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Book Discussions at the Library August 2013

July 24, 2013 by Reader's Connection

Cissy Houston writes about her daughter Whitney, and Patricia Hampl writes about her parents. Tony Danza recalls his first year as a teacher, Margaret Truman looks back at America’s first ladies, and Eric Jager tells the story of a duel in medieval France. And our fictional settings range from North Korea to West Baden, Indiana.


A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, August 1st at 10:30 a.m.

A Private History of AweSanders, a sage of the Midwest, uses autobiography as a vehicle for far-reaching reflections on nature and humankind. Here he considers awe, that “rapturous, fearful, bewildering emotion.” Writing with the plainspoken precision and wholesomeness he’s cherished for, Sanders revisits his boyhood, singling out moments of awe instigated by the glory of nature, his tempestuous father and steadfast mother, and painful awakenings to death, racism, and war (during the 1950s they lived within a heavily guarded bomb-making compound in Ohio). As Sanders comes of age, he struggles to reconcile his budding passion for science with his family’s religious practice. Then in college, he drops physics, appalled by science’s connections to the military and the Vietnam War. Interleaved among vivid memories are graceful present-day reports on the joy radiating from his baby granddaughter and the sorrows attendant on caring for his Alzheimer’s–afflicted mother. Sanders’ thoughtful reflections on the cycles of life, the flashpoints of awe, and our quest for meaning are quietly revelatory. — Booklist


Moby Dick

The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park will continue to read and discuss Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

We will meet every Friday, August 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th from 10:00 until 11:30. Anyone who wants to read aloud usually gets a chance.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned previously that we also read a poem each week. Our leader Anja Saak brings a lot of them, but the rest of us bring some, too.

The refreshments, I’ve mentioned.




Tony Danza’s memoir I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had : My Year As a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Monday, August 5th at 6:30 p.m.

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had : My Year As a Rookie Teacher at Northeast HighSurprisingly thoughtful and passionate account of an actor’s turn at the helm of an urban high school classroom. After his talk show was cancelled in 2007, Danza faced a late-career crisis. Weighing his options and feeling personally dissatisfied, he considered becoming a teacher, which led to his show’s producer pitching this as a reality TV concept. To his credit, the self-depreciating actor owns up to the obvious doubts readers may harbor about this book or the underwatched show behind it (A&E’s Teach). Initially nervous in the classroom, the affable yet hapless Danza understandably reverted to his chatty, ingratiating stage persona, which failed to impress students in Philadelphia’s largest high school. Fortunately, he remained open to advice from his more experienced peers and tried different approaches in the classroom . . . Danza is generous in praising the full-time teachers who, with some reservation, mentored him. — Kirkus Reviews


Wayne Library will host a discussion of Laurie R. King’s mystery The Beekeeper’s Apprentice : On the Segregation of the Queen on Monday, August 5th at 6:30 p.m.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice : On the Segregation of the QueenSherlock Holmes takes on a young, female apprentice in this delightful and well-wrought addition to the master detective’s casework. In the early years of WW I, 15-year-old American Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her guardian aunt’s strictures, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen. Holmes initiates her into the mysteries of detection, allowing her to participate in a few cases when she comes home from her studies at Oxford. The collaboration is ignited by the kidnapping in Wales of Jessica Simpson, daughter of an American senator. The sleuthing duo find signs of the hand of a master criminal, and after Russell rescues the child, attempts are made on their lives (and on Watson’s), with evidence piling up that the master criminal is out to get Holmes and all he holds dear. King ( A Grave Talent ) has created a fitting partner for the Great Detective: a quirky, intelligent woman who can hold her own with a man renowned for his contempt for other people’s thought processes. — Publishers Weekly


John Grisham’s The Racketeer will be discussed at the Brightwood Library on Tuesday, August 6th at 6:00 p.m.

The RacketeerBestseller Grisham is back in top form with this twisty, precisely plotted legal thriller that eschews the civics lessons of some of his more recent work. The masterful opening introduces disgraced Virginia lawyer Malcolm Bannister, who has served half of a 10-year prison sentence for money laundering after getting caught up in a federal net aimed at a sleazy influence peddler. Bannister’s conviction has, naturally, destroyed his life, but he thinks he can use the murder of federal judge Raymond Fawcett to his advantage. Fawcett, who presided over a landmark mining rights case, and his attractive secretary, with whom he was having an affair, were both found shot in the head in his cabin in southwest Virginia. Near the bodies was an empty open safe. When the high-profile investigation stalls, Bannister tells the feds that he can identify the killer for them in exchange for a release from jail and the means to start a new life. The surprises all work, and the action builds to a satisfying resolution. — Publishers Weekly


The Last Duel : A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France, by Eric Jager, will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, August 6th at 6:00 p.m.

