Chris Skoglund’s Best Reads of 2016

skoglund
Photo by Katie Barthelemy

My name is Chris Skoglund, and I am the librarian at Willard Elementary School in Evanston, where I have worked for almost thirteen years.  I am an avid reader of books for both children and adults (which made picking only five books really difficult), so I consider myself to have the best job in the world!

1)  Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

An extraordinary mix of historical fiction and science fiction, this novel drew me in and would not let me go.  Full of elegant imagery and characters that will linger in your mind long after the story is finished, each element worked seamlessly together.

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Eric Robb’s Best Reads of 2016

eric-robbMy name is Eric Robb.  I am a resident of Evanston and work as an associate teacher at Baker Demonstration School.  Outside of my teaching duties, I volunteer for the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club – an organization that supports triathletes with disabilities.  My duties include fundraising as well as guiding and supporting athletes with a diverse array of disabilities toward their athletic goals.  I spend what free time I have left playing either guitar, bass guitar, or piano.

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1)  A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, so much so that this was actually my second time reading through it.  Toole’s main character, Ignatius Reilly, who considers himself a great misunderstood genius of his time, provides a perfect mixture of highbrow humor and slapstick comedy.

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Randy Richardson’s Best Reads of 2014

randy richardsonMy name is Randy Richardson.  I work as an attorney in Evanston and live here with my wife and son and our two cats, Smokey and Bandit.  When I’m not working or coaching my son’s baseball team, I am either sitting in the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field or writing about baseball and my fictional worlds.  I am the author of two novels, Lost in the Ivy and Cheeseland, both from Chicago’s Eckhartz Press.

1) Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra (2014)

For the past four years, I’ve been judging books for the Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year Contest.  Each year, there’s always that one book I can’t get out of my head.  This year, it was Megan Stielstra’s Once I Was Cool, a collection of personal essays about daily life and how it is anything but ordinary.  In a voice that is all her own, Stielstra seamlessly weaves together a tapestry of stories, lifted from her own life, that speak to the strength of the human spirit.  As you cry and laugh along with her, you will come away from it all feeling a bit dizzy but in a good way.

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Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014

n-WALTER-DEAN-MYERS-largeWalter Dean Myers died on Tuesday at the age of 76 after a brief illness.  Author of more than 100 books including Monster and Lockdown, Myers was a three-time National Book Award nominee, the recipient of two Newbery Honors, a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, and “the rare author to have a wide following among middle-school boys.”  In 2011, EPL’s Jarrett Dapier talked with Myers for In These Times magazine.  In the fascinating interview, the legendary YA writer candidly discussed “the debt he owes to James Baldwin” along with the importance of mentoring teens.  He will truly be missed.

Manga Mania at Queens Public Library

My mother, a dedicated 5th grade teacher, deplored comic books and refused to allow them in her classroom. “All kids do is look at the pictures; they don’t learn to read that way”.

Dear old Mom. She was right about some things, (yellow is not my color) but dead wrong about comics…or graphic novels as we call them now. Not only do kids read them, they read them in Japanese.

Yup, American teens in places like Queens New York are so inspired by Japanese manga that they’re studying Japanese, giving themselves Japanese names and even choosing colleges based on their Asian studies programs. Read about it in this New York Times story.

Lesley W.

Assembly Line Writing

Did you ever wonder how James Patterson is able to churn out so many bestsellers while you sit at your computer struggling to write even a simple sentence, much less produce something that will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams?  The answer, America, is in the feature, James Patterson Inc., from The New York Times Magazine. It shows how Patterson has made himself into a brand and how he uses co-authors to extend his reach into new markets, especially YA fiction. (Mary B., Reader’s Services)