Shelf Centered

A blog about books & culture from the librarians who love them

What We're Reading

Hello, it's Wednesday and time for another post about what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

endofoctoberTitle: End of October
Author: Lawrence Wright
Reader: Jill M., Adult Services Manager

 "At an internment camp in Indonesia, within one week, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When the microbiologist and epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe. Matilda Nachinsky, deputy director of U. S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic. Henry's wife Jill and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta and the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions and decimating the population." - description provided by publisher


sacredgroundTitle: Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black
Author: Timuel Black
Reader: Sheri R., Youth Services Librarian

This memoir is a vivid and inspiring look at Chicago's place in the great Migration and the Civil Rights movement. It opens in 1919, with the Chicago race riot that summer when Black's family moved from Alabama to Chicago, through his time stationed in Europe in WWII, and recounts his meetings with many legendary figures as an educator, author, and activist. Timuel Black is an acclaimed historian, activist, and storyteller. NewCity Lit says that Sacred Ground is "a must-read for any citizen of Chicago who wants to understand the racial and political dynamics of our city."


talkinggladwellTitle: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Reader: Ted R., Adult Services Librarian

In this book, popular host of the podcast Revisionist History and author Gladwell explores how people interact with strangers and why these exchanges often go wrong, offering strategic tips for more accurate and productive interactions. Ted says: "Gladwell's books are always interesting!" In Gladwell's 2019 interview with Goodreads contributor Kerry Shaw, Gladwell said that the takeaway he hopes people get from this books is "[t]o be more forgiving of those who are deceived. To understand that being hoodwinked is a function not of what you've done wrong but what you've done right—it's never a crime to trust in someone else."


mysterychristieTitle: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
Author: Marie Benedict
Reader: Alice J., Youth Services Librarian

This book deals with the life of author Agatha Christie and the mysterious 10 days she disappeared. No one knew where she was and her husband was considered a prime suspect. I've enjoyed her other books: The Other Mrs. Einstein, The Smartest Woman in the Room, Carnegie's Maid and Lady Clementine. Benedict does extensive research on her characters and I've learned a lot from her books.


reverieTitle: Reverie
Author: Ryan La Sala
Reader: Krista H., Teen Librarian

I picked up this book because I follow the author's hilariously goofy and yet sincere Twitter feed and I thought, "If he's this funny and strange on Twitter, what must a book by him be like?" Ryan La Sala's debut novel is described by the publisher as a cross between the movie Inception and the book/TV show The Magicians, and while simplified, that's an excellent description to get people interested. It's an urban fantasy that takes place in the real world and is perfect for any queer teenagers (or adults) who know the feeling of needing to escape from the real world for a time into dreams of a better life; only, in this book, it turns out those dreams can be dangerous too. While recovering from an attack that leaves him without his memory, gay teenager Kane Montgomery stumbles into a world where dreams known as reveries take on a life of their own, and it is up to Kane and a few unlikely allies to stop them before they spillover into the waking world. 

Family History at Home

by EvaAnne Johnson, Adult Services Librarian
 Old photographs on a table
Winter is here, and the need to stay safe at home continues, so these winter months are a great time to explore and preserve your family history! Here are some things that you can do from home right now!
Get started with your family history: If you haven't ever started putting together your family tree, now is a great time to start! Use a blank, basic family tree form to start recording all the information that you know about yourself, your parents, and your grandparents, and write down information about extended family. (Find some basic blank forms and charts here: Before you start searching online for your ancestors, you'll always need to gather as much information that you can from your own sources at home, such as your own memory, baby books or family Bibles, certificates and documents, and talking with other relatives. Don’t know where to start? Reserve a book such as, Genealogy for Dummies or Beginners guide to genealogy, from the library or schedule a one-on-one session with a genealogy librarian.

Interview other relatives and record their stories: Use this time at home to connect virtually or over the phone with older relatives, cousins, and extended family. Ask them about their lives and stories from your family. Take notes or record the interview (with their permission) to preserve their stories for later. Don't forget that we are living through history! Ask them about their experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, and don't forget to record your experience, too. 

