Book Series

For National Literacy Month, WNIJ dug into the archives for one of our more popular "Read With Me" interviews. Today's feature originally aired Oct. 16, 2017.

An episode of the 1960s sitcom Bewitched perfectly describes the author-character relationship, according to Linda H. Heuring.

WNIJ is re-visting the "Read With Me" library for some summer reading. One novel about a coach for the Chicago Cubs, The Clubhouse Thief, seems ripe for a second look with the Cubs leading the National League Central Division. Here's an encore presentation of our interview with author James Janko.

Editor's note: Our original interview with Marnie Mamminga was published in June, 2013. The author returned to the WNIJ studios in July, 2018, to add the video excerpt below.

450 miles. That's the distance Marnie Mamminga's family traveled every summer from suburban Chicago to their cabin in northwest Wisconsin.

Mamminga recalls the cabin, and the long journey it took to get there, in her memoir Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts.

The Mission to the Stars series about faster-than-light (FTL) travel begins with a family tragedy. Married couple Jeff and Jennifer Bindl are killed while testing the first spaceship designed for FTL speed. When news of the ship's demise reaches Earth, the Bindls' four sons are left to carry on the mission started by their parents through their company Space Tech.

The "Back of the Yards" is a neighborhood near the old Chicago Stockyards. Since the early 20th Century, it housed immigrants who processed meat in the city that Carl Sandberg dubbed "Hog Butcher for the World" in his poem "Chicago."

Author Sandra Colbert grew up in this neighborhood in the 1950s and '60s, when it was largely Polish and Lithuanian. Her book Chicago Bound re-creates the lives of these residents through short stories that capture their grit, prejudice, violence and dreams.

One day you're an attractive secret agent. The next day you can't look into a mirror without feeling disgust. That's the basic premise of Seven-Sided Spy, a Cold War thriller featuring a trio of CIA agents and their KGB counterparts.

This debut novel by Hannah Carmack is our Read With Me selection for April.

Few people know Peter Pan like Andrea Jones. She loves the 1953 animated Disney classic, plus Mary Martin's and Sandy Duncan's portrayals of the flying forever-boy.

She's also deeply familiar with J.M. Barrie's original 1904 play, Peter and Wendy, and the 1911 novelization. So when Universal Pictures released a live-action film in 2003, Jones was skeptical.

"I said to myself, 'Why do we need another Peter Pan retelling'. But I went with my son, who was young at the time," she said.

Not long ago, the waters off Door County, Wis., had a reputation for danger. Door County gets its name from Porte des Mortes -- French for "door of the dead" -- and for good reason; there are dozens of shipwrecks along the peninsula.

The most recent wreck occurred in 1928.

When a poet writes a novel, it's natural to expect the story to include a poem or some reference to poetry. For her debut novel, poet Marydale Stewart uses a 10th Century verse, "The Wanderer," as a symbol for one of her main characters.

Stewart's book, The Wanderers, is our Read With Me selection for December.

David W. Berner's latest book is about a song he wrote for his children and his journey to perform it for the first time in public.

Berner's composition, a finalist in a national contest, is the star of October Song: A Memoir of Music and the Journey of Time. His book is our Read With Me selection for November.

A Fine Line is a novel featuring Sebastian Drake, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

A Fine Line is also the name of Drake's novel, which features Jack Cannon, a cop struggling to keep his job with the Chicago Police Department.

On her "Medicare Birthday," author Marnie O. Mamminga celebrated by swimming to an island in Big Spider Lake near Hayward, Wis.

No easy feat for a 65-year-old.

The lake, where Mamminga spent nearly all of her birthdays, is home to Wake Robin, a cabin her grandfather built in 1929. The vacation home, made of tamarack logs, is the setting of Mamminga's first book Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of North Woods Resorts.

Pick up The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id, and you might guess it involves psychology with words like "paracosm" and "Id." But the phrase "Shapers of the Id" is a clue that we're about to enter the world of parapsychology -- specifically, shaping an Id with the aim of creating one's own paracosm.

"Every human being is an archeological site. What passes for roots is actually a matter of sediment, of accretion, of chance and juxtaposition."

This quotation from writer and critic Luc Sante is a subtle prompt for us to dig into our own past for clues about meaningful experiences.

For NIU Professor Joe Bonomo, that "archeological site" is littered with music.

When Christine Sneed begins a story, she never knows where her characters will take it.

"Usually I'm about halfway through and I still won't know what's going to happen at the end," Sneed says, "but I have some sense of where I'm going."

