Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party—Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break—December 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
Still Life by Louise Penny

Ratings:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 3.0 and 4.0. The average of the ratings was 3.42.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 2.0 and 4.0.  The average of the ratings was 3.50.

Facilitator stated selection of this cozy mystery was based on club input regarding the desire to have shorter selections and/or easy reads during the holidays. Facilitator also stated that one goal is to expose members to a variety of genres. Members were asked whether or not they appreciated this selection as part of accommodating these requests.  Members overwhelming appreciated having an easier read and enjoy being exposed to new authors and genres.

Review:

Books and Bagels:  Many members stated they are not mystery readers and with that in mind, they found this cozy mystery novel entertaining. Members thought the book was good, but not outstanding. The writing and structure seemed similar to an Agatha Christie novel.  Many members enjoyed the characters Louise Penny created and most members plan on reading another Louise Penny book in the Inspector Gamache series.

Morning Book Break: Most members enjoyed the novel and thought Louise Penny skillfully revealed her clues. They enjoyed visiting the countryside of Three Pines. They found the read soothing and a great escape from the news of the day.  Members liked that Penny showed tolerance for a variety of people without being preachy. Many members will probably read another book in the series.

A few members disliked the novel. They disliked that Louise Penny had at least twenty-six characters in the novel and some members found this confusing and frustrating.  Members also disliked the ending and found it contrived and rushed.  Members also felt they learned more about archery then they ever wanted to know.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Discussion about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his strengths and weaknesses
  • Discussion about other main characters and their relationships: Clara & Peter, Olivier & Gabri, Reine-Marie, Ruth, Myrna, Jane, Ben, Suzanne & Matthew Croft, Philippe,

Yolande, Andre and Bernard Malenfant.  Also, discussed choices the characters made throughout the novel and if any characters evolved over the course of the novel.

  • Members were asked which character they would most like to have cafe au lait with at the Bistro. Most members would like to have coffee with Olivier and Gabri, as they believe they are the most interesting conversationalists. Members would like to have discussions about food to their heart’s content.

Some members elected to have coffee with Inspector Gamache to discuss philosophy and find out how he solves crimes. Two members desired to have coffee with Reine-Marie to hear the private stories Inspector Gamache has told her. Several members would seek out Myrna to get some sage advice.  Several members coveted time with Jane to hear stories of the children she taught and insights into all the villagers—they found her powers of observation to be profound. They would also like to discuss her art.  Some members wanted to dialogue with Ruth about her poetry. One member needed to talk with Ben and find out what happened in his life that led him down such a dark path.

  • Discussed Agent Yvette Nichol’s role in the novel. What is her purpose: as an investigator and/or part of the narrative? Did you find this subplot intrusive or helpful?
  • The role of Jane’s art in the novel and the Queen of Hearts game played by Jane and her niece Yolande.
  • The role of psychology and poetry within the novel.
  • How would you classify Still Life? Is Still Life a typical “cozy” mystery?
  • Louise Penny has a “detective reveal all” scene when Gamache gathers everyone to look at the painting, but all is not revealed. The group discussed Penny’s handling of the denouement.
  • We discussed whether or not we felt Louise Penny played fair with the reader. When the murderer was discovered, were you able to connect the dots with the clues presented throughout the novel or did the reveal come completely out of the blue?  Were you able to figure out who was the murderer?

Resources:

http://www.louisepenny.com/ (includes an excellent pronunciation guide for all of Louise Penny’s novels)

 

Read-a-Likes:

Still Life

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Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party—Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break—October 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Ratings:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 3.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.36. Four members gave the book a 5.  This is a high rating compare to other book club selections evaluated in past years.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 2.5 and 5.0.  The average of the ratings was 3.63.

Review:

Morning Book Break: While most members found the book discussion lively and interesting, they found the book, in general, to be a little disappointing.  Many members found the writing to be tedious and slow-moving at times.  They found the book to be an easy read, but not compelling.  They thought the writing at the end was hurried—just like a film that wraps everything up in the last five minutes.  A few members thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be quite humorous.  Several members found the book educational in gently exposing the reader to Asperger’s Syndrome and/or the Autism Spectrum.  One member stated that the main character, Don Tillman, was inspirational in striving to succeed without ever giving up. Several members relayed that it is helpful to read fiction to assist us in navigating our interactions with others.  Fiction helps us to be sensitive to the needs of others.   One member said, “the author showed if you move beyond the surface differences of a person, we all have something to offer, we all have value and strengths, and we all deserve respect and to be treated with dignity.”

