We just had our discussion on our first graphic novel. We read Relish by Lucy Knisley. Some of the members were reluctant to read the book, thinking graphic novels were only for kids or teenagers, and would hold no interest for an adult reader. While many graphic novels are geared to a younger audience, there are just as many written expressly for adults. Not all graphic novel writers are also illustrators, but Knisley falls under the category of both, and her illustrations are beautiful. Her drawing is as talented as her writing. As with a "regular" book, meaning non-graphic novels, graphic novels come in a wide variety of genres. Most people tend to think Spiderman or Batman when they hear graphic novel. That may have been the case once upon a time, but now there is a wide variety to choose from. The book we read is autobiographical and focuses on food. Knisley grew up with two "foodies" for parents and she describes different experiences she has had throughout her life surrounding food, recipes, restaurants she has eaten at, and famous kitchens she has toured. Her voice is fresh, funny and very engaging. Everyone in the group thoroughly enjoyed her book, and would read her other books! I am so happy our foray into the world of graphic novels was such a success:) Here is a nice interview with Lucy about her book and how it came about: www.mtv.com/videos/interview/904954/lucy-knisley-on-relish.jhtml
I was eager to read Louise Erdrich' book The Plague of Doves until I started it...it was a book I ended up struggling through, not because it was difficult to read, but because it was difficult to navigate. There were too many characters to keep track of, they bounced all over place and time, and ultimately connected at the end, but by threads so thin, it was very hard to see how. I was not the only person to share these same sentiments when we discussed the book. I was hoping the discussion would bring a little clarity to the book. I feel like I have a bit more understanding of the book, but am still left feeling frustrated. A family tree would have been very helpful. I understand that Erdrich has done that for her later books, as a great many readers complained that they could not follow her stories without one! I am glad I read her book, I am not sure if I will read another one, I promised if I did it would be on my own time, not in book group! In this youtube video, Erdrich discusses her book:
Ian McEwan has written a lot of best sellers, a lot of which have been turned into movies. This book, The Children Act, was written in the perspective of a woman judge. It promised to be a very interesting read, but I found it lacking in depth. The premise was for the judge to rule on a case about a young Jehovah's Witness who was refusing a life saving treatment due to religious reasons. The book, unfortunately, did not stay on this case, but gave tidbits of random other cases, that were not relevant, and distracted from the main case. It also did not delve into the religious aspect and history of Jehovah's Witnesses and it seemed as if it really just scratched the surface. McEwan writes beautifully, and I was impressed with his vocabulary, but I think this book could have been better researched and the characters more flushed out. I would like to read more of his work to compare.
What a powerful and timely book! I chose the Burgess Boys over Olive Kitteridge or Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout because of the content. The Burgess Boys takes place mainly in Maine and deals with the influx of Somali refugees that have made Maine their home. There is a lot happening in this book, family relationships and dynamics, some court room drama, but the essence of the book is tolerance. I believe that Strout was able to really capture what the different cultures are going through and feeling.
Here is an interview with Elizabeth Strout about The Burgess Boys:
We just read the first Harry Potter; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. We showed the movie as well, for a treat and to discuss the differences. Harry Potter first came out in June of 1997, and the popularity has not decreased at all. I decided to read the book in honor of the new play coming out in London, and the book of the play being released this weekend on July 31. July 31 is of course Harry Potter's birthday, and if you did not know, is JK Rowling's birthday as well. I believe this was my fifth time reading the book; I have listened to it twice, and read the physical book three times, and it has not last it's magic for me at all. "The boy who lived" is someone you root for from the very beginning, his friends, your friends, and his enemies, definitely your enemies. Who would not want to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy? JK Rowling's rags to riches story is impressive as well, it is wonderful when a woman overcomes all odds and makes a huge success of herself. Here is an interview with JK Rowling on Harry Potter:
The official Harry Potter website that JK Rowling updates continuously is
go there to find out about all things in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
Since I last posted on this blog, we have read two books; Cannery Row by Steinbeck and Someone by Alice McDermott. You could not have two more different books.
