The Best Book Club Ever? Area Libraries Offer Big Read Program Again

Ten area libraries will offer the Big Read program, which encourages patrons to read the same book with the goal of promoting reading, sparking discussion and building community.

You know how the typical book club works: A group of people read the same book, then meet to discuss it. 

But not too many take the premise of a book club and make it a months-long community experience that includes learning about not only the literature but also relevant and related movies, food, geography, music and more. 

The Big Read, a program put on by 10 area libraries, is once again making that happen with the goal of promoting reading, sparking discussion, and building community. 

The Shoemaker's Wife, this year's book, tells the story of two lovers whose journeys take them from the mountains in Italy to their new home in America. Inspired by her own family history, author Adriana Trigiani's novel tells a love story that also captures the immigrant experience of the early 1900s.

Participating libraries include: Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lisle, Thomas Ford, Westmont, and Woodridge public libraries.

Interested residents may register for movies and programs at thebigread.org or by calling or visiting the host library. Some programs have limited space. Patrons are welcome to attend any program, some of which are offered at more than one library.


Movie: A Night at the Opera (1935)

A sly business manager and his wacky friends help two opera singers achieve success while humiliating their stuffy and snobbish enemies. Starring the Marx Brothers.

  • Friday, March 1, 7 p.m., Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Italian American Authors
Hear local author Dominic Candeloro discuss Italian American novelists including Pietro di Donato, Jerre Mangione, Mario Puzo, Gay Talese, and Lisa Scottoline. Also, learn about Adriana Trigiani and her role as the premiere voice of contemporary Italian Americans.

  • Monday, March 4, 7 p.m., Westmont Public Library

A Taste of Enza’s Cooking
Taste the delicious dishes and experience the role that food played in the lives of Enza and her family. Chef Mary Gail Bennett of Deliciously Yours prepares several dishes that help make the book come to life. Samples and recipes included.

  • Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m., Downers Grove Public Library, Limit: 50
  • Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m., Indian Prairie Public Library, Limit: 50

Awesome Foods of Northern Italy
Chef Dave Esau, owner of Dave’s Specialty Foods, discusses and prepares these delicious foods of Northern Italy: Pesto and Zucchini with Trenette Pasta, Eggplant Caponata, and Crostata with Apricots and Taleggio.

  • Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m., Hinsdale Public Library, Limit: 75

Pizza, Pizza!
Chef Michael Niksic showcases a variety of pizzas during a live cooking demonstration. Sample different combinations and crusts. Pizzas can be made to order, so wear your eating pants!

  • Thursday, March 7, 7 p.m., Lisle Library District, Limit: 36

Opera Superstars: Farrar and Caruso
Geraldine Farrar, portrayed by Mary Hobein, reminisces about her early opera career and life in New York City. She is joined by Enrico Caruso, portrayed by Brad Schuller, who sings the arias that made him a Metropolitan Opera favorite and a bestselling recording star.

  • Sunday, March 10, 2 p.m., Woodridge Public Library

Centennial 1911 – 1920: Past Events That Shaped the Present
Historian Dave Clark explores the era of The Shoemaker’s Wife and shows how people and their decisions resonate over time. He highlights the progress and continued challenges of our current culture.

  • Monday, March 11, 7 p.m., La Grange Park Public Library

Movie: Amarcord (1973)
Federico Fellini’s film celebrates the director’s adolescence in the small town of Rimini, Italy, in the 1930s. Populated with larger-than-life characters and lush cinematography, Amarcord is a funny, earthy, honest, and loving tribute to Italian life between the wars, despite the threat of fascism. Rated R.

  • Friday, March 15, 6:30 p.m., La Grange Public Library

Don’t Know Much about Opera?
A fun-filled, down-to-earth look at the art form of opera. Lyric Opera educator Carla Thorpe discusses the history of opera, as mezzo-soprano Joanna Wernette performs a selection of arias to help tell the story.

  • Saturday, March 16, 1 p.m., Downers Grove Public Library

Italian Bakery Celebrates Four Generations of Success
Lezza Spumoni & Desserts, a family-owned business that began in 1905, is still flourishing. Ed Lezza, Sr. tells his family’s history and the success of their bakery on St. Joseph’s Day, a day revered by Italians worldwide and celebrated with many delectable dishes. Sample zeppole, a specially prepared dessert.

  • Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m., Hinsdale Public Library, Limit: 75

New York, New York
Chicago native and hobby photographer Art Hill takes you on an armchair journey with breathtaking photos of our nation’s largest city. Images include many landmarks and locations featured in The Shoemaker’s Wife, such as Manhattan, Central Park, the Theater District, and Greenwich Village.

  • Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m., Hinsdale Public Library
  • Thursday, April 18, 1 p.m., Clarendon Hills Public Library

Ciao Bella! Italian in an Hour
This highly participatory class introduces students to the basics of Italian: pronunciation, simple phrases, adjectives, numbers, and more.  By the end, you’ll order your bruschetta and conchiglie with confidence!

  • Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m., Indian Prairie Public Library, Limit: 25
  • Thursday, April 25, 7 p.m., Woodridge Public Library, Limit: 25

Life of a Soldier
What was life like for a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division in combat during the horrific battles of WWI? The First Division Museum at Cantigny sheds light on the experiences of the common soldier.

