Month: March 2017

Asked at the Desk: Book Discussion Ideas for New (and Old) Groups

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

We love supporting book groups in any way we can! Recently, one of the requests we received for help was…

I’m looking for book ideas for the book discussion group I am just starting. We all have a lot of different tastes and we are in our late twenties and early thirties. What should we read?

We broke our suggestions down into four different categories to help the group choose. While every book group is different, some of our suggestions to this individual may strike ideas for your personal reading or your own discussions.

Modern Day Setting, Filled with Drama, Meaty Discussion Opportunities

 

The Nest book coverThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab after a drunken driving incident. The resulting accident has endangered the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

 

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians book coverCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan 

Envisioning a summer vacation in the humble Singapore home of a boy she hopes to marry, Chinese American Rachel Chu is unexpectedly introduced to a rich and scheming family that strongly opposes their son’s relationship with an American girl. What Rachel doesn’t know is that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, she might as well have a target on her back.

 

 

 

Younger Person Striking Out on Their Own

 

sweetbitter book coverSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Twenty-two, and knowing no one, Tess leaves home to begin her adult life in New York City. Thus begins a year that is both enchanting and punishing, in a low-level job at “the best restaurant in New York City.” Grueling hours and a steep culinary learning curve awaken her to the beauty of oysters, the finest Champagnes, the appellations of Burgundy. At the same time, she opens herself to friendships—and love—set against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights

 

 

The Circle book coverThe Circle by Dave Eggers

Hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, Mae Holland begins to question her luck as life beyond her job grows distant, a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, and her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

 

 

 

Favorites of 2016

 

The Mothers book coverThe Mothers by Brit Bennet

The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.

 

 

Behold The Dreamers book coverBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

 

 

 

Suspense

 

All the Missing Girls book coverAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

A nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse. It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

 

 

the secret history book coverThe Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

 

 

 

For book discussion how-to’s and questions check out our resource page! Interesting in having suggestions designed personally for your group? Email us at readers@mppl.org or talk to us at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk.

 

 

Audiobook: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Men We Reaped book coverCrafted in near-novelistic style, Men We Reaped may tempt you to forget that the vivid vignettes are from National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward’s own life rather than from her imagination. Even if so, the poignancy with which she describes the abrupt loss of five young men in a period of a few short years will reveal that this is a writer who knows tragedy firsthand and, even more dishearteningly, knows the struggle to believe that their lives matter to others.

Narrator Cherise Booth is an ideal partner for Ward’s prose, reading with grace and conviction. She skillfully toggles among characters and tones, never losing sight of the harsh truths of the author’s personal experience. Her performance underscores the resignation, strength, uncertainty, and stubborn hope that make this layered, lyrical memoir unforgettable.

Staff Pick: Embassytown by China Miéville

Picture of CathleenThe world-building in Embassytown is meticulous yet subtle, and it is a fascinating backdrop for a narrative in which an indecipherable language plays a central role in the dynamic between human colonists and the complicated beings on a distant planet. Complex, graceful, and perhaps perfect for any Arrival fans eager for next-level storytelling.

List: Your Novel is Too Long. It’s Also Great.

Today in the Tournament of Books (You are following, right? If not, let us remind you why you should) the post-judgment debate included advice to authors that no matter what it’s about, “Your novel is too long,” but after further consideration concluded, “Write it anyway.” This made us brainstorm lengthy-but-great books of our experience, and these are a sampling of those that must be mentioned:

Nix book coverThe Nix by Nathan Hill

2016. 625 pages.

Astonished to see the mother who abandoned him in childhood throwing rocks at a presidential candidate, a bored college professor struggles to reconcile the radical media depictions of his mother with his small-town memories and decides to draw her out by penning a tell-all biography.

 

 

1Q84 book cover1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

2011. 925 pages.

An ode to George Orwell’s 1984 told in alternating male and female voices relates the stories of Aomame, an assassin for a secret organization who discovers that she has been transported to an alternate reality, and Tengo, a mathematics lecturer and novice writer.

 

 

11_22_63 book cover11/22/63 by Stephen King

2011. 849 pages.

Receiving a horrific essay from a GED student with a traumatic past, high-school English teacher Jake Epping is enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a mission for which he must befriend troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

 

Goldfinch book coverThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

2013. 771 pages. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend’s family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother; a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.

 

Seveneves book coverSeveneves by Neal Stephenson

2015. 867 pages.

A catastrophic event renders the Earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity in outer space. Five thousand years later, their progeny, seven distinct races now three billion strong, embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

 

Luminaries book coverThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

2013. 834 pages. Winner of the Man Booker Prize.

In 1866, a weary Englishman lands in a remote gold-mining frontier town on the coast of New Zealand to make his fortune and forever leave behind his family’s shame. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to investigate what links three crimes that occurred on a single day, events in which each man finds himself implicated in some way.

