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Book Discussions at the Library June 2011

May 26, 2011 by Reader's Connection

Beethoven's Hair
Our last discussion for May will occur at the Spades Park Library on Thursday, May 26th, at 6:00 p.m.
The featured book will be Russell Martin´s Beethoven’s Hair.


But we won´t have Beethoven out of our hair that quickly. This book will be discussed at Franklin Road Library on June 6th, at Central Library on June 7th, and at the Hilbert Circle Theatre, prior to Beethoven concerts, on June 17th & 18th.


For details on these discussions, please see the earlier Beethoven’s Hair post.




The non-follicular June discussions kick off at the Warren Library on Thursday, June 2nd at 10:30 a.m., with the Johann David Wyss classic The Swiss Family Robinson

The Swiss Family Robinson

Written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss, and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss, the novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance . . . The adventures are presented as a series of lessons in natural history and the physical sciences and resemble other similar educational books for children in this period . . . However the novel differs in that it is based on the model of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, a genuine adventure story . . . Wikipedia






On Monday, June 6th , Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help will be discussed at the Wayne Library at 6:30 p.m.

The HelpSet 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  


The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zazlow will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, June 9th at 1:30 p.m.

The Last Lecture

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy? When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave – “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” – wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living. In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. — Blackwell North America  


The Fountain Square Library will host a discussion of Neil Gaiman’s  The Graveyard Book on Thursday, June 9th at 1:30 p.m.

The Graveyard Book

While a highly motivated killer murders his family, a baby, ignorant of the horrific goings-on but bent on independence, pulls himself out of his crib and toddles out of the house and into the night. This is most unfortunate for the killer, since the baby was his prime target. Finding his way through the barred fence of an ancient graveyard, the baby is discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a stable and caring couple with no children of their own and who just happen to be dead. After much debate with the graveyard’s rather opinionated denizens, it is decided that the Owenses will take in the child. Under their care and the sponsorship of the mysterious Silas, the baby is named Nobody and raised among the dead to protect him from the killer, who relentlessly pursues him. This is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through an entertaining cast of ghostly characters. There is plenty of darkness, but the novel’s ultimate message is strong and life affirming. — Booklist 

Robert Goolrick’s novel A Reliable Wife will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, June 13th at 6:00 p.m.

A Reliable Wife

When Catherine Land, who’s survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a “reliable wife,” she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she’s deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn’t die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect. This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close. — Publishers Weekly  



On Monday, June 13th, the novel Ray of Hope by Vanessa Davis Griggs will be discussed at the Flanner House Library at 6:30 p.m.

Ray of HopeIn Griggs’s sassy inspirational tale, a feisty, smalltown 75-year-old grandmother takes in her two city-raised grandkids for a memorable summer. Things get off to a nutty start when Ma Ray pulls a gun on a foolish boy who breaks into her house to hang out with her 17-year-old granddaughter, Sahara. It’s all good, though, as Griggs shows how a strong kinship develops between Ma Ray, Sahara, and 15-year-old Crystal. With spotty cellphone reception and no high-speed Internet, the girls shell peas, can food, and meet some nice Christian boys, though Sahara’s tempted by the local bad boy. There are enough tears, hugs, and lessons learned before summer’s over to appease readers, young and adult, who like a good dose of faith with their fiction. — Publishers Weekly




The Sugarbook Club at College Avenue Library will hold its discussion on Tuesday, June 14th at 6:00 p.m. Call the branch at 275-4320 for details.





Lisa See’s novel Shanghai Girls will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday June 20th at 6:30 p.m.

Shanghai Girls

In prewar 1930s Shanghai, carefree sisters Pearl Chin and younger, prettier May are the “beautiful girls” whose images on posters beckon viewers to buy products. They openly scoff at their parents’ superstitious, old-world ways, but they soon learn that the good life is but an illusion. The Japanese army’s brutal invasion of the city makes their lives as beautiful girls impossible. Their businessman father loses everything to the ruthless mob, and to pay off his debts he forces his daughters into arranged marriages to Chinese men living in the United States. See is masterly in her powerful depictions of the prejudice and harsh treatment the sisters encounter as they try to assimilate into the strange new world of Los Angeles. Possibly the best book yet from the author of Peony in Love; highly recommended. — Library Journal


Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart, will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Thursday, June 23rd at 6:00 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. — Publisher’s note







Southport Library will host a discussion of Helen Simonson’s novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand on Monday, June 27th at 6:30 p.m.

Major Pettigrew's Last StandSixty-eight-year-old Maj. Ernest Pettigrew has settled into a genteel life of quiet retirement in his beloved village of Edgecombe St. Mary. Refined, gentlemanly, unwaveringly proper in his sense of right vs. wrong, and bemused by most things modern, he has little interest in cavalier relationship mores, the Internet, and crass developments and is gently smitten by the widowed Mrs. Ali, the lovely Pakistani owner of the local shop where he buys his tea. After the unsettling death of his brother, Bertie, the Major finds his careful efforts to court Mrs. Ali (who shares his love of literature) constantly nudged off-course by his callow son, Roger; a handful of socialite ladies planning a dinner/dance at the Major’s club; and the not-so-subtle racist attitudes his interest in Mrs. Ali engender. This irresistibly delightful, thoughtful, and utterly charming and surprising novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro. In fact, it is Simonson’s debut. — Library Journal



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