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Fiction and Nonfiction: Awards Spotlight

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.  This week we invite you to check out a winner!

Are you drawn to the adventure and panorama of the West?  Try one or more of the Spur Awards honorees:

Light of the World book cover

Crossing Purgatory book cover

Spider Woman's Daughter book cover

Best Western Contemporary NovelLight of the World by James Lee Burke

Best Western Traditional NovelCrossing Purgatory by Gary Schanbacher

Best First NovelSpider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman

 

Have a taste for distinguished American writing?  Read a newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner:

Goldfinch book cover

Toms River book cover

Margaret Fuller book cover

FictionThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

General NonfictionToms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

Biography or AutobiographyMargaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

 

Which titles have the respect of their peers?  The Los Angeles Times Book Awards are chosen by working writers to celebrate how reading is an essential way of connecting with and understanding the world in which we live:

Tale for the Time Being book cover

Cuckoo's Calling book cover

We Need New Names book cover

FictionA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Mystery/ThrillerThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Art Seidenbaum Award for First FictionWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

 

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.

By Readers' Advisor on April 18, 2014 Categories: Awards, Books, Lists, Literary, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction

Audiobook: Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Aimless Love book coverBilly Collins is the master of casual, accessible poetry. He can make Cheerios poetic. No joke! His poetry is especially charming when he is reading his work out loud. Aimless Love is a collection of Collins’ new and selected poems. It is an astoundingly reflective and joyful audiobook read by the poet himself. Collins, a former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, is the king of plain speech in contemporary poetry. He pens poems on subjects as diverse as living in the digital age, ancient history, and eating alone. This playful yet serious work is an excellent introduction for those who don’t normally read or listen to poetry.

By Readers' Advisor on April 3, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Literary

Poetry: Sound the Deep Waters

Sound the Deep Waters book coverSpring — finally! — and with it, a renewed appreciation for beauty and promise. Tickle your eyes and ears with the soul-stirring Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age. Editor Pamela Norris has collected verse from both familiar wordsmiths (the Brontë sisters, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti) and those equally deserving but less renown. Each poem in this slim keepsake volume is mirrored in a lush illustration of Pre-Raphaelite painting. Grouped into timeless themes which celebrate the loves, delights, dreams, and sorrows of life, the lyrical phrases speak to kindred spirits as well as to quiet contemplation. Snuggle into a window seat and discover modern truths in classic words and vibrant portraits.

By Readers' Advisor on March 31, 2014 Categories: Art, Books, Literary

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Five Days at Memorial book cover

Looking for something a little more substantial in your reading diet?  Check out the newly-named honorees of the National Book Critics Circle Awards.  The NBCC “honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature.”

NonfictionFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina–and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.  Also available in audio, e-book, and e-audio.

FictionAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected.

AutobiographyFarewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz
Describes the author’s long and painful relationship with Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake, tracing the country’s turbulent history and its status as a symbol of human rights activism and social transformation.

John Leonard PrizeA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in December 2004 Chechnya, a failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
Also available in large print, audio, and e-book.

By Readers' Advisor on March 19, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Books, Lists, Literary, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Great Gatsby book cover

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

 

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Page Count: 172
Genre: Modern classic
Tone: Lyrical, atmospheric

 

1. Rarely does anyone write a book hoping it will be deconstructed in a lit classroom.  Authors write to provoke thought and feeling and to create a story that will speak to readers. So, in those respects, how was this reading experience for you?

2. Who is in the running for the most tragic character(s)?

3. What distinguishes Gatsby and Tom? Would you argue they are more alike or different? What about Daisy and Myrtle? Do you find yourself more accepting of certain characters’ behavior? Are we supposed to?

4. What about the book is relevant to our post-Great Recession world?

5. How would you characterize the tone of the novel? Fun? Sad? Idyllic? Angry? Something else?

6. Have you seen the latest film adaptation? Reportedly, the budget for Luhrmann’s film was over $120 million. Is that fitting? Ironic? What did you think of the film? Did you see the Robert Redford version? Which did you like better? Are the films similar in tone?

7.    Robert Redford explains that he wanted to play Gatsby because at the time he had not before “played a desperate man.” Would you agree this is a defining characteristic for Gatsby?

8. In his 1931 essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” Fitzgerald wrote, “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire.” How are these perceptions reflected in The Great Gatsby?

9. Did you find any humor in the story?

10. One word often mentioned in regards to The Great Gatsby is “romantic”. What do you think?

11. What do you know of Fitzgerald’s life? In what ways could The Great Gatsby be considered autobiographical? What might explain our fascination with this era and/or the Fitzgeralds in particular?

12. The Great Gatsby’s title was not Fitzgerald’s choice and never his favorite. How would the book’s reception be changed if it were instead called Trimalchio in West Egg, The High-Bouncing Lover, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, or Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires?

13. Critic Thomas C. Foster argues that this book isn’t about Gatsby. It’s about watching, seeing, and blindness (Twenty Five Books That Shaped America). What do you think he means?

14. Who is the protagonist of the book? Is it Gatsby? Nick?

15. How would you characterize Nick Carraway? Do you trust his perceptions? Is Nick Carroway an outsider, or is he one of them? Is this consistent throughout the story? How does this affect us as readers?

16. Could Daisy and Gatsby have had a happily-ever-after?

17. Is Daisy more a symbol than a character? What does her statement, “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” reveal about Daisy?

18. “[Gatsby’s] death preserves his greatness, and justifies the title of his story, a title that is anything but ironic.” (Harold Bloom, Jay Gatsby) Yet, other sources specifically point out the irony. What do you think?

