Check It Out Category: Asked at the Desk

Asked at the Desk: Classic American Novels

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When we receive the same question twice in one week, we take note! Here’s what two of your neighbors recently asked:

I haven’t read more than one or two of the classic American novels. Now I’m ready, but I don’t know which are most important. Also, do you have them as audiobooks?

We understand this can be overwhelming. Not only are there differing opinions about the most essential, there are different definitions of classic! Here we’ll suggest American classics in three categories to help you find your gateway.

Shorter American Classics

If delving into classic literature is new for you, try one that is not only short in length but also accessible in story and writing:

Great Gatsby book coverThe Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fahrenheit 451 book coverFahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
John Steinbeck

 

American Classics by Authors of Color

Too many lists of classics limit the rosters to those authored by white men. Make the choice to invest in other perspectives.

Invisible Man book coverInvisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Their Eyes Were Watching God book coverTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
W.E.B. Du Bois

 

Most Cited American Classics

If your goal is to be familiar with books likely to be referenced in conversation or in other writing, here are three to know:

J.D. Salinger

 

Audiobooks are a great way to experience the classics! Let a talented voice actor bring great writing to life for you. Click for a sampling of American classics on audio. Lists of British classics and World classics are also available.

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to ask at the desk yourself, or ask online to visit our virtual desk.

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

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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.

 

 

Asked at the Desk: Mean Girls and Frenemies Fiction

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskWe adore when readers ask for themed suggestions, and this question from last week sent us on a fun scavenger hunt:

Do you know of any books with ‘mean girls’-type characters written for adults? I’m in the mood for something fun and snarky, but I like darker stories, too.

Absolutely! As we started collecting titles, we realized they come in different flavors and settings. Whether you are looking for characters living the high life, time-tested classics, dishy gossip, or chilling tales, there’s a frenemy story just for you…

Coworker Drama

Devil Wears Prada book coverThe Devil Wears Prada
Lauren Weisberger

Thrillingly Tense

Dare Me book coverDare Me
Megan Abbott

Reconstructing Amelia book coverReconstructing Amelia
Kimberly McCreight

 

Domestic Divas

Big Little Lies book coverBig Little Lies
Liane Moriarty

Momzillas book coverMomzillas
Jill Kargman

Keep Your Friends Close…

Friends and Foes book coverFriends & Foes
R. Billingsley and V. Murray

Crazy Rich Asians book coverCrazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan

Classic Manipulations

Crucible book coverThe Crucible
Arthur Miller

Emma book coverEmma
Jane Austen

 

Confronting Childhood

Sharp Objects book coverSharp Objects
Gillian Flynn

Cats Eye book coverCat’s Eye
Margaret Atwood

 

You too can ask at the desk! Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to say hello, or ask online to visit our virtual desk. We’re ready and eager to answer your bookish questions.

Asked at the Desk: Who Writes Like Liane Moriarty?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskAn increasingly popular question at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk this summer:

Liane Moriarty is a favorite, but I’ve read everything I can find by her.
Do you know any similar authors I could try while I’m waiting for her newest?

We know that as much as you love some authors, they can’t write fast enough to keep up with you! Offering “readalikes” is one of our core services, and here is a sampling of books we’ve suggested to Moriarty fans to great success.


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

At a festive barbecue in a Melbourne suburb, a man slaps the child of another couple, triggering a court case and a variety of confrontations within the lives of the families and friends present.

Why this? Multiple perspectives relate a typical neighborhood experience in which something has gone horribly wrong. Sound familiar?


Year We Turned Forty
The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Three best friends discover the chance to return to the year they turned forty — the year that altered each of their lives — and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Why this? Though lighter in tone than Moriarty’s stories, the exploration of both the road not taken and how our choices define us will resonate with fans of “what if” narratives.

Us by David NichollsUs book cover

What is it that holds marriages and families together? What happens, and what do we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart? Those questions provide the frame for a mild-mannered man who isn’t willing to give up on a life that includes his wife and son.

Why this? It’s not only female authors who balance flawed characters, complex relationships, and those times in which we weigh whether our lives are what we thought they’d be.

PreschooledPreschooled book cover by Anna Lefler

In a darkly humorous story, three characters struggle to find some peace of mind among wealthy parents in a bizarre competition involving their kids. Even while commenting on the over-privilege that allows worry over the trivial, each character is presented with a degree of sympathy and humanity that parents will recognize.