The Last Duel : A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval FranceFeudal society in the Middle Ages was founded on a hierarchy of relationships between servants and lords. Improving one’s station in life generally meant winning and retaining favor with one’s lord. Sometimes this led to competition and jealousy among knights serving the same lord. Such was the case with Jean de Carrouges and Jacques LeGris, two fourteenth-century French nobles (one a knight, the other a squire). A rivalry formed between the once-close friends that started with jealousy, progressed into lawsuits, escalated with the alleged rape of Carrouges’ wife by LeGris, and ended with a judicial duel to the death by which (it was believed) the righteous man would be revealed by God himself. Jager provides an excellent depiction of feudal society, placing the reader into the lives of knights and nobles, detailing their relationships with each other and their lords. The ongoing Hundred Years’ War and each man’s role in it give this personal conflict its historical context. The story of the duel and the rivalry leading up to it make for quick reading as enthralling and engrossing as any about a high-profile celebrity scandal today. — Booklist


Chris Cleave’s Little Bee will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, August 8th at 1:30 p.m.

Little Bee[An] astonishing, flawless novel about what happens when ordinary, mundane Western lives are thrown into stark contrast against the terrifying realities of war-torn Africa. Their marriage in crisis, Andrew and Sarah O’Rourke impulsively accept a junket to a Nigerian beach resort as a last-ditch attempt to reconcile. When machete-wielding soldiers appear out of the jungle and force them to determine the fate of two African girls, everyone’s lives are irrevocably shattered. Two years later in a London suburb, one of the girls, now a refugee, reconnects with Sarah. Together they face wrenching tests of a friendship forged under extreme duress. Best-selling author Cleave effortlessly moves between alternating viewpoints with lucid, poignant prose and the occasional lighter note. A tension-filled dramatic ending and plenty of moral dilemmas add up to a satisfying, emotional read. — Library Journal


So Cold the River, Michael Koryta’s horror tale set in West Baden, will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, April 8th at 1:30 p.m.

So Cold the RiverIn this explosive thriller from Koryta (Envy the Night), failed filmmaker Eric Shaw is eking out a living making family home videos when a client offers him big bucks to travel to the resort town of West Baden, Ind., the childhood home of her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, to shoot a video history of his life. Almost immediately, things go weird. Eric uncovers evidence of another Campbell Bradford, a petty tyrant who lived a generation before the other and terrorized the locals. The older Campbell begins appearing in horrific visions to Eric after he sips the peculiar mineral water that made West Baden famous. Koryta spins a spellbinding tale of an unholy lust for power that reaches from beyond the grave and suspends disbelief through the believable interactions of fully developed characters. A cataclysmic finale will put readers in mind of some of the best recent works of supernatural horror, among which this book ranks. — Publishers Weekly


Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, August 12th at 6:00 p.m.

The Orphan Master's SonJohnson’s novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native, from its orphanages and its fishing boats to the kitchens of its high-ranking commanders. While oppressive propaganda echoes throughout, the tone never slides into caricature; if anything, the story unfolds with astounding empathy for those living in constant fear of imprisonment–or worse–but who manage to maintain their humanity against all odds. The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. — Publishers Weekly


Cissy Houston’s Remembering Whitney : My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, August 12th at 6:30 p.m.

Remembering Whitney : My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music StoppedWhitney Houston may have belonged to the world, but “Nippy” belonged to her mother. Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Houston, with coauthor Dickey, writes of the joy of discovering and nurturing her daughter’s talents and the sorrow and anger accompanying her premature death. Starting with her own fascinating career, Houston discusses . . . working with Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and others. Her life changed with Nippy’s birth, and when 12-year-old Whitney decided she wants to sing professionally, Houston helped guide her daughter’s career, which included modeling and acting. Houston talks about her efforts to warn her daughter of the dangers of the music industry and to keep her grounded, especially in faith, but this fiercely protective mother could only do so much. Whitney’s career is celebrated, and her close relationship with her family is on display, both in text and in accompanying photos. — Library Journal


Patricia Hampl’s memoir The Florist’s Daughter will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, August 19th at 6:30 p.m.

TITLEPatricia Hampl writes the best memoirs of any writer in the English language. The Florist’s Daughter is her third memoir and her best by far – her first two were fabulous but she gets better with each book. But here is what I love about Patricia Hampl: Sentence for sentence she writes the best prose of any American writer, period. The rest of us cannot touch her. — Pat Conroy

More delicious, funny, elegant and heartbreaking than any memoir in recent memory. I would read anything by Patricia Hampl, but this must surely be her best book.
— Phillip Lopate


On Wednesday, August 21st, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., the Romance Potluck discussion at Eagle Library will focus on African-American authors.
A list of possible authors and titles will be featured in an upcoming Reader’s Connection post.








Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, August 25th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The theme this month will be Green Revenge: Nature Gets Even.

On Monday August 26th, the Southport Library will host a discussion of Margaret Truman’s First Ladies

First LadiesTruman writes about first ladies with the obvious advantage of an insider, having spent her young adulthood in the White House. Her book is a tribute to both her parents-her father urged a study of presidential wives, and her mother exemplified the role of a supportive partner. Rather than following a strict chronology and discussing every first lady, Truman draws comparisons and contrasts. Lady Bird Johnson is judged the most successful first lady; Florence Harding the least. Lucy Hayes’s interest in improving the lives of the poor and Ellen Wilson’s interest in slum clearance foreshadowed Eleanor Roosevelt’s career. Truman concludes that first ladies should provide public support to the president but there is no single pattern to follow, and each lady needs to fill that role in her own way. — Library Journal





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