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Short Story Discussion: The Short of It

Short of It February announcementIf you are a short story reader eager to engage with other literature lovers, you won’t want to miss our program The Short of It, on Tuesday, February 18 at 7:00pm. Join retired high school teacher Ron Crowley-Koch for a discussion revolving around three short stories. All three stories are available online and linked below. You are encouraged to read the stories twice to glean their true beauty.

Lawrence Sargent Hall author photo

 

The Ledge” by Lawrence Sargent Hall

 

 

 

Welding with Children book coverWelding with Children” by Tim Gautreaux

 

 

 

 

Small Good Thing coverA Small Good Thing” by Raymond Carver

MPPL Staff Favorites 2019

Staff Favorites 2019 cover photo

The end of the year is an irresistible time to reflect on all the fabulous art each of us read, watched, played, and listened to in 2019, and many of our staff wanted to celebrate those high points together. Narrowing down to only three favorites each has not been easy, but this grand finale has given us lots to debate — and we hope it offers the same to you!

Picture of JennyFiction: What We Owe
by Golnaz Hashemzadah Bonde
Music: Amidst the Chaos
by Sara Bareilles
Audiobook: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
by Hank Green
Picture of MaryGraphic Novel: New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Fiction: Ninth House
by Leigh Bardugo
Audiobook: On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas
picture of AngelaNonfiction: The Sun Is a Compass
by Caroline Van Hemert
Fiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Nonfiction: Just Mercy
by Bryan Stevenson

 

Picture of MichaelFiction: The House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Movie: The Last Suit
Fiction: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
by Anissa Grey
Picture of BrianVideogame: Shadows Die Twice
Fiction: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Videogame: Hollow Knight
icon for MichelleAudiobook: Recursion
by Blake Crouch
Fiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction: Daisy Jones & the Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

Picture of CaitlinMovie: It: Chapter Two
Book: Angel Mage
by Garth Nix
Music: E-mo-tion
by Carly Rae Jepsen
Audiobook: With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Nonfiction: Born to Fly
by Steve Sheinken
Graphic Memoir: They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei
Picture of JenniferFiction: Since She Went Away
by David Bell
Fiction: The Girl Who Was Taken
by Charlie Donlea
Nonfiction: The Feather Thief
by Kirk Wallace Johnson

 

icon for DevinFiction: Queen of Air and Darkness
by Cassandra Clare
Nonfiction: The Woman Who Smashed Codes
by Jason Fagone
Poetry: Love Her Wild
by Atticus
Picture of AnneFiction: Beartown
by Fredrik Backman
Fiction: Who Slays the Wicked
by C.S. Harris
Nonfiction: The Pioneers
by David McCullough
by K.A. Holt
Nonfiction: The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander
Audiobook: The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

Picture of Denise
Audiobook: Get A Life, Chloe Brown
by Talia Hibbert
Audiobook: Internment
by Samira Ahmed
Movie: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Picture of JanineFiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Graphic Memoir: Good Talk
by Mira Jacob
Fiction: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton
Picture of EvaNonfiction: Life Undercover
by Amaryllis Fox
Fiction: Redemption
by David Baldacci
Fiction: All the Beautiful Girls
by Elizabeth J. Church

 

Picture of BeccaTV: Stranger Things
Graphic Memoir: Kid Gloves
by Lucy Knisley
Fiction: Song for a Whale
by Lynne Kelly
icon for KellyFiction: The Flatshare
by Beth O’Leary
Fiction: Would Like to Meet
by Rachel Winters
Fiction: No Judgments
by Meg Cabot
Audiobook: Daisy Jones & the Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Audiobook: The Beastie Boys Book
by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz
Fiction: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michelle Richardson

 

picture of CatherineFiction: After the Flood
by Kassandra Montag
Music: Dedicated
by Carly Rae Jepsen
Fiction: Get A Life, Chloe Brown
by Talia Hibbert
Audiobook: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow
Fiction: A Kind of Freedom
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Fiction: Lovely War
by Julie Berry
icon for Anne WNonfiction: Our Women on the Ground
by Zahra Hankir
Nonfiction: Visualizing the Beatles
by John Pring and Rob Thomas
Nonfiction: Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal
by Yuval Taylor

