Spring Nightstand Event

Posted on January 22, 2015. Filed under: Event, Fiction, Nonfiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This Spring’s “What’s on Your Nightstand” event was held via video conference at both the Des Plaines and Skokie campus. Here are a list of the books the participants discussed.

Remember, 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.

Fiction

book cover for All the Lights We Cannot SeeAll the Lights We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

“Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge” (Descriptive content by Syndetics). This book is a National Book Award finalist.

book cover for Big Little LiesBig Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

“Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

book cover for The Children ActThe Children Act
by Ian McEwan

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital–an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

book cover for Compair LapinCompair Lapin and Piti Bonhomme Godron (The Tar Baby)
as written by Alcée Fortier

This is an illustrated telling of the The Tar Baby as told in Louisiana by former Senegalese slaves in the 1800s.

book cover for The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In 1860 Benjamin Button is born an old man and mysteriously begins aging backward. At the beginning of his life he is withered and worn, but as he continues to grow younger he embraces life — he goes to war, runs a business, falls in love, has children, goes to college and prep school, and, as his mind begins to devolve, he attends kindergarten and eventually returns to the care of his nurse.

This strange and haunting story embodies the sharp social insight that has made Fitzgerald one of the great voices in the history of American literature” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

book cover for The DivinersThe Diviners
by Libba Bray

“Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfield girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her Uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

book cover for The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt

“Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle” (Descriptive content by Syndetics). This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

book cover for Interpreter of MaladiesInterpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant” (Descriptive content by Syndetics). This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

lifeboatThe Lifeboat
by Charlotte Rogan

“In the summer of 1914, the transatlantic ocean liner carrying Grace Winter, 22 and her new husband Henry suffers a mysterious explosion. Forced into an overcrowded lifeboat, newly widowed Grace Winter battles the elements and her fellow survivors and remembers her husband, Henry, who set his own safety aside to ensure Grace’s. The survivors quickly realize the boat is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace watches and waits. Her journey to a life of glittering privilege has been far from straightforward, and now it is in jeopardy. Over the course of three perilous weeks, the passengers plot, scheme and console one another while sitting inches apart. Their deepest beliefs about goodness, humanity and God are tested to the limit as they discover what they will do in order to survive. ” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

miracle at speedy motorsThe Miracle at Speedy Motors
Series: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, book 9

by Alexander McCall Smith

“Mma Ramotswe is busy investigating her latest case: a woman who is looking for her family. The problem is, the woman doesn’t know her real name of whether any members of her family are now living. Meanwhile, Phuti Radiphuti has bought Mma Makutsi a glorious new bed. Unfortunately, it will inadvertently cause her several sleepless nights. And life is no less complicated at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, where Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni—Mma Ramotswe’s estimable husband—has fallen under the sway of a doctor who has promised a miracle cure for his daughter’s medical condition, which Mma Ramotswe finds hard to believe. But Precious Ramotswe deals with these difficulties with her usual grace and good humor, and in the end discovers that the biggest miracles in life are often the small ones” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

norawebsterNora Webster
by Colm Tóibín

Set in Wexford, Ireland, and in breathtaking Ballyconnigar by the sea, Colm Tóibín’s tour de force eighth novel introduces the formidable, memorable Nora Webster. Widowed at 40, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world she was born into. Wounded and self-centred from grief and the need to provide for her family, she struggles to be attentive to her children’s needs and their own difficult loss.

In masterfully detailing the intimate lives of one small family, Tóibín has given us a vivid portrait of a time and an intricately woven tapestry of lives in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and where well-meaning gestures often have unforeseen consequences. Tóibín has created one of contemporary fiction’s most memorable female characters, one who has the strength and depth of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler” (Descriptive content by Syndetics).

book cover for Planet of the DatesPlanet of the Dates
by Paul McComas

“Planet of the Dates follows the exploits of Phil Corcoran, a girl-crazed Milwaukee teen stumbling toward adulthood in the summer of 1980. Phil’s personal transition coincides with a cultural shift: from Carter to Reagan; from disco to punk; from the last gasp of the Age of Aquarius to the era of Greed is good. As the story unfolds, Phil, himself very much a product of the 70’s, winds up ushering in the new decade in some apt and telling ways.

