Items tagged with Book news

Across Generations

Posted by SusanM on Friday, Nov 13, 2009 - 12:16 PM

momdaught.jpgBook clubs registered at the Westport Public Library have many different formats. Many of our clubs are affiliated with larger organizations, such as the Y or the Westport Women’s Club, but many are small groups of friends that just enjoy a good book and discussion. We have clubs that are solely women, one that is solely males, several that are couples groups, and even one comprised of third graders and their moms. One of our reference librarians was recently asked to suggest some titles for a mother-daughter book club consisting of senior citizens and their daughters. A few of us here at the library put our heads together and came up with the following selections.

What better choice to start off with than the WestportReads selection, The Housekeeper and the Professor. This is a book that spans all ages, so we think it would be perfect for the mother-daughter club. Math, baseball and relationships that bind us together are at the heart of this enchanting little book.

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr was written when the author was in her seventies. Her first novel, it won the National Book Award in 1984. It is the story of an American couple living in Ibarra, Mexico, the Evertons, who learn much about life and its challenges from the villagers there.

Ann Patchett books are always a good choice for book clubs. In Bel Canto, a group of rich and powerful hostages form unexpected bonds. Beautifully written with great characters, this story not only draws you in, but will stay with you long after you have finished it. Patchett’s most recent novel, Run, is about family, love and loss. This compelling story about the Doyles of Boston is also filled with lots of interesting characters.

Alice Munro is known for her award-winning short stories. Her daughter, Sheila, has written a biography of her mother in which she shares what it was like to grow up with such a well known author. In Lives of Mothers & Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro, Sheila often refers to real life places and situations that appear in Alice’s work. Why not read this along with one of Munro’s short story collections for an interesting view of how authors find their inspiration?

Our Speaking of Books collection has many great titles available for a mixed generation book club. Book club favorites such as The Glass Castle, Water for Elephants or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, are all excellent choices for such discussion groups. If you would like more suggestions for your book club or a discussion guide to get you started, ask smadeo [at] westportlibrary [dot] org (me )or anyone at the reference desk. Do you have any favorites we should add to our list?read more

Book news

Ten Best of 2009

Posted by on Thursday, Oct 29, 2009 - 3:41 PM

Here’s a challenge! Select the ten best books of 2009 from more than 50,000 reviews.
The editors at Publishers Weekly have come up with the following result:

Focuses on British scientists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries who changed the cultural ideal of science to make it an adventure in the transformation of society.

Three stories of lost souls seeking their identities in an intricate interweaving of the real and the fake in an elegant thriller. Chaon was a National Book Award finalist for You Remind Me of Me.

BIG MACHINE by Victor Lavalle
Ex-heroin addict gets involved in a secret society investigating the legacy of an escaped slave who claimed to talk with the Voice (God.) Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man meets paranormal thriller. Other Lavalle titles: Slapboxing with Jesus and the new novel Ecstatic.

CHEEVER: A LIFE by Blake Bailey
Thoroughly researched overview of Cheever's life including his homosexuality and alcoholism.
This prolific author was a mass of contradictions. A heartfelt biography.

History of the men who built the intercontinental ballistic missile program in the 1950s and ‘60s. Underdog visionaries struggling to keep the peace and jump-start the space program populate this engrossing read. Sheehan’s Bright Shining Lie won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award.

Rich, interconnected short stories exploring the feudal society of a Lahore landowner.
Pakistani Mueenuddin is a Yale graduate who lives on a farm in his native land.

Twin novellas evoking empty lives, asking philosophical questions and making trenchant observations in an atmospheric and stylistic work.

Classic adventure tale plus character study plus travel story in this look at the ancient Amazonian city that may or may not have existed. Grann grew up in Westport and spoke about his book at the Library. Podcast.

Philosopher and motorcycle repair shop owner extols the value and rewards of working with one’s hands in a culture dominated by the more abstract standards of information technology. For another take on the loss of craftsmanship, read Cheap:the High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell.

STITCHES by David Small
Graphic autobiography of a small and unhappy boy whose haunting story is told in subtle and powerful drawings. David Small has participated in the Library’s Rabbit Hill Festival of Children’s Literature.

What’s on your ten best list of 2009?

Book news

Great Group Reads

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, Oct 14, 2009 - 2:15 PM

Great_Group_Reads_Logos_72dpi.jpgThe leaves are rapidly changing color as we hit the midpoint of October. I think it’s fitting that one of my favorite months of the year also happens to be the month chosen as National Reading Group Month. Sponsored by the Women’s Book Association to ‘celebrate the joy of shared reading’, this month is the perfect time for book clubs to recognize the benefits that being a member of a book club bring. Sharing a good book with friends not only promotes literacy and reading, but the conversation can open a whole new world of ideas and knowledge. This year the National Reading Group committee has chosen nine discussible books for their Great Group Reads. The list has some well known book club choices, and a few of which you may not have heard.