Cannery Row was written about what literally happens on the street Cannery Row in Monterey California after hours. Published in 1945, Steinbeck explores the life of Doc who runs a biology supply house, Mack and the boys who prefer to live off the grid, and Dora the friendly Madam among other colorful characters. The discussion brought about feelings of why would anyone want to live the way Mack and the boys did, but they seemed quite happy and content with their arrangement.
Marie, the main character of Alice McDermott's Someone, brings us through her life beginning at age 7 when she is sitting outside her Brooklyn apartment waiting for her father to come home from work. She is from a typical Irish Catholic family, and her trials and tribulations are no worse, or better than that of most people. It is the style of writing that draws you into the book, and I found it a very enjoyable read.
Last month we discussed a memoir by author Jennifer Teege. It was a unique book, one members of the group had been discussing for a while, which prompted me to choose it. Jennifer, an adopted, half German, half Nigerian woman, discovers when she is in her late thirties she is the biological granddaughter of a Nazi. Not just any Nazi, but Amon Goeth, the commandant of Plazstow concentration camp, a ruthless, horrific man. He is portrayed in the movie Schindler's List by Ralph Fiennes. Jennifer Teege's whole life changes at that point, everything she thought she knew, about herself, her biological family...it is all changed when she walks into her local library and notices a book, her own mother's memoir, and sees the truth that has been denied to her whole life. This book brought forth a fascinating discussion, but still left a lot of questions unanswered. One of the members who was unable to make it, brought up a parallel to another book we had read; Defending Jacob by William Landay, and the question of nature vs. nature. Do we inherit an evil gene if there is evil in our bloodline? How do we escape that? I highly recommend this book.
Attached is a recent article by CNN on Jennifer Teege:___
Families are the source of our life and our exasperations. The very nature of familial relationships means that family members have the power to cause more harm to other family members than any outsider could ever attempt. These relationships also mean that not only will family members keep secrets, but those very same secrets will see the light of day eventually. It is no wonder that stories about family dysfunction never grow old. The way Lisa Jewell reveals the secrets of the Bird family makes you not want to put the book down...
Our new book, "S" by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst is unique to say the least. JJ Abrams got the idea to write this book from a book he found in an airport that had instructions in it to pass the book on... Here is a link to the interview that describes how this book came to be:
Committing to reading the book is just the beginning. Many people, myself included, once they have the book in hand, question, how to go about reading the book? Once you have the book you will understand! There is the book itself, it's marginalia, written by two different people, Jen and Eric and then all of the paraphernalia that comes with it. I strongly suggest it using the following website as a guide:
I believe it will come in handy before you read the book and as a good homebase to refer back to throughout the book in case you get stuck or confused!
I am looking forward to delving into this book and seeing what everyone else thinks as well!!!
Celestial Navigation is the second Anne Tyler book this group has read. We read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant in September of 2011. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is Tyler's 9th book, she wrote it in 2005. Celestial Navigation is her 5th book which she wrote in 1974, and the first she will acknowledge. In an interview, Tyler says of the 4 books she wrote before that; "She wishes she could destroy her first four books. 'Just wipe them out. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just finding my way.'" If that is the case, she certainly found her way with Celestial Navigation. Most of the group thoroughly enjoyed the book and its quirky characters. Anne Tyler's books are not plot driven, they are character based. They take place in Baltimore, and are filled with interesting people. If you are looking for glamour, wealth, and steamy romance scenes, this is not your author. If you are looking for a writer who gets inside people's minds and writes about real life, family dynamics, and everyday situations, you have found your writer. Her college professor, Reynolds Price, said about this about Tyler in 1983; "I thought the students were all going to be like that! Anne Tyler was almost as good a writer at age sixteen as she is now; and she's one of the best novelists alive in the world." I highly recommend any of her books...
I have been working at the Morse Institute Library for 16 years, and running the Wednesday evening book group since February 2005.