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Book Discussion Questions: 1776 by David McCullough

1776 book cover

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

 

Title: 1776
Author: David McCullough
Page Count: 386
Genre: Narrative nonfiction, History
Tone: Upbeat, Nostalgic

 

1.  Could King George III have done anything differently in 1776 to avoid war, or was it inevitable at that point?

2.  Did he underestimate the Americans? How so?

3.  What did you learn about George Washington from this book that surprised you? How much of what we know about Washington is a myth?

4.  How important was Washington’s role in American independence?

5.  How did Washington try to overcome his failings? Was he successful?

6.  Why did—and perhaps still do—people respond so positively to him?

7.  How has the reputation of Commander-in-Chief affected wars in our country since Washington’s time?

8.  Was Congress right in not having Washington attack Boston? Why do you think Washington wanted to attack, especially when nobody else thought it was a good idea?

9.  Washington was very concerned about his appearance. McCullogh writes: “And as with everything connected to that role—his uniform, the house, his horses and equipage, the military dress and the bearing of his staff—appearances were of great importance: a leader must look and act the part” (p. 42). How much of Washington’s ideas about appearance and presentation do you suppose was influenced by his living under a monarchy?

10.  What do you think about Washington later deciding to wear civilian (rather than military) clothes when acting as president? Does this reveal anything about his character, his beliefs, etc.? And how much do you think that decision influenced the American people’s view of the Office of the President?

11.  Washington was originally referred to as “His Excellency.” Do you think Americans today want their president to have an air of grandeur, or do they desire a more approachable “commoner” president? What are the pros and cons of both?

12.  What were some of the biggest differences between the warring armies, and how did they affect the battles?

13.  What about the American army surprised you? Were there any ways in which the inexperience of the American troops and their leaders were helpful to the cause?

14.  In what ways did the technology of the time cause problems for the patriots that could have been avoided with today’s technology?

15.  What formalities of war existed during Revolutionary times, and how does this differ from how wars are waged today?

16.  What wins a war? Number of troops? Talent? Leadership?

17.  Is it necessary for the enlisted to truly believe in the cause in order to win the war?

18.  Are there any parallels to be drawn between the American Revolution and our current military conflicts?

19.  Is it important for Americans to know the history of the Revolution? Why or why not?

20.  How do you think modern English citizens would feel about this book and its portrayal of their history?

21.  McCullough wrote this history as narrative nonfiction. Was he successful? Were you more interested or engaged reading this than you would have been with a more academic take on the subject?

22.  The author chose to focus on a single year: 1776. Was this adequate to tell a compelling and clear story? Do you feel like there are things you still want to know, background information you wish you’d had?

23.  After reading this, do you find it miraculous America gained its independence?

24. Do you think you would have joined the American cause or stayed loyal to England?

 

Other Resources
Radio interview: Author discusses researching and writing 1776
The Declaration of Independence at the Library of Congress
Images from the American Revolution
George Washington biography

 

If you liked 1776, try…
American Gospel by Jon Meacham
Hallowed Ground by James McPherson
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

American Gospel book cover    Hallowed Ground book coverTeam of Rivals book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By MPPL on June 25, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1798-1815 by Gordon S. Wood

Larry staff picks photoA readable, fascinating history of the early United States, Empire of Liberty describes political and social philosophies of the time and their effect on American society and events. Without directly saying so, the book makes it evident that the roots of current American thought can be traced back to that time, with often striking parallels.

By MPPL on June 24, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Picks by Larry, Staff Picks

Movies and Television: Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus DVD coverMichael Cera plays one of those insufferable hangers-on, the type of guy who’s always the last to leave the party (long after the hosts have expressed their desire for sleep) in Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, a surprisingly poignant indie road-trip flick. On a single-minded quest to find, prepare, and consume the titular “magic cactus,” he hooks up with three sweet-natured Chilean brothers.  Also on board is a free-spirited American girl named Crystal Fairy (a magnetic Gaby Hoffmann), who frustrates him with a goodness that he sees as an obstacle to his desired hallucinogenic journey. It’s an offbeat ride, for sure, but the dynamic that develops between these disparate characters is fascinating and leads to a heartbreaking revelation.