Appassionata by Eva Hoffman is a literary novel that combines classical music and world affairs. An American pianist becomes romantically involved with an Eastern European rebel, forcing her to question her own beliefs about politics and art. The Unit, by first time Swedish novelist Ninni Holmqvist, takes place in a futuristic society where some individuals are considered ‘dispensable’. Syrie James, author of the The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, has now followed it with The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. This novel blends fact and fiction to give us the story of author Charlotte Bronte, seemingly told in her own words.

The story of two friends told through the perspective of four different characters, is the basis for The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey. A good plot and great characters make this a perfect book club selection. Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz is the only nonfiction choice on the list. After her husband’s sudden death Ms. Metz discovers his infidelities and sets out to uncover the truth about their marriage and ultimately about herself. Laura Moriarty’s While I’m Falling is a realistic look at a mother – daughter relationship. Good characters, humor and honesty all combine to make it a worthwhile read.

Out Stealing Horses by Norwegian author Per Petterson is already a favorite of book clubs. Beautifully written, this is the story of boyhood friendship, tragedy and loss. Both Time magazine and the NY Times named it one of the best books of 2008. Cost by Roxana Robinson is a family saga that deals with the devastating effects of one family member’s drug addiction. This is a moving and compelling story. Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani author, has written Burnt Shadows, an epic saga on the impact of war. It begins in Nagasaki, Japan and brings us up to post 9/11 and the conflict in Afghanistan. Fascinating and thought provoking, this will be a good one for discussion.

So celebrate National Reading Group Month and add one of these great books to your club’s list for a lively book club discussion. Let smadeo [at] westportlibrary [dot] org (me) know if you need a discussion guide or copies of any of these books for your club. read more

Book news

Swiftly-sketched & to the point!

Posted by on Sunday, Oct 4, 2009 - 3:25 PM

With origins in oral story-telling and the prose anecdote, short stories usually present a swiftly-sketched situation that quickly comes to its point. Less complex than novels, most short stories focus on only one incident, with a single plot, a single setting, a small number of characters and a short period of time. Less is more when writing short stories and it takes a special talent to distill the details into a complete story.

Famous short story writers include Jorge Luis Borges. O.Henry, Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. Novelists who also excelled at short stories were Kurt Vonnegut, Nathaniel Hawthorne, F.Scott Fitzgerald, P.G. Wodehouse and Ernest Hemingway and John Updike. Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Alice Munro and Deborah Eisenberg are current favorites.

A new story collection is The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund. Carefully observed people venture into the world with romantic ideals that are not quite strong enough for the adventures that ensue. Satire and gentle disenchantment permeate these stories.

In Call Me Ahab by Anne Finger, legendary outcasts, from Goliath to Vincent Van Gogh are placed in a “normal” setting to see how they fare. Imagine Van Gogh in a 20th-centruy New York City hotel living on food stamps and communicating with God. Consider the relationship between David and Goliath from the Philistine’s point of view. These are the kinds of inventive and intelligent situations created by this author.

In Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet, animals represent nothing but themselves, except as they are used to boost the celebrity of people like Sharon Stone (Komodo dragons), Madonna (pheasant hunting),David Hasselhoff (his dachshund), Jimmy Carter (swamp rabbit)…you get the idea. A lucid look at the foolishness of pop culture and its use of the animal world.

For fans of crime fiction, Peter Robinson’s The Price of Love and Other Stories includes not only several Detective Banks stories, but other insightful journeys into the dark side of human nature. He explores the psychological motives that lead to harm in these suspenseful and thrilling stories.

Short story collections gather stories by various authors into books with a general theme, such as crime, nationality, holidays, gender, or any other subject. At the Library these anthologies are in a separate section near the fiction, science fiction & mystery books. If you find short stories intriguing, take a look at the anthologies, as well as the collected stories by individual authors.

There are many “swiftly-sketched” and “to the point” tales waiting for you.

Book news

Best Friends Forever

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009 - 2:03 PM

girl friends.jpgA few weeks ago an old friend who now lives in California was in town for a few days and we got together for a girl’s night out with a group of our friends. Although we hadn’t seen each other in a few years, it seemed like it was just yesterday. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of the evening, having caught up on all the little things we miss talking about on a daily basis. Over the years we’ve shared a lot together –both the good times and the bad. Good friends have always played an important part in women’s lives. Women’s friendships have also figured prominently in many of our favorite books.

