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Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski

Frank from Administration suggests Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski.

Algren Book CoverNelson Algren was one of the most important yet underappreciated American authors of the Twentieth Century. He wrote about what he knew and what he knew was life on the fringes of society. And more than any other writer, Algren knew Chicago. “Like loving a woman with a broken nose,” he wrote, “you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”

In her fascinating biography, Algren: A Life, Mary Wisniewski illuminates this brilliant, enigmatic Chicagoan whose own turbulent “life on the fringes”—drinking, gambling, womanizing—led to some of the most memorable and powerful works in American literature.

Algren maintained through the years a torrid, on-again/off-again love affair with French feminist writer and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, herself in a relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. “On the outs” with Algren when he died in 1981, de Beauvoir refused thereafter to visit his grave on Long Island. She was buried in Paris alongside Sartre five year later, wearing Algren’s ring.  Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski is a fascinating book.

Haven’t read anything by Nelson Algren? Start here!

The Man with the Golden Arm
Widely regarded as Algren’s most powerful and enduring work, this novel chronicles war veteran and hustler “Frankie Machine’s” downward spiral into an ever-deepening morphine addiction.
The Neon Wilderness
A collection of short stories giving voice to the insulted and injured, to those at the rough edges of society struggling to make ends meet while playing a losing—often fixed—hand.

 

Chicago: City on the Make
A social document and a love poem, Chicago: City on the Make is a bold, hard-hitting ode to this “most real of all” cities. Studs Terkel said it’s “the best book about Chicago.”
A Walk on the Wild Side
With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, this novel packs a wallop. As Algren admitted, the book “… wasn’t written until long after it had been walked.”
Nonconformity: Writing on Writing
Editor Daniel Simon assembles into this brief but compelling work Algren’s previously unpublished credo of his craft. Algren identifies the essential nature of the writer’s relation to society and shares his deepest beliefs about the state of literature and its role in society.

Like Stranger Things? Try These!

stranger things headerObsessed with Stranger Things? While you wait for season 3, try some of the….

… movies that inspired the show

 

…music from the TV series

Billboard Top Hits of 1984 album coverBillboard Top Hits, 1984
Songs: “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
“Talking in Your Sleep” by The Romantics
Moby album coverEverything is Wrong by Moby
Song: “When It’s Called I’d Like to Die”
The Essential Clash album coverThe Essential Clash by The Clash
Song: “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

 

… books that will give you similar “feels”

Meddling Kids book coverMeddling Kids
by Edgar Cantero
Paper Girls Volume 1
Brian K. Vaughn (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Matt Wilson (colors) & Jared K. Fletcher (letters)
Firestarter book coverFirestarter
by Stephen King

 

Jenny’s Pick: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Picture of JennyA mosaic of stray thoughts, stories and poems,  You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie is a powerful meditation on Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother in the aftermath of her passing. This book left me in awe of Alexie’s ability to wring your heart as he reaches into his history one moment and have you bursting out in laughter the next.

Spooky Stories – Reader Beware

We’ve sourced some staff favorites to get you in the mood for Halloween.

If it’s a ghostly, ghoulish or spine-tingling read you’re after, look no further than these creepy gems…if you dare!

Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint

In the Old Country, they called them the Gentry: ancient spirits of the land, magical, amoral, and dangerous. When the Irish emigrated to North America, some of the Gentry followed… only to find that the New World already had spirits of its own, called manitou and other such names by the Native tribes. Now generations have passed, and the Irish have made homes in the new land, but the Gentry still wander homeless on the city streets. Gathering in the city shadows, they bide their time and dream of power. As their dreams grow harder, darker, fiercer, so do the Gentry themselves.

 

 

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Days before a massive exhibition at the New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being murdered. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human. The museum’s directors decide to go ahead with the bash in spite of the murders. Now museum researcher Margo Green must find out who or what is doing the killing.

 

 

 

 

 

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion.

 

 

 

 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

 

The story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

 

 

 

 

 

And for those of you who want to sink your fangs into yet more great choices, here are more wicked good books…

Salem’s Lot
Stephen King
13th Tale
Diane Setterfield
William Peter Blatty

 

Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders
The Monster’s Corner
Christopher Golden

 

The Troop
Nick Cutter
F. Paul Wilson

Book Discussion Questions: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest book coverTitle:  The Nest
Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Page Count: 353 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Lit, Dysfunctional Family Fiction
Tone:  Sardonic, Moving

Summary:
Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point after an ensuing accident endangers the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, which they are months away from finally receiving. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Is this book funny? Is it romantic (in world-view)? One review compared it to Nancy Meyers movies – (e.g., Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated); would you agree?

