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Long-shot Pulitzer Winner for Fiction: The Sympathizer

Sympathizer book cover“So it was that we soaped ourselves in sadness and we rinsed ourselves with hope, and for all that we believed almost every rumor we heard, almost all of us refused to believe that our nation was dead.”

In other media, award winners are often easily predicted.  Not so in literature. More often than not, even insiders are surprised by those given top honors in any given year, and rarely does it reflect sales or popularity. That changes upon announcement, as the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, debut novel The Sympathizerleapt in Amazon overall sales rankings from 27,587 to 88 overnight, even enjoying temporary status as #1 in Spies and Political Thrillers.

Viet Thanh Nguyen has penned a fascinating book of intrigue that examines the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the perspective of a double agent, and the author himself has said “my book has something to offend everyone.” It is a meaty, uncompromising story with moments of tenderness and even hilarity, and its new status as a Pulitzer winner may help earn the attention and audience it deserves.

Books: You’ve Watched Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”… Now What?

In response to Beyoncé’s latest visual album premiere “Lemonade,” Fusion writer Nichole Perkins noted how much “Lemonade” is steeped in black feminist literature in her article, “What to Read After Watching Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’” offering up a variety of reading suggestions based on black womanhood, the supernatural, and black relationships. Make sure to read the article to see how Beyoncé expands on these themes!

Below are a few of the books the Library own that Perkins suggests. Interested in one we don’t own? Call the Library and we will see how we can get your hands on that book.

The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart book coverThe Way Forward is With a Broken Heart
Alice Walker
Walker presents a collection of short fiction loosely based on her own life, including “To My Young Husband,” which describes life amid the turbulence of the Deep South at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
In mid 19th-century New Orleans, Marie Laveau was the notorious queen of voodoo. Voodoo Dreams reimagines the woman behind this legend, a mesmerizing combination of history and storytelling.

 

for colored girls who have considered suicide book cover For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide
Ntozake Shange
Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it means to be of color and female in the 20th century.
Mama Day book coverMama Day
Gloria Naylor
On the island of Willow Springs, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island’s darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense.

 

I, Titube, Black Witch of Salem book coverI, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
by Maryse Conde
This wild and entertaining novel expands on the true story of the West Indian slave Tituba, who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, arrested in 1692, and forgotten in jail until the general amnesty for witches two years later.
Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime book cover Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime (Large Type)
J. California Cooper
Ten stories on black women sorting out their lives including” Yellow House Road” where a mother with 13 children finally leaves her no-good husband and experiences the thrill of having made the right choice and “Sure is a Shame” which is about sisters who made the wrong choice.

New Music Spotlight: Salt as Wolves by Jeffrey Foucalt

Salt as Wolves album coverJeffrey Foucalt intertwines country and blues in his newest album, Salt as Wolves. The twelve songs are all sung by Foucalt and his even-toned voice, which mixed with repetitive lyrics culminates into a soothing exploration of life, death, and relationships. This 2015 album feels like the listener is stepping into a one way conversation, as Foucalt’s songs address various people and moments in his life: his mom in regards to their relationship falling apart, his friend on a death, and even the listener to say, “everything is going to work out.”

We’ve Got You Covered: Books and Rain Boots

Have April showers whetted your appetite for books with rain boots on the cover?
Pull on your wellies and choose a new springtime read from this quirky group:

Belong to Me book coverBelong to Me
Marisa de los Santos
My Best Friend's Girl book cover

 

Everyone She Loved book coverEveryone She Loved
Sheila Curran

Out of the Rain book coverOut of the Rain
Debbie Macomber

Racing Savannah book coverRacing Savannah
Miranda Kenneally

 

Nowhere Carolina book coverNowhere Carolina
Tamara Leigh
Second Sister book cover
 The Second Sister
Marie Bostwick

 

Audiobook: In Their Own Voices – A Century of Recorded Poetry

Century of Recorded Poetry audiobookEver wonder what Walt Whitman’s voice sounded like? Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, or e.e. cummings? In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry invites us to be ear-witnesses to history and art in its purest form. This collection of distinguished poets reading well-known works bares inflection, meaning, and musicality of crafted phrase.

These days we might prefer professionally-trained narrators and seamless productions, but there is illumination to be found in hearing even familiar lines read in the voices of those who dreamed them into existence. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month by listening to the natural cadences of William Butler Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, and a host of other extraordinary voices.

Book Discussion Questions: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian Book coverTitle:The Martian
Author:  Andy Weir
Page Count: 369 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone:  Humorous, Suspenseful, Fast-paced

Summary:
Mark Watney was nearly killed by a dust storm on Mars and was abandoned by his crew who thought him dead. Now he’s all alone with no way of letting Earth know he’s alive, which doesn’t matter because his supplies would run out before they’d get there. Either way, the environment or human error will likely kill him first. Not giving in, Mark works to survive, battling obstacle after obstacle, but will it be enough?

