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Evanston Public Library’s “most wonderful time of the year” has finally arrived. That’s right, ’tis the season for “Best Book” lists, and much to our page-turning delight, the New York Times, NPR, and many others have cast their votes for the top reads of 2016.  In fact, we enjoy these lists so much that this year we’re adding some local flavor to “Best Books” season.  Throughout December on our Off the Shelf blog, we’re featuring real-life EPL patrons and their favorite 2016 reads regardless of what years their picks were published.  

One recently featured Evanston bookworm is Hilde Kaiser – a writer, parent, certified Nia instructor, knitter, and film buff whose “idea of heaven is reading a book at the Evanston lakefront with a little something to eat from Hewn bakery.” An avid reader who has finished 75 books so far this year, Kaiser admits, “My secret confession is that my favorite thing to read is ‘The Traffic Guy’ column in the Round- Table.”  The following books are two of Ms. Kaiser’s five favorite reads from 2016:  

“Margaret the First” by Danielle Dutton
Writes Ms. Kaiser, “I’m not above choosing a book by its cover, and the lush, evocative, and eccentric portrait of its subject, Margaret Cavendish, convinced me to pick up this novella knowing nothing about it.  It’s so pretty.  It’s one of my favorite books of the year because I’m still thinking about this poetic, experimental, slightly odd gem of a historical novel that deserves lots of readers. “Mad Madge” was a 17th-century proto-feminist who was one of the first women to publish under her own name and to earn a living by writing.  She also dressed herself on her own terms – crowds assembled to see what she was wearing when she went out for a walk… [T]his book is anything but straightforward, but it is one-of-a-kind, like its subject.  And the language is oh-
so-pretty, like the cover.”

“The Nix” by Nathan Hill
Writes Ms. Kaiser, “This novel… will be on everyone’s lists for best books of the year…  It contains multitudes: mother/son relationships, the ’68 Chicago riots, a gaming world very much like “World of Warcraft,” and Norwegian ghosts.  It’s this year’s big fat immersive literary fiction  holiday  read.  Get ready to see it everywhere: Meryl Streep and J. J. Abrams optioned to produce it as a TV series.  Don’t be too jealous: the author’s backstory is that before starting this novel, he lost all his belongings during a move, including his laptop and backup hard drive with three years’ worth of writing.  I love stories of creative resilience possibly even more than novels with enthusiastic blurbs by John Irving (and this book has both).”

So grab a pen, grab some paper, and get ready for your Must-Read list to grow when you visit EPL’s Off the Shelf (evanstonpubliclibrary.wordpress.com).  There you’ll find the rest of Ms. Kaiser’s 2016 picks, the “Best Book” lists of many more Evanston bookworms, and very likely, your next favorite read.