Book Club

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

untitled

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

untitled

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

untitled

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

untitled

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

untitled

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:

in-cold-blood

Book Club

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

untitled

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Rating:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 2.5  and 4.0. The average rating was 3.5.  In Morning Book Break, this novel received a variety of scores between -1.0 and 4.0.  The average rating was 3.0.

Review:  The novel was selected as part of a two-month combination study.  The Swans of Fifth Avenue was selected to provide insight into the life of the literary genius, Truman Capote. In December, the book clubs will read In Cold Blood, Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece. Capote is often credited as establishing the true-crime genre.  Next month, the clubs will discuss whether reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue offered any insight into Truman Capote’s literary rise and fall. We will discuss whether members appreciated reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue in combination with In Cold Blood.

Most members in both groups felt the high society life displayed in the novel was nothing like the life most Americans live. The groups found the characters to be superficial, pretentious and deeply flawed. Most members could not identify with these characters and for that matter, did not want to.

However, club members did enjoy the group discussions and many enjoyed reminiscing about this period of time.

Discussion Highlights – Morning Book Break

  • Most members found the book to be an easy, somewhat entertaining read, but most members did not find it to be a compelling novel.
  • Many members cared very little about the characters. They found the characters to be shallow and they did not admire them. Members found the characters to be deeply flawed and members were grateful for their own lives.
  • Several members struggled to complete the book and some even skimmed over sections.
  • Many members were disappointed with Melanie Benjamin’s repetitive writing style. They were surprised they disliked this book because they had thoroughly enjoyed a previous club selection, The Aviator’s Wife, by the same author, which had received ratings between 4.0 and 5.0 with an average rating of 4.5.

Discussion Highlights – Books and Bagels

  • Most members did not connect with the characters and in fact, they did not find any of the characters to be sympathetic.
  • A few members felt the novel provided a thought-provoking glimpse into Truman Capote’s literary genius.
  • Members were not surprised that Truman Capote betrayed his friends by writing “La Cote, Basque 1965”.
  • Several members thought Melanie Benjamin was masterful in evoking powerful images in two particular scenes:
    1. Truman’s gentle removal of Babe’s makeup—revealing her true self for the first time.
    2. William Paley’s one-night stand cover-up.

Resources:

http://melaniebenjamin.com/

babe-paley-truman-capote
Truman Capote and Babe Paley
5
William and Babe Paley with Truman Capote at their house in Round Hill, Jamaica

Read-a-Likes:

The Swans of Fifth Avenue.jpg

Book Club

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

untitled

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on The Book of Unknown Americans

Rating: In Books and Bagels, most members rated the book between a 3.0 and 4.0, with the median score of 3.5.

In Morning Book Break, this book received ratings from 2.0 to 5.0, with the median score of 3.75.

Review: The discussion in Books and Bagels was multi-faceted. Several members really enjoyed the novel and plan to read additional material by Cristina Henriquez. Some members felt the novel was lacking in many aspects.

In Morning Book Break, members mostly appreciated the content (pertaining to the immigrant experience), but thought the prose was lacking.

Both groups thought Suburban Mosaic accomplished its mission by selecting this novel as the adult title for the 2015-2016 Book of the Year.  The Suburban Mosaic’s mission is to foster cultural understanding through literature.

Discussion Highlights – Morning Book Break:

  • Several members thought the novel would be a wonderful addition to high school or possibly middle school curriculum.
  • The club discussed US immigration and assimilation throughout their lifetimes.
  • Many members disliked the disjointed structure and felt these stories and characters to be underdeveloped.

Discussion Highlights – Books and Bagels

  • Many members were disappointed with the structure of the novel. They found the prose to be better suited to a young adult reader.
  • All members found it an extremely easy, fast read.
  • Some members felt they learned a lot about the current immigration experience, while other members thought the book did not add any new information to their repertoire of knowledge about immigration.

Resources: http://www.cristinahenriquez.com/

http://www.suburbanmosaicbooks.org/suburban-mosaic-book-of-the-year-past-selections#2015

Read-a-Likes:

the-book-of-unknown-americans

 

Book Club

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

untitled

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on The Nightingale

Rating: Several members of Books and Bagels gave the book at 3.5, while most members rated the book between a 4.0 and 4.5.  The book received three 5.0s from the three men in the group.

In Morning Book Break, this book was much beloved by the members who attended. The book received between a 4.0 and 5.0 with the exception of receiving one 3.5.

Review: Overall in Books and Bagels, the members felt Kristin Hannah crafted a compelling story and the main characters were well-developed. Many in the group had not previously read Kristin Hannah’s books and plan in the future to read some of her other works. Kristin Hannah states that her personal favorites of her own work are: The Nightingale, Winter Garden, Homefront, and Firefly Lane.

In Morning Book Break, members were thrilled that this book was selected to discuss. The members loved the richly developed main characters.

Discussion Points – Morning Book Break:
*Dilemmas faced by the main characters.
*Narrative structure and narrator selected.
*Emotional connection to the story.
*Previously read novels set during this time period. One member preferred Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

Discussion Points – Books and Bagels
*Several members felt the story was compelling, but the quality of writing was deficient.
*Due to the epic nature of the story, some members felt the plausibility of main characters lacking.
*Many members shared anecdotes about their experiences during World War II.
*We also discussed other Holocaust novels. Two members thought Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky to be higher quality read.
*There was much discussion about the moral/ethical choices made by the characters.

Resources: http://kristinhannah.com/

http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/the-nightingale

Kristin Hannah’s inspiration: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/18/world/europe/18jongh.html

Readalikes:

the-nightingale

Book Club

Books and Bagels/Morning Book Break -The Boys in the Boat (June 2016)

The Boys in the Boat received an average rating of 4.0 from both book discussion groups.

Many in the group enjoyed the story of the crew and the synchronization necessary to win.  The group also enjoyed the author’s heavily researched sections about the Nazis in the 1930s.  Several group members found the writing tedious at times.

A retired Rolling Meadows English teacher who is part of the group presented a short informal speech about rowing based on his experiences as part of the crew team at Yale University.  He answered all our questions and it was fascinating.

Finally, we discussed our overall opinions about this season’s selections.
For Books and Bagels, favorites were: The Martian, Station Eleven, and The Boys in the Boat.  Books and Bagels did not like West of Sunset.
For Morning Book Break, favorites were: A Man Called Ove, Me Before You, and The Passion of Artemisia.  Morning Book Break did not like The Martian.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in the fall!

Feel free to view the following links and videos relating to The Boys in the Boat.

Discussion Questions for The Boys in the Boat

Save

Save