Summer Survival

Ah, summer. The time of year when temperatures rise, and nature simultaneously asserts itself as a source of enjoyment (Sunshine! Flowers!) and a force to be reckoned with (Sunburn! Bug bites!).

If battling the heat and summer classes have got you down, take a break and enjoy something from this reading list inspired by the age-old theme of People Versus Nature. Some of them are very suspenseful, and some are not – you can choose according to how adventurous you’re feeling. And all of them, of course, are enjoyable from within the air-conditioned luxury of the library. Stop in and pick one up!
Gilligan's Island Season 2 tv show in library catalog

The characters in Gilligan’s Island may be shipwrecked, but they really don’t have it that bad. It seems there is no problem they can’t solve using bamboo and coconuts. Enjoy all three seasons of their exploits, and if their craftiness inspires you, check out  this book on Eco-Crafts; maybe you, too, can make something useful or fun from the things in your environment.

Robinson Crusoe book in library catalog

 One step up from Gilligan’s Island is the classic adventure story of Robinson Crusoe. The main character still gets clever with his surroundings, but the stakes are higher, since cannibals and wild animals are everywhere. Don’t worry about him too much, though – in the end he gets rescued. For a contemporary spin on the shipwrecked loner theme, try the film Cast Away. It has a sadder ending, but 100% more anthropomorphic volleyballs.

Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

If you’re ready to step away from the confines of fiction, pick up this autobiography of Bear Grylls, TV survival artist extraordinaire. What will this man not do to survive? He has, for instance, ” utilised the corpse of a sheep as a sleeping bag and flotation device.” I expect big things from a person like that. If things go really wrong, however, his support crew is never too far away, so he’ll make it out alright.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed book in library catalogCheryl Strayed might not have ever done anything ingenious with a dead sheep, but she did walk the entirety of the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, alone, with no previous backpacking experience and no TV crew to help her. The experience helped Strayed cope with the disintegration of her personal life and come out ahead of many personal challenges.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer book in library catalogSometimes those who face the forces of nature don’t come out on top. Into the Wild is the story of an American hitchhiker who disappeared from civilization and attempted to live off the Alaskan wilderness, and who was eventually found dead  in an abandoned bus. His motivations for undertaking such a dangerous expedition, and how basic preparation could have perhaps prevented his demise, have inspired much discussion, and even a movie version.

If reading these tales of humanity versus wilderness leaves you hankering for your own outdoor adventure, make sure you adequately prepare, so you can spend your time enjoying nature instead of struggling to live. Check out a book on outdoor skills, such as Hiking in Illinois or the Wilderness Survival Handbook, and get information about local destinations and regulations via Champaign Park District or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Your favorite underground library will still be here to offer you shade and comfy chairs when you get back!


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Crowdsource Your Reading

A bulletin board was entirely covered front and back with students' favorite books.

This does not come close to representing how many books you all posted.

Usually when reading recommendations get posted on our blog, it means a librarian sat down and thought about books for a while (as librarians tend to do) before making a list and posting it for your perusal. It’s fun for us and hopefully for you, too! That’s not how this post got made, however – this week, we thought we’d turn it over to you.

if you visited the UGL in person last week, you may have noticed a whiteboard just inside the doors of the upper level. The whiteboard wanted to know what books had influenced you the most, and as you can see the picture above, lots of you responded! The board stayed up for a few more days after this picture was taken, so even more people wrote down and posted their most influential reads as time went on. Book titles filled up both sides and even started creeping around the edges.

Since you were all so eager to share your recommendations with each other (and showed a lot of variety in your choices) we’ve made today’s readers’ advisory based on the books you posted to the board. If you saw an interesting title on the board, maybe you’ll find it linked below and check it out – and if it’s one of the many we missed, you can look it up in the catalog or ask a librarian to help you find it.

What book has influenced you the most, Club UGL?

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed book in library catalogEveryone Poops book in library catalogThe Things They Carried book in library catalog1984 book in library catalogCrime and Punishment book in library catalogOne Hundred Years of Solitude book in library catalog

November Blues book in library catalogConfessions of a Video Vixen book in library catalog

Where the Wild Things Are book in library catalog

Fast Food nation book in library catalogWitness book in library catalog

Whew! That’s a load of good books right there, and it doesn’t even begin to cover it. If you contributed to the board (and therefore today’s post) thanks for you contributions. If you missed out, feel free to share your recommendations now in the comments, and keep an eye out for future whiteboard questions in the UGL!

