Check It Out Category: Books

List: Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence 2017 Longlist

September brought the 2017 longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction. The Andrew Carnegie Medals are especially notable because winners are chosen by library professionals, similar to the Newbery award for children’s literature. This results in the ultimate to-read list for the year in adult fiction and non-fiction! Take a look at some of the books that stood out below:

perfume-river book coverPerfume River
by Robert Olen Butler
the-sport-of-kings book coverThe Sport of Kings
by C.E. Morgan
christodora book coverChristodora
by Zadie Smith


the-firebrand-and-the-first-lady book coverThe Firebrand and the First Lady
by Patricia Bell-Scott
behold-the-dreamers book coverBehold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue
the-angel-of-history book coverThe Angel of History
by Rabih Alameddine


city-of-thorns book coverCity of Thorns
by Ben Rawlence
mister monkey book coverMister Monkey
by Francine Prose
mad-enchantment book coverMad Enchantment
by Ross King


Make sure to take a look at the full list of books chosen. The six finalists (three for fiction and three for nonfiction) will be announced October 26, 2016!


Staff Pick: Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

Picture of LarryBlasphemy includes some of Sherman Alexie’s classic short stories along with newer tales. The stories challenge the reader’s comfort zones with plots exploring race and ethnicity, culture, stereotypes, alcoholism, diabetes, and personal identity. The settings are in the Pacific Northwest with Native American protagonists. The expertly crafted stories are personal, revealing the characters for who they are and what influenced their lives, making them seem real and reflecting life as it truly is for many.

List: Funny Horror Books

funny horror books

Horror books don’t only have to be eerie, they can be funny too! Books shown below take familiar horror story premises and add a little laugh to the boo.

Apocalypse Cow book coverApocalypse Cow
by Michael Logan
It starts with one cow that won’t die… and spreads… and spreads… until the world has a problem they never imagined they would have to deal with: zombie animals.
Carpe Demon book coverCarpe Demon
by Julie Kenner
Between taking care of her kids and supporting her husband’s political career, Kate doesn’t have time to hunt demons too, but there’s only one woman for the job and that’s her!
Gil's All Fright Diner book coverGil’s All Fright Diner
by A. Lee Martinez
Duke, a werewolf, and Earl, a vampire, stop at diner and are enlisted to help the owner’s zombie problem, however, zombies aren’t the only problems the owner has.


John Dies at the End book coverJohn Dies at the End
by David Wong
A concoction called Soy Sauce opens a can of worms, but thanks to David’s and John’s video game knowledge they may have a chance of protecting their loved ones.
Paul is Undead
by Alan Goldsher
The Beatles are gearing up to take over the world like no other rock stars have ever done before!
bloodlite book coverBlood Lite III: Aftertaste
by various authors
All-star authors such as Jim Butcher and Kelley Armstrong unite to bring forth a collection of some hilarious good short horror stories.




Book Discussion Questions: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Thirteenth Tale book coverTitle:  The Thirteenth Tale
Author:  Diane Setterfield
Page Count: 406 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction; Psychological Suspense
Tone:  Atmospheric, Dramatic

When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In many ways, this is a book for book lovers, and there are multiple passages that speak to readers. For instance, early in the book (p. 32) Margaret contrasts her reading as a child to her reading as an adult.

a. Do you recall why Margaret says she prefers old novels? (see p. 29)

b. Her father advocates for contemporary writing, ones “where the message is that there is no end to human suffering, only endurance…endings that are muted, but which echo longer in the memory.” Do you side with Margaret or with her father? Is it that simple?

c. Given those characterizations, does The Thirteenth Tale resonate more as an old novel or as contemporary writing?

2. Let’s dig in by putting ourselves in Margaret’s place. We’re living our quiet bookshop lives, and we receive a letter without real context or satisfactory explanation. Why would we (as Margaret) even consider accepting the invitation?

3. In one interview about her career change from academia to author, Setterfield notes her realization that “whilst books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else.” How might we say this is reflected in the novel?

4. Would you call The Thirteenth Tale a ghost story? If so, who are the ghosts? Who is haunted?

5. What do biography and storytelling have in common? How are they different? Would you rather have the truth or a good story?

6. Were you surprised at Miss Winter’s true identity? What points Margaret (and the reader) to this conclusion?

7. Who was saved from the fire? How can we be certain?

8. Margaret realizes that “plunging deep into Miss Winter’s story was a way of turning my back on my own” (p. 282). Was this true? Did it work?

9. Angelfield (the house) becomes an external symbol of the family and its changing condition. Can you think of examples of when this seems to be true? Which other rooms or homes reflect their inhabitants?

10. Miss Winter tells Margaret that “it doesn’t do to get attached to secondary characters. It’s not their story. They come, they go, and when they go they’re gone for good. That’s all there is to it.” (p. 191-2). Does that prove to be true in her story? In the book?

11. How essential is what we learn from Hester’s diary?

12. What did you think of the “game” of the conveyor belt and Margaret’s later admission (to us) that she did love books more than people?

