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Book Discussions at the Library August 2010

July 25, 2010 by Reader's Connection

Three July discussions are still coming our way, beginning Monday night at Southport.

Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations–One School at a Time will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, July 26th at 7:00 p.m.

Three Cups of Tea

Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse’s unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town’s first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson’s efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers’ hearts. — Publishers Weekly

Joe Simpson’s mountaineering memoir Touching the Void will be discussed at the Pike Library on Tuesday, July 27th at 6:30 p.m.

Touching the Void

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death. The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall . . . Publisher’s note

 

 

The Franklin Road Library will host a discussion of Heroes Among Us: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Choices by John Quinones on Thursday, July 29th at 6:30 p.m.

Heroes Among UsHeroes Among Us reminds us all of the courage and dignity it takes to stand up for oneself and those around us. By chronicling such bravery, John Quiñones captures America’s can-do spirit and shows that through the slightest good deed, each one of us harbors a hero within. Texas native and veteran ABC journalist John Quiñones has traveled the world and the country reporting on hundreds of stories during his illustrious career. Long ago he realized that the stories he was most attracted to had one thing in common—a shared focus on the goodness inherent in ordinary Americans. According to John, truly heroic individuals are people who make difficult choices, even in the face of danger, without giving in to fear. They don’t expect fame or money for their efforts—they’re just doing the right thing. They are compassionate and courageous, and our world would be a far worse place without them. They rarely get the recognition they deserve. — Publisher’s note

The August book discussions begin in Wessex, or at the Wayne Library, depending on how you look at it. 

Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far from the Madding Crowd will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, August 2nd at 7:00 p.m.

Far from the Madding Crowd

 

Hardy’s passionate tale of the beautiful, headstrong farmer Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors, firmly established the thirty-four-year-old writer as a popular novelist. According to Virginia Woolf, “The subject was right; the method was right; the poet and the countryman, the sensual man, the sombre reflective man, the man of learning, all enlisted to produce a book which . . . must hold its place among the great English novels.” Introducing the fictional name of “Wessex” to describe Hardy’s legendary countryside, this early masterpiece draws a vivid picture of rural life in southwest England. — Publisher’s note 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, August 3rd at 6:00 p.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

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a novel/biography by Dave Eggers, will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, August 5th at 10:30 a.m.

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng

Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s . . .  Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other “Lost Boys,” beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps . . . Eggers’s limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval. — Publishers Weekly 

  

The East 38th Street Library will host a discussion of Kathryn Stockett’s nove The Help on Monday, August 9th at 6:00 p.m.

The Help

Set in Stockett’s native Jackson, MS, in the early 1960s, this first novel adopts the complicated theme of blacks and whites living in a segregated South. A century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black maids raised white children and ran households but were paid poorly, often had to use separate toilets from the family, and watched the children they cared for commit bigotry. In Stockett’s narrative, Miss Skeeter, a young white woman, is a naive, aspiring writer who wants to create a series of interviews with local black maids. Even if they’re published anonymously, the risk is great; still, Aibileen and Minny agree to participate. Tension pervades the novel as its events are told by these three memorable women. Is this an easy book to read? No, but it is surely worth reading. It may even stir things up as readers in Jackson and beyond question their own discrimination and intolerance in the past and present. — Library Journal 

  

Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva, a novel by soap opera star Victoria Rowell, will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, August 9th at 6:30 p.m.

Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva

 

Real-life soap star Rowell (Drucilla from The Young and the Restless) spins a glitz-and-glamour tale in this debut. Calysta Jeffries, black diva of the daytime television world, has been impatiently waiting for years to win a Sudsy award. When she loses once again to her rival, she makes the mistake of letting a reporter know exactly how she feels. Uproar ensues. VERDICT Juicy, gossipy, and entirely fit for the beach. — Library Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 College Avenue Library’s Sugarbook Club will discuss Mary Burton’s thriller Dying Scream on Tuesday, August 10th at 6:00 p.m.

