Check It Out Category: Book Discussion Questions

National Reading Group Month

National Reading Group Month

Rally round, readers and book group enthusiasts! October is National Reading Group Month and we have book discussion resources for you as well as your book club. Our resources include: Books to Go bags (Book Discussion Kits), Book Club How-To’s, Discussion Questions, and more!

Books To Go Bags!

 

Books-To-Go Bags

Each Books-To-Go kit may be checked out for six weeks and includes ten copies of a title, as well as a binder containing information about the book, biographical information on the author, and questions for discussion.

For more information, including how to reserve at kit for your group, you may visit our Books-To-Go webpage.

 

Book Discussion Questions

Staff Created Book Discussion Questions are available online. Can’t find the title your group is discussing? Email us at readers@mppl.org for book discussion questions and anything else book discussion-related or below are a few discussion guide websites.

Lit Lovers
An excellent hub for resources, including: reading guides, book club help, book reviews, and more.

Reading Group Guides
Hundreds of guides from many different publishers are available through the site-a great place to start.

Reading Group Choices
A comprehensive site containing a directory of hundreds of reading guides from a variety of publishers.

 

Completely Booked

Last, but not least, we have a upcoming library-led discussion on October 20th for readers in their 20s & 30s called Completely Booked!

 

Completely Booked book discussion group, Tuesday October 20th from 6 to 7 p.m. Calling all readers in your 20s and 30s, join us for a social book group where we will discuss a variety of genresMeet up with other book enthusiasts every third Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom. Registering for the discussion is required to receive the login information.

 

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

 

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

Book Discussion Questions: Killers of the Flower Moon

TCover of Killers of the Flower Moonitle: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Author: David Grann
Page Count: 338 pages
Genre: Nonfiction
Tone: Disturbing, Richly detailed

Summary: Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

 

 

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. 1. Before reading this book had you ever heard of the Osage Native Americans? If not, why do you think it would be that many of us never heard of a tribe of Native Americans who were among the wealthiest people in the world? “The world’s richest people per capita were becoming the world’s most murdered.  The press later described the killings as being as ‘dark and sordid as any murder story of the century’ and ‘the bloodiest chapter in American crime history’.” (p. 103)  So why isn’t it better known?

 

    1. 2. How did the Osage come to be so wealthy? What tactics did the government employ to inhibit the Osage from freely using their money?

 

    1. 3. The subtitle is “The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI”  – obviously they are intertwined, but are these topics given equal weight?  Were you more involved with one than the other?

 

    1. 4. Mollie is quickly established as the central character.  How would you describe her?  Did your opinion change during the story?  Why did Grann use her as a focus?

 

    1. 5. Is it difficult to believe such an intricate web of deeds and people went undetected for so long?  How do we explain this?

 

    1. 6. Did you like the inclusion of photos throughout the story?  How did that add to your understanding?  Was there anything in particular that made an impression?

 

    1. 7. I’m supposing we have some veteran mystery and history readers in here.  Did any of you guess who was responsible for many of the deaths?

 

    1. 8. Can you recall your first impression of William Hale?  How does the author bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature?

 

    1. 9. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s?  Did anything shock or surprise you?  What made the situation in Osage Co. particularly chaotic?

 

    1. 10. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create?  Would you define him as the hero of the book?  What about his post-investigative life?

 

    1. 11. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of KotFM is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims..  What explains EB’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie?  How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?

 

    1. 12. Part two seems to draw the story to a close, but then we’re teased for part three.  Did this surprise you?  Were you glad?  What do we learn in Part 3?

 

    1. 13. In Part three the story was told differently, in that the author inserted himself.  Was this the right technique to use?  Did it enhance the story?

 

    1. 14. Were you satisfied with how the book ended?

 

    1. 15. How might you describe the experience of reading this book?  Was it easy to delve into?  Fast-paced?  Dull?

 

    1. 16. Did anything in the book make you angry?

 

    1. 17. Would you recommend this book to a friend?

 

    1. Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

 

    1. OTHER RESOURCES:
    2. The New York Time’s February Book Club Pick
      LitLovers Guide to Killers of the Flower Moon
      David Grann’s Official Website
      PBS Newshour Interview with Author David Grann

 

  1. READALIKES:
  2. Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country book coverUnquiet Grave
    by Steve Hendricks

    Rez Life book coverRez Life
    by David Treuer

    by David Grann

Book Discussion Questions: The Paris Architect

Tthe paris architect book coveritle: The Paris Architect
Author: Charles Belfoure
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Suspenseful

Summary: A Parisian architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazi-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent towards, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

 

 