 

Book Discussion Questions: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun book coverTitle: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Page Count: 496 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Tone:  Atmospheric, Commanding

Summary:
Brings to life a fearless and captivating woman from recent history: Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa.

 

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:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Historical fiction based on real people has become a popular genre.  Why do you think this is?  How do you feel about novels based on real people?

2. Biographies have been written about Beryl Markham, and Markham herself wrote a memoir, West with the Night.  In your opinion, would having access to these works make it more or less challenging to create a fictionalized account of her life?

3. Were you familiar with Beryl Markham before you read Circling the Sun?  Did reading this book contribute to your understanding of her?

4. Are you curious about the parts of Markham’s life that McLain chose to not include?

5. How do you think the author meant to portray Beryl Markham?  Do you believe Beryl is portrayed in a positive light?

6. Do you believe first person narration helped you connect with Beryl as a character?

7. Does Beryl have a lot of agency in her own life?   How does she handle circumstances not within her control?  Did you disagree with any of her choices?

8. How did Beryl conduct her life within or against gender norms of the time?

9. Karen tells Beryl she admires her independence, to which Beryl replies, “I have fought for independence here, and freedom, too. More and more I find they’re not the same thing” (pg. 161).  How are the themes of independence and freedom explored in Circling the Sun?

10. Does the colonial setting complicate your opinion of the book?

11. Some readers have critiqued the novel’s emphasis on romantic pursuits at the expense of additional exploration of Markham’s accomplishments in horse training and aviation.  What are your thoughts on this?

12. Marveling over the new foal Pegasus, Beryl thinks, “Somehow this miraculous animal belonged to me: a bit of grace I hadn’t even known I was desperate for” (pg. 61). In her youth and early adulthood, how does Beryl connect with animals, and horses in particular?

13. In her memoir West with the Night, Beryl Markham wrote, “Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia.  It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations.  … It is all these things but one thing – it is never dull” (pg. 8).  How did the setting of Circling the Sun contribute to your understanding of Africa in the early 20th century?  How important was Kenya to Markham?

14. Toward the end of West with the Night, Markham wrote, “A life has to move or it stagnates.  Even this life, I think. … Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday” (pg. 238).  Do you think Circling the Sun captures Markham’s zeal for variety?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Discussions questions written by publisher
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
McLain on the story
behind Circling the Sun
Photo gallery provided by publisher
New York Times article on Beryl Markham
NPR book review on Circling the Sun
Video of Paula McLain discussing her work
Longitude Blog’s interview with Paula McLain

READALIKES:

The Ashford Affair book coverThe Ashford Affair
by Lauren Willig

Twain's End book coverTwain’s End
by Lynn Cullen

Boleto book coverBoleto
by Alyson Hagy

Staff Pick: The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

Picture of JoyceI’m not a minimalist, but I’m slowly working towards it. I don’t want stuff to dominate my life. Do you have clothes in your closet that are three sizes smaller than what you currently wear? Are you holding onto items from your parents that you will never use? Do you have ten sets of sheets but only own two beds? Then The Joy of Less is the book for you! Too much stuff weighs us down, takes up our time, and clutters our homes and minds.  Author Francine Jay encourages us to deal with clutter, get rid of excess, and live happily with less.

List: Beauties and Beasts in Love

A tale as old as time… but that doesn’t stop romantics through the years thrilling to the story of a heroine who sees past an animal-like exterior to recognize a noble heart beneath. Today is the release of Disney’s remake of its celebrated Beauty and the Beast, and we are marking the occasion with a collection of re-imaginings for adult readers.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast book coverWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast
by Eloisa James
The Earl of Marchant lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. Rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.  However, Miss Linnet is not just any woman.
Beauty book coverBeauty
by Susan Wilson
Traveling to New Hampshire to paint a portrait, Alix finds a man hideously deformed by a rare genetic disease, but as she spends hours working on the portrait, she discovers the magnificent man inside the recluse.
Lair of the Lion book coverLair of the Lion
by Christine Feehan
To rescue her imprisoned brother, Isabella is willing to brave the fabled lair of the lion. When the imposing figure commands her to become his bride, she agrees in the hope she can save his tortured soul.

 

Bride and the Beast book coverThe Bride and the Beast
by Teresa Medeiros
Sent into a ruined castle as a sacrificial victim for a dragon, Gwendolyn Wilder finds herself instead lured into the castle lord’s luxurious bed.
Simply Love book coverSimply Love
by Mary Balogh
While on a summer holiday in Wales, Anne meets Sydnam Butler, a taciturn hero of the Peninsula Wars. Gentle yet courageous, but also wounded, he is unlike any man she has ever encountered.
To Beguile a Beast book coverTo Beguile a Beast
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Socialite Helen takes a job as a housekeeper in a crumbling Scottish castle, where she refuses to let the beast-like Sir Alastair scare her away with his surliness and scars.