Books and Bagels: The novel was well received by members.  Members found the novel enlightening, engaging, and entertaining.  Members found themselves frequently laughing aloud.  Although, not necessary literary, they found the book fun and very clever.  As an aside, the author claims he could have made the novel literary and award winning by changing several sentences at the end, but he claims he likes to write what people like to read.  Members are looking forward to the movie and hope the casting does justice to the book’s characters. Several members thought about what actors should be cast in the roles of Don and Rosie. One member, who is not a fan of romance novels, constantly recommends this novel to colleagues as it is on her “top 10 list to recommend.” One member read the sequel, which she thoroughly enjoyed and she feels it is continuous part of this amazing story that everyone should read.  Another member read the sequel and was disappointed in that, it was not of the same caliber as the debut.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Gaining understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome and/or the Autism Spectrum via fiction.
  • Discussed: What is love? And, Is it smart to have a list of criteria for a potential partner?
  • Structure and chaos in our lives & routines in our lives (Helpful? Limiting?)
  • Two secondary characters are involved in an open marriage. We discussed this concept.
  • The Rosie Project was selected as the adult read for 2016-2017 by the Suburban Mosaic organization.  The Mosaic’s goal is to foster cultural understanding through literature.  The discussion groups were asked whether or not, this goal was achieved.  Overall, both discussion groups found this novel to be excellent in achieving the goal of fostering some understanding of the Autism Spectrum, but, more importantly, understanding differences in people.

Resources:

For other books by Graeme Simsion in our collection, please click here.

http://graemesimsion.com/

Bill & Melinda Gates interview Graeme Simsion about The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion answers question for The Big Read:



Read-a-Likes:

The Rosie Project

 

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party—Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break—September 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Rating: In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 1.0 and 5.0+.  The average of the ratings was 4.43. Thirteen members gave the book a 5.0. This was an unusually high rating as compared to past selections.

In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 4.5 and 5.0+. The average of the ratings was 4.92. Ten members gave the book a 5+.  This book received the highest ratings ever for this club.

Review:

Books and Bagels:  Members fell in love with the Count and paced their reading to allow the magical experience to continue. Members did not want their time with the Count to end. The members were simply delighted with the compelling, witty language used by Towles.  Many members stated that the Count was their favorite character that has been presented in a fictional novel.  Fortunately, we had a member share some actual experiences of living under Soviet control and although members agreed the novel unrealistically portrayed the house arrest of the Count, overall, the fictional story was enlightening and engaging. Members have been recommending this original, humorous novel to their friends and family.

Morning Book Break: Members really enjoyed the Count.  He was human, caring, and likeable. Many members felt like the Count was their friend and thought this was a remarkable achievement for Towles.  Many members felt like the novel engaged them directly. The author was masterful in creating a well-developed story line which wove in the history of the Russian Revolution without being too preachy. Many members have been recommending this enchanting, accessible novel to friends and colleagues.  Several members barely tolerated the novel and found the narrative to be way too long and too descriptive.

Discussion Highlights:

Discussion centered on the characters presented within the novel:

  • The protagonist,  the Count and his amazing attributes and transformation
  • His suicide attempt and the effect of the handyman and the bees
  • Nina—the Eloise of the Metropol
  • Friendship between the Count and Nina
  • Nina as an agent of change
  • Sofia’s influence on the Count
  • The Count’s decision to get Sofia out of Russia, while remaining behind
  • Anna—the Count’s lover
  • Did you expect the ending? In your mind how does the story end?
  • Triumvirate—Andrey, Emilie, and the Count
  • Mishka, Osip, & Richard and their perspectives on the meaning of the revolutionary era
  • Douglas Smith of the Wall Street Journal wrote in his review: “Over four million people perished from famine in the U.S.S.R. in the early 1930’s…To flippantly refer to this moment as “unkind”…speaks to a disturbing lack of empathy and even moral imagination.”  We discussed whether the author was successful in balancing the Count’s life under house arrest with what was actually going on in Russia. This was a very interesting discussion as we also discussed the role of fiction in conveying historical events.
  • We discussed to what extent A Gentleman in Moscow is a novel of purpose.
  • Discussion on the Structure & Layout of the novel
    • Role of footnotes—helpful or distracting
    • The majority of the novel is told in third person from the Count’s perspective.  There is, however, an overarching narrator with a different perspective.  This narrator appears in the footnotes, Addendums, and the historical introductions of 1930, 1938, and 1946. We discuss the differences between this narrator’s POV & tone and the Count’s.
  • Amor Towles created quite a structure that incorporated the passage of time in a complex way. We discussed how this affected our reading of the novel.
  • We discussed the significance of Casablanca.

Resources:

For other books by Amor Towles in our collection, please click here.

http://www.amortowles.com/

Watch Becky Anderson of Anderson’s bookstore located in Naperville interview Amor Towles.
A Gentleman in Moscow was her favorite book of the year.

Read-a-Likes:

A Gentleman in Moscow

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Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels – June 2017

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion on
Georgia by Dawn Tripp

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the novel received ratings between 2.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.09. Two members gave the book a 5.  The novel was a terrific ending to the 2016-2017 Season.

Review:
The author, Dawn Tripp, in an interview with Caroline Leavitt, discussed what drove her to write a novel about Georgia O’Keeffe.  Growing up Dawn Tripp had admired O’Keeffe’s art, but after visiting an exhibit of her abstractions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Dawn desired to know about this radical American artist. Dawn Tripp asked herself the following questions: “Who was the woman, the artist, who made these shapes?  What did she think, feel, and want? What was happening in her life? And why hadn’t I seen the full range and power of her abstract work before? Why wasn’t she known for this?” Dawn Tripp kept thinking: “Here is a woman most people know of, yet at some level barely know at all.”  During the discussion, group members talked about how we all knew of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art, but knew little about her as a person.  All members agreed that Dawn Tripp meticulously addressed all of the above inquires and we all felt we had a better understanding of Georgia O’Keeffe and her art.  We all believe Dawn Tripp drew a lovely picture of Georgia and the passion that drove her art.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The book reveals the passionate love affair and marriage of the young, intelligent, fiercely independent Georgia and the father of modern photography, Alfred Stieglitz.  The novel mainly focuses on the years that Alfred and Georgia were together.   Many members were aware of the photography of Alfred Stieglitz; they did not know about his affair with Georgia and his influence on her art and world recognition. We discussed where Georgia would be as an artist without Alfred to guide her. We also discussed the passionate affair and love scenes displayed throughout the novel.  Most members thought this portrayal assisted in understanding what drove these artists. Some members believed that the love scenes distracted from the rest of the engrossing historical novel.
  • Georgia’s struggle to balance her work with her ongoing relationship with Arthur Stieglitz and the dynamics of the complex relationship.  We discuss what Georgia would have achieved without Stieglitz assistance and marketing/branding.  We discussed at length the artistic photos Arthur Stieglitz took of the young Georgia and what these photos meant to Alfred and Georgia and how their exhibition influenced her work.
  • Conversation about the challenges Georgia, a groundbreaking artist, faces in a world dominated by men.  Discussion centered on gender dynamics.
  • The sacrifices Georgia makes to become a legendary artist.  The passions needed to pursue this type of life.
  • We discussed our favorite paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • We all thought Dawn Tripp used beautiful descriptive language. We thought the novel was well-written, well-edited, and poetic.

Resources:

For books in our collections about Georgia O’Keeffe, please click here.