13. In what ways does The Thirteenth Tale fit the characteristics of a Gothic novel?

14. Several classic Gothic novels are named, some multiple times. Did this enhance the experience for you? Did it seem too “on point” or distract by the comparison, or did you find it original?

15. What other recurring symbols seem to be present in The Thirteenth Tale?

16. Did you like the structure: Beginnings, Middles, Endings, Beginnings? How is this choice significant?

17. In which character names did you find significance?

18. What patterns seem to be repeated throughout the story?

19. Aurelius wonders if it’s better to have no story than one that keeps changing, and Margaret’s mother thinks a weightless story is better than one too heavy. What do you think is better for these characters? In general?

20. How effective is the choice of title? What does it contribute to tone and to theme?

21. The idea of siblings, especially twins, is central to the story in many ways. How do the different relationships affect the characters and themes? Did this enhance your experience of the story?

22. Did you find the ending satisfying? Explain your answer.

23. The question of precisely when The Thirteenth Tale takes place has sparked much speculation. As you read, did you have a time period in mind? Would you have preferred this be specifically stated? What is gained in leaving the time undefined?

24. Is there anyone today who might be Vida Winter’s contemporary counterpart: someone who has written multiple bestsellers, whose books are among the most borrowed from libraries, yet who is reclusive, “as famous for her secrets as for her stories”?

25. The Thirteenth Tale was the inaugural selection of “Barnes & Noble Recommends” in which each season one book was chosen as riveting and of extraordinary quality worthy of stimulating discussion, one that they were sure you would recommend to others. Their introduction opened with a single word: unputdownable. Would that word characterize your experience with the book? Would you recommend it to others?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


official website of author Diane Setterfield
The Guardian interview with Setterfield
audio: Setterfield talks about her inspiration and process
BookPage feature on the release of The Thirteenth Tale
The Independent review of The Thirteenth Tale
Lit Lovers book discussion guide
The Wall Street Journal explains “The Eerie Allure of the Gothic
video clip from the 2013 BBC movie adaptation


Distant Hours book coverThe Distant Hours
by Kate Morton

Rebecca book coverRebecca
by Daphne Du Maurier

Seduction of Water book coverThe Seduction of Water
by Carol Goodman

Staff Pick: Faithful Place by Tana French

Picture of NancyAfter hearing readers rave about Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries, I picked up Faithful Place (third in the series) and now I have a new favorite author.  This title features Frank Mackey, an undercover cop who examines the complicated relationships of his own past as he works a cold case.  With its atmospheric Irish setting and flawed characters, this is an incredibly satisfying mystery. 

International Latino Book Awards

Make the most of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – Oct 15) by checking out a brand new winner of the International Latino Book Awards.  Though not interchangeable, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino enjoy a great deal of overlap, and you can be assured that each of these honorees celebrates the culture in the context of an exciting, thoughtful, and heartfelt story.

Best Novel

Japanese Lover book cover

Historical Fiction – First Place
The Japanese Lover
Isabel Allende

Map of Chaos book cover

Fantasy/Sci-Fi – First Place
The Map of Chaos
Félix J. Palma


Best Latino-Focused Fiction Book

Make Your Home Among Strangers book cover

First Place
Make Your Home Among Strangers
Jennine Capó Crucet

Ana of California book cover

Second Place
Ana of California
Andi Teran


Best Young Adult Fiction Book

Shadowshaper book cover

First Place
Daniel José Older

Weight of Feathers book cover

Second Place
The Weight of Feathers
Anna-Marie McLemore


Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book

Becoming Maria book cover

First Place
Becoming Maria
Sonia Manzano

Enchanted Air book cover

Second Place
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings
Margarita Engle


Staff Pick: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Marisa from Collection Management suggests The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

the master and margarita book cover

Take everything you thought you knew about 20th century Russian literature, throw it out the window, and read The Master and Margarita. It’s a riotous magical-realist tale about the devil and his minions, who go down to Moscow in the 1930s to cause mischief. What ensues is a wild and witty novel involving witches, poets, star-crossed lovers, talking cats, and several buildings catching fire. It’s the kind of book that is not only impossible to put down, but will leave you pacing around your house with the book still in your hand. If all that isn’t enough, it’s also Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite novel. In other words, The Master and Margarita has everything worth loving in a book. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

If you are interested in Master and Margarita, try…

Rapture of the Nerds book cover

Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross is a wild sci-fi novel. In a world where the downloaded minds of humans enjoy playing pranks on those of us who still retain our physical form, Huw is called up for “tech jury duty”: judging whether the inventions sent to Earth from our posthuman neighbors are safe enough to use. He has no idea of the crazy things that will happen or of the hero he will become.

Into the Beautiful North book cover

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea is the tale of the small Mexican town of Tres Camarones. All of the men have long since deserted the town to find work in the United States, and a group of bandits have taken advantage of their absence. Inspired by classic Western movies, a teenage girl named Nayeli and her friends decide to venture across the border, find the men of Tres Camarones, and free their town.

