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Our Back-to-Indoors Reading List

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 23, 2010 6:00PM

If we know Chicago as well as we think we do, chilly weather will sweep the city shortly. For a lot of us, that means more time spend indoors. And for some of us, that means books + blankets + glasses of Bordeaux. Here’s what’s on our list to read this fall.

The Night Bookmobile, by Audrey Niffenegger
Before the world knew Audrey Niffenegger as the author of the international best seller The Time Traveler’s Wife (which she originally envisioned as a graphic novel), she was a visual artist with two books under her belt. In 2008, the Chicago-based author wrote and illustrated a serialized graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile for the London Guardian. It was just published as a full-length graphic novel earlier this month. The Night Bookmobile is about a woman who discovers a disappearing bookmobile that is filled with every book she has ever read. As she goes on with her life, she continues to search for the bookmobile - and in doing so, she is searching for herself. The Night Bookmobile is a story about a how a woman's passion for books shapes her life.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison
This fall’s selection for the One Book, One Chicago program is the most recent novel by Toni Morrison. Like Beloved, A Mercy explores the realities and repercussions of slavery. In this book, Morrison casts her net over different varieties of slavery in the 1680s: Native Americans, women, indentured workers and slaves play prominent roles in this book. A Mercy introduces readers to a range of interconnected characters including a young slave girl, her Native American mentor and an Anglo-Dutch landowner lured by the prospect of wealth in the rum trade. For more information about the book, view the resource guide online, download it or pick one up at your local Chicago Public Library branch. The guide includes a lot of useful information to get readers started: a character list, a timeline and historical context, as well as programs and events. Toni Morrison will be accepting the Carl Sandburg Literary Award in Chicago on Oct. 26 and will be speaking onstage with Oprah. If you have $1,000 handy, buy a ticket today. Or check out any number of the free events throughout the fall.

How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu
Dinaw Mengestu was named to The New Yorker’s20 under 40” fiction writers earlier this year and has been receiving positive reviews for his newest novel How to Read The Air. The story parallels the experience of two immigrant generations: two marriages, two journeys and two searches for identity. The book alternates between a young Ethiopian couple as taking road trip from Illinois to Tennessee and their son Jonas, the narrator, who leaves his wife and his job to retrace their steps. As Jonas hopes to discover more about how his family and culture has shaped him, he also uses his imagination to fill in what he doesn’t know. Mengestu, who was born in Ethiopia but was raised in America and lived in Peoria, Illinois and Chicago, draws on the cultural and physical landscapes of both countries. The book will be published Oct. 14, and Mengestu will be reading from and signing How to Read The Air in Chicago on Oct. 26.

The Instructions, by Adam Levin
Chicagoan Adam Levin’s debut 1,030-page behemoth of a book spans exactly four days in the life of Gurion Maccabee, age 10. Gurion is, according to McSweeney’s, publisher of The Instructions: “a lover, a fighter, a scholar and a truly spectacular talker.” Gurion’s violence has earned him expulsion from several schools, so he’s sent to last resort school, the place where only the most deeply troubled kids go. And there, he leads a revolution. For some more context about Instructions, read Time Out Chicago’s five easy steps to start a successful uprising and watch this video. Adam Levin’s work has been published in Tin House, McSweeney's and Esquire. He teaches writing at Columbia College and The School of the Art Institute.

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, by Patrick Somerville
Patrick Somerville, whose debut book Trouble was named 2006’s best book by Time Out Chicago, is back this fall with a new book. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is about a Chicago man who receives a supernatural helmet - The Machine of Understanding Other People - that gives him the power to experience the inner worlds of the people around him. He peers into the mind of an art student, extraterrestrials, and a retired mercenary. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is being published by local indie press featherproof Books. The book will be released Nov. 15. Beforehand, you can download the free mini-book. It’s the first story from the The Universe in Miniature in Miniature.