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Evelyn Eman Delmar

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Like the proverbial half-filled glass, I view my “To Do” lists either as accomplishments or failures: pride in all the checked-off “To Do”s but shame at all the “To Do”s left unchecked. Keeping lists as I do is akin to eating a bowl of oatmeal: for every spoonful eaten, it seems the rest just fills in the briefly empty spot. My list changes but rarely gets shorter. Such a list is always forward-thinking but never-ending.

Then there is my “Naughty or Nice” list, the one that looks at the year just passing. In terms of books, the “naughty” is the massive pileup of books that I can’t read fast enough (unlike newspapers and magazines that I devour, I don’t gulp down books, I slowly chew them to release the full flavors). The “nice” column of my 2016 list is filled with the authors, books and readers I met through the second season of BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™. A feast enjoyed with many a bottle of great wine.

More than ever, words matter. Books matter. As I start to make my lists for 2017, I am reflecting how best to breathe books: the reading, writing and promoting of them. What am I willing to give up in order to gain something else, hopefully something even greater (by my own measurement, at least)? Stay tuned….


Yet once you’ve come to be part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real. – Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make

We struck the home trail now, and in a few hours were in that astonishing Chicago–a city where they are always rubbing a lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities. It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago–she outgrows her prophecies faster than she can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time. – Mark Twain

Chicago has so much excellent architecture that they feel obliged to tear some of it down now and then and erect terrible buildings just to help us all appreciate the good stuff. – Audrey Niffenegger


Prolific readers know the power and enjoyment of being able to pick up a book and enter its world. For developmentally disabled adults – who are too often excluded in many aspects of social life – the joy of sharing book discussions in traditional book clubs has been out of reach, one more barrier to participating in the community.

The Next Chapter Book Club, created in 2002 under the auspices of the Ohio State University Nisonger Center and with 250 individual book clubs across America, Europe and in Israel, provides adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity maintain reading and literacy skills beyond high school while participating in a “coffee club culture” in a public meeting place.

Next Chapter Book Club members meet once a week for an hour in bookstores, cafes or libraries. Program manager Jillian Ober said, “We include people who don’t read at all or who need help with every single word on the page. The facilitators keep things moving and fun. It’s not meant to be a class.” The Next Chapter Book Club can help you join or start a club in your area.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Plot(ting) Thickens

E.L. Doctorow, master of the historical novel who mixed fact and fiction to bring history to life, died at age 84 earlier this month. Reading announcements of his passing, I learned something very interesting about the author of such mammoth best sellers as The Book of Daniel (1971), Ragtime (1975), Billy Bathgate (1989) and The March (2005). Doctorow said he never plotted out his novels in advance. “It’s like driving a car at night,” he said of writing. “You can never see further than your headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.”

In other words, Doctorow, acclaimed for historical novels that relied so heavily on facts, was a highly intuitive writer. I, too, am an intuitive writer. Despite being advised in workshops and through articles how important it is to prepare an outline before starting a long story, any skeleton I try to build collapses under the weight of characters and events as they are fleshed out. The phenomenon of characters coming alive for an author and taking off in unexpected directions is not uncommon. I hear that from writers all the time and it mirrors my experiences.

Doctorow’s words are very comforting for writers like me. It proves that lectures, workshops and tutorials about the writing craft are like shoes at a shoe shop. You will be offered many. Like seeking a good pair of shoes, you should try on different ideas and suggestions to see which ones fit best because the path from the idea of a book to the finished work is long and challenging. You never really know where the path will lead, “but you make the whole trip that way.”


Booked has teamed up with TASTE Food & Wine, a popular Chicago shop, to elevate author book signing events with quality wines paired by themes to the books. The launch of BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ will be Thursday, July 23, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at TASTE Food & Wine, 1506 W. Jarvis Avenue.

For those who enjoy quality wine as much as quality books, BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ offers both as authors and readers get to meet in a convivial setting.

“Many new friendships, and even some romances, have started over wine at our tastings,” said Phoebe Snow, owner of TASTE Food & Wine. “We strive to create a welcoming atmosphere in our store and introduce wines that generate conversation.”

The first author to be fêted at a BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ event will be Susanna Calkins, whose newest book is The Masque of a Murderer. Published by Minotaur Books, it is the third Lucy Campion mystery set in 17th century England. Publishers Weekly called Calkins’s writing “Assured… Calkins’s familiarity with the period and her use of obscure details, such as the fire court set up to adjudicate claims after the Great Fire of 1666, are a plus.”

Calkins, an historian and educator at Northwestern University, will read from her book and talk about the fascinating time in which the series takes place. Reflecting themes in the book, a Rhenish (German riesling) wine and a claret will be featured among the wine options of the evening.

Books will be available for purchase and signing. On-site book sales will be handled by The Book Cellar.


Looking for a romantic novel but not necessarily a romance novel? Readers Digest suggests:
The Thornbirds – Colleen McCullough
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
True Believers – Nicholas Sparks
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles
Chesapeake Blue – Nora Roberts
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Follow the Stars Home — Luann Rice