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Book Discussions at the Library October 2013

September 23, 2013 by Reader's Connection

October will be a busy month. There’s the Indy Author Fair, the CityWrite program, the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Art, and the Magna cum Murder Mystery Conference; and there are two new book discussions–I mean new to this blog–at Glendale and Nora.

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn took the first journey back. He was the first to look back at the republic from the perspective of the west. His eyes were the first eyes that ever looked at us objectively that were not eyes from overseas. There were mountains at the frontier but he wanted more than mountains to look at with his restive eyes–he wanted to find out about men and how they lived together. And because he turned back we have him forever. — F. Scott Fitzgerald


Breasts : A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams will be discussed at the Brightwood Library on Tuesday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m.

Breasts : A Natural and Unnatural HistoryIn her exceptional history, science journalist Williams does more to enlighten us on the virtues of, workings of, and perils to women’s breasts than anyone ever has before, notwithstanding the efforts of the three H’s: Hooters, Hefner, and Hughes (Howard, inventor of the cantilever bra). And she does it with smarts, sass, and intent . . . Williams covers all the cultural and anthropological information that the mostly male scientific–and not-so-scientific–community has gathered about what is euphemistically referred to as second base. And she goes much further, elucidating the primary purpose of the female breast and how breasts alter at each stage of a woman’s life, then venturing into breast enlargements, the chemistry of breast milk, how breasts are evolving, and how little we know about the effects of environmental toxins and the rise in breast cancer. Meant to nurture the next generation for life on planet earth, breasts are also humanity’s first responders to environmental changes. And what have modern-day chemical exposures wrought? The answers to this question and many more are found in Williams’ remarkably informative and compelling work of discovery. — Booklist


George Orwell’s Animal Farm will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, October 3rd at 10:30 a.m.

Animal Farm

Since its publication fifty years ago, Animal Farm has become one of the most controversial books ever written. It has been translated into seventy languages and sold millions of copies throughout the world . . . As vital and relevant as it was fifty years ago, Animal Farm is a devastating satire of the Soviet Union by the man V. S. Pritchett called “the conscience of his generation.” A fable about an uprising of farm animals against their human masters, it illustrates how new tyranny replaces old in the wake of revolutions and power corrupts even the noblest of causes. — Blackwell North America



I’ve been waiting to bring this poem to the Shared Reading Group at Spades Park, and last week we read Chapter 87 of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which Dubie describes in his poem.

But to me, the episode in the book isn’t at all how Dubie sees it–with peace descending on all the whalers–and I’ve had to rethink the poem, as being about how a schoolteacher, in the midst of a snowstorm, was desperate to bring her students some peace. And how, to this day, her reading affects the way Dubie experiences the book.

The group will sail on through October Fridays, meeting on the 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th from 10:00 until 11:30.

The regular Spades Park Book Discussion group will meet on October 23rd, and is noted below.


Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Monday, October 7th at 6:30 p.m.

Fahrenheit 451


Special guest will be Jonathan Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and director of IUPUI’s Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Eller will describe the origins of “Fahrenheit 451” and how the pieces of this classic novel came together in Bradbury’s metaphor-rich imagination. Eller is the author of Becoming Ray Bradbury a study of Bradbury’s career up to the publication of Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 and co-author of Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction.




The Wayne Library will host a discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, on Monday, October 7th at 6:30 p.m.

The Boy Who Harnessed the WindAmerican readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba’s description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops (“three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen”), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors “disguised. as green grass” and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is “replaced by the business of survival” after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family’s small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family’s struggle, Kamkwamba’s supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using “electric wind”(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm . . . This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy. — Publishers Weekly


Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Home-Front: Letters Of The Ovid Butler FamilyAt Glendale Library on Tuesday, October 8th, from 10:00 to 11:45 a.m., the Glendale Book Club will join the American Villages Book Club to discuss the book, Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Home-Front: Letters Of The Ovid Butler Family by Barbara Butler Davis. The author will visit to share letters, photographs and family history, while also discussing the home front in Indianapolis through the lens of the Butlers. The Book Clubs will be invited to use as a reference to the Civil War, “America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries,” edited by Edward L. Ayers, which is provided by Indiana Humanities.
This program is presented by Indiana Humanities and the ALA Making Sense of the Civil War, and is funded by a grant from Indiana Humanities.