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. 1. The story begins with Lucien Bernard rounding a corner at the Rue La Boetie and a man almost collides with him. The man is almost immediately shot down by the German soldiers.  What did you think of Lucien’s reaction to this and did it set a tone for his character?
  2. 2. Lucien is an out of work architect, desperate for work. He meets with Auguste Manet who asks him to build a hiding space for a Jewish man being hunted by the Gestapo.  Let’s talk about this interaction.
  3. 3. What did you think about Celeste and Lucien’s relationship?
  4. 4. Collaboration was a very sensitive topic for the French. Let’s talk about this
  5. 5. Let’s talk about Adele, Lucien’s mistress.
  6. 6. “The Occupation hadn’t just bred hatred of Jews; it had brought out the very worst in human beings, neighbor against neighbor and even friend against friend. People would screw over each other for a lump of butter”.  Let’s discuss.
  7. 7. It was dangerous to hide Jewish people. What did you think of anyone hiding a Jewish person? Would you?
  8. 8. What did you think about Celeste’s reaction when Lucien admitted that he had saved two Jewish people?
  9. 9. Let’s talk about some of the German characters, did any stand out? If so why?
  10. 10. Most WW2 fiction, including this book, seems to portray most Germans in a less than pleasant light. What do you think of this?
  11. 11. The book is a series of vignettes describing the plight of Jewish people that were hiding. Did any of the stories particularly strike you?
  12. 12. Did you imagine yourself in any of the situations the Jewish people found themselves in? What would you have done if Captain Bruckner lined up the people in your neighborhood or you were forced to hide under a set of stairs?
  13. 13. We meet Adele’s right-hand “man”, Bette Tullard. Let’s talk about her.
  14. 14. Why do you think it was so important to Schlegel to find any hidden Jews?
  15. 15. Let’s talk about Father Jacques, the priest that took in Pierre.
  16. 16. Lucien ended up loving Pierre like a son. Why do you think Lucien took Pierre in?
  17. 17. Pierre realizes that there is something “off” about Alain and follows him. Let’s talk about this chapter.
  18. 18. Lucien’s attitude about helping Jewish people has an abrupt change, let’s talk about this
  19. 19. Lucien is approached by the Resistance. What is/was your opinion of France’s Resistance?
  20. 20. “The Resistance does its best under extremely difficult conditions.  But we must fight back.  To live defeated is to die every day”.  Do you agree, or do you think it is better to choose your battles?  Which side do you believe you would end up in, Resistance or Collaborator?
  21. 21. What did you think of Lucien helping the Resistance to sacrifice his factory?
  22. 22. Let’s talk about the ending.
  23. 23. “When all this Madness if over, I hope we meet again,” said Lucien to Herzog. Do you think they will?  If so, what do you think would happen if they did meet after the war?
  24. 24. Did you have a favorite character?
  25. 25. Do you think history could repeat itself in today’s world?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

New York Journal of Books The Paris Architect: A Novel
Reading Group Guides Guide to The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure’s Official Website
Lit Lovers Guide to The Paris Architect

READALIKES:

Sarah's Key book coverSarah’s Key
by Tatiana de Rosnay

Schindler's List book coverSchindler’s List
by Thomas Keneally

by Monica Hesse

Book Discussion Questions: Born a Crime

Tborn a crime book coveritle: Born a Crime
Author: Trevor Noah
Page Count: 288 pages
Genre: Memoir, Humor Writing
Tone: Reflective, Engaging, Candid, Witty

Summary: The story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.

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. Were you familiar with Trevor Noah before reading this book? Have you seen The Daily Show?
2. Trevor’s experience growing up seemed similar to the experience of people growing up in our country more like 60 years ago than 30 years ago. Does his youth resonate with you in the ways that racism affected him and in the childhood that he had growing up not very long ago?
3. How does language play a role in Trevor’s life and what he observes in human culture?
4. What role does being mixed play in Trevor’s life? How do Americans see him?
5. How did Trevor’s Mom raise him? What were the impacts of her not putting limitations on him and raising him unlike any example she had of how to raise a child? How would you describe Noah? Patricia?
6. What did you think about Trevor’s Mom’s discipline?
7. Where did Trevor fit in? Who accepted him? Why did Trevor always feel like an outsider? How did he cope with that?
8. Do you think Noah had a good childhood? How do you think his childhood is unique from others who grew up in South Africa? What types of danger did Noah face in his childhood?
9. What did you think about Trevor’s relationship with his biological father, Robert? What was Trevor’s father like? How did you view him as a person?
10. How was apartheid similar to American Jim Crow and how was it different?
11. What did you think about the way Trevor’s Mom tried to raised him to treat women, and how does that reconcile with her marrying Abel? Why did she marry Abel when she said she wouldn’t consider marrying Trevor’s father?
12. A lot of what happens in this story is told with humor, even though many things were very dark. Would you consider Trevor an optimist and how did his attitude and views of his own life influence the person he became?
13. Even though he’s only 34, did him sharing his story of his life affect your views on things such as regret and taking chances and the choices that you make?
14. How does this book compare to other memoirs/autobiographies you have read? What do you think of Noah’s writing style? Do you like his voice?
15. What did you think of how he structured the book?
16. Who do you think Noah had in mind as the audience for his memoir?
17. How can this book contribute to understanding current state of race relations in United States?
18. Are there any quotes from book you’d like to share? Any passage or line that was particularly memorable? Favorite chapter?
19. How did you respond to Trevor’s use of humor in telling stories from his youth? How did humor shape his experience growing up?
20. What kind of impact did this book have on you?
21. Did you like the book? What surprised you? Would you recommend it to friends?
22. Do any of his stories / comments challenge your beliefs? Do you think any of his opinions are provocative?
23. Do you think you’ll want to see the upcoming film adaptation? What passages from the book will make good scenes?
24. Noah is reportedly working on a second book, picking up where Born a Crime ends and about his journey as a comedian in South Africa. Will you be interested in reading it?

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 New York Times Books of the Times
The Guardian review of Born a Crime
Trevor Noah’s official website
NPR interview with Trevor Noah

READALIKES:

Revolution for Dummies book coverRevolution for Dummies
by Bassem Youssef

American on Purpose book coverAmerican on Purpose
by Craig Ferguson