Check It Out Category: Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidyin Up book coverTitle: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Author:  Marie Kondo
Page Count:  pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Organizing, House and Home
Tone:  Matter of fact, Casual

Summary:
This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

 

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. Give me only one word to describe what you thought of this book.

2. Marie Kondo is like a popstar in Japan and she can’t even take the subway any more. Why do you think this book was such a hit in Japan? Why has it been such a hit in America?

3. Before reading this book what did “tidying” mean to you? How is her meaning of tidying different?

4. Did Kondo seem like an unusual kid to you? Why?

5. What are some of Kondo’s key principles found in the book?

6. How does her Shinto belief system play into her tidying? Do you need to agree with someone’s religious beliefs to find value in what they say or do?

7. Which of her ideas did you find most helpful?

8. For those who read the entire book, have you begun tidying? Why was this motivating for you? What were your results?

9. For those who didn’t finish the book, did you do any tidying? Why or why not?

Alison Stewart, author of Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair with Stuff says, “Accumulation has been going on for a couple of decades, but we’re just hitting the tipping point, because of demographics. You have the Depression-era people who were taught to save everything – it was a matter of survival. Then in the 1950’s they were taught to buy everything. That’s a dangerous combination. In the 1980s and ‘90s there was all this money, and also the free flow of cheap stuff. But Millennials might swing the pendulum back the other way.” (Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2016)

10. Do you have examples in your own life/house of this?

11. How is organizing and storing a downfall for Americans?  Check out these statistics.

–“There are more storage facilities in America than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.” (Huffington Post, 4/21/2015)

–There is 7.3 sq. ft. of self-storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation; thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand – all at the same time – in a self-storage facility. (www.selfstorage.org)

  • –I was fascinated that a very American response to all this junk is to make business out of it, whether it’s self-storage, which is a $24 billion dollar business, or junk-removal companies, or personal organizing, or the Container Store. There’s this thought that organizers support the Container Store and the Container Store supports the organizers. But some professional organizers, on the down-low, say “I’m not sure it’s a great thing” Making it pretty doesn’t make the problem go away. (Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2016, Q&A with Alison Stewart)

12. Why do we as Americans have so much stuff?

13. How did the Great Depression affect that generation and subsequent generations in relation to holding on to things?

14. You may be asking the question, why would you throw away something that’s perfectly good? What would Kondo say?

15. What is so hard about paring down?

16. How do you deal with items from your grandparents/great grandparents? Will your kids want these antiques you’ve saved? There is an interesting article by Marni Jameson a nationally syndicated home design columnist, author and speaker. It’s called “Memo to Parents: Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” (http://newsok.com/article/5491694) Now that’s not always true, but she gives advice and considerations when deciding what to pass on or let go.

17. How many of you have downsized moving into a smaller place? What was the hardest thing about doing that? Was there anything freeing about it? How is your life now different from before?

18. Some of you have dealt with the grief and aftermath of losing your parents. How did you deal with going through and disposing of all their stuff? Was there a lot of it? How long did it take to finish?  

19. What will your children’s experience of dealing with your stuff be? Do you have more or less than your parents did? Will you leave it for them to deal with or will you choose to take intentional action to deal with it yourself? Where will you begin? When will you begin?

20. What lessons did you learn or have affirmed in this book? What steps have you taken or will you take after reading and discussing this book?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Blog article: “8 Decluttering Lessons Learned from Marie Kondo”
Q&A on Reddit
People to People discussion questions
Google talk (video)
The Atlantic article, “The Economics of Tidying Up”

READALIKES:

The Things That Matter book coverSoulSpace book coverJoy of Less book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus
SoulSpace by Xorin Balbes
The Joy of Less by Francine Joy

 

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5 Books to Read for the End of Summer

With summer starting to wind down, your next book may either set the tone for your next season of reading or be your last summer book. Here are a few suggested titles to fill that spot for you!

With video appearances by…

The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Originals by Adam Grant

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

If none of these are striking a chord email us at readers@mppl.org and we’ll work on getting together more suggestions for you!

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Book Discussion Questions: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife book coverTitle: Call the Midwife (also called The Midwife)
Author:  Jennifer Worth
Page Count: 340 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Tone: Reflective, Warm

Summary:
Reflects on the experiences of Jennifer Worth as a midwife in London’s postwar East End, including the nuns from whom she learned her craft and the interesting and challenging births she aided during her career.

 

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. Do you believe this book is adequately described as a career/work memoir or is it more than that?

