Catch Up with These Series Before the Next Book Comes Out

by Hayley, April 18, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

There’s nothing like the pain of finishing a book with a cliffhanger…and needing to wait months (if not years) for the next book. Save yourself some misery and jump into a beloved series that has a new installment coming out next month!

Which ones pique your curiosity?


A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

by Sarah J. Maas

Genre: YA fantasy

First book: A Court of Thorns and Roses

First line: “The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.”

A Court of Frost and Starlight, the next book in the series, hits bookshelves on May 1.


The Jane Hawk Series

by Dean Koontz

Genre: Mystery

First book: The Silent Corner

First line: “Jane Hawk woke in the cold dark and for a moment could not remember when she had gone to sleep, only that as always she was in a queen- or king-sized bed and that her pistol lay under the pillow on which the head of a companion would have rested had she not been traveling alone.”

The Crooked Staircase, book #3 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 8.


The Thelmis Files Series

by Sylvain Neuvel

Genre: Science fiction

First book: Sleeping Giants

First line: “It was my eleventh birthday.”

Only Human, book #3 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 1.


The Beach House Series

by Mary Alice Monroe

Genre: Contemporary romance

First book: The Beach House

First line: “It was twilight and a brilliant red sun lazy made its hazy descent off the South Carolina coast.”

Beach House Reunion, book #5 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 22.


The Red Queen Series

by Victoria Aveyard

Genre: YA fantasy

First book: Red Queen

First line: “I hate First Friday.”

War Storm, book #4 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 15.


The Collector Series

by Dot Hutchison

Genre: Horror

First book: The Butterfly Garden

First line: “The techs tell him the girl on the other side of the glass hasn’t said a word since they brought her in.”

The Summer Children, book #3 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 22.


The Gods of Blood and Powder Series

by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy

First book: Sins of Empire

First line: “Privileged Robison paused with one foot on the muddy highway and the other on the step of his carriage, his hawkish nose pointed into the hot wind of the Fatrastan countryside.”

Wrath of Empire, book #2 in the series, hits bookshelves on May 15.


Immigration & Citizenship Workshop at the Moline Public Library

If you have questions this is the perfect time to get them answered.

Citizenship Slide

Immigration in Fiction: 8 Novels to Read Now that Explore Immigration

In recent years, immigration has become one of the most talked-about issues both in the United States and around the world. Questions of how to treat and view borders are asked by politicians and public intellectuals on a regular basis; the effect of a changing population on a nation’s identity is also something that many elected officials and voters have pondered, with a variety of results.

The eight books on this list are fiction, but the questions with which they grapple are the same ones that can be read about in news stories from a variety of locations. Some of these writers tackle their subject with a stark realism, while others take a more stylized approach to illustrate these themes. In the end, reading them can have a similar effect – they show the reader another side of an issue, provide a gripping story, and prompt them to look at these discussions in a different way.


The cover of the book The King Is Always Above the PeopleThe King Is Always Above the People

Daniel Alarcón

Not all of the stories in Daniel Alarcón’s collection The King Is Always Above the People touch on the subject of immigration directly. That said, in choosing to open this book with a tale of people on the move, arriving in a new space and finding themselves at odds with the local government, he establishes those themes as one of the first things readers will encounter, and so sets the stage for a series of ruminations on identity, history, the threat of violence, and the nature of motion.


The cover of the book Go, Went, GoneGo, Went, Gone

Jenny Erpenbeck

Richard, the central character of Jenny Erpenbeck’s empathic novel Go, Went, Gone, is a recently retired academic, still focused on his work with the literature of a bygone age, and learning to see the world around him in a new way. The arrival of a group of refugees near his home causes him to re-examine the ethics by which he has lived his life, and also provides a means by which he (and Erpenbeck) can ponder the changing character of Germany over the course of many decades.


The cover of the book Exit WestExit West

Mohsin Hamid

In the early pages of Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, the author tells the story of a man and a woman meeting and falling in love, even as the nation around them succumbs to infighting and an increasing sense of authoritarianism. And then he introduces a touch of magical realism into the narrative: doors that connect places around the world, offering this couple a means of escape–even as their destinations prove to have their own complex dynamics.


