ReadingGroup.Com is ten years old and they celebrated by having folks pick our their Top Ten Favorite Discussion Books. Votes were accepted from May through July 2010 and more than 12,000 people participated.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
ReadingGroup.Com is ten years old and they celebrated by having folks pick our their Top Ten Favorite Discussion Books. Votes were accepted from May through July 2010 and more than 12,000 people participated.
Monday, September 27, 2010
On Tuesday, September 14, the Tuesday Book Club talked about Robert Bolt’s classic play, A Man for All Seasons, which dramatizes the imprisonment and execution of Sir Thomas More. Most group members liked the play very much, touting its witty dialogue and Bolt’s excellent writing, both of which evoke the tumultuous years leading up to the English Reformation. While one member found the play made for pretty dry reading, we all agreed that the issues and themes swirling amidst Bolt’s stormy dialogue were compelling.
What is a conscience, and what does it mean to hold one’s own convictions above all else, and what if that includes king and country? In the play, Thomas More does what he thinks is right, and Bolt’s staging leads us to agree with More. Whatever we think about Henry’s divorce and the break with the Roman Catholic Church, the group agreed that the play holds up More as a paragon of intelligence, morality, and self-fortitude. More’s “self” is so strong he can’t give in and take an oath declaring Henry the head of the church. “You might as well advise a man to change the color of his eyes,” More says of the prospect of giving in to the King’s demands.
All told, we had another fine discussion of history and classic works of literature. Everyone is excited to read next month’s companion book, Wolf Hall. This 2009 novel by Hilary Mantel takes Thomas Cromwell, one of the out and out villains in Bolt’s play, as its main character and ostensible hero. Join us October 19 for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of Mantel’s Booker Prize winning novel.
The Tuesday Book Group discusses contemporary books alongside the classic works that inspired them. We meet the second Tuesday of the month (October is an exception) at 1:00PM in the Stride Room.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Have you ever heard of the BBC's series In Their Own Words: British Novelists - Interviews with Remarkable Modern Writers?
Posted by Newport Librarians at 8:03 AM
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
You all know the story. Henry VIII, king of England in the early 1500s, is desperate for a male heir and not adverse to swapping one wife for another it that is what it takes. Henry wants to annul his 20-year marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope, many of Henry's advisors and Catholic Europe do not take kindly to this proposal.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Thursday Evening Book Group met at the Blue Plate Diner for their annual July get-together. We discussed the book The Road Home by Rose Tremain and reviewed our reading for the past year. We were in agreement that this year's list was a good one, with variety and depth to the selections. When asked for favorites from the list, some had trouble deciding.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Did you know that July 1st (1874) is the anniversary of the opening of America's first zoo? On that date, the Philadephia Zoological Society opened the Philadelphia Zoo for the first time. The price of admission was $.25 for adults and $.10 for children. There were over 800 animals present.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sometimes I find it hard to find a “good book” to read. I am a mystery fan and used to love delving into the puzzles and nuances of good detective fiction – trying to figure out whodunit – and often why and when and how. But sometimes even a “good mystery” does not satisfy. So I have been turning to prize winning fiction and non-fiction as a source for titles. This month I was looking at Pulitzer Prize winning fiction – and there are some intriguing titles there that both you and I might want to try.
The Pulitzer Prize web site lists all winners and many runners-up – so you have quite a few titles and kinds of works to choose from. If you choose to click on “Back to Categories list” – you can browse through ALL the categories for which a Pulitzer is awarded – Biography, Drama, History, etc., to say nothing of all the award winning newspaper stories and photography that are also the domain of the Pulitzer Prize.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The May 1st issue of Booklist, a library journal devoted to book reviews and recommendations, featured mysteries and included some really good recommendations for online sites for mystery readers. I thought I would share some of these with you.
The Malice Domestic site is dedicated to mysteries that are traditional and “cozy,” as the site’s subtitle “If traditional mysteries are your cup of tea…” alludes to. Malice Domestic provides all kinds of information about their annual convention (next one – April-May, 2011), but also lists all the Agatha Awards given out (since 1988) and is a fun site to just explore.
Sisters in Crime is an organization and a web site dedicated to the promotion and support of women who write mysteries. A really neat feature of Sisters in Crime is their extensive list of Mystery Bookstores and Sisters in Crime (often abbreviated SinC) author web sites. (Check under Resources in the left-hand menu.)
The Mystery Writers of America give out the annual Edgar Awards (and have done since 1946!) and their site contains information about their organization as well as a complete archive of all the winners and nominees for the Edgars.