Why this? One of Moriarty’s sharpest themes is skewering middle and aspiring upper class society, especially when it comes to parenting, and this matches both target and tone.

Belong to MeBelong to Me book cover by Marisa de los Santos

Everyone has secrets. While Cornelia gains unexpected insight into her troubled marriage, Piper finds her carefully controlled life unraveling in the wake of a friend’s crisis, and Lake tells a complex series of lies to gain her son’s entry into a school for gifted students.

Why this? This is a thoughtful, layered look at different women struggling to accept the roles in which they find themselves and to navigate family relationships under stress.

More Like Her by Liza PalmerMore Like Her book cover

When Emma Dunham, the woman they believe is the height of female perfection, is murdered by her husband, Francis, Lisa and Jill discover that things aren’t always what they seem, which forces them to come to terms with the secrets of their own lives.

Why this? Secrets, lies, and consequences are favorite themes for Moriarty, as is the idea that what we think we know of others’ lives is often far from the reality.

 
 

If you’ve gulped down this list and want still more, or if you have another bookish question, ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor. We’d be excited to connect you with something to fit your mood!

 

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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Asked at the Desk: I Read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson… Now What?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskA question we’ve received recently:

I read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and loved it. I want to read something similar, but I want it to be fiction, rather than non-fiction.

In a similar place? Good news! We had suggestions for this patron, and we are here to share them:

Picture of Devil in the White City, The Gods of Goth, and I, Ripper

If you liked the history of an American city intertwining with a murder mystery, try The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye. Set in New York during the 19th century, Timothy Wilde investigates the death of a 12-year-old as a new member of the newly formed New York police force in this twisty first of a series.

However, if you liked the multiple perspectives as a detective investigates serial murders, try I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. Hunter does not hold back in this gritty horrific suspense, as readers get taken to 19th century London during the Whitechapel murders, attributed to Jack the Ripper and even get into the horrific mind of the serial killer.

Want more readalikes? Or maybe you liked something different about Devil in the White City that we didn’t touch on? Ask for more suggestions online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor!

Asked at the Desk: What Should I Read Next?

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What Should I Read Next?

This is one of our favorite questions, and today we wanted to share one of our favorite databases to assist in answering this question: NoveList!

NoveList is a great search engine website to find books that you are in the mood to read as well as readalikes for your favorite authors or books.  One of our favorite recent additions to the site is the appeal mixer. So, if you want a romantic book with broody characters or an upbeat book with racy humour, while you can always ask us to help you find options, you can explore NoveList, too!

As a Mount Prospect Library cardholder, you can use this professional website whenever, wherever, and at no cost. You can access NoveList HERE, in the web resources. Once you have entered your library card information and have entered NoveList, here’s how to get to the appeal mixer…

On the top of the page, hover your mouse over the words Browse By. Choose the category Appeal.

appeal

You will then land on the appeal mixer page where you can create different combinations of types of character, illustration, pace, storyline, tone, and writing style:picture of Novelist Appeal mixerThe more general you are in what you choose for your appeal mix, the more results you will receive. While we do not own every book that will come up on your search, we can always look into different ways we can get that title into your hands!

If you’re having trouble getting NoveList to work or would like us to come up with book suggestions for you please ask either in person, by calling the Library, or online. Have fun exploring!

 

Asked At the Desk: Looking for Something Good to Read Part 2

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One of the most popular questions at the desk is,

What is something good to read?

Since good is subjective, if you stop by the desk with this question and have time to talk we will try to narrow down what would be good specifically for you with questions like: What did you read last that you liked? Do you prefer your books to be set during a certain time period? What are you in the mood for today?

However, if you are looking to quickly glance at what’s been popular and/or notable recently, one good stop is the 2016 Reading List: Year’s Best in Genre Fiction for Adult Readers, created by The Reading Council. The award list is divided up by 8 different genres, with one title winning for each genre and 3-4 titles chosen for the short list.

Browse below what was chosen for mystery, science fiction, horror, and romance. Want to see what won for fantasy, historical fiction, woman’s fiction, and adrenaline? Check out our post from last Friday!