 

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

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. Whether you personally liked the novel or not it definitely resonated with a lot of people. Who do you think was Weir’s intended audience?

2. Why do you think the core audience grew to include a more mainstream base of readers? In what ways does it stay true to its genre base?   How does it swerve away from “typical” science fiction?

3. Did the humor work for you?

4. How did you respond to all scientific detail?

5. When do you think this story takes place? Does the date matter?

6. Andy Weir, painted quite a visual picture of Mars, what are your thoughts? Any interest in going?

7. Delicately put, the very first line in the novel was “I’m pretty much screwed.” How did that set a tone for you?

8. What characteristics did Mark possess that you think helped to save his life? Was one trait more important than the others?

9. What do you think kept him sane? Or, how was he able to maintain his sanity?

10. While reading the story, did you think Mark would survive or not?

11. Do you think Mark thought he would survive?

12. Why do you think you were rooting for Mark to survive (and if you weren’t why not)?

13. Thanks to the author, we feel we know Watney and most of us are rooting for him, regardless of the expense and the risk that the Chinese probe will never be launched.  Would you have felt the same about the rescue effort if we didn’t know Watney so well?

14. What were your thoughts the first time Mark traveled away from Hab? Can you imagine what it would be like all alone on Mars?

15. Were there any characters, outside of Mark, that you really liked or disliked?

16. When mission control realized Mark was alive, they decided not to tell the Ares 3 crew.  What do you think about that decision?

17. When the crew learned that Mark was alive the crew had very different reactions. Most of the crew was ecstatic but Lewis was upset.  What did you think of her reaction?

18. Teddy did not want to risk the lives of the crew and felt the crew was, too emotionally involved to make the decision about whether or not to rescue Mark. What do you think about this?

19. Why do you think the crew decided to go back for Mark? The Hermes would add 533 more days to its mission to save Mark.  What would you do?

20. Commander Lewis picked Beth Johansen to be the survivor if anything happened to the resupply probe. What did you think of this cannabilism arc in the storyline?  What if it was you they picked to survive?  (Don’t forget Johansen was having a relationship with Beck!)

21. Were you surprised that the Chinese government would be willing to help NASA?

22. Read this passage on page 254. Zho Tao said in a conversation with Venkat, “In the end, we built a beautiful probe. The largest, sturdiest, unmanned probe in history. And now it’s sitting in a warehouse. It’ll never fly”…”It could have been a lasting legacy of scientific research.  Now it’s a delivery run…this operation is a net loss for mankind’s knowledge” What are your thoughts on this passage?

23. Who was ultimately responsible for saving Mark Watney’s life? (You can only choose one person!)

24. How would you have ended the novel?

25. Where do you see Watney’s life going?

26. Would you be open to reading the author’s next book?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Schmoop analysis on The Martian
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
Book and movie differences article by Tech Times
Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion on The Martian (audio)
Reddit Q&A with Andy Weir
“Nine Real Technologies in The Martian by NASA
Video of Andy Weir discussing his career
The Martian themed party ideas

readalikes:
Marsbound book coverRedshirts book cover The Explorer book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
Redshirts by John Scalzi
The Explorer by James Smythe

Check out the reading map we created for more suggestions!

Superstar Books for Your Book Club

Some books are almost guaranteed to spark good discussion due to its themes, characters, subject matter, or all of the above. Below is a sampling of some sure bet suggestions that you can bring to your group!

Need book discussion questions? Browse through questions composed by MPPL staff, or email us at readers@mppl.org and we can assist you in finding questions for your group.

 

The-Round-House book coverThe Round House
by Louise Erdrich
The-Chaperone book coverThe Chaperone
by Laura Moriarty
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
The Circle book coverThe Circle
by Dave Eggers
Maine
by J. Courtney Sullivan

 

Stiff
by Mary Roach
Midwives
by Chris Bohjalian
Assassination Vacation
by Sarah Vowell
Daughter of Fortune
by Isabel Allende
Claire of the Sea Light
by Edwidge Danticat
Tipping the Velvet
by Sarah Waters

 

Fiction: Like Meg Cabot? Try Shane Bolks!

picture of cabot and bolks' books

Are you a fan of Meg Cabot’s humorous romances? If so, try Shane Bolks! Like Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble and The Boy Next Door, Bolks mixes hi-jinks and pop culture references to create a romp of a read. Both also feature a hilarious woman narrator attempting to navigate work and romance with varying degrees of success!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Men I’ve Dated follows Star Wars mega-fan Rory Egglehoff’s attempts of trying to woo her old high school crush who has moved into the office right next door to hers. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Egglehoff is more successful than she thought she would be!

In Reality TV Bites, Allison Holloway is swept onto a reality television show when her boss enters their design team on an interior design face-off. Although Holloway is a reality-show addict it comes with its own issues she didn’t anticipate including a cute producer trying to seduce her and an outrageous design challenge.