the music industry and technology companies, as well as linking to other discussions about clouds. Google launched its Music Beta which allows users to upload material they own. One cannot upload or purchase music yet on Music Beta. Stay tuned to see how this shakes out!

Shira S.

Rockin’ Down Memory Lane

December 3, 2010

Sample the audiobook read by actor Johnny Depp.

He’s a songwriter, lead guitarist, and founding member of the legendary rock band the Rolling Stones.  He’s an outlaw folk hero, a pirate hipster, and arguably the originator of the decadent “rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle.  He’s Keith Richards, and it should come as no surprise that everyone is clamoring for a copy of his long-awaited memoir Life.  In fact, given Richards’ penchant for death-defying excess, Life’s most surprising characteristic might be that it’s much more than just a gossipy showbiz tell-all.  Sure, the juicy bits are all there: the drug busts, the infamous Altamont show, his rocky relationship with Mick Jagger.  But, as the NY Times writes, Life is also “a high-def, high-velocity portrait of the era when rock ‘n’ roll came of age…, an eye-opening all-nighter in the studio with a master craftsman…, and the intimate and moving story of one man’s long strange trip over the decades.”  So, if you want to raise a little vicarious rock ‘n’ roll hell, know the secrets of the Stones, and glimpse some music magic, look no further than Keith Richards’ uncommonly candid new book Life.  If you find, however, that this literary concert is temporarily sold out, please don’t be discouraged.  Any of the following critically-acclaimed music memoirs are a great way to pass the time while you wait for Mr. Richards to take the stage.

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Rock You Like a Quatrain

April 16, 2010

David Berman
Poet & musician David Berman

Jeff Tweedy wrote one.  Billy Corgan and Jewel did too.  2Pac and Jim Morrison have posthumous collections, and Bob Dylan’s began as an underground bootleg.  What, you may ask, is the connection between this diverse group of musical artists?  The answer may surprise you.  Believe it or not, all of the aforementioned rockers and rappers have a published volume of poetry to their credit, and though the critical and commerical response to each has differed, the books are a collective reminder of the following oft-forgotten fact.  Simply put, the arts of writing songs and writing poetry are not one and the same, and it’s no given that a great lyricist will make a great poet.  There are a few rare talents, however, who are accomplished in both music and verse, and one such artist is Virginia-native David Berman.  Pulling double duty as an indie rock cult hero and a critically-acclaimed poet, Berman’s debut book Actual Air is a sure bet for connoisseurs of fine poetry everywhere.

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A Little Birthday Cash

February 26, 2010

Johnny Cash a San Quentin, 1969.
Johnny Cash performing at San Quentin State Prison, February 1969. Click on the photo to watch footage from the show.

On February 26, 1932, he was born to poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers in the tiny town of Kingsland, Arkansas.  In 1950, he was stationed in West Germany to eavesdrop on Soviet radio traffic for the U.S. Air Force.  By 1956, he was perched atop the Billboard charts with his song “I Walk the Line” and well along the road to becoming an American legend.  He was Johnny Cash, and today would have been his 78th birthday.

Over a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Cash’s distinctively deep baritone and “freight train” rhythm resonated with fans of country, rock, blues, folk, and gospel music and carried him to the pinnacle of musical success.  He won 17 Grammy Awards, sold over 90 million records, hosted a successful primetime T.V. show, and was inducted into both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.  But along with these great heights there also came devastating lows.  Cash’s struggles with drugs and alcohol cost him his first marriage, wreaked havoc upon his health, and saw him jailed for smuggling amphetamines across the U.S.-Mexico border.  Through it all, however, Cash remained true to his humble roots while singing both to and for the downtrodden, downhearted, and down-and-out.  He was a rebel, a reformer, and above all, a relevent artist who continued to reach new audiences up until his death in 2003 from complications with diabetes.

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