For a site that tries to pull all of this together - listing award winners and nominees, new books, old titles and much more (over 37,000 titles) try Stop You’re Killing Me. This is a wonderful site for mystery lovers. A very unique Stop You’re Killing Me feature are the indexes. They have an historical index (find mysteries that take place in the Colonial era), a job index (find mysteries that involve an interior decorator), a location index (find mysteries that take place in New Mexico) and more.
The world of mysteries and mystery writers is huge and growing bigger by the day. Perhaps these sites (and your friendly, neighborhood librarian) can help you discover your next mystery to read and enjoy. Meg
Monday, May 17, 2010
Did you read Life of Pi by Yann Martel? There was a while there when it seemed every book group was reading and discussing this very unusual book about a young boy, stranded on a raft on the ocean with a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. And no, this is not an allegory for Noah’s Ark, although religion (Christian, Jewish and Hindu) does figure into it.
Friday, April 23, 2010
On Saturday May 1st over 700 people from all over Rhode Island will gather at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet to discuss the Reading Across Rhode Island 2010 selection, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and to hear Annie Barrows, one of the co-authors speak.
This is RARI’s 8th year and the participation and excitement about this program seems to grow each time. In order to make next year’s program as successful and community-wide as possible, we need your help.
Now is the time to suggest a title for consideration as the 2011 Reading Across Rhode Island selection. The guidelines for selection are not extensive.
The Reading Across Rhode Island selection should be:
- A good story, with a universal theme
- Appealing to both women and men
- Appropriate for a range of readers, from age 14 to senior citizens
- Accessible in both language and content, and available in different formats (paperback, audiobook, etc.)
- Author: alive and affordable
Over time, the titles selected should reflect diversity in content, culture and genre.
Suggesting a title for 2011 is easy. Just send an email, with the title and author (and publisher and year of publication, if you know them) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help.
Monday, April 12, 2010
April is National Poetry Month and the week of April 12th through April 17th is National Library Week. What better way to celebrate both than with some poems about libraries! In fact, I have found two very good, very interesting poems about libraries.
Library by Valerie Worth is from the book All the Small Poems and Fourteen More.
No need even
to take out
a book: only
dry breath of
ink and paper,
or stand and
listen to the
of a billion
The second poem is entitled My First Memory (of Librarians) by author and sometime poet Nikki Giovanni. Giovanni conjures up an image of a long-ago library, with an actual card catalog and green bankers’ lights. The welcoming smile on a librarians’ face is something we hope you see at our library often!
This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky wood floor
A line of green shades – bankers’ lights down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
for me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big.
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall.
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books – another world – just waiting
At my fingertips.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Recommended books of poetry by Mr. Frost include: The Robert Frost Reader: Poetry and Prose and Early Poems.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
What is National Poetry Month?
“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. “ Their goal is to increase everyone’s interest in the art of poetry, living poets and America’s rich cultural heritage of poems, poetry books and journals.
To start your celebration of National Poetry Month here are two really good, really accessible books of poetry that are highly recommended.
* American’s Favorite Poems, edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz
The “favorite poem project” was started by Robert Pinksy when he was America’s Poet Laureate, and was dedicated to exploring and encouraging the importance of poetry in American lives. Americans (over 18,000 of them) from all over the country submitted their favorite poem and explained how this poem had touched them.
This book includes quite a number of those poems with an explanation of the poem’s significance to the person submitting it. There is also a wonderful web site that contains videos of people reading their selections.
* Poem a Day, edited by Laurie Sheck.
This lovely paperback contains a very wide range of poems, long and short, simple and complex, to get you started reading “a poem a day.” Sheck also includes short comments and stories about the poets and their work.
During the month of April, we will be sharing favorite poems and favorite books of poems and about poetry. Check back often. If YOU have a favorite poem, please share it with us. Meg
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Did you know that March 28 through April 3rd is National Cleaning Week?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re looking to get in the mood, try the following -
Lacemakers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
“You can always start again. All it takes is a new thread.” Kate Robinson flees from her struggling fashion career and other heartbreaks, back to her ancestral Irish homeland , seeking peace and equilibrium. Her mother’s sewing maxim about starting again becomes far more meaningful as she learns the craft of lace-making from a local group of women and finds new friends and inspiration.
Swan Maiden by Jules Watson
This is the retelling of one of the most enduring of Irish legends, the tale of Deirdre – the Irish Helen of Troy. Don’t let the science fiction label put you off. This is a romantic and tragic tale of “enchantment and eternal passions.”
