Book Club, reader's advisory

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – September 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This month’s fiction book is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale, Night Road, Firefly Lane, True Colors and Winter Garden.  She is a former lawyer, who started writing while pregnant and on bed rest with her son. Writing soon became her obsession and she’s been writing fiction ever since.

Our choice for this month is an epic love story/family drama set in France at the beginning and duration of World War II. Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads to war to defend France. Vianne and their daughter, Sophie, don’t believe that the Nazis will invade their small town of Carriveau. But they do invade and live side by side with the French citizens. Vianne is forced to make choices to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s rebellious sister, Isabelle, is searching for a purpose in life.  She joins the Resistance with a young man named Gaetan. They never look back, while risking their lives to save others. Isabelle is young, beautiful, and brave.

Their father, Julien, sends Isabelle to the country to help Vianne and Sophie survive the war. Their relationship is tested, but so is their strength and their abilities to tell right from wrong. The French people are being forced to accept a life filled with starvation, cold, and horrible treatment of their friends and neighbors, who are Jews.

Our story is told with courage, grace, and insight. We all hope that this is not Kristin Hannah’s last historical fiction novel. The group agreed that her writing is very visual. The novel would translate into a memorable film. In fact, several members thought that this was one of the best novels that they had ever read. I agree!

Pick up The Nightingale for yourself! You will find yourself getting lost in Vianne’s and Isabelle’s stories. It illuminates a part of history rarely seen: the women’s war in World War II France.

The Nightingale

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Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – July 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

This month’s fiction book is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What a book! What a story! It took the author ten years to research and finish this novel.

Our novel tells the story of Marie-Laure of France and Werner of Germany. Both young people are coming of age during World War II.

The chapters of the book alternate between Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories.

The author explores their childhoods before the war. Next, he follows them to new homes at the onset of war. We get to witness how each young person joins the war effort in their own way. The two teens meet during the bombing of Saint-Malo. I don’t want to give away too much of the story except to say that it is riveting. The reader really grows to care about the characters and is really invested in their outcomes.

We get to learn about radios and the big part that they played in communication before, during and after the war.

The novel’s heart is all about doing the right thing. Not necessarily the easy thing, but the right thing! We all can do this! We can treat other people well and with respect. The novel is filled with heroes trying to do good while surrounded with so much evil.

Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel. Many book club members thought that this was the best book that we read this year.

All the Light We Cannot See

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – May 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That
Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

by Ed Catmull

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This month’s book is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, a non-fiction pick. Dr. Catmull holds Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and physics, and a PhD. in computer science. Throughout his illustrious career, he has made huge contributions to the computer graphics field. Ed is a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and is currently President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The book outlines seven core principles for a creative culture in the workplace. They are as follows:

  1. Quality is the best business plan. It is the standard that you aim for.
  2. Failure isn’t a necessary evil. Failure is a necessary risk of any creative endeavor.
  3. People are more important than ideas. Improving ideas starts with the team.
  4. Prepare for the unknown. There will always be problems. Enable your employees to solve them and move on.
  5. The goal isn’t to make things better, it is to make better things.
  6. Everyone should be able to talk to anyone in the company. Proper channels just aren’t efficient.
  7. Honest, candid feedback leads to better ideas and a better work culture.

If you enjoy Pixar films, Dr. Catmull reveals the processes behind some of their biggest blockbusters. Pixar films has two mantras- that story is king and to trust the process.

Currently, Pixar Animation releases three films every two years. Two films are brand new ideas and one is a sequel to a previous film, like Toy Story or Cars.

The group really liked this book! The audiobook is a real treat to listen to. While discussing the book, the group agreed that we would all love to work at Pixar with Ed and his creative team.

There is no read-alike bookmark for Creativity, Inc. because it is a one-of-a-kind read!

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – April 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf

This month, our book club selection was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff) was an American novelist, who wrote six books. All six books were set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Kent earned a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

His name may be familiar from his Plainsong series. First published was Plainsong, followed by Eventide, with Benediction finishing the trilogy. All three novels became bestsellers.

Sadly, on November 30, 2014, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at home from interstitial lung disease. Our Souls at Night, his final work was published posthumously in 2015. His wife, Cathy, and his editor, Gary Fisketjon, were instrumental in getting the novel ready for publication.

Addie Moore visited her neighbor, Louis Waters, with the following proposition; please come to my house to sleep with me at night. Not sex, just companionship at night. Both neighbors had been widowed and they were in their seventies. They found that nights were the loneliest part of the day for them. They would fall asleep telling each other their life stories.

This act of bravery on Addie’s part began a sweet and tender friendship for both of them. Their children and grandchild did not live close. The two friends started sharing meals, chores, and travel.

Before he passed, Kent told his wife that he was going to write a book about them. He sure did. Our group just loved this touching story. Mr. Haruf’s novel really is a beautiful gift to us all!

Netflix will be releasing the film version in late 2017, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

Our Souls at Night

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – March 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux

This month, our group read Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux. Many of our members have seen various productions of the musical, but none of us had read the book before.

Gaston Leroux was born in Paris in 1868. He studied law in school.  After school, Gaston started writing as a court reporter, theater critic, and international correspondent. He covered the 1905 Russian Revolution.

In 1907, Leroux began writing fiction. In 1908, he wrote The Mystery of the Yellow Room. In 1911, Leroux wrote The Phantom of the Opera.   It was not well received until the 1925 film with Lon Chaney hit the movie screen. There was also a huge revival when Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into the longest running musical of all time! Leroux’s contribution to French detective fiction is considered a parallel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s in the U.K. and Edgar Allan Poe’s in the U.S. He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur in 1909.  Leroux died in 1927 in Nice.

We shared a great discussion about the author, the novel, and the former Paris Opera House. In 1858, Emperor Napoleon III of France ordered a new opera house be built in Paris that would be the envy of the world. Over 700 architects competed for the position of Chief architect. Charles Garnier was chosen for the job. The building was built on three acres with seven roads like spokes of a wheel coming out from it.  The new opera house had seventeen floors with eighty dressing rooms.  It opened to the public in 1875.

This beautifully written gothic novel explores light versus darkness, love versus obsession and unrequited love. We all agreed that the theater is a very romantic setting for our story. We also talked about the importance of masks to the story.

All in all, a magical evening with French pastries and an awesome discussion!

The Phantom of the Opera

Book Club, RA Programs

After Dinner Mints: The Dish on Just Desserts – January 2017

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Give & Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
by Adam Grant

Our author Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of Business. He is also one of Business Week’s favorite professors and one of Fortune’s 40 under 40. Adam Grant is the best-selling author of Give and Take and his newest book; Originals- How Non-Conformists Move the World. He has a PhD in organizational psychology.

Our book this month deals with success in business and in life.  Most of us think success is about hard work, perseverance and luck. That equation overlooks the impact of our interactions with others. People are either: givers, takers or matchers. Matchers achieve the most success in life, followed by givers with takers in last place.

Adam Grant’s “code of honor”- the traits that inspire trust and not competition in the work place are: show up, work hard, be kind, and always take the high road.

This book shares personal stories, but also many success stories. As a group, we learned about the creation of Craigslist and Freecycle. The author strongly believes in paying favors forward.

80% of all Americans now work in service industries.  We need to be able to work independently and interdependently!

If you are interested in this topic, check out the book and the author’s website www.giveandtake.com.  On the website, there is a free quiz available to find out your Giver Quotient. There are also videos to watch of Adam Grant giving several speeches on the topic. He is a wonderful public speaker!

We had a great discussion and we expect to see more great things from Adam Grant in the future!

give-and-take