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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Michelle Cohen’s Best Reads of 2016

notes-from-no-mans-landMy name is Michelle Cohen.  I live in Evanston with my husband and two children.  When I’m not designing lush gardens and landscapes for my clients, I can usually be found reading a book, or at the very least, talking about them.

1)  Notes From No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (2009)

Intimate and nuanced essays about living in a racist society.  Essential reading.

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In the Pink Again

Once again the Recent Arrivals section on the 2nd floor East is teeming with books so interesting you’ll wish there were more hours in the day in which to stick your face in a book. Stop on in and step on up and be sure to look for the pink Recent Arrivals stickers to let you know what’s new to our shelves. Below is just a small sampling of the strange, unusual, and just plain cool new books waiting to be found.

Wicked Plants: the Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Sure to appeal to gardeners, amateur botanists, and fans of the macabre, this tiny book is an A to Z compendium of all the botanical horrors that nature has to offer. The sheer number of plants that could poison, kill, befoul, or otherwise make your life generally unpleasant will have you eyeing your houseplants warily and scared to step out of your home. Leafy green danger lurks around every corner, and this book tells you exactly where and gives you the historical skinny on all the dastardly plants that would do you in gladly if only you’d give them the chance. This book is interesting, creepy, and humorous, and is sure to make you the seem the informed (if not slightly weird) naturalist on your next outdoor excursion with friends.

Will I See My Dog in Heaven? by Jack Wintz

Franciscan friar Jack Wintz attempts to answer the perennial Sunday school question in this new book. Although setting out to answer an unanswerable question, Wintz determinedly sifts through the various relevant books and stories of the Bible and examines the Christian tradition in an effort to extrapolate a reasonable response to the universal query. At a time when the political and social rhetoric regarding religion, the environment, and the place of animals in our lives and on our plates is reaching a fever pitch, this book takes a calm and considered look at this world and the afterlife which takes into account all the creatures that inhabit the Earth.

Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman, host of the daily independent news program Democracy Now! is a rare breed in today’s era of corporate controlled media–a journalist who values truth, intelligence, and justice over spin, sensationalism, and ratings. As she says in the introduction to this, her latest book, her goal is “to expand the debate, to cut through the static and bring forth voices that are shut out. It is the responsibility of journalists to go where the silence is, to seek out news and people who are ignored, to accurately and clearly report on the issues–issues that the corporate, for-profit media often distort, if they cover them at all.” And that is just what she delivers in this collection of her essays. She hits upon many of today’s most pressing issues that are so seldom openly and honestly spoken about anywhere in the mainstream press, from war, torture, and climate change to health care, the economy, and the media itself. If you’re tired of the squawking, squabbling, hateful, unintelligent, and uninformed drone of voices you’re used to hearing on TV and radio, pick up this book and immerse yourself in Amy Goodman’s journalistic palette cleansing.

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon

Letter writing has suffered a serious blow of late, with the convenience, ease, and ubiquity of e-mail, IMs, and text messaging taking the place of ink and paper, stamp and postmark. But novelist Thomas Mallon here explores the vast and varied history of the letter through the ages. The author casts a wide net over his subject touching upon the epistles of famed literary greats such as Twain and Fitzgerald, while also taking time out to riffle through the mail of those less known for their way the written word like Groucho Marx, Frank Lloyd Wright and Sacco and Vanzetti. The book is broken down into sections for all the common types of letters we send including letters of love, friendship, advice, complaint, and confession, and even letters sent home from prison and during wartime. This fascinating examination of letters and the people who write them is a tribute to what may soon be a lost art.