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
The plot is unique: Fegan, who has been a IRA killer in Northern Ireland, is out of a job, so-to-speak, once peace is realized. Unfortunately for Fegan, he is now haunted by the ghosts of his innocent victims – and the only way out is for him to avenge their deaths and kill the men who had given the kill orders. Booklist says “Neville’s debut novel is tragic, violent, exciting, plausible and compelling….and hard to put down.” Meg
Monday, March 15, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
You could say that Patricia Cornwall started it all, with Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Then Kiernan O’Shaughnessy, a former medical examiner, tried her hand at detecting.
Today, television series (NCIS, Bones, etc.) and books (The Bone Garden by Tess Gerristsen, 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs, etc.) about forensics and scientific criminal invesitgation are everywhere.
But have you checked out the non-fiction? A brand new book, written by Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, Deborah Blum, is The Poisoner’s Handbook. Subtitled “Murder and the birth of forensic medicine in Jazz Age New York,” The Poisoner’s Handbook introduces us to Charles Norris, who later became New York City’s chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, head toxicoligist and how they solved one of New York City’s infamous Jazz Age murders.
James Patterson, writer of numerous fictional detective stories, tries his hand at forensic anthropology with his book, The Murder of King Tut (2009). Patterson and his co-writer Martin Dugard, have sifted through stacks of evidence – X-rays, files, forensic clues – to re-tell the story of King Tut’s brief life and death.
The Gardner Heist: A True Story of the World’s Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser is an account of art detective Harold Smith’s near obsession with this major Boston art theft and what was done (or perhaps wasn’t done) to solve this crime and return some major works of art to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Meg
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Last year was the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (1809-2009). Much was published about this extraordinary man who was our 16th president and presided over one of the most tumultuous periods of American history – the Civil War.
In honor of the Lincoln bicentennial and the President’s Day holiday, I highly recommend two books about Lincoln: one published a while ago (1992) and one published just recently (2008).
Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words That Remade America by Garry Wills. This is not only a wonderful look at one of the most famous speeches Lincoln made, but also a close look at some unanticipated consequences of the Civil War, most especially the development of cemeteries and in particular the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. Garry Wills has writen many excellent histories (his latest one – Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State), but Lincoln at Gettysburg is a highly readable account that teaches the reader much about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the power of the word.
Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds is a newer addition to the Lincoln canon, and turns the spotlight on a fairly little known aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. Lincoln, who admitted he knew little about ships, came to be the commander in chief of one of the largest national armadas in US history. Symonds traces Lincoln’s slow beginnings and then steady growth as a wartime president. If you are interested in ships, the Civil War and the history of our Navy, then this is the book for you. Meg
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Well this seems to be a bad year for mystery writers. First Robert Parker (one of my favorites) and now Dick Francis. This is truly sad.
Let me introduce you to Dick Francis, if by chance , you do not know him. Richard Stanley Francis, aka Dick Francis, was born in Wales in 1920 and was, by trade, a “champion jockey for the British royal family.” In 1957 he was forced to retire from racing due to a serious fall. It was then that he turned to his second career – that of writing detective fiction. But he did not leave horse racing behind. Unlike Robert Parker, Francis did not have a series hero (like Spenser) that kept reappearing, but he had a series theme and a character type that appeared in all of his books. The theme was – guess what – horses and horse racing. But you DO NOT have to like horses or racing to enjoy his books. In fact, a reviewer from the New York Times was quoted as saying, "Not to read Dick Francis because you don't like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don't like God."
And truth be told, our hero was not always a jockey. In the Frame is about an artist who paints horses; Whip Hand is about an ex-jockey turned detective; Proof is about a wine merchant who caters many affairs for folks involved in horse racing.
Lately Dick Francis has been co-writing books with his son, Felix Francis. Please see blog post of August 3, 2009 entitled Dick and Felix – the Odd Couple? for more details and book recommendations.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Dr. Carter Woodson, son of former slaves and a pioneer in the study of African American history is often given the credit for establishing a time dedicated to the study of Black Americans and their role in the history and development of the United States.
In honor of Black History Month the library has set up an exhibit that contains some of the outstanding materials we offer about the history and contributions of Black Americans. The following titles are part of the display and highly recommended.
Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, by Gayle F. Wald is the first biography ever of a performer who influenced singers from Elvis Presley to Eric Clapton and Etta James. Tharpe sang it all: gospel, blues, jazz, folk, and rock and roll.
Freedom in My Heart: Voices from the United States National Slavery Museum is an extraordinary look at many “never-before-seen artifacts, images and documents that trace the history of slavery in North America.” [From the fly-leaf.] As Chapter One says, “The story begins in Africa,” and this book goes on from there, with pictures, documents, essays and interviews tracing a history and culture that is dynamic and enduring, despite slavery and its brutalities.
