Using her own philosophies and struggles, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt advises individuals of all backgrounds on how they can craft a productive fulfilling life in her self-improvement novel You Learn by Living. The result is compassionate and personable, as Roosevelt offers up her blunders along the way in her pursuits of embracing lifelong learning and facing fear head on. Although published more than fifty years ago, Roosevelt’s work still holds relevance today through its coverage of broad topics, such as being a public servant and facing responsibility, plus highly quotable motivational snippets like, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product” sprinkled throughout.
Check It Out
Title: Destiny of the Republic
Author: Candice Millard
Page Count: 339 pages
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Tone: Detailed, Compelling
James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what happened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in turmoil.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
1. When you first saw the cover and learned the subject, what expectations did you have for your reading experience?
2. You are at a party and mention you read this book. Someone asks you what was so interesting about President Garfield. What would you answer?
3. What was better about living in that time than now? What was worse? Would you swap?
4. Let’s talk about Garfield’s life. At the opening of Destiny of the Republic, Millard claims that Garfield, born into “desperate poverty” overcame the odds with a passionate love of learning. If his mother had not been an educated woman herself, would this still have been possible just based on values and interest?
5. Canal drivers were considered a pretty rough crowd. If we could look in a crystal ball and see that someone like this would become our future president, would you be full of wonder or alarm?
6. James marries fellow student Lucretia Rudolph. Even in their courtship, James has deep concerns about what he sees as Lucretia’s lack of demonstrativeness. A few years into their marriage, James has an affair, which he confesses. In this instance, has he been basically honest or dishonest?
7. How would you describe Lucretia Rudolph Millard?
8. Why do you think Lucretia went through with a marriage to Garfield when she was afraid that he was marrying her out of a sense of duty?
10. During the Civil War, what did Millard show us of Garfield’s talents and character?
11. What was Garfield’s stance on black civil rights? Do you think things would have been different for African Americans if he had been able to fulfill his presidency? Why or why not?
12. Garfield did not run for US senator, but got that seat. He did not run for President, but got nominated. In his stirring speech, for which the book is named, Garfield says that, “not here… is the destiny of the republic to be decreed for the next four years…but by four million republican firesides.”
How much do you agree with his description of how the public decides on a president
A president is chosen by…
-thoughtful voters, with their wives and children around them.
-voters with the calm thoughts inspired by love of home and country.
-voters with the history of the past and the hopes of the future in mind.
-voters with reverence for the great men who have adorned and blessed our nation in days gone by burning in their hearts.
13. When he wraps up with, “Who do we want?” and a voice shouts, “We want Garfield!” do you think there was anything he could have done to shut down his nomination?
14. Would it be possible any more for a candidate to sit out his campaign?
15. What leaders would people travel great distances to hear speak? Do we think of anyone any more as wise?
16. When Garfield was elected, he felt sad. Why do you think he felt sad?
17. A good deal of time is spent on Alexander Graham Bell. What did you learn about him?
18. Bell was clearly pretty driven and intense: insisting on not being interrupted, resisting sleep, playing piano late late at night, but also very smart, caring, committed to the well being of the deaf. Did his wife have a catch or a lemon for a husband?
19. It’s interesting that Bell would blame his neglect for his infant son’s death and then throw himself into his work. Do you think his work ethic was a free choice or a compulsion?
20. Bell was devoted to helping save the president. Can you think of other people, famous or not, with that sense of commitment?
21. Millard also spends a lot of time on Charles Gitteau. Was this necessary? What aspects of Gitteau’s life stand out in your mind?
22. Both Gitteau and Garfield had one thing in common. They had been spared drowning and felt it had been through divine intervention. How did it impact their lives?
23. Do you agree that Gitteau was insane? If yes, then do you think his life should have been spared?
24. Who do you think is more morally responsible for Garfield’s death? Dr. Bliss or Charles Gitteau?
25. Dr. Bliss was clearly not open to new ideas from Europe. Could you see the same thing happening today? Do you think the American medical establishment is open to ideas from other countries or healing traditions?
26. What particularly stands out about Garfield’s time and treatment after he was shot? What feelings did you have from the time of his being shot until he dies?
27. Describe Vice President Arthur. Did he deserve the hatred that came his way after Garfield had been shot? There are many passages that describe him crying. Was your impression that he was crying for Garfield or himself? Did you expect him to be the kind of president he was?
28. The mysterious Julia Sand writes letters to Arthur, giving him a very needed pep talk. Who would you most like to encourage? On the flip side, would you enjoy having a mystery letter writer advise you or would you find it creepy?
29. How did the country respond to Garfield’s shooting?
30. There are two moments of silence described after the shooting. One is the agreement to keep the news criers and people silent so the Garfield boys won’t learn of the shooting while traveling. The next is the silent pushing of Garfield’s train car up the hill to Elberon. Can you think of a public moment of spontaneous quiet?