  • Thursday, March 21, 1 p.m., La Grange Public Library

Coming to America: Ellis Island
In the best of times, being processed through Ellis Island was a difficult procedure. Experience one woman’s journey of leaving her homeland and immigrating to America in the early 1900s. Learn of her hopes, dreams, and fears as she finds a complication she hadn’t expected.

  • Sunday, March 24, 2 p.m., Indian Prairie Public Library
  • Tuesday, April 2, 7 p.m., Clarendon Hills Public Library

Italian Pasta and Sauces
Chef Michael Niksic demonstrates how to cook linguine and multiple sauces. Samples provided.

  • Monday, March 25, 7 p.m., Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Limit: 50

Finding Your Italian Families: Birth, Marriage, and Death Records
Genealogist Sandra Trapp teaches a basic course outlining online and print resources to help you find your Italian ancestors. Handouts are provided so you can go home and start your research.

  • Wednesday, March 27, 2 p.m.,  Lisle Library District, Limit: 30

Venice: The Queen of the Adriatic
Former European tour guide Al Popowits shows images of the popular sites, culture, and history of this unique Italian city. Images include the Grand Canal, the Piazza San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and more.

  • Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m., Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Risotto Refined
Chef Mark Wroczynski discusses different types of risotto and its culinary significance in Northern Italy. Enjoy a variety of these rice dishes made for tasting.

  • Friday, April 5, 7 p.m., La Grange Public Library, Limit: 60
  • Saturday, April 6, 1 p.m., Westmont Public Library, Limit: 60
  • Saturday, April 13, 1 p.m.,  La Grange Public Library, Limit: 60

An Afternoon of Opera
Enjoy an afternoon of music as soprano Anna Valcour and baritone Luke Randall entertain with selections of works by composers from various operas, many of which are mentioned in The Shoemaker’s Wife.

  • Sunday, April 7, 2 p.m., Indian Prairie Public Library

The Paintings of Michelangelo
Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are among the world’s most famous works of art. In this slide lecture, art historian Jeff Mishur elucidates the complex iconography of this series of paintings along with other works by the Renaissance master.

  • Monday, April 8, 7 p.m., La Grange Park Public Library

Fashions of the Times: 1900s through World War II
Former museum curator Sandi Scheibley shares her extensive collection of men’s and women’s fashions of the first half of the 20th century. She discusses the clothing of each period and how it reflected the culture of the times. You may even be asked to model an accessory or two!

  • Tuesday, April 9, 7 p.m., Clarendon Hills Public Library

History of Shoemaking
Gene Lyzun, owner of Lyzun Shoe Repair, lectures on the history of shoemaking and shoe repair, with particular mention of the Chicago scene during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. View images, finished products, and supplies to help paint the picture of this craft.

  • Wednesday, April 10, 7 p.m., Downers Grove Public Library

Salute! Wines of Northern Italy
Did you know that the wines of the Piedmont region in Italy are considered the “wines of kings” with Barolo being the “king of wines?” Wine expert Margaret Hlavaty talks about the wines of Northern Italy, with tastings of five wines to follow. Must be 21 or older to attend.

  • Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m., Hinsdale Public Library, Limit: 36

Movie: Hester Street (1975)
Russian Jewish immigrant Gitl joins her husband Jake in New York after he has gone ahead to establish himself. Jake has quickly adopted many American customs, much to the dismay of Gitl, who clings to her Old World ways. Starring Carol Kane and Steven Keats.

  • Friday, April 12, 7 p.m., Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Movie: War Horse (2011)
A heartfelt tale of the friendship between a horse named Joey and his trainer Albert, set during the turbulent years of World War I. The story follows Joey from one owner to another, showing the remarkable ways people’s lives are changed.

  • Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m., Westmont Public Library

The Shoemaker’s Wife and Downton Abbey: Parallel Worlds
A librarian-led discussion of the roles of women, as well as changing societal expectations, during the years surrounding the Great War. The discussion takes place over drinks at Francesca’s Bellezza in La Grange.

  • Monday, April 15, 7 p.m., Francesca’s Bellezza, 75 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange, Limit: 20

Splendors of the Vatican
Art historian Jeff Mishur examines glorious objects from the early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque periods that are housed at the Vatican Museums and serve as tangible connections to church history.

  • Monday, April 22, 7 p.m., Woodridge Public Library

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Learn the truth about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, from the events leading up to the fire through the fallout and trial afterward. Mary Bonnett discusses the political and historical implications, accompanied by images and readings from her original play.

  • Tuesday, April 23, 7 p.m., Westmont Public Library

Highlights of Italy
Enjoy an armchair tour of Italy with stops at many of the cities and sites mentioned in The Shoemaker’s Wife, including the Italian Alps, Milan, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento.

  • Wednesday, April 24, 1 p.m., Indian Prairie Public Library

Ancestry.com Tips and Tricks
Jane Haldeman, president of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, presents tips for easy navigation and successful searches. She also discusses which resources are available through Ancestry Library Edition.

  • Monday, April 29, 7 p.m., La Grange Park Public Library


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