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Mary S.

Chicago’s State Street Christmas Parade by Robert P. Ledermann (2004)

Reminisce about Chicago’s Christmas parade and other unique Chicago Christmas experiences. The first Chicago Christmas parade started in 1934 and signaled the start of the Christmas season. Although I never attended the parade, I enjoyed reading about it and viewing the photos of the floats, bands, and celebrities during various eras in this book.
More than half of the book features other Chicago institutions featured prominently at Christmastime: Carson Pirie Scott and Company, Berghoff Restaurant, Miller’s Pub, and Marshall Field’s. It brought back memories of going downtown and viewing the magical windows of Carson’s, Field’s, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s on State Street. Marshall Field’s was also well known for its main floor decorations and the great tree in the Walnut Room. Ledermann also wrote Christmas on State Street, 1940’s and Beyond (2002).

 
Jennifer

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart (2007)

Summer at Tiffany is a delightful portrait of a moment in time. During the summer of 1945, Marjorie and her roommate Marty leave the University of Iowa for New York City. While jobs aren't quite as easy to procure as promised, they get hired as the first female pages (runners) at Tiffany’s flagship store.

More than 60 years later, Marjorie recounts that special summer: celebrity sightings (Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich – did you know her role in WWII?), saving pennies for a few treats, dancing with soldiers, her own summer romance, and experiencing V-J Day in Times Square.

When I think of 1945, World War II immediately comes to mind. Marjorie's story is a different slice of that year. As she said, everyone she knew was affected. Yet the story she shares is a 21-year-old small town girl experiencing the big city for the first time.

 
Joe

It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell (2012)

This collection of hundreds of anecdotes illustrates the rules and values which helped Colin Powell rise to the highest ranks of military leadership. Not merely a primer on what it means to be a good leader, It Worked for Me, is an intimate walk through the life of a military man who also helped shape a great deal of foreign policy in recent history.

With reminiscences of encounters from Reagan to Princess Diana to foreign heads of state, the book delivers a treasure trove of interesting and unique experiences which are sure to whet the palate of any political reader.
IPPL Staff

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer (2012)

Jonah Lehrer has created a compelling and surprising book. He makes the case that moments of insight are an essential tool of the imagination, and although his science stories seem to overreach, he supports his theories with wonderful anecdotes about poets, artists, surfers, and inventors – like the one about Yo-Yo Ma relating his playing the cello to writing a mystery story “It’s all about making people care what happens next,” he said.

I got a lot out of this book about the creative process but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the author’s lack of accuracy on some things he included as factual.

And here’s an opinion on that, which I share:

“The best way to think about Imagine is as a collection of interesting stories and studies to ponder and research further. Use it as a source of inspiration, but make your own careful choices about whether to believe what it says about the science of creativity.” Christopher Chabris (a psychology professor at Union College and a co-author, with Daniel Simons, of The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us)
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Joe

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

Unbroken, read by Edward Hermann, is the bestselling story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who became a bombardier in World War II, was stranded on a life boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and eventually captured by the Japanese. Hillenbrand, author of the bestseller Seabiscuit, is a gifted story teller who meticulously details this almost unbelievable ordeal of pain and suffering. Yes, this is truly a book about resilience, and you will find yourself riveted to your seat as you listen to this well narrated, well told, true tale.

 
IPPL Staff

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a work of nonfiction that reads like a well-researched novel. I was confused by the way readers are privy to the thoughts of the characters until I read the author’s note. I would suggest reading Katherine Boo's note before embarking on this intimate and moving portrait of life in a slum near the Mumbai airport that consists of ragged huts, a sewage lake, and children and adults living their lives. The people we meet are continually striving and/or scheming to better their lives although breaking through to the “overcity,” as the world of Mumbai outside of the slums is called, remains a seemingly impossible task.
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Joe

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005)

Economist Steven Levitt’s fascinating book, Freakonomics, sets out to quantify and explain topics ranging from birth control to education, with a special emphasis on crime. The CD is read by co-author and journalist Stephen Dubner, and is exploding with so many interesting statistics that it will make your mouth water.

What makes this book special is Levitt’s unique way of taking a problem, standing it on its head, and arriving at the most unexpected conclusion. The CD goes quickly and leaves the listener wanting more. I highly recommend this title.

 
Jennifer

Harry Potter, Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe (2011)

A must read for fans of Harry Potter and also recommended for movie buffs.

Harry Potter, Page to Screen details just about every aspect of the eight films. Learn how they cast the characters (and the directors); find out how they made Hagrid so tall; read a copy of The Daily Prophet; and discover how Daniel Radcliffe filmed the underwater scenes for Goblet of Fire. The author was on set for a time, so look for interviews with several of the cast and crew, plus exclusive photographs.

