Month: February 2013

Check It Out Blog

Learning Who You Want to Love

Choices book coverFor four friends, Freedom University is more about finding love than academic rigor. Lena’s plan was to follow in the collegiate footsteps of her parents, famous alums of Freedom, and then get married to her NBA-bound boyfriend…but sexual curiosities disrupt that blueprint. Denise is on the woman’s basketball team and doesn’t have time to find a girlfriend and settle down. Cooley is a Don Juan and romances around the campus with whoever is willing. Carmen is getting used to her new self. She lost a lot of weight and, with that loss, self-confidence and relationship issues are gained. To find out who finds true love and their true selves, check out Choices by Skyy.

The Best Crime Fiction You’re Not Reading

Seven Days audiobook cover“Today I will shoot a policeman. In the leg. And every day I will shoot a policeman, until you charge the murderer.” It isn’t enough that Cape Town homicide detective Benny Griessel is tasked with the cold-case stabbing of Hanneke Sloet; he also has to contend with the ticking clock of a sniper who insists the police are engaged in an active cover-up. South African sensation Deon Meyer writes tense crime thrillers against a backdrop of racial conflict and complex personality. With no apparent motive, no viable suspects, and no new leads, how will Benny solve a 40-day-old mystery while at the same time protecting his colleagues? British narrator Simon Vance steers listeners through Seven Days of dire circumstances to create a riveting audiobook experience.

Continuing to Live After Vicious Crimes Happen

Louise Erdrich is no stranger to literary acclaim. Most recently, her novel The Round House won the National Book Award. Set in the 1980s on a reservation in North Dakota, 13-year-old Joe deals with the emotional and political aftermath of his mother being assaulted. The Round House explores crime, justice, and jurisdiction issues between Native Americans and the people living around their reservations.

Here is a thoughtful discussion between Erdrich and Terry Tazioli, host of the Washington-state-based book show, Well Read.

LISTS: African American Biopics

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge DVD coverHollywood gossip tells us that there are all sorts of biopics coming down the line. Supposedly, Don Cheadle has a Miles Davis project; there is a Nina Simone movie, multiple Marvin Gaye films, a Mahalia Jackson movie, and a Sam Cooke project. That’s not even denting the list…but none of them are completed.

Click here if you don’t want to wait to see excellent African American biopics.

A Relaxing, Spiritual Workout

Sivananda Yoga Companion book cover“Inhale and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation and God remains with you. Exhale and you approach God. Hold the exhalation and surrender to God.” These were the words of Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga. For some, yoga is a thorough stretching routine that helps maintain health; for others, yoga can be a route to not only physical wellness, but spiritual balance. The Sivananda Yoga Companion, with its clear-cut drawings and photos of poses, is a standard yoga text that will help you to discover the relaxing, meditative, dietary, and physical benefits of practicing yoga. If you want to boost your energy, flexibility, and focus – try yoga!

Book Discussion Questions: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood book cover

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


Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Page Count: 343
Genre: Nonfiction – True Crime
Tone: Bleak, Sobering

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

1.    Did anyone look up the French epigraph at the beginning of the book? Francois Villon, “Ballade des Pendus,” translates to:

Human brothers who live after us,
Do not have (your) hearts hardened against us,
For, if you take pity on us poor (fellows),
God will sooner have mercy on you.

What do you think Capote meant, using this as the epigraph?

2.    Why do you think Truman Capote introduced the town first, then the Clutters and then the murderers?

3.    Do you like Mr. Clutter and his family when you meet them?

4.    What is your first impression of Perry and Dick?

5.    What about the Clutters? Did you feel like you knew them?

6.    On page 37, Dick boasts that nothing can go wrong. Was he prepared or naïve?

7.    When you read a quote like “Ain’t that what I promised you, honey – plenty of hair on them-those walls?” (p. 37) What does it make you feel towards Dick?

8.    How does Capote build suspense in In Cold Blood?

9.    Capote goes back and forth in chapters between the Clutters and the murderers. Then Capote goes back and forth from the police and the murderers. Why? Was this an effective way to tell a story?

10.    What did you think of Capote’s use of direct quotes?

11.    Did this read like other nonfiction books you’ve read? Why or why not?

12.    What does the term “nonfiction novel” mean?

13.    Do you think Capote gave a fair amount of time to all characters involved?

14.    Who seemed like the worse criminal, Dick or Perry? Do you think that had anything to do with Capote’s writing style?