Georgia O’Keeffe a Life in Art from Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on Vimeo.

https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/

Read-a-Likes:

Georgia

Books and Bagels 2016-2017 Season Wrap-Up:
Members thoroughly enjoy book discussion days and look forward to attending each month. The least favorite reads of the season were: Modern Romance and Did You Ever Have a Family. The overwhelming favorites for this season were: The Nightingale and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Members are sorry to see the season come to an end and they can’t wait until September for the first discussion of the 2017-2018 Season.  If you’re interesting in attending, stop by the Readers’ Advisory Desk for the 2017-2018 Flyer available in mid-July, and sign-up with a Readers’ Advisor.  If you’re already signed up, keep an eye out on the blog page for September’s title!

Book Club

The After Party – Books & Bagels and Morning Book Break – May 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 4.0 and 5.0+. The average of the ratings was 4.43. Three members gave the book a 5+.  This book received an unusually high rating as compared to past books selected for club.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 0 and 5.0+.  The average of the ratings was 4.72. This was also an unusually high rating.

Review: 

Morning Book Break: Members found the book very informative, but the information presented was depressing. Most members would rather not focus on end-of-life issues and most members could only digest the book in small chunks. In spite of this fact, members found the book to be exceptionally well-written and inspiring.  Several members thought it should be a book everyone in the medical profession should read. One member thought this selection was the most valuable read since she has been attending book club.  Members would definitely encourage others to read the book. Members have noticed that Atul Gawande has been on several network news shows and members are glad to be informed about current topics/events.

Books and Bagels: Members overwhelming would and have recommended this book to others. Many members are now going to purchase this book to give to loved ones and also, to give to several doctors. Members believe this is a foundational book, which should be read by every medical professional prior to graduation. Members found the book to be a necessary, important read. One member said, “Definitely, have a tissue box ready if you decide to read.”  Discussion centered on what worked and didn’t work in end life experiences. Members spent time sharing personal preparations. One member pointed out that Atul Gawande is listed in Fortune’s May 1, 2017 issue on p. 46 in the article 34 Leaders Who Are Changing Health Care. Members are excited to read about current information and they feel up-to-date.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Conversation about the personal narratives and anecdotal stories shared by the author
  • Members found the stories to be fruitful and provided helpful insights apart from the facts, figures, and statistics
  • Complexities of medical education and insufficiencies regarding medical training for death, grief, and end-of-life decisions
  • Effectiveness of Doctor Styles: Paternalistic, Informative, and Interpretive
  • Evolution of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice and what matters most in the end
  • Striking a balance between hope and reality
  • Dr. Gawande’s personal story of his father’s terminal illness
  • Healthcare costs and potential remedies/medical funding/quality-of-life issues/death with dignity
  • How traditions/spirituality influence the concept of being mortal
  • Shared tips/strategies for effectively dealing with mortality—what is involved in a “good death”
  • Aging in the US and abroad
  • Tension between safety and independent living/joyful existence
  • Combating the “Three Plagues of Nursing Home Existence: Boredom, Loneliness, and Helplessness”

Resources:

For other books by Atul Gawande in our collection, please click here.

We also own the Frontline DVD Being Mortal; the film explores the interactions between doctors and patients approaching the end of life.

Jacket (5)

Atul Gawande recommends doctors begin to talk about the inevitability of death with terminally ill patients and he recommends a good place to start is with the use of the “Serious Illness Conversation Guide.” He wrote the guide at the following link to find out what terminally ill patients understand about their condition and what their goals are as the end nears.

http://www.talkaboutwhatmatters.org/documents/Providers/Serious-Illness-Guide.pdf

Read-a-Likes:

Being Mortal

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels – April 2017

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion on The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Rating: The Sisters Brothers received ratings between 1.0 and 5.0 with an average rating of 3.58.

