When the Travel Section Starts to Look Peaky

June 20, 2018

It’s that time of year again. That time when the Travel section of the library starts to look a little picked over. When I took over the Travel books three years or so ago I immediately weeded out everything that was more than 3 years old. That just makes good clean sense. The last thing I want is to be disseminating out-of-date information, after all. After that I moved it to a separate location (on the East side of the second floor of the Main branch, in case you’ve never seen it) to give it some breathing room, and then I started to build it up. Over the last few years, I’ve learned a couple things about travel books and Evanstonians:

  1. Aside from the usual suspects (France, Italy, etc.) Evanstonians love Canada. They really do. I can’t get enough books about Montreal on my shelves. Who knew?
  2. Not every place in the world gets a travel book. That makes sense when you’re talking about lesser known countries like, say, Nauru, but far less sense when you’re talking about states like Ohio, Indiana, or Wisconsin. Aside from some biking and hiking books, travel books for these states simply do not exist. Crazy, right?
  3. Rick Steves is like unto a god. All hail, Rick Steves!

Look in the Travel section now and you’ll see titles from 2015 there. I can’t really help that. Though old, it’s useful to have lots of copies of books in Travel for desperate incipient tourists. But what if you want a book that isn’t a travel guide? What if you want to actually (gasp!) understand something about the people you’re visiting? Recently the language learning app Babbel asked foreign ambassadors to the U.S. to pick the book they believe first-time visitors to their country should read before they arrive. You can see a list from twenty-two ambassadors here. Here is a smattering of their selections you’ll find in our own collections:


H.E. Elin Suleymanov recommends Ali and Nino, written in 1937 by Kurban Said, which tells the love story of a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku from 1918 to 1920. Or you could watch the film that came out last year. We have both!


War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans is a book about three generations of Belgians, focusing on the legacy of WWI and Belgium’s exceptional painters.


H.E. Juan Carlos Pinzón recommends 1967’s One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, which tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family.


Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg is a fictional mystery set in Copenhagen. It is a book that touches on issues such as Danish culture versus Greenlandic and the related issues of language and identity.”


The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirahk is an exploration of alternative history by a well-loved contemporary author.”

Reserve your copies today! And check out the full list of ambassadorial recommendations at https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/22-ambassadors-recommend-the-one-book-to-read-before-visiting-their-country

An Interview with Charles McCleanon

October 18, 2017

Charles McCleanon is a local photographer who is the latest to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. A Chicago native and a retired Dean of Information Technology at City Colleges, McCleanon’s appreciation of 35 mm film inspired him to begin his photography career 25 years ago. He formed the company CGMcPhoto and began shooting political campaigns, street fairs, weddings, and community events. He eventually channeled his skills into digital photography and now combines his talents with a passion for travel that’s resulted in countless breathtaking images. You can catch his show through the end of October on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet him at a closing reception at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 25. We recently spoke with him via email about his artistic origins, creative process, and future photography goals.

Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in photography What inspired you in the beginning? What inspires you now?

Charles McCleanon: My initial interest commenced when my best friend Lenard was drafted into the army and became a battalion photographer. Upon his return he continued to pursue his interests by shooting, printing and developing film. I helped him build a darkroom in his apartment, and my interest was peaked. I began studying and learning the basics including types of film, lighting, speed and composition.

After he moved to California, I purchased a camera and started a portable darkroom of my own in my kitchen. Having to set up and take down my equipment was a daunting task. Eventually, I transitioned to a stable and dedicated darkroom space. I purchased better equipment and devoted every available hour to improving my technique.

As my skills increased, I was offered work and realized this could actually become lucrative. I met a fellow photographer who worked for the City of Chicago whose photography interests were political. We hooked up, started a company and began shooting freelance for city, community and political events. We were pleased and honored to be hired for both of Mayor Washington’s campaigns and inaugurations.

Although I sought to earn a living (and quit my day job), I discovered my true calling and passion when I began to travel. Being able to seize the intangible beauty of nature or an iconic landmark for posterity is truly inspirational.

EPL: Can you give us a window into your creative process? How do you choose your subjects?

CM: The visual concept is everywhere; however, the art of shooting is to translate on to film and print what my imagination formulates. I am moved by symmetry, colors and movement. The simplicity of different lighting effects on a subject is fascinating. Sunrise and sunset are two of my favorite times. My mind’s eye visualizes how the photo will translate on paper, and I am ecstatic when out of 30 or 40 shots I successfully capture one of the precise moment I first saw in the viewfinder.

Local Art @ EPL

EPL: Can you walk us through the conception of a specific photograph?

