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Book Discussions October 2015

September 24, 2015 by Reader's Connection

Donna Leon’s first Guido Brunetti mystery, Death at La Fenice, will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, October 1st at 10:30 a.m.

Death at La FeniceA breathless beginning and an unexpected lack of reference to the lush setting mark this lively launch of a projected series of Venetian mysteries. When legendary German conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room two acts into a performance of La Traviata , police commissario Guido Brunetti is called in. Among those who might have provided the cyanide poison that killed the maestro, immediate suspects include the vaunted conductor’s coolly indifferent young wife and those many in the music industry who are offended by his homophobia . . . Though burdened by a dictatorial superior and two lumpen subordinates, Brunetti gets help from his aristocratic wife and her well-connected parents. — Publishers Weekly



This year’s Teen Read Week continues through October. Discussion leaders from the Indiana Writers Center will help us look at John Green’s Paper Towns .

Paper Towns

Hubbard & Cravens Coffee & Tea
4930 North Pennsylvania
Thursday, October 1st, 5:00 p.m.

Pike Library
Monday, October 5th at 3:30 p.m.

Ivy Tech Library
50 West Fall Creek Parkway
Thursday, October 8th at 5:00 p.m.

Southport Library
Wednesday, October 14th at 6:00 p.m.

Cologne Sister City Committee
401 East Michigan Street
Tuesday, October 20th at 5:00 p.m.

Lawrence Library
Wednesday, October 21st at 6:00 p.m.

Quentin–or “Q.” as everyone calls him–has known his neighbor, the fabulous Margo Roth Spiegelman, since they were two. Or has he? Q. can’t help but wonder, when, a month before high-school graduation, she vanishes. At first he worries that she might have committed suicide, but then he begins discovering clues that seem to have been left for him, which might reveal Margo’s whereabouts. Yet the more he and his pals learn, the more Q. realizes he doesn’t know and the more he comes to understand that the real mystery is not Margo’s fate but Margo herself–enigmatic, mysterious, and so very alluring. Yes, there are echoes of Green’s award-winning Looking for Alaska: a lovely, eccentric girl; a mystery that begs to be solved by clever, quirky teens; and telling quotations (from Leaves of Grass, this time) beautifully integrated into the plot. Yet, if anything, the thematic stakes are higher here, as Green ponders the interconnectedness of imagination and perception, of mirrors and windows, of illusion and reality. That he brings it off is testimony to the fact that he is not only clever and wonderfully witty but also deeply thoughtful and insightful. In addition, he’s a superb stylist, with a voice perfectly matched to his amusing, illuminating material. — Booklist

Paper Towns is also available as a downloadable e-book, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.

Paper TownsHere are some other Teen Read Week programs running this fall.

Paper Towns – Rounding Off the Edges

Vlog Like a YA Pro!

3Doodler Art Sessions



I missed a birthday! The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library turned 2 in early August.

Absalom, Absalom!

The group at will continue to read aloud from William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! on Fridays in October–the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th–from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

A poem is always read. If you can’t make it to Spades Park to read with the group, here’s a favorite of mine from a couple years ago: Hum for the Bolt, by Jamaal May. But that’s just one poem, and four others will be read in October.

Refreshments are always eaten. If you can’t make it to Spades Park, you can munch on a Little Debbie; but the Shared Reading Group offers such a variety.

And when you sit down to read Absalom, Absalom by yourself, you won’t have all the other voices to listen to. They can help you hear something different. (And I think they’ll be starting a new book pretty soon.)

In addition to this weekly shared reading, there will be a monthly book discussion at Spades Park on September 28th. See below.



The What Would Jane Austen Read? Book Club will meet at the College Avenue Library on Monday, October 5th, at 1:30 p.m.

Click for a schedule of WWJAR discussions.This is a group that reads selections of 18th century literature that Jane Austen might have read. Well-known novels of Burney, Edgeworth, Fielding, Defoe, Sterne and others formed our earliest reading. If you enjoy Jane Austen, you may like some of the writers who influenced her. We now are reading lesser-known works which were popular in her day . . . As these are sometimes obscure works, the library often doesn’t have copies, so our members have to use on-line sources, purchase second hand copies (under $5) or use interlibrary loan to obtain the books. — Group facilitator Elizabeth K. Jarvis

Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 40 Slow Cookers, 200 Fresh RecipesGlendale Library‘s Cooking Chats: On Monday, October 5th, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Denise Ferguson–Coordinator of Nutrition Services for the Marion County Health Department–will discuss crockpot cooking.
Registration for this program is required by calling 275-4410.Healthy Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and WellnessThe featured cookbooks are Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 40 Slow Cookers, 200 Fresh Recipes and Healthy Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness.


The Franklin Road Library will host a discussion of Molly Guptill Manning’s When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II on Monday, October 5th at 6:30 p.m.

