50 Ways to Love Wine More: Adventures in Wine Appreciation!

Jim Laughren wants to keep it real when talking about wine. No pretentions, no superciliousness.

It’s about what you like, not what the big time wine critics say you should like says Laughren, author of 50 Ways to Love Wine More: Adventures in Wine Appreciation! (Crosstown Publishing 2018; $26.95), an NYC Big Book Award winner and finalist in the American Book Fest Best Book Awards.

“I wrote the book with the intention of starting a conversation about wine,” says Laughren, a Certified Wine Educator and former president of a wine import and distribution company. ““I wanted my book to be for people who really like wine but are put off by wine snobs. All of my writing and teaching is about letting people know that what other people think doesn’t matter, that there are no secrets to wine though many wine critics would have you believe otherwise and that only they hold the secrets. Historically, there’s never been a wine or gate keeper.”

Indeed, says Laughren, wine was, for centuries both seasonal and also for everyone.

“In Rome, they even gave their slaves wine though it was the dregs, of course,” he says. “Wine’s greatest gift is to give pleasure and we’re all entitled to that.”

Determining your own palate means trusting your own preferences. And though wine can be complex, it becomes easier to appreciate when a person understands how memory and emotion are inextricably tied to taste and are determining factors in all of our personal wine journeys.

“At the top of the nasal passage is the olfactory epithelium that connects directly to the area of the brain where memories are stored,” explains Laughren. “You know how some wines have tastes of tobacco. If as a child you had a kindly grandfather who smoked a pipe, contrasted with a child whose parents chain smokers and a house that reeked of cigarettes, those memories would impact how the two would feel about the taste or aromas of tobacco in wine.”

Laughren, founder of WineHead Consulting, encourages people to explore new wines while still enjoying your favorites.

“There are 10,000 different grape varietals,” he says. “Look at Italy, there are probably 800 varieties in that country alone.”

                     Like most of us, Laughren drank some funky wines in college.

                     “Most wines made in the 1970s were very sweet,” he says. “Group think changes. Now those in the know pooh-pooh sweet table wines as the drinks of the unwashed masses. But if that’s what you like, don’t spend too much time thinking about it, just enjoy them. Instead think about exposing yourself to other wines and widening your experience.”


          What: Reading, signing, and wine tasting with renowned wine expert Jim Laughren who be discussing his new book, 50 Ways to Love Wine More.

          Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL

          When: Friday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

          Cost: Free

          FYI: Please call (773) 293-2665 to confirm


The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

              In Andrea Bartz’s mystery novel, The Lost Night, Lindsay Bach believes she remembers the night her once-best friend Edie committed suicide. It’s seared into her brain. Or so she thinks. Over dinner, a long ago friend who has just moved back to New York suggests that she wasn’t with the group like she believes. Could that be true? Getting a friend to hack into her old email account, Bach backtracks a decade ago to when she and her group of friends were post graduates starting jobs, consuming too much alcohol, partying too hard and falling in love—often.

(Photo by Kate Lord)

              With each new revelation about that time and her part in the days leading up to Edie’s death, Bach has to employ the skills she uses to fact check magazine articles for her job to do the same in her life. The questions are many, but the most important ones are did the captivating and beautiful Edie really commit suicide or was she murdered? And did Bach have something to do with her death that she can no longer remember.

              Bartz, who earned her master’s degree at Northwestern University and the author of Stuff Hipsters Hate, her blog turned book, says she wanted to write a book like those she likes to read—tomes by female mystery writers like Tana French, Gillian Flynn and Jessica Knoll. For inspiration, she turned to a time in her life—New York City in 2009. Like her favorite writers, the novel struck a note and even before the book was published at the end of February, it had already been optioned by Cartel Entertainment as a limited series with actress Mila Kunis’ Orchard Farm set to produce.

              “It was a crazy time and we were partying while the world was burning,” she says of her time as a 23-year-old.   “I thought of this time and how bizarre it all was and then interlaid it with a mysterious death. It opens up a certain subculture that I hope is interesting to readers, it certainly was introspective for me.”

              The novel, atmospheric, intense and intriguing, reflects an interest in psychology and memory that has always interested Bartz—and Bach, the character Bartz describes as being most like her. In an early chapter, Bartz tells a lover how drunk blackouts mean that the incidents that occurred never were recorded in our memories. They don’t exist and yet they happened.

              “We’ve all had those incidents where someone will describe an event and say you were there and you don’t remember it,” says Bartz, noting there’s something both creepy and disorienting about how there’s no hard and fast truth just different memories

              So, it is with Bach, who is shaken out of her of complacent lifestyle by having to grapple with the truth—as elusive as it is.        


What: Author Andrea Bartz will be answering questions about her new novel The Lost Night, and magician Jeanette Andrews will be wowing the audience with a short performance.

