Paddle Your Own Canoe

paddle your own canoe jacketPaddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

 After watching at least one episode of the comical television series “Parks and Recreation” (thus a chance to familiarize yourself with the masculine, carnivorous, neoliberal, and mustachioed Ron Swanson character—played by Nick Offerman) you may then want to read Offerman’s memoir “Paddle Your Own Canoe.” Offerman is a loveable humanist who encourages others to live a “delicious life” that entails getting out into the great outdoors, creating something with your very own hands, and best of all finding a partner to share and enjoy life’s adventures with. No doubt his book will appeal to those who love his Ron Swanson character’s deadpan humor as he delivers his personal history related to sex, drugs, rock and roll, theatre, and film—and to small town America. He hails from Minooka, Illinois, attended U of I in Champaign-Urbana, and is a well known professional in the Chicago theatre scene. Offerman is a wordsmith. By the time you finish his book, you’ll be ready to take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and pass it with flying colors, so long as you do your homework and look up the words he cherry picked to vividly describe his childhood, his years as a not so starving (yet very poor) artist, and his current status as “one lucky bastard” (his expletives are common knowledge, so no need to have a dictionary on hand for this half of his book). I would especially recommend this book to anyone who is the least bit interested in the life of a modern day thespian. Offerman has had an extensive, successful career in theatre and in front of the camera. He offers sage wisdom in a very direct, endearing, and humble manner. He is a family man to the core, a loyal friend, and one of the funniest individuals on television today. As a woodcraftsman, he is a force to be reckoned with.  And to boot—he is an intelligent and engaging author. This is one of my top picks for the 2013 year of great reads! It is also enjoyable to read a local author.   –Jeanne 

Check out the author’s website, and  an entertaining video trailer introducing Offerman’s book.

In the Bleak Midwinter

bleak midwinter jacketIn The Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

After a meeting at St. Alban’s, Clare Fergusson finds a newborn baby by the back door. Clare is the new priest at the Episcopal church in upstate Millers Kill, New York. She gets to ride along with Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne one night, and gets involved when they find the body of the baby’s mother. A note with the baby indicates that Geoff and Karen Burns from St. Albans are the parent’s choice for adoption, and they are annoyed when they don’t get to foster the baby boy. Another death occurs, and there are multiple suspects. Clare learns too much and is tricked into driving into the Adirondacks for an encounter with the murderer. Clare’s background as an Army helicopter pilot helps her survive the encounter, and the race is on to stop the killer. Clare and Russ are flawed, real characters, and their quickly developing friendship is convincing. The wintry setting of Millers Kill is more gritty than the typical charming village of so many mysteries, and it’s a refreshing change. Winner of multiple awards, In the Bleak Midwinter is the first in a seven book series.


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

riding camp jacketThe Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani

This novel takes place during the Great Depression of the Nineteen Thirties.  The main character, Theadore Atwell (Thea) lives with her twin brother Sam on a farm in rural Florida. Her family has modest means, but is also buoyed up from the worst of the Financial Crises by large citrus holdings in the state.

That being stated, the novel starts out with Thea finding herself attending a pricey, exclusive school for girls in North Carolina called the “Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls”. She was placed there abruptly during the summer months because of a family scandal that is keep under wraps for now. She is shocked and saddened to be here, but also curious and headstrong, loves horses, and is a brilliant equestrian. Gradually we get filled in on the backstory of Thea, and how she came to be here. 

Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, “The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls” is an immersive transporting page turner – a vivid propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Great Depression. Much of the novel revolves around dressage, an equestrian sport in which horses and their riders execute a series of precise movements in the ring. It’s a subject that Disclafani, 31 – whose first name is pronounced ANT-un, and who received a reported $1 million advance for her novel in one of the most competitive book auctions of recent years – know very well from her own experience as a serious dressage rider.

This book got five stars on “Goodreads” and is one of the New York Times “Best Books of the Year”.  Readalikes include “Shorecliff” by Ursula DeYoung.  Visit the Author’s website at


The Best Books We Read This Year

Here is a list of some of the best books we read this year:


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Joel)

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Brenda)

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Jeanne)

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Pam)

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Brenda)

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Jeanne)

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland (Jeanne)

Dark Days by Dewy Roscoe Jones (Jeanne)

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (George)

Family Pictures by Jane Green (Dawn)

Finding Camlann by Sean Pigeon (Joel)

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Chris)

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (George)

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Brenda)

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Pam)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Pam)

Longbourn by Jo Baker (Brenda)

Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Chris)

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes (Pam)

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Brenda)

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Joel)

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier (Joel)

Nothing Gold Can Stay  by Ron Rash (Joel)

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Joel)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (Jeanne)

Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (Jeanne)

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Jeanne)

Still Life by Louise Penny (Pam)

Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig (Pam)

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (Chris)

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Pam)

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chris)

Wool by Hugh Howey (Joel)