The book’s rich cast of characters is anchored by a classic love triangle: the naive yet willful Phil, a sci-fi fanatic and budding Super-8 auteur whose hormones and heart fuel myriad schemes for obtaining hot sex and true love (in no particular order); Stefanie Slocum, the clever teen actress-in-training who auditions our young hero for the role of first-ever boyfriend; and Cheryl Jantz, the dazed yet desirable stoner-girl who’s way too cool for the likes of Phil. . .or is she? The story builds to an audacious, near-epic climax that must be read to be believed. But believe it you shall, recognizing with a chill and a chuckle that this upside-down world is, in fact, our own world, and has been all along!” (Amazon).

silasmarnerSilas Marner
by George Elliot

“Silas Marner is George Eliot’s tale of one man’s journey from bitterness to contentment, thanks to a surprise visit from an orphan girl. Silas Marner lives alone outside the village of Raveloe. An outcast from a religious community, he shuns company and devotes himself to his work. When his precious hoard of gold is stolen, Silas sinks further into misery.

But then the unexpected happens—a little girl wanders into his house in the middle of a cold night. When her mother is found dead outside, Silas adopts the girl, naming her Eppie after his beloved sister. Through Eppie, Silas finds a new lease on life, And The chance to be part of a community again. Warm-hearted and humorous, Silas Marner has been a favorite of generations of readers” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

skipping ChristmasSkipping Christmas
by John Grisham

“Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

storiedlifeStoried Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

“On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto ‘No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.’ A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means. A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen.

Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J. s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A.J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J. s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Nonfiction

orangeisthenewblackOrange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
by Piper Kerman

“With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, the author barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424, one of the millions of people who disappear ‘down the rabbit hole’ of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, she learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Here she tells the story of those long months locked up in a place with its own codes of behavior and arbitrary hierarchies, where a practical joke is as common as an unprovoked fight, and where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. This is a look into the lives of women in prison; why we lock so many away and what happens to them when they are there” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

rocketinpocketA Rocket in My Pocket: The Hipster’s Guide to Rockabilly
by Max Décharné

“Rockabilly had its roots in country, blues, folk, hillbilly, R&B, boogie-woogie and most other indigenous Deep South forms of popular song that you could strum three chords along to or howl down a cheap microphone. It was young people’s music, made almost entirely by the first wave of teenagers, despised by adults in general and the country music establishment in particular. Its pioneer exponent, Elvis, eventually become respectable in the eyes of straight society but he was the exception.

1950s rockabilly was a spontaneous outburst of spirited three-chord songs, tiny record labels, primitive studios, fiercely partisan audiences and wild-eyed, driven performers who weren’t even sure that their musical careers would last the week. The book charts the rise (and fall) of the original 50s wave of rockabillies. It will also follow the progress of the music, in clubs, on radio, TV and film, pinpointing the key record labels and important regional centres, showing how fashions eventually changed and left rockabilly high and dry, far too wild and primitive in an era of smoother sounds. Décharné traces the music to its Memphis roots” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

walkinghomeWalking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed
by Sonia Choquette

“Life was falling apart. Within the space of three years, New York Times best-selling author and six-sensory spiritual teacher Sonia Choquette had suffered the unexpected death of two close family members, seen her marriage implode, and been let down by trusted colleagues. And sympathy was not forthcoming. ‘You’re a world-renowned intuitive guide and teacher,’ people jeered. ‘How could you not have seen this coming?’ Having intuitive abilities didn’t make Sonia superhuman, however. Nor did it exempt her from being wounded or suffering the pain of loss and the consequences of our all-too-human traits such as anger, resentment, and pride—traits that can lead even the best of us to stray from our path.

In order to regain her spiritual footing, Sonia turned to the age-old practice of pilgrimage and set out to walk the legendary Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometer (500-mile) trek over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain. Day after day she pushed through hunger, exhaustion, and pain to reach her destination. Eventually, mortification of the flesh gave way to spiritual renewal, and she rediscovered the gifts of humility and forgiveness that she needed to repair her world.

In this riveting book, Sonia shares the intimate details of her grueling experience, as well as the unexpected moments of grace, humor, beauty, and companionship that supported her through her darkest hours. While her journey is unique, the lessons she learned—about honoring your relationships with others as well as with your own higher self, and forgiving all else—are universal” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

-posted by Gretchen Schneider

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