January Book Discussions

 In January, the book discussion groups at the library are reading two very different historical novels. On Tuesday, January 24 at 10:00 am, the morning discussion group will meet to talk about Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, set in England in the 1520s, when King Henry VIII has no heir.  Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter’s efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome, a successful endeavor that comes with a dangerous price. The author brings Tudor England to life in this award-winning novel.

On Tuesday, January 31 at 7:00 pm, the evening group will discuss Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin, an atmospheric novel set in rural Mississippi. Larry Ott and Silas Jones, despite their very different backgrounds, were boyhood friends in the 1970s for a few months. When they were teenagers, a local girl Larry took on a date to the drive-in disappeared and was never found. Larry was blamed, and has been ostracized ever since. When another girl goes missing, Silas investigates.

On January 19 at 7:00 pm,  the Crime Readers will meet at the Downers Grove Wine Shop to discuss Tourist Season, by Carl Hiassen. This book group is co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.

Copies of the books are available now at the Reference Desk in the Adult/Young Adult Department.


Ready Player One


Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Children of the 80s, this one is for you. Despite taking place in 2044 and mostly in a completely immersive online simulation called the Oasis, this is really a tribute to the culture (popular and otherwise) of the 1980s. The Oasis is the creation of Richard Halliday—a videogame programmer who used music, movies, TV, books, and videogames to escape his dysfunctional home. His expertise and desire to escape lead him to create an online experience that becomes the escape for most of the population. The glimpses Cline gives of America in 2044 are bleak—resources like gasoline have been depleted so everyone lives in cities since they can’t travel and the poorest people live in trailers that have been stacked to form dangerous towering units. The Oasis provides them with a nicer, more hopeful world. Part of that hope comes from the hunt for Halliday’s Egg. Before he died, he hid three keys and three gates in the Oasis and left clues for egg hunters (nicknamed “gunters”) to find the first one. Whoever finds all the keys and makes it through all the gates will gain control of the Oasis. Millions of people studied the things Halliday was obsessed with to try to figure out the clues. Teenaged Wade Wilson is the first gunter to find a key. His fellow competitors Aech, Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito meet him along the way and sometimes offer help and camaraderie while trying to find the keys themselves and fending off the evil Sixers that want to gain control of the Oasis for their own profit. The plot is familiar but the setting and Cline’s love of the 80s makes this a fun read. You don’t have to be familiar with all the references and the really important ones are explained but you may find yourself wanting to dig out your old cassettes or find Family Ties on DVD.

 Ernest Cline has a mix tape with all the songs mentioned in Ready Player One but some of them are spoilers

 His blog is also full of 80s geekery.

 There’s also a pretty rad fansite set up to look like the channel Wade Watt’s Oasis alter ego Parzival runs.



Maphead, by Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings, best known for a year spent competing on Jeopardy, is definitely a maphead, and there are lots of us scattered across the globe. Some Americans are ignorant of basic geographic knowledge, but others are fascinated with maps. Some travelers try to visit as many states or countries as possible, other take photos of highway signs, go geocaching with GPS, and collect (or even steal) rare maps. With Jennings, we visit the vast map collection at the Library of Congress, which has helped settle boundary disputes and aided in planning for the D-Day invasion. The significance of maps in fantasy novels is explored with writer Brandon Sanderson, Google Earth is discussed, and we learn about the possible future of maps and geography. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which makes for lively reading. For more about the book, visit the author’s web site.


The Cat’s Table

The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje

This novel could have been entitled Michael’s Big Adventure, the story of an eleven-year-old British boy who takes a trip home alone from Ceylon, to be reunited with his mother in England, aboard a coal-fired steamer in the 1950s. Along the way he meets and befriends a number of people who are relegated to the less desirable “cat’s table” area of the ship’s mess. Michael and another boy who is headstrong and defiant get into lots of mischief and basically drive the captain crazy. Michael becomes enamored of Emily, the only girl his age, who is so much more mature than Michael. There are many areas below decks that are explored and found full of enchanting things, like gardens, hellish boiler rooms decorated with lurid murals, and a brig containing a mysterious prisoner. Along with the voyage we see the characters later in their lives and learn how the journey became for them a treasured memory of youthful hijinks and sad denouements. I enjoyed this book, although it did not always hold my interest.


Jack Reacher series

Jack Reacher Series, by Lee Child

For some reason I kept putting off reading Lee Child. I know his books are very popular, but I kept pushing them to the bottom of my “to read” list. So eventually I got around to the first book in the Jack Reacher series, Killing Floor. Then I immediately read the second, the third…. For weeks I read nothing but Lee Child.

Jack Reacher is an amazing character. He is big (really big), a loner, a drifter, self-sufficient, smart, and he travels light. When his hotel room is trashed one night that means his toothbrush is broken and tossed onto the floor. He is ex-army and he knows self-defense. He can take on any number of assailants, using head butts, elbows, knees, and any other body parts that are available.

He knows from past experience that he should eat when the opportunity arises because you never know when you might have the chance again. Same thing with sleep.