2. Multiple reviews compared the opening chapter in some way to a movie-ready hook with action, sex, and drama. Was this an effective way to set the story in motion? Did you find it irresistible or off-putting?

3. In an interview with BookPage, Sweeney says she’s always described the book as being about family and that it surprised her to hear it described by other people as a book about money. Does it surprise you that she didn’t predict others’ perception?

4. In that same conversation, Sweeney points out the book has given people the opportunity to talk about something that is important in everyone’s life but rarely discussed in public. In your opinion, is this true?

5. Did you happen to learn the idea that sparked this book?

… she got the idea for the book while walking through Manhattan one day, on her way to meet her own family for brunch. “I was noticing all of these people sitting in the window with their drinks, on every street corner,” she says. “And I just had an image in my head of family members who are about to get together, but they’re having a separate drink …and the image really stuck with me. And I just started thinking about who the people would be and why they needed courage to see one another, and why they couldn’t drink in front of one of another, and what was difficult about this meeting they were about to have. And once I started started answering those questions, that’s how the story started to take shape. (NPR: All Things Considered)

   What did the moments in the story prior to the lunch meeting reveal about each character?

6. Did you like spending time with the characters? Does that matter? Were there those you were more excited to read about or with whom you could better identify?

7. Were the siblings wrong to make plans for the anticipated money? Do you blame them?

From The Washington Post: An organization called Wealth-X (world’s leading ultra-high net worth intelligence firm) issued report about what it calls “looming wave of wealth transfers”.  Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath some $16 trillion to their children over the next three decades…For rich, this holds little suspense, but for upper-mid-class Americans balancing mortgage payments, tuition bills, and retirement plans on a brittle tower of monthly paychecks, this bounty looms with the promise of salvation.

      Does this frame change your answer at all?

8. Is Leo believable as a character? Do you have any sympathy for him?

9. Are the Plumb characters well-rounded?

10. What about the siblings’ partners? Are the non-Plumb characters too idyllic?

11. Many readers express an affinity for Stephanie. Why do you think that is? Were you rooting for her and Leo to be together? Would you have wanted to read even more about her?

12. What about the subplots with Miranda, Vinnie, and Tommy? Were you invested in these stories as much as those of the Plumbs?

13. The New York Times Book Review piece on The Nest opens with this line: “’The Nest’ is a novel in the Squabbling Sibling genre.” Do you think of this as a genre?

14. Another behind-the-scenes tidbit:

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s agent sent her novel to publishers the Monday after Thanksgiving. As readers who had likely spent long weekends with their own dysfunctional families, he told her, they would be especially receptive to her book’s dysfunctional Plumb clan. The plan worked, and the 55-year-old’s debut landed a seven-figure advance. (The Atlantic)

      Do you admire the calculated timing, or does it seem coincidental?  In your opinion would the book have been just as well received without the proximity to the holidays?

15. The Nest is about a group of privileged group of people – upper-middle-class white siblings – yet would you say that it is successful in touching on issues more universal? How so?

16. It’s also been described as a “New York novel”, a category that though lauded in literary circles is criticized for being too navel-gazing (esp. with authors and agents included!). Would you place it in this category? What makes it so? What transcends those boundaries?

17. The Nest is about inheritance, and upon hearing that word we immediately think of money, objects, or property. What about the intangibles we inherit from family? Consider the siblings and what is illustrated about how we inherit a place in a family and all that entails. What do you think?

18. Walker is fascinated that a group of adults could use the term ‘the Nest’ in all “earnestness and never even casually contemplate the twisted metaphor of the thing, and how it related to their dysfunctional behavior as individuals and a group.”(260) What did he mean?

19. Walker also observes that the issue with Leo and the money sparked a different dynamic between the siblings, that they were “making casual forays into one another’s lives”…and held out hope that they might ”…move on, try to forge relationships with one another that weren’t about the inheritance.”(261) Did you notice this, too?  Do you think this would have happened without the situation with Leo?

20. Late in the book, Melody asks, “when did Leo start hating us?…How was it so easy for him to leave?…Was it really just about money? Was it about us?”(291)  We’ve seen things from Leo’s perspective; can we answer those questions?

21. How did the scenes with Louisa and Nora add to the overall story? What, if anything, do the sisters – both individually and together (esp. as twins!) illuminate regarding family and individual dynamics?  Did you see these forays into the ‘next’ generation as distraction or complements?

22. Melody has an epiphany about herself (with Walt’s help) at the Chinese restaurant outing (300). Do you remember what she realized?  Do you think her life will be different going forward?

23. How did you feel about the final scenes of looking for Leo? About the scene from Leo’s perspective?  Should Paul or Bea or Leo have acted differently?  Did you understand their actions?

