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Mavis Staples biography reveals how her music reflects her father and an era

Greg Kot’s “I’ll Take You There” is just as much about her father and mentor, Roebuck “Pops” Staples.

Writer-environmentalist Peter Matthiessen dead at 86


Peter Matthiessen, a rich man’s son who spurned a life of leisure and embarked on extraordinary physical and spiritual quests while producing such acclaimed books as “The Snow Leopard” and “At Play in the Fields of the Lord,” died Saturday. He was 86. Matthiessen, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, was ill “for some months” and died at a hospital near his home on Long Island, N.Y.

Teen’s cookbook mixes in environmental issues


Emily Abrams of Highland Park is interested in environmental issues and sustainability, while the regarded chef Gabriel Viti (Miramar Bistro, Gabriel’s) is interested in food. They teamed up for the new “Don’t Cook the Planet” cookbook featuring A-List celebrities’ recipes.

Did Chicago peak in 1893? Local author to make his case


Emmy award-winning author and historian Joseph Gustaitis will discuss the Chicago World’s Fair and other significant achievements explored in his book, “Chicago’s Greatest Year, 1893.”

A book recalls the loud legacy of Chicago’s Jesus Lizard


Sifting through photos of the noise rockers’ past “brought back all the feelings of that time,” says drummer Mac McNeilly.

‘The Office’ actor puts his stories on paper


It was a ‘crazy’ idea, but B.J. Novak did it anyway: a book of short stories

Rachel Louise Snyder sets debut novel in Oak Park

As a successful journalist who has reported from around the world, narrative non-fiction has always been Rachel Louise Snyder’s calling card. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn she has an MFA in fiction from Emerson College where high caliber writers …

Page Turners — The best books we read in 2013


There’s nothing like a good book to tickle our imaginations, invite passionate conversation and debate, take us to places far away, inform and elighten us, and frankly just take us away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Our writers and editors were busy …

Songs about bathrooms, and other Chicago creations in the age of industrial musicals


A key songwriter in the field of musicals for corporate events was Sid Siegel, who penned ‘The Bathrooms Are Coming!” and other works meant to get salesmen “all worked up.”

The ‘people’s poet’


A decade ago this month, Kevin Stein was chosen for a daunting task: following two Pulitzer Prize winners, Gwendolyn Brooks and Carl Sandburg, as the poet laureate of Illinois. Ten years later, the Bradley University professor has put his own signature on a position that …

The year’s top book picks for young readers


Bookstore and library experts suggest titles to give this season.

Evanston writer Kat Falls enters world of young-adult hero novels


The first of what promises to be an intriguing trilogy, “Inhuman” by Kat Falls is set in an America ravaged by a virus that mutates humans into “manimals.”

Authors selling books — literally — on Saturday


Best-selling novelist Wally Lamb, a two-time Oprah Book Club pick, has signed thousands of copies of his books. But he’s never sold one, at least the way booksellers do. That will change Saturday, when Lamb and more than 1,000 other authors become volunteer booksellers for …

Malcolm X heirs seek to block diary publication


Heirs of Malcolm X have gone to court to stop a Chicago company from publishing a diary of the activist leader’s last year. They say in papers filed in Manhattan federal court that Third World Press does not have the right to publish “The Diary of Malcolm X.”

Scandal, faith keep readers returning to tales of Rev. Black


A fictional black Baptist pastor often embroiled in ungodly behavior has helped Rockford native and novelist Kimberla Lawson Roby sell more than 2 million books. She’ll be in town to address attendees at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago.

Isabel Allende to receive Chicago Public Library Carl Sandburg award


Author Isabel Allende grew up in her grandfather’s house where a radio, much less a television, was not allowed. Instead, her formative years in Chile were filled with books.