Check It Out

Book Discussion Questions: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove book coverTitle:  A Man Called Ove
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Page Count: 337 pages
Genre: Fiction, Humorous
Tone:  Quirky, Character-focused

Summary:
A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.

 

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:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The title of the book is A Man Called Ove. How do you define masculinity or what makes a “man”?

2. If the author had used a woman as the lead character aka “A Woman Called Ovina”, would that have worked for you?  Why or why not?

3. Do you recall the opening chapter (A man Called Ove buys a computer that is not a computer)?  How did these few pages set your expectations for the novel?

4. Ove has several rants throughout the novel.  Be honest, did you ever channel your inner Ove and find yourself agreeing with any of them? If so what resonated with you? Some examples of his rants: people driving in places clearly marked no cars allowed, the lanky one having such a hard time backing up his trailer, people paying everything on credit, and service charges for credit card purchases.

5. How do you feel about Backman’s use of alternating the present and past to tell the story? Do you think this is more or less effective than if he had told the story from a strictly chronological view?

6. An unfortunate character in Ove’s past was Tom.  Tom stole and Ove took the fall.  What did you think of Ove when he refused to name Tom as the thief??

7. Thanks to Tom, Ove was ultimately shifted to the night shift which is how he met Sonja.  “All roads lead to something you were always pre-destined to do” (pg. 79).  What do you think of this statement?

8. Ove is a completely honest man, yet when he first met Sonja he lied about himself.  Why?

9. What drew Ove and Sonja to each other?

10. Sonja described loving someone, like moving into a house “At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you… over the years, the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection but rather for its imperfections”.  What are your thoughts?

11. We learn that Sonja and Ove lose their unborn child.  What kind of father do you believe Ove would have been?

12. What did you think of Ove’s visits with his wife?

13. If you were to have an “Ove” in your life, do you think he would be the type of person you could be married to or have as a friend?

14. Once Ove is forcibly retired, he plans to “retire” himself?  Why do you think Ove wants to kill himself?  Do his suicide attempts reconcile to the type of man he is?

15. What did you think about his various attempts?

16. What did you think about Ove’s relationship with Cat?

17. The driving force of the story is Ove’s relationship with Parvenah. What do you think drew Parvenah to Ove and vice-versa?

18. One of my favorite passages was discussing Ove and Sonja.  He was a man of black and white and she was color, all the color he had.  Yet when Nasanin drew him she drew everyone else in black and white and Ove in a rainbow of color.  Parvenah said she always drew Ove that way.  What do you think Backman was trying to say?

19. Backman discusses the rift in Ove and Rune’s friendship on pg. 245 “Maybe their sorrow over children that never came should have brought the two men closer.  But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead”. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

20. What do you think about the ending of the book?

21. What do you think of Ove’s persona at the beginning of the book versus his persona at the end of the book?

22. Fredrik Backman calls this book a fable.  If that is true, what would the moral of this book be for you?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Reading guide from Lit Lovers’
A book club’s experience discussing Ove
Interview with Fredrick Backman
BBC Radio 4 talks to Backman (audio)
Backman on his writing

READALIKES:

Storied-Life-of-A.J.-Fikry book coverThere must be some mistake book cover The Widower's Tale book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
There Must Be Some Mistake by Frederick Barthelme
The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

Save

Staff Pick: This is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal TapSatirizing both rock stars and documentary film, This Is Spinal Tap is ranked as one of the funniest movies ever made. The rock music mockumentary was written, scored by, and starred Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer.  Much of the dialogue was ad-libbed, and that improvisation produced over 100 hours of footage, which was cut down to 83 wacky minutes.

Save

Save

Save

Fiction: Tough Guy Romance

If you think all romance heroes are lords, dukes, and earls, allow us to pull you into the 21st century. August is Romance Awareness Month, and that makes it the perfect time to meet a few of the tough guys who like their rides, their ink, and their work almost as much as they love their women.