The award-winning author has the experience to avoid early-draft pitfalls, and shares this knowledge with her students at Northwestern University and Regis University.

The next four years will be very good for poetry.

That's according to Susan Azar Porterfield, who says our nation's current political divisions echo previous tempests, which sprouted an abundance of biting verse.

In 2003, Robert Bly, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and more than 8,000 other poets submitted their work to a global movement opposing the Iraq invasion. The book Poets Against the War collected 262 of those poems.

"You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl."

We've all heard this, which is why it's refreshing to find a story that shows the opposite.

Rachel Raines is the protagonist of Small Town Roads by L.B. Johnson, one of our Read With Me selections for this month.

Aaron Sitze's new book will not help you pass a course in U.S. History. In fact, you'll fail if Sitze's book is the only one you read. But The Andrew Jackson Stories provides an entertaining lesson in Newtonian physics, among other things, and encourages you to keep talking to your plants.

We'll get to those items in a bit. First, Sitze explains his fascination with Andrew Jackson and other famous presidents.

Amy Newman's latest collection of poetry imagines scenes in the lives of seven poets who emerged in the mid-20th Century: Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, Delmore Schwartz and Anne Sexton.

Many critics identify these poets as writing in the Confessional style, often in the first person and including then-taboo subjects such as sexual abuse and mental illness.

How important is verbal communication between strangers? Can two people bond using only non-verbal cues?

Author Maria Boynton explores this theme in her novel, Ruthlessly Aadi, a Read With Me book selection for this summer.

When the FBI enters your life, they are not to be trusted.

This is Michelle Monelle's advice to the reader as she revisits her past during a series of interviews with two agents. Monelle is the protagonist of GK Wuori's latest novel, HoneyLee's Girl.

The book is the second of five selections for this summer's Read With Me Book Series.

A motorcycle crashes into a car on U.S. 20. A reporter investigates a town where every child appears to be a truant. And an aide to the governor pushes a bill to outlaw "unschooling."

These are the main plot lines in Kristin Oakley's novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois. The book starts our Read With Me Book Series for this summer. Before we go further, we should explain unschooling.

Florencia Mallon wrote several books and articles about the events preceding Chile's 1973 military coup and the subsequent dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. These were intended for her colleagues in the field of Latin American history.

"He will be unshaven, wear a battered borsalino, and nod a greeting to me, smiling slyly."

This is how poet John Bradley describes his character, Roberto Zingarello, a fictional poet writing about his native Italy under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.

In 2000, dozens of U.S. Navy veterans arrived on the Greek island of Crete to restore a former American warship and sail it home. All were volunteers. Several served during World War II.

Their average age: 72.

One of the younger vets (at 61) was Robert Jornlin, who recounts the story in Bringing Back a Hero, a Summer Book Series selection for 2015.

The title, Annabelle and the Sandhog, introduces two of the book's main characters, so let's take them in order:

Annabelle is a nursing-home aide who befriends the sandhog, in the novel and in real life. We'll learn more about her in a bit.

"Sandhog" is American slang for a person who works underground at an urban construction site.

The sandhog in this story is John O'Malley, modeled after author Ray Paul's grandfather, who made a career of blasting bedrock to carve the foundations of tall buildings in the early 20th Century.

When you write a novel, how much of your life experience do you give to your characters? And how much of that experience do you fictionalize?

This question came up during two panel discussions with WNIJ Book Series authors last week. One panelist, Katie Andraski, described how she transferred her experience as a publicist to her protagonist in The River Caught Sunlight.

The latest book in our 2015 Winter Book Series is a novel set during a time when evangelical authors and publishers pushed for wider recognition of books with a Christian perspective.

If you saw Ron Modell leading Northern Illinois University's Jazz Ensemble, you'll recognize the title of his memoir, Loved Bein' Here With You.

If you haven't, here's the story behind the title:

Early in his career at NIU, Modell invited trombonist Phil Wilson to perform with the ensemble. In between rehearsal sessions, Wilson heard Modell singing Peggy Lee's tune, "I Love Being Here With You," and bet $10 that Modell wouldn't have the nerve to sing it on stage:

This Autumn, WNIJ again invites northern Illinois authors to read, and discuss, their stories. Recently, a trio of writers published shorter works that add to the growing body of quality literature from this area. To showcase these quick reads, we created our first-ever "Fall Book Bites" series. We'll welcome back Susan Azar Porterfield and Molly McNett during the next two days. Today, we'll meet G.K. Wuori, author of Infidelity, a novella.

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