December 23, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Merry Christmas! Joyous Kwanzaa! The New Year is coming, and with it the first book discussions of 2014.
A number of library branches are going to feature discussions of Eva Menasse’s novel Vienna, which Indianapolis is reading along with its sister city, Cologne, Germany. But Vienna won’t be the only family story read this month. The Warren Library will be hosting a discussion of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women on Thursday, January 2nd at 10:30 a.m.
Alcott and her publisher were surprised by the popularity of this chronicle of the March sisters’ lives, and its popularity has not worn off.
THE FRANKLIN ROAD BOOK DISCUSSION SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY, JANUARY 6TH, HAS BEEN CANCELLED DO TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. AUTHOR NANCY PITTS WILL JOIN US AT A LATER DATE FOR A DISCUSSION OF HER BOOK When You Come Home: The True Love Story of a Soldier’s Heroism, His Wife’s Sacrifice and the Resilience of America’s Greatest Generation.
The husband-and-wife legal team of Wes and Mary Grace Payton is representing Jeannette Baker in an effort to prove that her son and husband died as a result of contaminated water. On the other side of this battle is the chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into the water supply. After a protracted trial and agonizing deliberations, the jury finally delivers its verdict. The chemical company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, though lawyers don’t anticipate a favorable outcome. Enter Wall Street billionaire and chemical company owner Carl Trudeau, who purchases a court seat with pocket change–a few million dollars. The fate of the case is left up to the nine state Supreme Court justices, one of whom is ensnared in conspiracy. The judicial system may never be viewed in quite the same way again. — BookPage
Music seems to be meaningless, and our love of it inexplicable, but neurologist Sacks, one of the foremost physician-essayists of the day, charmingly argues that music is essential to being human in ways that have only begun to be understood. In many different circumstances, music may arise involuntarily within a person, as attested to by Sacks’ initial presentation of cases of sudden intense affinity for music and development of musical skills, of so-called brain worms or tunes that automatically repeat within the mind, and of musical seizures and hallucinations . . . the seeming universality of musical mental imaging, even in the utterly deaf, has encouraged the therapeutic use of music to treat an ever-increasing number of illnesses, including the results of severe brain damage, congenital retardative conditions, and such degenerative neuropathies as parkinsonism and Alzheimer’s. Sacks’ reporting on all of this makes for quite an omnium-gatherum on the main contention that, in essence, musicality is humanity. His customary erudition and fellow-feeling ensure that, no matter how clinical the discussion becomes, it remains, like the music of Mozart, accessible and congenial. — Booklist
Brian Castner’s The Long Walk : A Story of War and the Life That Follows will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, January 9th at 1:30 p.m.
With a degree in electrical engineering, Castner served as an air force officer in Saudi Arabia in 2001, and Iraq in 2005 and 2006, where he earned a Bronze Star. He then trained military Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in tactical bomb procedures. Castner’s chilling account of those years is, he feels, “as correct as a story can be from someone with blast-induced memory lapses.” He details daily rituals and routines, and the Humvee expeditions, seeking improvised explosive devices (IED) with robots. When robots fail, there is the Long Walk, wearing the bomb suit (“eighty pounds of mailed kevlar”). Castner edges through this world of hidden dangers, suicide bombers, and scattered body parts. Throughout, he splices in scenes of the aftermath–his return to his wife and family in the U.S., where he is told he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Haunted by what he calls “the Crazy” (“it’s grey spidery fingers take the top of my head off to eat my brain and heart… every night”), he sees constant reminders that blur reality (“IEDs on Interstate 90”). The intercutting of these two different narratives effectively conveys how a disturbing mental condition can erupt in the aftermath of nightmarish war horrors. — Publishers Weekly
Our One Book, Two Cities book discussions begin in January. Eva Menasse’s novel Vienna will be discussed at four branches this month. Click here to see my earlier post about this program, all of which still holds, I think, except that the Translate button on the One Book Two Cities blog turns out, I think, to have been a Google Chrome feature; and it has disappeared even from Chrome. Thanks to Babett in Cologne for that info.
Irvington Library Thursday, January 9th 1:30 p.m.
College Avenue Library Saturday, January 11th 2:00 p.m.
Glendale Library Saturday, January 25th 1:00 p.m.
Nora Library Monday, January 27th 6:30 p.m. Registration for this discussion at the Nora Branch is required by calling 275-4470.
Another fractured family, although this one, as far as I know, hasn’t been split up by war. Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, January 13th at 6:00 p.m.
In her second novel, Semple pieces together a modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity. Eighth-grader Bee is the daughter of Microsoft genius Elgin Branch and Bernadette Fox, a once-famous architect who has become a recluse in her Seattle home. Bee has a simple request: a family cruise to Antarctica as a reward for her good grades. Her parents acquiesce, but not without trepidation. Bernadette’s social anxiety has become so overwhelming that she’s employed a personal assistant . . . for tasks as simple as making dinner reservations. How will she survive three weeks on a boat with other live human beings? Maybe she won’t; a day before the trip, Bernadette disappears, and Bee gathers her mother’s invoices, e-mail correspondence, and emergency room bills in the hopes of finding clues as to where she went.The result is a compelling composite of a woman’s life–and the way she’s viewed by the many people who share it. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying denouement. — Publishers Weekly
The years pass, and McMillan’s characters have moved from buppiedom to grandmotherhood. Betty Jean is not having a good day when we first meet her. She’s in the kitchen, frying chicken, when her wayward 27-year-old daughter, Trinetta, calls, begging for money . . . The problem is, drugs have swept across Trinetta’s generation . . . leaving it to the elders to pick up the pieces–and when it’s not drugs, then it’s some other form of culture destroyer, for Betty Jean’s eldest child is a chiropractor in Oregon, “where hardly any black people live, which has made it very easy for him to forget he’s black.” Betty Jean’s sisters, Arlene and Venetia, are formidable, too, and with troubles of their own . . . Moving from character to character and their many points of view, McMillan writes jauntily and with customary good humor, though the sensitive ground on which she’s treading is not likely to please all readers; even so, her story affirms the value of love and family, to say nothing of the strength of resolute women in the absence of much strength on the part of those few men who happen to be in the vicinity. McMillan turns in a solid, well-told story. — Kirkus Reviews
Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self. And it is the first great novel that teaches us this search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery. — Anna Quindlen
Branching out from her popular Victorian London sleuthing team, Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte, Perry introduces another exemplary “Peeler” (as in Bobby Peele, the first “bobby”), detective William Monk, in this period mystery with a pronounced and satisfying psychological dimension. After an accident in his carriage, Monk wakes up with no memory; ashamed to admit it, he bluffs his way through recovery and returns to work, where he is assigned a particularly tricky investigation of a young nobleman’s brutal murder. While tracking the last affairs of Major Jocelin Grey, Monk traces his own history and dislikes what he turns up on both fronts. Uncovering unpleasant secrets within Grey’s aristocratic family, he also finds his gradually revealed former self to have been ambitious, cold and perhaps cruel. Integral to Perry’s rich, unpredictable plot is the Crimean War, graphically described by Hester Latterly, a forthright young woman of the middle class who nursed there with Florence Nightingale. While Monk’s unwillingness to face directly the questions of his past is often a stumbling block, forbearing readers will be amply rewarded by Perry’s resolutions of both mysteries. — Publishers Weekly