Review: The reviews were mixed; members either really enjoyed the novel or really detested the novel.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Many members found the novel highly entertaining.  Members found the novel a unique, clever episodic Western.
  • Members discussed whether or not the story was successful as a loosely based picaresque novel.
  • Members appreciated deWitt’s dark humor and members were mystified by how they found themselves laughing at very grisly elements. There was much discussion about the techniques used by deWitt to pull off this feat.  It shows his true talent as an author and members agreed that the novel was worthy of The Man Booker Prize.
  • Members adored the witty banter between the two brothers and the well-developed brother relationship.
  • Members liked watching Eli, the younger brother, develop as an independent person over the course of the novel.
  • Members found the use of first person to be refreshing and felt the structure utilized served the novel well.
  • Members enjoyed the inconspicuous social commentary exhibited throughout the book.
  • Several members appreciated the bare-bones acknowledgements at the end of the book and they wish more authors would employ this technique.
  • Members really appreciated the facilitator presentation about the author and felt they better understood Patrick deWitt and his style.
  • Members learned that Patrick deWitt is a huge fan of Roald Dahl.  One member enjoys reading Dahl and thought deWitt and Dahl have a similar style as both are highly imaginative, dark yarn spinners.
  • Members enjoyed the use of Intermissions, but were perplexed over the Weeping Man, the Old Witch, and the Poisonous Little Girl.  The facilitator provided author insight into these characters.  Overall, the members enjoyed these seemingly unrelated vignettes.
  • One member enjoyed The Sisters Brothers (deWitt’s second novel) so much, that she decided to read deWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor (deWitt’s third novel).  She recommends this unusual novel, but thought The Sisters Brothers was overall a better novel.

Resources:


Patrick deWitt discusses his novel with Jared Bland at the Toronto Public Library.  deWitt discusses improving his craft, what writers should read, research, narrative voice choice, symbolism, and ending choice.

Read-a-Likes:

The Sisters Brothers

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels – March 2017

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Books and Bagels Discussion on The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

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Rating: The Golden Son received ratings between 3.5 and 5.0 with an average rating of 4.02.  This is a very high average for this club.

Review:  Members thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it was very favorably received.  They loved Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s extensive research about the education of medical doctors in the United States and the challenges presented.  Members enjoyed the author’s exploration of the panchayat system, an Indian tradition of settling disputes within a community.  Members are life-long learners and view discovery into novels with historical and cultural perspectives from other countries as an exciting quest.  They found the panchayat system intriguing and they appreciated Gowda’s coverage.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Members appreciated the exploration of internships and residency in the medical profession. It was interesting to see the evolution of a trained physician.
  • Members were interested in arranged marriages, dowry, and bride burning discussed within the novel.
  • Members liked Gowda’s use of metaphors such as; the dispute of the mango tree and the clay as a metaphor for life.
  • Members really liked the vignettes presented throughout the novel showing the panchayat system and the arbitration process.
  • Many members’ only negative comments were about the ending.
  • Several members found the ending to be contrived, but not completely like a Hollywood ending.  It was more realistic that one of the main characters, Anil, did not end up with the other main character, Leena.
  • A few members thought the ending needed to be tighter.
  • Members found this to be an easy, enjoyable read without many literary devices and sometimes this is a nice break.  They enjoyed the dialogue between characters and found it to be realistic.
  • Three members had read Gowda’s first novel, Secret Daughter, and they commented that her second novel The Golden Son contained an improved writing style.

Resources:

Read Gowda’s inspiration for The Golden Son:
http://www.shilpigowda.com/tgs-behind-the-book/

Gowda is interviewed by Liza Fromer about The Golden Son:

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, RA Programs

The After Party – Books and Bagels – Feb. 2017

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Books and Bagels Discussion on Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Rating: Did You Ever Have A Family received ratings between 2.5 and 5.0 with an average rating of 3.73.

Review: We appreciated another excellent discussion with most members either praising the novel or disliking the novel.  One member noted that this is the case for many authors and genres at the library—people definitely enjoy different novels.  She further noted that the discussion is always exciting when there is disagreement. Also, she complimented the array of selections presented to the book club.