15.    Perry admits to thinking that they are “wrong,” but Dick continually calls himself a “normal.” (p. 109) What do you think this says about each of the men?

16.    Who do you pity in this story?

17.    Does it change your opinion of Perry to know that he was a veteran (page 128) or to know that he was sexually abused (p. 133)?

18.    How did the police get their big break in the case?

19.    Do you think Floyd Wells felt bad about telling Dick about the Clutter family?

20.    What did you think of Dick’s family’s reaction to hearing that he was a murderer?

21.    When Dick and Perry are caught, who breaks to the cops first? Why?

22.    Was there a specific moment that scared you with either criminal?

23.    If a horrible crime happened in your town, would you talk to a dedicated writer about it?

24.    Was there a passage of this book that was harder to read than others?

25.    Do you believe that the farmhand Stoecklein didn’t hear the four gunshots next door?

26.    What did you think of the insurance man’s reaction to hearing of Mr. Clutter’s death? (p. 71)

27.    What did you think of Dick and Perry’s reactions to murdering four people? (p. 73 – 74, p. 91)

28.    Nye says, “Nobody would kill four people for fifty bucks,” (p. 87). Do you think this is true today? Do you think it was true then?

29.    What did you think of Josie and Wendle Meier? Josie showed calm and caring. Could you have showed that to either Dick or Perry? Would you have?

30.    Don Cullivan, an old Army buddy of Perry’s, comes to visit. Why?

31.    Perry changed his statement to say he murdered everybody. Why?

32.    Do you think there is a difference between reading a true crime book and reading a violent fiction book? Do you feel different while reading one as compared to the other?

33.    Was there a section that moved slower than others?

34.    Did you like where the book stopped at? Would you have wanted its ending to have come sooner?

35.    Do you think Capote did this town good or a disservice by writing In Cold Blood?

36.    Do you believe in the death penalty?

37.    Do you think Dick and Perry “got what they deserved?”

38.    Perry didn’t believe in the death penalty, he said, “I think it’s a helluva thing to take a life in this manner. I don’t believe in capital punishment, morally or legally.” (p. 340) How did this strike you?

39.    What did you think of each man’s last words?

-Perry p. 340
-Dick p. 339

40.    Do you think Capote believed in capital punishment? (Answer found here.)


Other Resources:

Truman Capote Wikipedia entry
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
Kansas Center for the Book discussion questions
George Plimpton interview with Truman Capote
Paris Review interview of Truman Capote
List of catalog materials helpful to discussion*
Original New York Times article that inspired Truman Capote to write In Cold Blood


If you liked In Cold Blood, try…

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Columbine by David Cullen
The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil book cover      Columbine book cover     Executioner's Song book cover







And! Please speak with one of our friendly reference librarians about finding original articles from 1966 about the Clutter family killings in our Chicago Tribune Historical database. The pictures alone make the articles good handouts for book discussion groups.

*These are most helpful when you use the index at the back of the book to search for In Cold Blood.

Larry’s Pick: Building Stories

Larry Staff picks photoChris Ware’s 14-piece graphic novel, Building Stories, follows the lives of three households in a Chicago three-flat – an elderly landlady, a lonely single woman, and a couple with a strained relationship. Their lives are a mix of melancholy, happiness, and contentment that will hold your interest from beginning to end.

Living Like Downton Abbey

Manor House DVD

If your obsession with Downton Abbey has led to you fantasize about being one of the Crawleys or among their staff, then the PBS series Manor House is a must-see! In this project, nineteen volunteers from the modern world agree to live in an Edwardian country house for three months. Not only are they without 21st-century conveniences, but they must abide by the class system and standards of behavior of the early 1900s. As the tagline claims, “There’s a place for everyone…and everyone better know their place.” The tensions between family, upper staff, and lower staff are played out in both expected and surprising ways, and you will gain a new appreciation for all. Looking for even more insight? Try the program website, the companion book, or Secrets of the Manor House.

When a Beautiful Woman Died

Glorette is found dead behind the taqueria. Her son needs to be located and told, so does her Uncle Enrique, who will hunt down her killer. Meanwhile, the ground is ice hard out in the orange groves and her body can’t be immediately buried. Susan Straight’s Between Heaven and Here is the story of a community and its secrets framed around the passing of one woman.

Here Susan Straight gives a TED Talk about why she tells stories.