Dying Scream

Adrianna Barrington thinks it was someone’s cruel joke when she receives flowers and cards signed in her late husband’s name. She has a few reasons for assuming so because she has recently sold the Thornton estate (belonging to her late husband’s family) and she knew most of the residents in the neighbourhood are not pleased with her deeds considering the estate has a long line of history. But what most shocked her was when two bodies are found buried on the estate’s cemetery and they were believed to have connections to her late husband, and it was then she realized there is certainly a lot more to it than meets the eye. — Melody, on Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, August 12th at 1:30 p.m.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 The German occupation of the Channel Islands, recalled in letters between a London reporter and an eccentric gaggle of Guernsey islanders.This debut by an “aunt-niece” authorial team presents itself as cozy fiction about comfortably quirky people in a bucolic setting, but it quickly evinces far more serious, and ambitious, intent. In 1946, Juliet, famous for her oxymoronic wartime humor column, is coping with life amid the rubble of London when she receives a letter from a reader, Dawsey, a Guernsey resident who asks her help in finding books by Charles Lamb. After she honors his request, a flurry of letters arrive from Guernsey islanders eager to share recollections of the German occupation of the islands . . . The engrossing subject matter and lively writing make this a sure winner, perhaps fodder for a TV series. — Kirkus Reviews

 

  

Another classic novel, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, will be discussed at Pike Library on Tuesday, August 24th at 6:30 p.m.

Things Fall Apart

 Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. — Publishers note

  

 

 

 

 

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success will be discussed at Spades Park Library on Thursday, August 26th at 6:00 p.m.

Outliers: The Story of Success

Gladwell, author and journalist, sets out to provide an understanding of success using outliers, men and women with skills, talent, and drive who do things out of the ordinary. He contends that we must look beyond the merits of a successful individual to understand his culture, where he comes from, his friends and family, and the community values he inherits and shares. We learn that society s rules play a large role in who makes it and who does not. Success is a gift, and when opportunities are presented, some people have the strength and presence of mind to seize them, exhibiting qualities such as persistence and doggedness. Successful people are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy, and success ultimately is not exceptional or unattainable, nor does it depend upon innate ability. It is an attitude of willingness to try without regard for the sacrifice required. — Booklist

   

Captain Robert Snow will be on hand for the discussion of his book Looking for Carroll Beckwith: The True Story of a Detective’s Search for His Past Life at the Franklin Road Library on Thursday, August 26th at 6:30 p.m. Captain Snow will be signing and selling half-price copies of his book.

Looking for Carroll Beckwith: The True Story of a Detective's Search for His Past Life

Indianapolis police homicide commander Snow offers a dryly nonplused account of his discovery of his “past life” as 19th-century portrait painter Carroll Beckwith. Snow participated in (and taped) a therapeutic “recovered memory” session as a lark, and, once hypnotized, was jolted by a series of clear images and recollections that seemed even then strangely plausible, despite his cop’s hard-nosed, empirical perspective. Later, when he walked into a New Orleans gallery at random and confronted a painting that had appeared to him in his vision, he determined to put his detective’s investigative skills to work and research congruencies between his “memories” and the artist’s life. Surprisingly, the evidence that he painstakingly assembled through retrieving Beckwith’s journals and work from obscurity seemed fully to confirm that Snow’s “recollections” were authentic. Snow relates all this ruefully, hardly eager to be perceived as “New Age.” — Cahners Business Information 

   

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, August 30th at 7:00 p.m.

The Year of the FloodNever one to rest on her laurels, famed Canadian author Atwood redeems the word sequel with this brilliant return to the nightmarish future first envisioned in Oryx and Crake. Contrary to expectations, the waterless flood, a biological disaster predicted by a fringe religious group, actually arrives. In its wake, the survivors must rely on their wits to get by, all the while reflecting on what went wrong. Atwood wins major style points here for her framing device, the liturgical year of the God’s Gardeners sect. Readers who enjoy suspense will also appreciate the story’s shifting viewpoint and nonlinear time line, which result in the gradual revelation of key events and character relationships. Atwood’s heroines seem uniformly grim and hollow, but one can hardly expect cheerfulness in the face of the apocalypse, and the hardships of their lives both pre- and postflood are moving and disturbing. Another win for Atwood. — Library Journal

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