And the Winner Is….

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor!  If you hadn’t already heard, we’ll be delving into Flannery O’Connor this fall.  The kickoff meeting for the  series will be sometime in late August.  Actual discussion meetings will begin during the first week of September.  Registration should begin in June.  Just keep an eye out on the Library website for an announcement.

If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy of the book, any print edition published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux will work just fine.  I’m sure there are used copies available in abundance on the Internet and elsewhere. is selling the most recent printing for about $12.  The Library will soon be ordering some, but certainly not enough for all participants.



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The Polls Are Now Open

First, thanks to all who provided suggestions for the fall Mission Impossible pick.  It was a great list, and my colleagues and I narrowed down the choices to the following list.  We’ll definitely keep the other choices handy for future programming.  Many of you mentioned The Sound and the Fury (a great choice), but we’ll have to shelve that until we can devote more time to planning an author study.  You can vote at the bottom of the page, but you might want to know about each candidate before you do – hence the blurbs.  We’ll unveil the results at our May 3 lecture featuring Professor Weil.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  1851.  Now a contender for the great American novel, this book was harpooned at the time of its 1851 publication by critics who found it overly long and boorish (observations no doubt still shared by countless high school students). The book was forgotten for decades before being rediscovered in the 1920s by scholars who understood and appreciated the multilevel symbolism and allegory dismissed by their 19th-century predecessors. Melville published little after the failure of Moby-Dick and made his living as a customs inspector in New York City, where he was born in 1819 and died in complete obscurity in 1891 (Library Journal).

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens.  1857.  Of the complex, richly rewarding masterworks he wrote in the last decade of his life, Little Dorrit is the book in which Charles Dickens most fully unleashed his indignation at the fallen state of mid-Victorian society. Crammed with persons and incidents in whose recreation nothing is accidental or spurious, containing, in its picture of the Circumlocution Office, the most witheringly exact satire of a bureaucracy we possess, Little Dorrit is a stunning example of how thoroughly Dickens could put his flair for the theatrical and his comic genius the service of his passion for justice (

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.  1971.  Winner of the National Book Award.  The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O’Connor’s monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O’Connor put together in her short lifetime–Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.   O’Connor published her first story, “The Geranium,” in 1946, while she was working on her master’s degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, “Judgement Day”–sent to her publisher shortly before her death—is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of “The Geranium.” Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O’Connor’s longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux (

Middlemarch by George Eliot.  1871.  George Eliot’s Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is regarded by some critics as the greatest novel ever written in English.  An in-depth portrait of a town and its inhabitants, the work describes the intricate bonds that connect people’s lives, exploring the relationship between individual action and the unwieldy, seemingly indeterminate forces that shape society (Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism).



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Professor Weil to Lecture in May

I’m extremely pleased to announce that Professor Irwin Weil will be returning to the Library to deliver another fantastic lecture.  I’ll send out reminders about it as the event gets closer, but for now, you can mark your calendar for Thursday, May 3, 7pm, Main Library Community Room.

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Suggestions for the Next Mission Impossible Selection

Many of you may have already gotten this email, but if not, I’m re-posting the info here.

If you can believe it, the journey through War and Peace will soon be coming to a close in May. The planning process for the next round of Mission Impossible has already begun.  So far, we’ve decided to try a few new things.  First, we’ll be tackling a shorter novel.  Second, we’ll complete it over the course of three consecutive months, beginning in September and ending in November.  Third, you’ll be given the chance to vote for the next book.

Before voting takes place, however, we’d like your suggestions for what to tackle next.  If you have a title (or titles) you’d like the group to read, please email your suggestions to  Before you contact me, here are a few things to consider: Can the book be read in three months?  Is it a significant work?  Finally, is it the kind of book you’d be more likely to read with the help of a group?

Please email me your suggestions by Thursday, April 5.  You can expect to see another blog post about voting during the week of April 9.  Thanks, everyone!  It will be exciting to try something new.


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Schedule Change

Many of you may have already heard about our meeting/reading schedule change, but if you haven’t, read on.  In short, we’ll be finishing the novel and the epilogue at our May meetings.  After some consideration, the other leaders and I felt that the change would preserve momentum and give us more time to plan our next Mission Impossible program.  The last assignment –  the epilogue – is also easily absorbed into our May readings, which still amount to less than 300 pages.  Thanks for your understanding!


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The Real Speransky

Just as all novelists blend fact into the fiction mix, Tolstoy has peppered War and Peace with some real historical figures – Mikhail Speransky being just one of them.  Speransky, Prince Andrei’s one-time mentor, really did exist and was considered quite the liberal reformer.  For your enrichment, I’ve attached an article about him from Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire.

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Location Changes for Two Groups

Two of our groups will be meeting in different locations starting this month.  First, the Wed. 6pm Brothers K group led by Neil Lukatch will now meet in the Library’s Board Room (fourth floor).  Second, the Wed. 7pm Tiny Dog Cupcake group led by Kim Hiltwein will temporarily meet in one of the Main Library’s third floor conference rooms.  Sadly, Tiny Dog Cupcake has gone out of business.

Everyone in these groups should have received a notification by now.


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It seems that our January assignment contains a lot of references to Freemasonry.  As someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about the Freemasons, I searched for some additional resources.  First, with all the Dan Brown fictionalizations swirling around out there, you might look at National Geographic’s article “The Lost Symbol” and the Freemasons: 8 Myths Decoded.”  For a more thorough look at the Freemasons, I’ve attached an article about them from Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire.  I retrieved it from our online reference book database, Info in a Box, accessible from home for EPL cardholders via our Research page.

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The Battle of Austerlitz, etc.

Understandably, the battles depicted in our November reading assignment might be a source of confusion for some of us.  To aid our attempts to understand the bigger picture of what’s happening in the novel on the military side of things, I’ve found a couple of quick and dirty resources.  First, take a look at PBS’s Napoleon at War webpage.  The link will take you to the section on the Ulm-Austerlitz Campaign, which is the portion most relevant to us so far.  The History Channel has a great video zeroing on the Battle of Austerliz.

I realize these portions of the novel can be intimidating because it’s difficult at times to know what’s happening.  However, unless you’re particularly interested in doing a lot supplementary study of the military portions, I think it’s fine to have a general grasp of these battles.  Focus most on the characters, how they’re developing, and how they’re responding to events generally beyond their control.

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Registration Open for the Tenth and Final Group

Greetings!  In my final effort to accommodate those on our War and Peace waitlists, I’ve created one last library-sponsored discussion group.  It will meet at 6pm at Barnes & Noble of Evanston (1630 Sherman Ave) every other month, starting on Tuesday, September 20.  It will consistently meet the week after most of our other groups convene.  Elvira Carrizal-Dukes, one of our staff members at the Reader’s Services Desk, will be the group leader.  Elvira has a very interesting background in journalism, Chicano studies, and film.  One special note about this group is that Elvira will be approaching War and Peace with a special focus on the women of the novel.  Of course, she’ll cover other major topics of discussion as well.

If you’re interested in joining this group, register via our online calendar by locating the group on the day of 9/20, or by calling the Reader’s Services Desk at 847-448-8620.  There’s still plenty of time to read this month’s assignment of roughly 100 pages.

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