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posted: 8/11/2014 9:08 AM

Book titles reflect community's allure with success

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By Susan Miura

Whether you prefer paper books or e-books, fiction or nonfiction, reading is a great way to spend some summer leisure time. What is Schaumburg Township reading this summer?

To find out, I checked the lists of titles (ranked by popularity), borrowed from the Schaumburg Township District Library and found many surprises in what appeared on the lists … and what did not. Since there was too much information for one column, I'm focusing solely on nonfiction titles, which clearly reflect a trend in our community's captivation with two takes on success: Becoming "successful" (however you define the word); and 2. Overcoming adversity, whether in one's past or present. Take a look at the first seven titles on the list to see if you agree.

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1. "Cracking the ACT," by Geoff Martz, provides students with two full-length practice tests that include answer explanations, along with drill questions, strategies, and even admissions and financial aid information for colleges. As the No. 1 checked-out title, it certainly speaks volumes about the aspirations of our community's high school students.

2. "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," by Terry Ryan, has been around since 2001, but is seeing a resurgence since the movie came out in 2005. Many people are drawn to this true story of a woman who supported her 10 children by writing jingles for contests in the 1950s and '60s. According to Amazon, the story "is told by her daughter, Terry, with an infectious joy that shows how a winning spirit will always triumph over poverty."

3. "Outliers," by Malcolm Gladwell, debuted in the No. 1 spot on The New York Times Best-seller List. It takes readers on a journey through the worlds of the "best and brightest," and conveys the traits and strategies that lead to their success or fame.

4. "Hard Choices," by Hillary Rodham Clinton, provides an account of her four years as secretary of state and reflects, in her words, how "our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become."

5. "Killing Jesus" is written by Bill O'Reilly, author of "Killing Kennedy" and "Killing Lincoln." According to Amazon, "'Killing Jesus' will take readers inside Jesus's life, recounting the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable -- and changed the world forever." The book includes chapters devoted to some famous and infamous leaders, including Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Tiberius, and other historical characters.

6. "The Guinness Book of World Records," always a draw for all ages, is often among the top 10 in the nonfiction lists. Filled with outrageous record-breaking feats and incredible achievements, it begs the question: How far will humans go for a moment in the limelight?

7. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was published in 1997 and written by the late Maya Angelou, who passed away in May. It is the autobiographical story of her life, beginning with a rough childhood that included being raped at the age of eight. But as anyone familiar with this famed poet and civil rights activist knows, she rose from the ashes to become one of the most influential voices of our time.

Other titles on the nonfiction list, in order, include "Unbroken," by Laura Hillenbrand; "Flash Boys," by Michael Lewis; "Tuesdays with Morrie," by Mitch Albom; "One Nation," by Ben Carson, and "The Devil in the White City," by Erik Larson.

Reading these books and others is a great way to "explore new worlds" -- the theme of the library's Adult Summer Program, which encompasses reading, watching movies, attending programs and more. The program continues until Aug. 31, so there is still time to sign up at the central library's Fiction Desk or Audiovisual Desk, or at the branch libraries in Hanover Park or Hoffman Estates. To sign up online, go to schaumburlibrary.org/read.

Those who complete the Summer Program, which requires eight library-related experiences (outlined in the registration information) will receive a prize. Schaumburg Township District Library cardholders who complete the program will also be eligible for the grand prize drawing.

Wondering what's on the fiction list? Stay tuned -- that will be highlighted in an upcoming column.

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