The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (George)

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser (Joel)

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (Chris)

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (George)

Foundation by Peter Ackroyd (Joel)

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (George)

Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story (George)

Londoners by Craig Taylor (Joel)

The Lost Whale: the True Story of an Orca Named Luna by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm (Beth)

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (Brenda)

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield (Jeanne)

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (Jeanne)

The Nutshell Sties of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz (Jeanne)

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (Brenda)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Beth)

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman (Jeanne)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Dawn)

Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Denise)

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman (Brenda)

Through the Eye of a Needle by Peter Brown (Joel)

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (Joel)

Vanished by Wil Hylton (George)

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanargarne (Dawn)

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus by Reza Aslan (Joel)


Graphic Novels:

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction (Denise)

Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction (Denise)

The Property by Rutu Modan (Dawn)


Young Adult and Children’s Fiction:

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (Brenda)

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech (Jeanne)







Book Group News

In December, the Tuesday morning and evening book discussion groups will have a Joint Book Gathering on Tuesday, December 17, at 7:00pm in the Mahlke Meeting Room upstairs. Come and talk about the best books you’ve enjoyed reading this year. I will share a list of staff favorites from 2013, and refreshments will be provided. No signup needed. 

The Crime Readers will meet on Thursday, December 19, at 7:00 pm to discuss S is for Silence by Sue Grafton. This group is co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library, and meets at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien. 

In January, all three book groups will be meeting. The Crime Readers will meet on Thursday, January 16, at 7:00 pm for a discussion of The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell. For a change, both Tuesday book groups will be reading non-fiction.


The morning book discussion group will met at 10:00 am on city of scoundrels jacketTuesday, January 21 in Group Study Room 2 to talk about City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist.

The subtitle is : the 12 days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago, and the setting is summer, 1919, after World War I veterans have returned home, the influenza epidemic is winding down, and a very chaotic two weeks is vividly described, from the first major aviation disaster, a transit strike, a child kidnapping, race riots, and clashes between Chicago’s mayor and the governor. Readalikes include Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson.


habit jacketThe evening book group will meet at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, January 28  in the Mahlke Meeting Room to discuss The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Here is my earlier review.  

Books will be available at the Adult/Young Adult Reference Desk a month before each discussion.  


Ultramarathon Man

ultramarathon manUltramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

I’m not a runner, so why would I pick up a book titled Ultramarathon Man? I had recently seen the documentary of the same name about Dean Karnaze’s quest to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, and his family’s support of this challenge. I was curious about what makes Dean run and how he does it. The book takes place much earlier than the documentary, and talks about why someone might attempt endurance running. Dean had a happy upbringing until his sister died at 18. He ran one year of cross-country in high school, then stopped running when his coach left. He had a wife and a busy job at a corporation in San Francisco. Then he turned 30. After his birthday party, he literally started running all night. Running is clearly a stress reliever for Dean, and he likes the solitude. But it’s also a huge challenge and isn’t always fun, even for him. He decides to see how far he can run, and participates in a 50 mile race, in preparation for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Along the way his wife Julie becomes a dentist, and they have two children. His family, including his Greek-American parents, are very supportive, and act as support crew on his races. He shares the agonies of long-distance running with the readers, the blisters and cramps, thirst, dizziness and more. A more entertaining part is how he fuels his runs, including getting pizza and cheesecake delivered to him along an empty highway, and eating them on the run. He runs for charity, but also to make his life more meaningful and fulfilled. He feels most alive when he runs, especially at night, continuing to work during the day. I still don’t know how he does it, although I have learned that ultramarathons (any race longer than 26.2 miles) have become increasingly popular and even runners in their 60s compete. The book really kept my interest and I wanted to find out what Dean would attempt next. How about running a marathon to the South Pole? Affirmative. For more about Dean and endurance running, visit his website.


The 10th Big Read is Coming!

10th big read logoThe 2014 Big Read selection is The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean by Philip Caputo.

longest road jacket

A wide variety of more than thirty programs as well as book discussions and movies, will be presented in March and April, 2014, at the the 10 Big Read libraries. My review of the book is here. More information about the book, author, and all of the programs will be available at


steelheart jacketSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson

In the first book in a science fiction trilogy for teens, life on Earth changed over a decade ago. A red star, called Calamity, suddenly appeared, and some people developed extraordinary powers, and became the Epics. David, 18, has been studying the powers and habits of Epics for ten years, since the day Steelheart killed David’s father in a bank. Steelheart is the ruler of Newcago, formerly Chicago, which he has coated in steel. Tunnels and rooms of steel are now underground. People don’t mind living underground because Nightwielder, another Epic, has blotted out the sun over Newcago. David hopes to join the Reckoners, an underground group secretly plotting against the Epics. Are all Epics evil? David thinks so, but his father believed differently. A quick, fast-paced read that will leave the reader waiting for the next book in the series.