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When I tell folks what I do at the library they will, on occasion, get a small gleam in their eyes. “You must know what everyone in town likes to read then.” And the only answer I have to that is an apologetic, “Sorta?”
The fact of the matter is that while I do have a pretty good sense of what Evanston readers will read, I often will be baffled by what they won’t.
Today, here is a list of recent purchases that have turned into, what I like to call, shelf sitters. With their stellar reviews and interesting topics, I thought for sure they’d be hits. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn:
“Bruce Moffett Cooks: A New England Chef in a New South Kitchen”
With their love of fine food, no matter how obscure the region, I can always count on Evanstonians to check out my cookbooks. So what is it about this debut by Chef Moffett that turns people off? Publishers Weekly said, “Moffett turns on the flavor with a duck confit pizza with butternut squash and gorgonzola; spaghetti with Carolina shrimp and leeks; and bacon-wrapped trout with sweet potato–apple hash . . . This is a terrific debut from a talented chef.” Sounds delish.
“Green Buddhism: Compassionate Action in Uncertain Times” by Stephanie Kaza
What religion does Evanston really enjoy reading about? Buddhism. Insofar as I can tell, this City loves it almost as much as they love environmentalism. I figured a book that put the two together was a shoo-in, particularly since it explores the intersection of religion and ecology.
“L.E.L. The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon the ‘Celebrated Female Byron,’” by Lucasta Miller
Kirkus gave it a star and called it, “A thorough, engaging, and even loving restoration of a woman writer whose story needed to be told and whose works required fresh, attentive eyes, and Publishers Weekly said the book “vividly restores a forgotten author and her faded world, that of the ‘strange pause’ between the Romantics and the Victorians. Evanstonians love writers, even unjustly forgotten ones. Ms. Miller restores a poet, forgotten to but a few, who deserves her place in the limelight.
“Long Slow Train: The Soul Music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings” by Donald Brackett
Evanston often likes performers in theory, but is less enthused about reading about them. Yet when I saw this book about Sharon Jones, I couldn’t stop myself. I just had to have it. This American soul singer was told at the beginning of her career that she was “too short, too old, too fat, and too black.” So when the Brooklyn-based revivalist label Daptone Records discovered her in 1996, she was already primed to take on the world. Though she died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer, now is your chance to discover her, too.