 

Picture of DonnaAudiobook: Whiskey in a Teacup
by Reese Witherspoon
Fiction: The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes
Fiction: The Paris Orphan
by Natasha Lester
Icon for RebecaFiction: On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas
Fiction: My So-Called Bollywood Life
by Nisha Sharma
Nonfiction: A Dream Called Home
by Reyna Grande
Picture of CathleenFiction: The Memory Police
by Yoko Ogawa
TV: Succession
Poetry: Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50
by Lee Ann Roripaugh

 

Al staff photoPoetry: 1919:  Poems
by Eve L. Ewing
Fiction: Friday Black: Stories
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Fiction: The Need
by Helen Phillips
picture of AndreaAudiobook: Nothing To See Here
by Kevin Wilson
Fiction: Fireborne
by Rosaria Munda
Audiobook: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

 


Want more? Take a look at what staff chose in 2018 and 2017 as their favorites.

 If you’re interested in personalized reading, watching, and/or listening suggestions… Ask!

Exciting New Fiction Series to Discover

If you are looking for a new story world to explore and love the guarantee of multiple volumes ready-and-waiting, try one of these recent additions to the MPPL fiction collections:

Black Prism book coverLightbringer Series by Brent Weeks (5 books)

epic fantasy
for fans of George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss
*recent New York Times bestseller*

Start with The Black Prism
When Gavin Guile–high priest and emperor, the most powerful man in the world known to all as the Prism–discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

 

 

Truth or Beard book coverWinston Brothers series by Penny Reid (7 books)

contemporary romance
for fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson
*Goodreads Choice finalist*

Start with Truth or Beard
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain. But when she realizes that Duane is interested in her, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

 

Rosewater book coverWormwood Trilogy by Tade Thompson

science fiction; Afrofuturism
for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and James S.A. Corey

Start with Rosewater
Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers. Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

 

Sita book coverRam Chandra series by Amish (3 books)

historical fantasy; mythological fiction
for fans of Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson

Start with Scion of Ikshvaku
3400 BCE. India. A terrible war has taken its toll. The demon King of Lanka, Raavan, does not impose his rule on the defeated. He, instead, imposes his trade. The Sapt Sindhu people descend into poverty. They cry for a leader to lead them out of the morass. Little do they appreciate that a leader, a tortured and ostracized prince, is among them.

Book Discussion Questions: The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

The Obituary Writer book coverTitle:  The Obituary Writer
Author:  Ann Hood
Page Count:  292 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Reflective, Melancholy, Character-driven

Summary:
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The surprising connection between these two women will change Claire’s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways.

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:  2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The book is entitled THE OBITUARY WRITER, which might imply this is primarily Vivien’s story. Is that intentional? Is it true?

2. What was Vivien’s approach to writing obituaries?

• What is appealing about this?
• Were you surprised we weren’t shown any of the obituaries she wrote?
• How does her role in helping family members to find peace with loss contrast to her own situation?
• When was this difficult for her, and did this make sense to you?
• Would you want someone like Vivien to write your story? Why?

3. In an interview Hood references the challenge of using alternating point of views, “that the reader has to reach the end of each section wanting to stay in that time and place every time…I needed the reader to not want to leave Vivien when her section ended, then not want to leave Claire. Every time.”

• In your opinion, was she successful?
• Were you equally invested in Claire’s and Vivien’s stories?

4. Were there other characters you were interested to see make additional appearances? Lotte? Kay Pendleton (librarian)? Sebastian? What did each add to the overall narrative?

5. What about the male characters in general?

• What roles did they play in the story?
• Is there messaging that can be read into how they were depicted, either individually or collectively?
• Would you have been interested in learning more about any?

6. How is the topic of infidelity portrayed in the book?

7. Did you suspect that David might indeed be alive? Were you disappointed to learn he was not?

8. The novel is bookended with news of Dougie Daniels.

• What happened in the beginning of the book? What impact did that have on Claire?
• When and how does his story re-enter the narrative near the end? What were the ramifications there?

9. In your opinion, do Claire and Vivien bear responsibility for the lives they have? Do you think they own their choices or blame circumstances? Do they take responsibility for the consequences? Should they?

