An Interview with ‘The Ghost in My Brain’ author Clark Elliott

clark-elliottOn the rainy evening of September 27, 1999, Dr. Clark Elliott was en route to DePaul University to deliver a lecture when his car was rear ended at a Morton Grove stoplight.  Shaken but seemingly uninjured, Elliott continued on to DePaul’s campus unaware he’d suffered a concussion that would dramatically alter his life.  In his remarkable new memoir The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It BackElliott details the harrowing effects of his concussion along with his remarkable recovery almost 10 years later with the help of two cutting-edge Chicago doctors.  This Monday, November 7th you can hear Dr. Elliott discuss The Ghost in My Brain when he visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 7 p.m.  In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about the debilitating concussion symptoms he fought to overcome, brain plasticity, the groundbreaking work of Drs. Donalee Markus and Deboray Zelinsky, and the reasons he wrote his book.

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A Scary Good Author You Need to Read…

Horror author Laird Barron (Illustration by Dalton Rose for "Slate.")
Horror author Laird Barron (Illustration by Dalton Rose for Slate.)

With Halloween lurking right around the darkened corner, now is a frighteningly good time to talk about authors who will scare you right out of your reading glasses.  We know you know about horror heavy hitters like Peter Straub, Stephen King, and Ramsey Campbell, but how about Laird Barron?  Already a favorite among horror and dark fantasy aficionados, Barron mixes cosmic horror, supernatural noir, and the occult into terrifying tales that should be topping your Halloween reading list.  Strikingly original and expertly crafted, his novels and story collections have already won three Shirley Jackson Awards, received multiple Bram Stoker and Locus nominations, and been favorably compared to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.  So if you’re in the mood for a good scare, try to be brave and check out one of the following Laird Barron books.  They’re guaranteed to give you the creeps if you give them the chance.  Happy Halloween!

swift-to-chaseSwift to Chase

Barron’s latest story collection was declared an “instant classic” by author John Langan and is sure to make Barron a household name in horror.  Combining “psychological horror, slasher fiction, and earthy weirdness,” these 12 spine-tingling stories are set in far-future dystopias and a hellish Alaskan wilderness where a cyborg war dog, a modern day Jack the Ripper, and a psycho sorority girl all roam wild.  The first book in a planned “Alaska” cycle, this collection is a nightmarish must read.


the-beautiful-thing-that-awaits-us-allThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us and Other Stories

This cosmic horror gem is the final book of a “loose trilogy” that includes the award-winning story collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation.  Featuring eight interlinking tales and the World Fantasy Award nominated novella Hand of Glory, these chilling stories are so well crafted author Kelly Link insists you’ll forgive Barron for the sleepless nights they cause.



the-croningThe Croning

Barron’s debut novel tells the story of 80-year-old Donald Miller, a geologist whose sanity is tested as he unearths dark secrets about his wife and their adult twins.  Filled with black magic, weird cults, and unspeakable things looming in the shadows, Barron’s book is a “disturbing imagining of a modern day Rumpelstiltskin” that is by turns touching and terrifying.


EPL’s Emmy Picks 2016

A mere 48 hours ago the winners of the 68th Emmy Awards were announced in a star-studded, red-carpet affair in the heart of sunny Los Angeles.  Now from the heart of sunny Evanston, it’s time to unveil the winners of an honor arguably equal in prestige.  That’s right, here on Off the Shelf we’re proud to present – minus the celebrities and carpeting – the winners of the 2016 EPL Emmys.  Congrats to all our winners, and please hold your applause until all the awards have been announced.

And the EPL Emmy goes to…

game_of_thrones_season_6-jpegBest Drama:  Game of Thrones

“I am a devoted Downton Abbey fan, but I have to give it to Game of Thrones.  They outdid themselves this season especially without the books to guide them.  Original, suspenseful, satisfyingly vengeful, exciting – this season had it all.  (Bonus:  They even cut down on the pointless female nudity!  Finally.)” — Gena Johnson


master-of-noneBest Comedy:  Master of None

Master of None’s episode “Parents” is one of the sharpest, funniest, saddest TV episodes about the immigrant experience.  Aziz Ansari is a revelation on the show as star, director, and writer.”  — Brian Wilson



oj-amsBest Limited Series:  The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

“Other than David Schwimmer saying “Uncle Juice,” I really enjoyed American Crime Story.” — Bob Meyer



sherlockBest T.V. Movie:  Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Sherlock.  Um, it’s elementary, dear librarian.” — Heather Plank




last-week-tonightBest Talk Show:  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

“Please.  John Oliver is stunning every week!  Even Janice from Accounting has to acknowledge his greatness.  And you know she doesn’t give a… care.”  — Gena Johnson



Best Sketch Series:  Drunk History

Drunk History’s reenactments make the show.  Click.  Clack.  Clickety clack.”  — Elizabeth Sanderson



EPL’s Emmy Extravaganza!


Calling all Evanston TV lovers and likers!  The 68th Emmy Awards are right around the corner, and here on Off the Shelf, we need your help.  You see, we want to know which shows you think should win the big Emmys of 2016 and why.  We’re not asking which shows you think WILL win but which ones you think SHOULD win, and please don’t worry if you haven’t seen every episode of every nominated series.  Even if you only tuned in sporadically, please don’t be shy and let us know what you thought by filling out our EPL Emmy Picks 2016 Survey.  After that, make sure to check back with Off the Shelf next week for all the results.  Stay tuned.