19. In your experience, which of the other characters made the greatest impression on this reading:  Jordan, Tom, Myrtle, Wilson, Meyer, Mr. Gatz?

20. Is The Great Gatsby an indictment of the American Dream? Or is Fitzgerald championing it?

21. In what ways are illusion and disillusionment prevalent in the novel?

22. Would this have worked just as well (or even better) as a short story?

23. What did you notice about the language? The dialogue?

24. Gertrude Stein bestowed the label the Lost Generation on the group of American expatriate artists of the ‘20s. What qualities does this bring to mind? How does it inform the characters of The Great Gatsby?

25. Would you say that this is a fable of the 1920s? Are the characters merely caricatures? Either way, does this add to or detract from the story?

26. Do any of the characters learn a lesson? Change for the better or for the worse?

27. What are we to take away from the ending, especially considering who survives the book? Is it better not to dream? To be a Tom? What does the book have to say about being great? About being successful?

28. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, more than four years before the Wall Street crash. Why might this affect our understanding of the story and themes? Would it mean as much if it were published in the 1930s?

29. Why is this book so often taught to teenagers? What does it have to say to us at that age? How might your experience with the story differ as an adult?

30. Final words:  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” With what thoughts or feelings does this leave the reader?

 

Other Resources
The Big Read reading group guide
Simon and Schuster reading group guide
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library reading group guide
F. Scott Fitzgerald documentary
NPR interview with Baz Luhrmann
Reading The Great Gatsby as an adult
7 Life Lessons from The Great Gatsby

 

If you liked The Great Gatsby, try…
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Z book cover     Object of Beauty book coverRules of Civility book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By Readers' Advisor on March 12, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Literary

Fiction: Pride & Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice graphic novel coverJane Austen wrote, “How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book,” and her fans surely agree when it comes to the much-beloved Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps your own devotion has led you to read all the books, watch all the movies, and still it isn’t enough. May we suggest enjoying the story in Marvel comic form? That’s right!  Graphic Novels for Grown-ups Month is the perfect time to sample Pride & Prejudice as adapted by an award-winning romance author and skilled illustrators. Much of Austen’s language and wit are smartly preserved, and the drawings add insight into the characters’ personalities and foibles. This is a delightful way to revisit a favorite, and don’t forget to enter for prizes after you reach the happy ending!

By Readers' Advisor on November 11, 2013 Categories: Art, Books, Literary, Romance

Horror for Every Appetite

Brood X book coverWant a gritty, dark horror novel? Last Days by Adam Nevill is the leisurely tale of an indie filmmaker shooting a documentary on the cult The Temple of the Last Days, all of whose members were murdered. As the shoot progresses, evil has awoken and people start dying.

How about literary, uncanny short stories? Try Nalo Hopkinson’s anthology of dark fantasy and horror, Mojo: Conjure Stories. Nineteen authors, from Neil Gaiman to Tananarive Due, explore the tricky, powerful, and dangerous nature of magic.
This Book is Full of Spiders cover
What about an unlikely monster? Brood X by Michael Philip Cash shows what happens when cicadas take over the world. Billions of cicadas wreak havoc on the electric grid, wi-fi, food, and water for Seth and his family in this original, fast-paced read.

Finally, how about something funny? This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong is a small town Armageddon in the form of giant, invisible spiders that only two hopeless, sarcastic heroes can see and fight.

Still not enough horror for you?

Click here for humorous horror novels.
Click here for horror short stories.
Click here for horror comics.
Click here for contemporary horror novels and here for literary horror.

By Readers' Advisor on October 31, 2013 Categories: Books, Horror, Humor, Literary

Ghosts and Gorey

Edward Goreys Haunted Looking Glass book coverGhosts in the graveyard. Knocks at the door when no one is there. Houses cursed with madness. In our experience, horror that is only hinted can be much more terrifying than outright gore. Let the masters add an extra thrill to otherworldly nights with Edward Gorey’s Haunted Looking Glass. Fall under the spell of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs or of “The Dream Woman” by Wilkie Collins. Stories from none other than Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson will make you think twice about trusting your own eyes and ears. Each gothic chill is prefaced by one of Edward Gorey’s original creepy-cute illustrations. Whether you prefer the odd or the truly frightening, this collection will satisfy your hunger for spooky.

By Readers' Advisor on October 28, 2013 Categories: Books, Horror, Literary

“A Fantastic Portrayer of Human Beings”

Away from Her book coverThe winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature is Alice Munro, lauded by the Swedish Academy as a “master of the contemporary short story.” She is the first Canadian citizen and only the thirteenth woman to be awarded this honor. Earlier this year Munro stated that Dear Life (2012), her fourteenth collection, would be her last. Many know her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” about a devoted couple’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, through the film adaptation Away from Her. Other successes include The View from Castle Rock (2006) and Too Much Happiness (2009).  Often likened to a modern-day Chekhov, Munro was praised by the Academy’s Permanent Secretary as “a fantastic portrayer of human beings.” What better invitation might a reader need?

By Readers' Advisor on October 14, 2013 Categories: Awards, Books, Literary

LISTS: Southern Gothic Fiction

Everything That Rises Must Converge book coverSouthern Gothic fiction is sinister and sometimes surreal writing that takes place in the American South. Flannery O’Connor, a leading author in the genre, said, “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless, and brutal.”

Click here for  the work of O’Connor and other Southern Gothic writers.

By Readers' Advisor on October 11, 2013 Categories: Books, Lists, Literary