Rev Your Engines

Killer Curves book coverKiller Curves
Roxanne St. Claire

Motor Mouth book coverMotor Mouth
Janet Evanovich

Join the (Motorcycle) Club

Ride Hard book coverRide Hard
Laura Kaye

Hell on Wheels book coverHell on Wheels
Julie Ann Walker

 

Tattoo Your Heart

Clipped Wings book cover

Clipped Wings
Helena Hunting

Rock Steady book coverRock Steady
Dawn Ryder

Offer Military Support

Fly with Me book coverFly with Me
Chanel Cleeton

Unsung Hero book coverThe Unsung Hero
Suzanne Brockmann

 

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Amish Firefighter book coverThe Amish Firefighter
Laura V. Hilton

Hot for Fireman book coverHot for Fireman
Jennifer Bernard

What’s Cooking?

Some Like It Hot book coverSome Like It Hot
Louisa Edwards

Breakfast in Bed book coverBreakfast in Bed
Robin Kaye

 

Movies and TV: Sound of Noise

Sound of Noise DVD coverCall this the Drums of Anarchy. A group of brilliant percussionists conspire to unleash a masterpiece of performance art on an unsuspecting public. “Music for One City and Six Drummers” is comprised of four movements, each carried out as a comic caper in a different venue. First, they invade a hospital operating theater, then a bank. Taking the space hostage, they create carefully-coordinated rhythms using whatever is at hand, be it a paper shredder, a bulldozer, or a celebrity patient, and then exit in a quick getaway. Their hallmark at each scene is an old-school metronome, and the inspector assigned to bring order to their chaos is taunted over and over again.

A Swedish film entry (and prizewinner) at multiple festivals, Sound of Noise is audacious fun to the beat of a shockingly unique set of drums.

Staff Pick: Monkey by Desmond Morris

Steve from Research Services suggests Monkey by Desmond Morris

Monkey book coverI worked in the Youth Services Department for 12 years and have been in Research Services for the last six. Compared to what’s written for young people, there aren’t as many nonfiction series for adults, but one of the best nonfiction series for adults is Animal by UK publishing company Reaktion Books. So far, my favorite of the series is Monkey by Desmond Morris.

Like the other books in the series, it is about this particular animal in science, history, art, literature, religion, everything. It’s amazing all the projection of human traits people put on monkeys! They are both super cute lovely versions of us as well as our worst fears. The amount of havoc so many monkeys create is astounding, and you will be astounded too with any book from this series.

 

Spider by Katarzyna & Sergiusz Michalksi book cover

Spider by Katarzyna & Sergiusz Michalksi

Fascinating and Frightening! Why are so many people scared of spiders? The relationship between humans and spiders are as complicated as their web.

 

 

 

Elephant by Dan Wylie book cover

Elephant by Dan Wylie

This book draws on a rich array of cultural examples to document the elephant’s symbolic power, from the Hindu god of wisdom to Babar and Dumbo.

 

 

 

Flamingo by Caitlin R. Knight book cover

Flamingo by Caitlin R. Knight

Flamingo untangles the scientific research of this unusual bird and looks at its role in popular culture, and why we have flocks of plastic pink birds on our lawn.

 

 

 

Tortoise by Peter Young book cover

Tortoise by Peter Young

The tortoise is the oldest of the living land reptiles, the surviving link between animal life in water and on the land. It has existed for 200 million years, and they look it.

 

 

 

Hare by Simon Carnell book coverHare by Simon Carnell

The story of the hare is about a small mammal valued for its fur, flesh, reproductive power, and exceptional speed.

What Books Are People Talking About?

This summer, Twitter users took to sharing online what they have been reading using #MPPLSummer16. Below is a sampling of the books that have struck Mount Prospect Library users enough to tweet about.