The cover of the book The Gurugu PledgeThe Gurugu Pledge

Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel

Mount Gurugu, located near the Spanish territory of Melilla (itself located near Morocco), has become a place where people from across Africa have gathered en route to seeking a better life in Europe. In Juan Tomas Ávila Laurel’s novel The Gurugu Pledge, he tells the story of how several people have come to be there, charts the quotidian aspects of their days, and discusses the fears that many of them wrestle with. The result is a moving, polyphonic work.


The cover of the book Preparation For The Next LifePreparation For The Next Life

Atticus Lish

In Atticus Lish’s award-winning novel Preparation For the Next Life, he chronicles the love story between a traumatized veteran and an undocumented immigrant living in New York City. While Lish doesn’t shy away from dealing with urgent issues in the pages of this novel, it never feels overly rhetorical or didactic. Instead, the novel feels decidedly lived-in and empathic, giving a powerful sense of the daily lives of its characters.


The cover of the book RecitationRecitation

Bae Suah

Several of Bae Suah’s novels explore questions of national identity, borders, and what it means to live in an increasingly globalized world. In her haunting novel Recitation, a group of travelers encounter a woman who appears to be an actress. Throughout the novel, the exchange of stories allows the author to demonstrate the contradictions of the contemporary world, and to probe questions of identity in unpredictable, unsettling ways.


The cover of the book Signs Preceding The End Of The WorldSigns Preceding the End Of The World

Yuri Herrera

The border between the United States and Mexico – and those who traverse it – has been a source of literary inspiration for writers from both nations. In Yuri Herrera’s masterful, surreal novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, a young woman crosses into the United States in search of her lost brother – even as a host of strange and apocalyptic imagery illustrates the dangers she faces along the way. This novel feels both archetypal and urgently contemporary, to stunning effect.


The cover of the book Temporary PeopleTemporary People

Deepak Unnikrishnan

Among the complex issues facing nations today is the notion of guest workers – people from one country working in another for a set period of time. This can lead to questions of exploitation and human rights; it’s this milieu that Deepak Unnikrishnan explores with his collection Temporary People. In these stories, Unnikrishnan tells the stories of guest workers in the United Arab Emirates, and does so in a host of styles ranging from realism to the fantastical.

2018 Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced

by APRIL 17, 2018, first appearing in Library Journal

On Monday, April 16, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced before a hushed crowd in the recently renovated Joseph Pulitzer World Room at Columbia University’s Pulitzer Hall.  The announcement was made by Dana Canedy, administrator of the awards and herself someone to be celebrated. Formerly a senior editor at the New York Times, where she was part of a team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting, Canedy was appointed in July 2017 as the first woman and first person of color to serve as awards administrator.

Altogether 14 journalism and seven letters, drama, and music awards were presented, the former covering topics ranging from sexual harassment to domestic terrorist Dylann Roof and the latter, said Canedy, signifying “the impact of arts and letters on American culture.”

The book prizes proved satisfying if not completely surprising.

With his fiction win for Less (Lee Boudreaux: Little, Brown), the story of a midlist novelist avoiding a former lover’s marriage by traveling to literary events worldwide, Andrew Sean Greer  finally lays claim to a major title, though he’s been an NYPL Young Lion and received best book honors for Less from the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. Prize rules specify that the fiction honor go to a book “preferably dealing with American life,” but Greer deals more broadly with issues of aging and self-worth. Ironically, his protagonist, Arthur Less, is best known for his early liaison with a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, suffering comparisons that make him feel less worthy—a problem Greer won’t have.

The biography award went to Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a National Book Critics Award winner and New York Times Best Book; the poetry award, to Frank Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (Farrar), a National Book Award winner; and the general nonfiction award, to James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (Farrar), a New York Times Best Book and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.

Forman’s work, which examines how response by African Americans to trauma within their own communities inadvertently led to the contentious issue of mass incarceration, was also short-listed for the Inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. Jack E. Davis’s The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (Liveright: Norton), ranging from the Pleistocene era to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and beyond, also won the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.

Music and drama were the big surprises, with gasps meeting the announcement of the music award. The winner is rapper Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., the first time a classical or jazz composer hasn’t won. Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living, a play about physical disability that opened Off Broadway at the Manhattan Theater Club in June 2017, won the drama award. Majok, a Polish immigrant who saw her first play after winning some money playing pool, won against some formidable competition, with Obie Award winner and previous Pulitzer finalist Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Everybody and previous Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts’s The Minutes this year’s drama finalists.

