Check It Out!

MPPL's staff blog about books, movies, music and the talent behind them.

Nancy’s Pick: A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

Picture of NancyA Murder of Magpies is a humorous cozy mystery about book editor Samantha Clair, who finds herself in the midst of a wave-making manuscript, a missing author, and a dead courier. This series kick-off by Judith Flanders is clever and charming, great if you’re looking for a smart but light read. I enjoyed the London publishing scene, the entertaining characters, and the lively, brisk narration.

This Is Us: Fiction about Families

Holidays often mean time spent with family, and that can be joyous or…complicated.  The oft-quoted Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” might apply, but even the happiest have their moments. If you are looking for solidarity or reassurance through other family dynamics, your options run from the hilarious to the heartbreaking. Choose from one of these groupings, or contact us for your own personalized flavor.

Squabbling Siblings

Bread and Butter book coverBread and Butter
Michelle Wildgen
Ellen Meister


Home for the Holidays

Winter Street book coverWinter Street
Elin Hilderbrand
Green Road book coverThe Green Road
Anne Enright
Mary Carter


Modern Family

Color of Family book coverThe Color of Family
Patricia Jones
Run book coverRun
Ann Patchett
Zadie Smith


Delightfully Dysfunctional

Family Fang book coverThe Family Fang
Kevin Wilson
One Plus One book coverOne Plus One
Jojo Moyes
Jade Chang


We Are Our Past

Wally Lamb

Staff Pick: The Long Goodbye

Picture of JohnRobert Altman’s pastel-noir subversion of the hard-boiled detective genre, The Long Goodbye, replaces Bogart’s iconic version of Philip Marlowe with a mumbling, likably disheveled portrayal by Elliott Gould. The film’s labyrinthine plot duels a loose, improvisational tone against a backdrop of playful details – until things suddenly get less playful…

November Is Native American Heritage Month

In celebration of Native American/First Nations fiction and fiction authors, we offer these six fantastic novels. Whether you are looking for modern or classic, mysticism or military, love story or survival, there is at least one story here that will engage you, challenge you, or quite possibly, stir your soul.

Flight by Sherman AlexieOn the verge of committing an act of violence, a troubled, orphaned Indian teenager finds himself hurtled through time an into the bodies of a civil rights era FBI agent, an Indian child during the battle at Little Big Horn, a nineteenth- century Indian tracker, and a modern-day airline pilot, before returning to himself, forever altered by his experiences.

Love Medicine by Louise ErdichThe members of the Chippewa Kaspaw and Lamartine families describe their simple existence as they both deny and discover their native heritages.

Three Day Road by Joseph BoydenThe nephew of a Canadian Oji-Cree who is the last of a line of healers and diviners, Cree reserve student Xavier enlists in the military during World War I, a conflict throughout which he and his friend, Elijah, are marginalized for their appearances, their culturally enhanced marksmanship, and their disparate views of the war.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott MomadayA young American Indian returning from World War II searches for his place on his old reservation and in urban society.

Perma Red by Debra Magpie EarlingExplores life on the Flathead Indian Reservation during the 1940s through the eyes of Louise White Elk as she struggles with problematic relationships with three men.

Two Old Women by Velma WallisThe retelling of a classic Alaskan legend about two elderly women abandoned by their tribe during a severe winter famine depicts their friendship, fierce determination, desperate struggle for survival, and ultimate need to forgive.



Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski

Frank from Administration suggests Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski.

Algren Book CoverNelson Algren was one of the most important yet underappreciated American authors of the Twentieth Century. He wrote about what he knew and what he knew was life on the fringes of society. And more than any other writer, Algren knew Chicago. “Like loving a woman with a broken nose,” he wrote, “you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”

In her fascinating biography, Algren: A Life, Mary Wisniewski illuminates this brilliant, enigmatic Chicagoan whose own turbulent “life on the fringes”—drinking, gambling, womanizing—led to some of the most memorable and powerful works in American literature.

Algren maintained through the years a torrid, on-again/off-again love affair with French feminist writer and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, herself in a relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. “On the outs” with Algren when he died in 1981, de Beauvoir refused thereafter to visit his grave on Long Island. She was buried in Paris alongside Sartre five year later, wearing Algren’s ring.  Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski is a fascinating book.

Haven’t read anything by Nelson Algren? Start here!

The Man with the Golden Arm
Widely regarded as Algren’s most powerful and enduring work, this novel chronicles war veteran and hustler “Frankie Machine’s” downward spiral into an ever-deepening morphine addiction.
The Neon Wilderness
A collection of short stories giving voice to the insulted and injured, to those at the rough edges of society struggling to make ends meet while playing a losing—often fixed—hand.


Chicago: City on the Make
A social document and a love poem, Chicago: City on the Make is a bold, hard-hitting ode to this “most real of all” cities. Studs Terkel said it’s “the best book about Chicago.”
A Walk on the Wild Side
With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, this novel packs a wallop. As Algren admitted, the book “… wasn’t written until long after it had been walked.”
Nonconformity: Writing on Writing
Editor Daniel Simon assembles into this brief but compelling work Algren’s previously unpublished credo of his craft. Algren identifies the essential nature of the writer’s relation to society and shares his deepest beliefs about the state of literature and its role in society.