This hefty tome weighs over seven pounds and is over 500 pages long. And although I read the book all the way through (over the course of a month), you don't have to. It's great to page through and browse the pictures or artwork that interests you. Find the little details such as the glossy images underlying the text and the symbols used throughout the book.

The book contains chapters on each movie, then explores the art of Harry Potter with behind-the-scenes looks at characters, locations, creatures, and artifacts. Those interested in movie-making will enjoy the detail given to costuming, prop making, digital effects, and set design. It's amazing how much work goes into each detail. And the book itself is truly a visual treat.

Are you ready for J. K. Rowling’s newest book? Put yourself on hold for The Casual Vacancy today – it’s being released at the end of September.
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Joe

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis (2011)

As a funny follow up to his book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine which examines the causes of the U.S. stock market crash of 2008, Michael Lewis’s Boomerang takes the reader on a wild ride to all the countries hardest hit by the financial crisis

Starting in Iceland, then traveling to Greece, Lewis winds his way through several countries before returning to the U.S. to offer a view of some of the most economically precarious cities and states. Each country “when locked in the dark with a lot of money,” as he puts it, chose to spend the money in vastly different ways, and a lot of it had to do with the culture of each country.

This book, which includes an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a wonderful romp through the dramatically different problems facing countries as a result of the economic crisis. Michael Lewis is the Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods) of economics writers, and you will be pleased to walk with him through this fun tale.
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IPPL Staff

Llewellyn's Complete Book of Astrology by Kris Brandt Riske (2007)

I'm really interested in astrology, and this book was very helpful. It made it easy and fun to learn about the different signs I have according to the alignment of the planets. It also helped me with creating different character's personalities in stories. Highly recommend it!

Learn about your sign with Llewellyn's Complete Book of Astrology by Kris Brandt Riske.
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IPPL Staff

Strength Down the Middle: the story of the 1959 White Sox by Larry Kalas

Strength Down the Middle by Larry Kalas is the exciting story of the 1959 White Sox, the great players from the team, a game by game description of the season, some of the exciting events from that year outside of baseball, and a modest six month autobiography of a then eight-year-old boy living on the far southwest side of Chicago.

This book is, of course, primarily for White Sox fans but baseball fans in general should also enjoy it. People interested in Chicago history will find it enjoyable as well.
IPPL Staff

The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel R. Levitt (2012)

This book is really for scholars of baseball, but does contain some interesting baseball history. For example: Cub fans, did you know that Wrigley Field was not built for the Cubs? It was built for a team called the ChiFeds in 1914. In 1915, the ChiFeds name was changed to the Chicago Whales. In 1913, many well-to-do men thought that baseball was a fine business and started their own Major League. This book is the story of the Federal League and makes for some very interesting reading

Improve your sports knowledge with The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel Levitt.
IPPL Staff

King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels (2012)

This book is a true story of how a secretary in Washington, D.C. became a King in Ghana. It is a great example of how one person can make a difference! When she returns to her native village, she finds no running water, high school, or even a doctor. She also has to bury the former King, which she doesn't have the money for. During her first couple of years as King, she finds the strength to change all that.

I loved the balance of men and woman, Christianity and Paganism, modern comforts and simple living, United States and Africa.

Read King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and get inspired.
Hugh

Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)

Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Start your adventure with Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy today!



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Rounding the Horn: being a story of williwaws and windjammers, Drake, Darwin, murdered missionaries and naked natives--a deck's-eye view of Cape Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)
Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Nonfiction, travel, history, adventure

Jennifer

Paris in Love by Eloisa James (2012)

Shakespeare professor (as Mary Bly) and romance novelist Eloisa James takes a yearlong sabbatical and moves from New Jersey to Paris with her husband (Alessandro, a professor and an Italian knight) and two children (Luca, 15 and Anna, 11).

It's difficult to describe this book. It's a memoir. A travelogue. A love letter to the City of Light. A chronicle of everyday family occurrences. But it's done in such a way that draws you in and makes you feel as if you're there alongside Eloisa and her family in Paris. Anna will steal your heart. The antics of Milo, the family dog, will leave you chuckling.

The book grew out of Facebook status updates posted during her year abroad. Each chapter starts with a brief essay and is followed by short vignettes. Some are only a few sentences long; others are lengthy paragraphs. It works.

The writing is eloquent and witty. Although the format lends itself to reading in short spurts, you won't want to put this book down!

Read Paris in Love today! Also check out a TIME Magazine interview with the author about her famous parents, her writing life, and her decision to move to Paris.

Watch the author and her husband discuss the book and see some of Luca’s snapshots of Paris in this YouTube video.