Our blog about books, authors and reading

The London Train

London TrainNot many novels tell the story of a daughter's pregnancy through her father's eyes, and although this is only one of this book's themes, it's very powerful one. In the first half, we follow the story of the very imperfect Paul--critic, college teacher, husband, father, friend, and neighbor who is involved in a feud over the cutting down of trees. Paul himself admits that he has problems, for example, he's too afraid of showing emotion so he does not ask the undertaker to see his mother's body. He lies to his wife, has affairs, and for years has ignored his oldest child.
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One Book One Bloomington Voting!

One BookWhat if everyone in our local community all read and discussed the same book? This year we read the excellent Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and I am certainly looking forward to next year's selection as well.

As in the past, we are asking the community what they want to read together in 2012. It's time to vote!
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The Paris Wife

Paris WifeTo be an American during the 1920s in Paris? What could be more trendy and romantic? Especially, if you've just married the dashing young fiction writer, Ernest Hemingway. This absorbing novel introduces you to all the famous ex-pat writers of the time period: everyone from Gertrude Stein ("a rose is a rose is a rose") to Scott Fitzgerald with the wild Zelda on his arms to Ezra Pound and John Dos Passos.

But it's not primarily a biographical novel about Papa Hemingway; it's more the story of a marriage between two smart, witty people who each possess an incredible zest for life and adventure.
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Best Seller Express

Best Seller ExpressPart of offering library services is asking for, listening and responding to feedback from the community. One comment we hear often is that the wait is long for the new and popular materials.
We hear ya. This spring, MCPL started offering a new feature called Best Seller Express in our Movies and Music department. Patrons who came to the Main library or Ellettsville were able to check out one brand new DVD. The catch is that they aren't holdable, you can't renew them and they only check out for three days. Despite these limitations, the new service has proven to be extremely popular. We've heard from patrons that they love coming to the library and seeing a DVD on the shelf that they might have been on a very long wait list for. Read more »

Fiction! Fiction! Fiction!

State of WonderI admit to being a streaky reader and will often go through several books on the same subject over the course of a month or so. While not as exotic as reading books about bananas (What? Not exotic either? Well you get the point), I have lately been reading some excellent literary fiction.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
I have read some critiques of this book that there are plot holes and lapses of logic. Upon reflection, I would have to agree with this, however it in no way changes my reading experience. I loved this book and was completely emotionally invested in the characters and outcome of this story. I both devoured the last pages, and didn't want the book to end. Read more »

September's Books Plus Discussion

Major PettigrewBoth a British comedy of errors and a sweet love story, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand has enough to please a wide range of readers. Major Pettigrew is retired and living a quiet widow's life in a small town in Sussex. As his friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper, becomes something more, complications - both large and small, funny and serious - arise. Join us to discuss Simonson's first novel next week during our monthly Books Plus book discussion.

For more details of this and future programs, please see below.
Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.
2 p.m., First Sundays
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Turn of Mind

Turn of MindThis week Tennessee Lady Vol's basketball coach, Pat Summitt, made headlines with her announcement that she had developed Alzheimer's disease. Coincidentally, I was reading this very readable novel on the same subject.

But how do you write a book from the viewpoint of someone suffering from this disease? Not only write it but combine it with a family drama and a murder mystery? This engrossing book does all of these beautifully.
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Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

Fire SeasonThis book describes my dream job, being a fire lookout out west. I could handle the wild creatures, the solitude, even the lightning strikes, but maybe not cleaning out the cistern after vandals pollute it. In the tradition of writers, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Edward Abbey and Norman Maclean. Philip Connors leaves his job as a Wall Street Journal editor and while on vacation signs up on the spot to detect fires for the National Forest Service, or as he jokingly calls it "The National Forest Circus."
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How to be Good

How to be GoodAs a person raised Catholic, I was drawn to the topic of this novel. Who doesn't want to be a kind, caring person? To do good works? To make the world a bit better each day? OK, maybe not serial killers, some Wall Street tycoons, mafia types, mercenaries, etc. but on the whole most people try (at least part of the time) to be good.

This 2001 Nick Hornby novel zeroes in on Dr. Katie Carr, a London wife and mother, who deals with boils and warts and patients struggling to breathe. She's a physician for Britain's National Health Service. She's married to David, a stay-at-home husband who writes an acerbic column for the local paper about all the myriad things that send him into rages, for instance, the elderly not taking their reserved seats in the front of bus and annoying other passengers by tottering when the bus suddenly stops.
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"Why Do We Care About Literary Awards?"

Jamrach's MenagerieAsking that question is Mark O'Connell at The Millions. He makes a good point: it is kind of ridiculous how seriously people take these things, how offended people can get if their favorite isn't chosen. There's no way for one award to please everyone, to choose the one book that is truly, objectively the best--there is very little "objective" anything when it comes to art. However, for librarians these awards are pretty indispensable. You'll see plenty of posts on this blog, for example, about winners and shortlists. We use them when deciding what to buy, what to recommend to people, what to read ourselves. Maybe it would be better if everyone read all of the books and judged every one for themselves, but that's never going to happen. Read more »

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