EPL’s Favorite Superhero Movies — The Votes Are In!

Our superhero super fans have spoken!  Below are the top picks in our survey of EPL’s Favorite Superhero Movies:

Most Anticipated Upcoming Superhero Movie…

Doctor-Strange-PosterDoctor Strange (November 2016)

“Two words… Benedict. Cumberbatch.”

— Seth

Favorite Recent Superhero Movie…

age of ultronAvengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

“I think the Avengers movies have done a good job of not destroying the franchise.  Captain America: Civil War was a close second.”

— Danielle

Favorite Superhero Movie of All Time…

dark knightThe Dark Knight (2008)

“The people on the boats, Batman’s faith in the citizens of Gotham… It flips the script.”

— Elizabeth

And the Best Batman is… Continue reading “EPL’s Favorite Superhero Movies — The Votes Are In!”

EPL’s Favorite Superhero Movies


At long last Suicide Squad is hitting theaters nationwide, and now we’ve got a fever.  A superhero fever, that is, and the only cure is to talk superhero movies right here on Off the Shelf.  Whether you’re a DC purist or loyal to Marvel, do us a super solid and visit EPL’s Favorite Superhero Movies to cast your votes for the best past, present, and future blockbusters in the genre along with your all-time favorite Batman.  Remember, with great voting power comes great responsibility so don’t delay, and make sure to check back with Off the Shelf next week for all the voting results.  Now, EPL Assemble!

Happy Father’s Day!

Today is Father’s Day, and here on Off the Shelf we’re celebrating with a special salute to EPL’s favorite TV dads.  Enjoy, and to all the dads in both Chicagoland and TV land… Happy Father’s Day!

robert crawleyRobert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey

“He loves his daughters enough to learn from them and see the world in a different, better way.” — Jill



bob belcherBob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers

“He appreciates his kids’ unique qualities and spends quality time with them.  He’s involved in their lives.  He also does something he loves doing and shows the kids a different kind of success.” –Elizabeth Sanderson


Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

“Coach Taylor is committed to his family and to making a difference in the lives of the kids on his teams.”  — Jarrett Dapier



randy marshRandy Marsh, South Park

“A terrible example of what a dad should be… but hilarious.”  — Bob Meyer



A Few More Favorites…


EPL’s Favorite TV Dads

tv dads
TV dads Robert Crawley, Homer Simpson, Ned Stark, and Dre Johnson (l to r).

Father’s Day is less than one week away, and that party you’re planning for your dad is really coming together.  You’ve already gift wrapped a fashionable necktie, ordered brats for the cookout, and scoured StubHub for tickets to see the Cubs beat those dastardly Pirates.  Well, here on Off the Shelf we’re also planning a special Father’s Day celebration, and we need your help.  You see, this Sunday we’re saluting our favorite TV dads, and between now and then, we’d like to invite you to share yours.  Please let us know at EPL’s Favorite TV Dads where you can choose from candidates like Ned Stark, Homer Simpson, and the Earl of Grantham or write in your own.  Then, check back with Off the Shelf on Father’s Day when we highlight all of EPL’s picks.  Stay tuned.

‘Peaky Blinders’ is Back!

One year, six months, and thirty days.  This virtual eternity in TV time is what “Peaky Blinders” fans had to endure waiting for the BBC gangster epic to return after binging its 2nd season along with their 2014 Thanksgiving turkey.  But mercifully, the devilish delay is over.  Yesterday Netflix finally released Season 3, and now “Peaky Blinders” is back!  Set in 1920s Birmingham, the dark, stylish drama stars Irish actor Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, a tortured WWI hero turned mastermind of his family’s criminal enterprises.  Don’t miss this great Deadline interview with Murphy and director Steven Knight to get the whole scoop on the new season, and check out the trailer above to whet your appetite for what’s to come.  And if you’re new to “Peaky Blinders,” don’t worry.  Swing by EPL to pick up Seasons 1 and 2 and get yourself caught up in no time.  This show is not to be missed.

An Interview with ‘The Sea Beach Line’ author Ben Nadler

ben.nadlerBen Nadler believes that “a writer owes a reader a good story,” and with his excellent new novel The Sea Beach Line, that’s exactly what the Brooklyn-based author delivers.  A hypnotic hybrid of literary crime fiction and Jewish folklore, The Sea Beach Line tells the gripping coming-of-age story of Izzy Edel, a young man adrift after being expelled from Oberlin for hallucinogenic drug use.  Given renewed purpose after receiving a mysterious postcard from his estranged father Alojzy, Izzy travels to New York City where he must navigate Alojzy’s world of street vendors, gangsters, and members of a religious sect as he searches for his missing dad.  Filled with sharp insights on loyalty, self-reliance, and the complicated bonds of family, The Sea Beach Line was described in Library Journal’s starred review as “a mesmerizing narrative that will speak to any readers who have tried to make sense of their parents’ lives or the secrets that people keep.”  This Monday, April 25th at 7 pm, you can hear Nadler read from The Sea Beach Line when he visits Bookends & Beginnings as part of an EPL-sponsored event also featuring author Abby Geni.  In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about literary traditions, his novel’s origins, the history of Hasidic tales, collective memory, and a few of his favorite books and poems.

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