During the fall “What’s on Your Nightstand” event at the Des Plaines campus, the following books were discussed.
FYI, Oakton now has an ebook collection. Some of the title links below lead to our eReadIllinois collection. Why not download one of the apps on your device and start reading now! Also, if Oakton doesn’t own the book or our copy is checked out, you can order a copy to be sent from one of our consortium libraries for FREE! Most books take less than a week to arrive.
by Shaun Tan
“In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship. He’s embarking on the most difficult journey he’s leaving home to build a better future for his family. In this wordless graphic novel, Shaun Tan captures the immigrant experience through clear, mesmerizing images. The reader enters a strange new world, participating in the main character’s isolation and ultimately his joy” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden
“From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
by Herman Melville
“When a New York lawyer needs to take on another copyist, it is Bartleby who responds to his advertisement, and arrives ‘pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn.’ At first a diligent employee, he soon begins to refuse work, saying only ‘I would prefer not to.’ So begins the story of Bartleby—passive to the point of absurdity yet paradoxically extremely disruptive—which rapidly turns from farce to inexplicable tragedy” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Bee’s Kiss
by Barbara Cleverly
“1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from India, enjoying the frantic pleasures of Jazz Age London. Yet there is a darkness behind all that postwar gaity. A woman has been discovered bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz. A broken window and missing emerald necklace suggest that it is a burglary gone wrong. But the corpse is that of a much-respected member of the British establishment, Dame Beatrice Joliffe, one of the founders of the Wrens, and so Scotland Yard send Joe to conduct a swift enquiry.
Yet very soon he discovers that this Dame was no tweed-wearing fusty type; Titian-haired Beatrice wore evening gowns by Lanvin and perfume by Caron; she drank cocktails and had a younger lover. And death dogs her footsteps. Her companion, an ex-chorus girl, falls from Waterloo Bridge at twilight. Two of the Dame’s clique of eager young Wrens commit suicide. All these deaths make Joe suspect that Beatrice has been killed by someone close to her, but suddenly he finds that the case is closed, and he is asked by his superiors to surrender his files. Against the background of a looming general strike and pressure from unseen governmental presences, Joe struggles on, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority, through to a shattering solution to the killings” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“A superb depiction of a utopian community that cannot survive the individual passions of its members. In language that is suggestive and often erotic, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells a tale of failed possibilities and multiple personal betrayals as he explores the contrasts between what his characters espouse and what they actually experience in an ‘ideal’ community. A theme of unrealized sexual possibilities serves as a counterpoint to the other failures at Blithedale: class and sex distinctions are not eradicated, and communal work on the farm proves personally unrewarding and economically disastrous. Based in part on Hawthorne’s own experiences at Brook Farm, an experimental socialist community, The Blithedale Romance is especially timely in light of renewed interest in self-sufficient and other cooperative societies” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Dear Life: Stories
“In story after story in this brilliant new collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. And while most are set in her signature territory around Lake Huron, some strike even closer to home: an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales offers an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own childhood. Exalted by her clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Did You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg
“On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.
Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak. From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by Lily King
“English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in 1930s New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers’ deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide. Then he encounters the famous and controversial American anthropologist Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband, Fen, who have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo.
Nell and Fen and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by Jonathan Tropper
“To all appearances, Zachary King is a man with luck on his side. A steady, well-paying job, a rent-free Manhattan apartment, and Hope, his stunning, blue-blooded fiancée: smart, sexy, and completely out of his league. But as the wedding day looms, Zack finds himself haunted by the memory of his best friend, Rael, killed in a car wreck two years earlier–and by his increasingly complicated feelings for Tamara, the beautiful widow Rael left behind.
Then Norm–Zack’s freewheeling, Viagra-popping father–resurfaces after a twenty-year absence, looking to make amends. Norm’s overbearing, often outrageous efforts to reestablish ties with his sons infuriate Zack, and yet, despite twenty years of bad blood, he finds something compelling in his father’s maniacal determination to transform his own life. Inspired by Norm, Zack boldly attempts to make some changes of his own, and the results are instantly calamitous. Soon fists are flying, his love life is a shambles, and his once carefully structured existence is spinning hopelessly out of control” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff
“Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Good Lord Bird
by James McBride
“Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, the region a battlefield between anti and pro slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town with Brown, who believes Henry is a girl. Over the next months, Henry conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. He finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harper’s Ferry, one of the catalysts for the civil war” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Happiness, Like Water: Stories
by Chinelo Okparanta
“Here are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love. Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again. Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change. Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
“The beautiful Lily Bart lives among the nouveaux riches of New York City—people whose millions were made in railroads, shipping, land speculation, and banking. In this morally and aesthetically bankrupt world, Lily, age twenty-nine, seeks a husband who can satisfy her cravings for endless admiration and all the trappings of wealth. Her quest comes to a scandalous end when she is accused of being the mistress of a wealthy man. Exiled from her familiar world of artificial conventions, Lily finds life impossible” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal
“When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter— starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota.
