MPPL's staff blog about books, movies, music and the talent behind them.
September brought the 2017 longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction. The Andrew Carnegie Medals are especially notable because winners are chosen by library professionals, similar to the Newbery award for children’s literature. This results in the ultimate to-read list for the year in adult fiction and non-fiction! Take a look at some of the books that stood out below:
by Robert Olen Butler
by C.E. Morgan
by Zadie Smith
by Patricia Bell-Scott
by Imbolo Mbue
by Rabih Alameddine
by Ben Rawlence
by Francine Prose
by Ross King
Make sure to take a look at the full list of books chosen. The six finalists (three for fiction and three for nonfiction) will be announced October 26, 2016!
The dead have risen, and they are shadowing us. Three years ago the earth’s poles inexplicably switched, plunging the planet into chaos. One effect was the appearance of personal ghosts, usually with a close connection to the haunted. Detective Oscar Mariani, however, can’t place the 16-year-old boy who is now his otherworldly companion. His unit specializes in those who are driven to murder by the presence of spirits, and he’ll need all his faculties intact to solve the latest gruesome killing.
Horror tales (or horror-blends) are especially heightened in audio, and Australian narrator Grant Cartwright shows how a strong performance can intensify the crawling of our skin. His skill in intonation, emotion, and pacing keeps us listening even though we’re tempted to hide under the covers. The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin is both fascinating and creepy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Blasphemy includes some of Sherman Alexie’s classic short stories along with newer tales. The stories challenge the reader’s comfort zones with plots exploring race and ethnicity, culture, stereotypes, alcoholism, diabetes, and personal identity. The settings are in the Pacific Northwest with Native American protagonists. The expertly crafted stories are personal, revealing the characters for who they are and what influenced their lives, making them seem real and reflecting life as it truly is for many.
Horror books don’t only have to be eerie, they can be funny too! Books shown below take familiar horror story premises and add a little laugh to the boo.
by Michael Logan
It starts with one cow that won’t die… and spreads… and spreads… until the world has a problem they never imagined they would have to deal with: zombie animals.
by Julie Kenner
Between taking care of her kids and supporting her husband’s political career, Kate doesn’t have time to hunt demons too, but there’s only one woman for the job and that’s her!
by A. Lee Martinez
Duke, a werewolf, and Earl, a vampire, stop at diner and are enlisted to help the owner’s zombie problem, however, zombies aren’t the only problems the owner has.
by David Wong
A concoction called Soy Sauce opens a can of worms, but thanks to David’s and John’s video game knowledge they may have a chance of protecting their loved ones.
by Alan Goldsher
The Beatles are gearing up to take over the world like no other rock stars have ever done before!
by various authors
All-star authors such as Jim Butcher and Kelley Armstrong unite to bring forth a collection of some hilarious good short horror stories.
Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Page Count: 406 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction; Psychological Suspense
Tone: Atmospheric, Dramatic
When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. In many ways, this is a book for book lovers, and there are multiple passages that speak to readers. For instance, early in the book (p. 32) Margaret contrasts her reading as a child to her reading as an adult.
a. Do you recall why Margaret says she prefers old novels? (see p. 29)
b. Her father advocates for contemporary writing, ones “where the message is that there is no end to human suffering, only endurance…endings that are muted, but which echo longer in the memory.” Do you side with Margaret or with her father? Is it that simple?
c. Given those characterizations, does The Thirteenth Tale resonate more as an old novel or as contemporary writing?
2. Let’s dig in by putting ourselves in Margaret’s place. We’re living our quiet bookshop lives, and we receive a letter without real context or satisfactory explanation. Why would we (as Margaret) even consider accepting the invitation?
3. In one interview about her career change from academia to author, Setterfield notes her realization that “whilst books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else.” How might we say this is reflected in the novel?
4. Would you call The Thirteenth Tale a ghost story? If so, who are the ghosts? Who is haunted?
5. What do biography and storytelling have in common? How are they different? Would you rather have the truth or a good story?
6. Were you surprised at Miss Winter’s true identity? What points Margaret (and the reader) to this conclusion?
7. Who was saved from the fire? How can we be certain?
8. Margaret realizes that “plunging deep into Miss Winter’s story was a way of turning my back on my own” (p. 282). Was this true? Did it work?
9. Angelfield (the house) becomes an external symbol of the family and its changing condition. Can you think of examples of when this seems to be true? Which other rooms or homes reflect their inhabitants?
10. Miss Winter tells Margaret that “it doesn’t do to get attached to secondary characters. It’s not their story. They come, they go, and when they go they’re gone for good. That’s all there is to it.” (p. 191-2). Does that prove to be true in her story? In the book?
11. How essential is what we learn from Hester’s diary?
12. What did you think of the “game” of the conveyor belt and Margaret’s later admission (to us) that she did love books more than people?
13. In what ways does The Thirteenth Tale fit the characteristics of a Gothic novel?
14. Several classic Gothic novels are named, some multiple times. Did this enhance the experience for you? Did it seem too “on point” or distract by the comparison, or did you find it original?
15. What other recurring symbols seem to be present in The Thirteenth Tale?
16. Did you like the structure: Beginnings, Middles, Endings, Beginnings? How is this choice significant?
17. In which character names did you find significance?
18. What patterns seem to be repeated throughout the story?
19. Aurelius wonders if it’s better to have no story than one that keeps changing, and Margaret’s mother thinks a weightless story is better than one too heavy. What do you think is better for these characters? In general?
20. How effective is the choice of title? What does it contribute to tone and to theme?
21. The idea of siblings, especially twins, is central to the story in many ways. How do the different relationships affect the characters and themes? Did this enhance your experience of the story?
22. Did you find the ending satisfying? Explain your answer.
23. The question of precisely when The Thirteenth Tale takes place has sparked much speculation. As you read, did you have a time period in mind? Would you have preferred this be specifically stated? What is gained in leaving the time undefined?
24. Is there anyone today who might be Vida Winter’s contemporary counterpart: someone who has written multiple bestsellers, whose books are among the most borrowed from libraries, yet who is reclusive, “as famous for her secrets as for her stories”?
25. The Thirteenth Tale was the inaugural selection of “Barnes & Noble Recommends” in which each season one book was chosen as riveting and of extraordinary quality worthy of stimulating discussion, one that they were sure you would recommend to others. Their introduction opened with a single word: unputdownable. Would that word characterize your experience with the book? Would you recommend it to others?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
official website of author Diane Setterfield
The Guardian interview with Setterfield
audio: Setterfield talks about her inspiration and process
BookPage feature on the release of The Thirteenth Tale
The Independent review of The Thirteenth Tale
Lit Lovers book discussion guide
The Wall Street Journal explains “The Eerie Allure of the Gothic”
video clip from the 2013 BBC movie adaptation
The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton
by Daphne Du Maurier
The Seduction of Water
by Carol Goodman