Mystery


Winner: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

Shortlist:
Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton
Land of Careful Shadows by Suzanne Chazin
Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty
Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller

Romance

Winner: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

When a Scot Ties the Knot book cover

Shortlist:
When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
Rumor Has It by Cheris Hodges
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Ever After by Jude Deveraux

Horror

The Fifth House of the Heart book cover

Winner: The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

Little Girls book cover When We Were Animals book cover The Silence book coverA Head Full of Ghosts book cover

Shortlist:
Little Girls by Ronald Malfi
When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
The Silence by Tim Lebbon
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Science Fiction

Golden Son book cover

Winner: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Seveneves book coverSlow Bullets book cover  Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits book coverThe Water Knife book cover

Shortlist:
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Have a question about books, movies, or music you’d like answered? Stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor, or ask online!

Asked At the Desk: Looking for Something Good to Read

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

One of the most popular questions at the desk is,

What is something good to read?

Since good is subjective, if you stop by the desk with this question and have time to talk we will try to narrow down what would be good specifically for you with questions like: What did you read last that you liked? Do you prefer your books to be set during a certain time period? What are you in the mood for today?

However, if you are looking to quickly glance at what’s been popular and/or notable recently, one good stop is the 2016 Reading List: Year’s Best in Genre Fiction for Adult Readers, created by The Reading Council. The award list is divided up by 8 different genres, with one title winning for each genre and 3-4 titles chosen for the short list.

Browse below what was chosen for fantasy, historical fiction, woman’s fiction, and adrenaline. Want to see what won for mystery, science fiction, horror, and romance? Check back here next Friday or stop by the Reading List award page!

Fantasy

Uprooted book cover
Winner: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Sorcerer to the Crown book cover The Aeronaut’s Windlass The Fifth Season book coverA Darker Shade of Magic book cover

Shortlist:
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
The Aeronauts Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Historical Fiction

Crooked Heart book cover

Winner: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Girl Waits with Gun book cover Jam on the Vine book cover Paradise Sky book coverThe Truth According to Us book cover

Shortlist:
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Women’s Fiction

Re Jane book cover

Winner: Re Jane by Patricia Park

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance book cover A Touch of Stardust book cover The Royal We book coverDays of Awe book cover

Shortlist:
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Days of Awe by Lauren Fox

Adrenaline

Pretty Girls book cover

Winner: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Descent book coverThe Killing Lessons book cover  The Cartel book coverPalace of Treason book cover

Shortlist:
Descent by Tim Johnston
The Killing Lessons  by Saul Black
The Cartel by Don Winslow
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

Have a question about books, movies, or music you’d like answered? Stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor, or ask online!

Asked at the Desk: Debbie Macomber for Book Groups

Looking for a book that will transport you to a different era? Wondering if all Australian TV series are as much fun as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries? How about a new audiobook that will help keep you sane on a long commute?

These are just a few examples of questions we hear daily at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk! Recently, we’ve been asked:

Are Debbie Macomber books good for discussion?

Our answer? They certainly can be!

Almost any book can provide spark for good dialogue, and much will depend on the people doing the discussing. Some groups enjoy thoughtful debate about serious issues; others are simply looking for a shared reading experience that offers a chance to bond.

Why might Debbie Macomber author picMacomber make a right choice? Her characters are contemporary, ordinary women caught in difficult situations but who remain optimistic nonetheless. The writing is straightforward and steadily paced, so you won’t find extended descriptions, symbolism, or pretention. These books are gentle and upbeat, and even groups who prefer to challenge themselves may be interested in a more mainsTwenty Wishes book covertream, heart-warming story as a break from usual fare.

However, keep in mind that most libraries don’t have full sets of Macomber titles.  If your group likes to take advantage of library holdings, be sure you check on availability before you pick a title.  MPPL does offer one Debbie Macomber book, Twenty Wishes, as a Books-to-Go discussion kit.  In it, you’ll receive ten copies and a binder of questions and other information.  The kit can be reserved up to a year in advance, and it checks out for six weeks to allow plenty of time between meetings. For other titles offered as ready-made kits, click here.

October is Reading Group Month, and book kits are only one way the Library can help your book club. We’re happy to help you select your next title, connect you to other resources, and offer questions for your chosen book.

Have a question yourself? Ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor, and we will connect you with something to fit your mood!