Songs Without Words by Ann Packer is the story of a lifelong friendship between two women. Beautifully written, Ms. Packer shows how life events can challenge and strain the bonds of friendship. In Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett delves into the true story of her relationship with fellow author Lucy Grealy. They met in college and shared their writing experiences as well as Grealy’s struggle with drugs and addiction. Patchett’s devotion and love for her friend will resonate with many who have tried to help a friend through troubled times.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton follows the lives of five women who are going through many personal changes as the world around them is also undergoing change. Set in 1968 at the beginning of the women’s movement, they form a weekly writing group sharing their lives, hopes and dreams through their writing. In Commencement, by J. Courtney Sullivan, four college friends struggle to find their place in the world after graduating from a woman’s college where the ideals of feminism have been strongly embraced. Set in 2007, they have many opportunities available to them, but the choices they make are not always easy. The strength of their friendship is a source of comfort as they each follow their own path to adulthood.

The enduring nature of female friendships is the subject of The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. This true story follows eleven childhood friends from Ames, Iowa and the bonds that still connect them forty years later. Over the years they have been a support system for each other and a source of strength in times of need.

Do you have a close friend that you may have lost touch with recently? Technology has made it pretty easy for us to keep in touch if we are willing to make the effort. Perhaps one of these books will inspire you to reconnect with some of those friends. You may find that there’s something very special about those relationships that you don’t want to lose.

Book news

Surrounded by books, what would you read??

Posted by on Friday, Aug 28, 2009 - 5:18 PM

Library staff meetings include lots of “book talk.” Here are some recent recommendations.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – occupied France in 1942, 10-year-old Sarah locks her brother in a cupboard for safekeeping.
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant – convent life in 1570 Italy with politically savvy nuns and a rebellious novice.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Jackson MS in 1962 with the white ladies who lunch & the black women who serve them.
The Declaration by Gemma Malley –a dystopian tale set in 2140 when children are outlawed.
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier- Native American history in one man’s life & love.
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde- a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon changes lives.
Dune Road by Jane Green- cheeky “chic lit” set in familiar surroundings.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See- sisters leave bustling 1937 Shanghai for a new life in LA.
Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore-think smart-mouthed middle school buddy.
19th Wife by David Ebershoff- history (Mormons), murder mystery & questions about faith in a literary novel.
Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein- love & family explained by a loyal dog.
Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa- WestportREADS selection for January 2010.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- clever 11-year-old girl investigates murder.
Good Thief by Hannah Tinti- Dickensian story set in old New England.
Short History of Women by Kate Walbert- past generations resonate in the present, as 20th century feminist priorities evolve.
***Come to the Library to discuss this book with Ms. Walbert on September 30 at noon.***

The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective by Andy Andrews-inspiration in a blend of fiction & allegory
Columbine by Dave Cullen – careful investigation, psychological assessment & media criticism fill in the details.
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang- forced to choose between love of family & loyalty to the Communist party- a story of courage
Madness under the Royal Palms by Laurence Leamer- close-up look at the culture of excess in Palm Beach
Year of Living Biblically by A J Jacobs – funny & profound attempt to take the Bible literally.
Finding the Quiet by Paul Wilson- suggestions to enhance your meditation practice.
How God Changes your Brain by Andrew Newberg- scientific theory & practical advice for improving life.
Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears by Theda Perdue- a tragic & heroic episode in American history.

Book news

New for Book Clubs ...

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009 - 1:44 PM

books.jpgI just got back from vacation and found a growing stack of book club requests on my desk. Although many book clubs take a break over the summer months, many others get together to plan their reading choices for the fall and winter months. If your club is putting together a list of future selections, I just wanted to let you know about the most recent additions we’ve made to the Speaking of Books collection at the library.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, has quickly become a favorite of book clubs. This charming story takes place in 1946 near the end of World War II. Writer Juliet Ashton, looking for a topic to write her next book about, finds herself in an unusual correspondence with the members of the ‘society’ in the referenced title. Written as a series of letters, Juliet finds herself drawn into the lives of the inhabitants of Guernsey Island. Their stories, their tastes in literature, and the impact the German occupation had on the residents of Guernsey will give book clubs lots to discuss. Voted one of the top books of 2008 by Westport Library patrons, it is still one of the most requested books in our catalog.

I am so pleased that we were able to add Olive Kitteridge to our Speaking of Books collection. This 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner by Elizabeth Strout was one of my personal favorites of last year. Strout has written a series of short stories all connected by the title character, Olive Kitteridge. Life in small town Maine is vividly depicted through the stories of the local residents. Ms. Strout’s beautiful writing has made her characters truly believable. You will recognize many of them and there’s much in this little novel for book clubs to talk about. Be sure to put it on your list this year.

The latest addition to Speaking of Books is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Written in 2007, this is a novel about ten year old Sarah, a young Jewish girl from Paris captured by the Nazis during World War II,and American journalist Julia Jarmond. Sixty years after the war, Jarmond is working on a magazine story about the incident when she discovers a connection between her French husband’s family and young Sarah. Part history, part thriller, this book is most definitely a page turner that book clubs should enjoy.

