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Book Discussions at the Library November 2013

October 28, 2013 by Reader's Connection

We’ll discuss the woman who really invented Tiffany lamps, and we’ll be wondering who Davy Crockett really was. There’s a fictional memoir of a real-life horse-training grandmother, and there’s one of the past century’s most famous diaries, written by a girl lost to the Holocaust.

Moby Dick
November begins on a Friday. The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park will celebrate All Saints Day by reading from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, discussing what they’ve read, and eating some delicious refreshments. They will do this every Friday morning, actually, meeting on the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th from 10:00 until 11:30.






The Franklin Road Library will host a discussion of Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls, on Monday, November 4th at 6:30 p.m.

Half Broke HorsesIn her best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle, Walls chronicled her painfully enlightening childhood. She now loops back to tell the even more gripping tale of her maternal grandmother, the formidable horse-training, poker-playing rancher and teacher Lily Casey Smith. Because she patched the story together from reminiscences, used her imagination to fill in the gaps, and decided to have Lily narrate so we could all experience her sharp-shooter’s directness, Walls wisely calls this a novel. Fact, fiction, either way, every tall-tale episode in Lily’s rough-and-tumble life is hugely entertaining and provocative . . . Flash floods, tornadoes, blizzards, drought, con men, bigots, scum, and fools, unflappable Lily courageously faces them all. And why not? She was the smartest and toughest in her otherwise inept West Texas family. As she travels across the plains–winning rodeos, selling moonshine, marrying her soul mate, raising two kids, running a ranch, and teaching in remote one-room schoolhouses–Lily, proud, uncompromising, pistol-packing, and whip-smart, finds a lesson in every setback and showdown. Walls does her grandmother proud in this historically revealing and triumphant novel of a fearless, progressive woman who will not be corralled. — Booklist


Susan Vreeland’s novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, November 4th at 6:30 p.m.

Clara and Mr. TiffanyThe first thing to be said about a Vreeland novel is that the reader learns a lot from it, but the joy and delight of a Vreeland novel is that the knowledge gleaned from her beautifully articulate pages is not forced on you, not delivered as if from a podium. Welcome here to the world of Clara Driscoll, whom Vreeland has brought to light from the archives of Tiffany Glass Company to establish what is most probably her rightful place in the history of American decorative arts. This deep-reaching novel is based on the likelihood that Clara conceived the famous Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shade, which has come down from the early years of the twentieth century as the epitome of the creativity in glass for which the Tiffany outfit was known. Clara worked in the women’s studio for founder Louis Tiffany himself and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company–like that of any other company of the time, for that matter–to position herself as a first-rate artisan in her boss’ eyes. Plus, Vreeland takes Clara out of the workplace to give her a personal life quite suitable for not only the time but also her strong personality. — Booklist


Ike’s Bluff : President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World, by Evan Thomas, will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, November 5th at 6:00 p.m.

Ike's Bluff : President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the WorldPresident Eisenhower has enjoyed sustained attention in the past few years (e.g., in Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower in War and Peace, among others). Now Thomas has produced yet another valuable examination of Eisenhower as a crafty politician who navigated the treacherous waters of the early Cold War period with guile and cleverness, using the same competitive skills he displayed in his bridge and poker games to keep the peace with America’s intransigent foes. Thomas’s narrative is filled with insights, and his sources–both primary and secondary–are impressive. He depicts Eisenhower as a leader who had seen up close the destruction of war and who was committed to keeping the world from descending into another world war. He was distrustful of what he famously termed the military-industrial complex and labored to keep that burgeoning relationship in check. His youthful successor learned the hard way what Eisenhower intuitively knew: that if the United States enters a conflict, it needs to make sure it can win, a hard truth Americans have had to learn more than once since Eisenhower left office. — Library Journal


Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, November 7th at 10:30 a.m.

The Diary of a Young GirlFrom a review of the 1995 edition: This startling new edition of Dutch Jewish teenager Anne Frank’s classic diary, written in an Amsterdam warehouse, where for two years she hid from the Nazis with her family and friends, contains approximately 30% more material than the original 1947 edition. It completely revises our understanding of one of the most moving and eloquent documents of the Holocaust. The Anne we meet here is much more sarcastic, rebellious and vulnerable than the sensitive diarist beloved by millions. She rages at her mother, Edith, smolders with jealous resentment toward her sister, Margot, and unleashes acid comments at her roommates. Expanded entries provide a fuller picture of the tensions and quarrels among the eight people in hiding. Anne, who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945, three months before her 16th birthday, candidly discusses her awakening sexuality in entries that were omitted from the 1947 edition by her father, Otto, the only one of the eight to survive the death camps. He died in 1980. This crisp, stunning translation provides an unvarnished picture of life in the “secret annex.” In the end, Anne’s teen angst pales beside her profound insights, her self-discovery and her unbroken faith in good triumphing over evil. — Publishers Weekly


The Fountain Square Library will host a discussion of Reza Aslan’s Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth on Thursday, November 14th at 1:30 p.m.

Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of NazarethAslan brings a fine popular style, shorn of all jargon, to bear on the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as only a man. What’s more, as he pares the supernatural or divine away from Jesus, he refrains from deriding it. He isn’t interested in attacking religion or even the church, much less in comparing Christianity unfavorably to another religion. He would have us admire Jesus as one of the many would-be messiahs who sprang up during Rome’s occupation of Palestine, animated by zeal for “strict adherence to the Torah and the Law,” refusal to serve a human master, and devotion to God, and therefore dedicated to throwing off Rome and repudiating Roman religion. Before and after Jesus, such zeal entailed violent revolution, but Jesus proceeded against Rome in the conviction that zealous spirit was sufficient. It wasn’t, and Rome executed him. This depiction of Jesus makes sense, as we say, though many Christians will find holes in its fabric; indeed, Aslan grants one of the largest, the fact that no one who attested to the Resurrection recanted. But you don’t have to lose your religion to learn much that’s vitally germane to its history from Aslan’s absorbing, reader-friendly book. — Booklist


Bob Thompson’s Born on a Mountaintop : On the Road With Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, November 14th at 1:30 p.m.

Born on a Mountaintop : On the Road With Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild FrontierWhich is more important to American history? The real life and accomplishments of Davy Crockett or the legends about him? There’s no contest – it’s the legends. For almost everyone my age, the mention of the name “Davy” or “Crockett” – even with other names attached – immediately fires thousands of neurons in our brain, bringing up images of the Alamo, with Fess Parker or John Wayne as Davy, the coonskin cap (usually fake) we wore as kids, and that song. You know the one: “Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.” — Steve Bridge, Irvington Library. Click here for Steve’s full review.


The Pike Library will host a discussion of Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys on Monday, November 18th at 6:30 p.m.

The Burgess BoysThe Burgess siblings are in disarray. Decades earlier, the “boys,” Jim and Bob, fled their childhood home of Shirley Falls, ME, to practice law in New York City. Jim is a flashy uptown defense attorney who once won a high-profile celebrity murder case. His meek younger brother, Bob, the ultimate agent of conciliation, is a Legal Aid lawyer. When Bob’s twin sister, Susan, calls from Shirley Falls to say her odd teenage son, Zachary, has thrown a pig’s head into the mosque of the community’s Somali population, an unspeakably offensive violation of the Muslim faith, the brothers scramble to throw down legal cover. Events spin out of control, Zachary’s crime goes national, tensions rise, and charges against the boy escalate. Meanwhile, the abrasive relationship among Jim, Bob, and Susan erodes as the shattering moment of their childhood–the death of their father, which was blamed on four-year-old Bob–bubbles to the surface. VERDICT Pulitzer Prize-winner Strout takes the reader on a surprising journey of combative filial love and the healing powers of the truth. — Library Journal


For the Nora Book discussion book, you are invited to read the focus book of the month or another book in the same topic. The group will gather at the Nora Library on Monday, Novmeber 18th at 6:30 p.m., to discuss everyone’s shared reading experiences. (Please call 275-4470 to register for this event.) “Cooking in Fiction” is the topic this month, and the focus book is Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential IngredientsIn this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence. Respected chef and restaurateur Lillian has spent much of her 30-something years in the kitchen, looking for meaning and satisfaction in evocative, delicious combinations of ingredients. Endeavoring to instill that love and know-how in others, Lillian holds a season of Monday evening cooking classes in her restaurant. The novel takes up the story of each of her students, navigating readers through the personal dramas, memories and musings stirred up as the characters handle, slice, chop, blend, smell and taste. Each student’s affecting story–painful transitions, difficult choices–is rendered in vivid prose and woven together with confidence. Delivering memorable story lines and characters while seducing the senses, Bauermeister’s tale of food and hope is certain to satisfy. — Publishers Weekly


Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, November 19th at 10:15 a.m.

Gone GirlA perfect wife’s disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death. Even after they lost their jobs as magazine writers and he uprooted her from New York and spirited her off to his childhood home in North Carthage, Mo., where his ailing parents suddenly needed him at their side, Nick Dunne still acted as if everything were fine between him and his wife, Amy. His sister Margo, who’d gone partners with him on a local bar, never suspected that the marriage was fraying, and certainly never knew that Nick, who’d buried his mother and largely ducked his responsibilities to his father, stricken with Alzheimer’s, had taken one of his graduate students as a mistress. That’s because Nick and Amy were both so good at playing Mr. and Ms. Right for their audience. But that all changes the morning of their fifth anniversary when Amy vanishes with every indication of foul play. Partly because the evidence against him looks so bleak, partly because he’s so bad at communicating grief, partly because he doesn’t feel all that grief-stricken to begin with, the tide begins to turn against Nick . . . One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling. — Kirkus Reviews








Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, November 24th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The theme this month will be “Worth a Thousand Words: Graphic Novels”.


Edith Wharton’s classic novel The Age of Innocence will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, November 25th at 6:30 p.m.

The Age of Innocence


Edith Wharton’s masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, presents the reader with two haunting questions. First, how can a novel with “innocence” in its title be so filled with feverish longing and smoldering desire? Second, how can a love story this passionate express itself with such respectable restraint? The answer to these questions can only be Wharton’s particular genius for portraying the mysterious contradictions of the human heart. — The Big Read



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