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Visit us at our new home on Evanston Public Library’s redesigned website for author interviews, EPL’s Best Reads, Poetry 365, Local Art @ EPL, and much, much more.

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Emily Grayson’s Best Reads of 2016

graysonMy name is Emily Grayson, and I live in Evanston with my daughter and husband in a very cool six-unit building with some of my dearest friends.  I hold a variety of great jobs around Evanston and Chicago: I work professionally as an actor and singer, I’m a standardized patient at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 16 years and currently see clients at the Evanston Athletic Club.  In my spare time, I can often be found knitting, sewing, singing or drinking coffee at various Evanston locales.

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1)  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)

This was the first in a series of books I read for a Black Lives Matter reading group I started last January.  It began a year-long discussion about race in America and the conversation has never been dull and has often been humbling.  Wilkerson’s book and its first-person accounts of the three migrants at the center helped to give us context for our subsequent reads, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Silvia Rodriguez’s Best Reads of 2016

My name is Silvia Rodriguez, and I’m a Venezuelan globetrotter.  I arrived in Evanston around four years ago with my family, and since then have expanded with the birth of our second son, a true Evanstonian.  We too have become Evanstonians by adoption, as this town has welcomed us with open arms.  We love our community, which I think can always become stronger with contributions from all of us.  I feel connected by being involved in volunteerism for causes I feel strongly about (race inequality, social justice).  As a former book editor, I am glad we have such an amazing local library.  I have always used library services extensively everywhere I have lived, but EPL has by far been my favorite.  We are loyal, die-hard users!

1)  Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (2015)

This book is a great reminder that so much about what happens throughout history is deeply influenced by chance, by luck, by circumstance. Silberman’s meticulous research shows how a series of events led to one line of research prevailing over another resulting in the concept and imagery of autism we sadly share nowadays: that in which autistics are portrayed as less able, less valuable humans to society, as expendables. I am hopeful that with the work of disability self-advocates (Silberman does right in mentioning some in his book) and revisionist titles such as this, society will shift toward a more just and ethical idea of autism and the many contributions autistic citizens can bring to us all.

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Laurence Gonzales’s Best Reads of 2016

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Photo by John German

My name is Laurence Gonzales.  I was born in St. Louis, grew up in Houston and San Antonio, and live today in Evanston.  I am the author of numerous books including Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and it’s sequel, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience.  This past year I was appointed a Miller Scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, and my book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival was adapted by the House Theatre of Chicago into a play that ran for a two months at the Chopin Theatre.

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1)  Annals of the Former World by John McPhee (1998)

It’s hard to believe that this book about geology is a page-turner, but it is.

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Janine Macris’s Best Reads of 2016

My name is Janine Macris, and I have lived in Evanston for a very long time.  I appreciate its love of trees and the arts and its community, and I have spent many hours at the Evanston Public Library, even before I could read.  I teach children, including my own, through my love of the power of words, and my husband builds me furniture and I love it.  We read every night and it’s a great gift.

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1)  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)

It took me years to finally make it beyond a few chapters in this book. I had never been able to get past my college life’s raw imagining of the Running of the Bulls, but once my professor helped frame this feminist reflection of a woman traveling along and craving companionship with a friend filled with the same strain, I re-sought existentialism as a crisis amid hope.  It was through this read that I saw Hemingway’s infamous short-and-sweet style being as transient as his characters’ lives.  I finally understood his talent for code-switching symbolic gestures in a rebellion to be free.  From there Hemingway’s door opened for me, and I felt accomplished and proud to get to the root of time’s angular woven ways.

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Stacey Gibson’s Best Reads of 2016

staceyMy name is Stacey Gibson.  I’m a parent, educator, and Evanston resident who enjoys a well-crafted story and the sun.

1)  John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James (2005)

James peppers the pages with anvil heavy Jamaican patois, mystical practices of redemption, and sweeping battles where good and evil masquerade with and as the other. Continue reading “Stacey Gibson’s Best Reads of 2016”

Kendra Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016

kendraMy name is Kendra Robinson.  My family moved to Evanston five years ago from Chicago because our daughter attends Baker Demonstration School.  My husband and I work in the private aviation industry and spend much of our time working on our fixer-upper house.

1)  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)

This is a wonderful twist on a time travel story, with shocking twists and a wonderful main character. Beautifully written and structured.

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Peter Ferry’s Best Reads of 2016

ferryMy name is Peter Ferry, and I live in Evanston.  I am the author of the novels Travel Writing and Old Heart which was named the Chicago Writers Association Novel of the Year for 2015.  I am a frequent contributor to the travel pages of the Chicago Tribune, and my stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Fiction, StoryQuarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review and the current issue of Fifth Wednesday.

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1)  The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay (2016)

A tour de force! A masterpiece! The best book I’ve read this century. Honest!

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Virginia Quiñonez’s Best Reads of 2016

04b0b79My name is Virginia Quiñonez, and my partner and I just moved to Evanston this fall.  Besides reading, I love hiking, music, and film festivals.  I work at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

1)  The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas (2012)

This is one of my favorite books in recent years.  A classic romance and mystery novel with a different kind of heroine.

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Brian Edwards’ Best Reads of 2016

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Photo by Lynn Trautmann

My name is Brian Edwards, and I’m the Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and a professor of English and comparative literature at Northwestern. I am also the founding director of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA), which partners with EPL in a monthly lecture series on the region.

My wife Kate Baldwin, also a Northwestern professor and author, and I moved here originally because of work. We were both born in New York City, but I grew up mostly in Connecticut, she in California (we met in graduate school at Yale). After more than a decade in Evanston, and raising four children ranging from a high school senior to a pre-kindergartner, we have deep ties in the community and love it here.

I’m constantly reading both for work and pleasure. These five books, which come from my reading this fall, are the ones I’m most excited to share right now. Four of them are relatively new: three of them works of fiction and one a work of social history. I also included an overlooked novel from the 1980s that I finally read last month and now cherish. And please also take a look at my own new book, After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East, which is also available at EPL.

1)  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize in fiction went to a first novel by an American studies professor at USC. Set in Vietnam and Los Angeles during the late 1960s and 1970s, Nguyen’s novel is structured as the confession of an unnamed south Vietnamese narrator who is secretly a mole for the communist north. What makes the novel an instant classic is the narrator’s voice: wry, critical, and ruthless as he dissects himself, the Vietnamese refugee community in SoCal, and the excesses of American anti-Communism and violence in the war. The chapters on the making of a fictional Hollywood film called The Hamlet, which closely resembles Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, are devastating. Beyond the sheer pleasure it generates, The Sympathizer shows what the contemporary novel can do to disrupt and deconstruct America’s sense of global superiority and the follies of military occupation in the name of exporting American principles.

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