 

Cover of JewelsJewels: A Secret History
by Victoria Finlay
“For my first Challenge book (A), I am LOVING the non-fiction book, Jewels: a Secret History by . ” -@amymerda

The Widow book coverThe Widow
by Fiona Barton

“Can’t put down “The Widow”. It’s a great psychological thriller! ” -@mooti

Citizen book coverCitizen
by Claudia Rankine

“CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine injects texture into race conversation with boldness and grace. Powerful, compact audio choice for ” -@nglofile

Rogue Lawyer book coverRogue Lawyer
by John Grisham
Just finished Rogue Lawyer by Grisham, easy and intriguing. Starting Stiletto by O’Malley. If you haven’t read The Rook, do.” -@jenzerbenz

Boys in the Boat book coverThe Boys in the Boat
by Daniel James Brown
“Picked up our Summer Reading Challenge at – we are now on a mission! ” -@prospectdad

Bet Me book coverBet Me
by Jennifer Crusie
“After 3 recs, finally made time for BET ME by , and it didn’t disappoint. Missing fun rom-coms? Start here! ” -@nglofile

Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta

“Just finished Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta and it has this quiet fierce beauty to it. So good! ” -@jennyandthings

Cover of Dead WakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson

Reading Dead Wake by . Love the description of the Lusitania as a “floating village in steel.” – @CKmorency

 
 
 

Summer isn’t over yet! Share what you’ve been reading using #MPPLSummer16!

The Summer Reading Challenge ends July 31st. If you’ve read 3 books since June 1, they may be applicable for the challenge! Stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk to see and enter to win for a prize.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Discussion Questions: Remembering Babylon by David Malouf

Remembering Babylon book coverTitle:  Remembering Babylon
Author:  David Malouf
Page Count: 200 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary, Aboriginal Fiction
Tone:  Lyrical, Thought-Provoking, Strong Sense of Place

Summary:
In the mid-1840s, a thirteen year old boy is cast ashore in the far north of Australia and taken in by aborigines. Sixteen years later, when settlers reach the area, he moves back into the world of Europeans.

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:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.  What would you say this book is about?

2.  In what way does the introduction of an outsider/newcomer expose the true character of the community? of the individuals?

3.  What were the two initial reactions of the village? Were these responses understandable? What qualities do the two groups have in common?

4.  Describe what you know of Gemmy. How old did you imagine him to be? Who is he at heart? Is he intelligent? Did you sympathize with him? Did anything change your opinion of him?

5.  Was Gemmy an innocent? Why did he come in the first place? Do your answers affect your experience of the story in any way?

6.  From the opening scene, it seems as if Gemmy is the central character, but he later simply disappears. Does this mean he isn’t the focus of the story?

7.  How does the setting contribute to the story? Is this simply a historical account of Australia, or is there a universal element to the book? What is the implied relation between Gemmy’s fate and the progress of Australian history?

8.  In many ways, Janet is closest to Gemmy – the one who understands him, the one he most accepts. Janet is also the focus of several pivotal scenes. Why? What is the author attempting to say, for instance, in

a. her “growing-up” moment
b. the swarm of bees
c. the final scenes as a nun (with Lachlan)

9.  What story is being told with the other characters:

a. Jock McIvor?
b. Mr. Frazer?
c. George Abbot?
d. Mrs. Hutchence?

10.  How did Lachlan Beattie’s character contribute to the story? How did he change? Why do you think he was made a Minister of the government? Did his experiences with Gemmy contribute at all to this path?

11.  Gemmy is repeatedly called a “black-white man” or even “a parody of a white man”. How does the question of race and identity impact the situation? the story as a whole?

12.  What was it that the people feared?

13.  Though Malouf employs multiple points of view, he leaves the aboriginal characters as enigmas. Why might he have chosen to do this? If the aboriginies had never visited, would Gemmy’s treatment have eventually been the same anyway?

14.  How does Gemmy’s treatment by the aborigines both parallel and differ from his treatment by Englishmen?

15.  In your opinion, what became of Gemmy?

16.  Which scenes stand out as particularly impactful?

17.  What did you think of Janet’s statement near the end, “He was just Gemmy, whom we loved….”?

18.  Were you satisfied with the ending?

19.  Did Gemmy change the town or its people? How?

20.  What importance does the title add?

21.  What role does language (or the absence of it) play? Compare with Gemmy’s sense that the words in which Abbot transcribes his story contain “the whole of what he was”.