If you are trying to look into your roots – because your planning a family reunion or you are just plain interested – try Finding A Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. Written by Dee Parmer Woodtor this book is a good starting place for constructing a family tree or just finding out what factors you need to look into when searching for your kin.
Zora Neale Hurston is a black writer of incredible talent. Hurston’s most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is about Janie Crawford, a young, Black woman in the 1930’s, determined to be her own person. In addition to reading her fiction, I highly recommend Zora’s Roots, a PBS DVD based on the life of Zora Neale Hurston. I also recommend you come in and check out the display, which will be up all through the month of February. Meg
Friday, January 29, 2010
J. D. Salinger began his writing career with short stories, contributing mainly to The New Yorker Magazine. Two of his most famous short stories that appeared in that magazine were A Perfect Day for Banafish (1948), the story of a suicidal war veteran, and For Esme With Love and Squalor (1950).
But it was with the publication of A Catcher in the Rye (1951)that Salinger received major critical and popular attention. A Catcher in the Rye has been said to be reminiscent of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a setting of modern angst and rebellion. Holden Caulfield, our “hero,” is an adolescent boarding school student attempting to run away from what he considers a phony adult world. For many who read this book, it became the quintessential story of teenage confusion and unrest. From the very first sentence we know we are in a world of loneliness and brutal honesty.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
Franny and Zooey, two longer short stories about the Glass Family, was published in 1955.
After a relatively small literary output, Salinger retired to New Hampshire where he lived in virtual seclusion, never being photographed or interviewed for over 50 years. Salinger died of natural causes, at the age of 91. Meg
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Robert B. Parker was one of my favorites. His detective series about Spenser (with an "s") was a true classic of the genre and he went on to write two other series, one starring Sunny Randall (another Boston P.I.) and one starring Jesse Stone (a police chief in a small Massachusetts town). Parker even wrote westerns!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Tuesday Book Group unofficially kicked off the Big Read this week when we discussed Newport’s Big Read title, The Great Gatsby. Thanks to the increased exposure, we had several newcomers and were happy to hear new voices. We had wide-ranging questions and comments about the book. Most of us praised the Fitzgerald’s writing style and structure while remaining rather critical of the characters. One person described the novel as “seductive,” while another commented, “there is not a character in this book I would want to have over for a drink.”
We found many reasons to call the novel a masterpiece: its themes are timeless, its symbolism rich, its plot compelling (at least in the second half), and its characters, if unlikeable, are true to life. We talked a lot about social classes and groups, the cultural disconnect that still exists between the USA’s East Coast and Midwest, and the changes Fitzgerald was observing in ‘20s America.
We debated Gatsby as a tragic hero: is he a great person with a tragic flaw? Is he sympathetic at all? Are any of the characters sympathetic, for that matter? Was Daisy even worth all the fuss? Like most readers of the novel, we also talked a bit about T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes, the symbolism of the valley of ashes and the meaning of that green light.
Join us next month (1pm February 9th in the Stride Room) when we pair The Great Gatsby with Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind. Instead of rewriting the story of Fitzgerald’s classic, Bohjalian does something quite different: he sets his own story in the same fictional universe as The Great Gatsby. The heroine of The Double Bind, for example, spent her childhood swimming at a country club in West Egg that was once Gatsby’s mansion!
Posted by Newport Librarians at 1:22 PM
Monday, January 4, 2010
Author: Sara Paretsky
Latest book: Hardball (2009)
Other writings: Windy City Blues (short stories), Bleeding Kansas and Ghost Country (single novels) and Writing in an Age of Silence (non-fiction).
But her latest effort, Hardball (2009), is really, really good and I can heartily recommend it. The case starts out as a missing persons investigation - V. I. is hired to find the missing son and nephew of two elderly sisters currently living out their days in an Assisted Living/Nursing Home.
About the author: Sara Paretsky was born in Iowa and raised in Kansas, so naturally Paretsky’s detective fiction takes place in Chicago (primary the South Side) and stars V. I. Warshawski, a sharp-tongued, uncomfortably honest and incredibly stubborn private investigator whose family ties and work ethic complicate an already complicated career.
Paretsky is a member of Sisters in Crime and is devoted to improving the image of women in detective fiction as well as in real life. In a recent interview Paretsky admitted that ,”I’ve not been able to change the world. I’ve not been able to liberate myself, let alone 3 billion other women. Add that to the state of publishing and the fact that books may not actually exist in another five years, and I just want to lie down and pull leaves over my head.” [Interview in Mystery Scene, Holiday 2009] Meg