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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Audiobooks, Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break – November 2017

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Morning Book Break Book Discussion on
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Rating: This book received a variety of scores between 2.0 and 5.0.  In scoring, the mode was 4.0 and the average rating was 3.79.

Review: Only two members were aware of the abuses suffered under Georgia Tann and her adoption organization, the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The book club members really appreciate learning about events in history, therefore, they found the historical information Wingate presented to be very interesting, heart-wrenching, and compelling.   All members were willing to give this novel a high score (5.0) for the research and historical material presented.

The fictional facet of the novel received mixed reviews. Many members loved the book and they have been recommending it to friends and family. They found the topic fascinating and they spent time conducting further research on the events presented. Many members said the mysterious aspect of the novel grabbed them and they looked forward each day to reading the book. Many found it to be a well-written, easy-read.

The discussion was interesting in that an equal number of members found the writing to be sophomoric and contrived. Many criticized the novel as it was more like a script for a sappy Hollywood or Lifetime movie as opposed to a literary read.  One member thought this might be a YA novel due to the writing style.

Members had differing opinions about the structure of the novel.  Some members were frustrated that the author shifted from 1939 to Present Day throughout the novel. Many thought this would be a tremendous book without the Present Day chapters and they wished the novel just covered the historical material about the shanty boat children—everyone was invested in the Foss children. Some members questioned why so many contemporary novels utilize dual-narration.  Members were confused by the amount of characters presented. One member said she took notes on the names of the characters and had to constantly revise the list. Members chuckled because they want to enjoy a book without having to take copious notes. Other members thoroughly appreciated the structure and felt it added an element of suspense to the novel.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The dual-narration structure of the novel and clarification of some of the roles of the main characters.
  • Discussion about the sisters’ decision to keep their family history secret. The group discussed whether family secrets should remain secret.
  • Discussion about whether the birth parents were responsible or careless individuals.
  • Was the ending realistic or unrealistic? What happens to Avery and Trent’s relationship?
  • Why the novel received worldwide interest? What themes are universal?
  • What can society do to prevent people like Georgia Tann from taking advantage of the most vulnerable?

Resources:

http://www.lisawingate.com/

A 60 Minutes report on the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal:

For other books by Lisa Wingate in our collection, please click here.

 

Read-a-Likes:

Before We Were Yours

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 – Morning Book Break – June 2017

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Morning Book Break Book Discussion on
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Rating: The novel received ratings between 1.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.89. Three members gave the book a 5+.  The novel was well received and it was a perfectly positive fit for our last discussion of the season.

Review:
Most members found the depth of historical information presented to be remarkable. Several members commented on the difficulty of keeping the characters straight. Several members loved the book and found the novel to be cleverly constructed and they praised the author for her ability to weave a mystery out of historical facts. The overwhelming presentation of red herrings led to the plausibility of the mystery. Some members were initially excited to read about the Hindenburg, only later to be disappointed as they were unable to connect with the numerous characters. Several members found the writing to choppy and uneven, while others found Lawhon’s writing to beautifully descriptive. One member thought the novel was melodramatic and rang of Titanic themes.  Finally, all members felt better informed about the Hindenburg and its destruction.  Members raved about the discussion and enjoyed the diverse opinions.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Conversation about the structure of the novel and the ability of the author to create suspense even though the outcome is known.
  • Members appreciate the character headings at the beginning of each segment as it was difficult to track all of the characters.
  • Members marveled at the historical accurate details about the Hindenburg and members were impressed as to how the author incorporated this minutia of detail into the novel.
  • Members enjoyed hearing about the state rooms, bathrooms, service rooms, smoking room, observation desk, and the meals and cocktails served.  One member remarked about how she was hungry after reading about the delicious fine meals. The Hindenburg was truly a luxury liner! Members spoke about Emilie’s role as the only female crewmember onboard the ship and her responsibilities to the passengers.
  • The group discussed the differences between air travel at the time and air travel today.  Obviously, there is a great contrast and members shared amusing stories about their air travels.
  • The group talked about which characters they found most sympathetic.  Overall, the group had great sympathy for Werner, the fourteen year old cabin boy. Additionally, they were sympathetic to Emilie’s plight. No one in the group had any sympathy for “The American.”  The facilitator gave four reasons to sympathize with “The American,” and still no one felt his actions to be justified.
  • The facilitator briefly explained the current theories regarding the explosion of the Hindenburg and all the members thought Ariel Lawhon did a marvelous job of addressing and including each theory as a possibility.
  • The facilitator asked if anyone would like to travel on a modern airship, the group resoundingly stated, “NO!”

Resources:

For other books and audiobooks by Ariel Lawhon , please click here.

http://facesofthehindenburg.blogspot.com/

http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/

Read-a-Likes:

Flight of Dreams

 

Morning Book Break 2016-2017 Season Wrap-Up:

Members praised the facilitator for providing a fine selection of diverse books this season.  Members thoroughly enjoy attending discussion days.  The least favorite reads of the season were: In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Modern Romance, and My Name is Lucy Barton. The overwhelming favorites for this season were: The Nightingale, The Marriage of Opposites, and Flight of Dreams.  Voted most important read of the season was Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Members are sorry to see the season come to a close 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, which will be 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 – Morning Book Break – March 2017

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Morning Book Break Discussion on My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Rating: My Name Is Lucy Barton received ratings between minus, minus, minus 1.0 (member sarcasm) and 4.5 with an average rating of 2.28.  This is the lowest combined rating for a book discussed in Morning Book Break in the last four years.