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Things We Know For Certain

We live in uncertain times. Not even something as mundane as the weather seems to follow a predictable pattern anymore. Is it still winter? Or is spring in the air? These questions stump us so completely that we turn to groundhogs to answer them, and not even the groundhogs can agree. What seems to be truth changes as frequently as the wind blows.

There’s one thing you can always count on, however–you can always come to the UGL to find great books to read and great movies to watch in your downtime. You may not know how you did on that test, but while you wait to find out, you can always find a good distraction here. We’ve compiled a list of new arrivals from the UGL shelves to help you explore and cope with the indefinite nature of modern life.

book cover: a dog looks curious as to its purpose in the worldWhat’s A Dog For? The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend
by John Homans
There’s no doubt that dogs are wonderful to have around, but what is their true role in our society? The way we treat our canine companions has changed greatly over the last few centuries, and this book explores that ever-evolving relationship. Incorporating personal anecdotes and scientific studies, it may make you view your fuzzy friend in a new light.



DVD cover: people and robots looks hardboiled with some futuristic buildingsBlade Runner
directed by Ridley Scott
Are the people you know really people? Or are they merely beings genetically engineered to look like people? What does it really mean to be a person, anyway? And do androids ever have that dream where you have a test in a class you haven’t been to all semester? Feel Harrison Ford’s confusion as he grapples with these questions.





The Knowledge of Good and Evil book cover: light shines down into a religious buildingThe Knowledge of Good and Evil
by Glenn Kleier
Ian’s parents died in a plane crash when he was young, and, though once a religious man, he is no longer certain if he will see them again in the afterlife. He and his wife, Angela, search for the lost journal of a dead theologian who might have the answers, but their quest is hindered by a mysterious cult. Will anything go right for them, and will they find the peace they desire? You’ll have to read to (maybe) find out.



Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness book cover: a black and white image of a young person and a cityscapeBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness
by Susannah Cahalan
If you’ve ever watched an episode of House, you know that medical mysteries can be some of the most tense and unsettling mysteries of all. This real-life medical drama chronicles the harrowing experiences of a young woman whose sudden bizarre symptoms are misdiagnosed as psychiatric problems, and whose memories disappear from an entire month of her life. The correct diagnosis is made clear in the end, but Susannah is left unsure of how to deal with her missing time and fractured identity.



Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America book cover: two-color 3D glasses represent divsions

Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America
by Morris P. Fiorina
Sometimes it can seem as if there are actually two Americas that disagree with each other deeply, instead of the fabled E Pluribus Unum. But are differences of political opinion among Americans really as great and divisive as they are often portrayed? What on Earth is the political climate really like? Author Morris Fiorina has some polling results and narratives that may help shed some light on the issue.



Will you have time to enjoy all these recommendations with all the other stuff you have to do? We’re not sure, but we’ll do our best to stand at your side while you figure it out.

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IRL @ the UGL

We at the UGL like to think of ourselves as being pretty comfortable with technology. This Web 2.0 thing? We’ve got it down. But we also understand that sometimes, even the most tech-savvy person gets a hankering for the old-fashioned. Sometimes it’s nice to see a pin-board with actual, physical pins in it. The opportunity to take a break from the seemingly endless computer screens in your life and spend time gazing at cheery paper snowmen is one you may be glad to take.

A paper snowman greets you from a glass display case.

“Well hello! Welcome to the UGL!”

To fill this occasional craving for the traditional, and to make the physical space of the library more visually interesting and informative, there are several displays in different parts of the library for you to enjoy. The themes change every month to keep things fresh and appropriate to the season – this month, the staff and student workers/elves have put together some holiday-focused displays to help boost your spirit during finals. We’ll give you a preview here on the blog, but you should really come in and check them out in person!

DVD cases surrounded by beautiful paper snowflakes.

UGL employees bust out their mad snowflake-makin’ skills, just for you.

Right when you enter the UGL from the plaza, this happy little case is ready to suggest some seasonal movies for you. If you’re interested in a title you see inside this mini-winter wonderland, just ask at the circulation desk, and we can fetch it for you! Then you can take it home and get just as cozy as you wanna.

