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Book Discussions at the Library May 2010

April 26, 2010 by Reader's Connection

The Southport, Pike and Franklin Road libraries have April book discussions coming this week.

Harriet Reisen´s biography Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, April 26th at 7:00 p.m.

TLouisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

Reisen’s love for Little Women and curiosity about the author became a grand obsession, inspiring her to write the screenplay for the first Alcott documentary and this uniquely vital and dramatic biography. Reisen’s cinematic eye brings Louisa to whirling life as a coltish, fearless girl of “explosive exuberance” and sharp intellect, while she portrays Louisa’s parents with compassion and criticism: blue-blooded Abigail, continually pregnant, impossibly burdened, yet resilient and innovative; utopian Bronson, famous for his progressive ideas, infamous for his incompetence. Alcott inherited her mother’s pragmatism and courage and a touch of her father’s vision and madness and bravely struggled through a crazy-quilt childhood of wretched poverty and social privilege–their closest friends were the luminaries Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, whom Alcott loved. She supported the family, laboring as a laundress, teaching, and serving as an army nurse in the Civil War while “training herself as a businesswoman as well as a fast, versatile pen for hire.” . . . Here, finally, is Alcott whole, a trailblazing woman grasping freedom in a time of sexual inequality and war, a survivor of cruel tragedies, a quintessential American writer. — Booklist

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne will be discussed at the Pike Library on Tuesday, April 27th at 6:30 p.m.

The Boy in the Striped PajamasSome of the most thought-provoking Holocaust books are about bystanders, including those who say they did not know what was happening. This first novel tells the bystander story from the viewpoint of an innocent child. Bruno is nine when his family moves from their luxurious Berlin home to the country, where “the Fury” has appointed Bruno’s father commandant. Lost and lonely, the child hates the upheaval, while his stern but kind father celebrates his success because he has learned to follow orders. Bruno can see a concentration camp in the distance, but he has no idea what is going on, even when he eventually meets and makes friends with Shmuel, a boy from Cracow, who lives on the other side of the camp fence. The boys meet every day. They even discover that they have the same birthday . . . Shmuel is Bruno’s alternative self, and as the story builds to a horrifying climax, the innocent’s experience brings home the unimaginable horror. — Booklist

Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Thursday, April 29th at 6:30 p.m.

My Stroke of Insight

On the morning of December 10, 1996 Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain . . . she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours . . . Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely. In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery — Publisher’s Note



The May book discussions begin at the Wayne Library at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, May 3rd, with a discussion of Halima Bashir’s The Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

The Tears of the Desert

Bashir, a physician and refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe. Doted on by her father, who bucked tradition to give his daughter an education, and feisty grandmother, who bequeathed a fierce independence, Bashir grew up in the vibrant culture of a close-knit Darfur village. (Its darker side emerges in her horrific account of undergoing a clitoridectomy at age eight.) She anticipated a bright future after medical school, but tensions between Sudan’s Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship and black African communities like her Zaghawa tribe finally exploded into conflict. The violence the author recounts is harrowing: the outspoken Bashir endured brutal gang-rapes by government soldiers, and her village was wiped out by marauding Arab horsemen and helicopter gunships. This is a vehement cri de coeur–“I wanted to fight and kill every Arab, to slaughter them, to drive them out of the country,” the author thought upon treating girls who had been raped and mutilated–but in showing what she suffered, and lost, Bashir makes it resonate. — Publishers Weekly 


Chaim Potok’s classic novel My Name is Asher Lev will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, May 4th at 6:00 p.m.

My Name is Asher Lev

 The protagonist is Asher Lev, whose interest in painting has alienated him from his family and his community. The conflict with others caused by his artistic interests has also resulted in conflict within himself, as he struggles to understand the meaning and possible uses of his gift for painting. The novel portrays Asher’s growth both as an artist and as a human being, resulting from his confrontation with suffering and conflict.eNotes









The Brightwood Library will host a discussion of Lisa See’s novel Peony in Love on Tuesday, May 4th at 6:00 p.m.

