What We’re Reading

Diverse and eclectic book choices from Northwestern University Press staff. 


JD Wilson, Director of Sales and Marketing

What book(s) are you reading this week?

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I’m a voracious reader of periodicals, and I saw this book mentioned as an aside in one. I don’t remember which. “Times Literary Supplement” maybe? I found the book at the Northwestern University library. I had no idea the book was so new. Cudos to the NU libraries for acquiring a copy so fast.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

I’m grateful that the NYT’s Pamela Paul came out as a “slow reader.” I’m one too, and it makes me appreciate slim novels like this one. This is an Icelandic novel by a writer named Sjón, a frequent collaborator of Björk’s. It’s an imagined year in the life of an Icelandic teenager in the late nineteen teens around the 1918 flu epidemic. It’s not a plot-driven novel, but Sjón’s crisp, detailed images will transport you back to Reykjavik.


Greta Bennion, Marketing Manager

What book(s) are you reading this week?

I’m currently reading Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley.

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I picked it up at the Printers Row Lit Fest this past June. Jane Smiley is one of my favorite authors, and the book looked interesting to me because it centers on the horse racing world, something I know very little about.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

I love how the book revolves around so many different characters, and Smiley does such an amazing job at bringing them to life. I feel like I’m right there next to them, experiencing what they’re going through.


Anne Gendler, Managing Editor

What book(s) are you reading this week?

I’m reading Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy and Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe by Charles Glass.

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I’m reading Hadji Murat for my book group and Syria Burning Glass because I realized I was confused about what was really going on in Syria, which is in such a humanitarian crisis.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

Hadji Murat is a short book with an extremely contemporary story of Russians fighting Chechen rebels in 1851. Based on firsthand accounts that were known to Tolstoy, it’s almost like a journalistic piece of creative nonfiction. He wrote it late in his life, and it came very easily to him.

Syria Burning is a brief recap of changing motives and alliances in the region is a helpful guide to sorting it out.


Liz Hamilton, Intellectual Property Specialist

What book(s) are you reading this week?

I’m reading The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr.

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I’ve read Mary Karr’s books all out of order; I started with her second volume of memoir, Cherry, and loved it so much that I immediately read Lit, the most recent installment of her story. Now I’m circling back to find out how it all started, instead of trying to piece together allusions from the later volumes. Note to potential readers: maybe begin at the beginning.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.
The writing is gorgeous, the characters are already familiar, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.


Marianne Jankowski, Creative Director

What book(s) are you reading this week?

Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I was a yoga junkie in my 20s—then came kids, home and job responsibilities, and my yoga ritual faded away. Ever since, my attempts to return to the same degree of mind-body practice have failed, most recently due to my own body restraints.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

I luckily ran across this book and find that I have merely reached a plateau, my true north has always been with me—it was my attention and energy that have drifted away and I only need to bring myself back, begin again, and ‘be’ again.


Maggie Grossman, Acquisitions Coordinator

What book(s) are you reading this week?

This week I am reading the Saga series. I just finished Book One, which collects issues #1-18.

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

I have been exploring the world of comics and graphic novels over the last couple of years and I pretty much couldn’t go any longer without reading Saga

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

Saga is a Hugo Award-winning series penned by Brian K. Vaughan and inked by Fiona Staples.– it’s a modern classic of the genre. I love the depth and originality of the story, the art is breathtaking, and the concept of two eternally warring peoples whose conflict has taken over an entire universe – without anybody questioning the premise of the fight – is just mind-blowingingly brilliant. Looking forward to picking up the next installment!


Gianna F. Mosser, Editor in Chief

What book(s) are you reading this week?

I am reading Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra.

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

It was a big award nominee when it came out in 2006, and I have had it on my list of postcolonial novels to get to when I had a good chunk of time. This tome is almost 900 pages and the type is pretty small!

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

What I like about the book is that it is framed as a detective thriller but it really works as novel invested in social critique. The caste system, local politics, the legacy of Partition, and organized crime all mix to keep readers guessing about who is at fault, only to postulate that perhaps everyone is culpable.

Netflix announced this year that they will sponsor a series based on the novel, which didn’t influence my decision to read it, but it’s notable nonetheless!  


Emily Dalton, Digital Content and Systems Coordinator

What book(s) are you reading this week?
The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?
I read The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya last winter and wanted to find another contemporary Russian book. This probably could not have been more different.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.
The Blizzard might be the weirdest book I’ve ever read. It’s a genre bending Russian allegory that I don’t think I fully understand, complete with tiny horses and a hallucinatory drug that comes out of a pyramid. What’s not to like?

Parneshia Jones, Poetry Editor

What book(s) are you reading this week?

The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

How did you come to read this/these book(s)?

What does it mean to speak the ones we’ve lost? How do we carry their light forward? In a quest to reckon with my own personal reveries about a singular, paramount soul suddenly becoming an ancestor, I turned to Ms. Alexander’s memoir about the sudden death of her artist husband to find solace and symmetry with my own feelings and writing.

Describe what you like about the book in 25 words or less.

Elizabeth Alexander is a conjure poet who let her poet-self expand in opulent lines of prose. She buoyed my search of how we can evoke and celebrate our lights whom now live amongst the stars.  

AAUP Blog Tour: People in Our Neighborhood

A cozy Midwestern town with touches of New England sailboats and lighthouse charm, the eight square miles of Dutch elms and sycamores are home to seventy-five thousand Evanstonians.

One
of the most accomplished citizens of Evanston was Charles Gates Dawes,
recipient of the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize and Vice President of the United States
under Calvin Coolidge from 1925–‘29. A banker, politician, and military general,
Dawes was something of a Progressive Era Renaissance man known for his mercurial
wit and for the salty language he used in Congressional hearings. He and his
family occupied a lake-facing home just south of the university. Built in the chateau
style—though in its rural form—the home was donated by Dawes to the university
with the understanding that it become the home of the Evanston History Center (EHC).

This
year, Northwestern University Press has enjoyed a growing partnership with the
Evanston Historical Society, centered around the publication of Charles Gates Dawes: A Life, the
definitive biography of America’s thirtieth vice president. Annette Dunlap, the
author of a biography of first lady Frances Folsom Cleveland, penned the book.

Throughout
2016, the EHC has organized a series of events aimed to restore wider
recognition of Dawes’s contributions to the history of the city, nation, and
world. As part of this “Year of Dawes,” the EHC held a twilight gala titled Melody in August at the Dawes home where
North Shore history buffs feted the release of the book.

The cooperation
between EHC and the press that facilitated the creation of the book fostered multiple
new points of contact between the two organizations as well as fresh momentum
to find new ways to collaborate. In 2017, EHC is planning a series of events
titled “Meet the Press.” Bringing together the press, the EHC, and the public,
the events will create new opportunities for Evanston’s avid reading community
to engage with literature, reading, and ideas.