So send me your lists and be sure to add one from our Speaking of Books collection. We can always provide a discussion guide for these books or for any of your book club choices. Contact smadeo [at] westportlibrary [dot] org (me) if you have any questions or need help with your book club. read more

Book news

Unseen Powers

Posted by on Tuesday, Aug 11, 2009 - 11:57 AM

Incantations, herbal cures & curses, mysterious unseen powers for good & evil…centuries of fascination with witchcraft have led to disturbing history and intriguing stories. An evergreen topic is central to two recent fiction books.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe takes a Harvard graduate student to the Salem area to clean out and sell her grandmother’s house. She finds an old “receipt book” and follows the clues to a supernatural puzzle in which her ancestors played a part. The author is completing her PhD in American Studies: she expresses her gratitude for the “witchiness” bequeathed to her by her ancestors and its contribution to her ”being the kind of person (she is.)”

In The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, a mother and daughter stand together against the escalating hysteria in Salem. The mother’s defiance leads to her death. The story is told by her daughter whose family’s love and mutual support sustain them through a time of fear and persecution. Kent is a tenth generation descendent of the mother who was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged in Salem.

If the power of the supernatural interests you, be sure to read Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series. The Witching Hour traces four centuries of witchcraft and the occult and paints indelible scenes of New Orleans. Joanne Harris weaves supernatural spells throughout her books; who can forget the sudden mysterious happenings in Chocolat?
In her books, Alice Hoffman connects the events of the story with unseen forces generated by some of the characters. The powers of the natural world are ever present in her blends of magic and realism. The Story Sisters is her latest.

For more on the history of witchcraft.

Book news

World's most famous pack rats

Posted by on Thursday, Jul 30, 2009 - 4:32 PM

Do you collect anything? Everything?

A cautionary tale is the history of the Collyers- two American brothers who became famous in mid-20th-century because of their compulsive hoarding. Sons of a doctor whose ancestors were some of the first settlers in America, Homer and Langley Collyer were snobs, whose Manhattan brownstone was filthy and full of rubbish. Cited as examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the Collyers have had many mentions through the years in books, movies and on television. Both were found dead in their Harlem brownstone surrounded by over 100 tons of rubbish. More details of the strange lives of the Collyers.

Now, E.L. Doctorow has written a novel about the obsessions and the filial love of the Collyers. In Homer & Langley, Doctorow builds from the facts…bizarre enough to strain credulity… the rubbish included 14 pianos and an intact Model T…to paint one of the darker stories of American lore. Written in the voices of the brothers, the novel provides back story and seems normal enough until the world outside the mansion intrudes. Homer who is blind relies on the furtive Langley for food and care. Langley goes out only at night and though the brothers have money, food often is found in garbage cans or from restaurant leftovers. Doctorow is adept at basing his novels on history; in Homer & Langley the story seems almost mythical.

E.L. Doctorow, recipient of the Westport Library Award in 2000, has also been awarded the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Humanities Medal.

One of my favorite Doctorow books is Waterworks which I read many years ago. Its scenes of 19th century New York are still vivid in my mind. There are many Doctorow novels to choose from and if the strange Collyers pique your interest, place a hold on the newest book.

Firemen & rescue personnel refer to a “Collyer situation” as a house so full of junk it’s dangerous to get inside or back out. The site of the original “Collyer situation” is now a park named for the two brothers. (Fifth Avenue & 128th Street)

Book news

Ten Good Books for Summer Reading

Posted by on Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009 - 5:16 PM

Summer weather has finally arrived and readers are looking for that perfect book. Fiction is the popular choice – to fill your sun-bake hours or to spice up your “staycation.” Can you identify these top ten most popular books? (books with the greatest number of holds at the Library.)

Scroll down for the answers and click to place your hold.

1.A long-awaited thriller from the author of a previous religious thriller blockbuster, this book has 46 holds before publication date! Don’t worry; we will have many copies.

2.Published in 2007, this collection of connected short stories describes life in a small New England town. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

3.Travel to 1960s Jackson Mississippi and get to know the women- black and white- who live together.

4.Chinese-American sisters sent to 1930s Los Angeles cope with marriages arranged by their father.

5.Feminist view of the 20th-century told through the lives of several generations of one activist family. Come and discuss the book with the author at the Library on September 30 at noon.

6.The life and loves of 1990s Smith college girls as their friendships endure.

7.“Set in the beach community of a tony Connecticut town…” by a Westport author.

8.An historical novel in letters set in German-occupied Britain tells of a special book club.

9.Intelligent Swedish thriller- the second of a trilogy- by a deceased author.

10.A kidnapping at Camp David propels this national security thriller.


1.Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
2.Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
5. Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
6.Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
7. Dune Road by Jane Green
8. Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Sheffer
9. Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
10. First Family by David Baldacci

Book news