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The Arts

We are fortunate to have many creative people who were born and raised in our fair state or consciously made Illinois their home.  

On our walls, Visiting Art at Books on First is our showcase of local visual artists, including Alex Paschal, Lisa Higby LeFevre, Sydni Reubin, Jane Cress Edgar, John DeLong, Ralph Pifer, Deb Munson, Rick Munson, Kitto, Pat Lathe and Todd Lorenc, among others.

On our shelves are a wealth of culture from around the world, as far away as Thailand and as close as our own front yard.

You will find CDs of music made by local musicians, most of whom have played live at Books on First on a Saturday night throughout the years.  As we always say, you'll find the best pass-the-hat live entertainment in Sauk Valley right here at Books on First.

And, you can find note cards with the beautiful photography of local Scot curmudgeon Charles Kerr for sale right here at Books on First.  Dixon never looked so good as it does through Charlie's lens.  Resident Artiste Sydni Reubin also occasionally has for sale here cards, magnets and other items imprinted with a reproduction of her beautiful paintings.

Books on First by Sydni Reubin




We are a proud sponsor of 


 Northwestern Illinois's National Public Radio affiliate, bringing us the best in current affairs & feature journalism, cultural news and broadcasting art.



Staff Pick Badge
Savor Souls Cover Image
ISBN: 9781684702183
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Lulu Publishing Services - May 23rd, 2019

Andy Neal's weekday gig is something to do with Wal-Mart, but we won't hold that against him. His goal with Savor Souls, a fantasy bestseller, is to sell 50 copies and contribute his costs to YMCA. Come in and see if you can help Andy realize his goal.

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Dead Land (V.I. Warshawski Novels) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063070493
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - March 30th, 2021

After a short foray outside of Chicago, Sara Paretsky returns with her 20th V.I. Warshawski novel.

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Restless Spirits Cover Image
ISBN: 9781647016791
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Page Publishing, Inc - April 27th, 2020

Author Mark Maronde lives in Dixon, IL.  This latest novel is a departure from his earlier more speculative fiction

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Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum Cover Image
ISBN: 9781640094703
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Counterpoint - June 22nd, 2021

Dunphy daughter and grandson are both enthusiastic Meno fans, as are we and many customers. Author Joe Meno lives in Chicago and teaches Fiction at Columbia College in Chicago.  We are still awaiting Nelson Algren Literary Prize, Pushcart Prize and Great Lakes Book Award winner Joe Meno's descent into Dixon for a reading and signing (Guess he's a little busy right now). Maybe he'll be by when Dixon Stage Left produces one of his plays -- someday, when the novel coronavirus normalizes!).

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The She Kissed El Paco's Lips Now! or April in Dekalb Cover Image
ISBN: 9780984652389
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Indian Paintbrush Poets - October 1st, 2012

Poet Ric Amezquita is a native of Sterling, IL, and now lives in DeKalb.  This title was featured as one of WNIJ's Winter Cabin Fever Reads. 

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Saints and Other Strangers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635349528
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Finishing Line Press - June 17th, 2019

Bonnie Amesquita, Ric's partner in art, but a fine poet in her own right, has a new chapbook published.  Here is what fellow local writer Susan Azar Porterfield says, 

Saints and Other Strangers is a quiet book. It's that friend who always seems happiest in the background, observing. The one who surprises you with her extraordinary insights, her sympathies, her just-right way of expressing something you've sensed but hadn't realized you'd felt until that moment. It's also a book to let us know that, though "none of us is safe," little islands of rest and safety exist. Religion may be one such refuge, but Amesquita, though hopeful, questions much. Love, however, is for sure. Love is ultimately what remains "When Stars Collide."

Susan Azar Porterfield's latest is Dirt, Root, Silk, winner of the 2015 Cider Press Review Editors' Book Award.

Surreal South '11 Cover Image
By Laura Benedict (Editor), Pinckney Benedict (Editor)
ISBN: 9781935708469
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Press 53 - October 31st, 2011

Dixon writer A.K. (Erin) Thompson has a contribution in this latest collection of short fiction, which (the title says it all) are a little bit Southern and not a little bit Surreal (and not a bit surprising).  In December, A.K. read from her piece in the book, "The Taxidermist," as well as some of her work-in-progress.  We have a few autographed copies.  Please call to reserve.

