Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bonus! Chicago Bookstores + Book Haul

So...I may have broken my book buying ban a little...

Last week, I flew back to visit my old stomping grounds in Chi-town and see some friends. It was lovely to be back in the Windy City for a couple of days. While I was there I might have given into temptation and bought a few books but I also crossed an item off my bucket list so I don't feel to terrible about it.

Let me elaborate. As an undergrad studying in Chicago I found I had little time or money to spend on reading that wasn't part of my course curriculum. Which was was heart-wrenching because there were so many books I wanted to read and so many amazing bookstores within walking distance of campus. (I'm sure many of you can relate!) Occasionally, if I was feeling masochistic, I would wander through the bookstores and admire all the books I knew I couldn't afford to buy and I would silently vow that I would one day come back as a rich alumna and buy all the books I wanted. Dramatic I know, but hey.

My Chicago spoils!

Now two years later I came back to these bookstores as an alumna, and although not necessarily rich, I had a little more change in my pocket now that I am not buying $200 dollar text books every 10 weeks, so I indulged a little bit. I didn't buy ALL the books (trust me, I though about it) but I did pick up a couple of full-priced books, just because I wanted them and because I could. It felt very rewarding to be able to buy my own books with my own money and cross of an (albeit, slightly frivolous) item off my bucket list. So here are the stores I visited and the items I piked up! This is just a small sample of the bookstores Chicago has to offer.

 The Seminary Co-Op in an independent bookstore that has served the University and Hyde Park community for over 50 years. Originally located in the labyrinth basement in the old seminary building. It recently relocated and expanded. It generally caters to the academic crowd and carried specialized academic volumes that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, although it does stock some contemporary literary and genre titles as well. The store has an airy and light-filled feeling and has plenty of chairs for your reading pleasure as well as a cafe next door.

aka the Sem-Co-Op

Located on the epinomous 57th street. This bookstore is actually part of the above Seminary Co-Op as well but offers a more commercial fiction rather than academic offering. This basement store has an amazing selection of children and young adult books, contemporary social issues books and spiritual/philosophy books. This bookstore boasts 3 rooms that seem to expand for ever and super friendly staff who are always happy to offer recommendations. Once you have made a purchase, head over to the Medici bakery next door for their famous hot chocolate and pastries.

Underground treasure trove

This was a new discovery for me! This bookstore is actually located in the nearby city of Evanston, which is accessible by CTA from Chicago. This is a used bookstore and is probably one of the most novel bookstores I've seen. It is a book deli! you can find books literally by the bucket and you purchase them by weight! The selection is pretty varied although if you are looking for a specific books you might not find it, but browsing can yield some surprising rewards!

Buy books by the pound!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Author: Graeme Macrae Burnet
Publisher: HMH
Publication Year: 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating:5/5

Amazing book + Coffee = Happy Day


 A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? Will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs, where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative will keep the reader guessing to the very end


This is the third book in Janel's Criminally Good Book Club and this one is my favorite by far! I was absolutely enthralled with the story and was super excited to hear that it is being developed into a series! 

His Bloody Project is presented as a historical thriller, however it evades straightforward classification. It is historical in that it is presented as a series of documents found by the author while researching his ancestors in Scotland, but it is not quite a mystery or thriller in the traditional sense that you are trying to follow clues to find out whodunnit. I believe it is closer to a courtroom drama where the tension unfolds through various narrative told from multiple points of view.  

The plot centers around a triple murder in the highlands of Scotland and both the lead up to and the aftermath as perceived by the accused, his lawyer and the community. The narrative engages the reader and questions our moral and legal assumptions about guilt, responsibility, punishment and society as it leads the reader through the mind of Roderick as he recounts his childhood and his interactions with his victims leading up to their deaths, his decision to commit his crime and his reasoning to not hide it. Through this story we also get a glimpse at other thoughts and motivations that are not explicitly addressed and a recreation of the19th century Scottish justice system which is fascinating. 

Roderick's personal narrative  and his fellow villagers' impressions of him make up roughly half of the book. The later half recounts Roderick's imprisonment and trial. Both of these sides of the story are completely believable and immersive and speak to the author's research of the time period and setting. The attention to detail  I absolutely loved this book! It's been a while since I've read a book that's left me thinking after I finished and in awe of the quality of the writing. 

I don't want to give too much away since I believe this is one of those books that is best experienced by simply plunging into the book and letting yourself be swept away by the story without too much build up. I will say if you are looking for a conventional fast-paced thriller with a crazy twist, this is not it. If you are looking for a beautifully written book whose premise, execution, and ending will stay with you long after you turn the last page, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

One Book One NY Book Announced

Last month we found out that the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment was launching a reading initiative to get New Yorkers reading the same book at the same time. It would be the largest such initiative attempted in the US. New Yorkers would get the chance to vote on 1 of 5 books and now the winner has been announced! The winner is

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!

The NYPL and the Mayor's Office will be launching a series of events to promote the book and the program as well as a reading guide for people looking to pick up the book! 

What you you think of the pick? Will you be reading along with New York?