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Works By Biss And Dybek Named Top Books Of The Year

Northwestern professors acclaimed for strength of storytelling, beauty of language

EVANSTON, Ill. ---It was a banner year for thought-provoking lyricism from Northwestern University, thanks largely to works by Chicago writers Eula Biss and Stuart Dybek, who both teach creative writing at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Biss’s best-selling book “On Immunity: An Inoculation,” was described by The New York Times as “a spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism.” Her work was selected as one of the top 10 books of the year by several major publications, including The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Salon, Time Out and Chicago Magazine.

Rave reviews followed the publication of Biss’s book and the summer release of Dybek’s two works of fiction, “Paper Lantern and Love Stories” and “Ecstatic Cahoots.”

Dybek, long a quintessential voice of Chicago and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern, was cited by The New York Times as “not only our most relevant writer, but maybe one of our best.” The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader selected Dybek’s “Paper Lantern” as one of its best 10 books of the year. Chicago Magazine named Dybek the “Best all-star” for works “that showcase both his elegant turns of phrase and intense love of this city,\" and also chose the 72-year-old short-story writer as one of its \"2014 Chicagoans of the Year.”

Biss’s “voracious intellect imbues all her work,” according to Chicago magazine which called her book the \"best breakout genre.\" '“On Immunity” is a probing, detailed look at the history of immunization and the fears that drive some people against the practice,\" the magazine wrote.

The New York Times noted that “Biss unpacks what the fear of vaccines tells us about larger anxieties involving purity, contamination and interdependency. Deeply researched and anchored in Biss’s own experiences as a new mother, this ferociously intelligent book is itself an inoculation against bad science and superstition, and a reminder that we owe one another our lives.”

Struggling to categorize Dybek’s writing in his latest collections, reviewers have cited the master storyteller’s expression of images and memories that seem to hover almost below consciousness and beyond words, sometimes taking off in fantastic and, at first glance, disconnected directions.

“Images bleed into one another, and time moves unpredictably, defying notions of what stories ought to do,\" the Chicago Reader wrote. “Dybek pushes up against limitations of language, always in search of beauty.”