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The Best of Archy and Mehitabel (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series) Cover Image
By Don Marquis, E. B. White (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780307700926
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Everyman's Library - October 25th, 2011

Born in Walnut, IL, the late journalist & humorist Don Marquis introduced Archy and Mehitabel in 1927. Beloved by readers of all ages, they are the only writers Carolyn would be willing to call "aspiring."

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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400082773
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown - August 10th, 2004

When this book was first introduced to us in an advance catalog of titles coming soon, we thought, 'Story of guy with a mother whose family migrated from Kansas to Hawaii, looking for his Kenyan father's roots? Will this play in Dixon, IL?' Yet, it was by an Illinois author, so we brought it in. It languished on our shelves and we might have sold 2 copies before the author and then candidate for US Senator Barack Obama gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention. The rest, as they say, is history. Read the memoir of an aspiring President written before he became a household name around the world.

Staff Pick Badge
Sidewalks II: Reflections on Chicago Cover Image
ISBN: 9780984126507
Availability: Special Order
Published: Sidewalks Book Company - October 15th, 2009

We have copies signed by both Rick Kogan and Charles Osgood, both of the Chicago Tribune.  Please make a note in your order that you want an autographed copy.

Mars Trilogy: A Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; The Warlord of Mars Cover Image
By Edgar Rice Burroughs, Scott M. Fischer (Illustrator), Scott Gustafson (Illustrator), Mark Zug (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781442423879
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Gallery / Saga Press - February 7th, 2012

Celebrate the 95th Anniversary of the introduction of John Carter and his Princess of Mars by Chicago-born and Oak Park-raised author Edgar Rice Burroughs, a man who felt he could write just as entertaining "rot" as he enjoyed reading and by golly, he did!  He redeemed himself as a son of a military family by becoming the oldest US war correspondent in WWII. John Carter was an inspiration to many a writer and film director and this 3-story volume was printed just in time for Andrew Stanton's movie -- the first successfully launched (although unfortunately, not commercially successful) feature film based on the books: John Carter.  Illinois could be rightly proud to call Burroughs a Native Son.

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Urban Tidepool Cover Image
ISBN: 9781716476419
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: - October 29th, 2020

Congratulations, Nancy Mullen, founder of northern IL-focused agency serving the developmental & social needs of LGBT young people, Nancy writes about growing up "in the chaos of family addition, mental illness, domestic violence" and the death of both parents before high school graduation with "humor, matter-of-factness, and grace" (Jon Donley, author of "The Side Door") as an "ode to survival." (Kate Clinton, humorist)

Staff Pick Badge
The River Caught Sunlight Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940192260
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Light Catcher Press - August 1st, 2014

We stil have a few autographed copies of this WNIJ Winter Cabin Fever pick. Please let us know upon ordering if you'd like us to reserve one for you.

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You Be Mommy Cover Image
By Karla Clark, Zoe Persico (Illustrator), Zoe Persico (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250225382
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Feiwel & Friends - March 31st, 2020

Author Karla Clark is now living in Rockford, IL.  In traveling for her work, she has frequently come to Books on First, and proprietor Carolyn Chin has reviewed Clark's first book, Between Courses: A Culinary Love Story, for which she is rumored to be currently writing a sequel.

For Whom the Bell Tolls Cover Image
ISBN: 9780684803357
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - July 1st, 1995

Tour of Oak Park, Illinois, famous for Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio, also includes some of Ernest Hemingway's childhood haunts before he graduated from high school in 1917 and went off to work for the Kansas City Star newspaper, where he didn't stay for long. In 1918, he went to Italy to volunteer in the war effort and is reportedly the first American wounded in what is now known as World War I.

A Love Too Soon: 2nd in the Carrington Series Cover Image
ISBN: 9781462047772
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: iUniverse - August 25th, 2011


Author Callie Norse is from Rock Falls, IL.


Sears Homes of Illinois Cover Image
ISBN: 9781596299399
Availability: Special Order
Published: History Press (SC) - November 16th, 2010

Sorry, Willis, that building in Chicago will always be known as Sears Tower to those of us who remember the Company in its retailing heyday.  Sears boasted that it sold everything and affordably, too. We have several Sears homes still standing in Dixon (although the Reagan Home is not one).

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Four Places: A Play Cover Image
ISBN: 9780810125742
Availability: Special Order
Published: Northwestern University Press - April 24th, 2009

A native Dixonite whose family still lives here and comes into the store, Johnson's plays reflect his world view which naturally includes his Midwestern upbringing.  Look for little tiny bits of insider Dixon.  It is too bad he doesn't have more in print for us to enjoy and find producers to get on the stage.