All in all, Child has created a likeable tough guy, interesting and complicated plots, lots of tension, with some humor thrown in. Occasionally though, I kind of wish Reacher would settle down (for at least a little while) with one of the lovely, beautiful, caring women he encounters. I have been on the waiting list for the final book, and I finally have it at home. Can’t wait to read it! For more about Jack Reacher, visit the author’s web site.      Kay

Here is a list of the Jack Reacher novels, in order of publication:

1. Killing Floor

2. Die Trying

3. Tripwire

4. Running Blind

5. Echo Burning

6. Without Fail

7. Persuader

8. The Enemy

9. One Shot

10. The Hard Way

11. Bad Luck and Trouble

12. Nothing to Lose

13. Gone Tomorrow

14. 61 Hours

15. Worth Dying For

16. The Affair

Your library also owns the entire series on compact disc. They make great listening!

Books Enjoyed in 2011

Recently, the library’s morning and evening book discussion groups had a joint gathering to talk about books we’ve individually enjoyed reading this year. These are in addition to books that we discussed as a group. Here are some of the titles mentioned:


The Dreamseller: the Calling, by Augusto Cory

Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The Man from Beijing, by Henning Mankell

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

Still Life, by Louise Penny

Wildflower Hill, by Kimberly Freeman

The Women, by T. Coraghessan Boyle


Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, by Philip Connors

How I Got This Way, by Regis Philbin

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, by Ken Jennings

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin

In January, I will post a list of favorite book discussion titles.


An Everlasting Meal

An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler

The subtitle of this remarkable book is “Cooking with Economy and Grace,” which is what attracted me to the book. This is not a cookbook, but a book about making the most of whatever food you happen to have on hand. I think of myself as a frugal person, but Adler takes frugality to a different level.

For example, I think it is frugal to take a smallish piece of meat (perhaps a boneless, skinless chicken breast) and prepare it with some delicious vegetables and have a very nice meal. Adler finds it challenging to approach the meal in a different way—she thinks of gelatinous bones and marrow and broth, and adding the peels and leaves and “ends” of vegetables, ending up with several delicious meals instead of one very nice one.

The author suggests using instinct when cooking. Trusting your instinct. Practicing until you have it just right. She says, “Those are the fundamentals: cook your meat until it’s done, not a minute longer. If your broth tastes too thin, let it go on cooking; if it’s too salty, water it down.” (p. 12).

Adler recommends tasting your boiling, salted water, whether you are preparing vegetables or pasta. I have been cooking for many, many years, but I have never, ever tasted my boiling water. After reading this book, I will probably taste boiling, salted water.

There are recipes scattered throughout the book, but the main idea is for the cook to be philosophical and inventive when cooking and making the most of what you have on hand in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable book!

To read the first chapter of An Everlasting Meal, visit the publisher’s web site.


Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James

Veteran mystery writer P.D. James, 91, brings the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice back to life with a sequel. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are happily married, with two young sons, and visit regularly with Jane and Mr. Bingley. Darcy’s sister Georgiana has two suitors, Henry Alveston, a young lawyer, and Col. Fitzwilliam, who is now heir to an earldom.

Preparing for an annual ball at Pemberley, they are startled by the sudden arrival on a stormy night of Lydia Wickham, Jane and Elizabeth’s sister, claiming that her husband is missing, and possibly dead, in the Pemberley woods. Darcy and Elizabeth have a challenging time dealing with the night and its consequences, from cancelling the ball to a murder trial. 

Splendid entertainment for mystery and Austen fans.



Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand’s book is the extraordinary tale of Louie Zamperini’s life – from track and field star of the 1930s, participant in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, survivor of a B-24 crash into the Pacific Ocean in May 1943 followed by 47 days adrift in shark-infested waters, to a hellish and brutal existence in a Japanese POW camp. After the war he experienced years of suffering from what is now referred to as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Eventually he finds inner-peace by forgiving his WWII captors, especially the exceptionally cruel Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe. If you are interested in a gripping story that is destined to become a classic of narrative nonfiction, then this book is for you. Highly recommended. For more about Louie, visit the author’s web site.  


Hemingway’s Boat

Hemingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson

This book concentrates on Ernest Hemingway’s life from 1934 to 1961. It has a unique angle in that instead of focusing on the famous author, it involves his fishing boat, the “Pilar”. The book initially talks about where the boat was built, who built it, what materials were involved, how much Hemingway paid for it, etc. But it is about so much more than that. It talks about Hemingway’s love of deep sea fishing and the huge blue marlins he catches from the Gulf Stream. He entertains many famous guests aboard “Pilar” and was clearly happiest when he was at sea. Hemingway’s Boat also talks about the people in Hemingway’s life, such as a drifter who became his apprentice for a summer, and his youngest son, who was most like him but also the most troubled. You see Hemingway’s physical and mental decline after he could no longer fish aboard his beloved boat. A great book for Hemingway buffs; extraordinarily well written.