24. Were you hoping that Leo would redeem himself? Does the author’s choice seem believable?

25. Did the epilogue resolve everything a little too neatly, or did you find it satisfying?

26. NYT Critic “Janet Maslin argued that the primary flaw of the novel was that it was unable to break out of the tropes of dysfunctional family literature.” Would you agree? Whether or not you agree, did this affect your experience of the book?

27. One book podcast recommended this title for a woman who doesn’t read but who loves reality TV such as the Real Housewives franchise. In your opinion, is this a good fit?

28. To whom might you recommend this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
LitLovers discussion guide of The Nest
MPPL-created character map (contains mild spoilers)
from NPR: “Humor and Heart Fill The Nest
In The Nest, a Family Pot to Split Sets Sibling Relations to a Slow Boil” via The New York Times
The Nest: A Tale of Family, Fortune, and Dysfunction” via The Atlantic

READALIKES:

Seven Days of Us book coverSeven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak

This Is Where I Leave You book coverThis Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

Vacationers book coverThe Vacationers
by Emma Straub

Andrea’s Pick: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Andrea Staff Pick photoIt’s Leonard Peacock’s birthday today, and instead of receiving gifts, he’s giving them. He’s giving a gift and saying goodbye to each of the people he cares most about. After that, he’s going to do something horrible. It’s Leonard Peacock’s birthday, and he’s going to school with a gun in his backpack.

The heartbreaking, luminous, and ultimately hopeful Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is a challenging read that will touch readers deeply.

Podcasts for Book Lovers

As a book lover, where do you find ideas on what to read next? Certainly there are a number of great options, from recommendations given by friends, to interactions with your favorite public library (in person and online), to magazines, newspapers and trips to book shops. Today, we will look at some rich and varied podcasts that can offer yet another great way to find books and connect more deeply with them and their authors. There are many podcasts for book lovers – here are just a few.

Book Riot is a one-stop-shop for every book lover. There is the eponymous podcast, hosted by two book aficionados from the east coast.  However, there are also seven other shows that cover a number of various themes and genres, including personalized book recommendations on Get Booked, SFF Yeah which covers science fiction and fantasy, and Recommended which features many great authors giving their reading picks.

 

The Book Review podcast from the New York Times takes you a step further in depth into recommended books. Generally they will have two detailed interviews with authors of books that have received strong reviews in The Times, and then a panel of editors give a brief critical summary of the books that they are currently reading (though the books can be old or new).

 

Based out of the UK, The Readers is a more casual podcast that features a few British and American friends (and self-proclaimed bibliophiles) discussing books they’ve read. Every week they feature books, both new and old, and discuss what they liked or didn’t like about each book. They will also try to convince each other to read books one likes but the others haven’t come across yet. From Maya Angelou to Margaret Atwood to Ian McEwan, from horror to the classics, this show covers them all and adds a personal charm.

Public Radio’s KCRW produces Bookworm, another author-interview based podcast. It is hosted by broadcaster Michael Silverblatt, and has a conversational format that allows a different author each week to engage in a discussion of not only his or her book, but also his or her experiences and views in other areas of their life. This unscripted conversation can go in varying directions and often includes dramatic readings. The authors interviewed run the gamut of debut authors to seasoned veterans, and include poets and playwrights as well.

As mentioned, these are just a few ideas. There is a rich and robust bevy of book podcasts, and finding those that fill the right niche for you can open your world of reading to a more colorful and multidimensional place.

Cathleen’s Pick: Something Rotten!

Cathleen Staff Pick photoIn a hilariously meta production, Something Rotten! imagines the birth of musical theater as the only recourse left to brother playwrights trying to compete with bad-boy superstar Will Shakespeare. The Broadway cast recording shows off the talent, the fun, the puns, and Easter eggs aplenty to tickle the fancy of any drama geek.

More to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoWe’re now deep into National Reading Group Month, and there’s still so much to discuss! Perhaps your group has already tackled all fifteen books suggested in Part One, and you are eager for a different take. Allow us to introduce five additional categories with titles guaranteed to bring out your opinionated side.
 
 
 

Contending with the Unimaginable

Room
Emma Donoghue
Andy Weir

 

Solve the Mystery

Likeness book coverThe Likeness
Tana French
Cuckoos Calling book coverThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith
Zoë Ferraris

 

Challenge the Norm

Quiet book coverQuiet
Susan Cain
Half the Sky book coverHalf the Sky
Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Bryan Stevenson

 

Discussions in Translation

Elegance of the Hedgehog book coverThe Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
tr. Alison Anderson
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
tr. Lucia Graves
Fredrik Backman
tr. Henning Koch

 

And the Award Goes To…

Salvage the Bones book coverSalvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
Colum McCann

 

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.