Organize family photographs and documents: Now is also a good time to sort through those old family photos and documents. Organize them and make sure they are stored in containers that will help preserve them. While you're organizing your photos, you may also think about getting them scanned, so you can make extra copies and share the old photos with other family members!

Record family heirlooms: If you have any important family heirlooms, you may also want to take this opportunity to take photos of those heirlooms and write down important information about each item, such as what the item is, who it originally belonged to, how you acquired it, and why it's important. 
Online genealogy research from home: Your research doesn't have to stop just because the library is closed! On the library's Online Resources page (, you'll find links to databases and resources that will help you with your genealogy research. Free websites from the library that will help support your genealogy research include:
  • Ancestry Library Edition (at-home access with your library card extended through March 31, 2021)
  • Heritage Quest Online (at-home access with your library card)
  • (at-home access with your library card)
  • Historical Chicago Tribune (at-home access with your library card)
  • Wilmette Local History & Genealogy Resources
  • Wilmette Local Newspapers 
Other free websites to use from home include:
Check out genealogy books and magazines: Don't forget that you can place a hold on genealogy magazines and books, and you can pick them up via Parking Lot Pickup! Check out recent issues of Family Tree MagazineInternet Genealogy magazine, Illinois Heritage magazine, The Quarterly: the journal of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and more! New additions to our genealogy book selections include Unofficial guide to, The Family Tree guide to DNA testing and genetic genealogy, and How to find your family history in U.S. church records. Search for these titles and more in our online catalog
Improve your research with ebooks and streaming videos: Get quick access to genealogy reference books at home! Hoopla has a good variety of genealogy reference e-books, including The Family Tree ToolkitTracing your Scottish AncestorsHow our Ancestors Died, and Maps for Family and Local History. Get inspiration through episodes of Finding Your Roots, available for checkout on DVD at the library, or streaming through Kanopy with your library card. Teach yourself the basics of genealogy research through episodes of Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy from Great Courses, also available to stream as video on Kanopy or as an audiobook on Hoopla. 
Sign up for our genealogy newsletter: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to start getting our new quarterly genealogy newsletter! Be the first to know about upcoming genealogy programs and get tips on genealogy research.  
Get one-on-one help from a librarian: Have you gotten stuck on your genealogy research? Are you unsure of where to start with your family tree? Do you have questions about our genealogy databases or resources? Schedule a virtual one-on-one appointment with our genealogy librarian for research help. Request a one-hour Zoom appointment here:

What We're Reading Wednesday - New Year Edition

Hello, and welcome to our first post of 2021, documenting what Wilmette Public Library have been reading when they're not working hard at the library. Check back on Wednesdays to spy on our reading habits and get some great ideas for yourself! You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois.

vinegargirlTitle: Vinegar Girl
Author: Ann Tyler
Reader: Louise N., Interlibrary Loan Librarian

I just finished reading Vinegar Girl by Ann Tyler, and I even re-read Taming of the Shrew which Vinegar Girl is based on.  This was a fun read, and it made me laugh out loud in parts.  This doesn’t happen too often for me when reading. I didn’t watch the movie Kiss Me Kate, but that could be the next step if I have the time.


onetowatchTitle: One to Watch
Author:  Kate Stayman-London
Reader: Rachel G., Adult Services Librarian

When plus-size fashion blogger Bea Schumacher writes an angry blog post about the lack of body diversity on her favorite reality dating show, Main Squeeze, she receives a shocking call: Main Squeeze wants to cast her as their next star. Hoping to inspire women across America and supercharge her career, she accepts with one condition-under no circumstance will she fall in love with any of these men. But when the show starts filming, Bea realizes things may be more complicated than she anticipated. Funny, relatable, and stylish, this debut novel asks us to throw away stubborn and destructive ideas about plus-size women and root for real-world true love. 


eleanormichaelisTitle: Eleanor
Author: David Michaelis
Reader: Suzanne A., Adult Services Librarian

This is a riveting biography of this icon. We see how she became an influential, powerful, democratic activist and diplomat. Michaelis deftly incorporates information on her social life. The book is so well written it is a page-turner. And it has terrific photos.


dianaandtheislandTitle: Diana and the Island of No Return
Author: Aisha Saeed
Reader: Jennifer L., Youth Services Librarian

