Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tonight, President Obama awarded 21 Americans the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In his own words, "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."

The recipients included basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, actor Robert De Niro, architect Frank Gehry, computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, actor Tom Hanks, musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross, among others. Find the entire list of honorees at

The most moving moment of the ceremony came when the President presented Ellen DeGeneres with the Medal. 

Let's look back at Ellen's career with a standup comedy special, the groundbreaking fourth season of her sitcom, and of course, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.

The 2016 Game Awards

Every year since 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes excellence in cinematic achievement as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. We call it the Oscars, or the Academy Awards.

Every year sing 2014, The Game Awards has recognized creative, technical, and gameplay excellence in the video game industry. Nominees and winners for are selected by 29 "global media and influencer outlets". There a bunch of categories for games to be nominated in. For instance, Best Action Game, Best Mobile/Handheld Game, and Best Game for Impact, a category of games that take on social issues. I'm just going to list out the nominees for Game of the Year and you can look up all the other categories for yourself. So without further ado:

The first major installment in the Doom franchise since 2004, this year's Doom is just as scary as the rest of the series. You play a space marine on a Mars colony fighting demons released from hell.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

With its beautiful unique look, the sequel to Limbo is a 2D puzzle game that is intriguing, terrifying, mysterious, and masterful. Inside is currently available as a download game only.

A team-based multiplayer shooter from the people who gave us World of Warcraft, in Overwatch you play a member of an international task force created to combat robots that have turned against humanity.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

Titanfall 2
With its single-player and multi-player gameplay, Titanfall 2 is said to have improved on it predecessor. In a future war, rifleman Jack Cooper hopes to advance in the ranks and become a mech pilot, operating a large fighting robot.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Supposedly the last game in the Uncharted series, part four puts our hero, Nathan Drake, a Lara Croft-esque adventurer, back into action when his brother Sam re-appears after years when was supposedly dead.
Playstation 4

I'm personally a pretty casual gamer and I haven't played any of these games so I can't attest to their quality. However if 29 influencer outlets like them, I guess they must be pretty good.

Washington Post's Top Ten Books of 2016

The onslaught of best-of-the-year lists continues. This time The Washington Post has collected it's top ten books of 2016. There are a few surprises alongside some familiar titles.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

More for Jack Reacher Fans

Jack Reacher ShortsA few weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the Jack Reacher books. I like them because they're stripped-down, fast-paced, and quick-to-read. Even quicker are the short stories by Reacher author Lee Child. These stories were written for collections, magazine publication, and even as sort singles for's Kindle eBook store. Some have been included in certain editions of Reacher novels and others are nearly impossible to find in print.

As a new eReader user, I was recently looking into Eisenhower's digital materials service Media on Demand and was pleasantly surprised to find a few of Lee Child's short stories and novellas available to borrow as eBooks and digital audiobooks. If you've made it through the entire run of 21 Reacher novels, and can't wait for number 22, I'd suggest taking a look at these short Reacher adventures. When available in any format I'll include a link where you can check these stories out.

Small Wars - This short story takes us back to the 80s when a young Reacher, still in the Army is tasked with investigating the murder of a wealthy lieutenant colonel. In it, we get some surprising insight into Reacher's brother Joe. Available as an eBook and digital audiobook.

The Picture of the Lonely Diner - From the Mystery Writers of America collection edited by Mary Higgins Clark, Manhattan Mayhem. In this story, Reacher has a run in with the FBI. Manhattan Mayhem is available as an eBook, or a print book.

James Penney's New Identity - Originally available as a digital single in the United Kingdom. This short one was later included inThriller, a collection available as a print book or an audiobook on CD

Guy Walks into a BarOriginally available as a digital single in the United Kingdom, available to read now on the New York Times website.

Everyone Talks - Published in the June 2012 issue of Esquire and as a bonus to the UK hardback edition of Never Go Back. So far, Everyone Talks is the only Reacher story told from another character's point of view. This one is available to read on the website of Penguin Random Houe Austrailia.