10. In 2002, author Ann Hood lost her 5-year-old daughter unexpectedly to a virulent form of strep throat, an experience she later shared in Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (2008). In what ways might this insight illuminate events or characters in The Obituary Writer (2013)?

11. What difference does it make to different characters that the baby Claire loses was Peter’s? How might the story have been different if it weren’t?

12. Did you guess the connection between the stories of Claire and Vivien?

• At what point did you suspect and/or become certain?
• In what ways did the revelation cause you to reflect back on the character of Birdy (or, for that matter, Vivien)?
• Was this an earned ‘twist’ or did it feel at all contrived?

13. Did Vivien have a hopeful/happy ending to her story? Do you think Claire will?

14. What significance, if any, might there be in the names chosen for the characters? An analysis of story tropes points out interpretations of Vivien, Sebastian, and David.  Are these stretches, or do you see validity?  Any others?

15. In a letter from the author included in the Reading Group Guide, Hood explains how the premise for this novel came about. She’d been in the midst of writing what was intended to be a short story about a young wife during the Kennedy era who was questioning her role as a woman during that time. She talks of always associating the Kennedy inauguration with hopefulness, but then she was confronted with details of a long previous April and the tragedy of the San Francisco earthquake. “I wondered what would happen if I told two stories: one about the hope of January 21, 1961, and the other about the grief of April 18, 1906. In that moment, THE OBITUARY WRITER was born.”

• How might this ‘origin story’ be surprising?
• Do you think the effect of juxtaposing these two stories was what the author intended?

16. Why do you think so much of modern writing/publishing, especially in the realm of what might be termed ‘women’s fiction’, uses the structure of dual storylines set in different eras, often in which two seemingly separate characters must be connected somehow?

• What’s the appeal?
• Do you enjoy reading stories told in this way?
• Are there any downsides?

17. The publisher describes THE OBITUARY WRITER as part literary mystery, part love story. How well does the story fit that depiction?

18. Is this a story you will remember? What do you think will stay with 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:

“‘The Obituary Writer’ by Ann Hood joins 2 Lives in Grief and Hope” via The Washington Post
interview with Bookish: “Ann Hood: The Obituary Writer
Ann Hood Talks about The Obituary Writer, Yarn Bombing, Writing, and So Much More
Reading Group Guides book review
LitLovers discussion guide
story tropes in The Obituary Writer
13 Secrets of Obituary Writers” via Mental Floss
documentary DVD: Obit: An Inside Look at Life on the New York Times Obituaries Desk

READALIKES:

The Perfume Collector book coverThe Perfume Collector
by Kathleen Tessaro

The Address book coverThe Address
by Fiona Davis

The Summer Read of Fame!

Read of Fame photoAnd the winner is…

Throughout the summer, Mount Prospect readers logged over 1800 books, and of those 100 star titles were nominated for the ultimate Read of Fame!  Though the last curtain has fallen on the season’s performances, you can still enjoy the encores of the winning reads. Give a round of applause to the crowd-pleasing titles below, each featured with a critic’s review.

Keeper of Lost Things book coverThe Keeper of Lost Things
by Ruth Hogan
“Tender, mysterious – an angry ghost – it’s got it all!”

 

Jeruslaem graphic novel coverJerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
by Guy Delisle
“Fascinating and informative!”

 

Waiting for Tom Hanks book coverWaiting for Tom Hanks
by Kerry Winfrey
“A rom-com about rom-coms!”

 

It Book CoverIt
by Stephen King
“”Horrifying, heartwarming, and fun – if you have the time!”
1919 book cover1919: Poems
by Eve Ewing
“Poetry inspired by history. Leaves you breathless.”
Castaways book coverThe Castaways
by Elin Hilderbrand
“Great beach read!”

 

Spinning Silver book coverSpinning Silver
by Naomi Novik
“An interesting feminist culturally sensitive tale inspired by Rumplestiltskin”
If You Ask Me book coverIf You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)
by Betty White
“Funny and charming book”
The Long Flight Home book coverThe Long Flight Home
by Alan Hlad
“WWII and carrier pigeons – fascinating”