Review:  Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions and snow cover at the time of the meeting, many members were unable to join us for club. Some members were snowed in; nevertheless, many members did email the facilitator their comments and ratings. Hooray for participation from home!  These comments/ratings were read aloud at the end of club during the critiquing session time.  The members who were able to attend really enjoyed the in-depth discussion; they felt the discussion shed new light on the novel and elevated the reading experience.  The discussion was thought-provoking and one member commented that each member present seemed to uncover a hidden element in the story that other members had not formerly discovered.  My Name Is Lucy Barton is a novel that leaves so many things unsaid, leaving readers desiring to meet in clubs to piece together the story.  Nancy Pearl, librarian and author of Book Lust, says My Name Is Lucy Barton is the perfect book club read, as it is a novel that lends itself to discuss what is not written on the page.  Discussions will center on what is unsaid and clubs will enjoy working together to fill in the gaps.

Discussion Highlights:

Several members commented on how much they hated the book—this cannot be understated.

  • Members stated that the writing was flat, vague, and too bare bones.
  • Members did not like filling-in-the-blanks regarding specifics about the characters.  Members felt they were left in the dark about many things in the novel.
  • Members were frustrated and wished the author wrote more about the characters and their relationship to other another.
  • Many members could not relate to the characters and didn’t care about the characters.
  • Some members thought the book needed more character development.
  • Some members thought the author demanded a lot from the reader, and they really did not want to work that hard to understand what was not written on the page.

Several members liked the book and three members thought the novel was exquisite.

  • They enjoyed the cadence and the poetic language of the novel.
  • They liked Strout’s skillful use of dialogue and her use of stream-of-consciousness like writing.
  • Members liked the raw, emotional, and very real relationship between Lucy and her mother.
  • Members enjoy books when authors’ require readers to fill-in-the-blanks and piece together the storyline.
  • Members enjoyed the shared gossip between mother and daughter and felt this to be so very real. The gossip portrayed in the novel is the odd love language between mother and daughter and provides comfort to daughter during her hospitalization.
  • Members like the “ruthless” aspect of Lucy which allowed her to overcome such a tragic beginning. (A father possibly suffering from PTSD and a mother with a possibly abusive past.)(Lucy suffers possible sexual abuse.)
  • Members love the fact that Lucy as a child becomes a reader and later in life becomes a writer.

Members liked the metafictional aspects of the book.

  • One member thought the take away message of the book was that we can overcome much, but some mistakes cannot be repaired—we only have one story(life).
  • One member like the symbolism of the marble statue on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Lucy visits the statue again and again as it reminds her of the love/hate relationships she has with her parents and siblings—Lucy saw how really unhealthy her family was, but also “how our roots were twisted so tenaciously around one another’s hearts.”
  • Members liked that the author’s writing allows the reader to engage at a variety of levels.

Resources:

2:20-3:50 and 7:45-8:28 Elizabeth Strout discusses choice of first person narration and risks involved.

27:20-29:34 and 34:42-36:31 Elizabeth Strout answers the following questions:

“Your writing, at times, sounds mystical. Is that something you aim for?”

“Is Lucy or are any of your other characters, based in reality?”

“Was fiction writing always your aspiration, or were you drawn to other forms of literature at first?”

Read-a-Likes:

The facilitator thought Alice Munro’s writing to be very similar to Elizabeth Strout’s writing. An interesting note:  Kimberly Farr is the reader for both audiobooks—Dear Life: Stories and My Name is Lucy Barton.  Kimberly Farr excels in bringing the characters to life.

For other books by Elizabeth Strout in our collection, please click here.

olive_kitteridge_tv-231131862-large

We also own the mini-series Olive Kitteridge, based on Strout’s popular novel.

My Name is Lucy Barton

Book Club, RA Programs

The After Party – Morning Book Break – Feb. 2017

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Morning Book Break Discussion on Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Rating: Secret Daughter received ratings between 3.5 and 5.0 with an average rating of 4.06.

Review: Most members were delighted to read a book for club that they really enjoyed. The last three books for club, while interesting, informative, and producing lively discussion, did not generate as much favor as Secret Daughter. Members enjoyed an excellent, easy read. Many members have established life-long learning as a core value, so they felt they benefited from the historical and cultural perspective the novel offered.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Members like Gowda’s style of writing. They liked her use of descriptive language and felt they were transported to both the slums of Mumbai and the lavish, elite neighborhoods of Mumbai. Gowda uses effective sensory language.
  • Most members felt the dual-narration was easy to follow, a few members stated this is definitely not their prefer style of storytelling.
  • Members enjoyed learning about Indian culture.
  • One member listened to the audiobook and highly recommends it, she loved the accents.
  • Several members simply could not put the book down and they read the book in one day. One member stated, “I enjoyed every page.”
  • Members thought Asha, Somer, Kavita and the other women in the novel were fully-fleshed out characters. The members thought the male characters needed further development, particularly Vijay.
  • The members gave their opinions on the main underlying theme the author tried to address: “How much of our life is destined for us—by our gender, our economic class, or the culture we’re born into? How much is within our power to change?” (p.2 paperback edition—The Story Behind The Book—A+ Author Insights, Extras, & More…)
  • Dialogue also included conversations about many weighty topics:
    • Adoption
    • Infertility
    • Motherhood/Women’s roles
    • Gender inequality in other countries/Female infanticide
    • Identity/Belonging Issues
    • Nature/Nurture Debate
    • Migration/Immigration/Assimilation
    • Cultural differences between US and India
    • Relaxation techniques/Yoga/Meditation

Resources:

Read-a-Likes:

Further explore the Mumbai slums
by reading the narrative nonfiction,
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope
in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author,
after three-years of research and investigation,
tells a moving story of triumph and tragedy.

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:

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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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