 

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast book coverBeauty and the Clockwork Beast
by Nancy Campbell Allen
When Lucy, a botanist famous for her vampire research, arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her sick cousin, she finds that mysteries abound. A restless ghost roams the hallways, and Lord Miles is clearly hiding a secret.
Fire Rose book coverThe Fire Rose
by Mercedes Lackey
Accepting a governess position after her father’s death, Rosalind is disturbed when her only contact with her new employer is through a speaking tube, but she finds joy in her assignment–to read wonderful literature to him.
Yours Until Dawn book coverYours Until Dawn
by Teresa Medeiros
Blinded in battle, war hero Gabriel lives as a recluse in his family’s mansion, until the arrival of nurse Samantha, who sets out to heal not only the arrogant earl’s body, but also his heart and mind.

 

Hearts Blood book coverHeart’s Blood
by Judith Marillier
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family. When the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household.
Chocolate Rose book coverThe Chocolate Rose
by Laura Florand
Hot-tempered Gabriel isn’t above blackmail to get what he wants, but what he wants might be the daughter of his worst enemy. In the heat and sun of Provence, with roses, fountains, and ancient stone villages, even a beast can prove he is a prince at heart . . .
Beauty and the Werewolf book coverBeauty and the Werewolf
by Mercedes Lackey
Bella finds herself attacked by a wolf…who turns out to be a cursed nobleman. Secluded in his castle, she is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh– when he isn’t howling at the moon.

 

Night Talk by George Noory

Night Talk book coverGreg Nowell is a late-night talk show host covering a wide range of controversial subjects from aliens to cyber security. His talks of conspiracy become closer to reality when he is accused by the government of being the recipient of top-secret files in addition to receiving a call claiming he is responsible for the caller’s impending suicide. Greg is devoted to untangling the web of conflicting information to find the truth, even as his own life is on the line.

Between the short chapters and the constant revelations, it’s hard to stop turning the pages of Night Talk. As a bonus, George Noory brings his own experience as a radio host in the formation of the 2016 thriller.

Staff Pick- Good Eats Three: The Later Years by Alton Brown

Joanne from Community Services suggests Good Eats Three, The Later Years by Alton Brown

Good Eats 3 book coverAlton Brown has a very simple, but scientific, and methodical way of looking at food. In his book, Good Eats Three: The Later Years, Brown revisits the final 85 episodes of his culinary cult classic program, Good Eats. These shows highlight recipes, or “applications” that are simpler and feature common foods that people don’t ever think about making. It’s not fussy food, to say the least.

Each episode of Good Eats has a theme and tells the story about a certain food or culinary tradition. They can range from a certain cooking technique, like planking, or to the origin of a food like the Marshmallow.

Always the performer and informer, Brown’s gift is making the most mundane food interesting and he makes his audience think outside the pizza box. Episode 192: Celeryman deconstructs celery and even gives the reader an application for celery soda. Yum.

Although the show is over, this book can reignite your interest in cooking and the science behind it.

For more informative cookbooks and delicious recipes, try…

The Joy of Cooking book coverJoy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
In 1931 Irma Rombauer took her life savings and self-published a book called The Joy of Cooking. Now in an updated 75th Anniversary edition, the voice of the original authors are restored to provide many quick and healthy recipes for the way we cook today.
Mastering the art of French Cooking book coverMastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child
This collection that introduced America to Julia Child is for both seasoned cooks and beginners who love good food and long to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic cuisine.

 

Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless book coverMexico One Plate at a Time
by Rick Bayless
This great introduction to Mexican cuisine is a launchpad to master before you head into further exploration, more complicated techniques, and harder-to-find ingredients. These recipes are not complex, but they are authentic.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan
This author introduces the idea of pairing pasta shape with sauces, encouraged using seasonal produce in Italian cooking, and started the craze for balsamic vinegar.

 

2017 Tournament of Books

Picture of Tournament of Books display

“Art belongs to the beholder. But to give that beholder a mic for a second, make them test themselves out loud—whether it’s the judges or the commentariat—and then have everyone discuss it out in the open? That’s what we find interesting.”
Angela Chen

Every year The Morning News hosts The Tournament of Books. Sixteen books face off as various literary celebrity judges weigh their merits for advancement. The winner receives bragging rights and is offered the prize of a live rooster! Books considered for the bracket are fiction released in 2016 published in English. Last year the winner was The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which went on to be the first book from the United States of America to win the Man Booker Prize.

While it’s hard to narrow down some of our favorites from the sixteen, here are a few we are looking forward to hearing discussed:

 

Underground Railroad book coverThe Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

Version Control
by Dexter Palmer

The Vegetarian
by Han Kang

 

Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi

We Love You, Charlie Freeman
by Kaitlyn Greenidge

The Mothers book coverThe Mothers
by Brit Bennett