From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience. Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is also an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara
“When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.
Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by Andy Weir
“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old ‘human error’ are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
One Last Thing before I Go
by Jonathan Tropper
“You don’t have to look very hard at Drew Silver to see that mistakes have been made. His fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. He lives in the Versailles, an apartment building filled almost exclusively with divorced men like him, and makes a living playing in wedding bands. His ex-wife, Denise, is about to marry a guy Silver can’t quite bring himself to hate. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter Casey has just confided in him that she’s pregnant—because Silver is the one she cares least about letting down.
So when he learns that his heart requires emergency, lifesaving surgery, Silver makes the radical decision to refuse the operation, choosing instead to use what little time he has left to repair his relationship with Casey, become a better man, and live in the moment, even if that moment isn’t destined to last very long. As his exasperated family looks on, Silver grapples with the ultimate question of whether or not his own life is worth saving” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain
“Set in sixteenth-century England, Mark Twain’s classic ‘tale for young people of all ages’ features two identical-looking boys—a prince and a pauper—who trade clothes and step into each other’s lives. While the urchin, Tom Canty, discovers luxury and power, Prince Edward, dressed in rags, roams his kingdom and experiences the cruelties inflicted on the poor by the Tudor monarchy” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister
“Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect…
The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
edited by David Remnick
“Whether you’re in the mood for snacking on humor pieces and cartoons or for savoring classic profiles of great chefs and great eaters, these offerings, from every age of The New Yorker’s fabled eighty-year history, are sure to satisfy every taste. There are memoirs, short stories, tell-alls, and poems–ranging in tone from sweet to sour and in subject from soup to nuts.
M.F.K. Fisher pays homage to ‘cookery witches,’ those mysterious cooks who possess ‘an uncanny power over food,’ while John McPhee valiantly trails an inveterate forager and is rewarded with stewed persimmons and white-pine-needle tea. There is Roald Dahl’s famous story ‘Taste,’ in which a wine snob’s palate comes in for some unwelcome scrutiny, and Julian Barnes’s ingenious tale of a lifelong gourmand who goes on a very peculiar diet for still more peculiar reasons. Adam Gopnik asks if French cuisine is done for, and Calvin Trillin investigates whether people can actually taste the difference between red wine and white. We journey with Susan Orlean as she distills the essence of Cuba in the story of a single restaurant, and with Judith Thurman as she investigates the arcane practices of Japan’s tofu masters. Closer to home, Joseph Mitchell celebrates the old New York tradition of the beefsteak dinner, and Mark Singer shadows the city’s foremost fisherman-chef” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by Nickolas Butler
“Welcome to Little Wing. It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own or struggling to do so.
One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.
Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses—among the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love. Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
by George Eliot
“Silas Marner is accused of stealing funds from his small Christian congregation. Presumed guilty by his community and rejected by the woman he loves, Silas leaves and lives as a recluse near Raveloe village. He takes refuge only in working and attaining wealth, until his precious gold is stolen from him. But a child, her mother found dead in the snow, is thrust into his life, changing it completely. Ultimately, Silas Marner is a redeeming story of love and loyalty.” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields
by Rowan Jacobsen
“Why does honey from the tupelo-lined banks of the Apalachicola River have a kick of cinnamon unlike any other? Why is salmon from Alaska’s Yukon River the richest in the world? Why does one underground cave in Greensboro, Vermont, produce many of the country’s most intense cheeses? The answer is terroir (tare-WAHR), the ‘taste of place.’ Originally used by the French to describe the way local conditions such as soil and climate affect the flavor of a wine, terroir has been little understood (and often mispronounced) by Americans, until now.
For those who have embraced the local food movement, American Terroir will share the best of America’s bounty and explain why place matters. It will be the first guide to the ‘flavor landscapes’ of some of our most iconic foods, including apples, honey, maple syrup, coffee, oysters, salmon, wild mushrooms, wine, cheese, and chocolate. With equally iconic recipes by the author and important local chefs, and a complete resource section for finding place-specific foods, American Terroir is the perfect companion for any self-respecting locavore” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
“On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic ‘Greyhounds’—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
-posted by Gretchen Schneider
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