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updated: 1/17/2014 3:33 PM

Winter reading in the suburbs: What's hot right now

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  • Reference Librarian Jane Shelton leads the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.

       Reference Librarian Jane Shelton leads the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • "After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story" by Michael Hainey was the book discussed at the most recent Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.

       "After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story" by Michael Hainey was the book discussed at the most recent Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • The book "After Visiting Friends" is filled with book marks for discussion during the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.

       The book "After Visiting Friends" is filled with book marks for discussion during the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Readers gather for a book discussion Tuesday at the St. Charles Public Library.

       Readers gather for a book discussion Tuesday at the St. Charles Public Library.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Tico Conover of St. Charles voices her opinion about the book "After Visiting Friends" during the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.

       Tico Conover of St. Charles voices her opinion about the book "After Visiting Friends" during the Second Tuesday Book Discussion Group at the St. Charles Library.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Tara Garcia Mathewson
Daily Herald correspondent

Barrington High School grad Veronica Roth's debut trilogy is on the minds of teens across the suburbs. Her three novels are consistently among the most checked out young adult books from Naperville to Grayslake.

With her first novel, "Divergent," set to be released on the big screen in March starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet, and the third book in the trilogy just out in October, teens across the suburbs are clamoring for the dystopian world Roth created, where all members of society are placed into five factions based on their personalities.

Only some people don't fit neatly into one faction. They are called "divergents" and seen as a danger to society's careful structure.

"Divergent," "Insurgent" and "Allegiant" have all been discussed in Gail Borden Public Library's teen book club meetings, along with the series' dystopian peer "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

"Divergent" also will be the subject of a March 22 program at the Grayslake Area Public Library, tying a book discussion and night of activities with the movie release.

Grayslake Teen Services Librarian Lauren Hilty said teens seem to connect to the characters, who are their age, living life in a not-too-distant future and choosing their own paths. Like the readers, the characters in Roth's -- and Collins' -- series are struggling to discover themselves and find their places in society.

"While sometimes the unlikely situations may not be relatable, the characters and the decisions they are faced with making are," Hilty said. "Teens are faced with all sorts of decisions, and I think that these novels do a good job of showing the power of choice and the consequences that follow."

On the adult side, library patrons across the suburbs regularly seek out books topping The New York Times Best Sellers List. James Patterson, the prolific detective series author, is the most sought after at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, according to Margaret Peebles, the division chief of access services.

"Cross My Heart," Patterson's latest installment about Detective Alex Cross, tops the Gail Borden list of most popular titles this month. He also appears in five out of the top 15 most circulated books of 2013 at the Elgin library.

So far in 2014, Elgin area patrons are also reading "Takedown Twenty" by Janet Evanovich and "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham, two of the most popular books in the Naperville and Grayslake Area public libraries as well.

"It seems like people are clamoring for the best-sellers," Peebles said. "That's why our new book room circulates the most out of the whole library."

In Elgin, the library offers some of the most popular books for short-term checkout to ensure they're back on the shelf as soon as possible for the next readers.

In smaller libraries, like Grayslake, that's not so easy. Denise Ard, head of adult services, said a requirement for the staff picks shelf at the library is that it cannot be on any best-seller list.

The same rule generally applies for book clubs. The library hosts a Thursday night book club and Ard finds if a best-seller is the focal point, people have a hard time getting a copy of the book.

"The problem with the best-sellers is they're often checked out," Ard said.

The Jan. 16 discussion group focused on Alice Munro's "Dear Life." Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in literature, a claim to fame that has made unfamiliar readers take special notice of the Canadian writer.

Upcoming books to be discussed at the Naperville Public Library's Constant Readers Book Club are "Defending Jacob" by William Landay, which focuses on an assistant district attorney whose son has been charged with the murder of another student. That discussion will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Nichols Library, with a February 20 discussion planned about "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. Genova's book is about a successful Harvard professor who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer's.

Marlise Schiltz, Reader Services Librarian at the St. Charles Public Library, leads an adult book discussion group that meets the second Tuesday of every month.

"This time of year we see many patrons who are choosing titles from all the 'Best of 2013' reading lists that came out over the past month," Schiltz said.

"To help, St. Charles Public Library has an online list and a display throughout January to showcase these titles (http://www.stcharleslibrary.org/arl/booklists/best_2013.htm) including 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt, 'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion and 'Life after Life' by Kate Atkinson.

"People are also eagerly checking out the newest by best-selling authors such as David Baldacci ('King and Maxwell'), John Grisham ('Sycamore Row') and Bill Bryson ('One Summer: America, 1927')."

But not all popular books are recent best-sellers, Schiltz said.

"We can't keep a copy of 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak on the shelf. Although published in 2006, it has great appeal to teens, is a popular discussion book for adults, and then the movie adaptation came out in November, so people of all ages want to read it."

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