CM: My thought process for each photo varies and is easily influenced by my moods. A perfect example is the truly surreal black and white series “cloud segment.” They were shot on a bleak, nondescript day when I was taking a walk on a North Shore beach without my camera. As I ran for the car to avoid the obvious impending storm, I spotted unusual cloud formations. Having my camera in the car (never leave home without it!), I was enthralled by the rapid movement of the approaching storm which changed in the blink of an eye. The transitioning shapes created movement like crescendos in a symphony. I was in awe and knew that I could only recreate these unique shots if I continued shooting.

Ironically these pictures were shot in manual mode and post production was minimal. I think they speak for themselves. I was able to capture and print exactly what I saw. The fact that they are black and white makes them one of my most accomplished and prized photo series to date.

EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist? Do you have a travel destination you’re eager capture on film?

CM: As I have found my niche in nature, my love of travel presents unlimited opportunities to explore the postcards of the world. My wife is a great lover of all things water related, as evidenced by my many waterfalls and coastal scenes. Our next vacation will be to Costa Rica, but I would love to shoot the Serengeti and the Egyptian Pyramids.

EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? 

CM: I truly appreciate the creativity of my fellow artist. The Chicago scene is very competitive which further motivates me to find extraordinary subject matter and capture its pure essence through unique visualizations which will fascinate the viewer. If I can inspire and attract one’s interest for more than a fleeting glance, perhaps this will motivate people to see the world as it truly is, a never ending rainbow.

Interview by Russell J.

Indie bookstores offer windows into cities

August 22, 2013

d87a775c-50c4-4e78-88be-30dc8fda0fdd_KramerBooksThis article in the Yahoo travel section suggests visiting independent bookstores as a way of getting acquainted with a city. Highlighted are stores from San Francisco, Seattle, Miami Beach, and Washington, DC. Each has a distinct atmosphere, from the radical tomes at Left Bank Books to the 24 hour weekend hours at Kramerbooks, one can enjoy unique offerings that differ from the mega stores.

Shira S.

The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All

August 26, 2010

For almost three decades beginning in 1936, many African-American travelers relied on a booklet to help them decide where they could comfortably eat, sleep, buy gas, find a tailor or beauty parlor, shop on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls, or go out at night. In 1949, when the guide was 80 pages, there were five recommended hotels in Atlanta. In Cheyenne, Wyo., the Barbeque Inn was the place to stay.

(read more here…)

Susan M., RA

Take a book for a spin in an I-Go car

April 8, 2010


Random House Audio logoNeed to book an I-GO car today? Now you can get literal about it: Random House Audio has partnered with I-GO to convert smart drivers to even smarter audiobook listeners. Call it the latest chapter in I-GO’s epic quest to make car sharing part of our collective culture.

By visiting www.randomhouseaudio.com/carshare, I-GO members can download free full-length recordings from popular authors like David Rakoff, Tami Hoag, Luanne Rice, Rick Riordan and Kate DiCamillo by signing up for Random House Audio’s monthly newsletter, and receive 15% off their entire purchase by using the promo code “CARSHARE” at checkout. Continue reading “Take a book for a spin in an I-Go car”

Dreaming of Reading

March 2, 2010

It has long been a fantasy of mine to go away for a weekend and do nothing but read. No commitments, no interruptions, just me and a book. So when an open weekend, frequent flyer miles, and an understanding husband presented itself, I jumped at the chance – an entire weekend alone in warm weather with nothing but my bathing suit and books (and my laptop. Although I crave solace, I can’t imagine being completely out of touch!).

Continue reading “Dreaming of Reading”

Explore the World Before Lunch

October 5, 2009

world-map-antiqueThere is something about maps that inspires wonder, excitement, and possibility. But with today’s heavy reliance on GPS units, satellites, radar, and other technological advances to the world of travel, much of the mystery and allure of stepping out into the unknown has been lost. It has become so easy to just hop into a car, fire up the GPS on the dash, and let it take us on the quickest route to where we are going, that to imagine a trip around the country or across the world using little else besides a map, skill, courage, daring, and intuition seems nearly impossible. The thrill of the journey has largely been sacrificed in favor of the fastest possible arrival at the destination. But for those of you still feeling the lure of the open road and craving a time where danger and the unknown went hand in hand with travel, we’ve got just the thing for you. Good Magazine has created an interactive infographic which lets you trace 23 of the most famous journeys of all time, both real and fictional. You can trace the footsteps, road trips, flight paths and ocean routes of such famous travelers as Kerouac, Kesey, Earhart, Lindbergh, Hudson, Ahab and Ishmael, Magellan and many more. Follow the maps, learn about the travelers, and see images of the trips and let Good Magazine feed your wanderlust.

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