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War IIBy telling the story of the “Armed Services Edition” series of books, released specifically for consumption by U.S. soldiers during World War II, Manning demonstrates the power that positive morale and a strong connection to the world left behind can have on the fighting spirit. The author catalogs the struggles–obtaining quality books, maintaining high standards while meeting the voracious reading demands of the soldiers, securing adequate funding and resources–that made the project a success, with an eye for a stirring narrative. As Manning explains through the letters and reminiscences of the soldiers themselves, providing those in combat with tangible reminders of home gave them the balance and hope they needed to overcome dreadful conditions and maintain even the slightest optimism amid the horrors of war. Well written, carefully researched, and drawing upon primary sources and news articles, this book brings to life a little-known part of World War II culture. — Library Journal

When Books Went to War is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.



The Wayne Library will host a discussion of Christina Baker Kline’s novel Orphan Train on Monday, October 5th at 6:30 p.m.

Orphan TrainA long journey from home and the struggle to find it again form the heart of the intertwined stories that make up this moving novel. Foster teen Molly is performing community-service work for elderly widow Vivian, and as they go through Vivian’s cluttered attic, they discover that their lives have much in common. When Vivian was a girl, she was taken to a new life on an orphan train. These trains carried children to adoptive families for 75 years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the Great Depression. Novelist Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009) brings Vivian’s hardscrabble existence in ­Depression-era Minnesota to stunning life. Molly’s present-day story in Maine seems to pale in comparison, but as we listen to the two characters talk, we find grace and power in both of these seemingly disparate lives. Although the girls are vulnerable, left to the whims of strangers, they show courage and resourcefulness. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women. — Booklist

Orphan Train is also available as an audiobook on CD and in large print.


Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, October 6th, at 6:00 p.m.

Jayber Crow  Four-year-old Jonah Crow loses both parents to the 1918 flu epidemic and is taken in by elderly relatives, both of whom die when he is 10. The foundation of love for his people and his rural northern Kentucky homeland has been deeply laid, however, and it sees him through the orphanage in which he is labeled J. Crow, the seminary in which he learns that the call he feels isn’t to the pulpit, early jobs and a trek back home during the great winter flood of 1937, and into his real calling as Jayber, bachelor barber of Port William, the epicenter of all Berry’s fiction. Giving dramatic structure to Jayber’s memoirs, which consist mostly of anecdotes revealing his and the other Port Williamites’ personalities and souls, is his long, silent love for Mattie Keith, whom he first notices, indelibly, when she is 14 . . . While affection and ardor suffuse this beautifully crafted novel, sentimentality and sensationalism are not in it. With the seeming effortlessness of art, Berry marries the book’s host of amusing and affecting stories and characters to the practical and religious lessons he has learned and striven to communicate during his 40-year literary career. Informing all those lessons is the insight that loving care for others, both living and dead, and for God’s creation redeems and justifies one’s life. This may be Berry’s finest book. — Booklist


Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, October 8th 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

The Graveyard Book is also available as a downloadable e-book, an audiobook on CD, and in large print. And I don’t usually include graphic novels in these groupings, but I raved about the graphic The Graveyard Book, a few weeks back, and here’s my rave.



The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, by Jeff Hobbs, will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, October 12th at 6:30 p.m.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert PeaceA man with seemingly every opportunity loses his way in this compelling biographical saga. Novelist Hobbs (The Tourists) chronicles the life of Peace, who was born in a Newark, N.J., ghetto to an impoverished single mom and a father who went to prison for murder. Thanks to his mother’s sacrifices and his extraordinary intellect he went to Yale and got a biology degree but when he returned to Newark after college, he became a drug dealer and was eventually shot to death by rivals. Writing with novelistic detail and deep insight, Hobbs, who was Peace’s roommate at Yale, registers the disadvantages his friend faced while avoiding hackneyed fatalism and sociology. Hobbs reveals a man whose singular experience and charisma made him simultaneously an outsider and a leader in both New Haven and Newark, Peace was a pillar of his family and community, superbly capable in both settings, but he could not reconcile their conflicting demands. (The author’s indelible portrait of Peace’s inner-city neighborhood shows how it could draw him back from the world his talent and education had opened.) This is a classic tragedy of a man who, with the best intentions, chooses an ineluctable path to disaster. — Publishers Weekly

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and in large print.



Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, October 19th at 6:30 p.m.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven BearsIn his run-down store in a gentrifying neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Ethiopian immigrant Stepha Stephanos regularly meets with fellow African immigrants Ken the Kenyan and Joe from the Congo. Their favorite game is matching African nations to coups and dictators, as they consider how their new immigrant expectations measure up to the reality of life in America after 17 years. From his store and nearby apartment, Stephanos makes keen observations of American race and class tensions, seeing similarities–physical and social–to his hometown of Addis Ababa, where his father was killed in the throes of revolution. When Judith, a white woman, and Naomi, her mixed-race daughter, move into the neighborhood, Stephanos finds tentative prospects for friendship beyond his African compatriots. Mengestu, himself an Ethiopian immigrant, engages the reader in a deftly drawn portrait of dreams in the face of harsh realities from the perspective of immigrants.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is also available as a downloadable e-book and an audiobook on CD.