Did You Ever Have A Family is Bill Clegg’s debut fiction novel. Members had not previously read either of his memoirs. All members were moved by minor character Cissy’s role in the lives of several main characters.  Cissy states, “Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part…..Someone down the line might need to know you got through it. Or maybe someone you won’t see coming will need you…And it might be you never know the part you played, what it meant to someone to watch you make your way each day.” p. 289 (paperback)

Discussion Highlights:

  • The members who gave the novel high marks cited the following reasons:
    • Fabulous writing, excellent techniques, and complex structuring
    • Author’s exploration of different points of view in the novel, the use of closed third person narration for the three main characters and the selection of first person narration for the minor characters— members enjoyed the multiple narrator aspect
    • Found the minor characters fascinating and thought this was a testament to the often overlooked people who offer solace and kindness everyday
    • Liked that the novel was character-driven
    • Satisfaction in discovering how characters were connected
    • Members appreciated piecing all the characters together. One member stated it was like putting a puzzle together.
    • Lots of characters, probably an homage to being human and our interconnection with others as we travel through this world
    • Rich, complex, multi-layered, mesmerizing
    • Members were reminded of another novel previously selected for book club: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. These books had a very similar format, structure, and character development.  Interestingly, the same members who liked Did You Ever Have A Family enjoyed The Spinning Heart, likewise, those that disliked Did You Ever Have A Family disliked The Spinning Heart.
  • The members who gave the novel low marks cited the following reasons:
    • Too many characters (at least 42) for a shorter book (219 pages)
    • Clegg frequently uses pronouns and descriptions instead of using first and/or last names which makes tracking the characters even more difficult
    • Members had difficulty in keeping track of all the characters and often felt lost
    • Due to the amount of characters, members felt that when they put the book down, they could no longer pick-up where they left off
    • Again, due to the number of characters, members who read the book weeks before had a difficult time remembering all the characters
    • One member politely said: I really enjoyed the discussion, but the novel wasn’t my style, way too many characters that are not clearly delineated.
    • Members were not invested in any of the characters

Resources:

From 14:51-21:07, Bill Clegg discusses his interesting hometown and its effect on his novel.

From 29:53-35:58, Bill Clegg reveals how he started his novel with this sentence,“She will go.”  p. 7 (paperback).  Additionally, Bill Clegg talks about his love for the “accidental pairing of people in life.”  This concept is definitely explored in his novel.

Check-Out Bill Clegg’s Memoirs!


Read-A-Likes:

did-you-ever-have-a-family

Book Club, RA Programs

The After Party -Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – Jan. 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Discussions on Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 2.5 and 3.5. The average of the ratings was 3.2.  Three members declined to rate the book, citing that it would be unfair to rate as they disliked the book so much they could not finish it.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between -1.0 and 5.0.  The average of the ratings was 1.97. About six members gave the book a zero and stated that they disliked the book and were unable to finish reading the book.

Review: Almost all members would not have chosen this book to read on their own. The Books and Bagels members, on the whole, were grateful to learn about new technologies and new communication tools that have emerged in our modern era.

How people meet their mates across different periods is a significant theme of Modern Romance therefore; last month, the members were asked to come prepared to share one of the following stories:

  • How did you and your significant other meet?
  • How did your parents or grandparents meet?
  • Share an interesting story about how a couple you know met.
  • Of course, members were also given the option to opt out.

The members were told that these shared stories would allow us to compare and contrast how people found their mates in the past and the present. Several members in Morning Book Break suggested bringing in wedding photos or photos of themselves as young singles and all members took this suggestion to heart and arrived with a photo to share. These stories and photos were well-received and this segment of the discussion was very popular.

At the end of our discussion time, members were asked to critique the book and answer the follow question:

  • Did Modern Romance help dispel the social stigma of online dating? If you were in your 20’s or 30’s would you use it as a tool?

The discussions in both groups were lively, fruitful, and interesting. Normally, the discussions end around 11 am, in both groups, the discussion lasted until almost noon.

Discussion Highlights—Books and Bagels

  • Several members did not care for the book, so they skimmed the contents or did not finish the book.
  • Most members found the comedian’s use of foul language to be off-putting, irritating, and a distraction to the contents of the book.
  • Some members questioned the methodology of the research studies conducted and they discovered that the statistics within the book did not add up.
  • Much discussion centered on how cell phone usage, specifically texting, has not only changed the dating scene, but ordinary, everyday conversations in general.
  • There was a great deal of discussion about the use of the internet and how googling has allowed us to search for the best which opens up endless options and yet, our lives are more complex and not necessarily happier.