Cookbooks with glorious pictures of baked goods await you.

We completely understand, but do try not to drool on the glass.

There are tons of food-themed ‘holidays’ in December. We’re not really sure how official ‘National Chocolate-Covered-Anything Day’ is, but that’s not going to stop us from celebrating it! To help you get in the culinary groove, we’ve got some cookbooks lined up in the display upstairs near the circulation desk, full of delicious holiday treats for you to make and share (or hoard). Come gaze upon these tasty cakes and be inspired.

Downstairs are where to find the suggestion binders.

We made a concerted effort to find books that are qualified to be suggested, and now we’ve got whole binders full of suggestions.

The food theme continues in the lower level! Just beyond the media collection, we’ve got more cookbooks picked out in our Y-shaped display. These aren’t necessarily holiday-specific; we’ve pulled together a wide range of cuisines and food types for you to choose from. Moroccan food? Totally covered. Any and every kind of soup? Right here. In addition to the cookbooks, you’ll find binders of suggested titles from a variety of different genres on top of the display. Pick ’em up, leaf through them, carry them around to help you locate the books on the shelf – just please return them when you’re done, so someone else can find a good read after you!

Diversity Bulletin Board with information about lots of different holiday traditions.

Celebrate ALL the traditions!

The bulletin board in the lower lobby of the UGL is sponsored by the Library’s Diversity Committee, and each month it showcases diversity in a different area. For the month of December, we’ve got a festive round-up of winter holiday traditions from around the world. Curious about Wren’s Day, or Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian Lunar New Year? You can learn all about them, right here!

That’s what’s going on IRL at the UGL – we’re happy that you’re reading our blog, but we’d also be happy to see your faces in the library checking out our displays. Come on down and scope ’em out!

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Stress Busters

Fall break is over and semester crunch time is here. With only a little more than two weeks until finals, we know things can get pretty crazy-stressful. Here at the UGL, we hope to help make the weeks leading up to finals as stress-free as possible.

book cover: small logo of yellow flower

The UGL will be extending hours during finals (more details to come—watch this space) and reminds you that we have group study rooms on the upper level, private reading rooms and editing rooms on the lower level, a ton of loanable tech items to help with final projects, and helpful librarians who can point you in the right direction when you’re looking for sources and articles for your end-of-semester research papers. But we know that’s not always enough to keep the stress levels down. McKinley Health Center has links to pamphlets on how to handle different types of stress; Campus Recreation has plenty of activities to help blow off some steam; and many of the residence halls host stress-relief events leading up to finals, so make sure you check the University Housing schedule, too.

Finally, If you start to feel overwhelmed, check out a few of these books full of stress-busting tips, available in the UGL:

book cover: the Superstress SolutionThe Superstress Solution
By Roberta Lee




book cover: 1001 ways to relax1,001 Ways to Relax: An Illustrated Guide to Reducing Stress
By Mike George



book cover: managing stress with qigongManaging Stress with Qigong
By Gordon Faulkner




book cover: the end of stress as we know itThe End of Stress as We Know It
By Bruce McEwan




book cover: 365 ways to relax mind body and soul365 Ways to Relax Mind, Body & Soul
By Barbara L. Heller




book cover: stress management and preventionStress Management and Prevention: Applications to Everyday Life
By Jeffrey A. Kottler & David D. Chen




book cover: managing stressManaging Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being
By Brian Luke Seaward




book cover: complete idiot's guide to beating stressThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beating Stress
By Arlene Matthews Uhl





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Gobble Up Some Fall Break Reads!

Eat TONS and take a nap.

Image from jelene on Flickr.

Fall Break is nearly upon us! For many of us, this means heading home to enjoy massive quantities of food in the company of our family and loved ones. For all of us, hopefully, the break represents a chance to relax and have some personal time before gearing up for the  last stretch of the semester. If you’re looking for ways to spend all that free time you’re going to have next week, why not pick up a book or three at your old pal the UGL? If you’re in charge of the dinner table at your celebration, we’ve got loads of cookbooks for you to choose from—but we’ve also handpicked some other books that we feel are appropriate to the season.


book cover: cornucopia full of knowledge about Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Book
by Laurie C. Hillstrom
Are you really really into Thanksgiving? Are you just aching for more knowledge about Turkey Day and its many mysteries? This book will give you an overview of the holiday through history, its celebration in contemporary times, recipes, and even poems. There’s an extensive bibliography, too, if you want even more! Go crazy!