The Fountain Square Library will host a discussion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby on Thursday, October 10th at 1:30 p.m.

The Great GatsbyThe exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds’ third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the “first step” American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised “the charm and beauty of the writing,” as well as Fitzgerald’s sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald’s “best work” thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature. — Simon & Schuster


Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap : A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, October 10 at 1:30 p.m. Special guest Kathleen Angelone, co-owner of Bookmamas in Irvington, will share her own experiences in running a small bookstore.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone GapIn this beguiling, blog-based memoir, a former nonprofit administrator and storyteller chronicles how she and her Scottish, ex-academic husband found themselves in a central Appalachian town of 5,400 . . . The couple daydreamed about opening a used bookstore, and when they found a suitable five-bedroom fixer-upper, they bought it, moved upstairs, and got to work. With scant experience, they opened their bookstore amid the deepening recession and traditional publishing’s general decline. Once the initial local curiosity was satisfied and grand opening thrills faded, in dire need of customers and revenue they reached out to a broader customer base through old-fashioned guerrilla marketing and community events on the way to a 38,000-volume inventory. The author chronicles how their customers taught her and her husband about the human element in small business, bookselling, and life itself. The whole narrative exudes enormous charm and the value of dreams and lives truly lived. — Publishers Weekly


The East 38th Street Library will host a discussion of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior on Monday, October 14th at 6:00 p.m.

Flight BehaviorDellarobia Turnbow is in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Married at 17 to kind, dull Cub, she finds even the satisfaction of motherhood small consolation for the stultifying existence on her in-laws’ struggling Tennessee sheep farm. When a fluke of nature upends the monotony of her life, Dellarobia morphs into the church’s poster child for a miracle, an Internet phenomenon, and a woman on the verge of unexpected opportunity as scientists, reporters, and ecotourists converge on the Turnbow property. Orange Prize winner Kingsolver (The Lacuna) performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public eduction in America. It’s a joy to watch Dellarobia and her precocious son, Preston, blossom under the tutelage of entomologist Ovid Byron. Like E.O. Wilson in his novel Anthill, Kingsolver draws upon her prodigious knowledge of the natural world to enlighten readers about the intricacies of the migration patterns of monarch butterflies while linking their behavior to the even more fascinating conduct of the human species. Highly recommended. — Library Journal


J. D. Mason’s Drop Dead, Gorgeous will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday October 14th at 6:30 p.m.

Drop Dead, GorgeousLonnie Adebayo can’t escape the drama in this sequel to Beautiful, Dirty, Rich, but she knows that “V” stands for both vendetta and vengeance. Mason’s first book ended with Lonnie near death following a vicious beating by wealthy oil executive Jordan Gatewood. She has recovered but is partially blind in one eye, has a metal rod in her leg, and six of her teeth have been replaced. Now it’s Jordan’s turn to suffer. An accomplice tells Lonnie, “This ain’t nothing but you getting back at the brotha for doing you wrong.” Absolutely. Lonnie concocts an elaborate plan to hit Jordan where it most hurts; his bank account. By a wild stroke of luck, Lonnie knows the secret to Jordan’s true past. Let the conniving dealings begin. — Library Journal


Killing Kennedy : The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, October 15th at 10:15 a.m.

Killing Kennedy : The End of Camelot

O’Reilly and Dugard (Killing Lincoln, 2011) team up again with a comprehensive account of the John F. Kennedy administration and its untimely end. As with their previous work, this is quick, gossipy and sure to please Kennedy buffs . . . The authors cover the events of the three short years of the administration from the president’s dalliances to the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis and the star power of the family. It’s a noteworthy picture of Kennedy’s transformation into a world leader and the outside influences that were used and discarded. O’Reilly and Dugard also expose Kennedy as a man who avoided unpleasant confrontations, using his brother to deal with contentious issues and express opinions that countered the general consensus of the cabinet . . . A quick-fire, easy-to-read account of the Kennedy years, with some salacious details to spice it up. — Kirkus Reviews


People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, October 21st at 6:30 p.m.