Peony in Love

In seventeenth-century China, Peony, a sheltered and obedient young girl, is allowed to see the controversial opera The Peony Pavilion as part of her sixteenth-birthday celebration. During the performance, which takes three evenings to complete, she meets and falls in love with a mysterious young man. Already promised in marriage, she mourns for the love she cannot have, only to discover as she is dying that her stranger is her betrothed, Wu Ren. After her death, the burial rituals are unfinished, and she cannot go to her ancestors. Instead, she haunts her lover and uses Ren’s new wife to write commentary on the opera to try to reach him, beginning a long and harrowing journey toward fulfillment and eternal rest. See brings the Chinese culture of the Manchu dynasty to life, using the wedding and burial customs to further the plot. Her novel takes on the feel of ancient writing and rivals The Peony Pavilion in romance and political commentary. But through it all, she manages to make her characters real and sympathetic and the plot twists compelling. — Booklist  


Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, May 6th at 10:30 a.m.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Hamid’s second book is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into Manhattan’s hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in (“a form of protest,” he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, upset by his adopted country’s “growing and self-righteous rage,” slacks off at work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a sympathetic grace. — Publishers Weekly  


Holden lives. The Catcher in the Rye by the late J. D. Salinger will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, May 10th at 6:00 p.m.

The Catcher in the Rye


In search of a review to put here, I came upon a site with seven pages of Catcher quotes, and decided that would work as well as a review.


Quotes from The Catcher in the Rye











Sapphire’s Push, inspiration for the film Precious,  will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, May 10th at 6:30 p.m.

Relentless, remorseless, and inspirational, this “horrific, hope-filled story” (Newsday) is certain to haunt a generation of readers. Precious Jones, 16 years old and pregnant by her father with her second child, meets a determined and highly radical teacher who takes her on a journey of transformation and redemption. — Publisher’s note 






 Lion's Heat


The Sugarbookers at College Avenue Library will discuss Lora Leigh’s novel Lion’s Heat on Tuesday, May 11th at 6:00 p.m 
Bad boy Jonas Wyatt knows it is fate that Rachel becomes his mate. He can sense it. He can also sense her reluctance. But she has little power over the mating heat of the Breeds. It is Jonas’s destiny to claim her. And nothing will stop him from having his way. — Publisher’s note








The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, May 13th at 1:30 p.m.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This is the remarkable story of an African teenager who, by courage, ingenuity, and determination, defeated the odds. Born in 1987 in a drought-ravaged Malawi where hope and opportunity were hard to find, Kamkwamba read about windmills in a library book and dreamed of building one that would bring electricity to his village and improve the lives of his family. At the age of 14, Kamkwamba had to drop out of school and help his family forage for food, but he never let go of his dream. Over a period of several months, using scrap metal, tractor, and bicycle parts, the resourceful young man built a crude yet operable windmill that eventually powered four lights. Soon reports of his “electric wind” project spread beyond the borders of his village, earning him international recognition and, with the help of mentors worldwide, he now attends a high school in South Africa.Demonstrating the power of imagination, libraries, and books, Kamkwamba’s heartwarming memoir . . . is sure to inspire all readers. — Library Journal  


Eat, Pray, Love
The Fountain Square Library will host a discussion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia on Thursday, May 13th at 1:30 p.m.


Realizing that her marriage was over and that her life needed serious therapy, she headed to Rome to eat and flirt and enjoy. Satiated on gelato, olive oil, and pasta, she moved on to an ashram in India to practice yoga and meditation before finally traveling to Bali, where she finds new love. Honest, funny, and endearing, Gilbert learns about herself and how she wishes to inhabit the world. — Library Journal 




Lisa Genova’s Still Alice will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, May 17th at 7:00 p.m.

