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Nonfiction: Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him by David and Joe Henry

Furious Cool book coverRichard Pryor once said, “What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.” Pryor pushed the boundaries of topics that comedians explored. He could make people laugh – and, by proxy, talk about – everything from love to racial inequality. Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him explores the flaws and genius of Richad Pryor. National Book Award-winner Colum McCann says of Furious Cool, “Part memoir, part biography, part poem, part history, part ballad, it manages to sing a wake song for an incredible American.”

When you’re done with Furious Cool, have a listen to Is it Something I Said? Released in 1975, it was Pryor’s first comedy album for Warner Brothers.

By Readers' Advisor on February 27, 2014 Categories: Books, Humor, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: Infidel
Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Page Count: 353
Genre: Political autobiography
Tone: Candid, thought-provoking, impassioned

 

1. Was this book what you expected?  How so? How did it surprise you?

2. The publisher’s description reads, “Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.” Is this a fair representation of the book?

3. In your opinion, who is the intended audience for this book?

4. The Guardian published an article entitled, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Taking the Fight to Islam” in which it addresses the claim that Ayaan moved from one extreme to the other primarily because she was ‘traumatized’ by her upbringing. Ayaan responded that she finds this idea patronizing and wrote Infidel partly to combat that assumption. In her words, “People can see that there is not much trauma in my story.”

a. Is there trauma in her story?
b. Does it surprise you that she would characterize her experiences this way?
c. How does the way she relates difficult events illustrate her perspective?
d. She even acknowledges that her account is subjective, that her family may remember things differently. Do you trust Ayaan’s story?
e. Do you think her past experiences color her present activism? Even if so, does that make her points any less valid?

5. Were there actions Ayaan took at any point in her life that you questioned or that made you uncomfortable? If so, does that color your opinion of her character or politics?

6. What stood out about her family relationships?

7. Contrast the character arcs of Ayaan and her sister Hawaye.

8. Did Ayaan have friends?

9. Did the events of Ayaan’s life shock you? Did they seem real? Does reading about this have impact for American readers?

10. What would you say are some of the more memorable scenes or events from her life?

11. Are there any respects in which you might say Ayaan has had a fortunate life?

12. Was there a country or setting that seemed a little more vivid to you? Was it her depiction of the area or the events that happened there?

13. Would you go so far as to characterize Ali as a role model? For whom?

14. The fact she lies on her application for Dutch citizenship becomes a recurring issue. Do you agree with her decision to do so? Would you have done the same? How did you feel when that was explained away – both at the time and when it caused difficulty as a political leader?

15. Hirsi is a self-described rationalist. How is this evident in her life and relationships?

16. How did you react to her inclusion of her father’s letter?

17. What would you say is her “big idea(s)”? What argument is she trying to advance?

18. Even Ayaan’s allies and friends tried to caution her that she was being too provocative; too explosive in her comments and criticisms. Why didn’t she just back off a little, espouse a little more tact? Should she have? Does she help the cause? Harm it?

19. The event that brought her notoriety outside of her home was the brutal murder of Theo. Discuss him, their project, the reaction, and the repercussions of his murder.

20. How did you feel about the security issue – the around-the-clock bodyguards, housing issues, loss of freedom. How did Ayaan adjust?

21. Did you find the style of writing to enhance the narrative? How would you characterize it?

22. Is this a personal story? Do you feel you know her?

23. Maria Golia, an Egyptian-based academic, wrote in the NYT supplement that “Hirsi Ali seems far more interested in indicting Islam than helping damaged women, whose horror stories she conveniently trots out whenever she needs to bludgeon home a point.” Based on what you know, is there any truth to this?  Does it matter?

24. Does she speak for Muslim women? Does she believe she does?

25. Is there room for feminism in Islam?

26. At a time when we are urged to embrace tolerance, especially as Americans, Hirsi Ali seems set on exposing Islam as flawed [at least in current state]. On Colbert, “I want us to judge.  We should say that one religion is better than another; one culture is better than another.” How do you feel about this?

27. Does the fact that she was devout when younger give her the right to criticize Islam? The credibility?

28. In your opinion, does her persona advance or inhibit her agenda? Would her ideas be received the same (pro or con) if she were male? Older? Less forthright? Less striking?

29. Did you like Ayaan?

30. Infidel spent 31 weeks on the NYT bestseller list. What explains the interest? The appeal? Do you think it has/had/will have a lasting impact? In what way? Is it a positive contribution to the ongoing conversation?