People of the BookBrooks . . .  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


For the Nora Book discussion book, you are invited to read the focus book of the month or another book in the same topic. Then the group will gather at the Nora Library on Monday, October 21st at 6:30 p.m., to discuss everyone’s shared reading experiences. (Please call 275-4470 to register for this event.) Mysteries are the topic this month, and the focus book is G.M. Malliet’s Wicked Autumn.

Wicked AutumnMalliet, author of such fan favorites as Death at the Alma Mater (2010), begins a new series with a bang, though not literally, since Wanda Batton-Smyth isn’t shot. The cause of her death is much more devious and much less obvious. Not that anyone in the English village of Nether Monkslip is terribly surprised when Wanda is found dead at the Harvest Fayre. Equal parts formidable and forbidding, she bullied the townsfolk into doing her bidding, ruling the roost as head of the Women’s Institute, a center of community life. Handsome vicar Max Tudor considers it as a personal insult that evil has come to his town, but unlike most clergyman, who can only pray that murderers will be caught, Tudor, a former MI5 operative, takes a more active role in determining who, of the many suspects, wanted Wanda dead the most. Malliet has mastered the delights of the cozy mystery so completely that she seems to be channeling Agatha Christie, albeit with a hero who adds sex appeal to the mix. She also includes snippets of ironic humor that contribute a little spice to the village charm, making the story even more delicious. Religion, espionage, tea, and crumpets: a winning menu. — Booklist


Tina Fey’s Bossypants will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, October 23rd at 6:00 p.m.

BossypantsOne of the world’s cleverest comedy writers debuts with a frequently hilarious memoir. Perhaps best known to mass audiences for her writing and performances on Saturday Night Live, Fey’s most inventive work is likely her writing for the critically acclaimed TV show 30 Rock, in which she stars alongside Alec Baldwin and fellow SNL alum Tracy Morgan. In typical self-deprecating style, the author traces her awkward childhood and adolescence, rise within the improv ranks of Second City and career on the sets of SNL and 30 Rock. The chapter titles–e.g., “The Windy City, Full of Meat,” “Peeing in Jars with Boys” and “There’s a Drunk Midget in My House”–provide hints at the author’s tone, but Fey is such a fluid writer, with her impeccable sense of comic timing extending to the printed page, that near-constant jokes and frequent sidebars won’t keep readers from breezing through the book with little trouble, laughing most of the way. Though she rarely breaks the onslaught of jokes (most at her own expense), she does offer an insightful section on the exhaustively analyzed concept of the “working mom,” which she finds tedious. — Kirkus Reviews








Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, October 27th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The theme this month will be “Girls Rule, Boys Drool: Feminism/Female Writers in F&SF”.


Michael Crichton’s Airframe will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, October 28th at 6:30 p.m.


The event that launches the story, conceived long before TWA Flight 800’s last takeoff, is an airline disaster. Why did a passenger plane “porpoise”-pitch and dive repeatedly-enroute from Hong Kong to Denver, killing four and injuring 56? That’s what Casey Singleton, v-p for quality assurance for Norton Aircraft, has to find out fast. If Norton’s design is to blame, its imminent deal with China may collapse, and the huge company along with it. With Casey as his unsubtle focus-she’s one of the few Crichton heroines . . Casey is menaced by what seem to be union men angry over the Chinese deal. But as she uncovers numerous anomalies about the accident, and as high corporate intrigue and a ratings-hungry TV news team enter the picture, the plot complicates and suspense rises, peaking high above the earth in an exciting re-creation of the flight. It’s possible that Crichton has invented a new subgenre here-the industrial thriller. — Publishers Weekly


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