Month: September 2013

Check It Out Blog

Winking with Proust

How Proust Can Change Your Life audiobook coverYou might think literary heavyweight Marcel Proust has nothing to say to you, but French author Alain de Botton wants you to experience How Proust Can Change Your Life. This book is a unique animal, blending wit, literary biography, and self-help to illustrate the power of reading and life experiences. The short chapters have pithy titles including “How to Be a Good Friend,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” and “How to Be Happy in Love.” The audiobook format best allows you to appreciate the humor, with narrator Nicholas Bell easily bringing out the lightness in the anecdotes and observations. Change your life with one of the books we are reading along with our friends in Sèvres, France.

LISTS: Lounge Music

wild cool and swingin album coverYou are leaning at the hotel bar, sipping a cucumber mint concoction, or maybe you are at the casino, dropping a quarter in a slot while making eyes with a certain lithe someone across the aisle. All the while, sleek, sometimes exotic, lounge music plays overhead. Or maybe you are at home and need to escape the norm…

Click here for a taste of the Library’s lounge music collection.

Illicit Love and Misunderstandings that Led to Blood

Feud book coverHatfields and McCoys was a History Channel mini-series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton about two hardscrabble, Appalachian families whose bloody quarrel lasted decades. Living along the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, rugged farming folk turned into warriors after the Civil War deepened disputes betwixt them. Dean King served as an advisor on the mini-series and wrote The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story which explores the feud with new documents, interviews, and regional details. The great-great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield said of the book, “Dean’s book is painfully fair to the descendants of both the Hatfields and the McCoys.”

The Brit Olympics

Twenty TwelveIt takes a healthy sense of humor to bring the Olympics to town, and that’s exactly what is on display in the BBC series Twenty Twelve. Winner of Best Sitcom at the British Comedy Awards, the mockumentary format (à la The Office) mixes a faux-serious treatment with dry wit and satire. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) leads the ensemble as the much put-upon Head of Deliverance responsible to organize the 2012 London Summer Olympics. His team must solve everything from traffic patterns to protesters to an unpredictable official countdown clock, all while keeping a positive spin for the watching world.  Let the Games begin!

LISTS: If You Like Jodi Picoult

Storyteller book coverJodi Picoult writes bestselling novels on dramatic topics as varied as school shootings, Asperger’s Syndrome, infertility, and terminal illness. What if you’ve already breezed through all of the Picoult that’s out there?

If you like Jodi Picoult and want other novelists like her, click here.

House Sings the Blues

Didn't It Rain album coverIt’s been two years since Hugh Laurie’s first album, but finally rabid fans can get their hands on Dr. Gregory House belting the blues while on piano and guitar, backed by the Copper Bottom Band. In fact, Laurie steps side stage on more than a few of Didn’t It Rain’s thirteen tracks, allowing his band members to shine. As such, the album bends from jazz to blues to R&B, and even dips a few notes into tango. Laurie has a love of the Great American Songbook and it is well on display. The first half of Didn’t It Rain will make you boogie while the second half will calm down enough to play in the background on a September, sweet-tea-sipping stroll.

Book Discussion Questions: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

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


Title: Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Author: Susan Vreeland
Page Count: 405
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Literary, lush


Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

1. Do you think Vreeland accurately portrayed the Gilded Age?

2. What do you think it would have been like to have lived during the Gilded Age as a woman? What about as a man?

3. How does New York City come across in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? Does it become another character in the novel? Why or why not?

4. How many men did Clara love? Who were they? What caused her to be attracted to each one? Were there any problems that sprouted from her love life?

5. What were Clara’s personal goals? Were they similar goals to other ladies of her era? Did she achieve them?

6. What activities brought Clara enjoyment and made her feel free and full of life? What things did she detest?

7. Was Clara a likeable character? Did you want to see her succeed? If you could change something about her circumstances, what would it be?

8. What other characters struck you? Was there anyone you didn’t like?

9. What are some of the social contrasts that appear in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? How do these contrasts shape Clara’s character?

10. In what ways was Clara a progressive woman? How did her politics affect her life?

11. What kind of experience did Clara have at her first Tiffany Ball? (Chapter 9) Who did she go with? What did she learn?

12. How do Clara and Alice describe Tiffany? (Chapter 27) What are Clara’s true feelings for Mr. Tiffany?

13. Was Mr. Tiffany a progressive man? Why or why not? Did he have any conservative leanings?

14. How would you describe Louis Tiffany? Was he a good artist? Was he a good man?

15. Do you think that Clara should have continued working at Tiffany Studios? Why or why not?

16. What place was Edwin moved by? Why? What were iconic places and objects of the Gilded Age?

17. Susan Vreeland is described as a lush and lyrical writer. Can you think of any examples of when she made you feel immersed in a scene or wading in the poetry of her prose?

18. Has anyone read any other books by Vreeland? Was this book similar or different to her other novels? Would you read more by her?

19. Do you think things have changed for women in the arts?

20. Who would you recommend this book to? Why?


Other Resources

Susan Vreeland’s website
Vreeland’s book discussion questions
NPR interviews Susan Vreeland
Susan Vreeland on Beauty and the Book
Susan Vreeland at Warwick’s Books

Stop by the Reference Desk for nonfiction books and online resources on Louis Comfort Tiffany and company.


If you liked Clara and Mr. Tiffany, try…

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Remarkable Creatures book cover     Stealing Athena book coverLoving Frank book cover


Divergent book coverColleen of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Divergent by Veronica Roth:

Divergent takes place in a future dystopian Chicago. In this society, there are five factions that a person must belong to. We meet Tris on her sixteenth birthday when she has chosen to leave her home faction to become one of the Dauntless. With her induction to this new faction comes a series of tests to determine if she is truly worthy to become one of the Dauntless faction. What no one knows, however, is that Tris is actually a divergent – a person who can exist successfully in any of the factions. This trait is a dangerous one, since it threatens those in power, and Tris must keep it hidden or it could cost her life.