When: Wednesday, March 13 at 7-9 pm

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665; words@bookcellarinc.com

Let’s Play Two: The Life and Times of Ernie Banks

“People couldn’t see beyond his optimistic outlook and took him to be naïve and have a simplistic outlook on life,” says Wilson. “But Banks was a very deep thinker, he’s someone who overcame a lot of obstacles but never said anything bad about people.

              A college baseball player whose batting average was lower than his grade point average, Columbus, Indiana ophthalmologist Doug Wilson turned his passion for the sport to writing about the iconic players he admired in his youth.

              His latest, Let’s Play Two: The Life and Times of Ernie Banks (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2019; Amazon price $23.95), tells the story of the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs. Recruited from the Kansas City Monarchs and raised in a segregated community in Texas, Banks was always positive and had a good word to say about everything. These characteristics often led to people underestimating the man who would become known as “Mr. Cub.”

              “People couldn’t see beyond his optimistic outlook and took him to be naïve and have a simplistic outlook on life,” says Wilson. “But Banks was a very deep thinker, he’s someone who overcame a lot of obstacles but never said anything bad about people. If reporters asked him about someone who had said something negative about him, Banks would change things around so that he deflected the question without being rude.”

              But in the end, it was Banks good natured spirits that won the day says Wilson, recounting the rocky relationship between Leo Durocher and Banks.

              “You couldn’t have come up with two different kind of guys,” says Wilson. “Durocher, well…the title of his book Nice Guys Finish Last says it all and Banks was the ultimate nice guy. Durocher hated Banks’s guts and tried everything he could to run him out of town but there was no way PK Wrigley was going to let that happened. And all the time Durocher was trying to get rid of him, Banks just smiled. When Durocher would talk to reporters about how Banks was ruining the Cubs, they’d run to him and ask him about that, and Banks would just say “Leo Durocher is the best manager ever. He always took the high road.”

              Wilson whose previous books include Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds, The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych which was selected by the Library of Michigan as a Michigan Notable book for 2014, Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson (2014) and Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk, not only read every interview he could find with Banks dating back to 1950 as well as endless newspaper accounts and books, says he also was able to located several friends from Banks’s youth including those who knew him when was seven years old and another who played bay with him in high school.

              “I also found three guys who played with Ernie in the Negro League when he was with the Kansas City Monarchs,” says Wilson. “They said he was shy around people. But his persona changed after he became comfortable in Chicago.”

              By interviewing friends from his boyhood, Wilson says it helped him see how overwhelming it must have been to be confined to segregated schools and neighborhoods and the challenges that Banks faced in becoming a player at a time when African Americans were just beginning to be allowed to play in the major league. Amazingly, Banks would be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a place in the Hall of Fame and he would always remain optimistic.

              “Years later, Leo Durocher had a change of heart, perhaps surgically induced, in 1983 a very contrite 78-year-old Leo, recovering from a recent open heart procedure, perhaps seeing his own mortality at last, spoke at a Cubs reunion and tearfully apologized to the team in general and Ernie Banks specifically for how he had behaved,” writes Wilson.

              In other words, says Wilson, “Ernie won.”


              What: Doug Wilson has several book events in the Chicagoland area.

              When & Where: Saturday, February 16 at 2 pm at Anderson’s Bookshop, 5112 Main St, Downers Grove, IL. This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Let’s Play Two, from Anderson’s Bookshop. Call Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove (630) 963-2665.

              When & Where: Saturday, March 2 at 6 pm at the Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL. Free.  (773) 293-2665.

              For more information, visit dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.com/

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Obsessive himself, Graham Moore, who won an Oscar for his screenplay The Imitation Game, immersed himself in 19th century Manhattan
THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHTto write The Last Days of Night (Random House 2016; $28), his historic tale about the lawsuit between two other obsessive and driven people–Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse–over who invented the lightbulb. Though it may seem like a minor question, the court’s decision would determine which of these powerhouses held the right to light up America and earn billions while doing so. It takes us to the time when darkness prevailed and people viewed Edison as “The Wizard” because of the magic of electricity.

“I am so paranoid that there’s something I missed,” says Moore, explaining why he spent a year and a half digging deep in archives, scientific and engineering journals of the time. It took another four years or so to write and even then Moore would often stop to peruse more census data or old newspapers. His book centers on 26-year-old Paul Cravath, a recent graduate of Columbia Law School who finds himself handling the lawsuit on behalf of Westinghouse.

Moore, a Chicago native and the New York Times bestselling author of The Sherlockian, sees some parallels between Cravath and himself.

Graham Moore © Matt Sayles“We were both the same age. When I started this book, I was just beginning my career as a writer; Paul was just starting his career, we were both trying to hold our own and not let them know we were afraid,” he says, adding that he’s a big admirer of the writing of Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City.