31. On one of the last days of his life, Garfield asks Rockwell, “’Do you think my name will have a place in human history?’ ‘Yes,’ his friend replied,’ a ‘grand one, but a grander place in human hearts.'” (p. 264) If you had to choose, which would you prefer: to leave a legacy that impacts generations to come, or to be embedded in the hearts of the currently living?
32. How do you judge the quality of a historical retelling? By your own standards, how would you rate this book?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
Larry from Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Gulp by Mary Roach
Ever wonder how your body digests the food you eat? Or why when you smell food you can also taste it? Or what really goes on in your stomach and gut? Then this book is for you. In Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, author Mary Roach explains the entire process of eating and digesting in great detail. Sounds gross? It’s not at all. The author’s witty writing style along with the use of layman’s language in a smooth flowing (no pun intended) narrative makes the book both a fun and fascinating read. Did you know we produce two types of saliva? And what exactly are gastric juices? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? This book will answer these questions and more.
Looking for more books featuring stories of the human body? Try…
The children of the Agape Choir don’t have obvious reason to sing. They live in a struggling South African orphanage in packed quarters and with few resources. Most are there after losing parents to AIDS, and some are separated from older siblings because it simply isn’t possible to keep the family together. You might think that the overall tone would be one of despair, but these young ones regularly lift their voices in song, which in turn raises their spirits — and ours. We Are Together is an inspiring documentary filmed over three years about the plight and promise of these remarkable singers.
Browse our collection of International Documentaries to discover other global films of real-life stories. Don’t forget: Watching a World Language DVD is a bonus step for the 2015 Adult Summer Reading Program. There is still plenty of time to participate and try something new!
Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is motivating! The de-cluttering and organizing guru has us consider which things “spark joy” in us to determine what to keep and what to let go. Her organizing and storing ideas are transformative! You’ll be inspired to simplify and de-clutter your life!
Don’t want to wait to listen? Stream it instantly on Hoopla with your Library card!
Last night the American Theatre Wing handed out the 69th annual Tony Awards, and the biggest prizes went to gorgeous new interpretations of three inspiring works:
Rummaging through a box of her father’s stuff, the memories of Alison’s uniquely dysfunctional family—her mother, brothers, and her volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father—connect with her in surprising, powerful and revealing new ways. Ingeniously adapted from Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a refreshingly honest coming-of-age story about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.
In Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Christopher, 15 years old, has an extraordinary brain – exceptional at math while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion of killing Mrs. Shears’ dog Wellington, he records each fact about the event in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of the murder. However, his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.
The classic Rodgers & Hammerstein show is based on the book Anna and the King of Siam. Weaving meticulously researched facts with beautifully imagined scenes, author Margaret Landon recreates the history of Anna Leonowens, a proper Englishwoman invited in the 1860s by King Mongkut of Siam to help him communicate with foreign governments and be the tutor to his children and favored concubines.
Summer is growing closer! To some this means filling these warm sunny days up with activity after activity, while for others this means pausing all non-imminent responsibilities and relaxing. Regardless of how you choose to set the tempo of your days, we hope you make time for reading!
In honor of Read to the Rhythm, our Summer Reading Program running June 1-July 31, we asked Mount Prospect Library Staff what their reading hopes and dreams are for the summer. We’re planning on sharing the reading experiences of other Mount Prospect readers as well, so make sure you stop back here to see what your fellow community members are reading or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Interested in joining in on the reading fun? You can register for the Adult Summer Reading Program online or at the Fiction/AV/Teen Desk on the second floor, starting Monday, June 1st.
The Audie Awards: 150 finalists and only 30 winners. On Thursday, May 28th the Audio Publishers Association will declare which exceptional audiobooks will be crowned Audie Winners for 2015. Enjoy a taste of the finalists below, and stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor to let us know who you think should win this year’s Audie Awards! The categories and finalists below only scratch the surface, so make sure to peruse the other categories. The Awards Gala hosted by Jack Gantos will be Livestreamed on Thursday, starting at 6:30pm.
Detective John Skaggs could be the intrepid hero cop of your favorite mystery novel. He has an imposing physical presence, he is an extreme perfectionist working within an ailing system, and he is equally compassionate and relentless. Murder may be his beat, but he believes in investigating every homicide, no matter the victim, as if it were the biggest media event of the year. In Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, Jill Leovy reports one tragic case in gripping true-crime style and exposes the larger sociological issues we as a nation have allowed to take root. Few nonfiction crime books tell the story equally well from both sides of the crime tape. This one does, and it doesn’t stop there.
Medieval historian-turned-mortician Caitlin Doughty brings a unique blend of historical perspective, practical training, and newbie experiences to her exploration of modern death in the U.S. The essays in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes include some gory details, but also honest accounts of a new mortician sometimes fumbling her way in the space after death.