Memories of the Future book cover

Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky is a collection of short stories set in 1920s Moscow. In a uniquely surreal style, Krzhizhanovsky tells the story of a man who makes his room grow with disastrous consequences, a traveler who gets on a train to the land of dreams, and many other equally weird occurrences.

Against the Day book cover

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon is a magical-realist epic that spans many years during the turn of the 20th century, with its variety of characters passing sideways to real events to make a story all their own. It’s a novel that seems like a collection of unreal, disjointed events, but in a way is more real than reality itself.

List: Most Frequently Challenged Authors of Color

We celebrate our own freedom to read during Banned Books Week, but it is also right to champion those who bravely compose those very stories. Non-white authors receive more than half of book challenges each year — even though they are allowed much less of the publishing market! The reasons vary, and we can become distracted by the complaints, but what shouldn’t be lost are the vibrant creations of writers who deepen our understanding of the world.

The Bluest Eye book coverThe Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book coverThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Color Purple book coverThe Color Purple
by Alice Walker
Two African American sisters, one a missionary in Africa and the other a child-wife living in the South, support each other through their correspondence, beginning in the 1920s.


Kite Runner book coverThe Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant’s son in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the atrocities of the present day.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings book coverI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
A black woman recalls the anguish of her childhood in Arkansas and her adolescence in northern slums in the 1930s and 1940s.
Bless Me Ultima book coverBless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya
A coming-of-age story set in post-World War II New Mexico, in which an old woman with healing powers comes to live with a boy’s family the summer before he turns seven.


Book Discussion Questions: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidyin Up book coverTitle: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Author:  Marie Kondo
Page Count:  pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Organizing, House and Home
Tone:  Matter of fact, Casual

This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.


These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Give me only one word to describe what you thought of this book.

2. Marie Kondo is like a popstar in Japan and she can’t even take the subway any more. Why do you think this book was such a hit in Japan? Why has it been such a hit in America?

3. Before reading this book what did “tidying” mean to you? How is her meaning of tidying different?

4. Did Kondo seem like an unusual kid to you? Why?

5. What are some of Kondo’s key principles found in the book?

6. How does her Shinto belief system play into her tidying? Do you need to agree with someone’s religious beliefs to find value in what they say or do?

7. Which of her ideas did you find most helpful?

8. For those who read the entire book, have you begun tidying? Why was this motivating for you? What were your results?

9. For those who didn’t finish the book, did you do any tidying? Why or why not?

Alison Stewart, author of Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair with Stuff says, “Accumulation has been going on for a couple of decades, but we’re just hitting the tipping point, because of demographics. You have the Depression-era people who were taught to save everything – it was a matter of survival. Then in the 1950’s they were taught to buy everything. That’s a dangerous combination. In the 1980s and ‘90s there was all this money, and also the free flow of cheap stuff. But Millennials might swing the pendulum back the other way.” (Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2016)

10. Do you have examples in your own life/house of this?

11. How is organizing and storing a downfall for Americans?  Check out these statistics.

–“There are more storage facilities in America than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.” (Huffington Post, 4/21/2015)

–There is 7.3 sq. ft. of self-storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation; thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand – all at the same time – in a self-storage facility. (

  • –I was fascinated that a very American response to all this junk is to make business out of it, whether it’s self-storage, which is a $24 billion dollar business, or junk-removal companies, or personal organizing, or the Container Store. There’s this thought that organizers support the Container Store and the Container Store supports the organizers. But some professional organizers, on the down-low, say “I’m not sure it’s a great thing” Making it pretty doesn’t make the problem go away. (Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2016, Q&A with Alison Stewart)

12. Why do we as Americans have so much stuff?

13. How did the Great Depression affect that generation and subsequent generations in relation to holding on to things?

14. You may be asking the question, why would you throw away something that’s perfectly good? What would Kondo say?

15. What is so hard about paring down?

16. How do you deal with items from your grandparents/great grandparents? Will your kids want these antiques you’ve saved? There is an interesting article by Marni Jameson a nationally syndicated home design columnist, author and speaker. It’s called “Memo to Parents: Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” ( Now that’s not always true, but she gives advice and considerations when deciding what to pass on or let go.

17. How many of you have downsized moving into a smaller place? What was the hardest thing about doing that? Was there anything freeing about it? How is your life now different from before?

18. Some of you have dealt with the grief and aftermath of losing your parents. How did you deal with going through and disposing of all their stuff? Was there a lot of it? How long did it take to finish?  

19. What will your children’s experience of dealing with your stuff be? Do you have more or less than your parents did? Will you leave it for them to deal with or will you choose to take intentional action to deal with it yourself? Where will you begin? When will you begin?

20. What lessons did you learn or have affirmed in this book? What steps have you taken or will you take after reading and discussing this book?


Blog article: “8 Decluttering Lessons Learned from Marie Kondo”
Q&A on Reddit
People to People discussion questions
Google talk (video)
The Atlantic article, “The Economics of Tidying Up”


The Things That Matter book coverSoulSpace book coverJoy of Less book cover







The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus
SoulSpace by Xorin Balbes
The Joy of Less by Francine Joy