Sarah Orne Jewett’s story collection The Country of the Pointed Firs will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, October 20th at 10:15 a.m.

The Country of the Pointed Firs

The Country of Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett’s masterpiece, established her among the consummate stylists of nineteenth-century American fiction. Composed in a series of beautiful web-like sketches, the novel is narrated by a young woman writer who leaves the city to work one summer in the Maine seaport of Dunnet Landing, and stays with the herbalist Mrs Almira Todd. She writes a New England idyll rooted in friendship, particularly female friendship, weaving stories and conversations, imagery of sea, sky and earth, the tang of salt air and aromatic herbs into an organic ‘fiction of community’ in which themes and form are exquisitely matched. To quote Willa Cather: ‘The ‘Pointed Fir’ sketches are living things caught in the open, with light and freedom and air spaces about them. They melt into the land and the life of the land until they are not stories at all, but life itself’. — Publisher’s note



Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, October 25th at 1:00 p.m. The theme for this program will be “Eldritch horrors that will ruin your sanity.”


John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, October 26th at 6:30 p.m.

The Fault in Our StarsHe’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited. Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his–based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. — Kirkus Reviews

The Fault in Our Stars is also available as a downloadable e-book, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.



Ann Patchett’s novel The Patron Saint of Liars will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, October 28th at 6:00 p.m.

The Patron Saint of Liars
St. Elizabeth’s is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth’s is near a healing spring, and when Rose’s time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind … and who she has become in the leaving. — Publisher’s note.

The Patron Saint of Liars is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.


Interested in wrestling with the infinite? You can contribute poetry (and do other things) via Spirit & Place.

September 22, 2015 by Reader's Connection

Click here for the Spirit & Place schedule.

In an earlier blog post about this year’s Spirit & Place Festival, I said that Rodger Kamenetz, author of The History of Last Night’s Dream: Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul, feels that Genesis is the first great dream work of the western world.

And Genesis will be included among the many ways in which Spirit & Place approaches its Dream theme. From the festival’s website:

This year’s Spirit & Place Festival will feature on-going programming and displays in the Indianapolis Artsgarden in which the story of Jacob’s dreams will serve as a prism through which we can look at our own dreams. Fourteen artists participating in the “Religion, Spirituality, and the Arts” (RSA) initiative will entertain the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 7, from 12:30-1:30pm with premiere performances meant to inspire attendees to tap into their own imaginations and spiritual dreams.

Throughout the rest of the week, visitors will be encouraged to draw with oil pastels on a huge scroll, write poetry, play rhythmic music, and dance their own dream interpretations. Artists and volunteers will be on hand to talk about their artistic discipline and help inspire participation.

Click the picture to see the “Wrestling with the Infinite” schedule. Note that an RSVP is requested if you plan to attend the the opening event on Saturday, November 7th.
And click the picture below to see the “Wrestling with the Infinite” trailer.

The Interpretation of DreamsOh, in that earlier blog post, I said I was going to read Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams sometime this year. Hasn’t happened yet. I’ve switched over to another translation (that I haven’t read), and am planning to read it by the end of the Year of the Goat (February 7th, 2016) at the latest.

“MtShasta SnowCapped”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I used this picture of Mount Shasta in northern California as my homepage thumbnail because I spent two months at a Zen abbey near Mount Shasta, years ago, and hiking a bit up the mountain did something to my knees, which has spread to my back; and now I hobble around on a cane. Like Jacob limping, after his wrestling. Thought you’d want to know.


Stranger Than Fiction – Movies about Authors We Love

September 20, 2015 by Reader's Connection

From Selector Jessica Lawrence:

The recently released Oscar-worthy film The End of the Tour, based on late author David Foster Wallace, serves to remind us of some of our other favorite author bio-pics. Whether they are faithful depictions or imaginative dramatizations, here are a few of our favorite films (with plot descriptions provided by IMDB) about some of the authors we love.


American Splendor

American Splendor (2003)

• An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.





Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane (2007)

• A biographical portrait of a pre-fame Jane Austen and her romance with a young Irishman.






Bright Star

Bright Star (2009)

• The three-year romance between 19th-century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne near the end of his life.







Capote (2005)

• In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel
In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.




Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

• An adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s
novel of the same name. The film details a whacky search for the “American Dream”, by Thompson and his psychopathic lawyer.





