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updated: 2/18/2014 6:15 AM

Independent bookseller Becky Anderson ranks her favorite author visits

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  • "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling first visited Naperville in 1998, talking to about 80 students and teachers. When she returned the following year, she drew about 7,000 fans.

      "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling first visited Naperville in 1998, talking to about 80 students and teachers. When she returned the following year, she drew about 7,000 fans.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Author Neil Gaiman spent five days here as part of the 2010 Naperville READS program.

       Author Neil Gaiman spent five days here as part of the 2010 Naperville READS program.
    SCOTT SANDERS | Staff Photographer, FEBRUARY 2010

  • Caroline Kennedy has come to Naperville five times, sharing her mother's love of poetry with generations of fans. She also used one appearance to raise money for local at-risk students.

      Caroline Kennedy has come to Naperville five times, sharing her mother's love of poetry with generations of fans. She also used one appearance to raise money for local at-risk students.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Rebecca Skloot, whose nonfiction work "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was part of Naperville READS 2011, met with fans but also visited a genetics class at Metea Valley High School in Aurora.

       Rebecca Skloot, whose nonfiction work "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was part of Naperville READS 2011, met with fans but also visited a genetics class at Metea Valley High School in Aurora.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, APRIL 2011

  • Author R.J. Palacio's visits as part of Naperville READS 2013 made her book, "Wonder," even more powerful for her young fans.

      Author R.J. Palacio's visits as part of Naperville READS 2013 made her book, "Wonder," even more powerful for her young fans.
    Courtesy of Naperville READS

  • Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" is "already a classic," says Becky Anderson. The author came to Naperville in 2005.

      Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" is "already a classic," says Becky Anderson. The author came to Naperville in 2005.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Sara Gruen visited Anderson's before her "Water for Elephants" became a best-seller. She still recognizes independent booksellers on her website.

      Sara Gruen visited Anderson's before her "Water for Elephants" became a best-seller. She still recognizes independent booksellers on her website.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Children's author Kate DiCamillo has visited Naperville "a bunch of times."

      Children's author Kate DiCamillo has visited Naperville "a bunch of times."

  • Actress and author Julie Andrews "is incredibly generous to her fans and readers," Becky Anderson says.

      Actress and author Julie Andrews "is incredibly generous to her fans and readers," Becky Anderson says.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was warm and engaging as she met with fans to talk about her book on political pins, Becky Anderson said.

      Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was warm and engaging as she met with fans to talk about her book on political pins, Becky Anderson said.
    AP File Photo

  • Becky Anderson

      Becky Anderson

 
 

Anderson's Bookshop in downtown Naperville has hosted celebrity authors such as "Weird Al" Yankovic, Bethenny Frankel, Dennis Rodman, Cameron Diaz, Giada De Laurentiis, Randi Zuckerberg and Richard Dent -- and those stars aren't even on owner Becky Anderson's list of 10 favorites.

Anderson recently shared a list of her favorites from hundreds of authors Anderson's has hosted over the years since the first iteration of the shop opened in 1964 as Paperback Paradise.

"We've hosted so many celebrities, literary authors, politicians, chefs, children's authors and illustrators, it's almost impossible to pick the top ones," Anderson said.

But choose she did. Here's a look at Anderson's favorites:

1. J.K. Rowling

Rowling first came to Naperville in 1998 for an event on a weekday in front of about 80 kids and teachers. It was the year after the first book in her famous series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," was released. Anderson said staff members were "talking it up to anyone we could grab" and comparing it to the best of Roald Dahl, the author of books like "James and the Giant Peach" and "Matilda."

Rowling's event wowed her first Naperville audience and kicked off the local phase of Potter-mania. Rowling returned in fall 1999 after the release of the third book "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," and her following grew to 7,000 who gathered for an event at Naperville Central High School.

Anderson's later hosted midnight release parties for each book in the Harry Potter series, until it was time for the sixth, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

"I decided we needed to take it to the whole city," Anderson said.

About 50,000 people celebrated that release at a party topped only by the 70,000 who gathered in downtown Naperville for the release of Rowling's seventh Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

It was "one of the biggest parties in the world that day," Anderson said.

2. Neil Gaiman

The Naperville READS featured author in 2010, Gaiman spoke to more than 10,000 people about his books ranging from children's picture books to adult novels. The focus was on "The Graveyard Book," about a boy raised by cemetery inhabitants like ghosts and werewolves.

"This was so cool," Anderson said. "He was here for five days."

3. Caroline Kennedy

The daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy has appeared at Anderson's five times, telling Anderson that's more often than she has visited any other book store in the nation.

"She has brought the love of poetry to so many with her volumes of collected poems, sharing the love that her mother had for these poems with children and adults alike," Anderson said.

At two of Kennedy's events, Anderson's partnered with Naperville Unit District 203 to raise funds for at-risk students. And at another, Kennedy presented to a packed house at North Central College, speaking about her book "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy."

4. Rebecca Skloot

Author of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," Skloot was among authors featured during the 2011 program of Naperville READS. Her book, about a woman whose cells were taken without her permission for use in all kinds of medical research, makes readers think about science, research, civil rights, human rights and history -- all in one, Anderson said.

The author met with a genetics class at Metea Valley High School and Anderson said she was "brilliant" with the students.

5. R.J. Palacio

Anderson calls Palacio's book "Wonder" "a fantastic story about choosing kind, choosing to do the right thing, all before anyone can be a bully or be bullied." The tale has an unforgettable main character in Auggie, Anderson said, and Palacio's appearances during Naperville READS 2013 made her book's message even more powerful.

6. Yann Martel

Martel's book "Life of Pi" is now a movie, but Anderson said it's more than that.

"This book has become a classic already," she said.

Martel appeared in 2005 at North Central College, and hundreds turned out to hear him read from his book about a boy and a tiger lost at sea together for almost a year.

7. Sara Gruen

"Water for Elephants" author Sara Gruen stopped by Anderson's before her book -- about a veterinarian just shy of his degree winding up caring for animals in a 1920s traveling circus -- became a hit and before it was turned into a movie.

Anderson said independent booksellers helped turn the novel into a best-seller. The author's website still links to the IndieBound network of stores as well as corporate booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

8. Kate DiCamillo

A children's author who has been to Anderson's "a bunch of times" to promote books such as "Because of Winn Dixie," "Flora and Ulysses" and "Tale of Despereaux" makes the list mainly for being so personable.

"So incredibly warm in person, this is the kind of author that makes you love her books even more when you meet her," Anderson said.

9. Julie Andrews

Whenever actress and author Andrews has been in town, Anderson's has played a movie she's appeared in like "Mary Poppins," "The Sound of Music," or "The Princess Diaries." She's stopped by to promote books for kids and adults, many of them illustrated stories with characters like Dumpy the Dump Truck.

"Her children's novels and picture books appeal to kids and adults," Anderson said. "She is incredibly generous to her fans and readers."

10. Madeline Albright

Claiming the last spot on Anderson's top 10 list of favorite authors is former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Albright, author of "Read My Pins" came to an Anderson's event hosted at North Central College. Anderson said Albright was "warm and engaging" as she signed copies of her book about the pins she collected over her years in public service.

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