Canedy proved to be a congenial host, especially during the Q&A session, when she responded to urgent questions from a group of female high school students from the News Literacy Project by assuring them that news reporting and news reporters will be more diverse in the future. In general, she emphasized that whatever changes come in reporting and in the awards process (e.g., rules were changed this year so that coverage needn’t be from a local publication), the main point is that “the work speaks for itself.” For more on the winners, see 2018 Pulitzer Prizes.

Books of Fiction and Nonfiction That Bring the Civil Rights Movement Alive

The Civil Rights Movement spanned decades, and resulted in some of the most society-defining legislature of the past century. Because of the work that activists, lawmakers, and citizens alike put into the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. made great strides in becoming a more equal, fair place to live, for people of all races. In 2018, it’s important to remember the work that’s been done as we evaluate the work we have left to do. On the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which provided equal housing opportunities to all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or national origin, we asked author Elaine Neil Orr to recommend a few books that bring the Civil Rights Movement alive for readers via both fiction and nonfiction. Read on for the books she recommends, and leave us further recommended reading in the comments.


The cover of the book Why We Can't WaitWhy We Can’t Wait

Martin Luther King

The seed of this book is King’s essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which King famously observed that members of the KKK aren’t the greatest threat to the Negro’s call for justice but moderate white Americans, who urge “the Negro” to bide his time.

To the question: how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others, King responds: “The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’”

This book and the essay that inspired it are a cornerstone to my sense of justice and to my theology (I grew up the daughter of missionaries in West Africa). Working for justice means mending broken relationships and this is the work of Divine Love.


The cover of the book The Autobiography of Malcolm XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X; Alex Haley

I first read this book in paperback almost forty years ago and I still own it. I remember feeling that the narrative was both astonishing and completely understandable. The story of Malcolm’s early life (father’s death, mother’s commitment to a psychiatric hospital) gripped me.  I was still relatively new to the U.S., having grown up a white American in Nigeria. So Malcolm X’s critique of the U.S., his passion, and his spiritual conversion to Islam all rang true for me even though I knew next to nothing about Islam. Somehow I identified with his pilgrimage to Mecca and North Africa, perhaps because I had just been required to leave that continent. I came away from the book admiring Malcolm X as a Black nationalist and as a Pilgrim or Seeker, who was still evolving when he was assassinated.


The cover of the book Song Of SolomonSong Of Solomon

Toni Morrison

For me, Morrison’s third novel is a Civil Rights novel though it only refers to Malcolm X glancingly and to Emmett Till briefly. But the novel is an extended metaphor for the struggle. On the one hand, we have the black, middle-class character of Milkman, who fails entirely to understand “the urgency of now” (King), and on the other hand, we have his friend, Guitar, who will use “any means necessary” to right the wrongs of white America.  The evolution of their friendship is a conversation about Black identity, Civil Rights, and justice, but the conversation is playing out not in politics or the pulpit but in their everyday lives. Pilate, the matriarch of Milkman’s family, is the deep mystery at the heart of the novel. “Without leaving the ground, she could fly.” Her character points to the essential relation between self-acceptance and loving the “other.”


The cover of the book Hughes: PoemsHughes: Poems

Langston Hughes

While Hughes is connected with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s, his poems cover the twentieth century and have shaped my sense of “the urgency of now.” In a few lines, these poems imprint our minds with Black realities. Essential poems include “Mother to Son,” “Cross,” “Words Like Freedom,” “Jim Crow Car,” “The Negro Dreams of Rivers, and “Always the Same”—which is a rousing critique of race-based exploitation and a call for global justice.  Also, “Tell Me”—which asks the question, “why should it be my dream/ deferred/overlong?”


The cover of the book The Blood of Emmett TillThe Blood of Emmett Till

Timothy B. Tyson

The story of Emmett Till and his mother ignited the Civil Rights movement and is the heart of the movement for me. Perhaps because I’m a mother, the terror of that event, the courage of the mother, the mutilated body, carry a weight of Biblical proportion, like a crucifixion.  The story had to go into my current novel. Tyson wrote this book of political history after Carolyn Burns, the white woman in whose name Emmett Till was killed, asked to talk with him. She doesn’t come off very well. What “comes off” is how the white imagination was bent by the history of race in Mississippi, how Chicago and Mississippi were not that far apart. This book is imperative for anyone who wants to know why the movement could not wait.


