If atmosphere is what you crave, you won’t go wrong with the fascinating Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. It is an unusual twist on a ghost story, one that is almost Dickensian in both tone and detail. As a boy, William Bellman commits one rash act that turns out to have consequences that will haunt for a lifetime. When a seemingly blessed adult existence falls victim to tragedy after tragedy, a desperate bargain with a mysterious man in black is his only option. Actor Jack Davenport reads in a dreamy, mood-enhancing style not unlike that of Neil Gaiman. With textured accents and a strong sense of pacing, his performance is both precise and enchanting. An otherworldly storytelling experience awaits.
Month: December 2013
J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for writing complex, fantastical worlds. The Lord of the Rings series is the gold standard of fantasy that other writers try to live up to. If you’ve already finished Tolkien’s works and don’t know where to go now that you’ve left Middle-earth, the Library can help.
If you like J.R.R. Tolkien, click here for similar authors.
Marina Abramovi? is a New York-based performance artist. Her art examines bodily limits, passion, violence, and identity. Marina Abramovi?: The Artist is Present is a documentary that follows Abramovi? during her 2010 Museum of Modern Art installation. MOMA celebrated Abramovi?’s 30-year career by recreating her most famous performance art pieces and showcasing a new, 90-day installation. Over 750,000 people attended the show. Abramovi?’s performance art is not always easily understandable. Much of the time – especially early in her career – it seemed shocking…but through shock the artist forces us to engage, to pause, to question, to be in a moment. If you like art documentaries or movies that put you in a thinking mood, try Marina Abramovi?: The Artist is Present.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Page Count: 286
Tone: Leisurely, haunting, character-driven
1. Olive Kitteridge is built from stories that jump through time to different characters’ points of view. What do you think of the “novel in stories” structure? Was it easy or hard to fall into the rhythm of this book? Would you have enjoyed this collection of stories more if it were a traditionally structured novel?
2. What is the difference between a novel in stories and a book of short stories?
3. How often did Olive Kitteridge appear in this book? Do you think she should have made fewer or more appearances?
4. Were there any stories you absolutely loved? What about stories that you disliked? Was there a story that you thought didn’t fit in the collection?
5. Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer Prize. Does the fact that Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer Prize make you feel the need to like it? Would your experience with this book make you want to read more literary prize winners?
6. Do you think “Pharmacy” was a good opening story for the book? Why do you think Strout picked it as the opener? Would you have started the collection with a different story?
7. In “A Different Road” Henry and Olive get held up by drug addicts in a hospital. Did you think this story fit in with the others? Was it too “overboard”?
8. What keeps Olive and Henry together over the years? Is there anything that almost tears them apart?
9. What specific moments make you like Olive? What specific moments make you dislike her?
10. Why did Olive steal and destroy some of Dr. Sue’s clothes during “A Little Burst”? Did you see any similarities between Olive and Sue? Did Olive’s behavior to Dr. Sue change your opinion of Olive? Why do you think Olive hates Dr. Sue so much?
11. Olive hears Dr. Sue and friends talking down about her at the wedding, why doesn’t she respond from her secret hiding place?
12. Why do you think Olive never committed suicide? First when her father died, next when Jim O’Casey died, finally when Henry died.
13. Why do you think Olive responds so fully to Nina in “Starving”?
14. In “Starving”, how did Harmon and Daisy go from casual sex to falling in love? Why do you think Harmon won’t immediately leave his wife? Do you think he’ll ever get divorced?
15. Why does Olive go to visit Louise Larker in “Tulips”?
16. In the story “Ship in a Bottle” Anita threatens to disown her daughter, Julie, if she lives with her boyfriend rather than marrying him. Is there ever a reason to disown a child? What about if you were in Louise Larkin’s position in the story “Tulips”?
17. In “Piano Player” Simon comes back to see Angie. Why does he bring up an awful memory about Angie’s mother coming to visit him?
18. In the story “Security” Olive goes to visit her son in New York City. Do you think Olive liked Christopher’s new wife, Ann? Would you have liked Ann?
19. Also in “Security,” what event caused Olive to want to leave Christopher’s home early? Did Olive choose to leave or did Christopher kick her out?
20. How does Olive view her relationship with Christopher? How does Christopher view his relationship with his mother? How do you think they came to be so disconnected?
21. Does your opinion of Christopher change, knowing that he only visited his father once in the nursing home, never called to check up on him and never offered to help his mother with the situation? What reasons do you think Christopher had for staying away from his parents?
22. Why did Strout include the story “Criminal”? Did you like the story – why or why not? How did it connect to Olive?
23. What is Olive’s relationship with Jack Kennison? Will their relationship last?
24. What does it say about Olive that not one time in her marriage did she ever say “sorry”?
25. Do you think Olive has changed by the end of the book? If so, how?
If you liked Olive Kitteridge, try…
Enticed by a friend’s recommendation, I discovered the operatic group Il Divo. Wow! What powerful voices and what a full orchestral sound supports this talented quartet of male singers. If you like dramatic, deep music like Andrea Bocelli, but also enjoy pop music, try Il Divo, their first, self-titled album.
“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” That curious opening line might actually apply to you, too! No matter how many times you may have seen the movie, if you’ve not read The Princess Bride by William Goldman you are missing the best parts. Inconceivable? Trust us. You’d have to be mostly dead not to enjoy the extra adventures contained in these pages. Swordplay, true love, giants, revenge, torture, fantastical beasts, mawage, and, of course, miracles all await. As you wish, this newly illustrated 40th anniversary edition is the perfect book to keep you happy company during dreary days and nippy nights. Have fun storming the castle!
Alternate history is a genre that explores “what if” questions. What if Hitler was killed early in his life? What if JFK was never assassinated? What if the Black Death had killed 99% of Europe and not 33%? These are the sort of questions authors ask and then let the domino effect splatter from their pens.
Click here to listen to the best alternate history audiobooks the Library has to offer.
Last year, the must-have, but little-known mystery was The Last Policeman by Ben Winters. It depicted a detective who didn’t quit his job even though the end of the world was imminent. Detective Hank Palace is back in Countdown City, book two in the Last Policeman Trilogy. Hank has 77 days left to do his job before an asteroid obliterates Earth. This time around, a woman from Hank’s past needs help finding her husband. But how can Hank do his job when half the world has gone crazy and the other half is checking off their bucket lists? If you enjoy intricately-plotted, offbeat mysteries or mainstream dystopian fiction (like Hunger Games or World War Z), try Countdown City.
Researchers have long acknowledged black influence and culture within popular music…but not until recently has anyone studied black presence in country music. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music is an erudite, heavily footnoted essay collection that demonstrates how country music is not only “the white man’s blues.”
Anne of Research Services recommends On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the 21st Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka:
When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as pope in March 2013, he was a mystery to most of the world. In Argentina, however, he was a significant figure who believed in interreligious dialogue. His discussions with the Rabbi Abraham Skorka in Buenos Aires were published in Argentina in 2010. On Heaven and Earth is an English translation of this work. It offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of these learned, thoughtful, sincere men who share their views without reservation. Skorka and Pope Francis discuss 29 challenging world issues with respect and frankness. These conversations allow the reader to develop their own views on these important topics. On Heaven and Earth is a thoughtful book for those with or without belief.