Discussion Highlights—Morning Book Break

  • Most members did not care for Ansari’s humor. They found the humor to be boorish, insulting, and disrespectful. Some members found him to be humorous and a few enjoy his stand-up comedy routines.
  • Many members expressed concern for younger generation and their future; this brave new world seems to have lost the art of lively conversation. Many members were glad that they had been born in an earlier generation.  One member stated that colleges are now offering courses in conversation skills, indeed, a lost art.
  • Several members were not able to finish reading the book and those that did found it to be redundant and repetitive.
  • A few members shared that the information about romance in Japan, Buenos Aires, and France was interesting and informative.
  • A few members discussed the book with younger people over the holidays and found the information to spark lively and interesting conversations. A few people thought having knowledge about current romantic practices was paramount in interacting with the younger generation and on that note, thought the book offered insight.

Resources:

http://azizansari.com/

Read-a-Likes:

Modern Romance.jpg

Book Club

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – Dec. 2016

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder And Its Consequences by Truman Capote

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 3.75 and 5.0. The average rating was 4.33.

In Morning Book Break, this book received a variety of scores between 1.0 and 4.5.  The average rating was 3.27.

Review: The nonfiction novel was selected as part of a two-month combination study, along with the historical fiction novel, The Swans of Fifth Avenue.  Following our group discussion, the members were asked to respond by giving their usual critique and also, respond to the following:

  • Did you find reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue prior to reading In Cold Blood profitable?
  • If members had previously read In Cold Blood, they were asked to compare and contrast their previous reading with this current reading.

Most members relayed that Truman Capote was indeed, a truly gifted writer.  Most members would not have selected this nonfiction true crime book, but they were happy that it was a book club selection. The discussion, as always, was dynamic, insightful, and elevated the individual reading of the book.

Discussion Highlights—both groups

  • Several members read In Cold Blood as teenagers and remember being quite frightened; however, rereading the books as adults, they found the text enlightening, interesting, and disturbing. Members felt over the course of their lifetimes, they have been desensitized to the portrayal of crimes. After all, today’s media constantly televises murder, terror, and violence.
  • Most members found Capote’s writing to be superb, but found the read to be very slow going. Reading all the details at times was cumbersome and boring.

Discussion Highlights—Books and Bagels

  • Most members found last month’s read, The Swans of Fifth Avenue to be a disappointing read, but found the information gleaned about Capote to be very useful in understanding Capote’s characterization of Perry Smith. Some members did not like the characterization of Truman Capote in The Swans of Fifth Avenue, but the information was useful.
  • There was much discussion about Dick and Perry’s senseless crime. Members searched for reasons the crime was committed. In Cold Blood was a psychological investigation into the minds of these cold-blooded killers. Truman Capote amazingly achieved sympathy and compassion for these murderers.
  • One member read the book straight though and found the story compelling and the writing masterful.
  • Several members believe that In Cold Blood was an excellent springboard leading to a discussion about capital punishment.
  • One member had read In Cold Blood in Esquire magazine in its original publication format, four installments. She commented that when she read it the first time, she did not realize the significance of the work.

Discussion Highlights—Morning Book Break

  • Several members thought In Cold Blood was disturbing, but were thrilled it was chosen as a book discussion read. They thought the work was ground-breaking for 1965.  The back and forth sections between the Clutters and the murders was innovative.
  • Several members were reminded of the Palatine Brown’s Chicken murders and the Richard Speck murders.
  • Overall, the group was not sympathetic to the killers.
  • Many members found the book moved too slowly, but all agreed Truman crafted well-developed characters and the readers felt transported to Holcomb, Kansas circa 1959.
  • Many members felt the book dragged, but thought reading the combination of the two books to be an excellent choice. This combination aided in the understanding of the author, his writing, and his exploration into Perry Smith’s character.
  • Several members have recommended The Swans of Fifth Avenue to their friends.
  • There was a fair amount of discussion surrounding the terminology: literary non-fiction, creative nonfiction, nonfiction novel, true crime book, violent fiction novel (as related to In Cold Blood).

Resources:

http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/14-non-fiction/476-in-cold-blood-capote?start=3


Parts 2-4 are also available on YouTube.

Films Available for Check-Out:

Read-a-Likes:

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