Not a Drill - Available as a digital single, in audio or as bonus with US paperback edition of Personal, Not a Drill is a pretty thin story that finds Reacher exploring the limits of the United States by hitchiking to the Canadian border with a trio of treehuggers who might be more than they seem. Available to borrow as an eBook and a digial audiobook.

Good and Valuable Consideration - A collaboration with author Joseph Finder whose character Nick Heller joins forces with Reacher. Available as an eBook, and in the collection FaceOff in large type and on CD.

High Heat - It is 1977 and Reacher is in New York City to visit CBGBs, shut down a mobster, and turn in evidence that will lead to the capture of the Son of Sam. All in a days work for a 17 year old. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook, or as bonus with the US paperback edition of Never Go Back.

Deep Down - In the late 80s, a soldier is selling military secrets and Reacher goes undercover to reveal the traitor. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook or as bonus with US paperback edition of A Wanted Man.

Second Son - A 13-year-old, but fully formed Reacher saves the reputations of his brother and his father. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook or as bonus with US paperback edition of The Affair.


Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a sort of modern tradition. But I'd like to propose an even newer tradtion.

About two years ago, in November of 2014, my wife and I went to the movie theater to see Paddington. We were less than underwhelmed by the trailer but thought we'd give the movie a chance anyway. What a great decision. Over the course of 90 minutes we were won over by the sweet, polite, and somewhat clumsy bear who travels to London and finds a new home with the Brown family. Directed by Paul King, best known for the cultish British TV series The Mighty BooshPaddington is smart and stylish and multilayered in a way that most family movies (not produced by Pixar) don't bother to be.

Paddington Bear is essentially a refugee. He's a kid who has lost his family and his home and he just needs someone to look after him. The Browns aren't planning to take in a new family member but they see a bear in need and they do the right thing. In our film screening, toward the end of the movie when Paddington is climbing a chimney to escape from a vilainous taxidermist, the entire audience was on the edge of our seats. An audible gasp filled the theater when Paddington lost his grip and threatened to fall to his death. We had entered into the theater expecing a dumb kids movie and suddenly we were in love with a computer generated bear, hoping that he'd escape death and live happily ever after with his new family. It was kind of magical.

So this Thanksgiving, after filling up on turkey, why not skip the footbal game and give the little bear from "Darkest Peru" a chance. You and your family might learn a lesson about kindness, generousity, and being welcoming to those different from you. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about?

Paddington is available to stream on your computer or mobile device at Just log in with your Eisenhower Library Card and PIN and start watching right away. Don't know your PIN? Try the last four digits of your phone number or give the Answers Desk a call at 708-867-2299 for assistance.

Prefer a DVD? Click here to place a hold now.

The 2016 National Book Awards

The Underground RailroadToday, the National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2016 National Book Awards.

It's no surprise that Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad took the top honors for fiction. Since even before his first novel, 1999's The Intuitionist, Whitehead has been making waves in literary circles. His articles and essays for the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Harper’s along with his six novels and two non-fiction books are wildly respected. They vary in genre, subject matter, and style, but Whitehead's interests come through. All of his writing touches on themes of pop culture, technology, city living, and the African American experience in America.

With the Underground Rairoad, Whitehead has had his breakout success. The book tells the story of a runaway slave on an underground railroad that is in no way metaphorical. Its a literal network of train tunnels and tracks with conductors and engineers who help slaves escape to the North. While the America depicted in the story is an imaginary one, Whitehead's ruminates on the violent history of slavery in America that was all too real.

The book has been on all the book lists with everyone from President Obama and Oprah recommending it.

The winners in the other categories are no less distinguished. The nonfiction book, Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi is subtitled The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Kendi argues that the only way to move past racism in America is to understand where it comes from. Chicago poet Daniel Borzutzky won for his collection The Performance of Becoming Human which confronts the ways that nations and bureaucracies destroy local communities. Volume three of the graphic novel series March won the Young People's Award. Written by Georgia Representative and civil rights activist John Lewis with Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, March encourages readers to understand the American civil rights movement, its philosophies of nonviolence, and its lesson to speak out when things are not just.