Though his book isn’t due to be released until the 16th, Moore is already working on the film adaptation. The movie stars one of Moore’s favorite actors, Eddie Redmayne.

“I’m very passionate about making popular art—films and books,” he says. “My great dream about this book is that it starts conversations—that it connects. I want to write fiction that invites people in.”


What:  Oscar winner Graham Moore book signing

When: Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com






My Journey from Shame to Strength: A Memoir by Liz Pryor

Bundled into a car during a winter storm, 17-year-old Liz Pryor left her home in Winnetka with her mother to what she thought was a Catholic home for pregnant teenagers. Instead, Pryor found herself in a locked government-run facility filled with impoverished delinquent girls whose experiences and backgrounds were totally different than hers.PRYOR AUTHOR PHOTO_(c) Susan Sheridan Photography_Fotor

Over the years, Pryor, who went on to become an author, speaker, parenting columnist and life advice expert, appearing on Good Morning America, never talked about her time in confinement. She had promised her mother to keep it a secret.

“Before she passed, I asked her how she would feel if I wrote my story and she said I should do what I want, adding ‘look at you now,’” recalls Pryor who chose to write about her experiences in latest book, (Random House 2016; $28).

“Emotionally it was cathartic for me to write this book, it was incredibly cool to see myself then and now,” says Pryor who didn’t talk about what happened for 36 years. “None of my friends or family knew my story and I thought it was important to share it with my children particularly as I was pretty much the same age as they are now.”

Pryor sees her book as a coming of age story as well as a way of learning to understand the limitations of those we love.

“My mom really thought she was doing the best thing for me by sending me there, she thought otherwise my life would be ruined,” says Pryor. “Those months really changed my outlook. Many of the girls I met started so far behind the starting line.”

Look at you now coverIndeed, the comparison between her lifestyle and those in the detention facility were totally different. Pryor was from wealthy suburb, a background unfathomable to the girls she found herself living with—many of whom came from foster homes or were homeless and had lived on the streets. Pryor had become pregnant during a long term relationship with her boyfriend. Others had been raped and sexually abused. Feeling abandoned by her parents (her mom visited twice, her father once—family and friends were told she was ill and at the Mayo Clinic), Pryor learned to forge friendships with the other women who were locked up with her.

“I think that facing real adversity, if you can make it through, makes you stronger,” she says. “I think what I went through gave me the scrappiness and confidence to do what I’ve done.”


What: Liz Pryor talk and book signing

When & Where: Wednesday, July 13 at 7pm, The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago; July 14 at 6:30 pm on July 14, The Book Stall, 811 Elm St., Winnetka.

The Last Voyageurs


The Last Voyageurs cover_fIn her last year of college, Lorraine Boissoneault, an avowed Francophile and writer who lives in Chicago, became interested in the French history of North America and the journey undertaken by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the first European to travel from Montreal to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Her fascination with the great explorer led to a conversation with an underwater diver and the story of La Salle’s Le Griffon (The Griffin), the first full-sized sailing ship on the upper Great Lakes which disappeared in 1679 with six crew members and a load of furs—also making it the first shipwreck in the Great Lakes. Luckily La Salle had disembarked before the ship made its final voyage. She also learned about a Reid Lewis, a French teacher who decided to re-enact La Salle’s trip, an eight-month, 3,300-mile expedition he undertook with 16 students and six teachers dressed in the period clothing from that time to celebrate the country’s Bicentennial.

Interviewing the voyageurs as well as visiting places where La Salle had landed during the journey and reading original documents written in French (“nothing is ever quite the same in translation,” says Boissoneault), she wrote The Last Voyageurs: Retracing La Salle’s Journey Across America: Sixteen Teenagers on an Adventure of a Lifetime (Pegasus 2016; $27.95).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“It’s amazing when you think of how much they could withstand,” she says, meaning both La Salle and Lewis’ crews.

Indeed, Lewis and his group of students and educators had to trudge over 500 miles of Midwestern landscape during one of the coldest winters on record in the 20th century, paddle in Voyageur canoes across the storm tossed and freezing Great Lakes and, in keeping with their pledge to emulate La Salle, start their campfires with flint and wood.

Of all the thousands of miles they retraced, Lewis’ voyageurs felt that Canada’s Georgian Bay on Lake Huron was most unchanged and therefore the closest they came to what La Salle would have experienced in terms of the water and landscape.

“We’re fascinated by history but you can’t go back no matter how hard you want to,” says Boissoneault noting she can’t imagine seeing Chicago without civilization as La Salle would have done. “The past is unobtainable. Most poignant for me is their walk across the Midwest. They were doing the same thing La Salle did and wearing the same clothes but nothing was like how it would have been in La Salle’s day.”


What: Lorraine Boissoneault will be discussing her book The Last Voyageurs

When: Wednesday, May 18 at 7:00pm

Where: 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665


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