book cover: football team running down field away from viewerMust Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team
by Drew Jubera
Maybe football is the most exciting part of fall break for you. If that’s the case, why not take a break between games and pick up a book about football to supplement your viewing? A successful high school football team, fallen from glory and struggling through adversity to make a comeback—it’s got everything you expect from an inspiring sports story.




book cover: a family sits in a well-arranged living roomHappy Home
by Rebecca Winward
Many of you will be headed home for the break. Are you excited? No matter where home is for you, it’s important for it to be an environment you enjoy being in. If your space has felt a little lackluster lately, or doesn’t feel like it’s working for you, check out this book to find some ideas for sprucing it up and rearranging it to better suit your needs.



book cover: a young person balances a tray of food on their headTurkey: More Than 100 Recipes With Tales From the Road
by Leanne Kitchen
Okay, so this probably isn’t the turkey you’re expecting to think about at Thanksgiving time. But maybe you should! If you have tired of the taste of turkey, the bird, pick up this book to explore the diverse tastes of Turkey, the country. The recipes are accompanied by photographs and anecdotes exploring the people and culture of the country, too, to whet your appetite for travelogues as well as exciting cuisine.


book cover: cupcakes with lots of frostingSweet & Easy Vegan: Treats Made with Wholegrains and Natural Sweeteners
by Robin Asbell
Let’s be honest: a Thanksgiving meal is not the same without dessert. Pies, tarts, puddings and cookies all contribute to making this holiday the beautiful celebration of gluttony that it is. This book will enable you to enjoy a wide-range of your favorite sweet meal-enders, in versions without animal products or artificial sweeteners. Here’s to your health!



book cover: Art Nouveau inspired image of silhouetted womanBeautiful Lies
by Clare Clark
Sometimes a little escapist fiction is the best way to unwind and spend your free time. Take a break from worrying about your classes and instead contemplate the fate of Maribel Campbell Lowe, wife of a maverick member of Parliament whose double life and secret past may soon be exposed. Victorian suspense should help take your mind off those paper deadlines.




One or two of those should help entertain you through your long stretches of lying prone on the couch after Too Much Pie. If none of these suits your fancy—or if you just want more!—you can always check out our other Pinterest boards for more ideas, or browse through our ‘recommendations’ tag here on the blog for a glimpse of suggestions past.


We’ll be open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the break, from 8:30am to 5pm, so come visit us and grab something if you’re still in town (the UGL will close at 7pm on Friday, Nov. 17. All libraries are closed Nov. 18-19 and Nov. 22-24. The UGL will reopen Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1pm).

Have a good holiday, and we’ll see you when we get back!


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Read like an Olympian

The London 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies officially kick off tomorrow (though soccer is already underway), and we hope you’ll cheer on as some of your fave athletes from your fave countries participate in your fave events (this blogger likes to watch track and field and diving!).

London Olympics flyer with Greek discus throwing statue in front of Big Ben

Photo from The National Archives UK via Flickr Commons

If you want to dive even deeper into the spirit of this spectacular once-every-four-years event that is the Summer Olympics, here’s some books, movies and video games from the UGL’s collection for you to sprint, jump, row, kick, swim, paddle, run, flip, volley, putt, or cycle through!*

book cover: Greek Black figure pottery with athletes wearing running shoes

The Naked Olympics: The True Story  of the Ancient Games

Dig deep into the pagan ritual that was the ancient Olympics. Yes, the modern Olympics have been around for what seems like forever (116 years), but the ancient ones were held for over a millenium: 1200 years in all! There’s lots of history, culture, athleticism, and apparently nudity, to be learned about from this great read.

This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games (also available online)

Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, was a French baron with a passion for sport. If you’re a history, anthropology, sports, and/or biography buff, pick this up at your earliest convenience. Part biography of Coubertin, part history of the founding of the games, all thrilling look into the theories and dreams behind the modern games.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

Not much needs to be said about this Nintendo DS game; it’s all in the title. Race, swim, jump, and play for the bronze, silver or gold as your fave Nintendo hero. Play it during the commercial breaks while watching the coverage of the real Olympics! (p.s. you can check out a DS from the UGL, too!)