Three Books You Should Read

Nickel and DimedLisa Lucas, the head of the National Book Foundation, is telling people to read something different. There have been a number of studies that suggest that reading fosters empathy and helps people feel connected to the world. Some doctors have even been prescribing literature to help fight loneliness and mild cases of depression. At a time when people feel so divided from each other there's a small and simple way to understand where other people are coming from: reading. Lucas says "We all need to be reading across the lines we've drawn in our lives." Here are a few to get you started:

Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America's working-class poor. Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in blue-collar America. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers often take multiple low-paying jobs just to keep a roof overhead.

In Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Hochschild, the renowned sociologist embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into the heart of the bayou of Lake Charles, Louisiana, a stronghold of the conservative Right.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Through the author's own evolving understanding of the subject over the course of his life comes a bold and personal investigation into America's racial history and its contemporary echoes.

Why You Should See Arrival

Right now is the perfect time for the movie, Arrival.

When huge black objects appear hovering in locations all around the globe, the world panics. Many people are scared. Are they here to here to fight? To enslave humanity? Maybe to take our jobs? It's hard to know because they don't speak our language and we certainly don't speak theirs.

Despite world leaders' distrust of the visitors, a few brave, hopeful people, willing to talk, is all we really need to save the world. But first we need to understand each other, spend time getting to know one another, and figure out how we can help each other.

The destruction of one group isn't required for the survival of the other. Together we can be better despite our differences. By making the effort to reach out to others, explore our differences, and discover our similarities, we can literally make the world a better place.

Arrival is in theaters now. The short story it was based on can be found in Ted Chiang's collection, Stories of Your Life.

In Honor of Leonard Cohen

You Wanted it Darker“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away,” a statement from Cohen’s record label reads. “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.”

Emerging from the late sixties singer/songwriter scene that gave us Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchel, Cohen came to public prominence by performing a duet with Judy Collins in 1976 on her television variety show. But his greatest success came with the classic song “Hallelujah.” Originally released on the 1984 album Various Positions, the song found widespread acclaim after a cover version by John Cale inspired another recording by Jeff Buckley. “Hallelujah” is said to have been covered by more than 200 musicians around the world. It is even the subject of a book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” by Alan Light and was used awkwardly in the soundtrack to Zack Snyder’s blockbuster comic book movie, Watchmen.

After nearly 50 years in the music business, at the age of 82, Cohen continued his creative output. Just weeks ago he released You Want it Darker. Considered by many reviewers to be a carefully constructed last testament, concluding a lifetime of artistic work, Cohen’s final album debuted at number ten on the Billboard charts. Douglas Heselgrave of Paste Magazine called You Want it Darker “the best music he has created since Various Positions.”

Election Movies for Election Day

Napoleon DynamiteTomorrow is the big day. From 6:00 am until 7:00 pm our Meeting Room will transform into a polling place for Norwood Park Township Precincts 5 and 17. Many people will spend the day pouring over exit polls trying to predict the day's winners. Some of us would rather wait until all is said and done and find out the winners the next day. We'll watch some movies instead of cable news.

A high school teacher's life spirals out of control when he becomes obsessed with ruining the campaign of an annoying overachiever determined to become class president.

Primary Colors
An ideological young man joins the political campaign of a smooth-talking candidate with questionable morals in this semi-fictionalized account of Bill Clinton's first presidential run.

When the President goes into a coma, his corrupt administration hires Dave, a look-a-like, to take his place and avoid a scandal. But the plan backfires when Dave has his own agenda.

The American President
A widowed U.S. president's second term campaign is jeopardized when he falls in love with a political lobbyist, opening himself up to attacks from his opponent.

Napoleon Dynamite
A weird kid with a weird haircut decides to help his new friend win the class presidency, while dealing with his weird family life. Vote for Pedro!