Still AliceIn a highly readable form of bibliotherapy, first-time novelist Genova, who holds a doctorate in neuroscience, meticulously traces the downward spiral of a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer s disease. In September of 2003, 50-year-old Alice Howland leads a very busy, productive life as a psychology professor at Harvard, the spouse of a biology professor, and the mother of two grown daughters. But a series of memory problems, ranging from forgetting where she put her Blackberry to becoming disoriented on her daily run, sends her to the doctor. She learns that she is suffering from Alzheimer s, and the subsequent months and years see a steady decline in her abilities. By September of 2005, the accomplished professional can barely remember her own daughters names. Still Alice, however, is far from bleak as it depicts both the unalterable course of the disease and the various ways family members can cope with it. Clearly explaining the testing, treatment options, and symptoms of the disease within the context of an absorbing family drama, Genova has written an ideal primer for anyone touched by Alzheimer’s — Booklist


Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, May 18th at 10:15 a.m.

Olive Kitteridge

Hell. We’re always alone. Born alone. Die alone, says Olive Kitteridge, redoubtable seventh-grade math teacher in Crosby, Maine. Anyone who gets in Olive’s way had better watch out, for she crashes unapologetically through life like an emotional storm trooper. She forces her husband, Henry, the town pharmacist, into tactical retreat; and she drives her beloved son, Christopher, across the country and into therapy. But appalling though Olive can be, Strout manages to make her deeply human and even sympathetic, as are all of the characters in this novel in stories. Covering a period of 30-odd years, most of the stories feature Olive as their focus, but in some she is bit player or even a footnote while other characters take center stage to sort through their own fears and insecurities. Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope. People are sustained by the rhythms of ordinary life and the natural wonders of coastal Maine, and even Olive is sometimes caught off guard by life’s baffling beauty. — Booklist    


A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris will be discussed at the Pike Library on Tuesday, May 25th at 6:30 p.m.

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

A powerful novel of three generations of American Indian women, each seeking her own identity while forever cognizant of family responsibilities, loyalty, and love. Rayona, half-Indian half-black daughter of Christine, reacts to feelings of rejection and abandonment by running away, not knowing that her mother had acted in a similar fashion some 15 years before. But family ties draw Rayona hometo the Montana reservationas they drew Christine, and as they had drawn Ida many years earlier. As the three recount their lives, often repeating incidents but adding new perspectives, a total picture emerges. The result is a beautifully passionate first novel. — Library Journal 




The Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera will be discussed on Thursday, May 27th at 6:00 p.m. at the Spades Park Library.

Love in the Time of Cholera

 While delivering a message to her father, Florentino Ariza spots the barely pubescent Fermina Daza and immediately falls in love. What follows is the story of a passion that extends over 50 years, as Fermina is courted solely by letter, decisively rejects her suitor when he first speaks, and then joins the urbane Dr. Juvenal Urbino, much above her station, in a marriage initially loveless but ultimately remarkable in its strength. Florentino remains faithful in his fashion; paralleling the tale of the marriage is that of his numerous liaisons, all ultimately without the depth of love he again declares at Urbino’s death. In substance and style not as fantastical, as mythologizing, as the previous works, this is a compelling exploration of the myths we make of love. — Library Journal




People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Thursday, May 27th at 6:30 p.m.

People of the BookBrooks now fictionalizes the history of an actual book, the Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, an extremely precious illuminated manuscript originally from medieval Spain. In 1996, as Brooks has it, as a ceasefire is effected to quell the bloody violence in Bosnia, Australian book conservator Hanna Heath is called to restore the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. The condition of the manscript, including a stain on a page and certain items clinging to it (among them an insect wing that falls from the binding when Hanna conducts her preliminary review of repair needs), leads her on a search for answers to where the Haggadah has been all its life. This, of course, leads Brooks on a marvelously evocative journey backward in time, to periods of major religious strife and persecution, from the 1940 German occupation of Yugoslavia, to 1894 Vienna, to 1609 Venice, to 1492 Barcelona, and, finally, 1480 Seville. Like a flower growing through a crack in a slab of concrete, the exquisitely beautiful Sarajevo Haggadah remained an artistic treasure throughout the centuries despite always seeming to be caught between opposing sides in skirmishes of greed, intolerance, and bloodlust. — Booklist



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