Beijing 2008

Another awesome Olympics video game guaranteed to make you feel like you’ve trained as hard as the real-life Olympic athletes (okay, maybe not quite). Instead of doing the long jump as Yoshi, in this Playstation 3 game you play as an athlete participating as part of a national team in one of over 30 events. Sweet.

DVD cover: British athlete being carried on shoulders of fans in front of Union JackChariots of Fire

A classic in the Olympics genre! Chariots of Fire follows two men participating in track and field on the Great Britain team during the 1924 Paris Olympics. Each has his own deep-rooted, complicated reasons for giving it his all. It won four Academy Awards in its day, so besides being a tale of Olympic glory, it’s also great cinema.

* Library books don’t like to get wet, though, so be sure not to take them swimming, diving or water polo-ing with you if you get inspired. They also appreciate not being kicked, volleyed, putted, or jumped on.

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Baseball, barbecues, and more!

In celebration of July 4th (on which day all campus libraries will close so we can all eat until we drop and then stay up late to watch fireworks), here’s some hot-off-the-grill…er, presses, explosively American, red-white-and-blue reads!

Baseball team posing for picture One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard

This is one of those heartwarming stories about a little team with big dreams: in 1971 the Macon, Illinois, high school baseball team – lead by an English teacher with no coaching experience – became the smallest team to make it to the finals of the Illinois state championship, a record that has never been broken. Patriotism, state and school spirit all abound in this summer read!

baseball player making dramatic gesture

Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown

Another baseball read that’s heavy on inspiration. Many of you may know about Jim Abbott, who, born without a right hand, beat the odds, overcame struggles, and triumphed to the highest baseball degree: pitching a no-hitter as a Yankee. Even non-baseball fans will love this one. (Hear more from Abbott, about the book and his life, in his interview with NPR earlier this year.)
This one will make your mouth water, guaranteed. Moss traces the history of barbecue as an American institution: that’s right, folks, it’s more than just a way to make food taste great, it’s a cultural icon! If you like reading about social history, this is a fun, summery, food-based way to do so. And find a few more saucy BBQ reads here!

The Short American Century: A Postmortem edited by Andrew J. BacevichThe Short American Century book cover with red stripes

A collection of essays based on the premise that the “American century,” declared by Henry Luce as the period of prosperity beginning in 1941, is over. Might sound pessimistic, but this group of distinguished historians does more than just lament the events of the past 70 years, they explain them and offer hope for the changing role of America  today and in the future. If you want to get down with some serious thoughts prior to the election, this is the summer read for you!

action-packed GI Joe book coverAnd, finally, just for fun: Classic G.I. Joe!

Everything old is new again in this 21st century G.I. Joe comic book. Just the thing to get you in the Fourth of July mood!



As always, if you have any questions about these or other books, or anything else library-related, Ask-A-Librarian or comment on this post!

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Get Cooking

School’s (almost) out for summer, so it’s time to pick up that hobby you’ve been putting off all year because you’ve been too busy: learning how to cook. Did you know that the UGL has always had a collection of cookbooks (they’re in the TX call number range)? Thanks to the hard work and discerning eye of one of our Graduate Assistants, we just got a whole bunch of new ones! We’ve been lucky enough to peek at them before they hit (and then quickly fly off of) the shelves, so we’ve had our eyes on a few. Whether you’re staying here for summer classes or even planning to go home for a few weeks (provided you have internet access and can renew the library books you check out…), we’d like to recommend a few of our awesome new cookbooks for you. GET COOKING!

Pioneer Woman Cooks book coverFan of comfort food? You definitely want to meet Pioneer Woman. Part blogger, part rancher, part Food Network star (new!), Pioneer Woman kind of has it going on. Her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl, is chock full of good ol’ fashioned yummy things – think loaded potato skins and insanely good looking guacamole. Definitely achievable, even if you’re cooking skills are…under construction.


cook like a rock star book coverIf you’re feeling ambitious about learning to cook this summer (i.e. you’re graduating and, happily or unhappily, have no big plans for the next couple of months), you might want to dip into Cook Like a Rock Star: 125 Recipes, Lessons, and Culinary Secrets by Anne Burrell. Chef Anne Burrell is a bit of a rock star chef, herself, so she has a right to teach you these things. The recipes use basic, accessible ingredients (hello, “Killer Mac & Cheese with Bacon”), but with Chef Anne’s advice, actually turn out pretty fancy. Wow your friends and/or family.