 

Other Resources
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Wikipedia page
AHA Foundation
AHA Foundation reading group guide
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Interview with the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne
Interview with the Boston Phoenix
Infidel reviews on Goodreads
Infidel review by The New York Times

If you liked Infidel, try…
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
The Road to Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Iran Awakening book cover     Road of Lost Innocence book coverPersepolis book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 26, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

E-book: Keys to the Kitchen

Keys to the Kitchen e-book coverDo you know that you can check out cookbooks for your tablet or e-reader? Now’s the perfect time to whet your appetite! Food Network and Cooking Channel star Aida Mollenkamp is the latest author to be chosen for OverDrive’s Big Read program, a promotion that offers a featured title to as many users as want to read it simultaneously. Until March 5, Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, More Adventurous Cook is available to you with just a few clicks and no waiting list. Enjoy a buffet of contemporary recipes, mouthwatering illustrations, and tips to improve your culinary skills. Visit MyMediaMall, MPPL’s shared digital library, to claim your copy, and browse the menus for other adult, teen, and children’s fiction and nonfiction titles.

By Readers' Advisor on February 24, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction

New: Audiobooks, Fantasy, and Sci-fi

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Audiobooks

Careful What you Wish for book coverGeek's Guide to Dating book cover

Orange is the new black book cover

•    Be Careful What you Wish for by Jeffrey Archer

•    Death of a Policeman by M.C. Beaton

•    Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann

•    Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown

•    Orange is the new Black by Piper Kerman

•    Someone by Alice McDermott

•    Private L.A. by James Patterson

•    Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb

•    The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

•    Brooklyn by Colm Tolbin

 

New: Fantasy and Sci-fi

Shadow Ops: Breach Zone book cover

Influx book cover

Annihilation book cover

•    Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

•    Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

•    Autumn Rose by Abigail Gibbs

•    Dark Bites by Sherrilyn Kenyon

•    Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney

•    Arcanum by Simon Morden

•    To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo

•    Influx by Daniel Suarez

•    Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

•    The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

By Readers' Advisor on February 21, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Horror, New Arrivals

Fiction: The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker

The Big Crowd book coverIf you want historical fiction set in New York, Kevin Baker is the author for you. His latest novel, The Big Crowd, explores the life of Charlie O’Kane – a real immigrant who came to NYC and worked his way up from beat cop to district attorney to mayor. Tom, Charlie’s younger brother, sees Charlie as everything good in a city that’s gone bad. The brothers live the high life…until Charlie is accused of murder and Tom sets out to clear his name. A sprawling family saga intertwined with a mob mystery, The Big Crowd is a great read for those who like dramatic historical fiction, The Godfather, or chronicles of New York.

By Readers' Advisor on February 20, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Historical Fiction Books

Mrs. Lincoln's Rival book cover

The Pagan Lord book cover

An Officer and a Spy book cover

•    Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jenniver Chiaverini

•    The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

•    An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

•    Motherland by Maria Hummel

•    The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

•    The Ghost of Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

•    I Shall be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

•    Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland

•    The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

•    The Kept by James Scott

New: Romance Books

Hope Flames book cover

How to Master your Marquis book cover

Sweetest Mistake book cover

•    The Scandal in Kissing an Heir by Sophie Barnes

•    Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

•    Dark Wolf by Christine Feehan

•    How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray

•    Sugar by Jenna Jameson

•    The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell

•    Wuthering Nights by I.J. Miller

•    First Love by James Patterson

•    Sweetest Mistake by Candis Terry

•    What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

By Readers' Advisor on February 14, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Book Discussion Questions: Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Homer and Langley book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: Homer and Langley
Author: E.L. Doctorow
Page Count: 208
Genre: Historical fiction, Biographical novels
Tone: Lyrical, dark, complex

 

1. In an interview on NPR, E.L. Doctorow said that the first line of this book was pivotal for him; he could not have done this book without this 1st sentence. It implies the texture of the entire text. Does anyone remember the 1st line? What is its importance to the reader?

2. Given this opening, how do you think Homer emotionally and physically handled his blindness? Do you think it was a “normal” reaction?

3. Homer went blind in his last 14 years of life from a stroke, not in his earlier years. Does this change your opinion of him?

