The Sun is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert

Real life adventure memoirs can make for wonderful reading, especially during a time when we’re staying close to home. Wildlife biologist Caroline, 33, makes an epic trek with husband Patrick, a home builder, to the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. Traveling by homemade rowboats, skiing, hiking, on inflatable rafts, and in a borrowed canoe, the pair make an incredible six-month journey. Along the way they meet with unexpected kindness from strangers and Caroline regains her love of science after completing her Ph.D. mostly in a lab. Their backstory and motivation for the journey are shared, along with glimpses of happy childhoods and their loving, supportive families. Caroline’s sister has a baby as they consider parenthood. Patrick is the optimistic adventurer and builder, while Caroline is the detailed list maker, organizing most of their food drops. Part of their journey is through areas so remote that available maps show little detail and the weather forecasts are unhelpful. The pair are often awed by the magnificent landscape and the wildlife, learning to trust the trails of migrating caribou, and encountering moose, bear, and many of the birds Caroline has studied. A compelling read, and a good readalike for Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Sarah Marquis’ Wild by Nature, along with other adventure memoirs that can be found here. I read the print book, but listened to a sample of the downloadable audiobook I’ve just added to our Media on Demand collection.

Coming soon: a list of family friendly reads that can be enjoyed by older kids, teens, and adults, including titles suggested by staff in our Children’s Department.



Comfort Reads

Comfort Reads

What are you reading during this challenging time? While the library is currently closed, our online collections are still available, and no SWAN library cards will expire before July. I have been able to purchase new ebooks and downloadable audiobooks for our Overdrive collection, Media on Demand.  Our other digital collections, eRead Illinois and Hoopla also have plenty of content. For more ideas, see our  monthly newsletters of new titles from Next Reads. Here is a list of some suggestions for comfort reads, many of which are available in Media on Demand:

Allen, Sarah Addison. Garden Spells
Andrews, Donna. Murder with Peacocks
Andrews, Mary Kay. Savannah Blues
Austen, Jane. Pride & Prejudice
Bauermeister, Erica. The School of Essential Ingredients
Bivald, Katarina. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Bryson, Bill. In a Sunburned Country; A Walk in the Woods
Buck, Rinker. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Bujold, Lois McMaster. A Civil Campaign
Crusie, Jennifer. Anyone But You
Doig, Ivan. The Whistling Season; The Bartender’s Tale
Fforde, Katie. Wild Designs
Flanders, Judith. A Murder of Magpies
Heyer, Georgette. A Civil Contract
Jiles, Paulette. News of the World
Kelly, Sofie. Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
McCaffrey, Anne. The Harper Hall trilogy, beginning with Dragonsong
Moyes, Jojo. One Plus One
Peters, Ellis. Brother Cadfael mysteries, starting with A Morbid Taste for Bones
Pratchett, Terry. Night Watch.
Shute, Nevil. Trustee from the Toolroom
Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project
Stabenow, Dana. Breakup
Stewart, Mary. Nine Coaches Waiting; Rose Cottage
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit
Willis, Connie. To Say Nothing of the Dog

Happy Reading!




The Operator

The Operator by Gretchen Berg

Vivian Dalton, a telephone operator in Wooster, Ohio, is jealous of rich Betty Miller and hopes she’ll hear some juicy gossip when she listens in on her phone calls. Devastated to hear gossip about her husband Ed, Vivian is embarrassed but determined to find out the truth. Vivian’s daughter Charlotte is puzzled by her mother’s attitude to her father, and wonders about the poems she finds in the attic and the money tucked into a hat box. Life in small town Ohio in 1952 is vividly described in this first novel inspired by the life of the author’s grandmother. While not a very pleasant character at first, Vivian, who inadvertently finds a lead in a Wooster bank robbery, gains the reader’s sympathy as the story develops, and the heartwarming conclusion is quite satisfying, especially as the snobbish Betty Miller gets her just desserts.




Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

For a remarkable reading adventure, join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the hidden worlds underground, from Slovenia to England to Greenland. This is a book to savor, lyrically written, for readers of adventure, travel, nature, and history, except for the claustrophobic. Moving below ground, he often travels backwards in time, to see red pictographs in Norwegian sea caves, the catacombs deep beneath Paris, and the fungal network linking trees in Epping Forest. There are ancient barrows, a physics lab in a Yorkshire mine, a glacier in Greenland, and caves built to receive nuclear waste in Finland. In China there’s a cave system with its own weather system, and a river deep underground connects Slovenia and northern Italy. Receding glaciers and melting permafrost show that nothing is permanent. Awe and brief moments of terror in locations ordinary and sublime make for a fascinating look at unimagined worlds. Readalikes include Into the Planet, The Hidden Life of Trees, Frozen in Time, In the Kingdom of Ice, and Deep Down Dark. Macfarlane’s other books include The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Wild Places.



Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

The author of the acclaimed novel News of the World returns to Texas in 1865 for another beautifully told adventure. Simon the fiddler has three goals in life: to protect his precious fiddle and his hands, to save enough money to buy a piece of land, and to win the heart and hand of Miss Doris Dillon, an Irish immigrant. The story is bookended by a pair of brawls; one gets Simon conscripted into the Confederate Army at the end of the Civil War while the other lands him in jail. Simon and a mismatched group of musicians, including drummer boy Patrick, travel through post-war Texas, playing music in bars, hotels, and at parties, starting out in rented white shirts. The many fans of News of the World will welcome this colorful tale, to be published April 14, and won’t want Simon’s story to end.


The Case of the Wandering Scholar

The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders

While this is the second book in the Laetitia Rodd series, this is an excellent place to begin this thoroughly enjoyable Victorian mystery series. Laetitia is a middle-aged widow of an archdeacon, and sister to Fred, a criminal barrister. Fred occasionally finds Laetitia assignments as a discreet private investigator. She moves in a variety of society circles, has a wide acquaintance among the clergy, and can certainly use the money. A dying man is looking to be reconciled with his brother Joshua, once a scholar at Oxford, who now wanders the countryside. Mrs. Rodd’s search becomes tangled with a series of murders and a long-ago theft. When two young friends are arrested for murder, Laetitia investigates, along with the gruff Inspector Blackbeard. 1851 London and Oxford really come to life, the mystery is intricately plotted, and Laetitia is absolutely wonderful company. I look forward to her next assignment. The first book is The Secrets of Wishtide.



March 2020 Book Discussions

The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7:00 pm on March 24 to discuss Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. This sweeping family saga, set in Hawai’i and California from 1917 through World War II is the long awaited sequel to Moloka’i. Here is my earlier review.

On Thursday, March 19, the Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien to discuss The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame). “Working as a private investigator after losing his leg in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike takes the case of a legendary supermodel’s suspicious suicide and finds himself in a world of multi-millionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, desperate designers and hedonist pursuits.” Discussion begins at 7:00 pm, with optional dinner at 6:00 pm. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public LIbrary.


Copies of both books are available now at the Circulation Desk.