By MPPL on June 23, 2014 Categories: Humor, Movies and Television

New: Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

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.

New: Mystery Books

Murder on the Hoof book cover

Hop Alley book cover

The Ways of Evil Men book cover

     -  Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O’Sullivan

     -  Hop Alley by Scott Phillips

     -  The Ways of Evil Men by Leighton Gage

     -  The Body in Bodega Bay by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden

     -  Catnapped! by Elaine Viets

     -  The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

     -  Evil in the 1st House by Mitchell Scott Lewis

     -  Red Man Down by Elizabeth Gunn

New: Thrillers and Suspense

Bellweather Rhapsody book cover

Cartwheel book cover

 Sparrow Hill Road book cover

     -  Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

     -  Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

     -  Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

     -  Jack of Spies by David Downing

     -  The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

     -  Command Authority by Tom Clancy

     -  Deadliest of Sins by Sallie Bissell

     -  The Corsican Caper by Peter Mayle

 

By MPPL on June 20, 2014 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, New Arrivals

Fiction: The Peerless Four by Victoria Patterson

The Peerless Four book coverThis short nonfiction novel tells the story of the first women to compete in the modern Olympic Games. Each chapter is delivered in the voice of one member of the Canadian track and field team. These 1920s women were indeed peerless, bravely facing naysayers who questioned their femininity and denounced their audacity, deriding them for assuming roles thought to be meant only for men. The Peerless Four is an inspirational underdog sports story that shows female athletes are every bit as dedicated and dogged in pursuit of Olympic glory as their male counterparts.

By MPPL on June 19, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Staff Pick: Big Eden

Diane D. staff picks photoI was a member of the audience for the premier of Big Eden at the world famous Castro Theatre in June 2000 and happily joined in the thunderous 10 minute standing ovation. Big Eden is a winsome gay romantic comedy which turns stereotypes upside down with humor and a heart-warming romance.

By MPPL on June 17, 2014 Categories: Movies and Television, Picks by Diane, Staff Picks

Audiobook: Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life book coverLouise Penny’s mysteries are intricate and clever, unfolding slowly for the patient listener, and brimming with characters drawn thoughtfully and humanely. Still Life is no exception to her fine form. It explores the suspicious death (by bow and arrow!) of a seemingly well-loved elderly woman on the eve of her debut at a juried art show. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is on the case (this is the first entry in Penny’s series featuring Gamache), delving into the lives of the residents of a small Quebec village—friends, family, and maybe enemies of the deceased. There are lots of twists and turns, with questions leading to more questions, and the absolutely delightful Ralph Cosham’s smooth, English-accented narration will keep you rapt.

By MPPL on June 16, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

New: Audiobooks, Fantasy, and Sci-fi

Every Friday the Library will bring you 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.

New: Audiobooks

The System book cover

Delicious! book cover

The Ecsasy of Surrender book cover

  – The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

  – Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

  – The Ecstasy of Surrender by Judith Orloff

  – Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

  – Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans

  – Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini

  – The Haunted Life: And Other Writings by Jack Kerouac

  – Self-Help Messiah by Steven Watts

New: Fantasy and Sci-fi

The Word Exchange book cover

The Tropic of Serpents book cover

Murder of Crows book cover 

  – The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

  – The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

  – Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

  – The Departure by Neal Asher

  – Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

  – House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter

  – Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

  – Alien Collective by Gini Koch

By MPPL on June 13, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, New Arrivals

Fiction: Still Waters by Nigel McCrery

Still Waters book coverIf you’re looking for a lesser-known mystery series to dive into, you might try Still Waters, the first installment by English writer Nigel McCrery to feature detective duo Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie and his Sergeant Emma Bradbury. The novel begins with a bloody bang, as a bewildering act of horrific violence takes place at a girls’ garden party. Decades later, and somehow connected, Lapslie (who, interestingly, suffers from synesthesia—causing him to taste sounds, for instance) is called to investigate the bizarre death of an elderly woman found dead when her burial place under a tree is unearthed during a car crash. It’s a fast-moving read, but beware: it’s creepy and relentlessly sinister.