4. Do you remember the description of their house? Do you think of the house as a character as well as the setting?

5. Do you think the house’s condition reflects the brothers’ own physical and mental conditions?

6. How would you describe Homer at the beginning of the story? What about Langley? What were their parents like?

7. What events happen in Homer and Langley’s lives that change everything?

8. What was Homer’s reaction to his parents’ death?

9. What effect did the WWI have on Langley? Did it change him? How would the brothers’ lives have been different if there had been no war?

10. What was Langley’s “Theory of Replacements”? Does the theory have any merit?

11. Langley is obsessive in his quest to create one universal newspaper of “seminal events”. What categories were used by Langley so that the newspaper would be “eternally current”? Why was this project so important to him?

12. There was an eclectic assortment of people who came into Homer and Langley’s lives. Do you feel that the brothers collected people the way that Langley collected objects? Did these people have anything in common?

13. Besides Homer and Langley, who are the most memorable character for you and why?

14. At one point, the Collyer brothers host tea dances in their home and charge their neighbors for the opportunity to drink and dance. Are the tea dances connected to Homer and Langley later becoming reclusive? Were they ever raided? If so, what happened after they were raided?

15. When WWII begins, the Hoshiyama’s, American born people of Japanese descent, are persecuted. What happens to them? Why? Is this based on history? What was your reaction to their persecution?

16. After the Hoshiyama’s were sent to an internment camp Langley said, “…We are not free if at someone else’s sufferance…” What did he mean by that?

17. After Harold Robileaux is killed in Africa, Grandmamma goes to New Orleans to be with his wife and baby. “Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.” Do you think things would still have gotten so bad is she had not left the brothers?

18. What did you think of the gas masks Langley bought? Why did he buy them?

19. Do you think the Collyer brothers tried to be completely self-reliant? What were their tactics? Were they successful?

20. Do you think the brothers were any crazier than the people around them?

21. Why do you think the press became so interested in their predicament?

22. What is the importance of Jacqueline? Did she remind you of anybody of that era? Do you think Jacqueline actually existed?

23. Do you think it was a sacrifice for either brother to stay in the house?

24. As is often the case in historical fiction, the author took liberties with known facts about the Collyer brothers. Why do you think E.L. Doctorow made these changes and how does it affect the dynamics between the two brothers? Do you think these changes made the characters more sympathetic?

25. How heavily did the hoarding take up your attention as a reader? Do you think hoarding is an unsettling disorder to observe? Why or why not?

 

Other Resources

E.L. Doctorow’s website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Cornell University book guide
Weber State University book discussion
WNYC radio interview
Inside the Collyer home
Collyer brothers Wikipedia

 

If you liked Homer and Langley, try…

Spooner by Pete Dexter
Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee

Spooner cover     Keepsake coverStuff book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 12, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Staff Pick: Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

Patty staff picks photoScott goes to live with his hilariously awkward and selfish Grandma Ruby and helps take care of his Uncle Nathan who has cerebral palsy. Crapalachia is a dark, lyrical portrait of a warts-and-all coming of age in modern day West Virginia. Loved. This. Book.

By Readers' Advisor on February 11, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Picks by Patty

New: Fiction and Nonfiction

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Fiction Books

Redhead Plays her Hand book cover

Under the Wide and Starry Sky book cover

Crane Wife book cover

1. Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

2. The Redhead Plays her Hand by Alice Chayton

3. Amor and Psycho: Stories by Carolyn Cooke

4. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

5. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

6. House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty

7. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

8. Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

9. The Well-tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker

10. The Empty Chair: Two Novellas by Bruce Wagner

New: Nonfiction Books

Duty: A Secretary at War book cover

Wild Tales book cover

American Mirror book cover

1. Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling

2. Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist by Jim Elledge

3. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates

4. What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of a 90-something Track Star and What she can Teach us About Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson

5. I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers and the March up Freedom’s Highway by Greg Kot

6. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

7. Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life by Graham Nash

8. The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry by Mark Ribowsky

9. Company Man: 39 Years of Controversy and Crisis in the C.I.A. by John Anthony Rizzo

10. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Normal Rockwell by Deborah Solomon

By Readers' Advisor on February 7, 2014 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Denise staff picks photoYou wouldn’t expect to enjoy a romance novel where the hero has very few redeeming qualities, yet somehow the chemistry between flawed Sebastian and the gorgeous bluestocking, Jessica, works. Filled with witty repartee and fast-paced dialogue, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is a must-read for romance fans!

By Readers' Advisor on February 4, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Picks by Denise, Romance