This is an action packed adventure about young Wonder Woman. Tweens who already enjoy the Wonder Woman characters will find this book fun and interesting. It is done by the author who wrote Amal Unbound.


thisishappinessTitle: This is Happiness
Author: Niall Williams
Reader: Joan B., Adult Services Librarian

"Change is coming to Faha, a small Irish parish that hasn't changed in a thousand years. For one thing, the rain is stopping. Nobody remembers when it started; rain on the western seaboard is a condition of living. But now--just as Father Coffey proclaims the coming of the electricity--the rain clouds are lifting. Seventeen-year-old Noel Crowe is idling in the unexpected sunshine when Christy makes his first entrance into Faha, bringing secrets he needs to atone for. Though he can't explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed. As the people of Faha anticipate the endlessly procrastinated advent of the electricity, and Noel navigates his own coming-of-age and his fallings in and out of love, Christy's past gradually comes to light, casting a new glow on a small world"--Publisher description.

What We're Reading Wednesday!

Hello, and welcome to our inagural post documenting what staff of the Wilmette Public Library have been reading lately. Check back on Wednesdays to spy on our reading habits and get some great ideas for yourself! You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

sapiensTitle: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Audiobook Narrator: Derek Perkins
Reader: Jenny K, Adult Services Librarian

Historian Yuval Harari covers approximately 70,000 years of the Sapiens journey. It is a chronological trek through our cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions, discussing such matters as beliefs, human rights, consumerism, war, dominance, money, etc... Condensing thousands of years into just 15 hours eliminates in-depth analysis. But if you are looking for a brief history of our species, you might enjoy this 2014 NYT Bestseller.  Award winning narrator Derek Perkins complements the book with an erudite British accent.During our current challenging circumstances here on earth, I have come to enjoy e-audio books, especially those on history. I chose this particular title to understand where we have been, to make sense of where we are today and to question where we are going. I have not been disappointed in my selection. 


midnight libraryTitle: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Reader: Sarah Beth B., Community Services Manager; and Nancy W., Adult Services Librarian

Sarah Beth says: This book is very popular right now, for good reason! I’m not done yet, but I feel like it’s a bit of a magical-realism story about evaluating the choices you made in your life and finding the path that would bring you fulfillment. Reminds me a lot of Oona Out of Order and Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Nancy W. says: A desperate woman has determined to end her life.  She is given a chance to reconsider by a visit to the Midnight Library, a place where she can explore "what if" her life had taken another path.   


ifthenTitle: If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future
Author: Jill Lepore
Audiobook Narrator: Jill Lepore

Reader: Jessica T., Cataloging Librarian

This is the history of the Simulmatics Corporation which built a “People Machine” that could predict the future using computer simulation of human behavior gathered through mined data. The company was founded by leading social scientists in 1959. Clients of Simulmatics included the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, the New York Times, the Department of Defense and many manufacturers. It is an interesting history of presidential elections, computing in the 60s and sci-fi. Additionally, Jill Lepore is an amazing narrator.


southernexposureTitle: Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago's South Side
Author: Lee Bey
Reader: Susan K., Youth Services Librarian

The South Side has a rich architectural heritage, and Chicago architecture expert Lee Bey explores it with lively text and quality color photographs. The book features an array of landmarks which are often excluded from tourist and guidebook recommendations because they sit in predominately African American and Latino sections of town known as places of disinvestment, abandonment and sometimes violence. But note the luminous  buildings by famous architects, and neighborhoods that reflect the beauty and potential of Chicago's South Side. Lee Bey has an illustrious career as a photographer, architecture critic, and lecturer at the School of the Art Institute.


spacecaseTitle: Space Case
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Reader: Diane S., Youth Services Librarian

I am reading Space Case by Stuart Gibbs because the kids have raved about the whole Moon Base Alpha series.  Space Case is the first book.  

Missed the Ibram X. Kendi Event?

In early November, the Wilmette Library, along with 10 other public libaries on the North Shore hosted historian and author Ibram X. Kendi in a discussion about his book, "How to be an Antiracist" via Zoom.  If you missed the discussion, we recommend visiting his TED Talk below.  Submitted by Librarian Jillian M.


Ibram X. Kendi: The difference between being 'not racist' and antiracist


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