The cover of the book Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

This story in poems about a young girl’s experience of her brownness can be read by young and old readers alike. It includes the girl’s awareness of sit-ins and protests. More than that, it extends the movement into our present. Part of what I love about this book is that the girl loves her early life in South Carolina, where she is surrounded by family and pine trees and porch wings: “In South Carolina, we become The Grandchildren/ Gunnar’s Three Little Ones/ Sister Irby’s Grands/ MaryAnn’s Babies.” I also love her discovery of a composition notebook that she carries around for days before writing in it as if it’s a sacred object (which it is). What is so powerful about this book is that we are seeing in the here and now how brownness shapes a life now: the beauties of brownness and the imperative, still, for justice. We still can’t wait.



The cover of the bookElaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature and creative writing. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of A Different Sun, two scholarly books, the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and Swimming Between Worlds, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria.

5 Famous Books Saved from the Dumpster

by Hayley, January 30, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

The road to publication is paved with headaches, heartaches, and crumpled up balls of paper. No one knows this more than the following authors. Their work went on to achieve worldwide acclaim, but in the beginning, it took an unlikely—and often unsung—literary hero to save their manuscripts from obscurity.

Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the big books that barely made it to the shelf.

Stephen King’s Carrie

Bad Beginnings: In 1973, King and his wife Tabitha lived in a trailer. Struggling to make ends meet, he began writing a story about a teen outcast named Carrie White. The process, however, was not an easy one; compounded by the fact that King was modeling his main character on two girls he knew in high school who had both died at an early age. Eventually, he gave up. “I couldn’t see wasting two weeks, maybe even a month, creating a novella I didn’t like and wouldn’t be able to sell. So I threw it away,” King wrote in his memoir, On Writing.

To the Rescue… Tabitha! She fished the pages out of the trash and set them right back in front of her husband. “You’ve got something there,” she told him—and she was right. Carrie sold over a million copies in its first year. Since then it’s been adapted for film, television, and Broadway.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

Bad Beginnings: Almost a decade after the publication of his classic and controversial novel, Nabokov admitted Lolita was a “difficult book” to write. Perhaps this was an understatement. At one point during the novel’s creation, Nabokov set a fire in his backyard and fed his entire draft to the flames.

To the Rescue… Vera, Nabokov’s wife! A Cornell student witnessed her running out of the house to pluck as many pages as she could out of the fire. Was Nabokov suitably grateful for this act of literary heroism? We’ll let a snippet from one of his love letters to Vera answer that question: “How can I explain to you, my happiness, my golden wonderful happiness, how much I am all yours—with all my memories, poems, outbursts, inner whirlwinds? Or explain that I cannot write a word without hearing how you will pronounce it?”

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl

Bad Beginnings: Anne wrote her diary while she was hiding in an annex from the Nazis during World War II. The sweet, hopeful, and haunting account was abandoned when, on August 4, 1944, she and her family were apprehended and transported to concentration camps.

To the Rescue… Miep Gies. The Dutch woman, a loyal friend of Anne’s family, snatched the diary out of the ransacked annex and kept it safe in her desk drawer. She returned the diary to Anne’s father, the family’s only known survivor, who submitted it for publication in 1946.

John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

Bad Beginnings: Toole took the numerous rejections of A Confederacy of Dunces hard. He toiled on re-working it for years, writing to his editor, “Something of my soul is in the thing. I can’t let it rot without trying.” After eventually giving up on the novel ever getting published, Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969. He was 31 years old.

To the Rescue… Toole’s mother, Thelma. Two years after her son’s death, she found a smeared carbon copy of the manuscript in Toole’s old room. The novel would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Bad Beginnings: It’s hard to imagine Lee’s beloved novel absent from our bookshelves—and Scout and Atticus and Boo Radley absent from our hearts—but in the late 1950s, publication did not seem likely. The author later admitted to readers she found the writing process so frustrating that at one point she lost hope and threw the entire manuscript out the window and into a pile of snow.

To the Rescue… Lee’s agent! He reportedly demanded she retrieve and finish the manuscript. The tough love worked. To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. It became an instant sensation and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year.