Y'all Come Eat book coverThe Deen brothers, Paula Deen’s adorable and oh-so-Southern sons Jamie and Bobby, will have you drooling before you even start cooking with Y’all Come Eat (to which we say: we’ll be right there!!). Two words: cornbread casserole…or, two other words: cheeseburger pie. If those things don’t get you excited about chowing down, this book may not be for you! And, if you’re already stoked for tailgating when Illini football starts back up, this book–with its selection of tail-gating faves–is most definitely for you.


Manana, Mediodia, y Noche book coverDo you speak Spanish or have Puerto Rican and/or Latin American roots? You’ll definitely enjoy Daisy: Mañana, Mediodía, y NocheDaisy Martinez pulls together her family’s recipes with those she’s collected on trips around the Caribbean and Latin America to create a tantalizing menu of flavorful dishes.  If you’re fluent in Spanish (the whole book is in Spanish) but know much about Latin American culture, never fear! Daisy also takes the time to introduce you to the key ingredients you’ll need to whip up comida deliciosa para tu familia o tus amigos!



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Image of stacked books covering entire floor of library

So many books,  so little time. How do you choose?

Are you obsessed with award-winning books of all kinds? If so, have you ever done one of those challenges to read all the winners/nominees of a certain award like the Pulitzer or National Book Award?  That’s a true sign of obsession right there. Or perhaps you’re like us, and you just don’t have tons of time to read, so you pick up award winners with the hopes that a medal means quality? (Hint: Usually, but not always, since even the esteemed experts who give out book awards are often swayed by their own totally subjective opinion of the books…)

We’re feeling inspired by the announcement earlier this week that, for the first time in 35 years, the Pulitzer Prize committee did not award a fiction winner. Gasp! So let’s look at some of the book awards and winners this year. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to pick up something new and incredible…once finals are over.

Pulitzer Prize

Established in 1917 by Hungarian-born American publisher Joseph Pulitzer, these annual awards are given in the areas of journalism, literature, and music. As mentioned above, there was no winner in Fiction this year, but some of the contenders were: Swamplandia! by debut novelist Karen Russell (which was named one of the top 10 books of 2011 by the New York Times, and was long-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction), and unfinished but posthumously published novel The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (set in Peoria, IL!). We’ve highlighted some of the 2012 literature winnersbelow:the Swerve book cover

General NonfictionThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt: Are you a lover of history, philosophy and literature? Then this might be the book for you.  Best-selling biographer and Harvard professor Greenblatt tells the story of how the discovery of a single work (On the Nature of Things by Lucretius) in the 15th century had a lasting impact on the thought and works of some of the world’s greatest artists, writers and philosophers, from Shakespeare to Darwin.

Malcolm X book coverHistoryMalcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable: We’ve heard great things about this one. The late Manning Marable reportedly includes never-before-seen information about Mr. X. If you’re already a Malcolm X fan, or want a remarkable introduction to this influential, and infamous, 20th century change-maker, put this on your must-read list.

National Book Awards

The National Book Awards (NBAs), another important American literary prize, is awarded each fall to exceptional works of literature in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature. The awards were established in 1950 by the nonprofit National Book Foundation and are judged by well-known published writers, including past NBA winners, chosen each year. Check out some of the 2011 winners:

Salvage the Bones book cover

FictionSalvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward: Chosen out of the 315 fiction titles submitted for judging in 2011, Ward’s novel draws on her Mississippi upbringing to tell a tale of family and poverty that takes place during the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. If you can handle a little heartache, this beautiful story is very much worth it. (Finalists for this award included: debut novel The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, and The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, both of which are high on our Summer reading list!)

Inside Out and Back Again book coverYoung People’s LiteratureInside Out & Back Again, by Thanna Lai: Lai takes us to Saigon at the time of the Vietnam War, shown to us through the perspective of ten-year-old Ha. She and her family flee Saigon when the war breaks out, exchanging the warmth and beauty Ha has known for the very foreign land of Alabama, a move that reflects Lai’s own childhood experience. The novel is actually told in verse, making it atmospheric, simple and stunning. Make it the most unique thing you read this year!

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