22.  What did you think of Malouf’s style? He is first a poet; was that evident? Was his non-linear narrative effective or distracting? What does he accomplish by telling his story from shifting points of view and by withholding critical revelations?

23.  Did you have difficulty with the use of dialect? Did this add to or detract from the plot / theme / book as a whole?

24.  Is there a message about colonization? What of the allusions to “dispersals”? What of the longing for connection in a vast, empty land?

25.  Is there a political commentary in Remembering Babylon? a moral one?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Author Colm Tóibín interviews David Malouf
The New York Times review of Remembering Babylon
Spotlight as winner of Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize
Video interview from Sydney Writers’ Festival
Discussion questions from Reading Group Guides
Australia’s Top 100 Favourite Homegrown Reads

READALIKES:

That Deadman Dance book coverThat Deadman Dance
by Kim Scott

Rabbit-Proof Fence book coverRabbit-Proof Fence
by Doris Pilkington

Living book coverThe Living
by Annie Dillard

Staff Pick: Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Picture of MartaDear Fellow  Reader,  it is not fair that actress Mary-Louise Parker is also a gifted writer who has known more than her share of interesting men and experiences. In Dear Mr. You, she addresses them all with unabashed honesty and razor-sharp insight. Sarcastic yet profound, Parker’s letters capture many men quite clearly, perhaps to their discomfort.

Poetry: Gotta Go Gotta Flow by Patricia Smith and Michael Abramson

Gotta Go Gotta Flow book coverIt started with the photos. In the 1970s, Michael Abramson took to photographing a handful of clubs in the South Side of Chicago. Decades later, acclaimed poet Patricia Smith brought new life to the pictures, creating stories surrounding the slices of history Abramson caught. To coincide with the range of black and white images, Smith’s poetry sways from introspective to steamy to empowering, inviting the reader further into fully imagining the life behind the subjects dancing and living throughout the pages of Gotta Go, Gotta Flow.

 

 

Patricia Smith is known for her skill with spoken-word poetry, which is an oral art form drawing attention to the way words sound and are presented to share a specific message. Check out a few more books featuring popular spoke-word poets.

Listen Up cover imageListen Up
by Zoe Anglesey
A great introductory to spoken-word poetry, Anglesey features nine diverse poets including a short introduction of them and a sampling of their poems.
This is Woman's Work cover imageThis is Woman’s Work
by Dominique Christina
Although it’s primarily a guide assisting woman in defining themselves, award-winning poet Christina sprinkles powerful poems on womanhood throughout this book.
To This Day cover imageTo This Day
by Shane Koyczan
Full spread pages of art brings added power and beauty to Koyczan’s strong words about his and others’ experiences with bullying.

 

 

Poetry is category S of the Summer Reading Challenge. It’s not too late to join!
Not sure how to get started?  We have advice!
Share what you read and see what other people are reading using #MPPLsummer16

For reading suggestions, email us at readers@mppl.org or tweet at us @MPPLIB

Save

Save

Save

Save

Audiobook: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus book coverIt’s Thursday the first time Ted sees it. Thursdays are the nights he and Lily talk about cute boys. This night they are debating the Chrises (Hemsworth, Evans, Pine, or Pratt?) but suddenly it doesn’t matter because there is an octopus perched like a birthday party hat on his dog’s head. The octopus, what others might call a tumor, is hungry, and its arrival changes everything.

Steven Rowley’s debut Lily and the Octopus is one of the warmest, wittiest, heart-squeeziest celebrations of love between pet and owner that you will ever encounter. Actor Michael Urie narrates with a nimble flexibility: barking out Lily’s staccato excitement, adding edge to the taunting of the octopus, and giving voice to Ted’s ongoing swirl of emotions. Ted and Lily’s tale will make you giggle, make you weep, and make you very, very glad such stories are in the world.