2. What else did you learn about beyond midwifery in post-WW II England?  (What did you learn that you weren’t expecting to?)  Was the book what you expected?

3. Beyond childbirth and midwifery, what are the dominant themes in the book?

4. One of the challenges of writing a memoir is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  Do you imagine Jennifer Worth had any difficulty making these decisions when writing her memoir?  (Note: She continued and wrote two additional books; The Midwife is considered first in a trilogy.)

5. According to an article on Slate (11-1-2012), the character of Chummy was created by Worth (Worth’s daughters insist she was real) – she was not based on an actual person she knew in that time.  How do you feel about the existence of fictional elements in a non-fiction book?  Does it affect your enjoyment of the book?

6. Worth’s ability to connect with people is somewhat restrained – she mentions several times holding back and resisting getting too drawn into someone’s personal situation.  What do you think of her preference to keep a distance?  Do you think this was a professional stance, or more of a reflection of her personality?

7. How do you think this distance/reserve affected her ability to write a book such as this?  Is it a strength or a weakness?

8. Can you recall which anecdotes or deliveries affected her despite her efforts to not be emotional?

9. Which mother/baby moments or deliveries did you find most memorable?  Did they all contribute equally to the book? Were there any stories that should have been left out?

10. What about the men in the book?  Who stands out in your mind?  Are there any generalizations that could be made about how men are portrayed?

11. Which nuns at Nonnatus House did you find most interesting?

12. What was her purpose in writing her memoirs?  Who do you think Worth’s intended audience was?

13. If you are a parent or not, would this affect your enjoyment or appreciation of the book?  What about if you like history or not?

14. Have you seen the BBC series based on this book (and other two books)?  How does it compare to the book?

15. Would you say there are differences between the book and the TV show?  If so, how are they different?  Does one enrich the other?

16. What do you think about the level of detail in some of the deliveries?  Was it necessary?  Does it give you a richer understanding of this line of work?

17. Thinking about the subject matter and the time period / setting, would you say this was an easy or difficult book to read?

18. The book’s subtitle is “a memoir of birth, joy, and hard times.” Was there a balance between challenging stories and more joyous circumstances?  Would you say the book had an overall tone / mood to it, or is it hard to say?

19. How has life changed for women since the time period captured in this book?  Have prenatal care and obstetrics changed?

20. What things do you think have stayed the same?  Despite the specific setting and time period, is there a timeless appeal to this book?

21. Are you interested in reading her two additional books?  Is one enough?  If you haven’t watched the series yet, do you think you will?

22. How would you describe her writing style?  Do you feel aware of the fact that she wasn’t a professional writer?

23. Is there anything that we can learn from her work as a midwife?  If so, what is it and why is it important?

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 group guide from the publisher
Discussion questions and responses from blog, Project Motherhood
PBS music playlist for Call the Midwife
Video interview with Jennifer Worth on her life
Radio Times article: Jennifer Worth’s daughter on their mother

READALIKES:

All Creatures Big and Small book cover Balm in Gilead book cover My Name is Mary Sutter book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Balm in Gilead by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

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.

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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

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What is a Microhistory?

Category O in the 2016 MPPL Summer Reading challenge encourages you to read a microhistory. But wait, what is a microhistory? It is a very narrow or specific study on a single event or object throughout history. Below are just a few of the many titles we carry at the Library! Take one out and become an expert.

Labor of Love book coverLabor of Love: The Invention of Dating
by Moira Weigel
Weigel examines dating throughout the ages, from the days of video dating in the 1980s to today’s texting.
The Warmth of Other Suns book coverThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Three American migrants are traced as they moved from the South to the North to create an emotional yet inspirational story of the struggles involved.

 

The Most Perfect Thing book coverThe Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg
by Tim Birkhead
Bursting with everything you wanted to know about bird eggs, this will cause you to look at birds in a new way!
Banana book coverBanana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World
By Dan Koeppel
A life without bananas? Sounds impossible, right? Wrong! Koeppel tracks bananas through the ages and the sobering reality that bananas as we know them are at risk.

 

Paper Paging Through History book coverPaper: Paging Through History
by Mark Kurlansky
How has paper changed from its beginning to now? Kurlansky (known for Salt) shares the unique roles paper has played in society.
Oneida book coverOneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table
by Ellen Wayland-Smith
Wayland-Smith explores the Oneida community in America, which rejected monogamy, marriage, and the traditional family structure in 1848 and eventually turned itself into a successful silverware company.

