Mark E. Lococo, Director of theater at Loyola University

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

I’m right in the middle of Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, and it’s every bit as good a read as his Devil in the White City, though for very different reasons. Again, Larson takes a real, historical story and infuses it with the same kinds of details and descriptions found in the best fiction—but this time the focus is even more on characterization and less on plot. Unassuming University of Chicago professor William Dodd, who finds himself the first U.S. ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his daughter Martha, a “party girl” who relishes her contact with the glamorous elements of the Third Reich, make for a compelling story, highly relatable to anyone who’s ever found himself in over his head, personally or professionally. I started reading this book as period research for an upcoming production, but now I find I’m completely engrossed.


Steff Bomb, Indie crafter

Friday Night Lights

I’ve been spending my summer in a little place called Dillon, Texas. With clear eyes and a full heart, I’ve easily breezed through the first four seasons of Friday Night Lights on Netflix Instant. It’s like knowing you only have a few days left with your summer fling . . . but instead of a real boy, my summer fling is learning valuable life lessons from Coach Taylor and his brilliantly strong wife, Tammy (which may or may not be better than a boy/more pathetic). As someone who has less than no interest in football, I can honestly say that this show is better than good. It’s so easy to get invested in these fictional lives. I’ve already been warned about how much I’m going to lose my shit and cry during the last episode; hell, I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. The only thing I know is that I wish I could have “Texas Forever.


Kevin O’Donnell, Musician and composer

Savvy

I’ve long been charmed by Savvy’s posters (old-school yearbook photos, good-looking people looking intentionally dorky, etc) but only got to see them recently (7/15, Martyrs’). Dang! Savvy is effing amazing. Their website (savvyfromchicago.com) describes them as “sometimes danceable, sometimes confusing, often times both,” or something like that. It is accurate. Charlie Otto writes all the songs, and he toes that “I could be in grad school right now, but instead I’m rocking your face” line. You know what line I mean: the shit is clever, and complex, but it’s also groovy. And Savvy also features Kasey Foster, who pretty much brings down whatever house she’s in. Everyone needs to go find out when Savvy is playing next.