By MPPL on June 12, 2014 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Book Discussion Questions: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room book cover

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

 

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Page Count: 321
Genre: Literary fiction, Psychological fiction
Tone: Suspenseful, Haunting, Moving

 

1.  Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, called Room “a book to read in one sitting. When it’s over,” she said, “you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lasts for days.” Is this how you experienced the book? Do you agree or disagree? How so?

2.  What do you think of the author’s choice to use five-year-old Jack as the narrator of this story? What qualities does he lend to the story that an older narrator might not have?

3.  What about Jack shows him to be a typical five-year-old boy? What makes him unlike others his age? Is he/his voice convincing?

4.  How did you react to Jack’s difficulty distinguishing between what’s real (in Room) and what’s on the television? Did you find his changes in perception and understanding feel authentic to you?

5.  Donoghue creates a unique world for Jack—and by extension, for us, the readers. What details of her setting most impressed you? Was she successful in her creation of this unique world? Could you really see Room in your mind as the story progressed, or would including diagrams in the book have helped?

6.  Ma is shown only through the eyes of young Jack. Is she mysterious as a character? Are there things you wish you knew about her?

7.  Are there any examples of Ma’s resourcefulness that especially stood out for you? What can we learn about her from seeing how she raises her son?

8.  What does the focus on Ma’s teeth and Jack’s dental routine reveal?

9.  Donoghue deliberately keeps the kidnapper—or the villain—out of the spotlight. How would this story be different if he’d been more present in these pages, if we’d been privy to his thoughts, his motivations, or even his name? Why do you think she chooses not to focus on Old Nick? Did you want to know more about him?

10.  Many people—including the author herself—view Room as a book with two halves, the climax taking place hallway through. Do you see it this way? Did you prefer one half over the other?

11.  Did the author build suspense well leading up to the climax? Did you think Ma’s plans would work?

12.  How would you characterize the doctors’ and nurses’ treatment of Ma and Jack? Was the care what you’d expect?

13.  Often stories focus on the captivity of women and children and not on the pain of their re-entry into the outside world. What were some of Ma’s and Jack’s biggest struggles, and how did they work against each other?

14.  How was Jack shaped by his ordeal? Did any of his struggles to adjust to Outside surprise you?

15.  Did Ma’s behavior Outside make you think differently about her character?

16.  How does Ma’s family react to Ma and Jack? How do strangers react to the mother and son?

17.  The chapters on re-entry turn into something of a commentary on life itself, exploring what is necessary, important, strange, etc. What examples stood out the most for you?

18.  Was the choice to have Ma and Jack return to Room a surprising one? Was this an effective closing scene? Did you want or expect something different?

19.  Are this story and its characters relatable? Donoghue said she thinks a tragic story like this can illuminate the human condition, that Ma and Jack’s story might be everybody’s story. What do you think she means? Do you agree with her?

20.  Both motherhood and childhood, the author has said, can sometimes feel like a locked room. How is this reflected in the novel?

21.  Is this a book where you are left wanting to know what happens to the characters in the future? Why or why not?

22.  Room deals with some difficult and disturbing topics. Why would anyone want to read it? Is the novel sensationalistic in its portrayal of these characters’ lives? Why has it been so popular?

 

Other Resources
Official book site, features Room diagrams and Ma and Jack’s library
Author site, includes reviews and interviews
NPR (audio) interview with the author
New Yorker interview with the author

 

If you liked Room, try…
The Bear by Claire Cameron
Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

The Bear book cover    Amity & Sorrow book coverA Stolen Life book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By MPPL on June 11, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books