Finding NeverlandFinding Neverland (2004)

• Loosely based on the story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with the family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.






The Hours

The Hours (2002)

• The story of how the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf affects three generations of women, all of whom, in one way or another, have had to deal with suicide in their lives.






Howl (2010)

• As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.







Iris (2001)

• True story of the lifelong romance between novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, from their student days through her battle with Alzheimer’s disease.





The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman (2013) Also available on Blu-Ray.

• At the height of his career, Charles Dickens meets a younger woman who becomes his secret lover until his death.





Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings (2013)  Also available on Blu-Ray.

• A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.





The Last Station

The Last Station (2009)

• A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.





Miss Potter

Miss Potter (2006)

• The story of Beatrix Potter, the author of the beloved and best-selling children’s book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and her struggle for love, happiness and success.






Sylvia (2003)

• Story of the doomed relationship between the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.







Wilde (1997)

• The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man.





You can check out all of these titles and more at the Indianapolis Public Library!


John Green speaks to high school students in Indianapolis and Cologne, Germany

September 18, 2015 by Reader's Connection

Click here for John Green's lecture at Central Library September 14th.On September 14th, best-selling author John Green delivered a lecture at Central Library which was attended by staff at the Cologne Public Library in Germany via Skype connection.


Click the picture to hear the lecture entitled “Kurt Vonnegut, the Role That Literature Plays in Human Lives, and the Role That Indiana Has Played in My Life.” This program was part of the ongoing Sister Cities Initiative between Indianapolis and Cologne and was attended by high school students from both cities.


FYI, the YouTube is 54 minutes long.


Students, teachers and library staff from Cathedral High School, Christel House Academy South, Cardinal Ritter High School, Decatur Central High School, and Lawrence North High school were in the audience.  Library staff and faculty from Brebeuf, Central Catholic, Covenant High School, Heritage Christian High School, Nativity, Our Lady of Lourdes, Providence Cristo Rey, St. Barnabas and St. Joan of Arc were also there.  Other guests included Library Foundation board members and donors, Herron High School students, and IndyPL staff.


And hey, I’m not kidding, I ate at Chipotle last night. (You have to hear the lecture to understand why that’s important.)


Lila and Elena – The fourth and final novel about these two Italian girls has arrived.

September 16, 2015 by Reader's Connection

My 12-Weeks-of-Christmas list isn’t supposed to start until October, but I’m jumping the gun. Has anyone on your gift list read Elena Ferrante’s first three Neapolitan Novels? The final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was released on September 1st; and if your friend doesn’t run out and buy it, here’s your shot at the perfect present.

My Brilliant Friend


The four novels are:

My Brilliant Friend

The Story of a New Name

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

The Story of the Lost Child

(I’m using the cover art, here, but please note Steve’s comment down below, and my response.) (And check out Silvana’s, too.)




The Story of a New Name

Raffaella Cerullo, called Lina or Lila, and Elena Greco, sometimes called Lenù, are born in August of 1944 and grow up in a tough section of Naples. (One day one of their mothers-in-law will refer to all of Naples as a “disorderly city.”)

Lila disappears one day, when she’s 66 years old. Elena, a published novelist, decides to tell the story of their lives, their friendship, their loves and marriages and livelihoods, and how they lived through a period of political and technological change and (I just read this passage yesterday) the horrible earthquake of 1980.


Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Their friendship is at the heart of the novels. Early on, the two little girls are climbing the stairs, planning to knock on the door of a neighborhood villain. I always felt slightly detached from my own actions, Elena tells us. Lila, on the other hand, had, from a young age–I can’t say now if it was precisely so at six or seven . . . the characteristic of absolute determination. Whether she was gripping the tricolor shaft of the pen or a stone or the handrail on the dark stairs, she communicated the idea that whatever came next–thrust the pen with a precise motion into the wood of the desk, dispense inky bullets, strike the boys from the country side, climb the stairs to Don Achille’s door–she would do it without hesitation.



The Story of the Lost Child

That’s from My Brilliant Friend. The words “brilliant friend” are used at one point in reference to Elena, but don’t be confused. Lila might not be writing any books, but readers know that she’s ingenious and resourceful, and sometimes a little frightening. Elena is the one with the brilliant friend.

I’m halfway through the 4th book (7/8 of the way through the series, in other words), and I would have been lost without the the index of characters, listed by family, at the beginning of each novel. If you use these indexes when reading the books, DO NOT PEEK AHEAD. If you’re just starting My Brilliant Friend, for example, and you check out the character index at the beginning of The Story of the Lost Child, you’ll learn way too much about the future interactions of these Neapolitan families.

Just allow Elena to guide you through the years.


My Brilliant Friend is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.

The Story of a New Name is also available as a downloadable audiobook.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is also available as a downloadable e-book.

The Story of the Lost Child is also available as a downloadable e-book.