 

It’s not too late to join the Summer Reading Challenge.
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

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Nonfiction: Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed book coverdFor the parent that feels like they are being pulled in a variety of directions between work, family, and the rest of life, Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte could provide useful advice to help manage time or at least the comforting solace that you’re not alone. While most of the book is targeted toward middle to upper class working mothers in America, the information regarding the importance of seeking out time for leisure and tips on how to do so can be applied to other situations as well.

This book will count as category V: Read a book with a one word title in the Summer Reading Challenge!

 

 

For a few more one word titles, try..

Injection book cover Injection
by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey
Unbecoming book coverUnbecoming
by Rebecca Scherm
Pride book coverPride
by Lorene Cary

 

It’s not too late to join the Summer Reading Challenge.
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

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Book Discussion Questions: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy book coverTitle:  Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Author:  Bryan Stevenson
Page Count: 349 pages
Genre: NonfictionMemoir, Call-to-Action
Tone:  Inspiring, Explanatory, Sympathetic

Summary:
The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.

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. Is there anything about which you think or feel differently as a result of reading Just Mercy?

2. Who would you say is the center of this book: Bryan Stevenson or Walter McMillian?

3. Which details of Walter’s case were most difficult for you to accept? Was it difficult to believe that this could really happen?

4. What was your reaction to the fact that Walter’s case took place in Monroeville? How could the very residents who romanticized Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird stand for (or, worse, contribute to) Walter’s trials?

5. In which aspects was Walter’s case the ideal choice to use as the focus of the book? Would a case with a less flagrant miscarriage of justice have been a better way to test the author’s convictions?

6. Are the cases used as examples more about race or about poverty? In your opinion, is that a worthwhile question to ask?

7. Stevenson laments that “the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty, in too many places, is justice.” How do you feel when you read those words?

8. Do you agree that “wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes” in our justice system?

9. Critics of social justice initiatives complain that too many excuses are being made for those who have done wrong. What relevance might this opening line from The Great Gatsby have in the debate over this issue: “whenever you feel like criticizing anyone… just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”?

10. How do cases such as Herbert Richardson’s, the man who set a bomb that killed a young girl, test these convictions?

11. Do you believe as Stevenson does, that we are more than the worst thing we have ever done? What effect, if any, should that belief have on the justice system?

12. One of Stevenson’s persistent talking points is that the question is not whether the condemned deserves to die but whether we deserve to kill. How does he explain this? Do you find this compelling?

13. Do you agree that the character of a nation is determined by how it treats the broken, the poor, the oppressed? Is this realistic?

14. In your opinion, is Stevenson against individuals accepting responsibility and/or consequences for their actions? Is there a middle ground?

15. Which other cases were memorable for you? Were you angry? Saddened? Did any moments bring satisfaction?

16. This book is often characterized as a memoir. Does that surprise you? In what ways does it fit that category?

17. What is your opinion of Stevenson as a “character”? Do you feel you know him? Do you understand him?

18. Did you notice the alternating structure of the book in which chapters about Walter’s case were followed by chapters on cases which illustrated different issues? What might the thinking behind that have been? Was it effective?

19. What does it mean to be a “stonecatcher”? What are the implications, both positive and negative?

20. Were you satisfied with the amount of time devoted to how the court system deals with mental illness, women, and children? Are you inspired to learn more?

21. Consider the title. What did you take it to mean before you read and/or what does it mean to you now?

22. The title appears specifically in two passages (p. 294 and p. 314). What is the context? Why “just” mercy in each instance?

23. When asked what effect he hoped Just Mercy would have on readers, Stevenson replied

I hope it makes people more thoughtful about our criminal justice system and the need to prioritize fairness over finality, justice over fear and anger. Many of the problems I describe exist because too many of us have been indifferent or disinterested in the poor and most vulnerable among us who are victimized by our system…

   Looking at your own response, did Stevenson achieve his goal? What do we do with ourselves after reading a work such as this?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Official Just Mercy  website, including detailed Discussion Guide and opportunities to Get Involved
Walter McMillian feature on 60 Minutes
Bryan Stevenson TED talk: We Need to Talk About an Injustice
The New York Times review of Just Mercy
NPR interview with author Bryan Stevenson
Equal Justice Initiative website
Discussion guide from University of Wisconsin-Madison Go Big Read program
When Stevenson received the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, Publishers Weekly asked: Is This the Greatest Book Award Acceptance Speech Ever?

READALIKES:

Between the World and Me book coverBetween the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates