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LISTS: Circus and Carnival Books and Movies

Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb book coverYou’ve done Water for Elephants, next you read The Night Circus, but now you’re at a loss. Don’t be! The midway is waiting for you, full of love, thrills, funnel cake, and exotica. The Library will help you run away to the circus.

Click here for circus and carnival fiction.
More in the mood for nonfiction? Click here.
Feel like sitting back and watching a carnie flick? Click here.

By Readers' Advisor on October 18, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists, Movies and TV

Historical Fiction on the Jersey Shore

Palisades Park book coverEddie and Adele sell French fries at Palisades Park not far from the Cyclone roller coaster. The Stopka’s food stall becomes a family business when their children, Toni and Jack, come along. It’s easy to dream big when you’re surrounded by the beauty and continuous fun of Palisades…but eventually reality causes cracks in the Stopka’s wonderland. Palisades Park by Alan Brennert – author of Moloka’I – follows the Stopka family as the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, fire, race riots, and the rest of the 20th century unfold around them. If you like richly-detailed historical fiction, nostalgic Americana, or deep family stories, try Palisades Park.

By Readers' Advisor on October 3, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany book cover

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


Title: Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Author: Susan Vreeland
Page Count: 405
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Literary, lush


1. Do you think Vreeland accurately portrayed the Gilded Age?

2. What do you think it would have been like to have lived during the Gilded Age as a woman? What about as a man?

3. How does New York City come across in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? Does it become another character in the novel? Why or why not?

4. How many men did Clara love? Who were they? What caused her to be attracted to each one? Were there any problems that sprouted from her love life?

5. What were Clara’s personal goals? Were they similar goals to other ladies of her era? Did she achieve them?

6. What activities brought Clara enjoyment and made her feel free and full of life? What things did she detest?

7. Was Clara a likeable character? Did you want to see her succeed? If you could change something about her circumstances, what would it be?

8. What other characters struck you? Was there anyone you didn’t like?

9. What are some of the social contrasts that appear in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? How do these contrasts shape Clara’s character?

10. In what ways was Clara a progressive woman? How did her politics affect her life?

11. What kind of experience did Clara have at her first Tiffany Ball? (Chapter 9) Who did she go with? What did she learn?

12. How do Clara and Alice describe Tiffany? (Chapter 27) What are Clara’s true feelings for Mr. Tiffany?

13. Was Mr. Tiffany a progressive man? Why or why not? Did he have any conservative leanings?

14. How would you describe Louis Tiffany? Was he a good artist? Was he a good man?

15. Do you think that Clara should have continued working at Tiffany Studios? Why or why not?

16. What place was Edwin moved by? Why? What were iconic places and objects of the Gilded Age?

17. Susan Vreeland is described as a lush and lyrical writer. Can you think of any examples of when she made you feel immersed in a scene or wading in the poetry of her prose?

18. Has anyone read any other books by Vreeland? Was this book similar or different to her other novels? Would you read more by her?

19. Do you think things have changed for women in the arts?

20. Who would you recommend this book to? Why?


Other Resources

Susan Vreeland’s website
Vreeland’s book discussion questions
NPR interviews Susan Vreeland
Susan Vreeland on Beauty and the Book
Susan Vreeland at Warwick’s Books

Stop by the Reference Desk for nonfiction books and online resources on Louis Comfort Tiffany and company.


If you liked Clara and Mr. Tiffany, try…

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Remarkable Creatures book cover     Stealing Athena book coverLoving Frank book cover

By Readers' Advisor on September 4, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Masters of the PEN

Behind the Beautiful Forevers book coverThe PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, one of the most decorated books of 2012, added yet another well-deserved accolade in the John Kenneth Gailbraith Award for Nonfiction.  Additional highlights include

Literary Science Writing Award: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

Award for Literary Sports Writing: Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion by Mark Kram, Jr.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: Frank Deford

Award for Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Open Book Award: Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

Translation Prize: The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on August 28, 2013 Categories: Awards, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary, Nonfiction

Barb’s Pick: A Royal Affair

Barb's staff picks photoYou must check out the Danish costume drama A Royal Affair.  It is based on the true story of a fiery and forbidden romance between an insane Danish king, his royal physician, and the independent-minded Queen. This affair leads to a revolt that changes a nation.

By Readers' Advisor on August 20, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and TV, Picks by Barb B., Staff Picks

Barb F.’s Pick: Rules of Civility

Barb F. Staff picks photoIt’s New York City in 1938. Katy Kontent moves from the secretarial pool at a law firm to the upper echelon of society. In Rules of Civility, Amor Towles creates a wonderful depiction of life in New York City filled with witty dialogue, intense friendships, and a fabulous heroine.

By Readers' Advisor on July 30, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Barbara F., Staff Picks

Larry’s Pick: The Girl Who Played Go

Larry Staff picks photoThe Girl who Played Go is a touching, intimate novel set in the 1930s. A Japanese soldier and a teenage girl both struggle with their roles in Manchurian-Chinese society. The Chinese strategy game of Go, which draws the characters together, is a metaphor for their lives in search of self.

By Readers' Advisor on July 23, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Larry, Staff Picks

LISTS: Current Historical Fiction Authors

Raiders from the North book coverRoyal affairs! Battles! Women’s suffrage! Impeachment! Household servants! Human rights! There are so many different topics to historical fiction. It doesn’t matter if you want a novel set in the same era as Downton Abbey or a story focused on ancient Rome – the book you want is out there!

Click here to see stand-out authors currently writing historical fiction.

By Readers' Advisor on July 19, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists

An Imagined History of a Photograph

Mary Coin book coverAn attractive, albeit worn down, woman sits with her jaw propped on her hand as her little ones clutch her sides. Dorothea Lange captured the photo of the “Migrant Mother” in 1936 and it became the image that expressed the hard, gritty times of the Great Depression. Marisa Silver fictionalizes the subject of the photograph into Mary Coin, who stopped to rest on the road when a photographer, Vera Dare, snapped her family’s picture. Both Vera and Mary’s stories are woven into the current day narrative of Walker Dodge, a professor confronted with a family mystery tied to the photograph. Mary Coin is for any reader in love with literary fiction with equal parts heartache and historical depth.

By Readers' Advisor on July 18, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Four Rare Falcons to Save a Knight

Hawk Quest book coverIt’s 1072. Once, Vallon was a respected military commander, but now he’s a jaded sell-sword. While seeking shelter during a storm in the Alps, Vallon stumbles onto the deathbed of Cosmas of Byzantium. After Cosmas dies, Vallon grudgingly inherits Cosmas’ quest to gather four white falcons from the far corners of the earth as a ransom for a captured knight. Vallon won’t adventure alone. His new faction contains a medical student, a master falconer, the stepbrother of the captured knight, a crossbowman, and a hulking dog. So much for going at life alone. If you like historical fiction à la Ben Kane, Bernard Cornwell, and Joe Abercrombie, you’ll like the blood-red battlefields and anti-heroes of Robert Lyndon’s Hawk Quest.

By Readers' Advisor on June 13, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction